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  • Archive for the 'USA' Category

    SWOT, One Year On

    Posted by Jay Manifold on 15th April 2014 (All posts by )

    A year ago I was dispassionately composing my analysis. Today, when I left the Sprint campus and drove east on 115th Street to turn north on Nall toward I-435, there were TV news vans with telescoping antennae lining the street at the entrance to the Jewish Community Center.

    Coincidentally the number of dead is identical. There are, however, no (physically) injured survivors, and the motivation for the attack was similar only in that it was intended to draw attention to a cause. I fear that the perpetrator is cunning enough to succeed in that; his previous notoriety was due to legally forcing some radio stations to briefly carry Nazi ads during an election campaign season. Much has been made of the gentile – and indeed seriously committed Christian – identity of the victims, but I believe that was unimportant to him. What mattered was that he seize a mechanism for dissemination of conspiracy theories, and now, given the administrative blockheadedness of the American justice system and the puerile conventions of American journalism, we are all too likely to be subjected to many hours and tens of thousands of words of exceptionally vicious, totalitarian propaganda, varying portions of which will be heard by tens of millions of people. This guy knew exactly what he was doing.

    I could tell that from the video snippets of his arrest, just as I could tell, hours before it was officially confirmed, that he would turn out to have come from rural Missouri (Aurora is nearly a 3-hour drive from Overland Park; he had to have cased both facilities beforehand) and would turn out to be a southerner with prior Klan involvement. It was completely obvious from his accent, his tone of voice, and his attitude on camera. He is now operating inside the American institutional OODA loop. Our entirely proper determination to grant a scrupulously fair trial – when we’re not piling on the charges in order to ram a plea bargain through, that is – will be roughly equivalent to giving him not airtime for advertisements, but his own highly rated nationwide radio network.

    Fortunately, he is also sufficiently sui generis that copycat attacks are unlikely, at least in the immediate future. Should an American Dolchstoßlegende catch on, however, things may deteriorate sharply. The general case is to scapegoat a relatively small, easily-identified minority: it was the “1%,” or twenty-five guys on Wall Street, or the Koch brothers – or George Soros, or Obama/Pelosi/Reid, or the leftist academics on their Long March through the institutions – or (of course) Jews, or Latino immigrants or Asians stealing our jobs. If we just expropriate, or deport, or exterminate them, and everyone like them, the story goes, our country will be purified, and Utopia ensue. The ideology may be Nazi or Communist; either will do in a pinch, as Hayek wrote nearly three-quarters of a century ago: its adherents are uncertain, and know only that they hate Western liberal civilization.

    Just to make things more complicated, tolerance can definitely be taken too far. Interviews with the perpetrator’s neighbors in Lawrence County, Missouri, immediately elicit idiotic postmodernist comments to the effect that he seemed like a nice enough guy but had some opinions that they didn’t agree with. Great. Your assigned reading is here, you nitwits.

    So when blood ran in the streets of my city, did I follow my own advice in the ostensibly-uplifting conclusion to my analysis of a year ago, and immediately redouble my efforts on whatever it is I was supposed to be doing? Well, it was a Sunday, so there was somewhat less of that, although I tend to devise more projects for my spare time than I could possibly execute anyway. But in the event, whatever it may say about me, I felt tremendously violated, as though the murders had occurred in my driveway rather than six miles away. And what I actually did was drink rather more cheap boxed red wine than usual and break down a couple of times. I don’t have any particular aversion to weeping, but I don’t need to do so very often. Turns out I needed to on Sunday evening. The question of how I will react should much larger-scale events occur in even closer proximity remains unanswered.

    The problem, of course, is that this kind of thing isn’t supposed to happen here … which is a rather hypocritical sentiment in light of the actual statistics on violent death locally. A couple-three people a week get murdered in this town, three-quarters of them in an area covering only one-tenth of the municipality of KC, Mo., and a tiny fraction of the area of the entire MSA. Assuming that the said area (34 mi²) has the same population density as zip code 64130 (of which it largely consists), a moment with a calculator establishes that the homicide rate in question – the southwestern boundary of that area reaches to within two miles of my house – is nearly 80 per 100,000 per year, making it one of the most dangerous places in the Western world, and also as dangerous as Iraq before the Surge, which the media thoughtfully informed us at the time was the Worst Thing Ever. Gallivanting off to Haïti is all very well, but perhaps I should find a more local ministry to volunteer with while I’m at it.

    But it really isn’t supposed to happen here, and not just because Overland Park is a world away from the East Side. Side-by-side, indeed inextricably mixed, with the ongoing mayhem five minutes’ drive from my doorstep is a deep reservoir of peace and contentment. God damn it, we just want to listen to jazz and eat barbecue. In its best moments, there is no gentler place on Earth. The lives of those taken on Sunday bear witness to that.

    “The new thing — the thing which we had not known — the thing we have learned now and should never forget, is this: that a society of self-governing men is more powerful, more enduring, more creative than any other kind of society, however disciplined, however centralized.” – Harry S. Truman, Radio Report to the American People on the Potsdam Conference, 9 August 1945

    “Boys, if you ever pray, pray for me now.” – Harry S. Truman, to reporters, 13 April 1945

    Posted in Anti-Americanism, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Crime and Punishment, Current Events, History, Judaism, Law Enforcement, National Security, Personal Narrative, Politics, Predictions, Quotations, Religion, Society, Terrorism, USA | 3 Comments »

    The Party of Paranoia, Racial Obsession, and Totalitarian Thinking

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

    …that would be today’s Democratic Party.

    Do not fail to read this important and on-target post by Daniel Greenfield, aka Sultan Knish.

    Posted in Leftism, Politics, USA | 6 Comments »

    The Darkness behind Colonel Nightingale’s Two Great Truths

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

    Cross-posted from zenpundit.com

    Colonel Keith Nightingale, was featured  at Thomas Rick’s Best Defense blog  ”future of war” series at Foreign Policy.com. It is a strong piece, well worth reading:

    The seven ingredients of  highly adaptive and effective militaries  

    The there are two great truths about the future of war.
    The first is that it will consist of identifying and killing the enemy and either prevailing or not. We can surmise all sorts of new bells and whistles and technologies yet unknown, but, ultimately, it comes down to killing people. It doesn’t always have to happen, but you always have to prepare to make it happen, and have the other guy know that.
    The other great truth is that whatever we think today regarding the form, type, and location of our next conflict, will be wrong. Our history demonstrates this with great clarity.
    Well then, how do we appropriately organize for the next conflict if both these things are true? There are a number of historical verities that should serve as guides for both our resourcing and our management. In no particular order, but with the whole in mind, here are some key points to consider that have proven historically very valuable in times of war. The historic degree of support for any one or all within the service structures usually indicated the strengths and shortfalls of our prior leadership vision, preparation, and battlefield successes or failures at the time…..
    Read the rest here.
    .
    Nightingale goes on to explain the important variables of technology, intelligence, personnel quality eccentric or maverick thinkers, linguistic and cultural expertise, deployability and leadership. His points are sound and I recommend them with general agreement.
    .
    One area I wish he had spent more time expounding upon was the part “prevailing or not“. We face a major problem here in that the current generation of  American leaders, our bipartisan elite, our ruling class – call them whatever you will – do not seem to care if America wins wars or not.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in History, Military Affairs, National Security, Politics, USA, War and Peace | 6 Comments »

    Illinois Mirror Poll Shows Republican Bruce Rauner is up 13 Points Over Incumbent Democrat Pat Quinn in IL Governor’s Race

    Posted by Lexington Green on 31st March 2014 (All posts by )


     

    My friend Eric Kohn runs a terrific new site: Illinois Mirror.

    Here is his opening manifesto.

    Illinois’ legacy, calcified media long ago abdicated its obligation to provide useful knowledge that engenders an informed public. I don’t really care if it’s out of disinterest, laziness, partisanship, or cozy relationships with those in power, but the establishment media outlets stand by and tap their keyboards while Illinois crumbles. So, if the air-brushed, teleprompter-fed local media won’t do its job, Illinois Mirror will.
     
    We accept the responsibility that they abandoned. We’ll offer a perspectives that they ignore to reveal how Illinois government really works and its effects on the public.

    Right on.

    And so far, so good. In fact: So far, so outstanding.

    The Illinois Mirror today published the amazing results of its poll for the Governor’s race.

    This is the first poll for this race.

    The Illinois Mirror poll shows GOP candidate Bruce Rauner up THIRTEEN POINTS over Donk Pat Quinn!

    Wow. We know Pat is awful, and we know the state is an ongoing train wreck. But still, for a purportedly Blue state, that is a surprising number.

    Barring a disaster, we will elect a GOP governor who at least talks like a reformer and, fingers crossed, will actually be one.

    I, and many others like me, ask only this of Bruce Rauner: Be what you say you are, do what you say you will do.

    Please.

    The old timers in the GOP were against Rauner. And the teachers unions pushed their members to switch-hit and take GOP ballots to vote for Kirk Dillard, the main establishment GOP candidate. As a result, Dillard got within a couple of points of Rauner, confounding many polls which predicted a Rauner blowout.

    In fact, the only poll that correctly showed the race would be close was the Illinois Mirror poll!

    Nice work.

    Question for the studio audience: Is there any chance this lopsided poll result will be a bellwether for the USA generally in November?

    I sure hope so.

    And keep your eye on the Illinois Mirror!

    Posted in Elections, Politics, Polls, Uncategorized, USA | 11 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 »

    On Ice

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 28th March 2014 (All posts by )

    Just this week and thanks to gaining a new book-publishing client, I was able to complete the purchase of a new refrigerator-freezer. Oh, the old one was staggering along OK, still keeping the refrigerated foods cold and the frozen food frozen … but there were so many dissatisfactions with it, including the fact that it had such deep shelves that in cleaning it out we discovered an embarrassingly large number of jars of condiments whose best-if-sold-by-date were well into the previous decade … not to mention a couple of Rubbermaid containers with leftovers in them that we had quite forgotten about. Well, out of sight, out of mind, as the saying goes. Truly, I don’t like to waste leftovers, but in this case, we had a good clean-out and as of now are resolved to do better, cross-my-heart-and-hope-to-die. The new and larger refrigerator-freezer has relatively shallow and many adjustable shelves in its various compartments; so that we dearly hope that the buried-at-the-back-of-a-deep-shelf-and-totally-forgotten-about syndrome will be banished entirely.

    Anyway – enough of my failings as a thrifty housekeeper; the thing that I was marveling on this afternoon was that the new refrigerator-freezer has an automatic ice-maker. Better than that – an automatic ice-maker and ice-water dispenser in the door, and a small light which winks on when depressing the lever which administers ice (in cubes or crushed) and ice-water and then gradually dims once released. And if all that is a small luxury compared to the previous refrigerator-freezer, it is a huge luxury compared to the electric ice-box that made my Granny Jessie’s work and food-storage capabilities somewhat lighter than those of her own mother. It’s monumental, even – and no one thinks anything of it today, unless the electricity goes off.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Anglosphere, Business, Customer Service, India, Personal Narrative, USA | 9 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 »

    Our Friend Bookworm Has Published a New Book

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

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

    Robert Avrech said:

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

    JoshuaPundit said:

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

    Noisy Room said:

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

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

    Roots of the Western Hostility Toward Israel

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

    …some thoughts from Brendan O’Neill:

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

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

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

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

    Read the whole thing.

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

     

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

    New Book: American Spartan by Ann Scott Tyson

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

    Cross-posted from zenpundit.com

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

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

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

    2014 Midwest Business & Markets Conference

    Posted by Zenpundit on 9th March 2014 (All posts by )

    cross-posted to zenpundit.com

    The Union League Club of Chicago Building

    Yesterday, I attended the 2014 Midwest Business & Markets Conference at the historic Union League Club of Chicago. While business conferences are far afield from my usual interests, the main draw for me was seeing Lexington Green speak about the book he co-authored with James C. Bennett, America 3.0

     

    Michael J. Lotus (“Lex”)                       His book

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Anglosphere, Business, Chicagoania, Civil Society, Deep Thoughts, Diversions, Economics & Finance, Education, Entrepreneurship, Illinois Politics, Internet, Political Philosophy, Politics, Society, The Press, USA | 9 Comments »

    New Op-ed at War on the Rocks

    Posted by Zenpundit on 4th March 2014 (All posts by )

    I have a new op-ed on the Crimean crisis up at the military and national security site, War on the Rocks.

    Let’s Slow Roll Any Move Toward Crimean War II:

    One of the more curious implicit assumptions about the crisis in Ukraine is that the subsequent occupation of the Crimea by Russia represents some kind of triumph for President Vladimir Putin and a defeat for the United States. It is a weird, strategic myopia that comes from an unrealistic belief that the United States should be expected to have a granular level of political control over and responsibility for events on the entire planet. We don’t and never can but this kind of political megalomania leads first to poor analysis and then worse policies.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Europe, International Affairs, Military Affairs, Russia, USA, War and Peace | 38 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 »

    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 »

    Opening the Abscess

    Posted by David Foster on 26th February 2014 (All posts by )

    I’ve previously quoted a passage from the memoirs of General Edward Spears, who was Churchill’s emissary to France in 1940. There was a disturbing amount of defeatism, and in some cases actual sympathy with the Nazi enemy, among certain government officials and other French elites. Weygand’s friend Henri de Kerillis, a Deputy and newpaper editor, had been consistently pressing Prime Minister Daladier to investigate some sinister behavior by members of the extreme Right.

    “Il faut de’brider l’abces,” he had said time and time again to the Premier. He had done so again lately and received this strange answer: I have done exactly what you urged, I have opened the abscess, but it was so deep the scalpal disappeared down it, and had I gone on, my arm would have followed.” This was really very frightening, and I said so. “You cannot be more frightened than I am,” said Kerillis.

    I was reminded again of this passage by some links concerning the abuse of power by Obama’s IRS. See the below excerpts from a video interview with Cleta Mitchell, an attorney who represents several individuals victimized by IRS misconduct over the past four years:

    Part I

    Part II

    Part III

    As Don Sensing says, “The IRS has become an enforcement tool of political hegemony.”  I hope he is wrong when he continues:

    And what is going to be done about it? Nothing. Obama has already said there is “not a smidgen of corruption” in the IRS, and as far as the news media Ministry of Truth is concerned, that’s the end of the story.It does not matter that this information is coming to light and being made public. From the president on down, the despotism will continue unabated — secretly if possible, in the open if necessary. There is no one in the country who has both the ability and the desire to stop it.The Democrats can stop it, but they are the perpetrators and even the ones who are not actively committing these crimes support them. They have the ability but certainly not the desire.

    The Republicans (but by no means even half of them) have the desire but not the ability. They have abandoned the fight anyway.

    The national media and the Democrat party are indistinguishable so there will be no protest raised by them.

    All of these abuses will repeat in 2016 with the same effect as in 2012: opposition to the ruling party will be smothered and the election will be stolen. Again.

    …but I am afraid he may be right.  Those Americans who place value on individual freedom and open government had better be very, very active and assertive over the next 3 years, or it is going to be too late, and things are going to be very dark for a long, long time.

    The things that we know about paint a very sinister picture of the Obama administration’s operations and intentions…imagine what sorts of corrupt, anti-liberty, and quite likely outright illegal activities lurk among the things we do not know about.

    Posted in France, Obama, Politics, USA | 9 Comments »

    Gleichschaltung

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

    Here’s a Democratic candidate for Congress who tweeted:

    Fox News does nothing but tell lies and mistruths. They have unqualified political analysts. We need FCC to monitor and regulate them.

    The vast majority of the traditional media, of course, fervently supports the Democrats. Evidently this candidate cannot stand the presence of any source of diverse reporting and opinion.

    With this tweet, Mike Dickenson  declared war on American free speech.

    Unfortunately, this kind of thinking is by no means rare among Democrats and “progressives.” For example, this story is about  threats of legal action and potential loss of license against a TV station that dared to broadcast ads critical of Democratic candidate Gary Peters. (The lawyers who sent the letter work for the law firm of Bob Bauer, who was general counsel of the Obama campaign.)

    The hostility to free expression and discussion of ideas is especially strong in many universities. For example, here’s a Swarthmore student who was appalled that conservative Princeton professor Robert George was allowed to debate against leftist Princeton prof Cornell West:  ”“What really bothered me is, the whole idea is that at a liberal arts college, we need to be hearing a diversity of opinion,” Ching told the Daily Gazette, the school’s newspaper. “I don’t think we should be tolerating [George’s] conservative views because that dominant culture embeds these deep inequalities in our society.” The same link mentions an article by a Harvard student, who calls for replacing academic freedom with something she calls “academic justice.”

    Gleichschaltung is a German word which means “coordination,” “making the same,” “bringing into line.” It was a term much favored by the Nazis, who used it in the sense of “forcible coordination.” Under the Nazi regime, all aspects of society–all organizations ranging from major professional associations such as those representing the country’s legal profession, down to to folk-singing groups and small local hiking clubs–were subjected to Gleichschaltung. Not only was there to be no criticism of National Socialism in the explicitly political sphere, there was to be no truly non-political sphere at all. Everything had to be about the propagation and strengthening of the ideology of National Socialism.

    The Democratic Party, the “progressive” Left, and the Obama administration are clearly attempting to establish more and more control over public discourse about political and social matters, and also about anything that could relate to these matters.

    And what is “political correctness,” after all, other than a contemporary American form of Gleichschaltung?

     

    Posted in Academia, Civil Liberties, Germany, History, Political Philosophy, Politics, USA | 10 Comments »

    History Friday: A Tale of Balloon Bombs, B-29s and Weather Reports

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 21st February 2014 (All posts by )

    In previous columns I have been speaking to the US Navy’s communications style and command imperatives to control those communications, especially radio communications and Ultra code breaking intelligence. Today’s ‘History Friday’ column takes that line of research a step further and tells a tale of two strategic bombing campaigns in the winter of 1945 and of secret weather reports in the hands of the US Navy. The two strategic bombing campaigns were the Japanese “Fusen Bakudan” or “Fu-Go” balloon bomb campaign of November 1944 through April 1945 and the American Oct 1944 – August 1945 B-29 bombing of Japan from the Marianas. Both have official narratives. Very few have compared those narratives in relation to how the US Navy exercised distribution control of its Ultra code breaking intelligence from Japanese weather reports.

    This column will compare those rival strategic bombing campaign narratives and show how the US Navy’s distribution of decoded Japanese military weather reports on the high altitude jet stream played a role in both, thereby extending the war, and needlessly killing more USAAF B-29 crews, US Navy picket destroyer sailors at Okinawa and Japanese civilians by American B-29 fire bombing.

    This is a National Geographic map of all the documented impacts of Japanese Fusen Bakudan, or “Fu-Go” balloon bombs during the November 1944 – April 1945 Japanese strategic bombing campaign of North America. The “Fu-Go” balloons took advantage of the transpacific upper atmosphere jet stream that Japanese weather balloons had discovered shortly before Pearl Harbor. This same jet stream that delivered “Fu-Go” balloon bombs also heavily disrupted attempts at precision bombing from USAAF B-29s that were based in the Marianas in the winter of 1944-45. Map note — Map by Jerome N. Cookson, National Geographic; source: Dave Tewksbury, Hamilton College.

    [ Also see this link to a 1945 Wartime US Navy training film on the defusing of a Japanese Balloon Bomb that features what the US Navy knew of the transpacific Jet Stream at the 1:03 to 1:47 minute marks of the 22 minute film. ]

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in History, Military Affairs, USA, War and Peace | 15 Comments »

    How Hillary Clinton & Barack Obama & Crew Want You to Live Your Life…

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

    …as prefigured in a poem by W H Auden:

    He was found by the Bureau of Statistics to be
    One against whom there was no official complaint,
    And all the reports of his conduct agree
    That, in the modern sense of the old-fashioned word, he was a saint,
    For in everything he did he served the Greater Community.
    Except for the war till the day he retired
    He worked in a factory and never got fired,
    But satisfied his employers, Fudge Motors Inc.
    Yet he wasn’t a scab or odd in his views,
    For his union reports that he paid his dues,
    (Our report of his union shows it was sound)
    And our Social Psychology workers found
    That he was popular with his mates and liked a drink.
    The Press are convinced that he bought a paper every day,
    And that his reactions to advertisements were normal in every way.
    Policies taken out in his name prove that he was fully insured,
    And his Health-card shows that he was once in hospital but left it cured.
    Both Producers Research and High–Grade Living declare
    He was fully sensible to the advantages of the Installment Plan
    And had everything necessary to the Modern Man,
    A gramophone, a radio, a car and a frigidaire.
    Our researchers into Public Opinion are content
    That he held the proper opinions for the time of the year;
    When there was peace he was for peace; when there was war he went.
    He was married and added five children to the population,
    which our Eugenist says was the right number for a parent of his generation,
    And our teachers report he never interfered with their education.
    Was he free? Was he happy? The question is absurd:
    Had anything been wrong, we should certainly have heard. 

     The Unknown Citizen, W H Auden, 1940

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Britain, Poetry, Political Philosophy, Politics, USA | 2 Comments »

    A Very Funny Post About a Very Serious Topic

    Posted by David Foster on 20th February 2014 (All posts by )

    The association known as the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) has apparently been wracked, of late, by political-correctness insanity. SF writer Sarah Hoyt  posts about her experiences with this organization. Not to be missed!

    The politicization of all aspects of American life continues apace.

     

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Civil Society, Humor, Leftism, USA | 17 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 »

    Charles Sorensen and Rosie the Riveter Would Appreciate Your Assistance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

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

    History Friday: “Joint” Communications in the Central Pacific

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 14th February 2014 (All posts by )

    In my last two columns (See article links here and here) I have been following the thread of the US Navy’s visual and radio communications style and how it affected the US Navy’s night fighting and amphibious styles in the Guadalcanal/Solomons campaigns and during the landing at Tarawa respectively. Today’s column continues that US Navy communications thread and weaves it together with several other threads from previous columns including ones on

    • Intra-service politics regarding sea mining in the Pacific War,
    • Theater amphibious fighting styles,
    • A quirk of in promotion policy in the WW2 US Army’s military culture, and
    • The Ultra distribution war between MacArthur and both the Navy & War Department intelligence mandarins

    (See links here, here, here and here) so as to tell the story of how the US Navy’s interwar mania for controlling radio communications turned into a huge problem of interservice politics that hurt the war effort in the Pacific.

    U.S. Navy Shipboard Radio Room showing WWII RAK/RAL & RAO/RBL receivers along with the LM Freq Meter far  upper right and the Scott SLR receiver located just below the order binders.   Source: Radio Boulevard Western Historic Radio Museum online at http://www.radioblvd.com/WWII-PostWar%20Hamgear.htm

    U.S. Navy Shipboard Radio Room showing WWII RAK/RAL & RAO/RBL receivers along with the LM Freq Meter far upper right and the Scott SLR receiver located just below the order binders. Source: Radio Boulevard Western Historic Radio Museum online at http://www.radioblvd.com/WWII-PostWar%20Hamgear.htm

    The US Navy’s fighting style, in the Pacific from Pearl Harbor through Okinawa, was characterized by naval centric “joint” warfare where the Navy was always first among equals and most staff work was done under Adm. Nimitz’s eyes. Where that “First among equals” theater fighting style rubbed the US Army wrong most heavily was with the Navy’s centralized style with radio communications.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in History, Military Affairs, Okinawa 65, Uncategorized, USA, War and Peace | 7 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 »

    Studying “Frankenstein” Without Reading “Frankenstein”

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

    Here’s an English textbook, “The British Tradition,” which devotes 17 pages to Mary Shelley’s novel “Frankenstein.”

    Two of those are taken up by modern author Elizabeth McCracken telling students about the scary movies she watched as a child, including Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, and Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein as well as dreams she had. Under the heading “Critical Reading,” students are asked what movies McCracken watched as a child. Another page features a hokey picture of a Frankenstein monster circa 1955.

    In the margins of the Teacher’s Edition to the textbook, teachers are encouraged to ask their students what “classic” stories of urban myths, tales of alien abductions, or ghost stories they have heard. Examples include stories of alligators in sewers, a man abducted for his kidneys, and aliens landing in Roswell, New Mexico. Students are asked to write a paragraph on “one of these modern urban myths.” The learning continues when students are challenged to write “a brief autobiography of a monster.” The editors lament that most monster stories are told from the perspective of “the humans confronting the monster.” They want to turn the tables by having students consider “what monsters think about their treatment.”  Those poor, misunderstood monsters!

    (As Joanne Jacobs notes, the lament that most monster stories are told from the perspective of the humans rather than the monster completely ignores the fact that much of Frankenstein is told from the monster’s perspective, albeit as quoted by Victor Frankenstein,  the first-person narrator.)

    Three pages out of the seventeen feature Mary Shelley’s actual words on them. But they are not selections from the novel or any kind of preparation for reading the novel. Rather, they are taken from an introduction Shelley wrote about writing the novel. The only indication that students are encouraged to read Frankenstein is a box in the margin of the Teacher’s Edition indicating that the “advanced readers” who are “interested” might read a “segment” of the novel in order to compare the monster to Shelley’s description in her introduction. 

    The book allocates five pages (two more than are given to Mary Shelley) to a script of a Saturday Night Live parody of Frankenstein. First, students are invited “to share their impressions of the long-running comedy show.” Again the talented-and-gifted students are called to the fore, as they are supposed to obtain props, costumes, and make-up that will enable them to “take roles and do a dramatic reading” of the script.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Arts & Letters, Education, USA | 19 Comments »