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  • Archive for the 'Britain' Category

    Our only enemy was gold

    Posted by Margaret on 21st September 2017 (All posts by )

    I’ve always thought Edwin Muir’s poem ‘The Castle,’ like Burns’ ‘Parcel of Rogues,’ referred to the Acts of Union of 1707. Many Scots considered the union of Scotland and England to be a corrupt bargain in which Scottish nobles and landowners who’d been ruined by the Darien scheme were bailed out with English money in return for signing over Scotland’s independence. (I don’t want to argue the merits of that theory; historians have been batting it around for four hundred years without reaching agreement. I just want to point out that the attitude exists.)

    It did just occur to me recently that there could be another, slightly anachronistic interpretation of the poem. If Edwin Muir had been given a glimpse of Scotland’s condition today and the destructive effects of welfare dependency, he might have written exactly the same poem. For generations Scotland was a poor country whose greatest natural resource was its people and their devotion to education. They educated their young people and sent them out all over the world, and as George MacDonald Fraser said, “A Scotsman on the make is a terrible thing.”

    The expansion of the welfare state has eroded that, perhaps fatally.

    All through that summer at ease we lay,
    And daily from the turret wall
    We watched the mowers in the hay
    And the enemy half a mile away
    They seemed no threat to us at all.

    For what, we thought, had we to fear
    With our arms and provender, load on load,
    Our towering battlements, tier on tier,
    And friendly allies drawing near
    On every leafy summer road.

    Our gates were strong, our walls were thick,
    So smooth and high, no man could win
    A foothold there, no clever trick
    Could take us, have us dead or quick.
    Only a bird could have got in.

    What could they offer us for bait?
    Our captain was brave and we were true….
    There was a little private gate,
    A little wicked wicket gate.
    The wizened warder let them through.

    Oh then our maze of tunneled stone
    Grew thin and treacherous as air.
    The cause was lost without a groan,
    The famous citadel overthrown,
    And all its secret galleries bare.

    How can this shameful tale be told?
    I will maintain until my death
    We could do nothing, being sold;
    Our only enemy was gold,
    And we had no arms to fight it with.

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Britain, Culture, History, Poetry | 8 Comments »

    QOTD, William Stubbs, the English Constitution as an old country house

    Posted by Lexington Green on 16th September 2017 (All posts by )

    Of all constitutional systems the English combines the greatest political with the greatest personal liberty. You will accept this on the testimony of foreign writers on politics, to whom for centuries our polity was the model of free institutions. You will not be less likely to accept it after reading the history of the newer constitutions in Europe and in America which have copied many of the leading features of our own, but have not tempered them or adapted them so wisely to their own circumstances that they seem a natural and spontaneous growth, or have not calculated their forces so well as to secure an equable and uniform working. You will further, I think, realise the fact that a national polity is not the creation of a single brain or of a royal commission of brains, but grows with the growth and strengthens with the strength of the nation; cannot be changed without changing much of the spirit of the people, and is strong in proportion to the distinctness of its continuity.
     
    Our own English constitution is like many old country houses which have a great history of their own if they could tell it; have been now castles, now abbeys, now manor houses, or farm buildings; in which every room has often changed its destination, and the granary become a dining-room, the chapel a billiard room, and the dairy a bath; about which many little turrets have been run up and tumbled down; some have been battered down by enemies, and some pulled down because they made the chimneys smoke; in which chimneys themselves are a novelty, and drains and hot-water pipes a new development of luxury; in which no one room now answers the purpose for which it was built, but has answered many others and more useful ones that were not contemplated. Such a house is generally beautiful, sometimes a little inconvenient to people whose ideas are bounded by a front door and five square windows, but it has its history, it has seen a great deal of happiness, and would not be what it is unless it had seen and been adapted to many changes.
     
    Well, so the constitution begins with the little farmhold in the Teutonic clearing; it grows up and becomes a feudal manor; it builds a national church and a court of justice, and towers and crenellates its roofs and walls; the church becomes the mother and nurse of liberty, and then liberty takes on itself to reform and remodel the church; the court of justice develops into a parliament; trial by jury grows out of compurgation and ordeal. It retains much that it could do without, and goes without much that might be well added if it were not that the addition would stop the working of some more important part. It will, however, like an old house, also stand a great deal of alteration and adaptation without losing its identity.

    Lectures on Early English History, William Stubbs (1906)

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Anglosphere, Britain, History | 8 Comments »

    Summer Rerun – Book Review: That Hideous Strength

    Posted by David Foster on 15th September 2017 (All posts by )

    (people tend to think of summer as being over after Labor Day, but actually, it extends until the September Equinox, which this year is on September 22)

    That Hideous Strength by C. S. Lewis

    This was the first thing Mark had been asked to do which he himself, before he did it, clearly knew to be criminal. But the moment of his consent almost escaped his notice; certainly, there was no struggle, no sense of turning a corner. There may have been a time in the world’s history when such moments fully revealed their gravity, with witches prophesying on a blasted heath or visible Rubicons to be crossed. But, for him, it all slipped past in a chatter of laughter, of that intimate laughter between fellow professionals, which of all earthly powers is strongest to make men do very bad things before they are yet, individually, very bad men.

    Mark Studdock is a young on-the-make sociologist, a professor at Bracton College, in an English town called Edgestow. He is is far more interested in university politics than in his research or teaching. and as a member of the “progressive element” at the college, he strongly supports Bracton selling a tract of property to a government-sponsored entity called NICE. The NICE is the National Institute for Coordinated Experimentation,which Lewis describes as “the first fruits of that constructive fusion between the state and the laboratory on which so many thoughtful people base their hopes of a better world.”  What excites Mark most about the NICE is this:

    The real thing is that this time we’re going to get science applied to social problems and backed by the whole force of the state, just as war has been backed by the whole force of the state in the past.  One hopes, of course, that it’ll find out more than the old freelance science did, but what’s certain is that it can do more.

    Trigger Warning: There is something in this book to offend almost everybody.  It contains things that will offend technologists and believers in human progress…social scientists…feminists…academic administrators…bioscience researchers…and surely many other categories of people.  It will probably also offend some Christians, for the way in which Christian theology is mixed with non-Christian magic. By the standards now becoming current in American universities, this book, and even this book review, should be read by no one at all.  But for those who do not accept those standards…

    The Basic Story. Mark has recently married Jane, a woman with strong literary interests and with vague plans for getting an advanced degree. She has recently started having disturbing, indeed terrifying, dreams, which suggest that she has a clairvoyant ability to see distant events in real time. Afraid that she is losing her mind, Jane seeks advice, and is told that her dreams are actually visions, they are very real, will not stop, and are of utmost importance:

    “Young lady,” said Miss Ironwood, “You do not at all realize the seriousness of this matter. The things you have seen concern something compared with which the happiness, and even the life, of you and me, is of no importance.”

    Miss Ironwood warns Jane that extremely evil people will seek to use her gift, and that she would do well–both for her own interests and those of the entire human race–to join the community of which Miss Ironwood is a part, located at a place called St Anne’s. Jane responds quite negatively to the invitation, afraid that membership in the St Anne’s group will limit her autonomy. She is not interested in the dreams’ meaning; she just wants them to go away.

    Mark, on the other hand, responds enthusiastically when he is invited to take a position at the NICE, temporarily located at an old manor called Belbury.  One of the first people he meets there is the Head of the Institutional Police, a woman named Miss Hardcastle (picture Janet Napolitano), nicknamed the Fairy, who explains to Mark her theory of crime and punishment:

    “Here in the Institute, we’re backing the crusade against Red Tape.”  Mark gathered that, for the Fairy, the police side of the Institute was the really important side…In general, they had already popularized in the press the idea that the Institute should be allowed to experiment pretty largely in the hope of discovering how far humane, remedial treatment could be substituted for the old notion of “retributive” or “vindictive” punishment…The Fairy pointed out that what had hampered every English police force up to date was precisely the idea of deserved punishment. For desert was always finite; you could do so much to the criminal and no more. Remedial treatment, on the other hand, need have no fixed limit; it could go on till it had effected a cure, and those who were carrying it out would decide when that was.  And if cure were humane and desirable, how much more prevention?  Soon anyone who had ever been in the hands of the police at all would come under the control of the NICE; in the end, every citizen.

    Another person Mark meets in his first days at Belbury is the acclaimed chemist William Hingest…who has also come down to investigate the possibility of a job at Belbury, has decided against it, and strongly advises Mark to do likewise:

    “I came down here because I thought it had something to do with science. Now that I find it’s something more like a political conspiracy, I shall go home. I’m too old for that kind of thing, and if I wanted to join a conspiracy, this one wouldn’t be my choice.”

    “You mean, I suppose, that the element of social planning doesn’t appeal to you? I can quite understand that it doesn’t fit in with your work as it does with sciences like Sociology, but–“

    “There are no sciences like Sociology. And if I found chemistry beginning to fit in with a secret police run by a middle-aged virago who doesn’t wear corsets and a scheme for taking away his farm and his shop and his children from every Englishman, I’d let chemistry go to the devil and take up gardening again…I happen to believe that you can’t study men, you can only get to know them, which is quite a different thing. Because you study them, you want to make the lower orders govern the country and listen to classical music, which is balderdash. You also want to take away from them everything that makes life worth living and not only from them but from everyone except a parcel of prigs and professors.”

    Nevertheless, Mark decides to remain at Belbury, and is drawn ever-deeper into its activities–which, as only those in the innermost circles of that organization realize, are not only consistent with the goals of the 20th-century totalitarianisms, but go considerably beyond them.  The NICE seeks to establish a junction between the powers of modern science and those of ancient magic, accessing the latter by awakening the medieval wizard Merlin and using him for their purposes.  At the same time, Jane–despite her reservations–becomes increasingly involved  with the company at St Anne’s and is entranced with its leader, a Mr Fisher-King. (His name comes from the Wounded King in Arthurian legend.)  The St Anne’s group is aware of the truth about NICE and its ultimate goals, and exists for the primary purpose of opposing and, hopefully, destroying that organization.

    I will not here describe the war between the forces of Belbury and those of St Anne’s (in order to avoid spoilers), but will instead comment on the characters of some of the protagonists and some philosophically-significant events in the novel, with appropriate excerpts. Hopefully this will be enough to give a sense of the worldview that Lewis is presenting in this book.

    Mark Studdock. His character is largely defined by his strong desire to be a member of the Inner Circle, whatever that inner circle may be in a particular context.  The passage at the start of this review where Mark agrees to engage in criminal activity on Belbury’s behalf is proceeded by this:

    After a few evenings Mark ventured to walk into the library on his own; a little uncertain of his reception, yet afraid that if he did not soon assert his right to the entree this modesty might damage him. He knew that the error in either direction is equally fatal.

    It was a success. Before he had closed the door behind him all had turned with welcoming faces and Filostrato had said “Ecco ” and the Fairy, “Here’s the very man.” A glow of pleasure passed over Mark’s whole body.

    That “glow of pleasure” at being accepted by the Belbury’s Inner Circle (what Mark then thinks is Belbury’s Inner Circle) is strong enough to overcome any moral qualms on Mark’s part about the actions he is being requested to perform.  Lewis has written a great deal elsewhere about the lust for the Inner Circle, which in his view never leads to satisfaction but only to a longing for membership in another, still-more-inner circle. In That Hideous Strength, there are concentric Inner Circles at Belbury, which Mark does penetrate–and each is more sinister than the last.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Arts & Letters, Bioethics, Book Notes, Britain, Christianity, Civil Liberties, Conservatism, Crime and Punishment, Deep Thoughts, Human Behavior, Leftism, Morality and Philosphy, Philosophy, Political Philosophy | 13 Comments »

    Worthwhile Watching

    Posted by David Foster on 16th July 2017 (All posts by )

    A good video on the women who flew military aircraft in Britain during WWII.  Title is a little misleading, lots of airplane types other than Spitfires were involved.

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Britain, History, War and Peace | 6 Comments »

    “London is above all a metropolis of merchandise.”

    Posted by Lexington Green on 29th June 2017 (All posts by )

    London has never been planned. Beside other eighteenth-century capitals, London is remarkable for the freedom with which it developed. It is the city raised by private, not by public, wealth; the least authoritarian city in Europe. Whatever attempts have been made to overrule the individual in the public interest, they have failed. Elizabeth and her Stuart successors tried bluntly to stop any expansion whatever. They failed. Charles II and his pet intellectuals tried to impose a plan after the Great Fire. They failed. Nearly every monarch in turn projected a great Royal Palace to dominate at least part of his capital. All failed until George IV conspired with Nash to cheat Parliament into rebuilding Buckingham House, scoring no triumph in the process. The reasons for all this are embedded deep in England’s social and political history. London is one of the few capitals where church property and church interests have not been an overriding factor; where Royal prestige and prerogative in building matters have been set at naught; where defense has never, since the Middle Ages, dictated a permanent circumvallation to control the limits of development. London is above all a metropolis of merchandise. The basis of its building history is the trade cycle rather than the changing ambitions and policies of rulers and administrators. The land speculator and the adventuring builder have contributed more to the character of the Georgian city than the minister with a flair for artistic propaganda, or the monarch with a mission for dynastic assertion.

    From Georgian London, by John Summerson

    In the introduction Summerson engages in some classic English understatement: “This book originated in a series of of lectures prepared for the Courtauld Institute in 1939, but not delivered owing to the turn of events.” He then mentions that he was unable to finish the book during the war: “The whole period has, of course, been somewhat unpropitious for a book of this sort. The subject matter has been bombed from time to time and any papers, plans and drawings of whose existence I was aware have been totally inaccessible.”

    Posted in Anglosphere, Architecture, Book Notes, Britain | 11 Comments »

    Helen Szamuely

    Posted by Jonathan on 9th June 2017 (All posts by )

    Helen Szamuely

    Helen Szamuely (Image taken from Pete North’s blog.)

     

    We learned belatedly of Helen Szamuely’s passing.

    Helen was a historian, an English patriot — a founder of what was to become the Brexit movement, a researcher, literary critic, public intellectual and political commentator and prolific writer.

    The Telegraph‘s obituary is a bit harsh (perhaps payback for deserved slights) but gives some background. Richard North, Helen’s long-term collaborator on the great EUReferendum blog, has kind and interesting remarks about Helen, and a video of Helen speaking, here. Richard’s son Pete shares thoughtful reminiscences about Helen here. She was prominent in London conservative political and intellectual circles but those of us “across the pond” had to make do with her online presence. I wish I had met her in person.

    Helen wrote or contributed to numerous blogs. Besides EUReferendum the Chicago Boyz blogroll includes Conservative History Journal and Your Freedom and Ours and perhaps one or two others I’ve overlooked. She was also active on Facebook, Twitter and who knows where else on social media. Lex and I invited her to contribute to this blog and she very generously and cheerfully did so over the years. She was brilliant and erudite with a wide range of interests which she was always ready to discuss. I will miss her.

    RIP, Aleha HaShalom. Our condolences to Helen’s daughter, Katharine.

    —-

    Lex adds:

    Very sad. There was a period of many years, until recently, where I was in almost daily communication with Helen, as part of a group that included James C. Bennett. Helen was a brilliant, opinionated, sometimes prickly, deeply-learned, patriotic, liberty-loving woman. She was a strong and early proponent of Britain leaving the EU. She was right, she was way ahead of her time, and I am glad she lived to see PM May sign the notice of withdrawal. I considered Helen a real friend, despite never meeting in person, and it is sad that I never will now. Just on my current Gmail account, I have 1,879 email threads including Helen going back to 2005. She was a big presence, for me and for many others. Rest in peace, Helen. We are still here, pushing for all the things you believed in and fought for.

    [. . .]

    Once, early in my correspondence with Helen I asked “By the way, is your name pronounced SHAMwelly?” She responded: “No, it’s a Hungarian name, so the sz is pronounced s. The Poles pronounce things the wrong way round.”

    Posted in Britain, Europe, Obits | 3 Comments »

    Seth Barrett Tillman: This Is Not A Hung Parliament (with addendum)

    Posted by Jonathan on 9th June 2017 (All posts by )

    This is not a hung (UK) Parliament. When Parliament meets a majority of those voting will vote for the Tory leader (although by that time PM May have stepped down).
     
    With 649 of 650 seats declared at this juncture (10 AM BST, June 9, 2017), the Tories have 318 seats.

    [. . .]

    That leaves the Tory leader (Prime Minister May or her successor) with a 318 to 314 vote on a no confidence motion and a majority of 4.
     
    QED: No hung parliament. And did I mention that DUP, on which the Tory Government is likely to depend, as a practical matter, is proBrexit. What a time to be alive!

    Read the whole thing.

    Posted in Britain, Elections, Europe, Politics | 13 Comments »

    British People Need Guns

    Posted by Lexington Green on 8th June 2017 (All posts by )

    Dramatic Footage of London Cops Killing Muslim Knife Terrorists

    Solid work by the cops in London. Once the coppers show up the jihadis are dead dirt in seconds.

    Notably the terrorist idiots were wearing fake suicide-bomb vests. The cops closed with them and killed them at close range without regard to their own safety.

    But the cops cannot be everywhere. When seconds count, even with the best of intentions, the police will always be minutes away.

    In the USA we have, thank God, the Second Amendment. These dirtbags would have run into citizens carrying firearms, not pint glasses or bare fists.

    The Brits need to gun up.

    There will be lots more like this.

    Posted in Britain, Islam, Law Enforcement, RKBA, Terrorism | 29 Comments »

    Before D-Day, There Was Dieppe

    Posted by David Foster on 5th June 2017 (All posts by )

    Tomorrow will mark the 73rd anniversary of the Normandy Invasion.  Most Americans surely have at least some knowledge of this event…but relatively few are aware that there was an earlier amphibious assault on occupied Europe. The attack on the French port of Dieppe took place on August 19, 1942. The objectives were twofold. First, the attack was intended as kind of a “feasibility test” for the large-scale invasion which was to take place later. As stated by General Sir Alan Brooke, “If it was ever intended to invade France it was essential to launch a preliminary offensive on a divisional scale.” Second, the attack was intended to convince Hitler that an invasion was more imminent than it in fact was, thereby leading to the diversion of German forces from other areas.

    The troops assigned to Dieppe were mostly Canadians–5000 of them. There were also British commandos and a small number of American Rangers. Eight destroyers were assigned to the operation, along with 74 Allied air squadrons.

    The attack was a disastrous failure. In the words of military historian John Keegan: “When the badly shocked survivors of that terrible morning were got home and heads counted, only 2,110 of the 4,963 Canadians who had set sail the day before could be found. It became known later that 1,874 were prisoners, but of these 568 were wounded and 72 were to die of their wounds, while 378 of those returning were also wounded. Sixty-five percent of the Canadians engaged had therefore become casualties, almost all of them from the six assaulting infantry battalions, a toll which compared with that of July 1st, 1916, first day of the Battle of the Somme and blackest in the British army’s history. The 2nd Canadian Division had, for practical purposes, been destroyed…Strategic as well as human criteria applied in measuring the scale of the disaster. All the tanks which had been landed had been lost…lost also were 5 of the 10 precious Landing Craft Tank. And, auguring worst of all for the future, the damage had been done not by hastily summoned reinforcements, but by the forces already present; the 3 Canadian battalions which had stormed the central beach had been opposed by a single German company–at odds, that is, of 12 to 1…” If one defending unit could stop an attacking force with 12 times the numbers, a successful invasion would be impossible. Keegan: “(the disparity between the power of the attack and the defense) clearly could not be overcome merely by increasing the numbers of those embarked for the assault. that would be to repeat the mistakes of the First World War, when the solution of greater numbers resulted arithmetically in greater casualties for no territorial gains.”

    Captain (later Vice-Admiral) John Hughes-Hallett summarized the lessons of the failure in a report written shortly after the fact. To quote Keegan once again: “‘The lesson of Greatest Importance,’ his report capitalized and italicized, “Is the need for overwhelming fire support, including close support, during the initial stages of the attack,’ It should be provided by ‘heavy and medium Naval bombardment, by air action, by special vessels or craft’ (which would have to be developed) ‘working close inshore, and by using the firepower of the assaulting troops while still seaborne.'”

    The lessons of Dieppe were taken seriously. Keegan goes on to describe the naval firepower assigned to the actual D-day landings carried out by Canadians at Juno Beach: “Heaviest and furthest out were the two battleships Ramillies and Warspite…They both mounted four 15-inch guns and there were two more in Roberts, their accompanying monitor. Their chief task was to engage the large-calibre shore batteries between the Orne and the mouth of the Seine, but so great was their range–over eighteen miles–that they could in emergency be talked in on any target in the British bridgeheads…Immediately port and starboard of the lowering position was disposed a line of twelve cruisers, the smallest, like Diadem, mounting eight 5.25 inch guns, the largest, like Belfast, twelve 6-inch. Both were covering the Canadian beaches…In front of the Canadian lowering position manoeuvred the supporting destroyers, eleven for the Juno sector…And immediately in ahead of the assault-wave infantry was deployed a small fleet of support landing-craft: eight Landing Craft Gun, a sort of small monitor mounting two 4.7 inch guns; four Landing Craft Support, bristling with automatic cannon; eight Landing Craft tank (Rocket), on each of which were racked the tubes of 1,100 5-inch rockets, to be discharged in a single salvo; and eighteen Landing Craft Assault (Hedgerow), which were to fire their loads of twenty-four 60-lb bombs into the beach obstacles and so explode as many as possible of the mines attached to them.”

    In addition to the need for very heavy naval firepower, the D-day planners learned another lesson from Dieppe: rather than immediately seizing a port, or landing in close proximity to one, they avoided ports altogether, landing supplies initially over an open beach and leaving the capture of a port for a later phase in the operation.

    Keegan quotes are from his book, Six Armies in Normandy.

    There is much talk in management and consulting circles these days about the need for organizations to “embrace failure”…much of this talk is fairly glib and does not always consider that certain kinds of failures are truly catastrophic from a human/strategic/economic point of view and are indeed worthy of stringent efforts to prevent their occurrence.  When failures–catastrophic or otherwise–do occur, it is incumbent on responsible leadership to seriously analyze the lessons to be learned and to apply that knowledge diligently.  In the case of Dieppe, that work does indeed appear to have been done.

    Posted in Book Notes, Britain, France, Germany, History, Management, Military Affairs, USA | 10 Comments »

    Seth Barrett Tillman: Two Election Stories: New Jersey, November 7, 2016 & Belfast, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom, 2013

    Posted by Jonathan on 5th June 2017 (All posts by )

    Please forward [this] to people in Lakewood [New Jersey]. I gave [Rabbi] Yeruchum Olshin [May he live for many good days, Amen], [a] ride this morning and [he] said [that] I [may quote him – that is, Rabbi Olshin] in his name to vote for [candidate] Trump because [the authoritative commentary on Jewish law and practice explains] [King] David [had] 2 [failings] and [David] didn’t lose [his] kingdom, but [King] Saul [had] only one [failing] and lost [his] kingdom. Why? [The] answer is [because] David’s [failures] were in his private life but Saul[’s] [failure] was in [relation to] the [kingship] … [albeit it is all distinguishable] [Rabbi Olshin] said Trump is [low] … in his private life but Hillary [is] corrupt in public office. [quoting Rabbi Aaron of blessed memory]… Forward to everybody!!

    Read the whole thing.

    Posted in Anglosphere, Britain, Deep Thoughts, Elections, Trump | Comments Off on Seth Barrett Tillman: Two Election Stories: New Jersey, November 7, 2016 & Belfast, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom, 2013

    You’ve Read About 3d Printing…Here’s 3d Knitting

    Posted by David Foster on 31st May 2017 (All posts by )

    Customized blazers made on-site in about 90 minutes. (Some might call this product more of a cardigan.)  More from the retailer and the equipment manufacturer.

    Benefits of this approach compared with the traditional process include better fit, reduced fabric waste (indeed, the process starts with yarn rather than with fabric), elimination of seams for better durability, and avoidance of inventory vs demand mismatches.  OTOH, the machine is priced at $190,000 and for a store with high volumes, several of them are going to be required.  I’m not sure whether this will be only a niche product/service or whether it heralds the beginning of a sea change in the traditional cut-and-sew method of apparel production…surely something that will come sooner or later, with vast consequences.

    This innovation reminded me of a story from pre-industrial-revolution days.  In 1589, an Englishman named William Lee invented a device called the stocking frame, which aimed to greatly improve the productivity of knitting the material for the stockings that were then in vogue. According to a common story, he was motivated to create the machine because when he came to call on a girl he was sweet on, she persisted in paying more attention to her knitting than to him.  So his intent was either (a) free up her time so she would have more (hopefully) for him, or (b) get revenge on her for rejecting him. (I’d rather think he was naive (version A) than vicious (version B))

    He then arranged to demonstrate the machine to Queen Elizabeth, hoping for a patent.  In one version of the story, she expressed disappointment that the machine was only good for wool and told him to come back when it could also handle silk…which enhancement he was indeed able to accomplish.  In any case, Elizabeth ultimately rejected the device because of concerns about technological unemployment:

    Thou aimest high, Master Lee. Consider thou what the invention could do to my poor subjects. It would assuredly bring to them ruin by depriving them of employment, thus making them beggars.

    The inventor moved to France and was there granted a patent by Henry IV…he began successful manufacturing of stockings in Rouen, but the King’s assassination in 1610 made the political climate for the venture untenable.  William Lee lived out the rest of his life in poverty.  It appears that in the late 1600s an improved version of the machine was re-introduced to England by Huguenot refugees from France, this time successfully, and further improvements were made over time, including the ability of the machines to work with cotton.  These improved versions were however too expensive for most artisans to purchase on their own, and they were generally rented out by the same entrepreneurs who provided the framework knitters with their raw materials and purchased their resultant product.

    An interesting article on William Lee and his machine here.

    The Worshipful Company of Framework Knitters has a wonderful coat-of-arms featuring William Lee and the object of his desire, with the machine between them.

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Posted in Britain, History, Tech | 9 Comments »

    Worthwhile Reading

    Posted by David Foster on 26th May 2017 (All posts by )

    (Worthwhile but not very cheerful reading, for the most part, I’m afraid)

    “Progressives” as Minor Nobles of Exquisite Breeding and Dubious Character

    Related:  The New Class War

    Ex-Muslims in America meeting in secret for reasons of safety

    Bookworm links a carefully-reasoned Victor Davis Hanson about Trump and the accusations being made against him, and contrasts it with  “the incoherent rage attack visited upon a conservative friend of mine via a series of text messages from one of the parents in his children’s community.”

    American universities as assembly points for the anti-free-speech Left

    Case in point:  Student mob shrieks at professor and calls for his firing

    Manchester and the lies we tell ourselves about terrorism.  A good piece, though I would question to use of the word “we” in the title–the intellectual fallacies described in the post are held by a set of people comprising less than 50% of the population…but still, a set of people with considerable power and influence.

    In Robert Heinlein’s 1952 story The Year of the Jackpot, a statistician observes many simultaneous indicators suggesting that the society is going totally insane.  Young women are removing all their clothes in public, but can’t explain why they are doing it.  A man has sued an entire state legislature for alienation of his wife’s affections–and the judge is letting the suit be tried.  In another state, a bill has been introduced to repeal the laws of atomic energy–not the relevant statutes, but the natural laws concerning nuclear physics.

    I was reminded again of Heinlein’s story by this post:  Woman sues candy maker for it’s sugar-filled jelly beans and again by this piece of late-Weimar-level degeneracy.

    Hopefully I’ll be able to post some more encouraging links for the next roundup…

    Posted in Academia, Britain, Civil Liberties, Islam, Leftism, Society, Terrorism | 5 Comments »

    Seth Barrett Tillman: Responding to Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain in The Guardian…

    Posted by Jonathan on 24th May 2017 (All posts by )

    (Read the entire exchange here.)

    Posted in Britain, Civil Society, Current Events, Deep Thoughts, Human Behavior, Leftism, Rhetoric, Terrorism | 21 Comments »

    Seth Barrett Tillman: Fanning’s Fatal Path…

    Posted by Jonathan on 14th May 2017 (All posts by )

    (Source)

    Fanning's Fatal Path...

    Fanning’s Fatal Path…

    Posted in Britain, Diversions, History, Ireland, Judaism | 1 Comment »

    How to Get a Complex/Technical Bill Through a Legislature

    Posted by David Foster on 5th May 2017 (All posts by )

    In 1751, Lord Chesterfield decided that the time had come for England to switch from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar.  In a letter to his son, he explained how he got this done:

    I consulted the best lawyers and the most skillful astronomers, and we cooked up a bill for that purpose. But then my difficulty began: I was to bring in this bill, which was necessarily composed of law jargon and astronomical calculations, to both which I am an utter stranger. However, it was absolutely necessary to make the House of Lords think that I knew something of the matter; and also to make them believe that they knew something of it themselves, which they do not. For my own part, I could just as soon have talked Celtic or Sclavonian to them as astronomy, and they would have understood me full as well: so I resolved to do better than speak to the purpose, and to please instead of informing them. I gave them, therefore, only an historical account of calendars, from the Egyptian down to the Gregorian, amusing them now and then with little episodes; but I was particularly attentive to the choice of my words, to the harmony and roundness of my periods, to my elocution, to my action. This succeeded, and ever will succeed; they thought I informed, because I pleased them; and many of them said that I had made the whole very clear to them; when, God knows, I had not even attempted it. Lord Macclesfield, who had the greatest share in forming the bill, and who is one of the greatest mathematicians and astronomers in Europe, spoke afterward with infinite knowledge, and all the clearness that so intricate a matter would admit of: but as his words, his periods, and his utterance, were not near so good as mine, the preference was most unanimously, though most unjustly, given to me.

    Posted in Britain, History, Politics, Rhetoric, Science | 3 Comments »

    The Memoirs of Field Marshall Montgomery

    Posted by Lexington Green on 27th April 2017 (All posts by )

    I read the memoirs of Field Marshall Bernard Law Montgomery a year or two ago, and I recently discussed the book elsewhere, so I pass these thoughts along here.

    It was very good. Anyone with an interest in the Second World War and early Cold War should read it. Monty’s involvement in setting up the postwar military alliance with the United States was a surprisingly interesting part of the book which I knew little about. His personal connection with senior US military personnel proved to be very important.

    Montgomery, like Slim, was an unglamorous commander, and he is probably underrated. They both focused on the basics, particularly adequate supply, and they both also recognized the limitations of what their own men and equipment could do.

    Monty is castigated, often by American writers, for not being more dashing. He preferred meticulous planning, and sticking to the script, and he was willing to forgo targets of opportunity. He recognized that to try to operate in a more extemporaneous way would be to play to the strength of the Germans. They were good at that sort of thing, but he recognized that his own army was not. Recognizing that armies have national character seems to be a feature of the thinking of senior British commanders.

    Wolseley in his memoirs thinks in a remarkably similar way, offering his unsentimental comments about the relative strengths and weaknesses of his own English, Scottish, and Irish troops versus those of their opponents. Montgomery similarly understood that the Germans were good at certain things, the English were good at other things: Do what you are good at.

    Montgomery also has a reputation for being egotistical and self-serving, which certainly has some basis in fact. Nonetheless, his book comes off as reasonably fair, and seems to be honest, with the single major exception of his discussion of the way the Normandy campaign played out. He claims in the book that it was always his intention to wage an attrition battle against the Germans on the left flank of the lodgment with his own troops, so that the Americans could break out on the right. I don’t believe a word of this. His repeated, major ground offensives, such as Goodwood, failed because the Germans outfought him. Monty was not intentionally waging an attrition battle. He wanted the American to wear down the Germans, and to break out with his own army on the left. That was, so I speculate, always his actual plan. But of course the enemy always gets a vote.

    Monty had good reason for wanting it to play out this way, with the main breakout on the left. Montgomery always paid attention to the larger political aspects of the war. My guess is that his goal was always to clear the channel and North Sea coasts, and capture the exits from the Baltic to secure Britain’s position, including capturing Antwerp, and lock up the Russians. This would be consistent with centuries of proven British strategic thinking and practice. It was almost an axiom of British strategy and international politics that it is essential to neutralize or secure control of the Low Countries, the most likely and most threatening locale for a foreign invasion base to attack Britain. This was a perpetual British imperative, particularly in wartime. This would explain why Monty was willing to roll the dice on Market Garden, to regain the initiative for the left-wing of the Allied advance.

    Montgomery is improperly understood, largely by American readers, as a foil to the American commanders in the Second World War. We view him as a jarring note in an otherwise predominantly American story. But this is not an enlightening way to look at Montgomery. He is better understood in the context of British history, British strategic thinking, and long-standing British military practice.

    Posted in Biography, Book Notes, Britain, History, Military Affairs | 33 Comments »

    An Interesting Theory on Muslim Immigration.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 23rd March 2017 (All posts by )

    I have been wondering why the political left, and to some extent the right, has been so enthusiastic about Muslim immigration. Islam is just not compatible with the liberal traditions of the West. So why the continued efforts to import Muslims ?

    Here is a novel theory.

    There’s no economic argument for importing Syrians or Turks. Muslims are overwhelmingly represented on the welfare roles. In Denmark, people from MENA countries make up 5% of the population, but consume 40% of welfare benefits. This is a story across Europe. It is not just the new arrivals. Turks in Germany have been there for a couple of generations and have been the worst performing economic group in the country. Estimates put the total working population at 20%, while the rest live off welfare benefits. Then there is the issue of sky high Muslim crime rates.

    The incident in London yesterday made clear that assimilation is not going to solve the problem. The terrorist was British born. Most of the sexual abusers in Rotherham were British born to Muslim immigrants.

    In September 2012, investigations by The Times based on confidential police and social services documents, found that abuse had been much more widespread than acknowledged.[24][25] It uncovered systematic sexual abuse of white girls by British Asian men (mostly of Pakistani origin)[26] in Rotherham for which people were not being prosecuted.

    Not only were they not being prosecuted but the British authorities had been covering up the abuse for years Why ?

    Is there popular support for importing these people, despite their uselessness as citizens? Again, there’s no data to suggest this is the case. European leaders could have put the issue to the voters, but they fanatically avoid it. In fact, anyone who dares run on the issue is branded a Nazi. Politicians love democracy when they are assured of winning. They avoid it when they are assured of losing. Therefore, it is safe to assume they don’t think this is a winner for them.

    So, the politicians seem to favor the immigrants over their own citizens. Why ?

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Britain, Europe, Immigration, Islam, Trump | 56 Comments »

    Book Review: The Year of the French (rerun)

    Posted by David Foster on 17th March 2017 (All posts by )

    The Year of the French, by Thomas Flanagan

    (This being St Patrick’s day, I’m again taking advantage of the hook to re-post this review, in the hope of inspiring a few more people to read this incredibly fine historical novel)

    Ralph Peters calls this book “the finest historical novel written in English, at least in the twentieth century,” going on to say “except for ‘The Leopard,’ I know of no historical novel that so richly and convincingly captures the ambience of a bygone world.”

    In August of 1798, the French revolutionary government landed 1000 troops in County Mayo to support indigenous Irish rebels, with the objective of overthrowing British rule in Ireland.  The Year of the French tells the (fictionalized but fact-based) story of these events from the viewpoint of several characters, representing different groups in the complex and strife-ridden Irish social structure of the time.

    Owen MacCarthy is a schoolmaster and poet who writes in the Gaelic tradition.  He is pressed by illiterate locals to write a threatening letter to a landlord who has evicted tenants while switching land from farming to cattle-raising.  With his dark vision of how an attempt at rebellion must end–“In Caslebar.  They will load you in carts with your wrists tied behind you and take you down to Castlebar and try you there and hang you there”–MacCarthy is reluctant to get involved, but he writes the letter.

    Sam Cooper, the recipient of the letter, is a small-scale landlord, and captain of the local militia.  Indigenously Irish, his family converted to Protestantism several generations ago to avoid the crippling social and economic disabilities imposed on Catholics. Cooper’s wife, Kate, herself still Catholic, is a beautiful and utterly ruthless woman…she advises Cooper to respond to the letter by rounding up “a few of the likeliest rogues,”  jailing and flogging them, without any concern for actual guilt or innocence. “My God, what a creature you are for a woman,”  Cooper responds. “It is a man you should have been born.”  “A strange creature that would make me in your bed,” Kate fires back, “It is a woman I am, and fine cause you have to know it…What matters now is who has the land and who will keep it.”

    Ferdy O’Donnell  is a young hillside farmer on Cooper’s land.  Far back in the past, the land was owned by the O’Donnell family…Ferdy had once shown Cooper  “a valueless curiosity, a parchment that recorded the fact in faded ink the colour of old, dried blood.”

    Arthur Vincent Broome is a Protestant clergyman who is not thrilled by the “wild and dismal region” to which he has been assigned, but who performs his duties as best he can. Broome is resolved to eschew religious bigotry, but…”I affirm most sincerely that distinctions which rest upon creed mean little to me, and yet I confess that my compassion for their misery is mingled with an abhorrence of their alien ways…they live and thrive in mud and squalour…their music, for all that antiquarians and fanatics can find to say in its flavor, is wild and savage…they combine a grave and gentle courtesy with a murderous violence that erupts without warning…”‘

    Malcolm Elliott is a Protestant landlord and solicitor, and a member of the Society of United Irishmen.  This was a revolutionary group with Enlightenment ideals, dedicated to bringing Catholics and Protestants together in the cause of overthrowing British rule and establishing an Irish Republic.  His wife, Judith, is an Englishwoman with romantic ideas about Ireland.

    John Moore, also a United Irishman, is a member of one of the few Catholic families that have managed to hold on to their land.  He is in love with Ellen Treacy, daughter of another prominent Catholic family: she returns his love, but believes that he is caught in a web of words that can only lead to disaster.  “One of these days you will say a loose word to some fellow and he will get on his horse and ride off to Westport to lay an information with Dennis Browne, and that will be the last seen of you”

    Dennis Browne is High Sheriff of Mayo…smooth, manipulative, and devoted to the interests of the very largest landowners in the county, such as his brother Lord Altamont and the mysterious Lord Glenthorne, the “Big Lord” who owns vast landholdings and an immense house which he has never visited.

    Randall MacDonnell is a Catholic landowner with a decrepit farm and house, devoted primarily to his horses.  His motivations for joining the rebellion are quite different from those of the idealistic United Irishman…”For a hundred years of more, those Protestant bastards have been the cocks of the walk, strutting around on acres that belong by rights to the Irish…there are men still living who remember when a son could grab his father’s land by turning Protestant.”

    Jean Joseph Humbert is the commander of the French forces.  A former dealer in animal skins, he owes his position in life to the revolution.  He is a talented commander, but  the battle he is most concerned about is the battle for status and supremacy between himself and  Napoleon Bonaparte.

    Charles Cornwallis, the general who surrendered to the Americans at Yorktown, is now in charge of defeating the French and the rebels and pacifying the rebellious areas of Ireland.   Seen through the eyes of  a young aide who admires him greatly, Cornwallis is portrayed as a basically kindly man who can be hard when he thinks it necessary, but takes no pleasure in it.  “The color of war had long since bleached from his thoughts, and it remained for him only a duty to be scrupulously performed.”

    This book is largely about the way in which the past lives on in the present, both in the world of physical objects and the world of social relationships.  Two characters who make a brief appearance are Richard Manning, proprietor of a decrepit and debt-laden castle, and his companion Ellen Kirwan:

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Britain, France, History, Ireland | 2 Comments »

    Dominic Cummings: How the Brexit Referendum was Won

    Posted by Lexington Green on 17th January 2017 (All posts by )

    Screen Shot 2017-01-17 at 5.25.53 PM

    Dominic Cummings explains how the Brexit referendum was won. Cummings was the Campaign Director of Vote Leave. He was in effect the executive director of the Brexit referendum campaign. This article explains how it happened. It is also long and rambling. But read it all anyway.

    It is full of many interesting observations and various insightful, epigrammatic comments:

    Most of the MPs we dealt with were not highly motivated to win and lacked extreme focus, even those who had been boring everybody about this for decades. They sort of wanted to win but they had other priorities. …
     
    This lack of motivation is connected to another important psychology – the willingness to fail conventionally. Most people in politics are, whether they know it or not, much more comfortable with failing conventionally than risking the social stigma of behaving unconventionally. They did not mind losing so much as being embarrassed, as standing out from the crowd. (The same phenomenon explains why the vast majority of active fund management destroys wealth and nobody learns from this fact repeated every year.)

    This happens all the time, not just in politics.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Anglosphere, Britain, Crony Capitalism | 10 Comments »

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Jonathan on 10th November 2016 (All posts by )

    Nigel Farage, commenting on the election of Donald Trump:

    “This is a big opportunity for all British business because once we’ve left that awful EU thing we can do our first trade deal with the United States of America. Isn’t that great?”

    Posted in America 3.0, Anglosphere, Britain, Business, Current Events, Elections, Europe, Politics, Tradeoffs, Trump, USA | 2 Comments »

    Seth Barrett Tillman: The Case of the Ship Money, R v Hampden 3 State Trials 381 (1640), and its relevance today

    Posted by Jonathan on 6th November 2016 (All posts by )

    In The Ship Money Case [R v Hampden 3 State Trials 825 (1637), superseded by Act Declaring the Illegality of Ship-Money, Aug. 7, 1641, 17 Charles I, chapter 14], a bare majority of the judges of the Court of Exchequer Chamber voted for the Crown and against Hampden, the tax payer, who objected to being forced to pay purported taxes absent parliamentary consent.

    Seth asks:

    100 years from now which will be recognized as the more odious decision? Hampden or Miller? Hampden merely opposed Parliament; Miller opposed a national popular referendum.

    Read the whole, brief, thing.

    (I’m guessing Hampden wasn’t one of the foreign laws our own Justice Ginsburg had in mind.)

    Posted in Britain, Elections, Europe, History, Law | 1 Comment »

    Seth Barrett Tillman: Justice Thomas’ Worst Decision: Brexit

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

    Seth predicts reversal on appeal. Read his argument for yourself.

    Posted in Anglosphere, Britain, Europe, Law | 1 Comment »

    The “Social Justice Movement” Claims Another Victim

    Posted by David Foster on 31st August 2016 (All posts by )

    A teenage girl in the UK has killed herself, apparently because of fears that she would be branded ‘racist’ or ‘Islamophobic’ after sending a joke photograph as an Instagram message.

    Never forget that Hillary Clinton is closely aligned with the ‘politically correct’ instigators and leaders of the kind of attack mobs..on-line and off-line…that this girl apparently feared.

    And given the current state of things in the UK, her fear was probably not irrational, though her action certainly was.   See this:  police are investigating social media critics of planned refugee center.

    “Although you may believe your message is acceptable, other people may take offence, and you could face a large fine up to two years in prison if your message is deemed to have broken the law” said an assistant chief constable.

    And in Manchester, a Police Chief Inspector for Greater Manchester, himself a Muslim, indicated that, according to his understanding, “freedom of speech does not mean freedom of offending culture, religion or tradition”.

    If you want people in the US to fear police visits as a result of ‘politically incorrect’ online communications or comments to friends, then you should do everything you can to help Hillary Clinton win the Presidency.

    Posted in Britain, Civil Liberties, Islam, USA | 19 Comments »

    Seth Barrett Tillman: Souvenir from a recent summer vacation–Brexit Poster: Vote To Leave

    Posted by Jonathan on 5th August 2016 (All posts by )

    Golden memories.

    Posted in Britain, Elections, Europe, Photos | 1 Comment »

    Seth Barrett Tillman: The Libertarian/Popperian Case for Brexit: A Response to Professors Somin, Levy, Norberg et al.

    Posted by Jonathan on 19th July 2016 (All posts by )

    The so-called libertarian case against Brexit works like this. Nations do bad things. E.g., tariffs. And the European Union (“EU”) blocks some (perhaps many of) those bad things. Indeed, the EU has set up a tariff-free free trade zone. That’s a good thing. Therefore EU-good & Brexit-bad. This position is not entirely wrong, but it is only half the story.
     
    First, the EU (and EFTA) free trade zone extends to EU (and EFTA) member states and their dependencies, and also to a few nearby non-member political entities (e.g., San Marino, Andorra, etc). This tariff-free free trade zone does not extend to the world. So when foreign goods are imported into the “tariff-free free trade zone” across the EU’s external borders, EU law mandates a “Common Customs Tariff”. In other words, hand-in-hand with the absence of tariffs among member states is an EU-imposed tariff against non-members’ exports. Whether this situation is a net gain for the people of Europe is a complex empirical question. That question is not answered merely by parroting the EU’s line: we promote tariff-free free trade. No, that question is not so easily answered because although the EU promotes some free trade, it positively discriminates against non-members’ exports.

    Read the rest.

    This is a long and well reasoned post that is worth reading in full. The gist of Seth’s argument is that the political phenomena lumped together as “Brexit” should be evaluated empirically rather than according to someone’s interpretation of libertarian doctrine; there are good reasons for supporters of freedom and open societies to favor Britain’s exit from the EU.

    UPDATE: Ilya Somin responds. The reader is invited to evaluate Somin’s full response for himself, but I was struck by this line: “Tillman’s discussion of immigration is notable for its implicit assumption that we can assess immigration policy while completely ignoring the freedom and interests of potential immigrants themselves.” Has there ever been a country that framed its immigration policy in any terms other than its own self-interest?

    Posted in Britain, Current Events, Europe, Libertarianism, Political Philosophy, Politics | 3 Comments »