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    We are now in an era where the rules of civil society seem to have been repealed, or at least violated with impunity.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

    Monkeywrenching Socialism – Ratchet Smashing I

    Posted by TM Lutas on 10th May 2009 (All posts by )

    The effort needed to make government bigger is much less than the effort needed to make government smaller. This is the basic principle that underlies the government ratchet effect. The beneficiaries of government action are concentrated and thus both have more at stake and know it than the beneficiaries of shrinking government which are very often the general public who derive at best a diffuse benefit that is often not even noticed or even understood.

    But I believe this pro-socialist ratchet dynamic only happens so long as the starting question is “should government (or program x) be cut?” What if we start from a different question? What if the assumption is that there is a lot of bad government out there and that as a matter of course 10% (or 5% or 15%) of the government can and should be turned over each year so that poor past decisions don’t hang around forever. Which part would get cut? The answer becomes obvious, the corrupt, useless, inefficient parts, of course. The corrupt, useless, and inefficient caucus is tiny (at least when it’s identified as such). Nobody supports corrupt, useless, and inefficient government out loud, even self-described socialists. This sort of government is supported by ‘middle of the night’ bill insertions and inertia.

    The counter-argument would be to assume that good, efficient, honest programs would be disrupted and now we wouldn’t want that would we? But this assumes that a significant chunk of government programs are incapable of being reformed and improved by termination, privatization, or reform. That’s something that needs to proved, not assumed.

    Most everybody right now wants to protect their own ox from getting gored. so there is a fear that ‘my’ programs are going to be disproportionately targeted and ‘your’ programs will be protected by political juice. The trick to avoiding this sort of cynical CYA is to identify the targeted bottom percentage in a fair way. This is where things get sticky because it’s something of a risky proposition to point out that the emperor has no clothes.

    What if we simply asked everybody who would have an expert opinion, to simply rate the worthiness of every program, to the extent they can. All members of the legislature, all members of the executive giving their opinions to identify the stinkers. What if we made it a job requirement? Of course the system would be gamed but it would be a massive improvement on current practice and would significantly reduce the ratchet effect.

    Right now, there is no generalized expectation that the legislature will periodically review government expenditures, pick out the worst, and either let bad things expire, privatize the solution, or provide a better, more efficient, less expensive way to solve the problem using government action. Cutting government in this system becomes progressive, not reactionary. Getting through less than 10% of the government is a real world assertion of incompetence on the part of incumbent legislators. And all that need change to bring about this happy state of affairs is to change the expectations game. Legislation will follow to eliminate the free riders.

    Posted in Civil Society, Elections, Political Philosophy, Politics | 13 Comments »

    Book Review — Marchant, Decoding the Heavens

    Posted by James McCormick on 28th April 2009 (All posts by )

    Marchant, Jo, Decoding the Heavens: A 2,000-Year-Old Computer–and the Century-Long Search to Discover Its Secrets, Da Capo Press, 2009, 328 pp.

    Defining the Word “Anachronism”

    In the latter half of the nineteenth century, the sponge divers of Greece lived through a technical revolution … the appearance of the diving helmet. After many centuries of free diving to harvest local sponges, the new equipment suddenly allowed access to much more of the Mediterranean sea floor and previously unexploited sponge beds. The industry boomed. Inadvertently, the diving helmet also led to the discovery of a shipwreck off the coast of the small island of Antikythera. Amidst the spectacular bronze and marble statues at the wreck site was a strange lunch box-sized lump, covered in a limestone coating from centuries of immersion and distorted by the effects of decomposition and corrosion. Here and there were visible bits of wood and corroded bronze, faint inscriptions of ancient Greek and what appeared to be thin loops or gears.

    Compared to the glamorous artworks it was found with, the “lump” was rather unprepossessing and, indeed, it spent most of the 20th century in obscurity. Not knowing what it was, the curators made little effort to preserve the object, and increasingly, it broke into a more and more fragments in the storage rooms of the Athens’ National Archaeological Museum. The early 20th century descriptions made their way into the hands of a physicist and historian of science named Derek De Solla Price. In the 1950s, he made serious efforts to fully explain what it was, culminating in a 1974 book Gears From the Greeks. And it was partly through his efforts that people as diverse as Arthur C. Clarke, Jacques Cousteau, and Richard Feynman took an interest in the enigmatic archaeological find.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, History | 12 Comments »

    Clausewitz, “On War”, Book VIII: War Plans are Simplicity Itself!

    Posted by Chicago Boyz Archive on 10th March 2009 (All posts by )

    Book VIII deals with war plans. It was one of the parts of On War that was in a nearly finished state when Clausewitz died. After transiting the vast lumber rooms of Book VI and Book VII, which have many good things amidst the clutter, the relatively finished nature of Book VIII is a relief and a pleasure.

    In the introduction, in Chapter 1, Clausewitz tells us that the vast array of factors that must be considered in preparing a plan for war seem, in the hands of great generals, to be “extremely simple” and their decision-making appears to be “uncomplicated” and “off-hand”. This is an illusion. The men of talent in command of armies are really considering these factors, but not in a “dreary” and pedantic way, but by the interior assimilation of experience and learning that leads to swift and decisive coup d’oeil.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Clausewitz Roundtable | 4 Comments »

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Chicago Boyz Archive on 10th February 2009 (All posts by )

    The conservative revolution was supposed to be a revolution. It has not been. It has been an insurgency. And while that insurgency captured a vast swath of open territory, it failed utterly to capture the key citadels of American culture, beginning with American higher education.

    Academics control the narrow neck through which America’s managers, writers, thinkers, bankers, politicians, and executives must pass, and that passage has acquired an atmosphere, no matter how self-pityingly the academic left likes to deny it, in which Left assumptions are set as the default positions

    Conservatives made the disastrous mistake of assuming that if they abandoned those tedious and expensive plans to lay siege to the university, they would be free to move on to the larger and more easily-annexed plains of government and finance. They were wrong. Governments change, finances crash, but the faculty is forever.

    Alan Guelzo, Conservatism’s Greatest Failure: The Academy

    Posted in Academia, Conservatism, Quotations | 1 Comment »

    Clausewitz, On War, Book III: The Substance of Strategy

    Posted by Shane on 31st January 2009 (All posts by )

    After laying the definitional framework of war in Books I and II, Clausewitz now drills deep into the practice of strategy. His admonishments in Book III resonate today, and in fact are echoed by nearly every business management book on shelves today: to wit, “The strategist must go on campaign himself” (i.e., to allow adaptation to emerging conditions on a chaotic battlefield).

    Careful to distinguish between strategy and tactics, Clausewitz underscores the temptation to deal with the present – the “thousands of diversions” that can throw the execution of a well-formulated plan off course. His assertion that “… it takes more strength of will to make an important decision in strategy than in tactics” is particularly apt, especially since the tactician can observe “at least half the problem” empirically, while the strategist has to guess and presume.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Clausewitz Roundtable | 2 Comments »

    I’m Afraid that I Care, and I Want You There

    Posted by Chicago Boyz Archive on 21st November 2008 (All posts by )

    Posted in Music, Video | Comments Off on I’m Afraid that I Care, and I Want You There

    Veterans’ Day II

    Posted by Mitch Townsend on 11th November 2008 (All posts by )

    This is the first Veterans’ Day without my dad. He didn’t talk about it until he knew he was dying, and even then he didn’t say much. Smart-ass street kids from the Bronx without high school diplomas did not go to OCS. Usually, they were assigned to the infantry, but since he had volunteered for the Army Air Corps, they did the next best thing: they made him a ball turret gunner in a B-24. He was sent to the China-Burma-India theater on a troop ship to Calcutta (Kolkata), then flew over the hump to Chungking (Chongqing). In the hospital, he said a few words about being hauled out of the turret by his crew-mates before the plane bellied into a swamp, said a little about shooting at Japanese fighter planes and being shot at, talked a bit about flak, and mentioned strafing runs on Japanese trains, much too close to the ground. The only exit from the B-24 was at the rear of the plane, which was bad enough, but since he could not wear a parachute harness in the turret, let alone the parachute itself, his situation was essentially binary.

    He must have been pretty good at it, though, because they promoted him and brought him back as a gunnery instructor. Nevertheless, he says he hated every minute of every day of the war. That may have saved his life, because they were offering early discharges to anyone who would sign up for the reserves; but he had decided that once he was done, he was done. It was 30 years before he would get on another airplane. As he said later, it was much nicer when no one was trying to kill him. The guys who took that offer went to Korea a few years later. Instead, Dad came back to the states to serve out his full enlistment, weighing 135 lbs., bright yellow from the malaria drugs, and bearing a heartfelt dislike of authority. All seven of his kids seem to have inherited that last characteristic.

    Thank you, Dad, and good-bye. I hope we always have more like you when we need them.

    Posted in War and Peace | 6 Comments »

    What’s Next?

    Posted by Mitch Townsend on 17th October 2008 (All posts by )

    Tuesday, October 21, 2008 is likely to be a decisive day in the credit crunch. That day is when credit default swaps (CDS) on Lehman Brothers debt will be settled.

    Credit default swaps are sort of like insurance. One party offers, for a fee, to guarantee a certain bond against a “credit event,” usually something like a default, missed interest payment, restructuring, etc. If that happens, the insurer (seller) pays the difference between the bond’s face value and what it is worth after the event. In the case of Lehman Brothers, the company’s bankruptcy means that the sellers of the CDS will have to pay about $91 for every $100 of par value insured, since those bonds were selling for $8.65 per $100 par value at auction on October 10. Because there is no central market or clearing house for CDS trading, no one has a complete story on who will be paying and who will be trying to collect. The gross notional amount of credit default swaps on Lehman Brothers debt is believed to be approximately $300 billion to $400 billion. One hopes that the net amount is a lot less, maybe less than $10 billion after offsetting positions are netted out. One hopes, but one does not know.

    (Update 10/19/2008: SEC Chairman Christopher Cox has a piece on the CDS issue in the New York Times.)

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Economics & Finance, Markets and Trading | 7 Comments »

    Stephenson — Anathem (A Review)

    Posted by James McCormick on 22nd September 2008 (All posts by )

    Stephenson, Neal, Anathem, William Morrow, 2008, 937 pp.

    Author Neal Stephenson has forged a substantial body of fiction in the last 15 years by combining elaborate narratives and witty, humourous dialogue with a more serious consideration of scientific and philosophical issues. Having covered nanotechnology, cryptography, and the early stirrings of Newtonian science in his more recent books, Stephenson turns now to cosmology and the nature of human consciousness in Anathem. The biggest of big pictures.

    Set thousands of years in the future, Anathem is an adventure story that fits perfectly into the science fiction genre. The conflict between science and culture has led to intermittent but repeated civil conflicts, resolved finally by isolating the scientific and mathematic minds into the equivalent of walled medieval cloisters (maths). Outside the walls society waxes and wanes, prospers and collapses, while inside the walls the life of the mind continues, year after year. Comparisons with the famous 50s science fiction novel A Canticle for Leibowitz are inevitable.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Science, Space | 3 Comments »

    Obama Seal 2.0

    Posted by Mitch Townsend on 23rd June 2008 (All posts by )

    And I'm against it

    Posted in Humor, Politics | 3 Comments »

    The Sun is not Setting

    Posted by Chicago Boyz Archive on 2nd May 2008 (All posts by )

    A friend sent this article entitled “What Follows American Dominion?” by Richard N. Haass, President of the Council on Foreign Relations. Hence this may be taken as the voice of the “Establishment”.

    I may as well share my dashed-off punditry. I responded pretty much as follows:

    In a way, the whole thing is off-point since there never really was American “unipolarity”. That word implies a degree of autonomy and self-sufficiency no power has ever enjoyed. As I recall, the illusory concept of American “unipolarity” was first propounded in 1991 by Charles Krauthammer. He was wrong then in believing there existed a vast, unused capacity of the USA to leverage its military dominance to achieve the ideological ends he wants. Krauthammer was unwittingly the spiritual sibling of the contemptible Madeleine Albright, who famously asked Colin Powell “What’s the point of having this superb military you’re always talking about, if we can’t use it?” Perhaps a visit to Arlington National Cemetary, or the National Armed Forces Rehabilitation Center would help her understand the real gravity of her blasé question.

    However, putting aside the bogus and irresponsible notion of “unipolarity”, I suppose it is fair to say, in a taxonomic rather than invidious way, that America is the global hegemon. It is the primary provider of security, it is the primary determiner of the rules of the international game, etc.

    So let’s be charitable to Mr. Haass and say that he is really talking about the displacement of the USA as the global hegemon. He does mix up his terms and also refers to the end of U.S. “primacy” – a word he uses incorrectly as if were synonymous with “unipolarity”.

    The last global hegemon, Britain, was superseded by a much bigger entity, the good old USA. That transition process was ugly. It involved two world wars and a global depression.

    I see no entity that can fill the role of global hegemon in the place of the USA.

    The EU cannot do it. China cannot yet do it.

    Many players have a stake in the US-led world order, and whatever irritation American primacy may cause, they will prefer the devil they know and will not like to see the uncertainly and risk of a new one replacing it.

    International security is best guaranteed by one dominant power, not by a congeries of competing powers. Too many people fail to understand this. The balance of power does not work. It never did. The offshore balancer, Britain vis-a-vis Europe, the USA vis-a-vis the Eurasian world-island, predominates and keeps the peace. Such eras are marked by trade and prosperity. Challenges to the hegemon bring on eras of war.

    Nuclear weapons have rendered great power conflict virtually impossible. So that avenue to dislodge us is closed. More importantly, it seems that leaders of major foreign powers realize that a direct military confrontation is foreclosed as a viable means of dislodging the hegemon. Indirect means will be employed, which will probably have the virtue of not killing lots of people in the process.

    If we were to move to a truly multipolar world ala 1900-1914, we would see the breakdown of the globalized world economy and a return to 1930s conditions. Mr. Haass is right that such a world is more complicated. However, he seems to downplay that it is also potentially dangerous. War between the lesser powers could happen. More likely, beggar-thy-neighbor trade policies are regrettably likely. He may be right that the USA will consult its allies and trading partners more in the future. But we never really stopped doing that, and it is not clear we will do so more after Mr. Bush leaves town. The Democrat candidates’ enthusiasm to “tear up NAFTA” shows that gratuitously offending neighbors and trading partners is a nonpartisan vice. Moreover, Mr. Bush gets too little credit for his handling of relations with India and China, and too much criticism over the largely illusory rift with Europe.

    The USA is relatively weak right now primarily due to the temporary consequences of poor performance by Mr. Bush and his advisors in planning and executing the war and occupation in Iraq. This is not due to any remarkable waxing in the relative strength of other players. China and India are still more potential than actual world powers, though both are growing regional powers and may one day supplant us. We shall see.

    The USA will detach itself from the Iraqi tar baby soon enough. Then it will likely play a quieter and less brusque game in the future. This will be all to the good.

    I see no dislodgement of the American hegemon by anyone anytime soon.

    UPDATE: When I say we will detach ourselves from Iraq, I mean we will reduce our commitment, our troops will stop getting shot and blown up most of the time, the Iraqis will be the ones shooting our people, not our people, and we will forget about Iraq as a symbol of democracy, and we will let it become a pliant autocracy that cooperates with us, and which is capable of imposing order domestically, which is the best we can do in the region.

    UPDATE II: Thoughtful and accurate comments in response to this post from Right Wing News.

    UPDATE III: The Sun is not Setting: The Sequel

    Posted in International Affairs, Military Affairs, War and Peace | 11 Comments »