Wednesday assorted links

by on December 6, 2017 at 12:26 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. “This Article presents the first empirical examination of giving to § 501(c)(4) organizations, which have recently become central players in U.S. politics. Although donations to a 501(c)(4) are not legally deductible, the elasticity of c(4) giving to the top-bracket tax-price of charitable giving is – 1.24, very close to the elasticity for charities.”  Link here.  And there is no tax break for private jets, setting the record straight.

2. Ranking generals using sabermetrics, Napoleon is #1.

3. My podcast with the excellent Jocelyn Glei on self-transformation and risk.

4. Does the estate tax affect the marginal investor?

5. Eliminating the filibuster wouldn’t help much with gridlock.

6. Animal mutualism and personality (NYT).

7. ““The pending transactions on the Ethereum blockchain have spiked in the last 24 hours, mostly from CryptoKitties traffic,” CoinDesk director of research Nolan Bauerle said in an e-mail.

In the game, players buy cartoon kittens and then breed them with other cats. More than 22,000 cats have been sold so far for a total of US$3 million, according to Crypto Kitty Sales.

One of the cats went for US$117,712, although average sales price hovers about US$109, according to the sales tracker.”  Link here.

1 Al December 6, 2017 at 12:51 pm

#5 — seems implausible given key votes in the last 10 years that elimination of the filibuster wouldn’t reduce gridlock in, at minimum, the short run.

#1 — lying in politics with social media being used by the left to amplify the lies? Shocker.

2 Mulp December 6, 2017 at 3:14 pm

All votes so far on every major issue since 2016 have passed with only 51 votes, except for increasing spending without hiking taxes.

Conservatives have called for such tax and spend to require 2/3rds votes for my entire life of seven decades in a constitutional amendment.

Since Trump took office, the failures are all tied to the GOP failing to get a mere 50 votes out of 100

Harry Reid eliminated the 60 vote cloture rule for confirming presidential nominees, but the right is blaming Democrats for low rate of confirmed appointments. Not Trump for failing to nominate, nor members of the GOP who don’t trust Trump.

The root problem is the failed ideology of the right, a free lunch political economy theory that authoritarian rule is the best liberty because a small number of elites are the best way to give liberty to the people who deserve freedom from all those they don’t like. Trump is the ultimate conservative of to the modern era. Only he can fix everything. Unfortunately, more than half the GOP in Congress want everyone to agree when they say “only I can fix everything”.

Note, Democrats granted Trump the vote on his scotus nominee that the GOP denied Obama. Yet it’s always Democrats to blame, or Obama, or Pelosi, Reid, Clinton, …. no need to blame the filibuster since Trump took office.

3 So Much For Subtlety December 7, 2017 at 6:22 am

Note, Democrats granted Trump the vote on his scotus nominee that the GOP denied Obama.

Sorry but what? The Democrats granted Trump nothing. They tried to fillibuster it. The Republicans actually grew a pair and invoked the nuclear option that Harry Reid had given them. The Democrats could not have stopped the vote even if they tried. The vote passed pretty much down Party lines. Four Senate Democrats (Joe Manchin (D-WV), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), and Michael Bennet (D-CO)) voted for Gorsuch but as it passed 54-45 their votes weren’t needed and were just political grand standing.

4 AI December 6, 2017 at 3:30 pm

I take it up the ass.

5 Art Deco December 6, 2017 at 4:54 pm

#5: agreed, not plausible. And it’s all derived from ‘simulations’.

6 djw December 6, 2017 at 11:16 pm

The marginal senator is always going to want something in exchange for his/her vote, whether they are vote #51 or vote #60.

7 psmith December 6, 2017 at 12:51 pm

“wins above replacement (WAR)”


8 Sigivald December 6, 2017 at 12:54 pm

7) … what the hell is wrong with people?

Or is there some arbitrage/profit-taking/money laundering aspect that’s not obvious?

9 Erik December 6, 2017 at 1:52 pm

Do you remember Pogs?

10 Harun December 6, 2017 at 3:56 pm

I read that as Porgs.

11 Steve S December 6, 2017 at 4:29 pm

I was going to say money laundering.

“No, really guys I needed that cat for $117K!”

12 Hazel Meade December 6, 2017 at 10:05 pm

I’m probably retarded for giving this away instead of writing a patent right this instant … but uncopyable content. If blockchain technology can be used to make sure that only one person can own a “cryptokitten”, then blockchain technology can be used to make sure that only one person can own a copy of a movie.

13 Larry Siegel December 8, 2017 at 4:00 pm

As I read it (I know essentially nothing about it), it’s a game where you can win as well as lose money. Whoever *sold* the $117,000 cat made a bundle.

14 Jeff R December 6, 2017 at 12:57 pm

#2: a bit simplistic, I suppose, but a fun little project nonetheless. The WAR score seems a little unnuanced; I hope WAR in baseball is a bit more sophisticated, for all the faith the stat geeks put into it. For example, if I recall correctly, Rommel wished to pull out of North Africa but was forced to continue the (losing) campaign because the Nazis feared the Italians would quit the war, otherwise, and make a separate peace with the Allies. Likewise, I recall he was not given a free hand in organizing Germany’s defenses in France in advance of the Allied landing at Normandy, although I don’t recall exactly how that played out. That probably explains some of his unexpectedly low ranking.

15 dearieme December 6, 2017 at 2:08 pm

It’s not “a bit simplistic”, it’s daft. He doesn’t calculate his measure of merit by dividing by the number of battles the general fought. Thus Napoleon lost five battles, Alexander none. But Napoleon fought far more battles than Alexander, therefore …. Such silliness.

It may be that Napoleon was the greatest general ever; certainly it’s a pleasingly boyish thing to discuss. But if you are going to go to the trouble of doing all this pseudo-science on it it’s rather silly to be so rather silly.

16 Jeff R December 6, 2017 at 2:16 pm

It’s entertaining in its silliness, and it gives us all a chance to show off our accumulated historical knowledge, so I give it a pass.

17 Rafael R December 6, 2017 at 2:42 pm

I think one should look at this:

And look at the slope of the line from 0 measures the average effectiveness. You can Bayesian update the model assuming that people’s skills are expected at 0 but updated by each WAR, so Napoleon might still be first but Alexander’s score would be far higher. Interestingly, the top average WARs include:


All these were extremely important military geniuses. Zhukov essentially won WW2 by himself, Alexander is well, Alexander, who conquered most of the world, Caesar and Augustus shaped the Roman Empire while Napoleon is Napoleon. al-Whalid was essential in creating the Islamic Caliphate which conquered about half of the known world in the 7th and 8th centuries.

Though I think data from wikipedia is faulty: they put Manstein at -1.2 and actually he is widely regarded as the greatest general of the 20th century. Well, it’s expected for wikipedia’s data to have an anti-German bias.

18 Bob from Ohio December 6, 2017 at 2:46 pm

“Zhukov essentially won WW2 by himself”

Not serious I hope.

19 The Cuckmeister-General December 6, 2017 at 3:52 pm

You guys should love Napoleon because he was a fellow cuckold. Given that I am probably the only poster here with a military background I should be the expert on who is the better general.

20 Rafael R December 6, 2017 at 4:01 pm

Zhukov defeated the Germans at very important key battles. He was certainly by far the single most decisive general in WW2.

21 JWatts December 6, 2017 at 6:26 pm

It seems an incredible stretch to say that Zhukov won WW2 by himself. That being said, he clearly was one of the great military minds of WW2.

Regarding the WAR model, it seems a stretch to rate Ulysses S Grant as the greatest American general and the 7th greatest general of all time. The model has some issues.

22 Potato December 6, 2017 at 4:51 pm

It’s fun, but I agree it’s silly and absurd.

Tactics is for captains, strategy is for generals. History is under discussed here, so the following is my 2 cents, as worthless as it may be:

Hannibal may have been the greatest general. We’ll never know, because of the lesson of Carthage. If the elites are divided in a war or feel that their best interests may be served by losing said war, then tactics are meaningless. One wonders what would have happened if the divided Punic Judges (read Senate) had sent Hannibal reinforcements, money, and siege weapons. But hey, I’m sure it made more sense to try to lose the war and gain politically. Until Scipio landed in Africa.

Here’s to hoping the US learns that lesson. Every time some pundit compares us to Rome I say wait…Carthage might be more accurate.

23 dan in philly December 6, 2017 at 7:06 pm

The greatest generals are ones we never heard of because they managed to achieve their objectives without war.

24 Art Deco December 7, 2017 at 12:33 am

You’ve confused the roles of prince and politician on the one hand and soldier on the other.

25 Careless December 6, 2017 at 9:43 pm

WAR is a counting stat. Of course, it works much better in baseball where all full time players will play about 1300 innings and have about 600 PAs and is ridiculous when comparing the well-recorded history of Napoleon’s battles with anyone from a less well-recorded era

26 PD Shaw December 6, 2017 at 2:48 pm

Baseball involves a defined environment that operates on a linear track (9 innings/3 outs per side) with a system of points and rules. The value of different events can be quantified and aggregated, particularly because the same basic scenarios repeat (man on second, no outs). AFAIK, nobody has quantified a baseball manager’s value (WAR), just criticized certain decisions that for which probabilities can be calculated (bunting, pitcher substitution, and batting order).

Basically non-comparable situation unless the manager can call for the weakest player to take a strike while reaching for his gun holster and shooting the other team’s best player while running the bases.

27 Harun December 6, 2017 at 4:12 pm

Having a good army is key.

Alexander….inherited Macedonian phalanx army.

Mongols had exceptional forces.

French army as well, with levee en masse.

Generals that work with lesser tools might be better generals. While a mediocre general given the Roman legions could do well.

28 Potato December 6, 2017 at 5:01 pm

Alexander did not just inherit Phillip’s pike phalanx system. He inherited the germ of combined arms warfare. But it took a true genius to fully understand its implications and gain mastery of it. And he was the right man at the right position and time and place.

Napoleon inherited a mediocre army and helped remake it. He also understood combined arms warfare in a way his peers did not. He viewed artillery as a critical component and military arm to be massed and integrated into the plan instead of an afterthought that caused enemy casualties.

Hannibal understood combined arms warfare at a time when few did. This was the reason for his respect of Pyrrhus. He took the ultimate rag tag army, mostly made up of previously warring Celtic and Iberian-Celtic tribes, Punic/Libyan infantry and cavalry, African light cavalry and light infantry, and made it into an unstoppable force.

Pyrrhus – underrated by the stupid WAR system.

29 Will December 6, 2017 at 1:04 pm

2 makes no attempt to distinguish tactical from operational from strategic abilities of generals. Hannibal may have won more battles than Alexander, but Alexander’s battles won him an empire. Likewise, while Napoleon’s tactical genius is undeniable, but he failed to adapt his operational methods from Italy and central Europe to Spain and Russia.

Battles are not ball games.

30 Borjigid December 6, 2017 at 1:13 pm

Nailed it.

31 NPW December 6, 2017 at 2:04 pm

One needs to differentiate between generals who do not answer to others and those with minders.

Rommel and Patton had restrictions that Alexander and Napoleon did not.

32 celestus December 6, 2017 at 2:05 pm

Agreed as well. What would Sun Tzu (or Bastiat!) say about judging generals by the outcome of battles that were fought?

33 ʕ•ᴥ•ʔ December 6, 2017 at 2:05 pm

Some are telling us Korea should be our number one policy concern today. I am not sure if this is some Straussian connection, or if they are wrong.

Question for Tyler: What will do more to prevent war in Korea, everybody talk about Korea, or nobody talk about Korea?

34 Jeff R December 6, 2017 at 4:01 pm

For the love of christ, man.

35 ʕ•ᴥ•ʔ December 6, 2017 at 4:06 pm

It is real.

So which is better, to leave the administration alone, or to address it?

36 Jeff R December 6, 2017 at 4:42 pm
37 ʕ•ᴥ•ʔ December 6, 2017 at 4:50 pm

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said it was time to start moving American dependents out of South Korea so they don’t get stuck in the middle of the fighting.

But people have clip art, so no worries.

38 Jeff R December 6, 2017 at 4:57 pm

I’m going to skip your comments in the future, so don’t bother replying.

39 Potato December 6, 2017 at 5:03 pm

For f’s sake.

Can we not enjoy a fun discussion of history without an incursion of Trump bullshit.

Seek help.

40 ʕ•ᴥ•ʔ December 6, 2017 at 5:04 pm

WTF man. You want to talk about best generals while carefully ignoring a Senator who is saying, right now, “start moving American dependents out of South Korea so they don’t get stuck in the middle of the fighting.”

At least be clear. Is ignoring the Senator constructive, or is it merely evasive?

41 msgkings December 7, 2017 at 12:33 am

Anon/polar bear you are one humorless miserable d-bag. Lighten the hell up.

42 Anon7 December 7, 2017 at 1:06 am

It is constructive to ignore your sanctimonious browbeating.

43 ʕ•ᴥ•ʔ December 7, 2017 at 5:21 am

This could have gone a lot lighter, if you would have just acknowledged this as real:

And you really should have taken on the question of this saber rattling, and the best response to it.

44 Michael D December 6, 2017 at 2:11 pm

Kind of an interesting oversight given that the article in its opening quote mentions Pyrrhus.

45 clockwork_prior December 6, 2017 at 2:17 pm

Pretty much.

And let us be honest – the 3rd Army’s response in the Battle of the Bulge, in large part because of Patton’s qualities as general, are the sort of thing that are not really subject to statistics. And as for whether British generals exaggerated Rommel’s tactical abilities, the conquered French feel no need to.

46 Bob from Ohio December 6, 2017 at 2:56 pm

“the conquered French feel no need to”

Rommel was a divisional commander in 1940. Guderian was the general who beat the French.

47 Potato December 6, 2017 at 5:04 pm

Rommel’s idea, Mannsteins brilliance.

48 Bob from Ohio December 6, 2017 at 2:54 pm

Napoleon repeatedly beat every army in Europe from 1799 to 1812 [except the British which he never faced]. He nearly won both Leipzig and Waterloo against overwhelming odds.

His empire was just as long lasting as Alexander’s too. Basically he was overwhelmed by numbers in the end.

In the post-ancient world, no doubt Napoleon was the finest general ever.

49 Scott Mauldin December 6, 2017 at 4:59 pm

There’s also the issue of technology – baseball players have basically the same shoes, bats, gloves and balls. A Roman general who wins over twig-wielding barbarians is not as good as one who, ceteris paribus, wins over equally-equipped opponents in a civil war.

50 A Truth Seeker December 6, 2017 at 1:18 pm

#2 American provincialism… No Brazilian leaders of men were survied. Yet, Caxias crushed dozens of rebellions against the Empire (as one of our anthems have it, “he united the provinces of the Empire and saved the unity of the Fatherland”) and defeated the mad tyrant López, Barroso crushed the Paraguayan Navy, the strongest of South America back then, Antônio João led to the death the resistance of a dozen Brazilians against thousands of Paraguayan invaders Mascarenhas defeated the German aggressors in Bologna. Camisão led the Retreat of Laguna, an epic retreat that puts both the Long March and the famous Dunkirk evacution to shame. When the perfid Engishmen threatened to invade Brazil, President-Marshall Paixoto said he would have them all shot (it makes more sense in Portuguese). And so far and so on.

51 The Centrist December 6, 2017 at 3:52 pm

When I google “The Retreat of Laguna”, I get this:….0…1.2.64.psy-ab..0.1.115….0.zrEM48oMI-U

52 The Centrist December 6, 2017 at 3:56 pm

And when I keep googling — eg. “battle of Laguna” — I get wiki links to Argentine Civil Wars. Is the truth, Thiago, that Brazil’s fate was sealed by Argentine civil wars?

53 A Truth Seeker December 6, 2017 at 5:08 pm

No. The Battle of Laguna I am talking about is the battle against the troops of mad tyrant Lopez. Facing the fanatical Paraguayans and the frequent betrayals of our Argentinian and “Uruguayan” “allies”, Brazilian troops dramatically outnumbered were able to avoid total annihilation. It was the most heroical retreat in the field of human conflicts, much more impressive than Durkink and the Long March put together!

Brazil actually interfered in the Argentinian civil wars (in the middle 1800s, Brazil had a regime change policy in our dealings with the Castillian barbarians – Brazil imposed new governments to “Uruguay”, Argentina and Paraguay) and won the said wars almost alone – our “ally” Mitre was at most a rather mediocre political-militar leader, a not particularly bright caudillo, the kind of leader the Castillians like so much. On the other hand, our Emperor was a polyglot, writer, philosopher and enthusiast of all sciences.

A literary monument regarding the Retreat of Laguna is Taunay’s Retirada da Laguna, a book superior to anything Caesar or Churchill ever wrote!! Here you can see a painting of the Retreat:

54 Tenhofaca December 6, 2017 at 6:58 pm

Dryly, it is fortunate for the other South American nations, indeed for the Southern Hemisphere, that Brazilians are a peace loving people content to leave other nations free to pursue their own goals and aspirations.

55 A Truth Seeker December 6, 2017 at 8:10 pm

We are peace loving, but, as one our anthems says, “Messenger of peace, it is peace for which we yearn/From love comes our force and power/But in war, in the greatest ordeals/You shall see us struggling and victorious!”

56 Alan Goldhammer December 6, 2017 at 1:20 pm

#1 – it’s really all about money laundering in a way that the big donors can hide the groups they are giving to. It would be far better to totally reform the campaign laws by allowing unlimited giving by anyone accompanied by full disclosure. If someone wants to run with Exxon or Koch money that’s fine by me as long as there is disclosure. This give voters information they need to make a rational choice: Exxon or Sierra Club; Koch Brothers or Bloomberg. It would cure a lot of the ills and of course we could eliminate all the group based negative television ads because direct donation to candidates would be the rule of the day.

57 Johnny A December 6, 2017 at 1:48 pm

Or the opposite: Make it illegal to disclose that you gave money. If you disclose it, it becomes tantamount to a bribe, since the politician knows who gave him/her money and can provide reciprocal favors. If you aren’t allowed to disclose then your favored politicians succeed but they cannot pay back their supporters.

58 Borjigid December 6, 2017 at 2:05 pm

I like this idea, but you would have to enforce it vigorously.

Otherwise you end up with a Super PAC scenario where there isn’t supposed to be coordination with candidates but everybody knows there is.

59 Dzhaughn December 6, 2017 at 2:40 pm

Nice idea. But you have to disclose it to someone to make it happen in an accountable fashion.

60 zztop December 7, 2017 at 2:49 pm

Some people wink “better” than others.

61 Dzhaughn December 6, 2017 at 3:01 pm

Your plan does not stop the laundering. After all, the Sierra Club is an organization that enables wealthy individuals and corporations to launder their political contributions.

62 spencer December 6, 2017 at 1:59 pm

I can not read the Post article on private jets.

But aren’t private jets a normal business expense?

63 Erik December 6, 2017 at 2:21 pm

You can get around the post’s soft paywall by opening the link in an “incognito” window (or whatever equivalent is for the browser you’re using).

Right Click the link > open in a new incognito window.

The false claim made by some Democrats, detailed in the article, is that the tax bill provided a tax break for private jet owners. This is because there exists an excise tax applied to commercial airline tickets, but not private jets when they are being rented out or shared between mutual owners. The interpretation that the tax does not apply is somewhat unclear and contentions. The new tax bill clarifies that this excise tax, which has never applied to private jets, does not apply to private jets.

64 Harun December 6, 2017 at 4:52 pm

I remember when Obama railed against private jets in his speeches and then gave them a tax break in his stimulus.


65 rayward December 6, 2017 at 2:19 pm

1. The Jet Set: An excise tax is imposed on individuals and companies that provide an aircraft and crew and sell tickets to passengers. “In 2015, NetJets won its lawsuit when the court ruled the IRS could not retroactively impose the excise tax (when individuals own a share of a private jet and lend it to management companies – such as NetJets – for chartered flights).” Could not retroactively impose the excise tax. The tax act prohibits the IRS from imposing the excise tax prospectively. Does the tax act provide a tax break for private jets? It depends on the meaning of retroactively and prospectively.

66 Brent December 6, 2017 at 2:32 pm

#7 – and I used to poke fun of bitcoin, saying it was electronic Beany Babies.

67 ʕ•ᴥ•ʔ December 6, 2017 at 3:14 pm

Someone was smart enough to monetize that.

68 Anonymous December 6, 2017 at 6:46 pm

I used to say that, and still do. This bubble will go in the textbooks.

69 responsible D December 6, 2017 at 3:25 pm

Blockchain transaction processing is just so woefully inefficient, in terms of both time and energy. At least it seems that way for bitcoin and ethereum. Don’t these things need to improve by many orders of magnitude before blockchain could become useful for any high volume real time business?

These problems also seem like they will be a factor in the event of a rush to the exits.

70 mkt42 December 6, 2017 at 3:35 pm

2: In addition to the other critiques, the research is surely based on an inadequate and probably misleading data set, namely data scraped from wikipedia. Napoleon’s huge WAR is largely due to the many battles of his that are in the data set (and yes, the fact that he was an excellent general for most of his career). In contrast, Pyrrhus only has three battles in the data set, presumably his three famous ones against the Romans.

But Pyrrhus fought more than three battles! And in addition to the recorded ones, he may’ve fought smaller ones that we don’t know about. Whereas I think we can presume that we know about all of Napoleon’s battles large and small. I.e. he has a biased data set.

Aside from the data issues, a methodological issue that the article doesn’t address: the role of tactical surprise. Some battles are won or lost based on this, Pearl Harbor being a prominent example.

But we then have the methodological conundrum if deciding whether to credit the commander for achieving tactical surprise, and conversely debit the commander who suffered by being surprised. In some cases such as Lake Trasimene, Hannibal should get full credit because he laid the trap. In other cases, the commander who suffered surprise may’ve not been able to obtain better pre-battle information, e.g. Admiral Tanaka at Tassafaronga did not have radar whereas the US Navy did, so the Americans were able to surprise Tanaka and sink his leading destroyer (Tanaka however adroitly turned tail while launching torpedoes, and the Americans, still unaware of the capabilities of the Japanese torpedoes, kept sailing blithely forward, resulting in most of their cruisers being hit and forced out of battle). Was Tanaka at fault for getting surprised?

Harder still is deciding how much blame to assign to the American commanders at Pearl Harbor; there were some ways in which they could’ve been more alert but absent being on a full wartime status and being able to predict inherently unknown factors such as Japanese torpedoes custom-made for shallow waters and armor-piercing bombs made out of battleship shells, it’s not clear how large a difference that would’ve made.

I like this book that covers all of the land battles of 5th century BCE Greece:

Because the battles are limited to a single century and region, there are fewer of the problems of heterogeneity that pretty much doom the study that Tyler links to. Even so, the author doesn’t attempt to squeeze them all into a one-size-fits all model. He does however list every single battle, with estimated forces involved including separate figures for arms (usually cavalry although in some cases lack of specific forms of infantry such as peltasts was crucial), and if surprise played a role then he lists that as well. I.e. a less ambitious but I think more valid and useful data-centered approach to looking at battles and their outcomes.

71 Kyle B. December 6, 2017 at 3:54 pm

I agree, the Wikipedia dataset is just too poor to take the rankings very seriously. Take Alexander Suvorov as an example (and a good one to compare to Napoleon, given Suvorov’s record and being of roughly the same era). The Wikipedia page says “Suvorov won 63 major battles and never lost one” with a reference [which I admit I haven’t checked, but even if it’s only 30 major battles or so it’s impressive], yet the website has data for only 4 of his battles. Wikipedia simply doesn’t have the information on the majority of Suvorov’s battles.

It’s enjoyable to look at, but the Wikipedia dataset is just far too limited.

72 mobile December 6, 2017 at 5:08 pm

That’s why Hank Aaron has a higher WAR than Joshua Gibson. What are you going to do?

73 widmerpool December 6, 2017 at 3:40 pm

Napoleon’s greatness is rather undermined by using Borodino as the example of his winningness.

74 Potato December 6, 2017 at 5:08 pm

Borodino should have been when he realized he needed to leave Russia. Agree 100%.

Napoleon lost Borodino. This is why strategy matters. Borodino was the turning point which should have been a giant red flag.


75 ʕ•ᴥ•ʔ December 6, 2017 at 4:02 pm

1a is a reason to end the charitable deduction, greatly increasing efficiency

The original theory of the deduction, that private good works offset the need for government, seems to be increasingly wrong as “charity” is increasingly consumption.

76 Potato December 6, 2017 at 5:12 pm

I’m good with getting rid of the charitable deduction if all state and local taxes are non deductible.

I’ve given money to charitable causes with a 98.5% pass through rate to the recipient.

I’m good with using that threshold for all federal services. For every dollar I should expect at least 90 cents in benefits for me or someone else, and that someone else does not include a job.

77 ʕ•ᴥ•ʔ December 6, 2017 at 5:18 pm

That might be a good bargain, but I think the logic is clearer that state and local taxes are doing the work of government, and are not consumption in any sense.

78 Andrew December 6, 2017 at 5:16 pm

I’m no military historian, but I don’t think treating the terrain/technology/army size as exogenous makes much sense when many generals have historically had at least some control over those aspects of a battle. That said, maybe the findings suggest that Napoleon was great at winning battles under adverse conditions?

79 Anonymous Bosch December 6, 2017 at 5:21 pm

2. “Among post-World War II generals, Israeli commanders stood out.”

If you look at the quality, or lack thereof, of their opponents, their military feats are not quite so impressive.

80 Anonymous December 6, 2017 at 6:47 pm


81 A Truth Seeker December 6, 2017 at 5:33 pm

Maybe you should try to defeat Jordan.

82 ricardo December 6, 2017 at 5:48 pm

…seems to deserve more than this:

Seems there is a slight data problem.

83 mkt42 December 6, 2017 at 8:06 pm

Excellent example, even better than the inadequacy of the study’s data for Pyrrhus.

I like how the wikipedia article prominently mentions the intelligence-gathering information that the Mongols did. We may simply have superior knowledge and historical documents for them, that describe how they even used merchants who’d visit a city and trade goods — and then on their return to Mongolia or wherever, give a report on what they saw in the city.

I suspect that similarly extravagant pre-battle intelligence gathering is an under-reported and under-appreciated reason for the success of both Alexander the Great and Hannibal. Both generals seemed to perpetually know in advance what their opponent would be doing in the battle, and even the psychology of their opponent. Both seemed to meticulously prepare for battle using this intelligence, except perhaps for occasional headstrong cavalry charges by Alexander. I have not read accounts of them using spies and reconnaissance the way that we read about the Mongols, but I suspect that all three armies had similar very high levels of intelligence gathering.

Less great as a general, but still an MVP leader for his team (to continue the baseball metaphor): George Washington. As with the Mongols we have copious stories about how he assiduously gathered intelligence from spies, deserters, and friendly or talkative civilians, including being able to plot the trap of Cornwallis at Yorktown.

84 ricardo December 6, 2017 at 8:21 pm

I thought of Subutai because I remember the War Nerd describing him as the greatest general of all time. Reading that wikipedia page, bloody hell.

85 johnWH December 6, 2017 at 7:19 pm

For consideration in your next assorted links:

Much of the increase in homelessness is driven by cities in California — another good reason for loosening land-use regulations

86 Viking December 6, 2017 at 8:06 pm

Many effects:

1. Housing gets more expensive, because boarding houses are disallowed, and building code as well as zoning makes dwellings more expensive.
2. The suburbs are less desirable, because the infrastructure mismanagement of liberal cities have made living in the outskirts a serious time sink, unless both your work and kids’ school are there. By mismanagement, I mean building light rail and streetcars, that typically has a high price tag, and a ridiculously low capacity. NYC subway has enough capacity to make a serious decrease in surface traffic, but light rail that shares space with the surface traffic is inhibiting the traffic flow. Also, the diversion of money to light rail has prevented increasing the highway capacities.
3. The bar has been raised for being more than a ZMP worker.

87 Viking December 6, 2017 at 8:16 pm

And I also see a bunch of homeless people in Oslo, Norway, which was quite uncommon back in the 70s and 80s, but there it is an imported problem.

88 shrikanthk December 6, 2017 at 8:13 pm

2. I am not sure if the Battle of Hydaspes was a resounding victory for Alexander, as claimed here. Indian sources suggest a draw or at best a partial victory for Alexander.

89 anon December 6, 2017 at 8:27 pm

“I respect ordinary thieves much more than I respect politicians.”
— Walter Williams

“The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule.”
— H. L. Mencken

“[O]ne of the reasons why I so thoroughly detest politics: it insults my intelligence. Even overlooking all of its many other faults, politics remains insufferable because it’s so completely imbecilic. It traffics in assertions that are either hilariously false or utterly meaningless. Politicians and their operatives then expect those of us on the receiving end of their moronic assertions not only to believe these assertions to be true, but also to marvel at the amazingness of the politicians who, we are assured, regularly perform the unbelievable feats described by the assertions.

Politics is unalloyed idiocy treated even by – indeed, especially by – the intelligentsia as if it is a solemn and serious undertaking. But it’s not. Politics is overwhelmingly the domain of megalomaniacal frauds, liars, and con artists.”
— Don Boudreaux

90 Judah Benjamin Hur December 6, 2017 at 9:06 pm

#2. This should make (watching) wars a lot more fun. How about fantasy war where we can choose a team of generals? Next, some general trading cards! I remember Topps made Desert Storm cards, but I don’t think there have been a good war trading cards since (I could be wrong). I’m old school and need trading cards to keep track of the players.

91 Hazel Meade December 6, 2017 at 10:01 pm

#7 The import of this is that it prove blockchains as a concept for concept for distribution of uncopyable digital files. If a single “cryptokitten” can exist as a unique entity, then so can a unique copy of a piece of software – in other words software (and films) could return to being sold in unique, individual, copies that can only be viewed by a particular user who is recorded in the blockchain as the “owner” of that copy.

92 Nominull December 6, 2017 at 10:14 pm

1 claims to debunk the claim that there is a tax break for private jets, but it doesn’t seem to actually do so? There seems to be a tax break for private jets relative to the legal status quo, if not the de facto status quo. It makes a good argument for why we shouldn’t care about it, but that’s not the same thing.

93 John A. December 7, 2017 at 7:59 am

As a military history buff I was curious to see the statistical scoring system for the generals.

It lost me with Robt. E. Lee at -2.0 and Joe Johnston = -0.85. As article noted, Lee had his shortcomings. Nevertheless, any system that ranks Lee behind Johnston, of all people, is irredeemably flawed. To paraphrase Shelby Foote — left to his own devices, Johnston would have tactically retreated all the way to Key West and then kept going with all his men and horses that could swim.

They need to go back to drawing board.

94 JWatts December 7, 2017 at 8:57 am

I noticed that the system ranked Muammar Gaddafi better than Robert E Lee. It’s clear the either the model is junk, the data is junk or they are both junk.

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