Archive for the 'Europe' Category
Concept of the Corporation, by Peter Drucker
It’s been a long time since I read this 1946 book by Peter Drucker. I recently pulled it down from the shelf and thought it worth a reread. I’ll be excerpting some passages I think are particularly interesting, not necessarily in sequential order. For starters, under the heading the corporation as a social institution:
Americans rarely realize how completely their view of society differs from that accepted in Europe, where social philosophy for the last three hundred years has fluctuated between regarding society as God and regarding it as merely an expression of brute force. The difference between the American view of the nature and meaning of social organization and the views of modern Europe goes back to the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. During that period which culminated in the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648) the Continent (and to a lesser degree England) broke with the traditional concept of society as a means to an ethical end–the concept that underlay the great medieval synthesis—and substituted for it either the deification or the degradation of politics. Ever since, the only choice in Europe has been between Hegel and Machiavelli. This country (and that part of English tradition which began with Hooker and led through Locke to Burke) refused to break with the basically Christian view of society as it was developed from the fifth to the nineteenth century and built its society on the reapplication of the old principle to new social facts and new social needs.
To this social philosophy the United States owes that character of being at the same time both the most materialistic and the most idealistic society, which has baffled so many observers…The American who regards social institutions and material goods as ethically valuable because they are the means to an ethical goal is neither an idealist nor a naturalist, he is a dualist.
The Diplomad observes that “‘Progressives’, of course, are greatly influenced by movies. In fact…the majority of what passes for “Progressive thought” is derived from the Hollywood version of history that they have running in an endless video loop in their heads. Listen to them talk about the economy, race relations, education, “gender equality,” US history, etc., and it all forms part of some giant Hollywood script.” Indeed—shortly after 9/11, when the idea of arming airline pilots was first mooted, critics of the idea referred to “gunfights at 35,000 feet” as something “out of a Tom Clancy movie”. Hadn’t they thought that deliberately crashing airplanes into buildings might be something out of a Tom Clancy movie, too? And whether or not something might appear in a movie is obviously irrelevant to its validity from a policy standpoint.
This topic relates closely to my earlier post about metaphors, interfaces, and thought processes, in which I discuss the consequences of the “iconic” versus the “textual” modes of presenting information.
David Warren writes about the conspiracy of German elites, in both media and government, to suppress knowledge of the New Year’s atrocities in Cologne and other cities. Indeed, one might conclude that the whole idea of free speech hasn’t taken hold very well in Germany over the last 70 years, at least among the writing and political classes. Unfortunately, the problem is not limited to Germany: Mark Zuckerberg, the ringmaster of the Facebook circus, was apparently all too eager to co-conspire with Merkel to delete strong criticisms of her immigration policies.
A society cannot thrive or even survive if its decision-making organs are disconnected from knowledge of what is actually happening, any more than your furnace can keep your house at the right temperature if the wires connecting it to the thermostat are cut. In a democracy, the ultimate decision-making organ is supposed to be the people of the country.
Don Sensing writes about totalism, and how it is reflected in the behavior of the Obama administration and the attitudes of the “progressive” Left. He quotes Mussolini’s definition of Fascism:
“From the “You Can’t Make It Up Collection”: Derek Scally writing for The Irish Times on the Cologne Attacks”
If Scally knows the difference between groping and raping, then his usage here publicly victimized the victim a second time, and he also misinformed all his Irish Times readers. On the other hand, if Scally’s command of standard English usage is so poor to the extent that he really does not know the difference, then he should open his eyes, mind, and heart, and speak to his mother, sister, or daughter—someone—anyone—or, he could just buy a standard college-level English dictionary. But either way, whether Scally knows the difference or not, The Irish Times has lost my trust.
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 10th January 2016 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
Belmont Club and Richard Fernandez have come up with a good term to describe what is happening now.
It’s on, the long awaited fight against PC orthodoxy is finally on. Trump is unlikely to apologize, CAIR even more unlikely to back down. With 3 million Middle Eastern and African refugees due to arrive in Europe this year the clashes between German protesters are only likely to intensify.
The commotion you hear is not going to stop, it will only get worse. The Western Spring is finally here, and before it’s done it threatens to change everything.
The “Arab Spring” has proved a disaster for the Middle East. Much of that disaster was midwifed by Obama and Hillary. Obama helped The Muslim Brotherhood overthrow our ally, Mubarak. The Washington Post was very optimistic.
CAIRO – It was sparked on social-networking sites, and inspired by a revolution in Tunisia. In 18 days, it grew into something astounding – a leaderless people’s movement that at every turn outsmarted a government with an almost unblemished 30-year record of suppressing dissent.
Of course, it didn’t turn out the way they expected.
Despite the government’s efforts to sow violence that could be pinned on the demonstrators, the vast majority did not take the bait.
In the first days of the protests, they were attacked with high-pressure water hoses, tear gas, birdshot, rubber bullets and live ammunition. Protesters responded with rocks, but also with pamphlets instructing demonstrators to appeal to the police as fellow Egyptians.
When police withdrew from the streets and prisoners were released from their cells, Egyptians formed security committees to protect their neighborhoods. And when pro-Mubarak forces – many of them thought to be paid thugs and undercover police – attacked anti-government demonstrators, the protesters fought back but did not escalate the violence.
More than 300 people were killed over the past 18 days, with each death giving the movement more momentum. In Tahrir Square, posters of the dead grace every corner. A curly haired girl named Sally, a man named Hassan, a boy named Mohammed.
There is no mention of what happened to Lara Logan in Tahrir Square during the “innocent demonstrations.”
Lara Logan thought she was going to die in Tahrir Square when she was sexually assaulted by a mob on the night that Hosni Mubarak’s government fell in Cairo.
Ms. Logan, a CBS News correspondent, was in the square preparing a report for “60 Minutes” on Feb. 11 when the celebratory mood suddenly turned threatening. She was ripped away from her producer and bodyguard by a group of men who tore at her clothes and groped and beat her body. “For an extended period of time, they raped me with their hands,” Ms. Logan said in an interview with The New York Times. She estimated that the attack involved 200 to 300 men. Sounds like a preview, doesn’t it ?
The leftist innocence drips from the WaPo article.
Mubarak believed that the US conspired to bring him down. Knowing Obama, he was probably correct. Of course, we should follow Napoleon’s rule, “Never attribute to malice that which can be explained by incompetence.”
An archaic term, in general; according to the wildly variable and sometimes suspect Wikipedia, it is a term taken from an even more archaic term for food for livestock. “Soldiers are the metaphorical food for enemy cannon fire.” Wikipedia defines the expression further as, “…an informal, derogatory term for combatants who are regarded … as expendable in the face of enemy fire … or to distinguish expendable low-grade or inexperienced combatants from supposedly more valuable veterans.”
Expendable is the operative word, and expendable without much regret on the part of the credentialed elite – the political, social or military elite – because the expected goal is considered worth the sacrifice, especially if the sacrifice is borne by others. Reading this week about the sexual violence reported – reluctantly in many cases by German media – as being perpetrated on a grand scale by recent Middle Eastern migrants masquerading as war refugees on women in German cities on this last New Years Eve gave me a sickening new understanding of the concept.
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When I was a young auditor I was on an airplane heading out to a utility client in Iowa. I sat next to a woman and her grade school aged child. I was making small talk with them and the kid asked me what I did. I said I worked with the electric utility. And he said
Are you the guy who comes over and turns off the power?
The child’s mom was embarrassed and the conversation was muted after that but I never forgot that exchange – the reality that, for the poor, electricity was a bill that had to be paid, and frequently it came ahead of other key necessities which then was brutally enforced by pulling the plug. Electricity is a big bill for the poor.
This discussion is completely relevant to what is occurring in Europe today, as these countries move to wind and solar renewable energy instead of economically efficient coal, natural gas and nuclear power. This great article from Forbes summarizes the current debacle:
To illustrate, Denmark and Germany are the proud wind capitals of Europe, but they also have the highest home electricity prices on Earth, 42 and 40 cents per kWh, respectively, against just 12.5 cents in the U.S…. Undeniably non-sensically, Germany has been paying over $26 billion per year for electricity that has a wholesale market value of just $5 billion
This sort of mass economic distortion (possibly suicide) has a real, human toll:
higher cost electricity (and energy) is horrible for our health. That’s because, since electricity is so indispensable, meaning that it “cannot not be used,” higher cost power drastically erodes our disposable income, which is the very basis of our health – while also disproportionately hurting the poor most. As a percentage of income, poor families pay 5-9 times more for electricity than rich families do. Predictably silently, higher cost electricity in Europe is killing tens of thousands of people a year, ”Excess Winter Deaths,” where older residents on fixed budgets in particular are forced to turn their heat down to avoid overly expensive utility bills. For example, there were 44,000 Excess Winter Deaths in England and Wales in 2014-2015
It is amazing that while Europe is able to penalize the poor and elderly on fixed income in the name of clean energy, their same economic champions, the car companies, ran elaborate schemes to defeat emissions limits on diesel cars in a massive scandal that we’ve all heard about. The cost of remediation and penalties will be in the billions.
Finally, in perhaps the bitterest pill, moving to expensive and unreliable energy sources means that the reliable blood-money energy available from Putin and Russia becomes even more important to maintaining their grid. While Western Europe has been making a (relatively feeble) effort to punish Putin for his atrocities in the skies and in Ukraine, they ignore the obvious morality issues linked to filling his coffers so that he can buy weapons and pay his soldiers that are used for repression and dictatorship in the east. It is amazing that there will be sit-ins for climate change and animal rights but the rights of Ukrainians and fellow European citizens apparently count for nothing if it enables their energy fantasies to be supported.
The Europeans are breathtaking in their ability to unilaterally punish the poor and the elderly and increase their payments to Putin while cheating on emissions testing and pursuing their odd goals of “clean” power. These issues apparently do not keep them up at night despite their real-world effects.
Cross posted at LITGM
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 12th December 2015 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
As usual, Richard Fernandez gets to the heart of the matter with the least number of detours.
The important thing to remember about rebellions, even small ones, is that everyone who thinks they can control the forces unleashed — can’t. That goes for Obama and that goes for Trump. A friend who was a veteran of the Anbar Surge wrote that democracy was scary and to calm himself down he repeated to himself Winston Churchill’s soothing words: “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.”
Yes, I think we are on the threshold of a revolution. Whether it is a Revolution, with a capital R, is yet to be seen.
Fernandez begins with the incident of Gessler’s Hat.
in 1307 Gessler raised a pole in the market square of Altdorf, placed his hat atop it, and ordered all the townsfolk to bow before it. Tell, whose marksmanship and pride were legendary, publicly refused. Gessler’s cruel wrath was tempered by his curiosity to test Tell’s skill, so he gave Tell the option of either being executed or shooting an apple off his son’s head in one try. Tell succeeded in splitting the apple with his arrow, saving his own life. When Gessler asked why he had readied two arrows, he lied and replied that it was out of habit. After being assured that he wouldn’t be killed, Tell finally admitted that the second was intended for the tyrant if his son was harmed.
Yes, it is best not to put all your cards on the table until they are needed.
Gessler, enraged, had Tell arrested and taken by boat across Lake Lucerne to Küssnacht to spend the life he had saved in a dungeon. A sudden fierce storm made the crew terrified, and since William Tell was a better sailor, they handed the wheel to him. But instead of heading towards the dungeon, he escaped to shore. There he ambushed and killed Gessler with an arrow, launching the young Confederacy’s rebellion against Austrian rule.
The result was freedom that still endures. What does this tell us ? Not much but Andrew McCarthy has some ideas.
Donald Trump’s rhetorical excesses aside, he has a way of pushing us into important debates, particularly on immigration. He has done it again with his bracing proposal to force “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.” I have no idea what Mr. Trump knows about either immigration law or Islam. But it should be obvious to any objective person that Muslim immigration to the West is a vexing challenge. Some Muslims come to the United States to practice their religion peacefully, and assimilate into the Western tradition of tolerance of other people’s liberties, including religious liberty — a tradition alien to the theocratic societies in which they grew up. Others come here to champion sharia, Islam’s authoritarian societal framework and legal code, resisting assimilation into our pluralistic society.
Now what ?
Posted by Trent Telenko on 13th November 2015 (All posts by Trent Telenko)
David Brooks’ Beslan column in the New York Times seems appropriate for this Paris Attack:
“Dissertations will be written about the euphemisms the media used to describe these murderers. They were called “separatists” and “hostage-takers.” Three years after Sept. 11, many are still apparently unable to talk about this evil. They still try to rationalize terror. What drives the terrorists to do this? What are they trying to achieve?
They’re still victims of the delusion that Paul Berman diagnosed after Sept. 11: “It was the belief that, in the modern world, even the enemies of reason cannot be the enemies of reason. Even the unreasonable must be, in some fashion, reasonable.”
This death cult has no reason and is beyond negotiation. This is what makes it so frightening. This is what causes so many to engage in a sort of mental diversion. They don’t want to confront this horror. So they rush off in search of more comprehensible things to hate.”
The Reality of Beslan is here again…and it is not going away.
Again and again, I see people referring to those Americans who have nothing but bad things to say about their own country as “self-hating Americans.” I see Jews who display unhinged rage against Israel referred to as “self-hating Jews.” And I have also seen many references to “self-hating Europeans.”
I believe that the “self-hating” diagnosis of the behavior of this sort of people is in most cases quite wrong, and this wrongness matters.
In 1940, C S Lewis wrote a little essay titled “Dangers of National Repentance.” Apparently, there was a movement among Christian youth to “repent” England’s sins (which were thought to include the treaty of Versailles) and to “forgive” England’s enemies. Lewis’s analysis of this movement is highly relevant to our current situation.
“Young Christians especially..are turning to (the National Repentance Movement) in large numbers,” Lewis wrote. “They are ready to believe that England bears part of the guilt for the present war, and ready to admit their own share in the guilt of England…Most of these young men were children…when England made many of those decisions to which the present disorders could plausibly be traced. Are they, perhaps, repenting what they have in no sense done?”
“If they are, it might be supposed that their error is very harmless: men fail so often to repent their real sins that the occasional repentance of an imaginary sin might appear almost desirable. But what actually happens (I have watched it happen) to the youthful national penitent is a little more complicated than that. England is not a natural agent, but a civil society…The young man who is called upon to repent of England’s foreign policy is really being called upon to repent the acts of his neighbor; for a foreign secretary or a cabinet minister is certainly a neighbor…A group of such young penitents will say, “Let us repent our national sins”; what they mean is, “Let us attribute to our neighbor (even our Christian neighbor) in the cabinet, whenever we disagree with him,every abominable motive that Satan can suggest to our fancy.” (Emphasis added.)
Lewis points out that when a man who was raised to be patriotic tries to repent the sins of England, he is attempting something that will be difficult for him. “But an educated man who is now in his twenties usually has no such sentiment to mortify. In art, in literature, in politics, he has been, ever since he can remember, one of an angry minority; he has drunk in almost with his mother’s milk a distrust of English statesmen and a contempt for the manners, pleasures, and enthusiasms of his less-educated fellow countrymen.”
It’s hard to believe that this was written more than 60 years ago–it’s such a bulls-eye description of a broad swath of our current “progressives.” (The only difference being that many of them today are a lot older than “in their twenties.”)
Berthold Brecht’s bitterly satiric poem “The Solution” has now and again been quoted here, usually in regard to some towering idiocy on the part of a government given to complaining about a lack of support among citizens for some particular national objective. Note that I specified citizens in the once-commonly-accepted American sense, and not the citizens-as-subjects in the European sense, which seems to imply that the ordinary people of a particular nation are there merely to serve as a kind of sheep to be sheared economically, or as metaphorical cannon-fodder to be marshaled up and flung to the front of whatever national objective that the national ruling class has ruled must be the focus of the effort of the moment.
After the uprising of the 17th of June
The Secretary of the Writers’ Union
Had leaflets distributed in the Stalinallee
Stating that the people
Had forfeited the confidence of the government
And could win it back only
By redoubled efforts. Would it not be easier
In that case for the government
To dissolve the people
And elect another?
Nasty old Commie that he was, he did have a way with words. The irony in this is so thick that I am surprised that it hasn’t coagulated, and dropped all the way through to the center of the earth. And it is only ironic – again – that Germany’s ruling class (analogous to our very own unholy alliance among elected politicians, the bureaucracy, the intellectual and media elite) appear to have decided to take the opportunity of unrest in the Middle East, to dissolve the people and elect another, welcoming them in with balloons, banners and stuffed toys.
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Posted by Michael Kennedy on 24th September 2015 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
When we originally planned to go to Brussels, we were going to take the the Eurostar to Brussels, which is rather cheap and takes only two hours. However, a Eurostar train was stranded in June by rioting “migrants” in Calais.
Anarchy erupted in the French port yesterday as striking workers started fires blocking both ferry and train routes.
As ferry workers shut the port gates, trapping some lorry drivers inside, monstrous queues built up around the train entrace, as passengers and truckers became desperate to get to Britain. The queues still haven’t dissipated.
Madness continued after strikers, protesting feared job cuts, also made it onto the tracks setting more tyres alight.
Both Eurotunnel and Eurostar suspended their services due to the disruption.
After reading that, and at the invitation of our friends, we decided to take the older surface ferry to Dunkirk. The riots were a combination of rioting migrants and rioting French workers who were complaining about the migrants.
This was much more peaceful and gave us the opportunity to see the site of the 1940 evacuation of the British Army.
Our return from Brussels was via Calais but also by surface ferry. The reason was interesting.
This is an enormous wine market, the size of a Costco or WalMart in the states. It turns out that Britain taxes the sale of wine so heavily that most middle class wine lovers travel to France to buy wine and bring it home on the ferry in their cars. Our hosts assured us that this is legal and one wonders what the British government thinks about the incentives they have created. That wine store was one of three or four we saw in the area.
Here is a sign in the wine store offering to pay the fare for the ferry round trip if wine is ordered online and picked up at the store by the buyer. Since the ferry fare is about 100 pounds, this is a huge promotion, although one our friends were unaware of until I called it to their attention. They bought a year’s supply of wine and loaded it into the VW camper van we were using. The cost was around a thousand pounds and, unfortunately, the offer required advance online purchase so they did not get the deal.
We then drove on to Calais, passing migrant camps by the road.
Here is a migrant shanty town seen through the car window in passing. The camps are walled off from the highway by new high fences along the motorway to the Calais ferry terminal. The fences are tall and topped with razor wire.
Here is the fence along the motorway which seems intended to keep the migrants from trying to break into trucks (lorries) on the highway.
In the Calais terminal, we did see some people who looked like migrants although they could have been legal residents waiting for the ferry.
These small groups were walking through the parked trucks and cars waiting for the ferry. I did not see them enter a car of truck. When we reached Dover again, our friends took us to the train station and we took the train to London. It was an enjoyable and informative trip. We spent another four days in London and flew home on the 21st.
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 22nd September 2015 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
We spent the day yesterday ( the 16th) at Waterloo. The battle field is largely preserved and reminds me a bit of Gettysburg. There is an excellent museum and we spent an hour or so at Hougoumont Farm where the battle really began.
Napoleon planned to draw Wellington’s reserve to Wellington’s right flank in defence of Hougoumont and then attack through the centre left of the British and allies’ front near La Haye Sainte.
Before the battle started, Hougoumont and its gardens, located on the allies’ right flank, were garrisoned and fortified by the 1st Battalion, 2nd Nassau Regiment, with additional detachments of jägers and landwehr from von Kielmansegge’s 1st (Hanoverian) Brigade. The light company of the 2nd Battalion, Coldstream Guards under the command of Lt-Colonel Henry Wyndham, was also stationed in the farm and chateaux, and the light company of the 2nd Battalion, Third Guards, under Lt-Colonel Charles Dashwood in the garden and grounds
The fighting here lasted all day and ended finally when the defenders were forced out as the buildings burned. It was too late for the French which had been reenforcing failure all day.
The French eventually committed 14,000 troops to Hougoumont Farm, of whom 8,000 were killed. The most famous encounter was The Battle of the Closing of the gate. The French had surrounded the farm which was an enclosed bastion of brick and stone walls with a gate access to the rear. They managed to force open the gate with axes into the yard but a few British soldiers managed to close it again and all the French who had gained the yard were killed. The few who closed the gate, were to be famous after the battle.
Sous-Lieutenant Legro, of the French 1st Light Infantry, broke through the wooden doors with an axe, allowing French soldiers to flood the courtyard. Graham’s commanding officer, Lieutenant-Colonel James Macdonnell, led his men through the melee in the courtyard to the gates, in an attempt to shut them against the pressing French. This was done with the help of three officers (Captain Wyndham, Ensign Hervey, and Ensign Gooch), Corporal Graham, and a few other soldiers including Graham’s brother Joseph. James Graham was the one to slot the bar in place. Flagstones, carts, and debris were then piled against the gates to hold them secure. The Frenchmen trapped within the courtyard were all killed, apart from a young drummer-boy.
The crucial mistake made here was by Napoleon’s brother, Prince Jerome, who commanded the first French troops to attack Hougoumont Farm. When they were repulsed, Jerome kept reenforcing the attack and drew the French focus to the strong point which resisted all day.
(Originally posted in August 2014. I think the current situation in Europe makes it appropriate for a rerun)
Menace in Europe: Why the Continent’s Crisis Is America’s, Too by Claire Berlinski
I read this book shortly after it came out in 2006, and just re-read it in the light of the anti-Semitic ranting and violence which is now ranging across Europe. It is an important book, deserving of a wide readership.
The author’s preferred title was “Blackmailed by History,” but the publisher insisted on “Menace.” Whatever the title, the book is informative, thought-provoking, and disturbing. Berlinski is good at melding philosophical thinking with direct observation. She holds a doctorate in international relations from Oxford, and has lived and worked in Britain, France, and Turkey, among other countries. (Dr Berlinski, may I call you Claire?)
The book’s dark tour of Europe begins in the Netherlands, where the murder of film director Theo van Gogh by a radical Muslim upset at the content of a film was quickly followed by the cancellation of that movie’s planned appearance at a film festival–and where an artist’s street mural with the legend “Thou Shalt Not Kill” was destroyed by order of the mayor of Rotterdam, eager to avoid giving offense to Muslims. (“Self-Extinguishing Tolerance” is the title of the chapter on Holland.) Claire moves on to Britain and analyzes the reasons why Muslim immigrants there have much higher unemployment and lower levels of assimilation than do Muslim immigrants to the US, and also discusses the unhinged levels of anti-Americanism that she finds among British elites. (Novelist Margaret Drabble: “My anti-Americanism has become almost uncontrollable. It has possessed me, like a disease. It rises up in my throat like acid reflux…”) While there has always been a certain amount of anti-Americanism in Britain, the author notes that “traditionally, Britain’s anti-American elites have been vocal, but they have generally been marginalized as chattering donkeys” but that now, with 1.6 million Muslim immigrants in Britain (more worshippers at mosques than at the Church of England), the impact of these anti-Americans can be greatly amplified. (Today, there are apparently more British Muslims fighting for ISIS than serving in the British armed forces.)
One of the book’s most interesting chapters is centered around the French farmer and anti-globalization leader Jose Bove, whose philosophy Berlinski summarizes as “crop worship”….”European men and women still confront the same existential questions, the same suffering as everyone who has ever been born. They are suspicious now of the Church and of grand political ideologies, but they nonetheless yearn for the transcendent. And so they worship other things–crops, for example, which certain Europeans, like certain tribal animists, have come to regard with superstitious awe.”
The title of this chapter is “Black-Market Religion: The Nine Lives of Jose Bove,” and Berlinski sees the current Jose Bove as merely one in a long line of historical figures who hawked similar ideologies. They range from a man of unknown name born in Bourges circa AD 560, to Talchem of Antwerp in 1112, through Hans the Piper of Niklashausen in the late 1400s, and on to the “dreamy, gentle, and lunatic Cathars” of Languedoc and finally to Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Berlinski sees all these people as being basically Christian heretics, with multiple factors in common. They tend appeal to those whose status or economic position is threatened, and to link the economic anxieties of their followers with spiritual ones. Quite a few of them have been hermits at some stage in their lives. Most of them have been strongly anti-Semitic. And many of the “Boves” have been concerned deeply with purity…Bove coined the neologism malbouffe, which according to Google Translate means “junk food,” but Berlinski says that translation “does not capture the full horror of bad bouffe, with its intimation of contamination, pollution, poison.” She observes that “the passionate terror of malbouffe–well founded or not–is also no accident; it recalls the fanatic religious and ritualistic search for purity of the Middle Ages, ethnic purity included. The fear of poisoning was widespread among the millenarians…” (See also this interesting piece on environmentalist ritualism as a means of coping with anxiety and perceived disorder.)
Posted in Anti-Americanism, Big Government, Book Notes, Britain, Christianity, Civil Society, Deep Thoughts, Europe, Film, France, Germany, History, Immigration, Islam, Judaism, Leftism, Religion | 5 Comments »
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 13th September 2015 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
We spent today at Ypres an the huge military cemeteries from the battles of the Ypres Salient.
This was an early battle of WWI and the “first battle of Ypres” occurred at the end of “The Race to the Channel.” I have read a bit about the First World War but it really comes home when you are standing the place that consumed the British youth in 1914 to 1918. The First Battle ended the Race to the Sea and began the trench warfare of the next four years.
We visited the “Sanctuary Wood Museum today, and I took some photos of the trenches which were preserved all these years by then owner of the small cafe where we had a beer.
These trenches are the originals preserved by the property owner who probably has cleaned out debris over the years. The owners of the cafe are the children of the original owners of the property who preserved these relics. Their museum has many objects no doubt excavated from the fields around.
Recent highway construction, which has now been suspended, has bodies buried in a trench during the war, which are preserved.
The bodies of 21 German soldiers entombed in a perfectly preserved World War One shelter have been discovered 94 years after they were killed.
The men were part of a larger group of 34 who were buried alive when a huge Allied shell exploded above the tunnel in 1918, causing it to cave in.
Thirteen bodies were recovered from the underground shelter, but the remaining men had to be left under a mountain of mud as it was too dangerous to retrieve them.
Nearly a century later, French archaeologists stumbled upon the mass grave on the former Western Front in eastern France during excavation work for a road building project.
The road building has been suspended for now but every construction project in this area uncovered evidence of war dead. Today we visited an enormous memorial for the war dead whose bodies were never recovered. It is called the Menin Gate Memorial and the names of 54,000 dead are posted on the walls representing most of the dead from the Ypres Salient who could not be identified.
The sheer number of dead whose bodies were destroyed, or lost, is staggering.
The city of Ypres (pronounced by our hosts as “eep” has been rebuilt as it was destroyed in the war.
The cathedral was rebuilt from a stump of the tower. The bottom 20 feet to so was protected by rubble and is in better shape. The entire city was rebuilt completely.
The city is surrounded by British war cemeteries of which there are about 150, each with about 500 to 1,000 graves.
One grave that particularly interested me was that of Sir William Osler’s only son who was killed by shrapnel while serving as an artillery officer in 1917. His fathers friends had tried to save him and his last words, reflecting many young men who were wounded, “Surely this (wound) will get me home. ” His last words.
Today, we arrived at Brussels and will do some touring tomorrow of the Waterloo Battlefield. We passed on the road one of Wellington’s battle fields from the 18th century.
The TV tonight is all about the “refugees” which we saw a few of today in Brussels.
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 6th September 2015 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
I will be in Britain in three days and have been concerned about what I will find. We have already changed our plans a couple of times. Originally, we were going to Greece, a trip I had planned for years to see certain things I always wanted to see.
As the summer crisis built, I decided that Greece might not be a good place to be. That, of course, was the Greek crisis of its economy and the risk of public unrest. Now, we have a much more serious crisis brought on by Middle East turmoil and massive refugee flows. Experienced people are deeply distressed by what is happening.
All across the Old Continent we are seeing massive flouting of law and order as thousands, tens-of-thousands, maybe more, of so-called refugees flood into Europe and then slosh about from one country to another looking for the best deal. The UK has become a particular target as “refugees” try to make their way to Britain’s generous public benefits. Recall that in a fit of Euro madness the leadership of the UK, traditionally the sole repository of common sense and hard-eyed realism in Europe, agreed enthusiastically with the construction of the absurd Chunnel, putting thereby an end to one of the country’s historic defenses, the sea. What would Drake and Nelson have to say about that?
That Chunnel has become, as one very non-PC English friend told me some years ago in a bar in Sri Lanka, “France’s garbage disposal.” The issue, however, goes beyond the Chunnel. The “refugees” or “migrants” arrive by the thousands every day at Heathrow and quickly claim their benefits–all in line with deranged leftist Labour’s deliberate plan to change the nation’s demographic composition. As almost anybody who has visited London recently can tell you, that most wonderful of cities is now not so wonderful, and has lost its Englishness.
I’ll be there Thursday and will post some observations. We have already decided to avoid the “Chunnel” and the Eurostar train to Brussels.
Videos taken in Europe, especially Hungary, show that the refugees are mostly young men of military age, and that they are refusing food and water offered by well meaning residents and governments. The American newspapers, of course show photos of women and children, not the angry young men.
This is an invasion and I am very worried about it. The Sunday talk shows did the same thing the newspapers do, talk about how we “have an obligation” to these people. Maybe Obama has but I don’t. Iraq was stable when he was elected. I don’t think there was ever a chance to make Afghanistan stable in a modern sense and I was opposed to that occupation back to 2009.
Iraq was always a better bet than Afghanistan because it is a rich country and had a modest middle class already. In fact, I think Iraq has a good chance to become the most successful Arab state. On the other hand, I think Afghanistan is a very risky situation.
During Afghanistan’s golden age which consisted of the last king’s rule, the country consisted of a small civilized center in Kabul while the rest of the country existed much as it did in the time of Alexander the Great.
Frankly I think we should have given up on Pakistan.
I will post some comments and photos from Europe later this week. I’m sure we will enjoy our trip and my friends assure me that things are not nearly as bad as the newspapers say. We’ll see.
Arthur Koestler, himself a former Communist, wrote about closed intellectual systems:
A closed sysem has three peculiarities. Firstly, it claims to represent a truth of universal validity, capable of explaining all phenomena, and to have a cure for all that ails man. In the second place, it is a system which cannot be refuted by evidence, because all potentially damaging data are automatically processed and reinterpreted to make them fit the expected pattern. The processing is done by sophisticated methods of causistry, centered on axioms of great emotive power, and indifferent to the rules of common logic; it is a kind of Wonderland croquet, played with mobile hoops. In the third place, it is a system which invalidates criticism by shifting the argument to the subjective motivation of the critic, and deducing his motivation from the axioms of the system itself. The orthodox Freudian school in its early stages approximated a closed system; if you argued that for such and such reasons you doubted the existence of the so-called castration complex, the Freudian’s prompt answer was that your argument betrayed an unconscious resistance indicating that you ourself have a castration complex; you were caught in a vicious circle. Similarly, if you argued with a Stalinist that to make a pact with Hitler was not a nice thing to do he would explain that your bourgeois class-consciousness made you unable to understand the dialectics of history…In short, the closed system excludes the possibility of objective argument by two related proceedings: (a) facts are deprived of their value as evidence by scholastic processing; (b) objections are invalidated by shifting the argument to the personal motive behind the objection. This procedure is legitimate according to the closed system’s rules of the game which, however absurd they seem to the outsider, have a great coherence and inner consistency.
The atmosphere inside the closed system is highly charged; it is an emoional hothouse…The trained, “closed-minded” theologian, psychoanalyst, or Marxist can at any time make mincemeat of his “open-minded” adversary and thus prove the superiority of his system to the world and to himself.
In debating with “progressives,” one often encounters this kind of closed-system thinking: there is absolutely no way you are going to change their minds, whatever the evidence or logic. (I don’t think this is true of all “progressives”–otherwise the situation in America today would be even more grim than it actually is–but it’s true of a lot of them.)
But what are the “axioms of great emotive power” in which “progressives” believe? It is pretty easy to write down on one sheet of paper the basic beliefs of Christianity, or of Marxism, or of American Democratic Republicanism. The fundamental tenets of Naziism…Nationalism, Socialism, anti-Semitism, etc….were well summarized by Joseph Goebbels in this pamphlet.
I find it difficult to summarize today’s “progressive” belief system. It does not seem to be a coherent intellectual system, not even a faux-coherent intellectual system such as Marxism. But it clearly appeals deeply to millions of people, and has largely pervaded many if not most institutions, ranging from academia to popular media, throughout America and Western Europe.
So let’s try to identify these axioms. What are the things in which one must believe if one is to be a good “progressive”? Please try to be maximally objective and to maintain emotional distance, as if you were describing the religious beliefs of a lost tribe in South America or a band of Christian heretics in the Middle Ages, and try to separate the intellectual content of the belief system from the emotional drivers of those beliefs.
…and his Portuguese subjects.
Yesterday I was talking to my mom and she said the news from the States and the things “your funny critters” (pretty much how mom refers to governments in general!) are doing remind her of the Spanish occupation of Portugal.
Read the whole thing.
(I meant to post another chapter of this yesterday – but spent all day at a book event in a mall, and came back exhausted and suffering from an allergic reaction to dust, possibly mold in the AC ducts, and exposure to a LOT of people)
Christmas in Greece barely rates, in intensity it falls somewhere between Arbor Day or Valentines’ Day in the United States: A holiday for sure, but nothing much to make an enormous fuss over, and not for more than a day or two. But Greek Orthodox Easter, in Greece—now that is a major, major holiday. The devout enter into increasingly rigorous fasts during Lent, businesses and government offices close for a couple of weeks, everyone goes to their home village, an elaborate feast is prepared for Easter Sunday, the bakeries prepare a special circular pastry adorned with red-dyed eggs, everyone gets new clothes, spring is coming after a soggy, miserable winter never pictured in the tourist brochures. Oh, it’s a major holiday blowout, all right. From Thursday of Holy Week on, AFRTS-Radio conforms to local custom, of only airing increasingly somber music. By Good Friday and Saturday, we are down to gloomy classical music, while outside the base, the streets are nearly deserted, traffic down to a trickle and all the shops and storefronts with their iron shutters and grilles drawn down.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 5th July 2015 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
I’ve been planning trip to Greece for months. Back in January, I decided to wait until the Greek monetary crisis was closer to resolution. Finally in May, I made reservations for September. I even posted my plans here.
Well, today it may be all going glimmering. The Greeks have apparently voted NO to the EU deal.
Greece has overwhelmingly rejected Europe’s latest bailout package, plunging the country’s future in the Eurozone into jeopardy.
With most of the votes counted in a referendum that will shape the future of the continent, the ‘No’ campaign has a staggering 61 per cent of the vote – 22 points ahead.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande called for an EU crisis summit to find a ‘solution’ for Greece, with leaders set to meet in Brussels on Tuesday.
Thousands of anti-austerity voters took to the streets in celebration as the leader of the pro-EU ‘Yes’ campaign resigned, with an official announcement of the final result imminent.
But German politicians warned of ‘disaster’ as they accused Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras of ‘tearing down bridges’ between Greece and Europe.
Now what ?
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 20th June 2015 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
I have been a student of Greek history for many years. When I was a medical student and later a surgery resident, I kept a copy of J.B.Bury’s “History of Greece to the Death of Alexander” on my bedside table as reading material for relaxation. I have read it several times.
Another source of pleasure has been the novels of Mary Renault, the pen name of Eileen Mary Challans. Sh wrote a series of historical novels which won awards and which provided a more intimate view of Greek society in the classical era. Some of her novels provide a more sympathetic view of homosexuality than I have found anywhere else but that is not the attraction. Her history sounded like something written by one who lived it.
Another favorite novelist is Helen MacInnes who wrote novels of adventure set in and after World War II. Two of them were about places in Greece and one of those, Mykonos, is a favorite spot.
Her novel describes this harbor and, while a new cruise ship terminal has replaced some of her story, the harbor looks just as she described it.
The story, titled “The Double Image” describes a tiny square in the town that sounds exactly like this one looks.
We are looking forward to this trip with some trepidation, however. Why ? Because Greece may be heading into serious trouble.
For years articles about everything from family leave to medical benefits started with the premise that
The United States is the only modern Western economy that doesn’t do or provide “X” for their workers
Thus the premise was the our economies were roughly equivalent and the USA was “mean” or “backwards” because we didn’t provide all those benefits and worker protections that the other countries were (apparently) able to absorb.
In the Sunday Business of the NY Times we can see where this has finally led, however – in an article about retraining European workers titled “Fake Jobs with Real Benefits” this is the end statistic:
But in a reflection of the shifting nature of the European workplace, most are low-paying and last for short stints, sometimes just three to six months. Today, more than half of all new jobs in the European Union are temporary contracts, according to Eurostat.
These jobs don’t have the famous protections for working mothers and stay-at-home dads and for medical benefits and pensions and everything else; they just set you up for a few months at a time and can just not renew your contract for any reason, including if you are legitimately hurt or ill. These are the ruthless “McJobs” that have been decried for years in the USA.
In parallel, Spain is now lurching into a political crisis similar to what is happening in Greece. Here are some statistics on Spain per this Foreign Policy article:
The Eurozone as a whole is a disaster. Whereas the United States’ economy is nearly 10 percent larger than it was seven years ago, the Eurozone’s is 1.5% smaller. And Spain is faring even worse; it’s economy is still 5 percent smaller. Nearly one in four Spaniards, and one in two young people, are unemployed. In the European Union, only Greece’s unemployment rate is higher. Many people have dropped out of the labor force (or immigrated to countries where there are jobs to be found). A lost generation is in the making.
And the governmental statistics are sobering:
Spain still has the largest fiscal deficit, as a share of the economy; in the entire EU: 5.8% of GDP last year. Public debt as a share of GDP rose by more last year than anywhere else in the eurozone and is set to top 100 percent this year.
The few remaining permanent full-time jobs are often in the governmental sector; this is closely linked to corruption. In Spain the corruption of the ruling parties contributed to their drubbing in local elections.
The net of all this is that comparing the USA to Europe is now mostly a fools’ errand. Not only has growth and productivity stalled across most of the EU, the cherished benefits that are held up as the “gold standard” are accruing to fewer and fewer workers as the young frankly have no work at all and many of the adults that do work are on these short term contracts where those protections rarely apply.
Whether or not the USA should enact various protections to our workers is a good question, with pros and cons on both sides of the ledger. However, the blanket statements that we are the last modern economy to not do “X” should be tossed in the dustbin of history, because it doesn’t apply anymore.
Cross posted at LITGM
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 23rd May 2015 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
Today, we learn that Ireland has voted to legalize gay marriage. A Catholic Church spokesman said something very intelligent.
If the measure is passed, Catholic churches will continue to decide for themselves whether to solemnise a marriage.
The leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland, Eamon Martin, has said the church may look at whether it continues to perform the civil side of solemnisation if the change comes in.
I think this is where all this is going. The alternative is to see the Church attacked for the tax exemption, which may happen anyway. Many mainline Protestant churches are seeing membership collapse as the clergy swings far left and gets into the gay lifestyle.
There is also a very good essay at Ace of Spades today.
First, a jeweler in Canada makes rings for a lesbian wedding, then, after the lesbians find out he doesn’t approve for religious reasons, he is attacked.
Nicole White and Pam Renouf were looking for engagement rings a few months ago and eventually landed at Today’s Jewellers in Mount Pearl where the couple said they were given excellent service and great price for their rings.
“They were great to work with. They seemed to have no issues. They knew the two of us were a same-sex couple,” Ms. White told Canada’s CBC news. “I referred some of my friends to them, just because I did get good customer service and they had good prices.”
A friend of the couple went in to the store to purchase a ring for his girlfriend and saw a poster that read “The sanctity of marriage is under attack. Let’s keep marriage between a man and a woman,” CBC reported May 16.
The friend took a photo of the poster and sent it to Ms. White, who said she had no idea about the poster until that point.
“It was really upsetting. Really sad, because we already had money down on [the rings], and they’re displaying how much they are against gays, and how they think marriage should be between a man and a woman,” Ms. White said, CBC reported.
They demanded their money back. After much pressure, they got it and the Jeweler paid for his beliefs. So much for “equality.”
Ace goes on…
‘When the crocus blossoms,’ hiss the women in Berlin,
‘He will press the button, and the battle will begin.
When the crocus blossoms, up the German knights will go,
And flame and fume and filthiness will terminate the foe…
When the crocus blossoms, not a neutral will remain.’
(A P Herbert, Spring Song, quoted in To Lose a Battle, by Alistair Horne)
On May 10, 1940, German forces launched an attack against Belgium, France, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg. Few people among the Allies imagined that France would collapse in only six weeks: Churchill, for example, had a high opinion of the fighting qualities of the French army. But collapse is what happened, of course, and we are still all living with the consequences. General Andre Beaufre, who in 1940 was a young Captain on the French staff, wrote in 1967:
The collapse of the French Army is the most important event of the twentieth century.
If it’s an exaggeration, it’s not much of one. If France had held up to the German assault as effectively as it was expected to do, World War II would probably have never reached the nightmare levels that it in fact did reach. The Hitler regime might well have fallen. The Holocaust would never have happened. Most likely, there would have been no Communist takeover of Eastern Europe.
This campaign has never received much attention in America; it tends to be regarded as something that happened before the “real” war started. Indeed, many denizens of the Anglosphere seem to believe that the French basically gave up without a fight–which is a considerable exaggeration given the French casualties of around 90,000 killed and 200,000 wounded. But I think the fall of France deserves serious study, and that some of the root causes of the defeat are scarily relevant to today’s world.
First, I will very briefly summarize the campaign from a military standpoint, and will then shift focus to the social and political factors involved in the defeat.
An article in an aviation magazine pointed out that this summer will mark the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain. As a matter of perspective, it’s interesting to observe that the length of time separating the US Civil War from the Battle of Britain is the same as the length of time between the Battle and today.
The archetypal fighter planes of the Battle of Britain were the Spitfire, the Hurricane, and, on the enemy side, the Messerschmitt 109. Here are some recent pilot reports on what each of these aircraft is like to fly:
It is now possible to take a ride in a Spitfire–allowing this apparently required some regulatory changes on the part of the British CAA. Here’s one company offering such flights. For pilots, it’s possible to get Spitfire training at Boultbee Flight Academy. I don’t think anyone is offering rides or training in the Hurricane or the 109…very few 2-seat versions of either were built, apparently–so if you want to fly one of these, you’ll probably have to buy one. Here’s a recently-restored Hurricane for sale.
As an interesting historical irony, Israel’s first fighter was a version of the Messerschmitt 109.
See also my post Radar Wars: a case study in science and government, which is about the secret decision-making involved in making Britain’s commitment to a large-scale investment in radar deployment.