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  • Archive for February, 2016

    Was the Real Wild West one of “Institutional Entrepreneurs”?

    Posted by Ginny on 29th February 2016 (All posts by )

    I don’t read much lately, but my more libertarian daughter listens to Hoover & Cato podcasts.  She mentioned one on The Not So Wild, Wild West: Property Rights on the Frontier  So I ordered the book. I don’t know much about economics but have come to admire economists because they so aptly describe human nature, and often give arguments for wise institutions. The authors argue that “entrepreneurs of institutions” helped make life relatively orderly on the frontier. For instance, one maximized the profits and minimized the costs by ensuring Abilene was railhead, where the cowboys ended their long contracts of driving the cattle and the railroads took them east. But often it wasn’t a “middleman” as much as the consensus of a group, as they set out in wagon trains or obtained mining rights.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, Economics & Finance, Education, History | 10 Comments »

    Chicago Boyz Waiting Room Series: 3

    Posted by Jonathan on 29th February 2016 (All posts by )

    NO CHECKS

    Posted in Photos, Waiting Rooms | 8 Comments »

    Toward Financial Independence

    Posted by Nathaniel T. Lauterbach on 28th February 2016 (All posts by )

    I commented in this post about the consumerist fog that in which I was living as a middle-rank American military officer, and my desire to “fix” or improve my situation by taking command of my finances.

    How did we do it?

    It was simple, but not easy.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Economics & Finance, Human Behavior, Miscellaneous, Personal Finance, Personal Narrative, Taxes | 14 Comments »

    The Big Middle Finger

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 27th February 2016 (All posts by )

    Honestly, that is the only way that I can account for the out-of-completely-left field popularity of Donald Trump. He is not a notorious small-government libertarian like the Koch brothers, or has any previous political interests of any stripe to recommend him particularly; not even any detectable small-government, free-market and strict Constitutionalist Tea Party sympathies to recommend him.  If anything, he has always appeared to me as one of those big, vulgar crony-capitalist, unserious reality-TV personalities; the epitome of vulgar architectural bad taste and in blithely using his money and influence to cheerfully run over anyone who got in his way. His campaign at first seemed to be a particularly tasteless joke – a grab for publicity on the part of a flamboyant personality who never seemed to get enough of it, in a bad or a good way. So – all props for having the sheer brass neck to start playing the game, and playing it with calculated skill. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Civil Society, Conservatism, Current Events, Society, Tea Party, USA | 38 Comments »

    My Pathetic Vote in Illinois Is Now the Hottest Ticket in Town

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 27th February 2016 (All posts by )

    Due to the fact that I live in Illinois which has been carved into districts to ensure Democratic majorities, my vote is mostly useless or a protest vote at best. I wrote about gerrymandering here and the fact that perhaps I live in the most ruthlessly gerrymandered district in the nation (and that is no small feat), the fifth Illinois house district, with our current representative, Ken Dunkin.

    Recently I have been receiving a series of mailings for Ken Dunkin’s re-election, which is hotly contested. Currently in Illinois, the Democrats technically have a super-majority, meaning that they can unilaterally issue a budget (more or less) and raise taxes. However, not every Democrat “falls into line” with Mike Madigan, the speaker of the Illinois house, who is the true leader of the Democratic party in Illinois. Rauner is looking for Democrats who might listen to his message of reform or for some reason or another be amenable to working constructively with him (don’t want to speculate too long on why this might be, but you can probably jump to your own conclusion). Dunkin refused to show up for a vote that Madigan thought was crucial in September and conspiracy theories have him aligned with Rauner.

    Per this article from the Chicago Tribune:

    More than $2 million, an unprecedented sum for a legislative primary contest, could be spent between Dunkin, who has allied himself with Rauner against Madigan, and Stratton, who is backed by organized labor.

    This is a ridiculous amount of money to spend on a primary race for a house seat for the Illinois legislature. Given the Democratic machines’ hold on this part of the city, it is accepted as a “given” that the Democratic candidate will win so all of the efforts go into the primary.

    Thus my vote is now a precious commodity. Seemingly every day I get a giant, colorful, nearly insane flyer in the mail with the two candidates attacking each other. Here is a flyer stating that Ken Dunkin was convicted of abusing women and is unfit for office.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Chicagoania, Illinois Politics, Politics | 12 Comments »

    Who is giving Apple legal advice?

    Posted by Mrs. Davis on 27th February 2016 (All posts by )

    The government is asking Apple to give it the password to Syed Rizwan Farook’s iPhone and iCloud account. Apple is refusing to do so based on its First Amendment rights. This seems to me to be a very weak argument. Just ask Judith Miller. And there really is very little difference. Apple will have to spend $100,000 to comply and all Judith Miller needed to do was name a source. But Apple’s case involves a national security threat to each and every American whereas Judith Miller’s involved only an implausible threat to Valerie Plame who chose to garner all kinds of media attention thereafter. If there were a safe deposit box the government wanted opened, it would go to a court and get an order for the bank to drill the locks out so that the box could be removed. The bank would comply. Apple will lose.

    And if Apple does not lose, the matter will go, as its pleading requests and as it may, even if it loses, now that Apple has made such a ruckus, from the fairly rational precincts of the judiciary to the fully irrational floor of the Congress. Let’s suppose that before legislation is completed there is another domestic terror incident in the US and the terrorist used an Apple iPhone. What kind of legislation would Apple get after that? While not yet widely known, Apple has likely put a back door into every Chinese iPhone via a Chinese designed chip added to the iPhone at China’s insistence for phones sold in the PRC. If this is confirmed, Congress would go even more non-linear.

    And what other things might the government do if Apple were to prevail? Well, in the extreme it could ask GCHQ or some other foreign service to crack the iPhone in general. No device is uncrackable. It could also signal the Chinese that it would not be aggressive in pursuing IP violations by China in the case of Apple products. Apple is refusing to cooperate with its government in the first responsibility of that government, to protect its citizens. There would be consequences. Is it really good legal advice to let your client take such risks?

    Apple should have quietly cut a deal with the government that would offer its customers the maximum security and quietly complied with court orders until a truly offensive order was received. Barring that, Apple would have a far better argument saying that ordering it to break its phones would lower their value to customers, lowering Apple’s revenues, and lowering Apple’s market cap. This would constitute an uncompensated taking by the Federal government of enormous monetary value from every Apple shareholder for which Apple should be compensated.

    With existing technology, you have no privacy. Products are in development that will allow retailers to know how long you look at an item on a shelf, if you pick it up, if you return it to the shelf, how long you look at it and if you buy it. And if you wear an iWatch or other wearable, it will know how much your pulse and bp increased at each step of engagement. If you use gmail, as almost everyone seems to, Google knows the content of every email you send and receive. Who is more likely to release or resell your email, Google or the FBI? The Silicon Valley forces lining up against the government are the most probable threat to what you think is your privacy. It’s been almost 20 years since Scott McNealy said “You’ve got no privacy. Get over it.”

    Apple will be made out to be protecting the ability of terrorists to communicate in secret. We are at war with these terrorists. They will kill any of us where ever they can. Article III, section 3 of the Constitution states,”Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort.” That sounds a lot like what Apple is seeking to do under protection of the first amendment’s emanations and penumbras.

    Tim Cook is engaging in the same kind of magical thinking that has dominated the boomer elite and led to so many tragedies for the last 24 years. Losing wars has consequences.

    Posted in Advertising, China, Civil Liberties, Current Events, Miscellaneous, Politics, Privacy, Tech | 60 Comments »

    A Preference Cascade is Forming.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 26th February 2016 (All posts by )

    trump

    Glenn Reynolds has known about this for a long time.

    “This illustrates, in a mild way, the reason why totalitarian regimes collapse so suddenly. (Click here for a more complex analysis of this and related
    issues)
    . Such regimes have little legitimacy, but they spend a lot of effort making sure that citizens don’t realize the extent to which their fellow-citizens dislike the regime. If the secret police and the censors are doing their job, 99% of the populace can hate the regime and be ready to revolt against it – but no revolt will occur because no one realizes that everyone else feels the same way.

    Peggy Noonan has written about it several times.

    But in my experience any nonpolitical person on the street, when asked who will win, not only knows but gets a look as if you’re teasing him. Trump, they say.

    I had such a conversation again Tuesday with a friend who repairs shoes in a shop on Lexington Avenue. Jimmy asked me, conversationally, what was going to happen. I deflected and asked who he thinks is going to win. “Troomp!” He’s a very nice man, an elderly, old-school Italian-American, but I saw impatience flick across his face: Aren’t you supposed to know these things?

    In America now only normal people are capable of seeing the obvious.

    This is something I have been looking at for a while.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Society, Culture, Elections, Politics, Trump | 56 Comments »

    “The Unofficial Ladybird Guide To Left-Wing People”

    Posted by Jonathan on 25th February 2016 (All posts by )

    Funny and accurate:

    Left-wing people care so deeply that they don’t have time for thinking and convincing.
     
    [. . .]
     
    Left-wing activists help other people care on the internet. They are very helpful in pointing out when people have forgotten to show that they care.
     
    [. . .]
     
    The enlightened comedians make people laugh at right-wing people, whom they consider stupid. In the olden days, comedians made jokes about Irish people, but these comedians weren’t clever like the enlightened comedians.

    Read the whole thing.

    (Via Jim Bennett.)

    Posted in Humor, Leftism | 18 Comments »

    Could iPhones be built robotically in the USA?

    Posted by Michael Hiteshew on 24th February 2016 (All posts by )

    What if someone were to apply the computer-controlled logistics system of an Amazon.com type business with robotic manufacturing? At Amazon, parts are stocked and retrieved robotically, inventories are updated, parts ordered, payments made, payments received, all with a minimum of human intervention. Humans manage the system, the system does the grunt work. Everything that can be automated is.

    Combine that with robotic assembly, robotic inspection, robotic test, robotic packaging and shipping, and it seems one could easily compete with China for manufacturing a product like an iPhone. If something seems obvious yet does not occur, then one has not accounted for some key thing.

    From my perspective, the key engine of economic growth is manufacturing; taking raw or less valuable material, applying know-how and capability, and creating something with greater net worth than the sum of its raw material worth. It is the foundation of wealth creation. And wealth creation is the foundation of a healthy economy, a high standard of living, social stability and opportunity.

    Are we so tangled up in taxes and EPA and OSHA regulations we simply cannot manufacture anything competitively in the United States any longer, even with robots? If so, what is the solution, realistically? Is it possible to reform the regulatory state or does it need to be discarded, starting fresh? Can the tax system be fixed or should it burned and rebuilt? What is required to get manufacturing back on track in the United States?

     

    Posted in Business, Economics & Finance, Tech | 26 Comments »

    Negative Interest Rates! What A Great Idea!

    Posted by Jonathan on 23rd February 2016 (All posts by )

    Japanese Seeking a Place to Stash Cash Start Snapping Up Safes (WSJ, subscription required):

    TOKYO—Look no further than Japan’s hardware stores for a worrying new sign that consumers are hoarding cash—the opposite of what the Bank of Japan had hoped when it recently introduced negative interest rates.
     
    Signs are emerging of higher demand for safes—a place where the interest rate on cash is always zero, no matter what the central bank does. Cash languishing in safes could thwart the Bank of Japan’s move to get money circulating more vigorously in the economy.
     
    Shimachu Co., which operates a chain of stores selling hardware and home products, said Monday that sales of safes in the week that ended Sunday were 2½ times higher than in the same period a year earlier.

    Of course the Fed would never be so foolish as to institute a negative-rates policy in the hope of getting investors to prop up weakening securities markets. Right?

    (Via T. Greer on Twitter)

    Posted in Big Government, Economics & Finance | 12 Comments »

    Rerun: “Cologne, Rape, and ‘Purim & My Bangladeshi Friend'”

    Posted by Jonathan on 23rd February 2016 (All posts by )

    Seth Barrett Tillman:

    I wrote and published this 8-page short story–Purim & My Bangladeshi Friend–a little while back. As I said, today is Purim, and it’s Purim again in a month. So my short story is, I think, once again, timely, and sadly, once again, all too relevant to life in our shared West, in our shared modernity.

    Seth’s story is here.

    (Today’s post is a rerun because Lex wrote a post about Seth’s story a couple of years ago. Lex’s post is still worth reading.)

    Posted in Deep Thoughts, Europe, History, Holidays, Human Behavior, Islam, Judaism | 1 Comment »

    Dresden (rerun)

    Posted by David Foster on 23rd February 2016 (All posts by )

    (Great Satan’s Girlfrind notes that this month marks the 71st anniversary of the Allied air attack on the city of Dresden.  In 2009 I posted about the raid, the German movie based on it, and Obama’s then-impending visit to the city, and reposted it last year.)

    Dresden, once known as “Florence on the Elbe” because of its beauty and culture, is now best known for its destruction by British and American bombers in February of 1945.  “Dresden” is the name of a haunting movie, originally made for German television, about a love affair in the doomed city.

    Dresden is of course also the German city that Barack Obama intends to visit–for reasons best known to himself–during his current trip to Europe. It seems like this would be an appropriate time to review the film (which I watched a couple of months ago via Netflix) and to use it as a springboard for discussion of the Dresden bombing and of the WWII strategic bombing campaign in general.

    Here’s a brief synopsis of the film. I’ve tried to minimize the spoilers, but some are inevitable.

    Anna Mauth is a nurse in a Dresden hospital. Although she hopes to attend medical school and become a physician, she has put these plans on hold in order to assist her father, Dr Carl Mauth, who runs the hospital–which is heavily overloaded and constantly short of supplies. Anna’s fiance, Alexander Wenninger, is a dedicated young physican but just a bit of a pompous prig. Her sister, Eva, is a horrible little Nazi enthusiast, glorying in her affair with a Gauleiter’s adjutant and luxuriating in the special privileges she is able to obtain through this relationship. Anna’s best friend, Maria, is married to a Jewish man, Simon Goldberg–and she holds his life in her hands, because it is only by virtue of the marriage that he has been–thus far–protected from arrest and shipment to a concentration camp.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Miscellaneous | Comments Off on Dresden (rerun)

    Dresden, “Dresden”, and WWII Strategic Bombing

    Posted by David Foster on 23rd February 2016 (All posts by )

    Today marks the 74th anniversary of the Allied air attack on the city of Dresden. That city, once known as “Florence on the Elbe” because of its beauty and culture, is now best known for its destruction by British and American bombers in February of 1945. “Dresden” is the name of a haunting movie, originally made for German television, about a love affair in the doomed city.

    This post (an edited rerun of my earlier posts) is a review which uses the film as a springboard for discussion of the Dresden bombing and of the WWII strategic bombing campaign in general. I’ve tried to minimize the spoilers in the review, but some are inevitable.

    Anna Mauth is a nurse in a Dresden hospital. Although she hopes to attend medical school and become a physician, she has put these plans on hold in order to assist her father, Dr Carl Mauth, who runs the hospital–which is heavily overloaded and constantly short of supplies. Anna’s fiance, Alexander Wenninger, is a dedicated young physican but just a bit of a pompous prig. Her sister, Eva, is a horrible little Nazi enthusiast, glorying in her affair with a Gauleiter’s adjutant and luxuriating in the special privileges she is able to obtain through this relationship. Anna’s best friend, Maria, is married to a Jewish man, Simon Goldberg–and she holds his life in her hands, because it is only by virtue of the marriage that he has been–thus far–protected from arrest and shipment to a concentration camp.

    Robert Newman, a British bomber pilot, had been shot down during an earlier raid somewhere in the vicinity. Aided by his ability to speak excellent German (his mother was a German who moved to Britain), Robert makes his way to Dresden and–masquerading as a German soldier–seeks treatment in Anna’s hospital. She is immediately attracted to him. (At first she thinks he is a German deserter and later concludes that he must be a British spy.) After discovering a terrible breach of medical ethics by both her fiance and her father–one that both men justify in terms of higher responsibility to family than to patients–Anna falls in love with Robert and begins an affair.

    Meanwhile, back in Britain, Bomber Command is doing target planning. The Russians, who have launched a major offensive, have requested massive air strikes in order to absorb German resources and prevent reinforcements from reaching the battlefront. The targeting analysts review available cities with the intent of choosing one with the right attributes–wooden houses, narrow streets–to enable the generation of a firestorm (as had previously been done to deadly effect in Hamburg and other cities), and they choose Dresden. (In one scene, an aerial view of the city morphs into a reconnaissance photo being used for planning purposes at Bomber Command headquarters.) The raid, the resulting destruction of the city, and the efforts of Anna and Robert to survive, are vividly portrayed.

    The character development is generally good, and the movie features many excellent performances: I was particularly impressed by Benjamin Sadler’s superb performance as Alexander Wenninger. Felicitas Woll does a fine job as Anna. The British bomber pilot, Robert Newman (portrayed by John Light) did not seem to me to be as well-developed as some of the other characters.

    Some of the scenes stretch credulity. It is just barely possible to imagine that a real Anna and Robert might have had sex in a crowded hospital ward. It is not possible to imagine that a real Robert would have snuck into Anna’s engagement party; still less that he could have gotten away with it.

    The movie makes an honest attempt to avoid portraying the people of Dresden as entirely innocent victims. A movie audience is shown cheering the launch of V-weapons at London. Children are shown mocking a Jewish man in the street. The fear which haunts Dresden’s surviving Jewish community is clearly portrayed. (I would have liked to see a few more scenes added along these lines–maybe Eva and some of her Nazi friends gloating over furniture and jewelry they had looted from dispossessed Jews.) Sir Arthur Harris, head of Bomber Command, is allowed to state his case that the attack will shorten the war and save lives. The film also honestly shows that the bombing was applauded by victims of Naziism–Simon Goldberg, knowing that he will likely end his days in a concentration camp, prays to God that the city of Dresden will be burned to the ground.

    Looking at the customer reviews of this film (on Amazon, Netflix, and other sites) is a somewhat disturbing experience. There seem to be quite a few people applauding the film for “getting beyond good guys and bad guys,” or words to that effect. I think they are finding more moral equivalency in the film than is actually in it, and more than a few seem to desire such equivalency. One (American) reviewer actually said “Because we follow characters in both England and Germany, we see that neither side is completely to blame for the horrors of WWII, however, neither is completely innocent either.”

    Some reviewers were also highly critical of the fact that the attack took place so late in the war–one referred to “the decision to bomb a great, cultured city when Germany was already on its knees.”

    It was indeed pretty clear in February 1945 that Germany was facing defeat, and a traditional national leader–a Bismarck, or even a Kaiser Wilhelm–would almost certainly have elected to surrender. But Germany was not being run by a normal leader. The Nazis clearly intended to fight to the end, and they had convinced a substantial portion of the population that defeat would mean personal disaster for all Germans. (This was amplified by the fact that–although most Germans did not know the details of the Holocaust–they did know that horrible things had been done in their names, and many suspected that retribution was likely.)

    While the war continued, thousands of people were being killed every day. No one knew what additional tricks the Nazi leadership had up their sleeve–another secret weapon? Another massive ground attack along the lines of the one that brought on the Battle of the Bulge? No one knew, in February 1945, what the date of V-E day would be.

    When strategic bombing first became practical, George Orwell asserted that “the only way to stop someone from dropping a bomb on your mother is to drop two bombs on his mother.” This was not, as it turned out, strictly true–with the emergence of radar and of computer-directed gunfire, the mantra that “the bomber will always get through” turned out to be less absolutely the case than had been envisaged in the early- and mid-1930s. But the statement still had a strong element of truth…and one that would grow further in importance after the war, with the emergence of nuclear-bomb-carrying ballistic missiles which really could not be shot down. I must observe that many of the people who denounce Dresden and Hiroshima as war crimes are the same ones who fervently oppose any form of conventional military action against rogue states such as North Korea and Iran, preferring instead to put their faith in “massive retaliation” and “deterrence.” But what massive retaliation really means in practice is doing to Teheran (for example) what was done to Dresden, multiplied a thousandfold.

    It must also be remembered that precision bombing, in the present-day sense, did not exist in 1945. The U.S. made much of its Norden computing bombsight, and the Norden was indeed a remarkable piece of apparatus. But even this sophisticated equipment could not compensate for the cloudy skies common over Northern Europe, or for the unpredicable components of the wind. (The limitations of aerial navigation at the time are demonstrated by the fact that some of the bombers tasked to hit Dresden actually hit Prague instead!)

    In his 1960 book Science and Government, C P Snow described the secret debate between two factions of British scientists, led by Henry Tizard and Frederick Lindemann. The two men had earlier clashed on Britain’s air defense strategy, with Tizard being a fervent advocate of radar and Lindemann (at least in Snow’s telling) being an advocate for then-impractical and even bizarre technologies such as infrared detection and aerial mines. In the 1942 bombing debate, Lindeman offered calculations predicting a very high destruction of German worker housing, which was viewed as a way to destroy morale and cut industrial production–possibly even to bring about the overthrow of the regime.. Tizard challenged Lindemann’s numbers, believing they were too high by a factor of five. In Snow’s view, the political consensus for area bombing was so strong that few really wanted to listen to the arguments of the Tizard faction.

    Snow:

    It is possible, I supose, that some time in the future people living in a more benevolent age than ours may turn over the official records and notice that men like us, men well-educated by the standards of the day, men fairly kindly by the standards of the day, and often possessed of strong human feelings, made the kind of calculation I have been describing. Such calculations, on a much larger scale, are going on at this moment in the most advanced societies we know. What will people of the future think of us? Will they say, as Roger Williams said of some of the Massachussetts Indians, that we were wolves with the minds of men? Will they say that we resigned our humanity? They will have the right.

    No. The people of the future (i.e., us) do not have that right, not at least without seriously attempting to understand the context, the possibilities, and the uncertainties of the time. My view is that Bomber Command–and its supporting entities, the scientists who did the analyses and the Rosies who built the planes–were not wolves: they were sheepdogs trying very hard to protect their flock from real wolves–among which, unfortunately, sheep were intermixed. This does not exclude the possibility that some of their decisions, and those of their political masters, may have been bad ones, but it does not justify eroding the distinction between an utterly evil tyranny and those who are doing their best to prevent the triumph of that tyranny. (Nor do I think Snow had such erosion as his intent.)

    I didn’t like the way this movie ended–with some video clips of the postwar reconstruction of Dresden followed by calls for “peace” in many different languages. Dramatically, it didn’t work for me at all. More importantly, I think the message was a naive and even a potentially dangerous one. Preaching “peace” is by no means a surefire way of bringing it about. It was, after all, the extreme emphasis on “peace” in 1930s Britain, France, and America–an emphasis that was totally understandable given the dreadful experiences of World War I–that led to appeasement and thence to the apocalypse of World War II. Had the Allies been willing to use military force much earlier–say, at the time of the Rhineland incursion of 1936–the worst of World War II would have been avoided, and the original Dresden, like many other places, would still be standing.

    I originally posted this at Chicago Boyz, in slightly different form, in 2009 (on the occasion of Obama’s impending visit to Dresden) and again in 2015.

    In comments to this post,  Lexington Green writes about the increasing attacks on the morality of America’s participation in WWII:

    The overall leftist goal is to make the Allies and the Nazis moral equivalents. That program is well advanced. Delegitimizing the Allies is a way to delegitimize the United States and its military. If World War II, the “good war” was a holocaust and an atrocity, there is nothing of value in the American past, and the American regime is real, existing Third Reich, today, that has to be reformed out of existence to atone for its crimes. That’s the goal. Also, by making the poor Germans and Japanese victims of a holocaust, the Jews are rendered just one more victim group, and the legitimacy of Israel is undermined. That’s a goal, too.

    I don’t think this is a conscious goal on the part of most leftists (“progressives,” to call them what they generally call themselves)–but it is an implicit consequence of the way that many of them think–and I’m afraid that there are quite a few for whom it is a conscious goal.

    Lex Green also says, again in comments to the above-referenced post:

    This discussion proves my larger point, that two generations of Leftist indoctrination have left people in a state of intellectual damage. The typical American under age 40 or so really cannot discern the difference between a brutal, shameless, overt tyranny rounding up and slaughtering its own civilians and embarking on wars of conquest, using ruthless and lawless means and indiscriminately slaughtering civilians in the process (the Nazis) and the countries that were assailed by these people, who did not seek war, some of whom were democracies, who had to be dragged into it, and who finally responded with increasing levels of force, to try to destroy the tyranny and force it to give up, which it refused to do even when it was clearly beaten.

    and

    Reagan in his final message to the American people said that his greatest fear was the loss of historical memory among the American people.

    The enemy has won this battle. For now.

    I think he slightly overstates the badness of the situation..but not by much. I believe that the majority of Americans, including those under 40, are still able to make such distinctions. But the preservation of this ability is clearly under sustained assault.

    An excerpt from Randall Jarrell’s poem, “Losses.”

    In bombers named for girls, we burned
    The cities we had learned about in school
    Till our lives wore out; our bodies lay among
    The people we had killed and never seen.
    When we lasted long enough they gave us medals;
    When we died they said, “Our casualties were low.”
    They said, “Here are the maps”; we burned the cities.

    Posted in Miscellaneous | Comments Off on Dresden, “Dresden”, and WWII Strategic Bombing

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Jonathan on 23rd February 2016 (All posts by )

    But despite all the opportunistic campaign rhetoric, the newly elected President Eisenhower more or less followed Truman’s policies. By July 1953 he had achieved an armistice. And by keeping sizable U.S. deployments of peacekeepers in place, he also ensured what would become a long evolution to democracy in South Korea and the country’s current dynamic economy. Had Eisenhower, in Obama-like worry over his 1956 reelection bid, yanked out all U.S. peacekeepers in December 1955, and blamed the resulting debacle on his Democratic predecessor (“Truman’s War”), while writing off the North Korean aggressors as jayvees, we can imagine a quick North Korean absorption of the South, with the sort of death and chaos we are now seeing in Iraq.
     
    [. . .]
     
    We can surely argue about Iraq, but we must not airbrush away facts. The mystery of the current Iraq fantasy is not that a prevaricating Donald Trump misrepresents the war in the fashion of Democratic senators and liberal pundits who once eagerly supported it, but that his Republican opponents so easily let him do it.

    Victor Davis Hanson, “Iraq: The Real Story”
     
     
    Actually it’s not a mystery. The Republican candidates opposing Trump must have discovered that the dishonest “Bush lied” narrative about Iraq polls better than the truth. (None of the remaining Republican candidates seems qualified to be President. Unfortunately, the Democratic candidates are even worse.)

    In 2009 news stories reported that fewer Americans had been killed in Iraq the previous year than were murdered in Chicago. Iraq had an imperfect but functioning democratic government. The war was essentially won.

    In 2016 Iraq has largely fallen apart. ISIS, Iran and Russia dominate much of Iraq and Syria. ISIS controls territory in North Africa. Jordan and Saudi Arabia are hanging by threads. Turkey and Russia have skirmished. Israel no longer has regional air superiority, perhaps not even air superiority in all of its own territory. Talk of regional and even world war is in the air.

    The principal differences between 2008 and 2016 are Obama’s terrible decisions to withdraw US forces from Iraq and then to stop defending our other Middle Eastern interests. Bush had nothing to do with it except to the extent he was inept at promoting his case at home. Many if not most Americans neither understand why we invaded Iraq nor remember the bi-partisan, international consensus for invasion that existed in 2002 and 2003.

    Posted in Iraq, Korea, Middle East, National Security, Obama, Politics, Quotations, Trump, War and Peace | 24 Comments »

    Reflections on Victimhood becoming Entitlement – The Tenth Commandment

    Posted by Ginny on 23rd February 2016 (All posts by )

    I like both Haidt and Foster’s remarks. This is a comment that got out of hand.

    I would observe that it isn’t like we didn’t know – that we hadn’t been warned. Victimization is of course, more common in a culture of feelings than of thought, of sentimentality than sense. It is old in close knit communities where others can be expected to sympathize (think of the power of the younger, weaker child over an older, stronger sibling in making a case to a parent). I suspect that in the past it has more often characterized a small, closely knit group and the wielders of the power were probably more often women (think especially mothers). The boldness with which women project the claim today probably comes from an assurance that counters the value of the claim itself; we are out of the closet in terms of competitive will but we’ve lost the skill to wield it subtly. As a comment observes, this 21st century feminization of American culture enriches Oprah. But on the founders’ ships, embarking on an adventure in itself signaling virtue, it might have been more powerful if the leaders hadn’t been so aware of human nature and condemned it so clearly.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Anglosphere, Civil Society, Culture, Current Events, Morality and Philosphy, Personal Narrative, Religion | 6 Comments »

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Jonathan on 22nd February 2016 (All posts by )

    Vote ONLY for someone who has failed and has LEARNED from failure. This limits the field to Trump, Cruz and Carson.

    Chet Richards, in a response to this post at Belmont Club

    Posted in Elections, Human Behavior, Politics, Quotations, Trump | 16 Comments »

    “‘Taney Deserves His Tribute’: Responding to George W. Liebmann’s Opinion Editorial in The Baltimore Sun”

    Posted by Jonathan on 22nd February 2016 (All posts by )

    Seth Barrett Tillman:

    In 1861, after Fort Sumter fell, the U.S. Army seized John Merryman, a Maryland citizen and state militia officer, and detained him in Fort McHenry, in Baltimore, Maryland. Merryman’s lawyers sought a writ of habeas corpus. After a hearing, Taney determined that the Army had violated the Constitution by seizing and detaining Merryman absent due process. Taney offered much flowing language—the sort which endears him to do-gooders and starry-eyed civil libertarians. But that is all that Taney did: He offered pieties in a judicial opinion. The reality is that Taney did not grant Merryman habeas corpus. In other words, Taney did not order the Army, or the commander at Fort McHenry (the named defendant in Ex parte Merryman), or the President, or anyone else to release Merryman from the Army’s prison. Now, perhaps the Army would not have obeyed any such a judicial order, but we will never know because Taney never issued one.

    Further interesting thoughts at the link.

    Posted in History, Law | 1 Comment »

    A Transition of Moral Cultures?

    Posted by David Foster on 20th February 2016 (All posts by )

    Jonathan Haidt summarizes a paper (by Bradley Campbell and Jason Manning) which may help explain some of the dynamics now manifesting themselves on college campuses and even in the larger society.  In brief:  prior to the 18th and 19th century, most Western societies were cultures of honor, in which people were expected to avenge insults on their own–and would lose social respect and position should they fail to do so.  The West then transitioned to cultures of dignity, in which “people are assumed to have dignity and don’t need to earn it.  They foreswear violence, turn to courts or administrative bodies to respond to major transitions, and for minor transgressions they either ignore them or attempt to resolve them by social means.  There’s no more dueling.”  The spirit of this type of culture could be summarized by the saying “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.”

    Campbell and Manning assert that this culture of dignity is now giving way to a new culture of victimhood in which people are encouraged to respond to even the slightest unintentional offense, as in an honor culture. But the difference, Haidt explains is this:

    “But they must not obtain redress on their own; they must appeal for help to powerful others or administrative bodies, to whom they must make the case that they have been victimized.”  Campbell and Manning distinguish the three culture types as follows:

    “Public complaints that advertise or even exaggerate one’s own victimization and need for sympathy would be anathema to a person of honor – tantamount to showing that one had no honor at all. Members of a dignity culture, on the other hand, would see no shame in appealing to third parties, but they would not approve of such appeals for minor and merely verbal offenses. Instead they would likely counsel either confronting the offender directly to discuss the issue, or better yet, ignoring the remarks altogether.”

    I had read something about this model a couple of months ago, and was reminded of it by a discussion at Bookworm Room.  She described a scene of insanity at Rutgers “university,” in which students were so traumatized by a speech given by Milo Yiannopoulos that “students and faculty members held a wound-licking gathering at a cultural center on campus, where students described “feeling scared, hurt, and discriminated against.”

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Deep Thoughts, Education, Human Behavior, Leftism, Miscellaneous, USA | 15 Comments »

    What should the next President be like ?

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 20th February 2016 (All posts by )

    trumpmugger

    This is not the same as who the President should be. Richard Fernandez has some ideas on what he (or she) should be like.

    let me suggest that only four things matter in selecting a man (or woman) to face a challenge whose present dimensions cannot be predicted. For purposes of debate, let these four qualities in descending order of importance be:

    1.An ability to face the facts, however unpleasant they may be.

    Yes, this is critical and we have had enough of liars and careerists. Is Trump a liar ? I don’t know.

    2. An unswerving patriotism. This is not the same as a sincere feeling of love or empathy for America, though that is good. In this context it means the willingness to share the fate of the principals of which he is an agent.

    Yes, we are ruled these days by elites who do not plan to share any pain. This is unrealistic but they have been raised to believe they can avoid unpleasant reality. What do we do about this ?

    3. Nerve. This is the quality of grace under pressure who no one, unless he has the misfortune to be tested, can be sure he possesses.

    Yes, the only real test is the reality and then it is too late. A few have tried to analyze this, and it is not easy.

    some individuals did not panic because their body naturally protected them.
    Unlike the majority of people who were flooded with a stress hormone, they had much lower levels and also showed signs of another hormone that actually calmed them down.

    He referred to Chesley Sullenberger, the pilot of the aeroplane that was successfully landed on the Hudson River in New York last month, as an example.

    “There are some individuals who when confronted with extreme stress their hormone profile is rather unique,” he said.

    “It doesn’t reach the same peak as the rest of us. So we’re all ready to scream in our chairs, but there are certain individuals who just don’t get as stressed.

    “Their stress hormones are lower and the peptides that down-regulate that stress are higher, so you can see in action the hormonal regular system really hitting overdrive.

    “Certain people are cooler under pressure and they perform very, very well during these periods of time.”

    In his novel, Once an Eagle by Anton Myrer, the author was critical of men in combat who had no fear. They are abnormal and dangerous. Still, Hemingway defined courage as “Grace under Pressure,” and that implied that fear was still present.

    In the movie “Patton” an incident was described in which George S Patton Jr attacked three men who he believed to be kidnapping a woman.

    patton

    Does Trump look like the young Patton ? They seem to have similar expressions.

    My own life has been lived as a surgeon and there are surgeons who take beta blockers to deal with tremors caused by high levels of stress hormones. I have never had a problem with anxiety during surgery but, of course, I am not the one under the knife.

    4. Intelligence. This is important, because it determines basic competence. But it surprisingly the least important attribute in this list. Intelligence, though rare, is not nearly as hard to find as the 3 characteristics above. You can find staffers who can give you intelligent advice. You cannot find staff to give you a character that you do not possess.

    This is so obvious that it should not need to be said but we are ruled by staffers.

    What do we make of all this ? I don’t know. Trump is an interesting character and I have no idea how he would function as president. I do think we might get a chance to find out. We should know more in a few weeks.

    Posted in Civil Society, Current Events, Morality and Philosphy, National Security, Trump | 67 Comments »

    The Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect and Current Politics

    Posted by Jonathan on 20th February 2016 (All posts by )

    In a recent comment here Andrew Garland referred to a 2009 comment by Chicago Boyz contributor Michael Kennedy, quoting Michael Crichton. It is worth re-posting the Crichton quote in full:

    Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect is as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray’s case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward—reversing cause and effect. I call these the “wet streets cause rain” stories. Paper’s full of them.
     
    In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story, and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about Palestine than the baloney you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.

    I thought about this because I have been having an email exchange with a left-wing acquaintance of mine. My acquaintance thinks highly of Obama’s performance in office. Like many of us, my acquaintance has noticed an increase in racial animosity over the seven years of Obama’s presidency. My acquaintance attributes this increased racial tension to racists, presumably white, who “are driven practically insane at the thought of having a black president”.

    I am sure that there are such people. A quick tour of the Internet reveals plenty of racism to go around. And yet none of the many anti-Obama arguments I’ve read or heard has been based on race; conservative media are full of substantive arguments against Obama and his policies. Meanwhile Obama and his political allies have gone out of their way to racialize political controversies. And yet most of the Obama partisans I’ve met have been confident that white racism is the cause of most opposition to Obama. Apparently there are many people out there who believe that wet streets cause rain.

    Posted in Deep Thoughts, Education, Human Behavior, Leftism, Obama, Politics, Quotations | 6 Comments »

    Disruption – Part Three – Retail

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 20th February 2016 (All posts by )

    I have been considering “disruption”, including what is hype and what is real.  Here is one on the cab industry where it occurred and in the electric and gas utility industry which has proven resilient in its current business model.

    While “retail” is a nebulous category, it is one that touches virtually everyone in the USA. Let’s start with the definition of retail:

    the sale of goods to the public in relatively small quantities for use or consumption rather than for resale.

    My experience with retail has been that of a consumer, although I live in an area near Michigan Avenue which features a huge variety of stores of all types, from mass market to high end “showcase” stores. I also have a long history with e-commerce, having been involved in a variety of businesses helping them to go “online” and “digital” from the earliest days of the web. Since the primary threat to modern retail today is from e-commerce, this experience is relevant.

    This chart above is from a recent Business Insider article on retail. The graph clearly shows how shopping is moving from the physical retailer to the online retailer, and it is being accelerated by the adoption of mobile technologies (which enable you to shop and research while on the move, not just when you are in front of your computer at a desk).

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Business, Economics & Finance, Tech | 17 Comments »

    “Breaking the iPhone: Once again, conservative establishment is urgently, insistently wrong”

    Posted by Jonathan on 20th February 2016 (All posts by )

    J. E. Dyer:

    But I don’t have any confidence that the Fox panel would have been smarter if its members understood the issue better. The real problem was that they didn’t come down in principle on the side of privacy. They could have at least expressed regret, or been reluctant about siding with the FBI.
     
    But they were slavering urgently for whatever measure the FBI demanded to get into Syed Farook’s iPhone – as if all our lives depended on giving law enforcement any privacy-busting capability it sees a need for.
     
    Technology doesn’t change the fact that this perspective is the opposite of the perspective of the Fourth Amendment. If our highest priority should be opening the people’s lives up to law enforcement, in case there are terror links lurking in our coupon drawers, then we should throw the Fourth Amendment out and require the people to all give the police keys to our homes, so it will be less of a hassle for them to get in whenever they declare a need to.
     
    Conservatives are supposed to be smarter than this. Let’s walk through it briefly to clarify why there is no need to bust the built-in security feature of the iPhone for the FBI’s general convenience.

    Worth reading in full.

    Posted in Big Government, Law, Law Enforcement, Tech, Terrorism | 14 Comments »

    “re: Seth Barrett Tillman responding to President Adam Falk, Williams College: the Allure of Forbidden Fruit”

    Posted by Jonathan on 19th February 2016 (All posts by )

    Seth Barrett Tillman responds to the president of Williams College:

    Dear President Falk,
     
    I read your February 18, 2016 letter to the Williams Community. I do not understand it. You don’t quote, link to, point to, or even summarize anything Derbyshire said or wrote. So the reader has no way to understand precisely what he said or wrote that crossed any “line” or even, when he said or wrote you allege constitutes hate speech. How is the reader supposed to understand your letter?

    Read the whole thing.

    Jonathan adds:

    1) President Falk’s statement that “Free speech is a value I hold in extremely high regard” sounds a lot like “Your call is very important to us”.

    2) Hate speech is speech. The reason why no one who expresses concern about “hate speech” ever mentions such a thing as “love speech” is that it’s obvious that speech that no one objects to requires no protection. The term “hate speech” is verbal camouflage used to obfuscate anti-free-speech arguments.

    Posted in Academia, Civil Society, Culture, Current Events, Leftism, Political Philosophy | 8 Comments »

    Studies in Suburban Wildlife

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 19th February 2016 (All posts by )

    We had a visitor on the back fence this morning, when my daughter went out to let the chickens out of the coop …

    Smile, 'Possum - you're on candid camera!

    Smile, ‘Possum – you’re on candid camera!

    Posted in Diversions, Photos | 10 Comments »

    Don’t you belong on a beach?

    Posted by Nathaniel T. Lauterbach on 18th February 2016 (All posts by )

    In comment thread of another post, Grurray asked:

    “I know the Marines are the best fighting force in the world, but haven’t you had enough of building nations in the middle of the desert? You’re called Marines for a reason. Shouldn’t the future should be closer to the shore?” (sic)

    I’ll take the sentiment kindly. Marines usually do fine when compared to other forces. I hesitate to call ourselves the “best” or “finest.” But the Marines are probably as good as any force out there.

    As for meat of the question: Marines are amphibious fighters, right? What are you doing in a landlocked country?
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Afghanistan/Pakistan, Aviation, History, International Affairs, Iraq, Law, Law Enforcement, Military Affairs, National Security, Politics, Terrorism, USA, Vietnam, War and Peace | 13 Comments »