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  • Manfrotto MTPIXI-B PIXI Mini Tripod

    Posted by Jonathan on July 24th, 2017 (All posts by )


    The Manfrotto MTPIXI-B PIXI Mini Tripod is the official mini tripod of the Chicago Boyz blog.
     
    These things are great: bigger than those cheesy little mini tripods with bendable arms, yet still easily portable, faster to use and stable with even DSLR-sized cameras. I keep one in my briefcase with a compact mirrorless camera. You can easily carry one in a jeans pocket if you’re going out with photography in mind.
     

     
    UPDATE: Add a cellphone mount and you have an excellent setup for video calls.
     

     

    Posted in Photos, Product Reviews/Endorsements | No Comments »

    Seth Barrett Tillman: Bob Bauer’s Free Speech Problem and Ours

    Posted by Jonathan on July 24th, 2017 (All posts by )

    We have a free speech problem in America. I have talked about it before. It starts with the judiciary. See Seth Barrett Tillman, This Is What Is Wrong with the American Judiciary, The New Reform Club (Mar. 16, 2017, 4:23 AM), http://tinyurl.com/z4q9f8v. But the wider legal community has embraced the same legal philosophy. They want you to shut up, and if you don’t shut up, there is always punishment. Here is an example…

    An excellent post.

     

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Media, Rhetoric, Trump | 3 Comments »

    Saturday at the Movies: A Review of Dunkirk

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on July 23rd, 2017 (All posts by )

    I took it into my head to see Dunkirk in a movie theater on the opening weekend. I don’t think I have done since the early nineties (when we returned from Spain, where movies showed at the base theater six months to a year after premiering.) The last time I saw a movie in an actual theater, instead of at home on DVD or on streaming video was – if memory serves – The Kings’ Speech, in 2010, or it may have been The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug in 2013. We saw the latter in an Alamo Drafthouse cinema, notable for being set up in a civilized manner to serve tasty adult beverages before and during the showing, as well as equally tasty entrees. They also have a positively Soup-Naziesque attitude about talking, texting, ringing cellphones and children disturbing the movie experience – an attitude of which I regretfully approve. One toot on yer flute, or on your cellie, and you’re oot, as the saying about the woman in the Scottish cinema with a hearing horn used to go. Adding to the charm of the experience – you can book a ticket for a specific seat and showing through their website, and pay for it online in advance. Print out your ticket on your home printer, waltz into the theater at the appointed time – and yes, this is one thing I do like about the 21st century.
    Back to the movie. The necessary trailers for upcoming releases reminded me powerfully about why I have not been to a movie theater for a movie since 2010 or 2013, especially a trailer for a superhero concoction called The Justice League. No, sorry; so much my not-cuppa-tea that I wouldn’t move two feet off a rock ledge to watch it, or anything else there was a trailer for. Fortunately, the pre-feature features were few and relatively brief.
    Then to the main feature, which began very quietly, with a half-dozen British squaddies wandering down a narrow street on the outskirts of Dunkirk, under a fluttering of German propaganda leaflets … which set the situation as it exists, and supplies one of the young soldiers, appropriately named Tommy (Fionn Whitehead), with a supply of toilet paper. Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Current Events, Film, History | 23 Comments »

    Summer Rerun: Fanny Kemble

    Posted by David Foster on July 23rd, 2017 (All posts by )

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    (This is a consolidation and editing of three posts from 2010. Also see new link at the end)

    Frances Anne Kemble was a British actress who achieved considerable fame subsequent to her 1829 appearance in a production of Romeo and Juliet. In 2010, I ran across her description of her 1830 adventure, when she became one of the first people to ride on the newly-constructed London & Manchester railway line. Railway travel was then as exotic as space travel is now…arguably more so. Fannie’s escort for the trip was none other than George Stephenson, the self-taught engineer who had been the driving force behind the line’s construction.

    She was impressed with the experience of railroad travel (“You can’t imagine how strange it seemed to be journeying on thus, without any visible cause of progress other than the magical machine, with its flying white breath and rhythmical, unvarying pace, between these rocky walls, which are already clothed with moss and ferns and grasses”) and with Stephenson (“the master of all these marvels, with whom I am most horribly in love”) She offers an interesting analysis of the roles of government vs the private sector in the creation of this railroad (“The Liverpool merchants, whose far-sighted self-interest prompted them to wise liberality, had accepted the risk of George Stephenson’s magnificent experiment, which the committee of inquiry of the House of Commons had rejected for the government. These men, of less intellectual culture than the Parliament members, had the adventurous imagination proper to great speculators, which is the poetry of the counting-house and wharf, and were better able to receive the enthusiastic infection of the great projector’s sanguine hope than the Westminster committee.”)

    Here’s another interesting passage in which she contrasts Stephenson with an aristocrat called Lord Alvanley and the class of which he was an outstanding representative: “I would rather pass a day with Stephenson than with Lord Alvanley, though the one is a coal-digger by birth, who occasionally murders the king’s English, and the other is the keenest wit and one of the finest gentlemen about town…if you knew how, long after I have passed it, the color of a tuft of heather, or the smell of a branch of honeysuckle by the roadside, haunts my imagination, and how many suggestions of beauty and sensations of pleasure flow from this small spring of memory, even after the lapse of weeks and months, you would understand what I am going to say, which perhaps may appear rather absurd without such a knowledge of my impressions. I think I like fine places better than “fine people;” but then one accepts, as it were, the latter for the former, and the effect of the one, to a certain degree, affects one’s impressions of the other.”

    The whole Project Gutenberg file of this memoir is here. There’s also a Wikipedia article on Kemble, of course.

    Kemble had many interesting experiences, including marriage to an American who inherited a Georgia cotton plantation, resulting in her becoming a fervent anti-slavery advocate. She seemed like an interesting and thoughtful person, well worth knowing better, and one of the first things I did when I first got my Kindle was to download and read her extensive memoirs.

    Publication of her impressions of America (in 1835) created quite a stir, as did the 1863 publication of her plantation journal, with its searing observations about the realities of slavery.

    Fanny’s writing is a valuable source for anyone interested in the social history of Britain and America during her era; she also has many thoughts about the theater and especially about the plays of Shakespeare; her writing is vivid, intelligent, and often quirky. She can quickly segue from an aesthetic observation of a railway journey to thoughts about governance and religion:

    The road from Birmingham here is quite pretty; the country in a most exquisite state of leaf and blossom; the crops look extremely well along this route; and the little cottage gardens, which delight my heart with their tidy cheerfulness, are so many nosegays of laburnum, honeysuckle, and lilac.

    The stokers on all the engines that I saw or met this morning had adorned their huge iron dragons with great bunches of hawthorn and laburnum, which hung their poor blossoms close to the hissing hot breath of the boilers, and looked wretched enough. But this dressing up the engines, as formerly the stage-coach horses used to be decked with bunches of flowers at their ears on Mayday, was touching.

    I suppose the railroad men get fond of their particular engine, though they can’t pat and stroke it, as sailors do of their ship. Speculate upon that form of human love. I take it there is nothing which, being the object of a man’s occupation, may not be made also that of his affection, pride, and solicitude, too. Were we—people in general, I mean—Christians, forms of government would be matters of quite secondary importance; in fact, of mere expediency. A republic, such as the American, being the slightest possible form of government, seems to me the best adapted to an enlightened, civilized Christian community, a community who deserve that name; and, you know, the theory of making people what they should be is to treat them better than they deserve—an axiom that holds good in all moral questions, of which political government should be one.

    Fanny’s father Charles, himself a noted Shakespearean actor, unfortunately took an investment and management interest in the Covent Garden Theater–which position carried personal liability for the theater’s debts and kept the family in scary financial straits for many years. It was largely in the hope of creating a new star who would bring in ticket revenues and head off financial disaster that Fanny was first put on stage, in the role of Juliet, in 1829. She quickly achieved great popular acclaim, but the bottomless quicksand of Covent Garden’s finances led Charles to organize a theatrical tour in the United States for himself and his daughter.

    The decision to publish Fanny’s journal describing her impressions of America was driven by the need to generate money for the care of a beloved aunt who had suffered a serious carriage accident. The publishing project was vehemently opposed by Fanny’s new American husband, Pierce Butler, whom she married in 1834, and the conflict set the tone for what was to be a disastrous marriage.

    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 8 Comments »

    From whence our news comes

    Posted by Mrs. Davis on July 22nd, 2017 (All posts by )

    Interesting post on the evolution of news creation. I had thought the future was well written press releases from the actors themselves. But it appears something much less transparent is emerging:

    The news media is dead broke. Print advertising is washed up and all the digital advertising that was supposed to replace lost revenue from print ads and subscribers has been swallowed up by Facebook and Google. But the good news is that people will still pay for stories, and it’s an awful lot easier to bill one customer than invoicing the 1,500 readers of your blog. The top customers for these stories are political operations.

    There is no accurate accounting of how many of the stories you read in the news are the fruit of opposition research, because no journalist wants to admit how many of their top “sources” are just information packagers—which is why the blinding success of Fusion GPS is the least-covered media story in America right now.

    Includes interesting history of Fusion GPS. It’s getting harder to know where the story is really coming from.RTWT

     

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 6 Comments »

    Robots of the Week: Replacing Cashiers in Grocery Stores and Cafeterias

    Posted by David Foster on July 22nd, 2017 (All posts by )

    Eliminating checkout lines via automatic object recognition: IMAGR and Mashgin.

    (Technically, these are artificial intelligence systems but probably shouldn’t really count as ‘robots’ since they respond to the physical world but don’t manipulate it)

     

    Posted in Business, Tech | 7 Comments »

    “Eagle deaths: an interesting contrast”

    Posted by Jonathan on July 19th, 2017 (All posts by )

    Via David Hardy:

    Synopsis: The use of lead hunting ammunition apparently kills a small number of eagles annually while wind turbines kill large numbers of birds of many types. Public officials who are concerned about bird deaths by lead poisoning tend not to be concerned about bird deaths by wind turbine.

    Much as Islam trumps sexual orientation in identity politics, so crony-capitalist green energy schemes trump the welfare of wild animal populations in eco politics.

     

    Posted in Crony Capitalism, Environment, Leftism | 30 Comments »

    Summer Rerun: Jousting with a Phantom

    Posted by David Foster on July 19th, 2017 (All posts by )

    (Victor Davis Hanson’s recent piece, The Fifth American War, reminded me of this post.  I think it is crucially important to understand that many of those calling for ‘equality’ do not themselves have any interest in being merely equal, any more than Napoleon the Pig did in Orwell’s novel ‘Animal Farm’)

    Those people who call themselves “progressives” are talking a lot about equality and inequality these days. And conservatives/libertarians, in response, attempt to explain why “equality of outcomes” is infeasible and unwise.

    To a substantial degree, though, they/we are jousting with a phantom. Because leading “progressives” don’t really believe in anything resembling equality—indeed, quite the contrary.

    Consider, for example: Many people in “progressive” leadership positions are graduates of the Harvard Law School. Do you think these people want to see a society in which the career, status, and income prospects for an HLS grad are no better than those for a graduate of a lesser-known, lower-status (but still very good) law school? C’mon.

    Quite a few “progressive” leaders are members of prominent families. Do you think Teddy Kennedy would have liked to see an environment in which he and certain other members of his family would have had to answer for their actions in the criminal courts in the same way that ordinary individuals would, without benefit from connections, media influence, and expensive lawyers?

    The prevalence of “progressivism” among tenured professors is quite high. How many of these professors would be eager to agree to employment conditions in which their job security and employee benefits were no better than those enjoyed by average Americans? How many of them would take a salary cut in order to provide higher incomes for the poorly-paid adjunct professors at their universities? How many would like to see PhD requirements eliminated so that a wider pool of talented and knowledgeable individuals can participate in university teaching?

    There are a lot of “progressives” among the graduates of Ivy League universities. How many of them would be in favor of legally eliminating alumni preferences and the influence of “contributions” and have their children considered for admission–or not–on the same basis as everyone else’s kids? Yet an alumni preference is an intergenerational asset in the same way that a small businessman’s store or factory is.

    The reality is that “progressivism” is not in any way about equality, it is rather about shifting the distribution of power and wealth in a way that benefits those with certain kinds of educational credentials and certain kinds of connections. And remember, power and connections are always transmutable into wealth. Sometimes that wealth is directly dollar-denominated, as in the millions of dollars that former president Bill Clinton has been paid in speaking fees, or the money made by a former government official who leverages his contacts into an executive job with a “green” energy company–even though he may have minimal knowledge of either energy or business. And sometimes the wealth takes the form of in-kind benefits, like a university president’s mansion. (Those who lived in the old Soviet Union and Eastern Europe can tell you all about in-kind benefits for nominally low-paid officials.) And, almost always, today’s “progressivism” is about the transfer of power from individuals to credentialed “experts” who will coerce or “nudge” people to do with those experts have decided would be best.

    To a very substantial extent, the talk about “equality” is a smokescreen, conscious or unconscious, behind which “progressives” pursue their own economic, status, and ego agendas.

    Writing in 1969, Peter Drucker–who was born in Austria and had lived in several European countries–wrote about what he saw as a key American economic advantage: the much less-dominant role played by “elite” educational institutions:

    One thing it (modern society) cannot afford in education is the “elite institution” which has a monopoly on social standing, on prestige, and on the command positions in society and economy. Oxford and Cambridge are important reasons for the English brain drain. A main reason for the technology gap is the Grande Ecole such as the Ecole Polytechnique or the Ecole Normale. These elite institutions may do a magnificent job of education, but only their graduates normally get into the command positions. Only their faculties “matter.” This restricts and impoverishes the whole society…The Harvard Law School might like to be a Grande Ecole and to claim for its graduates a preferential position. But American society has never been willing to accept this claim…
It is almost impossible to explain to a European that the strength of American higher education lies in this absence of schools for leaders and schools for followers.

    The “unwillingness of American society to accept this claim”…the claim of elite education as the primary gateway to power and wealth…has been greatly undercut since Drucker wrote. And “progressives” have been among the main under-cutters and the leading advocates for further movement in that direction.

    Related: Paying higher taxes can be very profitable.

     

    Posted in Academia, Civil Society, Education, Political Philosophy, USA | 19 Comments »

    “Full transcript: Defense Secretary James Mattis’ interview with The Islander”

    Posted by Jonathan on July 19th, 2017 (All posts by )

    Secretary Mattis responds to an interview request from a high-school student. The interview is worth reading and more informative than much of what appears in the adult press.

    (via Lex)

     

    Posted in Education, Europe, International Affairs, Media, Middle East, Military Affairs, National Security, Terrorism, Trump, War and Peace | 5 Comments »

    Worthwhile Watching

    Posted by David Foster on July 16th, 2017 (All posts by )

    A good video on the women who flew military aircraft in Britain during WWII.  Title is a little misleading, lots of airplane types other than Spitfires were involved.

     

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Britain, History, War and Peace | 6 Comments »

    Internal Secession ?

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on July 15th, 2017 (All posts by )

    The Trump Derangement Syndrome shows no sign of stopping. The alleged meeting between Russians and Donald Trump Jr is reaching a new level of fever.

    The anti-Trump mainstream media is buzzing with news that Rinat Akhmetshin, a Russian American lobbyist and veteran of the Soviet military, attended the June 2016 meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya.

    Rosalind Helderman and Tom Hamburger of the Washington Post insist that Akhmetshin’s presence “adds to the potential seriousness of the Trump Tower gathering that is emerging this week as the clearest evidence so far of interactions between Trump campaign officials and Russian interests.” I think they mean the only evidence.

    But now does the attendance of this lobbyist add to the “potential seriousness” of the “gathering”? If it was inappropriate for Trump Jr. to meet with one Russian lobbyist with probable Kremlin connections, the attendance of a second doesn’t make the meeting more inappropriate.

    The hysteria shows no sign of abating. What comes next ?

    “Resist” marches all over the country bring out thousands of leftists and feminists.

    Tens of thousands of LGBTQ folk and their allies marched through Hollywood and West Hollywood on Sunday for the Resist March, a protest which this year replaced the colorful and over-the-top celebratory atmosphere of a Pride parade.

    The event was billed as non-partisan, but unmistakeable was the heavy presence of marchers bearing anti-Trump signs, speakers decrying the administration’s immigration, healthcare and civil rights policies, and Democrats calling for a burst of activism to channel into the 2018 elections.

    Richard Fernandez has some thoughts on where this might go.

    Internal secession.

    Our trust hierarchies have collapsed. As with Soviet Russia, the “official” media sources are now distrusted as purveyors “fake news”. To fill the gap a peer-to-peer grapevine, similar to the “friends and family”, a samizdat is emerging to pick up the slack. Sonya Mann at Inc uses a startup to illustrate the growing division of society into trust groups. “Pax Dickinson wants to fund the revolution. Not a blood-in-the-streets revolution, but one where hardcore right-wingers can economically secede from the parts of society they vehemently dislike. “We need parallel everything. I do not want to ever have to spend a single dollar at a non-movement business.”

    That’s the right, the alt-right if you prefer.

    The left has already shown their willingness to boycott any business that does not follow their script.

    Ask Brenden Eich.

    Brendan Eich recently stepped down as CEO of Mozilla, developer of the Firefox Web browser. It may be more accurate to say he was forced out in the wake of a rising boycott against him. The backlash against Eich is related to his position on gay rights, but many feel that the campaign against him is its own form of discrimination and intolerance.

    His crime was to quietly donate $1000 to the Proposition Eight ballet initiative, which resulted in over 7 million yes votes and a 60% margin of approval. The proposition was ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge who promptly married his gay lover.

    California’s AG declined to appeal his ruling. That’s a pretty effective boycott.

    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Big Government, Civil Society, Politics, Texas | 18 Comments »

    Robot of the Week: The Audi Traffic Jam Pilot

    Posted by David Foster on July 15th, 2017 (All posts by )

    On certain roads, it is able to control the vehicle without driver involvement at speeds up to 37 mph.  The system, which in addition to the Traffic Jam Pilot also includes the Garage Pilot and the Parking Pilot, uses technology from Nvidia, Mobileye, and Delphi.

    Writeup

    Video

    The feature package is available (not sure if its optional or standard) with the 2018 model A8.

    Disclosure:  I’m an NVDA shareholder.

     

     

    Posted in Tech, Transportation | 12 Comments »

    Rerun Post: Bidwell-Bartleson, 1841

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on July 14th, 2017 (All posts by )

    The westward movement of Americans rolled west of the Appalachians and hung up for a decade or two on the barrier of the Mississippi-Missouri River. It was almost an interior sea-coast, the barrier between the settled lands, and the unpeopled and treeless desert beyond, populated by wild Indians. To be sure, there were scattered enclaves, as far-distant as the stars, in the age of “shanks’ mare” and team animals hitched to wagons, or led in a pack-train: far California, equally distant Oregon, the pueblos of Santa Fe, and Texas. A handful of men in exploring parties, or on trade had ventured out to the ends of the known continent … and by the winter of 1840 there were reports of what had been found. Letters, rumor, common talk among the newspapers, and meeting-places had put the temptation and the possibility in peoples’ minds, to the point where an emigrating society had been formed over that winter.

    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Diversions, History, Miscellaneous, Reruns | 5 Comments »

    Seth Barrett Tillman and Josh Blackman: Yes, Trump Can Accept Gifts

    Posted by Jonathan on July 13th, 2017 (All posts by )

    The NYT elevates itself by printing an op-ed by Professors Blackman and Tillman:

    The Constitution offers several remedies for a president’s improper foreign entanglements. Congress can regulate, by statute, the receipt of presents from other nations or require the president to make disclosures about his foreign commercial arrangements. Of course, as a last resort, the president can be impeached and removed from office for bribery. However, the Foreign Emoluments Clause can provide no redress in relation to a president’s foreign entanglements either in the courts or through the impeachment process, for the simple reason that the clause does not cover the president or any other elected officials.

    The piece is a concise presentation of Seth’s argument about the Emoluments clause. Worth reading in full.

     

    Posted in History, Law, Trump | No Comments »

    Summer Rerun: Sleeping with the Enemy

    Posted by David Foster on July 12th, 2017 (All posts by )

    Why has the western world shown such loss of will in defending itself from radical Islamic terrorism? Why, indeed, do substantial numbers of people–particularly those who view themselves as intellectuals–endlessly make excuses for belief systems and terrorist movements whose values are completely at odds with their own stated values–and even romanticize these systems and their followers? I think some clues can be found in a forgotten novel by Arthur Koestler.

    The Age of Longing (published in 1950) is set in Paris, “sometime in the 1950s,” in a world in which France–indeed all of western Europe–is facing the very real possibility of a Soviet invasion. Hydie Anderson, the protagonist, is a young American woman living in Paris with her father, a military attache. Hydie was a devout Catholic during her teens, but has lost her faith. She was briefly married, and has had several relationships with men, but in none of them has she found either physical or emotional satisfaction…she describes her life with a phrase from T S Eliot: “frigid purgatorial fires,” and she longs for a sense of connection:

    Hydie sipped at her glass. Here was another man living in his own portable glass cage. Most people she knew did. Each one inside a kind of invisible telephone box. They did not talk to you directly but through a wire. Their voices came through distorted and mostly they talked to the wrong number, even when they lay in bed with you. And yet her craving to smash the glass between the cages had come back again. If cafes were the home of those who had lost their country, bed was the sanctuary of those who had lost their faith.

    Through her friend Julien DeLattre, Hydie is introduced to a number of Paris intellectuals and and East European emigres. Members of the former group are mostly in denial about the danger of a Soviet attack…many of them have indeed convinced themselves that Communist rule wouldn’t be all that bad. For example, there’s Professor Pontieux (modeled on Sartre)…”He did not believe that the Commonwealth of Freedomloving People had solved all its problems and become an earthly paradise. But it was equally undeniable that it was an expression of History’s groping progress towards a new form of society, when it followed that those who opposed this progres were siding with the forces of reaction and preparing the way for conflict and war–the worst crime against Humanity.” Vardi, another intellectual, says that if he had to choose between the (American) juke box on one hand, and Pravda on another, he isn’t sure which he would pick.

    Madame Pontieux, modeled on Simone de Bouvoir (with whom Koestler had a brief affair) is less ambiguous about her choice among the alternatives. “You cannot enter a cafe or a restaurant without finding it full of Americans who behave as if the place belonged to them,” she complains to an American official. When the Russian emigre Leontiev suggests that France would not survive without American military support, pointing out that “nature abhors a vacuum,” she turns on him:

    “I am surprised at your moderation, Citizen Leontiev,” Madame Pontieux said sarcastically. “I thought you would tell us that without this young man’s protection the Commonwealth army would at once march to the Atlantic shore.”

    “It would,” said Leontiev. “I believed that everyone knew that.”

    “I refuse to believe it,” responds Madame Pontieux. “But if choose one must I would a hundred times rather dance to the music of a Balalaika than a juke box.”

    (The French intellectuals Koestler knew must have really hated juke boxes!)

    Julien is romantically interested in Hydie, but she is not attracted to him, despite the fact that he seems to have much to recommend him–a hero of the French Resistance, wounded in action, and a successful poet. On one occasion, she tells him that she could never sleep with him because they are too similar–“it would be like incest”..on another occasion, though, she tells him that “what I most dislike about you is your attitude of arrogant broken-heartedness.” Parallel to Hydie’s loss of religious faith is Julien’s loss of his secular faith in the creation of a new society. He does not now believe in utopia, or any approximation to same, but he does believe in the need to face reality, however unpleasant it may be. Hydie argues that the Leftists of their acquaintance may be silly, but at least they believe in something:

    “Perhaps they believe in a mirage–but isn’t it better to believe in a mirage than to believe in nothing?”

    Julien looked at her coldly, almost with contempt:

    “Definitely not. Mirages lead people astray. That’s why there are so many skeletons in the desert. Read more history. Its caravan-routes are strewn with the skeletons of people who were thirsting for faith–and their faith made them drink salt water and eat the sand, believing it was the Lord’s Supper.”

    At a diplomatic affair, Hydie meets Fedya, a committed Communist who works for the Soviet Embassy. She is powerfully attracted to him: things get physical very quickly and, from Hydie’s point of view, very satisfactorily. (Fedya is one of Koestler’s best-developed characters. His boyhood in Baku is vividly sketched, and Koestler–himself a former Communist–does a good job in showing how a political faith can become core to an individual’s whole personality.)

    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Book Notes, Christianity, Civil Liberties, Deep Thoughts, France, Political Philosophy, Terrorism | 10 Comments »

    Seth Barrett Tillman: A Response To Jane Chong’s Reading the Office of Legal Counsel on Emoluments: Do Super-Rich Presidents Get a Pass?

    Posted by Jonathan on July 11th, 2017 (All posts by )

    Once this error is noticed, the rest of Chong’s analysis falls apart. Chong can point to other language in Hoyt using “emolument of office.” It is there, and she takes it to mean that “emolument” can be used in a context unrelated to “office” and other employment-like relationships. But she offers nothing akin to proof for that bold claim. It is conceivable that the Hoyt Court added “of office” language to “emolument” because it believed that there were “emoluments” which were unrelated to office, but it is also possible that the Hoyt Court thought all “emoluments” were tied to office-and-employment-type relationships. Without her initial misreading of Hoyt or any other substantial reason to believe the former, the rest of her analysis makes no sense.

    Read the full text of Seth’s post.

     

    Posted in Law, Politics, Trump | 5 Comments »

    THAT AWKWARD TIME

    Posted by Subotai Bahadur on July 11th, 2017 (All posts by )

    You know the one I mean. When you can see what is coming at you head on, and yet it is considered very poor form in the proper circles to admit the truth.

    This is written on July 10, 2017. Tomorrow Congress returns from its VERY long weekend for the 4th of July. Note that they refer to it in official documents as the “4th of July” recess, for them the date is more important than the Independence of our country.

    By whatever name, it is the calendar that is of import. Remember, from tomorrow, our worthless, ambulatory violations of Article I, Section 9, Clause 8 of the Constitution take their next vacation after barely a fortnight and 3 days after returning. And they will take the end of July, all of August, and the first part of September off. Technically, there are 12 working days before that respite. Technically. But Congress cannot be troubled, regardless of supposed party, to actually work 5 days a week. Mondays and Fridays are part of the congressional weekend and are not to be profaned by the work of the public.

    So, what of that work remains to be done, and under what strictures?
    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in America 3.0, Big Government, Current Events, Elections, Politics | 14 Comments »

    Summer Re-run: Granny Clarke

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on July 10th, 2017 (All posts by )

    (A summer rerun from my other blog – a diverting reminiscence of California and Old Hollywood)

    Granny Clarke was the mother of my mothers’ dearest friend from the time that JP, my next-youngest brother and I were small children, before my sister Pippy was born, and my parents were living in a tiny rented cottage in the hills part of Beverly Hills – a house on a dirt road, with the surrounding area abundant in nothing much else but chaparral, eucalypts and rattlesnakes. Mom and her friend, who was eventually of such closeness that we called her “Auntie Mary” met when Mom began to attend services at a Lutheran congregation in West Hollywood, rather than endure the long drive to Pasadena and the ancestral congregation at Trinity Lutheran in Pasadena.
    Auntie Mary Hammond was a little older than Mom, with four sons, each more strapping than the other, in spite of Auntie Mary’s wistful hopes for one of them to have been a girl. The oldest were teenagers, the youngest slightly younger than JP . . . although Paulie was as large and boisterous as his older brothers and appeared to be more my contemporary. They lived all together with Auntie Mary Hammonds’ mother, Granny Clarke, in a townhouse in West Hollywood, an intriguing house built on a steeply sloping street, up a flight of stairs from the concrete sidewalk, with only a tiny garden at one side, and the constant background noise and bustle of the city all around, not the quiet wilderness of the hills, which JP and I were more used to. But there was one thing we had in common with Paulie and his brothers— an immigrant grandparent with a curious accent and a long career in domestic service in Southern California.
    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Business, Customer Service, Film, History, Personal Narrative | 7 Comments »

    Summer Rerun: The Calendar is Not Omnipotent

    Posted by David Foster on July 7th, 2017 (All posts by )

    Here’s a video of Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser reacting to a Muslim Brotherhood demand that women be required to wear head coverings.  Nasser and his listeners are quite amused that anyone would propose such an idea in the modern year of 1958.  The video reminded me of this post from March 2014…

    Barack Obama and John Kerry have been ceaselessly lecturing Vlad Putin to the effect that: grabbing territory from other countries just isn’t the sort of thing one does in this twenty-first century, old boy.

    For example, here’s Obama: “…because you’re bigger and stronger taking a piece of the country – that is not how international law and international norms are observed in the 21st century.”

    And John Kerry:  “It’s really 19th century behavior in the twenty-first century. You just don’t invade another country on phony pretexts in order to assert your interests.”

    The idea that the mere passage of time has some automatic magical effect on national behavior…on human behavior…is simplistic, and more than a little odd.  I don’t know how much history Obama and Kerry actually studied during their college years, but 100 years ago..in early 1914…there were many, many people convinced that a major war could not happen…because we were now in the twentieth century, with international trade and with railroads and steamships and telegraph networks and electric lights and all. And just 25 years after that, quite a few people refused to believe that concentration camps devoted to systematic murder could exist in the advanced mid-20th century, in the heart of Europe.

    Especially simplistic is the idea that, because there had been no military territory-grabs by first-rank powers for a long time, that the era of such territory-grabs was over. George Eliot neatly disposed of this idea many years ago, in a passage in her novel Silas Marner:

    The sense of security more frequently springs from habit than from conviction, and for this reason it often subsists after such a change in the conditions as might have been expected to suggest alarm. The lapse of time during which a given event has not happened is, in this logic of habit, constantly alleged as a reason why the event should never happen, even when the lapse of time is precisely the added condition which makes the event imminent.

    Or, as Mark Steyn put it much more recently:

    ‘Stability’ is a surface illusion, like a frozen river: underneath, the currents are moving, and to the casual observer the ice looks equally ‘stable’ whether there’s a foot of it or just two inches. There is no status quo in world affairs: ‘stability’ is a fancy term to dignify laziness and complacency as sophistication.

    Obama also frequently refers to the Cold War, and argues that it is in the past. But the pursuit of force-based territorial gain by nations long predates the Cold War, and it has not always had much to do with economic rationality. The medieval baron with designs on his neighbor’s land didn’t necessarily care about improving his own standard of living, let alone that of his peasants–what he was after, in many cases, was mainly the ego charge of being top dog.

    Human nature was not repealed by the existence of steam engines and electricity in 1914…nor even by the broad Western acceptance of Christianity in that year…nor is it repealed in 2014 by computers and the Internet or by sermons about “multiculturalism” and bumper stickers calling for “coexistence.”

    American Digest just linked a very interesting analysis of the famous “long telegram” sent by George Kennan in 1947: George Kennan, Vladimir Putin, and the Appetites of Men. In this document, Kennan argued that Soviet behavior must be understood not only through the prism of Communist ideology, but also in terms of the desire of leaders to establish and maintain personal power.

    Regarding the current Russian/Crimean situation, the author of the linked article (Tod Worner) says:

    In the current crisis, many will quibble about the historical, geopolitical complexities surrounding the relationship between Russia, Ukraine and Crimea. They will debate whether Crimea’s former inclusion in the Russian Empire or Crimea’s restive Russian population justifies secession especially with a strong Russian hand involved. Papers will be written. Conferences will be convened. Experts will be consulted. Perhaps these are all prudent and thoughtful notions to consider and actions to undertake. Perhaps.

    But perhaps we should, like George Kennan, return to the same questions we have been asking about human nature since the beginning of time. Maybe we are, at times, overthinking things. Perhaps we would do well to step back and consider something more fundamental, something more base, something more reliable than the calculus of geopolitics and ideology…Perhaps we ignore the simple math that is often before our very eyes. May we open our eyes to the appetites of men.

     

    Posted in Deep Thoughts, History, Humor, Leftism, Middle East, Obama, Russia, USA, War and Peace | 11 Comments »

    Seth Barrett Tillman: A Response to Fonzone & Geltzer’s Can President Trump Just Leave Key Executive Branch Offices Unfilled?

    Posted by Jonathan on July 7th, 2017 (All posts by )

    In a recent post on Lawfare, Christopher Fonzone and Joshua A. Geltzer ask the question: “Is the persistent and deliberate failure to identify candidates [for appointed federal positions] not merely a sign of inept governance and deadlocked politics but also, at least in certain cases, a legal failing as well?” Their answer is basically: yes. Their position is worth pondering. I do think several of their arguments do not work, and several others are not well supported.

    Read Seth’s entire post.

     

    Posted in Law, Politics, Trump | 1 Comment »

    Why Does This Happen?

    Posted by Jonathan on July 6th, 2017 (All posts by )

    Skype used to be the premier VOIP app (long before we called such things apps). It always had a crummy user interface but call quality was excellent and users put up with the rough edges. However, since Microsoft bought Skype call quality has declined, seemingly steadily. There are frequent software updates that don’t improve the user experience and sometimes introduce new problems. With its Skype updates on Windows MSFT forces you to opt out a la Java from having your browser configuration hijacked. Calls get dropped more than they used to. Calls that don’t go through are much more frequent. Bandwidth now seems to affect call quality even though it was once possible to use Skype easily over dialup Internet connections.

    This morning I tried to make a Skype call on my mobile and found there had been another upgrade, forcing me to waste minutes selecting a new background color and dismissing what’s-new pages and trying to find my contacts list, which is all I ever want to do. I don’t want to invite my contacts to use Skype, I don’t care about inserting GIFs into chats, I don’t care about the Skype community. I care about good, consistent call quality, about having my list of phone numbers propagate automatically to laptop or phone when I update the list, about having a Skype number for incoming calls, and about easy management of occasional conferences and international calls. I used to care about video calling but I gave up since good alternatives appeared. If Skype could restore its past high call quality I could happily put up with the other hassles. If Skype could also improve its UI in a few obvious ways I would be thrilled. It never happens. Why not?

    A company with a great product conspicuously fails to improve that product and it starts to lag competing products. Or a big company buys a small company and ruins its main product. MSFT’s management is no doubt part of the problem here but the pattern is familiar. Why is it familiar? You might think the smart people running MSFT would know better. Perhaps they don’t, perhaps this is a more difficult problem than it appears to be. Or perhaps something else is going on.

    Discuss.

     

    Posted in Business, Management, Organizational Analysis, Tech | 20 Comments »

    Summer Rerun: Selling New Concepts can be Challenging

    Posted by David Foster on July 6th, 2017 (All posts by )

    Via Maggie’s Farm, here’s a Bob Newhart skit from 1970. Bob plays the role of an 1890s-style venture capitalist, talking on the phone with inventor Herman Hollerith, who is trying to explain the merits of punched card technology.

    LINK

    Related: Father, Son & Co., the biography of long-time IBM CEO Thomas Watson Jr, is the best business autobiography I’ve read. I reviewed it here.

     

    Posted in Advertising, Book Notes, Business, History, Media, Tech | 1 Comment »

    What to do about North Korea

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on July 5th, 2017 (All posts by )

    The North Koreans launched a new two stage missile, which signals more escalation of their part.

    The two-stage missile launched Tuesday by North Korea will be classified by US intelligence as a brand-new missile that has not been seen before, US officials told CNN.

    The first stage of the missile is believed to be a KN-17 liquid fueled missile, which is well-known to US intelligence and has been previously launched by North Korea.

    Ahead of Tuesday’s missile test, US satellites had seen evidence the KN-17 missile was being prepared for launch.
    But at some point prior to launch, the North Koreans attached a second stage atop that missile.
    The focus now is on the capability of that second stage, and how it technically contributed to making Pyongyang’s latest test its first ever intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launch.

    The next step will be the development of a solid fuel missile which could be launched with little warning.

    NK launch

    The trajectory was high and short but the second stage could be programmed to go much longer range.

    It is apparent that the US policy going back to Bill Clinton and his “Deal” to stop the Norks nuclear program, has been a complete failure, like so many of Clinton’s deals.

    On Oct. 18, 1994, Clinton approved a plan to arrange more than $4 billion in energy aid to North Korea over the course of a decade, in return for a commitment from the country’s Communist leadership to freeze and gradually dismantle its nuclear weapons development program, according to The New York Times.

    The “complex” deal was to de-escalate the situation on the Korean peninsula, where the two Korean nations never negotiated a peace treaty after the Korean War ended in armistice in 1953.

    “This agreement is good for the United States, good for our allies, and good for the safety of the entire world,” said Clinton in 1994. “It’s a crucial step toward drawing North Korea into the global community.

    The drawing-in never happened.

    I can only imagine what Hillary Clinton would do if she were President. The mind boggles at the thought.

    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Current Events, Korea, Military Affairs, Terrorism, United Nations | 30 Comments »

    The Most Busted Name in News

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on July 5th, 2017 (All posts by )

    Just when I thought the national establishment news media had about reached the nadir of unethical, irresponsible and unprofessional behavior, here comes CNN, the bane of travelers stuck in airport terminals and hapless patients in doctors’ office waiting rooms everywhere. to say, “Hold my beer and watch this!’
    I refer to the story percolating out over the Fourth of July holiday, over how the fearless newshounds at CNN tracked down the guy (with the nic of Han*ssholeSolo) who appears to have created the GIF of a pro-wrestling Donald Trump slamming an opponent – helpfully labeled CNN – which the president retweeted late last week, to the great amusement of an audience who appreciates unsubtle humor like that. CNN apparently does not appreciate unsubtle humor, especially when directed at them, and forthwith one of their senior editors, one Andrew Kaczynski, tracked down the possible originator of the Trump/CNN wrestling GIF, and demanded an apology from Han*ssholeSolo. Or else they would – in the charming manner which certain pestiferous and malicious trolls display when it comes to tormenting the objects of their ire – doxx him and allow the flying monkeys of the internet lynch mob get their jollies by making his life miserable. And make the lives of his family, his neighbors, employer, and anyone who could possibly be mistaken for him also miserable. The originator, Han*ssholeSolo, may or may not be a fifteen-year-old, and may or may not have had other more or less embarrassing materiel on his page – materiel which if unsavory enough likely gave CNN leverage against him in making demands in the first place.
    So – basically, they coerced an abject apology by threatening to turn the white-hot spotlight on him now and in the future if he doesn’t obey orders to the satisfaction of CNN … and then went right out and proudly announced what they had done to the world. This Andrew Kaczynski, I was reminded, was the one chiefly responsible for siccing the flying monkey lynch mob on Justine Sacco, some years ago. That this whole disgusting matter can be construed as extortion doesn’t seem to have occurred to CNN, although it certainly has to just about everyone else.
    And it is just possible that the video materiel of Trump and CNN which Trump tweeted may not be the original material created by Han*ssholeSolo anyway, if this story is correct.
    Discuss. Practically everyone else is today, anyway.

     

    Posted in Commiserations, Culture, Current Events, Internet, Just Unbelievable, Media | 11 Comments »

    Shall It Be Sustained?

    Posted by David Foster on July 4th, 2017 (All posts by )

    For the 4th of July of 2014,  Cassandra had an excellent post:  Independence in an Age of Cynicism.  I recommend the entire post and all the links; read especially the third linked essay, which Cass wrote in 2008:  Why I Am Patriotic: a Love Letter to America.

    For the last several years, on July 4th I’ve posted an excerpt from Stephen Vincent Benet’s poem Listen to the People.  The title I’ve used for these posts prior to 2013 was It Shall Be Sustained, which is from the last line of Benet’s poem.

    Narrator:

    This is Independence Day,
    Fourth of July, the day we mean to keep,
    Whatever happens and whatever falls
    Out of a sky grown strange;
    This is firecracker day for sunburnt kids,
    The day of the parade,
    Slambanging down the street.
    Listen to the parade!
    There’s J. K. Burney’s float,
    Red-white-and-blue crepe-paper on the wheels,
    The Fire Department and the local Grange,
    There are the pretty girls with their hair curled
    Who represent the Thirteen Colonies,
    The Spirit of East Greenwich, Betsy Ross,
    Democracy, or just some pretty girls.
    There are the veterans and the Legion Post
    (Their feet are going to hurt when they get home),
    The band, the flag, the band, the usual crowd,
    Good-humored, watching, hot,
    Silent a second as the flag goes by,
    Kidding the local cop and eating popsicles,
    Jack Brown and Rosie Shapiro and Dan Shay,
    Paul Bunchick and the Greek who runs the Greek’s,
    The black-eyed children out of Sicily,
    The girls who giggle and the boys who push,
    All of them there and all of them a nation.
    And, afterwards,
    There’ll be ice-cream and fireworks and a speech
    By somebody the Honorable Who,
    The lovers will pair off in the kind dark
    And Tessie Jones, our honor-graduate,
    Will read the declaration.
    That’s how it is. It’s always been that way.
    That’s our Fourth of July, through war and peace,
    That’s our fourth of July.

    And a lean farmer on a stony farm
    Came home from mowing, buttoned up his shirt
    And walked ten miles to town.
    Musket in hand.
    He didn’t know the sky was falling down
    And, it may be, he didn’t know so much.
    But people oughtn’t to be pushed around
    By kings or any such.
    A workman in the city dropped his tools.
    An ordinary, small-town kind of man
    Found himself standing in the April sun,
    One of a ragged line
    Against the skilled professionals of war,
    The matchless infantry who could not fail,
    Not for the profit, not to conquer worlds,
    Not for the pomp or the heroic tale
    But first, and principally, since he was sore.
    They could do things in quite a lot of places.
    They shouldn’t do them here, in Lexington.

    He looked around and saw his neighbors’ faces

    The poem is very long, and is worth reading in full. The full text was published in Life Magazine; it is online here. The Life text may be a little difficult to read; I posted an excerpt which is considerably longer than the above here.

    Benet’s poem ends with these words:

    We made it and we make it and it’s ours
    We shall maintain it. It shall be sustained

    But shall it?

     

    Posted in History, Holidays, USA | 3 Comments »