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  • Kids These Days

    Posted by David Foster on August 11th, 2020 (All posts by )

    ‘these days’ being 1896….here is a film taken by the Lumiere Brothers, enhanced for higher resolution and interpolated for a faster frame rate.

    There is also a colorized version, which is very cool, although the actual colors could of course only be guessed.

     

    Posted in Film, France, Tech | No Comments »

    Reason #564 To Be Glad …

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on August 10th, 2020 (All posts by )

    …That I am my own independent publisher, with the Tiny Publishing Bidness, and only wasted a couple of months and a lot of postage, in 2007 or so, trying to get an agent interested in my first two novels. Because that was the way to break into traditional publishing; get an agent, who would present your work to the traditional publishing houses. Another book blogger at the time advised trying it for a year, and then going independent, as there were sufficient small companies doing publish-on-demand, some of them for rather reasonable fees. I did have an interested agent in New York, who was referred to me by another milblogger back then, and although the agent reluctantly declined to offer me his services, he was jolly complimentary and encouraging, and provided some good insights. One of the unspoken insights that I took away from this exchange, and drew from all the other letters saying “Thanks, but no thanks” from various literary agencies was that it was all a terribly insular world, the world of the established agencies and big publishers, all of whom seemed to be based in about half a square mile of real estate in New York. Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Book Notes, Diversions, Entrepreneurship, Leftism, Marketing, Personal Narrative | 14 Comments »

    Saving American Democracy for the Zombie Apocalypse

    Posted by Kevin Villani on August 8th, 2020 (All posts by )

    Within weeks of the 2016 presidential election, the New York Times launched the campaign against President Elect Donald Trump as a racist autocratic Threat to Democracy, followed by the main stream media. Democratic candidate Joe Biden presented a ho hum globalist foreign policy as redressing President Trump’s threat to foreign democracies, conflated with his anti-capitalist domestic policy.

    What does “Democracy” Mean to the Democratic Party?

    European populations attracted to communism after the devastation of WW II were encouraged, sometimes with the subtle help of America’s CIA, to choose “social democracy,” i.e., a democratically elected central government that provided a welfare state financed by a market economy, over Soviet communism. America adopted social democracy in the 1960’s not out of desperation but capitalist material abundance.

    Today after almost six decades of Great Society welfare over three quarters of all democrats are now “democratic socialists, i.e., they prefer socialism to market capitalism. The young party leaders demand “racial and social justice,” a political Jacobin revolution. Democratic officials have actively supported the demonstrators and rioters in the streets celebrating the Meltdown of Capitalism orchestrated by the Marxist Black Lives Matter and ANTIFA groups demanding a majoritarian “peoples’ democracy” like that of prior communist totalitarian regimes.

    How Progressive Democrats Became Zombies

    Since the takeover of Cornell University and others at gunpoint, most universities implemented black studied programs that indoctrinated the Charlottesville premise that America was born to slavery and American racist oppression never ended, causing the current income and wealth gap with whites. Thomas Sowell, one of the greatest economists of the past 60 years, who is black and was present at Cornell at the time, has a lifetime of scholarship exposing the fallacy of this premise.

    The “Cold War” against Soviet communism lasted from 1945 to 1990. The Communist Party was outlawed in the United States in 1954 with progressive political support out of fear that voters could be too easily seduced by the meretricious promises of socialism – where income equality is achieved by impoverishing all but its leaders – without understanding the inherent totalitarianism that led to communist atrocities under Stalin and Mao, murders and deaths measured in the tens and hundreds of millions. The claim by democratic socialists of western democratic countries with a socialist economy, e.g., Sweden, is a myth. 

    A century of progressive mis-education explains the zombies’ attack on capitalism. Primary education peddles soft socialism while universities are populated by “effete intellectual snobs,” the label given by VP Spiro Agnew to “national masochists” i.e., intellectuals who would bring national ruin, written a half century ago by the New York Times writer William Safire. American historians have generally been biased against market capitalism. The term “Robber Baron, first used by the New York Times in 1859 to describe Cornelius Vanderbilt, was popularized during the Depression by a disciple of socialist/progressive writer Charles Beard. America’s dark history has been made hopeless to many millenials through the lens of socialist sympathizer Howard Zinn and racist through the lens of the New York Times 2019 revisionist 1619 Project, with the Democratic Party re-writing its’ own racist past. Economists have been the most easily seduced by the attraction of state power, finding “market failures” at both the macro and micro level to justify their intervention. The Austrian economists Schumpeter and Hayek recognized socialism’s masochistic appeal to “intellectuals” who felt that they could run the world better than those chosen to do so.

    After the Zombie Apocalypse: the Pigs Rule

    Accusations of autocratic behavior by Trump are mostly in response to micro-aggressions of politically incorrect tweets and comments. Coups that overthrow representative democracy from the right generally start with the armed military taking over the media, the bureaucracy, the universities, the unions and all the other sources of political power. The idea that President Donald Trump could direct any of those sources of political power is ridiculous: the deep state has been trying to take him down since he took office. (If the accusations against his AG had any merit, the Democrats would have conducted a real hearing instead of a five hour show trial – a bit long by Stalin’s standards).

    Democrats on the other hand are the Party of the deep state. It has been cultivating those sources of political power for a century, and now controls them with the “carrot and stick” method that was so successful for Mexico’s one party PRI for almost a century, suppressing free speech. It’s only a small additional step from social democrat to one-party democratic socialism.

    Winning this election (fairly or not) provides the Democratic Party the opportunity for one party rule if their agenda faces any serious opposition. They have already discussed many tools at their disposal, e.g., eliminating the Electoral College, further lowering the voting age to 16, packing the Supreme Court (again), mail in ballots, etc. But Barack Obama’s demand at John Lewis’s recent funeral to end the filibuster and announce four new (almost assuredly democratic) senators from the new states of Puerto Rico and the District of “Columbia” (to be renamed of course) in the name of racial and social justice would likely be more than sufficient, maybe even just the threat.

    What Good is the U.S. Constitution?

    The founding fathers didn’t anticipate political parties, so it isn’t an obstacle to one-party rule. Franklin’s Republic of limited powers was replaced by an all-powerful administrative state rather like Hemingway’s character went bankrupt: “gradually, then suddenly.”

    The first necessary condition was to amend the constitution. The end of the Civil War enabled the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments extending voting rights to blacks. The 16th Amendments in 1909 enabling a federal income tax and the creation of the Federal Reserve System in 1912 provided the funding for President Woodrow Wilson’s entry into the European war and “make the world safe for democracy” the rationale. The direct election of Senators in the 17th Amendment of 1912 limited potential state opposition. All these changes shifted power to the federal government.

    Second, the specific enumerated powers of the Constitution have been mooted through Supreme Court political nominations, legal manipulation and intimidation producing “creative” decisions subsequently protected by a convenient legal doctrine of stare desisis, i.e., protection of past progressive Court victories that enable meretricious populist promises. Supreme Court resistance to the New Deal withered in the wake of FDR’s failed attempt to pack the Supreme Court. The subsequent Great Society of the 1960’s, also designed by socialists and implemented by FDR’s protégé President LBJ, substituted federal government funding and decision making not only for states and localities, but for most of civic society and eventually the family.

    Four quotes from H.L. Menken of about a century ago sum it up:

    1. Democracy is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance.
    2. Democracy is also a form of worship. It is the worship of jackals by jackasses.
    3. Democracy is the art and science of running the circus from the monkey cage.
    4. Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.

    Kevin Villani

    —-

    Kevin Villani was chief economist at Freddie Mac from 1982 to 1985. He has held senior government positions, has been affiliated with nine universities, and served as CFO and director of several companies. He recently published Occupy Pennsylvania Avenue on how politicians and bureaucrats with no skin in the game caused the sub-prime lending bubble and systemic financial system failure.

     

    Posted in Elections, History, Political Philosophy, Politics | 20 Comments »

    Goedel’s Theorem Extended

    Posted by David Foster on August 8th, 2020 (All posts by )

    In 1931, the mathematician Kurt Goedel showed that for any consistent  formal system of logic of logic (of at least a certain degree of complexity), there will always be some true statements that cannot be proved, and some false statements that cannot be disproved within the system.  No matter how many axioms you add to the system, there will still be statements that cannot be proved or disproved within it.

    I was reminded of Goedel’s Theorem by some of the more far-out accusations of racism, sexism, etc that have been made against individuals lately, and was thinking that there should be an analogous theorem:  No matter how an individual chooses to act and speak in a way that will shield him from accusations of X-ism, there will always be a way that someone can build a case that he is in fact an X-ist.

    But before I could post about that extension to the theorem, along comes this post by a physician, talking about some of the ways his patients have managed to misinterpret the instructions for using birth control pills–leading to a need to specify more and more detail when giving such instructions.

    But adding more detail probably like adding more axioms to one of Goedel’s formal systems…so the additional analogous theorem is: No matter how detailed the instructions for doing something may be, there will always be a way for someone to interpret them incorrectly.

     

     

     

    Posted in Civil Society, Current Events, Deep Thoughts, Science | 20 Comments »

    Sgt. Mom’s New Work-in-Progress

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on August 8th, 2020 (All posts by )

    As mentioned last night in the Chicagoboyz Zoom meetup, I have started a new novel, this one to be set in WWII. I’m stuck for a title, so any suggestions will be gratefully considered.

    The concept for this new project is based on letters between two cousins during the years just prior to and during the war: One is the wife of a civilian internee in Malaya, waiting out the war in Australia, hoping for word that her husband has survived the fall of Singapore and captivity by the Japanese. The other is an Army nurse, eventually sent to North Africa and Italy. (Suggestions for other plot developments will be considered, also.) I am up to four chapters already, and posting excerpts on my book blog.

    Introduction – here.

    The first letter between the cousins, here.

    A bit of narration, here, and here.

    The second letter, here.

     

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Blegs, Book Notes, History | 8 Comments »

    Hiroshima and the Atomic Bomb…Plus 75 Years.

    Posted by Trent Telenko on August 6th, 2020 (All posts by )

    Today’s date, 6 August 2020 marks the 75th Anniversary of the atomic bombing of the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Some where in the neighborhood of 70,000–80,000 people in Hiroshima were killed by the blast and resultant firestorm that reached it’s peak three hours after the detonation.  Japanese military personnel made up 20,000 of the 70,000–80,000 immediate deaths.   This bombing set in motion a train of events including the subsequent atomic bombing of Nagasaki, the Soviet Union’s accelerated invasion of Japanese occupied Manchuria on 9 August 1945 and Emperor Hirohito’s 15 August 1945 broadcast of Japan’s surrender under the terms laid out by the Potsdam Declaration.

    Much has been written on these events and I’ve revisited them here on Chicagoboyz annually from 2011 to 2018.  This year, 2020, I’m going to address a different part of the Atomic attacks.  Namely, how the American military electronically communicated about the Atomic bomb.  How the secrecy and limitations of that communications system meant Admiral Nimitz knew about the Atomic bomb long before General MacArthur. And how General  MacArthur was working to change that for the proposed and cancelled by A-Bomb invasion of Southern Japan

    Figure 1 – This is the mushroom cloud marking the use of the “Little Boy” uranium-235 atomic bomb dropped from the B-29 “Enola Gay.” This photo was taken from the B-29 “Necessary Evil” which was piloted by Captain George W. Marquardt.

     

    AMERICA’S SECRET TALKER

    In World War 2 many of the major powers developed strategic level code & cypher radio electronic communications systems between it’s top level political & military leaders and the various theater commanders.  The German Geheimschreiber (secret writer) is the best known of these systems because British crypt-analysts at Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS) at Bletchley Park with the the aid of eventually ten Colossus computers.

    Much less well know is the Anglo-American equivalent of the German Geheimschreiber,  The US Army Signal Corps and Bell Telephone Laboratories SIGSALY.  This system was the only form of secret broadcast radio-electronic communications the American and British government trusted to transmit information on the Atomic bomb in the World War II.   It was due in large part to that level of communications security that Admiral Nimitz was informed of the atomic bomb before General MacArthur.  Admiral Nimitz in Hawaii and later Guam was reachable by SIGSALY after his initial courier briefing.  General MacArthur between October 1944 and May 1945 was not, for a number of reasons I’ll get into a little later.

    First, a quick introduction: SIGSALY was a highly secret WW2 digital voice communications system that used a special one-time pad encryption.  There were only 12 station made in all of WW2 and MacArthur’s had two.  The first in Brisbane was sent to Manila.  The 2nd SIGSALY meant for Hollandia was instead placed in a Australian built barge barge in the SWPA “Signal Corps Grand fleet,” a motley collection of small ships and barges with powerful Signal Corps radios.  The barge mounted SIGSALY  was intended for quick sea movement and it was key for MacArthur’s communications at Okinawa and Kyushu during the planned invasion of Japan.

    Figure 2 – This is a SIGSALY digital radio-telephone system screen captured from the Crypto Museum web site.  

    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in History, Japan, Military Affairs, Miscellaneous, National Security, USA, War and Peace | 13 Comments »

    Covid and HVAC Systems

    Posted by Dan from Madison on August 6th, 2020 (All posts by )

    Disclaimer:
    I am not one of those guys with a lot of letters behind my name. All of what you are about to read are my own thoughts on the subject based on my thirty years of experience in the field of HVAC distribution and you are getting exactly what you are paying for. I have to generalize a bit so your particular HVAC system may not be described in full – the universe is simply too large. Even if you follow this advice, you still might get covid. Forward.

    There have been a lot of articles recently about the virus and how it transmits and moves around in air currents, in particular the ones that are created by HVAC systems in your domicile or your place of work. Some of these articles have been pretty decent, and a lot of them pretty dismal. Below are my thoughts on the virus. A lot of this is based on our past experience in the industry when anthrax was all the rage.

    There are three main ways to lower your chances of meeting the virus up close and personal, as relates to HVAC systems. These are in my order of preference:
    1. Dilute it
    2. Zap it
    3. Trap it
    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in COVID-19 | 17 Comments »

    It’s a Multi-Multi-Causal World

    Posted by Lucretius on August 3rd, 2020 (All posts by )

    One difference between ideological worldviews and factual worldviews can be found in the depth and (dare I say) diversity of their causal models.

    Consider the fall of Rome, for which professional and armchair historians have identified hundreds of factors, from debasement of the currency to lead poisoning among the Roman elite to wasteful government spending to the decadence of late Roman morals to the rise of Christianity to bad leadership to military overextension (and many others). Was there just one cause? No, there never is.

    In recent times, consider the U.S. housing bubble of the mid-2000s. Was the one true cause artificially low interest rates, financial market deregulation, the emergence of a high-risk secondary market in mortgage-backed securities, government policies that encouraged too many people to become homeowners, greed among potential homeowners, greed among mortgage processors, promotion of get-rich-quick house-flipping schemes in the media? Nope, there was plenty of blame to go around.

    How about police violence? That must all and only be caused by systemic racism, right? Not so fast. Sociologist Randall Collins has identified seven causes: local governments raising money through fines and requiring police to collect those fines, using the police to enforce unpopular regulations, hypocrisy and cynicism among police officers, the inner-city Black code of defying the police and the common practice of resisting arrest (the police don’t like defiance), property destruction provoking the police in certain situations, adrenaline overload among front-line police officers, the fact that police are trained for extreme situations and aren’t trained to defuse such situations, and actual racism among police officers. And there are likely plenty more: qualified immunity laws, the decline of community policing, corruption in police unions, the lack of racial diversity on police forces, the militarization of the police, gang violence, the war on drugs, etc.

    Furthermore, each one of the causes of a complex social phenomenon itself has multiple causes. To take the last-mentioned cause of police violence, i.e. the war on drugs, we could identify the role of “bootleggers and Baptists” in defining the underlying regulations, the attempt by politicians to buy votes by appearing to be tough on crime, the desire for larger budgets and more power on the part of police departments, the misguided tool of asset forfeiture, the moral corruption of too many people seeking oblivion in psychoactive substances, the lack of higher ideals in the culture at large, etc.

    Anyone who says there is just one cause (from the modern-day Maoists who believe that systemic racism suffuses all of society, to the anarchists and some libertarians who see the hand of big government behind every problem in America) has an essentially ideological point of view and is unlikely to be open to persuasion by facts and reasons, at best having their head stuck in the sand and at worst preferring conformity and intimidation.

     

    Posted in Deep Thoughts | 29 Comments »

    Paging Dr Kennedy

    Posted by David Foster on August 3rd, 2020 (All posts by )

    Someone on social media linked this study of Covid-19 after-effects:

    https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamacardiology/fullarticle/2768916

    …I’d be interested in your thoughts.

     

    Posted in COVID-19 | 48 Comments »

    Consulting My Magic 8-Ball

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on August 3rd, 2020 (All posts by )

    So, last week the Daughter Unit asked me when the new civil war would kick into high gear. Note she said ‘when’ not ‘if’ – for we’ve been in a cold civil war for some time now. I’d say this cold civil war became manifest with upsurge of Tea Party demonstrations in 2009, and has rumbled along all through the Obama administration, building up reservoirs of bitter anger and resentment ever since. My personal SWAG is that things will get interesting (and even more interesting for certain values of interesting) late in the evening of November 3, 2020, when the polls close and the first election results are reported.

    And no, it won’t make a particle of difference who wins; Trump or Biden, or whoever has replaced Biden as the Great Dem Party Hope. My sidebar prediction is that the higher echelons of the Democrat Party will realize, probably shortly following the party caucus to be held sometime this month, that Joe Biden has finally and definitively lost track of his single remaining marble, and that there is no possible and convincing way that he can be propped up as a viable candidate. Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Civil Society, Conservatism, Current Events, Elections, Leftism, Media, Politics, Predictions, Tea Party | 69 Comments »

    Father Damien

    Posted by David Foster on August 2nd, 2020 (All posts by )

    I don’t think many people at this site are in need of an explanation as to what was wrong with Alexandria Occasio-Cortez’s objection to the statue of Father Damien.  So I’ll just link a couple of songs about Damien, from Tom Russell’s album The Rose of Roscrae.

    The Hands of Damien

    A Crust of Bread, a Slice of Fish, a Cup of Water

    The protagonist of the album, which is set in the American West, is an Irish immigrant and outlaw named Johnny:  when he hears Damien’s story, it inspires him to seek his own redemption.

     

    Posted in Civil Liberties, History, Leftism, Music | 5 Comments »

    Is the Biden Economic Plan on the Right Track?

    Posted by Kevin Villani on July 31st, 2020 (All posts by )

    It promises to improve economic well-being relative to current economic policy for average and particularly less well-off citizens now and in the future, and to do the same for citizens of other countries including all immigrants. Can it deliver?

    The Mock Democratic Platform was released in February, the Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force a few weeks ago, and the draft 2020 Platform a few days ago. The economic plan is the most ambitious progressive anti-capitalist agenda at least since FDR’s New Deal and arguably in American history. It consistently proposes numerous government carrots and sticks to achieve its economic objectives, doubling down on the New Deal and Great Society methods.

    Causes and Consequences of Reducing Capital and Labor Productivity

    Potential national wealth is limited only by the amount of capital (national savings) and the incentive to maximize the productivity of capital (e.g., with new technology) and labor (through appropriate education and training). Politics often distorts individual incentives for the worse.

    Politically Re-directed Investment

    The US national savings rate hovered around 3% after turning negative in 2007-2009 and again now. The Biden economic plan for politically re-directing resources to, e.g., conservation, clean energy, transportation, manufacturing, infrastructure, affordable housing, etc. by subsidizing public and taxing private investment more has some merit. However, it may have problematic economic returns and the total cost is many multiples of total national savings.

    Education and School Choice

    Biden would limit the competition with public schools by restricting higher performing charter schools. Higher education would be made either affordable or free with reduced entrance requirements to compensate for a poor primary education, but higher education only contributes to individual and national wealth to the extent it improves productivity, e.g., with more STEM graduates.

    Labor Market Intervention

    By traditional measures, the country was fully employed prior to the Covid-19 epidemic, but the Biden plan calls for the “creation” of multiple millions of new high paying jobs, both in the nominally still private sector and the public sector. Pay would be raised by eliminating the right to work without being forced to join a union, something private sector unions have demanded since the passage of the Taft Hartley Act of 1947. But Biden plans to go beyond that, forcing all states to unionize public employees as well. For those that fall out of this broad union net, the federal minimum wage would start at $15/hour, superseding state laws. These are the tools that progressives historically used to keep blacks, other minorities and recent immigrants out of the labor force, and is is difficult to see how they would do otherwise this time around.

    Trade Protection

    As these politically inflated domestic labor costs will again be uncompetitive internationally the Biden plan opposes any trade deals, calling for manufactured goods to be sourced and stamped “made in America.” Consumer prices would have to rise commensurate with labor costs.

    Immigration

    Borders would be relatively open and immigrants incentivized to come both by the decline in export-related jobs and the benefits of the U.S. social welfare state. But they would be excluded from the formal job market by the union and minimum wage requirements once inside the U.S. border.

    Taxation, Debt and Money Printing: The Limits of Expropriation

    All senior mob leaders know two things well: 1. There is only so much extortion money to go around (gangster killings are usually over excessive greed), and 2, There are limits to how much you can extort without killing a business. At their peak in the 1980s the New York Mafia “owned” the labor unions that extorted from business, enabled by a symbiotic relationship of both with the Democratic Party. Sooner or later taxpayers and consumers always pay.

    Debt and Taxes

    State and local governments are in dire straits and blue states are technically insolvent, demanding a bailout. Federal funding has morphed the states into Soviet era oblasts with the federal government the funding source of first resort.

    Current federal debt is $27 trillion, exceeding that of WW II as a percent of the economy, with over $200 trillion in additional contingent liabilities.. The current federal deficit for this fiscal year is over $3 trillion, to which the Democrat-proposed Heroes Act would add an additional $3 trillion. Candidate Biden has offered tiny constituent groups, e.g., caregivers, almost $1 trillion, large constituent groups such as the environmentalists’ Green New Deal could cost upwards of $100 trillion, with lots of constituent promises falling in between.

    The Biden plan calls for reversing the Trump corporate tax cut that stimulated investment and exports. Taxing the “rich” will raise some revenue in the short run but reduce investment and growth in the longer run. Middle class taxes will follow, although he is committed to restoring the (blue) state and local income tax deduction for the relatively wealthy.

    The Federal Reserve and Modern Monetary Theory

    Having gone past the limit, a gangster may turn to counterfeiting as a last resort. The Federal Reserve is already “printing” enough money to be the primary buyer of Treasury debt and at the current pace would own it all in two years. Under the Modern Monetary Theory espoused by the Sanders campaign and now implicitly incorporated into the Biden economic plan, debts and deficits don’t matter so long as the Fed can print money to purchase them. The Biden plan adds “racial equity” to the Fed’s full employment and price stability goals to reduce differences in wages and unemployment.

    Biden’s Plan is an Extortion Racket on the Left-Behind Track

    Across time and space the evidence supports competitive market capitalism as the source of virtually all human economic progress. The Biden economic plan is essentially an extortion racket that fails to recognize its inherent limits, doubling down on the bad policies of the current Administration while eliminating the good, apparently because the Party’s octogenarian leaders either never learned the limits or have lost control to the young radical left. This plan so far exceeds the limits that even partial success could easily lead to hyper-inflation.

    There is a sense that America can always turns things around if it gets derailed but the progressive perspective dominates America’s intellectual elite and media. Argentina was once on the capitalist fast track parallel to the U.S., but progressive President Juan Peron switched tracks in 1946, and Argentina has been left behind ever since.

    Kevin Villani

    —-

    Kevin Villani was chief economist at Freddie Mac from 1982 to 1985. He has held senior government positions, has been affiliated with nine universities, and served as CFO and director of several companies. He recently published Occupy Pennsylvania Avenue on how politicians and bureaucrats with no skin in the game caused the sub-prime lending bubble and systemic financial system failure.

     

    Posted in Economics & Finance, Elections, Politics | 34 Comments »

    The Newsmaking Machinery Behind the Popular Song

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on July 30th, 2020 (All posts by )

    This last weekend, I had a tiny and depressing demonstration about the facile nature of local news – the news making machinery behind the popular song as the pop song used to go. I did local news-gathering myself as an in-house broadcast professional, doing a daily radio news program for Armed Forces Radio, Seoul Korea edition. I know how the pudding is made; have the basic framework for the story, go out and talk to people for the bits that fill in the story already mentally mapped out in your mind – and go and do it again the next day, and the day following. Daily news is sausage; stuff that casing with whatever the story requires, a judicious combination of meat or filler.

    There was a house fire last Sunday afternoon in our neighborhood – the first I knew of it (since I was working the final edit of Luna City #9) was when the Daughter Unit flung open the door, saying that a nearby house was on fire, that the dogs from the house were running loose on the street, and could I bring some doggie treats and help everyone catch them? Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Civil Society, Current Events, Deep Thoughts, Dogs, Media | 13 Comments »

    Smashing the Soapbox

    Posted by Lucretius on July 29th, 2020 (All posts by )

    The attack on free speech is gaining speed. Indeed, we shouldn’t expect the Internet to be a realm of free expression for much longer. Consider, for instance, an initiative named Stop Hate for Profit, which is calling on Facebook to “find and remove public and private groups focused on white supremacy, militia, antisemitism, violent conspiracies, Holocaust denialism, vaccine misinformation, and climate denialism” and to adopt “common-sense changes to their policies that will help stem radicalization and hate on the platform”; an allied group named Change the Terms has helpfully provided definitions of these so-called common-sense changes and says they should apply to Internet platforms for social media, video sharing, public or private group communication, message boards, online payments, ticket purchasing, marketing, advertising, blogging, website hosting, and domain name registration.

    In the revolutionary environment we find ourselves in, where definitions change almost weekly and purity spirals are the order of the day, this is chilling. Consider, for instance, white supremacy, which theorists like Robin DiAngelo have transformed from something like “a violently fascistic ideology based on the purported natural superiority of lighter-skinned people” into something like “the global, modern society that emerged in mostly Christian Europe and North America based on reason, science, objectivity, individual autonomy, free thought, and free markets.”

    Let’s put two and two together, shall we? (Yes, I realize mathematics is racist too, but so be it.) If expressing any fact or opinion that doesn’t conform to the ever more rigid ideology of anti-racism can subject you to effective removal from the Internet, then free speech is dead.

    Way back in 1996 at the dawn of the Internet Age, John Perry Barlow penned A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace, which among other things proclaimed “We are creating a world where anyone, anywhere may express his or her beliefs, no matter how singular, without fear of being coerced into silence or conformity.”

    How quaint.

     

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Current Events | 11 Comments »

    Conformity and Intimidation

    Posted by David Foster on July 28th, 2020 (All posts by )

    (I mentioned these links before, in comments to this post, but I believe they are important enough to merit inclusion in a top-level post)

    According to a poll conducted by YouGov on behalf of the Cato Institute, almost 2/3 of Americans are afraid of sharing their political views. And with some reason, it seems: among strong ‘liberals’, 50% would support firing a business executive who had privately donated to the Trump campaign. Among strong conservatives, 36% would support firing an executive who donated to Biden. Even among those who identify as just ‘liberal’ rather than ‘very liberal’, 43% would be in favor of firing a Trump donator…22% of conservatives would be in favor of firing a Biden donor.

    See also this very interesting piece by the entrepreneur and venture capitalist Paul Graham: The Four Pillars of Conformism. Read the whole thing.

     

    Posted in Business, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Human Behavior, USA | 38 Comments »

    Systems Thinking

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on July 26th, 2020 (All posts by )

    Update Below

    I have not forgotten that I am going to write on systems-thinking and its problems in Christian theology.  I am thinking about it a lot, actually.  But in the interim, I have noticed something about how people think of good things versus bad things in their respective cultures.  PenGun  mentioned either here or at Assistant Village Idiot about a serious medical condition he had, and how grateful he was to the Canadian Health System that everything went well.  I have noticed the same thing from the Brits*, that when they recover from something it is because of the NHS. Scandinavians say such things about almost everything, actually. They perceive their system of everything to be better: policing, military, diplomacy, education, healthcare, traffic. When I went to Romania to pick up my boys for adoption, I went to the schools they had been attending to discuss how they were and what material was being covered to help integrate them to the private Christian school they would be attending in America.  None of the teachers were able to discuss what they were covering this year, and none knew anything about my two children individually.  They all wanted to talk about how the Romanian system was so superior to what we were doing in America. 

    You might think that just by law of averages alone that the Americans could have gotten something right, seeing as by objective measures…

    My cousin-in-law from Belgium would speak in similar fashion, that the system of schooling she was used to from childhood was so far superior to the schools she was sending her children to now (Concord, NH, very good.  Their boys went on to do well at MIT and UChicago).  Relatives of my sons who moved to Norway for better jobs took their girls out of Tromso abruptly and moved back to Transylvania, with part of the reason being that they felt the school system was much better. Similarly, when I speak to people from Quebec (and thus maybe all of Canada, or maybe not) it’s the same thing.  They believe that Quebecois everything is better in general. Stores, food, politeness – oh let me guarantee you that this is not so.  They have old-world gestures and customs but are solidly insulting – This attitude is so strong among Swedes that even other Scandinavians notice it, and resent it.  It is considered arrogant to put yourself forward as better at anything in any way, but there is this universal idea that their systems, their way of doing foreign policy, or religion, or serving food, or crossing the street is simply better. It is fascinating that all of these cultures consider Americans arrogant because individuals are boastful, or because we notice that we clearly have aspects of our culture that show considerable success – such as a longer life expectancy than any other country  after receiving a cancer diagnosis, regardless of what your income level is – and say so.  To most other places, you can brag about your culture in extreme fashion, but you should not give the merest hint of excelling in yourself. It’s an interesting value.  Once adopted, people outside of that will seem unconscionably rude, sure. We offend them in this way, and that we do not change even after they have pointed this out repeatedly just infuriates them more.
    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 39 Comments »

    What do Democrats Want ?

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on July 25th, 2020 (All posts by )

    I have been watching the gradual, then sudden, dissolution of a political party. My parents were Democrats. They were shocked when they learned I had voted for Richard Nixon in 1960. Jimmy Carter was a failure as a President but I wasn’t really worried about the country when he was in office. His actions with Iran and the Panama Canal were harmful but they were a matter of policy. Ronald Reagan, not a governor I was fond of in California, was a successful president. He was able to work with the Democrat Party in spite of some far left loonies like Chris Dodd. Many of the far left members of the Democrat Party favored communists like the Sandinistas but they were kept in line by the old pols to whom graft and spending were more important. Tip O’Neill would let Reagan win the Cold War as long as Reagan let the Democrat Congress run up the deficit.

    Bill Clinton changed much of this dynamic in two ways. First, he was a lot more ideological than previous presidents and second he was incompetent at it. Clinton is a very smart man but his wife, Hillary, was far too obvious in her corruption. First the 900 FBI files, then the White House Travel Office. Both were scandals that primed him for a big loss.

    Then the 1994 elections turned the Congress over to the Republicans and we learned how little they were interested in Conservatism. They accomplished nothing before being ousted by Democrats in 2006. This, of course, was followed by the housing and mortgage collapse of 2008. There was some attempt by Bush administration officials to rein in Congress and the debt explosion but it was probably too late anyway. The 2008 election placed Congress in Democrats’ hands for the first time with a Democrat president since 1974. Clinton’s two years did not result in much happening. The first Obama Congress spent like drunken sailors but were quickly reined in in 2010.

    What might happen if Biden won the presidency and the Democrats got a majority in the Congress ?

    In the past until now, there was zero chance that the hard Left would ever win an American election. No socialist has ever come close. Even Bernie Sanders accepted that the Democratic establishment for six years broke rules, leveraged candidates to drop out, and warped the media to ensure that he would remain a septuagenarian blowhard railing at the wind from one of his three houses. George McGovern was buried by a landslide. Most Democrats, after Kennedy and until Obama, never won the popular vote unless possessed of a Southern-accented hinting at centrism.

    Only the Great Depression and World War II ensured four terms of FDR, who still knew enough not to let his house socialists ruin the wartime U.S. economy.

    But in perfect storm and black swan fashion, the coronavirus, the lockdown, the riots, anarchy and looting, all combined with Trump Derangement Syndrome to be weaponized by the Left—and the media far more successfully than with their failed pro forma, legalistic efforts with Robert Mueller and impeachment to destroy the Trump presidency—have pushed socialism along.

    I thought Obama was an empty suit. Biden is an empty head.

    Who is behind all this and why ?

    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Big Government, Civil Society, Current Events, Elections, Trump | 44 Comments »

    Worth Contemplating

    Posted by David Foster on July 24th, 2020 (All posts by )

    The closer men came to perfecting for themselves a paradise, the more impatient they seemed to become with it, and with themselves as well. They made a garden of pleasure, and became progressively more miserable with it as it grew in richness and power and beauty; for them, perhaps, it was easier for them to see that something was missing in the garden, some tree or shrub that would not grow. When the world was in darkness and wretchedness, it could believe in perfection and yearn for it. But when the world became bright with reason and riches, it began to sense the narrowness of the needle’s eye, and that rankled for a world no longer willing to believe or yearn. Well, they were going to destroy it again, were they,  this garden Earth, civilized and knowing, to be torn apart again that man might hope again in wretched darkness.

    –Walter Miller, A Canticle for Leibowitz

     

    Relevant to our current situation in the US and in other Western countries, perhaps?

     

     

    Posted in Deep Thoughts, Europe, USA | 5 Comments »

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Jonathan on July 24th, 2020 (All posts by )

    Helen Pluckrose, quoted in Spiked:

    Despite what the backing of prominent institutions might imply, I think these woke causes are supported by only a minority of people. It is not so uncommon for society to work this way. Look at theocracies, where perhaps only five per cent of people are theologians who teach the core values, but they are accepted by wider society as a benchmark for showing goodness and virtue. People either accept it without really understanding it, or just refrain from arguing with it. There are definitely parallels between that scenario and society today.

    Nowadays non-leftists hesitate to express non-leftist views publicly, either from fear of retaliation or because they don’t think it’s worth the hassle. Leftists probably feel the same way. However, the situation is asymmetrical because so many prominent institutions and big businesses are controlled by leftists or by people who are afraid not to make at least a show of fealty to leftist ideas.

     

    Posted in Civil Society, Leftism, Political Philosophy, Politics, Society | 8 Comments »

    Medical Genomics

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on July 23rd, 2020 (All posts by )

    This is an area where white privilege is real. We are increasingly able to determine risk scores for conditions that might develop later in life, and the large majority of the research subjects have been of North European ancestry. The studies have been done by Americans, Scandinavians, Dutch, etc, and a very large UK Biobank, but consider the motivations of all. Pharmaceutical and other companies have some interest in pure or general research, but mostly they want to be able to develop products for people who might buy them. Where do university labs get their subjects? Governments want to help their own people. 80% of sampling worldwide is Northern European.

    To understand why this matters, we usually take height as an example of a polygenic trait. There have been many SNP’s (smallest units) found to be “associated with” height. Even though they only have enough to account for 15% of the variance at this point, it was enough to predict that Shawn Bradley would be well above-average in height from his DNA alone. (Former NBA. 7’6″) But all of these discoveries are from Northern European samples. When you run the same tests on people of African descent, they show very few of those SNPs associated with height. They have so few, in fact that the test will predict that they are very short indeed, less than five feet, even if they are seven feet tall. Africans have different genes making them taller. A word on the side about these many genes that contribute to height. They are not so much of the form “make the shinbone a little longer,” as more general health items such as digestion and energy conversion, or when hormones activate and when they stop. A fair number may be primarily prenatal influence. Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 5 Comments »

    Random Pic

    Posted by Jonathan on July 22nd, 2020 (All posts by )

    death bus

    Don’t crash.

     

    Posted in Photos | 1 Comment »

    Oh, FFS!

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on July 22nd, 2020 (All posts by )

    As if it wasn’t enough for the joyless, bitter scolds among the wokerati to have an absolute tizzy over the head of Goya Foods being civil and respectful of the office of the President of the US, another provider of excellent and relatively inexpensive foodstuffs is in their cross-hairs. Unlike the president of Goya Foods who basically told them to pound sand – and is now enjoying the economic benefits of having defied the wokerati – the management of Trader Joe’s is beating a sniveling and apologetic retreat, and promising to redo their policy of labeling their various ethnic food items with a suitably ethnic variation on ‘Trader Something-or-Other’. This was a bit of light-hearted bit of humor on their part, playing with naming stereotypes, but good lord, the grim and determined wokerati cannot abide any humor at all and so the whole concept must go. The Daughter Unit tells me, and the above link conforms, that the whole thing started as a petition by high school students, which doesn’t surprise me in the least. I suspect the responsible students are the earnest and censorious sorts, desperately trying to out-woke each other.

    Frankly, the whole ‘Trader Joe’s’ South Sea Island – Tropical Paradise motif always struck me as a last gasp of the 1950s ‘Tiki Culture’ and about the only one which didn’t involve a bar decorated with fishing nets and dried starfish, and fru-fru drinks with little umbrellas in them. Trader Joe’s various products are high quality, reasonably priced, and the social-consciousness is laid on with a light hand, in pleasant contrast with the mountain of ostentatious correctitude and high prices offered at Whole Foods. There is a reason the latter is derisively known as “Whole Paycheck.” I can only think it’s only a matter of time before the social justice warriors go after Trader Joe’s for that bit of cultural appropriation as well.

    At least the providers of groceries are not having as rotten a year due to the Chinese Commie Crud as Hollywood is. Theaters shut down, premieres cancelled, top-flight releases like Greyhound, with Tom Hanks and based on C.S. Foresters’ war novel The Good Shepherd diverted to release on streaming video, the fall-out from “Me Too” and Harvey Weinstein’s wholesale-level practice of the casting couch, the apparent urge among our producers of entertainment to whore after foreign audiences, and now looking to curry favor with the hot new trend of ‘anyone but white heterosexuals in front of the camera and behind it as well as behind it in any capacity’ … well, Establishment Hollywood has earned the foul reputation they richly deserve. Those of us in flyover country are watching old movies on DVD (from our own libraries, let it be known) or on streaming video, watching foreign films or series – practically anything other than grim parables and lectures by the wokerati.

    Comment as you wish: what are you going to watch, now? The Daughter Unit and I are watching episodes of Are You Being Served? Which has the side benefit of being gloriously politically incorrect, and not featuring any masks or six-foot apart social distancing. (The Daughter Unit and I temped for a few months at an upscale department store over the holiday season some years ago. We consider ‘Served’ as nearly a documentary on retail sales at a certain level.)

     

    Posted in Advertising, Capitalism, Civil Society, COVID-19, Current Events, Customer Service, History, Media, Military Affairs | 37 Comments »

    Mom! She’s Touching Me!

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on July 21st, 2020 (All posts by )

    Well, as long as we are putting up pictures of animals relaxing …

     

    Posted in Dogs, Photos | 3 Comments »

    Posted by Jonathan on July 20th, 2020 (All posts by )

    woof

    Chicagoboyz are kicking back and resting their dogs.

     

    Posted in Photos | 3 Comments »

    Intimidation vs Persuasion

    Posted by David Foster on July 20th, 2020 (All posts by )

    Over recent years, I’ve notice that much political communication…ranging from formal statements by politicians down to off-the-cuff social media posts by individuals..has come to consist mostly of insulting one’s opponents. While there has always been a considerable amount of this, political insult has now become so prevalent as to drive out more rational forms of discourse. And while both/all sides do engage in the kind of behavior I’m discussing, it is much more predominant and extreme on the Left.

    From a marketing point of view, this may seem a little odd: why would one want to insult one’s prospective customers–the people one is trying to persuade? I think the answer may be provided by Willi Munzenberg, who was Stalin’s master propagandist. Here’s what Munzenberg told Arthur Koestler, back when Koestler was still a Communist:

    Don’t argue with them, Make them stink in the nose of the world. Make people curse and abominate them. Make them shudder with horror. That, Arturo, is propaganda!

    And that seems to be the objective, recognized or not, of much of today’s ‘progressive’ speech. People are being intimidated from speaking their minds not only out of fear of practical consequences…loss of customers, loss of jobs…but out of fear of being publicly demonized as a Bad Person.

    See Lead and Gold on Mediated Democracy and the Temptations of Leninism.

    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in History, Leftism, Marketing, Russia, USA | 31 Comments »