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  • Archive for February, 2013

    Hanson vs Hanson

    Posted by David Foster on 14th February 2013 (All posts by )

    The Decline of America

    America’s Bright Future

     

    Both links via Common Sense & Wonder

    Posted in Civil Society, Economics & Finance, History, Political Philosophy, Politics, USA | 6 Comments »

    It Feels Strange Outside Economically

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 14th February 2013 (All posts by )

    A few things have happened recently that have the hairs on the back of my neck standing up in economic terms. It feels like it did right before the crash in 2007-8, when we were still in the end stages of the bubble.

    One – Japanese and Venezuelan devaluation

    Japan (a thoroughly modern economy) and Venezuela (a semi-dictatorship oil economy) both recently devalued their currency. Japan was warned by the G7 (fat lot of good that will do) here about it:

    The official said: “The G7 statement signaled concern about excess moves in the yen. The G7 is concerned about unilateral guidance on the yen. Japan will be in the spotlight at the G20 in Moscow this weekend.”

    Venezuela did more of an “old school” devaluation, where the “official” rate is moved closer to what it really is trading for in the black market, and Bloomberg writes about it here.

    Venezuela devalued its currency for the fifth time in nine years, a move that may undermine support for ailing President Hugo Chavez and his allies ahead of possible elections later this year… He ordered his government to weaken the exchange rate by 32 percent to 6.3 bolivars per dollar… A spending spree that almost tripled the fiscal deficit last year helped Chavez, 58, win a third six-year term. The devaluation can help narrow the budget deficit by increasing the amount of bolivars the government receives from oil exports. Yet the move also threatens to accelerate annual inflation that reached 22 percent in January.

    I kept that whole paragraph in the block quote because it encapsulates all the elements of fiscal ruin so succinctly – profligate government spending, impact on commodities imported or exported (that move opposite of currencies), and the impact on inflation.

    Two – The Chinese and Russians Aren’t Buying Our Debt – We Are

    I had thought that the Chinese and other countries were big buyers of our debt which funds our budget deficit. But I was wrong. Per this WSJ article:

    China’s holdings of $1.17 trillion in U.S. Treasurys in November 2012—the most recent date for which we have a figure—are virtually unchanged from two years earlier, when they stood at $1.16 trillion. Beijing has purchased a lot of Treasurys over this period but many have been redeemed. Net new investment is essentially zero.

    But if the Chinese aren’t buying our debt, who is? The answer – the US government.

    The largest buyer of new U.S. Treasurys during the past three years has been not China but the U.S. Federal Reserve. In fiscal year 2011, for example, the Fed bought more than three-fourths of all new Treasury debt.

    Here’s a challenge for you – try explaining to a child or someone unfamiliar with economics how it is that we can spend money that we don’t have, issue debt, and buy it back ourselves.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in China, Economics & Finance, Russia | 8 Comments »

    New! – Your February Festival o’ Haikus

    Posted by Jonathan on 13th February 2013 (All posts by )

    Your cat video
    The new viral sensation
    You won’t make a dime

    Weird Asian Tweeters
    Hawking Hello Kitty junk
    What’s that all about?

    James Bond, poor fellow
    Grounded by an std
    Not like the old days

    Florida drivers
    Slowing to forty uphill
    Land torpedo time

    For Valentine’s Day
    Don’t be beta supplicant
    Make her buy dinner

    —-

    Please feel free to contribute your own efforts in the comments.

    Posted in Diversions, Poetry | 11 Comments »

    The future of Islam or its absence.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 12th February 2013 (All posts by )

    Spengler has a new column that points out the coming collapse of Islam as a demographic entity. I have thought for years that Iran, if the population ever succeeds in overthrowing the regime, will abandon Islam as its first priority. Spengler points to a column by David Ignatius that belatedly recognizes a phenomenon that has been noted by others for years.

    Something startling is happening in the Muslim world — and no, I don’t mean the Arab Spring or the growth of Islamic fundamentalism. According to a leading demographer, a “sea change” is producing a sharp decline in Muslim fertility rates and a “flight from marriage” among Arab women.

    Nicholas Eberstadt, a scholar with the American Enterprise Institute, documented these findings in two recent papers. They tell a story that contradicts the usual picture of a continuing population explosion in Muslim lands. Population is indeed rising, but if current trends continue, the bulge won’t last long.

    The second class status of women in the Muslim world has led to important changes in their beliefs, especially about the religion that oppresses them.

    Eberstadt’s first paper was expressively titled “Fertility Decline in the Muslim World: A Veritable Sea-Change, Still Curiously Unnoticed.” Using data for 49 Muslim-majority countries and territories, he found that fertility rates declined an average of 41 percent between 1975-80 and 2005-10, a deeper drop than the 33 percent decline for the world as a whole.

    Twenty-two Muslim countries and territories had fertility declines of 50 percent or more. The sharpest drops were in Iran, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Algeria, Bangladesh, Tunisia, Libya, Albania, Qatar and Kuwait, which all recorded declines of 60 percent or more over three decades.

    The present fertility rate in Iran is about equal to that of irreligious Europe.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Christianity, Europe, History, Human Behavior, International Affairs, Islam, Japan, Middle East, Religion, Terrorism | 23 Comments »

    A Bleg on Behalf of my Dog

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 12th February 2013 (All posts by )

    Connor, the middle-aged Malti-poo is at the veterinarians office today, to sort out why he has been throwing up for the last day and a half, has no appetite and is terribly lethargic. The bill for his treatment will be an unexpected expense for me … so anyone going to my book blog and purchasing copies of To Truckee’s Trail, Daughter of Texas, Deep in the Heart, or the Adelsverein Trilogy in the separate volumes will help me to square matters with the vet, and put Connor back where he belongs, sleeping peacefully under my desk. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Blegs, Customer Service | 7 Comments »

    Desert Sunrise

    Posted by Jonathan on 11th February 2013 (All posts by )

    Warm sunlight illuminates the rocky hills near the Dead Sea oasis of Ein Gedi at dawn. (© 2012 Jonathan Gewirtz / jonathan@gewirtz.net)

    Posted in Photos | Comments Off on Desert Sunrise

    Such is the experience of an Infantry subaltern in his first battle … .

    Posted by Chicago Boyz Archive on 11th February 2013 (All posts by )

     
    Looking along to our right we saw a brave sight, the bravest possible — a body of cavalry charging. It was none other than the renowned Cavalry of the Guides, which by a wonderful effort had crossed the seemingly impassable nullah, and was now falling with dauntless fury on ten times their numbers of the enemy. They whirled past us, and we, cheering like mad, dashed after them.
     
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Afghanistan/Pakistan, Anglosphere, Arts & Letters, Book Notes, Britain, History, Islam, Military Affairs | 4 Comments »

    Helter-Skelter

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 11th February 2013 (All posts by )

    I was a teenager when the Manson murders went down, in the autumn of 1969 – of course, the cruel and inexplicable murder of a movie star and several of her friends made all the headlines, and had lots of law-abiding citizens looking over their shoulders and being very careful about locking the doors and windows of their homes at night. It wasn’t until some time later that the associated murders of an elderly retired couple also hit the headlines of the LA Times, and other national newspapers. A blood-drenched, hippy cult with a weirdly charismatic leader had committed those murders in order – so they claimed – to trigger a devastating racial war, which they termed ‘helter-skelter’ from a Beatles song moderately popular at the time. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Society, Crime and Punishment, History, Law Enforcement, Predictions, Society, Terrorism, Urban Issues | 9 Comments »

    The White Paper and its Critics

    Posted by Zenpundit on 11th February 2013 (All posts by )

    Someone for reasons unknown last week leaked the classified Department of JusticeWhite Paper” on targeting with drone attacks the numerically tiny number of US citizens overseas who have joined al Qaida or affiliated groups. The leak set off an outburst of public debate, much of it ill-informed by people who did not bother to read the white paper and some of it intentionally misleading by those who had and, frankly, know better.

    Generally, I’m a harsh critic of the Holder DOJ, but their white paper, though not without some minor flaws of reasoning and one point of policy, is – unlike some of the critics – solidly in compliance with the laws of war, broader questions of international law and the major SCOTUS decisions on war powers. It was a political error to classify this document in the first place rather than properly share it with the relevant Congressional committees conducting oversight

    Here it is and I encourage you to read it for yourself:

    Lawfulness of Lethal Operation Directed Against a US Citizen Who is a Senior Operational Leader of al-Qa’ida

    Much of this white paper debate has been over a legitimate policy dispute (“Is it a good idea if we use drones to kill AQ terrorists, including American ones?”) intentionally being mischaracterized by opponents of the policy (or the war) as a legal or constitutional question. It is not. The law is fairly settled as is the question if the conflict with AQ rises to a state of armed conflict, which SCOTUS dealt with as recently as Hamdi and for which there are ample precedents from previous wars and prior SCOTUS decisions to build upon. At best, framed as a legal dispute, the opponents of the drone policy would have a very long uphill climb with the Supreme Court. So why do it?
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Afghanistan/Pakistan, History, International Affairs, Law, Military Affairs, National Security, Obama, Politics, Terrorism, USA, War and Peace | 11 Comments »

    Diversion – Paint Rock, Texas

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 11th February 2013 (All posts by )

    Small business, small-town Texas-Style


    Donna’s Beauty Parlor, on the courthouse square in Beautiful Downtown Paint Rock.

    Posted in Americas, Business, Photos | 3 Comments »

    Women Building Airplanes During WWII, in Color

    Posted by David Foster on 10th February 2013 (All posts by )

    Great color photos of women working in aircraft plants during WWII. More here.

    These photos were originally shot in color; the ones at the above links have been enhanced for color and contrast by the webmaster at Shorpy…the full Shorpy collection of enhanced OWI Kodachromes is here.

    The originals can be found at the Library of Congress on-line photo catalog.

    Via The Lexicans and Among the Joshua Trees.

    Posted in Aviation, History, Photos, USA, War and Peace | 13 Comments »

    Another Sunny Winter Chicago Day

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 9th February 2013 (All posts by )

    It was another sunny winters’ day here in Chicago while the East got socked with snow. Here is the Trump building, IBM, and new construction. I like the water tank, too (don’t know what the “Big Picture” stands for but its been there for years).

    Just North of the Brazilian steak house is a building that’s been semi-constructed and abandoned since the 2008 property crash. Hopefully they can get it completed before the next crash.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Chicagoania, Photos | Comments Off on Another Sunny Winter Chicago Day

    Electricity Update – France and Texas

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 9th February 2013 (All posts by )

    France and Nuclear Power – Losing Its Edge

    France has long pioneered a tradition of being reliant on nuclear power. France has 59 nuclear reactors and delivers a very high percentage of their total power needs through nuclear power, as well as being a major exporter of electricity to adjacent nations. France chose nuclear power after WW2 because they lacked local energy resources and had a strong engineering capability.

    The company that runs the nuclear industry is called EDF. EDF is 84% owned by the French government, so you could basically say that the French government owns by far the most significant portion of their own electricity industry (and 15 nuclear reactors in the UK, to boot). Currently EDF pays a very high dividend, yielding 7.7%, due to the fact that their market capitalization has declined precipitously while the company has tried to keep the dividend constant.

    For many years EDF provided France low cost electricity, which provided a competitive advantage against their industrial neighbors such as Germany. Today, however, Germany has a cost advantage over France in terms of power, since the price of coal has dropped and Germany uses a significant amount of coal to burn their own electricity. One of the main reasons that the price of coal has dropped is the rise of natural gas in the USA, which in turn allows the US to export their surplus coal overseas to Europe. This article from Bloomberg provides a good overview of the competitive situation.

    “French energy used to be competitive,” said Emmanuel Rodriguez, head of energy for the French unit of ArcelorMittal, the world’s biggest steelmaker, which also has operations in Germany. “This model is crumbling. Germany is now better than us whereas a decade ago they were much more expensive.” French power prices for big industrial users are projected to average as much as 25 percent higher next year than in Germany, according to Uniden, a lobby whose members consume 70 percent of electricity used by industry in France.

    In another sign of the upside-down world we live in, EDF’s dividend at 7.7% is far higher than what they are paying in yield on debt of 4.375%, even debt that looks suspiciously like equity here in the US (a perpetual dated bond is debt without a maturity date).

    France is also struggling as they try to build new nuclear reactors. The next generation plant being built for EDF by Areva has had cost overruns and schedule delays:

    EDF has previously said France’s first EPR would cost €3.3 billion and start commercial operations in 2012, after construction lasting 54 months. The estimated cost has now increased to €8.5 billion ($11 billion) and the completion of construction is delayed to 2016.

    Energy Futures Holdings

    Energy Future Holdings took a major Texas utility (TXU) private in a 2007 deal that leveraged up the company with $45 billion in debt in 2007. 2007 was a horrible year for most deals across almost all sectors including real estate as it was the “height” of the bubble before it all came crashing down. TXU, one of their entities, has bonds trading as low as 15 cents on the dollar (for bonds that have an interest rate of 10.25%, to boot) per this Bloomberg article.

    The company has struggled to be profitable ever since the LBO, as the shale revolution created a glut of natural gas, pushing U.S. prices to the lowest since 1999 last year

    While EFH is not a public company, they do have publicly traded debt and thus they have an active investor relations department. If you read through one of their documents you can see their expectations for natural gas prices and how they have been able to keep the company going for as long as it has due to a strategy of hedging against low priced natural gas, as well as through what seems to be very effective management of costs. However, the large debt load likely has to be restructured since a company that was built to profit from a marginal cost of power based on $14 / unit priced natural gas cannot service that debt load with the cost of natural gas between $2 – $4 / unit.

    Cross posted at LITGM

    Posted in Energy & Power Generation, France | 8 Comments »

    Keep Out Bears!

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 9th February 2013 (All posts by )


    Here at ChicagoBoyz HQ North, we take nature seriously.

    Posted in Photos, That's NOT Funny | 15 Comments »

    What lies ahead, I fear.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 8th February 2013 (All posts by )

    UPDATE: An an article at Belmont Club describes interest in alternative money creation as a way of anticipating inflation. It also goes further into a discussion of general competence.

    The idea that Virginia should consider issuing its own money was dismissed as just another quixotic quest by one of the most conservative members of the state legislature when Marshall introduced it three years ago. But it has since gained traction not only in Virginia, but also in states across the country as Americans have grown increasingly suspicious of the institutions entrusted with safeguarding the economy.

    What has changed is faith in the federal government, not just in Virginia but in a growing number of places. The lack of faith in the competence of government — and the soundness of the dollar — has been growing leading some states to create contingency plans in case the currency goes bust.

    Once again, I apologize for my pessimism but this is what I see. First, there is this article, which quotes a well known financier.

    There may be a natural evolution to our fractionally reserved credit system that characterizes modern global finance. Much like the universe, which began with a big bang nearly 14 billion years ago, but is expanding so rapidly that scientists predict it will all end in a “big freeze” trillions of years from now, our current monetary system seems to require perpetual expansion to maintain its existence. And too, the advancing entropy in the physical universe may in fact portend a similar decline of “energy” and “heat” within the credit markets. If so, then the legitimate response of creditors, debtors and investors inextricably intertwined within it, should logically be to ask about the economic and investment implications of its ongoing transition.

    Certainly “growth” seems to be fundamental to our economic health. That, of course, presumes a growing population but it also would be affected by a stagnant population with a growing age disparity. The obvious example of the latter is Japan.

    The creation of credit in our modern day fractional reserve banking system began with a deposit and the profitable expansion of that deposit via leverage. Banks and other lenders don’t always keep 100% of their deposits in the “vault” at any one time – in fact they keep very little – thus the term “fractional reserves.” That first deposit then, and the explosion outward of 10x and more of levered lending, is modern day finance’s equivalent of the big bang. When it began is actually harder to determine than the birth of the physical universe but it certainly accelerated with the invention of central banking – the U.S. in 1913 – and with it the increased confidence that these newly licensed lenders of last resort would provide support to financial and real economies. Banking and central banks were and remain essential elements of a productive global economy.

    The effect of asset bubbles on such a system is worrisome as the history of Japan and the recent history of the US have shown. The Panic of 1907 was largely responsible for the creation of the Federal Reserve. That financial crisis is thought, by the authors of a recent book, to have been a consequence of the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco, which destroyed a large amount of real assets and the insurance costs that were associated. The immediate cause was financial speculation but the real losses had added to the fragility of the system.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Civil Liberties, Conservatism, Economics & Finance, Elections, Libertarianism, Political Philosophy, Politics, Predictions, Public Finance | 23 Comments »

    History Friday – Border Incursion Early 20th Century Style

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 8th February 2013 (All posts by )

    Once there was a little town, a little oasis of civilization – as the early 20th century understood the term – in the deserts of New Mexico, a bare three miles from the international boarder. The town was named for Christopher Columbus – the nearest big town on the American side of the border with Mexico was the county seat of Deming, thirty miles or so to the north; half a day’s journey on horseback or in a Model T automobile in the desert country of the Southwest. It’s a mixed community of Anglo and Mexicans, some of whose families have been there nearly forever as the far West goes, eking out a living as ranchers and traders, never more than a population of about fifteen hundred. There’s a train station, a schoolhouse, a couple of general stores, a drug-store, some nice houses for the better-off Anglo residents, and a local newspaper – the Columbus Courier, where there is even a telephone switchboard. Although better than a decade and a half into the twentieth century, in most ways Columbus looks back to the late 19th century, to the frontier, when men went armed as a matter of course. Although the Indian wars are thirty years over – no need to fear raids from Mimbreno and Jicarilla Apache, from the fearsome Geronimo, from Comanche and Kiowa – the Mexican and Anglo living in this place have long and bitter memories.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, Civil Society, Diversions, History | 4 Comments »

    Connecting the World

    Posted by David Foster on 8th February 2013 (All posts by )

    Here’s a nifty map of the world’s undersea cables.

    The era of long-distance undersea communication began with the laying of the first Atlantic telegraph cable, completed in August of 1858. Unfortunately, signal quality deteriorated rapidly and an attempt was made to improve communication by increasing the voltage at the transmitting end…a more durable cable was put in service in July of 1866.

    Rapid trans-Atlantic communication made a huge difference in many spheres of life, not least in the logistics of international trade. Consider this quote from an English visitor to the US in the pre-cable year of 1852:

    If, on the arrival of an European mail at one of the northern ports, the news from Europe reports that the supply of cotton or of corn is inadequate to meet the existing demand, almost before the vessel can be moored intelligence is spread by the Electric Telegraph, and the merchants and shippers of New Orleans are busied in the preparation of freights, or the corn-factors of St Louis and Chicago, in the far west, are emptying their granaries and forwarding their contents by rail or canal to the Atlantic ports.

    Pre-cable, transmitting a purchase order across the Atlantic took as long (ignoring the effects of prevailing winds/currents) as the shipment of the physical goods.

    Fanny Kemble wrote (circa 1882) about the psychological impact of connecting the continents electrically:

    To those who know the rate of intercourse between Europe and America now, these expressions of the painful sense of distance from my country and friends, under which I suffered, must seem almost incomprehensible,—now, when to go to Europe seems to most Americans the easiest of summer trips, involving hardly more than a week’s sea voyage; when letters arrive almost every other day by some of the innumerable steamers flying incessantly to and fro, and weaving, like living shuttles, the woof and warp of human communication between the continents; and the submarine telegraph shoots daily tidings from shore to shore of that terrible Atlantic, with swift security below its storms. But when I wrote this to my friend, no words were carried with miraculous celerity under the dividing waves; letters could only be received once a month, and from thirty to thirty-seven days was the average voyage of the sailing packets which traversed the Atlantic…The distance between the two worlds, which are now so near to each other, was then immense.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Anglosphere, History, Tech | 10 Comments »

    “Look here, Dilāwur!”

    Posted by Chicago Boyz Archive on 7th February 2013 (All posts by )

    From, The Story of the Guides, by Col. G. J. Younghusband, C.B., Queens Own Corps of Guides (1908):

    At this time it so happened that the most notorious highwayman and
    outlaw in the whole of Yusafzai was one Dilāwur Khan, a Khuttuk of
    good family belonging to the village of Jehangira, on the Kabul River
    near its junction with the Indus. Brought up to the priesthood, his
    wild and impetuous nature and love of adventure could not brook a life
    of sedentary ease, and therefore, like many a spirited young blood,
    both before and since, he “took to the road.” In his case the step was
    taken, if not actually with the sanction and blessing of his Church,
    at any rate with its unofficial consent. In those days the Sikhs held
    by force the country of the Faithful, and Hindus fattened on its
    trade. It was no great sin therefore, indeed, an active merit, that
    the sons of the Prophet, sword in hand, should spoil the Egyptian, by
    night or by day, as provided for by Allah.

     
    To recount all the adventures of Dilāwur would fill a book, and
    require a Munchausen to write it; but there was about them all a touch
    of humour, and sometimes of almost boyish fun, accompanied often by
    the rough courtesies of the gentlemen of the road, which reminds one
    of Dick Turpin and other famous exponents of the profession on the
    highways of England.
     

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Afghanistan/Pakistan, Anglosphere, Arts & Letters, Book Notes, Britain, History, Islam, Military Affairs | 5 Comments »

    Airbnb and a Social Idea

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 6th February 2013 (All posts by )

    For Christmas a friend of mine rented a house to host their family staying from out of town and to have a holiday party. The house was in a “hip” part of town (near Wicker Park, where I used to live) and was a large 3 story very nice home typical of the area.

    She rented the house from Airbnb. Private individuals rent whole apartments, houses or rooms in their house to essentially strangers using the service. For example, this is an example of an entire house for rent in Wrigleyville.

    While I was first thinking that this seemed like a risky move, the party turned out very well. The house was beautiful, with a nice TV, stereo, fully stocked kitchen, and even a decorated Christmas tree. Since the house was so nice, everyone seemed to go the extra mile to keep it clean – if a drink was spilled, someone cleaned it up right away (probably the fact that there was a damage deposit helped, too).

    A recent BBC News article on Airbnb described the phenomenal growth of the service and how an idea that seemed radical (renting out your home to complete strangers) is now becoming mainstream.

    Airbnb is a website matching up homeowners with tourists and backpackers wanting a place to stay. Set up in 2008, it’s one of a wave of sites – like Wimdu, and Homestay – making money out of those seeking a bargain. The firm says it has listings in more than 35,000 cities in 192 countries.

    I know of other people who travel around the world using Couchsurfing, where you basically just crash for free on a strangers’ couch. This seems even stranger, but apparently works out well and people generally make friends and have a good time, although of course there are horror stories (probably the ones your mother would send you if you told her this is how you planned to travel the world).

    Likely one element that makes this successful is the fact that most of the people doing the hosting and the people using the service are outgoing and friendly types. The sort of person that would use or trust someone else in the first place are generally the ones that would make these services successful. Another type of service like this is HomeExchange, where you can exchange your home in a tourist friendly area for one in another tempting locale (generally there are additional checks on these sorts of arrangements that you wouldn’t see in Couchsurfing).

    An analogous situation is when we go on a tour with a company called “Backroads” where you travel to great locations like Italy but you do active vacations including bikes, hiking and even kayaking (although I am certain it wouldn’t stress out Dan). If you take an “active” tour, you seem to have positive experiences with your peers, since the fact that they volunteered for a tour involving physical fitness (and not just sitting on a bus) makes them the type of people less likely to complain and generally to have an upbeat attitude. We have been on four of these trips and have not had significant issues with any of our fellow tourists, even though we are confined with them (at various times) for 5-7 days.

    The idea is that the type of people likely to assume that the other person won’t steal or take advantage of you, and in fact might be someone interesting that you might enjoy spending time with, is a positive social trait that would be associated with many parts of the world. I don’t know if I’d expect this type of reciprocity everywhere, however.

    Cross posted at LITGM

    Posted in Business, Chicagoania | 3 Comments »

    2nd amendment penumbras II – disarming non-militia members

    Posted by TM Lutas on 6th February 2013 (All posts by )

    Edit: Ugh, what was I thinking. I haven’t gotten a post this wrong this decade. I reread Heller, which I apparently desperately needed. Mea culpa. I’ll leave this up as penance, and a reminder that I can be a great fool.

    Previous item in series here: I

    If you start from zero on the gun debate, a curious fact emerges. The right to arms is recognized in federal and state law as a military right in the form of milita membership via the unorganized militia. Militas are generally limited to men and only up to age 45 or so. So why don’t gun controllers go after the right to bear arms of those who are not covered? Women’s gun rights are only protected under the penumbra of the 2nd amendment. So why have women’s right to bear arms not been put under any specific pressure by the gun control crowd? Common sense and a little thought explains why attempts to control guns like this simply aren’t done and modern case law on this point is rarer than 3rd amendment case law. The ladies need their weapons to defend against both stranger attack and to equalize matters when boyfriend turns to ex-boyfriend stalker. Those over 45 have similar issues.

    Those excluded from militia statutes have, theoretically, less protection of their right to bear arms, yet in practice this weakness of protection is never exploited. How did a 2nd amendment penumbra manage to grow up as custom without ever having gone through the judicial process.

    Perhaps there have been relevant cases that I missed. Please educate me in comments.

    Edit: I should have made clear in the text, and I manifestly did not, that the right to bear arms is a basic human right held by just about everybody that precedes constitutions and laws and is not limited to military service. That pretty much was the point of Heller, that bearing arms is an individual right.

    This makes the article something of an exercise in looking at it from the other side’s viewpoint and still finding the gun controller position incoherent. The problem of Miller’s ruling against sawed off shotguns still stands.

    Posted in RKBA | 20 Comments »

    Chicagoboyz Cycling Series: The Critical Mass Ride

    Posted by Jonathan on 6th February 2013 (All posts by )

    critical massholes

    These guys always seemed to be a bunch of juvenile, self-righteous assholes who enjoy the fruits of a modern transportation system while pretending to be above it all with their bicycles and simpleminded cultural leftism. The core of the Critical Mass experience are the massive traffic-fouling group bike rides on urban streets. By now CM is mainstream and tolerated by the powers that be with, I assume, the understanding that any daring transgressions will be restricted to off-peak hours. So it becomes just another annoying street event like the parades and art fairs and filming the hot TV show that are given dispensation to block traffic and inconvenience drivers. Of course I would never participate in such a thing. However, it turns out that some of my friends do these rides, and they asked if I wanted to join them. So I said, sure, sounds like fun.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Diversions, Photos, Sports, Transportation, Urban Issues | 20 Comments »

    Chicago Buildings on a Rare Sunny Winter Day

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 5th February 2013 (All posts by )

    I recently walked about town with my new Pentax K-01 camera recommended by Jonathan over at Chicago Boyz and even read a bit of the manual (a shock!), and found a custom setting for “blue sky”. The camera took far better pictures than I was used to although I am still having trouble fitting what I want to see into the frame since I am used to a tiny (crappy) digital camera.

    Here is 900 North Michigan with the distinctive 4 spires on top and the Chicago city flag blowing in the breeze.

    The Allerton hotel with the iconic “Tip Top Tap” bar on the roof, and the Hancock in the background.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Chicagoania, Photos | 5 Comments »

    Excusing Failure by Pleading Incompetence

    Posted by David Foster on 5th February 2013 (All posts by )

    In her testimony on the Benghazi debacle, Hillary Clinton said:

    “I AM the Secretary of State, and the ARB (Accountability Review Board)  made it very clear that the level of responsibility for the failures that they outlined, sat at the level of Assistant Secretary and below.”

    And to Rep. Michael McCaul, who wanted to know why she had not seen Christopher Stevens’ disturbing cables on the lack of security, she responded:

    “1.4 million cables come to us each year, all of them addressed to me.”

    These responses clearly demonstrate that Hillary Clinton has no idea at all of what executive management is all about. An executive is not only or even primarily responsible for his or her own individual tasks—he or she is responsible for the work of the people in the organization, and for organizing that work properly and effectively.

    These responsibilities include establishing an information and decision-flow architecture…including clear assignment of responsibilities…to ensure that the right things are seen and acted upon by the right people at the right time. Failure to do this..and to maintain and tune the system over time…will predictably result in catastrophes.

    Elliott Abrams:

    There had been three and half years to set up a system, to let the career officers of the Secretariat and the Operations Center know what she wants, and to have her personal staff figure it out too.

    That is to say, if she did not see the Benghazi cables in a timely fashion, if she did not see Chris Stephens’s cables describing the deterioration of security, and if she did not see his requests for more security, this was a huge management failure on her part. It is a poor excuse to say, “Gee, the Department gets lots of cables” — and perhaps even worse then to hide behind an Accountability Review Board that pins responsibility on assistant secretaries and no higher.

    Having worked as an assistant secretary of state and a deputy national-security adviser, I can report that even in those posts one is entirely swamped by cable traffic and needs a system to cope with it — to be sure that the really important ones get through. From all the available evidence, Hillary Clinton failed to establish such a system for herself, and that management failure is a far more important fact about her tenure than being the third woman to hold the post or having flown more miles than Condoleezza Rice.

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    Posted in Management, Political Philosophy, USA | 21 Comments »

    Gessler’s Hat

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 4th February 2013 (All posts by )

    In the foundation-legend of the Swiss confederacy, Alberect Gessler was a cruel and tyrannical overlord installed by the Austrians, who installed his hat atop a pole in the public marketplace and decreed that all should bow to it … to his hat, not merely his person. Such a declaration was, I think, a way of rubbing in his authority over the common citizens – indeed, rubbing their noses in the fact that he could make them do so, and do so in front of everyone else.
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    Posted in Americas, Christianity, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Customer Service, Miscellaneous, Religion, USA | 27 Comments »

    “Learning from dirty jobs”

    Posted by Jonathan on 4th February 2013 (All posts by )

    This video touches on a variety of interesting themes. Worth watching.

    Posted in Video | 9 Comments »