… I think. My crystal ball is out for re-calibration so I cannot be absolutely certain, but I’ve been expecting a crisis or bundle of intersecting catastrophes for some time now. There have been murmurings for the last year regarding the probability of Ebola spreading out of Africa. And now it has happened – a person sick with it has exposed lord only knows how many other people on his way back to Dallas from a visit to Africa. Which is horrific enough, but just getting started. Meanwhile, an enterovirus which attacks the respiratory tract and in some instances has an effect very like that of polio has been here for some months, sickening children – especially those who have respiratory difficulties.
Archive for the 'Urban Issues' Category
Study suggests that waiting on experiences can be pleasant, whereas waiting on things just tends to be frustrating. (But what about things that are purchased in order to have experiences?…is waiting for the delivery of a boat really that different psychologically from waiting for a boat-charter vacation?)
Pioneering 3-D printed houses in Amsterdam (with video)
Thoughts about blank-slate theory and its consequences
To train a horse and ride it to war. Thoughts on chivalry, feminism, and horsemanship.
Forty years after the fact is a fine time to wonder if that murderous freak Charles Manson had a point, after all. This is a savage disappointment to me, having been carefully schooled in racial tolerance since about the time that my mother nearly kicked off an epic family fracture when she requested that my paternal grandfather please tone down his expressions of racial denigration in front of us kiddies. She might also have asked the same of Dad, back in the day – he was, after all, raised by Grandpa Al, who – by his talk – couldn’t abide Negro-Black-African-Americans, or whatever the current socially correct term is – and Grandma Dodie, who couldn’t stand Jews. That their favorite entertainer of all time was Sammy Davis, Jr., was just one of those amusing ironies – that and the fact that they were always perfectly cordial to those of my parent’s friends and mine who were Jewish, and/or not by any stretch of imagination white Anglo-Saxon protestants was another one.
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Oh, not to worry – I had my privilege topped up last week. Full of privilege I am, and ready to go … I assume that this is the ephemeral white privilege that these undergraduates-of-excruciatingly-top-drawer-non-state-uni muppets are referring to? Is this the female privilege, the veteran privilege, or the mainstream religious privilege, or even the privilege of having been brought up by a relatively well-adjusted heterosexual married couple in those benighted times when it was possible and even laudable for a male to go out and earn a living, while the spouse (usually referred to as a help-mate) stayed at home, raised the children, organized the housekeeping and the meals, the education, clothing and schooling of those children, the social sphere in which she and the pay-check winning spouse moved, and volunteered in the community where they lived … that must be it. (Hey, I’ll swipe my privilege card through the dispenser, just in case I have burned through some of my previously-deposited privilege.)
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NOTE: This blog post was originally published at The Scholar’s Stage on 2 January 2011. Its contents are relevant to the discussion started by Jay Manifold’s recent posts on national catastrophes and societal resilience. Now seems like a good time to resurrect the original post in its entirety.
I recently read a book by survivalist blogger James Wesley Rawles called How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It. This reading has prompted a few thoughts on the aims and validity of the survivalist movement that may be of interest to readers of the Stage.
The raison d’etre of survivalism is a subject much discussed on this blog: the proper balance between between resilience and efficiency. Robustness and facility are two virtues fundamentally at odds, and all complex systems, be they organisms, economies, or militaries, are subject to the trade off between them. While the relation between specialization and efficiency was noted by both Xenophon and Ibn Khaldun centuries earlier, widespread acceptance of the “drag” redundancy places on a system’s productivity did not come until publication of Adam Smith‘s The Wealth of Nations. Mr. Smith uses the example of a pin factory to teach the general principle:
…the trade of the pin-maker; a workman not educated to this business (which the division of labour has rendered a distinct trade), nor acquainted with the use of the machinery employed in it (to the invention of which the same division of labour has probably given occasion), could scarce, perhaps, with his utmost industry, make one pin in a day, and certainly could not make twenty. But in the way in which this business is now carried on, not only the whole work is a peculiar trade, but it is divided into a number of branches, of which the greater part are likewise peculiar trades. One man draws out the wire, another straights it, a third cuts it, a fourth points it, a fifth grinds it at the top for receiving the head; to make the head requires two or three distinct operations; to put it on, is a peculiar business, to whiten the pins is another; it is even a trade by itself to put them into the paper; and the important business of making a pin is, in this manner, divided into about eighteen distinct operations, which, in some manufactories, are all performed by distinct hands, though in others the same man will sometimes perform two or three of them. I have seen a small manufactory of this kind where ten men only were employed, and where some of them consequently performed two or three distinct operations. But though they were very poor, and therefore but indifferently accommodated with the necessary machinery, they could, when they exerted themselves, make among them about twelve pounds of pins in a day. There are in a pound upwards of four thousand pins of a middling size. Those ten persons, therefore, could make among them upwards of forty-eight thousand pins in a day. Each person, therefore, making a tenth part of forty-eight thousand pins, might be considered as making four thousand eight hundred pins in a day. But if they had all wrought separately and independently, and without any of them having been educated to this peculiar business, they certainly could not each of them have made twenty, perhaps not one pin in a day; that is, certainly, not the two hundred and fortieth, perhaps not the four thousand eight hundredth part of what they are at present capable of performing, in consequence of a proper division and combination of their different operations….. The division of labour, however, so far as it can be introduced, occasions, in every art, a proportionable increase of the productive powers of labour.“
Mr. Smith does not present the primary drawback of this arrangement. With efficiency comes fragility. Ten men working by their lonesome produce a paltry number of pins, but the faults of one man do not destroy the efforts of another. In contrast, if something happens to one of the ten factory men and; his equipment, no pins get made and the factory must shut down. One bad cog puts a stop to the entire machine.
For the survivalist this is a problem pervading not only the pin factories, but all of modern society. Read the rest of this entry »
Many thanks to the commenters on my review. I won’t be agreeing with all of you, but I value your input for increasing my understanding of what others think. I have some related ideas on how to think about the issues raised specifically by Lightning Fall and generally by “preppers” and, indeed, anyone anticipating a societally disruptive crisis in the near future.
NB: this is an essay in the original sense of “attempt.” It is unlikely to fully represent my thinking on these issues even a few years hence; and whether you agree with me or not, I encourage you to think these things through based on your own abilities and experience, and then act as your specific situation appears to require. Hayekian distributed local knowledge may save us. Central planning, as I hardly need admonish this audience, will not, and therefore any attempt by me to impose a uniform mental framework should (and undoubtedly will) be firmly rejected.
Posted in Book Notes, Civil Society, Current Events, History, Human Behavior, International Affairs, Markets and Trading, National Security, Predictions, Society, Systems Analysis, Terrorism, Tradeoffs, Urban Issues, USA, War and Peace | 8 Comments »
Over the years I’ve traveled to New York City many times but never the borough of Queens. In your head you have a mental picture of the NYC map as if Queens has a “hard” border but really it is just attached to Long Island which goes out to the East.
We met a friend in Queens and went to Bohemian Hall which is one of the best beer gardens in New York City. It is over 100 years old and was built by immigrants from Eastern Europe. We went straight outside since it was a beautiful day in 70 degree weather (one of the first nice days of the year in mid April) so I didn’t see the interior of the building.
It opened at noon and soon was full of young and trendy new York types – not the downtown all-in-black types, but the borough crowd that was forced out by incredibly high costs and also those with young children. We saw a lot of strollers and kids running around, it sort of reminded me of Wicker Park over the last few years.
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… about the egregious Al Sharpton, whom I will not dignify with the title of reverend, first because there is no record of the fat, illiterate, race-baiting rabble-rouser ever having attended a seminary of any sort, and secondly because … oh, good lord, just look at those old pictures of him from the 1970s and 80s; jheri-curled, velour track suit and gold pendant the size of a man-hole cover. People, trust me when I tell you that I require a smidge more dignity from those who hold churchly office in any denomination, a standard from which Al Sharpton fell so far that he would need a bucket-truck with a three-story-tall extension even to get close.
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Posted by Michael Kennedy on 4th February 2014 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
I have believed for some time that we were entering another Depression. I have previously posted about it.
The Great Depression did not really get going until the Roosevelt Administration got its anti-business agenda enacted after 1932. The 1929 crash was a single event, much like the 2008 panic. It took major errors in economic policy to make matters worse. Some were made by Hoover, who was a “progressive” but they continued under Roosevelt.
The second article preceded the election of 2012 but is still valid.
When employment hit an air pocket in December, most analysts brushed off the dreadful jobs number as an anomaly, or a function of the weather. They chose to believe Ben Bernanke rather than their lying eyes. It’s hard to ignore a second signal that the U.S. economy is dead in the water, though: on Monday the Institute for Supply Management reported the steepest drop in manufacturing orders since December 1980:
In January, only 51% of manufacturers reported a rise in new orders, vs. 64% in December. Not only did the U.S. economy stop hiring in December, with just 74,000 workers added to payrolls; it stopped ordering new equipment. The drop in orders is something that only has occurred during recessions (denoted by the shaded blue portions of the chart). The Commerce Department earlier reported a sharp drop in December orders for durable goods. In current dollars, durable goods orders are unchanged from a year ago, which is to say they are lower after inflation.
So, the economy stopped hiring, even at the poor pace the past five years have seen, but business also stopped buying.
New from Kevin Villani: Occupy Pennsylvania Avenue: How Politicians Caused the Financial Crisis and Why their Reforms Failed, and the Kindle version: Occupy Pennsylvania Avenue
(Kevin has shared on this blog a couple of prior works on the same subject. You can find those essays, and reader comments in response, here.)
Covered here, at length, I am certain that New Mexico, or at the very least, the Hidalgo County PD needs a new motto. This takes ‘search and seizure to whole new levels. I’ve seen this story linked on a couple of different independent blogs, but now it goes to a whole new level of ‘WTF?’
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As a long time city of Chicago resident I have seen the immense growth of new buildings and new residents in areas near downtown which previously had been office buildings, warehouses, dilapidated structures, or simply abandoned. From time to time when I am in an architectural bookstore I glance at books about “new urbanism” or various similar concepts that authors and “urban planners” use to overlay atop the actual growth of a city (or decline, in the case of other parts of Chicago).
If you are from a smaller town or relatively slow moving US city and haven’t been overseas to see “real” growth somewhere like Hong Kong, China, or India, then Chicago’s growth over the last decade or so that I’ve lived near down is pretty astonishing. In River North, where I live, literally dozens of high rise buildings > 15+ stories have been built and are filled to the brim with owners and renters. The entire South Loop has been renovated not only with town homes and large buildings, but huge retail spaces like Target, Costco, and giant movie theaters. While there were many restaurants in River North when I first moved here, we had to walk far and wide to find even a place open for a decent breakfast; now we have a dozen to choose from within 6-8 blocks.
Since there are train tracks downtown for the Metra commuters which arrive from suburbs from all directions (except East, where the lake is) and many of these tracks are on ground level, the streets are cut up and there are sidewalks I used to take under viaducts with few people around. Now, however, immense apartment buildings have popped up (over 40+ stories) and in the morning there is a huge population of well dressed professionals walking along these routes and sidewalks, where previously there was just debris and parking lots. If I go to work late it is either single women walking dogs or nannies pushing single babies in strollers.
There must be 50,000+ well heeled urban residents packed into this place, all arriving from somewhere else whether it is a suburb, another state, or another country. None of them are poor – you can’t be – since rents are in the thousands and move up rapidly, and every new building coming up has more amenities than the competitors in order to attract residents. The demography is very fluid because many of the condominium owners rent out their units, and then the newer buildings have been built as apartments since the real estate crash of 2008.
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Posted by Lexington Green on 30th July 2013 (All posts by Lexington Green)
Detroit was once the greatest city of the modern world. Automobiles were the cutting edge of technology in the first half of the twentieth century. Talent and genius flocked to Detroit. Innovators in engineering, technology, design, finance, marketing, and management created a concentration of economic dynamism and creativity unlike anything the world had yet seen. Detroit was the Silicon Valley of its day, except its products were made of tangible metal, rubber, and glass. The auto industry transformed America into a land of mobility and personal freedom beyond the dreams of earlier generations. Henry Ford said, “History is bunk.” He meant the old limits could be blown away, and ordinary people could have a better life than they had ever dreamed of before.
Posted in America 3.0, Big Government, Conservatism, Economics & Finance, History, Illinois Politics, Leftism, Political Philosophy, Politics, Society, Taxes, Transportation, Unions, Urban Issues, USA | 22 Comments »
Did this again last night.
Another big crowd. This time we started near the front, which made the whole experience better as most of the crashes and sudden stops happened behind us. Also it’s summer, so much of the ride took place when it was light enough to see the sights, including the more attractive female participants…
I was a teenager when the Manson murders went down, in the autumn of 1969 – of course, the cruel and inexplicable murder of a movie star and several of her friends made all the headlines, and had lots of law-abiding citizens looking over their shoulders and being very careful about locking the doors and windows of their homes at night. It wasn’t until some time later that the associated murders of an elderly retired couple also hit the headlines of the LA Times, and other national newspapers. A blood-drenched, hippy cult with a weirdly charismatic leader had committed those murders in order – so they claimed – to trigger a devastating racial war, which they termed ‘helter-skelter’ from a Beatles song moderately popular at the time. Read the rest of this entry »
These guys always seemed to be a bunch of juvenile, self-righteous assholes who enjoy the fruits of a modern transportation system while pretending to be above it all with their bicycles and simpleminded cultural leftism. The core of the Critical Mass experience are the massive traffic-fouling group bike rides on urban streets. By now CM is mainstream and tolerated by the powers that be with, I assume, the understanding that any daring transgressions will be restricted to off-peak hours. So it becomes just another annoying street event like the parades and art fairs and filming the hot TV show that are given dispensation to block traffic and inconvenience drivers. Of course I would never participate in such a thing. However, it turns out that some of my friends do these rides, and they asked if I wanted to join them. So I said, sure, sounds like fun.
Cynic that I am, I am deriving a great deal of amusement from some of the media-political-general public storms whipped up in the wake of the horribly tragic Newtown shootings, and the deaths of two firefighters in an ambush set by an ex-convict in upstate New York. As if the shootings weren’t horrible and tragic enough in themselves, now we get to enjoy the reflexive Kabuki dance of ‘we must ban those horrid gun-things!’ being played out – especially since some of the very loudest voices in this chorus are politicians and celebrities who live with a very high degree of security at their workplaces and homes, and whose children attend rather well-protected schools. Such choruses appear to be completely oblivious to the fact that for many of the ordinary rest of us, poor and middle-class alike, the forces of law and order are not johnny-on-the-spot in the event of an attempted robbery, rape, break-in or home invasion. To rely on the oft-used cliché, when moments count, the police are minutes away. In the case of rural areas in the thinly-populated flyover states law enforcement aid and assistance might be closer to being hours away.
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I am continually amazed by the level of fear, contempt, and anger that many educated/urban/upper-middle-class people demonstrate toward Christians and rural people (especially southerners.) This complex of negative emotions often greatly exceeds anything that these same people feel toward radical Islamists or dangerous rogue-state governments. I’m not a Christian myself, or really a religious person at all, but I’d think that one would be a lot more worried about people who want to cut your head off, blow you up, or at a bare minimum shut down your freedom of speech than about people who want to talk to you about Jesus (or Nascar!)
It seems that there are quite a few people who vote Democratic, even when their domestic and foreign-policy views are not closely aligned with those of the Democratic Party, because they view the Republican Party and its candidates as being dominated by Christians and “rednecks.”
What is the origin of this anti-Christian anti-“redneck” feeling? Some have suggested that it’s a matter of oikophobia…the aversion to the familiar, or “”the repudiation of inheritance and home,” as philosopher Roger Scruton uses the term. I think this is doubtless true in some cases: the kid who grew up in a rural Christian home and wants to make a clean break with his family heritage, or the individual who grew up in an oppressively-conformist Bible Belt community. But I think such cases represent a relatively small part of the category of people I’m talking about here. A fervently anti-Christian, anti-Southern individual who grew up in New York or Boston or San Francisco is unlikely to be motivated by oikophobia–indeed, far from being excessively familiar, Christians and Southern people are likely as exotic to him as the most remote tribes of New Guinea.
Equally exotic, but much safer to sneer at…and here, I think, we have the explanation for much though not all of the anti-Christian anti-Southern bigotry: It is a safe outlet for the unfortunately-common human tendency to look down on members of an out group. Safer socially than bigotry against Black people or gays or those New Guinea tribesmen; much less likely to earn you the disapproval of authority figures in school or work or of your neighbors. Safer physically than saying anything negative about Muslims, as you’re much less likely to face violent retaliation.
(From the archives of the Daily Brief – a meditation on living in the borderlands. Business is suddenly jumping for the Tiny Publishing Bidness, and I suddenly have a lot of editing to do and a short time to do it in. I honestly don’t have anything else to say about the debate last night that the other guyz haven’t already said.)
It’s part of the tourist attraction for San Antonio, besides the Riverwalk and the Alamo. Even though this part of South Texas is still a good few hours drive from the actual physical border between Mexico and the United States, the River City is still closer to it than most of the rest of the continental states. It falls well within that ambiguous and fluid zone where people on both sides of it have shifted back and forth so many times that it would be hard to pin down a consistent attitude about it all. This is a place where a fourth or fifth-generation descendent of German Hill-Country immigrants may speak perfectly colloquial Spanish and collect Diego Riviera paintings…. And the grandson of a semi-literate Mexican handyman who came here in the early 1920ies looking for a bit of a break from the unrest south of the border, may have a doctoral degree and a fine series of fine academic initials after his name. And the fact that the original settlers of Hispanic San Antonio were from the Canary Islands, and all non-Hispanic whites are usually referred to as “Anglos”, no matter what their ethnic origin might be, just adds a certain surreality to the whole place. Read the rest of this entry »
Two related posts…first, Peter Drucker:
Originally posted 11/13/2005
In Managing in the Next Society, Drucker writes about the tension between liberty and community:
Rural society has been romanticized for millenia, especially in the West, where rural communities have usually been portrayed as idylic. However, the community in rural society is actually both compulsory and coercive.
One recent example. My family and I lived in rural Vermont only fifty years ago, in the late 1940s. At that time the most highly popularized character in the nation was the local telephone operator in the ads of the Bell Telephone Company. She, the ads told us every day, held her community together, served it, and was always available to help.
The reality was somewhat diferent. In rural Vermont, we then still had manual telephone exchanges…But when finally around 1947 or 1948, the dial telephone came to rural Vermont, there was universal celebration. Yes, the telephone operator was always there. But when, for instance, you called up to get Dr Wilson, the pediatrician, because one of your children had a high fever, the operator would say, “You can’t reach Dr Wilson now; he is with his girlfriend.” Or, “You don’t need Dr Wilson; your baby isn’t that sick. Wait till tomorrow morning to see whether he still has a high temperature.” Community was not only coercive; it was intrusive.
And that explains why, for millenia, the dream of rural people was to escape into the city. Stadluft macht frei (city air frees) says an old German proverb dating back to the eleventy or twelfth century. The serf who managed to escape from the land and to be admitted into a city became a free man. He became a citizen. And so we, too, have an idyllic picture of the city–and it is as unrealistic as the idyllic picture of rural life.
… that there was some kind of secret high-sign or signal that we could give to other conservative-libertarian-Tea Party adherents in casual social situations. Even in Texas, a mostly red-state and stronghold of prickly independent free-marketers, there is enough of a leavening of blue-state Dems and Obama worshippers that one need be constrained in discussing politics … by good manners, if nothing else. Especially in the neighborhood where one lives; there are, I know, at least a few Democrats sufficiently enthused about the One to actually display bumper-stickers and yard signs. Read the rest of this entry »
From time to time Dan and I just agree to “give up” on certain types of blog posts because they are repetitive. One of those types of posts involve journalists missing the entire point and purpose of what they are writing about.
And yet this article from Chicago Magazine was such an egregious offender that it caused me to need to write a post on it.
The article starts with the traditional journalistic chestnut – the protagonist. In this case, it is how Mr. Patton, the corporate counsel of the city of Chicago, can adjust the gun control laws as little as possible to meet the terms of the latest court decision that gives citizens access to firearms. In the end, the counsel for the city of Chicago “doesn’t anticipate” any further legal challenges to the gun laws, a comment that the reporter accepts at face value. And finally, the article ends with this:
“We’re committed to achieving the greatest extent of gun control that’s lawfully possible while still complying with the Second Amendment,” he says. “It’s something we can do in the city’s overall effort (against) gun violence. It’s a plague, and we’re doing everything we can to fight it.”
And with that final quote from the protagonist, the “article” is ended.
Note how this article likely sailed through “fact checking”, because the corporate counsel really did say all those things, and the events listed did occur in that chronological row. However, the FACTS ARE WRONG.
Even the most cursory analysis of the situation on gun control by this “journalist” would have turned up salient facts that were completely relevant to the situation. The NRA does intend to aggressively fight and issue lawsuits against the City of Chicago and all other municipalities that limit second amendment rights, and this could be found everywhere on the internet or by spending even 5 seconds calling the NRA, which the writer didn’t bother to do.
More subtle than that obvious issue, is the fact that Chicago, which has among the strictest handgun laws in the country, is among the leaders in carnage caused by handguns, indicating plainly that these laws do not work in terms of keeping guns out of the hands of criminals and only work to deter law-abiding citizens from the ability to protect themselves from these criminals.
I won’t even bother to link to the latest articles showing shootings in Chicago which spike every weekend; they are everywhere and available to everyone, even this “journalist”.
While Chicago is a notorious hotbed of handgun violence, all the states around us have embraced concealed carry and limited restrictions on citizens, without the “wild west” shootouts promised by detractors. Chicago citizens travel every day into Indiana and now Wisconsin without fear of regular citizens harming them, while they would be scared to venture into their own neighborhoods “protected” by these city laws supposedly limiting gun violence.
The ideas that guns can be banned from a small corner of the populace is just irresponsible and ludicrous given that there are hundreds of millions of them across the US and that the tide of the second amendment has passed through almost every state of the union except for Illinois which ought to be a salient fact.
Cross posted at LITGM
The gentle author of a small blog called Spitalfields Life has been mining the early work of a photographer named John Claridge, who came up from the East End to become successful in advertising. His pictures of the East End were taken between 1959 and 1982, many of them when he was no more than a boy.
Here’s a sample:
There’s a long list of additional links to Claridge’s photos at The Online Photographer (scroll down to the bottom of the post).
This week in the neighborhood where I live was designated for the annual bulk-trash pickup – so residents were notified a week or more ago. Once a year we can put out on the curb … well, just about anything except concrete rubble and chunks of stone. The city sends out a couple of long open-topped trailer trucks, and a special truck with a large mechanized claw that reaches down and gathers up the bulk items.
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Wolf Point is a famous piece of land that is a penninsula where the Chicago River is on three sides, right in front of the Holiday Inn and adjacent to the Merchandise Mart. Recently the Kennedys, who own this land, proposed building three giant high rises on the site, as described in this article.
Of all the habitual liars in this world, one of the most odious has to be the “traffic consultant”. One of these firms, hired by the Kennedys, gave a report on the impact of traffic, and per the article:
Residents also suggested the development would further clog already-congested streets and mocked a traffic consultant’s conclusion that the project would not significantly worsen traffic.
To some extent, per the picture above, it is impossible to further “worsen” traffic. This is a photo taken during rush hour that is relatively typical; the bridge going north on Orleans (it is one-way) is completely gridlocked leading towards the Wolf Point site and backed up into Wacker drive, blocking both streets. Thus to some extent the consultant is right, because you can’t get worse than gridlock.