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  • Archive for the 'Book Notes' Category

    Happy V-J Day, at 70 Years Plus a Day

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 3rd September 2015 (All posts by )

    While the time pressures of work and family life prevented me from posting this yesterday, Sept 02, 2015, a commemoration of the official surrender of Japan in WW2 is still in order. Like the commemoration of the atomic bombing of Japan, this post will be about how the events leading to the surrender have been covered in American culture. Specifically, it will be a posting of several C-Span network video links to presentations by the leading historians of the period including Craig Symonds, Richard Frank, D.M. Giangreco, and John Kuehn. Afterwards I will give short reviews of each video.

    The following symposia video titles & descriptions, plus links, are from C-Span

    1. Pacific War Turning Point
    June 8, 2013
    http://www.c-span.org/video/?313164-1/pacific-war-turning-point

    Historians talked about the turning point in the Pacific theater
    during World War II. Craig Symonds argued the Battle of Midway was the
    decisive engagement that shifted momentum in the Allies favor, while
    Richard Frank asserted that the Guadalcanal campaign thwarted future
    Axis plans and resulted in a permanent blow to the Japanese war
    machine. A video clip from “Victory at Sea” was played without sound.
    After each author made his presentation, they held a discussion and
    responded to questions from members of the audience.
     
    “Pacific War Turning Point: Midway or Guadalcanal?” was part of The
    Bernard and Irene Schwartz Distinguished Speakers Series WWII & NYC of
    The New York Historical Society.

    2. Fall of the Japanese Empire
    July 14, 2015
    http://www.c-span.org/video/?327055-1/discussion-fall-japanese-empire

    Richard Frank, author of Downfall: The End of the Imperial Japanese Empire,
    spoke about the events leading up to Japan’s surrender at the end of World War II. He talked about American and Japanese strategies and operations in the closing months of the war, the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan’s surrender, and the fall of the Japanese Empire.

    3. Strategies for the Invasion and Defense of Japan
    August 6, 2015
    http://www.c-span.org/video/?327355-5/strategies-invasion-defense-japan

    D.M. Giangreco talked about the American offensive directed at Japan’s
    northernmost island, Hokkaido. He also spoke about the Soviet Union’s
    involvement, including the influence of logistics and diplomatic
    relations.
     
    “The Hokkaido Myth: U.S., Soviet, and Japanese Plans for Invasion” was a portion of “Endgame: August 1945 in Asia and the Pacific,” a symposium hosted by the Institute for the Study of Strategy and Politics

    4. Japan’s Decision to Surrender
    August 6, 2015
    http://www.c-span.org/video/?327355-7/japans-decision-surrender

    John Kuehn talked about Japan’s decision to surrender to Allied forces
    in August of 1945.
     
    “A Succession of Miracles: Japan’s Decision to Surrender” was a portion of “Endgame: August 1945 in Asia and the Pacific,” a symposium hosted by the Institute for the Study of Strategy and Politics.

    Each of the above presentations was hugely informative. In the “Pacific War Turning Point: Midway or Guadalcanal?” argument, I side with Richard Frank on its impact on Japanese military capability. The Guadalcanal campaign hurt the Japanese far more than the “Decisive battle” of Midway. I recently received a Kindle Copy of Phillips Payson O’Brien’s How the War was Won: Air-Sea Power and Allied Victory in World War II (Cambridge Military Histories) that convinced me of the importance of Guadalcanal over Midway in terms of killing off the best Japanese naval pilots, most of whom survived Midway.

    In the second video on July 14, 2015 Richard Frank basically gives a presentation drawn from his coming trilogy on the “Asia-Pacific War” that highlights the Japanese military preparations to defend Japan, including the mobilization of a 20 million strong civilian-militia to back up the military, and how important the A-bomb was as compared to the Soviet Invasion of Manchuria in getting the Japanese to surrender. Frank also speaks to the King-Nimitz efforts to challenge Olympic and the total casualties up to August 1945 and how many more would have died from starvation had the war lasted even a short time longer. Frank tends to be US Navy centric and did not think much of MacArthur’s Olympic plans.

    The third video, by D.M. Giangreco of a presentation titled “The Hokkaido Myth: U.S., Soviet, and Japanese Plans for Invasion”, goes very heavily into Japanese, Soviet & American plans to alternately defend or invade the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido. Short form — The Soviets had enough American provided sealift for a light infantry division, but not enough airpower to protect it, and the available Japanese ground forces and Kamikazes would be able to make any Soviet lodgment a Pacific Anzio.

    The final video, by John Kuehn, titled “A Succession of Miracles: Japan’s Decision to Surrender” goes deeply into the Japanese high command, civilian leadership and the Showa Emperor’s maneuvering to achieve a surrender. I found it particularly useful in getting a better understanding of the irrationality that dominated Japanese decision making. And the point that Kuehn made that the “Big-Six” represented the Japanese military “Moderate factions” was chilling.

    Posted in Book Notes, History, Japan, Military Affairs, Miscellaneous, National Security, USA, War and Peace | 8 Comments »

    Tales of Luna City: The Gonzalez/Gonzales Families

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 28th August 2015 (All posts by )

    (A diversion, in the form of an excerpt explaining the background and history of Luna City, especially one of the most prominent and long-established local extended family. This is forming up to be one of my next books, hopefully finished by the end of the year.)

    Final Cover with Lettering - smallerThe main farm-to-market county road, which skims past Luna City does not actually go into the heart of Luna, per se. The old McAllister house is there, of course, set back from the roadside in a lavish and well-tended garden set out in Victorian design – a lady tastefully withdrawing her immaculate skirt from the dirt of vulgar commerce and transportation. The house itself is set at a slight but perceptible angle from the roadway itself, which the cognoscenti know is proof that the house predates the road by any number of years. Miss Letty McAllister, whose family home this is – is now in her mid 90s, the oldest living inhabitant of Luna City, and the living repository of civic memory, public and private. It has been at least twenty years since Miss Letty has seen to maintaining the garden; one of the myriad Gonzalez-with-an-z family enterprises sees to that.

    The sprawling and interrelated clans of Gonzales-with-an-s and the Gonzalez-with-a-z are acknowledged freely by all Luna-ites to be the oldest family in the area – their shifting residency within five or six miles of the place where the road between San Antonio and the coast crosses the river – where Luna City would come to be – predates the founding by at least a hundred and twenty years and possibly more. There are supposed to be records in the colonial archives in Madrid, Spain, of a royal grant to a Don Diego Manuel Hernando Ruiz y Gonzalez or Gonzales of a league and a labor of land in the area. In 1968, there was a careful archeological excavation made of the foundations of a small adobe brick building not far from the present-day main gate to the Wyler Lazy-W Ranch. The results were included in A Brief History of Luna City, since Dr. McAllister was privy to the reports of findings. It was judged to be a residence by the eminent archeologist from San Antonio who oversaw the dig – but a relatively comfortless and primitive one: two thick-walled rooms, sheltering humans in one and draft animals and goats in the other.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Civil Society, Diversions, Humor | 2 Comments »

    On the Outside of the Hugos, Looking In

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 25th August 2015 (All posts by )

    The 2015 Hugo awards were given out over last weekend, at Worldcon in Spokane, and the meltdown is ongoing. The commentary on this at the follow-up post at According to Hoyt has gone over 1,000 comments, a record that I haven’t seen on a blog since the heyday of a certain blog that is not mentioned any more (but whose name referenced small verdantly-colored prolate spheroids). I’ll admit, right from the get-go, that as a writer and blogger I have no real dog in this fight over the Hugo awards – not even the smallest of timid and depressed of puppies, but I did feel enough of an interest in it to post about it a couple of times. I merely observe with sympathy as an interested internet ‘friend’ and fan of some of those who are deeply involved, rather than a directly-involved author. I love Connie Willis’s books and Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan saga, used to love Marion Zimmer Bradley – alas, my collection of her books is now boxed and moldering away in the garage . My science fiction and ‘con’ activity extends only as far as having an entire run of Blakes’ 7 taped on VHS from when it was broadcast on KUED in Salt Lake City in the 1990s, having gone to the Salt Lake City ‘con several times, and once to the Albuquerque ‘con’ when it happened to be on a weekend at the time  I was TDY to Kirtland AFB for a senior NCO leadership class. I had a marvelous time, on all those occasions … but my personal writing concentration is on historical fiction, and to a lesser extent, socio/political blogging.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Book Notes, Conservatism, Diversions, Uncategorized, USA | 48 Comments »

    Here We Go !

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 24th August 2015 (All posts by )

    ghost

    I have been pessimistic for several years. That may be just my own psychological makeup but I am not the only one.

    California is getting a bit agitated about what is happening in China.

    Gyrations in the stock market have taken California’s fragile finances for a ride before — when the dot-com bubble burst, when the Wall Street crash sank the national economy less than a decade ago.

    So when the market continued its dive Monday, state officials began glancing around for their seat belts.

    More than most states, California depends heavily on taxes from the wealthy, pulling about half of its income tax revenue from just 1% of residents in recent years.

    California is a top down society because it depends on income tax. Texas doesn’t and its state government is funded by sales tax, which everyone pays, even illegals.

    The Obama Administration has been playing a Ponzi Scheme for years.

    A Ponzi scheme is a fraudulent investment operation where the operator, an individual or organization, pays returns to its investors from new capital paid to the operators by new investors, rather than from profit earned by the operator.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Book Notes, Civil Society, Conservatism, Crony Capitalism, Current Events, Economics & Finance, Leftism, Politics | 5 Comments »

    Secretaries of State march on for two hundred years – but we still count it in feet

    Posted by Ginny on 23rd August 2015 (All posts by )

    I’ve been reading Daniel Walker Howe’s The Political Culture of the American Whigs(1979). It slowly gave me a better understanding, since I started in a complete fog. Like his Making the American Self, here Howe chooses representative figures to give narrative, character & understanding. Just because the book is forty doesn’t mean insights don’t remain. Howe enlivens the Whigs and reminds us our parties still have more than a bit of the Whig & the Jacksonian. But, surprisingly, an anecdote used to illuminate John Quincy Adams reminds us of a spring candidacy.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Book Notes, Religion, Science | 3 Comments »

    The Last Man to Die in World War 2 (+70 Years)

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 17th August 2015 (All posts by )

    On August 18, 1945, in a second day running of violations of the Potsdam cease fire, fighters of the Imperial Japanese Navy attacked American B-32 Dominator bombers on photo reconnaissance missions over the Tokyo area. During these attacks the last American serviceman to die in combat during World War 2 fell.

    B-32 Photo mission over Japan

    This is a painting of the final B-32 photographic mission over Japan after acceptance of the Potsdam terms, and before the formal Japanese surrender in early September 1945.

    Stephen Harding’s book LAST TO DIE: a Defeated Empire, a Forgotten mission, and the Last American Killed in World War II describes in a prologue, seven numbered chapters and afterword, with index, bibliography and copious footnotes the ill-fated mission that lead to the death of Anthony James (Tony) Marchione, an Italian-American gunner-photographic assistant, over the skies of Japan.

    The prologue sets up why Stephen Harding wrote the book, the first two chapters are biographies of Tony Marchione, how he came to his unit — the 386th Bombardment Group — for the mission, and a thumb nail history of the trouble plagued B-32 Dominator super-bomber’s development and combat history. The B-32 was a back up “Very Heavy Bomber” (VHB) to the B-29 Superfortress that USAF documents would not even admit was a “VHB” design post-war!

    Chapters Three through Five are the set-up for and a description of the desperate fighting action that saw Tony Marchione killed by a 20mm shell while giving first aide to two other B-32 crewmen wounded in an earlier fighter attack on his B-32 plane, tail number 578.

    Chapter Six focuses on General MacArthur’s wisdom in not launching immediate retaliatory strikes on the Japanese. Thus allowing The Emperor and his loyal retainers to shut down numerous mutinous air units, to include the IJN air bases where the fighters that killed Marchione were based.

    Chapter Seven has the grim details of the notification of Tony Marchione’s next of kin and the mechanics of getting his personal effects, and eventually his body, to his small-town Pennsylvania home for final funeral services in 1948.

    All in all I found the book satisfying both as story telling and as a foot-noted history. It has my strong buy recommendation.

    Posted in Aviation, Book Notes, History, Military Affairs, USA, War and Peace | 6 Comments »

    What Chicago Boyz Readers Are Reading (July 2015)

    Posted by Jonathan on 15th August 2015 (All posts by )

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

    Your book and non-book Amazon purchases help to support this blog via the Amazon Associates program. Chicago Boyz earns a percentage on all of your Amazon purchases as long as you get to the Amazon site by clicking on Amazon links on this blog (including the Amazon banner in the blog header, the link under the Amazon banner, and even Amazon links on Chicago Boyz for products other than the ones that you want to buy).

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes | 5 Comments »

    Hiroshima, Nagasaki & The Invasion That Never Was (+70)

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 12th August 2015 (All posts by )

    It has become something of a tradition for western leftists to commemorate the August 6th and 9th 1945 US A-bomb attacks on Imperial Japan, and to try and make the case that even if the first bomb was needed — which it was not — that the second bomb was what amounted to a war crime because the American government and military knew the Japanese were trying to surrender, but wanted to intimidate the Soviet Union with the A-Bomb.

    I have dealt with this annual leftist commemoration ritual with myth-destroying commemorations of my own explaining why leftists are wrong on this. See the following posts:

    2014 — History Friday — The WMD Back-Up Plans for the Atomic Bomb
    2013 — History Friday: US Military Preparations The Day Nagasaki Was Nuked
    2012 – Nagasaki Plus 67 Years
    2011 – Happy V-J Day!
    2010 – Nagasaki, Hiroshima and Saving Hirohito’s Phony Baloney Job and
    Hiroshima — The A-bomb plus 65 years

    My Chicago Boyz commemoration is different this year in that it is a list of reviews from popular culture video and books that show how American culture looks at what might have happened — if Japan had continued fighting World War 2 after the nuking of Hiroshima and Nagasaki — and there had to be “The Invasion That Never Was”. Each review will be a text thumbnail of the content, a link, my impression and at the end of all the reviews I’ll share what I see as the problems that all of them share. Problems that amount to a cultural paradigm blind spot that I mentioned in my “Nagasaki, Hiroshima and Saving Hirohito’s Phony Baloney Job” back when I started these annual columns in 2010.

    The first review is of the old History Channel series “Secrets of War Declassified” Episode 2 of 20: “Japan: The Invasion That Never Was”. This Charlton Heston narrated video is available through both Amazon.com and its current content-rights owner, Mills Creek Entertainment, at this link.

    The video gives a reasonable back story to a 1990s cable channel audience on the historical military and political forces leading to the alternative decisions of invasion or to drop the atomic bombs by President Truman. It is told predominantly from the American professional academic military historian point of view, which while I agree with generally, leaves out much of the Chinese, Russian and British Commonwealth perspective on these events. This was reasonable editorial choice, as there is only so much you can put in a 51 minute video for an American cable channel audience. Overall the video has aged well in terms of production values from its original History Channel airing and the rich-voiced Charlton Heston narration make it a must-own for those interested in the era.


    Full Episode is also on Youtube and a link is embedded above.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, History, Japan, Military Affairs, Miscellaneous, Morality and Philosphy, National Security, War and Peace | 26 Comments »

    The Valley of the Shadow of the Mushroom Cloud

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 10th August 2015 (All posts by )

    I see that the 70th anniversary of the dropping of atomic bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki this last weekend brought the usual hand-wringing and heart-string twanging on the part of the news media, and another round of the endless discussion over whether it was justified or not, with the same old patient answering of what the alternative would have been. I’ve really nothing more to add to that particular discussion, save noting that the stocks of Purple Heart medals struck and stockpiled in anticipation of American casualties in a full-frontal invasion of Japan have only in the last fifteen years been diminished to the point where a new order for them had to be initiated – this, after Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, Kosovo, Gulf War 1, and Iraq.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Current Events, History, War and Peace | 24 Comments »

    Elite Failure and Populist Trump It

    Posted by Zenpundit on 5th August 2015 (All posts by )

    Cross-posted at Zenpundit.com

    Donald_Trump_March_2015

    GOP Front Runner, Donald J. Trump (Image: Michael Vadon)

    A friend sent an essay by the prolific IR scholar, Professor Angelo Codevilla that had been posted at Powerline Blog.  It was good.

    For the unfamiliar, Codevilla often writes on national security and intelligence matters and some readers may be familiar with his (with Paul Seabury) book,  War: Ends and Means; but in recent years Codevilla has, like Walter Russell Mead and a number of other intellectuals, turned his attention to the shoddy performance, ethical deficiencies and arrogant demands of the new American “ruling class”, writing a biting critique of their “meritocratic regime”.

    In his essay for Powerline, Codevilla turns his attention to the political phenomenon of the improbable GOP presidential front runner, billionaire and reality TV star, Donald Trump.  Unsurprisingly, Dr. Codevilla is not a huge fan of the bombastic Mr. Trump, but his analysis of why Trump has captured the moment so easily has some astute insights about the decaying state of our political system and the seething anger of the electorate:

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Book Notes, Civil Liberties, Crony Capitalism, Current Events, Elections, Leftism, Media, National Security, Politics, Society, Tea Party, The Press, USA | 15 Comments »

    Obama’s Legacy.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 28th July 2015 (All posts by )

    Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif stands on the balcony of Palais Coburg, the venue for nuclear talks, in Vienna

    Why is this man laughing ?

    UPDATE: John Kerry is now threatening Israel if Congress votes against the deal.

    “I fear that what could happen is if Congress were to overturn it, our friends Israel could actually wind up being more isolated and more blamed,” Kerry said.

    A good column today by David Gelernter makes a strong case that Obama will be remembered for what he is doing with Iran.

    Obama will be remembered ultimately for the Iran treaty, as Johnson is remembered for Vietnam. Like Johnson, Obama is wrapped in a warm blanket of advisers who flatter his earnest, high-school views of world politics. Like Johnson, he lives in his own delusional world in which he’s commander-in-chief not merely of the military but of the whole blessed nation. Like Johnson, he has been destroyed by the arrogance of power; and his blindness has endangered America. Unlike Johnson, he was never big enough for the job in the first place.

    His comparison with Lyndon Johnson is excellent. I read HR McMaster’s “Dereliction of Duty,” and the resemblance to Obama’s policies is astonishing. I recently read another book that points out the consequences of Obama’s decision to abandon Iraq. It is written by a young British woman named Emma Sky and is called “The Unraveling.”

    The future is still to be written but we see a few hints. The Iranians are already celebrating and by “Iranians” I do not mean the oppressed citizens of that sad country. They are passengers on a runaway train driven by lunatics. We have now given those lunatics the keys to the atomic bomb.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Anti-Americanism, Book Notes, History, Iraq, Middle East, National Security, Obama | 21 Comments »

    “The Courage of a Reformer”

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

    I recently had a guest post entitled The Courage of a Reformer at the blog of the Illinois Opportunity Project. My post was in responses to an earlier post by Matt Besler of IOP about Illinois State Rep. Jeanne Ives.

    My post included this passage:

    the Goal

    This highlights an under-appreciated reality. You do not just need candidates with good values and good ideas. You do not just need candidates who can also win elections. You need these candidates to stay true to their commitments, which will impose a personal cost, once they are in office.

    In our book, America 3.0: Rebooting American Prosperity in the 21st Century–—Why America’’s Greatest Days Are Yet to Come, we discuss the decline and dissolution of the economic and political institutions of industrial-era America, which we call America 2.0. We describe a different and better America 3.0 which we expect and hope will replace it. But as we make clear, this process will not be pleasant. The transition from agricultural to industrial America was hard. The change to a world dominated by emerging technology, post-industrial, networked America 3.0, will be every bit as hard, and will happen much faster.

    Illinois is a specific case, and an especially difficult one, of the transition from America 2.0 to America 3.0. The Establishment here, consisting of politicians from both parties, is referred to without affection as The Combine. Despite the state’s many inherent strengths, The Combine has “governed” Illinois the verge of ruin. Illinois is the worst-run state in the nation.

    America 3.0 is a long book, and we could not put everything into it.

    One topic which we hope to write about more in the future is the steps that will have to be taken to make the transition. We got into some of this in the later chapters of the book, but there is a lot more that needs to researched and developed.

    One area which we barely touched on, but which is critically important, is the personal character which will be called for from a generation which will in effect be a new “founding generation.” The old order will have many defenders, many of them with good motivations, many with not-so-good motives. There will be unrelenting efforts to prop up the world everyone is used to, and to crush any person, group or business trying to make serious innovations and necessary reforms.

    As I said in my IOP post:

    To really matter, to really do something, to really change the direction of our state, means that there will be hardship, rejection, unpopularity, vilification, rejection of material benefits, making people mad by refusing to do what “everybody does,” attacks by the people who benefit from the status quo, not many pats on the back, and incomprehension even from good people.
     
    The committed reformer has to be willing to go up against all that.
     
    What is the reformer’s motivation, then?
     
    If it is not money, prestige, popularity, an easy life, what is it?
     
    Faith is part of it. Patriotism is part of it. Moral principles are part of it. A sense of duty is part of it. Gratitude for what we have been given is part of it. A commitment to a better future for ourselves, our families, and our children is part of it.
     
    A hopeful vision of how things could be, should be, must be, will be better if we change course in Illinois, that is also part of it.

    Substitute “America” for “Illinois” and it still works.

    This challenge is going to require a lot of effort, from a lot of people. We need to be realists about that. But we must not be cynical. With a hopeful and realistic picture of the future to inspire us, there will be enough people, enough talent, enough drive, enough fortitude, to build America 3.0.

    We plan to say much more about this.

    Stand by … .

    Posted in America 3.0, Book Notes, Illinois Politics | 3 Comments »

    History Weekend – The Galveston Hurricane, 1900

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 25th July 2015 (All posts by )

    To further the current work in progress (which will feature the heroine being in Galveston during the hurricane of 1900), I am re-reading Erik Larson’s Isaac’s Storm– a gripping and almost novelistic account of the hurricane which struck the Texas Gulf coast city of Galveston on Saturday, September 8th, 1900. The Isaac of the title is Isaac Cline, the resident meteorologist in Galveston for the U.S. Weather Bureau – who paid a devastating price – the loss of his heavily pregnant wife when his house was swept away at the height of the storm – for miscalculations made; miscalculations made both by himself and by the Weather Bureau headquarters policies in far-distant Washington DC.

    That 1900 storm still stands as the single deadliest natural disaster ever to strike the United States, with a death toll equal of all later storms combined; at least 6,000 in Galveston alone – a quarter of the population at the time – and along the Texas coast. The storm surge went for miles inland, and may have carried away another 2,000, whose bodies were never found – and never reported missing, as there was no one left to do so. Galveston Island – a coastal sand-bar, little more than eight feet above sea level at its highest point – was a busy and strategic port. At the turn of the last century, it was the largest city in Texas; a center of commerce, transportation hub and port of entry for immigrants coming into the Southwest by sea. Galveston was connected to the mainland across a normally placid lagoon by three railway trestles. Although the rival port city of Indianola, farther west along the Gulf Coast had been wiped out by a pair of hurricanes fifteen and twenty-five years before, generally the citizens of Galveston were complacent, comfortable in the belief that any storm – and they had easily weathered many of them – was readily survivable. And after all – this was a new century, one marked by unparalleled technologic and scientific advances! So a sea-wall proposed by certain concerned citizens was never built; indeed, Isaac Cline had written an article for the local newspaper in 1891, arguing that such a wall was not necessary; it was impossible for a storm of sufficient destructive intensity to strike Galveston. And he, of course, was an expert.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, History | 17 Comments »

    What Chicago Boyz Readers Are Reading (June 2015)

    Posted by Jonathan on 21st July 2015 (All posts by )

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

    Your book and non-book Amazon purchases help to support this blog via the Amazon Associates program. Chicago Boyz earns a percentage on all of your Amazon purchases as long as you get to the Amazon site by clicking on Amazon links on this blog (including the Amazon banner in the blog header, the link under the Amazon banner, and even Amazon links on Chicago Boyz for products other than the ones that you want to buy).

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes | 7 Comments »

    Quote of the Day from Jeff Carter

    Posted by Lexington Green on 21st July 2015 (All posts by )

    Screen Shot 2015-07-19 at 9.42.17 AM

    Quote of the day, from Jeff Carter’s Points and Figures blog, a post entitled “Disrupting Government”:

    Tech initially toppled major corporations. Motorola and Kodak are shells of themselves. Now, technology has the opportunity to eliminate wide swaths of government and all the cronies, cartels, employees and economic imbalances that come with them. As a society, we shouldn’t fight that. We should embrace it. Automation of government will make things cheaper for taxpayers. Elimination of old fashioned out of step government will make things better for society.

    RTWT.

    Jeff wrote very favorably about America 3.0.

    And the “Disrupting Government” post is a very “America 3.0″ view of the future, which I heartily share and endorse.

    But that is not the only reason I like his stuff. Jeff is a former floor trader, angel investor involved in the start-up scene in Chicago, and all around astute, sensible and articulate observer of politics, business and the economy.

    A few other good recent posts from Jeff include:

    Dodd Frank; Total Fail,

    Hillary Skewers the Gig Economy,

    Greece and Traditional Hierarchy,

    The Third Wave, and

    History Doesn’t Repeat Itself, But Echoes, which said, among other insightful things, “I encourage you to read a book, America 3.0. It charts a realistic way forward given the kind of government we have, and the history our country has had.”

    Be sure to drop by Points and Figures frequently.

    And don’t just take it from me.

    Instapundit frequently links to Jeff’s blog, because it is just that good.

    Posted in America 3.0, Book Notes, Economics & Finance | 4 Comments »

    Something is Happening Here, But You Don’t Know What it Is

    Posted by David Foster on 20th July 2015 (All posts by )

    …do you, Mr Priebus?

    A study by Pew Research says that Americans are increasingly getting their news from Facebook and Twitter.  The study indicates that 63% of both FB and Twitter users says that they get news from these sites, up from 47% and 52% in 2013.  (Bear in mind that 66% of US adults use Facebook, whereas only 17% use Twitter.)  In general, it seems that FB users are more likely to pro-actively share and comment on politically-related posts, whereas Twitter users are more likely to follow stories from “official” news organizations.

    Of course, the fact that someone gets news from FB or Twitter does not by itself say anything about how important that site is to them within the universe of possible news sources.  Another part of the survey attempts to answer that question.  Among people 35 and over, 34% say Facebook is “the most or an important” way they get news; the corresponding number for Twitter is 31%.  But among those 18-34, the number is 49% for both FB and Twitter.

    WSJ recently reviewed a new book,  The Selfie Vote,  by political analyst Kristen Soltis Anderson, who says:

    “I’ve spent the last six years trying to crack the code on young voters.  What I’ve found should terrify Republicans.”

    She believes the current Republican approach to political marketing does not mesh with the way Millennials (“who view their comfort with technology as what makes their generation ‘special'”) tend to get information.  Quoting the WSJ piece:

    “Take the 2012 presidential race.  Mitt Romney’s campaign stuck mostly with network TV ads during prime time, sometimes…paying nearly six times as much as Barack Obama’s campaign for an ad of the same length during the same time slot.  Team Obama made use of individually targeted ads for satellite subscribers, tailoring the campaign’s message to specific voters in swing states and spending less money on network TV.  The Obama campaign also developed cost-effective online ads that targeted Facebook and YouTube users based on personal-preference data, even running ads in online videogames…As more millennials pull the cable plug and spend their free time exclusively online, Republicans can’t expect to compete by pouring resources into 30-second spots during “Jeopardy!””

    I think Facebook is a poor source for news and a very inferior venue for political discussion.  But the Left is using it very effectively to circulate memes, usually in the form of simplistic poster-like images with a photo or graphic of some kind and a few words or dubious statistics.  There does not seem to be any coherent effort on the part of the RNC, or any other Republican campaign organization or conservative/libertarian organization, to rapidly generate refutations of these when called for, nor do I see very many counter-leftist memes that I judge to be good enough, from a marketing standpoint, to be worth circulating.  And there is very little of marketing value to be found on either the FB page of the RNC or the FB page of RNC chairman Reince Priebus.

    My sense is that while the RNC leadership may understand old-style get-out-the-vote campaigns and precinct organization, they have little concept of social media marketing, and have also been outdone in the use of “big data” for campaign management.  (See my post Catalist, “The 480,” and The Real 480.)  I don’t think they’re really all that good at old-fashioned direct-mail marketing, either, based on what shows up in my mailbox.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Advertising, Blogging, Book Notes, Elections, Human Behavior, Media, Politics, Rhetoric, Tech | 31 Comments »

    Big shout-out from Glenn Reynolds for America 3.0

    Posted by Lexington Green on 19th July 2015 (All posts by )

    Screen Shot 2015-07-20 at 6.13.29 AM

    Huge thank you to Glenn Reynolds, a/k/a (of course) as Instapundit.

    Glenn had a short post up today that said:

    ARE YOU A CAMPAIGN POLICY ANALYST OR SPEECHWRITER? Then you need to read Jim Bennett & Michael Lotus’s America 3.0: Rebooting American Prosperity in the 21st Century: —Why America’’s Greatest Days Are Yet to Come.
     
    Trust me on this. You’ll be glad you did.

    And of course we heartily agree that all of the campaigns should heed our sage analysis, policy proposals, historical acumen, and hopeful vision of America’s future!

    There are times of big changes. It is time to think big The problems we face are big. And the opportunities coming our way for a better America are even bigger.

    Glenn wrote the introduction to America 3.0, and his own writing is highly congruent with ours.

    For example, we strongly commend Glenn’s new book The Education Apocalypse: How It Happened and How to Survive It. Note the — literally — apocalyptic title. Many people are drawn to the idea that the world is ending. But the title is a little out of sync with Glenn’s message, which not only talk about the problems of education, but some of the great opportunities for positive change which are within our grasp.

    We need more of that kind of thinking. The current politico-economic regime is indeed coming to an end. Hopefully that end will not be too apocalyptic. (As an aside, can there be degrees of … apocalypticness?) We need to be thinking about getting through the transition and laying the foundation for the better America to come.

    The next administration will be a critical one, with many hazards, and many important opportunities.

    And for those who have not yet read America 3.0, you may enjoy this podcast interview which serves as a good, short summary of the book.

    Posted in America 3.0, Book Notes | 1 Comment »

    Goethe, the Original Gretchen, and the Hackers of 1764

    Posted by David Foster on 12th July 2015 (All posts by )

    When Goethe was 15, he was already recognized by friends as an exceptional writer.  One of these friends, “Pylades,” told Goethe that he had recently read some of his verses aloud to “some pleasant companions…and not one of them will believe that you have made them.”  Goethe said he didn’t much care whether they believed it or not, but just then one of the “pleasant companions” showed up, and Pylades proposed a way of convincing the fellow of Goethe’s abilities:  “Give him any theme, and he will make you a poem on the spot.”

    The disbeliever asked Goethe if he “would venture to compose a pretty love-letter in rhyme, which a modest young woman might be supposed to write to a young man, to declare her inclination.”

    “Nothing easier,” said Goethe, and after thinking for a few minutes commenced to write. The now-former disbeliever was very impressed, said he hoped to see more of Goethe soon, and proposed an expedition into the country.  For this expedition, they were joined by several more young men “of the same rank”…intelligent and knowledgeable, but from the lower and middle classes, earning their livings by copying for lawyers, tutoring children, etc.

    These guys told Goethe that they had copied his letter in a mock-feminine hand and had sent it to “a conceited young man, who was now firmly persuaded that a lady to whom he had paid distant court was excessively enamored of him, and sought an opportunity for closer acquaintance.”  The young man had completely fallen for it, and desired to respond to the woman also in verse…but did not believe he had the talent to write such verse.

    Believing it was all in good fun, Goethe agreed to also write the reply.  Soon, he met the would-be lover, who was “certainly not very bright” and who was thrilled with “his” response to his inamorata.

    While Goethe was with this group, “a girl of uncommon…of incredible beauty” came into the room.  Her name was Gretchen, and she was a relative of one of the tricksters present.  Goethe was quite smitten:

    “The form of that girl followed me from that moment on every path;  it was the first durable impression which a female being had made upon me: and  as I could find no pretext to see her at home, and would not seek one, I  went to church for love of her, and had soon traced out where she sat. Thus, during the long Protestant service, I gazed my fill at her.”

    The tricksters soon prevailed upon Goethe to write another letter, this one from the lady to the sucker  “I immediately set to work, and thought of every thing that would be in the highest degree pleasing if Gretchen were writing it to me.”  When finished, he read it to one of the tricksters, with Gretchen sitting by the window and spinning.   After the trickster left, Gretchen told Goethe that he should not be participating in this affair:  “The thing seems an innocent jest: it is a jest, but it is not innocent”…and asked why  “you, a young man man of good family, rich, independent” would allow himself to be used as a tool in this deception, when she herself, although a dependent relative, had refused to become involved by copying the letters.

    Gretchen then read the epistle, commenting that “That is very pretty, but it is a pity that it is not destined for a real purpose.”  Goethe said how exciting it would be for a young man to really receive such a letter from a girl he cared about, and…greatly daring…asked:  “if any one who knew, prized, honored, and adored you, laid such a paper before you, what would you do”…and pushed the paper, which she had previously pushed back toward him, nearer to Gretchen.

    “She smiled, reflected for a moment, took the pen, and subscribed her name.”

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Book Notes, Germany, History, Human Behavior | 8 Comments »

    1776

    Posted by Ginny on 3rd July 2015 (All posts by )

    I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.
     
    You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. — I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. — Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not.

    John to Abigail Adams

    2015 – May all Chicagoboyz and readers have a safe and joyous Fourth.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, History, Holidays, USA, Video | 2 Comments »

    Midsummer Reflections on the Stock Market

    Posted by Grurray on 2nd July 2015 (All posts by )

    As we’re all getting ready for the Independence Day weekend, it’s a good time to pause and reflect on how the first half of the year has been going. Many developments have arrived and passed in the news which have caused various actions and reactions. One day it seems nagging, complex issues are about to be resolved just when other more vexing problems take their place. The only constant, as the cliché goes, is the constant of change.

    That is except in the stock market. It’s less than 1% above where it opened the year and has been moving basically sideways in that time. From speculation about the Fed raising rates to languidly growing economy to Greek debt dramas, the market seems to be carelessly bobbing along, flotsam-like, awaiting some direction.

    Asking, ‘how did we get here’, is easy. When you shoot for mediocrity as a country and society, sometimes that’s what you get (or worse). Now might be a good time to ask, where do we go from here?

    Today’s jobs report doesn’t give us much of a clue. The unemployment rate has dropped to 5.3%, close to a level which in the past used to be described as full employment. On the other hand, labor force participation is the lowest it’s been since the 1970s, a time before women were fully entering the workforce and life expectancy for men was below 70 years of age.

    Those that dropped out of the labor force aren’t counted in the unemployment rate, and they aren’t eligible for unemployment benefits. However, they haven’t just disappeared off the face of the earth. Many have passed from a temporary welfare program to the more permanent one of social security disability. Well, more permanent until the program runs out of funds as soon as next year.

    But that’s old news. The complacent collective market sees what it wants to see and has chosen to see the government’s version of economic reality.

    We can look at ways of fundamentally gauging the valuation of the stock market such as price to earnings ratio or the so-called Warren Buffet Indicator of total market cap to GDP ratio. I like to look at the Q ratio which is a simple comparison of the total price of the stock market to the replacement costs of all companies listed. This is the favored metric of billionaire black swan investor Mark Spitznagel, who by the way wrote a most excellent book, The Dao of Capital, about Boydian investment strategies.

  • Q ratio – Pricey but is it dicey?

  • By this measure, the market looks to be at a pricey level compared to other points in time. 1907, 1929, 1937, and 1968 were all years when the stock market peaked and saw a significant decline. The problem is it’s also at the same level as 1997, which had a small pause before marking the half way point in a multi-year rally. We generally have seen regression to the mean in the past, but that doesn’t necessarily suggest it has to ever happen again. We could be waiting a long time for a sanity check to take hold, especially if the definition of sanity has changed.

    A shorter term answer possibly comes from the world’s best econometrics blog Political Calculations. They believe, convincingly in my opinion, that expectations for future dividends drive stock prices in the near future, absent any surprising shocks to upset the apple cart. Those of us who used to watch Larry Kudlow on CNBC (since his show was cancelled there hasn’t been any reason to watch that silly network anymore) remember he used to say ‘earnings are the mother’s milk of stocks’. Well if that’s true than dividends are your father’s pemmican.

    What they do is take values of dividend futures traded on the Chicago Board Options Exchange and apply a multiple (and some other math) to convert them to expected stock prices. Their calculations show a possible slide in prices for the next few weeks to few months. It has worked reasonably well in the past with a few caveats.

    There are different instruments traded for different times in the future. Prices can and do take leaps from one trajectory to the other. It usually happens when someone from the FED talks about raising rates, and then the financial press speculates what specific month or quarter it can happen. In this way, stock prices behave similar to quantum particles bouncing from one energy level to another. It’s not a good way to pin down exactly where stocks are going but just gives a range.

    The other caveat is this measurement only works when the market is in a state of relative order, and not buoyed or rattled by some overly cheery or dreary news. While at a smaller level the market seems to obey quantum mechanics, at the macro level it acts like a natural system, following mathematical probabilities such as those observed in predators hunting or even groups of people foraging. The market moves from more easily observable and predictable periods until the forageables (earnings and dividends) run out, in which case it moves into chaos and unpredictability until new expectations are established.

    What will trigger rapid moves in either direction and out of the current financial horse latitudes is anybody’s guess. There’s a big vote in Greece this weekend, but how many times has that situation reached a cliffhanger? Perhaps too many to matter anymore. As unsatisfactory as it sounds, what usually occurs is something we weren’t expecting, not an event that seems to replay itself over and over again. The best we can really predict is that we won’t be drifting forever, and the time will come when the stock market will move far away from this level. The key is to stay ready for it when it finally does.

    [Jonathan adds: If the right side of the included graphic is hidden on your screen — the date scale should go to 2020 — try right-clicking on the graphic and opening it in a new tab.]

    Posted in Book Notes, Economics & Finance, Markets and Trading | 13 Comments »

    Whiteness Privilege

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 2nd July 2015 (All posts by )

    microaggression

    The subject of “white privilege” is very much in the news there days.

    Administration officials at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University have reached an agreement with student activists to force “mandatory power and privilege training” on incoming students during orientation.

    The group, which calls itself “HKS Speaks Out,” will have a meeting this week with the dean of the Kennedy School, David T. Ellwood, to discuss the funding for the compulsory training and to “make sure this training is institutionalized” throughout the school, reports Campus Reform.

    Who is this group behind the “white privilege” training session ? Well, they are disgruntled students.

    The movement, called HKS Speaks Out, began in October after students expressed having “really negative classroom experiences,” according to Reetu D. Mody, a first year Master in Public Policy student and an organizer of the movement. She said the group has amassed about 300 student signatures, or about a fourth of the school’s student population, on a petition that calls for mandatory privilege and power training.

    Reetu

    She can’t breathe. She is a Congressional staffer but I can’t find out whose staff. Democrat if not Bernie Sanders.

    Steve Sailor is not impressed.

    Harvard U. is full of people who clawed their way into Harvard, so it’s not surprising that they often can’t stand each other. Fortunately, 21st Century Harvard students have a vocabulary of whom to blame for any and all frustrations they feel. From the Harvard Crimson:

    Kennedy School Students Call for Training To Combat Privilege in Classroom

    Whiteness !

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Civil Liberties, Conservatism, Crime and Punishment, Current Events, Education, Human Behavior, Leftism, Morality and Philosphy, Urban Issues | 13 Comments »

    Planning a trip to Greece in September.,

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

    I have been a student of Greek history for many years. When I was a medical student and later a surgery resident, I kept a copy of J.B.Bury’s “History of Greece to the Death of Alexander” on my bedside table as reading material for relaxation. I have read it several times.

    Another source of pleasure has been the novels of Mary Renault, the pen name of Eileen Mary Challans. Sh wrote a series of historical novels which won awards and which provided a more intimate view of Greek society in the classical era. Some of her novels provide a more sympathetic view of homosexuality than I have found anywhere else but that is not the attraction. Her history sounded like something written by one who lived it.

    Another favorite novelist is Helen MacInnes who wrote novels of adventure set in and after World War II. Two of them were about places in Greece and one of those, Mykonos, is a favorite spot.

    Mykonos harbor

    Her novel describes this harbor and, while a new cruise ship terminal has replaced some of her story, the harbor looks just as she described it.

    Mykonos square

    The story, titled “The Double Image” describes a tiny square in the town that sounds exactly like this one looks.

    We are looking forward to this trip with some trepidation, however. Why ? Because Greece may be heading into serious trouble.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Europe, History, Holidays, Politics | 15 Comments »

    A Bleg.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 16th June 2015 (All posts by )

    cover.

    I have a new book out on Kindle that is now published. It is called “War Stories: 50 Years in Medicine.”

    I’ve been working on this for 20 years and kept having to revise it as I would put it down and then go back to it after ten years. I finally decided to rework it and publish it two years ago. My students were reading the draft on my laptop while I was editing so maybe it will be interesting.

    It is a memoir of patients. They are all patients’ stories that I have tried to describe accurately and to describe what we did then. Sometimes I screwed up and I tell those, too. Sometimes we did the best we could and we now know better. Some of these cases are still hard to explain.

    Two of them, in the chapter on Melanoma, are about young women who developed major melanoma metastases years after the primary was excised but when they had become pregnant. The melanoma went wild in pregnancy, in one case ten years later. In the other, three years after I had removed the primary, she developed extensive metastases while pregnant. She refused abortion and I thought it would cost her her life. In both cases the melanoma vanished after pregnancy ended. In one case, the woman, last I heard, was free of melanoma 25 years later. The other was free ten years later. The medical literature says pregnancy has no effect on melanoma. Neither ever became pregnant again.

    Another case is an example of the only supernatural near-death experience I have ever heard.

    The book starts when I began medical school in 1961 and describes experiences with patients, including my summer working with schizophrenic men in 1962. I have a series of stories about patients I saw as a student and sometimes intersperse stories from later that are about similar cases and events. One that is amusing, I guess, is about my very first pelvic exam, on a 40 year old prostitute who had just gotten out of prison and enjoyed it thoroughly. I had a dozen student nurses as witnesses. I do have some biography in it but try to keep it to minimum.

    After the first eight chapters, I go on to residency and then finally to private practice. I continued to teach and there are a few of those stories. There is a chapter on ethics including my thoughts on euthanasia and “benign neglect.” Toward the end of my career, I started and ran a trauma center in our community hospital. I also did a fair amount of testifying in court in both trauma cases and some civil cases where I testified for plaintiffs and for defense. I consider it a compliment that Kaiser Permanente had me testify for their defense even though I had also testified against them.

    Anyway, the book is on Kindle and I hope somebody is interested. It has some similarity to my medical history book, which I plan to do a Kindle version of once this one is launched. In this one, I spend some time explaining the diseases in a way that I used to explain to patients and I still do to students. Without some basic understanding, most of these stories would not make sense and I hope the explanations are not too dull. If so, all comments are welcome. If anyone likes it, feel free to post a review on Amazon. Two reviewers from the first book in 2004 told me to let them know if I did another one and I have contacted them.

    If anyone wants to discuss the book here, feel free to add comments.

    Posted in Biography, Blegs, Book Notes, Health Care, Medicine, Personal Narrative | 16 Comments »

    Stanley McChrystal

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 13th June 2015 (All posts by )

    Hugh Hewitt interviewed General Stanley McCrystal on his radio show yesterday and the interview is pretty interesting. McCrystal has a memoir out called My Share of the Task and a new book on leadership called, Team of Teams.

    The discussion is pretty interesting. First of all, McCrystal was fired by Obama after a reporter printed a story about McCrystal’s officers disrespecting Obama.

    In a statement expressing praise for McChrystal yet certainty he had to go, Obama said he did not make the decision over any disagreement in policy or “out of any sense of personal insult.” Flanked by Vice President Joe Biden, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in the Rose Garden, he said: “War is bigger than any one man or woman, whether a private, a general, or a president.”

    Of course, it was Obama’s petulance and sense of outrage that anyone would think him less than competent.

    In the magazine article, McChrystal called the period last fall when the president was deciding whether to approve more troops “painful” and said the president appeared ready to hand him an “unsellable” position. McChrystal also said he was “betrayed” by Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, the man the White House chose to be his diplomatic partner in Afghanistan.
    He accused Eikenberry of raising doubts about Karzai only to give himself cover in case the U.S. effort failed. “Now, if we fail, they can say ‘I told you so,'” McChrystal told the magazine. And he was quoted mocking Vice President Joe Biden.

    McCrystal has emerged looking better and better and is obviously a great leader and general. Some of the interview’s insights into his leadership are worth repeating. I plan to read both books.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Afghanistan/Pakistan, Book Notes, Iran, Iraq, Management, Middle East, Military Affairs, Obama | 6 Comments »

    The Chinese Strategic Tradition: A Research Program (II)

    Posted by T. Greer on 4th June 2015 (All posts by )

    This post is the second in a series. It was originally published at The Scholar’s Stage on the 26th of May, 2015. I strongly recommended readers start with the first post in this series, which introduces the purpose and methods of this essay. That post focused on what is published in English on Chinese strategic thought. This post focuses on what has been written about Chinese strategic practice–that is, the military, diplomatic, and political history of China’s past.

     

    A map depicting the most famous military campaign in East Asian history, decided at the Battle of Red Cliffs (208 AD) in modern-day Hubei.
    Source: Wikimedia

    STRATEGIC PRACTICE 

    In the West, the study of traditional China has been the domain of the Sinologists. For reasons that are entirely natural but also too complex and lengthy to explain here, this has meant that historians studying traditional China have focused their efforts on the history of Chinese philosophy, aesthetics, literature, and religion, as well as the closely related fields of archeology, linguistics, and philology. The much lamented decline of political, diplomatic, and military history across the American educational system had little perceivable effect here, for there was not much political, diplomatic, or military history to begin with. [1]

    It should not be a surprise that many of the most important books on Chinese military and diplomatic relations have not been written by historians, but by political scientists. The interest political scientists might have in these topics is obvious, for theirs is a field devoted to the scientific and theoretical exploration of politics and international relations. The real mystery is why it took so long for political scientists to start writing about traditional East Asian international relations in the first place (most of the important books are less than a decade old). The answer to that question is not too hard to find if one looks at the books being written. The new crop of scholars writing these books hail from the international relations (IR) side of the science, and are part of a growing critique of the grand IR theories the discipline traditionally used to make sense of international affairs. [2] These theories were for the most part developed and tested in reference to traditional European great power politics.  One of the central barbs of these critiques is that we cannot know if the grand theories of generations past describe truly universal laws  or simply describe patterns unique to European history if these theories have not been tested on case studies outside of the last few hundred years of European politics. In response, scholars have searched for case studies outside of Europe with which they can test these theories or find the data needed to develop new ones entirely. East Asia, a region filled with bureaucratic states thousands of years before their development in the West, was a natural place to start.

    The problem these researchers repeatedly ran into was that their fellow political scientists were not familiar enough with East Asian history to follow their arguments and there were no good primers on the topic to refer them to. So theses scholars ended up writing the historical narratives others would need to read before they could assess their theoretical arguments. Thus Victoria Tinbor Hui‘s chapter on the Warring States (453-221 BC) in War and State Formation in Ancient China and Early Modern Europe is one of the best narrative accounts of Warring States great power politics; Wang Yuan-kang‘s Harmony and War: Confucian Culture and Chinese Power Politics contains one of the only accounts of Song Dynasty (old style: Sung, 960-1279 AD) foreign relations and one of the most fluid narratives of the Ming Dynasty‘s (1368-1644) adventures abroad; and David Kang‘s East Asia Before the West: Five Centuries of Trade and Tribute has the most coherent discussion of the Chinese “tributary system” written in the last five decades. Historians have lauded these books for the amount of historical research that was poured into them [3], and I second their appraisal. As a field IR should take Asia more seriously and it should engage with historical sources more thoroughly than is common practice. However, I cannot help but lament the circumstances that pushed IR scholars to adopt these methods. Hopefully historians feel some shame over the sorry state of the field and how difficult it is for outsiders to approach their research.

    One example will suffice to prove the point. I mentioned that Wang Yuan-kai’s War and Harmony has one of the few complete accounts of the Song Dynasty’s international relations. As far as scholarship goes, the amount of material devoted to this topic is middle-of-the-road: there are some periods where scholarship is more plentiful–say, the Late Ming, or the Qing (Ch’ing, 1644-1912), and there are some other periods where the scholarship is much more scarce–say, anything about the Tang (T’ang, 610-907 AD) or Han (206 BC-220 AD) dynasties. It is an interesting period to work with, for it is one of the few times in Chinese history when China was faced with external enemies whose military power was undeniably stronger than her own. It was the time of some of the most famous military figures and most horrible military disasters in Chinese history.  It also saw some of the most historically influential debates about how to manage civil-military relations and the relationship between economic prosperity and military power. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, China, History, War and Peace | 4 Comments »