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  • Quote of the Day

    Posted by Jonathan on March 5th, 2015 (All posts by )

    Richard Fernandez:

    How they must have laughed as they watched Susan Rice go on all the talk shows blaming it on some Los Angeles film-maker. They were probably in stitches while viewing the paid advertisements shown in Pakistan blaming the whole thing on amateurs posting on YouTube. It must have opened their eyes to see how the Washington press corps swallowed it hook, line and sinker, like hayseeds from the sticks. That forced a re-evaluation of everything.
     
    And then they knew: they had his number. They had the administration dialed in. They understood exactly what they were dealing with. The Iranians too must have been watching from the sidelines and concluded what Nemetsov understood. As did Putin. Here was a man with no core; whose only value was to protect the precious image of himself, because image was all there was.
     
    And at that moment the wolves, heretofore only circling on the periphery, as if by mutual consent advanced. They understood. They knew. And the man at the center of the closing circle has been busy throwing ever larger pieces of raw meat them to keep them away. But the wolves are no longer to be denied and the circle is tightening.

     

    Posted in Middle East, National Security, Obama, Quotations, War and Peace | 3 Comments »

    Keep Those Kids at Home and In Front of a Screen!

    Posted by David Foster on March 5th, 2015 (All posts by )

    Here’s a Maryland couple who got in trouble with the Government because they let their children–a 10-year-old and a 6-year-old–walk home from the park by themselves.  They (the parents) were found responsible for “unsubstantiated child neglect”–whatever that means….it sounds pretty Kafkaesque.

    There are at least two issues here:  out-of-control discretion by an administrative agency, whether granted to them by bad legislative drafting, or simply grabbed…and, even more fundamentally, a society which has responded to one of the safest environments in human history by becoming fear-ridden and safety-obsessed.

    I am reminded, and not for the first time, of a passage in Walter Miller’s great novel A Canticle for Leibowitz:

    To minimize suffering and to maximize security were natural and proper ends of society and Caesar. But then they became the only ends, somehow, and the only basis of law—a perversion. Inevitably, then, in seeking only them, we found only their opposites: maximum suffering and minimum security.

     

    Posted in Big Government, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Human Behavior, Society, USA | 8 Comments »

    The End of the World?

    Posted by David Foster on March 4th, 2015 (All posts by )

    Sarah Hoyt thinks not.

    When I was thirty one, I sat on my back porch on a lovely summer day, reading Reason magazine.  The issue was devoted to debunking global warming.  And suddenly, like a weight lifting, I realized there really wasn’t proof.  That it wasn’t preordained that my generation would be the last to have a decent life on Earth.  That my kids and grandkids (I only had one kid at the time, and he was still nursing) wouldn’t necessarily be doomed.  That the future wasn’t all doom and gloom.

    And I realized my entire life I’d lived in the shadow of the fear of decay and death.  First there was the cold war, and sooner or later, the bombs would fly.  We’d die screaming.  Then there was overpopulation.  If we escaped the bomb, we’d all starve to death.  Or thirst to death (thank you, Paul Ehrlich!)  Then there was global cooling.  We were all going to freeze in the ice age.  Then there was global warming.  Amid all these threats, how could we escape.  To watch the thing debunked and to see it pointed out that even the proponents of AGW don’t live like they believe in it lifted a weight from my heart.


    Since then I’ve been skeptical of the end of the world prophecies.

    RTWT

     

     

    Posted in Deep Thoughts, Environment, Human Behavior, War and Peace | 5 Comments »

    The Question at Hand

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on March 3rd, 2015 (All posts by )

    I read of this particular school-administered survey the other morning on one of the news websites which form my morning reading, in lieu of the local newspaper – which I gave up some years ago upon realizing two things; practically every non-local story they printed I had already read on-line through various sources some days before appearing on the (rapidly diminishing) pages of the San Antonio Express News, and when it came to opinion columnists and cartoonists, most of the local offerings were … pathetic. Seriously – when I could read the best and most incisive opinion bloggers like Wretchard at Belmont Club and Victor Davis Hanson – why would I bother to read a dead-tree version of whatever lame establishment national columnist had offered a cheap rate to the SA Express-News?
    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Academia, Big Government, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Customer Service | 9 Comments »

    A Civilization is at Stake Here

    Posted by T. Greer on March 3rd, 2015 (All posts by )

    This essay was originally posted at The Scholar’s Stage on 27 February 2015. It has been re-posted here without alteration.

    Perhaps the most predictable fall-out of Graeme Wood’s influential cover article for The Atlantic, What the Islamic State Really Wants,” is another round of debate over whether or not the atrocities committed by ISIS and other armed fundamentalist terrorist outfits are sanctioned by the Qur’an, Hadith, and other Islamic texts, and if not, whether these groups and the evils they inflict upon the world should be called “Islamic” at all.  Michael Lotus, co-author of the excellent America 3.0 and a generally sharp political observer all around, suggests that American policy makers shouldn’t bother themselves with the question:

    Fortunately for non-Muslims, who have neither the time nor the inclination nor the scholarly competence to get into intra-Muslim theological disputes, we do not need to figure out whether ISIS or [their theological opponents] more properly interpret these passages. We just need to know that ISIS reads the texts the way it does, believe them to be divine commands, and acts accordingly. Knowing this, we are better able to plan whatever military response is necessary to defeat them, and hopefully destroy them entirely. This is both theoretically and practically an easier task than debating them.[1]

    There are two separate issues at play here that need to be clearly distinguished from each other before the United States crafts any strategy to defeat ISIS. The first is what, if anything, the United States should do over the short term to stop and then reverse ISIS’s advance. The second is how the United States should approach the long term threat posed by Salafi-Jihadist terrorism and the ideology that inspires it. Inasmuch as the goal of American policy is grounding ISIS into the dust, then Michael is entirely correct. Conquerors the world over have shown that one does not need a nuanced understanding of an enemy’s belief system in order to obliterate him. But ISIS is only one head of the hydra. If the goal of American policy is to permanently defeat “global extremism” or “global terror” or whatever the folks in Washington have decided to call Salafi-Jihadist barbarism this month, then this view is insufficient.

    I should be clear here. I am not advocating a perpetual, open-ended war declared against some nebulous concept like “poverty,” or “drugs,” or “terror.”  James Madison once declared that war is the “most dreadful” of “all public enemies to liberty, and I take his warning seriously.[2] We cannot continue on an indefinite war footing without permanently damaging the integrity of the America’s republican institutions.

    But there is more to this conflict than America’s internal politics. It is worth it to step back and remind ourselves of exactly what is at stake in the global contest against Jihadist extremism.


     


    At the turn of the twentieth century, China, Japan, and Korea saw vast changes in the shape of their society because the old Neo-Confucian world view that had upheld the old order had been discredited. In Europe both communism and fascism rose to horrific heights because the old ideology of classical liberalism that had hitherto held sway was discredited. As a global revolutionary force communism itself withered away because the events that closed the 20th century left it discredited. If Americans do not worry about communist revolutionaries anymore it is because communism was so thoroughly discredited that there is no one left in the world who is willing to pick up arms in its name. [3]


    We cannot “win” this fight, in the long term, unless we can discredit the ideology that gives this fight teeth.

    Luckily for us, this does not require discrediting a fourteen hundred year old religion held by one fifth of the world’s population. It is worth reminding ourselves that the ideology we seek to discredit is a comparatively new one. It was born in the sands of Najd shortly before Arabia became “Saudi,” crystallized in its present form only in the 1960s, and was not exported abroad until the late 1980s. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict excepted, almost all “Islamist” terrorist attacks can be linked directly to this new Salafi-Jihadist ideology and the madrassas and proselytizing media used to spread it. It is an ideology that directly threatens the sovereign rulers of every country in the Near East, and one whose interpretations are not only opposed by the majority of Islamic theologians, but have little relation to the way Islam was practiced in most places a mere 30 years ago.

    That an ideology is new or rebels against established world views does not make it less dangerous. Novelty also says little about a movement’s future success–once upon a time Protestantism was a novel ideology. I encourage people to use this analogy. Think of these Salafi reformers as you do the first wave of Protestant reformers back in the 16th century. The comparison is apt not only because the goal of the Salafi-Jihadists is, like the original Protestants, to bring religious practice back to a pure and original form, or because the savagery displayed by many of the Protestant reformers was quite comparable to ISIS at its worst, but because this comparison gives you a sense of the stakes that are at play. This is a game where the shape of entire civilizations are on the table. The Salafi-Jihadists want to change the way billions of people worship, think, and live out their daily lives. ISIS’s success in the Near East gives us a clear picture of exactly what kind of society the Salafi-Jihadists envision for the Ummah.

    I will not mince words:  humankind faces few catastrophes more terrible than allowing Salafi-Jihadist reformers to hijack Islamic civilization. Theirs is an ideology utterly hostile to human progress and prosperity, and their victory, if attained, will come at great human cost. The Protestants secured their Reformation with one of the most destructive wars of European history; there is little reason to think Salafi-Jihadist victories will be any less disastrous. Not every ‘great game’ of international power politics is played for civilization-level stakes. But that is exactly what is at stake here. We must plan accordingly. Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in History, Iran, Iraq, Islam, Middle East, Military Affairs, Terrorism | 45 Comments »

    Movie Review: Above and Beyond

    Posted by Jonathan on March 3rd, 2015 (All posts by )

    This entertaining 90-minute documentary tells the story of a group of idealistic war veterans, mostly but not all Jews, mostly from the USA and other English-speaking countries, who volunteered on the Jewish side during the Israeli war of independence in 1948 and helped to form the nucleus of what became the Israeli Air Force.

    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Film, History, Israel | 5 Comments »

    Furnish on Netanyahu, Nukes, and Iranian Eschatology

    Posted by Charles Cameron on March 2nd, 2015 (All posts by )

    I have just posted a guest post from Dr Tim Furnish on Zenpundit.

    Dr Furnish holds a doctorate in Islamic history, and “wrote the book” — Holiest Wars — on the history of Mahdist movements. In this powerful and timely post he tackles the issue of Iran’s nuclear program.

    Highly recommended.

     

    Posted in Book Notes, Iran, Israel | 7 Comments »

    History Weekend — MacArthur’s Section 22 Submersible Radar Hunters

    Posted by Trent Telenko on March 1st, 2015 (All posts by )

    One of the more frustrating things in dealing with General Douglas MacArthur’s World War 2 (WW2) fighting style was how many ‘will of the wisp’ intelligence, logistical and special forces operations he created and that were buried in post-WW2 classified files in many military services of several nations, located on several different continents. Often times, when you go looking for one of these outfits, something completely different turns up. Such was the case with “Submarine Field Unit” of Section 22, General Headquarters, South West Pacific Area. And as it turned out, the submarine that the Field Unit operated on is sitting in a museum four hours drive from where I live in Dallas, at Muskogee, OK!


    The USS Batfish, the home of one of General MacArthur's Section 22 field units and the killer of three Japanese submarines in a single Feb-March 1945 patrol. --  Photo credit, Wikimedia commons, 2013

    The Balao-class submarine, USS Batfish (SS-310), at Muskogee, Oklahoma. It was the home of one of General MacArthur’s Section 22 field units starting with its 5th War patrol. The field unit helped the Batfish kill three Japanese submarines in 76 hours in February 1945, during its 6th War Patrol. — Photo credit, Wikimedia commons, 2013

    As I stated in my “MacArthur’s High Tech Radar Commandos” column, I have been on the trail of Section 22 for some time. Section 22 of MacArthur’s General Headquarters (GHQ) South West Pacific Area (SWPA) was his radar intelligence branch — what is referred to today as electronic intelligence or “ELINT” — under his Chief Signals officer General Aiken. It was made up of personnel from Australia, Britain, the Netherlands, New Zealand, as well as the United States Army, US Army Air Force, US Navy and the US Marine Corps. Most Section 22 personnel were Australian Military Forces (AMF) and not Americans. So most day to day reports — for instance casualty records — with which you build a unit history, will be in the Australian archives.

    It turns out that the National Archive of Australia (NAA) has digitized and posted on-line a significant portion of Section 22’s analytical work in the form of a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) copy of the Section 22 “Current Statements,” AKA reports on Japanese radar site locations and excerpts of technical analysis of captured radar documents or components, covering the period of 14 January 1945 to 20 March 1945. In those 66 days Section 22 generated 43 “Current statements” numbered 0260 to 0302. What I read of the file demonstrated a high pressure, fast paced, operational intelligence organization providing timely “actionable” intelligence to fighting units across the SWPA.
    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in History, Military Affairs, National Security, War and Peace | 5 Comments »

    A Fantastic Article on Greece

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on March 1st, 2015 (All posts by )

    At Business Insider (an app I read every day) I found this great and interesting take on the events in Greece.

    Basically the article says that

    1. The Greeks don’t pay taxes (tax evasion is chronically high)
    2. The Greeks don’t keep their money within Greece (they move it to havens both to protect it from taxation and to earn higher returns)
    3. The Greeks don’t invest in their own governmental debt (it is Euro-zone and international entities)

    The article compares Greece with Japan – while Japan has much higher levels of debt, the Japanese debt is funded by Japanese individuals, companies and government entities and they have only 5% of their debt in the hands of outsiders.

    I never thought about the issues in this manner but it makes sense; the Greek people “know” that it will turn out badly if they trust their poorly run and corrupt government and make their own individual decisions about how to hold their money. Why would other countries and investors “invest” in a government that their own people have no faith in (when it comes to “putting your money where your mouth is”, so to speak).

     

    Posted in Big Government, Europe | 11 Comments »

    Entropy is taking over.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on February 27th, 2015 (All posts by )

    Another excellent post from The Belmont Club, Which I read every day.

    The barbarians of ISIS destroy ancient artifacts, in an outrage like those committed by the Taliban in Afghanistan.

    The Taliban’s rejection this month of international appeals to halt the destruction of much of Afghanistan’s pre-Islamic heritage — their leader Mullah Mohammed Omar termed them idols — indicates that those most determined to impose their vision of a perfect Islamic state are firmly in control.

    That article was from the period before the US invasion. Many artifacts were repaired but that will stop and the destruction will resume after we leave.

    The Mosul destruction is to be expected everywhere the Takfiri tide rises enough to control an entity.

    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Civil Society, Energy & Power Generation, History, Islam, Leftism, Middle East, National Security, Politics, Science | 19 Comments »

    History Friday: Theodore Roosevelt on Historical Recollection and “joy, just for joy’s sake”

    Posted by Lexington Green on February 27th, 2015 (All posts by )

    TR II

    Theodore Roosevelt, wrote many excellent books, including A BOOK-LOVER’S HOLIDAYS IN THE OPEN (1916). I have this book on the Kindle app on my phone and I read it at odd moments. Every page of it is good, with many quotable passages. I will restrict myself to one.

    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Book Notes, History | 13 Comments »

    25 Stories About Work – On Your Own Time

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on February 26th, 2015 (All posts by )

    The posts about work in the not-so-long-distant past brought to mind this essay, the original of which was posted in 2005 here, at The Daily Brief)

    Believe it or not, the military is full of enthusiasts, amateur devotees of all sorts of arcane arts and pursuits in their off-duty time. Drinking, carousing and other hell-raising have been from time immemorial associated with off-duty military, and the economies of entire towns have been built around providing the venues for that sort of amusement but the little-recognized truth is for most adults, they eventually pall, in the military and on the outside. The advantage to the military is that that there is really no rigid set of socially acceptable off-duty pursuits as there are other walks of life. What you do, when you go home and take off the uniform is pretty much your own business for enlisted people; as long as it is not illegal, embarrassing to the service or the US government, and does not impair you in performing your regular duties or showing up for work on time the next day. There is very little social pressure to conform in your choice of hobbies and amusements, which may seem a little outre for a profession which many civilians expect to set a standard for conformity. In reality, the officer-class is a little more constrained, and expected to be a little more conventional and middle-class in their leisure pursuits, and the very top enlisted ranks are supposed to set a good example, but among the lower ranks it doesn’t really matter if you are off on a weekend motorbike road trip to Burning Man, taking classes in economics or obscure martial arts, building houses for Habitat for Humanity, puttering around with your kids at soccer games, or out in the ville drinking to excess with your friends. On Monday morning the reaction among your co-workers is guaranteed to be something along the lines of ‘Hey Dude, whatever.’
    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in 25 Stories About Work, History, Media | 4 Comments »

    25 Stories About Work – The Difficulty of Verifying Cash

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on February 25th, 2015 (All posts by )

    I was recently on a plane doodling and thought of some funny / interesting stories from 25+ years of working and traveling. So I decided to write them up as short, random chapters of a non-book with the title of this post. Hope you enjoy them and / or find them interesting. Certainly the value will be at least equal to the marginal cost of the book (zero)…

    The Midwest, early 1990s

    For a long time many governmental entities did not have audits from outside firms.  Beginning in the 1980s and 1990s it became common-place for them to have to open up their books and bring in third party professional audit firms to review their accounts.  If they had not been audited before, we called it a “first time through” audit because the amount of work was exponentially maybe one and a half to two times higher – you had to document the controls, figure out who was who at the client, validate the opening balances, etc…  Typically after the first audit it was much easier because the 2nd year audit just followed the work papers of the prior year auditors (unless you were like me and asked a lot of questions, which is a story for another “25 stories about work” article).

    Recently I thought about my experience when I read this article about the state of New Mexico while reading this article from Bloomberg (a fantastic news source) titled “New Mexico’s $100 Million Accounting Error”. From the article:

    New Mexico can’t balance its checkbook.
    Cash in the state’s bank account is at least $100 million short of what’s recorded in the finance department’s ledger, pushing officials to adjust reserves by that amount, to about $650 million. The blame, the current administration says, lies with the introduction of a new accounting system in 2006.

    While it would seem astonishing that in this day and age, when you have on-line bank statements and immediate access to data for personal accounts, that a governmental entity could be that far off the mark, it wasn’t shocking to me. As a new auditor at this first-time through audit, I was given what was thought to be the simplest of tasks – auditing the cash on the books and reconciling this cash balance to the bank statement.

    How you and I and almost everyone else operates is that you have a checkbook balance and as you make a payment (write a check), you deduct that amount from your available cash and you then know how much money you have left in your account. Since deductions can come in many forms (ATM withdrawals, auto-payments, and manual checks) you need to balance your checkbook periodically to make sure you don’t miss anything, but other than that it isn’t that difficult conceptually. The same process obviously works in reverse for deposits.

    The governmental entity I was auditing in the early 1990s, however, used a totally different philosophy. They assumed that they HAD the cash forever until you proved that the check was cashed by whomever they sent the payment out to. Thus when you started to look at the bank balance “on the books”, it showed hundreds of millions of dollars. When you looked at bank statement (from the bank), you saw a few million dollars. Thus my nearly insane task was to reconcile out the hundreds of millions of dollars in payments that had been made over the years to get from all the cash deposited back to the few million dollars left on hand. To be fair, staff at the governmental entity had taken a “crack” at this task and there was lots of manual records attempting to bridge the gap, but it was still a giant effort. New Mexico apparently uses the same “model” today – per that Bloomberg article:

    Officials commissioned a study on the variances between the state ledger and its bank accounts from fiscal 2007 through February 2013.
    Contractors could match only 2 percent of 160 million entries to a corresponding bank transaction, according to a Jan. 19 memo to lawmakers from Legislative Finance Committee staff.
    Hundreds of thousands of transactions totaling more than $836 million are absent from the system, the study found. It estimated that the state could have from $76 million to $400 million less than its records reflect.
    Clifford said he requested $3.4 million to create processes to properly record cash balances. It will take about two years to achieve a “clean” annual financial report, he said. Should the imbalance exceed $100 million, the gap would come out of reserves, he said.

    I still remember writing up memos attempting to explain this situation to the partner on the engagement. We did not have a lot of time set aside for auditing cash, which is supposed to be simple, and when you bid out these governmental jobs we were already doing the work at a loss (compared to standard billing rates) so there was little or no tolerance for spending extra work at this unprofitable client. Thus I was not only handed an impossible task my own firm was not pleased with my careful documentation of this situation which caused them to have to spend even more time writing memos to provide credence to the numbers so that we could complete the audit.

    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in 25 Stories About Work, Big Government | 21 Comments »

    The Next Big Thing

    Posted by Dan from Madison on February 25th, 2015 (All posts by )

    A few weeks ago while sitting around, my wife and I started discussing the Next Big Thing. My new smart phone is simply an improvement over the last one – that isn’t it.

    I will tell you what is the Next Big Thing – driverless cars.

    I had heard about them a few times before reading America 3.0, and they are mentioned in that book. I send Lex links about testing and we have both come to the conclusion that the big hurdle with them won’t be the technology – it will be regulatory hurdles. But this is coming faster than we all think – and there really won’t be much anyone can do to stop it since the demand will be intense.

    I imagine the cops will be trotting out “safety” issues when the real reason will be that their days of writing dumb speeding tickets will be over. That revenue train, along with the DUI industry, will take major hits. I imagine they and others will fight this to the end. Insurance companies will likely see damage done – as crash rates go lower, they will be forced to drop premiums, or people will just go to a simple liability policy and chance the crash.

    As for me, I lose 70 minutes a day of productivity sitting in my car. All isn’t lost since I listen to Bloomberg business news, however if I could have that 70 minutes to catch up on email, or to simply further myself by reading a book it would be a huge plus in my life. How about being able to have more than one glass of wine with dinner with my wife at a nice restaurant or at a wedding reception and not having to worry about a DUI?

    Elon Musk says that we will be ready, tech wise, in five to six years:

    Mr. Musk expects autonomous driving to be safer for riders and pedestrians by a factor of 10.

    I absolutely believe this. In addition, when the computer gets traffic reports, it will choose the quickest way to the destination, and will choose the speed to use the least amount of fuel.

    This article is interesting from CNBC. Here is a quote:

    But for some mass market brands like Chevy, Honda or Volkswagen, Winterhoff says it will tougher to compete and win in a world where self-driving cars usher in the idea of mobility on demand.

    “Autonomous drive vehicles will mean many families will need fewer cars and if you only have one car instead of two, you will likely make it a premium brand,” he said.

    Imagine having only one car for a family of four. In my life, it would drop me off at work, head home and transport the wife if she needs to go somewhere, pick up/drop off a kid at school, head to the market where my groceries will be loaded by a clerk there that I have already paid for with Google Wallet, etc. etc.

    When you get talking heads speaking about winners and losers, you can feel that it is on the way. I just can’t wait.

     

    Posted in Big Government, Personal Narrative, Tech | 66 Comments »

    Scary but not Surprising

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

    43% of Democrats believe that the President should have the right to ignore court rulings if they are standing in the way of actions he feels are important for the country.  Only 35% of Dems disagree, the remainder being undecided.

    This from a  Rasumssen poll of likely voters, which also shows that 81% of Republicans disagree with the President having the power to ignore the courts.

    Today’s Democratic Party is an enemy of American self-government, and it appears that a lot of the party’s supporters want to it be this way.

    See also my related posts:

    The Democratic Party and the drive for unlimited government power

    When law yields to absolute power

     

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Law, USA | 12 Comments »

    A Foreign Policy Conducted so Stupidly that it Burns

    Posted by Zenpundit on February 23rd, 2015 (All posts by )

    Cross-posted from zenpundit.com

    Karl Marx once said history repeats itself, first as tragedy and then as farce. The United States, on the other hand, has in a short quarter-century moved from parody to farce:

     

    SNL Desert Storm Press Conf (3 34) from Wendy Hall on Vimeo.

    Only the outcomes are likely to be tragic.

    Barring a Bugs Bunny-level reverse-psychology Information Operation in progress, we have a highly centralized White House whose micromanagement of military campaigns by amateur staffers includes briefing the enemy:
    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in International Affairs, Middle East, Military Affairs, National Security, Obama, Politics, Terrorism, USA, Video, War and Peace | 2 Comments »

    Good Business

    Posted by Jonathan on February 22nd, 2015 (All posts by )

    Knaus Berry Farm

    I visited this place with a friend over the weekend. They sell baked goods, fresh fruits and vegetables, preserves and milk shakes. The parking lot was jammed and we had to wait in line to buy cinnamon buns. We also bought tomatoes, strawberries and some other vegetables.

    It is a simple business, selling simple products. It is located in a semi-rural agricultural area that is probably a bit out of the way for most customers. The prices are not cheap and they take cash only. They are closed on Sundays. Yet on Saturdays there is always a wait to buy sticky buns, and they seem to sell plenty of fruit, vegetables and milk shakes.

    What distinguishes this place is the quality of its products. The buns are excellent. The strawberries we bought were perfectly ripe and sweet, and the grape tomatoes were the best I’ve had in as long as I can remember; I ate them like candy.

    I have no idea about their bottom line, but they have been in business for a long time so I guess they do OK. It seems from this example that the only thing you need to do to prosper in business is offer first-rate products. But, of course, that is also one of the hardest things.

    We may need to go back there and do more research.

     

    Posted in Business | 11 Comments »

    What Chicagoboyz Readers are Reading (January 2015)

    Posted by Jonathan on February 22nd, 2015 (All posts by )

    Below is a list of the books, ebooks, music and videos ordered in January 2015 by Chicago Boyz readers via Amazon links on this blog. (A cumulative list of Chicago Boyz readers’ Amazon book purchases is here.)

    Your book and non-book Amazon purchases help to support this blog via the Amazon Associates affiliate program. Chicago Boyz earns a percentage on all of your Amazon purchases as long as you enter the Amazon site via the Amazon links on this blog (including the Amazon banner in the blog header, the link under the Amazon banner and any Amazon links on this blog for products other than the ones you are buying).

    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Book Notes | 1 Comment »

    The Liquidation of Markets

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on February 22nd, 2015 (All posts by )

    Every weekend I read Barry Ritholtz’s recommended reading and there are a lot of gems in there. Recently he posted this Credit Suisse graphic about markets at the turn of the 20th Century by market share and compared it with 2014 on the topic of global equity investing.

    US_stocks

    In his article he mentioned the fallacy one might fall into as a UK equity investor in 1899… why bother investing in the USA when the UK market is so much larger? And then this line of thought ends up missing the huge growth in US market share over the next century.

    However, the real issue here isn’t the relative change in market share by the different countries; it is the fact that almost all of these markets were entirely extinguished at one time or another by political, economic or military events that wiped out the investors.

    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Deep Thoughts, Economics & Finance, Investment Journal | 11 Comments »

    25 Stories About Work – “Don’t Run” and Rental Cars

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on February 22nd, 2015 (All posts by )

    I was recently on a plane doodling and thought of some funny / interesting stories from 25+ years of working and traveling. So I decided to write them up as short, random chapters of a non-book with the title of this post. Hope you enjoy them and / or find them interesting. Certainly the value will be at least equal to the marginal cost of the book (zero)…

    The Midwest, late 1990s

    Along with air travel, renting a car is part and parcel of the traveling business person’s experience. Over the years I have rented hundreds if not a thousand rental cars at airports across the USA.

    In the earliest days we’d always get a map from the rental car agency and then use it to navigate our way around town. Rental cars are typically near the airport and kind of tucked away often with lousy signage, so you need to know how to find your way out and how to find your way back. Nowadays most of the airports have a “single system” for rental cars where all the buses drop you off at the same facility, but back in the day each one had their own pros and cons.

    The big innovation in rental cars came when Hertz implemented “Neverlost”. Neverlost was the first in-car navigation system that I was aware of and we started getting it in their cars in the mid to late 1990s. Neverlost spoke to you as a woman in an English accent and she was forever telling me to

    Return to the designated route

    In her peeved manner whenever I made a wrong turn or disobeyed her orders. Any sort of new directions took a long time to take effect, and the system was remarkably clunky compared to what’s available on your smartphone, but back then it seemed like an enormous leap forward. One negative element of this is that I started listening to the machine rather than learning the cities I drove through – in particular Memphis is a city I should have explored with a map but instead sat like a zombie and was told what to do by machine.
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    Posted in 25 Stories About Work, Tech, Transportation | 9 Comments »

    Is ISIS neo-Kharijite?

    Posted by TM Lutas on February 21st, 2015 (All posts by )

    The Kharijites were a faction inside of early Islam that heavily invested in the concept of takfir (excommunication) and had other differences with both Sunni and Shia to the point where they were themselves considered no longer muslim and ended up mostly being killed off. ISIS, by its extreme actions, seems to have some significant points of congruence with the Kharijites. Foremost among them seems to be this shared belief in takfirism. It is not a perfect fit, ISIS’ ideology includes the idea that the Caliph should be a Quryash tribe member, something the ancient Kharijites rejected at the time.

    Not having a dividing line between those who want to kill us in the name of Islam and those who we can live with underneath the big tent of american tolerance makes war difficult. Is neo-kharjitism a dividing criteria that would work both within Islam and without? It’s something to keep an eye on and a great tool if it can be relied on.

     

    Posted in Islam, Middle East, Religion, War and Peace | 16 Comments »

    Photoshop 25 Years Hence

    Posted by Dan from Madison on February 21st, 2015 (All posts by )

    My blogmate Gerry has put up a fascinating post about Adobe Photoshop and its history as relates to Apple, Ad Agencies and advertising. You can view it here if you are interested.

     

    Posted in Tech | 2 Comments »

    Some Sanity About Terrorism, from of all places, CNN

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

    blind

    The recent ridiculous antics of Obama and his administration spokesidiots have been been somewhat amusing but still dangerous. Ms Harf is is the object of ridicule around the world.

    Marie Harf, the embattled State Department deputy spokeswoman who insisted this week that helping ISIS jihadis find gainful employment was a better strategy than killing them, is not in line for a promotion when her boss moves to the White House on April 1, a State Department official said Thursday.
    Harf said Monday night on MSNBC that ‘lack of opportunity for jobs’ in the Middle East should be America’s focus in the war against the ISIS terror army.
    She refused to back down Tuesday night on CNN, insisting that the Obama administration should ‘get at the root causes’ of terrorism. ‘It might be too nuanced an argument for some,’ she sniped at her legions of critics.
    Those mockworthy moments, a State Department official said Thursday, ‘are going to keep her from the top job.

    Well, we are grateful for small favors. Obama shows in his ridiculous “summit” that she was describing his real policy.

    A recent piece in the Atlantic does a pretty good job of explaining what they are all about.

    The Islamic State, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), follows a distinctive variety of Islam whose beliefs about the path to the Day of Judgment matter to its strategy, and can help the West know its enemy and predict its behavior. Its rise to power is less like the triumph of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt (a group whose leaders the Islamic State considers apostates) than like the realization of a dystopian alternate reality in which David Koresh or Jim Jones survived to wield absolute power over not just a few hundred people, but some 8 million.

    The entire article is well worth reading.

    Today, CNN has a good piece on the nonsense about jobs and economic opportunity.

    Kepel researched the 300 Islamist militants who were tried in the wake of the 1981 assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. Around one in five were professionals such as engineers, a quarter worked as government employees, just under half were artisans or merchants, one in 10 were in the military or police, and only one in 10 were farmers or were unemployed. Of those who were students, around a third were studying in the elite fields of medicine and engineering.

    This has been pretty typical of terror leaders since World War II and beyond. The Bolsheviks were middle class, even Stalin who had been a divinity student.

    Religious motivation is denied at our own peril as we may think that educated people can’t be stupid enough to believe the medieval theology of Islam.

    Virtually every major decision and law promulgated by the Islamic State adheres to what it calls, in its press and pronouncements, and on its billboards, license plates, stationery, and coins, “the Prophetic methodology,” which means following the prophecy and example of Muhammad, in punctilious detail. Muslims can reject the Islamic State; nearly all do. But pretending that it isn’t actually a religious, millenarian group, with theology that must be understood to be combatted, has already led the United States to underestimate it and back foolish schemes to counter it. We’ll need to get acquainted with the Islamic State’s intellectual genealogy if we are to react in a way that will not strengthen it, but instead help it self-immolate in its own excessive zeal.

    The book, The Looming Tower is a first primer on what is going on. It has been out for years and should be a first step in understanding these people.

    I am reading In the Shadow of the Sword by Tom Holland which is about the origins of Islam and has gotten the author into some trouble with fanatics.

    Austin Bay has some thoughts about their strategy, which are of value.

    IS videos leverage al-Qaida’s dark psychological insight. Al-Qaida connected the Muslim world’s angry, humiliated and isolated young men with a utopian fantasy preaching the virtue of violence. That utopian fantasy seeks to explain and then redress roughly 800 years of Muslim decline.

    Which leads to purpose two. Murdering helpless captives shocks, insults and angers civilized human beings. IS leaders, however, love to shock and insult. To shock and insult means to defy restrictions. In its war against infidels, IS recognizes no restrictions. If this sounds a bit like a 19th-century European anarchist political trope, indeed it is.

    The ISIS leadership includes some experienced officers from Saddam’s army. That army was officered by Sunni Muslims and the soldiers were largely Shia. That is why it fell apart so quickly.

    IS forces are probing Baghdad. Several IS leaders are Iraqi Sunnis with ties to Saddam Hussein’s regime; they definitely want to seize control of Iraq. Two former Iraqi Army lieutenant colonels hold high positions in the IS military hierarchy. Al-Baghdadi met them when they were imprisoned at the old Camp Bucca detention complex.

    IS leaders have goals beyond Iraq. Civilized people may dismiss their goals as sociopathic delusions, but men like al-Baghdadi believe control of Iraq and Libya will position them to seize Egypt (population resources) and Saudi Arabia (dominating energy resources). This regional caliphate then goes global.

    Nonsense about jobs and denying the religious ideology just adds danger. There are a few things here to read this weekend.

     

    Posted in Book Notes, History, Iraq, Islam, Middle East, Military Affairs, Obama, Terrorism | 3 Comments »

    History Friday — MacArthur’s 7th Fleet Guerilla Support Group

    Posted by Trent Telenko on February 20th, 2015 (All posts by )

    When I started writing my “History Friday” columns, one of my objectives was to explore the “military historical narratives” around General Douglas MacArthur, so I could write with a better understanding about the “cancelled by atomic bomb” November 1945 invasion of Japan. One of the least explored aspects of MacArthur’s fighting style was his highly flexible approach to logistics, which he described as “We are doing what we can with what we have.” Logistics being the ability to transport and supply military forces. In describing MacArthur’s flexibility, and poor documentation of same, I wrote previously:

    One of the maddening things about researching General Douglas MacArthur’s fighting style in WW2 was the way he created, used and discarded military institutions, both logistical and intelligence, in the course of his South West Pacific Area (SWPA) operations. Institutions that had little wartime publicity and have no direct organizational descendent to tell their stories in the modern American military.”

    The importance of logistics is the reason for the adage, “Amateurs talk tactics while professionals talk logistics.”

    Today’s column is the story of another of those many “throw away” logistical institutions. The Philippines was a naval theater. The “standard historical narrative” has a gap between submarines on one hand and aircraft on the other. Both of those made the history books, neither could move as much material as the Filipino guerilla’s used in support of MacArthur’s Forces in the Philippines. It stands to reason 7th Fleet Amphibious Craft and Ships would support the Filipino Guerilla’s there. So I went to the war diaries of the extinct littoral amphibious ships in “MacArthur’s Navy” on the Fold3 government document digitization service to find their work, and sure enough the following popped up.

    Landing Craft Infantry, Large, 701.  One of the four small landing ships to make up TASK GROUP 70.4 in February 1945

    Landing Craft Infantry, Large, 701. One of the four small landing ships to make up TASK GROUP 70.4, the 7th Fleet’s Guerilla Support Group, in February 1945.

    The Seventh Fleet established Task Group 70.4 as a “guerilla support group” to support Filipino guerilla’s in the Southern Philippines in February 1945. This was effectively a detachment of LCI(L) Flotilla 24. TG 70.4 was made up of two Landing Craft Infantry (Large) or “LCI(L)” for transport (701 and 1024) and two Landing Craft Support (Large)(Mark 3) or “LCS(L)(3)” (No. 9 & 10) for fire support.
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    Posted in History, Military Affairs, Uncategorized, USA, War and Peace | 8 Comments »

    What are Obama’s True Feelings About America and Americans?

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

    Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani:

    “I do not believe, and I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the president loves America,  He doesn’t love you. And he doesn’t love me. He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up through love of this country.”

    In 2009, I wrote a post titled he’s just not that into us in which I contrasted Obama’s attitude toward his fellow Americans with George Orwell’s attitude toward Britain and the Brits, noting that clearly Obama does not identify with America in the same sort of way that Orwell identified with England, and asking: “Why, then, did Obama wish to become our President?”

    I think the post has stood up pretty well over the last 5 years…it is reproduced below, with some additional comments at the end.

    Here’s George Orwell, writing in 1940 about England and the English:

    When you come back to England from any foreign country, you have immediately the sensation of breathing a different air. Even in the first few minutes dozens of small things conspire to give you this feeling. The beer is bitterer, the coins are heavier, the grass is greener, the advertisements are more blatant. The crowds in the big towns, with their mild knobby faces, their bad teeth and gentle manners, are different from a European crowd. Then the vastness of England swallows you up, and you lose for a while your feeling that the whole nation has a single identifiable character. Are there really such things as nations? Are we not forty-six million individuals, all different? And the diversity of it, the chaos! The clatter of clogs in the Lancashire mill towns, the to-and-fro of the lorries on the Great North Road, the queues outside the Labour Exchanges, the rattle of pin tables in the Soho pubs, the old maids biking to Holy Communion through the mists of the autumn morning – all these are not only fragments, but characteristic fragments, of the English scene. How can one make a pattern out of this muddle?

    But talk to foreigners, read foreign books or newspapers, and you are brought back to the same thought. Yes, there is something distinctive and recognizable in English civilization. It is a culture as individual as that of Spain. It is somehow bound up with solid breakfasts and gloomy Sundays, smoky towns and winding roads, green fields and red pillarboxes. It has a flavour of its own. Moreover it is continuous, it stretches in to the future and the past, there is something in it that persists, as in a living creature. What can the England of 1940 have in common with the England of 1840? But then, what have you in common with the child of five whose photograph your mother keeps on the mantlepiece? Nothing, except that you happen to be the same person.

    And above all, it is your civilization, it is you. However much you hate it or laugh at it, you will never be happy away from it for any length of time. The suet puddings and the red pillarboxes have entered into your soul. Good or evil, it is yours, you belong to it, and this side of the grave you will never get away from the marks that it has given you.

    George Orwell was a socialist. He wanted to see radical transformation in his society. But in the above passage, he displays real affection for the English people and their culture.

    Can anyone imagine Barack Obama writing something parallel to the above about America and the American people? To ask the question is to answer it. Clearly, Obama does not identify with America in the same sort of way that Orwell identified with England.

    Why, then, did Obama wish to become our President?

    Two analogies come to mind…

    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Britain, Obama, Politics, USA | 24 Comments »