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  • Archive for June, 2015

    Virtual Movie Review: Runaway Train

    Posted by David Foster on 14th June 2015 (All posts by )

    Runaway Train

    The recent prison break in New York reminded me of this 1985 movie, starring Jon Voight, Eric Roberts, and Rebecca De Mornay, with the screenplay reworked from an earlier version by Akira Kurosawa.

    Here’s a review by Roger Ebert, who liked it a lot, as did I.

    WWW hyperlinks:  enabling laziness since 1994

     

    Posted in Crime and Punishment, Film, Transportation | 12 Comments »

    Bennett, Hannan, Howard to Speak at Magna Carta Event, LA

    Posted by leifsmith on 13th June 2015 (All posts by )

    Looks like a good, and important, conference. Starts tomorrow.

    http://www.americanfreedomalliance.org/pressrelease-magna.jsp

    “Among the 15 speakers are included Hon. John Howard, AC former prime minister of Australia, Hon. Rodney Hide, former New Zealand Minister of Local Government, Associate Minister of Commerce and Minister of Regulatory Reform; Hon. Daniel Hannan, UK Member of the European Parliament, representing South East England for the Conservative Party and internationally renown author James C. Bennett, entrepreneur and author of The Anglosphere Challenge (2007) and America 3.0: Rebooting American Prosperity in the 21st Century (2013). “

    Posted in America 3.0, Anglosphere, Britain, Civil Society, Political Philosophy | 2 Comments »

    Stanley McChrystal

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 13th June 2015 (All posts by )

    Hugh Hewitt interviewed General Stanley McCrystal on his radio show yesterday and the interview is pretty interesting. McCrystal has a memoir out called My Share of the Task and a new book on leadership called, Team of Teams.

    The discussion is pretty interesting. First of all, McCrystal was fired by Obama after a reporter printed a story about McCrystal’s officers disrespecting Obama.

    In a statement expressing praise for McChrystal yet certainty he had to go, Obama said he did not make the decision over any disagreement in policy or “out of any sense of personal insult.” Flanked by Vice President Joe Biden, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in the Rose Garden, he said: “War is bigger than any one man or woman, whether a private, a general, or a president.”

    Of course, it was Obama’s petulance and sense of outrage that anyone would think him less than competent.

    In the magazine article, McChrystal called the period last fall when the president was deciding whether to approve more troops “painful” and said the president appeared ready to hand him an “unsellable” position. McChrystal also said he was “betrayed” by Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, the man the White House chose to be his diplomatic partner in Afghanistan.
    He accused Eikenberry of raising doubts about Karzai only to give himself cover in case the U.S. effort failed. “Now, if we fail, they can say ‘I told you so,'” McChrystal told the magazine. And he was quoted mocking Vice President Joe Biden.

    McCrystal has emerged looking better and better and is obviously a great leader and general. Some of the interview’s insights into his leadership are worth repeating. I plan to read both books.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Afghanistan/Pakistan, Book Notes, Iran, Iraq, Management, Middle East, Military Affairs, Obama | 6 Comments »

    History Weekend: Stephens, Townsend, Greenwood, Murphy (Pt. 2)

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 13th June 2015 (All posts by )

    The Stephens-Townsend-Greenwood-Murphy wagons struck off the main trail in the middle of August, following the wheel tracks of a group led the previous year by another mountain man and explorer, the legendary Joseph Walker. Walker’s party had followed the Humboldt River, a sluggish trickle which petered out in reed-grown marsh well short of the mountains. They had been unable to find a pass leading up into the Sierra Nevada, had gone south, abandoning their wagons near Owens Lake, and reached California by going around the mountains entirely. It would not be possible to carry sufficient supplies in packs on the backs of humans and animals for a party which contained so many women, children and babies.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in History | 3 Comments »

    Optics

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 13th June 2015 (All posts by )

    I have written about optics before and am going to take another trip down this trail.

    The prison escape in New York has my interest. I am sort of rooting for the bad guys. But not for the wrong reasons. The reason I am rooting for the bad guys is that I believe that folks need to understand that they need to be prepared to take care of themselves in emergency situations, rather than relying on “professionals”. In the end I want the murderers caught, of course, but in the meantime, we have some delicious drama brewing.

    As I wrote back when the Boston police and others make a Keystone Cops type showing trying to chase down the Tsarnaev brothers, these are some pretty poor optics for the police, but they are doing everything they can to make it look better. I see the same old nonsense on TV – a line of cops saluting and marching down the street, all to make a show to the locals and/or folks watching on TV that they have overwhelming force and are going to catch the bad guys. This was done in Boston and also in Baltimore. Who put this in the official police manual to handle a crisis? I wonder if the manual looks like this:

    Step one. We have a crisis. Everyone line up, salute and march down the street.
    Step two. ??
    Step three. Crisis solved. Praise all and treat everyone like a hero.

    This is one of the most ridiculous things I have seen so far from a few days ago:
    sniper
    What on earth is going on here? Is the sniper actually looking to fire at something? Why aren’t the other guys at all concerned? Why is he laying on top of a van?

    I keep hearing that the man hunt is “intensifying”. How much more intense can it get? They have all sorts of Hummers, choppers, sniper gear, and cops from who knows how many districts all looking for a couple of guys who are either laughing their asses off somewhere in Mexico, or very much hurting by now somewhere in the woods. Somewhere in the woods that all of these forces gathered have missed several times now.

    I am sure it is super pleasant to be living in these towns right now.

    What on earth was Cuomo touring the escape site supposed to prove? He will have zero involvement in the investigation or manhunt.

    I know a thing or two about mechanicals, tools and steam pipes – we are not hearing half of what these guys did do get out of the prison – much of what the media has reported doesn’t make sense at all. I understand that the media is on the cops’ tether at this point, but I will be very interested to someday read just exactly what these guys did to escape. I imagine it took them years of planning.

    If they get caught, we will hear some Seargeant or whoever claim how heroic everyone was, just like always.

    I hope the public gets the sense that just like when the Tsarnaev brothers were keeping thousands of “professionals” at bay, just like these escapees are that they need to prepare to be on their own just a bit. But I won’t get my hopes up. So far, I would say that the cops have some pretty bad optics going as of now.

    Posted in Big Government, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Crime and Punishment, Current Events | 17 Comments »

    On the 606 Trail

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 12th June 2015 (All posts by )

    The “606” trail in Chicago opened recently. It follows an abandoned railroad track that starts in Bucktown / Wicker Park and heads west from there. I am very familiar with this track since I used to live in Bucktown a decade ago and stared at the crumbling bridges that split the neighborhood.

    The trail is named after “606” which is the first 3 digits of the zip code in these neighborhoods. I guess that is an OK name but it’s kind of an obscure reference. Does anyone even send mail anymore? The park is sometimes compared against the High Line trail in NYC but the High Line is way cooler since it moves through a heavily urban area. But the 606 is a massive upgrade from just a crumbling set of train tracks.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Architecture, Chicagoania, Diversions | 3 Comments »

    A Car for $89 / month

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 12th June 2015 (All posts by )

    For years I was proud to be the owner of a 1998 Altima which ran forever, never broke, and required no upkeep. I passed on the Altima (it is still going strong in our family) and eventually ended up with a 2011 Jetta that I purchased new.

    I knew I had made the right purchase decision when I saw this article in Bloomberg titled

    Jetta Leases as Cheap as Mobile Phones shows VW’s US Travails

    From the article:

    The $89 a month it takes to lease a Jetta at some U.S. dealerships is about as low as the price of using an iPhone on some mobile-phone plans. It’s also a sign of how Volkswagen AG is grasping to turn around its fortunes in the U.S.
    The bargain deal — available after a down payment of about $2,500 on the $17,325 Jetta — runs over a three-year term.

    I paid about $17,000 for my Jetta and it has been a great purchase. It is a roomy 4 door car with solid handling – one time I had to lock up the breaks at 65 mph when a lunatic decided to get off the highway from the left lane and exit – the car saved my bacon and stopped on a dime, straight and clear.

    When I drive people around in the car they are astonished at how nice it is for the money; in most instances a car is a terrible investment and minimizing your initial purchase not only saves you direct costs it also saves you on taxes, service costs, and insurance. Recently I had a tire issue (Chicago has terrible potholes) and I just went and bought all four tires and had them installed for $550 including taxes. I have friends where it costs almost $1000 for EACH tire… much less all four.

    There are many good reasons why you may have to invest a lot in a car; if you have to cart around a lot of kids, or need to transport a lot of equipment or materials in the bed of your truck. Most of the time, however, a car is a status symbol, and people pour money into their car because it seems cool or attracts attention. That logic is fiscally irresponsible and it is interesting to see how much cheaper this Jetta is against the competition when for almost all normal, functional commuting purposes, it functions identically to cars that cost 2-4x.

    Cross posted at LITGM

    Posted in Business, Economics & Finance, Human Behavior | 6 Comments »

    Private Enterprise, Public Space

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 11th June 2015 (All posts by )

    Some time since (Oh, heck was it in 2005, ten years ago? So it was.) I mused on the concept of public space, both in the general sense – of a large city – and the smaller sense, of a neighborhood … that is, the place that we live in, have our gardens and our households, where we have neighbors who know us, where we jog, walk our dogs, take an interest – from the mild to the pain-in-the-neck over-interested and judgmental. If our homes are our castles, then the neighborhood is our demesne.
    And unless we are complete hermits, home-owners will take an interest in the demesne. I state that without fear of contradiction, and it does not matter if that demesne is in a strictly-gated upper-middle or upper-class community with real-live 24-hour security, a private and luxurious clubhouse with attached pool and attractively-landscaped park or a simple ungated, strictly crisscrossed-streets and cul-de-sacs development of modestly-priced starter houses without any HOA-managed extras like golf courses, swimming pools, fitness centers, jogging paths – indeed, anything beyond a little landscaping around the sign denoting the entrance to the development. This is where our homes are, and at the lower end of the economic scale of things, likely to have consumed a major portion of disposable income on the part of the householder. A good portion of our material treasure, in other words, is committed to those foundation, walls, roof and yard.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Business, Civil Liberties, Current Events, Law Enforcement, North America, Real Estate | 7 Comments »

    What’s With the Trade Bill ?

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 11th June 2015 (All posts by )

    UPDATE: The reaction is is now coming in.

    That the Republican Establishment has lined up in lockstep with President Obama really tells you all you need to know about the minority wing of the Permanent Bipartisan Fusion Government — ever bigger, ever more secretive, ever more disdainful of American sovereignty and of the voters who put them in office. The measure has already passed in McConnell’s Senate, so its fate is now up to Boehner’s House:

    Here we go !

    For years we have had trade authority granted to presidents as “fast track” authority so the treaties don’t become bidding wars in Congress. The treaty has to be voted up or down as a single entity. This has been done under Democrat and Republican presidents with Republicans usually more in favor of free trade. Under Bill Clinton, we had The North American Free Trade Agreement or NAFTA which was controversial on issues like Mexican truck drivers qualifications.

    Obama has delayed a trade treaty with Columbia for political reasons for years until the GOP dominated Congress ratified the treaty in 2012, eight years after it was negotiated under Bush.

    Colombia’s Congress approved the agreement and a protocol of amendment in 2007. Colombia’s Constitutional Court completed its review in July 2008, and concluded that the Agreement conforms to Colombia’s Constitution. President Obama tasked the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative with seeking a path to address outstanding issues surrounding the Colombia FTA.[2] The United States Congress then took on the agreement and passed it on October 12, 2011. The agreement went into effect on May 15, 2012.

    At present President Obama is asking for “fast Track Authority” and may finally get it but the opposition is different this time.

    The House will vote Friday on a bill that would give fast-track trade authority to President Barack Obama, a measure likely headed for passage in a close vote after months of lobbying by the White House and business groups.

    Representative Kevin McCarthy, the California Republican who is majority leader, set out in a memo to lawmakers a two-day vote schedule designed to solidify support of Democrats who will back the bill. The House begins Thursday with a measure to promote trade with poorer countries.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Business, Current Events, International Affairs, Obama, Politics | 19 Comments »

    Theme: The Fully Politicized Society

    Posted by David Foster on 10th June 2015 (All posts by )

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

    It strikes me that this would be a good time to update and repost my earlier Theme roundup of posts on the general topic of politicization.

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

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

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

    What makes people want to live in a politicized society, and what is day-t0-day life like once the complete politicization has been accomplished?  In this post, I cite some thoughts from Sebastian Haffner, who came of age in Germany when the Nazi movement was casting its spell, and a vivid fictional passage from Ayn Rand, who grew up in the early Soviet Union.

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

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

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Big Government, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Current Events, Germany, History, Political Philosophy, Russia, USA | 19 Comments »

    Pep Talk

    Posted by Lexington Green on 9th June 2015 (All posts by )

    US Flag

    One of my Conservative activist friends was getting depressed, so I rattled off the following. (I hope I am right.)

    ***

    Reagan used to tell jokes about how Communism didn’t work. Reagan understood that stupidity ultimately destroys itself. All the people around him assumed the evil would last forever. Hardcore Conservatives, like me, thought he was naive. Turns out we were naive. The modern welfare state really got started in the 1960s. It lasted about two generations and it is totally dysfunctional. The first Conservative movement gave us Reagan, who did some good but did not reverse the trends. The new reform movement has barely gotten started. But this movement looks to be broader and deeper than the first Conservative movement. The Tea Party started around the turn of the year 2008/09. That is 5.5 years. Major reform movements usually take a generation to start winning lots of elections. The GOP has just taken over more elected offices than any time since the 1920s, and the reformers are driving it, and the RINOs have to at least talk the talk or they can’t get elected. We are moving along very well. We are in the process of taking over the GOP, and in the process of taking over the government. I thought Obamacare would be embedded and unmovable by now, and it would take us decades to dismantle it. It may go much better and quicker than that. People on the Right have lots of competing ideas of what to do. The internal conflicts are a sign of vitality. The Democrats have NO IDEAS. Zero. All they do is attack and lie and say their opponents are racists. That’s it. That is all the cards they are holding. They nakedly abuse power to insulate themselves. They cannot tell the truth about who they are or what they want to do or they will lose. They are like the Soviet Communists under Brezhnev. Hillary even looks like an old, corrupt, smug Communist bloc apparatchik. Their day is over and they are clinging to power. The worst menace is crony capitalism, but even there people are increasingly aware of the problem and starting to push back.

    This is going to be a long struggle, and we will lose battles, and there will be betrayals, and people will get exhausted and give up.

    But the deep trends are in our favor.

    We are right, factually and morally.

    They are wrong, factually and morally.

    They will lose.

    We will win.

    Be happy.

    Posted in America 3.0, Deep Thoughts, History, Political Philosophy, Politics | 45 Comments »

    Still Not Finished With Sad Puppies

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 8th June 2015 (All posts by )

    With some apologies because this is not a matter which particularly touches me, or the books that I write, I am moved to write about this imbroglio one more time, because it seems that it didn’t end with the official Hugo awards slate of nominees being finalized – with many good and well-written published works by a diverse range of authors being put forward. The Hugo nominations appear for quite a good few years to have been dominated by one particular publisher, Tor. And it seems that the higher levels of management at Tor did not take a diminishment of their power over the Hugo nominees at all gracefully. (This post at my book blog explains the ruckus with links, for those who may be in the dark.)

    A Ms. Irene Gallo, who apparently billed as a creative director at Tor, replied thusly on her Facebook page, when asked about what the Sad Puppies were: “There are two extreme right-wing to neo-nazi groups, called the Sad Puppies and the Rabid Puppies respectively, that are calling for the end of social justice in science fiction and fantasy. They are unrepentantly racist, misogynist and homophobic. A noisy few but they’ve been able to gather some Gamergate folks around them and elect a slate of bad-to-reprehensible works on this year’s Hugo ballot.”

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Blogging, Business, Civil Society, Conservatism, Diversions, Internet, Media | 18 Comments »

    History Weekend: Stephens, Townsend, Greenwood, Murphy

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 6th June 2015 (All posts by )

    (An early version of this essay began as a sorrowful rant about the lack of good adventure movies a number of summers ago. It turned into a multi-part blog post, and then into a novel about the first wagon-train party to get their wagons over the Sierra Nevada – in winter yet. They got lost, had to break up into separate groups, were caught by winter while still in the mountains, nearly ran out of food … but unlike the Donner Party of two years later, this party managed to hang together and negotiate the mountain obstacle without any loss of life. This is part one of two.)

    In comparison to the notorious and hard-luck Donner-Reed Party, hardly anyone has ever heard of a similar wagon-train company who crossed over almost the exact same trail two years previously. The party led by Elisha Stephens and John Townsend, and advised by the old mountain-man, Caleb Greenwood, walked much of the way between the Mississippi-Missouri and the Sacramento Rivers, across plain and desert, blazed a trail up the wilderness of a steep canyon, and finally hauled wagons up a sheer mountain cliff. Generally they remain a footnote in the history books, mostly noted for being the first to bring some of their wagons up the Truckee River canyon and over the Sierra Nevada into California. There was no tireless letter-writer or professional memoirist among them, no extensive first-hand accounts, although John Townsend, a medical doctor and Mason may have kept a diary.

    In the year 1844, only a bare handful of explorers, missionaries and fur trappers had ever seen for sure what lay beyond the jumping-off points at Council Bluffs, Independence, St. Joseph. There was southern trail to Santa Fe, and beyond that to the thinly-populated enclave of Spanish and then Mexican territories in California, and a northern track which followed along the Platte River and terminated in Oregon Territory. Lewis and Clarke, and William Ashley’s fur-trapping brigades – all had gone that way, by boat, horseback or on foot. Hearing of the rich lands in the Pacific Northwest, farmers and small tradesmen also began following the siren call. This was not a journey for the impoverished. Besides a wagon, and stock to pull it, the journey required a six-month food supply, tools, clothes, bedding and cooking gear. There might be space in the wagon for books, and other small treasures, for the wagons were small, and food took up most of the space. The draft animal of choice was not the horse, as many would think. Horses were expensive, and the road was too rough in the early days for even the toughest horse in dray harness. Mules made a good showing on the southern trail, but they were also expensive. Most emigrants could better afford ox teams; four to six pair to a wagon, guided by a driver who walked by the lead team and controlled them by verbal commands.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in History, North America, Society | 6 Comments »

    Use of Netatmo to Measure Wealth in Chicagoland

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 6th June 2015 (All posts by )

    Netatmo is a personal weather station that you can buy which is wifi connected and “joins” the netatmo network worldwide so that your information contributes to the grid of stations. I wrote about my experience in detail here.

    Here is what Netatmo looks like on your phone – you can see the temperature inside and outside your house (it is also connected with weather alerts) and if you turn your phone sideways you can also graph data along many time series. I find it to be very cool and check it a lot on my cell phone or ipad when I am bored and want to kill some time.

    I started looking at the Netatmo weather map on my phone and it also becomes a visual map of wealth and technology adoption in Chicago. While you can’t see all the individuals who might buy an iWatch on a map, the Netatmo weather station becomes a clear signal and it is tied to a clear physical location. Note that when you “drill in” to the map you will see many weather stations in an area such as River North – however if an area is devoid of stations entirely it comes up blank. And there’s Chicago! You can see the stations in the north side, a completely barren west side, and a mostly barren south side, except for the dot along the lake which represents Hyde Park.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Chicagoania, Society, Tech | 6 Comments »

    Remembering

    Posted by David Foster on 6th June 2015 (All posts by )

    Today, June 6, is the  71st anniversary of the Normandy landings. See the Wikipedia article for an overview. Arthur Seltzer, who was there, describes his experiences.

    Don Sensing points out that success was by no means assured: the pivot day of history.

    Two earlier Photon Courier posts: before D-day, there was Dieppe and transmission ends.

    See Bookworm’s post from 2012, and Michael Kennedy’s photos from 2007

    A collection of D-day color photos from Life Magazine

    Neptunus Lex:  The liberation of France started when each, individual man on those landing craft as the ramp came down – each paratroop in his transport when the light turned green – made the individual decision to step off with the only life he had and face the fire.

    The Battle of Midway took place from June 4 through June 7, 1942. Bookworm attended a Battle of Midway commemoration event in 2010 and also in 2011: Our Navy–a sentimental service in a cynical society.

    See also  Sgt Mom’s History Friday post from last year.

    General Electric remembers the factory workers at home who made victory possible.   Also, women building airplanes during WWII, in color and the story of the Willow Run bomber plant.

    Update: a very interesting piece on  the radio news coverage of the invasion

    Posted in Britain, Business, France, Germany, History, Photos, USA, War and Peace | 10 Comments »

    Political Beliefs vs Occupation

    Posted by David Foster on 5th June 2015 (All posts by )

    I’ve previously linked an analysis of political beliefs as a function of the industry in which an individual works.  Comes now a much more fine-grained analysis of political affiliation versus occupation/profession.  Below the summary chart–pairs of somewhat-related occupations that have very different political profiles–is a much more detailed chart that allows expansion of an occupational category into multiple subcategories:  for example, “engineering” further subdivides into civil, chemical , mechanical, electrical, etc.  (That detailed chart doesn’t work on my Mac for some reason, although it works fine on iPhone and Android:  not sure whether or not this is a general problem)

    Please read & discuss.

    Posted in Business, Human Behavior, Politics, USA | 11 Comments »

    Back to the old neighborhood.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 5th June 2015 (All posts by )

    Last month, I posted some old photos of Chicago in the 1940s. I grew up in a neighborhood that has since gone badly downhill in spite of a lot of positive features that should have kept it livable. It is South Shore and here is the previous post. We went back for a visit this week and just returned home last night. I posted some more photos of the old neighborhood Here.

    We even revisited some spots from my post about a week in Michigan from two years ago.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Chicagoania, History, Personal Narrative | 3 Comments »

    The Chinese Strategic Tradition: A Research Program (II)

    Posted by T. Greer on 4th June 2015 (All posts by )

    This post is the second in a series. It was originally published at The Scholar’s Stage on the 26th of May, 2015. I strongly recommended readers start with the first post in this series, which introduces the purpose and methods of this essay. That post focused on what is published in English on Chinese strategic thought. This post focuses on what has been written about Chinese strategic practice–that is, the military, diplomatic, and political history of China’s past.

     

    A map depicting the most famous military campaign in East Asian history, decided at the Battle of Red Cliffs (208 AD) in modern-day Hubei.
    Source: Wikimedia

    STRATEGIC PRACTICE 

    In the West, the study of traditional China has been the domain of the Sinologists. For reasons that are entirely natural but also too complex and lengthy to explain here, this has meant that historians studying traditional China have focused their efforts on the history of Chinese philosophy, aesthetics, literature, and religion, as well as the closely related fields of archeology, linguistics, and philology. The much lamented decline of political, diplomatic, and military history across the American educational system had little perceivable effect here, for there was not much political, diplomatic, or military history to begin with. [1]

    It should not be a surprise that many of the most important books on Chinese military and diplomatic relations have not been written by historians, but by political scientists. The interest political scientists might have in these topics is obvious, for theirs is a field devoted to the scientific and theoretical exploration of politics and international relations. The real mystery is why it took so long for political scientists to start writing about traditional East Asian international relations in the first place (most of the important books are less than a decade old). The answer to that question is not too hard to find if one looks at the books being written. The new crop of scholars writing these books hail from the international relations (IR) side of the science, and are part of a growing critique of the grand IR theories the discipline traditionally used to make sense of international affairs. [2] These theories were for the most part developed and tested in reference to traditional European great power politics.  One of the central barbs of these critiques is that we cannot know if the grand theories of generations past describe truly universal laws  or simply describe patterns unique to European history if these theories have not been tested on case studies outside of the last few hundred years of European politics. In response, scholars have searched for case studies outside of Europe with which they can test these theories or find the data needed to develop new ones entirely. East Asia, a region filled with bureaucratic states thousands of years before their development in the West, was a natural place to start.

    The problem these researchers repeatedly ran into was that their fellow political scientists were not familiar enough with East Asian history to follow their arguments and there were no good primers on the topic to refer them to. So theses scholars ended up writing the historical narratives others would need to read before they could assess their theoretical arguments. Thus Victoria Tinbor Hui‘s chapter on the Warring States (453-221 BC) in War and State Formation in Ancient China and Early Modern Europe is one of the best narrative accounts of Warring States great power politics; Wang Yuan-kang‘s Harmony and War: Confucian Culture and Chinese Power Politics contains one of the only accounts of Song Dynasty (old style: Sung, 960-1279 AD) foreign relations and one of the most fluid narratives of the Ming Dynasty‘s (1368-1644) adventures abroad; and David Kang‘s East Asia Before the West: Five Centuries of Trade and Tribute has the most coherent discussion of the Chinese “tributary system” written in the last five decades. Historians have lauded these books for the amount of historical research that was poured into them [3], and I second their appraisal. As a field IR should take Asia more seriously and it should engage with historical sources more thoroughly than is common practice. However, I cannot help but lament the circumstances that pushed IR scholars to adopt these methods. Hopefully historians feel some shame over the sorry state of the field and how difficult it is for outsiders to approach their research.

    One example will suffice to prove the point. I mentioned that Wang Yuan-kai’s War and Harmony has one of the few complete accounts of the Song Dynasty’s international relations. As far as scholarship goes, the amount of material devoted to this topic is middle-of-the-road: there are some periods where scholarship is more plentiful–say, the Late Ming, or the Qing (Ch’ing, 1644-1912), and there are some other periods where the scholarship is much more scarce–say, anything about the Tang (T’ang, 610-907 AD) or Han (206 BC-220 AD) dynasties. It is an interesting period to work with, for it is one of the few times in Chinese history when China was faced with external enemies whose military power was undeniably stronger than her own. It was the time of some of the most famous military figures and most horrible military disasters in Chinese history.  It also saw some of the most historically influential debates about how to manage civil-military relations and the relationship between economic prosperity and military power. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, China, History, War and Peace | 4 Comments »

    When They Came for Those Other People

    Posted by David Foster on 4th June 2015 (All posts by )

    Into our town the hangman came,
    smelling of gold and blood and flame.
    He paced our bricks with a diffident air,
    and built his frame on the courthouse square.

    The scaffold stood by the courthouse side,
    only as wide as the door was wide
    with a frame as tall, or a little more,
    than the capping sill of the courthouse door.

    And we wondered whenever we had the time,
    Who the criminal? What the crime?
    The hangman judged with the yellow twist
    of knotted hemp in his busy fist.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Human Behavior | 7 Comments »

    Posted by Jonathan on 4th June 2015 (All posts by )

    Dune Dogs

    Dune Dogs is ranked #1 on the prestigious Chicagoboyz American Heritage Restaurant List for Jupiter, FL.

    Posted in Photos, Product Reviews/Endorsements | 6 Comments »

    What Chicago Boyz Readers Are Reading (April and May 2015)

    Posted by Jonathan on 4th June 2015 (All posts by )

    Below is a list of the books, ebooks, music and videos that Chicago Boyz readers viewed and/or ordered in April and May 2015 via Amazon links on this blog. Despite some overlap between April and May there are many interesting book references here. (A cumulative list of Chicago Boyz readers’ Amazon book purchases is here.)

    Your book and non-book Amazon purchases help to support this blog via the Amazon Associates program. Chicago Boyz earns a percentage on all of your Amazon purchases as long as you get to the Amazon site by clicking on Amazon links on this blog (including the Amazon banner in the blog header, the link above the Amazon banner, and even Amazon links on Chicago Boyz for products other than the ones that you want to buy).

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes | Comments Off on What Chicago Boyz Readers Are Reading (April and May 2015)

    Fear of Heresy Accusations, Then and Now

    Posted by David Foster on 3rd June 2015 (All posts by )

    I’m currently reading The Edge of the World: A Cultural History of the North Sea and the Transformation of Europe.  There’s an interesting section on the 7th-century monk Bede, a thoughtful scholar who wrote the first history of England.  A couple of centuries later, he would be known as the Venerable Bede, a Doctor of the Church…but back when he was just another monk:

    He once heard that he had been accused of heresy by someone who was having dinner with a bishop.  He was aghast, he told his friend Plegwin, he went white.

    Sure glad people don’t have to worry about things like that these days…but actually, this passage reminded me of something I read in the WSJ a few days ago.  It’s an excerpt from an article by Laura Kipnis, a feminist professor who–because of something she wrote in February–has been attacked by feminist students who tried to use Federal Title IX mechanisms to shut her down.  She was cleared of the charges against her, but says:

    After the essay appeared, I was deluged with emails from professors applauding what I’d written because they were too frightened to say such things publicly themselves. My inbox became a clearinghouse for reports about student accusations and sensitivities, and the collective terror of sparking them, especially when it comes to the dreaded subject of trigger warnings, since pretty much anything might be a “trigger” to someone, given the new climate of emotional peril on campuses. . . .

    A tenured professor on my campus wrote about lying awake at night worrying that some stray remark of hers might lead to student complaints, social-media campaigns, eventual job loss, and her being unable to support her child. I’d thought she was exaggerating, but that was before I learned about the Title IX complaints against me.

    Posted in Academia, Book Notes, Britain, Christianity, Civil Liberties, USA | 13 Comments »

    How shall “in the box” people think “outside the box”?

    Posted by Charles Cameron on 3rd June 2015 (All posts by )

    [ a gadfly question ]
    .

    We have seen various conversations online in which its is plausibly suggested that YESness leads to upward mobility across an array of silos and disciplines, specifically including the intelligence community and the military — the end result being risk-averse group-think that is pretty much “inside the box” by definition.

    Similarly, we have noted that serious and nuanced issues are frequently debated in the media by those who are known for their general-purpose punditry or seniority, rather than by those with specific knowledge of and insight into the particular issues of concern.

    Question: How shall we get outside the box thinking from inside the box thinkers?

    **

    When I originally posted this on Zenpundit, I almost just posted the title by itself. As one of the commenters there suggested, and I tend to agree, it’s a million dollar question — and one I’d like to see widely cross-posted and debated.

    What say you all?

    Posted in Deep Thoughts, Human Behavior | 22 Comments »

    Haiti – Then and Now

    Posted by Ginny on 3rd June 2015 (All posts by )

    In freshman composition, I often devoted part of a class to short essays. The arguments I chose for focus interested me – probably more than my students. One was to write an essay prompted by an axiom or song lyric. Generally it may not have worked in terms of academic writing, but writing is writing. and a few years ago, one student responded to this Proverb:

    “A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.” Proverbs 25:28
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Book Notes, Human Behavior, Obama | 8 Comments »

    “Dear Heads of Government of the Major Allied Powers”

    Posted by Jonathan on 2nd June 2015 (All posts by )

    Eamon de Valera’s April 1945 missive to Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin:

    After the cease fire, you must begin a peace process (even if, at first, you lack cooperation from your opponents). The first steps in that peace process are: to recognize the Axis Powers’ governments (even if not democratic) to allow all parties to return to their borders as they existed prior to the outbreak of these past regrettable hostilities and finally, to allow international trade to flow freely so that hungry innocents may be fed, clothed, and receive medicine. It is true that this might allow (some of) your enemies to rearm. But my own experts assure me that this possibility is minor. Inconsequential, abstract, and theoretical future risks such as potential rearmament cannot overcome the pressing, real, and current demands of suffering humanity and international law.

    (A parody by Seth Barrett Tillman. Read the whole thing here, or in the Claremont Review of Books, where it appears towards the bottom of the Correspondence page here.)

    Posted in History, Humor, International Affairs, Law, Leftism, Military Affairs, National Security, Political Philosophy, War and Peace | 8 Comments »