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  • Archive for October, 2015

    And now for something completely different

    Posted by Helen on 31st October 2015 (All posts by )

    I say quite unashamedly that I am a detective story fan and something of a geek as well. I like British and American detective stories of every age (well, obviously not all) and get extremely angry when I see ridiculous comments made by people who have clearly not read much in the genre. No, not all British novels are cosy and not all American ones are tough; and no, Christie did not write silly mystery stories about country houses, which figure very rarely in her works; and yes, there were a good many excellent male detective story writers in the Golden Age on both sides of the Atlantic as well as a number of women thriller writers.

    Luckily for me, there are other fans and geeks on Facebook and we have great discussions. Good thing like blogs, collections of essays and conferences grow out of those discussions or around them. Recently it was suggested by Curtis J. Evans that we should have a Tuesday Night Club to imitate the first Miss Marple stories. Several of us posted five Tuesday Night (or, in my case, sometimes Wednesday morning or afternoon) blogs about Christie. The link to Curt’s blog will lead you to all the other bloggers who took part in this enterprise but I thought that just for fun I shall post the links to my blogs here.And you must admit that is a very different them from my usual ones as well as a much happier one.

    My first posting, on September 29, was about Miss Marple’s somewhat mysterious nephew, Raymond West and I think I really succeeded in unravelling certain puzzling aspects of his life and relationship with his aunt.

    Then, on October 6, I wrote about Christie’s excellent understanding of social changes in Britain during and after the Second World War as well as her attitude to servants, very different from the way it is characterized by people who have heard of her novels but not read all that many of them.

    Then I took one Tommy and Tuppence Beresford, who appear in four novels and a collection of short stories. In my opinion, two of the novels are quite good, one passable and the last one is a complete mess. The collection of short stories, Partners in Crime, remains one of my favourites for reasons of entertainment rather than superior detection. On October 14 I wrote about the Beresfords in general and on October 21 I dealt with the Beresfords’ reading matter, which reflected Christie’s own to some extent and revealed some interesting facts.

    My last posting as part of the Tuesday Night Club on October 27 was about archaeologists in Christie’s work. She knew a great deal about them, having married one and having accompanied him to a number of digs in Iraq and Syria where she took part in the work of uncovering the past. I have to admit to an egregious error: I omitted Signor Richetti (Death on the Nile) from my list of fake archaeologists.

    It has been suggested that the Tuesday Night Club carries on with blogs about Ellery Queen, a seminal figure in crime writing, particularly in the US. I have read a number of the novels and short stories but have never been able to work out much enthusiasm for them, considering the atmosphere too hysterical, the character of Ellery too annoying and that of his father Richard, a New York police inspector, too stupid. I may sit the whole month out. Certainly, I have no time to do a posting this coming Tuesday but when I have read what my colleagues have written I may well think of something to say. In the meantime, have fun with Agatha Christie whose 125th birthday we are celebrating this year.

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Britain, Culture | 13 Comments »

    Happy Halloween

    Posted by Jonathan on 31st October 2015 (All posts by )

    Halloween

    Posted in Holidays, Photos | 1 Comment »

    Dead Candidate Walking

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 30th October 2015 (All posts by )

    How you spot a "Dead Candidate Walking

    How you spot a “Dead Candidate Walking”.

    When his incompetent political consultants miss this deadly connection to their candidate’s political image…and the candidate does too.

    Posted in Humor, Miscellaneous, Politics | 10 Comments »

    Medicine: The Public-Health Model is Wrong

    Posted by Jonathan on 30th October 2015 (All posts by )

    This Theodore Dalrymple post is a variation on a conventional argument whose unstated main premise is that medical cost decisions should be evaluated from a public-health perspective.

    The annual medical is a kind of ceremonial or ritual which, according to its critics, is without rational foundation despite the fact that so many patients, and perhaps a majority of doctors, believe in it. This proves that superstition is not dead: but perhaps that is no fatal criticism of the annual medical after all, because superstition will never be dead. If it does not attach to one thing, it will attach to another.
     
    [. . .]
     
    In fact, most medicals are bureaucratic procedures rather than exercises in getting-to-know-you (as The King and I put it). The doctor asks a few questions, ticks some boxes on a computer screen, performs a perfunctory physical examination equivalent to examining a cubic inch of haystack to find a pin, and does a few selected blood tests, the interpretation of whose abnormal results (if any) will be far from straightforward. In fact, what has been done and measured in annual medicals over the years has changed, without any change in their ineffectiveness.

    Ineffective for whom?

    The answer depends on who is paying the bill. If it’s third parties such as govts or insurance companies then the conventional argument has merit: maximizing system utility is an important goal. However, if patients control their own medical spending then the main goals should be whatever the individual customers want them to be.

    Dalrymple’s analyses are usually much better than this one. Perhaps his frame blindness in this case is a function of his background with the NHS.

    Posted in Health Care, Medicine, Systems Analysis | 14 Comments »

    99 Luftballons

    Posted by David Foster on 29th October 2015 (All posts by )

    The story about the runaway surveillance balloon,  especially in conjunction with the report that  there may have almost been an unauthorized missile launch in Formosa, at the time of the Cuban missile crisis, reminded me of  this song.

    Original German version, with on-screen lyrics, and  an attempt at directly translating the lyrics into English.

    Posted in Germany, History, Music, War and Peace | 8 Comments »

    The Republican Debate

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 29th October 2015 (All posts by )

    I actually watched the Republican “debate” last night. What follows are my thoughts. Before we get to that, you should know that I generally don’t pay too much attention to politics and really don’t know what I am talking about in this arena. Which probably makes me an equal to most of the talking heads. My impressions.

    “Winners” – before we get to my list of “winners”, maybe I should explain why I put it in quotes. By “winning”, I mean to define someone who I actually remember today that they said something instructive or constructive last night. Or they looked or acted sincere.

    My big winner was Ted Cruz. He seemed passionate and sincere – a true believer. I loved the way he blasted the moderators for what were, at the least, obtuse questions. They were obviously trying to stir up the hornet’s nest and were also trying to damage the candidates for the future. Cruz saw through it and called it out. Bravo.

    Another winner was Carly. She answered each and every question very succinctly and came up with some very intelligent, thoughtful answers very quickly. She adeptly brushed off the “you tanked HP” crap from the moderators.

    I also liked, but didn’t love, Rubio. Another person who I feel is a true believer. Very well spoken and put Jeb in his place when attacked. Quick on his feet.

    Didn’t win, but didn’t lose category:

    John Kasich – I have followed Kasich for a while now and he has a lot of great ideas, but he is clearly uncomfortable in a suit. He always looks awkward. I think he would be great in an administration, but I don’t know if his goofy persona will play in a general election.

    Huckabee – I think Huckabee is a good and honest person, but I can’t really remember anything specifically he said last night. I do remember that he is eloquent and speaks clearly and slowly and methodically. I would love to have him as an uncle.

    Ben Carson – I am not really feeling the almost asleep method of how he speaks, but when he does speak, it is pretty intelligent. No clue how he is topping the polls in Iowa. I think he would be a fine president, but I just don’t really get it at this point.

    Losers:

    Rand Paul – While the Libertarian in me likes what Rand Paul has said in the past and said last night, he totally fell flat. I get why he doesn’t want to get into the scrum, but I feel like he sort of mailed it in. Probably the next exit from the race.

    Chris Christie – You might disagree with me, but I don’t like the east coast asshole schtick. I am from the Midwest and I deal with my share of East Coast people, and many of them are rude and want to steamroll me and I hate that. He said some great things, don’t get me wrong, but I just don’t like the delivery.

    Jeb – You could tell he was desperate from the get go. He said nothing witty or remarkable. Probably time for him to pack it in as well.

    Trump – same ol same ol. He’s just a blowhard. Says some good things about taxes and actually does a good job answering the questions. But I have always hated him so I probably am not giving him a fair shake.

    Well, there you go, a totally amateurish take on the debate last night. Let me have it in the comments.

    Posted in Politics | 34 Comments »

    When Lobbyists Write Legislation, This Data Mining Tool Traces The Paper Trail

    Posted by Jonathan on 29th October 2015 (All posts by )

    This kind of analysis looks like a step in the right direction:

    According to the team’s analysis, seven states, including Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, and Kansas, all had similar laws on the books. Similar bills were being considered in states like Maryland and Oregon, and had already died in Florida and Minnesota. In total, very similar bills had been introduced 73 times around the country. The video below shows one of the earliest examples showed up in South Carolina in 2010.
     
    Like a plagiarism detector, the prototype can detect similar language in different bills. Yet unlike in a college class, this isn’t always a bad thing. “We avoided using the word plagiarism,” says Joe Walsh, an assistant professor at the University of Chicago and mentor to the Data Science for Social Good team. “If a bill can save lives, I would want that bill passed all 50 states.”

    (Via The Right Coast.)

    Posted in Big Government, Politics, Systems Analysis, Tea Party | 4 Comments »

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Jonathan on 26th October 2015 (All posts by )

    Richard Fernandez:

    To the relevant political audience cause and effect in matters of public policy are matters of indifference. What really counts is who shows himself king of the hill. Things some conservatives would regard as shameful are paradoxically impressive to Hillary’s voter base precisely because she can carry it off with impunity.
     
    Benghazi wasn’t a screen test for the part of Ronald Reagan. It was for Richard Daley.
     
    In some environments it is not following the law that impresses, but the ability to slug a cop and have him rise from the pavement only to clean your shoes. Hillary showed beyond any shadow of a doubt that she could utter the most improbable nonsense and make it stick, able to shrug off the puny efforts by Congress to bring her to book. In a world where power is the coin of the realm, her immense fortune was on display. All too often conservatives think that the prize goes to the fittest. In truth it often goes to the most ruthless.

    Not much to add to this. Watch the videos accompanying Fernandez’s post.

    Posted in Politics, Quotations | 17 Comments »

    Celestial Navigation

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 25th October 2015 (All posts by )

    I’m tired of doom and gloom so I thought I would post something a bit different. Sailing !

    CatalinaLaborDayRace

    In 1981, I sailed my 40 foot sailboat to Hawaii in the Transpacific Yacht Race. That year some large yachts had what were called “Sat Nav ” receivers aboard to track a system of satellites that required continuous tracking and took quite a bit of electrical power. It is now called “Transit” or “navSat”

    Thousands of warships, freighters and private watercraft used Transit from 1967 until 1991. In the 1970s, the Soviet Union started launching their own satellite navigation system Parus (military) / Tsikada (civilian), that is still in use today besides the next generation GLONASS.[10] Some Soviet warships were equipped with Motorola NavSat receivers.

    My small sailboat could not use such a system. It drew about an amp an hour, far too great a drain on my battery. For that reason I used a sextant and sight tables like these, which are published for the latitudes to be sailed.

    sight reduction

    That volume is published for latitudes 15 degrees to 30 degrees, which are the ones we most sailed. Hawaii is at about 20 degrees north and Los Angeles is 35 degrees north. The sight tables provide a set of observations that can be compared with an annual book called a “Nautical Almanac.” As it happens, the Nautical Almanac for 1981 is used for training and is still in print.

    Nautical al

    The third component, besides the sextant, of course, is a star finder, like like this one, to aid with navigational stars.

    The whole system is called Celestial Navigation.

    The first thing one needs is an accurate clock. This is the reason why sailing ships need a chronometer in the 18th century.

    Harrison solved the precision problems with his much smaller H4 chronometer design in 1761. H4 looked much like a large five-inch (12 cm) diameter pocket watch. In 1761, Harrison submitted H4 for the £20,000 longitude prize. His design used a fast-beating balance wheel controlled by a temperature-compensated spiral spring. These features remained in use until stable electronic oscillators allowed very accurate portable timepieces to be made at affordable cost. In 1767, the Board of Longitude published a description of his work in The Principles of Mr. Harrison’s time-keeper.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Holidays, Personal Narrative, Sports, Video | 28 Comments »

    Organizational Culture, Improvisation, Success, and Failure

    Posted by David Foster on 24th October 2015 (All posts by )

    Maggie’s Farm reminds us that October 21 was the 210th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar.  (JMW Turner painting of the battle at the link)  I am reminded of a thoughtful document written in 1797 by a Spanish naval official, Don Domingo Perez de Grandallana, on the general subject “why do we keep losing to the British, and what can we do about it?”  His thoughts were inspired by his observations while with the Spanish fleet off Cape St Vincent,  in a battle which was a significant defeat for Spain, and are relevant to a question which is very relevant to us today:  

    What attributes of an organization make it possible for that organization to accomplish its mission in an environment of uncertainty, rapid change, and high stress?

    Here are de Grandallana’s key points:

    An Englishman enters a naval action with the firm conviction that his duty is to hurt his enemies and help his friends and allies without looking out for directions in the midst of the fight; and while he thus clears his mind of all subsidiary distractions, he rests in confidence on the certainty that his comrades, actuated by the same principles as himself, will be bound by the sacred and priceless principle of mutual support.

    Accordingly, both he and his fellows fix their minds on acting with zeal and judgement upon the spur of the moment, and with the certainty that they will not be deserted. Experience shows, on the contrary, that a Frenchman or a Spaniard, working under a system which leans to formality and strict order being maintained in battle, has no feeling for mutual support, and goes into battle with hesitation, preoccupied with the anxiety of seeing or hearing the commander-in-chief’s signals for such and such manoeures…

    Thus they can never make up their minds to seize any favourable opportunity that may present itself. They are fettered by the strict rule to keep station which is enforced upon then in both navies, and the usual result is that in one place ten of their ships may be firing on four, while in another four of their comrades may be receiving the fire of ten of the enemy. Worst of all they are denied the confidence inspired by mutual support, which is as surely maintained by the English as it is neglected by us, who will not learn from them.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Anglosphere, Book Notes, Britain, France, History, Human Behavior, Management, Military Affairs, Society, War and Peace | 4 Comments »

    Big Sky

    Posted by Jonathan on 24th October 2015 (All posts by )

    Colorado Landscape

    Order Prints

    Posted in Photos | 4 Comments »

    The other state without a budget

    Posted by Mrs. Davis on 24th October 2015 (All posts by )

    The Wall Street Journal has an excellent article (behind paywall) by Andrew Staub on the budget stalemate in Pennsylvania. While the overall fiscal situation is less dire than Illinois (lottery winners are still being paid), the personalities less dramatic and the politics more genteel, the problems both states are confronting are ones the Federal government is ignoring courtesy of the Federal Reserve and central bankers world wide who tolerate the expansion of American debt.

    One interesting aspect of the situation Staub passes over is the split in the Republican party. While the Republicans hold a majority in both houses, they are really composed of two factions, liberal leaning Rockefeller Republicans from the eastern side of the state and more conservative members from the west. They are not so far apart that they could be described as RINOs and Tea Partiers, but their inability to consistently act in concert has weakened their numerical majority in the past. However, they recently united to pass a sure to be vetoed paycheck protection bill that had foundered under the previous Republican governor because of resistance from the easterners. This is an indication that, at least in opposition to a Democrat governor the Westerners are starting to prevail.

    On the other hand, Governor Wolf sent a tax increase bill to the House, forcing Democrat members to vote on it and the Republicans were happy to accommodate him. 73 Democrats walked the plank for their leader and 9 refused, creating division in the usually solid Democrat ranks. It will be interesting to see the electoral consequences for them.

    But there is insufficient power on either side to prevail in the budget impasse. Until the schools start closing, probably after Christmas, there is little pressure on either side to move.

    In addition to all this, Kathleen Kane, the Commonwealth’s attorney general has lost her law license as a result of her actions in disclosing sealed information from an investigation into pornographic emails circulating among, allegedly, PA Supreme Court staff and personnel in the AG’s department. She then accused a member of the court of sending and receiving racial, misogynistic pornography. She is under investigation for releasing the materials and the Supreme Court has suspended her license to practice law. The post of AG is frequently a stepping stone to the governorship in PA and the Democrats have lost an attractive potential candidate and leader.

    Pennsylvania has been a solid Democrat state in presidential elections. But with the party torn apart, the deceased in Philadelphia may not be able to turn out in sufficient numbers next November to assure the result, if the Republicans can provide an acceptable alternative to HRM. But then PA always finds a way to leave the Republican candidate standing alone at the altar.

    Posted in Humor, Illinois Politics, Miscellaneous, Politics, Predictions | 2 Comments »

    Celiac Disease and the “Worried Well”

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 23rd October 2015 (All posts by )

    My oldest daughter just got diagnosed with Celiac Disease. Maybe it really isn’t called that, but she had a strong reaction on the test. She was feeling sore in her joints and they decided to give her the test. We will be having her re-tested to be sure, but are already taking appropriate steps with her diet.

    I have had a discussion over the years with my better half that the whole celiac thing is overblown and that most of it is b.s. So this is a funny diagnosis in a goofy sort of way. My wife and I pretty much eat anything and everything and had passed that along to our kids. There are literally only four or five things I don’t like to eat and my wife is the same way. Protein, starch, vegetables, fruit, all in moderation. A balanced diet. Seems to work for us.

    A friend of mine on Facebook posted something interesting about some research that is proving that most people when they are lied to about what they are eating and given placebos, feel “better” or “worse” depending on what they THINK they are eating. I completely believe this. One doctor (or so he said he was one) provided this comment, that to me, became the quote of the day:

    In my practice I frequently see people who have NOTHING WRONG WITH THEM but who have a strong need to assume the role of a patient with some kind of diagnosis. I encourage them to go see “alternative medicine” practitioners. Indeed, the great benefit of alternative medicine is to provide the “worried well” with a pantomime theater of treatment.

    While my daughter’s diagnosis could be true, I still believe that the vast majority of people who are going “gluten free” are doing so out of misinformation or wanting to be part of a fad. Just for kicks, my wife and I are getting tested as well. We hear that it is hereditary. But we both feel fine. Maybe we need to get our chakras in order and everything will be OK.

    Posted in Medicine, Personal Narrative | 19 Comments »

    Worthwhile Reading & Viewing

    Posted by David Foster on 22nd October 2015 (All posts by )

    Bookworm attended an awards dinner for Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and reports at length on the honoree’s speech.  For those not familiar with Hirsi Ali:  raised as a Muslim in Somalia, she eventually moved to Holland, where she became of member of Parliament and collaborated on a film about Islam with Theo van Gogh, who was murdered.  Although she has been the target of many death threats, Ayaan Hirsi Ali has refused to be silenced.  Be sure to read Book’s well-written post.

    BBC has a new documentary about Ada, countess of Lovelace…computer pioneer of the 1840s, daughter of the “mad, bad, and dangerous to know” poet, Lord Byron, and aficionado of gambling on the horses.

    Once, there was an unpleasant political movement called the “Know-Nothings.”  Today, we have the Know-Betters,

    Claire Berlinski writes about the growing phenomenon of ritual humiliations and denunciations.

    Related to the above, a very interesting analysis of the evolution of society from Cultures of Honor–in which the individual must personally avenge wrongs and insults…to Cultures of Dignity–in which people are assumed to have dignity, foreswear individual violence, rely on the judicial system to to respond to major transgressions and sometime simply ignore minor transgressions (there’s no more dueling)…and now to a Culture of Victimhood, in which people are encouraged to respond to even the slightest unintentional offense, as in an honor culture–but they must not obtain redress on their own, rather, they must appeal to powerful others or administrative bodies.

    Renowned physicist Freeman Dyson says that Obama “chose the wrong side” on the climate-change debate.  His thoughts on the psychology behind apocalyptic climate thinking are interesting,

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Energy & Power Generation, Environment, History, Human Behavior, Miscellaneous, Tech | 11 Comments »

    Run

    Posted by Jonathan on 22nd October 2015 (All posts by )

    Wide Open Spaces

    Order Prints

    Posted in Photos | 2 Comments »

    No, They Are Not (for the most part) “Self-Hating”

    Posted by David Foster on 21st October 2015 (All posts by )

    Again and again, I see people referring to those Americans who have nothing but bad things to say about their own country as “self-hating Americans.”  I see Jews who display unhinged rage against Israel referred to as “self-hating Jews.”  And I have also seen many references to “self-hating Europeans.”

    I believe that the “self-hating” diagnosis of the behavior of this sort of people is in most cases quite wrong, and this wrongness matters.

    In 1940, C S Lewis wrote a little essay titled “Dangers of National Repentance.”  Apparently, there was a movement among Christian youth to “repent” England’s sins (which were thought to include the treaty of Versailles) and to “forgive” England’s enemies.  Lewis’s analysis of this movement is highly relevant to our current situation.

    “Young Christians especially..are turning to (the National Repentance Movement) in large numbers,” Lewis wrote. “They are ready to believe that England bears part of the guilt for the present war, and ready to admit their own share in the guilt of England…Most of these young men were children…when England made many of those decisions to which the present disorders could plausibly be traced. Are they, perhaps, repenting what they have in no sense done?”

    “If they are, it might be supposed that their error is very harmless: men fail so often to repent their real sins that the occasional repentance of an imaginary sin might appear almost desirable. But what actually happens (I have watched it happen) to the youthful national penitent is a little more complicated than that. England is not a natural agent, but a civil society…The young man who is called upon to repent of England’s foreign policy is really being called upon to repent the acts of his neighbor; for a foreign secretary or a cabinet minister is certainly a neighbor…A group of such young penitents will say, “Let us repent our national sins”; what they mean is, “Let us attribute to our neighbor (even our Christian neighbor) in the cabinet, whenever we disagree with him,every abominable motive that Satan can suggest to our fancy.” (Emphasis added.)

    Lewis points out that when a man who was raised to be patriotic tries to repent the sins of England, he is attempting something that will be difficult for him. “But an educated man who is now in his twenties usually has no such sentiment to mortify. In art, in literature, in politics, he has been, ever since he can remember, one of an angry minority; he has drunk in almost with his mother’s milk a distrust of English statesmen and a contempt for the manners, pleasures, and enthusiasms of his less-educated fellow countrymen.”

    It’s hard to believe that this was written more than 60 years ago–it’s such a bulls-eye description of a broad swath of our current “progressives.” (The only difference being that many of them today are a lot older than “in their twenties.”)

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Anti-Americanism, Britain, Europe, History, Human Behavior, Leftism, USA | 11 Comments »

    Does loco weed grow in Canada ?

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 20th October 2015 (All posts by )

    Canada had an election yesterday and elected Justin Trudeau, an experienced near clone of Obama.

    He has a flare for the dramatic, in speech and action, and once referred to himself in the third person. When he gets excited, his narrow shoulders jump up and down and his arms flail about. He won’t hesitate to take off his shirt or sport ridiculous facial hair for charitable causes. At times, he looks like a caricature of himself.

    That’s from Huffington Post !

    God help Canada !

    Justin Trudeau is often compared to Barack Obama, but, particularly in terms of both achievement and testosterone levels, Justin Trudeau makes Barack Obama look like Teddy Roosevelt.

    She is not very fond of the new Canadian PM.

    Justin Trudeau, whom I introduced to Taki readers last year as a flouncy-haired, forty-year-old Fauntleroy, “slender of body and of resume,” “living in the moral equivalent of his father’s basement.”

    Justin’s most notable accomplishment to date has been forcing Canada’s conservatives—for whom the former PM’s surname is a spittle-flecked swear word; as a child, I’d assumed the man’s first name was “That”—to pay the late Pierre pere backhanded compliments, à la “As least the boy’s father had a few accomplishments to his name at that age….”

    Well, at least Hillary will not have to defend her opposition to the XL Pipeline as Trudeau will probably shut down the oil shale mining in Alberta.

    The Wall Street Journal weighs in, so to speak.

    Every ruling party in a democracy eventually wears out its welcome, and on Monday Canadians tossed out the Conservative Party after nine years in power under Prime Minister Stephen Harper. They’re now taking a gamble that the winning Liberals, led by 43-year-old Justin Trudeau, won’t return to the anticompetitive economic policies of the past.

    Mr. Harper resigned as Conservative leader and said in a gracious concession speech that “the people are never wrong.” They’d clearly had enough of Mr. Harper, who governed sensibly but in his later years had grown increasingly insular and autocratic in stifling party debate. The Conservatives also suffered from the global commodity bust, which has sent Canada into a mild recession after years of outperforming most of the developed world.

    There are a few explanations but Trudeau ?

    The question now is what the Liberals will do after having campaigned on the gauzy agenda of “change” and what Mr. Trudeau calls “positive politics.” The son of the late former Liberal Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, Justin Trudeau is a former schoolteacher whose main selling point was that he is more likable than Mr. Harper.

    He’ll be helped by not having to form a coalition with the New Democrats, who would have pulled him to the economic left. Mr. Trudeau moderated his populism in the campaign, promising to keep Canada’s top federal corporate-tax rate of 15%, which is a major competitive advantage compared to America’s 35%. He also supports the Keystone XL pipeline that President Obama has blocked.

    That’s slightly reassuring but today is the day after.

    Mr. Trudeau’s most corrosive threat in the long term might be his pledge to reduce carbon emissions, which could reduce investment in Canada’s vast energy reserves.

    Well, it is an opportunity for a bit of Schadenfreude, at least for a year.

    Posted in Americas, Big Government | 25 Comments »

    Golf

    Posted by Jonathan on 20th October 2015 (All posts by )

    Golf Course

    Posted in Photos | 5 Comments »

    Dissolving the People

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 20th October 2015 (All posts by )

    Berthold Brecht’s bitterly satiric poem “The Solution” has now and again been quoted here, usually in regard to some towering idiocy on the part of a government given to complaining about a lack of support among citizens for some particular national objective. Note that I specified citizens in the once-commonly-accepted American sense, and not the citizens-as-subjects in the European sense, which seems to imply that the ordinary people of a particular nation are there merely to serve as a kind of sheep to be sheared economically, or as metaphorical cannon-fodder to be marshaled up and flung to the front of whatever national objective that the national ruling class has ruled must be the focus of the effort of the moment.

    After the uprising of the 17th of June
    The Secretary of the Writers’ Union
    Had leaflets distributed in the Stalinallee
    Stating that the people
    Had forfeited the confidence of the government
    And could win it back only
    By redoubled efforts. Would it not be easier
    In that case for the government
    To dissolve the people
    And elect another?

    Nasty old Commie that he was, he did have a way with words. The irony in this is so thick that I am surprised that it hasn’t coagulated, and dropped all the way through to the center of the earth. And it is only ironic – again – that Germany’s ruling class (analogous to our very own unholy alliance among elected politicians, the bureaucracy, the intellectual and media elite) appear to have decided to take the opportunity of unrest in the Middle East, to dissolve the people and elect another, welcoming them in with balloons, banners and stuffed toys.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Society, Current Events, Europe, Germany, Immigration, International Affairs, Islam | 28 Comments »

    The Cuban Missile Crisis, as Viewed from a Soviet Launch Facility

    Posted by David Foster on 19th October 2015 (All posts by )

    (rerun)

    This month marks the 53rd anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis, which brought the world dangerously close to thermonuclear war.

    Several years ago,  I read  Rockets and People, the totally fascinating memoir of Soviet rocket developer Boris Chertok, which I reviewed here.

    Chertok’s career encompassed both military and space-exploration projects, and in late October 1962 he was focused on preparations for launching a Mars probe. On the morning of Oct 27, he was awakened by “a strange uneasiness.” After a quick breakfast, he headed for the missile assembly building, known as the MIK.

    At the gatehouse, there was usually a lone soldier on duty who would give my pass a cursory glance. Now suddenly I saw a group of soldiers wielding sub-machine guns, and they thoroughly scrutinized my pass. Finally they admitted me to the facility grounds and there, to my surprise, I again saw sub-machine-gun-wielding soldiers who had climbed up the fire escape to the roof of the MIK. Other groups of soldiers in full combat gear, even wearing gas masks, were running about the periphery of the secure area. When I stopped in at the MIK, I immediately saw that the “duty” R-7A combat missile, which had always been covered and standing up against the wall, which we had always ignored, was uncovered.

    Chertok was greeted by his friend Colonel Kirillov, who was in charge of this launch facility. Kirollov did not greet Chertok with his usual genial smile, but with a “somber, melancholy expression.”

    Without releasing my hand that I’d extended for our handshake, he quietly said: “Boris Yevseyevich, I have something of urgent importance I must tell you”…We went into his office on the second floor. Here, visibly upset, Kirillov told me: “Last night I was summoned to headquarters to see the chief of the [Tyura-Tam] firing range. The chiefs of the directorates and commanders of the troop units were gathered there. We were told that the firing range must be brought into a state of battle readiness immediately. Due to the events in Cuba, air attacks, bombardment, and even U.S. airborne assaults are possible. All Air Defense Troops assets have already been put into combat readiness. Flights of our transport airplanes are forbidden. All facilities and launch sites have been put under heightened security. Highway transport is drastically restricted. But most important—I received the order to open an envelope that has been stored in a special safe and to act in accordance with its contents. According to the order, I must immediately prepare the duty combat missile at the engineering facility and mate the warhead located in a special depot, roll the missile out to the launch site, position it, test it, fuel it, aim it, and wait for a special launch command. All of this has already been executed at Site No. 31. I have also given all the necessary commands here at Site No. 2. Therefore, the crews have been removed from the Mars shot and shifted over to preparation of the combat missile. The nosecone and warhead will be delivered here in 2 hours.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Cuba, History, Miscellaneous, Russia, Space, War and Peace | 6 Comments »

    What is Climate Change doing to Science ?

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 18th October 2015 (All posts by )

    The discussion on Global Warming, has shifted to “Climate Change” as the warming has slowed or stopped, depending on your politics. Now there are a few rather timid questions being asked about this highly charged topic.

    “Doubt has been eliminated,” said Gro Harlem Brundtland, former Prime Minister of Norway and UN Special Representative on Climate Change, in a speech in 2007: “It is irresponsible, reckless and deeply immoral to question the seriousness of the situation. The time for diagnosis is over. Now it is time to act.” John Kerry says we have no time for a meeting of the flat-earth society. Barack Obama says that 97 per cent of scientists agree that climate change is “real, man-made and dangerous”.

    This is the consensus of politicians. Scientists ? Read the resumes of the people pontificating on Climate Change. How many are real scientists ?

    A Member of Parliament with a Physics degree, was ridiculed by the BBC for questioning Climate Change.

    Peter Lilley, a long standing member of the energy and climate select committee, has made a formal complaint to director general Lord Hall after discovering that mandarins had issued an apology following claims he made that the effects of climate change were being exaggerated.

    Appearing on BBC Radio 4’s ‘What’s the Point of The Met Office’, Mr Lilley stated that, while he “accepted the thesis that more CO2 in the atmosphere will marginally warm up the earth”, he questioned the assertion that global warming would be as dramatic as is being portrayed in some scientific circles.

    Mr Lilley, who graduated with a degree in natural sciences at Cambridge University, said: “I’m a ‘lukewarmist’, one who thinks that there won’t be much warming as a result of it, and that’s the scientifically proven bit of the theory. Anything going on the alarmist scale is pure speculation.”

    Sounds mild to me.

    Mr Lilley was horrified to discover that the BBC later placed “health warnings” on the programme’s website, and issued an apology for “giving voice to climate sceptics” and failing to “make clear that they are a minority, out of step with the scientific consensus.”

    The apology was written to listeners who had complained, including academic Dr Andrew Smedley, of Manchester University, and then re-stated on the BBC Rado 4’s programme Feedback.

    That sounds like “Trigger Warnings” in American university life. This sort of thing has gotten more common the past 20 years. Why ?

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Environment, Science | 11 Comments »

    October at the Wall

    Posted by Grurray on 17th October 2015 (All posts by )

    All over the city people are coming out of their houses. This is the nature of Thomson’s homer. It makes people want to be in the streets, joined with others, telling others what has happened, those few who haven’t heard — comparing faces and states of mind.
     
    And Russ has a hot mike in front of him and has to find someone to take it and talk so he can get down to the field and find a way to pass intact through all that mangle.
     
    Russ thinks this is another kind of history. He thinks they will carry something out of here that joins them all in a rare way, that binds them to a memory with protective power. People are climbing lampposts on Amsterdam Avenue, tooting car horns in Little Italy. Isn’t it possible that this midcentury moment enters the skin more lastingly than the vast shaping strategies of eminent leaders, generals steely in their sunglasses — the mapped visions that pierce our dreams? Russ wants to believe a thing like this keeps us safe in some undetermined way. This is the thing that will pulse in his brain come old age and double vision and dizzy spells — the surge sensation, the leap of people already standing, that bolt of noise and joy when the ball went in. This is the people’s history and it has flesh and breath that quicken to the force of this old safe game of ours. And fans at the Polo Grounds today will be able to tell their grandchildren — they’ll be gassy old men leaning into the next century and trying to convince anyone willing to listen, pressing in with medicine breath, that they were here when it happened.
     
    “Pafko at the Wall” by Don DeLillo

    Organized sports have a hold on us unlike other cultural institutions. With precise rules, boundaries, and metrics, these various games of skillful competition provide dependable amusements and diversions. Just as sure as the seasons change, baseball starts up in the spring and football in the autumn. We can’t be certain what our schools will be teaching our children from year to year or which government agency will stomp on our individual rights next, but we do know that three strikes will always result in an out and ten yards a first down.

    Aside from satisfying leisurely pursuits and expectations, there are also other things sports provide. For the athlete, when skills, training, discipline, and focus all come together and reach a certain threshold, the state of optimal experience is said to occur. The best example I always think of for this is Michael Jordan in his prime playing the game on some seemingly subconscious level. At his peak Jordan could be counted on to perform “in the zone” to carry the whole team, often all the way to championships. He hit several game winning shots with the most notable being his last game with the Bulls to win the title in 1998.

    The baseball equivalent of this particular rare quality of being able to elevate your team to victory at the crucial decisive moment is the clutch hitter. Except the statisticians would tell us that they can’t find any statistical significance between performance in the “clutch” and at other times. They say consistency in the regular season simply carries over to important times in games which brings the associative positive expectancy.

    Of course, fans watching and players participating would find the significance of it was not any statistical frequency or probability but that the big play occurred at the appropriate moment. Rising to the occasion when the occasion presents the ultimate trial and pressure. Seizing the day when all involved are maximally invested in the outcome, whether it be facilitating or preventing it. In the context of the aforementioned flow experience, there’s a paradox of simultaneously living in the moment by being mentally outside the moment in order to dominate the moment.

    It’s impossible to quantify situations like that, and that’s why we see them as transcending numbers or rules or frames of reference. All the participants – players, fans, officials – are witnessing something outside normative behaviors. It’s a transcendence of outward conventional description but still operating in immanent territory that’s opaque and obscured to the rules-givers, stat compilers, and deciders,

    Where I’m going with all this is that if you’ve been following baseball lately then you’ve probably noticed that the Chicago Cubs have entered the playoffs. They aren’t just playing in the postseason, but they are looking pretty good, maybe even good enough to go all the way. Now to some this may seem like we’re really tempting fate even talking about it here because the Cubs haven’t won the World Series in over a century. I’m not going to mention it specifically because I think it’s too silly, but if you even have just a casual awareness of the Cubs history then you know why many believe the Cubs can’t win.

    Again the statisticians would just tell us about numbers or probabilities or splits, but the rest of us who’ve been following the team through thick and thin for our entire lives know that there’s just a bit more that goes into either winning or, far too often in the Cubs history, losing.

    For one thing, the matchups in the playoffs really are significant this time. If you remember when Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls went on their historic string of championships in the ’90s, they first had to overcome and surpass a bitter rival, the Detroit Pistons. The Pistons had won two years in a row, roughing the Bulls up in the process. When the Bulls finally beat them to advance into the finals, it felt like an immense hurdle was overcome on the path to a championship.

    The Cubs have seemed to be on a similar track so far in the playoffs. They just faced and defeated their historic rival, the St. Louis Cardinals in the division playoffs. Their rivalry is another example of transcending the evident situation or matchup. The Cardinals have hall of fame players and managers come and go but still always seem to finish in first place. Last season, the New York Times mapped out fan boundaries for all the major league teams. The boundary between the Cubs and the Cardinals also closely follows the voting pattern for the 1860 presidential election between Lincoln and Douglas. There’s an ancient demarcation between these two teams, and for the Cubs to beat them now feels like we just overcame a big obstacle, perhaps on the level of the Bulls and the Pistons. Perhaps it was an even bigger test.

    This next series is now for the National League Championship, and it’s against the New York Mets. Many long time fans of the game may recall that the Mets were an unlikely Cinderella story in 1969 when they went on a historic run to win the World Series. They’ve since been dubbed the “Amazins” or the “Miracle” Mets or other such obnoxious monikers. Unfortunately, in Chicago that season is known for the opposite because the Cubs were the team that they overtook late in the season to win the Pennant.

    The Cubs team of the late ’60s may be the most beloved of any, mostly because of its connections with baby boomer fans coming of age but also because of its many terrific players, notably the great Ernie Banks who just passed away this summer. Despite being loaded with talent, the team never made the playoffs, and their collapse in 1969 has always been the nexus of the fans’ bittersweet love for the team.

    I’m sure the current team doesn’t care about it or shouldn’t care about it, but for many fans this next test is a chance to finally come to terms with their complicated fandom for the Chicago Cubs.

    We don’t even want to think about what might come after that. The Cubs have a great team this year performing at its peak just at the right time. Matchups and stats and metrics confirm it, but to get over the ultimate hurdle will require intangible and unquantifiable efforts. And in turn, this “old safe game” of ours that we’ve been playing and watching for so long that it’s become a part of us will give back unsaid reward and maybe a little redemption for those efforts.

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 15 Comments »

    Gridlock

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 17th October 2015 (All posts by )

    I remember when I first joined companies I assumed that the executives in charge knew what they were doing and wouldn’t do something ridiculously stupid. After a while I came to learn that this wasn’t the case.

    In Chicago recently an effort is underway to increase the use of bikes and create additional lanes for safety. At the same time they are attempting to create a bus corridor in the loop.

    The net result, sadly, is utter and complete gridlock. I have stopped taking the bus unless the weather is horrendous because many of the intersections between River North and the Loop are facing gridlock, where cars are in the intersection after the light changes and no one can move. This was already the case on Thursdays and Fridays after work as everyone moved to exit the city at one time.

    They are also building a lot of new high rises, particularly near the Merchandise Mart / Wolf Point. It is incredible that they are able to pack more high rises into that area because traffic is unbelievably bad at that location, already. There is a Brown Line stop nearby but that only is useful for those on that train line and most of the wealthy folks that live / work in that location will likely drive frequently.

    On the other hand, it is good for the “steps” that I track on my iPhone. Since taking a cab or even the bus is mostly pointless I am walking to work more often. When the weather gets terrible I will likely just sit on the bus and read my iPhone like everyone else while sitting motionless in traffic.

    Cross posted at LITGM

    Posted in Big Government, Chicagoania | 18 Comments »

    Donald Trump unbound.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 17th October 2015 (All posts by )

    I have been watching the phenomenon of Donald Trump and wondering if it can continue or if he will implode. So far he seems to be riding the wave of disgust with professional politicians that has dominated the Republican Party this year.

    This post by Neo-neocon raises some questions.

    What does Trump really believe ?

    …Mark Levin excoriated Trump in this clip from 2011, but now doesn’t sing the same tune although the facts he sets out here have not changed in the least (it’s the topmost clip on the page, the one that’s 12:01 minutes long; I can’t figure out a way to embed it).

    You can hear lots of fascinating stuff there. Trump likes Nancy Pelosi (5:14). He wanted her to impeach George W. Bush (5:25), because he says Bush lied about WMDs. At 6:27 he speculates that it would be hard to even imagine a worse president than Bush. At 7:26 you hear Trump saying President Bush is evil. He then contrasts Obama (who at the time he was speaking had been elected but not inaugurated), saying that Obama has:

    “…a chance to go down as a great president…I think he’s going to lead through consensus. It’s not just going to be just a bull run like Bush did—he just did whatever the hell he wanted—go into a country and attack Iraq, which had nothing to do with the World Trade Center, and just do it because he wanted to do it.

    Is that our candidate ?

    Now, there are many ways to criticize George W. Bush. Some of them are even valid. But what Trump is saying here: that Bush lied about WMDs, that he’s evil, that it’s hard to imagine a worse president, and that he attacked Iraq “because he wanted to do it” is—well, it’s not only straight out of the leftist playbook, it borders on evil in and of itself. What’s more, Trump shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the reasons Bush actually did attack Iraq.

    We’ve been discussing this here in another post. Why would the Republican Party nominate a man who has said those things about the last Republican president ?

    Then there’s this one with Blitzer from the 2008 campaign. It contained the “impeach Bush” remark:

    BLITZER: [What do you think of] Nancy Pelosi, the speaker?

    TRUMP: Well, you know, when she first got in and was named speaker, I met her. And I’m very impressed by her. I think she’s a very impressive person. I like her a lot.

    But I was surprised that she didn’t do more in terms of Bush and going after Bush. It was almost — it just seemed like she was going to really look to impeach Bush and get him out of office, which, personally, I think would have been a wonderful thing.

    BLITZER: Impeaching him?

    TRUMP: Absolutely, for the war, for the war.

    BLITZER: Because of the conduct of the war.

    TRUMP: Well, he lied. He got us into the war with lies.

    Is that what we want ? I am very concerned about illegal immigration, as I have previously pointed out.

    I have been pessimistic about the future of the country for a while. Recently, I have been very pessimistic.

    One of the arguments for the impossibility of an event is lack of previous failure. “It never failed before and thus can never fail ever”. The Washington Post’s editorial board invokes a variant of this logic to refute Donald Trump’s border policy, arguing there are so many illegal immigrants it is too expensive to deport them all, leaving no alternative but to accept more.

    Naturally, the WaPo is certain they know what could happen.

    A useful case study is California, whose economy accounts for about 13 percent of U.S. gross domestic product and whose 2.6 million undocumented workers include almost a tenth of the state’s workforce.

    We had an interesting demonstration several years ago. The Mexican activist organizations decided to stage a “strike by illegals” to show how dependent on them California, and specifically Los Angeles, was on the work illegal aliens (although you can’t call them that). They decided to stay home for a day or two. Traffic congestion dropped to tolerable levels and we have been trying, unsuccessfully, to get them to stage another “strike” ever since. That, plus their use of Mexican flags at protests, have now been abandoned as tactics.

    I am all for controlling illegal immigration but is this what we want as our representative on the national stage ?

    Posted in Big Government, Civil Society, Current Events, Elections, Immigration, Politics, Trump | 75 Comments »

    Fun with License Plates

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 16th October 2015 (All posts by )

    Some folks want attention on their license plates.

    Here’s one of the few that remembers the predecessor to the Internet, known only by old techies and weirdos like me.

    And here’s a reference to one of my favorite authors, horror pioneer HP Lovecraft and his mythos.

    Cross posted at LITGM

    Posted in Humor | 8 Comments »