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  • Archive for the 'Biography' Category

    Book Review: Father, Son, & Co., by Thomas Watson Jr and Peter Petre (rerun)

    Posted by David Foster on 8th April 2014 (All posts by )

    (Yesterday marked the 50th anniversary of the announcement of the IBM System/360 series (original press release here)…seems like a good time to rerun this book review, which I originally posted in 2011)

    Buy the book: Father, Son & Co.

    —-

    When Tom Watson Jr was 10 years old, his father came home and proudly announced that he had changed the name of his company. The business that had been known as the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company would now be known by the grand name International Business Machines.

    That little outfit?” thought young Tom to himself, picturing the company’s rather random-seeming collection of products, which included time clocks, coffee grinders, and scales, and the “cigar-chomping guys” who sold them. This was in 1924.

    This is the best business autobiography I’ve read. It’s about Watson Jr, his difficult relationship with his father, the company they built, and the emergence of the computing industry. It is an emotional, reflective, and self-critical book, without the kind of “here’s how brilliant I was” tone that afflicts too many executive autobiographies. With today being IBM’s 100th anniversary (counting from the incorporation of CTR), I thought it would be a good time to finally get this review finished and posted.

    Watson’s relationship with his father was never an easy one. From an early age, he sensed a parental expectation that he would follow his father into IBM, despite both his parents assuring him that this was not the case and he could do whatever he wanted. This feeling that his life course was defined in advance, combined with fear that he would never be able to measure up to his increasingly-famous father, was likely a factor in the episodes of severe depression which afflicted him from 13 to 19. In college Watson was an indifferent student and something of a playboy. His most significant accomplishment during this period was learning to fly airplanes—-”I’d finally discovered something I was good at”–a skill that would have great influence on his future. His first job at IBM, as a trainee salesman, did little to boost his self-confidence or his sense of independence: he was aware that local IBM managers were handing him easy accounts, wanting to ensure success for the chief executive’s son. It was only when Watson joined the Army Air Force during WWII–he flew B-24s and was based in Russia, assisting General Follett Bradley in the organization of supply shipments to the Soviet Union–that he proved to himself that he could succeed without special treatment. As the war wound down, he set his sights on becoming an airline pilot–General Bradley expressed surprise, saying “Really? I always thought you’d go back and run the IBM company.” This expression of confidence, from a man he greatly respected, helped influence Watson to give IBM another try.

    The products that Watson had been selling, as a junior salesman, were punched card systems. Although these were not computers in the modern sense of the word, they could be used to implement some pretty comprehensive information systems. Punched card systems were an important enabler of the increasing dominance of larger organizations in both business and government: the Social Security Act of 1935 was hugely beneficial to IBM both because of the systems they sold to the government directly and those sold to businesses needing to keep up with the required record-keeping.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Biography, Book Notes, Business, Management, Tech | 13 Comments »

    In Another Era, She’d Be a Gigantic Star

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 25th February 2014 (All posts by )

    At the Gene Siskel Film Center in Chicago they have a lot of great films. In addition to interesting and artistic films, I also enjoy the fact that they have very few previews and no commercials as well as the fact that you can buy a beer while you are watching a movie.

    Bettie Page Reveals All is a documentary about the iconic fashion / fetish model Bettie Page. For me, the most interesting facet of the movie was not discussed at all; what would have happened had Bettie Page been a modern celebrity instead of one who retired from public life in the late 1950s.

    When Bettie Page stopped doing photo shoots, she simply fell off the face of the earth. In those days it was easy to hide; records weren’t online, the web doesn’t provide a central place for people to (inadvertently) pool information, and it doesn’t take an instant to upload a stalker photo to twitter. She never provided any other photos after her shoots, so that’s how the world knows her today. As George said in Seinfeld, she “left on a high note”.

    Bettie Page, however, had actual skills and intelligence. In the documentary they showed her high school transcript and she barely missed being the valedictorian of her high school class which would have given her a college scholarship. Unlike modern “celebrities” who became famous solely due to a “s*x tape”, Bettie Page designed and sewed many of her own costumes. She also had a lot of personality and took control of the photo shoots and could (sort of) act. Compared to 99% of the “celebrities” today, she had talent.

    Alas, like many of the modern celebrities we wouldn’t name her because we don’t want the traffic, she was bi-polar and ended up spending several years in a mental institution after she stabbed her landlord in a psychotic episode. In the end her story had a semi-happy ending because Hugh Hefner found her a lawyer who got her royalties for all the various things being made with her iconic image on it so that she at least had some money in her retirement years.

    Cross posted at LITGM

    Posted in Biography | 6 Comments »

    James Kent on the American Founding

    Posted by Lexington Green on 9th September 2013 (All posts by )

    Happily for this country, we received our jurisprudence from England in its highest vigour, and in its most cultivated state. The leading statesmen in the colonies, and especially the members of the bar, had the sagacity to perceive, and the courage and patriotism to assert, the indefeasible title of their countrymen to all the securities and blessings of the English common law. They had inherited its free and liberal spirit, and in almost every colony there were individual lawyers, equal in character, learning, and eloquence, to their brethren in the courts of the parent state. They were lawyers of the old school, who actually led on the American revolution. They were the daring patriots and intelligent statesmen who roused their countrymen to the duty of insisting on the exclusive right of self-taxation, and to all the other liberties and privileges of English subjects, resting on the basis of the common law, and the sacred stipulations of chartered contracts. It was the lawyers that guided the deliberations of the congress of 1774, and penned its admirable addresses, and stimulated their associates to unite with them in pouring forth their grievances and their exhausted patience, and their determined purpose, in the monumental act of independence.

    An Address Delivered Before the Law Association of the City of New York, October 1, 1836, by The Hon. James Kent.

    We had this to say about James Kent in America 3.0:

    We ended up with a common American legal culture for reasons beyond the Constitution. In the early years of the country there was popular animosity toward anything English and some resistance to relying on the Common Law and English precedent. American lawyers and judges rejected this notion and created an American style of law that was continuous with England’s, though not the same. They managed to keep this system roughly consistent across the entire country by relying on legal treatises that were considered authoritative. The most important example was James Kent’s Commentaries on American Law, which went through many editions.

    Chancellor Kent was one of the most important lawyers and legal thinkers in the history of the Anglosphere. America is an enormous free trade area where business can be transacted efficiently over 3.7 million square miles among 310 million, or more, Americans. We have a common legal culture which makes this possible in significant part due to the work of Chancellor Kent.

    The lawyers never get any credit, though Ronald Coase appreciated what they contribute. The quote above shows that James Kent not only made a quiet, almost invisible contribution to founding our nation. He also understood and appreciated what the lawyers of the Founding generation gave us, precisely because they were thinking as lawyers and made a legal case for our independence, and preserved the legal culture we had inherited from Britain, the common law — though of course with American characteristics.

    Posted in America 3.0, Anglosphere, Arts & Letters, Biography, Book Notes, Law, Politics, Uncategorized, USA | 7 Comments »

    Ronald Coase, 1910-2013

    Posted by Lexington Green on 3rd September 2013 (All posts by )

    This blog is, after all, called “Chicago Boyz.” One of the greatest and most influential economists of all time, Prof. Coase was for many years a Chicago Boy. A career spanning eight decades has now come to an end.

    The official University of Chicago obituary is here.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in America 3.0, Biography, Book Notes, Chicagoania, Economics & Finance, Obits, Quotations | 5 Comments »

    History Friday: With Winston Churchill at the Front

    Posted by Lexington Green on 23rd August 2013 (All posts by )

    I am reading Churchill: A Study in Failure (1970), by Robert Rhodes James. It is a famous book, which describes Churchill’s career up to 1939. It is an excellent book as of page 132/385. In fact, it is so good, I now want to read other things by this author.

    A relatively little-known episode in Churchill’s career was his uniformed service at the front in World War I. Following the failure of the Gallipoli campaign, which was Churchill’s brainchild, he was driven out of the cabinet, where he had been First Lord of the Admiralty. Churchill volunteered for active service, and was given the command of the 6th Royal Scots Fusiliers battalion from January to May, 1916.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Anglosphere, Biography, Book Notes, Britain, History, Military Affairs, Quotations | 7 Comments »

    When Law Yields to Absolute Power

    Posted by David Foster on 18th July 2013 (All posts by )

    Three years ago, I reviewed the important and well-written memoirs of Sebastian Haffner, who grew up in Germany between the wars. I think the state of affairs in America today makes it appropriate to re-post some excerpts from the review and from the book.

    In 1933, when Hitler became Chancellor, Haffner was working as a junior lawyer (refendar) in the Prussian High Court, the Kammergericht. He was comforted by the continuity of the legal process:

    The newspapers might report that the constitution was in ruins. Here every paragraph of the Civil Code was still valid and was mulled over and analyzed as carefully as ever…The Chancellor could daily utter the vilest abuse against the Jews; there was nonetheless still a Jewish Kammergerichtsrat (high court judge) and member of our senate who continued to give his astute and careful judgments, and these judgments had the full weight of the law and could set the entire apparatus of the state in motion for their enforcement–even if the highest office-holder of that state daily called their author a ‘parasite’, a ‘subhuman’ or a ‘plague’.

    In spring of that year, Haffner attended Berlin’s Carnival–an event at which one would find a girlfriend or boyfriend for the night and exchange phone numbers in the morning…”By then you usually know whether it is the start of something that you would like to take further, or whether you have just earned yourself a hangover.” He had a hard time getting in the Carnival mood, however:

    All at once I had a strange, dizzy feeling. I felt as though I was inescapably imprisoned with all these young people in a giant ship that was rolling and pitching. We were dancing on its lowest, narrowest deck, while on the bridge it was being decided to flood that deck and drown every last one of us.

    …..

    Though it was not really relevant to current events, my father’s immense experience of the period from 1870 to 1933 was deployed to calm me down and sober me up. He treated my heated emotions with gentle irony…It took me quite a while to realize that my youthful excitability was right and my father’s wealth of experience was wrong; that there are things that cannot be dealt with by calm skepticism.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Biography, Book Notes, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Germany, History, Law, USA | 16 Comments »

    Famous quotes from famous people

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 21st June 2013 (All posts by )

    Chelsea Clinton is starting on her career in feminist politics.

    At a “Women Deliver” meeting:

    Chelsea Clinton said that her much-admired maternal grandmother was the child of unwed teenage parents who “did not have access to services that are so crucial that Planned Parenthood helps provide.”

    I have to acknowledge that I agree with her. Imagine no Hillary Clinton !

    This is what we have to look forward to in politicians and news readers.

    “I hope that telling stories through ‘Making a Difference’ – as in my academic work and nonprofit work – will help me to live my grandmother’s adage of ‘Life is not about what happens to you, but about what you do with what happens to you.’”

    Is that the grandmother who shoulda been aborted ?

    Posted in Biography, Current Events, Philosophy, Speeches | 21 Comments »

    Coming Soon, to Places Near You?

    Posted by David Foster on 5th May 2013 (All posts by )

    I’ve written before about Rose Wilder Lane, the writer and political thinker. In 1926, Rose and her friend Helen Dore Boylston, both then living in Paris, decided to buy a Model T Ford and drive it to Albania. I recently picked up the book Travels With Zenobia, which is the chronicle of their adventure.

    Acquisition of the car–a “glamorized” 1926 model which was maroon in color rather than the traditional Ford black–went smoothly. Acquisition of the proper government documentation allowing them to actually drive it–not so much:

    Having bought this splendid Ford, my friend and I set out to get permission to drive it, and to drive it out of Paris and out of France. We worked separately, to make double use of time. For six weeks we worked, steadily, every day and every hour the Government offices were open. When they closed, we met to rest in the lovely leisure of a cafe and compared notes and considered ways of pulling wires…

    One requirement was twelve passport pictures of that car…But this was a Ford, naked from the factory; not a detail nor a mark distinguished it from the millions of its kind; yet I had to engage a photographer to take a full-radiator-front picture of it, where it still stood in the salesroom, and to make twelve prints, each certified to be a portrait of that identical car. The proper official pasted these, one by one, in my presence, to twelve identical documents, each of which was filled out in ink, signed and counter-signed, stamped and tax-stamped; and, of course, I paid for them…

    After six hard-working weeks, we had all the car’s papers. Nearly an inch think they were, laid flat. Each was correctly signed and stamped, each had in addition the little stamp stuck on, showing that the tax was paid that must be paid on every legal document; this is the Stamp tax that Americans refused to pay. I believe we had license plates besides; I know we had drivers’ licenses.

    Gaily at last we set out in our car, and in the first block two policemen stopped us…Being stopped by the police was not unusual, of course. The car’s papers were in its pocket, and confidently I handed them over, with our personal papers, as requested.

    The policemen examined each one, found it in order, and noted it in their little black books. Then courteously they arrested us.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Biography, Book Notes, Europe, France, History, Libertarianism, Political Philosophy | 3 Comments »

    Enthusiasm Without Constraints

    Posted by Jonathan on 6th April 2013 (All posts by )

    Martin Kramer’s essay about Muhammad Asad: born Leopold Weiss in Vienna, Jewish convert to Islam, journalist, Islamic activist/reformer, Saudi courtier, anti-Zionist, Pakistani diplomat, translator of the Koran, lifelong wanderer. An interesting story.

    Posted in Biography, History, Islam | 1 Comment »

    History Friday: Houston and Lincoln

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 8th March 2013 (All posts by )

    It’s an old-fashioned study in contrasts, to look at the two of them, Abraham Lincoln and Sam Houston; both political giants, both of them a linchpin around which a certain point of American history turned, both of them men of the frontier. The similarities continue from that point: both of them almost entirely self-educated, as lawyers among other things, and from reading accounts by their contemporaries, it is clear that each possessed an enormous amount of personal charm. In their own time, though, each of them also acquired equally enormous numbers of bitter enemies. In fact, for a hero-founder of Texas, Houston attracted a considerable degree of vitriol from his contemporaries, and a level of published vilification which was not bettered until Lincoln appeared on the national scene as the presidential candidate favored by the north in the 1860 election. And both of them had ups and downs in their political and personal lives, although it’s hard to argue that Lincoln’s personal story arc was anything as eventful as Houston’s – the ADHD child of Jacksonian-era politics.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in America 3.0, Biography, History | 5 Comments »

    Sixty Years after Stalin

    Posted by Zenpundit on 6th March 2013 (All posts by )

    Sixty years ago one of the greatest monsters in history, a mass-murderer of tens of millions many times over, the yellow-eyed, “Kremlin mountaineer”  breathed his last.

    We live, deaf to the land beneath us,
    Ten steps away no one hears our speeches,
    All we hear is the Kremlin mountaineer,
    The murderer and peasant-slayer.
    His fingers are fat as grubs
    And the words, final as lead weights, fall from his lips,
    His cockroach whiskers leer
    And his boot tops gleam.
    Around him a rabble of thin-necked leaders -
    fawning half-men for him to play with.
    They whinny, purr or whine
    As he prates and points a finger,
    One by one forging his laws, to be flung
    Like horseshoes at the head, to the eye or the groin.
    And every killing is a treat
    For the broad-chested Ossete.
    - Osip Mandelstam

    So great was the terror he had inflicted that many of his victims, dazed and bloodied by decades of fear, savage oppression and war, openly wept. The greatest fear of the late dictator’s closest henchmen and accomplices, who had more than likely escaped the conveyor belt of torture, gulag and execution only by their master’s death, was that the people would think that they had murdered their dear vozhd and would storm the Kremlin and tear them to pieces.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Biography, Europe, History, Leftism, Russia, War and Peace | 27 Comments »

    Presidents’ Day: Amity Schlaes’ biography of Coolidge

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 18th February 2013 (All posts by )

    Very little attention is being paid to the holiday today, except as a traffic annoyance. When I was a child, we still celebrated Lincoln’s birthday (February 12) and Washington’s birthday (February 22). Since the holidays were combined and made into a long weekend, like most other American holidays, interest has declined in the subject. It has been for many years the weekend of the Midwinter yacht races in southern California, so I enjoyed it as much as anyone.

    Amity Schlaes’ new biography of Coolidge, which has been delayed for nearly a year from the original date promised, is now out and I have begun reading it. It has also attracted a hostile review in the New York Times by Jacob Heilbrunn author of such profound works as God Bless Bernie Sanders, an encomium on the Socialist Senator from the “people’s republic of Vermont”, as it is known in New Hampshire, and another tiresome attack on Justice Clarence Thomas and his wife.

    Mr Heilbrunn does not seem to be an economist and I am not certain of his qualifications to criticize President Coolidge, other than the obvious invitation by the New York Times.

    James Ceaser, a political scientist at the University of Virginia and a regular contributor to The Weekly Standard, said it was important to revive the “moral stigma” of debt, and added, “I want to go back to Coolidge and even McKinley.” The Claremont fellow Charles Kesler, author of “I Am the Change,” a recent book denouncing President Obama and liberalism, agreed: “We’re in for a Coolidge revival.”

    Indeed we are. Coolidge was a figure of sport in his own era. H. L. Mencken mocked his daily naps — “Nero fiddled, but Coolidge only snored” — and Dorothy Parker reportedly asked, “How could they tell?” when his death was announced. But such quips have only heightened the determination of a growing contingent of Coolidge buffs to resurrect him. They abhor the progressive tradition among Democrats (Woodrow Wilson) and Republicans (Theodore Roosevelt and Herbert Hoover) as hostile to big business and prosperity. Instead, their aim is to spread the austere doctrine of what might be called Republican Calvinism.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Biography, Blogging, Book Notes, Business, Civil Society, Conservatism, Coolidge, Economics & Finance, History, Holidays, Leftism, Political Philosophy, Politics | 9 Comments »

    Great Moments in Wife-Selection

    Posted by David Foster on 10th January 2013 (All posts by )

    There’s an amusing incident in a recent biography of Erich Maria Remarque. Remarque immigrated to the United States in 1939, and in the 1950s he came to a friend with a dilemma: two women were pursuing him.

    “So I said, ‘Oh, really, Erich, that sounds terrible, who are they?’ ‘Well,’ he said, ‘one of them is Paulette Goddard and the other is Marlene Dietrich.’ So I said, ‘Well, Erich, my God, you’re in real trouble here.’ But he was deadly serious. ‘Which one do you think I should go for, Douglas? ‘That is a terrible dilemma, Erich, I mean, my God, this is something we have to think about very carefully.’ ‘You know,’ he said, ‘Marlene is very attractive, but Paulette is really good at the stock market. I think I should go for Paulette.’ So I said to him, ‘Well, Erich, the stock market is very important, no doubt about that.’

    As a Remarque fan, I certainly hope he was kidding about this decision process. (Which would tend to belie the title of the linked autobiography: Erich Maria Remarque: The Last Romantic.)

    In any event, he did marry Paulette Goddard, and (unlike his previous marriages and relationships), the marriage lasted. (Given Remarque’s comment about the stock market, I was wondering if there was any data on her long-term annualized rate of return–the comment here about “her talent at accumulating wealth” suggests that it was probably pretty good.)

    And more recently, we have Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos who, when he wrote down a list of attributes he wanted for his future wife, included  “a woman who could get me out of a third-world prison.”

    “It was really just a visualization for resourcefulness,” he clarifies,  ”because people who are not resourceful drive me bananas.”

    Jeff married MacKenzie Bezos, a writer, in 1993. I can’t speak to her jail-springing skills, but I’ve read her novel The Testing of Luther Albright…I wasn’t all that impressed with it on first reading, but went back and read it again and thought it was quite good.

     

    Posted in Biography, Book Notes, Human Behavior, Humor, Media | 11 Comments »

    Consumer Question – 23andme

    Posted by Ginny on 7th December 2012 (All posts by )

    The musings on the random and tragic nature of life remind us of how little we know – and control. But it reminded me of the marketing of a step toward more control: how good are the DNA products? My daughter’s friend, visiting for Thanksgiving, sent her spit to 23andme. The results included a genetic tendency toward weight-related diseases, which led her to a diet and gym membership. Not surprisingly, it linked her with her mother, but also with a cousin neither she nor her mother knew existed. They met, looked each other over, compared notes: they were cousins.

    Anyway, she sat in our living room flipping through her smart phone (it gives monthly updates); she was vulnerable to diabetes but less so to Parkinson’s. Genetic weaknesses are becoming obvious as we near retirement; unfortunately, we learn our vulnerabilities at every office visit.

    Still, has anyone done this or similar ones? How accurate, how useful, and how much does this (or do others) add to the cloud-knowledge of genes & disease? (Other friends used a different site, but learned what human history would say – that they were both from England and before that Africa.)

    Of course, whether it is worth the money or not, whether it is accurate or not, ignores the big question: does such knowledge lead us to believe we have an autonomy still not – never will be – ours? Will knowing more of “who we are” mislead or arm us?

    Posted in Biography, Blegs, Science | 5 Comments »

    Noor Inayat Khan Statue is Unveiled

    Posted by David Foster on 8th November 2012 (All posts by )

    A statue of this British-Indian woman, who served as an agent for the WWII British underground organization known as Special Operations Executive, has been unveiled in London. BBC story here. (Thanks to Lexington Green for the heads-up)

    I wrote about Noor in this post. Also:

    A review of a book by Leo Marks, who was SOE’s Codemaster

    Posts about other SOE agents:

    Violette Szabo

    Krystyna Skarbek

    Posted in Biography, Book Notes, Britain, Europe, France, Germany, War and Peace | 1 Comment »

    When It Was Natural for Parents to Bury Their Children

    Posted by Ginny on 15th July 2012 (All posts by )

    History gives us breadth: people in action on a grand stage, consequential ideas with great if unforeseen consequences; the demographer’s statistics and tables distil huge movements into tables we can wrap our minds around. But literature, whether consciously or unconsciously, whether reporting or reflecting, chooses a smaller stage. But it also catches that universal in a distilled moment – in the feelings of a narrator, a character. It may be anecdotal but it’s anecdotal accessible to our sympathy. How much have we changed between 1650 and 2012? In some ways, a lot. Fogel’s charts demonstrate that. In some ways, not so much. We remain human.

    Puritan poets are not everyone’s cup of tea – the plain style helps them age more slowly, but they are still the product of a culture remarkably different from ours – a frontier, theocentric if not theocratic. But a death in the family is always shattering & love for a mate is timeless. I’ll put up the Bradstreet love poems next week, but for today, let’s look at the consolations poets found in their art & their beliefs with the death of children and a spouse. (And the brevity of these children’s lives may help us better understand how large and intimate the changes Fogel describes have been.) Even if their experiences would be uncommon today, parents may still bury children and we find we understand the poet’s feelings (in hearts we recognize at once) and to a lesser degree how they thought (in minds we enter with more difficulty).
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Biography, Christianity, Lit Crit, Poetry, Religion | 11 Comments »

    The Southern Belle With the Spine of Steel

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 13th July 2012 (All posts by )

    Stephen Vincent Benet nailed down the type, in his poem epic John Brown’s Body, in a phrase that has resonated with me ever since I read it so long ago that I don’t recall when I read it – the quintessential southern belle, who propped up the South on a swansdown fan:

    Mary Lou Wingate, as slightly made
    And as hard to break as a rapier-blade.
    Bristol’s daughter and Wingate’s bride,
    Never well since the last child died
    But staring at pain with courteous eyes.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, Biography, History, Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

    Barry Puts Williams in Context: Coke, the Law, & a very young man

    Posted by Ginny on 20th June 2012 (All posts by )

    Roger Williams tells Winthrop “I desire not to sleep in securitie and dreame of a Nest wch no hand can reach.” Puritans could hope but Williams found certainty “monstrous” when it violated “soul liberty.” He sought no conversions: while he could convince the Indians with whom he traded to go through the motions of belief, it would be deeply wrong. Indeed, he argued “any bloody act of violence to the consciences of others” would be as if “the parliament of England hath committed a greater rape than if they had forced or ravished the bodies of all the women in the world.” (The Bludy Tenent). He valued restraints – civil & spiritual.

    John M. Barry’s Roger Williams emphasizes Sir Edward Coke’s (1552-1634) incrementalism and careful construction of precedents that ordered chaos and defined restraints; the purpose was “to take down common law, to precipitate it out of the cloud of centuries of argument and judgment into the hard crystal of precedent, to then crack that crystal open by analyzing it, and finally to lock the piece into place by defining precedent and law more firmly than could any legislative act” (24). After 1600, Coke’s annual commentaries applied those precedents. The English tradition, Barry argues, led to a “common law more arcane and labyrinthine than civil law, but its very arcana, along with custom, created a web which restrained power, making England more resistant to absolutism than states on the continent” (21). The English valued stability, grounded in property rights: the resonance of his speech still delights – as in “Every Englishman’s home is as his castle” (63). (The quotes demonstrate how heady word choices must have been: Coke’s life covered King James’ translation and Shakespeare; Williams lived during Donne’s time and taught Milton Dutch. Their words retain a life familiarity has buried.)

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Arts & Letters, Biography, Religion, USA | 2 Comments »

    Between the warrior and the monk (iii): poetry and sacrament

    Posted by Charles Cameron on 4th June 2012 (All posts by )

    [ cross-posted from Zenpundit -- a warrior, a monk, and (still to come, in a fourth and final post) where that leaves me ]
    .


    .

    How I have loved that handwriting! How I loved that man! How I have loved that book…

    *

    I am fifteen, seventeen years old. I walk a few hundred yards in the chill English dawn to our little parish church to “serve Mass” at 6am, for this man whose intense gaze and tireless care for those he is with made him take of his hat to Mrs Tutu, and ask Hugh what would get him out of his hospital bed fastest. He brings the same gaze and care to bear on me, and talks to me about the English Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins, whose work he loves.

    Trevor Huddleston taught me to love poetry when he showed me Hopkins, and I cannot exactly tell this story without “reading” you a bit of the man’s work, because it gets to the heart of the matter.

    Hopkins has a very brilliant poem, As king fishers catch fire, which requires quite a bit of “unpacking” since Hopkins writes poetry as though packing an intolerable amount of sound and meaning into a very small space. The poem is about what Hopkins calls “selving”: being the self you are, ie being true not just to your possibilities, but to your flavor, your individuality. In the theological termino0logy of Duns Scotus: hacceitas.

    Here’s how Hopkins expresses it:

    Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
    Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
    Selves — goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
    Crying What I do is me: for that I came.

    We selve, we become ourselves — we deal out into the world that being which dwells indoors, inside, within us.

    The second half of the poem goes like this:

    I say more: the just man justices;
    Keeps grace: that keeps all his goings graces;
    Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is –
    Christ. For Christ plays in ten thousand places,
    Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
    To the Father through the features of men’s faces.

    Let me try at least to unpack this much:

    The man who is just, he’s saying, goes about doing acts of justice (there’s no difference between his nature and his deeds), he is tethered to grace (has an inward center with which he is perpetually in touch), and that tether is what ensures his actions (“goings”) are of the quality of grace.

    He — and here Hopkins tell us what this is really all about, from his own perspective as a deeply religious man and a Catholic priest in the Jesuit order — acts Christ, for that is how God sees him. Each one of us is, in God’s eye, Christ, “for Christ plays in ten thousand places”. That’s the great gift Hopkins brings us, the understanding that being made in the image of God, we play here on earth like so many Christs, each with its own character and “self”, each one capable of grace… and thus, each individual beautiful to God “through the features of men’s faces”.

    Here, should you care to read it, is the whole poem.

    *

    Trevor offers his hands and voice as a priest at Mass to the great poetical transformation of “bread” into “body” and “wine” into “blood” that stands at the heart of the Christian mystery, and eats, digests, the divine presence among us, and offers that divine presence in the appearance of a wafer of bread and sip of wine to whoever “partakes of communion” with him.

    And walking to Mass, or walking back from Mass, he talks to me about South Africa, and the kids he knew there — Desmond and Hugh among them no doubt, though I learned those particular stories far later — and the pass laws which penalized his students when they were late getting home from work in a “white” part of town, and his fights in the courts and in the press for young people he loved — Hugh or Desmond or Oscar or whoever goes to Mass, receives Christ on his tongue, and that “keeps all his goings graces” — because “Christ plays in ten thousand places”, and Sophiatown, a shanty town just outside Johannesberg, is one of them.

    Father Trevor, school teacher, photo credit Constance Stuart Larrabee

    Am I making any sense? It was Trevor’s love, which “saw” the divine in each individual child he taught and coached and loved, which could not tolerate apartheid, which could not stop at a boy’s skin color and segregate or tolerate segregation.

    *

    Loving the individual before him with that gaze and care, he loved and taught me, for seven or eight years, in four hundred wonderful letters and many visits, Masses, days spent flyfishing for trout, voyages by car or train to visit a friend or a cathedral…

    And if I could express the essence, it was this: that you tether yourself to the divine on the inside, by belief, by ritual, above all by contemplation — and then you move through the world infused with that sense of the sacred in and around you, and do whatever is needful to bring about a more just society.

    You justice, you keep grace. That keeps all your goings graces.

    Christ the King, Sophiatown, photo credit Eliot Elisofon

    Not surprising, then, that his devotion to the kids of a shanty town in South Africa led him into court battles, into association with Luthuli and Mandela, into becoming one of a handful of “white” signatories of the African National Congress, into the award of the Isitwalandwe, the writing of his great book, Naught for your Comfort [link is to a free download] — which was smuggled out of the country to be published just a day ahead of the Special Police impounding all his papers — to bestsellerdom, to stirring the conscience of the world, to the Presidency of the Anti-Apartheid Movement, and finally to an archbishopric and a knighthood.

    He saw Christ, which was his name for love, and served him.

    Simple.

    *

    Father Trevor Huddleston wrote what I think must be among the most powerful words of eucharistic theology I have ever read in Naught for Your Comfort — and they convey as nothing else can the immediacy with which he connects his ritual gestures and acts as a priest with the political necessity to overthrow the apartheid regime in his beloved South Africa — and for that matter, any and all hatred and oppression everywhere…

    On Maundy Thursday, in the Liturgy of the Catholic Church, when the Mass of the day is ended, the priest takes a towel and girds himself with it; he takes a basin in his hands, and kneeling in front of those who have been chosen, he washes their feet and wipes them, kissing them also one by one. So he takes, momentarily, the place of his Master. The centuries are swept away, the Upper Room in the stillness of the night is all around him: “If I, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, ye ought also to wash one another’s feet.” I have knelt in the sanctuary of our lovely church in Rosettenville and washed the feet of African students, stooping to kiss them. In this also I have known the meaning of identification. The difficulty is to carry the truth out into Johannesberg, into South Africa, into the world.

    Posted in Biography, Book Notes, Christianity, Poetry, Religion | 6 Comments »

    Between the warrior and the monk (ii): Fr Trevor Huddleston

    Posted by Charles Cameron on 1st June 2012 (All posts by )

    [ cross-posted from Zenpundit -- a warrior, a monk, and where that leaves me ]
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    In the first part of this post I introduced you to my father, Captain OG Cameron DSC, RN, the man who fueled my keen interest in gallantry and the martial side of things. The other great influence in my early life was Fr. Trevor Huddleston CR, pictured below:


    .

    Trevor Huddleston CR:

    Archbishop the Most Reverend Sir Ernest Urban Trevor Huddleston CR, KCMG – it’s hard even to know how to string his titles together, this monk, priest, schoolteacher, activist, archbishop, finally knighted by Her Majesty towards the end of his long and eventful life was the man who became a second father, guardian, mentor and spiritual guide to me shortly after my father died when I was nine.

    That’s the man as I knew him, Father Trevor — simple, caring, intelligent, perhaps a little austere even — in the middle image above.

    Austerity, simplicity: two more words to set beside gallantry in the lexicon of admiration and gratitude.
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    Satchmo:

    To the left in the same image, he’s shown with Louis Armstrong — Satchmo — who has just presented him with a trumpet.

    The story goes like this: as a monk in an Anglican monastic order, the Community of the Resurrection popularly known as the Mirfield Fathers, Father Trevor was sent to South Africa while still a young man, and worked in Sophiatown, just outside Johannesberg, as a priest and teacher.

    A young black kid in one of his classes, Hugh, aged 12 or 13, fell ill and was taken to hospital, where Trevor Huddleston visited him. Trevor asked him what he would like more than anything in this world, what would so thrill and please him that he would have the greatest possible motive for getting better, getting out of the hospital and back to school. Hugh said, “a trumpet, Father” — so Trevor got hold of a trumpet which he then presented to the boy: now known the world over as the great jazz trumpeter, Hugh Masekela.

    That wasn’t quite enough, though. A year or three later, Trevor was in the United States, and met Satchmo, who asked if there was anything he could do to help… Trevor told Satchmo he’d started a jazz band for the kids in his school, and knew a boy who would just love a trumpet…

    Trevor was a hard man to refuse.
    .

    Hugh Masekela:

    Here’s Hugh Masekela, just a little older, with the trumpet Trevor brought him from Louis Armstrong:

    And here’s the sound…

    When I was maybe 15, and Trevor had returned from South Africa to England, he gave me a 7″ “45″ record of the Huddleston Jazz Band — now long lost. Imagine my amazed delight to be able to hear that sound again, fifty years later, through the good graces of the internet –

    Hugh Masekela and the Huddleston Jazz Band play Ndenzeni na?

    .

    Desmond Tutu:

    Another story I like to tell about Trevor and his time in South Africa has to do with a lady…

    It seems this young black kid aged about 8 or 9 was sitting with his mother on the “stoop” outside his house in a South African shanty-town when a white priest walked by and doffed his hat to the boy’s mother.

    The boy could hardly grasp how this had happened — his mother was a black woman, as one might say, “of no special acount”. But the priest in question was Trevor Huddleston, and it was a natural courtesy for him to lift his hat in greeting a lady…

    The young boy never quite recovered from this encounter. We know him now as the Nobel Peace laureate, Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

    Here’s a photo of four old friends — Huddleston, Tutu, Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, and former Commonwealth Secretary General Shridath Ramphal.
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    From individuals to the world:

    These are two simple stories of how Fr Trevor simply and straightforwardly loved whomever was before him, regardless of the enormous pressure at the time to discriminate between “real” and “insignificant” people — a love which made an indelible mark on those whose lives it touched.

    And when Father Trevor touched you, as Lord Buckley might say, you stayed touched.

    Thus far I’ve been focusing on individuals that Trevor touched. I do not think he in fact saw more than one person at a time, and his responses to situations were geared directly to the service of his love.

    It was because of this that while he was in South Africa, Trevor repeatedly and quite literally put his life on the line in defence of the very simple proposition that the color of a person’s skin was immaterial in view of the love that was possible between any two people — so perhaps here’s where I should mention some of that history and some of the honors it brought him. After all, Trevor did pretty much take on the government of the South Africa he so loved, and lived to see it change.
    .

    Bishop Trevor of Sophiatown

    Trevor Huddleston was a founding member of the African National Congress, the author of the first non-fiction work (Naught for Your Comfort, more on that later) to critique his beloved South Africa’s apartheid policy, reviled publically for meddling in politics by an Archbishop of Canterbury who later declared he had been in error and that Fr Trevor was about as close to a saint as one could find.

    In 1955, Father Trevor, along with Yusuf Dadoo and Chief Albert Luthuli, was awarded the Isitwalandwe, the highest award given by the African National Congress. He was awarded the United Nations Gold Medal in recognition of his contribution to the international campaign against apartheid, the highest awards from both Zambia and Nigeria, the Dag Hammerskjold Award for Peace, the Indira Gandhi Memorial Prize, and ten honorary doctorates, including that of his alma mater, Oxford.

    Archbishop Huddleston initiated the “International Declaration for the Release of Nelson Mandela and all Political Prisoners” in 1982, took part in the televised “International Tribute for a Free South Africa” held at Wembley Stadium, London in 1990 during which he introduced the address by Nelson Mandela (see below), entered South Africa House, Trafalgar Square, London in 1994 to vote in the first South African democratic election, and was a guest at President Mandela’s inauguration in Pretoria that year.

    He received the KCMG (Knight Commander of the Order of St. Michael and St. George) in the 1998 New Year Honours list, for “Services to UK-South African Relations”, and attended an Investiture at Buckingham Palace on March 24th, 1998, to receive this honour from HM the Queen.

    He chose the designation, “Bishop Trevor of Sophiatown”.
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    Nelson Mandela:

    But let’s go back to individuals, and to Nelson Mandela in particular.

    Mandela and Trevor were comrades in the fight against apartheid from the beginning — and the richness of their friendship is visible in the photo of Mandela with his arms on Trevor’s shoulders in the right hand panel at the top of this page.

    In his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, Mandela tells the story of a time when he and Walter Sisulu were approached by a group of South African police who had been ordered to arrest them. Trevor, who was talking with with the two of them, called out to the cops, “No, you must arrest me instead, my dears.”

    It’s that “my dears” that gives the game away. I can hear those words in Trevor’s voice. Even the cops were dear to Trevor: he might be utterly opposed to what they were doing, and risk his life to oppose them – but they were children of God.

    Here’s a video of Trevor’s speech introducing Mandela at Wembley — a political speech, to be sure, but one powered by religious conviction.
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    Mandela’s tribute:

    I’m saving the best of what Fr. Trevor taught me for the third post in this series, and hope to wrap the series up with some of my own reflections in a fourth; here I’d like to close with the words Mandela wrote about his friend after Trevor’s death in 1998:

    It is humbling for an ordinary mortal like myself to express the deep sense of loss one feels at the death of so great and venerable figure as Father Trevor Huddleston.
    .
    Father Huddleston was a pillar of wisdom, humility and sacrifice to the legions of freedom fighters in the darkest moments of the struggle against apartheid. At a time when identifying with the cause of equality for all South Africans was seen as the height of betrayal by the privileged, Father Huddleston embraced the downtrodden. He forsook all that apartheid South Africa offered the privileged minority. And he did so at great risk to his personal safety and well-being.
    .
    On behalf of the people of South Africa and anti-apartheid campaigners across the world, I convey my deepest condolences to his Church, his friends and his colleagues. Isithwalandwe Trevor Huddleston belonged to that category of men and women who make the world the theatre of their operation in pursuit of freedom and justice.
    .
    He brought hope, sunshine and comfort to the poorest of the poor. Not only was he a leader in the fight against oppression. He was also father and mentor to many leaders of the liberation movement, most of whom now occupy leading positions in all spheres of public life in our country. His memory will live in the hearts of our people.

    Posted in Biography, Christianity, International Affairs, Music, Poetry | 4 Comments »

    Between the warrior and the monk (i): my father

    Posted by Charles Cameron on 26th May 2012 (All posts by )

    [ cross-posted from Zenpundit -- a warrior, a monk, and where that leaves me -- first in a series of 3 posts ]
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    Like one of those toy acrobats who flips up, over and under when you squeeze or release the two sticks he’s strung on, I’m strung between these two fellows…

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    Posted in Biography, Britain, Military Affairs, War and Peace | 7 Comments »

    Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Slade – Conclusion

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 27th March 2012 (All posts by )

    But Jack Slade was not quite dead. Some stories have it that he looked up at Jules Beni and gasped, “I’ll live long enough to hang your ears from my watch chain!” The two stage drivers carried him into the station and laid him in a bunk. Almost before the smoke had cleared, a westbound stage pulled into Julesburg, carrying Slade’s immediate boss, the operations superintendent on his own tour of inspection. Accounts differ on what happened to Jules Beni upon being arrested by the outraged operations superintendent. Without provocation, Jules Beni had gunned down an unarmed man in front of witnesses. Anyway it was sliced on the frontier; it came out as cold-blooded murder. Although Jack Slade was still breathing, everyone seemed fairly certain he wouldn’t continue to do so for long. Beni was hung from an improvised gallows and half-strangled; either the rope broke and he managed a daring getaway, or the superintendent ordered him let down and extracted a promise that he would depart immediately and at speed, and stay the hell away from the division. The Pony Express had a real-time test, as one of the newly-hired riders was sent galloping hell for leather to the Army post at Fort Laramie two hundred miles away – the nearest place to find a doctor.
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    Posted in Americas, Biography, History, Human Behavior, North America | 4 Comments »

    Further Fannyisms

    Posted by David Foster on 15th March 2012 (All posts by )

    …a selection of the passages I bookmarked in the Kemble journals.

    On American women

    The dignified and graceful influence which married women, among us, exercise over the tone of manners, uniting the duties of home to the charms of social life, and bearing, at once, like the orange-tree, the fair fruits of maturity with the blossoms of their spring, is utterly unknown here. Married women are either house-drudges and nursery-maids, or, if they appear in society, comparative ciphers ; and the retiring, modest, youthful bearing, which among us distinguishes girls of fifteen or sixteen, is equally unknown. Society is entirely led by chits, who in England would be sitting behind a pinafore ; the consequence is, that it has neither the elegance, refinement, nor the propriety which belongs to ours ; but is a noisy, rackety, vulgar congregation of flirting boys and girls, alike without style or decorum.

    On the absence of desperate poverty in America

    This country is in (one) respect blessed above all others, and above all others deserving of blessing. There are no poor I say there are none, there need be none ; none here need lift up the despairing voice of hopeless and help less want towards that Heaven which hears when men will not. No father here need work away his body s health, and his spirit s strength, in unavailing labour, from day to day, and from year to year, bowed down by the cruel curse his fellows lay upon him. ..Oh, it makes the heart sick to think of all the horrible anguish that has been suffered by thousands and thousands of those wretched creatures, whose want begets a host of moral evils fearful to contemplate; whose existence begins in poverty, struggles on through care and toil, and heart-grinding burdens, and ends in destitution, in sickness, alas! too often in crime and infamy. Thrice blessed is this country, for no such crying evil exists in its bosom; no such moral reproach, no such political rottenness. Not only is the eye never offended with those piteous sights of human suffering, which make one s heart bleed, and whose number appals one s imagination in the thronged thoroughfares of the European cities ; but the mind reposes with delight in he certainty that not one human creature is here doomed to suffer and to weep through life ;not one immortal soul is thrown into jeopardy by the combined temptations of its own misery, and the heartless self ishness of those who pass it by without holding out so much as a finger to save it. If we have any faith in the excellence of mercy and benevolence, we must believe that this alone will secure the blessing of Providence on this country,

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    Posted in Anglosphere, Arts & Letters, Biography, Book Notes, Britain, Transportation, USA | 13 Comments »

    Wall Street and its Clients

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 14th March 2012 (All posts by )

    Ann Althouse has a good post today. I can’t get through her Captcha system so I thought I would post a few comments here. This NY Times op-ed piece is the source for her observations. It is behind the Times’ idiotic payment wall so go to her blog for the link.

    TODAY is my last day at Goldman Sachs. After almost 12 years at the firm — first as a summer intern while at Stanford, then in New York for 10 years, and now in London — I believe I have worked here long enough to understand the trajectory of its culture, its people and its identity. And I can honestly say that the environment now is as toxic and destructive as I have ever seen it.

    To put the problem in the simplest terms, the interests of the client continue to be sidelined in the way the firm operates and thinks about making money. Goldman Sachs is one of the world’s largest and most important investment banks and it is too integral to global finance to continue to act this way. The firm has veered so far from the place I joined right out of college that I can no longer in good conscience say that I identify with what it stands for.

    That certainly states the issue clearly. What does he complain about ?

    I am sad to say that I look around today and see virtually no trace of the culture that made me love working for this firm for many years. I no longer have the pride, or the belief.

    But this was not always the case. For more than a decade I recruited and mentored candidates through our grueling interview process. I was selected as one of 10 people (out of a firm of more than 30,000) to appear on our recruiting video, which is played on every college campus we visit around the world. In 2006 I managed the summer intern program in sales and trading in New York for the 80 college students who made the cut, out of the thousands who applied.

    I knew it was time to leave when I realized I could no longer look students in the eye and tell them what a great place this was to work.

    What specifically is the problem ?

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    Posted in Big Government, Biography, Book Notes, Business, Conservatism, Economics & Finance, Management, Markets and Trading, Politics, Public Finance | 19 Comments »

    Author Appreciation: Fanny Kemble

    Posted by David Foster on 1st March 2012 (All posts by )

    I knew that Fanny Kemble was a 19th-century British actress, but that’s about all I knew about her prior to encountering her description of an 1830 train ride and thoughts about the contrasting attributes and social values of George Stephenson the engineer and Lord Alvanley the aristocrat. Fanny seemed like an astute observer and a good thinker, and one of the first things I did after getting my Kindle was to download her very extensive memoirs. She was born in 1809 to a noted theatrical family, achieved fame as an actress in both Britain and America, wrote two plays and a novel, married an American plantation owner and lived in coastal Georgia, and throughout her life recorded her thoughts and observations in her journal and in letters to friends. 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.

    The “Journal of a Residence in America” got a lot of attention, much of it negative. Edgar Allan Poe objected to Fanny’s “dictatorial manner” and felt that the self-confident tone of the book was contrary to “American notions of the retiring delicacy of the female character”…yet he went on to speak of the “sound sense and unwelcome truth” of much of her comment and the book’s “vivacity of style” and “beautiful descriptions.” On the other side of the Atlantic, soon-to-be Queen Victoria told her diary that the book was “very pertly and oddly written…not well bred”…”full of trash and nonsense which could only do harm”….yet a few days later she was admitting that there were “some very fine feelings in it.”

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    Posted in Arts & Letters, Biography, Book Notes, Britain, Civil Liberties, Film, USA | 11 Comments »