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  • Archive for July, 2017

    THAT AWKWARD TIME

    Posted by Subotai Bahadur on 11th July 2017 (All posts by )

    You know the one I mean. When you can see what is coming at you head on, and yet it is considered very poor form in the proper circles to admit the truth.

    This is written on July 10, 2017. Tomorrow Congress returns from its VERY long weekend for the 4th of July. Note that they refer to it in official documents as the “4th of July” recess, for them the date is more important than the Independence of our country.

    By whatever name, it is the calendar that is of import. Remember, from tomorrow, our worthless, ambulatory violations of Article I, Section 9, Clause 8 of the Constitution take their next vacation after barely a fortnight and 3 days after returning. And they will take the end of July, all of August, and the first part of September off. Technically, there are 12 working days before that respite. Technically. But Congress cannot be troubled, regardless of supposed party, to actually work 5 days a week. Mondays and Fridays are part of the congressional weekend and are not to be profaned by the work of the public.

    So, what of that work remains to be done, and under what strictures?
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in America 3.0, Big Government, Current Events, Elections, Politics | 14 Comments »

    Summer Re-run: Granny Clarke

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 10th July 2017 (All posts by )

    (A summer rerun from my other blog – a diverting reminiscence of California and Old Hollywood)

    Granny Clarke was the mother of my mothers’ dearest friend from the time that JP, my next-youngest brother and I were small children, before my sister Pippy was born, and my parents were living in a tiny rented cottage in the hills part of Beverly Hills – a house on a dirt road, with the surrounding area abundant in nothing much else but chaparral, eucalypts and rattlesnakes. Mom and her friend, who was eventually of such closeness that we called her “Auntie Mary” met when Mom began to attend services at a Lutheran congregation in West Hollywood, rather than endure the long drive to Pasadena and the ancestral congregation at Trinity Lutheran in Pasadena.
    Auntie Mary Hammond was a little older than Mom, with four sons, each more strapping than the other, in spite of Auntie Mary’s wistful hopes for one of them to have been a girl. The oldest were teenagers, the youngest slightly younger than JP . . . although Paulie was as large and boisterous as his older brothers and appeared to be more my contemporary. They lived all together with Auntie Mary Hammonds’ mother, Granny Clarke, in a townhouse in West Hollywood, an intriguing house built on a steeply sloping street, up a flight of stairs from the concrete sidewalk, with only a tiny garden at one side, and the constant background noise and bustle of the city all around, not the quiet wilderness of the hills, which JP and I were more used to. But there was one thing we had in common with Paulie and his brothers— an immigrant grandparent with a curious accent and a long career in domestic service in Southern California.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Business, Customer Service, Film, History, Personal Narrative | 7 Comments »

    Summer Rerun: The Calendar is Not Omnipotent

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

    Here’s a video of Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser reacting to a Muslim Brotherhood demand that women be required to wear head coverings.  Nasser and his listeners are quite amused that anyone would propose such an idea in the modern year of 1958.  The video reminded me of this post from March 2014…

    Barack Obama and John Kerry have been ceaselessly lecturing Vlad Putin to the effect that: grabbing territory from other countries just isn’t the sort of thing one does in this twenty-first century, old boy.

    For example, here’s Obama: “…because you’re bigger and stronger taking a piece of the country – that is not how international law and international norms are observed in the 21st century.”

    And John Kerry:  “It’s really 19th century behavior in the twenty-first century. You just don’t invade another country on phony pretexts in order to assert your interests.”

    The idea that the mere passage of time has some automatic magical effect on national behavior…on human behavior…is simplistic, and more than a little odd.  I don’t know how much history Obama and Kerry actually studied during their college years, but 100 years ago..in early 1914…there were many, many people convinced that a major war could not happen…because we were now in the twentieth century, with international trade and with railroads and steamships and telegraph networks and electric lights and all. And just 25 years after that, quite a few people refused to believe that concentration camps devoted to systematic murder could exist in the advanced mid-20th century, in the heart of Europe.

    Especially simplistic is the idea that, because there had been no military territory-grabs by first-rank powers for a long time, that the era of such territory-grabs was over. George Eliot neatly disposed of this idea many years ago, in a passage in her novel Silas Marner:

    The sense of security more frequently springs from habit than from conviction, and for this reason it often subsists after such a change in the conditions as might have been expected to suggest alarm. The lapse of time during which a given event has not happened is, in this logic of habit, constantly alleged as a reason why the event should never happen, even when the lapse of time is precisely the added condition which makes the event imminent.

    Or, as Mark Steyn put it much more recently:

    ‘Stability’ is a surface illusion, like a frozen river: underneath, the currents are moving, and to the casual observer the ice looks equally ‘stable’ whether there’s a foot of it or just two inches. There is no status quo in world affairs: ‘stability’ is a fancy term to dignify laziness and complacency as sophistication.

    Obama also frequently refers to the Cold War, and argues that it is in the past. But the pursuit of force-based territorial gain by nations long predates the Cold War, and it has not always had much to do with economic rationality. The medieval baron with designs on his neighbor’s land didn’t necessarily care about improving his own standard of living, let alone that of his peasants–what he was after, in many cases, was mainly the ego charge of being top dog.

    Human nature was not repealed by the existence of steam engines and electricity in 1914…nor even by the broad Western acceptance of Christianity in that year…nor is it repealed in 2014 by computers and the Internet or by sermons about “multiculturalism” and bumper stickers calling for “coexistence.”

    American Digest just linked a very interesting analysis of the famous “long telegram” sent by George Kennan in 1947: George Kennan, Vladimir Putin, and the Appetites of Men. In this document, Kennan argued that Soviet behavior must be understood not only through the prism of Communist ideology, but also in terms of the desire of leaders to establish and maintain personal power.

    Regarding the current Russian/Crimean situation, the author of the linked article (Tod Worner) says:

    In the current crisis, many will quibble about the historical, geopolitical complexities surrounding the relationship between Russia, Ukraine and Crimea. They will debate whether Crimea’s former inclusion in the Russian Empire or Crimea’s restive Russian population justifies secession especially with a strong Russian hand involved. Papers will be written. Conferences will be convened. Experts will be consulted. Perhaps these are all prudent and thoughtful notions to consider and actions to undertake. Perhaps.

    But perhaps we should, like George Kennan, return to the same questions we have been asking about human nature since the beginning of time. Maybe we are, at times, overthinking things. Perhaps we would do well to step back and consider something more fundamental, something more base, something more reliable than the calculus of geopolitics and ideology…Perhaps we ignore the simple math that is often before our very eyes. May we open our eyes to the appetites of men.

    Posted in Deep Thoughts, History, Humor, Leftism, Middle East, Obama, Russia, USA, War and Peace | 11 Comments »

    Seth Barrett Tillman: A Response to Fonzone & Geltzer’s Can President Trump Just Leave Key Executive Branch Offices Unfilled?

    Posted by Jonathan on 7th July 2017 (All posts by )

    In a recent post on Lawfare, Christopher Fonzone and Joshua A. Geltzer ask the question: “Is the persistent and deliberate failure to identify candidates [for appointed federal positions] not merely a sign of inept governance and deadlocked politics but also, at least in certain cases, a legal failing as well?” Their answer is basically: yes. Their position is worth pondering. I do think several of their arguments do not work, and several others are not well supported.

    Read Seth’s entire post.

    Posted in Law, Politics, Trump | 1 Comment »

    Why Does This Happen?

    Posted by Jonathan on 6th July 2017 (All posts by )

    Skype used to be the premier VOIP app (long before we called such things apps). It always had a crummy user interface but call quality was excellent and users put up with the rough edges. However, since Microsoft bought Skype call quality has declined, seemingly steadily. There are frequent software updates that don’t improve the user experience and sometimes introduce new problems. With its Skype updates on Windows MSFT forces you to opt out a la Java from having your browser configuration hijacked. Calls get dropped more than they used to. Calls that don’t go through are much more frequent. Bandwidth now seems to affect call quality even though it was once possible to use Skype easily over dialup Internet connections.

    This morning I tried to make a Skype call on my mobile and found there had been another upgrade, forcing me to waste minutes selecting a new background color and dismissing what’s-new pages and trying to find my contacts list, which is all I ever want to do. I don’t want to invite my contacts to use Skype, I don’t care about inserting GIFs into chats, I don’t care about the Skype community. I care about good, consistent call quality, about having my list of phone numbers propagate automatically to laptop or phone when I update the list, about having a Skype number for incoming calls, and about easy management of occasional conferences and international calls. I used to care about video calling but I gave up since good alternatives appeared. If Skype could restore its past high call quality I could happily put up with the other hassles. If Skype could also improve its UI in a few obvious ways I would be thrilled. It never happens. Why not?

    A company with a great product conspicuously fails to improve that product and it starts to lag competing products. Or a big company buys a small company and ruins its main product. MSFT’s management is no doubt part of the problem here but the pattern is familiar. Why is it familiar? You might think the smart people running MSFT would know better. Perhaps they don’t, perhaps this is a more difficult problem than it appears to be. Or perhaps something else is going on.

    Discuss.

    Posted in Business, Management, Organizational Analysis, Tech | 20 Comments »

    Summer Rerun: Selling New Concepts can be Challenging

    Posted by David Foster on 6th July 2017 (All posts by )

    Via Maggie’s Farm, here’s a Bob Newhart skit from 1970. Bob plays the role of an 1890s-style venture capitalist, talking on the phone with inventor Herman Hollerith, who is trying to explain the merits of punched card technology.

    LINK

    Related: Father, Son & Co., the biography of long-time IBM CEO Thomas Watson Jr, is the best business autobiography I’ve read. I reviewed it here.

    Posted in Advertising, Book Notes, Business, History, Media, Tech | 1 Comment »

    What to do about North Korea

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

    The North Koreans launched a new two stage missile, which signals more escalation of their part.

    The two-stage missile launched Tuesday by North Korea will be classified by US intelligence as a brand-new missile that has not been seen before, US officials told CNN.

    The first stage of the missile is believed to be a KN-17 liquid fueled missile, which is well-known to US intelligence and has been previously launched by North Korea.

    Ahead of Tuesday’s missile test, US satellites had seen evidence the KN-17 missile was being prepared for launch.
    But at some point prior to launch, the North Koreans attached a second stage atop that missile.
    The focus now is on the capability of that second stage, and how it technically contributed to making Pyongyang’s latest test its first ever intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launch.

    The next step will be the development of a solid fuel missile which could be launched with little warning.

    NK launch

    The trajectory was high and short but the second stage could be programmed to go much longer range.

    It is apparent that the US policy going back to Bill Clinton and his “Deal” to stop the Norks nuclear program, has been a complete failure, like so many of Clinton’s deals.

    On Oct. 18, 1994, Clinton approved a plan to arrange more than $4 billion in energy aid to North Korea over the course of a decade, in return for a commitment from the country’s Communist leadership to freeze and gradually dismantle its nuclear weapons development program, according to The New York Times.

    The “complex” deal was to de-escalate the situation on the Korean peninsula, where the two Korean nations never negotiated a peace treaty after the Korean War ended in armistice in 1953.

    “This agreement is good for the United States, good for our allies, and good for the safety of the entire world,” said Clinton in 1994. “It’s a crucial step toward drawing North Korea into the global community.

    The drawing-in never happened.

    I can only imagine what Hillary Clinton would do if she were President. The mind boggles at the thought.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Current Events, Korea, Military Affairs, Terrorism, United Nations | 30 Comments »

    The Most Busted Name in News

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 5th July 2017 (All posts by )

    Just when I thought the national establishment news media had about reached the nadir of unethical, irresponsible and unprofessional behavior, here comes CNN, the bane of travelers stuck in airport terminals and hapless patients in doctors’ office waiting rooms everywhere. to say, “Hold my beer and watch this!’
    I refer to the story percolating out over the Fourth of July holiday, over how the fearless newshounds at CNN tracked down the guy (with the nic of Han*ssholeSolo) who appears to have created the GIF of a pro-wrestling Donald Trump slamming an opponent – helpfully labeled CNN – which the president retweeted late last week, to the great amusement of an audience who appreciates unsubtle humor like that. CNN apparently does not appreciate unsubtle humor, especially when directed at them, and forthwith one of their senior editors, one Andrew Kaczynski, tracked down the possible originator of the Trump/CNN wrestling GIF, and demanded an apology from Han*ssholeSolo. Or else they would – in the charming manner which certain pestiferous and malicious trolls display when it comes to tormenting the objects of their ire – doxx him and allow the flying monkeys of the internet lynch mob get their jollies by making his life miserable. And make the lives of his family, his neighbors, employer, and anyone who could possibly be mistaken for him also miserable. The originator, Han*ssholeSolo, may or may not be a fifteen-year-old, and may or may not have had other more or less embarrassing materiel on his page – materiel which if unsavory enough likely gave CNN leverage against him in making demands in the first place.
    So – basically, they coerced an abject apology by threatening to turn the white-hot spotlight on him now and in the future if he doesn’t obey orders to the satisfaction of CNN … and then went right out and proudly announced what they had done to the world. This Andrew Kaczynski, I was reminded, was the one chiefly responsible for siccing the flying monkey lynch mob on Justine Sacco, some years ago. That this whole disgusting matter can be construed as extortion doesn’t seem to have occurred to CNN, although it certainly has to just about everyone else.
    And it is just possible that the video materiel of Trump and CNN which Trump tweeted may not be the original material created by Han*ssholeSolo anyway, if this story is correct.
    Discuss. Practically everyone else is today, anyway.

    Posted in Commiserations, Culture, Current Events, Internet, Just Unbelievable, Media | 11 Comments »

    Shall It Be Sustained?

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

    For the 4th of July of 2014,  Cassandra had an excellent post:  Independence in an Age of Cynicism.  I recommend the entire post and all the links; read especially the third linked essay, which Cass wrote in 2008:  Why I Am Patriotic: a Love Letter to America.

    For the last several years, on July 4th I’ve posted an excerpt from Stephen Vincent Benet’s poem Listen to the People.  The title I’ve used for these posts prior to 2013 was It Shall Be Sustained, which is from the last line of Benet’s poem.

    Narrator:

    This is Independence Day,
    Fourth of July, the day we mean to keep,
    Whatever happens and whatever falls
    Out of a sky grown strange;
    This is firecracker day for sunburnt kids,
    The day of the parade,
    Slambanging down the street.
    Listen to the parade!
    There’s J. K. Burney’s float,
    Red-white-and-blue crepe-paper on the wheels,
    The Fire Department and the local Grange,
    There are the pretty girls with their hair curled
    Who represent the Thirteen Colonies,
    The Spirit of East Greenwich, Betsy Ross,
    Democracy, or just some pretty girls.
    There are the veterans and the Legion Post
    (Their feet are going to hurt when they get home),
    The band, the flag, the band, the usual crowd,
    Good-humored, watching, hot,
    Silent a second as the flag goes by,
    Kidding the local cop and eating popsicles,
    Jack Brown and Rosie Shapiro and Dan Shay,
    Paul Bunchick and the Greek who runs the Greek’s,
    The black-eyed children out of Sicily,
    The girls who giggle and the boys who push,
    All of them there and all of them a nation.
    And, afterwards,
    There’ll be ice-cream and fireworks and a speech
    By somebody the Honorable Who,
    The lovers will pair off in the kind dark
    And Tessie Jones, our honor-graduate,
    Will read the declaration.
    That’s how it is. It’s always been that way.
    That’s our Fourth of July, through war and peace,
    That’s our fourth of July.

    And a lean farmer on a stony farm
    Came home from mowing, buttoned up his shirt
    And walked ten miles to town.
    Musket in hand.
    He didn’t know the sky was falling down
    And, it may be, he didn’t know so much.
    But people oughtn’t to be pushed around
    By kings or any such.
    A workman in the city dropped his tools.
    An ordinary, small-town kind of man
    Found himself standing in the April sun,
    One of a ragged line
    Against the skilled professionals of war,
    The matchless infantry who could not fail,
    Not for the profit, not to conquer worlds,
    Not for the pomp or the heroic tale
    But first, and principally, since he was sore.
    They could do things in quite a lot of places.
    They shouldn’t do them here, in Lexington.

    He looked around and saw his neighbors’ faces

    The poem is very long, and is worth reading in full. The full text was published in Life Magazine; it is online here. The Life text may be a little difficult to read; I posted an excerpt which is considerably longer than the above here.

    Benet’s poem ends with these words:

    We made it and we make it and it’s ours
    We shall maintain it. It shall be sustained

    But shall it?

    Posted in History, Holidays, USA | 3 Comments »

    Access, Access, Access

    Posted by Ginny on 3rd July 2017 (All posts by )

    “Access, Access, Access” Rick Perry repeated to Bret Baier. It seemed a grilled candidate’s non sequitur to Baier’s question: weren’t many Texans uninsured? But I was struck by its truth. Insurance is of little use if no doctors take it, no medicine is available, deductibles and premiums are unmanageable. Positive rights – to food, to medicine, to jobs – are not rights. The theory never stands up to experience.

    Perry’s run was brief; now, his task is encouraging access to energy – of all kinds. Trump seemed an example of excess – still is, I guess. But a nation not just energy independent but energy dominant is one empowered, free. And we can free others: a Europe not beholden to Russian oil is a healthier Europe. Neither Trump nor Perry invented fracking nor could Obama stop its success. But this administration respects it, clears the way for its natural flow.

    Access, access, access – how much does access to energy change our lives each day? How many are alive today because of access to energy forms unknown or at least unused 300 years ago? (Without air conditioning, I would have left my husband years ago. Then, again, he might have come with me.) Consider, though, the other extreme: we would be shocked to hear of elderly couples found frozen in the depth of winter, not uncommon in other times and places. How much more food is generated because of cheap energy? How broadly is food distributed?

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, Energy & Power Generation, Entrepreneurship, Health Care, Human Behavior | 12 Comments »

    On and Off Balance

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

    Here we are, a couple of days past the middle of the year, and almost eight months after the election of Donald Trump to the presidency … and I swear that the lunacy has not died down in the slightest, but is now ratcheted up to eleven, or even twelve. (Gratuitous Spinal Tap reference.) The classical five stages of grief are supposed to be denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance, but it’s clear at this point that the Hillary and Bernie partisans are stuck fast at the ‘anger’ stage – and appear to be egging each other into higher, farther, deeper and more intense demonstrations of denial and anger. It’s almost … well, operatic. Like a spectacular ten-car pile-up on the interstate, one can’t even look away from the spectacle – especially the spectacle of establishment news media personalities and institutions losing their freaking minds over Donald Trump.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Society, Current Events, Elections, Internet, Leftism, Media, The Press, Trump, USA | 17 Comments »

    Rolling Stone Reviews Top 100 Metal Albums

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 2nd July 2017 (All posts by )

    For whatever reason this is the music of my childhood and I couldn’t resist taking the opportunity to take apart this ranking by Rolling Stone magazine, which was reasonably good (other lists have been terrible in the past). If you are interested at all head over to our other site and check it out. I would put it here beneath the fold but there are tables and the like and it takes a while to re-format from Blogger to Word Press.
    If not hope you are having a good summer…

    Posted in Music | 7 Comments »

    Summer Rerun: Some Short Book Reviews

    Posted by David Foster on 2nd July 2017 (All posts by )

    Three mini-reviews in this batch:

    “Vanity Fair,” William Makepeace Thackery
    “The Promised Land,” Mary Antin
    “Metropolitan Corridor,” John Stillgoe

    I picked up Thackeray’s “Vanity Fair” from the shelf where it had lain unread, lo these many years, and spent two weeks utterly immersed in the world of Becky Sharp and her friends associates victims. I’d never read the book before, but did see a made-for-tv movie based on it several years ago…IIRC, the movie was far more centered around Becky herself, whereas the book develops the other characters to a considerably greater degree.

    Very funny (once you get used to the dense writing style) and utterly unsentimental: Thackeray called it “a novel without a hero.” Those looking for escapism by reading about the elegant lifestyles of the English upper classes should definitely look elsewhere: for all others, this book is highly recommended.
    ***
    “The Promised Land,” by Mary Antin, is the story of the author’s journey from Polotzk, Russia (a town which was part of the Jewish Pale of Settlement) to Boston, Massachussetts, with her family, in the late 1800s. Antin was a keen observer and a vivid writer–particularly impressive given that she had no exposure to English until she was 13. “The Promised Land” was published in 1912, having been first serialized in the Atlantic Monthly.

    Here’s a description of tenement life:

    It must not be supposed that I enjoyed any degree of privacy, because I had half a room to myself. We were six in the five rooms; we were bound to be always in each other’s way…I could stand at any time in the unswept entrance hall and tell, from an analysis of the medley of sounds and smells that issued from doors ajar, what was going on in the several flats from below up. That guttural, scolding voice, unremittent as the hissing of a steam pipe, is Mrs. Rasnosky. I make a guess that she is chastising the infant Isaac for taking a second lump of sugar in his tea. Spam! Bam! Yes, and she is rubbing in her objections with the flat of her hand. That blubbering and moaning, accompanying an elephantine tread, is fat Mrs. Casey, second floor, home drunk from an afternoon out, in fear of the vengeance of Mr. Casey; to propitiate whom she is burning a pan of bacon, as the choking fumes and outrageous sizzling testify. I hear a feeble whining, interrupted by long silences. It is that scabby baby on the third floor, fallen out of bed again, with nobody home to pick him up.

    To escape from these various horrors I ascend to the roof, where bacon and babies and child-beating are not. But there I find two figures in calico wrappers, with bare red arms akimbo, a basket of wet clothes in front of each, and only one empty clothes-line between them.

    …and of her feeling of freedom and opportunity and the wonders of the public library:

    Dover Street was never really my residence—at least, not the whole of it. It happened to be the nook where my bed was made, but I inhabited the City of Boston. In the pearl-misty morning, in the ruby-red evening, I was empress of all I surveyed from the roof of the tenement house. I could point in any direction and name a friend who would welcome me there. Off towards the northwest, in the direction of Harvard Bridge, which some day I should cross on my way to Radcliffe College, was one of my favorite palaces, whither I resorted every day after school.

    A low, wide-spreading building with a dignified granite front it was, flanked on all sides by noble old churches, museums, and school-houses, harmoniously disposed around a spacious triangle, called Copley Square. Two thoroughfares that came straight from the green suburbs swept by my palace, one on either side, converged at the apex of the triangle, and pointed off, past the Public Garden, across the historic Common, to the domed State House sitting on a height.

    It was my habit to go very slowly up the low, broad steps to the palace entrance, pleasing my eyes with the majestic lines of the building, and lingering to read again the carved inscriptions: Public Library—Built by the People—Free to All.

    Did I not say it was my palace? Mine, because I was a citizen; mine, though I was born an alien; mine, though I lived on Dover Street. My palace—mine!

    A very interesting book, recommended for all. (The full text is online at the Gutenberg Project–includes a number of pictures which weren’t included in my hard-copy edition of the book.)

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, History, Immigration, Society, Transportation | 2 Comments »