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  • [ ENTERS QUIETLY, STAGE RIGHT. LOOKS AROUND NERVOUSLY. CLEARS THROAT PART TWO]

    Posted by Subotai Bahadur on January 19th, 2017 (All posts by )

    First, let me thank you all for the warm welcome. I am deeply cognizant of the fact that I am writing in the company of the first team, and I just hope that I can keep up.  I am going to try to turn up here every week or two.

    In the previous installment, I mentioned that children are learning machines. If you want to raise a generation that excels, use that. They want to learn. They are desperate to learn. And if you pay enough attention to them as individual people, they will learn from you. Don’t talk down to them. Don’t plant them in front a TV that teaches them that America is evil, Whites are evil, and that males are evil and incompetent. You have to present alternate lessons.

    My children are grown. I lost a son at 11 years old, but the rest have done well. My oldest daughter owns her own business with her family. My next oldest got two degrees in 5 years, the next has her degree and has run a multi-county arts council, and my son chose not to go to college but became a chef and then a master brewer for an internationally respected craft brewery [and makes more than his sisters]. They, and my nieces and nephews have all mentioned that I am different than most parents. I have always talked to them like they were people, and not “children”. I might have to explain things, but I don’t talk down to them.

    Part of that is so they learn new things and expect to learn new things as part of growing up. Part of that is the respect shown to them as people. Which they will internalize. If they believe they are worthy of respect, then they will try to live up to their self image.

    Children will be what they are expected to be. If you have low expectations, they will live down to those expectations. If you have high expectations, and by that I do not mean pressured, just make sure that they have access to the tools and let them use them; then they will.

    My dad had a 6th Grade Chinese education in the late 1910’s, early 1920’s. He knew what he did not know. From my own 6th grade, we had to start picking our classes for the next year. He told me that he would sign whatever I chose, because he did not know what I would need. Just as I was responsible for cooking for myself when alone and taking care of myself when alone from age 9, I was responsible for directing my own schooling, with the expectation that I would choose the best course of study for the future. And I did.

    I was always a reader. When I got my first library card at 10 and went to the Aurora Public Library, they kept trying to chase me into the children’s section. I wanted to be in the History section, checking out and reading the 15 volumes of Morison’s “Official History of US Naval Operations in WW-II”. I told my dad, and his response was to give me a note to take to the librarians. It said: “Reading is good. You shouldn’t have anything in the library he shouldn’t read. If he can carry it, he can check it out.”. Just in passing, I had a bike with a paperboy’s baskets. I could carry quite a lot. But the lesson there was that I was free to learn anything that interested me. Teach that lesson, and be willing to either answer any questions or refer to a reference source if you cannot answer them yourself.

    What they are surrounded with at home can guide and enable that search for knowledge. If y’all remember, there was a world before the Internet. In those days, a good set of encyclopedias was the best that you could do at home. In 1963 my dad spent the equivalent of a month’s wages to get a deluxe edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica for me. And I used it.

    When my kids were growing up, we had functionally a library at home. Today in my house, literally every room has walls of floor to ceiling bookcases, packed; except for the bathroom and our bedroom. For décor reasons, the bedroom bookcases are long and low. And most of what I call my “working library” of military reference books from when I was writing for military journals are packed away, because I don’t have room to have them out. I arguably have a better history collection than our local public library.

    That is what my kids grew up surrounded by. Then there is the completing link for that portion.

    They have to see that reading, and learning, is normal. Kids do what they see. Just as certain behaviors make you someone who can learn, you have to model them as examples for them to follow. It takes up part of the day, but one parent or another needs to read to children when they are small every day. My kids’ bedtime stories were “The Hobbit” and then “The Lord of the Rings”. Yeah, they are not pre-school books. Kids don’t care. Kids will learn, especially if mom or dad read it to them. They may [shock] end up with a wider vocabulary than their contemporaries. They may hear a story [whichever one you pick] that has good, evil, the struggle between them, honor, and good winning through perseverance and being willing to pay a cost. Nothing being free. And it may influence their outlook on life.

    If they see you reading by yourself, you normalize it, and they will turn to books. They will thereby create an internal horizon that is something larger than the adventures of the latest Disney semi-slut. If they hear you and your spouse or friends discussing what you have read, if you relate what they do see on TV to history and to literature, you widen that horizon. Kids are learning machines. We, Deity help us, have being a teaching machine as part of our job description on top of being the economic support. No one says it’s easy.

    When looking at widening your children’s horizons, you have to have an aim towards what you want to include within that horizon. Here is where the final piece falls into place. Your school needs to be something other than the politically correct mish-mash of Marxist theory and anarchist “fact” that makes up the public school system. Where you send your kids and what is taught will make or break them.

    Except for a dismal period in high school when I was stuck in the middle of Nebraska [where the world history teacher was acclaimed as the Nebraska teacher of the year, and in whose class I got an A literally without cracking the text] I grew up in Denver and Aurora from 3rd grade on. When I was there, there were schools known for excellence. Some friends of mine went to a Denver high school where admission to MIT, or Colorado School of Mines, or Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute was a common event for a graduating class. My own high school had regular admissions to service academies or to Ivy League schools before they degraded.

    Now, those schools are sites of gang wars, drug emporiums, and a part of the production line of dropouts and criminals.

    Looking at the school systems in Colorado, where every major system now has more administrators than teaching staff, there is very little excellence. You have to look outside the standard public schools to find such. Specifically, charter schools. And not just any charter schools. There are some whose teaching is based on the theories of E. D. Hirsch.

    Hirsch wrote Cultural Literacy; What Every American Needs to Know, The Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, and the series of books What Your Preschooler Needs to Know on through What Your Sixth Grader Needs to Know.  Read these.  Cultural Literacy can be defined as what you need to know to fit in to and function in a Western, Judeo-Christian based, constitutional society. It is exactly what is not only not taught, but is concealed by modern public schools.

    He created and still runs the Core Knowledge Foundation. And there are a number of charter schools based on his principles. There is one in my town. There are fewer administrators. The staff gets less pay than teachers do in the rest of the district. And teachers fight to get a slot there, because they are allowed to teach. In Colorado, we have proficiency testing at regular intervals for all students. Not one of the Core Knowledge students has ever failed the proficiency tests in the over a decade they have been in existence, and most test far above their grade level.

    A few years ago, our town’s high school abolished the position of Valedictorian of the graduating class. Because when students transfer from the Core Knowledge school, they are so far ahead of the regular public school students that the Valedictorian was always a Core Knowledge student. And it did not make the other schools and teachers look good, nor did the concept of someone actually excelling match modern educational theory.

    Not saying that they are perfect. There are some behavioral problems. These are teenagers brought up in modern America, and in a state where marijuana is legalized, for pity’s sake. But the behavioral problems are a small fraction of the regular public school peers, and the dropout/flunkout rate is almost non-existent. By the vaporous cojones of the Holy Ghost, they are doing something very, very right with those kids.

    So, finally getting around to the original question that started all this. I don’t claim this is the only way, but this is what has worked in my experience, and what books, theories, and schools I recommend.

    Fair warning. Once I start writing, I AM a wordy bugger.

     

    Posted in Education | 8 Comments »

    [ ENTERS QUIETLY, STAGE RIGHT. LOOKS AROUND NERVOUSLY. CLEARS THROAT Part One]

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

    I have been dropping by here for some years, and have encountered some CHICAGO BOYZ elsewhere around the web. Apparently, some have not been scared off by my ramblings, so I have been offered a chance to write here sometimes. It may be that someone, somewhere is dubious about this. Before I could register with the credentials offered, my ancient [my fallback is an abacus] machine did something . . . terminal to Firefox and I lost all but email. The error message was unlike any I had ever seen, so this had to go to my boffin. Which is part of the cause of the delay.

    The computer was fixable. The other part is not, completely. Let us just say that I am getting an in depth view of orthopedics. And for the last week I have been arguing with WordPress and losing until literally moments ago.

    Now that I am back, let us return to the discussion that started all this some time ago. I was giving some of my family history, and was asked what I would recommend to teach “real history”; that which actually influenced the real world we have to deal with, not the Narrative which changes with the winds of political correctness and who is currently playing the part of Emmanuel Goldstein.

    With all due modesty, like the rest of us here I am on the right side of the bell curve. Part of that is genetics, part of that is upbringing. I’ve mentioned my father, and his coming from China. This came about because I had a grandfather who was smarter than the average Chinese peasant. He counted acres of land, and sons, and realized that he did not have enough land to divvy up to let each son have a chance to support a family. My dad was the youngest, so he was told that he would not get land when he grew up, but that he would be sent to the United States where he would have a chance to make his fortune.

    Mind you, he was 12 years old, had the Chinese equivalent of a 6th grade education [so he could read, write, and do arithmetic in Chinese], and had no family going with him. And we have already gone through the legal environment here for Chinese. But he was willing to go.

    It is not often considered, but China has the concept of “pioneer stock” the same as Americans. They did not go West, they went South. Until the Chinese cut down the jungle, chased out the tigers, and planted rice; South China was the frontier. And it was the South Chinese [Cantonese] who became the commercial classes all through SE Asia. And it was the Cantonese who came to this country in search of opportunity.

    As one can imagine, life was not exactly upper middle class American for him. He worked in a restaurant, starting at the bottom, slept on a pallet in the back, and along the way learned English. He became a cook, and then [largely because he spoke, read, and wrote English unlike most Chinese immigrants] after the entry of the US into WW-II, was a food service supervisor at the old Lowry Army Air Force Base in Denver, when it was located in the Park Hill neighborhood before they moved it out by Aurora.

    In 1943, due to Chinese protests about the way Chinese airmen in the US being trained to fly B-24’s against the Japanese were treated by Americans [in Pueblo, Colorado]; the US became the last nation to give up Extraterritorial Status in China, and thus Chinese in this country finally became legally human beings.

    Although not an American citizen, once he could my dad enlisted in the Army. Keep in mind, that 30 years old is awful late to become an infantry soldier. And he did become an infantryman. They tried to make him a cook, and he fought to become an infantryman.

    He started carrying a mortar base plate, and by the end of the war was one of the first non-white squad leaders in the combat infantry. He never talked about anything after they shipped out for Europe. Most combat veterans don’t. It was only after he died, that I learned that his unit the 5th Infantry RGMT, 71st Infantry Division, had fought across Europe including breaking the Siegfried Line, took part in the Battle of the Bulge, on May 4 his company liberated the last concentration camp in German hands [Gunzkirchen sub-camp of Matthausen] and on May 8 was the farthest east of any American Army unit in Europe when they linked up with the Russians east of Linz, Austria.

    For his service, he was granted his citizenship at the end of the war. I did it the easy way, being born here.

    I know that I am repeating myself from earlier posts, but it is not to brag, but to point out one very key concept. I grew up hearing about his life, except for his service in Europe, over and over again as I grew up. I watched him. Keep in mind that he raised me alone until I was 16, and owned his own restaurant. And worked 12+ hours a day, 6 days a week to raise me in a middle class lifestyle.

    I always knew that just below the surface was a harder life, a worse life, than we lived. And that it took a lot of work to keep that good life. Like most of our Chinese acquaintances, it was assumed that all that work had the goal that the next generation would have it better than having to work in restaurants 72 hours a week.

    And the kids shared in the work. My first restaurant job involved busing tables, one plate at a time, at 4 years old. Customers thought it was cute as hell. Probably helped the waitress’s tips. Most of my contemporaries worked off the books, without pay, until age 16 when they could legally go on the books. And then we worked in the family restaurants weekends, after school, and on all school breaks until we went to college. All that work did not excuse us from having to have good grades. Indeed, the only excuse for not working was that we had too much schoolwork.

    In college, by that time most of us were qualified Chinese cooks. So on summer breaks, and Christmas breaks we would cook in the family restaurants, full time for full pay. And that is how we paid for college. In college I would work 4 months a year for $600 a month Chinese [which then meant in the middle of the country to get Chinese cooks to come there, the pay was after taxes and room and board was furnished.] like every other cook in the restaurant I worked 6 days a week, 12-15 hours a day, in 109 degree temperatures in the kitchen.

    This was vital. We grew up knowing that to have a good life, we would have to work hard. And we worked hard. And we developed the ability to, if necessary, outwork our competition no matter what. One of the things my dad told me was that to get the same reward as a white person in this country, you had to work three times as hard and be three times as good.

    Even by the time I was growing up, it was not quite that bad, the way it was when my dad was making his way. I promise that it is getting easier and easier to work 3 times as hard and be three times as good.

    Modern Americans, and Europeans, do not grow up that way. There is no real consciousness or acceptance that success requires work, sometimes hard, painful, physical work. There is no knowledge or experience that life was not always as easy as it is today, and no comprehension that it is possible that someday that life can be hard. It is expected that there is always going to be someone, or something that will take care of them.

    The immigrant culture, the concept of working your way up from whatever you left to a better life for yourself and your children is gone. It is not just a Chinese or Asian culture. Germans, Irish, Scots, Jews, legal immigrants from Mexico and points south, Africans; they all had and can have it.

    The first step then, if you want your children to learn “real history” is to teach them that history as they grow up. The hard times that either you or your parents or grandparents had to go through. Make sure they know by relatable stories of their own families about not only hard times [and every American family has such in their history either here or in the old country], but how they overcame it. Teach them about real life, about real suffering. Don’t sugar coat things, because the world is not sugar coated. Children are learning machines. From the moment they open their eyes and they try to make sense of what you are saying they will absorb knowledge like a sponge. Tell them the truth, tell them reality. Tell them about the heroes that they came from, because that is who they will try to be worthy of. And teach them that they CAN be worthy of those who came before.

    There are other steps, but creating a culture of reality and honor [both for their past, and for them to live up to] is critical. End Part One of Two.

     

    Posted in Education | 24 Comments »

    Fake News, today’s CJR edition

    Posted by TM Lutas on January 18th, 2017 (All posts by )

    Here is an opinion piece written by Kyle Pope and arrogantly signed “The Press Corps” without actually soliciting any other signatures of journalists.

    What really gets me is his fifth point “We’ll obsess over the details of government” which is simply, objectively not true. If it were true, certain artifacts would have produced and an entire category of journalism would be common because a press corps that was obsessed over the details of government would use those artifacts to easily and cheaply create certain stories that they do not create.

    When you read about Flint, MI and its lead pipe problem on the web, did the site geolocate you, identifying your own water system, list out the lead pipes used there, the date when the last one is projected to be replaced, and give you the contact information of the office that can move that lead free date up? No, you didn’t because years before, nobody identified all the water systems and arranged a cheap way to regularly get their pipe inventory into a database along with the install dates and expected lifespans. That would be the mark of a press corps that was obsessed over the details of government.

    That would be journalism worth paying for and the kind of story that I would like to write and see written.

    Here’s what is missing to do that Flint story correctly.

    Comprehensive list of all governments that operate their own water systems with contact information
    List of the private water systems overseen by various government oversight bodies
    Each water system’s pipe inventory with install and expected replacement dates along with type/material of pipe.

    I really would love to not be building out these basic data structures. The established press, which does have the resources to do such a thing quickly, just is not interested so others have to step in.

     

    Posted in Media, USA | 6 Comments »

    Dominic Cummings: How the Brexit Referendum was Won

    Posted by Lexington Green on January 17th, 2017 (All posts by )

    Screen Shot 2017-01-17 at 5.25.53 PM

    Dominic Cummings explains how the Brexit referendum was won. Cummings was the Campaign Director of Vote Leave. He was in effect the executive director of the Brexit referendum campaign. This article explains how it happened. It is also long and rambling. But read it all anyway.

    It is full of many interesting observations and various insightful, epigrammatic comments:

    Most of the MPs we dealt with were not highly motivated to win and lacked extreme focus, even those who had been boring everybody about this for decades. They sort of wanted to win but they had other priorities. …
     
    This lack of motivation is connected to another important psychology – the willingness to fail conventionally. Most people in politics are, whether they know it or not, much more comfortable with failing conventionally than risking the social stigma of behaving unconventionally. They did not mind losing so much as being embarrassed, as standing out from the crowd. (The same phenomenon explains why the vast majority of active fund management destroys wealth and nobody learns from this fact repeated every year.)

    This happens all the time, not just in politics.

    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Anglosphere, Britain, Crony Capitalism | 10 Comments »

    Seth Barrett Tillman: Opening Arguments Podcast on the Emoluments Clause, With Andrew Torrez and Thomas Smith

    Posted by Jonathan on January 17th, 2017 (All posts by )

    Listen here.

     

    Posted in History, Law, USA | No Comments »

    Seth Barrett Tillman: Tillman’s Poetry Corner: Flanders Fields

    Posted by Jonathan on January 17th, 2017 (All posts by )

    This is interesting:

    John McCrae’s Flanders Fields is iconic. No more need be said. Unfortunately, its meaning has been distorted by the most popular voice and instrumental accompaniment. This new reading of the poem has transformed Flanders Fields’ meaning. My guess is that this metamorphosis was unintentional, but one and all should work to recover the original public meaning.

    Read the rest.

     

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Culture, History, Poetry, Rhetoric | 1 Comment »

    Dusk

    Posted by Jonathan on January 16th, 2017 (All posts by )

     

    Posted in Photos | 3 Comments »

    Lex on Leadership

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

    Neptunus Lex wrote about his “youngster” cruise as a Midshipman attending the Naval Academy.  This is the first of two cruises that a Midshipman takes: during the second cruise, your activities are those of an officer…

    But during youngster year, you sail as a Sailor. You wear dungarees, chip paint, sweep passageways and stand enlisted watches. You sleep in enlisted berthing, eat in the enlisted mess and attempt to get some sense of the men you are supposed to lead in three year’s time, and the lives they live. ..You are tempted to believe that this work is beneath you. You are a Naval Academy midshipman, the cream of the crop. You are special.

    and

    You spend some time in the engineering plant – in a gas turbine ship, an amazingly clean and quiet space. Totally incomprehensible. It resembles nothing at all like the wiring diagrams in your thermodynamics textbooks.

    But there’s a 23 year old Sailor who didn’t go to college, never read Thoreau, and who nevertheless understands it all. He patiently tries to teach you how it works. He speaks to you like one would speak to an elderly person in a nursing home, slowly, simply. You feel patronized, and worse: You realize that you do not entirely understand.

    You are beginning to learn – not about engineering. But about Sailors.

    and

    You’re heading home. Bridge watches now, under the tutelage of 20 year old quartermaster’s mates. Men from small towns that you’ve never hear of, in states you remember dimly from your grade school geography. From farming families, where no one went to college, and no one was expected to. Men who could fix your position to a hundred yards moving at 20 knots across the endless sea using only the stars, a stopwatch and a sextant. Men who could debate the finer points of Strauss and Engels. Men who play classical guitar to an appreciative audience in the 80 man berthing during their time off duty. Who have dreams of their own that they will tell you about, when no one else is listening. Men who would risk their lives to save yours in the midst of a flaming inferno, without hesitating for a moment to reckon the cost, to tally the odds. Men who would die for you, if they had to.

    And you begin to realize that you’re not special because of who you are, the grades you got in high school or where you’re going to college. You’re special because of who you’ve been selected to lead, when your time comes.

    And that, my friends, is the beginning of wisdom.

    Definitely read the whole thing.

    There was a general…can’t remember who it was…who remarked that you will can never be a good officer unless you like Soldiers. (And you can’t fake it for long, he added.) I think it is pretty clear that Lex liked Sailors.

    One way of evaluating any leader…military, political, business executive..is his attitude toward those he leads or wants to lead.

     

    Posted in Management, Military Affairs, USA | 9 Comments »

    You are the someone.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on January 13th, 2017 (All posts by )

    tonopah shooting

    I posted a bit on the role of the individual and terrorism last year.

    We are a week from the Trump inauguration and there are all sorts of threats by the left to disrupt the inauguration.

    What can individuals do ?

    Tomorrow, my wife and daughter are going to drive to Tucson where we have bought a new home. They plan to leave early and about 10 AM will be passing the Tonopah turnoff on the way to Phoenix. Yesterday, there was quite a bit of excitement there.

    According to Col. Frank Milstead, the director of DPS, the trooper was responding to the shots fired call when he came upon a single-vehicle rollover wreck near Tonopah. A woman had been ejected from that vehicle.

    The trooper immediately stopped and began laying out flares.

    DPS Capt. Damon Cecil said the trooper — a 27-year-veteran of the agency — was ambushed by the suspect when he got out of his vehicle at the scene of the rollover. The trooper was shot and wounded.

    I have not yet heard if the suspect was crazy or what motive he might have had. A passerby stopped and told the suspect to stop his assault on the trooper. The passerby then went back to his car and got his gun. He told the suspect to stop or he would shoot him. He did not stop and the passerby shot and killed him.

    Milstead, speaking from the hospital to which his trooper and taken, said an “uninvolved third party” who was driving by saw the trooper grappling with the suspect and stopped to help, eventually shooting and killing the suspect.

    That civilian, using the wounded trooper’s radio, was the one who alerted DPS to the shooting.

    “To the civilian on the DPS trooper’s radio, if you can hear me, I need you to let me know where the suspect is that got in an altercation with our trooper,” the dispatcher could be heard saying on the scanner.

    “The suspect is … occasionally breathing or stirring. He’s been shot by a passerby,” the man with the wounded trooper’s radio calmly responded. “He’s laying right next to the officer.”

    Arizona has been an open carry state since it was a state. The chief of the Department of Public Safety said his trooper would not be alive but for the passerby with the gun.

    I am leaving a state that has become horribly corrupt since I first came here in 1956. I have much higher hopes for Tucson where we will be living after Monday.

    It has been a hassle but I have high hopes for the new place in Tucson.

    I am taking all my guns. California is Chicago with good weather. My niece who is a nurse at Rush medical center has a friend, another nurse with metastatic breast cancer but still working. Yesterday, leaving work, she was held up. She told the gunman, “Go ahead and shoot me, I have nothing to lose.” He robbed her but did not shoot her.

     

    Posted in Crime and Punishment, Personal Narrative | 8 Comments »

    An Odd Couple, or a Match Made in Heaven?

    Posted by David Foster on January 13th, 2017 (All posts by )

    It is interesting that there is such a high overlap of political opinion between College Professors and Entertainers…the latter category not being known for their intellectual or scholarly tastes, on the average.

    Significance, if any?

     

    Posted in Academia, Film, Politics, USA | 33 Comments »

    Seth Barrett Tillman: This is what balanced news reporting looks like ….

    Posted by Jonathan on January 13th, 2017 (All posts by )

    [Partial automated translation:]

    Tillman also pointed out that many of the public service regulations were not valid for the purpose of preventing possible conflicts of interest for elected deputies [i.e., officials], judges and not least the presidents and vice-presidents. Tillman called [i.e., made reference to] the desired independence of the persons who hold such offices. If presidents had to submit their decisions to an ethics officer, in order to rule out possible conflicts of interest, the latter would gain a very powerful position, although he [i.e., the latter] was not legitimized by any choice [of the people]. Judges and elected representatives enjoy a trust advance.

    This is worth reading in full. Recent US reporting on the Constitution’s Foreign Emoluments Clause, like much recent US reporting on any topic that can be associated with Trump, is tendentious in the extreme.

    See also: Tillman on Trump on RTE (Irish national television) (Seth appears in the video beginning around 5:50, debating a Democratic Party representative. The clip runs about 9 minutes.)

     

    Posted in Law, Media, Politics, Trump, Video | 1 Comment »

    Those With Dead Eyes

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

    I didn’t watch very much of the horrific YouTube tape of four inner-city “youths” of color tormenting a special needs white kid – a tape that was all over the alternative media last week, and miracle of miracles, even made it to the national media, where incidents of black-on-white violence usually get to be covered, like with a pillow until they stop moving. It goes without saying that if the skin colors of victim and perpetrators had been reversed, just about every other national news story would have been driven off the front page and out of the first twenty minutes of national news for weeks. (Save perhaps one of the Kardashians bursting out of her dress like an overstuffed sausage in the middle of a top-drawer celebrity event.) I know that, you know that, we all are most tiresomely and cynically aware of that. Many would have been the chins tugged, NPR would have been consulting their golden rolodex for the most plummy-voiced commentator with an air of spurious authority over matters racial, CNN anchors and the correspondents of main-line news broadcasters over the world would have been hyperventilating in their efforts to keep up with the currently-fashionable expressions of condemnation of American racism, brutality, racism, cruelty to the ‘other’, white privilege, racism, the center-city of places like Chicago, Baltimore, St. Louis, Detroit (aside – is there anything left in Detroit to burn?) would have been going up in flames … so on and so forth, und so weiter. Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Chicagoania, Crime and Punishment, Current Events, The Press, Urban Issues | 27 Comments »

    The End of Accounting Book Review – Part One

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Read the rest of this entry »

     

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

    A Great Concert – SRV at Champaign IL 1987

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on January 7th, 2017 (All posts by )

    Dan is much smarter than me and he holds on to all the ticket stubs for concerts and sporting events that he’s attended over the years.  He recently sent me a rug and a coffee mug that he created based on the ticket stub for a special concert we attended almost 30 years ago when we were at the University of Illinois.  The show was Stevie Ray Vaughan at Foellinger Auditorium.

    At the time I was in college and had almost no money.  I saw that Stevie Ray Vaughan was coming to campus and thought I would get up early and stand in line to purchase tickets before class (I rarely got up early in those days when I could avoid it).  Alas, the line was already long and I pretty much gave up right away.  There was a guy who was scalping tickets, however, so I went up to him and bought two tickets for what I remember was about $50.

    The tickets were up front in the first couple of rows as it turned out but way, way on the left side of the stage.  Dan and I got rip roaring drunk before the show (which was the custom, back in the day) and we headed to Foellinger.  Note that Foellinger was a lecture hall and I had many classes in that room – the room had bolted-down desks with the fold out panels that you could write on, so it was kind of odd that they had concerts at that same room (I also saw the punk band Husker Du in that same lecture hall, which seemed even odder).

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    Posted in Music | 4 Comments »

    Jargon, Proverbs, and Memes

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

    Texan99, writing at Grim’s Hall, discusses the ‘thick fog of buzzwords’ that pervades the educational arena in this country. My comment is that buzzwords and jargon are worst in education, government, and the ‘nonprofit’ world, but increasingly are also pervading the world of business and having a malign effect therein. Many of the posts I see on LinkedIn, for example, represent attempts by people who have never had a creative idea or insight in their lives to posture a deep thinkers and business intellectuals by maximizing their use of the buzzwords du jour.

    Sarah Hoyt draws a distinction between memes and proverbs:

    Of all the ways people have come up with to avoid thinking, I like memes the most.  They are so ridiculously easy to fall into.  You see the words, you see the picture and you go “ah ah, that’s so true.” Even when on a minute’s reflection it makes no sense whatsoever…I think in a way it follows the same pattern that proverbs followed in more ancient cultures…While proverbs were ways not to have to think or short cuts around thinking, they weren’t, by themselves, pernicious…Proverbs are in a way, the encoding of societal wisdom into short cuts to lead people into ways that have worked before…Memes are similar, but you have to remove societal wisdom and put in “the commanding forces of culture and mass media”.  RTWT

    Andre Beaufre, who in 1940 was a young captain on the French General Staff (later a general, he commanded the French contingent in the Suez attack) commented on his impressions when he first breathed the refined air at the General Staff level:

    I saw very quickly that our seniors were primarily concerned with forms of drafting. Every memorandum had to be perfect, written in a concise, impersonal style, and conforming to a logical and faultless plan–but so abstract that it had to be read several times before one could find out what it was about…”I have the honour to inform you that I have decided…I envisage…I attach some importance to the fact that…” Actually no one decided more than the barest minimum, and what indeed was decided was pretty trivial.

    Entirely consistent with Beaufre’s observation was a interchange between the artists Picasso and Matisse which took place in the midst of the collapse of 1940:

    Matisse: But what about our generals, what are they doing?

    Picasso:  Our generals? They’re the masters at the Ecole des Beaux Arts!

    …ie, men possessed by the same rote formulae and absence of observation and obsessive traditionalism as the academic artists.

    The decline in clarity of writing and speaking presages nothing good.  Confucius pointed out that “If language be not in accordance with the truth of things, affairs cannot be carried on to success.”

    See my earlier post When Formalism Kills and the ensuing discussion thread.

     

    Posted in Academia, Business, Deep Thoughts | 5 Comments »

    Night Carrier Operations

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

    Neptunus Lex puts you in the cockpit.  It’s a long series…you can always pull the Eject lever–but I don’t think you’re going to want to.

    Part I

    Part II

    Part III

     

    Thanks to Bill Brandt for locating and posting this.

     

    Posted in Aviation, Military Affairs, War and Peace | No Comments »

    Regina Spektor, Older and Taller (2016)

    Posted by Lexington Green on January 6th, 2017 (All posts by )

    This is beautiful.

    Pop music of the older sort, which reached a peak in the 1960s, is about beauty and joy, and their usual antecedents, youth and love. As these things have faded out of our civilization, pop music turned to the shit we have now. But occasionally some of the old vintage shows up and surprises us and reminds how it can be. And Regina’s lyrics are clever and funny and sweet.

    Here it is live:

    Regina Spektor

    Lyrics below the fold.

    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Music | 7 Comments »

    Seth Barrett Tillman: Moving the Overton Window and Student Notes

    Posted by Jonathan on January 6th, 2017 (All posts by )

    When you launch a new idea, its very newness puts it outside of the mainstream. Back in 2007, in an academic article, recess appointments were one of the issues du jour. I wrote that if a President made a recess appointment, a determined Senate could kill the appointment by ending its current session and immediately starting a new one (or by doing so twice, in the case of an intra-session recess appointment). See Seth Barrett Tillman, Senate Termination of Presidential Recess Appointments, 101 Nw. U. L. Rev. Colloquy 82 (2007), https://ssrn.com/abstract=956164 (the first part of a four-part Tillman-Kalt exchange).
     
    I admit that the idea was a bit novel—but it does follow from the text of the Constitution’s Recess Appointments Clause. One student note called my “innovation[] … at once both plausible and absurd ….” David Frisof, Note, Plausible Absurdities and Practical Formalities: The Recess Appointments Clause in Theory and Practice, 112 Mich. L. Rev. 627, 643 (2014).
     
    Two years later, in 2016, what was absurd is now standard fare.
     

    All that the [Republican majority] Senate would need to do [to terminate a purported recess appointment by President Obama of Judge Garland to the Supreme Court] is end its next session by adjourning sine die and Garland’s term would end. This is because, under the Constitution’s Recess Appointments Clause, such appointments terminate at the end of the next Senate session. Adjourning sine die would require the cooperation of the House and a president’s signature, but that would be no obstacle come Jan. 20. In other words, Congress could terminate any recess appointment made by Obama in less than three weeks.

    Read the rest.

     

    Posted in Law, Politics | 2 Comments »

    Costco

    Posted by Jonathan on January 5th, 2017 (All posts by )

    shopping

     

    Posted in Photos | 7 Comments »

    Judith Curry Resigns Her Faculty Position.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on January 5th, 2017 (All posts by )

    The world of Climate research lost a great academic figure as Judith Curry resigns her tenured faculty position at Georgia Tech.

    She has figured largely in the climate debate as a skeptic in global warming.

    I have retired from Georgia Tech, and I have no intention of seeking another academic or administrative position in a university or government agency. However, I most certainly am not retiring from professional life.

    Why did I resign my tenured faculty position?

    I’m ‘cashing out’ with 186 published journal articles and two books. The superficial reason is that I want to do other things, and no longer need my university salary. This opens up an opportunity for Georgia Tech to make a new hire (see advert).

    The deeper reasons have to do with my growing disenchantment with universities, the academic field of climate science and scientists.

    She has endured considerable abuse from the alarmist side. She is called a “heretic” in the alarmist circles.

    over the past year or so she has become better known for something that annoys, even infuriates, many of her scientific colleagues. Curry has been engaging actively with the climate change skeptic community, largely by participating on outsider blogs such as Climate Audit, the Air Vent and the Black¬board. Along the way, she has come to question how climatologists react to those who question the science, no matter how well established it is. Although many of the skeptics recycle critiques that have long since been disproved, others, she believes, bring up valid points

    So, she might have a point. However:

    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Education, Environment, Politics, Science | 6 Comments »

    What are the Limits of the Alexander Analysis?

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

    Edward Porter Alexander, who was Lee’s artillery commander at Gettysburg, became a railroad president after the war. His experiences in running a major transportation system probably had something to do with the evolution of his thoughts regarding state’s rights:

    Well that (state’s rights) was the issue of the war; & as we were defeated that right was surrendered & a limit put on state sovereignty. And the South is now entirely satisfied with that result. And the reason of it is very simple. State sovereignty was doubtless a wise political instution for the condition of this vast country in the last century. But the railroad, and the steamboat & the telegraph began to transform things early in this century & have gradually made what may almost be called a new planet of it… Our political institutions have had to change… Briefly we had the right to fight, but our fight was against what might be called a Darwinian development – or an adaptation to changed & changing conditions – so we need not greatly regret defeat.

    I think a lot of the belief in unlimited globalization is implicitly driven by an extension of Alexander’s argument, with the jet plane, the container ship, and the Internet taking the place of the railroad, steamboat, and telegraph.

    How far does this extension make sense?  If the ability of locomotives could pull trains across the United States in three days meant that full sovereignty for individual states was obsolete, does the ability of jet airplanes to carry passengers and freight anywhere in the world in less than one day similarly imply that full sovereignty for nations is obsolete?

    I suspect that most people at this site will not agree with a transportation-based argument for the elimination of national sovereignty.  So, what is valid and what is invalid about Alexander’s analysis, and what are the limits for the extension of its geographical scope?  Discuss.

     

    Posted in Deep Thoughts, History, Political Philosophy, Tech, Transportation, USA | 22 Comments »

    Autos and Disruption

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on January 1st, 2017 (All posts by )

    Prior to moving to the West Coast, I had little need for a car because I walked and / or took public transport to work (or a cab if I was lazy, back in the days when you could hail a cab on the street).  Thus I typically invested the minimum amount I could in a reliable car that could fit 4 passengers with a full size trunk and also squeeze into a narrow parking garage.

    The cars that “fit the bill” for me were the older model Nissan Altima which I drove for a decade and then a Jetta which I picked up in 2011.  Each of these cars cost about $17,000 “out the door” and contained a reasonable level of equipment (the Altima was my first car with air bags, the Jetta was my first car with ABS and traction control) – they weren’t completely stripped down models with manual transmission, for instance.  These cars have both turned out to be highly reliable autos – and the old Nissan Altima is still driving today, almost 20 years later, as a starter car in my extended family.

    The average age of a car on the road today is 11.5 years (nowadays you don’t even have to “link” to sources – Google just brings in the data from Wikipedia as a search response when you ask a common question) and that seems long to me.  For every new car on the road, for instance, there is a late ’90s model still driving to offset it in order to get back to an average of 11.5 years.

    My theory today is that the total package of “functionality” or “value” that you could obtain from a new Jetta for $17,000 would be comparable to autos that cost far more for 99% of the scenarios in which you would plausibly use that auto.  These scenarios include 1) commuting to work 2) running errands around town 3) going on a trip and putting luggage in the trunk.

    That’s not to say that there aren’t scenarios where it doesn’t make sense to have a more powerful or capable auto.  In Oregon we went to visit a friend who lives up in the hills and I had 4 people in the car and gravel had been newly laid on an uphill slope (which, as it turns out, means that it is very slippery).  As a result our car couldn’t make it up the hill and we slid sideways into a ditch and had to have a friend hook up a rope and give us a pull from their big pickup truck to get us back on the road.  If I lived up there, for instance, then this car would be completely inappropriate.  But that isn’t a common “use case” for my auto.

    When you look at the “true cost” of owning an auto, there are a lot of factors to consider, and whole web sites to calculate it in various ways.  Instead, I am going to make the general statement that if you buy a new car at around the $17,000 price point and drive it for perhaps 7-8 years before selling it you are probably going to pay about $150 / month for that car (net of what you receive on resale).

    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Economics & Finance, Personal Finance, Transportation | 23 Comments »

    Updating Apple Products Part II

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on December 30th, 2016 (All posts by )

    In a recent post I discussed the spate of updates that have occurred in my Apple products including a new iOS for my work and home phone, a new iOS for my iPad, a new iOS for my Apple Watch, and a new operating system for my Mac.

    Apple Watch

    Let’s start with the Apple Watch. The Apple Watch is an evolutionary product and the jury is out on whether or not it will be a giant part (“move the needle”) of the Apple portfolio. Personally, I find the Apple Watch to be very useful because I can get notifications when big events occur (for instance, I was the first to say “Prince is dead” in a big meeting) or just to be reminded when texts happen and I don’t have my phone on. It also is good for sports score notifications and tracking workouts. Finally, you can also always know if someone is calling you even if the ringer on your phone is off, and you can answer it “Dick Tracy Style” on your wrist (if you want to annoy everyone around you).  Here is my review of the Apple Watch from 2015 when I bought it.

    Apple Watch iOS 3.0 is OK. The watch seems a bit faster. They made it easier to utilize some popular apps like the workout app and incorporated some other improvements here and there. I can’t take advantage of all the iOS 3.0 features because my older Apple watch doesn’t have some of the features like the built in GPS that comes with the new watch.

    Mac OS Sierra

    There has been a lot of noise in the press about Apple not updating their core computers and even letting Microsoft steal their thunder with the new Surface tablet.  However, Apple deserves immense credit for making their OS upgrades work effectively even on older model machines – for instance the Macbook that I am writing this blog post on is from 2011 (my friend Brian installed an SSD and more memory which I documented here).

    The most important elements from my perspective are the continued integration of the Mac OS with the iPad and iPhone devices.  With this upgrade I now can easily share a single photo stream (which will get its own post since it is so complicated), use Apple music easily across devices, and use key apps like messenger, notes, ibooks, contacts and Facetime (mostly) seamlessly.  Siri also works on the Mac now which is fine for most people but I don’t use Siri much so it is irrelevant to me.

    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Tech | 9 Comments »

    This is Why We Can’t Make Nice Things

    Posted by David Foster on December 30th, 2016 (All posts by )

    A positive review of General Electric stock points out that the company is less exposed to the oil market than it was prior to the Baker Hughes spinoff…and then goes on to say:

    Gone too is the iconic firm’s appliances business, which was sold to Chinese firm Haier. This is really a progression of the economic cycle. While folks like President-elect Donald Trump and financial provocateur Peter Schiff lament that Americans just don’t make stuff anymore, at a certain point, advanced economies should outsource physical work to less-advanced countries. It’s not so much a matter of ability as it is financial efficiency.

    Does this writer believe that GE should also divest the jet engine business, the power generation business, and the transportation (locomotive) business?  All of these businesses make physical things, and make substantial amounts of those physical things in the US.

    The idea that manufacturing is devoid of intellectual content and hence unworthy of advanced economies is fallacious and has done serious harm–see my post Faux Manufacturing Nostalgia.  Happily, this attitude has turned around substantially since I wrote the linked post..to the point that manufacturing is being practically over-romanticized…but islands of the “who needs it?” view still exist.

    GE’s reasoning for divesting Appliance seems to have been centered on a desire to focus the company on business-to-business markets rather than consumer markets and, and also, I think, on a perception that there was not sufficient room in the appliance world for product differentiation and a technology edge.  “Technology edge,” rightly understood, includes the complexity/difficulty of manufacturing something, not just the intellectual property embedded in the product itself.  It certainly did not reflect any conclusion that manufacturing is inherently a low-value function.

    It would be silly to argue that a computer programmer in a bank is a “knowledge worker” and a programmer in manufacturing is not.  It would be equally silly to argue that a bank branch manager is inherently performing a more highly-skilled job than a shift supervisor in a factory, or that a first-level customer service rep for Amazon is performing a more advanced kind of work than an assembly line worker, or that an operations research expert doing inventory studies for a manufacturing firm is less of a knowledge worker than his equivalent doing inventory studies for Target.  But this is implicitly the argument that many of the ‘we don’t need manufacturing here’ crew have been making.

    This dismissive attitude toward a vast and complex industry which supports millions of people represents one more example of the constellation of attitudes against which many people rebelled when choosing to vote for Donald Trump.

     

    Posted in Business, Economics & Finance, Tech | 7 Comments »

    Seth Barrett Tillman: Ed Kilgore, At NY Mag’s Daily Intelligencer, Asks President Obama To Use Recess Appointments: Kilgore’s Strategy Won’t Work & This Is Why

    Posted by Jonathan on December 29th, 2016 (All posts by )

    Kilgore argues that the only route the Republicans would have to remove these recess appointees* would be through slow moving lawsuits which would take months, all the while leaving these appointees in place during the first year of Trump’s new administration. See Kilgore (“TR made 193 recess appointments at the beginning of 1903, and while the legality of the action has been questioned, it has never been clearly overturned. If Obama were to follow this procedure, it would take extensive litigation to reverse it, and it might stand after all.”). Kilgore is entirely wrong. No lawsuits would be needed—just two swings of the Majority Leader’s gavel. Just two swings and the recess appointees would be out.**

    Read the rest.

     

    Posted in History, Law, Obama, Politics | 1 Comment »