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  • Archive for October, 2015

    About Money and Politics

    Posted by David Foster on 16th October 2015 (All posts by )

    Much discussion these days about the role of money in politics, and assertions about the need to limit that role; for example, this NYT article expresses grave concern that “just 158 families” have contributed $176 million in the first phases of the 2016 campaign.

    I’m not sure that these early contributions are a very good indicator for the spending pattern throughout the overall election cycle, particularly this year, with a Crown Princess already having been largely anointed by the Democrats.  (I note, for example, that Tom Steyer, who has been a huge contributor to Left-leaning causes in the past, does not appear on the NYT’s list.  There are surely many individuals who are biding their time before contributing in a big way.)

    But more importantly, there is something missing from the NYT article and from discussions of money in politics in general, and that is the role of contributions in kind.

    How much money would somebody have to spend on advertising to equal the effect of the NYT’s support of a particular candidate?  How expensive would it be to create a marketing program equivalent in impact to a television network’s support of a particular political ideology, which may well encompass messages in entertainment programs as well as slants of news and opinion?  Hard to estimate such numbers in any meaningful way, but surely the costs would be very, very high.  In effect, a highly skewed political/ideological position by a media corporation is a contribution in kind to a candidate, party, or at least a political world-view.

    It strikes me that the effect of tightened limits on political spending would not at all be to “remove the impact of money in politics,” but rather to privilege the impact of a certain kind of money…ie, to privilege the wealth owed or controlled by publishers, network executives, media owners and major shareholders, and the founders and senior executives of certain Internet-based business over the wealth owned and controlled by people involved in energy, manufacturing, transportation, etc.

    Posted in Politics, USA | 5 Comments »

    The Most Important Story No One Is Talking About – Puerto Rican Debt

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 15th October 2015 (All posts by )

    Dan and I go back and forth on the relatively arcane topic of municipal debt. As we all know, the state of Illinois is awash in debt. The situation is so bad that:


    1. The State of Illinois is operating without a budget

    2. The city of Chicago is proposing a massive property tax increase

    3. Cook County just raised our sales tax (one of the highest rates in the country, already) and is proposing additional fees

    4. Chicago Public Schools face a major deficit and without some sort of massive state tax relief is likely going to face significant layoffs and a likely teachers strike

    5. Note that we are one of the few states and cities to be in such dire straits that we issue TAXABLE debt instead of MUNICIPAL debt which is generally exempt from Federal taxes and some state taxes. This is due to the fact that you generally cannot issue muni bonds to pay off operating expenses (like payroll and legal settlements)

    The long term most indebted players have been Detroit, Puerto Rico, and the State of Illinois / City of Chicago. We saw how the Detroit bankruptcy occurred, with bondholders generally taking it on the chin and unsecured pension holders in fact emerging in a relatively better situation.

    Now Puerto Rico is up to bat. They have massive, unpayable debts of many varieties (some secured by full faith and credit, some secured with revenues, some bank loans, etc…) and their governor basically said so out loud. All of this is inevitable as their island’s best talent has fled to the mainland USA and the remaining population is more and more reliant on government aid to survive. They also have failed to modernize their power infrastructure and / or build new industries outside of tourism which erodes their ability to compete against the mainland USA that in turn has much higher productivity.

    The real issue – long term – is whether or not the Federal government will back up the states. This is essentially the “long game” of the State of Illinois and the city of Chicago – waiting to see whether or not the Federal government is really going to stand by and let us go bankrupt or not. If the government is ultimately going to pick up our debts, it is “business as usual”, and the corruption, back-scratching, and non-competitive behavior can just continue indefinitely, with taxpayers across the nation picking up the debris rather than forcing the citizens of Illinois to clean up our act.

    Today Puerto Rico and the treasury announced that they are working to backstop the Puerto Rican debt with some sort of Federal umbrella per this article.

    Puerto Rico and U.S. officials are discussing the issuance of a “superbond” administered by the U.S. Treasury Department that would help restructure the commonwealth’s $72 billion of debt, people familiar with the plan said.

    And what a great name! A “superbond” means that all the US citizens will pick up the “super” obligations of our corrupt, crony-laden, inefficient city and state. That’s super!

    This is the path out for Illinois and the city of Chicago. Play brinksmanship with Federal government and receive a backstop. Puerto Rico leads the way!

    Cross posted at LITGM

    Posted in Big Government, Chicagoania, Economics & Finance, Politics, Public Finance, Taxes | 15 Comments »

    Storm

    Posted by Jonathan on 14th October 2015 (All posts by )

    Miami Storm

     
    Order Prints

    HAIKU UPDATE:

    Storm, sunset, sailboats
    Pink shadows, unsettled clouds
    Tranquil lagoon view

    Posted in Photos, Poetry | 5 Comments »

    The US should help give Mexico first world problems

    Posted by TM Lutas on 13th October 2015 (All posts by )

    The cheapest, most effective US southern border security measure available over the long haul is for Mexico to become a high income country that honors the rule of law. Dollar for dollar, nothing beats making somebody else the front line on handling third world immigration. Mexican illegal immigration dries up in a good way while Central Americans only target the US as much as they currently target Canada (which is hardly at all).

    Comments?

    Posted in Immigration, Latin America, Miscellaneous | 64 Comments »

    Columbus Day and Some Thoughts on America 3.0

    Posted by Lexington Green on 12th October 2015 (All posts by )

    1519 ---  by Sebastiano del Piombo --- Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

    1519 — by Sebastiano del Piombo — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

    The current orthodoxy on Columbus is that he, and his impact, were unmitigated evil. This is, to say the least, an over-correction from earlier mythologizing.

    Columbus certainly treated the people of Hispaniola who fell under his authority abusivley and cruelly. In that regard, he was typical of his day and age.

    What was atypical about Columbus was his ingenious insight about the Atlantic wind patterns, and his superhuman drive to cross the Ocean Sea and arrive, as he incorrectly believed, in the Far East. It is of course false that people in his day did not know that the planet was spherical. Columbus did not have to prove that. Columbus was mistaken about the size of the sphere, and he imagined China to be a lot close than it was.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in America 3.0, Anglosphere, Arts & Letters, Book Notes, History, Holidays | 7 Comments »

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Jonathan on 12th October 2015 (All posts by )

    J. E. Dyer on Russia in Syria:

    Get used to it. This is the world as it is without American power setting standards and boundaries. After a 70-year hiatus from history, nothing you think you know applies to this situation. This is the world of 1900 – 800 – 500 B.C. – but with much more destructive weapons, and much faster ways to get around.

    Interesting times ahead.

    Posted in Current Events, International Affairs, Middle East, Military Affairs, National Security, Obama, Quotations, Russia, Tradeoffs, USA, War and Peace | 12 Comments »

    Where are we bound ?

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

    I watched the Sunday Talk Shows this morning and nothing was reassuring. Then I read the column from Richard Fernandez.

    It makes sense. I have believed for some time that we are headed for a revolution. Maybe not an old fashioned bloody revolution but something is coming.

    The anniversary of the U.S. war against the Islamic State passed with little notice. It was August 7 of last year that President Obama authorized the first airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq, a campaign he expanded a month later to include targets in Syria. So far this month, the president has delivered remarks on the Voting Rights Act, his deal with Iran, the budget, clean energy, and Hurricane Katrina. ISIS? Not a peep.

    Obama’s quiet because the war is not going well … One of our most gifted generals predicts the conflict will last “10 to 20 years.” And now comes news that the Pentagon is investigating whether intelligence assessments of ISIS have been manipulated for political reasons.

    His column today suggests that the Ship of State is drifting. He quotes Niall Ferguson’s article in the Wall Street Journal.

    I have spent much of the past seven years trying to work out what Barack Obama’s strategy for the United States truly is. For much of his presidency, as a distinguished general once remarked to me about the commander in chief’s strategy, “we had to infer it from speeches.”

    At first, I assumed that the strategy was simply not to be like his predecessor—an approach that was not altogether unreasonable, given the errors of the Bush administration in Iraq and the resulting public disillusionment. I read Mr. Obama’s 2009 Cairo speech—with its Quran quotes and its promise of “a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world”—as simply the manifesto of the Anti-Bush.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Current Events, Film, History, International Affairs, Islam, Leftism, Middle East, Obama, Russia | 49 Comments »

    Trust

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 10th October 2015 (All posts by )

    A society as huge and complex as the United States can run economically only on the basis of acceptance and trust. This has been true for so long it is no longer noticed, like the air. People accept the rules and generally follow them whether or not there is a policeman in attendance. …. All over the the land people go about their business secure that arrangements will be honored and carried out. A high-trust society is a low-cost society.

    Wretchard, at the Belmont Club

    Of all that has changed over the last decade in the general culture of the United States, I wonder if a widespread loss of trust in the political, media, intellectual and bureaucratic establishments is the most quietly catastrophic of all the damage done to our society of late. It is axiomatic that once trust in an individual, a friend or a spouse is lost, it can almost never be regained; one of those things which is easily, almost casually done, never to be completely repaired. I suspect that we will discover over the next few decades that the thinking and observing portion of our society will never regain that unthinking trust in our institutions, now that we have seen them become weaponized in open and politically partisan ways. We have observed the national news media become politically partisan, more intent on hiding matters of significance than informing the public about them. What doesn’t appear above the fold, so to speak, or even in the back pages is sometimes more revealing. And the hate for ordinary American citizens in flyover country, frequently expressed by those residents of the wealthy bicoastal enclaves has been mind-boggling. There are personalities who have been so casually offensive in this regard that I have made it a point to avoid patronizing with my pocketbook anything that they have had anything to do with. I suspect that I am not alone in this – it’s another element of that ‘cold anger’ that I wrote about some days ago. How has it come to be that the so-called ruling elite of a nation now appear to hold their fellow-citizens in such deep contempt? (This contempt has begun to be returned with interest of late, although the ruling elites are predictably mystified by such quiet demonstrations as in the Chick-Fil-A appreciation day, the failure of certain lavishly promoted moves and TV shows, and heavily attended Tea Party rallies of a few years ago.)

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, Anti-Americanism, Big Government, Civil Society, Conservatism, Crony Capitalism, Deep Thoughts, Entrepreneurship, Obama | 18 Comments »

    Photo

    Posted by Jonathan on 7th October 2015 (All posts by )

    Miami Sunset

    Posted in Photos | 5 Comments »

    Obama as The Godfather.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 7th October 2015 (All posts by )

    Richard Fernandez has an interesting take on Obama’s present foreign policy iteration. He sees himself as The Godfather negotiating among his capos and arranging the territories that each are allowed to possess.

    The White House is also exploring what could be a diplomatic blockbuster: possible new limits and controls on Pakistan’s nuclear weapons and delivery systems. Such an accord might eventually open a path toward a Pakistani version of the civil nuclear deal that was done with India in 2005….

    Pakistan prizes its nuclear program, so negotiations would be slow and difficult, and it’s not clear that Islamabad would be willing to accept the limitations that would be required. But the issue is being discussed quietly in the run-up to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s visit to Washington Oct. 22. Any progress would break a stalemate that has existed since the U.S. detected Pakistan’s nuclear program in the mid-1980s, and especially after Pakistan exploded its first weapon in 1998.

    This is behind our negotiations with the Taliban, which seems just as intent on upsetting Obama’s applecart as they ever were. No matter. Obama will keep negotiating. As Woody Allan once said of stockbrokers, “They invest your money and keep investing it until it is all gone.”

    David Ignatius seems to approve of this approach.

    The U.S. recognized more than four years ago that the best way out of the Afghanistan conflict would be a diplomatic settlement that involved the Taliban and its sometime sponsors in Pakistan. State Department officials have been conducting secret peace talks, on and off, since 2011. That effort hasn’t borne fruit yet, as the Taliban’s recent offensive in Kunduz shows.

    But the pace of negotiations has quickened this year, thanks to an unlikely U.S. diplomatic partnership with China. A senior administration official said Monday that “we’re hopeful that there will be a willingness on the part of the Taliban to resume negotiations,” despite the intense fighting in Kunduz and elsewhere. Beijing’s involvement is a “new dynamic” and shows an instance where “U.S. interests overlap with those of China.”

    Yes, China will pull our chestnuts out of this particular fire. We can trust the Chinese. After all, we trusted them with the OPM database management.

    It’s not just that the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) failed to certify nearly a quarter of its IT systems as secure.

    The real news is that outsourcing government IT tasks led to Chinese contract workers, and at least one person working in China, having root access to OPM systems.

    Having root access, of course, means having access to any data you want in the system – regardless of any security application that may protect the data against “unauthorized” users.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Afghanistan/Pakistan, Iran, Middle East, National Security, Russia | 13 Comments »

    Evelyn Waugh and The Sword of Honor

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

    So, leafing – metaphorically speaking – through the video delights on offer through the Acorn video catalogue in search of something amusing to while away the evening after a day’s labor on various book projects, the most pressing of which is not my own, but a paid client – we came upon a two-part version from about ten years ago of Evelyn Waugh’s Sword of Honor trilogy. I suggested that we watch it, since I had a bout of Waugh fever about the time that I was in college upper division, in hot pursuit of that relatively useless degree in English. (But I enjoyed the pursuit very much on its own merits, not being one of those one-percenters with delusions of the diploma leading me author-matically into an lavishly paid gig anywhere in the academic or in the publishing establishment.)

    Anyway, I had read a good few of Waugh’s books early on; liked Scoop – as vicious an evisceration of Big Media as it was in the 1930s as was ever set to page – and the first book of the Sword of Honor Trilogy, as a similarly bitterly cynical romp through the first years of WWII. The training year, the ‘Phony War’ year … when nothing much (aside from Nazi Germany overrunning Poland, the Low Countries, Norway and Denmark, and France) was happening. And then it all turned deadly serious, with which Waugh just didn’t seem able to cope. The seriousness of it all, I mean. Literary and serious observers, looking through their lorgnettes at current events sometimes have this difficulty, I know. Poor P. G. Woodhouse also had the same trouble, regarding WWII, even as it caught him up in its ghastly coils. I surmise that dear old P. G. dealt with it by moving to America and never dealing with it at all, within the frame of his books; probably a wise literary decision, since he had the formula down pat, so to speak.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Anglosphere, Arts & Letters, History | 3 Comments »

    What Chicago Boyz Readers Are Reading (September 2015)

    Posted by Jonathan on 6th October 2015 (All posts by )

    Below is a list of the books, ebooks, music and videos that Chicago Boyz readers viewed and/or ordered in September 2015 via Amazon links on this blog. (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 (September 2015)

    The Doctor Shortage Update.

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

    There is an interesting piece today in the Daily Mail about young NHS GPs quitting and going to Australia.

    In the past five years, the number of GP appointments made by Britons has risen from 300 million to 370 million a year, an increase of more than 20 per cent.
    The number of GPs employed to meet that demand has risen by around 1,600, or just over five per cent.
    All of which has led to the second major factor behind their exodus — in the UK, they often feel terribly overworked; after moving they find themselves having to spend far less time at the coalface.
    ‘More and more British GPs talk about the pressure they’re under,’ says Guy Hazel. ‘I’m not sure the general public understand how mentally draining it is to see 35 to 40 patients a day. All the British GPs I know are exhausted.’
    An Australian GP, by contrast, will see 20-25 patients per day.

    This concerns the young, newly trained doctors. I posted some concerns about the issue of primary care in the US.

    Primary care here is referred to as “General Practice” in Britain and they seem to be having a loss at both ends of the doctor career.

    Britain is already suffering from a serious, and unprecedented, shortage of GPs, on a scale that doctors’ leaders say is fast becoming a crisis.

    According to figures released last week, a staggering 10.2 per cent of full-time GP positions across the UK are currently vacant, a figure that has quadrupled in the past three years.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Britain, Health Care, Medicine | 9 Comments »

    “No, it’s not a new Cold War. It’s something much more perilous.”

    Posted by Jonathan on 5th October 2015 (All posts by )

    Noah Rothman in Commentary:

    Moscow now has a bigger conflict to prosecute, one in which the United States cannot decline to engage. Russia had spent the better part of the last two months paving the way for intervention in the Syrian civil war. Last Monday, that campaign began with a dramatic attack on CIA-armed and trained rebels under the guise of airstrikes on the Islamic State. The United States immediately scrambled to pursue “deconfliction” talks with Moscow, with the singular purpose of establishing military-to-military contacts so that Russian and NATO forces operating in the Syrian theater wouldn’t accidently start shooting at each other. But Russia’s aim is to ignite conflict. Its desire is to prop up the ailing Assad regime and to force NATO assets and its proxies out of Western Syria (and, eventually, out of the country entirely). It is a farce to pursue “deconfliction” when triggering conflict is the whole purpose of this exercise.
     
    [. . .]
     
    In a sense, Obama was correct when he insisted that a new Cold War was not in the offing. The Soviets would have been far more cautious about inviting confrontation with the West and fomenting wars in unpredictable caldrons like Syria. Unlike the Soviets who for much of the country’s existence believed that history’s arc bent resolutely in Moscow’s direction, Putin does not believe that time is a commodity he can afford to spend recklessly. The Russian public is restless and dissatisfied, an extraordinarily malleable American president will soon leave office, and financial pressures have compelled the Kremlin to scale back its already unsustainable military expenditures. All these factors make Russia an even more dangerous actor. It would rather risk a major confrontation with the West now than allow this window of opportunity to close unexploited.

    The last paragraph is key. The Obama window of national vulnerability closes in January 2017. Putin and other foreign thugs are all calculating how far they can go in exploiting our current submissiveness without risking a prohibitively severe response from Obama’s successor. The cumulative damage to our interests will be enormous and long lasting and we have not seen the end of it.

    Rothman’s piece is worth reading in full.

    Posted in International Affairs, Middle East, Military Affairs, National Security, Obama, War and Peace | 27 Comments »

    The Bird Still Flies

    Posted by Jonathan on 5th October 2015 (All posts by )

    Stormy Skies

    Posted in Photos | 4 Comments »

    Book Review: Rockets and People, by Boris E Chertok

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

    (Today marks the 58th anniversary of the Sputnik launch, making it an appropriate time to rerun this review, which I originally posted in February of this year)

    Rockets and People, by Boris E Chertok

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

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

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

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

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

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

    The memoir includes dozens of memorable characters, including:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Aviation, Big Government, Biography, Book Notes, Leftism, Management, Military Affairs, Russia, Society, Space, Tech, Transportation | 7 Comments »

    A Blast From the Past – Magical Spam

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 4th October 2015 (All posts by )

    (An updated version of a post from some years ago, presented for your diversion. I confess that things to do with real life, the Tiny Publishing Bidness and my busy schedule of book-related events have been coming thick and fast. I have about three posts on various topics planned, half-written and nearly complete, but, alas — this will have to do for now.)

    Among my regular chores as regards maintenance of the various sites that I own and administer is that of emptying out the spam queue – which, unless there is more than a couple of hundred entries in it – I feel obliged to do a quick pass-over just to make sure that no ones legitimate comment has been caught in the spam torrent. This does happen, on occasion. But the most marvelous part is that none of the automated comment spam has ever “leaked” into the blog portions of The Daily Brief, Celia Hayes Books & More, and the new addition to the Sgt. Mom family of websites, LunaCityTexas.com, thus depriving readers of a handy link with which to purchase or download a dizzying variety of pharmaceutical products, porn, online games of chance, fake designer products,  and cell phone ring tones. (Alas, sometimes legitimate comments are caught in the spam queue.) Every once in a while, there is a spam which looks like a completely conventional and legitimate business; a spam with somewhat of an embarrassed look to it, as if not being able to figure out how it got into such disreputable company. But such are very rare – and since I do not click on the links, I have no way of knowing if they are indeed legitimate – or just generated by someone who is a little cleverer about disguising themselves.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Advertising, Blogging, Deep Thoughts, Diversions, Humor, Miscellaneous | 1 Comment »

    Is Obama Our Punishment?

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 3rd October 2015 (All posts by )

    Obama was an unusual candidate for president in 2008. I had serious questions in 2008.

    One criticism of Obama is that his portfolio is mighty thin. He has no record. Well, he actually does and and here it is. Pretty interesting.

    It’s a lengthy record filled with core liberal issues. But what’s interesting, and almost never discussed, is that he built his entire legislative record in Illinois in a single year.

    Why was that ? In 2002, the Democrats took over the Illinois legislature, not because of Bush as the reporter says, but because the Republican governor got caught selling drivers’ licenses to truckers with bad driving records. A disastrous truck accident splashed the whole story across the newspapers and the Democrats took over in the next election.

    The white, race-baiting, hard-right Republican Illinois Senate Majority Leader James “Pate” Philip was replaced by Emil Jones Jr., a gravel-voiced, dark-skinned African-American known for chain-smoking cigarettes on the Senate floor.

    Jones had served in the Illinois Legislature for three decades. He represented a district on the Chicago South Side not far from Obama’s. He became Obama’s ­kingmaker.

    Several months before Obama announced his U.S. Senate bid, Jones called his old friend Cliff Kelley, a former Chicago alderman who now hosts the city’s most popular black call-in radio ­program.

    I called Kelley last week and he recollected the private conversation as follows:

    “He said, ‘Cliff, I’m gonna make me a U.S. Senator.’”

    “Oh, you are? Who might that be?”

    “Barack Obama.”

    Obama ended up in the US Senate because the GOP Senator, Peter Fitzgerald, did not run for re-election. Why ?

    While State Senator he was a member of a group of conservative state senators elected in 1992 who often challenged the leadership of the Illinois Republican Party and were dubbed the “Fab Five”, the group also included, Steve Rauschenberger, Dave Syverson, Patrick O’Malley and Chris Lauzen.

    After a hard-fought primary victory against Illinois Comptroller Loleta Didrickson, in which the latter had the support of most national and state-level Republican leaders, Fitzgerald defeated first-term Democratic incumbent U.S. Senator Carol Moseley Braun in 1998, and served for one term in the U.S. Senate. He was the first Republican in Illinois to win a U.S. Senate race in 20 years, and the only Republican challenger in the country to defeat an incumbent Democratic senator in the 1998 election cycle. Although Moseley Braun was dogged by negative publicity of corruption charges, Fitzgerald defeated her by only 2.9%.

    Fitzgerald is a staunch conservative on such issues as opposition to abortion (except to save the life of the mother), gun control, gay marriage and taxes, but on some issues, particularly environmental issues — he opposed drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge throughout his tenure in the US Senate — he broke with conservative colleagues. He was one of only a handful of GOP Senators to support the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform legislation.

    He was a “maverick” and was not supported by “the Illinois Combine,” a term coined by columnist John Kass to describe the bipartisan corruption in Illinois politics that has brought the state to bankruptcy.

    I called former U.S. Sen. Peter Fitzgerald, the Republican maverick from Illinois who tried to fight political corruption and paid for it. For this sin, he was driven out of Illinois politics by political bosses, by their spinners and media mouthpieces, who ridiculed him mercilessly.

    Senator, what do you call that connection that Stuart Levine describes from the witness stand, you know that arrangement across party lines, with politically powerful men leveraging government to make money — what do you call it?

    “What do you call that Illinois political class that’s not committed to any party, they simply want to make money off the taxpayers?” Fitzgerald said. “You know what to call them.”

    What?

    “The Illinois Combine,” Fitzgerald said. “The bipartisan Illinois political combine. And all these guys being mentioned, they’re part of it.”

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    Posted in Big Government, Elections, Illinois Politics, Islam, Leftism, Middle East | 80 Comments »

    Pa-hay-okee Sunset

    Posted by Jonathan on 3rd October 2015 (All posts by )

    Everglades National Park, 2014.

    Everglades Pa-hay-okee Sunset

    Posted in Photos | 3 Comments »

    Manufacturing Day

    Posted by David Foster on 2nd October 2015 (All posts by )

    Today, October 2, is Manufacturing Day…”a celebration of modern manufacturing meant to inspire the next generation of manufacturers.”  There are opportunities for plant visits all over the country, many open to the public and some limited to school tours, etc.

    There’s a lot more manufacturing going on in the US than most people seem to realize, but not as much as there should be.

    See my related post faux manufacturing nostalgia, also  myths of the knowledge society and “protocols” and wealth creation.

    Posted in Business, Economics & Finance, Management, Tech, USA | 2 Comments »

    Shakespeare in American Politics

    Posted by T. Greer on 1st October 2015 (All posts by )

    This post was originally published at The Scholar’s Stage on 30 September 2015. It has been reposted here without alteration.

    I was delighted to receive Marjorie Garber‘s Shakespeare After All in the mail this morning. Garber’s book is a thousand page review of everything Shakespeare ever wrote, with each play claiming its own chapter length analysis. The introduction of Shakespeare After All is a fascinating tour of Shakespeare’s reputation though the centuries, describing how Shakespeare’s poetry has been perceived in the days since his plays were originally performed, which of his works were most popular during various eras, and how their presentation on the page and performance on the stage has change with time. In Shakespeare’s lifetime Pericles was the most popular of his works; in the 19th century, lines from King John and Henry VIII, much neglected today, were the most likely to appear in the quote books and progymnasmata collections so popular then. Emerson bitterly lamented that Harvard, his alma mater, had no lecturer in Shakespearean rhetoric. His lament went unheeded; neither Harvard nor Yale included Shakespeare among their course readings until the 1870s. Yet for 19th century men like Emerson this really was no great loss. The American people of this era were so engrossed with Shakespeare that no one living in America could escape him: evidence of his place in America’s “pop culture in the nineteenth century [can be found in everything from] traveling troupes, Shakespeare speeches as part of vaudeville bills, huge crowds and riots at productions, [to accounts of] audiences shouting lines back at the actors. [1] I am reminded of Tocqueville‘s observation that every settler’s hut in America, no matter how squalid or remote, had a copy of a newspaper, a Bible, and some work of Shakespeare inside it. [2] Tocqueville used this as evidence to buttress his claim that the Americans were more educated and cultivated than any other people on the Earth. He may have been on to something. One cannot read the diaries, letters, and editorials of 19th century America without wondering at their eloquence and erudition. What caused this, if not the many hours they spent as children on their mother’s knee learning to read from the Jacobean English of the King James Bible and the plays of Shakespeare?   


    Garber also discusses the role Shakespearean rhetoric has played in American political culture since the founding. Quotes from Shakespeare have always been ubiquitous in American politics. They were used in the earliest days of the American republic. They are used with equal frequency today. However, the manner in which they are used has shifted  with time. This diversity may seem a small thing, but the different ways Shakespeare’s rhymes have been used through time reveal a great deal about broader and more important shifts in American political culture. This will become apparent as I describe these changes.

    A good place to start is with the Webster-Hayne debate of 1830. Of all American oratory, only the Lincoln-Douglass debates can claim greater fame than the debate Daniel Webster and Robert Hayne held on the antebellum Senate floor. At that time there was a resolution before the Senate calling for all new federal land surveys to be postponed until all of the existing land already surveyed had been sold. This struck the ire of the westerners, who pushed for federal land to be given to new settlers without charge or delay.

     In those days American politics was a sectional affair. Political outcomes often turned on forging an alliance between one region of the country and another to push through policies that might benefit both at the cost of the rest. Hayne, a South Carolina man, saw in this debate a chance to place a wedge between New England, whose delegates opposed free homesteading, and the frontier states of the West. A “coalition” (as he would call it) between Westerners and New Englanders had delivered the presidency to John Quincy Adams just a few years before. That coalition was formed in unusual circumstances, and thus was condemned in Southern circles as a “corrupt bargain” that threatened American liberties. Adam’s side denied these charges with greatest vigor, but all of the vigor in the world could not slow the democratic tide sweeping over American society. Andrew Jackson would ride this tide into the white house. Jackson, champion of mass democracy, reconfigured the landscape of American politics. His new coalition–which united men of the West, South, and the urban centers of the North–would dominate American politics for the next two decades. But Hayne and Webster had their debate only two years into this new era. It wasn’t clear that the revolution had been won; no one knew if Jackson’s coalition would prove transient or permanent. Any chance to drive New England further into the backwaters of national politics must be seized, and Hayne was eager to do the seizing.

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    Posted in Arts & Letters, Book Notes, Culture, Poetry | 9 Comments »