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  • Archive for August, 2015

    In the Garden …

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 12th August 2015 (All posts by )

    Meet Charlotte II, the orb spider
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Diversions, Photos | 5 Comments »

    Number Gut, Continued

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 11th August 2015 (All posts by )

    Years ago, Shannon Love did a series of posts on these pages about “number gut”. From this post:

    A number gut is an intuitive feel for the possible magnitude of a particular number that describes a particular phenomenon. A good number gut tells you if the results of some calculation are at least in the ball park.

    My number gut (or b.s. detector, in this case) went off today when I saw this story. Here is the money:

    Chicago Public Schools officials on Monday proposed a $5.7 billion operating budget for the upcoming school year…

    Holy crap that is a lot of money. There are 396,000 students in the CPS. $5.7bb / 396k = $15,447 per student. Really.

    From this article from 2014 about the most expensive private schools in Illinois, it looks like all of the students could go to Loyola Academy, and can almost all go to St. Ignatius College Prep for that kind of money.

    Just sayin’.

    Posted in Academia, Big Government, Chicagoania, Education | 15 Comments »

    Ads sell everything from Apple to Zippo. Why aren’t they used to sell ideas?

    Posted by Bruno Behrend on 11th August 2015 (All posts by )

    After two losses to the farthest left president ever, conservatives have been agonizing over how win back the presidency. More importantly, the truly thoughtful among us have been agonizing over how to win back a once freedom-loving culture drifting ever farther leftward.

    On the political front, the debate is over moderates (who might win the middle) and conservatives (who might excite the base). That seems to be the debate that sucks up all the oxygen. I would make the case that if you are focusing on the political front, you are fighting a battle, but have already lost the war.

    I take the position that politics, while important, is merely the manifestation of what is happening to the culture. If you lose the culture, you are going to lose the elections. It’s that simple.

    I think it was post 2012, where Glenn Reynolds, of Instapundit, opined that conservatives should start buying up media, so that they could compete, at least partly, with the progressives’ dominance in the MSM. I think that is a good idea, and would argue that it is far better investment than giving money to another think tank. It isn’t easy, though. First you have to buy the medium, then you have to market it so it is followed. Last, and most important, that medium has to do much more than Fox News and talk radio, both of which do little more than pound the rubble for the already converted – making conservatives angrier and less palatable in the process.

    It’s a great idea, but difficult. What if there is an easier way?

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Advertising, Conservatism, Deep Thoughts, Leftism, Media, Political Philosophy, Politics, Rhetoric, USA | 29 Comments »

    The Valley of the Shadow of the Mushroom Cloud

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 10th August 2015 (All posts by )

    I see that the 70th anniversary of the dropping of atomic bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki this last weekend brought the usual hand-wringing and heart-string twanging on the part of the news media, and another round of the endless discussion over whether it was justified or not, with the same old patient answering of what the alternative would have been. I’ve really nothing more to add to that particular discussion, save noting that the stocks of Purple Heart medals struck and stockpiled in anticipation of American casualties in a full-frontal invasion of Japan have only in the last fifteen years been diminished to the point where a new order for them had to be initiated – this, after Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, Kosovo, Gulf War 1, and Iraq.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Current Events, History, War and Peace | 24 Comments »

    Who Is Buying That Crap?

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 9th August 2015 (All posts by )

    Dan and I follow municipal bonds, which is a bit more exciting than it sounds. The State of Illinois, the City of Chicago, Cook County, and many other entities in which I am a semi-unwitting participant will likely soon be on the front pages of newspapers as it sinks in that we can never repay these debts.

    Back in late 2008, during the height of that financial crisis, the State of Illinois issued debt. In this post I basically asked the question “Who is buying this crap?” and the answer was JP Morgan, showing its solidarity (in a way) with the state of Illinois by buying the ENTIRE issue.

    Puerto Rico is the new problem child of debt failure, and as Dan calls it, a “gapers block” over the entire municipal debt market. There were a lot of good reasons to buy Puerto Rico municipal bonds for many years – it was tax exempt, it had high yields, some of it was insured and / or tied to revenue streams like power or water, and historically there had been few or no failures of large-scale municipal bond issuers. It was great to own this debt and collect the high interest rates, as long as you watched it and got out before it collapsed. In a way this is “momentum investing” of sorts – get in and enjoy the ride up, but make sure you clear the exit before everyone else runs out of the movie theater screaming “fire”.

    But the question in the back of my mind was always “Who is buying that crap”. Not sophisticated investors who knew how to ride the wave up and get out before it collapsed, but people who honestly believed that a set of statements by politicians and / or laws as they were currently constructed would magically allow a tiny and impoverished island to pay inordinate debts while their economy imploded around them.

    A recent NY Times article titled “Pain of Puerto Rico’s Debt Crisis Is Weighing on the Little Guy, Too” provided a timely answer to my question.

    To Lev Steinberg, it seemed like a good place to park his nest egg. Puerto Rico bonds offered high returns and tax-free income. And there was little chance, his broker assured him, that the government would default on its debt. So Mr. Steinberg went all in, investing more than 85 percent of his retirement savings in funds with large concentrations of Puerto Rico bonds.“They told me this was safe,” said Mr. Steinberg, a 64-year-old mathematics professor at the University of Puerto Rico, “that the legal protections to repay the bonds were strong.”

    The NY Times article describes how local brokers and banks created products that leveraged up these bonds with borrowed money and then they were sold to Puerto Rico citizens (they were illegal on the mainland). The article said that 20% of Puerto Rican debt is owed to local citizens, and they bought many of the most “toxic” issuances (those with the least protections, like pension obligation bonds).

    Thank you, NY Times, for helping to answer the timeless question “who is buying that crap”. The answer is gullible citizens, who believed in their government’s promises, and also thought that years and years of high returns could be manufactured endlessly out of thin air without corresponding risk.

    Cross posted at LITGM

    Posted in Big Government, Business, Economics & Finance | 15 Comments »

    Virtue Signaling

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 9th August 2015 (All posts by )

    BLM

    This is a new term to me but it makes a lot of sense. It seems to have begun in Britain where it has been explained well.

    “The most savage, bilious, self-righteous rants are from people living affluent self-pleasing lives in comfortable homes, doing lucky and rewarding jobs with like-minded friends. What they are doing (I risk losing a friend or two) is “virtue-signalling”: competing to seem compassionate. Few are notably open-handed: St Matthew would need a rewrite of Chapter 19. “Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast and give to the poor. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. So he went on Twitter instead and called Michael Gove a ‘vile reptilian evil tory scumbag’, and linked to a cartoon of Iain Duncan Smith stealing a paralysed woman’s wheelchair. And lo, he felt better and went for a £3.50 caramel macchiato with some mates from the BBC”

    Beautifully put.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Society, Current Events, Elections, Human Behavior, Leftism, Politics | 8 Comments »

    Key West

    Posted by Jonathan on 8th August 2015 (All posts by )

    Chicagoboyz recently visited Key West in search of a halal gay marriage venue for a visiting Panamanian friend of ours. Here are a few random pics.

    the chain gang's all here

    Road Prison #426

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Diversions, Photos | 11 Comments »

    Was Ethan Allen a wing nut?

    Posted by Mrs. Davis on 8th August 2015 (All posts by )

    First Bernie Sanders, now this:

    Now that Vermont has a mandate to get 75 percent of its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2032, residents will have to ditch automobiles and embrace a whole new way of life, the state’s top renewable energy CEO says.
     
    “We’re probably going to have to abandon the car,” David Blittersdorf, president of All Earth Renewables, told Addison County Democrats in a recent presentation titled “Vermont’s Renewable Energy Future.
     
    “The idea that we’re going to be flying around in airplanes — it’s one of the worst consumers of energy and emitting carbon. … I tell my kids … if you’re going to travel, travel now. Don’t wait 50 years. It’s going to cost you 10 times as much for every one of those flights.”

    It’s as though Julian Stanley never lived.

    Posted in Economics & Finance, Energy & Power Generation, Environment, Just Unbelievable, Leftism | 12 Comments »

    “A Letter to Certain Israeli and American Officials”

    Posted by Jonathan on 7th August 2015 (All posts by )

    Chicago Boyz community member Robert Schwartz has some thoughts about the Obama administration’s Iran deal:

    By now I think everybody, who is not sunk into Obama idolatry, agrees that Obama’s deal with the Iranian Regime fails in numerous dimensions. Some day it will be used in business school classes as an object lesson in poor negotiating technique.
     
    Be that as it may, The Deal has been set, and the only remaining issue is whether the Congress of the United States will vote to disapprove it, and be able to override a veto of that resolution. The announcement of opposition by three prominent Congressmen, Reps. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), and Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), and the very negative polling results for the Deal, show that this is a possibility.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in International Affairs, Iran, Israel, Middle East, National Security, Obama, Terrorism, USA, War and Peace | 17 Comments »

    What Are the Fundamental Axioms of “Progressivism”?

    Posted by David Foster on 5th August 2015 (All posts by )

    Arthur Koestler, himself a former Communist, wrote about  closed intellectual systems:

    A closed sysem has three peculiarities. Firstly, it claims to represent a truth of universal validity, capable of explaining all phenomena, and to have a cure for all that ails man. In the second place, it is a system which cannot be refuted by evidence, because all potentially damaging data are automatically processed and reinterpreted to make them fit the expected pattern. The processing is done by sophisticated methods of causistry, centered on axioms of great emotive power, and indifferent to the rules of common logic; it is a kind of Wonderland croquet, played with mobile hoops. In the third place, it is a system which invalidates criticism by shifting the argument to the subjective motivation of the critic, and deducing his motivation from the axioms of the system itself. The orthodox Freudian school in its early stages approximated a closed system; if you argued that for such and such reasons you doubted the existence of the so-called castration complex, the Freudian’s prompt answer was that your argument betrayed an unconscious resistance indicating that you ourself have a castration complex; you were caught in a vicious circle. Similarly, if you argued with a Stalinist that to make a pact with Hitler was not a nice thing to do he would explain that your bourgeois class-consciousness made you unable to understand the dialectics of history…In short, the closed system excludes the possibility of objective argument by two related proceedings: (a) facts are deprived of their value as evidence by scholastic processing; (b) objections are invalidated by shifting the argument to the personal motive behind the objection. This procedure is legitimate according to the closed system’s rules of the game which, however absurd they seem to the outsider, have a great coherence and inner consistency.

    The atmosphere inside the closed system is highly charged; it is an emoional hothouse…The trained, “closed-minded” theologian, psychoanalyst, or Marxist can at any time make mincemeat of his “open-minded” adversary and thus prove the superiority of his system to the world and to himself.

    In debating with “progressives,” one often encounters this kind of closed-system thinking:  there is absolutely no way you are going to change their minds, whatever the evidence or logic.  (I don’t think this is true of  all  “progressives”–otherwise the situation in America today would be even more grim than it actually is–but it’s true of a lot of them.)

    But what are the “axioms of great emotive power” in which “progressives” believe?  It is pretty easy to write down on one sheet of paper the basic beliefs of Christianity, or of Marxism, or of American Democratic Republicanism.  The fundamental tenets of Naziism…Nationalism, Socialism, anti-Semitism, etc….were well summarized by Joseph Goebbels in this pamphlet.

    I find it difficult to summarize today’s “progressive” belief system.  It does not seem to be a coherent intellectual system, not even a faux-coherent intellectual system such as Marxism.  But it clearly appeals deeply to millions of people, and has largely pervaded many if not most institutions, ranging from academia to popular media, throughout America and Western Europe.

    So let’s try to identify these axioms.  What are the things in which one must believe if one is to be a good “progressive”?  Please try to be maximally objective and to maintain emotional distance, as if you were describing the religious beliefs of a lost tribe in South America or a band of Christian heretics in the Middle Ages, and try to separate the intellectual content of the belief system from the emotional drivers of those beliefs.

    Posted in Europe, History, Human Behavior, Philosophy, Political Philosophy, USA | 38 Comments »

    A Diversion – Luna City: The End of the Road

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 5th August 2015 (All posts by )

    (Yes, as a break from the glum seriousness of war, nuclear Iran, international terrorism and Planned Parenthood operating a chop shop for baby parts, it’s time for another adventure in Luna City, the small town in Texas where eccentricity does not just run in the streets – it stampedes through them in herds)
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Diversions, USA | Comments Off on A Diversion – Luna City: The End of the Road

    Elite Failure and Populist Trump It

    Posted by Zenpundit on 5th August 2015 (All posts by )

    Cross-posted at Zenpundit.com

    Donald_Trump_March_2015

    GOP Front Runner, Donald J. Trump (Image: Michael Vadon)

    A friend sent an essay by the prolific IR scholar, Professor Angelo Codevilla that had been posted at Powerline Blog.  It was good.

    For the unfamiliar, Codevilla often writes on national security and intelligence matters and some readers may be familiar with his (with Paul Seabury) book,  War: Ends and Means; but in recent years Codevilla has, like Walter Russell Mead and a number of other intellectuals, turned his attention to the shoddy performance, ethical deficiencies and arrogant demands of the new American “ruling class”, writing a biting critique of their “meritocratic regime”.

    In his essay for Powerline, Codevilla turns his attention to the political phenomenon of the improbable GOP presidential front runner, billionaire and reality TV star, Donald Trump.  Unsurprisingly, Dr. Codevilla is not a huge fan of the bombastic Mr. Trump, but his analysis of why Trump has captured the moment so easily has some astute insights about the decaying state of our political system and the seething anger of the electorate:

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Book Notes, Civil Liberties, Crony Capitalism, Current Events, Elections, Leftism, Media, National Security, Politics, Society, Tea Party, The Press, USA | 15 Comments »

    The Coming Shortage of Doctors.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 3rd August 2015 (All posts by )

    33 - Lister

    I’m sure everyone is tired of my pessimism about politics so I thought I would try something new. Here is a piece on pessimism about health care.

    This Brietbart article discusses the looming doctor shortage.

    Lieb notes, that the U.S. is only seeing 350 new general surgeons a year. That is not even a replacement rate, she observed.

    A few years ago, I was talking to a woman general surgeon in San Francisco who told me that she did not know a general surgeon under 50 years old. The “reformers” who designed Obamacare and the other new developments in medicine are, if they are MDs, not in practice and they are almost all in primary care specialties in academic settings. They know nothing about surgical specialties.

    They assume that primary care will be delivered by nurse practitioners and physician assistants. They are probably correct as we see with the new Wal Mart primary care clinics.

    The company has opened five primary care locations in South Carolina and Texas, and plans to open a sixth clinic in Palestine, Tex., on Friday and another six by the end of the year. The clinics, it says, can offer a broader range of services, like chronic disease management, than the 100 or so acute care clinics leased by hospital operators at Walmarts across the country. Unlike CVS or Walgreens, which also offer some similar services, or Costco, which offers eye care, Walmart is marketing itself as a primary medical provider.

    This is all well and good. What happens when a patient comes in with a serious condition ?

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Health Care, Medicine, Politics | 22 Comments »

    Our Disastrous Energy Policy, Continued

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 2nd August 2015 (All posts by )

    New Clean Air Act regulations have recently been proposed by the EPA.

    President Obama will unveil on Monday a set of environmental regulations devised to sharply cut planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions from the nation’s power plants and ultimately transform America’s electricity industry. The rules are the final, tougher versions of proposed regulations that the Environmental Protection Agency announced in 2012 and 2014. If they withstand the expected legal challenges, the regulations will set in motion sweeping policy changes that could shut down hundreds of coal-fired power plants, freeze construction of new coal plants and create a boom in the production of wind and solar power and other renewable energy sources.

    What is interesting is that the EPA recently had their ever-expanding mandate struck down by the Supreme court just a few short weeks ago, when their attempt to kill off coal through regulation of mercury and other pollutants was invalidated for not sufficiently weighing the cost of the proposed initiative.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Business, Current Events, Economics & Finance, Energy & Power Generation, Environment | 28 Comments »

    Socialism is running out of other people’s money

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 1st August 2015 (All posts by )

    Socialism is on its last legs except for college faculty lounges. Venezuela is now seizing private companies’ facilities.

    “There is an economic war here and this company, Polar, is at the heart of it. They hide products from the population, and inflate their prices!”
    The government had first notified the landlord of plans to expropriate the industrial park in 2013, Nestle spokesman Andres Alegrett said by telephone from Caracas on Thursday. Nestle used the facility to dispatch about 10 percent of its products in the country, supplying sweets and drinks to the western side of Greater Caracas, he said.

    Nestle is no stranger to Socialism. Jonah Golberg noted Nestle’s connection years ago.

    About ten years ago I went on a junket to Switzerland and attended a talk with the CEO of Nestlé. Listening to him, it became very clear to me that he had little to no interest in free markets or capitalism properly understood. He saw his corporation as a “partner” with governments, NGOs, the U.N., and other massive multinationals. The profit motive was good for efficiency and rewarding talent, but beyond that, he wanted order and predictability and as much planning as he could get. I think that mindset informs the entire class of transnational progressives, the shock troops of what H. G. Wells hoped would lead to his liberal-fascist “world brain.”

    Yes, Nestle has a history of cooperation with various do-gooder initiatives although it has kept its eye on profits.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, Big Government, Crony Capitalism, Economics & Finance, Leftism, Politics | 5 Comments »