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  • Archive for the 'Book Notes' Category

    America, England, Europe – Why do we Differ? Bennett and Lotus apply the America 3.0 analysis to Europe — and Special Thanks to John O’Sullivan

    Posted by Lexington Green on 14th April 2014 (All posts by )

    John O'Sullivan

    Jim Bennett and I recently had a chance to publish an essay in the Hungarian Review. It is titled America, England, Europe – Why do we Differ? In it we apply the same type of analysis we used in America 3.0.

    In our essay we discuss the anthropological underpinnings of modern societies, and reference the work of Alan Macfarlane and the family system analysis of Emmanuel Todd. We note the extremely long lasting character of culture, and describe thinkers who are aware of this, and build it into their analysis, as the “Continuity Model.” We suggest that European countries need to find a path toward liberal democracy that is consistent with their underlying cultures. We note the damage done by Marxist and Marxisant thinking. We condemn the European Union as a serious misstep for Europe, and suggest that it be dismantled or cut back massively.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in America 3.0, Book Notes, Europe | 11 Comments »

    Thanks to: (1) The Oak Park Public Library for the Chance to Speak About America 3.0, (2) the Oak Leaves for an interview about America 3.0, and (3) Augie from Centuries and Sleuths Bookstore

    Posted by Lexington Green on 10th April 2014 (All posts by )

    augie

    I spoke about America 3.0 at the Oak Park Public Library last night.

    The event went very well. We had about thirty people attending, including blog pals onparkstreet and Bruno Behrend. That’s considered a good turnout for one of these things, apparently. I spoke for about 40 minutes and we had at least 45 minutes of lively Q&A, with lots of further face to face discussions after I left the stage. OPPL has rating sheets they pass out after these author events, and all the ones that were handed in gave me 5 out of 5 stars. Nice.

    After the event a bunch of us adjourned to the Friendly Tap, whose motto is: “You are a stranger here but once.” They had an open mic night going on. One of the musicians played a very nice version of Wichita Lineman. Another fellow told me he played Neil Young covers, but he did not know my favorite Neil Young song, Barstool Blues. I told him I expected him to know it next time!

    Also, special thanks to one of two weekly papers in Oak Park, the Oak Leaves for an interview with me published the day before the talk at OPPL: Oak Park author looks ahead to America’s next incarnation. An excerpt:

    Q: Why do you believe we are entering into a third phase of American life?
     
    A: The United States went through a massive economic transition once already. We transformed ourselves from a primarily rural, agricultural country into an industrial country, in fact an industrial colossus. We call the America of the Founding Era, America 1.0. We call the Industrial Era, which is ending, America 2.0.
     
    The new technology, of which the Internet is just the first step, will lead to economic change of even greater magnitude. We call the coming political and economic order America 3.0, to emphasize how massive this change really will be, at least as big as the biggest change we have previously experienced.

    The interview is a nice, short synopsis of the book.

    Finally, big thanks to Augie (pictured above) from the excellent Centuries and Sleuths bookstore for having copies of America 3.0 available for sale and autographing. I was happy to see he sold every copy he brought to the event. He’s on Madison in Forest Park. Check out his store if you are in the neighborhood.

    Posted in America 3.0, Book Notes | No Comments »

    Mike Lotus Discussing America 3.0, Panel Discussion at the David Horowitz Freedom Center West Coast Retreat, with Charles Kesler and Brian Calle

    Posted by Lexington Green on 8th April 2014 (All posts by )

    Here is the video of the panel discussion “What of America’s Future?” at the David Horowitz Freedom Center West Coast Retreat on March 23, 2014.

    The moderator was Brian Calle. My colleague in the discussion was Prof. Charles R. Kesler.

    Charles Kesler’s recent book is entitled I Am the Change: Barack Obama and the Crisis of Liberalism, which I recommend highly.

    Thanks to the David Horowitz Freedom Center for inviting me to participate!

    Posted in America 3.0, Book Notes | 6 Comments »

    Book Review: Father, Son, & Co., by Thomas Watson Jr and Peter Petre (rerun)

    Posted by David Foster on 8th April 2014 (All posts by )

    (Yesterday marked the 50th anniversary of the announcement of the IBM System/360 series (original press release here)…seems like a good time to rerun this book review, which I originally posted in 2011)

    Buy the book: Father, Son & Co.

    —-

    When Tom Watson Jr was 10 years old, his father came home and proudly announced that he had changed the name of his company. The business that had been known as the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company would now be known by the grand name International Business Machines.

    That little outfit?” thought young Tom to himself, picturing the company’s rather random-seeming collection of products, which included time clocks, coffee grinders, and scales, and the “cigar-chomping guys” who sold them. This was in 1924.

    This is the best business autobiography I’ve read. It’s about Watson Jr, his difficult relationship with his father, the company they built, and the emergence of the computing industry. It is an emotional, reflective, and self-critical book, without the kind of “here’s how brilliant I was” tone that afflicts too many executive autobiographies. With today being IBM’s 100th anniversary (counting from the incorporation of CTR), I thought it would be a good time to finally get this review finished and posted.

    Watson’s relationship with his father was never an easy one. From an early age, he sensed a parental expectation that he would follow his father into IBM, despite both his parents assuring him that this was not the case and he could do whatever he wanted. This feeling that his life course was defined in advance, combined with fear that he would never be able to measure up to his increasingly-famous father, was likely a factor in the episodes of severe depression which afflicted him from 13 to 19. In college Watson was an indifferent student and something of a playboy. His most significant accomplishment during this period was learning to fly airplanes—-”I’d finally discovered something I was good at”–a skill that would have great influence on his future. His first job at IBM, as a trainee salesman, did little to boost his self-confidence or his sense of independence: he was aware that local IBM managers were handing him easy accounts, wanting to ensure success for the chief executive’s son. It was only when Watson joined the Army Air Force during WWII–he flew B-24s and was based in Russia, assisting General Follett Bradley in the organization of supply shipments to the Soviet Union–that he proved to himself that he could succeed without special treatment. As the war wound down, he set his sights on becoming an airline pilot–General Bradley expressed surprise, saying “Really? I always thought you’d go back and run the IBM company.” This expression of confidence, from a man he greatly respected, helped influence Watson to give IBM another try.

    The products that Watson had been selling, as a junior salesman, were punched card systems. Although these were not computers in the modern sense of the word, they could be used to implement some pretty comprehensive information systems. Punched card systems were an important enabler of the increasing dominance of larger organizations in both business and government: the Social Security Act of 1935 was hugely beneficial to IBM both because of the systems they sold to the government directly and those sold to businesses needing to keep up with the required record-keeping.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Biography, Book Notes, Business, Management, Tech | 13 Comments »

    Where Sgt. Mom Spent Saturday

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 6th April 2014 (All posts by )

    At the mighty Big Enchilada!

    Yes, at the San Antonio Book Festival. The exhibitor tables were across the street – and there were only two homeless that I spotted, from the Watercress Press table. Otherwise a mildly rewarding day, and a grateful return home to a frozen pizza and two episodes of Upstairs, Downstairs on the TV.

    Posted in Americas, Architecture, Book Notes, Business | 3 Comments »

    Book Review: Defying Hitler, by Sebastian Haffner (rerun)

    Posted by David Foster on 5th April 2014 (All posts by )

    Defying Hitler: A Memoir

    (I originally posted this review in early 2010. I’m sure we have quite a few new readers since then, and believe this is an important book worthy of a broader audience…hence the rerun)

    How does an advanced and civilized nation turn into a pack of hunting hounds directed against humans? Sebastian Haffner addresses the question in this memoir, which describes his own experiences and observations from early childhood until his departure from Germany in 1939. It is an important document–not only for the light it sheds on this particular and dreadful era in history, but also for its more general analysis of the factors leading to totalitarianism and of life under a totalitarian state. It is also a very personal and human book, with vivid portraits of Haffner’s parents, his friends, and the women he loved. Because of its importance and the fact that it is relatively little-read in the United States (Amazon ranking 108654–I picked up my copy at the Gatwick airport), I’m reviewing it here at considerable length.

    The title (probably not chosen by the author himself) is perhaps unfortunate. Haffner was not a member of an organization dedicated to overthrowing the Nazi state, along the lines of a Hans Oster or a Sophie Scholl. His defiance, rather, was on a personal level–keeping his mind free of Nazi ideology, avoiding participation in Nazi crimes, and helping victims of the regime where possible. Even this level of defiance required considerable courage–more than most people are capable of. As Haffner summarizes life under a totalitarian regime:

    With fearful menace the state demands that the individual give up his friends, abandon his lovers, renounce his beliefs and assume new, prescribed ones. He must use a new form of greeting, eat and drink in ways he does not fancy, employ his leisure in occupations he abhors, make himself available for activities he despises, and deny his past and his individuality. For all this, he must constantly express extreme enthusiasm and gratitude.

    Haffner was born in 1907, and many of his earliest and most vivid memories center around the First World War. To this seven-year-old boy, the war was something very exciting–a reaction that surely was shared by many boys of his age in all of the belligerent countries. As Haffner remembers it, he was not at all motivated by hate for the enemy–although there was plenty of propaganda intended to inculcate such hate–but rather by a kind of sporting instinct:

    In those childhood days, I was a war fan just as one is a football fan…I hated the French, the English, and the Russians as little as the Portsmouth supporters detest the Wolverhampton fans. Of course, I prayed for their defeat and humiliation, but only because these were the necesary counterparts of my side’s victory and triumph.

    The German defeat came as a severe shock to young Sebastian, who had in no way expected it: The same was true of the severe social disruption which pervaded Germany during this period:

    Some days there was no electricity, on other no trams, but it was never clear whether it was because of the Spartacists or the Government that we had to use oil lamps or go on foot.

    In 1919, Haffner joined a sports club called the Old Prussia Athletics Club. This was a right-wing sports club–so far had the politicization of daily life already progressed. Although the club was anti-Socialist, it was not anti-Semitic–indeed, several of the members (including the club’s best runner) were Jewish, and probably participated as enthusiastically as other members in street fights with the Socialist youth.

    After a time, the political situation calmed down–temporarily, as we now know. The Old Prussia Athletic Club was dissolved:

    Many of us sought new interests: stamp-collecting, for example, piano-playing, or the theatre. Only a few remained true to politics, and it struck me for the first time that, strangely enough, those were the more stupid, coarse and unpleasant among my schoolfellows.

    Haffner assigns much of the credit for the political and economic stabilization to the statesman Walter Rathenau–”an aristocratic revolutionary, an idealistic economic planner, a Jew who was a German patriot, a German patriot who was a liberal citizen of the world..cultured enough to be above culture, rich enough to be above riches, man of the world enough to be above the world.” But while Rathenau was admired and even loved by many, he was hated by many others. He was murdered in 1922. This killing was followed shortly by the great inflation which began in 1923. In Haffner’s view, the impact of this episode is almost impossible to overstate: he calls it “the unending bloody Saturnalia, in which not only money but all standards lost their value.”

    That year newspaper readers could again play a variation of the exciting numbers game they had enjoyed during the war…this time the figures did not refer to military events..but to an otherwise quite uninteresting, everyday item in the financial pages: the exchange rate of the dollar. The fluctuation of the dollar was the barometer by which, with a mixture of anxiety and excitement, we measured the fall of the mark.

    By the end of 1922, prices had already risen to somewhere between 10 and 100X the pre-war peacetime level, and a dollar could purchase 500 marks. It was inconvenient to work with the large numbers, but life went on much as before.

    But the mark now went on the rampage…the dollar shot to 20,000 marks, rested there for a short time, jumped to 40,000, paused again, and then, with small periodic fluctuations, coursed through the ten thousands and then the hundred thousands…Then suddenly, looking around we discovered that this phenomenon had devastated the fabric of our daily lives.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Civil Society, Germany, History | 12 Comments »

    Thanks to the David Horowitz Freedom Center for the Opportunity to Speak about America 3.0

    Posted by Lexington Green on 4th April 2014 (All posts by )

    terranea sunset

    I had a wonderful opportunity to speak at the recent David Horowitz Freedom Center West Coast Retreat on March 23, 2014.

    The very last talk of the weekend was on the topic of America’s Future. It was in a “three chair” format. The moderator was Brian Calle. The other person in the interview was Prof. Charles R. Kesler.

    Before the event I was able to read much of Charles Kesler’s recent book entitled I Am the Change: Barack Obama and the Crisis of Liberalism. The book is, mercifully, not entirely about our current president. It is instead a history of liberal and progressive politics in the last 100 years. Recommended.

    The discussion went well, and was well received, I am told by reliable observers.

    There were many good speakers over the weekend. Some standouts (from memory) were Catherine Engelbrecht, Caroline Glick, Bret Stephens, Congressman Louie Gohmert (who was much better than I expected). The entire event was beautifully run, and the facility, the Terranea Resort was very nice. Frankly, it was quite a bit more posh than I am used to. Being in California instead of Chicago for a few days, with a 25 degree temperature difference was also good.

    My most heartfelt thanks to the David Horowitz Freedom Center for having me speak, to the many people who spoke to me about the America 3.0, and to the many people who bought the book.

    Posted in America 3.0, Book Notes | No Comments »

    Mike Lotus Interviewed on Coffee and Markets about America 3.0

    Posted by Lexington Green on 29th March 2014 (All posts by )

    Thank you to Brad Jackson and Allysen Efferson for interviewing me on Coffee and Markets on March 26, 2014 about America 3.0. Coffee and Markets is a part of the Red State empire.

    It was an enjoyable interview, and I hope the listeners enjoyed it.

    The interview may be heard here.

    Posted in America 3.0, Book Notes | Comments Off

    Spiritual Battles and Contemporary Politics, continued

    Posted by David Foster on 21st March 2014 (All posts by )

    A couple of weeks ago, I commented on an article by Joseph Bottum about the search for spiritual meaning as a driver of “progressive” politics.

    Comes now an essay by David Goldman–The Rise of  Secular Religion–which is in part a review of Mr Bottum’s new book, An Anxious Age: The Post-Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of America. Recommended reading. Excerpt:

    America’s consensus culture, Bottum argues, is the unmistakable descendant of the old Protestant Mainline, in particular the “Social Gospel” promulgated by Walter Rauschenbusch before the First World War and adopted by the liberal majority in the Mainline denominations during the 1920s. Although this assertion seems unremarkable at first glance, the method that Bottum brings to bear is entirely original. A deeply religious thinker, he understands spiritual life from the inside. He is less concerned with the outward forms and specific dogmas of religion than with its inner experience, and this approach leads him down paths often inaccessible to secular inquiry. The book should be disturbing not only to its nominal subjects, the “Poster Children” of post-Protestant America, but also to their conservative opposition. The battle is joined on a plane far removed from the quotidian concept of political debate.

    Closely related: Carbon Dioxide as Original Sin. Excerpt:

    Thanks to this new green faith, our smallest acts have incalculable repercussions. The world seems literally to hang on whether we leave the water running as we brush our teeth, take the subway rather than drive, or flick off the switch as we exit a room. The humblest objects are alive with meaning. Bruckner calls it “post-technological animism” (33). Environmentalist discourse, he suggests, is a variation on the Fall of Genesis: eating of the fruit of the tree of scientific knowledge has driven us from God-given Paradise.

    (link via American Digest)

    Also see Paul Gottfried on the lack of interest in logical argument prevalent among today’s leftist campus professors, and how this differs from the attitudes of their predecessors of a few decades ago. Indeed, if contemporary “progressivism” is a religion, it is not a religion of the intellectual system-building type represented by, say, Saint Thomas Acquinas or William of Ockham, but rather of the most emotionally-driven type of snake-handling fundamentalism.

    Also related to this topic of spiritual hunger as a driver of political belief: Arthur Koestler’s novel of ideas The Age of Longing, which I reviewed at length here:  Sleeping with the Enemy.

    Posted in Academia, Book Notes, Environment, Human Behavior, Leftism, Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Politics, Religion, USA | 25 Comments »

    “The Russian Strategy of Empire”

    Posted by T. Greer on 20th March 2014 (All posts by )

    Originally posted at The Scholar’s Stage on 20 March 2013.

    The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be.” – Ecclesiastes 1:9  [1]


    Over the last few weeks the sections of the blogosphere which I frequent have been filled with predictions, advice, summaries of, and idle chatter about the situation in Ukraine and Crimea.  I have refrained from commenting on these events for a fairly simple reason: I am no expert in Russian or Eastern European affairs. Any expertise that my personal experiences or formal studies allows me to claim is on the opposite side of Eurasia. Thus I am generally content to let those who, in John Schindler’s words, “actually know something” take the lead in picking apart statements from the Kiev or the Kremlin. [2] My knowledge of the peoples and regions involved is limited to broad historical strokes.

    But sometimes broad historical strokes breed their own special sort of insights.

    I have before suggested that one of the benefits of studying history is that it allows a unique opportunity to understand reality from the “Long View.” From this perspective the daily headlines do not simply record the decisions of a day, the instant reactions of one statesmen to crises caused by another, but the outcome of hundreds of choices accumulated over centuries. It allows you to rip your gaze away from the eddies swirling on the top of the water to focus on the seismic changes happening deep below.

    To keep the Long View in mind, I often stop and ask myself a simple question as I read the news:  “What will a historian say about this event in 60 years? How will it fit into the narrative that the historians of the future will share?”

    With these questions are considered contemporary events take on an entirely new significance.

    Expansion of Russia, 1533-1894.
    Credit: Wikimedia.

    As I have watched affairs in Crimea from afar, my thoughts turn to one such ‘Long View’ narrative written by historian S.C.M. Paine. In Dr. Paine’s peerless The Wars for Asia, 1911-1949 she spares a few paragraphs to explain the broad historical context in which Soviet statesmen made their decisions. She calls this traditional course of Russian statecraft the Russian “strategy for empire”:

    The Communists not only held together all of the tsarist empire but greatly expanded it in World War II. They did so in part by relying on Russia’s traditional and highly successful strategy for empire, which sought security through creeping buffer zones combined with astutely coordinated diplomacy and military operations against weak neighbors to ingest their territory at opportune moments. Russia surrounded itself with buffer zones and failing states. During the tsarist period, the former were called governor-generalships, jurisdictions under military authority for a period of initial colonization and stabilization. Such areas generally contained non-Russian populations and bordered on foreign lands.

    Russia repeatedly applied the Polish model to its neighbors. Under Catherine the Great, Russia had partitioned Poland three times in the late eighteenth century, crating a country ever less capable of administering its affairs as Russia in combination with Prussia and Austria gradually ate it alive. Great and even middling power on the borders were dangerous. So they must be divided, a fate shared by Poland, the Ottoman Empire, Persia, China, and post World War II, Germany and Korea. It is no coincidence that so many divided states border on Russia. Nor is it coincidence that so many unstable states sit on its periphery” (emphasis added). [3]


    It is difficult to read this description and not see parallels with what is happening in Ukraine now (or what happened in Georgia in 2008). Dr. Paine’s description of Russian foreign policy stretches from the 18th century to the middle of the 20th. Perhaps historians writing 60 years hence will use this same narrative–but extend it well into the 21st.

    ————————————————————


    [1] Authorized Version.
    [2] John Schindler. “Nobody Knows Anything.” XX Committee. 16 March 2014. 
    [3] S.C.M. Paine. The Wars for Asia, 1911-1949. (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012), pp. 83-84.

    Posted in Book Notes, Europe, History, International Affairs, Russia | 2 Comments »

    Our Friend Bookworm Has Published a New Book

    Posted by David Foster on 18th March 2014 (All posts by )

    The Bookworm Returns : Life in Obama’s America– $2.99 for Amazon Kindle. This is a collection of selected posts from her blog,  which are typically thought-provoking and worth re-reading even if you’ve already read them when they first appeared.

    Robert Avrech said:

    Bookworm Room is a wife, a mother, a lawyer, and a blogger who is something of a hero to me. Whenever I need some common sense talk about difficult political or social issues, I make my way to Bookworm and see what she has to say.

    JoshuaPundit said:

    Reading Bookworm’s essays is like intellectual chocolate – highly addicting, except it expands your mind instead of your waistline!

    Noisy Room said:

    Bookie has just put together an e-book on her posts that have occurred over time. It is some of the best writing you will ever read. Riveting and compelling, it is absolutely addictive.

    Posted in Blogging, Book Notes, Obama, USA | 3 Comments »

    Roots of the Western Hostility Toward Israel

    Posted by David Foster on 15th March 2014 (All posts by )

    …some thoughts from Brendan O’Neill:

    ‘The lesson many in the West took from the Holocaust is that nationalism is bad; the message Jews took from it is that nationalism is necessary.’

    This cuts to the heart of today’s fashionable disdain for little Israel. What many Westerners seem to find most nauseating is that Israel is cocky, confident and committed to preserving its national sovereign rights against all-comers. In short, it’s a lot like we used to be before relativism and anti-modernism. I think that Israel reminds us of our older selves, our pre-EU, pre-green days, when we, too, believed in borders, sovereignty, progress, growth.

    Now that it’s de rigueur in the right-thinking sections of western society to be post–nationalist and multicultural, to be fashionably uncertain about one’s national identity, the sight of a border-fortifying state offends and outrages us. In the words of George Gilder, author of The Israel Test, Israel is now hated more for its virtues than for its political or militaristic vices. It’s hated for remaining devoted to ‘freedom and capitalism’ when we’re all supposed to be snooty about such things.

    If Israel is unofficially being made into a pariah state, it isn’t because of its foreignness, or even necessarily its Jewishness, but rather because it is too western for our liking. We loathe it because we loathe ourselves.

    Read the whole thing.

    I have often observed that, in the United States, there is a very high overlap between the set of people who hate Israel and the set of people who spell “America” with a “k”.

     

    Posted in Book Notes, Europe, Israel, Leftism, USA | 58 Comments »

    New Book: American Spartan by Ann Scott Tyson

    Posted by Zenpundit on 11th March 2014 (All posts by )

    Cross-posted from zenpundit.com

    American Spartan: The Promise, the Mission, and the Betrayal of Special Forces Major Jim Gant

    Was just sent a review copy of American Spartan courtesy of Callie at  Oettinger & Associates which tells the story of Major Jim Gant, the special forces officer and AfPak hand who pushed hard for a controversial strategy in Afghanistan based on arming and training loyalist paramilitaries out of Afghan tribesmen ( or whatever localist network would suffice when tribal identity was weak or absent). I am looking forward to reading this book for a number of reasons.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Afghanistan/Pakistan, Book Notes, Current Events, Military Affairs, National Security, USA, War and Peace | 16 Comments »

    Mike Lotus at David Horowitz Freedom Center West Coast Retreat, March 23, 2014

    Posted by Lexington Green on 5th March 2014 (All posts by )

    Mike Lotus will be speaking about America 3.0 at the David Horowitz Freedom Center West Coast Retreat on March 23, 2014.

    The current plan is to have the lunch keynote discussion be on the topic of America’s Future. It will be a “three chair” format. The moderator will be Brian Calle, and the other person in the interview will be the distinguished Prof. Charles R. Kesler.

    I picked up Mr. Kesler’s recent book entitled I Am the Change: Barack Obama and the Crisis of Liberalism. I will read it, though I find it hard to spend too much time on the distasteful topic of our current president.

    Posted in America 3.0, Announcements, Book Notes | 3 Comments »

    A Hunger for Normalcy?

    Posted by David Foster on 2nd March 2014 (All posts by )

    Stephen Marche, writing about the Oscars, asserts that:

    The aesthetic criteria are pure cover, of course. The Oscars actually register which films the Hollywood elite think they ought to like. This is much more useful than a prize for merit. It provides a sense of the approved story lines of mass culture.

    …and goes on to say that what he sees projected in the front-runners and in many other recent films is a hunger for normalcy:

    This narrative is a marked change from previous years. Hollywood, and American moviegoers generally, likes the win. The common wisdom is that it wants not just a happy ending, but a triumph. Up! not down. Think Rocky. Think Gladiator, and Slumdog Millionaire, and Argo, and The King’s Speech….Obviously we can no longer stomach such victories. The story of overcoming and making a better world simply won’t fly anymore. Our version of winning, at this point, is simply being a human being, having your feet in the tall grass, having a family, being able to talk to a person in the flesh. Those are the “big wins” in America in 2013, at least by the lights of the nominees for best picture. 

    You can’t say it doesn’t fit the mood. We want everything to get back to normal. We want employment to return at the end of a recession. We want the American government to work again. None of it seems too much to ask, but obviously it is.

    RTWT

    I’m reminded of a passage in C S Lewis’s fantasy novel That Hideous Strength. The protagonist, Mark Studdock, is being held captive by a sinister cult. The room in which he is being held is intended, via both its structure and its artistic decorations, to create a maximum sense of disorientation in the prisoner. But:

    ...the built and painted perversity of this room had the effect of making him aware, as he had never been aware before, of this room’s opposite. As the desert first teaches men to love water, or as absence first reveals affection, there rose up against this background of the sour and the crooked some kind of vision of the sweet and the straight. Something else – something he vaguely called the “Normal” – apparently existed. He had never thought about it before. But there it was solid, massive, with a shape of its own, almost like something you could touch, or eat, or fall in love with. It was all mixed up with Jane and fried eggs and soap and sunlight and the rooks cawing at Cure Hardy and the thought that, somewhere outside, daylight was going on at that moment. He was not thinking in moral terms at all; or else (what is much the same thing) he was having his first deeply moral experience.

    (Oscars link via Newmark’s Door)

     

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Book Notes, Civil Society, Human Behavior, Media, USA | 9 Comments »

    As of this Weekend…

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 23rd February 2014 (All posts by )

    I am a business owner. My partner and founder of Watercress Press has always intended that I should take over the business eventually … and as of this weekend, the papers have been signed. Oh, there are a couple of more things to be sorted out, and essentially I have been the active partner for more than a year … but here I start on the next big part of my life, as a business owner and raving capitalist. Although I do promise not to starve and flog the employees while chuckling manically and swan-diving into my pool of gold coins.

    Too much. The blood spatters get everywhere after a good flogging, and the stains never come out.

    This is by way of apologizing for no History Friday post from me. There was just too much going on, I didn’t have the time to sit down and focus on the post I was thinking about – Billy the Kid, a definite contrast to the last Wild West frontier character that I posted about on History Friday. I did manage to finish a chapter in the next book, and start another adventure in my reworking of a certain popular Wild West character, so the week hasn’t all been given up to real life in this present world.

    Posted in Book Notes, Business | 24 Comments »

    Charles Sorensen and Rosie the Riveter Would Appreciate Your Assistance

    Posted by David Foster on 16th February 2014 (All posts by )

    The project to Save the Willow Run Bomber Plant is 75% of the way to its fundraising goal, but still $2 million short.

    In October 1942, Herman Goering mocked American claims about our weapons production capabilities:

    Some astronomical figures are expected from the American war industry. Now I am the last to underrate this industry. Obviously the Americans do very well in some technical fields. We know that they produce a colossal amount of  fast cars. And the development of radio is one of their special achievements, and so is the razor blade…But you must not forget, there is one word in their language that is written with a capital B and this word is Bluff.

    (Citing the above quote in his memoir, Luftwaffe general Adolph Galland observed acidly, “Propaganda may be horrible, but bombs certainly are.)

    The “astronomical figures” turned out not to be a bluff at all, of course, and the figures were turned into reality in large part because of the production techniques pioneered and perfected at places like Willow Run.

    The Willow Run plant, which covered 63 acres, was designed for the single purpose of producing B-24 bombers…and produce them it did, once it got going, at the rate of one per hour. The genesis of the plant lay in a 1940 visit to Consolidated Aircraft, where the planes were then being built, by Ford Motor Company production VP Charles Sorensen–Ford had originally been asked by the government to quote on building some components for the bomber. After watching Consolidated’s process for a while, Sorensen asserted that the whole thing  could be put together by assembly-line methods. (See the link, which is Sorensen’s own story about “a $200,000,000 proposition backed only by a penciled sketch.”)

    Unused since 2010, the plant had been scheduled for demolition, but there is now a project to turn it into a museum that will be focused on  science education and social history as well as aviation history–the Yankee Air Museum is to be relocated there–and the history of the plant itself.  Astronaut Jack Lousma and auto-industry bad boy Bob Lutz are spearheading the effort; the additional funds need to be raised by May 1.

    I hope the new museum will integrate its focus on science & technology and its focus on the war production story to also cover the past, present, and future of American manufacturing, and of manufacturing generally–manufacturing being something that is too little understood and too little appreciated  (beyond the platitude level) in America today.  For example, in this post, which is mainly about employee evaluation, the author says:

    Today’s businesses drive most of their value through service, intellectual property, innovation, and creativity. Even if you’re a manufacturer, your ability to sell, serve, and support your product (and the design itself) is more important than the ability to manufacture. So each year a higher and higher percentage of your work is dependent on the roles which have “hyper performer” distributions.

    This kind of drive-by assumption about manufacturing is frequently encountered in today’s business writings: the assumption that manufacturing is a field inherently lacking in creativity, and (strongly implied in the above quote) that “hyper performers” are not important in this area in the way that they are in sales, product design, and customer service. If the museum can help Americans to understand a little more about manufacturing and its importance, then that will be a valuable thing in addition to its contributions to aviation, WWII, and social history.

    Some books that provide useful information and perspective on Willow Run:

    Freedom’s Forge: How American Business Produced Victory in World War II, by Arthur Herman. An interesting overview of the WWII armaments program.

    I Invented the Modern Age: The Rise of Henry Ford, by Richard Snow. A lot about the early history of the auto industry, with several pages on Willow Run.

    My Forty Years with Ford, by Charles Sorensen. The whole book is very worthwhile. Sorensen gives considerable credit to Edsel Ford for the Willow Run project–Edsel committed $200,000,000 of Ford’s money to the project based only on a rough sketch, with no absolute assurance that government funding would be forthcoming–and indeed for the entire WWII armaments program at the company, Henry Ford himself having adopted what one might call a passive-aggressive attitude toward the whole thing.

    It would be a shame to let the historical artifact that is Willow Run be lost–hopefully, the fundraising efforts over the next couple of months will be successful.

     

    Posted in Aviation, Book Notes, Business, History, Management, USA, War and Peace | 5 Comments »

    History Friday: T.E. Hulme (1883-1917)

    Posted by Lexington Green on 14th February 2014 (All posts by )

    T.E. Hulme was a poet and critic who died leaving behind a very small corpus of work. Nonetheless, he is considered to be an influential figure in artistic modernism, and more tenuously, in modern conservatism.

    Further, Hulme was an English version of a peculiar type of artist and intellectual that emerged in the early 20th century, which we rarely see anymore: A radical reactionary, a revolutionary conservative, or an anarchistic tory. On the Continent, these sorts of people tended toward fascism. An excellent book on this era is The Generation of 1914.

    In the English speaking world, they tended to be religious and cultural conservatives. T.S. Eliot falls into this category. My favorite, Evelyn Waugh falls generally on this part of the spectrum, as well, though Waugh is a late specimen of the type, and on the more pugnacious side, which I like.

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    Posted in Anglosphere, Arts & Letters, Book Notes, Britain, History, Quotations | 8 Comments »

    John Robb’s HomeFree America

    Posted by Lexington Green on 6th February 2014 (All posts by )

    Have you been reading HomeFree America?

    You should be. It is “John Robb’s open notebook on the future of the American Dream.” It is also the first draft of the book he is working on.

    Mr. Robb’s analysis of the collapse of the Blue Model, 20th Century legacy government and economy is very similar to the arguments made by James C. Bennett and myself in our book America 3.0. He sees, as we do, that they are doomed. He sees, as we do, that a much better world is coming. Ah, but the transition period. That will be a challenge.

    This is the quote of the day:

    All layers of government — city, state, and federal — want the old, bureaucratic economy to continue, unchanged. They can’t imagine a world without plentiful flows of taxes levied on corporate profits and withholding from personal incomes.
     
    Without this flow of tax income, the entire edifice of the current economy falls. It is the source of the financial life-support to the increasingly obsolete bureaucracies – from the civil bureaucracy to education to national security to banking to health care — that still offer traditional jobs. The rest is spent providing services, from health care to retirement income, in an attempt to keep the existing economic system alive.

    From this post.

    People who tell me the the current corrupt model cannot be defeated have it backward. It cannot survive. The only question is how hard the transition to a better political and economic order will be. Not if, not even when, but how.

    Posted in America 3.0, Announcements, Blogging, Book Notes | 8 Comments »

    Why the Grand Inquisitor Sentenced Jesus Christ to be Burned at the Stake

    Posted by David Foster on 3rd February 2014 (All posts by )

    It seems that Jesus Christ returned to earth, sometime during the sixteenth century…at least, this is the premise of the parable that Ivan relates to Alyosha, in Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s novel The Brothers Karamazov.  The city to which Christ came was  Seville,  where on the previous day before almost a hundred heretics had been burnt by the cardinal, the Grand Inquisitor, “in a magnificent auto da fe, in the presence of the king, the court, the knights, the cardinals, the most charming ladies of the court, and the whole population of Seville. He came softly, unobserved, and yet, strange to say, everyone recognised Him.”

    But the Grand Inquisitor observes the way in which people are being irresistibly drawn to Jesus, and causes him to be arrested and taken away.

    The crowd instantly bows down to the earth, like one man, before the old Inquisitor. He blesses the people in silence and passes on. The guards lead their prisoner to the close, gloomy vaulted prison- in the ancient palace of the Holy  Inquisition and shut him in it. The day passes and is followed by the dark, burning, ‘breathless’ night of Seville. The air is ‘fragrant with laurel and lemon.’ In the pitch darkness the iron door of the prison is suddenly opened and the Grand Inquisitor himself comes in with a light in his hand. He is alone; the door is closed at once behind him. He stands in the doorway and for a minute or two gazes into His face. At last he goes up slowly, sets the light on the table and speaks.

    “‘Is it Thou? Thou?’ but receiving no answer, he adds at once. ‘Don’t answer, be silent. What canst Thou say, indeed? I know too well what Thou wouldst say. And Thou hast no right to add anything to what Thou hadst said of old. Why, then, art Thou come to hinder us?

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    Posted in Arts & Letters, Book Notes, Christianity, Civil Liberties, Human Behavior, Political Philosophy, Religion, Russia | 9 Comments »

    To Become the ‘Other’

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 3rd February 2014 (All posts by )

    I suppose that my thoughts were running this week on the theory and practice of ‘otherizing’ because my work in the Tiny Bidness has brought me full-face with a prime example of how upright good citizens, patriotic as they saw it, were brought by a turn of the political wheel into being accused criminals, brought before a military commission and charged with crimes which – if found guilty of by the tribunal – could have drawn a capital sentence. That the several found guilty of disloyalty to the régime and sentenced to death, imprisonment, exile or a heavy fine did in most cases, escape the worst of it and return to lives of post-war prosperity and respect must have been of cold comfort at the time.
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    Posted in Book Notes, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, History, Human Behavior, Law Enforcement | 8 Comments »

    Book Review – Six Frigates: The Epic History of the Founding of the US Navy by Ian W. Toll

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 31st December 2013 (All posts by )

    Six Frigates: The Epic History of the Founding of the U.S. Navy by Ian W. Toll

    —-

    I had some time to kill a few months ago and was stumbling around a local bookstore when this book caught my eye. I went ahead and bought it and am very glad that I did.

    Six Frigates is a fairly long book that takes a deep dive into the origins of the US Navy. The book is very well written, easy to read, and tells some great stories for those interested in the subject matter.

    The book gives in detail how the original six frigates were paid for, why they were conceived, and the associated debates that went along with those appropriations. Toll blends perfectly in the book a balance of the politics of the day along with the realities of sailing vessels in this era. It is rare in my experience to find a book that balances these things so well. It is clear that Toll spent a LOT of time researching the presidential and congressional archives to pick the correspondences and events out that were appropriate for the subject matter of the book. Toll lets the statesmen of the past speak for themselves during the debates about the original appropriations and also enlightens the reader as to the politics of the day. Also mentioned are the debates about the continuing maintenance of the frigates.

    There is a detailed section about the construction and engineering of the frigates. Toll explains very well how the boats were made and how the raw materials had to be obtained – again, just enough information for a relative layman such as myself to understand the how’s and why’s.

    Now that the frigates were built, Toll explains how they were used, and again blends in the politics of the day so the reader can understand why the ships were where they were. Along with this, he recreates many of the battles that the frigates were involved in. This part was to me the most enlightening.

    I have read many times of the famous battles of some of these frigates, the most famous being the Constitution. However, I never understood how insanely bloody and violent these ship to ship battles were. Toll goes into full on gore mode, sparing no adjective to make the reader get a feel for how the sailors felt and what actually went on. This book is extremely bloody so if you can’t handle that sort of thing, I would perhaps not recommend it. But it was a very good dose of reality for me, as I had never fully understood the power of the cannon they used, and how they used it. Also enlightening were Toll’s descriptions of the marine actions during battle. It was very interesting to hear how each side would use sharpshooters to try to pick off officers on the decks of the ships during battle.

    Great detail is given to the first Tripolitan war. This is a subject that has always interested me, and it was amazing how Toll was able to even blend in the politics of the Tripolitans into his narrative.

    Finally, we move to the War of 1812. Most readers here probably know the basics, but again, Toll is masterful blending in the politics of not only the US, but of Great Britain into the narrative.

    The book uses a LOT of sailing terms which I, not being a sailor of any sort, didn’t understand. This was on purpose. In the beginning of the book, Toll puts out for the reader his reasons for this. Basically he says that he could explain each term and have the book be twice as long, or let the reader pick and choose what they wanted to research as far as terms went. I think he took the correct approach. I have no clue what this sentence from page 348 means:

    Constitution stood on to leeward before the freshening northeast breeze, wearing double-reefed topsails and courses, with her royal yards struck down on deck.

    However, it is easy to imagine a ball park idea of what Toll is saying in the context of the overall topic – that the Constitution was getting ready, somehow, to engage the HMS Guerrierre in battle. It was really no big deal after you got used to the flow of the text. I did look up a few terms along the way, but not many.

    It is very clear that Toll spent a long time researching and writing this marvelous book. It is easily one of the top ten books I have ever read on any subject and I highly recommend it if you have any sort of interest in sailing, or early 19th century politics or even just to get a flavor of those times. Toll also speaks about the early cities and how they worked to a certain degree although the focus is on the Frigates, their battles, and the politics surrounding them.

    Cross posted at LITGM.

    Posted in Book Notes, Britain, History, USA, War and Peace | 18 Comments »

    Father Christmas and the Provost

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 24th December 2013 (All posts by )

    (This is actually an episode from one of my books, redone as a free-standing short story for an anthology of Christmas stories by other indy authors, which never went anywhere, so is posted here as my own Christmas contribution.)

    It was Vati’s idea to have a splendid Christmas Eve and he broached it to his family in November. Christian Friedrich Steinmetz to everyone else but always Vati to his family; once the clockmaker of Ulm in Bavaria, Vati had come to Texas with the Verein nearly twenty years before with his sons and his three daughters.
    “For the children, of course,” he said, polishing his glasses and looking most particularly like an earnest and kindly gnome, “This year past has been so dreadful, such tragedies all around – but it is within our capabilities to give them a single good memory of 1862! I shall arrange for Father Christmas to make a visit, and we shall have as fine a feast as we ever did, back in Germany. Can we not do this, my dears?”
    “How splendid, Vati! Oh, we shall, we shall!” his youngest daughter Rosalie kissed her father’s cheek with her usual degree of happy exuberance, “With the house full of children – even the babies will have a wonderful memory, I am sure!” Her older sisters, Magda and Liesel exchanged fond but exasperated glances; dear, vague well-meaning Vati! All of Gillespie County was under martial law and Duff’s Partisan Rangers had despoiled so many farmsteads, claiming they were owned by Union sympathizers. Men of the town had been arrested for refusing to take the loyalty oath, refusing service in the Confederate Army, for even speaking against secession or refusing to accept Confederate money. How could a happy Christmas make up for all that?
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    Posted in Book Notes, History, Holidays | Comments Off

    Calling For A Million Mutineers (With Some Backstory, A Plug for America 3.0 And A Really Cool Map)

    Posted by Lexington Green on 19th December 2013 (All posts by )

    Robert Lucas

    I recently ran across this quote:

    For income growth to occur in a society, a large fraction of people must experience changes in the possible lives they imagine for themselves and their children, and these new visions of possible futures must have enough force to lead them to change the way they behave … and the hopes they invest in these children: the way they allocate their time. In the words of [V.S. Naipaul] economic development requires “a million mutinies.”

    A Million Mutinies: The key to economic development, An excerpt from “Lectures on Economic Growth” by Robert E. Lucas, Jr. Professor Lucas is a Nobel laureate in Economics from the University of Chicago, so one of our homies.

    Lucas is right. Major change, political as well as economic, requires a change in peoples’ vision of the future, and requires that “a million mutinies” break out against the status quo.

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    Posted in Academia, America 3.0, Anglosphere, Arts & Letters, Book Notes, India, Politics, Tea Party | 3 Comments »

    Book Review – Breakfast With the Dirt Cult

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 15th December 2013 (All posts by )

    It was a thing that I noticed over the course of my own military service that generally American youth changed more radically between the age of 18 and 25 than at any other time of their life save that span between infant and kindergartner. Or at least, that portion of it that chooses to join the military does. Such people  enlist and trundle off to boot camp and their first duty assignment – they are kids; impetuous, ruled by impulse and mad urges to indulge in all kinds of attractive bad things … but somehow over the course of that rocky journey, the largest portion grow into mature, focused and relatively well-adjusted adults. Serious obligations and sometimes life-threatening experiences – such as serving at the very pointy end of the spear that is America’s military – have that effect.

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    Posted in Afghanistan/Pakistan, Arts & Letters, Book Notes, Conservatism, Military Affairs | 5 Comments »