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  • Archive for October, 2017

    Culture, Innovation, Victory, and Defeat

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

    (Today being Trafalgar Day, it seems like a good time to rerun this post)

    In 1797, a Spanish naval official named Don Domingo Perez de Grandallana, wrote a thoughtful document on the general subject “why do we keep losing to the British, and what can we do about it?”  His thoughts were inspired by his observations while with the Spanish fleet off Cape St Vincent,  in a battle which was a significant defeat for Spain, and are relevant to a question which is very relevant to us today:

    What attributes of an organization make it possible for that organization to accomplish its mission in an environment of uncertainty, rapid change, and high stress?

    Here are de Grandallana’s key points:

    An Englishman enters a naval action with the firm conviction that his duty is to hurt his enemies and help his friends and allies without looking out for directions in the midst of the fight; and while he thus clears his mind of all subsidiary distractions, he rests in confidence on the certainty that his comrades, actuated by the same principles as himself, will be bound by the sacred and priceless principle of mutual support.

    Accordingly, both he and his fellows fix their minds on acting with zeal and judgement upon the spur of the moment, and with the certainty that they will not be deserted. Experience shows, on the contrary, that a Frenchman or a Spaniard, working under a system which leans to formality and strict order being maintained in battle, has no feeling for mutual support, and goes into battle with hesitation, preoccupied with the anxiety of seeing or hearing the commander-in-chief’s signals for such and such manoeures…

    Thus they can never make up their minds to seize any favourable opportunity that may present itself. They are fettered by the strict rule to keep station which is enforced upon then in both navies, and the usual result is that in one place ten of their ships may be firing on four, while in another four of their comrades may be receiving the fire of ten of the enemy. Worst of all they are denied the confidence inspired by mutual support, which is as surely maintained by the English as it is neglected by us, who will not learn from them.

    The quote is from Seize the Fire, by Adam Nicholson.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Anglosphere, Book Notes, Britain, France, History, Human Behavior, Management, Military Affairs, Society, War and Peace | 2 Comments »

    Seth Barrett Tillman: Good Lawyers & Good Books: My Personal Difficulties During the Recent Hamilton-Signatures Dispute

    Posted by Jonathan on 19th October 2017 (All posts by )

    These five experts did a very brave thing. They knowingly took on the cause of historical truth in spite of the fact that a social media mob had already descended on me, and in spite of the fact that they don’t (as far as I know) have any particular love for the administration. (Indeed, one of them loathes the President, but nevertheless took on this project because it was the right thing to do.) They have all written extensively on Hamilton, the Constitution, the Founding Era, and/or the Early Republic. As a personal favor to me, and if you value what has been accomplished to date, I would ask you to buy their books. If you cannot buy a book or two, please ask your local library or university library to do so. Of course, cite to their publications in your articles and elsewhere. That’s a valuable thing too. If you want honesty in our courts, in legal practice, and in the wider intellectual marketplace of ideas, then honest researchers have to be able to make a living. So if you can, help.

    Read the whole thing.

    Seth is gracious to people who helped him. He deserves great credit for his original and important scholarship, and for standing firm in the face of scurrilous personal attacks

    Posted in History, Law, Trump | 3 Comments »

    “Smartphones Are Killing Americans, But Nobody’s Counting”

    Posted by Jonathan on 17th October 2017 (All posts by )

    Amid a historic spike in U.S. traffic fatalities, federal data on the danger of distracted driving are getting worse“:

    Over the past two years, after decades of declining deaths on the road, U.S. traffic fatalities surged by 14.4 percent. In 2016 alone, more than 100 people died every day in or near vehicles in America, the first time the country has passed that grim toll in a decade. Regulators, meanwhile, still have no good idea why crash-related deaths are spiking: People are driving longer distances but not tremendously so; total miles were up just 2.2 percent last year. Collectively, we seemed to be speeding and drinking a little more, but not much more than usual. Together, experts say these upticks don’t explain the surge in road deaths.
     
    There are however three big clues, and they don’t rest along the highway. One, as you may have guessed, is the substantial increase in smartphone use by U.S. drivers as they drive. From 2014 to 2016, the share of Americans who owned an iPhone, Android phone, or something comparable rose from 75 percent to 81 percent.
     
    The second is the changing way in which Americans use their phones while they drive. These days, we’re pretty much done talking. Texting, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram are the order of the day—all activities that require far more attention than simply holding a gadget to your ear or responding to a disembodied voice. By 2015, almost 70 percent of Americans were using their phones to share photos and follow news events via social media. In just two additional years, that figure has jumped to 80 percent.

    Time will tell what’s really going on but the smartphone distraction hypothesis seems likely. Walk around an urban area and you see many drivers who are obviously distracted. It’s not just texting. People are glued to navigation apps, watching videos, doing all kinds of mentally absorbing activities with their phones while they are behind the wheel. Some people are clearly incapable of having a phone conversation without losing focus on whatever else they are doing, such as driving. They look like pilots flying on instruments down busy streets. Quite a few pedestrians are looking at their phones too, which raises the question how many smartphone-related accidents they are responsible for.

    I’m guessing there will eventually be a cultural backlash against distracted driving as there was with drinking and driving, and that rules, customs and technology will be changed to reduce the danger. In the meantime it seems like a good idea to be extra careful.

    Posted in Culture, Society, Statistics | 43 Comments »

    It looks like the “hero” security guard in the Vegas shooting is illegal.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 17th October 2017 (All posts by )

    UPDATE: The hero guard has surfaced and will be on the Ellen Degeneres show.

    He went for the money, which was sensible of him, but does anyone think he will be asked about his immigration status ?

    The “hero” security guard in the Las Vegas shooting has not only disappeared, but had a false Social Security number.

    I guess that’s why he bolted before the press conference.

    He also may be the reason for the shifting stories about the shooting.

    There are photos of him wearing a badge and others without it.

    The security guard was supposed to be interviewed by Fox News’ Sean Hannity, but the host tweeted on Thursday: ‘He cancelled.’
    Campos’ disappearance came just hours after MGM Resorts International, which owns the Mandalay Bay, disputed the official timeline of the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history, rejecting any suggestion that hotel staff delayed calling 911 for six minutes after Paddock opened fire.

    Maybe he did not have a gun because he could not pass a background check. Then there is the matter of the six minutes after he was shot and the massacre began.

    The latest chronology raised a series of questions about whether officers were given information quickly enough to possibly have a chance to take out the gunman before he could carry out the bloodshed.
    But according to resort officials, it was no more than 40 seconds between the time Campos used his walkie talkie to call for help and Paddock opening fire on the crowd from two windows in his suite.
    Earlier in the investigation, police had said that Paddock shot through his door and wounded Campos after the guard distracted him from firing on the crowd out the windows.
    Campos’ union president said the latest timeline does not dispute the assertion that the guard is ‘still a hero, saving his coworker, possibly stopping additional shots,’ reported Stephanie Wash.

    Two timelines. Mysteries about the motive, whether there was a second shooter, who used his card key when he was gone ?

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Society, Current Events, Immigration, Law Enforcement, Terrorism | 17 Comments »

    Shameless book promo

    Posted by Margaret on 17th October 2017 (All posts by )

    I’ve started writing again after a ten-year pause, so it’s pretty much like starting from scratch and I can use all the help I can get. The first two books of a three-book science fiction series, Insurgents and Awakening, are available on Amazon now, and the third, Survivors, will be up in a week or two. (The books work as stand-alone novels; you don’t have to read them as a series, though I think they’re more fun that way.) All three are/will be available in paperback and e-book editions, and the e-books are free in Kindle Unlimited.

    There’s an excerpt from Insurgents here and the first chapter of Awakening here, if anybody’s interested.

    I hope ChicagoBoyz readers will find the trilogy interesting, since it’s meant to be the chronicle of a totalitarian society’s collapse over a period of several generations.

    If anybody happens to read one, I would be very grateful for a review.

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

    American Chrome

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 16th October 2017 (All posts by )

    (Spotted this last weekend at the Key to the Hills Rod Run, in Boerne, Texas – where the participating classic autos had to be from 1948 or earlier)

    Posted in Photos | 12 Comments »

    Josh Blackman and Seth Barrett Tillman: The ‘Resistance’ vs. George Washington

    Posted by Jonathan on 16th October 2017 (All posts by )

    The conclusion of Seth’s brief piece:

    But for some reason the Trump administration continues to stand by the 2009 opinion, drawn up when Mr. Obama was being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, which came with a $1.4 million award. The Office of Legal Counsel concluded Mr. Obama could accept the money, but the opinion simply assumed the Foreign Emoluments Clause applied to the presidency. It was taken as a given with no citations either to judicial rulings or to the practices established by Washington and other founders.
     
    We have submitted friend-of-the-court briefs in New York, the District of Columbia and Maryland explaining this argument. At a minimum, the historical record should give Justice pause. But ideally the department would abandon the 2009 opinion and argue in court that the president is not governed by this clause. Mr. Trump’s adversaries are arguing that Washington and Jefferson were crooks.

    (The full column is behind a pay wall but is worth reading if you have access.)

    Posted in History, Law, Trump | 7 Comments »

    History Weekend: Revisiting “Atomic Diplomacy,” the “Million Casualty Lie,” and Casualty Planning for the Invasion of Japan

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 13th October 2017 (All posts by )

    When I wrote my Sept 2nd column “Happy VJ-Day, Plus 72 Years,” last month, it was with the intent to show a couple of things.  First, that “Atomic Diplomacy” — the belief that USA dropped the Atomic Bomb on Japan to intimidate the Soviet Union at the beginning of the Cold War — was a Leftist identity based belief system unsupported by the real historical record.  And second, that it’s genesis was due to the lies and cover up of those lies by a generation of high level US national security bureaucrats like Paul Nitze and WW2 generation flag rank politicians for decades after World War II.

    This column will expand on that second point by revisiting “Atomic Diplomacy,” the “Million Casualty Lie” founding myth that it pushed and recent research finds by research partner Ryan Crierie and I had on the War Department casualty planning for the Invasion of Japan.

    In addition to the lies of Paul Nitze so well laid out by Paul Newman’s various books, which my last VJ-Day column dealt with, there was in fact a great deal of lying about the American casualties and the Atomic bomb.  It was a “Million Casualty Lie,”  but the Atomic Diplomacy Historical Revisionists got the lie vector 180 degrees wrong.

    The Post War American military, and General Marshall in particular, was in fact hiding a much bigger casualty number for the conquest of Japan and the destruction of the Imperial Japanese military.  And they had been hiding it from public view since July 1944.

    The following will show that the War Department planning process is where these lies were born during the war,  where these institutional lies were spread from and the how/why/who kept these lies going in the decades afterwards.

    Chart 2. War Plans Division, War Department General Staff: 21 December 1941

    Source: OPD 312, 105

    Figure 1 — War Plans Division, War Department General Staff: 21 December 1941.  A simple organizational chart reflecting inadequate planning for a global war.

    Read the rest of this entry »

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

    Harvey’s Horrid Hollywood Handmaidens

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 13th October 2017 (All posts by )

    I don’t normally comment on popular culture, but the ‘Hurricane Harvey Weinstein” Hollywood sex scandal marks a such a radical change in our “cultural high ground” that it deserves comment based on observation’s I’ve read from Twitter commentator Thomas Wictor and science fiction and fantasy writer John Ringo over on Instapundit.

    First, Thomas Wictor was a music journalist for 10 years in Hollywood and has just posted a tweetstorm about Harvey Weinstein Hollywood sex scandal in light his experiences then.

    See this link for the concise posting of those tweets —

    Short form: Everybody knew about Harvey Weinstein’s predatory nature…and were silent.
    .
    Second, John Ringo also commented upon the ‘Hurricane Harvey Weinstein” Hollywood sex scandal  here —
    and Ringo closed it out thus —

    …So do liberal actresses and models and all the rest really think conservative men are the worst human beings in the world?

     .

    Yes. Yes, they do. Because they have to work every day with some of the ACTUALLY worst human beings in the world. And they have to believe conservative men are worse. Otherwise, there’s no point to being on the ‘good’ side.

     .

    Thus when Donald Trump said some needlessly crass things and alleged to have groped women, they immediately saw in him not just Harvey (all the rest of the abusers in Hollywood High not to mention Billy ‘I did not rape that woman’ Clinton) but WORSE THAN HARVEY.

     .

    Because Trump has to be worse. They can’t really be slaves to some of the most vile human beings on the face of the planet.

     .

    Got news for you ladies: Yes, yes, you are. You enable them every day and by doing so you not only support the abusers, you directly or indirectly tell all the hurt new cheerleaders: Welcome to the bigs, sis. Now shut up and act.

     .

    You’re blaming the wrong side.

    And both these observations together  made me realize that Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel “The Handmaid’s Tale” wasn’t so much about a conservative patriarchal dystopia converting women into tools of the patriarchy than her projecting her life experiences in the Harvey Weinsteinesque “rape culture” in the patriarchal male dominated, progressive left, media institutions onto conservative men a’la Ringo.

    In other words, if Ringo’s Lefty Female/Feminist Projection model holds and I think it does,  Margaret Atwood appears to have been as much a “Handmaiden” in 1985 as was Ashley Judd was in 2016.  And so is every other lefty actress who was screeching at Pres. Trump, that Harvey Weinstein “Helped” career wise, including most of the actresses given Oscar’s over the last 20 years.

    All those Hollywood women’s achievements are now tainted not only by the question of whether or not they slept with Harvey Weinstein, but how complicit they were in enabling his Handmaiden style systematic patriarchal abuse of women for decades.

    Because we know from Ringo’s and Wictor’s observations — and by what what these actresses said about Pres. Trump, and what they didn’t say about Harvey Weinstein — that they are all “Harvey’s Horrid Hollywood Handmaidens.”

    Posted in Civil Society, Culture, Current Events | 22 Comments »

    Learning the 777

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

    Airline pilot Karlene Petitt is doing transition to the Boeing 777 and blogging about what she learns:

    Aircraft overview

    Structure and materials

    Flight controls

    Roll controls detail

    Series will continue at Karlene’s blog

    Posted in Aviation, Tech, Transportation | No Comments »

    Apple Pay for Better Security

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 11th October 2017 (All posts by )

    Over the last year I’ve had several opportunities to drive to remote parts of Oregon. Often we stop by a local grocery / convenience store to pick up groceries or a snack. These stores are small and often with a single check out lane and a very quaint atmosphere of old-time store goods.

    A bit of fun for me is to walk up to the credit card reader which usually has the icon for near field connectivity (NFC) and I surreptitiously use my Apple Watch with Apple Pay enabled to quickly pay for groceries without taking out my credit card. The cashier gets flummoxed and wonders what happened, and I show them my Apple Watch with my card image and they laugh.

    What is sad is that Apple Pay works “out of the box” at most of these remote grocery stores but it doesn’t work at many of the large retailers in the city. Instead of encouraging Apple Pay or similar google technologies, the retailers want to control the experience and the data and so they turn off this feature. You have the unfortunate alternative of putting your credit card in the chip reader and waiting for 5-10 seconds which slows the line for the whole process. Worse than the inconvenience is the fact that Apple Pay is much more secure than any card reader – Apple Pay doesn’t provide your “real” credit card to the store, instead it uses a “token” for the transaction.
    Read the rest of this entry »

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

    Hollywood Babylon 2.1

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 11th October 2017 (All posts by )

    Accustomed as I am to contemplating matters more serious than the doings of the denizens of Hollywood, I can’t keep away from the current spectacle regarding the casting out of Harvey “Jabba the Hutt” Weinstein from all polite (hah!) Hollywood and Democrat political society, where once he strode like an unstoppable behemoth. (How seriously can you take a guy who cannot either grow a decent and serious beard, or learn to use a razor. Really.) It’s like one of those horrific multi-vehicle pile-ups on the internet super-highway, which leave vehicles teetering, smoking and crunched together in improbable formations – and all us normals out in Flyoverlandia left thinking thoughts along the lines of “what brought all that on?” and “he did what … in a potted plant?” or meditating upon the ghastly nature of the mass entertainment business, especially when it climbs into the sack with politicians, and begins the calculated roughing up of the establishment news media. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Current Events, Feminism, Media, Politics | 15 Comments »

    Harvey Weinstein journalism tip

    Posted by TM Lutas on 11th October 2017 (All posts by )

    Dear journalists, here’s the link to Harvey Weinstein’s IMDB page. For every entry, there are potential questions you could be asking. The man has 331 production credits, 79 credits where he plays himself, and 34 movies which offered screen thanks to the man.

    For example, Piers Morgan used HW as a guest host multiple times over the course of four years. Did he behave himself? Call up each and every one of those 34 movies and ask for comment on HW’s situation and ask if any new prints will continue to offer him thanks.

    The opportunities just go on and on and on. All from one single web page, and I gave the link.

    You’re welcome.

    Posted in Leftism, Media, Politics | 13 Comments »

    Apple Photos Integration

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

    I’ve gone all in on Apple through a series of semi-random decisions.  I bought a MacBook Pro back in 2011 and, thanks to my friend Brian who upgraded the memory and hard drive to an SSD, that machine still works great in late 2017 and I was able to upgrade to the latest Mac OS High Sierra without a challenge.  I have had several iPhones over the years and am on an iPhone 7 now.  My current iPad is an iPad Air 2 which also seems to have several years of life left in it.  Finally, I bought an Apple Watch and recently upgraded it to Watch OS 4.

    I’ve also been moving everything to the cloud slowly.  I looked at my MacBook and it said I hadn’t done a backup in over 1000 days.  I don’t really care because I put the (relatively few) documents that I care about in iCloud (and can access them across any Apple device), my contacts are in the Apple Cloud, while my photos (the core of most of this post) are already in the Apple cloud and I gave up on physical music and moved almost solely over to Apple Music.  My email is in the cloud with various providers, as well.  So what’s on the device that I really care about, anyways?  Cloud storage is also pretty cheap… I think I spend about a dollar a month on it for Apple (plus $9.99 for Apple music).  The only high space items I have (in terms of MB or GB) are photos, since I’ve given up on music.

    It is a hard decision to put all your photos in the Apple cloud.  You need to make the move to put your photos up in the cloud and have that be the primary location, not the ones on your hard drive or your phone  While someone with more technical expertise might tell you that is not an irrevocable decision, from my perspective it seems like it would be exceedingly difficult to “go back”.

    I came to this decision because I love the features that Apple Photos provides.  Specifically:

    • Once you tag faces to names, any new photos that you take are automatically linked to those same individuals.  The accuracy of this service has been increasing over time, both in terms of 1) matching different angles to people and also in 2) picking faces out of the crowd in the first place so that you can link them to people
    • Apple photos now synchs across devices so that if you link photos to faces on your iPhone it carries those same links over to the photos on your MacBook and on your iPad.  Incredibly, until the latest OS upgrade (on the iPhone / iPad as well as Mac OS) you had to do these independently (3 times).  I am also starting to play with synching to my Apple Watch with Watch OS 4 but this is in progress (and would be partial in any case)
    • Apple photos now has built in photo features that were present on typical photo editing software years ago, like auto-feature touch up (magic wand) and more tweaks.  I’m sure to a photo expert these features are minimalistic but to the vast, vast majority of photo users they are likely enough.  These features just came through with the latest upgrades
    • Apple photos makes it easier to synch faces to contacts and also appears to act more reliably across devices.  For instance, if I take a photo on my iPhone it won’t appear on my iPad or Mac until I connect that phone up to wifi somewhere and put it in a charger.  But then they all appear right away (in a reduced quality image, when you tap on one it “fills in” the remaining elements to a high quality image.  This used to be spotty, at best, and unreliable (I would have to start and restart my devices sometimes for it to work)
    • Now that synchronizing works reliably across devices, I can use my Mac for more heavy duty tasks like editing and changing the date on old photos (for example I take iPhone pictures of old photos from my physical photo albums and then I edit them and change their date on the Mac so that they are in the proper sequence and don’t show up at the top of your photo queue by date)
    • If you load older photos into iCloud it takes a while (probably faster now) because it attempts to add in all the AI (faces, locations, etc…) so be a bit patient.  I was an early adopter of this and somehow I had lots of duplicates that I am in the process of deleting but it probably is easier now
    • I tried making a physical photo book from Apple (to give to parents and in laws) and it worked great.  Now it is much easier to bring photos into the physical book or however you want to print them, and you have a huge variety of photos (edited, even) to choose from

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Photos, Tech | 7 Comments »

    Kinda Cool

    Posted by David Foster on 7th October 2017 (All posts by )

    Lowes’ Holorooms

    Also in this video

    Posted in Business, Marketing, Tech | No Comments »

    Micro-transactions

    Posted by TM Lutas on 6th October 2017 (All posts by )

    It is now possible to convert electricity to money using an Internet browser (like the one you’re likely using to read this post) in amounts lower than $0.001, which is the smallest unit of account for the US Dollar. Jobs earning that amount are constantly available by doing math on your computer that works on supporting open ledger systems called blockchains.

    The product of the math work turns into cryptocurrency fractional coins which, when accumulated in large enough amounts can be sold for dollars, euros, yen, or any other conventional currency around.

    The transaction costs are orders of magnitude lower than in the conventional banking system, enough that large classes of transactions that were impractical are now merely somewhat expensive. There’s a lot of room for efficiency improvements at present.

    You can see an experiment running the first iteration I’m working with this concept at the project blog for Charleston Dry Feet. It’s currently generating litoshi from anyone who visits. Proceeds go to the worthy project of fixing Charleston, SC’s deficient storm water drainage system. You can turn the widget on or off with a button click.

    Posted in Capitalism, Miscellaneous, Tech | 20 Comments »

    Sputnik Anniversary Rerun – Book Review: Rockets and People

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

    Today being the 60th anniversary of the Sputnik launch, here’s a rerun of a post about a very interesting book.

    Rockets and People, by Boris E Chertok

    Boris Chertok’s career in the Russian aerospace industry spanned many decades, encompassing both space exploration and military missile programs. His four-volume memoir is an unusual document–partly, it reads like a high school annual or inside company history edited by someone who wants to be sure no one feels left out and that all the events and tragedies and inside jokes are appropriately recorded. Partly, it is a technological history of rocket development, and partly, it is a study in the practicalities of managing large programs in environments of technical uncertainty and extreme time pressure. Readers should include those interested in: management theory and practice, Russian/Soviet history, life under totalitarianism, the Cold War period, and missile/space technology. Because of the great length of these memoirs, those who read the whole thing will probably be those who are interested in all (or at least most) of the above subject areas. I found the series quite readable; overly-detailed in many places, but always interesting. In his review American astronaut Thomas Stafford said “The Russians are great storytellers, and many of the tales about their space program are riveting. But Boris Chertok is one of the greatest storytellers of them all.”  In this series, Chertok really does suck you into his world.

    Chertok was born in Lodz, Poland, in 1912: his mother had been forced to flee Russia because of her revolutionary (Menshevik) sympathies. The family returned to Russia on the outbreak of the First World War, and some of Chertok’s earliest memories were of the streets filled with red-flag-waving demonstrators in 1917. He grew up on the Moscow River, in what was then a quasi-rural area, and had a pretty good childhood–“we, of course, played “Reds and Whites,” rather than “Cowboys and Indians””–swimming and rowing in the river and developing an early interest in radio and aviation–both an airfield and a wireless station were located nearby. He also enjoyed reading–“The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn met with the greatest success, while Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin gave rise to aggressive moods–‘Hey–after the revolution in Europe, we’ll deal with the American slaveholders!” His cousin introduced him to science fiction, and he was especially fond of Aelita (book and silent film), featuring the eponymous Martian beauty.

    Chertok remembers his school years fondly–there were field trips to study art history and architectural styles, plus a military program with firing of both rifles and machine guns–but notes “We studied neither Russian nor world history….Instead we had two years of social science, during which we studied the history of Communist ideas…Our clever social sciences teacher conducted lessons so that, along with the history of the French Revolution and the Paris Commune, we became familiar with the history of the European peoples from Ancient Rome to World War I, and while studying the Decembrist movement and 1905 Revolution in detail we were forced to investigate the history of Russia.” Chertok purused his growing interest in electronics, developing a new radio-receiver circuit which earned him a journal publication and an inventor’s certificate. There was also time for skating and dating–“In those strict, puritanical times it was considered inappropriate for a young man of fourteen or fifteen to walk arm in arm with a young woman. But while skating, you could put your arm around a girl’s waist, whirl around with her on the ice to the point of utter exhaustion, and then accompany her home without the least fear of reproach.”

    Chertok wanted to attend university, but “entrance exams were not the only barrier to admission.” There was a quota system, based on social class, and  “according to the ‘social lineage’ chart, I was the son of a white collar worker and had virtually no hope of being accepted the first time around.” He applied anyhow, hoping that his journal publication and inventor’s certificate in electronics would get him in.” It didn’t–he was told, “Work about three years and come back. We’ll accept you as a worker, but not as the son of a white-collar worker.”

    So Chertok took a job as electrician in a brick factory…not much fun, but he was soon able to transfer to an aircraft factory across the river. He made such a good impression that he was asked to take a Komsomol leadership position, which gave him an opportunity to learn a great deal about manufacturing. The plant environment was a combination of genuinely enlightened management–worker involvement in process improvement, financial decentralization–colliding with rigid policies and political interference. There were problems with absenteeism caused by new workers straight off the farm; these led to a government edict: anyone late to work by 20 minutes or more was to be fired, and very likely prosecuted. There was a young worker named Igor who had real inventive talent; he proposed an improved linkage for engine and propeller control systems, which worked out well. But when Igor overslept (the morning after he got married), no exception could be made. He was fired, and “we lost a man who really had a divine spark.”  Zero tolerance!

    Chertok himself wound up in trouble when he was denounced to the Party for having concealed the truth about his parents–that his father was a bookkeeper in a private enterprise and his mother was a Menshevik. He was expelled from the Komsomol and demoted to a lower-level position.  Later in his career, he would also wind up in difficulties because of his Jewish heritage.

    The memoir includes dozens of memorable characters, including:

    *Lidiya Petrovna Kozlovskaya, a bandit queen turned factory supervisor who became Chertok’s superior after his first demotion.

    *Yakov Alksnis, commander of the Red Air Force–a strong leader who foresaw the danger of a surprise attack wiping out the planes on the ground. He was not to survive the Stalin era.

    *Olga Mitkevich, sent by the regime to become “Central Committee Party organizer” at the factory where Chertok was working…did not make a good first impression (“had the aura of a strict school matron–the terror of girls’ preparatory schools”)..but actually proved to be very helpful to getting work done and later became director of what was then the largest aircraft factory in Europe, which job she performed well. She apparently had too much integrity for the times, and her letters to Stalin on behalf of people unjustly accused resulted in her own arrest and execution.

    *Frau Groettrup, wife of a German rocket scientist, one of the many the Russians took in custody after occupying their sector of Germany. Her demands on the victors were rather unbelievable, what’s more unbelievable is that the Russians actually yielded to most of them.

    *Dmitry Ustinov, a rising star in the Soviet hierarchy–according to Chertok an excellent and visionary executive who had much to do with Soviet successes in missiles and space. (Much later, he would become Defense Minister, in which role he was a strong proponent of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.)

    *Valeriya Golubtsova, wife of the powerful Politburo member Georgiy Malenkov, who was Stalin’s immediate successor. Chertok knew her from school–she was an engineer who became an important government executive–and the connection turned out to be very useful. Chertok respected her professional skills, liked her very much, and devotes several pages to her.

    *Yuri Gagarin, first man to fly in space, and Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman.

    *Overshadowing all the other characters is Sergei Korolev, now considered to be the father of the Soviet space program although anonymous during his lifetime.  Korolev spent 6 years in labor camps, having been arrested when his early rocket experiments didn’t pan out; he was released in 1944.  A good leader, in Chertok’s view, though with a bad temper and given to making threats that he never actually carried out.  His imprisonment must have left deep scars–writing about a field trip to a submarine to observe the firing of a ballistic missile, Chertok says that the celebration dinner with the sub’s officers was the only time he ever saw Korolev really happy.

    Chertok’s memoir encompasses the pre-WWII development of the Soviet aircraft industry…early experiments with a rocket-powered interceptor…the evacuation of factories from the Moscow area in the face of the German invasion…a post-war mission to Germany to acquire as much German rocket technology as possible…the development of a Soviet ballistic missile capability…Sputnik…reconnaissance and communications satellites…the Cuban missile crisis…and the race to the moon.

    Some vignettes, themes, and excerpts I thought were particularly interesting:

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    Posted in Aviation, Big Government, Biography, Leftism, Management, Military Affairs, Russia, Society, Space, Tech, Transportation | 15 Comments »

    Aftermath

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 3rd October 2017 (All posts by )

    Of course, it’s a given that the cries for tighter gun control would become ever louder and more intense after the Mandalay Bay massacre of attendees at an outdoor country music festival. It happens after every such event … although I’m under the impression that such cries were fairly muted after the attempted assassination of Republican baseball team members two months ago by a disaffected Bernie Bro named … what was his name, anyway? Oh, yeah – James Hodgkinson. I had to look it up. Funny way that he went down the memory hole, wasn’t it? It was almost as if it never happened, and James Hodgkinson became an un-person in the eyes of the Establishment News Media. There are just some crises that just aren’t worth wheeling out the big anti-guns for, it would appear. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, Civil Society, Conservatism, Crime and Punishment, Current Events | 55 Comments »

    New! – Your Long Overdue Haikupalooza

    Posted by Jonathan on 1st October 2017 (All posts by )

    Speaking Hebrew with
    Uber guy from Ramallah
    Interesting world

    —-

    Your fake service dog
    Goes with you to the Target
    We all know the truth

    —-

    Bicycling safety?
    Drivers crazy, distracted
    Watch out for yourself

    —-

    At condo meeting
    Board announces it’s quitting
    One dare not step in

    —-
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    Posted in Poetry | 18 Comments »