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  • Archive for the 'Book Notes' Category

    Book Review: The Year of the French (rerun)

    Posted by David Foster on 17th March 2017 (All posts by )

    The Year of the French, by Thomas Flanagan

    (This being St Patrick’s day, I’m again taking advantage of the hook to re-post this review, in the hope of inspiring a few more people to read this incredibly fine historical novel)

    Ralph Peters calls this book “the finest historical novel written in English, at least in the twentieth century,” going on to say “except for ‘The Leopard,’ I know of no historical novel that so richly and convincingly captures the ambience of a bygone world.”

    In August of 1798, the French revolutionary government landed 1000 troops in County Mayo to support indigenous Irish rebels, with the objective of overthrowing British rule in Ireland.  The Year of the French tells the (fictionalized but fact-based) story of these events from the viewpoint of several characters, representing different groups in the complex and strife-ridden Irish social structure of the time.

    Owen MacCarthy is a schoolmaster and poet who writes in the Gaelic tradition.  He is pressed by illiterate locals to write a threatening letter to a landlord who has evicted tenants while switching land from farming to cattle-raising.  With his dark vision of how an attempt at rebellion must end–“In Caslebar.  They will load you in carts with your wrists tied behind you and take you down to Castlebar and try you there and hang you there”–MacCarthy is reluctant to get involved, but he writes the letter.

    Sam Cooper, the recipient of the letter, is a small-scale landlord, and captain of the local militia.  Indigenously Irish, his family converted to Protestantism several generations ago to avoid the crippling social and economic disabilities imposed on Catholics. Cooper’s wife, Kate, herself still Catholic, is a beautiful and utterly ruthless woman…she advises Cooper to respond to the letter by rounding up “a few of the likeliest rogues,”  jailing and flogging them, without any concern for actual guilt or innocence. “My God, what a creature you are for a woman,”  Cooper responds. “It is a man you should have been born.”  “A strange creature that would make me in your bed,” Kate fires back, “It is a woman I am, and fine cause you have to know it…What matters now is who has the land and who will keep it.”

    Ferdy O’Donnell  is a young hillside farmer on Cooper’s land.  Far back in the past, the land was owned by the O’Donnell family…Ferdy had once shown Cooper  “a valueless curiosity, a parchment that recorded the fact in faded ink the colour of old, dried blood.”

    Arthur Vincent Broome is a Protestant clergyman who is not thrilled by the “wild and dismal region” to which he has been assigned, but who performs his duties as best he can. Broome is resolved to eschew religious bigotry, but…”I affirm most sincerely that distinctions which rest upon creed mean little to me, and yet I confess that my compassion for their misery is mingled with an abhorrence of their alien ways…they live and thrive in mud and squalour…their music, for all that antiquarians and fanatics can find to say in its flavor, is wild and savage…they combine a grave and gentle courtesy with a murderous violence that erupts without warning…”‘

    Malcolm Elliott is a Protestant landlord and solicitor, and a member of the Society of United Irishmen.  This was a revolutionary group with Enlightenment ideals, dedicated to bringing Catholics and Protestants together in the cause of overthrowing British rule and establishing an Irish Republic.  His wife, Judith, is an Englishwoman with romantic ideas about Ireland.

    John Moore, also a United Irishman, is a member of one of the few Catholic families that have managed to hold on to their land.  He is in love with Ellen Treacy, daughter of another prominent Catholic family: she returns his love, but believes that he is caught in a web of words that can only lead to disaster.  “One of these days you will say a loose word to some fellow and he will get on his horse and ride off to Westport to lay an information with Dennis Browne, and that will be the last seen of you”

    Dennis Browne is High Sheriff of Mayo…smooth, manipulative, and devoted to the interests of the very largest landowners in the county, such as his brother Lord Altamont and the mysterious Lord Glenthorne, the “Big Lord” who owns vast landholdings and an immense house which he has never visited.

    Randall MacDonnell is a Catholic landowner with a decrepit farm and house, devoted primarily to his horses.  His motivations for joining the rebellion are quite different from those of the idealistic United Irishman…”For a hundred years of more, those Protestant bastards have been the cocks of the walk, strutting around on acres that belong by rights to the Irish…there are men still living who remember when a son could grab his father’s land by turning Protestant.”

    Jean Joseph Humbert is the commander of the French forces.  A former dealer in animal skins, he owes his position in life to the revolution.  He is a talented commander, but  the battle he is most concerned about is the battle for status and supremacy between himself and  Napoleon Bonaparte.

    Charles Cornwallis, the general who surrendered to the Americans at Yorktown, is now in charge of defeating the French and the rebels and pacifying the rebellious areas of Ireland.   Seen through the eyes of  a young aide who admires him greatly, Cornwallis is portrayed as a basically kindly man who can be hard when he thinks it necessary, but takes no pleasure in it.  “The color of war had long since bleached from his thoughts, and it remained for him only a duty to be scrupulously performed.”

    This book is largely about the way in which the past lives on in the present, both in the world of physical objects and the world of social relationships.  Two characters who make a brief appearance are Richard Manning, proprietor of a decrepit and debt-laden castle, and his companion Ellen Kirwan:

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Britain, France, History, Ireland | 2 Comments »

    The Revolt Against the Experts

    Posted by Jonathan on 9th February 2017 (All posts by )

    ‘Trump makes sense to a grocery store owner’

    Economist-mathematician Nassim Nicholas Taleb contends that there is a global riot against pseudo-experts
     
    After predicting the 2008 economic crisis, the Brexit vote, the U.S. presidential election and other events correctly, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of the Incerto series on global uncertainties, which includes The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, is seen as something of a maverick and an oracle. Equally, the economist-mathematician has been criticised for advocating a “dumbing down” of the economic system, and his reasoning for U.S. President Donald Trump and global populist movements. In an interview in Jaipur, Taleb explains why he thinks the world is seeing a “global riot against pseudo-experts”.

    Taleb has a typically thoughtful and contrary take on Trump’s electoral victory. Worth reading in full.

    (Via Peter Saint-Andre.)

    Posted in Big Government, Book Notes, Civil Society, Politics, Trump, USA | 13 Comments »

    What Chicago Boyz Readers Are Reading (December 2016)

    Posted by Jonathan on 24th January 2017 (All posts by )

    Below is a list of the books, ebooks, music and videos that Chicago Boyz readers viewed and/or ordered in December 2016 via Amazon links on this blog. (A cumulative list of Chicago Boyz readers’ Amazon 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 above 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 | 1 Comment »

    The End of Accounting Book Review – Part One

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 8th January 2017 (All posts by )

    Recently I read an excellent book called “The End of Accounting and the Path Forward for Investors and Managers” by Baruch Lev and Feng Gu. I highly recommend this book for investors, analysts, accountants, and those with a general interest in business. The book is very well written and researched in that it:

    1. Describes the current situation in depth
    2. Aligns the situation across an historical context and with relevant research
    3. Makes specific recommendations about how to improve the situation

    If you’d like to read more about this topic on your own (will help to frame out these posts), here is an excellent Wall Street Journal article titled “The End of Accounting” (if the link doesn’t work because you don’t have a subscription you can probably find it elsewhere on the internet). Here is a link from Accounting Today and an interview with the author from CFO magazine.

    The first post in this series is going to be my personal insights and journey in the area of accounting information, financial and investor relations analysts. This context is relevant because I, too, have seen the problems that the authors outline in the series and come up with my own “hacks” to attempt to gain better information and insights.

    I started out my career as an accountant, and I used to help create the footnotes that you see at the end of the financial reports. This wasn’t creative work per se – you would start with last year’s footnote as a template and insert new numbers, unless it was a new requirement, in which case it was a lot of work and we would turn to specialists. At that time (20+ years ago) there were only a few footnotes and the financial statements themselves weren’t that long; you would be able to read from the Chairman and CEO’s letter all the way through to the last footnote in a couple of hours.

    This was also before the internet; we would go into the company library and look at microfiche sometimes to do research or you’d pull up the hard (printed) copy from the files. At that point an annual report was also somewhat of a marketing document; companies put a lot of thought into the cover, for instance.

    At various points in the history of accounting there has been a focus on the balance sheet (assets and liabilities), the income statement (earnings per share and price / earnings ratio) and on cash flows (cash generated from the business). Each of these views are important and have their merits and their drawbacks. The statements were generally the “GAAP” view which focused on financial statement presentation and used taxes at official rates (many companies pay almost nothing in taxes in actuality by deferring them indefinitely) and held assets at historical costs. Both of these assumptions made the financial statements less useful for certain types of companies and industries.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Business, Capitalism, Economics & Finance | 3 Comments »

    What Chicago Boyz Readers Are Reading (October and November 2016)

    Posted by Jonathan on 20th December 2016 (All posts by )

    Below is a list of the books, ebooks, music and videos that Chicago Boyz readers viewed and/or ordered in October and November 2016 via Amazon links on this blog. (A cumulative list of Chicago Boyz readers’ Amazon 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 above 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 | 14 Comments »

    History Friday — Revisiting the P-51 Mustang Historical Narrative

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 16th December 2016 (All posts by )

    James Perry Stevenson and Pierre Sprey recently (Dec 2, 2016) wrote a column over on the War Is Boring media blog titled “Arrogant U.S. Generals Made the P-51 Mustang a Necessity — With better leadership, the iconic fighter plane might’ve been unnecessary” that used my September 2013 Chicagoboyz blog post “History Friday: Deconstructing the P-51 Mustang Historical Narrative” as a basis for a lot of their article with a link back to my Chicagoboyz post with a comment to the effect that it was a “detailed post.” Given who those two men are, that is the military history good housekeeping seal or approval. ***

    Yeah Me!! — Glyph of a middle age fat man doing a happy dance!

    Go over and check it out at this link:

    “Arrogant U.S. Generals Made the P-51 Mustang a Necessity — With better leadership, the iconic fighter plane might’ve been unnecessary”

    The 165 Gallon Lockheed Drop Tank in Front of a P-38 Lightning Fighter dated Nov 1943
    A 150/165 Gallon Lockheed Drop Tank in front of a P-38 Lightning Fighter. Production of the tank increased from 300 in September 1943 to 22,000 in December 1943.

    That said, it turns out their closing paragraph,

    “Arnold’s mindset, which caused him to forbid drop tank development in 1939, doomed thousands of unescorted bomber crews throughout all of 1943 to death and dismemberment. This needless slaughter remained unrelieved until the belated deliveries in 1944 of adequate quantities of drop tanks — and of long ranged P-51B’s.

    ….and my Sept 2013 blog post are going to need a rewrite thanks to my research partner Ryan Crierie’s latest find, a September 1943 fighter range chart from the Gen. Hap Arnold Microfilms Reel 122.

    The “truth in the details” is that the tragically poor decision General Hap Arnold made in 1939 to halt the use drop tanks in the US Army Air Force that made the disaster the 2nd Schweinfurt–Regensburg mission inevitable was also the decision that made the P-51B technically possible.

    The 2nd order effects of that procurement decision on the USAAF’s “technological development tree” gave Wright Field fighter development engineers the “design chops” to place in the P-51B the additional 85 gallon internal fuel tank that Mustangs used to reach Berlin in early 1944, when it was needed in late 1943.

    -more-

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Aviation, Book Notes, History, Military Affairs | 17 Comments »

    MacArthur’s Pearl Harbor, December 8th 1941 – Plus 75 Years

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 8th December 2016 (All posts by )

    One of the important things to know about General Douglas MacArthur was that almost nothing said or written about him can be trusted without extensive research to validate its truthfulness. There were a lot of reasons for this. Bureaucratic infighting inside the US Army, inside the War Department, and between the War and Naval Departments all played a role from MacArthur’s attaining flag rank in World War 1 (WW1) through his firing by President Truman during the Korean War. His overwhelming need to create what amounts to a cult of personality around himself was another.

    However, the biggest reason for this research problem was that, if the Clinton era political concept of “The Politics of Personal Destruction” had been around in the 1930s through 1950s, General Douglas MacArthur’s face would have been its poster boy. Everything the man did was personal, and that made everything everyone else did in opposition to him, “personal” to them. Thus followed rounds of name calling, selective reporting and political partisanship that have utterly polluted the historical record and require research over decades to untangle.

    A case in point is the December 8th 1941 attack on Clark Field and the massacre of the American B-17 force.  This 2007 article by Michael Gough titled “Failure and Destruction, Clark Field, the Philippines, December 8, 1941″ is a good example of the accepted narrative of the Clark Field attack.

    The real reason we lost those planes on Dec 8th 1941 was American bad luck, delusion and political ghost dancing meeting a very well prepared Japanese enemy.  Luzon was too close to the center of Japanese air power for the Far Eastern Air Force (FEAF) to survive.  Nothing MacArthur did or didn’t do would have made a real difference in that outcome.

     

    Destroyed P-35 Fighters in the aftermath of the December 8th 1941 attack

    Destroyed P-35 Fighters in the aftermath of the December 8th 1941 attack. (Source: USAF Photo via Hyperwar web site)

     

    The following was posted to the Academic H-War listserve back in late May 2012 and addresses the timing of the raid on Clark and Iba fields Dec 8th 1941 —

    “Hi Gang

    I’ve refrained from commenting on this thread because of the subject’s
    complexity, the dearth of primary documents, and a desire to avoid
    replying to endless questions, but I will make a bit of an effort here:

    From 0330 until 1014, HQ USAFFE specifically denied Brereton permission to
    launch his bomber force at
    Clark (19 B-17s) against the Japanese
    facilities on
    Formosa and did not allow him to speak directly with
    MacArthur either in person or on the telephone.

    FEAF dispersed the bombers to holding positions in the air at about 0800
    to avoid an attack expected that morning. Most of the bombers were in the air
    most of that morning.

    MacArthur gave Brereton permission to attack Formosa during a telephone
    call at 1014, and Brereton recalled the dispersed force which began landing
    about 1100.

    It took two to two and a half hours to refuel, load bombs, and prepare an attack,
    thus FEAF’s aircraft were on the ground at about 1220 when the Japanese air
    forces, delayed by fog on
    Formosa for roughly five hours, reached Clark.

    USAFFE persistently denied Brereton’s efforts to conduct reconnaissance of
    Formosa prior to 8 December, but the 19th Bomb Group’s target files
    apparently contained enough information that, although dated, made an
    attack on
    Formosa more than just a thrust into the unknown.

    Who ignored MacArthur’s chain of command and in what way?

    I am still working on my biography of Lt. Gen. Lewis H. Brereton.

    Hopefully, it will get done.

    Cheers,

    Roger G. Miller, Ph.D., GS-14
    Deputy Director
    Air Force Historical Studies Office
    HQ USAF/HOH
    Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling
    Washington, D.C. 20373-5899”

    So the Far Eastern Air Force (FEAF) took precautions to protect their B-17s from a dawn Japanese strike on Dec 8, 1941, but as Dr. Miller mentioned, they landed out of fuel just in time for the delayed-by-fog Japanese naval air force strike from Tainan Airfield, Formosa.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, History, Military Affairs, War and Peace | 26 Comments »

    Pearl Harbor, December 7th 1941 — Plus 75 Years

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 7th December 2016 (All posts by )

    Today is the 75th anniversary of the December 7th, 1941 Imperial Japanese Navy’s (IJN) surprise aerial attack on the American Pacific Fleet’s “Battleship Row” at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.  With this air attack, and air attacks in the following weeks on Clark Field in the Philippines, and on the British fleet off Malaya — sinking the new British battleship Prince of Wales and the WW1 era battlecruiser Repulse — the Japanese established unchallenged air and naval superiority across the Pacific and ran wild for six months.

    The key failure that day leading up to the attack —  A final point falure in a years long list of failures starting with the US Army Air Corps purge of fighter advocate Claire Chennault for his all too successful telephone-equipped ground observer air warning network that threatened the budget of the B-17 heavy bomber —  was the ignored warning from the US Army SCR-270B radar at Opana Point, Hawaii as the IJN Strike Force flew in.

    Chennault's 1933 Ft. Knox Air Defense Observer Network

    Then-Captain Claire Chennault’s 1933 Ft. Knox Air Defense Observer Network. It was so successful in catching bombardment formations that Chennault was black balled by the “Bomber Mafia” of two air chiefs of staff. This telephone based surveillance network was both effective and cheap…and a threat to the B-17 heavy bomber’s development budget.  Photo Source: Coast Artillery Journal Mar-Apr 1934, pg. 39

    In 2012 I discovered the book ECHOES OVER THE PACIFIC: An overview of Allied Air Warning Radar in the Pacific from Pearl Harbor to the Philippines Campaign by Ed Simmonds and Norm Smith that explained some of the reasons for that last failure. ECHOS is the story of Australian and wider Anglosphere efforts to field radar in the Pacific during WW2.  This year I also found John Bennet’s “SIGNAL COMPANY, AIRCRAFT WARNING, HAWAII ORGANIZATIONAL HISTORY” which expanded on and clarified the background to those failures further.

    US Army SCR-270 Radar used at Pearl Harbor and throughout the Pacific War by Army, Navy and Marine Radar detachments.

    US Army SCR-270 Radar used at Pearl Harbor and throughout the Pacific War by US Army, US Navy and Marine Radar detachments.

     

    ECHOS has these passages regarding the bureaucratic and political failings of radar deployment at Pearl Harbor:

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, History, Military Affairs, National Security, War and Peace | 28 Comments »

    25 Stories About Work – Experience

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 1st December 2016 (All posts by )

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

    Chicago, 1990s through today

    I just finished reading the book “Disrupted” by Dan Lyons about a journalist from Newsweek who takes a job at a start up which eventually goes public called Hubspot.  Mr. Lyons is out of place from day one as he describes how the company acts without much oversight, firing workers on a whim (they ‘graduate’) and rapidly turning over employees as the company attempts to get to the public markets before the money runs out.  To make this even stranger, the author also writes for the HBO sitcom “Silicon Valley” and Hubspot allegedly goes after him to stop this book from being published, and the board finds out about it and fires / sanctions some (but not all) of the managers that he portrayed in the book.

    All that aside, the purpose of this post is to talk about experience, and how it changes you over the decades, and its value and detriments.  Reading that book caused (not “inspired”) me to think about my own views and how they’ve evolved over the years.

    It is strange when you go from being the “new kid” to being the grey-ish haired “experienced” one.  Recently I was at 1871, the incubator in Chicago for new start-ups at the Merchandise Mart in River North where I used to live.  As I walked around I noted all the fresh faces, the beer on tap, and the grown men riding around on razor scooters to get from meeting to meeting.  Then I realized – hey I am just an old guy here.  I’m not one of them, although I could probably be a boss of some sort in one of these companies (depending on what they are looking for).


    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in 25 Stories About Work, Book Notes | Comments Off on 25 Stories About Work – Experience

    A Week of Thanksgiving

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 24th November 2016 (All posts by )

    Today is Thanksgiving Day; my daughter and I will share a feast of delightfully orange-flavored brined turkey breast (a recipe lifted from the current issue of Cuisine at Home) plus some sides; as a small dish of baked stuffing using some heels of pumpernickel bread from the bounteously-stuffed garage deep-freeze, oven-roasted Brussel sprouts, garlic mashed potatoes, all served with a dash of the lingonberry sauce from the jar I purchased last weekend from the Ikea grocery department – it tastes very much like cranberry sauce anyway — and finished off with a slice of pumpkin pie, baked this week. The enduring trouble that I have with Thanksgiving is that I don’t much like most of the traditional dishes. Of those that I do, I don’t want to eat leftovers of them from now until past mid-December. Seriously, in many years, I was so tired of sorting out the remainders of a whole turkey I would choose anything else vaguely birdlike for the main entrée, and for Christmas, practically anything else. On some years when it would be just me, I threw tradition to the winds and did a tiny half-pound frozen poulet from HEB Central Market, or a rock Cornish game hen, accompanied by the traditional autumnal dishes that I did like. (These solitary dinners were a treat for me; single servings of exotic and/or expensive dishes that I would never have sampled otherwise.)

    Yes, I did some Thanksgiving days with just me, myself, and I, contra every existing holiday tradition. I experienced some uncomfortable Thanksgiving Day dinners at the houses of acquaintances, but the worst of them was an excruciating dinner wherein I with preschool daughter in tow had been invited by my military supervisor to share his familial table … except that he had somehow forgotten to tell his spouse until the very last minute that he had invited us. Her resentment was a palpable thing, hovering over the table like a fog and curdling every bite that I took. That was the year that I resolved to break no bread on Thanksgiving with any but blood family; if it meant only the two of us or myself alone, then so be it. I did manage to get home for that traditional dinner with blood relatives now and again – which varied the solitary meal program to some degree.

    Besides, sometimes the Thanksgiving holiday was an opportunity to do serious work – the year that I replaced the back fence myself, and ate my supper mid-project from a tray (the tiny poulet year) sitting in the living room and regarding the fence in mid-project. This year is no different, with substantial projects in mid-accomplishment: we have the three-day market event in Johnson City to prepare for; the full-on display of the pavilion, with Christmas lights, special displays and three days’ worth of stock; my books, her earrings. This is a huge event – justifying some preparations above and beyond the usual. Christmas dinner will mark the real end and celebration for us – another year, well-done.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, Arts & Letters, Book Notes, Business, Culture, Current Events, Diversions | 9 Comments »

    25 Stories About Work – Getting a Review and Thinking Like Your Boss

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 22nd November 2016 (All posts by )

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

    Chicago, 1990s through today

    If you are ever looking for a great book to read, I would recommend High Output Management by Andy Grove, the late former founder of Intel. I picked up a hard copy on the internet for just a few dollars including shipping and although it was written in the mid 1980s (and updated in the early 1990s) much of the book is completely relevant for both new entrants to the work force and those that have been engaged for decades.

    Andy Grove had a passion for getting the most out of his employees, since he was focused on productivity and his staff represented a large cost (and opportunity) for his organization. He approached productivity in two main ways 1) by leveraging process and eliminating bureaucracy he could move faster at lower cost 2) by training and motivating his staff, he could achieve greater outputs. For the purpose of this post we will focus on #2, although it should be remembered that Andy Grove also essentially popularized key elements of the “open office” plan where executives sit amongst their staff which I will cover in a future post.

    For his employees, he defined motivation as getting the maximum that he could achieve. His motivation would broadly be considered “engagement” in the modern definition. “Engaged” employees go the extra mile and are passionate and drive for results, while “dis-engaged” employees are an active drag on the business and your company would frankly be better off if they just stayed home. Most employees are in the middle of the spectrum, neither actively engaged nor disengaged.

    Training and feedback are the key elements of this post. Andy pushed training in his business and held his executives to a standard that they needed to teach and be part of the process of investing in employees. I remember when I was starting out in my master’s program many case studies held up Motorola as ahead of their time with the “Motorola University” of classes to train and advance their employees. All of this was done before the internet with papers, books and physical classes and it represented a significant investment for the company. Today, these programs have mostly been minimized at large corporations, although many service firms (financial and technology) still invest heavily in training and grooming their own staff, and most large internet / technology firms have more extensive orientation and learning methodologies.

    For feedback, there is a template for an annual review in this book from the 1980s which contains all of the key elements of an employee review that you might receive today. The employee is supposed to do a self-review prior to the meeting, and the manager goes through the strengths, weaknesses, and areas of improvement and seeks out feedback from peers in order to develop a thorough analysis. Andy Grove mentioned how important employee development and feedback was to him and how he forced other top executives to be part of and even care about the process although many of them did it in a perfunctory manner (complying with the process but not the “spirit”).

    From my personal experience and from those of my work acquaintances across many industries, the formal personnel appraisal has been dying for many years and is usually done in a perfunctory manner if it happens at all. If you are in a services business (consulting, law, finance), your personnel review is essentially done for you in the course of your engagements, since “good” staff are selected for teams and “poor” staff are shuffled around and / or “ride the bench”. Leaders have an incentive to collect (and shield) the best staff because they make the most money for their groups by pleasing clients and billing lots of hours while the poorer performers are not selected and (mostly) find their way out of the organization (or into the back office bureaucracy where they don’t face clients). While the service firms’ HR departments would vehemently deny this statement, it is the “broad” truth.

    But if you are in a corporation or smaller business that is not service facing, you will be most impacted by a poor or minimalistic review process (as an employee), because you won’t get valuable and direct feedback that will help you grow and improve. In today’s corporate environment, re-organizations are frequent and managers rotate through departments (or are thrown into direct work), so supervision routinely moves to the back burner. There is little incentive to groom and work on staff (as a manager) if you aren’t going to be around for 2-3 years in the same job because it takes time to invest in staff and improving processes and behaviors and there is no purpose in putting in this sort of investment if you are just going to move on to the next job anyways.

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    Posted in 25 Stories About Work, Book Notes, Management | 12 Comments »

    Book Review: The Road Back, by Erich Maria Remarque (rerun)

    Posted by David Foster on 20th November 2016 (All posts by )

    The Road Back by Erich Maria Remarque

    —-

    (I had intended to rerun this post during the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme, which took place from July 1 to November 18, 1916…missed that window, but of course the war lasted for two more years after the Somme)

    The narrator is a young German who served in the First World War. The war is finally over, and Ernst, together with his surviving comrades, has returned to the high school from which they departed in 1914. The Principal is delivering a “welcome home” speech, and it is a speech in the old oratorical style:

    “But especially we would remember those fallen sons of our foundation, who hastened joyfully to the defence of their homeland and who have remained upon the field of honour. Twenty-one comrades are with us no more; twenty-one warriors have met the glorious death of arms; twenty-one heroes have found rest from the clamour of battle under foreign soil and sleep the long sleep beneath the green grasses..”

    There is suddden, booming laughter. The Principal stops short in pained perplexity. The laughter comes from Willy standing there, big and gaunt, like an immense wardrobe. His face is red as a turkey’s, he is so furious.

    “Green grasses!–green grasses!” he stutters, “long sleep?” In the mud of shell-holes they are lying, knocked rotten. ripped in pieces, gone down into the bog–Green grasses! This is not a singing lesson!” His arms are whirling like a windmill in a gale. “Hero’s death! And what sort of thing do you suppose that was, I wonder?–Would you like to know how young Hoyer died? All day long he lay in the wire screaming. and his guts hanging out of his belly like macaroni. Then a bit of shell took off his fingers and a couple of hours later another chunk off his leg; and still he lived; and with his other hand he kept trying to pack back his intestines, and when night fell at last he was done. And when it was dark we went out to get him and he was as full of holes as a nutmeg grater.—Now, you go and tell his mother how he died–if you have so much courage.”

    Not only Willy, but several other student/soldiers rise to challenge the tone of the Principal’s speech:

    “But gentlemen,” cries the Old Man almost imploringly, “there is a misunderstanding–a most painful misunderstanding—”

    But he does not finish. He is interrupted by Helmuth Reinersmann, who carried his brother back through a bombardment on the Yser, only to put him down dead at the dressing-station.

    “Killed,” he says savagely, “They were not killed for you to make speeches about them. They were our comrades. Enough! Let’s have no more wind-bagging about it.”

    The assembly dissolves into angry confusion.

    Then suddenly comes a lull in the tumult. Ludwig Breyer has stepped out to the front. “Mr Principal,” says Ludwig in a clear voice. “You have seen the war after your fashion—with flying banners, martial music, and with glamour. But you saw it only to the railway station from which we set off. We do not mean to blame you. We, too, thought as you did. But we have seen the other side since then, and against that the heroics of 1914 soon wilted to nothing. Yet we went through with it–we went through with it because here was something deeper that held us together, something that only showed up out there, a responsibility perhaps, but at any rate something of which you know nothing and of which there can be no speeches.”

    Ludwig pauses a moment, gazing vacantly ahead. He passes a hand over his forehead and continues. “We have not come to ask a reckoning–that would be foolish; nobody knew then what was coming.–But we do require that you shall not again try to prescribe what we shall think of these things. We went out full of enthusiasm, the name of the ‘Fatherland’ on our lips–and we have returned in silence,. but with the thing, the Fatherland, in our hearts. And now we ask you to be silent too. Have done with fine phrases. They are not fitting. Nor are they fitting to our dead comrades. We saw them die. And the memory of it is still too near that we can abide to hear them talked of as you are doing. They died for more than that.”

    Now everywhere it is quiet. The Principal has his hands clasped together. “But Breyer,” he says gently. “I–I did not mean it so.”

    Ludwig Breyer’s words: “We do require that you shall not again try to prescribe what we shall think of these things…Have done with fine phrases” capture well the break which the Great War caused in the relationship between generations, and even in the use of language. It is a disconnect with which we are still living.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Deep Thoughts, Europe, Germany, History, War and Peace | 7 Comments »

    Attack of the Job-Killing Robots, Part 2

    Posted by David Foster on 15th November 2016 (All posts by )

    In my previous post of this series, I remarked that most discussion of the employment effects of robotics/artificial intelligence/etc seems to be lacking in historical perspective…quite a few people seem to believe that the replacement of human labor by machinery is a new thing.

    This post will attempt to provide some historical perspective on today’s automation technologies by sketching out some of the past innovations in the mechanization of work,  focusing on “robots,” broadly-defined…ie, on technologies which to some degree involve the replacement or augmentation of human mind/eye/hand, rather than those that are primarily concerned with the replacement of human and animal muscular energy…and will discuss some of the political debate that took place on mechanization & jobs in the 1920s through 1940s.

    Throughout most of history, the production of yarn for cloth was an extremely labor-intensive process, done with a device called a distaff, almost always employed by women, and requiring many hours per day to generate a little bit of product.  (There even exists a medieval miniature of a woman spinning with the distaff while having sex…whether this is a comment on the burdensomeness of the yarn-making process, or a slam at the love-making skills of medieval men, I’m not sure—-probably both.)  Eventually, probably around 1400-1500 in most places in Europe, the spinning wheel came into use, improving the productivity of yarn-making by a factor estimated from 3:1 to as much as ten or more to one.

    Gutenberg’s printing press was invented somewhere around 1440.  I haven’t seen any estimates of its effect on labor productivity, compared with the then-prevailing method of hand copying of manuscripts, but surely it was at least 1000 to 1 or more.

    The era from 1700-1850 was marked by tremendous increases in the productivity of the textile trades.  The flying shuttle and other advances greatly improved the weaving process; this created a bottleneck in the supply of yarn, which was partly addressed by the invention of the Spinning Jenny–a foot-powered device that could improve the yarn production of one person by 5:1 or better. Power spinning and power looms yielded considerable additional productivity improvements.

    An especially interesting device was the Jacquard Loom (1802), which used punched cards to direct the weaving of patterned fabrics.  In its initial incarnation, the Jacquard was a hand loom: its productivity did not come from the application of mechanical power but rather from the automation of the complex thread-selection operations previously carried out by a “Draw Boy.”

    Turning now to woodworking:  in 1818, Blanchard’s Copying Lathe automated the production of complex shape–a prototype was automatically traced and copied. It was originally intended for making gunstocks, but also served in producing lasts for shoemakers, and I believe also chair and table legs.

    Another major advancement in the clothing field was the sewing machine.  French inventory Barthelemy Thimonnier invented a machine in 1830, but was driven out of the country by enraged tailors and political instability.  The first commercially-successful machines were invented/marketed by Americans Walter Hunt, Elias Howe, and Isaac Singer, and were in common use by the 1850s.

    By the late Victorian period the sewing machine had been hailed as the most useful invention of the century releasing women from the drudgery of endless hours of sewing by hand. Factories sprung up in almost every country in the world to feed the insatiable demand for the sewing machine. Germany had over 300 factories some working 24 hours a day producing countless numbers of sewing machines. 

    The beginnings of data communications could be seen in gold ticker and stock ticker systems created by Edison and others (circa 1870) , which relayed prices almost instantaneously and eliminated the jobs of the messenger boys who had previously been the distribution channel for this information.  Practical calculating machines also appeared in the 1870s.  But the big step forward in mechanized calculation was Hollerith’s punched card system (quite likely inspired in part by the Jacquard), introduced in 1890 and used for the tabulation of that year’s census.  These systems were quickly adopted for accounting and record keeping purposes in a whole range of industries and government functions.

    Professor Amy Sue Bix, in her book Inventing Ourselves out of Jobs?, describes the fear of technological unemployment as silent movies were replaced by the ‘talkies’. “Through the early 1920s…local theaters had employed live musicians to provide accompaniment for silent pictures.  Small houses featured only a pianist or violinist, but glamorous ‘movie places’ engaged full orchestras.”  All these jobs were threatened when Warner Brothers introduced its Vitaphone technology, with prerecorded disks synchronized to projectors.  “Unlike other big studios, Warner did not operate its own theater chains and so had to convince local owners to screen their productions. Theater managers would be eager to show sound movies, Harry Warner hoped, since they could save the expense of hiring musicians.”

    The American Federation of Musicians mounted a major PR campaign in an attempt to convince the public that ‘living music’ was better than ‘canned sound.’  A Music Defense League was established, with membership reaching 3 million…but the ‘talkies’ remained popular, and the AFM had to admit defeat.  A lot of musicians did lose their jobs.

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    Posted in Book Notes, Business, Capitalism, Deep Thoughts, Economics & Finance, History, Tech, USA | 47 Comments »

    Lieutenant-General Sir Adrian Carton de Wiart, VC, KBE, CB, CMG, DSO

    Posted by Lexington Green on 4th November 2016 (All posts by )

    carton-de-wiart
     
    Carton de Wiart was wounded a grand total of 11 times; twice in the Boer War, once in Somaliland and eight times on the Western Front. Two of these injuries resulted in serious impairments: the loss of his left eye, and the loss of his left hand. He was shot in the face, head, stomach, ankle, leg, hip, and ear. He tore off his own wounded fingers when a doctor refused to amputate them. For many years after he had been wounded in the First World War, pieces of shrapnel were being taken from his body.
     
    He summed up his experience in the First World War: “Frankly I had enjoyed the war.”
     
    Carton de Wiart started his service as a Trooper in the Middlesex Yeomanry during the Boer War. He was gazetted into the 4th Royal Irish Dragoon Guards in India in 1902 and was later seconded to the Somaliland Camel Corps with whom he won the DSO in 1916, losing his eye in the process. After returning to the 4th Dragoon Guards in Flanders, he was severely wounded and lost his left hand whilst in action near Ypres. On recovery, he returned to France, was given command of the 8th Battalion of the Gloucestershire Regiment and whilst commanding them during the fierce fighting at La Boiselle on the 2nd/3rd July 1916, he was awarded the VC. His citation reads:
     
    “He displayed conspicuous bravery, coolness and determination in forcing home the attack, thereby averting a serious reverse. After the other Battalion Commanders had become casualties, he controlled their commands as well, frequently exposing himself to the intense barrage of enemy fire. His energy and courage was an inspiration to us all.”
     
    After recovering from further wounds he was given command of 12th Brigade.
     
    During the Second World War, Carton de Wiart served first as Head of the British Military Mission to Poland until its collapse, this was followed by command of the Central Norwegian Expeditionary Forces in its hopeless attempt to hold Trondheim. A year later, he was sent to head the Military Mission in Yugoslavia but on the way, his plane crashed into the sea and after swimming ashore he was made a prisoner of the Italians. In August 1943, the Italians released him and sent him to Lisbon to negotiate their surrender terms. From October 1943 until retirement in 1946, he was the Government’s Military Representative with General Chiang Kai-Shek in China.
     
    Carton de Wiart is the basis for the character Brigadier Ben Ritchie-Hook in Evelyn Waugh’s Sword of Honor trilogy.
     
    His eyepatch and missing hand caused him to be known as “Nelson” to his troops.
     
    Carton de Wiart’s memoir Happy Odyssey – The Memoirs of Lieutenant-General Sir Adrian Carton de Wiart (1950) is very good.
     
    “Governments may think and say as they like, but force cannot be eliminated, and it is the only real and unanswerable power. We are told that the pen is mightier than the sword, but I know which of these weapons I would choose.”
     
    Carton de Wiart’s medals:
     
    Top Row, L to R: Star badge, Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire; Badge, Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire; Companion of the Order of the Bath; Companion of the Order of St. Michael and St. George; Knight of the Legion d’Honneur.
    Bottom row: Victoria Cross; Distinguished Service Order; Queen’sSouth Africa Medal, with clasps: South Africa 1901, Transvaal, Orange Free State, Cape Colony; Africa General Service Medal, with clasp Shimber Berris, 1914-15; 1914 Star; British War Medal, 1914-20; Allied Victory Medal, with oak leaf for Mention in Dispatches, 1914-19; France and Germany star; Africa Star; Burma Star; Italy Star; British War Medal, 1939-45; Coronation Medal, 1937; Coronation Medal, 1953; Officer of the Belgian Order of the Crown; silver Cross of the Polish Order of Military Virtue; Belgian Croix de Guerre (WWI); Polish Cross of Valour (WWI); Polish Cross of Valour (WWII); French Croix de Guerre (WWII), with oak leaf for Mention in Dispatches.
     
    carton-de-wiarts-medals

    Posted in Book Notes, History, Military Affairs | 22 Comments »

    Day of the Dead

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 1st November 2016 (All posts by )

    (A diversion from all the seriousness of this week; a brief excerpt for today – All Saints’ Day in the Christian calendar, and commonly celebrated as one of the Days of the Dead in the borderlands – from Book 1 in the continuing series of the Chronicles of Luna City)

    Day of the Dead

    The dead are always with us – their memories, if not their actual presence. Some of the residents of Luna City do claim a casual speaking relationship with the dead, through some medium or other. Judy Grant claims to see auras and to sense otherworldly presences. The rest, especially those over a certain age – are acquainted with the dead. The oldest residents; Miss Letty McAllister, Dr. Wyler, Adeliza Gonzales, all of whom have passed into their eighth decade at the very least, are now in the curious position of having more friends among the dead than they do the living.

    Such is the custom in the borderlands, which includes Luna City; there is a time to formally acknowledge those gone on before. In the Catholic Church, the first and second days of November — All Saint’s and All Soul’s Days – are set aside to honor and celebrate saints and martyrs, and then to remember all the others. Such orthodox Catholic rites and traditions of observing All Saints and All Souls merged, or were grafted onto more ancient customs. In Mexico, such observances merged with a traditional festival honoring an Aztec goddess of the underworld. It is believed that over the Days of the Dead, they are allowed to return for a visit to the living. It is considered a fond and courteous gesture to put out refreshments for those visitors, especially the deceased’s favorite food and drink. In Mexico and in the southern borderlands, the dead are honored with representations of skulls, and offerings of marigolds and special food and drink. Families visit the graveyard, and adorn the grave of a loved one with flowers, or build special private altars adorned with pictures of the deceased, with flowers, candles and significant memorabilia. It’s just one of those things. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Miscellaneous, Religion, Texas | 6 Comments »

    Turning and Twisting in the Gyre

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 22nd October 2016 (All posts by )

    I am currently torn three ways, between the start of the holiday market season for myself and my daughter’s various enterprises, my own blogging and writing, and a book project for a Watercress Press client. The book project is to do with local history, and a particularly contentious event during the Civil War – in Texas. Even as far west of the Mississippi as Texas was, from the main theater of war, some comparatively minor skirmishes in the first Civil War took place in Texas. And the final battle, and surrender of the last hold-out Confederate command took place down on the Rio Grande, and the very last Union Army casualty fell in that Texas fight. But that is stuff for history trivia contests. (The answers are, FYI, the battle of Palmito Ranch, and Private John J. Williams, of the 34th Indiana.)

    The book project has a fair amount of my attention, as it touches on a local history matter featured in my own books – but in the interesting coincidence of the Tiny Publishing Bidness having published some of the local history books noted as sources, or citing local historians whom I have met or have had something to do with; the late Rev. Ken Knopp, James Kearney, and Jefferson Morganthaler, most notably – and referring to many of the sources that I read as research for the Adelsverein Trilogy. This book that I am working on now caps a series which can only be produced by a writer/researcher involved to the point of intense – yea, even fanatical interest – in a specific Civil War event. Seriously, Colonel Paul Burrier (USA, Ret.) has gone back into the archives of various establishments and re-published at his expense just about every relevant document there is to find in national and state archives regarding the locally infamous incident memorialized by the True to the Union monument in Comfort, Texas.

    I’ve written here and there about the Nueces Fight/Battle/Massacre here, here, and there…and how the peculiar situation in the Hill Country of Texas – well-stocked with Abolitionist, pro-Union inclinations – generated a bitter civil war-within a civil war. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Book Notes, History, Military Affairs, Miscellaneous | 17 Comments »

    The Cuban Missile Crisis, as Viewed from a Soviet Launch Facility (rerun)

    Posted by David Foster on 17th October 2016 (All posts by )

    This month marks the 54th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis, which brought the world dangerously close to thermonuclear war.

    Several years ago,  I read  Rockets and People, the totally fascinating memoir of Soviet rocket developer Boris Chertok, which I reviewed here.

    Chertok’s career encompassed both military and space-exploration projects, and in late October 1962 he was focused on preparations for launching a Mars probe. On the morning of Oct 27, he was awakened by “a strange uneasiness.” After a quick breakfast, he headed for the missile assembly building, known as the MIK.

    At the gatehouse, there was usually a lone soldier on duty who would give my pass a cursory glance. Now suddenly I saw a group of soldiers wielding sub-machine guns, and they thoroughly scrutinized my pass. Finally they admitted me to the facility grounds and there, to my surprise, I again saw sub-machine-gun-wielding soldiers who had climbed up the fire escape to the roof of the MIK. Other groups of soldiers in full combat gear, even wearing gas masks, were running about the periphery of the secure area. When I stopped in at the MIK, I immediately saw that the “duty” R-7A combat missile, which had always been covered and standing up against the wall, which we had always ignored, was uncovered.

    Chertok was greeted by his friend Colonel Kirillov, who was in charge of this launch facility. Kirollov did not greet Chertok with his usual genial smile, but with a “somber, melancholy expression.”

    Without releasing my hand that I’d extended for our handshake, he quietly said: “Boris Yevseyevich, I have something of urgent importance I must tell you”…We went into his office on the second floor. Here, visibly upset, Kirillov told me: “Last night I was summoned to headquarters to see the chief of the [Tyura-Tam] firing range. The chiefs of the directorates and commanders of the troop units were gathered there. We were told that the firing range must be brought into a state of battle readiness immediately. Due to the events in Cuba, air attacks, bombardment, and even U.S. airborne assaults are possible. All Air Defense Troops assets have already been put into combat readiness. Flights of our transport airplanes are forbidden. All facilities and launch sites have been put under heightened security. Highway transport is drastically restricted. But most important—I received the order to open an envelope that has been stored in a special safe and to act in accordance with its contents. According to the order, I must immediately prepare the duty combat missile at the engineering facility and mate the warhead located in a special depot, roll the missile out to the launch site, position it, test it, fuel it, aim it, and wait for a special launch command. All of this has already been executed at Site No. 31. I have also given all the necessary commands here at Site No. 2. Therefore, the crews have been removed from the Mars shot and shifted over to preparation of the combat missile. The nosecone and warhead will be delivered here in 2 hours.

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    Posted in Book Notes, Cuba, History, Russia, Space, War and Peace | 5 Comments »

    What Chicago Boyz Readers Are Reading (September 2016)

    Posted by Jonathan on 16th October 2016 (All posts by )

    Below is a list of the books, ebooks, music and videos that Chicago Boyz readers viewed and/or ordered in September 2016 via Amazon links on this blog. (A cumulative list of Chicago Boyz readers’ Amazon 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 above 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 | 3 Comments »

    Working on Stuff

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 9th October 2016 (All posts by )

    So, I am taking a break from writing about political stuff this week, in this last stretch before the elections. For one reason – I have said what I have to generally say about it all, several times over, and for year after year; just not interested in finding a way of saying it all again. For another, there are bloggers and commenters who are saying it all much better than I could – about the possible apotheosis of Her Inevitableness, the Dowager Queen of Chappaqua, the possible repercussions of said apotheosis, and the fighting chances of The Donald. Frankly, it impresses me that he pisses off a whole lot of individuals who have a long, long, long history of insulting and denigrating me, as a military veteran, a proud member of the aspiring middle class, and Tea Party participant. No, he isn’t the answer to every political maiden’s ardent prayer; he’s a loud, proud, out and out oft-married Noo Yawk vulgarian, which most intelligent political mavens realized early in the game – but as Abraham Lincoln was moved to say in defense of Ulysses S. Grant, early on in the first civil war, “I can’t spare this man; he fights.”

    So – The Donald fights, which is quite refreshing for a quasi-conservative, and a nice change for the manner in which so-called representatives of the conservative end of the National Uniparty usually react. * They curl up and whimper apologetically when accused of some offense – whatever is the prime offense of the moment according to the current crop of screeching garbage babies – and then they move on as if nothing had ever happened. The die is cast, in any case: the election itself is in less than four weeks. Whatever deals are in the works have been cut, the planned media bombshells have already been primed and aimed, the required ballot-boxes have already been stuffed in the strategic districts, either actually, or by electronic means; the set speeches written and the responding authoritative editorials composed and set on time-delay release. All that us ordinary citizens can do is to buckle in for the bumpy ride, and vote as our conscience dictates.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, Blogging, Book Notes, Conservatism, Current Events, Media, Trump | 45 Comments »

    Friday Diversion: The Launch of Luna City 3.1

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 23rd September 2016 (All posts by )

    Yes – just this week, we have launched the third of the Luna City Chronicles – there will be at least two more, and possibly beyond, as it is a fun series to write and readers seem to enjoy them immensely.
    Behold the cover –

    9780989782272-Perfect.indd

    Luna City 3.1 is available on Amazon for Kindle and in print (although the cover image doesn’t show, yet) and on Barnes & Noble.

    As a bonus – a short snippet of a chapter –
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, Arts & Letters, Book Notes | 5 Comments »

    Life in the Fully Politicized Society (rerun)

    Posted by David Foster on 20th September 2016 (All posts by )

    (The politicization of American society has increased markedly since I wrote this post in May of 2014.  Sports, for example, is now politicized–see what happens when a culture loses its last neutral ground?–along with everything from shopping to education. The sway of ‘progressive’ orthodoxy continues to extend its sway over all aspect of American life.)

    Many will remember Michelle Obama’s 2008 speech, in which she said:

    Barack Obama will require you to work. He is going to demand that you shed your cynicism. That you put down your divisions. That you come out of your isolation, that you move out of your comfort zones. That you push yourselves to be better. And that you engage. Barack will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual, uninvolved, uninformed….You have to stay at the seat at the table of democracy with a man like Barack Obama not just on Tuesday but in a year from now, in four years from now, in eight years from now, you will have to be engaged.

    Victor Davis Hanson notes that she also said:

    We are going to have to change our conversation; we’re going to have to change our traditions, our history; we’re going to have to move into a different place as a nation.

    …which is, of course, entirely consistent with the assertion made by Barack Obama himself, shortly before his first inauguration:  “We are five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America.”

    It should be clear by now that all aspects of American life and society are rapidly becoming politicized. Obama has greatly accelerated this movement, but he didn’t initiate it.  The “progressive” political movement, which now controls the Democratic Party, has for a long time been driving the politicization of anything and everything.  The assertion “the personal is political” originated in the late 1960s…and, if the personal is political, then everything is political.

    Some people, of course, like the politicization of everything–for some individuals, indeed, their lives would be meaningless without it. In his important memoir of growing up in Germany between the wars, Sebastian Haffnernoted divergent reactions from people when the political and economic situation stabilized (temporarily, as we now know) during the Stresemann chancellorship:

    The last ten years were forgotten like a bad dream. The Day of Judgment was remote again, and there was no demand for saviors or revolutionaries…There was an ample measure of freedom, peace, and order, everywhere the most well-meaning liberal-mindedness, good wages, good food and a little political boredom. everyone was cordially invited to concentrate on their personal lives, to arrange their affairs according to their own taste and to find their own paths to happiness.

    But this return to private life was not to everyone’s taste:

    A generation of young Germans had become accustomed to having the entire content of their lives delivered gratis, so to speak, by the public sphere, all the raw material for their deeper emotions…Now that these deliveries suddently ceased, people were left helpless, impoverished, robbed, and disappointed. They had never learned how to live from within themselves, how to make an ordinary private life great, beautiful and worth while, how to enjoy it and make it interesting. So they regarded the end of political tension and the return of private liberty not as a gift, but as a deprivation. They were bored, their minds strayed to silly thoughts, and they began to sulk.

    and

    To be precise (the occasion demands precision, because in my opinion it provides the key to the contemporary period of history): it was not the entire generation of young Germans. Not every single individual reacted in this fashion. There were some who learned during this period, belatedly and a little clumsily, as it were, how to live. they began to enjoy their own lives, weaned themselves from the cheap intoxication of the sports of war and revolution, and started to develop their own personalities. It was at this time that, invisibly and unnoticed, the Germans divided into those who later became Nazis and those who would remain non-Nazis.

    I’m afraid we have quite a few people in America today who like having “the entire content of their lives delivered gratis, so to speak, by the public sphere, all the raw material for their deeper emotions.”  But for most people, especially for creative and emotionally-healthy people, the politicization of everything leads to a dreary and airless existence.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Book Notes, Germany, Human Behavior, Leftism, Politics, Russia, USA | 21 Comments »

    Happy V-J Day, Plus 71 Years and a Few Days

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 6th September 2016 (All posts by )

    It has become something of a tradition for the Chicagoboyz web site to commemorate the major events closing out World War II in the Pacific, Where the worst recorded war in human history became a nuclear war — the August 6th and 9th 1945 A-bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki — the Imperial Japanese acceptance of the terms of the Potsdam Declaration, and the Sept 2, 1945 formal surrender on the battleship USS Missouri.  See the link enabled list below —

    2015 — Happy V-J Day, at 70 Years Plus a Day and Hiroshima, Nagasaki & The Invasion That Never Was (+70)

    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

    Color Photo of the Sept 2, 1945 Imperial Japanese Surrender ceremony marking the conclusion of WW2 on the Battleship USS Missouri.

    Color photo of the Sept 2, 1945 surrender ceremony marking the conclusion of WW2 on the Battleship USS Missouri.

    Since that ceremony, a whole mythology about that period of history has grown, driven by various institutional and political imperatives following those events.  And in particular, with regard to the use of nuclear weapons to end the war.

    This year’s Chicagoboyz commemoration deals not with those myths, but with the war plans of the US Army Air Force (USAAF) from May thru August 1945.  Too understand the use of the A-bomb in August 1945, you have to understand it in terms of the context of those May to August 1945 plans, not the institutional games that came after, games ably laid out in Michael Gordon’s recent WW2 book FIVE DAYS IN AUGUST — How World War II Became a Nuclear War”.

    The short form was that the USAAF institutional leadership, Chief of Staff of the USAAF, General Arnold; operational commander US Army Strategic Air Forces (USASTAF) General Spaatz and Far Eastern Air Forces (FEAF) General Kenney were trying to win the war with conventional bombing via

    1. The Small City Target Plan — Bombing out the smaller, 100,000 person or less, Japanese cities within range of Saipan to ‘induce’ a surrender;

     

    2. The Transportation Plan — A massive two month (1 Oct – 30 Nov 1945) long campaign intended to destroy Japan’s rail system; and

     

    3. Beach Preparations on Kyushu — The proposed B-29 carpet bombing of Kyushu beaches on 29, 30 and 31 October with 100 B29 per beach per day.

    Between the agenda of the USAAF bomber generals to form and independent air force and the coming merger of the Navy and War Departments into the Defense Department, much about these three plans never made it out of the secret files — particularly the use of the then high tech SHORAN radio navigation system — to the general public…until now.

    (More at page 2)

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, History, Japan, Military Affairs, Miscellaneous, National Security | 34 Comments »

    What Chicago Boyz Readers Are Reading (July and August 2016)

    Posted by Jonathan on 3rd September 2016 (All posts by )

    Below is a list of the books, ebooks, music and videos that Chicago Boyz readers viewed and/or ordered in July and August 2016 via Amazon links on this blog. (A cumulative list of Chicago Boyz readers’ Amazon 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 above 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 | Comments Off on What Chicago Boyz Readers Are Reading (July and August 2016)

    What is “alt-Right” in this year’s election ?

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 28th August 2016 (All posts by )

    There is a new theme for the Democrats in this year’s election. Hillary calls it the “Alt-Right.”

    The New York Times is alarmed.

    As Hillary Clinton assailed Donald J. Trump on Thursday for fanning the flames of racism embraced by the “alt-right,” the community of activists that tends to lurk anonymously in the internet’s dark corners could hardly contain its glee.

    Mrs. Clinton’s speech was intended to link Mr. Trump to a fringe ideology of conspiracies and hate, but for the leaders of the alt-right, the attention from the Democratic presidential nominee was a moment in the political spotlight that offered a new level of credibility. It also provided a valuable opportunity for fund-raising and recruiting.

    Jared Taylor, editor of the white nationalist publication American Renaissance, live-tweeted Mrs. Clinton’s remarks, questioning her praise of establishment Republicans and eagerly anticipating her discussion of his community.

    According to Hillary and the Times, Donald Trump is defined by those who say they support him more than by what he says himself.

    If Hillary and Bernie Sanders are supported by communists, does that make them communists ? This is an odd year and will get worse.

    A better explanation of “alt-Right” is provided by two spokesmen for another view.

    A specter is haunting the dinner parties, fundraisers and think-tanks of the Establishment: the specter of the “alternative right.” Young, creative and eager to commit secular heresies, they have become public enemy number one to beltway conservatives — more hated, even, than Democrats or loopy progressives.
    The alternative right, more commonly known as the alt-right, is an amorphous movement. Some — mostly Establishment types — insist it’s little more than a vehicle for the worst dregs of human society: anti-Semites, white supremacists, and other members of the Stormfront set. They’re wrong.

    I wasn’t even aware of this controversy until Ann Althouse put up a post on the subject after Hillary raised it.

    She quotes a man who was ejected from the Hillary speech.

    “I call myself alt right because the conservative establishment right in this country does not represent my views, they are just as much to blame for the disaster taking place in America as the left, the alt right to me is fiscal responsibility, secure borders, enforcement of immigration laws, ending the PC culture, and promoting AMERICA FIRST (Not Sharia First)… If you come to this country legally, follow the laws, learn our language, and love the country, you are equal, no matter your color, or religion. Basically alt-right is to separate ourselves from the failing establishment right.

    That post led to over 300 comments on her blog. She then posted a survey. The results were interesting.

    alt-right poll

    I voted for the choice “I’m most of all of what it stands for but I don’t use that term, myself.”

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Civil Society, Conservatism, Culture, Elections, Immigration, Leftism, Trump | 34 Comments »

    Announcing the Clausewitz Roundtable Book

    Posted by Lexington Green on 16th August 2016 (All posts by )

    Clausewitz RT cover

    We are proud to announce the publication of the Clausewitz Roundtable in book form. This book is an edited version of an online discussion on the Chicago Boyz blog in the Fall of 2009.

    It is said that everyone quotes Clausewitz, but no one reads him. The participants in this Roundtable refuted that assertion. We read On War, all of it, and commented on each chapter of the book.

    Reading On War with a like-minded group, committed to taking Clausewitz seriously, in his own words, without relying on secondary sources, was an intellectual adventure. The discussion was lively, thoughtful and insightful.

    If you are interested in Clausewitz, and the ongoing value of Clausewitz’s classic book, the Clausewitz Roundtable will be of interest to you. It is now published in electronic format, and is modestly priced at $2.99.

    If you buy the book and like it, please leave a positive review on the Amazon page.

    If you read and liked the original Clausewitz Roundtable, you could in all fairness leave a review on the Amazon page based on that as well.

    Posted in Book Notes, Clausewitz Roundtable | 4 Comments »