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  • Archive for the 'Miscellaneous' Category

    Summer Rerun: Prefiguring the Hacker…And the American Surveillance Society

    Posted by David Foster on 2nd August 2017 (All posts by )

    Perhaps the first piece of fiction to feature a computer-systems hacker is Poul Anderson’s 1953 story Sam Hall. Anderson’s leading character, Thornberg, is technical director for Central Records, the agency that operates the computer system (“Matilda”) which a future U.S. government uses to maintain detailed information on all Americans.

    We see Matilda at work in the first paragraphs of the story, in which a typical citizen checks in at a hotel. With “an automatic set of gestures,” he takes out his wallet and his ID card, and inserts the latter into the “registry machine.”

    Place and date of birth. Parents. Race. Religion. Educational, military, and civilian service records…The total signal goes out over the wires. Accompanies by a thousand others, it shoots down the last cable and into the sorter unit of Central Records. The distorted molecules in a particular spool show the pattern of Citizen Blank, and this is sent back. It enters the comparison unit, to which the incoming signal corresponding to him has also been shunted. The two are perfectly in phase; nothing wrong. Citizen Blank is staying in the town where, last night, he said he would, so he has not had to file a correction.

    Thornberg has certain reservations about the totalitarian regime which is now running America, but he is not actively disloyal. His political awakening begins when Jimmy, the son of his second cousin, is arrested on suspicion of treason, and Thornberg remembers some of the forbidden history which he has read.

    The intellectuals had been fretful about the Americanization of Europe, the crumbling of old culture before the mechanized barbarism of soft drinks, hard sells, enormous chrome-plated automobiles (dollar grins, the Danes had called them), chewing gum, plastics…None of them had protested the simultaneous Europeanization of America: bloated government, unlimited armament, official nosiness, censors, secret police, chauvinism…

    In order to protect the career of his son Jack, an officer in the regime’s military…as well as his own career…Thornberg decides to alter Matilda’s records and delete any relationship with the arrested Jimmy.

    Thornberg toiled at the screens and buttons for an hour, erasing, changing. The job was tough; he had to go back several generations, altering lines of descent. But when he was finished, James Obrenowicz had no kinship whatever to the Thornbergs…He slapped the switch that returned the spool to the memory banks. With this act do I disown thee.

    Thornberg’s rising bitterness reminds him of an old English ballad:

    My name it is Sam Hall
    And I hate you one and all

    …and he uses his access to Matilda to create records for a fictional citizen by that name, a tough kid who has held a variety of unskilled jobs. Thornberg initially creates Sam Hall only as an outlet for his anger and to prove to himself that he can do it…but when a probably-innocent man is arrested for murder of a security officer…and Thornberg knows the man will be found guilty, whatever the true facts, in order to protect Security’s reputation for infallibility…he decides to establish a trail of records that will implicate the fictional Sam Hall as the murderer.

    This is the beginning of Sam Hall’s career of murder and mayhem, as Thornberg repeatedly alters records to identify his fictional citizen as the author of real crimes across the country. Sam Hall is soon promoted to Public Enemy Number One…and his exploits soon inspire a range of copycat crimes against the government, with the attackers identifying themselves as “Sam Hall.”

    The “Sam Hall” meme soon grows into a full-scale rebellion against the government. Thornberg helps things along by using his access to Matilda to spread mutual suspicion among government officials, turning the widespread distrust which is a feature of totalitarian societies against the regime itself.

    Eventually, the rebels triumph and the totalitarian regime that is ruling America is overthrown. It seems a happy ending. Thornberg looks forward to destroying Matilda (after she is used one last time on behalf of the rebels “to help us find some people rather badly want” and “to transcribe a lot of information..strictly practical facts”) and to retiring Sam Hall to “whatever Valhalla there is for great characters of fiction.”

    The story ends with the following sentence:

    Unfortunately the conclusion is rugged. Sam Hall never was satisfied.

    I wonder what on earth could possibly have reminded me of this old SF story?

    7/2/17:  See also this story about Google’s use of artificial intelligence to isolate YouTube videos that are ‘offensive’ in the view of its advisor organizations, as well as to take down those that actually advocate terrorism.

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 6 Comments »

    Summer Rerun: Fanny Kemble

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

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 9 Comments »

    From whence our news comes

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

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

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

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

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

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 7 Comments »

    Rerun Post: Bidwell-Bartleson, 1841

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

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

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Diversions, History, Miscellaneous, Reruns | 6 Comments »

    Macron’s advance team needs to do a better job

    Posted by Lexington Green on 26th April 2017 (All posts by )

    Macron showed up at a factory, to be greeted by workers chanting “Marine présidente!”

    Not that it matters. This thing is in the bag.

    After all, both major parties, the media and all the decent people despise his opponent.

    The election is little better than a formality … .

    Oh, wait …

    But …

    But, no.

    France is not the USA, or Britain.

    Le Pen is not Trump or Brexit.

    This time the establishment candidate absolutely will win.

    For sure. Count on it.

    Posted in France, Miscellaneous | 12 Comments »

    Let’s talk about the future

    Posted by TM Lutas on 5th April 2017 (All posts by )

    “The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed.”
    William Gibson

    The microcomputer revolution put computing into people’s hands in the 1970s and 1980s. The Internet revolution started connecting all those computers in the 1990s. Neither of these revolutions have reached and been fully integrated into the task of popular oversight of our governments.

    If they had, the world would be a very different, much better run place. Our politics would be very different.
    In 2100, both these revolutions will likely have completed and integrated into the way we elect and manage our governments.

    Today, we legislate the creation of governments to do things by certain criteria, then judge their performance and retain or replace elected leadership based on that performance. Every part of the last sentence has an element of guesswork in it. We do not have a comprehensive list of all our governments. We do not routinely get a list of what each of them does. While a government probably has performance metrics to judge success or failure. The standard is not routinely shared with the public, and the current values of performance known inside the government is also not routinely shared.

    In the future, not only a comprehensive list of governments will exist but they will be mapped so that you will know which governments claim jurisdiction where you are or at any particular place in the country. What each of them do will be routinely made available (with reasonable exceptions for legitimate state secrets), the standard for successful performance, and the current performance data will be routinely shared, computer to computer. A simple to understand but dense data presentation will be available so that the metrics an individual voter cares about will be presented along with whether performance is adequate for each metric monitored by the standard of the individual voter. A routine daily review might take a minute over breakfast.

    All of this is possible with today’s technology. Some of it is even a reality today. Citizen Intelligence is committed to making it reality for all governments so citizens can monitor them easily and affordably.

    If this idea of easily, quickly, and cheaply keeping tabs on all governments interests you, please comment below or send us a message.

    [[Repost from the Citizen Intelligence Facebook page – February 6]]

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 3 Comments »

    To Kipple or Not?

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 4th April 2017 (All posts by )

    Some time ago and in another blog-post I wondered if it were possible for those with conservative and libertarian leanings to develop some kind of secret password, or handshake with which to identify themselves to new-met acquaintances who might possibly share those inclinations. We tend to be polite, do not relish open confrontation – and really, why pick unnecessary fights with neighbors, casually-met strangers, distant kin, or fellow workers? Most times, it just is not worth the hassle, or the chance of turning a casual social interaction or relationship turning toxic. Most of us do not eat, sleep, dream, live politics twenty-four-seven, anyway. But it certainly is pleasant to discover someone of like sympathies, usually after a few rounds of warily sounding them out, and assuring them that no, we will not come unglued if they confess to having voted for or liked (insert political figure or philosophy here).

    But I think that I have hit upon a handy shorthand method for discerning the political sympathies of another without coming outright and asking. This insight came about through following a couple of libertarian-leaning or conservative blogs – Sarah Hoyt and Wretchard at Belmont Club being two of the more notable – and noting that the principals and many of their commenters all seemed au courant with Kipling. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Conservatism, Miscellaneous, Politics | 33 Comments »

    Numb

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 22nd March 2017 (All posts by )

    That’s the condition my condition is in, regarding the latest public atrocity in London. Just – numb. Sorry for the unfortunate victims, obligatory silent prayers for the dead … but it has all become a kind of dreadful routine. The next numbers in the grand atrocity calculus are the usual – the on-the-spot memorials of flowers, candles and teddy bears, the Book of Face meme to do something with your photo, the obligatory whines from the usual parties not to blame Islam (and the usual fears for an anti-Muslim backlash; although since there have hardly been significant non-fake incidents after the last couple of dozen or so public atrocities one wonders how long the usual parties can go on riding/flogging THAT particular pony), some heartbreaking stories about the victims, vows of eternal vigilance by the law-keeping and intelligence-supervising specialists … and then nothing much, until next time. I suppose this is what it’s like for Israelis; swab off the blood, fill in the divots, bury the victims and wait for the next high-velocity demonstration by representatives of the “Religion of Peace. ™

    Posted in Current Events, Islam, Miscellaneous, Politics | 23 Comments »

    Why does Germany do such monumentally stupid things?

    Posted by Mrs. Davis on 25th February 2017 (All posts by )

    I was reading Arthur Herman’s column in the WSJ Decoding the Zimmerman Telegram, 100 Years Later and I began to think about all the really, really dumb things Germany has done. And it’s not as if the Germans are dumb. A look at the Nobel prize list makes it clear that there are many brilliant Germans. But if we go back in history and look at the political decisions Germany has made, it is a cavalcade of catastrophe. In the 19th century, Germany was the cradle of socialism, not all the ideas, but certainly the movement. Then it decided to unite Germany, not a bad idea in and of itself; but it then led to the idea that it should conquer Europe. In the process, it threatened the US with invasion by Mexico, bringing the US into the war and onto the world stage. And to top it, they put Lenin in a rail car and sent him to St. Petersburg launching the Soviet Union. Hitler then rekindled the idea of conquering Europe, including the incredible decision to invade Russia and then declaring war on the United States directly, creating an enemy that might have sat out the European war.

    After suffering a defeat as devastating to Germany’s people as the Thirty Years War, Nato was created to keep the Americans in, the Russians out and the Germans down. And for 70 years it was a success. Germany started well by establishing an economic powerhouse. It succeeded in reuniting Germany after the cold war was won by the US in spite of German handicapping. But since then it has made decisions with terrible consequences, not only for Germany, but for much of Europe. It has used the EU and the Euro to peacefully achieve, with American connivance, what it twice failed to do by violence. And the consequences have become deleterious at best for the rest of Europe. The Energiewende has been a catastrophe, leading to more pollution by increasing the coal and biomass burned to create energy and the highest electricity costs in Europe. Germany’s refugee policy has invited invasion by unassimilabe masses inimical to European culture and values. And a policy of minimal defense expenditures has led the Americans to consider getting out and the Russians getting back in. And now China has become Germany’s largest trading partner.

    I have long felt that the EUropeans were more than capable of defending themselves and we should pull out of Nato to force them to do so and to save money. Why should we allow them to freeload? But now with the Americans leaving, the Russians returning, and the Germans rising, I am having second thoughts as I consider the possible consequences.

    Posted in China, Europe, Germany, Miscellaneous, Russia, Tradeoffs, USA | 21 Comments »

    Shaking the Tyrant’s Bloody Hand

    Posted by Lexington Green on 13th February 2017 (All posts by )

    Please read this piece, from the excellent Mauldin Economics page, entitled Something Rotten in the State of Russia. It shows the many profound problems besetting the Russian state.

    That horrible, horrible man, Putin, is indeed horrible.

    But how dangerous is Putin to the USA? Or to our allies?

    Putin presides over a crumbling country.

    Meanwhile Trump, who some believe is under Putin’s control, is focused on driving down oil and gas prices and pushing NATO to increase defense spending, both of which are hard blows to Russia. Trump is also promoting pro-growth policies which will help fund a military buildup and modernization.

    Russia has no prayer of matching this.

    Putin has real problems, with no real solutions.

    Trump is confronting Putin with challenges he cannot overcome, which will only grow worse over time.

    The idea that Russia is capable of embarking on a new Cold War against the United States is laughable.

    Russia is only considered to be a country of the first rank because of its nuclear arsenal. But that arsenal is useless, other than as a deterrent to invasion, or as a way to commit suicide. No one is going to invade Russia any time soon. More importantly, Putin and his cronies are not suicidal. Putin may even be the richest man in the world. Putin and his posse have a nice life, and a lot to lose. They likely want to enjoy the benefits of their despotism in peace, not see their dachas reduced to radioactive ash.

    (Further, the Russian nuclear arsenal may be of diminished value if, as expected, Trump pushes forward on missile defense.)

    China is a rising power; Russia is a declining power, even a dying power. Russia is a menace to its neighbors; Islamic Terrorism is a menace around the world.

    China is the long term challenge, Islamic Terrorism is the acute, immediate challenge, to the USA and its allies. Russia faces a long-term threat from China, which seems destined to simply overrun the entirety of Asiatic Russia. Russia is also threatened by Islamic terrorism. The USA and Russia face the same serious threats.

    Russia should be aligned with the USA with regard to both China and Islamic terrorism.

    The current situation is absurd and should be resolved.

    This does not mean the USA will become “friends” with Putin, or the Russians.

    We will not trust Putin or the Russians.

    We will not be allies, beyond allies of convenience, case by case, with Putin or the Russians.

    We will not have shared values with Putin or the Russians.

    We will simply recognize important common interests, including ramping down the hostility between our countries, cooperating where it is mutually beneficial to do so, and focusing on more important, mutual threats and challenges.

    There is plenty of room for a deal here.

    Nixon shook Mao’s hand, a hand dripping with the blood of 65 million victims.

    FDR shook Stalin’s hand, a hand dripping with the blood of 50 million victims.

    Trump will do what is best for the peace, prosperity and security of the United States.

    That will likely include shaking the tyrant’s bloody hand.

    Posted in Miscellaneous, Russia, Tradeoffs, Trump | 32 Comments »

    Voter Fraud (not what you think)

    Posted by TM Lutas on 8th November 2016 (All posts by )

    Today is election day for the US. Tomorrow is the annual meeting for my homeowners association. I’m looking at a fraudulent proxy statement issued in my name for that HOA annual meeting.

    We’ve gotten out of the habit of treating fraud seriously, depending on the high reputational penalties associated with getting caught doing such things in the first world.

    My HOA’s budget is tiny, about an eighth of a million. The amount of energy being spent on controlling it is beyond foolish.

    Posted in Business, Economics & Finance, Elections, Miscellaneous | 6 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 »

    Madonna – Felon

    Posted by TM Lutas on 19th October 2016 (All posts by )

    Here’s Project Vote’s NY voter registration guide. The footnotes have been linked to the underlying laws and the federal court case.

    Here is an excerpt

    A. Are there restrictions on the voter registration drive offering something of value to a person in
    exchange for completing a voter registration application?

    It is a felony under New York law to pay, lend or contribute, or offer or promise to pay, lend or contribute any money or other valuable consideration to or for any voter, or to or for any other person, to induce such voter or other person to place or cause to be placed or refrain from placing or causing to be placed
    his name upon a registration poll record.14

    Federal law states that whoever pays or offers to pay or accepts payment either for registration to vote or for voting shall be fined not more than $10,000 or imprisoned not more than five years. 15 At least one federal appellate court has interpreted payment as intended to include forms of pecuniary value offered or given directly to an individual voter, and indicated the value should be based on an assessment of the monetary worth of an item from the perspective of the voter receiving the item. That case held that food vouchers could be payment.16

    In Madison Square Garden, Madonna just offered oral sex to anybody who votes for Hillary Clinton.

    The NY law violation is a misdemeanor, fine set between $100-$500 and/or imprisonment not less than one year.

    The Federal law violation is a felony, fine set at not more than $10,000 and/or imprisonment for up to five years.

    Posted in Crime and Punishment, Elections, Law, Miscellaneous | 12 Comments »

    The founders got it right.

    Posted by Mrs. Davis on 15th October 2016 (All posts by )

    There has been much gnashing of teeth over the past several weeks over what pathetic choices we have for president. And there has been much creative writing about what can be done to ameliorate the situation. One writer in the WSJ went so far as to propose that after his victory Trump voluntarily resign so that Pence could become President.

    Yet the solution is right before our eyes in a document almost 230 years old. The Constitution does not give the power to elect the President to the People. Because the founders were not democrats and did not create a democracy. They believed a mixed form of government to operate as a republic would provide the best rule. As stated in the Federalist #68 regarding the selection of the President:

    It was desirable that the sense of the people should operate in the choice of the person to whom so important a trust was to be confided. This end will be answered by committing the right of making it, not to any preestablished body, but to men chosen by the people for the special purpose, and at the particular conjuncture.

    It was equally desirable, that the immediate election should be made by men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station, and acting under circumstances favorable to deliberation, and to a judicious combination of all the reasons and inducements which were proper to govern their choice. A small number of persons, selected by their fellow-citizens from the general mass, will be most likely to possess the information and discernment requisite to such complicated investigations.

    It was also peculiarly desirable to afford as little opportunity as possible to tumult and disorder. This evil was not least to be dreaded in the election of a magistrate, who was to have so important an agency in the administration of the government as the President of the United States. But the precautions which have been so happily concerted in the system under consideration, promise an effectual security against this mischief. The choice of SEVERAL, to form an intermediate body of electors, will be much less apt to convulse the community with any extraordinary or violent movements, than the choice of ONE who was himself to be the final object of the public wishes. And as the electors, chosen in each State, are to assemble and vote in the State in which they are chosen, this detached and divided situation will expose them much less to heats and ferments, which might be communicated from them to the people, than if they were all to be convened at one time, in one place.

    Talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity, may alone suffice to elevate a man to the first honors in a single State; but it will require other talents, and a different kind of merit, to establish him in the esteem and confidence of the whole Union, or of so considerable a portion of it as would be necessary to make him a successful candidate for the distinguished office of President of the United States.

    Alexander Hamilton didn’t get everything right.

    The People are not about to elect a president. They are about to elect 538 electors who shall meet in their respective states, and vote by ballot for President and Vice-President, one of whom, at least, shall not be an inhabitant of the same state with themselves. The person having the greatest number of votes for President, shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed; and if no person have such majority, then from the persons having the highest numbers not exceeding three on the list of those voted for as President, the House of Representatives shall choose immediately, by ballot, the President.

    So the question becomes, are there enough patriots among the 538 electors to vote for someone other than the two deplorable and irredeemable candidates put forth by the non-constitutional political parties so that neither of them has a majority of the votes cast? And if so, who should receive the third highest number of votes?

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 15 Comments »

    The things my kids say

    Posted by TM Lutas on 5th October 2016 (All posts by )

    My son just asked me if we can AirBNB our house while we evacuate for the hurricane (we’re currently leaning towards sticking Matthew out).

    Posted in Economics & Finance, Humor, Miscellaneous | 7 Comments »

    Calumny

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 21st September 2016 (All posts by )

    So a writer who hangs out in a blog that I follow had a very cogent point in a recent post – about calumny – and the moral crime of falsely accusing an innocent person of a crime, ranging from the mild social offense to the deeply hideous crime against God and humanity at large. He felt, if I read the post aright, that calumny is one of those deeply awful things – as it damages an innocent person ….
    Calumny has kind of fallen out of fashion as a dastardly deed, and you may well understand why by the time I’ve finished. To my mind it can be a worse deed than any of the above sins … I think it worse than the crime or sin. Calumny is false witness – where the person committing calumny knowingly and maliciously lies in testifying that an innocent person did something that they did not do. … And when you think about this, you can see why this is somewhat worse than the evil deed itself. Firstly, the person who will be punished is innocent. Secondly, the victim has to live with that. Their reputation, even if innocence is eventually established, is tarnished forever …

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Society, Conservatism, Current Events, Miscellaneous | 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 »

    Happy thought

    Posted by TM Lutas on 25th July 2016 (All posts by )

    Once in awhile, you see a gem of an internet comment that justifies taking the time to dive in. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the hope and prayer of us all. Buddygonzo wishes that going forward we will all have “common sense email control”.

    Buddygonzo just won the Internet for today

    Posted in Humor, Miscellaneous, National Security, Politics | 13 Comments »

    Clinton Comey?

    Posted by Charles Cameron on 5th July 2016 (All posts by )

    [ cross-posted from Zenpundit — questions relating to the ongoing CBz discussion, FBI Kills Rule of Law — Refuses to Indict Hillary Over Her E-mails — with a side dish of Tzipi Livni ]
    .

    Ckinton Comey
    photo credit: Greg Nash via The Hill

    I’ll be socratic here, asking questions to illuminate my hunches.

    **

    I’m seldom fully convinced by anything that comes from the left and reads the way I’d expect the left to read, and seldom convinced by anything that comes from the right and reads the way I’d expect the right to read, so I don’t take the left’s assertions downplaying H Clinton’s security behavior with reflex belief, and on the whole I’m inclined to follow John Schindler, who — both as an ex-NSA analyst and as a regular at The Observer — takes a very hard line on Clinton’s security behavior, writing just a couple of weeks ago under the title, The Coming Constitutional Crisis Over Hillary Clinton’s EmailGate.

    I also follow War on the Rocks, though, and was struck a while back by a post there from Mark Stout, drawing some interesting distinctions in line with its subtitle, “A former intelligence analyst who worked at both the CIA and the State Department explains how different approaches to classifying information sits at the heart of the scandal that threatens to undo Hillary Clinton.”

    Which does somewhat complicate matters, while somewhat helping us understand them.

    **

    I’m neither an American nor a lawyer, and as someone who is generally inclined more to bridge-building than to taking sides in any case, I don’t feel qualified to debate the Comey-Clinton affair – but was interested to see emptywheel’s Marcy Wheeler, whom I take to be leftish, coming out today describing Comey’s decision as an “improper public prosecutorial opinion”. She writes:

    Understand, though: with Sterling and Drake, DOJ decided they were disloyal to the US, and then used their alleged mishandling of classified information as proof that they were disloyal to the US ..Ultimately, it involves arbitrary decisions about who is disloyal to the US, and from that a determination that the crime of mishandling classified information occurred.

    Comey, in turn, seems to have made it pretty clear that “Secretary Clinton or her colleagues“ were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information” – specifically:

    .. seven email chains concern matters that were classified at the Top Secret/Special Access Program level when they were sent and received.  These chains involved Secretary Clinton both sending emails about those matters and receiving emails from others about the same matters.

    **

    Is there, in your views, special treatment in this matter for persons of high rank present here?

    livni

    And out of curiosity, if so, do you see a similar case of special treatment for persons of high rank over in the UK, known to be substantially less Israel-friendly than the US, where Scotland Yard wanted to question Tzipi Livni about alleged Israeli war crimes in Gaza under her watch as Foreign Minister, and “after diplomatic talks” Livni was “granted special diplomatic immunity”?

    **

    On the one hand, I don’t like show-trials, trials-by-press, banana courts or mob justice, and far prefer just laws justly applied – and on the other, I can understand that the scrutiny those in high office find themselves under can render them legally vulnerable in ways that may unduly influence their decision-making – and justice may be platonically blind, but is not always uniformly applied in practice. Such, it seems to me, is the human dilemma.

    What say you?

    Posted in Britain, Current Events, Elections, Israel, Law, Miscellaneous, National Security, Politics, USA | 19 Comments »

    FBI Kills Rule of Law — Refuses to Indict Hillary Over Her E-mails

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 5th July 2016 (All posts by )

    FBI Director James Comey today in a Washington DC news conference confirmed what many have suspected.

    The Rule of Law in America is now strictly a political football for those who are in power.

    The FBI has refused to indict ex-Sec of State Hillary Clinton for multiple clear violations of Federal law by hosting an unsecured e-mail server with classified data off-site from the State Department.  A server that was know to have been hacked by most of America’s foreign enemies.

    Gatewaypundit has many of the details here —

    FBI Director Comey: We Found Hillary “Work Related” Emails That Were Not Turned Over to FBI – But Recommend NO CHARGES FIled

     

    Posted in America 3.0, Big Government, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Crime and Punishment, Current Events, Law, Law Enforcement, Leftism, Miscellaneous, Political Philosophy, Politics | 26 Comments »

    D-Day, June 6th 1944, Plus 72 Years

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

    To commemorate D-Day, here is a current view of Omaha Beach from Wikipedia —

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Omaha_Beach#/media/File:Omaha_Beach_Nowadays.jpg

    And here are a pair of columns I’ve written previously on D-Day in 2014 and 2013.

    This is a review of three very good books on D-Day —

    History Friday — Books to Read for the D-Day 70th Anniversary
    6th June 2014

    And this column is about the sacrifices of British Royal Air Force early warning radar unit, the 1st Echelon of 21 Base Defence Sector, that landed at the Les Moulins Draw, on Omaha Beach, Normandy about 5:30pm on 6 June 1944.

    Royal Air Force at Omaha Beach
    6th June 2013

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 2 Comments »

    Russia’s Long Road to the Middle East

    Posted by Mrs. Davis on 29th May 2016 (All posts by )

    An interesting article in the Wall Street Journal (not behind paywall).

    What caught my eye was this:

    While the U.S. backed Arab monarchies and Israel, the Soviets sided with leftist regimes in Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Libya and South Yemen, which became the Arab world’s only Marxist state.

    Hmm…. what else do these places have in common? Is what is going on over there as much the death throes of communism as the birth of radical islamism? We can see what is happening in Venezuela. Cuba may be able to minimize the effects if it can find a way to generate the tourism and other industries Puerto Rico has not. North Korea will be worst. But the entire Soviet Bloc has not fallen, only the European part.

    Further,

    Russia was too busy trying to prevent the breakup of its own rump post-Soviet state, bloodied by separatist uprisings in Chechnya and other Muslim regions. Mr. Putin successfully pacified those borderlands

    Well, if Russia created the problem, and Russia has demonstrated that it can fix the problem, what is the matter with allowing Russia to do so?

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 15 Comments »

    Texas Fracking and the Death of Big Oil

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 15th May 2016 (All posts by )

    It isn’t often you see the death of a major worldwide industry. Last week I saw the death of the “Big Oil” economic model. It just died at the hands of Texas oil frackers who have developed a new “disruptive technology” that has made obsolete all the pillars of technology underpinning large, vertically integrated oil companies. More importantly, the same is true of all the petro-states that nationalized Big Oil’s assets in the 1960s to make all the state oil companies around the world today.

    I found this out doing my day job last week as a Defense Department quality auditor visiting a mid-sized oil service company diversifying into federal contracts. The meeting was about issues with the contract they won and touched on others they have bid on. As a side bar at lunch the following points about their main business came up:

    1. Oil field spending has died. Rig count in the USA is the lowest it has been since 1940.
     
    2. One oil rig controller company these folks worked with saw a year over year drop of 72% in its business.
     
    3. Another company they supplied had their “Cap-X” budget drop from ~$400 million for 2015-2016 to little over $30 million for 2016-2017.
     
    4. One drilling company they supplied went from 120(+) new wells last year to _12_ this year.
     
    5. This supplier sold a lot of copper tubing for “frack-log” drilling. That is the drilling of holes in good oil-bearing rock without fracking rock for oil immediately — and here is the new part — to take advantage of a new long-flow fracking technique.

    While most of the points above are due to the Saudis’ oil price war on Texas frackers. An ex-Big Oil geologist I know put it this way —

    The entire reason for the price drop was because the Saudis wanted to destroy fracking in the United States in order to keep us dependent upon them in order to keep them getting a free defense. The Saudis will have to diversify and start spending money on defense before the price goes back up, or they will be in serious trouble.

    The technique in Point #5 above marks another “fracking revolution” that is of growing importance to the USA. This new fracking energy revolution will upend the world order as we know it. Political winds willing, America may well be a net hydrocarbon exporter in five to eight years.

    Explaining why that is requires some background in Texas oil fracking.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in America 3.0, Big Government, Business, Capitalism, Economics & Finance, Energy & Power Generation, Miscellaneous, National Security | 42 Comments »

    Misdirection

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 15th May 2016 (All posts by )

    I cannot, for the life of me, figure out why the burning social question of the moment has to do with transgender persons and bathrooms, locker rooms and changing facilities, both those for the convenience of the public and those dedicated for the use of school children. First and foremost, I will not believe that there can be all that many genuine transgender persons of any age wandering around, outside of a few very limited locations; very few and those who have not taken the plunge entirely would, I believe, not be all that damned flamboyant about it. It is remotely possible that I might have been in a public facility at the same time as an undecided or a totally committed transgender and been unaware of it, but frankly, I believe that my personal chances of having done so and knowing about it are about on par with my chances of being abducted by aliens.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Crime and Punishment, Miscellaneous | 27 Comments »