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  • Archive for August, 2017

    Summer Rerun: Stories of Solar Stress

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

    (rerun inspired by the Eclipse)

    In my post A Perfect Enemy, I mentioned Poul Anderson’s 1972 story A Chapter of Revelation. God–intending to demonstrate His existence to the world and thereby encourage people to prevent the global nuclear war which is about to occur–stops the movement of the sun across the sky. (Technically, He does this by slowing earth’s rotation period to a value identical with Earth’s year.) The reaction to this event is confirmation bias on an immense scale: just about everyone draws the conclusion that the miracle proves that whatever beliefs they already held were the correct ones…for example, a Russian scientist (remember, this was written in 1972) suggests that  “The requirement of minimum hypothesis practically forces us to assume that what happened resulted from the application of a technology centuries beyond ours. I find it easy to believe that an advanced civilization, capable of interstellar travel, sent a team to save mankind from the carnage threatened by an imperialism which that society outgrew long ago.”   Moralists, militarists, extreme right-wing evangelists, Black Power advocates…all find in the miracle only proof of their own rightness, and the world slides into further chaos, with riots, coups d’etat, and cross-border military attacks.

    Several weeks ago, I picked up Karen Thompson Walker’s novel The Age of Miracles, in which strange solar behavior also plays a leading part. Eleven-year-old Julia, focused in the usual challenges of growing up, is not too concerned when scientists announce that–for some unknown reason–the earth’s rotation has slowed very slightly and the days and nights are both getting a little longer. But the process, whatever it is, continues…the days and the nights get longer..and longer..and longer.

    A very well-written book, IMO; especially impressive since it is the author’s first novel. Not everyone agrees: the Amazon reviews indicate that a lot of people liked it very much, and quite a few found it disappointing. But I thought it was very worthwhile; hard to put down, in fact.

    Another coming-of-age story involving solar phenomena is Connie Willis’s Daisy, in the Sun. Like the protagonist of the previous book, Daisy is dealing with the problems of adolescence–oh, and by the way, the sun (which Daisy has always loved) is going to go nova and kill everyone on earth. It’s a strange story, difficult to summarize…I’ll just quote from the author’s introduction:

    During the London Blitz, Edward R. Murrow was startled to see a fire engine racing past. It was the middle of the day, the sirens had not gone, and he hadn’t heard any bombers. He could not imagine where a fire engine would be going.

    It came to him, after much thought, that it was going to an ordinary house fire, and that that seemed somehow impossible, as if all ordinary disasters should be suspended for the duration of this great Disaster that was facing London and commanding everybody’s attention. But of course houses caught fire and burned down for reasons that had nothing to do with the Blitz, and even in the face of Armageddon, there are still private armageddons to be faced.

    The Poul Anderson story can be found in his short-story collection Dialogue With Darkness, and Daisy, in the Sun is in Fire Watch.

    8/22/17 update:  Isaac Asimov’s Nightfall would be a good addition to this collection.

    Posted in Book Notes, Current Events, Science | 1 Comment »

    Seth Barrett Tillman: Karl Popper’s Falsifiability: The Foreign Emoluments Clause—A Debate Between Constitutional Eloi and Constitutional Morlocks

    Posted by Jonathan on 21st August 2017 (All posts by )

    https://ssrn.com/abstract=2996412

    Abstract
    How should we understand the Foreign Emoluments Clause? The debate has been presented to the public as a choice between idiosyncratic conservatives embracing early practice and liberals embracing intellectual reconstructions of constitutional purpose. That distinction is only the surface. The reality is that this debate is a conflict between constitutional Eloi and constitutional Morlocks.
     
    The ninety-nine percenters are our constitutional Eloi, our beautiful people, our self assured true believers who regularly assume they understand 99% of the Constitution’s original public meaning. For them, figuring out what a yet-to-be adjudicated clause means is easy: it only requires their selecting the most eligible meaning which already fits in with what they already know. And what’s the danger of that strategy—when you already know (or believe you know) 99% of what there is to know?
     
    On the other side, we have constitutional Morlocks. Morlocks are ugly, or, at least, their theories are ugly. Ugly and dangerous. Morlocks don’t believe they know 99% of what there is to know, and, not surprisingly, they don’t believe the Eloi or anyone else knows 99% either. Moreover, Morlocks believe that fitting what you don’t know into what you (think you) know permanently freezes our constitutional theories even when those theories are entirely wrong.

    (Seth adds: The PDF posted on SSRN is my amicus brief in CREW v. Trump.)

    Posted in Law, Trump | No Comments »

    Posted by Jonathan on 21st August 2017 (All posts by )

    solar eclipse

    Posted in Photos | 2 Comments »

    Poetry for the Eclipse

    Posted by David Foster on 21st August 2017 (All posts by )

    The impending eclipse reminded NeoNeocon of  a poem by Archibald Macleish:

    And here face down beneath the sun  
    And here upon earth’s noonward height  
    To feel the always coming on 
    The always rising of the night: 

     

    To feel creep up the curving east  
    The earthy chill of dusk and slow  
    Upon those under lands the vast  
    And ever climbing shadow grow 

     

    And strange at Ecbatan the trees  
    Take leaf by leaf the evening strange  
    The flooding dark about their knees  
    The mountains over Persia change 

     

    And now at Kermanshah the gate  
    Dark empty and the withered grass  
    And through the twilight now the late  
    Few travelers in the westward pass 

     

    And Baghdad darken and the bridge  
    Across the silent river gone 
    And through Arabia the edge 
    Of evening widen and steal on

     

    RTWT.  The poem reminded me of another poem, George Meredith’s Lucifer in Starlight:

     

    On a starred night Prince Lucifer uprose.
    Tired of his dark dominion swung the fiend
    Above the rolling ball in cloud part screened,
    Where sinners hugged their spectre of repose.
    Poor prey to his hot fit of pride were those.
    And now upon his western wing he leaned,
    Now his huge bulk o’er Afric’s sands careened,
    Now the black planet shadowed Arctic snows.
    Soaring through wider zones that pricked his scars
    With memory of the old revolt from Awe,
    He reached a middle height, and at the stars,
    Which are the brain of heaven, he looked, and sank.
    Around the ancient track marched, rank on rank,
    The army of unalterable law. 

    Posted in Current Events, Miscellaneous, Poetry, Science | No Comments »

    From Ancient Grudge

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 20th August 2017 (All posts by )

    (An archive post from 2012, from my Celia Hayes blog – which I believe has relevance this week, considering the ongoing ruckus regarding Confederate memorial statuary.)

    “From ancient grudge break to new mutiny, Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.”

    When I was deep in the midst of researching and writing the Adelsverein Trilogy, of course I wound up reading a great towering pile of books about the Civil War. I had to do that – even though my trilogy isn’t really about the Civil War, per se. It’s about the German settlements in mid-19th century Texas. But for the final volume, I had to put myself into the mind of a character who has come home from it all; weary, maimed and heartsick – to find upon arriving (on foot and with no fanfare) that everything has changed. His mother and stepfather are dead, his brothers have all fallen on various battlefields and his sister-in-law is a bitter last-stand Confederate. He isn’t fit enough to get work as a laborer, and being attainted as an ex-rebel soldier, can’t do the work he was schooled for, before the war began. This was all in the service of advancing my story, of how great cattle baronies came to be established in Texas and in the West, after the war and before the spread of barbed wire, rail transport to practically every little town and several years of atrociously bad winters. So are legends born, but to me a close look at the real basis for the legends is totally fascinating and much more nuanced – the Civil War and the cattle ranching empires, both.

    Nuance; now that’s a forty-dollar word, usually used to imply a reaction that is a great deal more complex than one might think at first glance. At first glance the Civil War has only two sides, North and South, blue and grey, slavery and freedom, sectional agrarian interests against sectional industrial interests, rebels and… well, not. A closer look at it reveals as many sides as those dodecahedrons that they roll to determine Dungeons and Dragons outcomes. It was a long time brewing, and as far as historical pivot-points go, it’s about the most single significant one of the American 19th century. For it was a war which had a thousand faces, battlefronts and aspects.
    There was the War that split Border States like Kentucky and Virginia – which actually did split, so marked were the differences between the lowlands gentry and the hardscrabble mountaineers. There was the war between free-Soil settlers and pro-slavery factions in Missouri and in Kansas; Kansas which bled for years and contributed no small part to the split. There was even the war between factions of the Cherokee Indian nation, between classmates of various classes at West Point, between neighbors and yes, between members of families.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Society, History, USA, War and Peace | 32 Comments »

    Article VI, Clause 2

    Posted by Subotai Bahadur on 18th August 2017 (All posts by )

    Now I am pretty sure that a goodly percentage of the Gentle Readers are looking at the title and going, “What???” A significant number will recognize it as a reference to the Constitution, but to be honest only a limited number of people know that Article I defines the Legislative Branch, Article II the Executive, and Article III the Judicial. Most people are not quite sure about the other Articles.

    Let’s cut to the chase. It is the Supremacy Clause:

    This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.

    The reason that states have to obey Federal laws and the Constitution as a whole is specifically because of this clause of the Constitution. That obedience is not optional, conditional, or debatable. If you are part of the United States, you are subject to Federal law and your “feelz” otherwise have no bearing. If you disagree with Federal law, if you want to deny rights under the Constitution, you are out of luck. You can try to change it in court. You can try to have Congress pass a change to the law or repeal it. You can try to amend the Constitution. But the Federal power in the areas where the Constitution grants lawmaking power to the Federal government over-rides anything the States can do.

    This is key to the functioning of a free, constitutional republic. If a state, or group of states, can defy the Federal government at will, there is no Federal government. There is no equal justice under the law. And there is, in fact, no rule of law.

    This was recognized from the beginning. In Federalist #44 James Madison pointed out that if it was not included, then each state would have functional veto power over the entire country. Without it, the country would not work.

    There have been 3 attempts to over-ride or ignore the Supremacy clause and each was aimed at destroying the country.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in America 3.0, Anti-Americanism, Civil Society, Current Events, History, Leftism, Political Philosophy | 24 Comments »

    Life in the Fully Politicized Society, continued

    Posted by David Foster on 16th August 2017 (All posts by )

    An article in Bazaar from a few days ago:  If you are married to a Trump Supporter, Divorce Them:

    Supporting Trump at this point does not indicate a difference of opinions. It indicates a difference of values…You do not need to try to make it work with someone who thinks of people as “illegals.” Just divorce them

    (If the author of this piece really doesn’t understand that the presence of someone in a particular country can be illegal, she should try to visit or move to France, Mexico, Canada, China, or India without appropriate documentation.  Should be educational.)

    We are now pretty far down the road, I am afraid, toward the politicization of just about all aspects of life in American society.  Here is a collection of earlier links and comments on that topic:

    Sgt Mom posted about the “Sad Puppies” affair:  basically, it seems that the science-fiction publishing industry and its leading association and award structure have become highly politicized in the name of “progressivism”…in reaction, a contrarian movement arose called the “Sad Puppies”  (there are also “Rabid Puppies”)…and these groups have been vitriolically attacked by some prominent members of the SF publishing establishment..

    A very funny post about a very serious topic.  Sarah Hoyt, herself a science fiction writers, tells of (and illustrates) some of her own experiences with the Science Fiction Writers Association.

    What kind of things do you think they talk about at a convention of the National Art Education Association?  Best ways to teach perspective and watercoloring techniques?  How to explain Expressionism and Impressionism? Not these days.

    “Political correctness” has become a serious threat to American society

    What makes people want to live in a politicized society, and what is day-to-day life like once the complete politicization has been accomplished?  In this post, I cite some thoughts from Sebastian Haffner, who came of age in Germany when the Nazi movement was casting its spell, and a vivid fictional passage from Ayn Rand, who grew up in the early Soviet Union.

    Gleichschaltung.  A word much favored by the Nazis, it means “coordination,” “making the same,” “bringing into line”…especially, in Nazi usage, “forcible coordination.”  The orientation toward Gleichschaltung is very apparent in today’s “progressive” movement and today’s Democratic Party.

    Prestigious Physics Professor Protests Politicization. Harold Brown, professor emeritus at the University of California Santa Barbara, explains the reasons for his resignation from the American Physical Society.

    Stasiland. Shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall, author Anna Funder traveled to the previous East Germany to interview both those who had lived under Communist oppression and the perpetrators of that oppression.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Current Events, Leftism | 18 Comments »

    Iconoclasm

    Posted by Lexington Green on 15th August 2017 (All posts by )

    Something was nagging at the back of my mind about the recent push to destroy all Civil War monuments in the South. The argument usually advanced is that these statues celebrate the Confederacy and slavery so they should be removed. That case is facially plausible.

    However, the destruction of monuments seems to be accelerating, with a move from organized removal, lawfully conducted, to mobs toppling the statues spontaneously.

    Watching this video is a good example of the trend.

    Then I saw today that activists are demanding that statues of Theodore Roosevelt be taken down, because he was apparently also “racist”.

    And today the Lincoln Memorial was vandalized.

    In the past, there have been outbreaks of this sort of behavior, and they have tended to get out of control. There was the original iconoclast movement in Byzantium. There was a massive destruction of religious images during the Reformation. There was a similar outbreak of mob attacks on religious statues and images during the French revolution. During the early days of the Spanish Civil War, mobs spontaneously attacked and destroyed churches. There is a famous photo of men in civilian clothes taking pot shots at a large crucifix, somewhere in Spain in 1936.

    The Wikipedia article lists many such outbreaks.

    The Chinese Cultural Revolution seems the most apt comparison to where this is going. The Red Guards tried to stamp out the entirety of Chinese history up to their own time. Everything that had occurred before their revolution was corrupt and any attempt to preserve it was a political offense requiring the harshest possible personal attack, including violent attack, and including death. Further, the activities escalate because people must engage in increasingly extreme behavior to show their commitment and fervor. Slacking off becomes suspect.

    The fact that this is a recurring phenomenon, with similar patterns repeating in various cultures over thousands of years, suggests that there is a generalized psychological impulse which can express itself anywhere if conditions are right, especially an ideological motivation.

    The inner logic of Political Correctness, in the USA, in 2017, has no stopping point.

    The existence of Trump is a helpful rhetorical crutch, since people can say that they are just striking out in rage at having a fascist in the White House. But that is a justification not a cause.

    Genuine, deep hatred of the past, of everything the USA has been and stood for, is the motivator.

    This is the result of several generations of indoctrination, in the government schools. The indoctrination has been spectacularly successful.

    Absolutely everything that occurred in the American past is necessarily, in this view, tainted and corrupt, valueless and worthy only of elimination. For example, most of the Founders were slave-owners. All depictions and references to them must be destroyed. George Washington, a slave owner, was no better than a Nazi. All institutions and documents associated with slave-owners, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, are no better than Nazi documents. All of them must be destroyed.

    Christian churches have traditionally been associated with condemning homosexuality as sin, or fighting against Islam. These religious buildings and their images must also be destroyed, by this logic.

    Buildings traditionally associated with male privilege, or capitalism, for example old office buildings with traditional lobby spaces, or clubs that were once restricted to men, are tainted. These also have to be destroyed.

    At a certain point public monuments will be attacked if they are old or have figurative statues simply because everything from the past falls short of the ideal politically correct standard and is therefore evil.

    If you watch the video of the crowd tearing down the Confederate soldier statue, they are not engaged in any kind of rational political act. They are in a frenzy. They are motivated by hate, and they are literally angrily kicking and punching an inert mass of crumpled metal.

    Mobs, once they taste the pleasure of mass violent action and ritual destruction, will want more of it. The conduct will not stop, but will escalate. It is a process that can get out of control.

    The psychological compulsion to engage in this behavior, and the feeling of group solidarity which comes with the activity, the chanting, the sense of triumph in destroying something that is valued by people the attackers hate, is intoxicating.

    Conventional politicians on the Left will find it hard to find a principled way to condemn the behavior, and will say they understand the impulse but condemn the excess.

    Conventional politicians on the Right will apologize for racism and oppression in the past, but insist on law and order.

    Neither will engage with the revolutionary and nihilistic impulses which underlie this behavior, or the indoctrination which made it possible.

    Expect to see this behavior continue, ratchet up, break out in many places.

    Expect high levels of serious vandalism and arson directed at the types of monuments and buildings I mentioned.

    As usual with such predictions, I hope I am wrong.

    Let’s see how it looks over the next few months.

    UPDATE:

    TThat didn’t take long!

    In Chicago today: Local pastor calls on Emanuel to change names of 2 Chicago parks.

    Bishop James Dukes sent a letter to Mayor Emanuel and the Chicago Park District on Monday asking the City of Chicago to rename Washington and Jackson Parks which commemorate former presidents George Washington and Andrew Jackson, key historical figures and known slave owners.

    The article notes: “On the topic of removing the statute of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, the president said, ‘I wonder, is it George Washington next week? And is it Thomas Jefferson the week after?'”

    President Trump is a pretty smart cookie!

    But it didn’t even take a week.

    According to the article, this pastor “is meeting with a city official soon to discuss the process for changing the names.”

    We have a whole damn state named after Washington!

    That has to change.

    And Washington’s head has to be dynamited off of Mount Rushmore.

    And the money? Washington’s face is on the money! That has to change!

    And all those statues! Take ’em down!

    That will help to bring about healing.

    Stand by.

    UPDATE 2:

    Executive director and general counsel of the Congressional Black Caucus calls for statues of George Washington to “come down”.

    Posted in Culture, Current Events, Deep Thoughts, Politics, Predictions, USA | 25 Comments »

    Statue On Courthouse Square…

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 15th August 2017 (All posts by )

    For now, it remains at the corner of Courthouse Square, in San Marcos, Texas.

    Took this picture Saturday afternoon as we were getting ready to pack up from a monthly art market. It’s of John Coffee “Jack” Hays, the famous Texas ranger commander. As a straight, white, gun-toting male oppressor of Comanche Indians in Texas, and being that San Marcos is a college town, I wonder how long until the protests to take the statue down begin, given recent events and demands by the social justice crowd to purge statues of this kind from public spaces.

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Current Events, Photos | 10 Comments »

    To Save the Union

    Posted by Ginny on 14th August 2017 (All posts by )

    Before the Civil War, the two sides often read different authors, saw different newspapers, read different novels. Some northern works were not easily available in the south and the levels of literacy differed. Of course, today, all is open. We choose to narrow our options: a Fox listener is likely to be a Wall Street Journal reader who begins surfing with Instapundit. A CNN listener is more likely to read the NYTimes and check out HuffPost.

    So, we can speak to each other, but anyone listening to the rhythms of Obama and those of Trump, the voices of the average humanities teacher and of the dirty jobs guy, may well wonder if they would understand. (Though, of course, it is a perspective rather than position – Rowe and Victor Davis Hanson, as academically credentialed as they come, understand each other thoroughly.)

    Listening to Trump’s speech on Charlotte, I heard something reporters didn’t mention. The speech’s rhythms came from an emphasis we’ve heard before: in Trump’s inaugural, in Lincoln’s second inaugural – and blended them in Trump’s less rhythmical, less evocative but direct and emotion-driven voice. It lacks the distance and gravitas of Lincoln, but its purpose is similar.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Culture, Current Events, History, Human Behavior, Speeches, Trump | 40 Comments »

    Robots of the Week

    Posted by David Foster on 12th August 2017 (All posts by )

     

    AGBOTS

     

    Posted in Business, Tech | 1 Comment »

    Oh No, Not This Again

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 12th August 2017 (All posts by )

    A funny thing happened to me last week. My two daughters and one of their boyfriends asked me what I thought about the recent menacing words being traded by the Most Esteemed Great Leader (or whatever he is being called these days) of North Korea, and President Trump. Honestly I had been out of the loop, helping deal with a death in the family. After doing a little catching up online on the situation I just said to them “oh no, not this again”. They looked a little, well, questioning at old pops. I just said – “Ugh – I have been hearing about the fiery end of the United States from some idiot in North Korea for the last 40 years. It gets tiring. He won’t do anything. We should sink the Pueblo next time he spouts off”.

    That got them thinking. For a bit, anyways.

    Posted in Korea, Personal Narrative | 29 Comments »

    She’s Gotta Have It

    Posted by Jonathan on 11th August 2017 (All posts by )

    Posted in Video | 2 Comments »

    Diverse

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 8th August 2017 (All posts by )

    There is an oft-quoted maxim generally credited to the late William F. Buckley to the effect that “Liberals claim to want to give a hearing to other views, but then are shocked and offended to discover that there are other views.”  So it also appears to be the case with the corporate and academic diversity-mongers; who are all about diversity when it is a matter of race, nationality, sex, sex-orientation, background and education level, but react like a bunch of screaming howler monkeys when what they have established as ‘conventional-think’ is transgressed upon or critiqued, even in a manner most thoughtful, The most current demonstration of this has been the Google-Diversity imbroglio, which was set off by a rather thoughtful memo (linked here) which ruminated on unconscious corporate assumptions, and suggested that there were other reasons than bias for a dearth of women in highly technical programming activities, and that Google’s own diversity culture was preventing discussion of effective means of remedying that lack. Oh, my … Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Business, Current Events, Internet, Media | 64 Comments »

    Self-Driving Cars: When and What?

    Posted by David Foster on 4th August 2017 (All posts by )

    A collection of some opinions

    Posted in Tech, Transportation | 35 Comments »

    Robots Emeritus

    Posted by David Foster on 3rd August 2017 (All posts by )

    An interesting video from 1955 on manufacturing automation.

    How many of the people who are today projecting a technology-driven employment apocalypse have any idea that the industrial automation technology of 62 years ago was as capable as that shown in this video?

     

    Posted in Business, Economics & Finance, History, Tech | 10 Comments »

    Summer Rerun: Stand Off at the Salado

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 2nd August 2017 (All posts by )

    The historical marker on Holbrook Road in suburban San Antonio

    Like a great many locations of note to the tumultuous years of the Republic of Texas, the site of the battle of Salado Creek today doesn’t look much like it did in 1842  . . .  however, it is not so much changed that it is hard to picture in the minds’ eye what it would have looked like then. The creek is dryer and seasonal, more dependent upon rainfall than the massive amount of water drawn into the aquifer by the limestone sponge of the Hill Country, to the north. Then – before the aquifer was tapped and drilled and drained in a thousand places –  water came up in spectacular natural fountains in many places below the Balcones Escarpment. The Salado was a substantial landmark in the countryside north of San Antonio, a deep and regular torrent, running between steep banks lined with oak and pecan trees, thickly quilted with deep brush and the banks scored by shallow ravines that ran down to water-level. Otherwise, the countryside around was gently rolling grasslands, dotted with more stands of oak trees. There was a low hill a little east of the creek, with a house built on the heights. Perhaps it might have had a view of San Antonio de Bexar, seven miles away, to the south and west. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in History, Reruns | 29 Comments »

    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 »