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  • Archive for the 'History' Category

    Happy Anniversary to the Spitfire!

    Posted by David Foster on 5th March 2016 (All posts by )

    Today marks the 80th anniversary of  the first flight of the Spitfire fighter prototype.

    See also my post from last year: the Battle of Britain + 75

    Posted in Aviation, Britain, History, Tech, War and Peace | 7 Comments »

    On This Texas Independence Day

    Posted by Jay Manifold on 2nd March 2016 (All posts by )

    What I’m feeling for the GOP is a kind of disinterested sympathy, punctuated with schadenfreude, the disinterest arising from never having been a Republican, the sympathy from the GOP identification of a plurality of my close friends – uniformly horrified by what is happening – and the schadenfreude from the abrupt collapse of three-plus decades of pharisaical social conservatism. Turns out that eventually enough of the electorate whose resentment you’ve been stoking figures out that it’s a waste of time and fastens on to something else, something that matches their actual resentments a lot more closely. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Anti-Americanism, Blogging, Book Notes, Civil Society, Crony Capitalism, Current Events, Elections, History, Human Behavior, National Security, Politics, Predictions, Society, Trump, USA | 13 Comments »

    Was the Real Wild West one of “Institutional Entrepreneurs”?

    Posted by Ginny on 29th February 2016 (All posts by )

    I don’t read much lately, but my more libertarian daughter listens to Hoover & Cato podcasts.  She mentioned one on The Not So Wild, Wild West: Property Rights on the Frontier  So I ordered the book. I don’t know much about economics but have come to admire economists because they so aptly describe human nature, and often give arguments for wise institutions. The authors argue that “entrepreneurs of institutions” helped make life relatively orderly on the frontier. For instance, one maximized the profits and minimized the costs by ensuring Abilene was railhead, where the cowboys ended their long contracts of driving the cattle and the railroads took them east. But often it wasn’t a “middleman” as much as the consensus of a group, as they set out in wagon trains or obtained mining rights.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, Economics & Finance, Education, History | 10 Comments »

    Rerun: “Cologne, Rape, and ‘Purim & My Bangladeshi Friend'”

    Posted by Jonathan on 23rd February 2016 (All posts by )

    Seth Barrett Tillman:

    I wrote and published this 8-page short story–Purim & My Bangladeshi Friend–a little while back. As I said, today is Purim, and it’s Purim again in a month. So my short story is, I think, once again, timely, and sadly, once again, all too relevant to life in our shared West, in our shared modernity.

    Seth’s story is here.

    (Today’s post is a rerun because Lex wrote a post about Seth’s story a couple of years ago. Lex’s post is still worth reading.)

    Posted in Deep Thoughts, Europe, History, Holidays, Human Behavior, Islam, Judaism | 1 Comment »

    “‘Taney Deserves His Tribute’: Responding to George W. Liebmann’s Opinion Editorial in The Baltimore Sun”

    Posted by Jonathan on 22nd February 2016 (All posts by )

    Seth Barrett Tillman:

    In 1861, after Fort Sumter fell, the U.S. Army seized John Merryman, a Maryland citizen and state militia officer, and detained him in Fort McHenry, in Baltimore, Maryland. Merryman’s lawyers sought a writ of habeas corpus. After a hearing, Taney determined that the Army had violated the Constitution by seizing and detaining Merryman absent due process. Taney offered much flowing language—the sort which endears him to do-gooders and starry-eyed civil libertarians. But that is all that Taney did: He offered pieties in a judicial opinion. The reality is that Taney did not grant Merryman habeas corpus. In other words, Taney did not order the Army, or the commander at Fort McHenry (the named defendant in Ex parte Merryman), or the President, or anyone else to release Merryman from the Army’s prison. Now, perhaps the Army would not have obeyed any such a judicial order, but we will never know because Taney never issued one.

    Further interesting thoughts at the link.

    Posted in History, Law | 1 Comment »

    Don’t you belong on a beach?

    Posted by Nathaniel T. Lauterbach on 18th February 2016 (All posts by )

    In comment thread of another post, Grurray asked:

    “I know the Marines are the best fighting force in the world, but haven’t you had enough of building nations in the middle of the desert? You’re called Marines for a reason. Shouldn’t the future should be closer to the shore?” (sic)

    I’ll take the sentiment kindly. Marines usually do fine when compared to other forces. I hesitate to call ourselves the “best” or “finest.” But the Marines are probably as good as any force out there.

    As for meat of the question: Marines are amphibious fighters, right? What are you doing in a landlocked country?
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Afghanistan/Pakistan, Aviation, History, International Affairs, Iraq, Law, Law Enforcement, Military Affairs, National Security, Politics, Terrorism, USA, Vietnam, War and Peace | 13 Comments »

    Without Churchill, India’s Famine Would Have Been Worse

    Posted by Grurray on 12th February 2016 (All posts by )

    There’s been quite a bit of clamor going on the past week about Winston Churchill. First Marc Andreessen made a rather poorly received joke about Indian anti-colonialism on Twitter a few days ago. Then, in last night’s Democratic debate, Bernie Sanders referenced Churchill as a foreign leader to be emulated.

    I’m an avid follower of Andreeson. He tossed out a flippant comment, probably without giving it much thought, and inadvertently got caught in the middle of a hornet’s nest. I’m certainly no fan of Bernie Sanders’ socialist proposals, but I do appreciate his point of view. He made a good point about Winston Churchill. It’s something unfortunately not shared by others in his party.

    In response to these two events, the left wing camp has been working overtime to consign the legacy of Churchill to history’s dustbin, and one of their preferred vehicles has been the Bengal famine of 1943. The hipster-Jacobins at Vox.com have written a piece documenting Churchill’s supposed war crimes including his alleged complicity in the famine. They’re all based on rumor, heresay, quotes taken out of context, and statements by political and personal rivals. If you feel like diving into the pseudo-journalistic dumpster you can go search for it, but I’m not going to give it any more attention than it deserves, which is very little.

    What I will provide is the Churchill Centre’s rebuttal.

    When the War Cabinet became fully aware of the extent of the famine, on 24 September 1943, it agreed to send 200,000 tons of grain to India by the end of the year. Far from seeking to starve India, Churchill and his cabinet sought every way to alleviate the suffering without undermining the war effort. The war—not starving Indians or beating them into submission—remained the principal concern.

    The greatest irony of all is that it was Churchill who appointed, in October 1943, the viceroy who would halt the famine in its tracks: General Archibald Wavell immediately commandeered the army to move rice and grain from areas where it was plentiful to where it was not, and begged Churchill to send what help he could. On 14 February 1944 Churchill called an emergency meeting of the War Cabinet to see if a way to send more aid could be found that would not wreck plans for the coming Normandy invasion. “I will certainly help you all I can,” Churchill telegraphed Wavell on the 14th, “but you must not ask the impossible.”

    I would hope that faith and reason would lead us to see through the falsehoods of leftist revisionists. Sadly, most people now are being fed the biases of the “Explainer Journalism” view of the world, so the record needs to be set straight.

    Posted in History, Miscellaneous | 8 Comments »

    “Miscellaneous Americana (Part III): Washington’s Cabinet—their vitae—and who was well paid in the early Republic”

    Posted by Jonathan on 12th February 2016 (All posts by )

    Seth Barrett Tillman:

    Many good historical sources list the President and Vice President as the two highest paid officials of the early government, at $25,000 and $5,000 per year respectively. But that is not correct. President Washington appointed Ministers Plenipotentiary for the United States at London (Pinckney) and at Paris (Morris)—each made $9,000 per year, and each was also granted $9,000 for “outfit”!. . .

    A brief and informative post.

    Posted in History, USA | Comments Off on “Miscellaneous Americana (Part III): Washington’s Cabinet—their vitae—and who was well paid in the early Republic”

    Worthwhile Reading

    Posted by David Foster on 9th February 2016 (All posts by )

    Content abundance and curation in the media industry

    18th-century Scotland had an interesting system for paying for college

    Has getting things done in business…hiring new employees, finalizing business-to-business sales deals…become slower?

    Rejecting one’s country for aesthetic reasons

    Overconfident students major in political science

    This should be obvious, but to many people it’s unfortunately not: why the best hire might not have the perfect resume

    Interesting thoughts:  how debt/equity mix affects the trajectory of oil prices

    This writer is pessimistic about pessimism

    Posted in Business, Economics & Finance, Education, History, Human Behavior, Media, Organizational Analysis | 11 Comments »

    The Ultimate Renovation Project

    Posted by David Foster on 4th February 2016 (All posts by )

    I’ve written before about the classic ocean liner SS United States, which has been in danger of being sold for scrap.  Now, it appears that not only may the ship be saved, but she may actually be returned to commercial service.  Crystal Cruises has taken out a purchase option on the vessel, and during 2016 will carry out a project to scope out the conversion of the vessel to an operating cruise ship, which will sail on transatlantic as well as other itineraries.  A retired US Coast Guard admiral, Tim Sullivan, will be in charge of this very complex project.

    It is probably inevitable that the ship’s steam turbines and boilers will be replaced with a more efficient propulsion plant, probably diesel.  Some major changes to the superstructure are also planned, driven in part by the desire to offer passenger suites with balconies.  The artist’s  concept of the modified ship which is shown in the press release loses something compared to the aesthetics of the original vessel,  at least to my eye; hopefully it will be improved during the study effort.  In any case,  saving the ship and restoring it to service would be a wonderful outcome.

    Posted in History, Transportation, USA | 32 Comments »

    Vinegar Joe’s Long Walk (Conclusion)

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 31st January 2016 (All posts by )

    (OK – finally the last of the history post I started earlier this week. Things to do, places to, things to write about. I said I would have this second part on Friday, but … real world, you know?)

    Towards the end of that day, May 6th, 1942, the road petered out. Stilwell abandoned the last of the trucks and the radio van – the radio set weighed 200 pounds alone. Last messages were sent, one advising General Brereton, in New Delhi that Stilwell and his party were on foot, heading for Homalin and then Imphal, and asking for them to be met at Homalin by resupply and medical aid. “Indian govt. should be warned rice, police, and doctors urgently needed by refugees on all routes to India from Burma. Large numbers on way. All control gone. Catastrophe quite possible. End.” Another, to the US War Department via Chunking, ended, “We are armed, have food and map and are on foot 50 miles west of Indaw … believe this is probably our last message for a while. Cheerio. Stilwell.”
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Deep Thoughts, History | 10 Comments »

    Why the Big Short didn’t work but the next one likely will!

    Posted by Kevin Villani on 28th January 2016 (All posts by )

    In promoting the Hollywood version of The Big Short by Michael Lewis, Paul Krugman (NYT, December 18) misrepresents the central point of this excellent book, previously made by Peter Wallison, who Krugman attacks for his Republican dissent to the 2010 Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission (FCIC) majority Report.

    The Hollywood version reflects the Report’s fundamental conclusion that the root cause of the financial crisis was Wall Street greed: hardly newsworthy, disputable or dispositive. The Big Short is about the equally greedy speculators who were shorting the housing market: had they succeeded early on – as they do in less distorted markets – they would have prevented the bubble from inflating to systemic proportions.

    Contrary to the “indifference” theorem (i.e., between debt and equity finance) of Nobel Laureates Franco Modigliani and Merton Miller, both household borrowers and mortgage lenders chose to finance almost entirely with debt, a strategy best described as “going for broke.” The first distortion – tax deductibility of debt – makes leverage desirable until discouraged by rising debt costs. The second distortion – federally backed mortgage funding as Depression era deposit insurance became virtually universal and the Fannie Mae “secondary market” facility morphed into a national housing bank – prevented these costs from rising. This highly leveraged strategy was guaranteed to fail systemically if bad loans entered the system.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Book Notes, Economics & Finance, History, Markets and Trading, Politics | 9 Comments »

    “We Were Poised for Real Criminal Justice Reform”

    Posted by Jonathan on 27th January 2016 (All posts by )

    Indeed.

    Something similar happened in the early ’90s. It looked as though a political consensus favoring smaller government was taking shape. Republicans with a well-considered smaller-govt agenda took over the Congress and the Democrats started to cut deals with them. Then the Oklahoma City bombing happened, the Clinton Democrats outmaneuvered the Gingrich Republicans over the government shutdown, and the smaller-government impetus was weakened considerably (we did get cap-gains tax cuts, welfare and a few other reforms that did a lot of good in the subsequent decade).

    But then Sept. 11, 2001 and the Middle East war kicked much of what was left of the smaller-government movement over the far horizon, and since 2009 a hard-Left executive branch has been extending and doing its best to entrench post-Reagan government expansion.

    There are tides in the affairs of men. The problem with tides is that they can go out for a long time before they reverse and start to come in. Let’s hope that the statist tide has finally run its course and that we are near a reversal.

    Posted in America 3.0, Big Government, Current Events, History, Politics, Taxes, Tea Party, USA | 27 Comments »

    Vinegar Joe’s Long Walk

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 27th January 2016 (All posts by )

    He was an abrasive man, as his nickname suggests – and had very little of soothing diplomacy in him. A soft-spoken and conciliatory manner might have served him better over the long run through the duration of his tour as the American commander of Chinese troops in Burma during WWII, but considering the dire situation there in March of 1942, perhaps irascible and decisive better served the immediate situation. A 1904 graduate of the US Military Academy, General Joseph Warren Stilwell had a particular talent for languages – to include blistering invective, written and spoken Chinese, field tactics and the training of soldiers. He had come to Burma to take charge of reorganizing the nationalist Chinese military forces there … just the Allied defense of South-east Asia crumbled under a vigorous Japanese offensive. The invasion of Burma was intended to cut off the land route which supplied China, blockaded along the coast by the Japanese. War materiel for China reached there only by ship via the Burmese port of Rangoon and thence by truck, traveling 700 miles over the Burma Road. This ran from Lashio to Kunming and Yunnan; a perilous track hacked out by hand labor through jungle and over steep mountains several years earlier.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Diversions, History, Military Affairs, War and Peace | 16 Comments »

    National Review goes Bananas

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 23rd January 2016 (All posts by )

    National Review has now gone off the deep end on Donald Trump.

    This strikes me as fear and panic but about what ?

    But he is not deserving of conservative support in the caucuses and primaries. Trump is a philosophically unmoored political opportunist who would trash the broad conservative ideological consensus within the GOP in favor of a free-floating populism with strong-man overtones.

    Cue pearl clutching. What exactly has “the broad conservative ideological consensus” achieved the past 20 years ? Personally, I think Reagan began the problem by choosing Bush for his VP. Bush was antithesis to Reagan’s message and had ridiculed his economic plans.

    Sam Houston State University historian, writing on the Forbes web site, has a very odd blog post this morning. He criticizes MIT economist Simon Johnson for attributing the term “voodoo economics” to George H.W. Bush. Domitrovic calls it a “myth” that the elder Bush ever uttered those words. “You’d think there’d be a scrap of evidence dating from 1980 in support of this claim. In fact there is none,” he says.

    Perhaps down in Texas they don’t have access to the Los Angeles Times. If one goes to the April 14, 1980 issue and turns to page 20, one will find an articled by Times staff reporter Robert Shogan, entitled, “Bush Ends His Waiting Game, Attacks Reagan.” Following is the 4th paragraph from that news report:

    “He [Bush] signaled the shift [in strategy] in a speech here [in Pittsburgh] last week when he charged that Reagan had made ‘a list of phony promises’ on defense, energy and economic policy. And he labeled Reagan’s tax cut proposal ‘voodoo economic policy’ and ‘economic madness.'”

    It’s amusing to see people try to deny facts. Some argue that Bush did not oppose “Supply side” theory. Still, that is what “Voodoo Economic Policy” referred to. What else ?

    Bush promised “no new taxes” in 1988 but then raised taxes in 1990 creating or deepening a recession that cost him re-electiion and gave us Bill Clinton.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Conservatism, Crony Capitalism, Current Events, Elections, History, Politics, Trump | 36 Comments »

    “Professor Forrest McDonald (1927–2016): Scholar, Patriot, and Friend”

    Posted by Jonathan on 22nd January 2016 (All posts by )

    Seth Barrett Tillman’s thoughtful remembrance of Professor McDonald:

    Professor McDonald was and will remain—long into the distant future—among the most influential historians on American history, particularly in regard to the American Revolution and the Constitution’s framing era. Some people might say he was the most influential historian of his generation. He wrote for both academics and the wider public. He also was part of the recrudescence of pro-Hamiltonian scholarship—not a small achievement considering he did this while writing in 1970s U.S. academia and while teaching in the deepest South.[1] He wrote boldly, and he also experimented with new ideas about the past, including the so-called Celtic hypothesis.
     
    I am not going to describe his vitae or his personal life (about which I know little). These things have been and are being done well in many other forums. Here I want to describe how kind McDonald was to me personally.

    Worth reading in full.

    Posted in History, Law, Obits | 2 Comments »

    Greg Abbot’s Constitutional Convention

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 18th January 2016 (All posts by )

    Texas Governor Greg Abbot has called for a Constitutional convention of states.

    UPDATE: Conservative Wahoo is in favor.

    Why do I support it? A few reasons:
    1) I am a political junkie. I’ve seen two impeachments proceedings in the House and one Trial in the Senate. I’ve never seen a convention of the states.
    2) I think there are some places where the Constitution could be improved (see below), but I prefer that those improvements be WITHIN the Constitutional process rather than by Executive fiat (see, Obama, B.)
    3) I believe it would energize people in this country to a great degree–equaled only maybe by war–to really think hard about what this country means to them.

    He has a summary of the Mark Levin proposed amendments from his book.

    A convention is one of two ways that the U.S. Constitution can be amended, and it’s described in Article V. One way is that Congress can propose amendments approved by two-thirds of the members of both chambers. The other method allows two-thirds of the state legislatures to call for a convention to propose amendments. Republicans backing the idea are confident that because they control state government in a majority of states, their ideas would prevail.

    Democrats are horrified. The Huffington Post first ran this post with a headline that he wanted Texas to secede! I guess they thought better of the scare tactic.

    Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) on Friday proposed a series of amendments to the U.S. constitution that would permit states to override the Supreme Court and ignore federal laws.

    One of the proposed measures would allow a two-thirds majority of the states to override federal regulations, while another sets the same threshold for overturning decisions by the Supreme Court. The governor also wants to change the Constitution to block Congress from “regulating activity that occurs wholly within one state,” and to require a supermajority of seven Supreme Court votes before a “democratically enacted law” can be overturned.

    OK. That’s fair enough.

    The plan lays out nine specific proposed amendments that would:

    Prohibit congress from regulating activity that occurs wholly within one state.
    Require Congress to balance its budget.
    Prohibit administrative agencies from creating federal law.
    Prohibit administrative agencies from pre-empting state law.
    Allow a two-thirds majority of the states to override a U.S. Supreme Court decision.
    Require a seven-justice super-majority vote for U.S. Supreme Court decisions that invalidate a democratically enacted law
    Restore the balance of power between the federal and state governments by limiting the former to the powers expressly delegated to it in the Constitution.
    Give state officials the power to sue in federal court when federal officials overstep their bounds.
    Allow a two-thirds majority of the states to override a federal law or regulation.

    Balancing the budget is probably pie-in-the-sky but the others sound reasonable to me.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Conservatism, Elections, History, Leftism, Political Philosophy, Politics | 22 Comments »

    “Miscellanous [Faux] Americana (Part II) — John Merryman: Time Traveller”

    Posted by Jonathan on 14th January 2016 (All posts by )

    From Seth Barrett Tillman.

    (Part 1 is here.)

    Posted in History, Law | 7 Comments »

    “Is it the Constitution which evolves or Judge Posner?”

    Posted by Jonathan on 13th January 2016 (All posts by )

    More from Seth Barrett Tillman.

    Posted in History, Law | Comments Off on “Is it the Constitution which evolves or Judge Posner?”

    Worthwhile Reading–Annotated Edition

    Posted by David Foster on 12th January 2016 (All posts by )

    The Diplomad observes that “‘Progressives’, of course, are greatly influenced by movies. In fact…the majority of what passes for “Progressive thought” is derived from the Hollywood version of history that they have running in an endless video loop in their heads. Listen to them talk about the economy, race relations, education, “gender equality,” US history, etc., and it all forms part of some giant Hollywood script.”  Indeed—shortly after 9/11, when the idea of arming airline pilots was first mooted,  critics of the idea referred to “gunfights at 35,000 feet” as something “out of a Tom Clancy movie”. Hadn’t they thought that deliberately crashing airplanes into buildings might be something out of a Tom Clancy movie, too? And whether or not something might appear in a movie is obviously irrelevant to its validity from a policy standpoint.

    This topic relates closely to my earlier post about metaphors, interfaces, and thought processes, in which I discuss the consequences of the “iconic” versus the “textual” modes of presenting information.

    David Warren writes about the conspiracy of German elites, in both media and government, to suppress knowledge of the New Year’s atrocities in Cologne and other cities.  Indeed, one might conclude that the whole idea of free speech hasn’t taken hold very well in Germany over the last 70 years, at least among the writing and political classes.  Unfortunately, the problem is not limited to Germany: Mark Zuckerberg, the ringmaster of the Facebook circus, was apparently all too eager to co-conspire with Merkel to delete strong criticisms of her immigration policies.

    A society cannot thrive or even survive if its decision-making organs are disconnected from knowledge of what is actually happening, any more than your furnace can keep your house at the right temperature if the wires connecting it to the thermostat are cut.  In a democracy, the ultimate decision-making organ is supposed to be the people of the country.

    Don Sensing writes about totalism, and how it is reflected in the behavior of the Obama administration and the attitudes of the “progressive” Left.  He quotes Mussolini’s definition of Fascism:

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Deep Thoughts, Europe, Film, Germany, History, Islam, Leftism, Political Philosophy, Religion, Society | 6 Comments »

    Freedom Glow, as introduced by its creator and editor, B. F. Johnson

    Posted by leifsmith on 9th January 2016 (All posts by )

    glyph 559: B. F. Johnson, editor . reports on contributions to the emergence of liberty . stories of insight, courage, and action . a growing collection of evidence that a network is forming that can make a free world

    Freedom Glow, as introduced by its creator and editor, B. F. Johnson, December 2015 — a venture traced in patterns of light (sparks from this forge will travel)

    Freedom is a state of mind. Freedom’s tools are knowledge translated into action so others might know and act. Each time such an action occurs a packet of light complete with the unique frequency of an individual is emitted and each time an individual picks up a freedom tool and works it in their own life a unique packet of light with a unique wavelength is emitted. This then is Freedom Glow. We see twinkling of Freedom Glow in New Delhi and New York, in Amsterdam and Tajikistan, in Tehran and Jerusalem, in Accra and Mogadishu, in Denver and Austin around the globe and into space. Freedom Glow can be seen in art, and economics, and politics, and philosopher’s musings, and medicine, and science—anywhere we care to look. Freedom Glow are the stories of one person at a time lighting a darkened world for all to see.

    http://freedomglow.com
    http://explorersfoundation.org/glyphery/559.html

    a list of all glyphs

    Posted in Blogging, History, International Affairs, Libertarianism | Comments Off on Freedom Glow, as introduced by its creator and editor, B. F. Johnson

    Book Review: The Memoirs of Anna Egorova

    Posted by David Foster on 6th January 2016 (All posts by )

    Over Fields of Fire, by Anna Timofeeva-Egorova

    Red Sky, Black Death, by Anna Timofeeva-Egorova, edited by Kim Green

    anna-realpic

    il-2-sturmovik

     

     

     

     

     

    During the Second World War, a number of Soviet women served as night bomber pilots, flying the obsolescent Polikarpov biplane.  A favorite tactic was to cut the engine and glide down almost noiselessly to the bomb-release point, and these flyers were known to the Germans as the “Night Witches.”  A smaller number of Russian women flew IL-2 Sturmovik attack planes and also Yak and other fighters.  The memoir reviewed here was written by a woman who first flew the biplanes and later became a Sturmovik pilot. (I read the first of the 2 books linked above and only just became aware of the second one; see remarks at the end of this post.)

    Anna Egorova begins her memoir with a recollection of her feelings on the day (before the war) when she reported for training to begin her hoped-for career as a professional pilot:

    In Unyanovsky, I rushed straight from the train station to the Venets–the highest spot above the Volga. And such an inconceivable space opened up before me from up here, such an expanse that it took my breath away!…And what a wonder, above the Volta covered by young December ice, a rainbow began to shine.  It threw its multicoloured yoke from one bank to the other…Yet maybe I had just imagined it?  But I was already laughing loudly, sure it was a rainbow and that it was a sign of luck.  Again just like back at the Kazan train station in Moscow, waves of joy were coming from my chest and their splashes were curtaining the horizon with a rainbow mist.

    Her ecstasy was short-lived, however.  Soon she was summoned before the school commandant, informed that her brother had been discovered to be “an enemy of the people,” and she was expelled from the school. (“How could my brother be an enemy of the people? My brother was the people”)

    Anna’s hometown was a tiny village, so small that it had only one street.  As a teenager, she had been thrilled by the plans for construction of the Moscow Metro, and volunteered as a worker, doing heavy and sometimes dangerous construction work.  At the time there was great interest in aviation throughout the Soviet Union; Anna joined a glider club and looked forward to becoming a full-fledged pilot. And when walking to the airfield on the morning of her first powered flight:

    Victor Kroutov runs off the footpath, barges into the bushes, and I am presented with the first bouquet of flowers in my life.  I am still angry at him but accept the gift.

    And then:

    Everyone stood to attention.  A light breeze was blowing in our faces, we were breathing easily and freely.  And it was so nice to live in this world, so joyful!  I thought that there would be no end to our youth or to our lives…

    Anna did well in training and was given the sole “ladies’ ticket” from her class to attend an advanced aviation school, but her anticipated career was derailed by the discovery of her brother’s “treason.”  (He had written an article for an economics journal which was reprinted by a British publication.)

    Eventually, she was able to reenter the aviation field, and when Nazi Germany invaded, sought to actively participate in the defense. Marina Raskova, a pilot who was famous for her long-distance flights (also a former aspiring opera singer!) had lobbied effectively for female participation in combat aviation.  Three female regiments were formed in late 1941 and were active by early 1942.  Some women also participated in almost-all-male units.

    Her initial service involved flying the Polikarpov biplane on message-delivery missions–apparently many Red Army units lacked functioning radios even at higher command levels–and also for reconnaissance.  Navigational instruments and facilities were basically nonexistent, and reaching one’s destination often involved landing near a village and asking someone , “Where am I?”  The slow and unarmored biplanes might seem like easy prey for the German Messerschmitts, but it was sometimes possible to evade them by clever maneuvering and by flying very low and slow. (The stall speed of the ME-109 was greater than the top speed of the Polikarpov!)

    After 130 missions, Anna wanted to transfer to a ground-attack unit, but met with some initial resistance: “No woman has fought in a Sturmovik yet! Two cannons, two machine-guns, two batteries of rockets, various bombs…Trust my experience–not every good pilot can handle such a machine!  Not every good pilot can handle such a machine!  Not everyone is capable steering a ‘flying tank,’ of orienting himself in combat conditions while hedge-hopping, bombing, shooting the cannons and machine-guns, launching rockets at rapidly flashing targets, conducting group dog-fights, sending and receiving orders by radio–all at the same time.  Think it over!”  Anna replied that she had already thought it over, and got this response:  “God save us, what a stubborn one!  Then do what makes sense to you!”

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Aviation, Book Notes, History, Military Affairs, Russia | 14 Comments »

    “An Open Letter to Mark Steyn, Simon Heffer, Milo Yiannopoulos, Breitbart (London), and His Grace, Archbishop Cranmer”

    Posted by Jonathan on 5th January 2016 (All posts by )

    New from Seth Barrett Tillman:

    We are rapidly approaching the 50th anniversary of Enoch Powell’s Birmingham speech on immigration, more popularly known as the Rivers of Blood speech (April 20, 1968). Powell spoke out against unlimited immigration to England from Commonwealth nations. Because at that time such immigrants were predominantly West Indians and Asians, many saw Powell’s speech as covertly racialist…

    Seth has a follow-up question.

    Posted in Britain, History, Immigration | 7 Comments »

    Rome

    Posted by Michael Hiteshew on 3rd January 2016 (All posts by )

    In 2005 HBO released season one of Rome. This is among the best historical dramas I’ve ever seen, possibly the best. The writing is superb, the acting is excellent, the production values top notch, and for the most part it’s historically accurate. Accurate in major events, at least, although the conversation and minutiae are crafted.

    Caesar_HBO_Rome

    The core of the story is the fall of the republic and the rise of the dictators, and begins with Caesar in Gaul defeating and accepting the surrender of the king of Gauls, and the earliest breaks in Caesar’s relationship with Pompey Magnus, who rules in Rome as Tribune of the Plebes. In the telling, you’re treated to various facets and styles of Roman life, from slaves to senators. This is done through various intertwined subplots that include Caesar’s chief of staff, Marc Antony, Caesar’s longtime lover Servilia, his niece Atia, Atia’s son Octavian, Atia’s daughter Octavia, centurion Lucius Vorenus, his wife Niobe and legionary Titus Pullo. Vorenus and Pullo are fictionalized versions of the only two infantry soldiers mentioned by name in Caesar’s Commentariat. Among his opponents are Pompey Magnus, Cato, Cicero and Scipio.

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    Posted in Film, History | 13 Comments »

    The Ice Age Floods

    Posted by Michael Hiteshew on 1st January 2016 (All posts by )

    About 18,000 years ago, the Earth began to warm substantially. That was a really big deal, because the Northern Hemisphere was in an ice age. As much as 2 mile (~ 3-4 Km) thick ice sheets blanketed the northern continent. Because so much of the global water supply was locked up in ice, sea level dropped 350 feet (~ 120 m) and beaches and coastlines would have been miles further offshore than their current locations. Coastlines on the Atlantic Seaboard, and presumably globally, contain buried river channels cut deep into the continental shelf. During the Ice Age they weren’t buried, they were river valleys to then more distant shorelines.

    Last Glacial Maximum, 20.000 years ago

    Last Glacial Maximum, 20,000 years ago

    A wide lobe of the Cordilleran Ice Sheet crept across the valley of the Clark Fork River, eventually shutting off the flow completely, while the river pooled into the vast watershed behind it, including Missoula Valley, Flathead Valley, Thompson Valley, Mission Valley and Clearwater Valley. By 15,000-17,000 years ago the lake that was created, Glacial Lake Missoula, exceeded 2,000 feet (~ 600 m) in depth, had a surface area of ~3,000 square miles (6,500 Sq Km), and held 600 cubic miles (2,500 cubic Km) of water, as much as Lake Erie and Lake Ontario combined.

    Glacial flood map, 17,000 - 15,000 years ago

    Glacial flood map, 17,000 – 15,000 years ago

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    Posted in History, North America, Science | 22 Comments »