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  • Archive for the 'Urban Issues' Category

    In Accordance With the Prophecies…

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 24th November 2020 (All posts by )

    …the Schlichter prophecies, I mean, wherein the good Colonel Kurt S. postulated a political/geographic split of the United States along red-blue lines. In his bleak and blackly humorous vision, (carried out over a five-volume series) the middle portion of the States carried on with fidelity to the Constitution, free-range capitalism, and universal military service as an obligation for full citizenship. Meanwhile the east and west coasts as a so-called “People’s Republic” carried on under a selection of increasingly deranged and erratic progressive principles, turning into a dysfunctional combination of Portland’s CHAZ/CHOP, any PC-addled university you could name, Zimbabwe under Robert Mugabe and Venezuela at this very moment. The series is meant to be grimly entertaining, but I’m beginning to believe that the split has already happened – not in the neat geographic manner (with some violent hiccups) outlined – but in a slower and murkier manner. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Book Notes, Civil Society, Conservatism, Current Events, Deep Thoughts, Leftism, Trump, Urban Issues, USA | 13 Comments »

    Affirmatively Furthering Food Deserts?

    Posted by Stephen Karlson on 28th October 2020 (All posts by )

    In his attempts to close the sale, Our President has tossed in an appeal to “suburban women,” something along the lines of “I’m protecting your suburbs” with references either to “projects” or “Section 8.”
    On [August 16] The Wall Street Journal published a joint op-ed by [housing secretary Ben] Carson and President Donald Trump in which the two warned that eliminating single-family zoning would import urban dysfunction into thriving suburban communities.
    Not surprisingly, he’s getting called out for that sort of language.  “Inclusive and equitable suburbs build more affordable housing, advance fairness in education, and centers environmental justice.”  Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Society, Current Events, Environment, Tradeoffs, Urban Issues | 19 Comments »

    A Moment to Decide

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 31st August 2020 (All posts by )

    Once to ev’ry man and nation
    Comes the moment to decide,
    In the strife of truth and falsehood,
    For the good or evil side;
    Some great cause, some great decision,
    Off’ring each the bloom or blight,
    And the choice goes by forever
    ‘Twixt that darkness and that light.

    – James Russell Lowell

    So the first shots in the shooting war have been fired, to the surprise of practically no one who has been following civic matters over the last six months. Admittedly, that the first would be fired in Kenosha, of all places – that’s a bit of a surprise. Although it isn’t at all startling that a Trump supporter would be gunned down on the streets of Portland by an Antifa thug shortly thereafter, to resounding cheers of approval. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Anti-Americanism, Civil Society, Conservatism, Crime and Punishment, Current Events, Law Enforcement, Leftism, Media, Sports, Urban Issues, USA | 32 Comments »

    The Rolling Kristallnacht

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 19th August 2020 (All posts by )

    The rolling Kristallnacht of “mostly peaceful” protests organized and sponsored by the unholy union of Antifa and BLM continues unabated in those mostly progressive Democrat party municipalities such as Chicago, Minneapolis, Portland, and New York. Give the protesters, rioters and looters credit for stamina; they’ve kept it up for nearly two months now, and look to be going strong, still. They haven’t much dared venture out and away from those progressive sanctuaries, although half a dozen did make a trip to Sturgis to provoke the bikers rallying there, which futile bit of resistance theater they did from behind a screen of local police. Which brings to mind Insty the Blogfaddah’s oft-repeated observation that the police – which the Antifaites and BLM protesters wish to abolish – are there to protect accused criminals from the rest of us. Frankly, it would have been laugh-out-loud comic if the bikers in Sturgis had been allowed to pants the Antifaites and run them out of town naked, but there you are. Obviously the Antifaites and BLMmers are hoping to provoke an over-the-top violent reaction and a blooming new crop of martyr Horst Wessels; they must be quite annoyed that so far, the rest of us have kept our temper. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Capitalism, Civil Society, Conservatism, Current Events, Deep Thoughts, Urban Issues | 58 Comments »

    So, we drive on the right and our homes are our castles – or not

    Posted by Ginny on 16th August 2020 (All posts by )

    Freedom is greatest within restraints and boundaries. Sure, on some slippery slope with no constraining adverbs, this seems contradictory, but we recognize daily that minimal, enforceable and enforced, laws provide predictability, enable true freedom. Would my freedom be enlarged without the first limit society imposes as I leave my house: driving on the right? Seinfeld’s Kramer attempted to “free” the lanes but caused chaos. I cheerfully accept it because it simplifies more than limits; I go over my grocery list or laugh with Limbaugh; someone more productive might create a poem or solve a physics problem. Without limits, we would be on guard, slow to a crawl, choose a tank, hoping, as my brothers put it, to be the shearer and not the shearee in an inevitable collision. I remember a homesick Iranian engineer telling us still he didn’t want to return – here drivers stop at red lights, even alone at night; there, every intersection was a free for all. Too much order suffocates but with too little concentration is difficult.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Current Events, Human Behavior, Law Enforcement, Politics, Urban Issues | 31 Comments »

    Observations on Federal Law Enforcement Actions in Portland

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 18th July 2020 (All posts by )

    Federal Lawmen arresting Portland protesters shown in recent social media video had the word “Police” on the uniforms as well as black and green “Homeland Security” shoulder patches. That the Leftist voice over says they were “not identified” is not supported by the visuals under the voice overs.

    It is clear these Federal lawmen were looking for someone specific and that they were doing so in an unmarked vehicle.

    Federal law men do this regularly. This tactic is seen most in drug cases and when they are hunting cop killers. A later Federal statement about this action after the person being detained was released made clear the Feds were looking for an individual who attacked federal officers at the court house, and the person picked up may have been a “known associate.”

    As for the rest of the Leftist voice overs, Federal law men are required to give Miranda rights in an arrest.

    They are _not_ required to do so immediately. Removing a detained individual from the scene and reading Miranda rights later has been accepted by the Federal courts for decades.

    Given the tendency of Antifa/BLM groups to mob lawmen removing their members. The Feds here were simply applying the least violent tactics.

    PERSONAL SPECULATION BASED ON OBSERVATIONS

    If the Feds are following their organized crime template. The organizations and the people wiring money to post these individual’s bail money are now under Federal electronic surveillance. This has been how the Feds deal with large organizations of people bailing out the people the Feds arrest since the “Drug King Pin,” “asset forfeiture” and RICO additions to the racketeering laws were passed in the 1980’s.

    Given the “Big Data” tools available to the Feds, every Antifa/BLM person detained in Portland is having all relevant bio-metric identification taken from them and the information is being fed into various law enforcement data bases, to include those of the Secret Service. The latter has a higher level of access to the NSA data banks than the FBI to evaluate people as threats to the President or other politicians they protect.

    In so many words, if any of the Antifa/BLM people being picked up in Portland were anywhere near a Secret Service presidential detail protected Trump campaign ot Administration event, Trump family event or Presidential /V.P. visit to any city outside Portland since the summer of 2015. Any metadata in cell phones, bank, hotel, credit card, airline, or bus line records somewhere that matches these people has been pulled. If this data compared with those Secret Service “security bubble” hits has a match.  It will cause an automated threat profile to be generated. A threat profile that will show all the electronic records of their travels and electronic money transfers for the period(s) of interest.

    The latter — electronic money transfers — will be used to map the money flows at lower levels of Antifa/BLM to reach up to the higher levels of money flowing from the big corporations and Soros backed front groups.

    Please note, Federal standard operating procedure with organized crime means some number of those Antifa/BLM being arrested & released in Portland are now Federal informants.

    One more thing,  the Feds — and the Secret Service especially — have made very extensive use of both facial recognition and visual pattern recognition technology. I guarantee that these unmarked Federal law enforcement vans cruising in Portland Oregon have cameras with both technologies.

    That Federal law men are getting out and walking a couple of blocks to their target from such vans and slow walking them back is a “poker tell” [AKA  tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTP)] of facial recognition technology’s use.  As everyone who turns to see the uniformed law men coming and watching them going with the detainee gives the watching camera’s enough eye-nose area data to match them up with their driver’s licence photos.

    Please see:

    https://www.cnn.com/2020/07…

    “A 2016 study by the Georgetown Law Center on Privacy and Technology found that one in four US state or local police departments had access to facial recognition technology, and that nearly half of all American adults are in a police facial recognition database, in part because of agreements that provide access to repositories of drivers’ license photos.”

    One of the many things that came back from Iraq  US Army surplus to American law enforcement was a visual surveillance technology called “Constant Hawk.”  The US Military pioneered artificial intelligence (A.I.) visual pattern recognition technology to beat the Iraqi road side bomb campaign, starting in 2006, with the “Constant Hawk”  camera system in MC-12 twin engine turbo props.  (A MC-12 is the Cessna King Air in olive drab and white paint job).

    Strategy page -dot- com reports in 2020 that a “Constant Hawk-lite” technology has been shrunk to the point an 11 kg (22-lb) drone can carry it.  See:

    Information Warfare: Son Of Hawk Sees More
    https://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htiw/articles/20200707.aspx

    “Constant Hawk uses a special video camera system to observe a locality and find useful patterns of behavior. Some of the Constant Hawk systems are mounted on light (MC-12s, mainly) aircraft, others are mounted on ground structures. Special software compares photos from different times. When changes are noted, they are checked more closely, which has resulted in the early detection of thousands of roadside bombs and terrorist ambushes. This largely eliminated roadside bomb attacks on supply convoys in Iraq.”

    Short Form:

    There are Federal law enforcement light planes and unmarked Federal law enforcement vans cruising above and around Portland “mapping the Antifa human terrain” the way that Google Earth does for roads and houses in your neighborhood.

    My gut says we are going to see rounds of mass arrests based on the data these systems are gathering.

    A fact to remember related to this effort is that the criminal conviction rates in Federal courts run to 98%.

    -End-

    Posted in Crime and Punishment, Current Events, Human Behavior, Law, Law Enforcement, Leftism, Urban Issues, USA | 49 Comments »

    Excessive Credential-Worship Has Many Costs

    Posted by David Foster on 1st July 2020 (All posts by )

    A WSJ article suggests that if the corporations which have been proclaiming their support for black communities really want to make a difference, they should change their hiring and management practices to focus on job skills, rather than continuing to privilege college degrees. They say that “degree inflation” is rampant: as an example, 67% of postings for new production supervisors in 2015 included college-degree requirements, though only 16% of existing production supervisors had bachelor’s degrees.  (See interesting NBER paper here.)

    Indeed, I’m not very comfortable with the term ‘middle skill’ which has been adopted for jobs that typically require a technical training program of some sort but do not require a college degree.  Is someone with an undergraduate sociology degree really necessarily more skilled than a CNC machinist?  The suggestion that someone with a college degree is always higher-skilled than someone without a degree has unpleasant implications of a class-bound society. The authors of the NBER paper suggest an alternative term: STARs…Skilled Through Alternative Routes, and they also suggest that many “technology” jobs shouldn’t really require a college degree.  They note that:

    While some of these new occupations (e.g., data scientist) may require skills (e.g., statistical methods) which are typically acquired in advanced formal education, a large number (e.g., application developers and administrators for enterprise Software-as-a-Service platforms such as Salesforce, Workday, or ServiceNow) are learned not in formal education, but mostly on-the-job or in credentialed skill training designed by the SaaS companies themselves. While estimating STARs’ potential to fill skilled roles still emerging is beyond the scope of this paper, it would be reasonable to expect that employers’ rational ignorance or deprecation of experienced-based signals of STARs skills for existing jobs may similarly shape.

    …they also suggest that there are many cases in which skills developed by an employee in a particular not-well-paid job can actually be of value to an employer in a different and better-paid job, but that the mapping of these skills sets is not generally well-understood by employers.

    Back in 1969, Peter Drucker wrote:

    The most serious impact of the long years of schooling is, however, the “diploma curtain” between those with degrees and those without. It threatens to cut society in two for the first time in American history…By denying opportunity to those without higher education, we are denying access to contribution and performance to a large number of people of superior ability, intelligence, and capacity to achieve…I expect, within ten years or so, to see a proposal before one of our state legislatures or up for referendum to ban, on applications for employment, all questions related to educational status…I, for one, shall vote for this proposal if I can.

    I wouldn’t favor a legal ban on such questions, but I do think public policy needs to encourage of focus on skills rather than on degrees per se, and I’m happy to see that President Trump has signed an executive order requiring Federal agencies to increase the use of skill assessments and interviews with subject matter experts to determine an applicant’s qualifications, rather than simply looking at educational achievements.  At least one agency had already made this switch to a certain degree:  the FAA, which once required a college degree for aspiring controllers entering its specialized training program, now allows alternatively a combination of three years of progressively responsible work experience or a combination of post-secondary education and work experience that totals three years.  And some private employers are putting more emphasis on apprenticeship programs and various kinds of alternative skill demonstration.  (See for example the GE Aviation apprenticeship program; lots more North Carolina apprenticeship programs here.)

    Working on the lifting of the “diploma curtain” seems particularly appropriate given the growing evidence that many college graduates today don’t really learn all that much during their college years.  In any case, if the inappropriate use of college credentials can be reduced, it should offer a significant benefit to overall economic growth and productivity, as well as to many individuals.

     

     

     

     

    Posted in Academia, Business, Education, Tech, Urban Issues | 40 Comments »

    Civic Insurrection

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 26th June 2020 (All posts by )

    Dispiriting it is, most mornings, to start up my computer and begin reviewing the news: if it isn’t the return/revival of the Chinese Commie Crud, it’s the interesting spectacle of (mostly) blue cities – ones run for decades by the Democrat party, the party of slavery, secession, segregation and now socialism. Amazing that those cities are the ones most plagued by an unsavory coalition of nihilists co-sponsored by the Marxist-inspired Black Lives Matter and the straight-up communists of Antifa. (As amazing as the number of individuals corporations, large and small, who have been bamboozled into expressing support for the former group. As this commenter at Sarah Hoyt’s place remarked:

    The large corporations are kind of caught in two grips of a vice. The first is that they’ve been hiring mostly college graduates, and most of the college graduates are from “progressive” or “liberal” institutions that have been soaked in this hatred of the West since the late ’60s at the earliest. It could be entirely possible that they could have gone entirely through a four year degree without having been exposed or having to seriously debate the other side of the arguments. The second grip in the vice is the power of the media-and especially social media-these days. It is very easy for the wokescolds to create a hue and cry that can ruin a company. And, an amazing number of these companies are in…careful shape. So, anything that risks the company has to be avoided)

    Getting back to matters racial/social I find it purely amazing that after decades of official and ostentatious promoting of social justice, affirmative action and representation for the less-fortunate minorities, the less-fortunate minorities are even worse off then they were half a century ago.
    (Thank you, for the crowbar required to remove my tongue from my cheek.) Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, Chicagoania, Civil Society, Current Events, Terrorism, Urban Issues, USA | 26 Comments »

    Police vs Prisons

    Posted by David Foster on 16th June 2020 (All posts by )

    Here’s an interesting piece suggesting that there is a tradeoff between spending on police and spending on prisons.  It is claimed that money diverted from prisons to policing buys at least 4x the reduction in crime.  Apparently, on a per-capita basis the US now employees 35% fewer police than the world average…an interesting data point given the current calls for police defunding.

    Posted in Crime and Punishment, Law Enforcement, Urban Issues, USA | 19 Comments »

    Saying “No”

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 11th June 2020 (All posts by )

    I lifted a graphic from last weekend’s Powerline Week in Pictures, and posted it on my Facebook feed (where I post only anodyne stuff and things to do with my books, home improvements, and social schedule) which pretty much sums up how I’m feeling this week. Kermit the Frog stares out a rain-drop-misted window, and says, “Sounds Like Thunder Outside – But With the Way 2020 is Going, It Could Be Godzilla.”

    Even before one could draw a breath of relief that the Chinese Commie Crud had not ravaged the US population anything like the 1918 Spanish Flu did, and that life was returning to something like normal, what with businesses slowly reopening – here came the stomping behemoth of violent protests and race-riots, in the wake of the death (possibly caused by drugs rather than the apparent mistreatment) of a long-time violent criminal of color at the hands of a white police officer.

    This entire brutal and grotesque encounter was on video and understandably condemned as unacceptable overreaction on the part of the officer by just about every reasonable person of any color who watched it. Serious concerns regarding the militarization of police have been raised for at least a decade among thoughtful citizens, what with so many instances of police barging into houses in no-knock and full SWAT mode (often the wrong house, and opening fire indiscriminately), of abusing civil forfeiture statutes and traffic fines as a means of making budget. This concern was exacerbated by resentment during the Chinese Commie Crud lockdown enforcing social distancing – like pursuing a solitary paddle-boarder, all alone on the ocean, and going all-out on parents tossing a softball in a park with their kid. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, Capitalism, Civil Society, Conservatism, COVID-19, Crime and Punishment, Current Events, Just Unbelievable, Law Enforcement, Leftism, Media, Personal Narrative, Society, Urban Issues | 63 Comments »

    I’m Tired…

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 5th June 2020 (All posts by )

    I’m tired,
    Tired of playing the game
    Ain’t it a crying shame
    I’m so tired…

    Oops, there I go, channeling Lili Van Shtüpp, the Teutonic Titwillow from the movie Blazing Saddles – which cinematic offering must be about the last time we were allowed to meditate on matters racial in a mainstream entertainment offering with wit, good humor and malice towards none. Sad to say, that movie could not have been made in the last ten years, and certainly not this week. The social media meltdown would achieve nuclear levels even before production began, and by premier time would sink through the mantle of Earth to the burning core of it’s molten center, which I wouldn’t mind observing from a safe distance. Because I am tired.
    Tired of a lot of things, so tired that I have gone beyond being polite and considerate of others’ feelings. Of what am I tired? Oh, liebling, let me begin the list … Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Advertising, Civil Society, Conservatism, Current Events, Deep Thoughts, Media, Trump, Urban Issues | 23 Comments »

    Lament for a Mall

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 28th April 2020 (All posts by )

    Malls were the latest, trendiest, most oh-there thing in retail development about the time that I was in high school and college. There were a couple of them that I went to, early on, and they were … OK. A nice diversion if one was in the mood or purse for retail therapy. Most of them were enclosed, two or three levels, almost always expensively decorated, adorned with plantings, sometimes with dabs of architectural creativity here and there. All of that made sense in places where the weather was bitterly cold for at least half the year or boiling-hot for three-quarters of it – still does, in the upper mid-west and mountain west, especially in snowy winters. It was, however, a serious and time-burning excursion to go to the mall; finding a place to park nearest an entrance, walking … and walking, and walking, and carrying whatever you had purchased. If there was a nice and varied selection of shops, not wall to wall big chain outlets, exactly the same as every other mall – so much the better.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Business, Current Events, Personal Narrative, Society, Style, Urban Issues | 40 Comments »

    Rethinking the Value of Cities in an Era of Plague

    Posted by Stephen Karlson on 6th April 2020 (All posts by )

    It’s the tension between “contagions for good,” the possibilities for sharing ideas and exchanging goods in thicker markets, and “contagions for evil,” when it’s your viruses and bacteria that are being shared with others.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Society, COVID-19, Deep Thoughts, Economics & Finance, Tradeoffs, Urban Issues | 18 Comments »

    COVID-19 Update Morning 2-14-2020

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 14th February 2020 (All posts by )

    There are currently 65,213 confirmed COVID-19 cases worldwide, including 1,486 fatalities. Of which 4,823 new cases and 116 new deaths were reported in Hubei province, China.
    .
    There are several trends in this update, as well as the headline summary. First Community spreading of COVID-19 is now established in Hong Kong (attached graphic), Japan and Singapore.

    COVID-19 in Hong Kong

    COVID-19 in Hong Kong

    .
    Second, the shut down of China as an economic power seems near complete. See the JP Morgan coal for electricity usage and the Goldman Sachs economic projection charts attached to this post. The JP Morgan chart shows that while traditionally daily coal consumption – the primary commodity used to keep China electrified – rebounds in the days following the Lunar New Year collapse when China hibernates for one week. This is not the case this now. There hasn’t been even a modest increase, indicating that so far there hasn’t been a return to work.
    .

    2020 Chinese Coal/Electrical Consumption

    2020 Chinese Coal/Electrical Consumption

    .
    Short Form — Lack of Chinese coal use/electric power generation indicates the scale of Chinese industries that are shut down…AKA near total.
    .
    And the “Just-In-Time/Sole-Source in China” world-wide, Multi-national corporation, economic shut down virus is gathering a huge economic momentum. Nissan has shut down auto production in addition to South Korea’s Hyundai for lack of Chinese parts. Rumor has it that Ford has the same issue — as their heater coils in their autos are sole sourced in China — and will soon shut down auto production.  Anything cheap or disposable in the world economy is sourced in China, and the Chinese economy is now off-line for the foreseeable future.

    Near Term Economic Projections for China

    Near Term Economic Projections for China

    .
    Third, China is again playing games with COVID-19 numbers and particularly the announced deaths to keep the death rate at 2.1%, saying deaths were “double counted”?!? (See JP Morgan graphic).
    .

    Dodgy Chinese COVID-19 Infection Numbers

    Dodgy Chinese COVID-19 Infection Numbers

    .
     This has been ‘officially noticed’ by the White House.
    .
    See:
    White House does not have ‘high confidence’ in China’s coronavirus information, official says
    .
    .
    Fourth, American COVID-19 are now officially 15 with a case in San Antonio, Texas from a Wuhan evacuation flight and no deaths. I say “officially” as there possible COVID-19 death in Boise, ID. See:
    .
    .
    The possible COVID-19 victim was a 71-year-old man found dead on Feb 9 in an advanced state of decomposition. He returned from China Feb 5. The initial testing came up negative, but additional tests are being run. The cause of death has not been released.
    .
    An idea of what “Community spreading” in Singapore means can be seen in the following report:
    .
    “Singapore Casino employee confirmed with COVID-19; symptomatic Feb 5, hospitalized Feb 9
    On February 13, 2020, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) pointed out that the confirmed case of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Singapore announced on February 11 is an employee at the casino in Resorts World Sentosa Casino. The employee developed symptoms on February 5 and was hospitalized in isolation on February 9. Travelers who visited the casino during the communicable period (February 4-9) are advised to call 1922, put on a face mask and seek immediate medical attention as instructed if suspected symptoms develop within 2 weeks. Moreover, such travelers should inform the physician of any relevant travel history when seeking medical attention.”
    .

    .

    World Headline Summary:
    .
    o China says 1,716 medical workers have been infected
    o Singapore reports largest daily jump in cases amid increased human-to-human transmission
    o Hong Kong reports 3 new cases
    o Hubei’s new party boss orders quarantine tightened
    o President Xi touts new “biosecurity law”
    o Hong Kong Disney land offers space for quarantine
    o Chinese company says blood plasma of recovered patients useful in combating the virus
    o US mulling new travel restrictions

    -end-

    Posted in China, Civil Society, COVID-19, Current Events, Economics & Finance, Energy & Power Generation, Health Care, Medicine, Politics, Urban Issues, USA | 59 Comments »

    At Home With the Homeless

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 24th September 2019 (All posts by )

    The homeless, like the poor are, as Jesus depressingly observed, always with us. Admittedly the American poor are darned well-off, when compared to the poor in other times and in other places. It was reported last week on one of my go-to sites, that of all the homeless in the USA, half of them appear to have taken up residence on the streets, alleys and byways of California, although a fair number of the technically homeless are well-adjusted and employed, and merely living out of RVs, vans, trailers and automobiles parked on streets and parking lots because they cannot afford a rental of a dwelling-place without wheels on it. My daughter has brought home some pretty chilling observation of street people in Pasadena, over the last couple of years; the ubiquity of substance-addled and hygiene-challenged street people and their scratch encampments still shocks her, on every visit to family out there.

    Not that we didn’t ever see street people, or vagrants here in San Antonio; there always were a handful, panhandling at certain intersections with a cardboard sign, hanging out at the bus station, or wherever there were services of any sort catering to the down-and-out. Sometimes when I had to use the city bus system because my car was at the garage, I’d see some truly odd people at the stops or sometimes on the bus. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Society, Culture, Current Events, Texas, Urban Issues | 26 Comments »

    More Than Crazy Years

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 1st August 2019 (All posts by )

    Yes, the great science fiction visionary, Robert A. Heinlein (PBUH) an Annapolis grad and serving naval officer who was discharged for reasons of health early on in what might have been a promising naval career at the right time and in the right generation to have made a significant command mark in WWII, generated the concept of the crazy years. But I wonder if he had the slightest clue of the far-frozen limits of bug-house, chewing-at-the-restraints, raving-at-the-moon crazy that current political figures, media personalities, self-styled internet stars, and academic t*ats would achieve … and just in the last week or so. Really, under the old rules of civility, the ones that I grew to adulthood honoring, decent citizens would have just looked away, murmuring polite demurrals and excuses under their breath, while deleting the offending party from their address book and never inviting them to their neighborhood potlucks any more … but now the crazy has got to such an extent that one can hardly keep up.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Big Government, Civil Society, Culture, Current Events, Human Behavior, Leftism, Media, Politics, The Press, Urban Issues | 24 Comments »

    An Archive Post: Obamania & Spike Lee

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 10th April 2019 (All posts by )

    (Another one of my archive posts – this one from … urp… 2008, on my original military blog.

    An age ago when I had to keep closer track of what currently bubbled up to the top of popular culture and remained there as a sort of curdled froth, suitable for generating one-liners for whatever radio show I was doing for Armed Forces Radio, I read a long interview with Spike Lee. This would have been about the time that he floated into everyone’s cultural consciousness as a specifically black filmmaker, with She’s Gotta Have It and Do The Right Thing; a new fresh voice with a quirky and nuanced take on being black in America. It was a revealing interview which left me shaking my head, because it seemed to me that Mr. Lee was animated by a deeply held conviction that the American establishment and white people everywhere were coldly, malevolently and persistently dedicated with every fiber of their being and every hour of every day, to the sole objective of “keeping the black man down.” It was the top item on the agenda at every business meeting, every political gathering, and the topic of fevered discussion at every dinner table and whispered in every cloakroom, yea verily, wherever were white Americans gathered – there was the grand conspiracy to ruin the black American community. Or at least make them have a crappy day.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Blogging, Civil Society, Conservatism, Culture, Deep Thoughts, History, Urban Issues | 6 Comments »

    The Last Realist

    Posted by Grurray on 17th May 2018 (All posts by )

  • ©2002 Everett Raymond Kinstler Source

  •  
     

    By now you’ve all seen, heard, and read that the great Tom Wolfe died this week. His social satire and sardonic wit carved out a distinctive path through post-modern America. Wolfe championed a literary style that was part journalism, part acerbic effervescence. Few (if any) recent writers were better able to craft stories by such vivid portrayals of particular people in particular places at particular times.

    Here is Tom Wolfe in one of his many interviews with William F. Buckley on Firing Line. Just two mid-century Yale Men parlaying over the Black Panthers, Bernstein, Balzac, Homo Ludens, and the Mets disappointing season.

    The question by the gentleman at around 39:45 is actually a good one and a complaint Wolfe faced his entire career. As a chronicler, he had a tendency to paint the events into flourishes that steered the situations toward the underlying themes that he was using to make his broader point. Conversely, as a novelist he was accused of conflating ordinary details into fantastic baroque ideals.

    There’s no denying that Wolfe was the master of expansive simplification. The principles of his style required a complete accounting of all the dimensions of the scene.

    The culmination of that manifesto was nowhere more on display than in his masterpiece The Bonfire of the Vanities. Here is snippet from chapter 5 following Kramer walking into the DA’s office.

    The guard buzzed Kramer through the gate, and Kramer’s running shoes
    squeaked on the marble floor. The guard gave them a dubious onceover. As
    usual, Kramer was carrying his leather shoes in an A&P shopping bag.
     
    Beyond the entryway, the level of grandeur in the District Attorney’s
    Office went up and down. The office of Weiss himself was bigger and showier,
    thanks to its paneled walls, than the Mayor of New York’s. The bureau chiefs,
    for Homicide, Investigations, Major Offenses, Supreme Court, Criminal Court,
    and Appeals, had their share of the paneling and the leather or school-of
    leather couches and the Contract Sheraton armchairs. But by the time you got
    down to an assistant district attorney, like Larry Kramer, you were looking at
    Good Enough for Government Work when it came to interior decoration.
     
    The two assistant district attorneys who shared the office with him, Ray
    Andriutti and Jimmy Caughey, were sitting sprawled back in the swivel chairs.
    There was just enough floor space in the room for three metal desks, three
    swivel chairs, four filing cabinets, an old coat stand with six savage hooks
    sticking out from it, and a table bearing a Mr. Coffee machine and a
    promiscuous heap of plastic cups and spoons and a gummy collage of paper
    napkins and white sugar envelopes and pink saccharine envelopes stuck to a
    maroon plastic tray with a high sweet-smelling paste composed of spilled coffee
    and Cremora powder. Both Andriutti and Caughey were sitting with their legs
    crossed in the same fashion. The left ankle was resting on top of the right
    knee, as if they were such studs, they couldn’t have crossed their legs any
    farther if they had wanted to. This was the accepted sitting posture of
    Homicide, the most manly of the six bureaus of the District Attorney’s Office.
     
    Both had their jackets off and hung with the perfect give-a-shit
    carelessness on the coatrack. Their shirt collars were unbuttoned, and their
    necktie knots were pulled down an inch or so. Andriutti was rubbing the back
    of his left arm with his right hand, as if it itched. In fact, he was feeling
    and admiring his triceps, which he pumped up at least three times a week by
    doing sets of French curls with dumbbells at the New York Athletic Club.
    Andriutti could afford to work out at the Athletic Club, instead of on a carpet
    between a Dracaena fragrans tub and a convertible couch, because he
    didn’t have a wife and a child to support in an $888-a-month ant colony in the
    West Seventies. He didn’t have to worry about his triceps and his deltoids and
    his lats deflating. Andriutti liked the fact that when he reached around behind
    one of his mighty arms with the other hand, it made the widest muscles of his
    back, the lats, the latissima dorsae, fan out until they practically split his
    shirt, and his pectorals hardened into a couple of mountains of pure muscle.
    Kramer and Andriutti were of the new generation, in which the terms triceps,
    deltoids, latissima dorsae, and pectoralis major were better known than the
    names of the major planets. Andriutti rubbed his triceps a hundred and twenty
    times a day, on the average.

    And that’s just the scene and status. The dialogue continues with the obligatory obscenities and a glimpse of “donkey loyalty”, as Wolfe calls the tribal ties that contrast the “Favor Bank” of the legal system.

    Rest in Peace Tom Wolfe, and thank you for your works that contributed to our awareness and understanding of this ever perplexing world.

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Book Notes, Civil Society, Culture, Leftism, Lit Crit, Obits, Rhetoric, Society, Urban Issues, USA | 11 Comments »

    Those With Dead Eyes

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 11th January 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 »

    There Is No Possible Reform for HUD

    Posted by Kevin Villani on 17th December 2016 (All posts by )

    “The Department of] Housing and Urban Development has done an enormous amount of harm. My god, if you think of the way in which they have destroyed parts of cities under the rubric of eliminating slums … there have been many more dwelling units torn down in the name of public housing than have been built.” ~ Milton Friedman, Interview, Hoover Institution, February 10, 1999

    President-elect Trump’s appointment of Dr. Ben Carson as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development is being criticized on the grounds that he lacks the requisite administrative experience. More likely, Carson’s affront was to question why HUD exists.

    Republican presidents have been ambivalent. Having bigger fish to fry, President Reagan appointed Sam Pierce HUD Secretary so that he could ignore it. George H.W. Bush repaid Jack Kemp’s political opposition by first making him HUD Secretary and then frustrating his attempts to eliminate the Department. HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson, appointed by George W., was allegedly focused on participating in the traditional kickback schemes while his Assistant Secretary for Housing pursued homeownership policies that contributed mightily to the financial crisis of 2008.

    Democratic presidents have used it as a platform to pursue other agendas. Jimmy Carter’s HUD Secretary Patricia Harris introduced Fannie Mae housing goals – quotas – as punishment for not appointing a woman to the Board of Directors. Between scandals, Clinton’s HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros promoted the homeownership goals that left both the financial system and the new mortgage borrowers bankrupt.

    HUD’s budget is relatively small as compared to other federal departments, but it has always punched far above its budget weight in destructive power. To put HUD’s annual budget of about $50 billion in perspective, the cost of the homeowner mortgage interest tax deduction is two to three times greater, but HUD’s “mission regulation” of financial institutions has given it influence or control over trillions more.

    The initial political interest in housing during the Great Depression was entirely Keynesian, i.e., related to the short-term potential to create jobs and relieve cyclical unemployment – the “infrastructure investments” of that era. The Democrat’s approach to construction, management, and allocation of public housing was generally implemented to benefit builders and rife with corruption. FHA and Fannie Mae were chartered mostly as off-balance sheet financial institutions to stimulate housing production on the cheap.

    The problem of urban development, as many politicians and urban analysts saw it in the 1960s, stemmed from the 1956 Eisenhower initiative to build highways financed by the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act, a byproduct of which was that more affluent people commuted from the suburbs while leaving poorer families behind. The pursuit of the American Dream of homeownership left city administrations accustomed to cross-subsidizing municipal services in fiscal distress, creating a vicious cycle: as services declined, more affluent households moved out.

    The Housing and Urban Development Act in 1965 established HUD as a separate cabinet department as part of LBJ’s Great Society to give a greater priority to housing and urban issues. HUD inherited a mishmash of various New Deal federal programs, ranging from public rental housing to urban renewal, as well as financial oversight of FHA and Fannie Mae.

    Faced with steep “guns and butter” budget deficits, LBJ focused on ways to further encourage off-balance-sheet financing of housing construction through “public-private partnerships.” Republicans, led by Senator Edward Brooke of Massachusetts, convinced by academic studies that the urban riots of the 1960s were the direct result of poor quality housing and the urban environment and by lobbyists for housing producers, supported the Housing and Urban Development Act of 1968. The “goal of a decent home and a suitable living environment for every American family” was first introduced in the 1949 Housing Act. Title XVI of the 1968 Act “Housing Goals and Annual Housing Report” introduced central planning without specifying the goals, a timetable for implementation, or a budget.

    In the late 1960s, the Weyerhaeuser Corporation produced a forecast of single-family housing production in the coming decade to assist with tree planting. Congressional math wizards divided the total forecast by 10 to produce HUD’s annual housing production goals for the nation. For the next decade, HUD Secretaries were annually paraded before their Senate oversight Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs to explain why they did or did not meet these production goals.

    Republicans have historically supported rental housing vouchers for existing private rental units for privately built housing to minimize market distortions. Republican HUD Secretary Carla Hills in the Ford Administration pushed HUD’s Section 8 subsidies for existing housing – something arguably better administered as a negative income tax – as a political alternative to the Democrats’ push for a return to public housing construction. But as a further political compromise, the largely autonomous local public housing authorities would administer these vouchers, leading to the same concentration of crime and urban decay as public housing. To borrow a phrase from former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, “Republican social engineering” isn’t necessarily better than “Democratic social engineering.”

    The economic goals of “affordable” housing have generally been in direct conflict with urban development. When I proposed demolishing the worst public housing projects and redeveloping the land, using the proceeds to fund subsidies for existing private market housing (something partially achieved during the Reagan Administration), Clinton Administration officials scoffed at the idea.

    HUD combines socialist goals and fascist methods that seriously distort and undermine markets. There is neither market nor political discipline on the enormous scope of its activities. HUD met unfunded goals through financial coercion, undermining both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and their commercial banking competitors, with the collusion of the Senate Committee responsible for both financial and housing oversight, leading to the sub-prime lending debacle of 2008.

    There is no economic rationale for a federal role in housing or urban affairs in a market economy. HUD represents a continuing systemic threat for which there is no cure. May it RIP.

    Kevin Villani


    Kevin Villani

    Kevin Villani, chief economist at Freddie Mac from 1982 to 1985, is a principal of University Financial Associates. He has held senior government positions, been affiliated with nine universities, and served as CFO and director of several companies. He recently published Occupy Pennsylvania Avenue on the political origins of the sub-prime lending bubble and aftermath.

    This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

    Posted in Big Government, Economics & Finance, Politics, Public Finance, Real Estate, Urban Issues | 4 Comments »

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Jonathan on 3rd November 2016 (All posts by )

    Home Builders Say Federal Loan Limits Shut Out Many Buyers (WSJ):

    One of the hallmarks of the housing recovery has been the historically low level of new-home construction, particularly at lower price points attainable for first-time buyers. Although a wide range of factors are at play, from slow wage growth to higher regulatory costs, builders say the FHA limits in many markets are shutting out potential buyers.
     
    The challenge is particularly acute in California, which has the nation’s highest upfront fees for new construction, according to housing-research firm Zelman & Associates. Fees to pay for roads, sewers, schools and other infrastructure in California markets average between $40,000 and $72,000 per home, according to the firm’s research, compared with an average of $2,600 in Houston. [emphasis added]

    Posted in Big Government, Business, Economics & Finance, Political Philosophy, Real Estate, Urban Issues | Comments Off on Quote of the Day

    Despite Drop in Home Ownership, an Increase in Renters*

    Posted by Jonathan on 28th July 2016 (All posts by )

    Millennials cause homeownership rate to drop to lowest level since 1965:

    The drop in homeownership is largely due to a delay in homebuying by the millennials, who have the lowest ownership rate of their age group in history. Millennials are not only burdened by student loan debt, but they have also delayed life choices like marriage and parenthood, which are the primary drivers of homeownership.

    Why have today’s young people, as compared to young people in the recent past, delayed buying property, marrying and having children?

    “While the millennial homeownership rate continues to decline, it’s important to note that the decrease could be just as likely due to new renter household formation as it is their ability to buy homes,” wrote Ralph McLaughlin, chief economist at Trulia. “Certainly low inventory and affordability isn’t helping their efforts to own, but moving out of their parents’ basement and into a rental unit is also a good sign for the housing market.”

    Why are many of today’s young families choosing to rent rather than buy their homes?

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Economics & Finance, Real Estate, Society, Systems Analysis, Urban Issues | 8 Comments »

    Two Views of Immigration

    Posted by David Foster on 7th September 2015 (All posts by )

    Mary Antin was a Russian Jewish immigrant who came to the US with her family in 1894, at the age of thirteen.  I briefly reviewed her 1912 book, The Promised Land, here.

    Browsing through a used bookstore the other day, I saw a slightly later book by Antin:  They who knock at our gates–a complete gospel of immigration (available here).  It was published in 1914, at a time when immigration had become a very hot social and political issue, and is a highly polemical but pretty well-reasoned document.  Antin’s key points and arguments are:

    **The fundamental American statement of belief is the Declaration of Independence.  “What the Mosaic Law is to the Jews, the Declaration is to the American people…Without it, we should not differ greatly from other nations who have achieved a constitutional form of government and various democratic institutions.”  And  “it was by sinking our particular quarrel with George of England in the universal quarrel of humanity with injustice that we emerged a distinct nation with a unique mission in the world.”  Our loyalty to these principles is tested by our attitude toward immigration, “For the alien, whatever ethnic or geographic label he carries, in a primary classification of the creatures of the earth, falls in the human family.”  This universalist view leads Antin to conclude that we are morally obligated to accept as many immigrants as we feasibly can–and we have room for many, many more.  “Let the children be brought up to know that we are a people with a mission.”

    **Contrary to the assertions being made in some quarters (in 1914), today’s immigrants are not of inferior quality to those of earlier eras.  Jewish immigrants from Russia, for example, are pursuing religious liberty in a way directly analogous to the Pilgrims…indeed,  “It takes a hundred times as much steadfastness and endurance for a Russian Jew of today to remain a Jew as it took for an English Protestant in the seventeenth century to defy the established Church”…and Russian Jews have shown great courage in the revolutionary movements against the Czar.  Also, “We experienced a shock of surprise, a little while ago, when troops of our Greek immigrants deserted the bootblacking parlors and the fruit-stands and tumbled aboard anything that happened to sail for the Mediterranean, in their eagerness..to strike a blow for their country in her need….From these unexpected exploits of the craven Jew and the degenerate Greek, it would seem as if the different elements of the despised “new” immigration only await a spectacular opportunity to prove themselves equal to the “old” in civic valor.”  Recent immigrants have also distinguished themselves in their avid pursuit of educational opportunities.  “Bread isn’t easy to get in America,” Antin quotes a widow on Division Street, “but the children can go to school, and that’s more than bread.”

    **Many of the problems associated with immigrant communities are actually the fault of bad municipal administration.  “You might dump the whole of the East Side into the German capital and there would be no slums there, because the municipal authorities of Berlin know how to enforce building regulations, how to plant trees, and how to clean the streets….If the slums were due to the influx of foreigners, why should London have slums, and more hideous slums than New York?”

    **Those who choose to become immigrants, from whatever, country, represent that best of that population.  “Some of the best blood of New England answered the call of “Westward ho!” when the empty lands beyond the Alleghenies gaped for population…Of the aristocracy of New England that portion stayed at home which was fortified by wealth, and so did not feel the economic pressure of increased population; of the proletariat remained, on the whole, the less robust, the less venturesome, the men and women of conservative imagination. It was bound to be so, because wherever the population is set in motion by internal pressure, the emigrant train is composed of the stoutest, the most resourceful of those who are not held back by the roots of wealth or sentiment. Voluntary emigration always calls for the highest combination of the physical and moral virtues.”

    Hence, the United States has practical as well as moral reasons to maximize immigration.  Antin does not demand an absolutely uncontrolled immigration policy–“I do not ask that we remove all restrictions and let the flood of immigration sweep in unchecked”–she seems to be OK with health checks, and she calls for deportation of immigrants who have committed crimes–but does assert that the gate should be opened as wide as possible.

    A quite different view of mass immigration can be found (oddly enough) in one of George MacDonald Fraser’s picaresque Flashman novels (link).  In this passage, the anti-hero Flashman speaks very much out of character, soberly and thoughtfully in what is probably the author’s own voice, about the American Indian experience of European movement to their lands.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Civil Society, History, Political Philosophy, Uncategorized, Urban Issues, USA | 67 Comments »

    Whiteness Privilege

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 2nd July 2015 (All posts by )

    microaggression

    The subject of “white privilege” is very much in the news there days.

    Administration officials at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University have reached an agreement with student activists to force “mandatory power and privilege training” on incoming students during orientation.

    The group, which calls itself “HKS Speaks Out,” will have a meeting this week with the dean of the Kennedy School, David T. Ellwood, to discuss the funding for the compulsory training and to “make sure this training is institutionalized” throughout the school, reports Campus Reform.

    Who is this group behind the “white privilege” training session ? Well, they are disgruntled students.

    The movement, called HKS Speaks Out, began in October after students expressed having “really negative classroom experiences,” according to Reetu D. Mody, a first year Master in Public Policy student and an organizer of the movement. She said the group has amassed about 300 student signatures, or about a fourth of the school’s student population, on a petition that calls for mandatory privilege and power training.

    Reetu

    She can’t breathe. She is a Congressional staffer but I can’t find out whose staff. Democrat if not Bernie Sanders.

    Steve Sailor is not impressed.

    Harvard U. is full of people who clawed their way into Harvard, so it’s not surprising that they often can’t stand each other. Fortunately, 21st Century Harvard students have a vocabulary of whom to blame for any and all frustrations they feel. From the Harvard Crimson:

    Kennedy School Students Call for Training To Combat Privilege in Classroom

    Whiteness !

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Civil Liberties, Conservatism, Crime and Punishment, Current Events, Education, Human Behavior, Leftism, Morality and Philosphy, Urban Issues | 13 Comments »

    It All Comes Down to Chickens

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 16th May 2015 (All posts by )

    The coop, completed and painted.

    The coop, completed and painted.

    Granny Jessie kept chickens during the Depression – quite a lot of them, if my childhood memories of the huge and by then crumbling and disused chicken-wire enclosure, the adjoining hutch and the nesting boxes are anything to go by. Some of her neighbors went on keeping backyard livestock well into the 1960s – we occasionally sampled goose eggs at Granny Jessie’s house where we could hear a donkey braying now and again. Mom had to help care for the chickens, as child and teenager – and wound up detesting them so much that this was the one back-yard DIY farm element that we never ventured into when we were growing up. Mom hated chickens, profoundly. It seems that keeping chickens is one of those fall-back things, when hard times loom.

    But my daughter and I were considering it over the last couple of years, along with all of our other ventures into suburban self-efficiency – the garden, the cheese-making, the home-brewing and canning, the deep-freeze stocked full, the pantry likewise. I put off doing anything about chickens until two things happened: we finally encountered the woman in our neighborhood who keeps a small flock of backyard chickens, and she took us to see her flock. She told us that it was not much trouble, really, and the eggs were amazingly flavorful. In comparison, supermarket eggs – even the expensive organic and supposedly free-range kind were insipid and tasteless.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Diversions, Entrepreneurship, North America, Personal Narrative, Society, Urban Issues | 29 Comments »