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  • Archive for April, 2019

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Jonathan on 30th April 2019 (All posts by )

    Dennis Prager, quoting and expanding on Bret Stephens’s explanation of how the New York Times could come to publish an obviously anti-Jewish cartoon:

    “The reason is the almost torrential criticism of Israel and the mainstreaming of anti-Zionism, including by this paper, which has become so common that people have been desensitized to its inherent bigotry. So long as anti-Semitic arguments or images are framed, however speciously, as commentary about Israel, there will be a tendency to view them as a form of political opinion, not ethnic prejudice. But as I noted in a Sunday Review essay in February, anti-Zionism is all but indistinguishable from anti-Semitism in practice and often in intent, however much progressives try to deny this.”
     
    Exactly right. As I wrote in “Why the Jews? The Reason for Anti-Semitism” 40 years before Stephens wrote his column, there is no difference between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. Of course, one can criticize Israel, just as one can criticize any country, but that is not anti-Zionism. Anti-Zionism is not criticism of Israel. It is a hatred of Israel — a hatred greater than that of any other country and a delegitimization of Zionism, the movement to reestablish the Jewish national home. Imagine someone who argued that the establishment of the Italian state — Italy — was illegitimate and who hated Italy more than any other country in the world yet claimed that he was in no way anti-Italian, as he had Italian friends and loved Italian culture. No one would believe such an absurdity.

    Posted in Human Behavior, Jewish Leftism, Judaism, Leftism, Quotations, Rhetoric, The Press | 16 Comments »

    Seth Barrett Tillman: Why Obama and Clinton Described the Sri Lankan Victims as “Easter Worshippers” and not as “Christians”: A Friendly Amendment for Dennis Prager

    Posted by Jonathan on 28th April 2019 (All posts by )

    Why do senior politicians across the Western world systematically engage in this and other similar sorts of newspeak? Here, I suggest, Obama and Clinton (and their peers) believe millions of otherwise ordinary American citizens are deplorables. They believe that if they were to discuss the reality of world events with their fellow citizens, and do so without dissembling, then any number of our fellow citizens would organize communal violence, mayhem, and murder—on a mass scale.

    Read the entire post.

    Posted in Anti-Americanism, Christianity, Civil Society, Human Behavior, Leftism, Obama, Political Philosophy, Politics, Rhetoric, Terrorism, The Press, Trump, USA | 5 Comments »

    Anecdotes: The Gas Station Guy

    Posted by Jonathan on 28th April 2019 (All posts by )

    During bike rides I sometimes stop for refreshment at a particular gas station/convenience store. It is a busy station at a busy intersection – very convenient. The station is usually attended by one of two late-middle-aged taciturn Indian guys. I assume they are related to each other. One of them barely acknowledges me. The second one was like that too until maybe a year ago but now greets me warmly. The second guy is the topic of this post.

    At some point I noticed that the second guy sometimes makes errors, generally favoring himself, in ringing up the snacks I buy. Several times he’s shortchanged me by small amounts. Of course he corrects the errors when I point them out. One weekend I realized that I had paid ~$6 for two items that were priced at around $2 each. It was too late to do anything, but the same thing happened again a week or two later and I called him on it. Ah, another mistake – he corrected the charge.

    This morning I experienced the most refined version of his game yet. I hadn’t eaten breakfast so I took a piece of cake, a bottle of Gatorade and a small bag of mixed nuts to the register. The total should have been around $6 but it rang up at more than $8. I paid with a credit card and asked for a receipt – he doesn’t give a receipt unless you ask – and mentioned that the total seemed high. He said that the price included two bottles of Gatorade in a two-for-$4 deal and that I should take my second bottle. Why did he wait to tell me this until I requested a receipt? I walked back to the Gatorade rack and the price was listed as $2.67 each, as I remembered. I said that I wanted just one bottle of Gatorade as I had no way to carry a second bottle. Very quickly he refunded, in cash and without further prompting, my $2 overpayment. Slick. I wonder how much he takes in over time through overcharges that customers don’t notice. It’s a busy store.

    The upshot is that I stopped at the gas station again later, on my way back, and bought another Gatorade. The gas station guy greeted me warmly and said that if I had paid for two Gatorades earlier I could be picking up the second one now and saving $1.34. I thanked him for his consideration.

    Posted in Human Behavior | 8 Comments »

    President Trump’s ‘Xanatos Gambit’ Trade Policy

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 27th April 2019 (All posts by )

    I’ve written previously in my column “President Trump’s ‘Xanatos Gambit’ Government Shutdown” of President Trump’s tendency for building political strategy trees were every possible outcome is to his advantage. (See the “Xanatos Gambit” strategy tree example in the figure below)

     

    https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/XanatosGambitDiagram_7509.jpg

    This is a decision diagram example of a “Xanatos Gambit. Source: https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/XanatosGambit

    It very much looks like President Trump has done the same thing with the Democrats and “China lobby” GOP Senators with the post-NAFTA US-Canada-Mexico (USMCA AKA “You Smack-A”) trade agreement and the US economy.

    THE US ECONOMY, NAFTA & USMACA

    The key thing you need to understand regards NAFTA and American manufacturing is that NAFTA was geared to allow the “China lobby” of multinational corporations to use Canada and Mexico as an “international arbitrage opportunity” for Chinese slave labor wage manufactured goods to be assembled at Canadian and Mexican production facilities and avoid American tariffs.

    Multinational corporations exploiting this “international arbitrage opportunity” was “The Great Sucking Sound” that Ross Perot talked about which killed the US domestic refined metals industry and hollowed out middle class manufacturing jobs in the American economy.

    President Trump’s USMCA removes that “international arbitrage opportunity” via original 75% North American manufacturing content requirements for metals and intermediate manufacturing goods as well as a Mexican minimum wage rules on the order of $15 an hour for automotive parts assembly.

    In response the “China lobby” has been paying large campaign contributions to both House Democrats and “free trade” GOP Senators to try and keep NAFTA, as well running info-war spots everywhere in the corporate media and “movement conservative” publications/media outlets about the benefits of “free trade.”  This has resulted in public statements by Speaker Pelosi that the House does not intend to vote for USMCA.

    This is where Pres. Trump’s ‘Xanatos Gambit’ strategy tree kicks in via a macroeconomic and trade policy manipulation of the very simple economic equation of gross domestic product:

    GDP = US ECONOMIC ACTIVITY + EXPORTS + FOREIGN INVESTMENT – IMPORTS – EXTERNAL INVESTMENT

    The American economy just grew 3.2% in the 1st quarter of 2019.  It would have grown another 0.3% but for the 30-odd day federal government shut down.  The “markets” were expecting 2.5% GDP growth.  The huge half-percent GDP “miss” boiled down to:

    1. The USA exported more.

    2. The USA imported less and

    3. There was more external foreign investment than expected.

    All three were the result of a combination of Trump administration policies on oil/LNG fracking, tax & regulatory cuts and trade/tariffs.

    First point, the USA will be a net energy exporter — of oil, natural gas & coal combined — in 2020 if it isn’t one already.

    Some rough numbers:  In 2012 US oil production was ~8 million barrels a day, all for domestic consumption, and in 2019 it is 12.6 million with some exports.  Today’s US oil consumption is 20 million barrels a day.  That increase in oil production that has reduced imports of oil by a net of 4.6 million barrels a day has also been accompanied by the displacement of coal and oil in both electrical production and manufacturing by cheaper natural gas, thus freeing both the coal and oil not used to be exported. This combined economic change since 2012 alone is worth a 1% increase in GDP growth a year compared to 2012.

    Second, the Trump administration’s systematic and sustained attack on Obama era federal regulatory growth is reducing business compliance costs particularly in the energy sector for new infrastructure projects.  These are the “anti-green” actions the Democrats accuse the Trump administration of.

    Third, the Trump administration/GOP tax bill, in addition to increasing spending power for the middle class, has had a huge -YUGE- reduction in capital gains taxes and a one-time break in repatriating overseas capital holdings. This has made America a much more attractive place to hold and invest money.  Particularly for energy companies like Exxon, which are dropping this foreign capital inflow into the Permian basin for oil and natural gas fracking and energy export infrastructure from the Permian to the Gulf Coast.

    Finally, in terms of trade and tariffs, President Trump’s tariffs on Chinese steel and aluminum combined with the business implications of USMCA rules have made further investment in Canadian automotive plants a net loss position.  American metal content is now economically competitive for energy sector infrastructure and automobile parts such that US Steel among others are reopening US metal plants.

    Taken together every part of the GDP equation has been directly affected by the Trump administration macroeconomic policies to get that 3.2% GDP number.

    This is where the Xanatos Gambit for USMCA arrives.

    Things will be worse for the China lobby without a vote on USMCA than with one.

    Short form:

    NAFTA is dead regardless of any action or inaction by the House.  All the House and Senate can do is not vote on USMCA.  The legislative branch cannot revive a NAFTA trade agreement the federal executive has withdrawn from.

    This means without a signed USMCA trade deal Pres.Trump can — and will — lay on even more tariffs on the multinational corporations playing price arbitrage in Mexico and Canada between Chinese and American manufacturing.

    While such trade sanctions can reduce the American economy like a tax increase, when we are likely at close to 4% economic growth in late 2019 to early 2020 from the accumulated investment in energy projects bringing defacto energy independence, a 3.5% economic growth rate with tariffs is still pretty good.

    And when the House refuses to vote in USMCA, NAFTA still dies.

    Pres. Trump can and will lay on new massive new anti-Chinese tariffs on Canadian and Mexican front companies for China without USMCA rules.  This will be massively popular in the Midwest in an election year and will hurt the income streams of the multi-nationals supporting the Pelosi Dems and McConnell RINOs.

    From Trump’s point of view, What’s not to like about America’s manufacturing base employing the Midwestern white working class growing while the “international arbitrage opportunity” of China’s slave labor economy contracts?

     

    Posted in America 3.0, Big Government, Business, Capitalism, Civil Society, Economics & Finance, Elections, Energy & Power Generation, Entrepreneurship, Environment | 28 Comments »

    Seth Barrett Tillman: North Wales Poll for May 23, 2019 EU Parliament Elections

    Posted by Jonathan on 25th April 2019 (All posts by )

    UKIP + BREXIT Party = 50%.
    Labour + Tory = 8%

    Read the full post.

    Posted in Britain, Elections, Europe, Politics | 6 Comments »

    Saving (Restoring) Free-Range Childhood

    Posted by David Foster on 24th April 2019 (All posts by )

    Kerry McDonald:  The Value of a Self-Directed Summer for Kids.

    Autonomy and choice are central to a self-directed summer, in contrast to the control and regimentation that define so many children’s days all year round. Parents from all socio-economic backgrounds face mounting pressure to have their children’s summer days filled with structured, and often expensive, enrichment activities; but poorer parents may confront the most coercion.

    RTWT.  See also my related post Six Hundred Million Years in K-12.

    The term “free-range kids” was originated, AFAIK, by Lenore Skenazy, who has a blog with that name.

    Posted in Civil Society, Crime and Punishment, Human Behavior, USA | 8 Comments »

    The Great Othering

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 24th April 2019 (All posts by )

    Where they burn books, so too will they in the end burn human beings. – Heinrich Heine

    This last week there was a mild kerfuffle in the world of those bloggers who love and often write books, and who also love history. This was caused by a marginally-literate screed published on a personal blog by one Sofia Leung, who professes to be a feminist and a librarian of the totally-woke/social-justice/critical-race-theory variety. Said screed was amplified in the twitter feed of the Library Journal, until the tweet was deleted, (possibly at the urging of someone with a lick of sense and professionalism). I suspect that the Library Journal is a publication which was once much more respected and authoritative; like Time, Newsweek, Scientific American, Harper’s, Smithsonian and National Geographic once were, before being overtaken in a flood of semi-coherent woke/social-justice/critical-race-theory nonsense. Quoth Ms. Leung –

    “Library collections continue to promote and proliferate whiteness with their very existence and the fact that they are physically taking up space in our libraries. They are paid for using money that was usually ill-gotten…”

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Arts & Letters, Conservatism, Deep Thoughts | 22 Comments »

    Vote Fraud may determine the 2020 election.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 23rd April 2019 (All posts by )

    The Democrat Party has been perfecting their techniques of voter fraud for many years. In 1960, the presidential election was determined by vote fraud in Chicago and Texas. Chicago has a long history of stolen elections. It is a joke to many Chicago residents but Chicago determines Illinois’ electoral votes.

    Chicago is famous for its history of people voting from the grave and for helping President John F. Kennedy “steal” the 1960 election. (JFK beat Richard Nixon by 9,000 votes in Illinois by capturing what some considered a suspiciously high 450,000 advantage in Cook County.)

    Officials insist voter fraud has largely disappeared in Chicago, but Donald Trump, the Republican presidential candidate, has said voter fraud and “horrendous” things happen in Chicago.

    The city’s election history is even crazier than most people realize, though, with Republican feuds leading to homes being bombed and names being stolen from tombstones just to get extra votes for the “Democratic Machine.”

    Texas was just as bad in the days when it was run by Democrats. San Antonio was particularly famous as a corrupt fief of George Parr, a political boss. Lyndon Johnson used his influence with that boss to win the Senate election of 1948 and the presidential election of 1960.

    A study of Lyndon B. Johnson provides new evidence that the 36th President stole his first election to the United States Senate, in 1948.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Elections, Politics, Polls, Texas | 10 Comments »

    The Last Gift Of Mary Magdalene

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 20th April 2019 (All posts by )

    When Mary of Magdala went to the tomb on Easter morning, hoping with the other women to give the body of Jesus a proper burial (Friday afternoon’s preparations had been hurried and the bare minimum), her situation was different than all of Jesus’s other followers. The men could go back to their previous jobs and families. At least I can go back to accounting/fishing/building again. They would be humiliated, of course, but that would pass. They grieved for their friend, but lots of people grieve. Some of the men had wished to go back to their previous lives, and wanted assurance from Jesus that what they had given up to follow him was worth it.

    Jesus had at least attempted to provide for his mother at the end. “Mother, behold your son; son, behold your mother” he had said to John. As far as we can tell, the other women had come from some sort of families, and after suitable punishment by their patriarchs, would be accepted back. Mary the mother of Jesus would have the greatest grief, of course, but no worse than a thousand other mothers in Jerusalem who had lost sons.

    Mary had nothing to go back to. There were always job openings for Beggar, of course, but the other beggars would have been schooled for a lifetime in eliciting pity by appearance and tones of voice. She might not be able to make even a subsistence living. She might give herself as a slave, if anyone would have her – the woman of the house in any rich family might have something to say about the master taking on one of the girls from the Pampered Palestinian Escort Service, no matter how temporarily reformed. Ms. Magdalene had seemingly stayed somewhere the last two nights. Perhaps she had stayed with one of the other women, or one of the disciples – if she could find one out of hiding. But it could have been that she had nowhere, nothing, starting in about two hours.

    We might hope that the followers of Jesus would remember at least something of what he taught, and that someone would take a poor woman in and provide for her. But if not, her own family was unlikely to take her back. She had shamed them already and was dead to them. Whatever friends she had formerly had among her customers wouldn’t want to be that close to her new holiness, unless they were utterly depraved and would enjoy even more trying to take advantage of her need. You thought you were something for awhile there, didn’t you – better than the rest of us, huh? Now look at you.

    And yet out of love and duty, which are not as incompatible as we make them appear in our era, she wants to give what last little she has in the pointless gesture of doing things up properly for someone who wasn’t even a relative. Just because it was the right thing to do. Just to show gratitude one more time, even if only she noticed.

    It was a gift of generosity unmatched by any of Jesus’s other followers, a pouring out of her own self, probably pointlessly, in imitation of his own pointless sacrifice. Just because it had to be done. We lose too quickly in the immediate discussion of the resurrection how great must have been Mary Magdalene’s despair at finding the tomb empty. Even this last ability to give a little gift had been taken from her, and she must have thought as well “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

    No wonder that Jesus’s words to her are “Touch me not.” What other impulse could she have had but to wrap her arms around his ankles, touch his face, burrow into his chest, weeping? How did even the Son of God move quickly enough to prevent her?

    There are no tears that will not someday be dried, no lonely depths that will not somehow be filled. We hunger; food exists. We thirst; water exists. What else then could hope be for, but for completion?

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 3 Comments »

    General MacArthur’s Bataan Gang Radio Man

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 19th April 2019 (All posts by )

    One of the minor mysteries of World War II is why President Franklin Roosevelt not only ordered General Douglas MacArthur to abandon his troops in the Philippines, but went out of his way to cover up the $500,000 payment from Philippine Commonwealth President Manuel Quezon to MacArthur.

    See:

    MacArthur Given $500,000
    By Jim Warren and
    KnightRidder; Copyright (c) 1980 Lexington Herald
    January 29, 1980
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/1980/01/29/macarthur-given-500000/3ad863a3-8caa-4792-b038-d91bb3f804b4/?utm_term=.241d49fd22bd

     

    The Secret Payment
    https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/macarthur-secret-payment/

    The best place for a man as difficult, politically powerful and utterly troublesome as General MacArthur is as far away from Washington, DC as possible.  What is farther away than the inside of an Imperial Japanese prison cell in Manchuria?  Yet President Roosevelt went out of his way to give the order to General MacArthur to run to Australia.

    Why?

    The general answer from historians like Ian Toll and Geoffrey Perret is that MacArthur became an immensely popular heroic figure during the fall of the Philippines.  And that fact combined with the fallout from Pearl Harbor made MacArthur’s loss a political danger to the Roosevelt Administration.  This deus ex machina explanation has always been very unsatisfying to me as it’s just assumed with no underlying “why did that happen.”

    It turns out there is in fact an easy explanation which the likes of Toll and Perret missed because there has never been a book-length biography of MacArthur’s chief signal officer, General Spencer Ball Akin, who was MacArthur’s “Bataan Gang Radio Man.”  

    General Spencer Ball Akin

    It turns out that between the beginning of the war and MacArthur’s evacuation from Corregidor, then-Colonel Akin’s radio program, “The Voice of Freedom,” was broadcast to the world, three times daily.  The Corregidor based broadcast facilities could and did reach San Francisco, California.  These radio programs were then picked up by the Hearst papers on the West Coast and later by the American radio broadcast networks.  These messages also reached Australia,  when the radio atmospherics were good, either directly or rebroadcast from America.

    In the utter desert of good war news in the first months of WW2, then-Colonel Akin’s stirring propaganda broadcasts of American and Filipino resistance to the Japanese onslaught — when compared to the fall of Hong Kong, Singapore, the Dutch East Indies, plus the German Operation Drumbeat U-boat attacks off the US East Coast — was drunken down in the English speaking world like artesian spring water.

    It was this turn of events shaping the publics of America and Australia that made General MacArthur’s loss to the Japanese a danger to President Roosevelt’s power as a wartime leader, thus forcing his hand to save the general he would have liked to do without.

    While MacArthur’s quietest and most spectacularly talented member of his “Bataan Gang,**General Spencer Ball Akin, went on to become Chief Signal Officer of the US Army from 1947 – 1951.  Akin never got the wider public recognition his wartime accomplishments warranted…but that was pretty much as both Generals Akin and MacArthur preferred it.

    -End-

     

    ** The “Bataan Gang” refers to the 18 military personnel including General Douglas MacArthur, who were rescued from Corregidor by four PT Boats in March 1942 and eventually traveled to Australia by B-17 Flying Fortresses and then by train to Melbourne, Australia.

     

    Posted in History, War and Peace | 63 Comments »

    Tolkien Exhibit

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 18th April 2019 (All posts by )

    I still haven’t figured out how to insert artwork, which in this instance is important to the topic. Therefore, I direct you to my impressions of the Tolkien exhibit at the JP Morgan Library in NYC, and now appreciating his artwork, which I did not before.

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 1 Comment »

    Archive Post: Evelyn Waugh And the Sword of Honor

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 18th April 2019 (All posts by )

    (An archive post from 2015 … working on a new post, but I thought that this was one of my more thoughtful ones…)

    So, leafing – metaphorically speaking – through the video delights on offer through the Acorn video catalogue in search of something amusing to while away the evening after a day’s labor on various book projects, the most pressing of which is not my own, but a paid client – we came upon a two-part version from about ten years ago of Evelyn Waugh’s Sword of Honor trilogy. I suggested that we watch it, since I had a bout of Waugh fever about the time that I was in college upper division, in hot pursuit of that relatively useless degree in English. (But I enjoyed the pursuit very much on its own merits, not being one of those one-percenters with delusions of the diploma leading me author-matically into an lavishly paid gig anywhere in the academic or in the publishing establishment.)

    Anyway, I had read a good few of Waugh’s books early on; liked Scoop – as vicious an evisceration of Big Media as it was in the 1930s as was ever set to page – and the first book of the Sword of Honor Trilogy, as a similarly bitterly cynical romp through the first years of WWII. The training year, the ‘Phony War’ year … when nothing much (aside from Nazi Germany overrunning Poland, the Low Countries, Norway and Denmark, and France) was happening. And then it all turned deadly serious, with which Waugh just didn’t seem able to cope. The seriousness of it all, I mean. Literary and serious observers, looking through their lorgnettes at current events sometimes have this difficulty, I know. Poor P. G. Woodhouse also had the same trouble, regarding WWII, even as it caught him up in its ghastly coils. I surmise that dear old P. G. dealt with it by moving to America and never dealing with it at all, within the frame of his books; probably a wise literary decision, since he had the formula down pat, so to speak.

    We watched the whole two-part distillation of the Trilogy – enjoying the scenic views of Daniel Craig no end – but the miniseries kind of left us cold. I suspect that re-reading the Trilogy entire would also leave us rather cold. Apparently in the purview of the Great and Good English Literature Establishment, The Trilogy is held to be one of the Majorly Significant Novels dealing with WWII … to which I blow a large raspberry. (That all you got, English Literary Establishment? Really…) Yes, Evelyn Waugh was a magnificent prose stylist, and his satiric novels in the 1930s are bitchy and hilarious, Return to Brideshead is elegiac and heartbreaking … but the Sword of Honor Trilogy is a very odd fish. The first volume was true to the bitchy and satiric form; frankly, I found it very funny because … well, it was to do with the weirdness of the military. Of any age and country, really; a sort of inside black humor, best appreciated by those who have lived through and endured. (G. M. Fraser’s McAuslan cycle is a wonderful example of this, only not burdened by the weight of being A Majorly Significant Novel, so it can be appreciated for its own merits. What a lovely miniseries the McAuslan cycle would make – I can’t imagine why it has been overlooked in this respect… anyway, back to the subject…)

    The rest of the TV version – and take into consideration the fact that I am trying to recall the source novels that I read a lifetime ago – rather fell flat for both of us. We agreed that Waugh couldn’t really write women – although he did have the manipulative bitch subset of the species down cold. It was just rather depressing that just about all the various characters which the hero character tried to help in some way came to rather awful ends. Perhaps that was the inclination of the screenwriters; but really – the message is that it’s useless and futile to be a decent person and do the right thing? How nihilistic is that?

    I wonder also if trying to write a novel about current events isn’t rather a trap for the writer; in retrospect it certainly seemed so for Waugh; the Holocaust together with the Communist aggression in Eastern Europe were just too horrific for a satirist to manage within the scope of a serio-comic novel.

    Posted in Anglosphere, Book Notes, Britain, Civil Society, Deep Thoughts, Leftism | Comments Off on Archive Post: Evelyn Waugh And the Sword of Honor

    Paying Higher Taxes Can be Very Profitable

    Posted by David Foster on 15th April 2019 (All posts by )

    (originally posted in 2010–now an April perennial)

    Chevy Chase, MD, is an affluent suburb of Washington DC. Median household income is over $200K, and a significant percentage of households have incomes that are much, much higher. Stores located in Chevy Chase include Tiffany & Co, Ralph Lauren, Christian Dior, Versace, Jimmy Choo, Nieman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Saks-Jandel.

    PowerLine observed that during the 2008 election season, yards in Chevy Chase were thick with Obama signs–and wondered how these people were now feeling (in October 2009) about the prospect of sharp tax increases for people in their income brackets.

    The PowerLine guys are very astute, but I think they were missing a key point on this one. There are substantial groups of people who stood to benefit financially from the policies of the Obama/Pelosi/Reid triumvirate (really, the Democratic Party in general), and these benefits can greatly outweigh the costs of any additional taxes that these policies require them to pay. Many of the residents of Chevy Chase–a very high percentage of whom get their income directly or indirectly from government activities–fall into this category.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 3 Comments »

    Boredom

    Posted by David Foster on 14th April 2019 (All posts by )

    Ammo Grrrll writes about her husband, a man who is never bored…”the most self-amusing human I have ever known, mostly due to an overabundance of enthusiasms and boundless curiosity about every dang thing in the world.”  She contrasts this attitude with the attitudes of those people who really can’t think of anything to do unless they need to go to work.

    Valerie Jarrett famously said of Obama:  “He’s been bored to death his whole life.”  We can’t be sure, of course, that Jarrett is here actually reflecting Obama’s true characteristics;  but we can be sure that she feels that the characteristic of being bored one’s whole life is something admirable, a sign of intellectual and maybe moral superiority.

    (I think it’s correct to say that the affectation of boredom has traditionally been associated with members of aristocracies)

    Years ago, when I visited the American Museum of the American Indian, one of the exhibits was a collection of jewelry made by former senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell (Cheyenne)…really fine stuff, not that I’m any judge.  I remember wondering at the time:  how many other politicians have a serious hobby or avocation such as this?  I thought then and I think now that it’s probably pretty exceptional; most of them seem to have few interests other than the pursuit of power and activities directly related to that pursuit.

    In his important memoir of growing up in Germany between the wars, Sebastian Haffner discusses a period (during the Stresemann chancellorship) when the political and economic climate in that country stabilized significantly.  Most people were a lot happier:

    The last ten years were forgotten like a bad dream. The Day of Judgment was remote again, and there was no demand for saviors or revolutionaries…There was an ample measure of freedom, peace, and order, everywhere the most well-meaning liberal-mindedness, good wages, good food and a little political boredom. everyone was cordially invited to concentrate on their personal lives, to arrange their affairs according to their own taste and to find their own paths to happiness.

    But…and I think this is a particuarly important point…a return to private life was not to everyone’s taste:

    A generation of young Germans had become accustomed to having the entire content of their lives delivered gratis, so to speak, by the public sphere, all the raw material for their deeper emotions…Now that these deliveries suddently ceased, people were left helpless, impoverished, robbed, and disappointed. They had never learned how to live from within themselves, how to make an ordinary private life great, beautiful and worth while, how to enjoy it and make it interesting. So they regarded the end of political tension and the return of private liberty not as a gift, but as a deprivation. They were bored, their minds strayed to silly thoughts, and they began to sulk.

    and

    To be precise (the occasion demands precision, because in my opinion it provides the key to the contemporary period of history): it was not the entire generation of young Germans. Not every single individual reacted in this fashion. There were some who learned during this period, belatedly and a little clumsily, as it were, how to live. they began to enjoy their own lives, weaned themselves from the cheap intoxication of the sports of war and revolution, and started to develop their own personalities. It was at this time that, invisibly and unnoticed, the Germans divided into those who later became Nazis and those who would remain non-Nazis.

    I believe that in America today, there are a lot of people–largely, but not exclusively on the Left–whose political activity is motivated in large part by their inability to make their own lives great, beautiful and worth while.

    Discuss, if so inclined.

    Posted in Civil Society, Deep Thoughts, Germany, Human Behavior, USA | 17 Comments »

    A Modest Proposal

    Posted by Jonathan on 12th April 2019 (All posts by )

    New ‘Medicare for All’ Bill Would Kick 181 Million Off Private Insurance

    Now might be a good time for new federal legislation requiring all members of Congress to use only Medicaid for their own non-emergency medical care. The plan’s features could include:

    -Doctors assigned randomly from a list of the Medicaid providers in each member’s district.

    -Penalties (fines? misdemeanor/felony? the posting of the member’s name in an online ledger?) for going outside of this system for treatment without prior approval.

    -Prior approval to require a unanimous vote by a panel of citizens selected randomly from a list of the registered voters in each member’s district.

    Of course this legislation would have no chance of passage. Its purpose would be to make Congressional single-payer advocates explain why they should be exempt from it, and then why the rest of us should be be subjected to their hare-brained socialized-medicine schemes.

    Make them live by their own rules, as a great man once said.

    Posted in Big Government, Health Care, Leftism, Medicine, Politics | 9 Comments »

    Movie Considerations & The Highwaymen

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 11th April 2019 (All posts by )

    After reading a couple of favorable reviews of The Highwaymen at blogs that I am usually given to trust, I took a flyer on watching the movie – streaming video, of course, on my home computer. I can count the number of movies that I have made a deliberate effort to see in a theater over the last couple of years on the fingers of one hand and … well, wow. Just wow. Kevin Costner isn’t any Kenneth Branagh, or even a John Wayne – but he can act, especially given an intelligent and nuanced script, spare and understated direction, and production values not dependent on flashy special effects. Woody Harrelson may personally be nuttier than squirrel poop – but he also can act. Like Jimmy Stewart did before them – they are better and more interesting playing older, more grizzled characters then they were as smooth-faced young studs. So – The Highwaymen is a retelling of the hunt for and final ambush of gangsters Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker, glamorized beyond practically all recognition in the 1968 movie. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Book Notes, Crime and Punishment, Diversions, Film, Texas | 40 Comments »

    An Archive Post: Obamania & Spike Lee

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 10th April 2019 (All posts by )

    (Another one of my archive posts – this one from … urp… 2008, on my original military blog.

    An age ago when I had to keep closer track of what currently bubbled up to the top of popular culture and remained there as a sort of curdled froth, suitable for generating one-liners for whatever radio show I was doing for Armed Forces Radio, I read a long interview with Spike Lee. This would have been about the time that he floated into everyone’s cultural consciousness as a specifically black filmmaker, with She’s Gotta Have It and Do The Right Thing; a new fresh voice with a quirky and nuanced take on being black in America. It was a revealing interview which left me shaking my head, because it seemed to me that Mr. Lee was animated by a deeply held conviction that the American establishment and white people everywhere were coldly, malevolently and persistently dedicated with every fiber of their being and every hour of every day, to the sole objective of “keeping the black man down.” It was the top item on the agenda at every business meeting, every political gathering, and the topic of fevered discussion at every dinner table and whispered in every cloakroom, yea verily, wherever were white Americans gathered – there was the grand conspiracy to ruin the black American community. Or at least make them have a crappy day.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Blogging, Civil Society, Conservatism, Culture, Deep Thoughts, History, Urban Issues | 6 Comments »

    Seth Barrett Tillman: Today’s Question On CONLAWPROF: Where Would You Put Trump?

    Posted by Jonathan on 10th April 2019 (All posts by )

    Professor ZZZ asks: “Trump is not Stalin but in the history of national (federal) political figures in this country, I’m wondering … where [would] you put Trump? … Having a POTUS so publicly awful along those lines lowers the horrible bar so dramatically that we will pay for years to come. Not being Stalin but being Roy Cohn is a hell of a legacy.”
     
    Tillman responded:
     
    [. . .]
     
    Trump is ahead of Woodrow Wilson: World War I, and! his resegregation of the federal civil service. I grant you that being ahead of Wilson is not saying much…but then, the nation survived Wilson, and no one today thinks of Wilson as having lowered the bar vis-a-vis future presidents. Professor ZZZ seems to be worried about this. He wrote: “Having a POTUS so publicly awful along those lines lowers the horrible bar so dramatically that we will pay for years to come.” Really?—Will we pay for it in years to come, or is this just a shabby slippery slope-type argument?
     
    I cannot say I see much sense in Professor ZZZ’s references to Roy Cohn. Roy Cohn’s permanent claim to fame is his association with McCarthy and aggressive anticommunism. Trump, by contrast, has been criticized for being too close to Putin. It is not exactly the same; actually, the two are not alike at all.
     
    If words and pretty speeches are the measure of a president, then Trump comes up short. The question is whether that is the correct standard for measuring presidents in a dangerous world.

    Read the whole thing.

    Seth’s last line is a good summary of the general flaw with many anti-Trump arguments. However, Seth doesn’t go far enough with specific examples:

    -Trump didn’t withdraw US forces precipitately from an overseas conflict, leaving the worst of our enemies to fill the resulting power vacuum as Obama did in Iraq.

    -Trump didn’t reverse longstanding US policy, deprecating alliances with pro-American countries, in a foolish and futile effort to buy the love of the Iranian mullahs as Obama did.

    -Trump didn’t let himself get played by the North Korean dictatorship as Clinton, both Bushes and Obama did.

    -Trump didn’t use the IRS to harass his political opponents – as Nixon threatened to do, as the Clintons did to right-wing activist organizations, and as Obama did to organizations and individuals who were active in the Tea Party movement.

    -Trump didn’t use the FBI and CIA to spy on his Democratic rivals’ election campaigns as Obama seems to have done to Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

    I can think of numerous other examples of unwise or malicious actions taken by previous presidents that Trump hasn’t done. Feel free to add additional examples in the comments.

    Posted in Big Government, International Affairs, Law, Law Enforcement, Leftism, National Security, Obama, Political Philosophy, Politics, Rhetoric, Trump | 9 Comments »

    Gimme That Old-Time Education

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 9th April 2019 (All posts by )

    The strength of American education is that for 400 years we have allowed and encouraged people to self-educate. That doesn’t mean the schools are the cause. However, neither did they fully ruin that, and bad as they were and are, they seem to be better than everyone else’s right up to the present day. Most places in the world, even now, discourage or even forbid many children from rising above their station with either formal or informal education. Just having a good attitude about that has probably helped America a lot.

    Let me talk out of both sides of my mouth again.

    Black education today is terrible in some places. I’m not sure many African-Americans would maintain that it was better 50 or 100 years ago.

    Anyone with an educational difficulty of any kind might also have complaints about current school offerings, but compared to 1932 or 1952? Please. My younger brother had a special program in elementary school – they put his desk in the hall. In the tracked classes he was put in the bottom track of 17. He wasn’t badly ADD, but it was compounded by being only three weeks short of the age cutoff for his class, and his poor fine-motor skills. He went on to teach college, after a long and winding road. Schools missed a lot of kids then. They missed bad hearing and bad eyesight. They missed identifying any spatial skills until well into high school. The escape route was often that people, especially boys, figured out that there were other ways to get ahead, before “To get a good job, get a good education” became a perpetual, and misleading, public service announcement. Also people were more used to careers being built outside of school and so accepted it more. In contrast, a young friend who teaches English at a suburban high school brought in a speaker to encourage consideration of trades. She was told by her principal to never do that again.

    Still, I don’t know that’s the fault of the schools precisely, though they contributed to it.

    Then there’s the corporal punishment – some of it relatively mild and merely uncomfortable and perhaps not very damaging, some of it assault and abuse.

    Plus! Public shaming as a primary tool for encouraging children to work harder and do better. Because mild embarrassment motivates some of the better students, significant humiliation must work on the others. Now that makes sense. That was one of the brilliant pedagogical techniques of earlier eras. It is largely the people who were not abused and shamed who remember education so fondly now. Myself, I remember that they didn’t like boys very much.

    I mentioned in the previous posts the lack of educative bang for the buck we got from many of the extras in the old days, such as penmanship, and coloring as the default geography activity.

    That’s a lot for Old-Timey Education to overcome if it wants to be considered superior to the current model.

    ***
    As long as I can remember, we have been subjected to news stories every year of how American students only rank 20th in the world, or 13th out of 15 wealthy countries in math, reading, and science. We then have a collective moaning about how far we are falling behind the world, with every interest group insisting they know how to fix it: by hiring more of their interest group, be they aromatherapists or small-business owners to fix the classroom. Alternatively, people tout their various theories. The Finns and Estonians do so well because they are so laid-back and permissive. But The South Koreans and Chinese do so well because they drill their kids so hard. It seems we are hard to please. The breathless media accounts are usually based on the Programme for International Student Assessment, given to 15 y/o’s every year. It’s a good test, but if you don’t break it down by race it greatly deceives. If you scroll to the bottom of that Wikipedia article, you will see that American results are broken out by race. Do not be amazed that this is allowed. It’s a big deal in educational circles, trying to “close the testing gap.” They have to advertise this to get more money. Everyone else wants to cover it up to have less argument. I think the tension between highlighting and covering up is worsening, BTW.

    It’s just a little dated, but Steve Sailer put the list in more simplified form a few years ago, so you don’t have to keep scrolling back and forth between charts. It appears that Americans do very well indeed. Asian-Americans outscore Asians, except for magnet cities. European-Americans outscore Europeans, with few exceptions. The lower numbers for Hispanic-Americans would be discouraging, except that one sees they far outscore all Latin-American countries. We have almost no data for Africa and the Caribbean, but what we have shows all of them far, far behind African-Americans. The theory that environment in general, and schools in specific, matter more at the tail end of ability than at the top seems to bear out.

    It is unlikely to be primarily schools creating the advantage. The American belief in self-education, in-school or out, is likely the driver. Yet the schools are at least not destroying that advantage. I worry about attention spans – yet that is not the fault of the schools. I worry about much of the content being taught – until I remember that students seldom buy what the adults are selling anyway. I worry about the butchery of boys, especially now that the non-school escape routes have less status. That is on the schools more, but generally they are only echoing the values we insist on, overvaluing conscientiousness, over-reliance on credentialing, over-emphasis on sports and entertainment.

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 6 Comments »

    A Truly Courageous Business Decision

    Posted by David Foster on 7th April 2019 (All posts by )

    Today marks the 55th anniversary of IBM’s announcement of the System/360 line…which made obsolete virtually all of its then-existing products.  The 360 line established a common architecture for machines of widely-differing price and performance characteristics, with the individual product implementations of this architecture differing considerably.  The goal was compatibility, so that customers could upgrade without extensive rewriting of programs.  Consolidating IBM’s diverse computer systems into this single system architecture was a bold decision; truly, a bet-the-company decision: in the end, it paid off, with devastating consequences for the ‘Seven Dwarfs’ who were IBM’s competitors at the time…but the implementation was frighteningly stressful.  A good article on the project recently appeared in IEEE Spectrum.

    Tom Watson Jr, who ran IBM during this time period, discusses the 360 project extensively in his superb memoir, Father, Son, and Co.  I reviewed it here–highly recommended.

    Posted in Book Notes, Business, Management, Tech | 21 Comments »

    A Thumbnail History of the American Fighter Drop Tank 1923-2000

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 7th April 2019 (All posts by )

    The flying services of the American military pioneered the use of fighter drop tanks, but there is no one place where you can go to get a historical ‘thumbnail sketch’ of their introduction and history of use.  This blog post is my attempt to answer that need.

    Drop tanks have been around over 90 years in American aviation, but their history prior to the 1942–1945 Combined Bomber Offensive is very obscure for a lot of reasons. The biggest historically American manufacturer of drop tanks Sargent Fletcher only reaches back to its 1940 founding. (It was bought by a British company in 1994.) So the recorded American aircraft drop tank history looks as follows:

    Sargent Fletcher drop tank history from 1940 to 2000

    Sargent Fletcher drop tank history from 1940 to 2000

    The problem with the history above is that the first operational use of drop tanks pre-dated the founding of Sargent Fletcher by almost 18 years.

    On March 5, 1923 the 1st Pursuit Group of the US Army Air Service flew their Boeing MB-3As Pursuit planes with 37 gallon centerline drop tanks and achieved a radius of action of 400 miles!

    Boeing built and Thomas-Morse designed MB-3 assigned to Billy Mitchell, at Selfridge Field, Michigan, Source: Wikipedia.

    Boeing built and Thomas-Morse designed MB-3 assigned to Billy Mitchell, at Selfridge Field, Michigan, Source: Wikipedia.

     

    See article link and text:

    Selfridge ANGB: Home of the Drop Tank

    https://www.127wg.ang.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/865880/selfridge-angb-home-of-the-drop-tank/

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in History, Military Affairs, Miscellaneous, War and Peace | 33 Comments »

    Education Part IV

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 6th April 2019 (All posts by )

    There have been some interesting places to bring the discussion that came up in the comments, and I am impatient to get to them. But I think I will stay with my original plan for now. After this there are a few additional quick-hitters to spur thought, but no more extended essay.

    Here are the weaknesses of those purported advantages:

    Better teachers: Just because women in general had unacknowledged talents and some of them went into teaching does not mean those particular women were good teachers. Let’s go back just a bit further in history, to the late 19th and early 20th C and pick up the flow of who was heading up classrooms. My great-grandmother taught at a one-room school in Londonderry. She started at 17. Alert readers will suddenly remember Anne of Green Gables, the “Little House” books, and others of the era, and how young teachers might be. Moving forward in time, schools began to require that teachers had a highschool diploma, later a certificate from a Normal School (two-year teaching academy, later increased to four-year), then a Teacher’s Collge, and only quite far along, a Bachelor’s Degrees. Those with the earlier credentials were grandfathered – er, grandmothered – in. I had at least two teachers with a Normal School certificate only, even in my day. So whatever natural abilities they may have had, the majority of teachers did not have so much training – and there was not a lot of continuing ed in those days or supervision after.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Education | 18 Comments »

    Movie Review: “O”

    Posted by David Foster on 5th April 2019 (All posts by )

    (This is a rerun of a post from 2010–I was reminded of this movie by Paula Marantz Cohen’s WSJ article about teaching ‘Othello’)

    Odin James–“O”–is a high-school basketball star. His friend Hugo also plays for the team, though not on O’s level. When O singles out another player–Michael–for special recognition, Hugo’s already-high jealously level reaches a fever pitch.

    Roger, a wealthy but awkward and widely-disliked student, is hopelessly in love with O’s girlfriend, Desi. Hugo enlists him in a plot which he sells to Roger as a way of luring Desi away from O…but his real intent is to destroy both O and Michael, with Desi as collateral damage.

    Does the plot sound a little bit familiar?

    This is, of course, “Othello,” set in an American prep school instead of in Venice, and with the title character as an athlete rather than a military commander.

    O is Othello (Mekhi Phifer)
    Desi is Desdemona (Julia Stiles)
    Hugo is Iago (Josh Hartnett)
    Roger is Rodrigo (Elden Henson)
    Michael is Michael Casio (Andrew Keegan)
    Emily is Emilia (Rain Phoenix)
    The basketball coach, nicknamed “Duke,” is the Duke (Martin Sheen)

    No attempt is made to use Shakespearean language, which was probably a wise decision. While this adaptation may sound contrived from the above description, I think it actually works very well. (The film was released in 2001.)

    There are a few interesting differences between the film and the original play, as well as some interesting angles for transforming Renaissance Venice into a modern high school:

    (1)In the movie, Hugo/Iago is the coach’s son, which plays an important role in his jealousy of O/Othello. There is no such relationship or motivation in the play.

    (2)In the play, Iago’s hate of Othello and of Michael Casio is driven largely by Othello’s decision to choose Casio, rather than Iago, as his principal lieutenant. The recognition/elevation of Michael is also an important factor in the movie–however, in the play, Othello’s promotion decision is based largely on factors which Iago, with some justice, sees as extraneous: book-learning and family/social connections rather than combat experience. Hugo/Iago suffers from no such social-class disadvantage in the movie.

    (3)In the play, Iago convinces Othello that he, Iago, understands more about the true nature of Venetian women than Othello the Moor–an outsider to Venice–possibly can, and that hence, Othello had better listen to Iago’s advice. In the movie, this turns into an assertion by Hugo that O…the only African-American in the school…needs to pay attention to Hugo’s greater experience with white women (“They are all horny snakes,” he warns O.)

    (4)In the play, Michael Casio is portrayed in a very positive way. In the film, he comes across as more than a bit of a jerk.

    (5)Like the play, the movie ends with the murder of Desi and Emily/Emilia and the suicide of O/Othello…but whereas in the play, Michael survives and is designated as Governor at the end, in the movie he is shot and it is left ambiguous whether or not he survives. I think Shakespeare perhaps intended the elevation of Michael Casio at the end to symbolize the continuity of society and of proper authority: there is no such symbolism in the film. The ending of the film is at least as dark as that of the play, and that’s pretty dark.

    An interesting sound track, ranging from hip-hop to opera.

    Certainly not a substitute for the original, but very well worth seeing, in my opinion.

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Education, Film | 3 Comments »

    Education in the (Not Very) Good Old Days – Part III

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 5th April 2019 (All posts by )

    I closed with this in 2012. I open with it now.

    Back to basics: they didn’t have all useless modern feelings stuff, or politically correct nonsense then, nor all these administrative distractions about disaster drills and recycling, and sex education and drug education, so they could read classics instead of trash. No, we had hours of penmanship drills – not very useful even then. If you weren’t good at it you had to stay in at recess and do more.   We copied things a lot, and not always as punishment. We wrote out inspiring quotes, or the Gettysburg Address. It was supposed to imprint grand ideas into our heads. Or something. A “beautiful hand” was much admired, and usually harder to read than the ugly writing, as anyone who has tried to read archival records can attest.  And we learned recitations – often the same one for everyone, and had to get up in front of the class and say it, one after another.  That’s useful.  And maps to color after labeling, and children in ethnic costumes to color, and lots of natural science to color.  Shop Class and Home Ec.  We scrubbed our desks.  We lined up and waited a lot, and sometimes marched to music.  We diagrammed sentences – kinda fun, sometimes, but not as helpful in composition as one might think.  We learned grammar, much of which turned out to be wrong, and most of which was not focused on improving our writing, but in shaming us out of using slang.  Spelling drills. Somewhat useful – not huge. Spelling bees – I was always one of the last ones standing, one boy against six girls getting every other word, but what use was that for everyone else for the last half hour, watch me and Barbara and Debbie and Judy and Hannah? A lot of standing around for us, sitting around for others. And patriotic songs. Bad ones. Maybe we should blame the 60s counterculture on terrible patriotic songs learned in fifth grade.

    I was, in retrospect, in good schools, though I didn’t know it at the time. I am not citing the mistakes of poor ignorant districts. New Hampshire finishes at or near the top in testing every year. (I’m not discussing why – the whole discussion would move there if I did.) I was in the middle spot of the 60s and 70s as the major educational changes came on. I saw both. They both wasted lots of time but did okay, and really, it doesn’t matter. When we competed against other schools our city schools usually won. When I compared experiences with all those top-ranked Northern Virginia schools in college, they weren’t any better. I have since compared notes with students from bad schools, expensive schools, prestigious schools, religious schools. Mine were among the best.

    But filled with useless stuff.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 14 Comments »

    Self-Organizing Community

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 4th April 2019 (All posts by )

    I was reminded this week, upon reading the vapid blatherings of Alexandria Occasional-Cortex, the freshman dunce of the House of Representatives, of an acrimonious exchange some years ago on the now-defunct Open Salon website. Ms. O-C Full Stop had opined that the Tea Party was racist, reactionary and funded by the Koch brothers. Yes, that old canard comes around yet once more. And I know that it is indeed a canard in the mouths of progressive fools because I was involved almost from the very beginning in a big-city local Tea Party chapter.
    A little history to explain this: Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Society, Conservatism, Current Events, Leftism, Obama, Personal Narrative, Tea Party | 11 Comments »