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  • Archive for the 'Human Behavior' Category

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Jonathan on 13th April 2014 (All posts by )

    Christopher Hitchens:

    Beware the irrational, however seductive. Shun the ‘transcendent’ and all who invite you to subordinate or annihilate yourself. Distrust compassion; prefer dignity for yourself and others. Don’t be afraid to be thought arrogant or selfish. Picture all experts as they were mammals. Never be a spectator of unfairness or stupidity. Seek out argument and disputation for their own sake; the grave will supply plenty of time for silence. Suspect your own motives, and all excuses. Do not live for others any more than you would expect others to live for you.

    This wears well.

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Civil Society, Deep Thoughts, Human Behavior, Morality and Philosphy, Quotations, Rhetoric, Tradeoffs | 6 Comments »

    Military Rites, Practices and Legends – Dining Out

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

    (Herewith for a Friday, from my archive of military posts, an examination of the custom of ‘Dining Out’. This came from long-ago archives of The Daily Brief, when I was attempting to educate the general readership on some arcane practices and traditions in the military. Many of the essays are collected in Air Force Daze - including this one.)

    Every once in a while an Air Force unit or organization takes it into their head to hold a formal “dining in” or “dining out”, to mark an anniversary, host a very important visitor, or mark a singular event. The formal rituals of this event goes back to the misty pre-history of the USAF, before the glorious day when it was established as a separate and co-equal service, when US Army Air Corps commanders in Britain during World War II noted the pomp and circumstance of RAF formal mess dinners, and wished to adapt some instant but awe-inspiring traditions for their own service. Legends have it that the first formal “dining in/dining out” events were very closely modeled on the RAF model, but as the Army Air Corps evolved into the US Army Air Force, and then into the US Air Force, so did the formal mess dinner. It continues evolving, or mutating to this present day, to a form warped out of all recognition to the originators, in response to changing circumstances and societal preferences.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in History, Human Behavior, Humor, Military Affairs | 8 Comments »

    “What Does a Woman Want?”

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

    …famously asked Sigmund Freud. A couple of neuroscience researchers have attempted to answer that question, at least as far as the preferred profession of a romantic hero goes. Researchers Ogi Ogas and Sai Gaddam analyzed 15,000 Harlequin romance novels (fifteen thousand???)  and tabulated the professions of the male leads.

    I don’t know to what degree Harlequin readers are representative of romance-novel readers as a whole, nor to what degree romance-novel readers are representative of the female population as a whole…but for what it’s worth, here’s the list that resulted from the study.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Human Behavior | 20 Comments »

    The Calendar is Not Omnipotent

    Posted by David Foster on 30th March 2014 (All posts by )

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Or, as Mark Steyn put it much more recently:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Posted in History, Human Behavior, Leftism, Obama, Russia, USA, War and Peace | 23 Comments »

    Dealing with the China we Have Rather than the China we Wish to Have

    Posted by Zenpundit on 25th March 2014 (All posts by )

    cross-posted from zenpundit.com

    A Sinocentric view of the maritime world courtesy of  The Policy Tensor (hat tip Historyguy 99)

    An amigo who is an expert on China pointed me toward a couple of links last weekend. Here is the first:

    Japan-China COLD WAR 8 / CPC decisions made under layers of veiled obscurity 

    ….Whenever a crisis occurs, diplomatic authorities typically attempt to assess the situation by contacting their counterpart of the country concerned to investigate, if any, what their intentions are. For example, the incident could merely have been an accident or a calculated act sanctioned by those at the center of the administration. But when the Chinese become involved, such diplomatic approaches may no longer be a possibility.

    The Chinese Foreign Ministry, which is supposed to be the equivalent of the U.S. State Department or Japan’s Foreign Ministry, is “merely an organization which carries out policies decided by the Communist Party of China (CPC),”a senior Foreign Ministry official said.

    Foreign Minister Wang Yi is just one of 205 members of the Central Committee of the CPC, and is not even included in the 25-member Politburo, which is regarded as the party’s leadership organ.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in China, Current Events, Human Behavior, Military Affairs, National Security, USA, War and Peace | 13 Comments »

    Spiritual Battles and Contemporary Politics, continued

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

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

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

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

    Closely related: Carbon Dioxide as Original Sin. Excerpt:

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

    (link via American Digest)

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

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

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

    Rape Culture

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 20th March 2014 (All posts by )

    trapeculture-thumb-250x219-896

    The college scene is all agog about rape culture. How do we know if it is a problem ?

    It’s a phrase you hear a lot. But, what exactly does it mean? Is there one general definition? Not necessarily. In many ways the phrase evokes the famous Supreme Court comment about obscenity from Potter Stewart, “I know it when I see it.”

    And, you don’t have to look far to see examples of rape culture these days. Whether it’s advertising, movies, music videos or social media — images, words, concepts — it’s all out there illustrating men dominating women.

    So, now we know the problem. It is men.

    Popular movies are strewn with plots of men with the sole purpose of having sex. In the movie “American Pie,” the entire plot of the film revolves around teenage boys wanting to throw a party so they can get girls drunk and have sex with them.

    That movie was when ? Well, it was 1999. That was 15 years ago, wasn’t it ? How old were these activists then ?

    It’s also been stated by writer Adam Herz that the title also refers to the quest of losing your virginity in high school, which is as “American as apple pie.” So, it wasn’t just about girls losing virginity ?

    How about porn star/student, Belle Knox ?

    Despite the ordeal, Knox said she plans to continue both her porn work and her classes at Duke. In interviews, she frequently mentions working to increase the rights of sex workers.

    “I really want to break down barriers,” Knox said. “I want to change peoples views on sex work. … I mean, I was the first porn star to go on ‘The View.’ This is really exciting for me.

    She complains about the publicity and the reaction of others but “This is really exciting for me.” Feminism 2014 version. Another porn star success story.

    Ph.D. program in sociology at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. She does cam work, some porn, stripping, and some fetish work. Unlike Knox and L., Parreira is out about her sex work. “The department seems to be a sort of hub for sex workers and sex work research, so it has been a non-issue,” Well, that’s a relief.

    Now, back to rape culture. Maybe it’s a tiny bit exaggerated ?

    An early sign of an obsession with “rape culture” on campus occurred at Duke during the lacrosse case. In April 2006, in a 2000-plus word statement that declined to mention the presumption of innocence, Duke president Richard Brodhead created a “Campus Culture Initiative,” to explicate and “confirm [emphasis added] the existence of a dominant culture among Duke undergraduates.” There was, of course, no rape, but the CCI proceeded along as if there were, operating under the Orwellian slogan that “diversity makes a more excellent university.”

    The Duke LaCrosse team case is a horrible example of leftist agitation in action. The whole story is here. Briefly, a hysteria descended on the Duke University campus after a stripper, later convicted of murder, accused the La Crosse team of a gang rape. The young men of the team were immediate demonized by the usual suspects of campus radicals. Fortunately, the boys came from families that could afford good lawyers.

    The immediate frenzy followed the usual script.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Civil Society, Education, Human Behavior | 15 Comments »

    Attack of the Robot Bureaucrats

    Posted by David Foster on 9th March 2014 (All posts by )

    Via Bookworm, here is a truly appalling story from Minnesota. When the fire alarm went off at Como Park High School, a 14-year-old girl was rousted out of the swimming pool, and–dripping wet and wearing only a swimsuit–directed to go stand outside were the temperature was sub-zero and the wind chill made it much worse. Then, she was not allowed to take refuge in one of the many cars in the parking lot because of a school policy forbidding students from sitting in a faculty member’s car. As Bookworm notes:

    Even the lowest intelligence can figure out that the rule’s purpose is to prevent teachers from engaging sexually with children.  The likelihood of a covert sexual contact happening between Kayona and a teacherunder the actual circumstances is ludicrous.  The faculty cars were in full view of the entire school.  There was no chance of illicit sexual congress.

    But the whole nature of bureaucratic rules, of course, is to forbid human judgment based on actual context.

    Fortunately for Kayona, her fellow students hadn’t had human decency ground out of them by rules: “…fellow students, however, demonstrated a grasp of civilized behavior. Students huddled around her and some frigid classmates [sic], giving her a sweatshirt to put around her feet. A teacher coughed up a jacket.” As the children were keeping Kayona alive, the teachers were workingtheir way through the bureaucracy.  After a freezing ten minutes, an administrator finally gave permission for the soaking wet, freezing Kayla to set in a car in full view of everybody.

    As Bookworm notes, this sort of thing is becoming increasingly common. In England in 2009, for example, a man with a broken back lay in 6 inches of water, but paramedics refused to rescue him because they weren’t trained for water rescues. Dozens of similar examples could easily be dredged up.

    The behavior of these bureaucrats is very similar to the behavior of a computer program confronted by a situation for which its designers did not explicitly provide. Sometimes the results will be useless, sometimes they will be humorous, often they will be harmful or outright disastrous.

    Last year in Sweden, there was rampant rioting that included the torching of many cars.  The government of Sweden didn’t do a very good job of protecting its citizens and their property from this outbreak of barbarism. Government agents did, however, fulfill their duty of issuing parking tickets…to burned-out cars. Link with picture.  In my post The Reductio as Absurdum of Bureaucratic Liberalism, I said…

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Education, Germany, History, Human Behavior, Management, Video | 10 Comments »

    Spiritual Battles and Contemporary Politics

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

    An interesting essay by Joseph Bottum.

    Beginning with the abolition of slavery, the bitter battles of American political life have often been fought over spiritual issues. It’s hard to know, for example, what else Prohibition was about. And yet the great moralizing and spiritualizing of American politics feels different these days, more complete, more all-encompassing. It’s as though our public life were not a political stadium in which spiritual footballs sometimes appear; rather the field itself has become religious. Our public life is now a supernatural game and our purely political concerns have been reduced to nothing more than footballs with which we happen to play that public game of spiritual redemption.

    RTWT. I think there’s considerable truth to this: much “progressive” politics is driven by people seeking meaning in their lives, and the ostensible issues are merely markers in that search. On the other hand, though, much “progressivism” is simply about an individual’s assertion of a status position (actual or desired), and the apparent political issue is merely a “football” (to use Bottum’s term) in this status game…no spiritual angst necessarily involved. And one important aspect of status in today’s world, in many circles at least, is being perceived as “cool.”

    Related to which, Greg Gutfield’s book Not Cool: The Hipster Elite and Their War on You looks interesting:

    Behind every awful, dangerous decision lurks one evil beast: the Cool.  
     
    From politics to the personal, from fashion to food, from the campus to the locker room, the desire to be cool has infected  all aspects of our lives. At its most harmless, it is annoying. At its worst, it is deadly, on a massive scale. 

    (via American Digest)

    Posted in Civil Society, Human Behavior, Leftism, Politics, Religion, USA | 5 Comments »

    History Weekend: The Charming and Notorious Billy

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 2nd March 2014 (All posts by )

    (As a break from current events, herewith this offering. It was rather curious, examining the history of one of the bitter range wars of the old west. This one didn’t pit rival families against each other, or even big ranchers against small ones… but was rather a case of a corrupt mercantile and banking enterprise with close ties to the territorial government making war on those who objected to being skinned economically and bullied politically. All this – and a famous gunslinger, too.)

    One of the most well-known western gunslingers of the post-Civil-War Wild West – if not one of the most storied – is also the one of whom extraordinarily little is known. His life was also brief, which continues to give all kinds of story-telling latitude to writers of pulp fiction, movie makers and musicians. An impulsive sociopath, or just an unfortunate teenager with extremely bad luck in choosing friends? Even his name and date of birth are open to considerable question; his given name was William Henry, later shortened to Billy, but his surname varied between McCarty, Antrim or Bonney, depending on the year and circumstance. His mother was an immigrant Irishwoman, Catherine McCarty, either a single mother or a Civil War widow. After the War, Catherine married, or married again – to William Antrim, who took his wife and her son west to Wichita and then to Silver City, New Mexico. Catherine McCarty Antrim kept a boarding house there until she died of tuberculosis in 1874. It appeared that William Antrim had no interest in family life; Billy and his younger brother were left more or less to their own devices.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in History, Human Behavior, North America | 8 Comments »

    A Hunger for Normalcy?

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

    Stephen Marche, writing about the Oscars, asserts that:

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

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

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

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

    RTWT

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

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

    (Oscars link via Newmark’s Door)

     

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

    If and When

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 17th February 2014 (All posts by )

    I see from a couple of different websites that there was another episode of the ‘knock out’ game in the last few days; this one involved a white disabled military vet on public transportation in the city of Cleveland, attacked and beaten in public by a group of black teenagers. There have been so many of these incidents reported in the last two years or so – usually appearing briefly on the surface of the mainstream news metro section like a bubble, popping and vanishing. Very often the color of the perpetrators is not even noted in the ‘official’ statements, but so cynical are we consumers of news becoming that we know that this means the perpetrators are of color, just as we know that when the political party of a miscreant in the news is not mentioned, (or mentioned very far down in the story) that the miscreant is a Democrat. These stories are, in the parlance those who track pop music hits, bubbling under. Not in the top forty – or in a manner of speaking – at the top of national news. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Society, Human Behavior, Leftism, Politics, Tea Party, The Press, USA | 46 Comments »

    “New Study: Internet Trolls Are Often Machiavellian Sadists”

    Posted by Jonathan on 16th February 2014 (All posts by )

    Cited here (via Lindsay Bell).

    The conclusions of this study seem consistent with observation.

    Abstract
    In two online studies (total N = 1215), respondents completed personality inventories and a survey of their Internet commenting styles. Overall, strong positive associations emerged among online commenting frequency, trolling enjoyment, and troll identity, pointing to a common construct underlying the measures. Both studies revealed similar patterns of relations between trolling and the Dark Tetrad of personality: trolling correlated positively with sadism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism, using both enjoyment ratings and identity scores. Of all personality measures, sadism showed the most robust associations with trolling and, importantly, the relationship was specific to trolling behavior. Enjoyment of other online activities, such as chatting and debating, was unrelated to sadism. Thus cyber-trolling appears to be an Internet manifestation of everyday sadism.

    There’s also this (via The Big Picture):

    It’s long been obvious that people with wacko tendencies are vastly overrepresented among Internet commenters as compared to the general population. (See also this and this and this and this.)

    We’re a mere twenty years into human mass-networking via anonymous electronic connection. There are hints of major Internet-driven social changes that we don’t yet understand or even perceive. Much Internet activity seems to be fake. Many people online aren’t who they appear to be. Real-world activities, as in relations between the sexes, appear to be changing faster than ever as information propagates and incentives change in record time. It will be interesting to make sense of the social changes of the 1990s through 2010s from the perspective of twenty years hence, if we live long enough.

    Posted in Deep Thoughts, Human Behavior, Internet | 26 Comments »

    Worthwhile Reading & Viewing

    Posted by David Foster on 14th February 2014 (All posts by )

    A Valentine’s Day story from Sheila O’Malley

    Some thoughts on the color green from Gerard Van der Leun

    Germany’s war against homeschooling, and Obama’s complicity therein

    Early industrial capitalism: myths and realities

    Cashing in on connections in Washington

    The crisis of the administrative state

    Is Common Core encouraging a generic and simplistic approach to literature?

    Why does the question “do you like horror movies?” have predictive power when it comes to how long a relationship will last?

    Liberalism and the credentialist conceit

     

    Posted in Big Government, Business, Economics & Finance, Education, Germany, History, Human Behavior, Political Philosophy, Politics | 2 Comments »

    “Let All the Poisons That Lurk in the Mud, Hatch Out”

    Posted by David Foster on 12th February 2014 (All posts by )

    A long series of derogatory tweets about Shirley Temple, by people who just cannot stand the fact that she was a Republican. Read a few of these, if you can stand it. There’s a lot of rage there, a lot of hate…can anyone doubt that many of those posting these tweets would like to see their political opponents killed, or at least thrown into concentration camps?

    The politicization of all aspects of American life continues apace.

    Andrew Breitbart observed correctly that politics is downstream from culture…but there is also a feedback path going the other direction: politics does influence culture, also. And clearly, the stoking of resentment and bitterness by Barack Obama…and really, by what is now the mainstream of the Democratic Party…has had a terribly corrosive effect on American society.

    Posted in Civil Society, Human Behavior, Politics, USA | 9 Comments »

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Read the rest of this entry »

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

    To Become the ‘Other’

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

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

    Posted in Book Notes, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, History, Human Behavior, Law Enforcement | 8 Comments »

    Greed for Power

    Posted by David Foster on 28th January 2014 (All posts by )

    Kevin Williamson, writing at NRO, notes that political self-interest is no less selfish than economic self-interest. About Barack Obama, he has this to say:

    What could it possibly mean to be lectured on selfishness by a man whose entire career has been dedicated to no cause other than the cause of himself? “Selfishness” has been conflated with materialism and greed, but the literal meaning of the word is excessive devotion to one’s self and one’s interests. To be unselfish is to be ready to give up that which one holds most dear; for some men, that is money, but what is money to a president of the United States, who knows that in retirement he can support himself in ducal style with one day’s work a month at Bill Clinton rates, in princely style with two days’ work, and in imperial style with three? Money is an abstraction to a retired president. But the thing that he really cares about — power — Barack Obama guards in a fashion more miserly than that of any mythical dragon watching his horde. (sic–I think he means “hoard”)

    And political power, of course,  is always and everywhere convertible into economic wealth. The conversion may be in the form of in-kind benefits…the dachas and special stores made available to the old Soviet elite, the extremely expensive government aircraft made available to Obama’s vacationing family (and even to his dog) as well as to himself…or it may involve the at-least-implicit conversion of influence into money. (Al Gore’s financial net worth in now somewhere around the $200 million level, the Clintons are at roughly the same level. Today’s WSJ mentioned that former Clinton counsel Lanny Davis has been hired by a Chinese company to defend them against charges of violating California law. Lanny Davis may be a good lawyer, but is anyone really so naive as to think that his selection for this job has nothing to do with influence?) And in the celebrity-obsessed culture of 2014 America, the public recognition that comes with political office and power increases still further the ability to turn power into economic wealth. Get the power, the wealth will come…although, of course, for many obsessive power-seekers, the psychic rewards of power itself are the primary motivators.

    Obama once remarked “I do think at a certain point you’ve made enough money.”  Has he ever considered the possibility that maybe at a certain point he’s accumulated enough power? I doubt it. To a considerable extent, I think, the Democratic harping on inequalities of wealth and income acts as a smokescreen to avoid discussion of the high and increasing inequalities of power.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Human Behavior, Obama, Political Philosophy, Politics, USA | 15 Comments »

    A Plague of Highly-Ambitious Mediocrities

    Posted by David Foster on 24th January 2014 (All posts by )

    …some thoughts from Theodore Dalrymple.

    Posted in Human Behavior, Politics, USA | 6 Comments »

    Both Interesting and Sad

    Posted by David Foster on 23rd January 2014 (All posts by )

    A commenter at a post on value stream mapping, at the Manufacturing Leadership Blog, says:

    I saw a group of women who hated each other for over 20 years come to tears when they realized what the workflow was doing to their relationships.

    Hopefully, outright hate isn’t all that common, but I do suspect that many painful relationship problems in organizations are caused by processes and incentive structures that create conflicts of a pointless, perpetual, and unresolvable nature.

    Posted in Business, Human Behavior, Management | 7 Comments »

    Selected Posts from 2013, continued

    Posted by David Foster on 17th January 2014 (All posts by )

    One more batch…

    Freedom, the Village, and the Internet. Will social media re-create the kind of social control once often found in the village community?

    301 Years of Steam Power. What they told you in school about James Watt and the invention of the steam engine was very likely wrong.  Related: 175 Years of Transatlantic Steam.

    An Age of Decline? Is America in one, and is the situation irretrievable?

    The Baroque Computers of the Apocalypse. The remarkable air defense system known as SAGE.

    Book and Video Reviews:

    Fly the Airplane. Two flight instructors write about their romance, their flight around the country in a 1938 Piper Cub, and the life lessons that can be derived from aviation.

    Elective Affinities. Goethe’s novel about a love quadrangle.

    Wish Me Luck. A very good TV series about Special Operations Executive agents working in occupied France during WWII.

    Author Appreciation: Rose Wilder Lane. RWL was both an astute and thoughtful political philosopher and a pretty good novelist.

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Aviation, Civil Society, Energy & Power Generation, History, Human Behavior, Military Affairs, Political Philosophy, Tech, Transportation, USA, War and Peace | 3 Comments »

    Are We Living in a Post-Literate Society?

    Posted by David Foster on 11th January 2014 (All posts by )

    Was 1950 the high point of literacy in North America?

    An interesting if depressing piece here: Post-Literacy and the Refusal to Read.

    The author notes that the post-literate individual resembles the person from a pre-literate oral culture in many ways, BUT:

    On the other hand, post-literacy is not a relapse into orality, which, in its intact form, has institutions of its own such as folklore and social custom that codify the knowledge essential to living.  Post-literacy can draw on no such resources, for these have only been preserved in modern society in literature, and post-literacy has not only lost contact with literature, but also it simply no longer knows how to read in any meaningful sense.  It cannot refer to the archive to replenish itself by a study of its own past.

    …which implies, of course, that people in post-literate societies are more susceptible to manipulation than are those in either oral or literate cultures.

    Note also the description of the private college which is so desperate for tuition revenue that it forces its professors to tolerate almost any level of bad performance and outright laziness from its students. As I’ve observed before, the idea that “non-profit” institutions are inherently morally superior to for-profit entities is ludicrous, and increasingly obviously so.

    Posted in Academia, Arts & Letters, Human Behavior, Media, Tech, USA | 32 Comments »

    Selected Posts from 2013, continued

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

    The Power of Metaphor and Analogy. How verbal imagery affects decision-making.

    Not a Single One. Not a single Democratic senator managed to demonstrate enough judgment and courage to go against his Party herd and vote “Nay” on the Hagel confirmation. Also, interesting comments from a political science on the increasing tribalization of the electorate…strongly related to what I call the outsourcing of judgment and conscience.

    Coming Soon, to Places Near You? How French bureaucracy in the 1920s offers a preview of  rampant American bureaucracy in our present era.

    The Reductio ad Absurdum of Bureaucratic Liberalism. Swedish police were unable to suppress the riots, but they were able to issue parking tickets to burned-out cars…reminding me of an old SF story by Walter Miller.

    More on Bureaucracy. Peter Drucker explains why every government must be a “government of paper forms” if it is not to degenerate into a mutual looting society.

    Durbin, Tocqueville, and Freedom of the Press.

    Posted in Human Behavior, Israel, Leftism, Management, Media, Political Philosophy, Politics | 4 Comments »

    Selected Posts from 2013, continued

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

    Western Civilization and the First World War…with a very good comment thread.

    The Power of Metaphor and Analogy.

    The Normalization of Abusive Government.

    Would You Trust Your Financial Future to This Woman? Patty Murray, a U.S. Senator and an obvious moron and bigot..as the quotes in this post clearly demonstrate…is head of the Senate Budget Committee.

    Whose Interests Will Jack Lew be Representing? There were some rather interesting clauses in the Treasury Secretary’s employment agreement with Citigroup.

    Time Travel. Some personal connections with the past.

     

    Posted in Britain, Economics & Finance, Europe, France, Germany, History, Human Behavior, Political Philosophy, USA, War and Peace | 8 Comments »

    Kipling on Income Inequality, Continued

    Posted by David Foster on 23rd December 2013 (All posts by )

    A couple of weeks ago, Chicago Girl Margaret excerpted a little-known poem by Kipling…the poem’s context being a proposal (circa 1890) by the new German Kaiser for an expanded social-welfare system, ideally to encompass other European countries in addition to Germany and to limit “destructive competition” in industry. The poem seemed relevant to Stuart Schneiderman’s post this morning, so I posted the whole thing in comments there.

    Posted in Europe, Germany, History, Human Behavior, Leftism | 2 Comments »