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  • Archive for January, 2018

    Tocqueville Foresaw This

    Posted by David Foster on 31st January 2018 (All posts by )

    In California, a bill has been introduced providing for a $1000 fine and a 6-month jail sentence for waiters and other restaurant staff offering plastic straws to customers without those straws being specifically requested by the customer.

    Alexis de Tocqueville:

    [The power of government] covers the surface of so­ciety with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting. Such a power… does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, until each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and hard-working animals, of which the government is the shepherd.’

    I disagree with Tocqueville about “such a power..does not tyrannize”, it certainly does tyrannize, and to a greater degree than many of the kings and emperors of the past.  Neither George III or Kaiser Wilhelm II ever thought to issue edicts about which pronouns people were allowed to use.  This California bill is in the true spirit of the totalitarianisms of the 20th century:  Naziism and Communism.

    Speaking of totalitarianism, here’s Arthur Koestler, in his novel Darkness at Noon.  Rubashov, an Old Bolshevik who has been arrested by the Stalinist regime, is reflecting on his Communist beliefs and where they may have led him astray.

    A short time ago , our leading agriculturist, B , was shot with thirty of his collaborators because he maintained the opinion that nitrate artificial manure was superior to potash. No. 1 is all for potash; therefore B. and the thirty had to be liquidated as saboteurs. In a nationally centralized agriculture , the alternative of  nitrate or potash is of enormous importance: it can decide the issue of the next war. If No. 1 was in the right, history will absolve him, and the execution of the thirty-one men will be a mere bagatelle. If he was wrong . . .

    Isn’t this reminiscent of today’s leftists who say that climate change is a a matter of “enormous importance”, it can decide not something as relatively minor as “the issue of the next war” but the entire fate of the human race and hence, free speech on this matter must be suppressed?

    Koestler’s Rubashov explains to himself that since the Revolution has overthrown all the rules of ‘cricket-morality’, the State is now ‘sailing without ballast’…and begins to see where this must inevitably lead:

    to settle a difference of opinion, we know only one argument: death, whether it is a matter of submarines, manure, or the Party line to be followed in Indo-China. Our engineers work with the constant knowledge that an error in calculation may take them to prison or the scaffold; the higher officials in our administration ruin and destroy their subordinates, because they know that they will be held responsible for the slightest slip and be destroyed themselves; our poets settle discussions on questions of style by denunciations to the Secret Police, because the expressionists consider the naturalistic style counter-revolutionary, and vice versa.

    We are not yet at the point in America where people are sentenced to physical death for political deviations, but now on a regular basis people have their careers destroyed–sometimes a form of economic death–for such deviations.

    And it is worth noting that the California bill in question was introduced not by some back-bencher no one has ever heard of, but by the Democratic Majority Leader of the California Assembly.

    
    

    Posted in Book Notes, Leftism, Russia, USA | 30 Comments »

    Their Own Worst Enemy

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 29th January 2018 (All posts by )

    A discussion at According to Hoyt this last week developed from a long look the recent so-called “woman’s march”; an event which appeared to really be an open-air scream therapy session for a certain subset of the human population. They had the opportunity to mingle with others of their ilk, dress up in pink hats and vagina costumes and inform the rest of the world (yet again) of their acute unhappiness that Hillary, the Dowager Duchess of Chappaqua, formerly known as Her Inevitableness had not been able to win an election rigged in her favor, and that Donald Trump was currently the President of the United States. MS Hoyt speculated on what, exactly, the protesters were on about; what rights were imperiled, exactly? What did all the feel-good, content-free slogans have to do with anything in the lives of real, live women and men working for a living? And how did dressing up as an anatomically sort-of-correct vagina have to do with anything, in the real world. And in the long run, weren’t such pointless demonstrations of hysteria actually counter-productive, in that genuine misogynists would point to them as proof positive that women were too flighty, too emotional, too damn silly to manage anything, let alone their own lives.
    Read the rest of this entry »

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    Posted in Big Government, Blogging, Civil Society, Conservatism, Current Events, Deep Thoughts, Feminism | 18 Comments »

    “This Civil War – My South Carolina Tea Party Convention Speech”

    Posted by Jonathan on 28th January 2018 (All posts by )

    Daniel Greenfield:

    The attacks on Trump show that elections don’t matter to the left.
     
    Republicans can win an election, but they have a major flaw. They’re not leftists.
     
    That’s what the leftist dictatorship looks like.
     
    The left lost Congress. They lost the White House. So what did they do? They began trying to run the country through Federal judges and bureaucrats.
     
    Every time that a Federal judge issues an order saying that the President of the United States can’t scratch his own back without his say so, that’s the civil war.
     
    Our system of government is based on the constitution, but that’s not the system that runs this country.
     
    The left’s system is that any part of government that it runs gets total and unlimited power over the country.
     
    If it’s in the White House, then the president can do anything. And I mean anything. He can have his own amnesty for illegal aliens. He can fine you for not having health insurance. His power is unlimited.
     
    He’s a dictator.
     
    But when Republicans get into the White House, suddenly the President can’t do anything. He isn’t even allowed to undo the illegal alien amnesty that his predecessor illegally invented.
     
    A Democrat in the White House has “discretion” to completely decide every aspect of immigration policy. A Republican doesn’t even have the “discretion” to reverse him.
     
    That’s how the game is played. That’s how our country is run.
     
    [. . .]
     
    The Trump years are going to decide if America survives. When his time in office is done, we’re either going to be California or a free nation once again.

    Read the whole thing.

    Posted in Big Government, Political Philosophy, Politics, Tea Party, Trump | 15 Comments »

    What Happened Last Weekend ?

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 23rd January 2018 (All posts by )

    Last weekend, the Democrats in the Senate refused to vote for a Continuing Resolution to fund the US government.

    Why ? Because they wanted a law to legalize the thousands of illegal aliens in a status called “DACA” or Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals.

    The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) was an American immigration policy that allowed some individuals who entered the country as minors, and had either entered or remained in the country illegally, to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and to be eligible for a work permit.

    Thus these illegal aliens were given the right to remain and to work in this country. Why ?

    The policy was established by executive action rather than legislation; however, participating individuals were sometimes referred to as Dreamers after the DREAM Act bill, a bipartisan bill first proposed in 2001 that was the first of a number of subsequent bills in the U.S. House and Senate attempting to provide a pathway to citizenship or other legal status for certain undocumented residents who immigrated illegally as children and subsequently completed some college or military service.[2]

    This is mostly a myth.

    Victor Davis Hanson explains some of the mythology.

    College graduation and military service are often referenced as DACA talking points. In truth, some studies suggest that just one in 20 dreamers graduated from college. One in a 1,000 has served in the military. So far, about eight times more Dreamers have not graduated from high school than have graduated from college.

    I examine military applicants and am unaware of any “Dreamers.”

    Then again, are the DACA people just 700,000 ? Or are they millions ?

    To be eligible, illegal immigrants must have entered the United States before their 16th birthday and prior to June 2007, be currently in school, a high school graduate or be honorably discharged from the military, be under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012, and not have been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor or three other misdemeanors, or otherwise pose a threat to national security. The program does not provide lawful status or a path to citizenship,[39] nor does it provide eligibility for federal welfare or student aid.

    They are widely eligible for free college education or, at least, to be given resident status for tuition.

    Many of these people entered as “Unaccompanied Minors. “

    A significant number are teenaged gangsters like the MS 13 gangs in Maryland and Virginia.

    Almost one-third of 214 U.S.-based MS-13 gang members arrested in an international sweep were invited into the United States by President Barack Obama’s “Unaccompanied Alien Children” policy.
    The successful “Raging Bull’ sweep was announced by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Deputy Director Tom Homan in a joint press conference at ICE headquarters in Washington, D.C. on Thursday.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Elections, Immigration | 47 Comments »

    Are Those Robots Slacking Off on the Job?

    Posted by David Foster on 23rd January 2018 (All posts by )

    Much concern is being expressed these days about technological unemployment driven by robotics, artificial intelligence, etc.  But labor productivity numbers have been more in the direction of stagnation than in the direction of a sharp break upwards…see for example this BLS analysis.  Note especially Chart 5, which compares productivity growth in three periods:  1947-2007, 2001-2007, and 2009-2016.

    See also this piece, which looks at total factor productivity across continents.

    So, what is going on here?  Why have the remarkable innovations and heavy corporate and government investments in technology not had more of a positive effect on productivity?  I have my own ideas, but am curious about what others think.

    Posted in Business, Economics & Finance, Management, Tech, USA | 6 Comments »

    Tax Reform Impact – Capital Gains and Investment Income

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 21st January 2018 (All posts by )

    Recently I was at Powell’s bookstore In Oregon when I came across this book which attempts to be an introduction to the complexities of taxation. I thought that this was in the spirit of what I was going to try to do as I start to review the 2017 Tax Reform act and its’ myriad impacts on the economy and individual incentives.







    As an individual investor, I started with looking at capital gains and investment income. Some thoughts:


    1. The same general split applies; long term gains are taxed at favorable (lower) rates, and short term gains are taxed as ordinary income. The ordinary income tax brackets are always higher than the capital gains brackets

    2. The tax rates for capital gains are 0, 15% and 20%. These are the same as under the previous tax laws.
    Here is a brief article from the Motley Fool

    3. The rates on ordinary income have gone down a bit, so the average person would pay less on gains, all else being equal (but this gets into your state and the standard deduction, a different topic). Thus there is no significant impact on investments here, it should be slightly favorable

    4. Although there was talk of changing the way stock sales are accounted for to limit “tax loss harvesting”, these changes did not occur. I believe that you can still deduct up to $3000 in losses against ordinary income, but I haven’t been able to find that yet to confirm either

    5. The 3.8% surtax on gains if your income is above $250,000 remains the same; this does not seem to be impacted by the law

    6. While there were changes throughout the code that impacted REITS (real estate limited trusts) and MLP’s (Master Limited Partnerships), these changes didn’t fundamentally impact their value to classes of high income investors (they still have favorable tax characteristics)

    7. There was some discussion of eliminating the Federal tax free nature of municipal bonds, but that deduction remained intact

    8. There also was some discussion of changing the 401(k) deductions; this too, remained intact


    Thus for investors, the basics of investing for individual investors (not the super wealthy) and the impact of taxation did not see significant changes under the new tax law. The types of tactics you would use under the prior tax law mostly moved into the new environment intact.




    Cross Posted at LITGM

    Posted in Taxes | 10 Comments »

    Bonhoeffer on Stupidity and the Public Sphere

    Posted by David Foster on 19th January 2018 (All posts by )

    Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German theologian who became a leading member of an anti-Nazi conspiracy, wrote the following while he was in prison awaiting execution:

    Upon closer observation, it becomes apparent that every strong upsurge of power in the public sphere, be it of a political or a religious nature, infects a large part of humankind with stupidity. … The power of the one needs the stupidity of the other. The process at work here is not that particular human capacities, for instance, the intellect, suddenly atrophy or fail. Instead, it seems that under the overwhelming impact of rising power, humans are deprived of their inner independence and, more or less consciously, give up establishing an autonomous position toward the emerging circumstances. The fact that the stupid person is often stubborn must not blind us to the fact that he is not independent. In conversation with him, one virtually feels that one is dealing not at all with him as a person, but with slogans, catchwords, and the like that have taken possession of him. He is under a spell, blinded, misused, and abused in his very being. Having thus become a mindless tool, the stupid person will also be capable of any evil and at the same time incapable of seeing that it is evil. This is where the danger of diabolical misuse lurks, for it is this that can once and for all destroy human beings.

    via Intellectual Takeout

    Posted in Big Government, Deep Thoughts, Germany, Human Behavior, Leftism | 11 Comments »

    Flyoverphobia

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 17th January 2018 (All posts by )

    So, there has always been a tension existing between city folks and country folks; the tale of the city mouse and the country mouse being an example. Then there are all those jokes about the city slicker and the country bumpkin, the effete city dweller and the down-to-earth country folk, the books, movies and television series painting the city as a glamorous yet spiritually and physically unhealthy place, the country being dull, desperately boring, backwards, even a bit dangerous … all in the spirit of good fun, mostly. But now we have a new and malignant version, and there is nothing at all fun about it. Here we have the bicoastal enclaves, all drawn as the glamorous and fabulously wealthy, sensitive and with-it woke folks … and then you have the flyover country in between, filled with – as the bicoastal see it – with those hateful, stupid looser deplorables, clinging to their guns, and religion, and hating on all those with darker skins.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Business, Conservatism, Deep Thoughts, Entrepreneurship, Leftism, Trump | 38 Comments »

    Shithole Countries

    Posted by Jonathan on 13th January 2018 (All posts by )

    Anecdote of a recent conversation:

    A: Where are you from?

    B: A bad part of Kingston.

    A: What part is that?

    B: All of it.

    Did Trump say “shithole”? It sounds like his typical bombast that enrages people who don’t like him. It also sets a trap for his political opponents by reframing the conversation. The questions whether we should favor immigrants from specific countries and with specific personal qualifications are back in play. Many voters think these questions are important despite the continuing efforts of establishment pols of both parties to stipulate them as beyond the pale. The attempt to conflate the characterizations of countries and of individuals is a rhetorical sleight of hand intended to dismiss doubts about mass-immigration by unskilled people from dysfunctional countries. Ann Althouse nailed this point. The doubts are reasonable — Wouldn’t the French and Germans have been better off heeding such concerns in the recent past? Shutting up people who express such thoughts may be more likely in the long run to lead to an immigration moratorium or other crude measures than to convince the doubters to acquiesce in the admission to the USA of more unvetted young Somali and Central American men.

    What Trump was saying, as ordinary people will understand it, is obviously true: We should encourage immigration based on our country’s needs rather than on the needs of prospective immigrants; we should favor people who are likely to be highly productive; and we should attempt to screen out criminals, terrorists and people who are mainly interested in welfare-state subsidies.

    There are many talented people in Haiti, but as a country Haiti is troubled and unproductive, which is why so many Haitians want to leave. Perhaps Mia Love is bound to criticize Trump based on Trump’s crudeness of expression and reported disrespectful words, but Trump is right. There were good reasons for Congresswoman Love’s family to leave Haiti for the USA. We are lucky to have them, but that’s not the same thing as saying that we should let in every Haitian who wants to come here. We should be more selective and we should reform our immigration bureaucracy to make things easier for the people we want.

    We can expect additional inflammatory stories about Trump’s supposed racism and other character flaws while his negotiations with Congress on immigration continue.

    Posted in Immigration, Politics, Rhetoric, Trump | 69 Comments »

    It’s looking as though the Trump team surveillance was done without a FISA warrant.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 10th January 2018 (All posts by )

    The war between President Trump and his government and the Democrats is heating up.

    Yesterday Diane Feinstein declassified and released the Simpson testimony transcript.

    In doing so, Feinstein and her Democratic colleagues are acting at Simpson’s behest. In his recent New York Times op-ed column (written with his colleague Peter Fritsch), Simpson complained about Republicans’ leak of selected details from his testimony to various congressional committees.

    Judiciary Committee Chairman Grassley has resisted the release of the transcript while the committee has yet to complete its investigation. Senator Grassley is not happy with Feinstein.

    One assumption, that I think well founded, is that this was done to coach subsequent witnesses to get their stories straight.

    Kim Strassel is one who has been reporting on this She has a new report.

    consider an email recently disclosed by the Young Turks Network, a progressive YouTube news channel. It’s dated Dec. 19, 2017, and its author is April Doss, senior counsel for the committee’s Democrats, including Vice Chairman Mark Warner.

    Ms. Doss was writing to Robert Barnes, an attorney for Charles C. Johnson, the controversial and unpleasant alt-right blogger. Mr. Johnson’s interactions with Julian Assange inspired some in the media to speculate last year that Mr. Johnson had served as a back channel between the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks. There’s still no proof, but in July the Intelligence Committee sent a letter requesting Mr. Johnson submit to them any documents, emails, texts or the like related to “any communications with Russian persons” in a variety of 2016 circumstances, including those related to “the 2016 U.S. Presidential Campaign.”

    Mr. Barnes seems to have wanted clarification from Ms. Doss about the definition of “Russian persons.” And this would make sense, since it’s a loose term. Russians in Russia? Russians in America? Russians with business in the country? Russians who lobby the U.S. and might be affected by the election—though not in contact with campaigns?

    Ms. Doss’s response was more sweeping than any of these: “The provision we discussed narrowing was clarifying that the phrase ‘Russian persons’ in [the committee letter] may be read to refer to persons that Mr. Johnson knows or has reason to believe are of Russian nationality or descent”.

    This is actually humorous. “Russian descent?” There are now jokes about ordering Russian Dressing in DC can get you investigated.

    The truth is not as funny.

    It looks like the surveillance of the Trump campaign was done by DOJ and the FBI without warrants at all. That is very illegal and should put some people in prison.

    President Obama’s political operatives within the DOJ-NSD were using FISA 702(17) surveillance “about inquiries” that would deliver electronic mail and phone communication for U.S. people (Trump campaign). The NSD unit (John Carlin) was working in coordination with the FBI Counterintelligence Unit (Bill Priestap, Peter Strzok etc.) to look at this campaign activity. DOJ Attorney Lisa Page was the intermediary between the DOJ National Security Division and he FBI Counterintelligence Division.

    In an effort to stop the FISA 702(17) activity NSA Director Mike Rogers initiated a full 702 compliance review. However, before the review was complete the DOJ-NSD had enough information for their Russian narrative; which was built upon FISA-702(17) that began in July ’16 per James Comey. Mike Rogers stopped the FISA702(17) process on October 26th 2016. As a result of his identifying the activity, Rogers became a risk; DNI James Clapper demanded he be fired.

    The plot was the “insurance policy” Strzok mentioned. The story is becoming more clear every day.

    On November 17th, 2016, NSA Director Admiral Mike Rogers went to see President-Elect Donald Trump in Trump Tower, New York. –SEE HERE– Director Rogers never told his boss DNI, James Clapper.

    ♦ On November 18th, 2016, the Trump Transition Team announced they were moving all transition activity to Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey. –SEE HERE– Where they interviewed and discussed the most sensitive positions to fill. Defense, State, CIA, ODNI.

    The transition team was set up in Trump Tower. The very next day, November 18th 2016, Trump moves the entire transition team to Bedminister New Jersey?

    Does this make more sense now?

    Yes, it does.

    It looks like they dd not even apply for a FISC warrant after they were turned down in July. They just “did it.”

    Sort of like the scene from “Absence of Malice.”

    Posted in Big Government, Conservatism, Elections, Trump | 32 Comments »

    Gorilla Of Our Dreams

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 9th January 2018 (All posts by )

    “All Norfolk need do is sign that paper and treason will have been committed…”
    “Then let him sign it, and let it all be done.” – from the movie Elizabeth

    Every couple of days, I look at the Trump-bashing headline stories on various news sources that I follow, and I think … nah, they can’t possibly top this, for spittle-flecked, screaming, chew-through-the-restraints insane rage. Yet within days – yep; topped, and topped again. I have never seen such spittle-flying rage against an American president, and I am old enough to remember the animus against Nixon, and especially Johnson. I was only in my early teens, and a serious consumer of the LA Times (back when it was a substantial newspaper), yet the sustained abuse of Johnson on every aspect of his person and character (both real and imagined) was so unbelted that I actually rather felt sorry for the man. Knowing of his faults then and later, much criticism of him was richly deserved, but the especially vile stuff, I think we could have all done without. Honest criticism can be done without the spittle-flecked irrational rage, although in the Age of Trump such clinical detachment seems again to have dropped even farther out of fashion.
    Read the rest of this entry »

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    Posted in Current Events, Internet, Leftism, Media, The Press, Trump | 11 Comments »

    Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 7th January 2018 (All posts by )

    (I post an archive entry from my Celia Hayes blog, on the eve of the Golden Globes awards, All Hollywood seems to be running about with their hair on fire, casting accusations everywhere, regarding who knew or didn’t about the casting couch, who got an advantage from utilizing the casting couch, and who behaved badly to whom. I’m working on a post about this week’s Trump madness, and the time just got away from me.)

    (Example #1 – William Holden, publicity still)

    There are boys enough in the movies now, all dressed up in costume and mincing around, waving the prop weapons in a manner meant to be intimidating. Generally they look a bit nervous doing so. They have light boyish voices, narrow defoliated chests, delicate chins adorned with a wisp of beard, and sometimes they come across as clever, even charming company for the leading lady or as the wily sidekick to the first name on the bill, but as hard as they try to project mature and solid masculinity they remain boys, all dressed up in costume pretending to be men. Even when they try for a bit of presence, they still project a faintly apologetic air. Imagine Peter Pan in camo BDUs, desert-boots, full battle-rattle and rucksack. It’s a far cry from picturing John Wayne in the same get-up. Where have all the cowboys gone?

    (Example #2 – Robert Mitchum w/Deborah Kerr in “Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison“)

    You could not really describe John Wayne as movie-star handsome; neither could you honestly say that Robert Mitchum, Humphrey Bogart, Steve McQueen, Charlton Heston or William Holden were movie-star handsome. (Save perhaps Holden, early on.) They had something more – magnetic physical presence. They owned a room, just by walking into it. They had lived-in faces, especially as they got older, rough-hewn, weathered and individual faces, broad shoulders, strong and capable hands, and total confidence in themselves – even when the plot necessitated a bit of self-doubt.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Culture, Current Events, Diversions, Film, History, Media | 15 Comments »

    The Gods of the Copybook Headings are Coming.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 7th January 2018 (All posts by )

    There is a poem by Rudyard Kipling, explained by John Derbyshire here, That warns of consequences that will come no matter how much we wish it otherwise.

    Published in October 1919 when the poet was 53 years old, “The Gods of the Copybook Headings” has proved enduringly popular, despite the fact that copybooks disappeared from schoolrooms in Britain and America during, or shortly after, World War 2. A copybook was an exercise book used to practice one’s handwriting in. The pages were blank except for horizontal rulings and a printed specimen of perfect handwriting at the top. You were supposed to copy this specimen all down the page. The specimens were proverbs or quotations, or little commonplace hortatory or admonitory sayings — the ones in the poem illustrate the kind of thing. These were the copybook headings.

    The poem is severe and depressing, as Kipling was when he composed it.

    As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man —
    There are only four things certain since Social Progress began: —
    That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
    And the burnt Fool’s bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;

    And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
    When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
    As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
    The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!

    We are now in an era where the rules of civil society seem to have been repealed, or at least violated with impunity.

    Retribution is sure to follow.

    The present Deep State, or “Swamp” if you prefer, seems to be nearing some sort of denouement

    The House Intelligence Committee now has the bank records of Fusion-GPS. They were turned over Friday after a federal judge on Thursday shot-down a last-ditch effort by attorneys from Fusion to get an emergency injunction.

    Chairman Devin Nunes and the House Intelligence Committee now have the records of payments made by Fusion-GPS to “journalists and media companies” during 2016 and early 2017 when Glenn Simpson, Mary Jacoby and Peter Fritsch were shopping the Christopher Steele ‘Russian dossier’ to enhance the “Insurance Policy”.

    I expect to see rats going overboard now on a daily basis.

    Most of the direct (“small group”) FBI (CoIntel), DOJ (NatSec Division) and Special Counsel co-conspirators are only able to talk amid themselves. They know by now they are being monitored and they have strong suspicion the size of the surveillance upon them. [Hi guys.] No-one else is willing to put themselves at risk now. Congressional allies now view the small group as carrying a legal ebola virus. Contact is now a risk.

    I consider Congressman Devin Nunes one of the two heroes of this story. The other is Admiral Mike Rogers.

    Rogers warned Trump that his transition team was under surveillance right after the election. For this the Obama people tried to fire him from his position at NSA.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Elections, Politics, Trump | 10 Comments »

    Disruption – MoviePass

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 7th January 2018 (All posts by )

    MoviePass is a service that has gained a lot of new users lately – it allows you to see unlimited movies (only one a day) each month for $9.95, which is essentially the price of a single ticket. How it works is that they give you a Mastercard that is connected to your mobile phone – when you get to the theater, you connect with them at that time and they authorize the card specifically for the amount needed to pay for the movie and then you pay and go inside. The process is set up so that theaters can’t deny MoviePass at the box office because it is basically just another Mastercard and the only way to disable it would be to disable accept MasterCard, which is impractical or likely impossible for a host of reasons. The movie theaters receive the full price of the ticket through MoviePass, even if it is more than the $9.95 subscription fee (movies can cost almost $20 in Manhattan, for instance). In the short term, this is a “boon” for movie theaters because Wall Street investors are subsidizing their full price tickets.

    Here is a NYT article on the growth of MoviePass. Per the article, they are adding 1 million subscribers a month. The ostensible play (what they say) is that they plan to “break even” on the cost of the service (if you see roughly one movie / month) but then they will make their money on using data from customers in an aggregated fashion to sell to the movie studios for marketing and targeting. They believe that this data and targeting consumers can add 5-7% to the box office gross. Note that the guy who helped found MoviePass was an executive at Netflix and RedBox named Mitch Lowe and he is very sophisticated financially and connected so he is a serious rival to the movie industry in general.
    Read the rest of this entry »

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    Posted in Economics & Finance, Tech | 6 Comments »

    Worthwhile Reading

    Posted by David Foster on 4th January 2018 (All posts by )

    Cold Spring Shops:  Losing the Intellectual Tradition.  He cites Joy Pullman, who in turn quotes Hillsdale College president Larry Arnn:

    We’re living in a time as if some blight has come across the earth. Something fantastic, something deep, something old, something elevated, something high is basically being obliterated.

    Also from Cold Spring Shops:  Collaboration creates mediocrity.  I would rephrase this to say that collaboration can create mediocrity, especially when used as an unthinking buzzword and deployed as a pseudo-religion…after all, the purpose of basically all organizations is to allow people to collaborate, in various ways, to do what they could not do individually.  But shallow thoughts about collaboration and de-leveling and de-siloing and de-hierarchicalization are indeed in many cases detracting from the serious work that needs to be done on organizational design.

    At Politico: The secret backstory of how Obama let Hezbollah off the hook.  See also a response to this story from The DiploMad.

    Related, from Roger Simon:  Iran protests expose mainstream media as reationary, not liberal.

    Three from Sarah Hoyt:

    Childhood memories:  The things that stay

    The importance of feedback:  Breaking the Gears

    Of course they do:  When the Left bullies, they pose as anti-bullies

    Posted in Academia, Business, Crime and Punishment, Education, Leftism, Management, Media, Terrorism | 12 Comments »

    Disruption – Amazon Basics and Amazon Essentials

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 2nd January 2018 (All posts by )

    “Amazon Basics” is a line of low cost products created especially by Amazon. “Amazon Essentials” is an apparel line created by Amazon. This picture has a “basics” speaker and a low cost “essentials” product (the notebook):

    – a portable wireless bluetooth speaker for $19.99

    Essentials dot matrix notebook for bullet journal for $9.92

    I was impressed by both of these items. When you go to Amazon and either the basics or essentials section there is a wide array of products to choose from at amazingly low prices.

    Amazon is choosing which markets and products that they want to compete in directly and they offer what appears to be reasonable quality products at low price points. If you cycle through the product list you can see a lot of everyday products or items that don’t normally have a strong branding component.
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