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  • Archive for the 'Civil Society' Category

    Freedom, the Village, and Social Media

    Posted by David Foster on 9th December 2018 (All posts by )

    This rerun (retitled from the original) inspired by Glenn Reynolds’ decision to deactivate his Twitter account.

    I’ve reviewed two books by German writer Hans Fallada: Little Man, What Now?, and Wolf Among Wolves (the links go to the reviews), both of which were excellent. I’ve also read his novel Every Man Dies Alone, which is centered on a couple who become anti-Nazi activists after their son Ottochen is killed in the war…it was inspired by, and is loosely based on, the true story of  a real-life couple who distributed anti-Nazi postcards and were executed for it.

    I thought this book was also excellent…the present post, though, is not a book review, but rather a development of some thoughts inspired by a particular passage in the story.

    Trudel, who was Ottochen’s fiancee, is a sweet and intelligent girl who is strongly anti-Nazi..and unlike Ottochen’s parents, she became an activist prior to being struck by personal tragedy: she is a member of a resistance cell at the factory where she works.  But she finds that she cannot stand the unending psychological strain of underground work–made even worse by the rigid and doctrinaire man (apparently a Communist) who is leader of the cell–and she drops out. Another member of the cell, who has long been in love with her, also finds that he is not built for such work, and drops out also.

    After they marry and Trudel becomes pregnant, they decide to leave the politically hysterical environment of Berlin for a small town where–they believe–life will be freer and calmer.

    Like many city dwellers, they’d had the mistaken belief that spying was only really bad in Berlin and that decency still prevailed in small towns. And like many city dwellers, they had made the painful discovery that recrimination, eavesdropping, and informing were ten times worse in small towns than in the big city. In a small town, everyone was fully exposed, you couldn’t ever disappear in the crowd. Personal circumstances were quickly ascertained, conversations with neighbors were practically unavoidable, and the way  such conversations could be twisted was something they had already experienced in their own lives, to their chagrin.

    Reading the above passage, I was struck by the thought that if we are now living in an “electronic village”…even a “global village,” as Marshall McLuhan put it several decades ago…then perhaps that also means we are facing some of the unpleasant characteristics that–as Fallada notes–can be a part of village life. And these characteristics aren’t something that appears only in eras of insane totalitarianism such as existed in Germany during the Nazi era. Peter Drucker, in Managing in the Next Society, wrote about the tension between liberty and community:

    Rural society has been romanticized for millenia, especially in the West, where rural communities have usually been portrayed as idylic. However, the community in rural society is actually both compulsory and coercive…And that explains why, for millenia, the dream of rural people was to escape into the city. Stadluft macht frei (city air frees) says an old German proverb dating back to the eleventh or twelfth century.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Blogging, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Current Events, Deep Thoughts, Media, Tech | 25 Comments »

    Snowballs, Sleds, and Cultures, with Some Thoughts from Goethe and the Kaiser

    Posted by David Foster on 5th December 2018 (All posts by )

    A 9-year-old boy lobbied successfully to get his town’s ban on snowball fights overturned.

    Reminded me again of some comments by Goethe, circa 1828, which were the subject of a post here several years ago. He observed that when Englishmen came to town, they were invariably a hit with the local women. Indeed, when one of them came to visit, Goethe found it necessary to brace himself for the inevitable female tears upon the visitor’s departure. His friend Eckermann objected that Englishmen were not “more clever, better informed, or more excellent at heart than other people.”

    “The secret does not lie in these things, my good friend,” returned Goethe. ““Neither does it lie in birth and riches; it lies in the courage which they have to be that for which nature has made them. There is nothing vitiated or spoilt about them, there is nothing halfway or crooked; but such as they are, they are thoroughly complete men. That they are also sometimes complete fools, I allow with all my heart; but that is still something, and has still always some weight in the scale of nature.”

    Goethe goes on to contrast the upbringing of English boys with that typical in his own country:

    “In our own dear Weimar, I need only look out of the window to discover how matters stand with us. Lately, when the snow was lying upon the ground, and my neighbour’s children were trying their little sledges in the street, the police was immediately at hand, and I saw the poor little things fly as quickly as they could. Now, when the spring sun tempts them from the houses, and they would like to play with their companions before the door, I see them always constrained, as if they were not safe, and feared the approach of some despot of the police. Not a boy may crack a whip, or sing or shout; the police is immediately at hand to forbid it. This has the effect with us all of taming youth prematurely, and of driving out all originality and all wildness, so that in the end nothing remains but the Philistine.

    It’s not obvious to me why Goethe didn’t take up this issue of excessive policing with his very good friend Karl August, who as Grand Duke was pretty much the absolute ruler of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach. Still, an interesting remark, given the increasing constraints on childhood in our own present culture.

    What is also very interesting is that almost a century later, former Kaiser Wilhelm II made some rather similar observations in his memoirs:

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Britain, Civil Society, Education, Germany, History, Human Behavior, USA | 24 Comments »

    True Colors

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 16th November 2018 (All posts by )

    We’ve known for at least a decade or so that the so-called “ruling class” here in the US (and possibly in formerly great Britain and Western Europe as well) look down snobbishly on the middle and working class, the regular joes, the residents of flyover country. Those who roost in the higher levels in academia, the media, in the entertainment and intellectual world, in the national bureaucracy, those who are part of the upper caste – have made their contempt for the ordinary citizen pretty darned obvious by their words and actions, to the point where it’s no secret to most of us who have been paying attention. That this contempt is returned is not immediately obvious; after all, the media (with a few honorable exceptions) has little interest in the opinions of the ruled class, or in reporting them with any degree of understanding or sympathy. Still, we in the ruled class have made our displeasure known in small ways – eschewing shopping at Target, watching NFL games, dropping ESPN, and skipping over award shows like the Oscars – which likely the ruling class feels as mere irritating pin-pricks. (They are TWANLOC, in Subotai Bahadur’s elegant phrase.) And if they are being seriously inconvenienced by recalcitrance on the part of the ruled class – we won’t know for certain, for a good while. Possibly in the history books, if we in the ruled class get a chance to write them. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Society, Culture, Current Events, Leftism, Media, Politics, The Press | 46 Comments »

    The Third Place

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 8th November 2018 (All posts by )

    Saloon

    I am reading, by listening to the audio, a book called The Revolt of the Elites, which was written in 1996 but I just discovered it.

    The theme, which is quite timely, is that there are two worlds in this country; that of the elites and that of everyone else. From a review on Amazon:

    Lasch was most active in the late twentieth century yet it would seem he was seeing into the future with this book and his equally (or more) famous book, The Culture of Narcissism. In Revolt of the Elites he posits that the degeneration of Western Democracy has been caused by the abandonment by the wealthy and educated elites of their responsibilities to support culture, education, the building of public facilities, etc. in these societies. The rich and educated in Western Liberal, Capitalist, Democracies have, since the 1970s, increasingly abandoned society, keeping all of their earnings to themselves and have adopted a listless transient existence forgoing any significant commitments to community.

    He makes the point that we are no longer one nation with even the well off participating in the community. We lead separate lives.

    One example of this he calls the “Third Place,” a place where the community gets together. One place is work and another is home. The Third Place used to be a gathering place where all classes could mingle and get to know each other. In my own life it was the neighborhood tavern. My father was in the Juke Box business when I was a child and he spent quite a bit of time in taverns as that was where his business was. Two taverns that I remember quite well were owned by good friends of my father’s. One served as an answering service for service calls from other taverns. Both were neighborhood places which had many customers from nearly all classes. The very rich tended not to be there but I remember quite successful businessmen and their wives who attended parties and barbecues. The tavern would have softball teams for younger customers. One of them had a private ball field across the street that was owned by the tavern owner.

    The other tavern was not far away and among its regular customers were a wealthy heiress and her husband who had been a professional golfer. Every Sunday after Mass, there was a group that would always congregate there for an hour or two before going home. Most of the regulars did not visit each other at home, but did their socializing at the tavern.

    When I was a medical student, we visited New York City in August 1965 and the friends whose apartment where we stayed, were regular customers of the local tavern. One our one visit to the tavern, the friend pointed out all the men there without women. The wives and children were all at the “shore” for the hot month of August.

    The VFW and the Elks Club and Fraternal Order of Moose served the same purpose for many. My father was an Elk. There is a scene in the Clint Eastwood movie, “Gran Torino” that shows him socializing with the friends at the VFW. (Has it been the years since that movie ?)

    Those third places are pretty much gone. The country club and even the yacht club, where I spent a lot of time socializing, are not the same. There is an economic issue although yacht clubs are full of crew members who are not members of the club but are welcome.

    The divisiveness and tribalism we see in the elections and in the national politics are probably consequences of the lack such mixing bowls of democracy.

    Posted in Book Notes, Chicagoania, Civil Society, Culture, Human Behavior, Politics | 51 Comments »

    Donald Trump’s Jacksonian Revival Presidency

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 28th October 2018 (All posts by )

    It was hard for the transnational progressives that dominate American politics and media empires to understand in their gut either President Trump’s successful 2016 campaign or his 2018 campaigning, because Trump’s campaign “dog whistles” are outside their frame of reference. The reason why is that the Trump political phenomena is very much Trump being a “fire and brimstone preacher from the non-denominational Low Church of American Exceptionalism” in the midst of the PC dominated American High Church outlawing displays of the American flag on Cinco De Mayo for “reasons of diversity.”

    Two examples for your consideration:

    1) My wife found this article below for me, because she is better at spotting the American fundamentalist Christian Right’s symbols than I.

    Donald Trump and the Evangelical Vote
    By Emily Johnson
    December 8, 2015

    And herein lies the political genius of Trump. Without tying himself to any particular group, Trump has captured the populist rhetoric of the most conservative elements of the GOP base. He spoke for more than 45 minutes in Knoxville and hardly referred to religion at all, focusing instead on issues related to immigration, defense, and trade. But religion was not absent from the event. It began with a prayer, given by a local law enforcement officer, beseeching God to bless America with a “guiding hand of direction” and a “guarding hedge of protection.” Corum, the 92-year-old first-time voter who warmed up Trump’s audience, also had a great deal to say about good, evil, and God. The United States, she said, “ought to be like it should have been in the beginning” when God bestowed a special blessing on the nation.
     
    But direct appeals to religious rhetoric are less important to Trump’s campaign than is his appeal to far-right voters as a brutally honest man who is only a reluctant convert to the world of politics. For these voters, Trump is like them: a passionate American who was compelled to become involved in the political realm because of his commitment to return the nation to the way it ought to be.

     

    This is the founding myth of General George Washington coming to the Constitutional Convention as the American republic’s Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus, and then dropping the reigns of power to return to Mt. Vernon for a second and final time.

    Emily Johnson’s article is really good, and you should read it in full after seeing the following:

    2) This video of a performance of the “USA Freedom Kids” at the beginning of a Trump for President campaign rally.

    As a military kid, that performance pulled so many of my strings that I knew immediately that;
    a. I was being purposefully manipulated by the symbols I grew up with, and
    b. I loved it anyway.

    Trump’s political rallies then and now are revival meeting of American exceptionalism for America’s Scots-Irish, and extended by assimilation, white ethnic  Jacksonian faction.

    This style of campaigning is 180 degrees out of phase with traditional negative campaigning, which is to paint other candidates as the enemy of you and yours — “OTHER.”

    Trump’s campaign rallies have been about affirming Jacksonian tribal identity in much the way Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia did and Putin of Russia is currently doing in Russia.

    The issues that Trump has chosen to run and govern on are all about American blood-and-soil nationalism at the expense of international politics and trade. And President Trump has been painting himself in the traditional role of Cincinnatus & George Washington coming down from his estates to set right the ills of the Republic.

    The transnational progressives that dominate the political parties of the West simply cannot compete with this American tribal identity stuff because they are not nationalist.

    National identity is outside their frame of reference. So are appeals to them.

    Posted in America 3.0, Americas, Anglosphere, Anti-Americanism, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, USA | 20 Comments »

    The Bottom Line

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 24th October 2018 (All posts by )

    So, several posts by the Zman blog crystalized in my own mind a partial understanding of the situation as regards the new cold civil war. The whole Trumpland/Clinton Archipelago split, and practically every bit of conservative/left nastiness over the last two years represent a slow-moving rebellion. Zman phrases it as; The ruling class and their media organs will never admit it, but one main reason for Trump is that white people grew tired of fighting wars for a ruling class that despises them.” I wouldn’t limit it to strictly white people, though – or the issue to war-fighting. I’d just say that it’s a rebellion of the normal citizens, the flyover country residents, the working and middle-class, what used to be called the salt of the earth, those who are Ruled against the Ruling Class – a Ruling Class which despises the Ruled with a passion which sends most of the Ruling Class into incoherent, spittle-flecked rage. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Blogging, Civil Society, Conservatism, Current Events, Diversions, Leftism, Media, Personal Narrative, USA | 29 Comments »

    Trump’s Secret Superpower

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 19th October 2018 (All posts by )

    I’m willing to bet a double-batch of our famous-quality gourmet Christmas gift fudge (which my daughter and I make only at Christmas to give to neighbors and friends) that Donald Trump’s secret superpower is the ability to make his enemies run mad and implode, all on their own. What other explanation is there for Elizabeth Warren’s triumphant announcement – that an analysis of her DNA proved that she was really part Native American, or what used to be called Indian – that is, part Cherokee as she has claimed for years! Take that, Trump-monster! seemed to be her attitude, as she flung the winning hand of cards on the table … and then the announcement crashed in flames, once everyone got a good look at the minuscule proportion of so-called Native American DNA involved … and hearty horselaughs resounded in the halls. So, one of her ancestors, six to ten generations in the past might have been from the North or South American aboriginal community. One teensy, teeny single drop … but apparently sufficient to be hired and described by a couple of her previous employers as a woman of color. White and blond of color and wouldn’t have been out of place on a Hitler Youth recruiting poster in her younger days. Kind of makes one wonder about the validity of the concept of “white privilege” – when all the trendy political figures are trying to trade on an identity as an ethnic minority. Is Senator Warren’s political career well and truly sunk? Probably not in Massachusetts; after all, they kept reelecting Teddy Kennedy for decades. But on the national level? Always possible, I’d concede, but having become a laughingstock all across the political spectrum would be a challenge to come back from. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Society, Conservatism, Current Events, Elections, Leftism, Media, Politics, Texas, Trump | 22 Comments »

    Fallout

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 11th October 2018 (All posts by )

    So now Brett Kavanaugh has been confirmed to the Supreme Court, duly sworn in – after weeks of sturm, drang and drama such as a reasonable person can hardly credit, of unproven accusations of every kind of sexual misconduct on the part of Justice Kavanaugh by hysterical and/or malicious people. Seriously, have the Move On, MeToo, Pussy-Hat crowd gone so far off the rails as to believe that the presumption of innocence standard must be utterly disregarded, and the commandment against bearing false witness be revoked entirely? Apparently – and never mind that this single-minded attitude towards accusation and punishment leads straight back to the era of strange fruit hanging from the poplar tree, blood on the leaves and blood at the root. Only not black bodies swinging in the southern breeze, but the actual or metaphorical bodies of husbands, friends, sons and brothers. Requiring proof of an accusation against any male appears to be an utterly outré notion to the vicious brigade of professional 21st century feminists – and the fact that ordinary women of every color and inclination are not merrily following the tumbrils as our uteri are supposed to direct us, appears to be cause for volcanic outrage among the vicious brigade.
    Well, life is full of these little tragedies, kids. Better luck next time. Go louder, more obnoxious, and double down on the personal threats – that will so convince us and win overwhelming support to your side! Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Society, Feminism, Just Unbelievable, Leftism, Media | 45 Comments »

    Something Nasty in the Woodshed

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 21st September 2018 (All posts by )

    The Kavanaugh-Ford-Feinstein kerfuffle appears to be this week’s progressive-tantrum du-jour, just as the Kavanaugh hearing itself was of last week, and John McCain’s funeral and epic post-mortem diss of his former running mate was that of the week before. The whole thing – a hazily recalled teenage memory of a clumsy grope at a booze-fueled suburban bacchanal – reminds me nothing so much as Great Aunt Ada Doom in Cold Comfort Farm and her incessant insistence on having “seen something nasty in the woodshed” which sight so traumatized her that she was able to ride roughshod over the rest of the clan at Cold Comfort for decades. What the ‘something nasty in the woodshed’ was is never actually described in the story – but Great Aunt Ada wields her hysterical claim of having suffered from it with the expertise of a master in conducting guided guilt trips through most of the book, until she is talked down from her room by the clever heroine.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Society, Just Unbelievable, Politics | 55 Comments »

    Hate Crime Speech

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 10th September 2018 (All posts by )

    When it first became politically trendy to back passage of ‘hate-crime’ legislation, I privately thought it a bad idea, while understanding completely why it was an appealing notion, especially for political and social entities which presumed to act on behalf of those threatened by weaponized hate. The fear in such communities was real, every bit as real as the threats, the vandalism, the lynch mobs, and disenfranchisement. It would take a politician with balls of brass to stand up before a group who justifiably were frightened by all that, and discount those fears. It was the easy way out for politicians, the media and social organizations to portray hate crime legislation as a good and discount those doubts held by those of us with inclinations toward the philosophical. A crime was a crime: there were already laws on the books dealing with vandalism, murder, arson and so on. A motivation for committing a crime ought to be of interest only in establishing the guilt of the perpetrator, not for piling on additional penalties. We do not have windows to peer accurately into the souls of others. Essentially, classifying a crime as a ‘hate crime’ was punishing the thought, over and above the actual crime itself. I didn’t think it was a good idea then, and still don’t think so – especially given the overwhelming numbers of so-called “hate crimes” which turn out to be either deliberate hoaxes, or the deeply imaginative letting their imaginations run away from them. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, Big Government, Civil Society, Conservatism, Crony Capitalism, Customer Service, Just Unbelievable, Leftism, Society | 7 Comments »

    Summer Rerun: That Hideous Strength, by C S Lewis

    Posted by David Foster on 9th September 2018 (All posts by )

    That Hideous Strength, by C S Lewis

    This was the first thing Mark had been asked to do which he himself, before he did it, clearly knew to be criminal. But the moment of his consent almost escaped his notice; certainly, there was no struggle, no sense of turning a corner. There may have been a time in the world’s history when such moments fully revealed their gravity, with witches prophesying on a blasted heath or visible Rubicons to be crossed. But, for him, it all slipped past in a chatter of laughter, of that intimate laughter between fellow professionals, which of all earthly powers is strongest to make men do very bad things before they are yet, individually, very bad men.

    Mark Studdock is a young on-the-make sociologist, a professor at Bracton College, in an English town called Edgestow. He is is far more interested in university politics than in his research or teaching. and as a member of the “progressive element” at the college, he strongly supports Bracton selling a tract of property to a government-sponsored entity called NICE. The NICE is the National Institute for Coordinated Experimentation,which Lewis describes as “the first fruits of that constructive fusion between the state and the laboratory on which so many thoughtful people base their hopes of a better world.”  What excites Mark most about the NICE is this:

    The real thing is that this time we’re going to get science applied to social problems and backed by the whole force of the state, just as war has been backed by the whole force of the state in the past.  One hopes, of course, that it’ll find out more than the old freelance science did, but what’s certain is that it can do more.

    Trigger Warning: There is something in this book to offend almost everybody.  It contains things that will offend technologists and believers in human progress…social scientists…feminists…academic administrators…bioscience researchers…and surely many other categories of people.  It will probably also offend some Christians, for the way in which Christian theology is mixed with non-Christian magic. By the standards now becoming current in American universities, this book, and even this book review, should be read by no one at all.  But for those who do not accept those standards…

    The Basic Story. Mark has recently married Jane, a woman with strong literary interests and with vague plans for getting an advanced degree. She has recently started having disturbing, indeed terrifying, dreams, which suggest that she has a clairvoyant ability to see distant events in real time. Afraid that she is losing her mind, Jane seeks advice, and is told that her dreams are actually visions, they are very real, will not stop, and are of utmost importance:

    “Young lady,” said Miss Ironwood, “You do not at all realize the seriousness of this matter. The things you have seen concern something compared with which the happiness, and even the life, of you and me, is of no importance.”

    Miss Ironwood warns Jane that extremely evil people will seek to use her gift, and that she would do well–both for her own interests and those of the entire human race–to join the community of which Miss Ironwood is a part, located at a place called St Anne’s. Jane responds quite negatively to the invitation, afraid that membership in the St Anne’s group will limit her autonomy. She is not interested in the dreams’ meaning; she just wants them to go away.

    Mark, on the other hand, responds enthusiastically when he is invited to take a position at the NICE, temporarily located at an old manor called Belbury.  One of the first people he meets there is the Head of the Institutional Police, a woman named Miss Hardcastle (picture Janet Napolitano), nicknamed the Fairy, who explains to Mark her theory of crime and punishment:

    “Here in the Institute, we’re backing the crusade against Red Tape.”  Mark gathered that, for the Fairy, the police side of the Institute was the really important side…In general, they had already popularized in the press the idea that the Institute should be allowed to experiment pretty largely in the hope of discovering how far humane, remedial treatment could be substituted for the old notion of “retributive” or “vindictive” punishment…The Fairy pointed out that what had hampered every English police force up to date was precisely the idea of deserved punishment. For desert was always finite; you could do so much to the criminal and no more. Remedial treatment, on the other hand, need have no fixed limit; it could go on till it had effected a cure, and those who were carrying it out would decide when that was.  And if cure were humane and desirable, how much more prevention?  Soon anyone who had ever been in the hands of the police at all would come under the control of the NICE; in the end, every citizen.

    Another person Mark meets in his first days at Belbury is the acclaimed chemist William Hingest…who has also come down to investigate the possibility of a job at Belbury, has decided against it, and strongly advises Mark to do likewise:

    “I came down here because I thought it had something to do with science. Now that I find it’s something more like a political conspiracy, I shall go home. I’m too old for that kind of thing, and if I wanted to join a conspiracy, this one wouldn’t be my choice.”

    “You mean, I suppose, that the element of social planning doesn’t appeal to you? I can quite understand that it doesn’t fit in with your work as it does with sciences like Sociology, but–“

    “There are no sciences like Sociology. And if I found chemistry beginning to fit in with a secret police run by a middle-aged virago who doesn’t wear corsets and a scheme for taking away his farm and his shop and his children from every Englishman, I’d let chemistry go to the devil and take up gardening again…I happen to believe that you can’t study men, you can only get to know them, which is quite a different thing. Because you study them, you want to make the lower orders govern the country and listen to classical music, which is balderdash. You also want to take away from them everything that makes life worth living and not only from them but from everyone except a parcel of prigs and professors.”

    Nevertheless, Mark decides to remain at Belbury, and is drawn ever-deeper into its activities–which, as only those in the innermost circles of that organization realize, are not only consistent with the goals of the 20th-century totalitarianisms, but go considerably beyond them.  The NICE seeks to establish a junction between the powers of modern science and those of ancient magic, accessing the latter by awakening the medieval wizard Merlin and using him for their purposes.  At the same time, Jane–despite her reservations–becomes increasingly involved  with the company at St Anne’s and is entranced with its leader, a Mr Fisher-King. (His name comes from the Wounded King in Arthurian legend.)  The St Anne’s group is aware of the truth about NICE and its ultimate goals, and exists for the primary purpose of opposing and, hopefully, destroying that organization.

    I will not here describe the war between the forces of Belbury and those of St Anne’s (in order to avoid spoilers), but will instead comment on the characters of some of the protagonists and some philosophically-significant events in the novel, with appropriate excerpts. Hopefully this will be enough to give a sense of the worldview that Lewis is presenting in this book.

    Mark Studdock. His character is largely defined by his strong desire to be a member of the Inner Circle, whatever that inner circle may be in a particular context.  The passage at the start of this review where Mark agrees to engage in criminal activity on Belbury’s behalf is proceeded by this:

    After a few evenings Mark ventured to walk into the library on his own; a little uncertain of his reception, yet afraid that if he did not soon assert his right to the entree this modesty might damage him. He knew that the error in either direction is equally fatal.

    It was a success. Before he had closed the door behind him all had turned with welcoming faces and Filostrato had said “Ecco ” and the Fairy, “Here’s the very man.” A glow of pleasure passed over Mark’s whole body.

    That “glow of pleasure” at being accepted by the Belbury’s Inner Circle (what Mark then thinks is Belbury’s Inner Circle) is strong enough to overcome any moral qualms on Mark’s part about the actions he is being requested to perform.  Lewis has written a great deal elsewhere about the lust for the Inner Circle, which in his view never leads to satisfaction but only to a longing for membership in another, still-more-inner circle. In That Hideous Strength, there are concentric Inner Circles at Belbury, which Mark does penetrate–and each is more sinister than the last.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Anglosphere, Arts & Letters, Bioethics, Book Notes, Britain, Christianity, Civil Society, Conservatism, Crime and Punishment, Deep Thoughts, Human Behavior, Leftism, Morality and Philosphy, Political Philosophy | 5 Comments »

    Community

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 2nd September 2018 (All posts by )

    There was a bit of excitement a couple of weeks ago in the suburb where I have lived since the spring of 1995. I should make it clear that this is a working-class to middle-class suburb on the north-eastern fringe of San Antonio, a city which has pretensions to being Democrat-run and a smidge on the libby-lefty side. After all, this place did spawn Julian Castro, of whom I am convinced there is a picture in that Great Universal Dictionary in the sky next to the definition of that German word which means “a face in need of a good punching”. San Antonio may be well stocked with representatives of the lunatic left, but we are pretty far from being Austin, and the fact that one cannot throw a rock in this place without hitting at least four retired colonels and a dozen retired senior NCOs (Army and Air Force, primarily) – well, that keeps a ration of sanity in play. I’ve only spotted two signs for Beto “Blotto” O’Rourke lately, for whatever that counts for. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Society, Crime and Punishment, Current Events, Human Behavior, Immigration, Personal Narrative, Texas | 11 Comments »

    Poisoned Fruit of the Poisoned Tree

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 25th August 2018 (All posts by )

    This week, the month-long mystery of the missing college student, Mollie Tibbits, was sadly resolved, with the discovery of her body in a local cornfield. Developments in the search for her were updated frequently over the last few weeks, and always featured at the top, or near to the top of headlines on the English tabloid, the Daily Mail. Which, for all its’ eccentricities, abuse of grammar, spelling, penchant for the flamingly obvious, providing Piers Morgan with a salary, extreme Kardashian-worship, and light-to-moderate Trump disdain, does cover the American news scene without much fear or favor.
    The longer the mystery of her disappearance went on, though – the greater the chance of a less than happy ending. And as it turns out that the chief suspect in her kidnapping and murder is a man with a distinctly dodgy background – an illegal alien of Mexican background, whose’ identity papers are something of a mystery. His American employers seemed to believe that everything was hunky-dory; this lends the cynical among us to assume that such paperwork must have been better forgeries than the usual run.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Civil Society, Conservatism, Current Events, Immigration, Media, North America, Politics, Society, The Press | 13 Comments »

    Summer Rerun: Higher Education, Un(der)employment, and Dissatisfaction

    Posted by David Foster on 22nd August 2018 (All posts by )

    Some thoughts from the great economist Joseph Schumpeter, writing in 1942:

    The man who has gone through a college or university easily becomes psychically unemployable in manual occupations without necessarily acquiring employability in, say, professional work. His failure to do so may be due either to lack of natural ability—perfectly compatible with passing academic tests—or to inadequate teaching; and both cases will . . . occur more frequently as ever larger numbers are drafted into higher education and as the required amount of teaching increases irrespective of how many teachers and scholars nature chooses to turn out.

    The results of neglecting this and of acting on the theory that schools, colleges and universities are just a matter of money, are too obvious to insist upon. Cases in which among a dozen applicants for a job, all formally qualified, there is not one who can fill it satisfactorily, are known to everyone who has anything to do with appointments . . .

    All those who are unemployed or unsatisfactorily employed or unemployable drift into the vocations in which standards are least definite or in which aptitudes and acquirements of a different order count. They swell the host of intellectuals in the strict sense of the term whose numbers hence increase disproportionately. They enter it in a thoroughly discontented frame of mind. Discontent breeds resentment. And it often rationalizes itself into that social criticism which as we have seen before is in any case the intellectual spectator’s typical attitude toward men, classes and institutions especially in a rationalist and utilitarian civilization.

    Well, here we have numbers; a well-defined group situation of proletarian hue; and a group interest shaping a group attitude that will much more realistically account for hostility to the capitalist order than could the theory—itself a rationalization in the psychological sense—according to which the intellectual’s righteous indignation about the wrongs of capitalism simply represents the logical inference from outrageous facts. . . . Moreover our theory also accounts for the fact that this hostility increases, instead of diminishing, with every achievement of capitalist evolution.

    via the WSJ

    Reminds me of Francis Bacon’s assertion…way back in the late 1500s!…that one cause of sedition and mutiny in any polity is “breeding more scholars than preferment can take off.”

    (In the original post, there was also a link to a Theodore Dalrymple excerpt at the old Neptunus Lex site, but I haven’t been able to locate it)

    Posted in Academia, Civil Society | 22 Comments »

    The Age of Magical Thinking

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 18th August 2018 (All posts by )

    A couple of different blogs that I follow have linked to one or more of these essays in recent days. Not being mystically-inclined, I don’t know about the magic-working aspects, but I think the sociological observations are spot on. Herewith for your consideration – The Kek Wars, from the Ecosophia blog.

    Part One: Aristocracy and Its Discontents

    Part Two: In the Shadow of the Cathedral

    Part Three: Triumph of the Frog God

    Part Four: What Moves in Darkness

    Your thoughts?

    Posted in Blogging, Civil Society, Conservatism, Deep Thoughts, Diversions, Human Behavior, Leftism, Miscellaneous | 10 Comments »

    You’ve Got to be Carefully Taught

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 11th August 2018 (All posts by )

    It’s got to be drummed
    In your dear little ear
    You’ve got to be carefully taught.
    (From the musical South Pacific)

    Or not taught at all. Last week as I sat in my cosy home office contemplating things, the ebb and flow of the internet brought to me the woebegone maunderings of a (presumably) white and (arguably) somewhat credentialed Millennial, who in her search for meaning and purpose in her life wound up involved in those anti-pipeline protests near the Sioux reservation. The ukase of her lament seemed to be that she had no native culture, not in comparison with those charming and dignified tribal elders. She appeared to view them as benign, terribly exotic, definitely ‘other’ – pretty much the same lens with which the old National Geographic viewed and photographed those interesting aboriginal peoples in far distant foreign lands all these decades ago.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Society, Conservatism, Culture, Current Events, Education, History, Leftism, Media | 19 Comments »

    The Dogs Don’t Like It

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 4th August 2018 (All posts by )

    The title of this post is the punchline to an old, old story about the limits of advertising; a story which may or may not be based on fact. The story goes that a big food-manufacturing conglomerate came up with a brand new formulation for dog food, and advertised it with a huge, costly campaign: print ads, TV commercials, product placement in movies, TV shows, county fairs, giveaways and sponsorships; the whole ball of wax … and the product cratered. The CEO of the company is irate and demands answers from anyone who can give him a reason why. Didn’t they do everything possible to make their dog food brand the market leader? Image everyone at that meeting looking nervously at each other at this point – because they have done everything possible … except for one small thing. Finally, someone gets up sufficient nerve to answer. “But the dogs don’t like it.” Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Advertising, Business, Civil Society, Conservatism, Culture, Current Events, Customer Service, Human Behavior, Media, Politics, Trump | 13 Comments »

    Summer Rerun: Wolf Among Wolves, by Hans Fallada

    Posted by David Foster on 3rd August 2018 (All posts by )

    Hans Fallada’s novel Little Man, What Now?, which I reviewed here, impressed me enough to look up some of  Fallada’s other works.  Wolf Among Wolves, was published later than LMWN, but set in an earlier period: 1923, the time of the great Weimar inflation. It tells the story of a collapsing society through the intertwined lives of many characters, who include:

    Petra Ledig, a sweet-natured girl from a rough background in Berlin, driven into prostitution by financial desperation. On impulse, she asks one of her clients to take her home with him, and he does. That man is…

    Wolfgang Pagel, son of a fairly-well-off but overprotective and controlling mother–the mother being less than thrilled about his relationship with Petra. Wolf supports himself and Petra, in a very marginal way, by working as a professional gambler. One day in Berlin, Wolf meets up again with an old Army acquaintance…

    Joachim von Prackwitz, who everyone calls the Rittmeister (cavalry captain). The Rittmeister married the daughter of a major landowner in East Prussia and is now managing a large farm at Neulohe under lease from his father-in-law, who cannot stand him…indeed, the father-in-law does everything he can to make the Rittmeister’s life miserable, including for example scheming to increase his portion of the electric bill from the estate’s shared diesel generator. (This is surely the only novel I’ve read in which depreciation and cost-allocation calculations come into play.) The Rittmeister was known in the Army as a brave if not terribly bright officer and a good comrade, but he is having great difficulty in dealing with the pressures of his civilian life.

    Eva, the Rittmeister’s well-balanced and long-suffering wife, is losing confidence in her husband and is very worried about the erratic and mysterious behavior of her daughter Violet, an attractive 15-year-old who has developed a passionate and secret crush on…

    The Lieutenant, agent for a group of former military men who are plotting a putsch against the Weimar government

    Mr Studmann, another Army friend of Wolf’s, who has been working as front-desk manager for a hotel. He and Wolf are both invited by the Rittmeister to leave Berlin and come help with the running of the farm. Despite his total lack of agricultural experience, Studmann turns out to be a very effective manager, using the skills he developed at the hotel. Eva is drawn to Studmann, seeing in him the stability and rationality that are absent in her husband–and he is VERY attracted to her.

    Raeder, a young and deeply weird servant who has an unwholesome sexual attraction toward Violet

    One “character” never absent from the story is the mark, the German unit of currency. In fact, the valuation of the mark is mentioned in the very first page of the book:

    This is Berlin, Georgenkirchstrasse, third courtyard, fourth floor, July 1923, at six o’clock in the morning. The dollar stands for the moment at 414,000 marks.

    (By the end of the period covered in the story, the dollar-to-market conversion rate was a trillion to one.)

    A few samples of the writing. Here, a description of Violet’s attraction toward the Lieutenant:

    He was quite different from all the men she had yet known. Even if he were an officer, he in no way resembled the officers of the Reichswehr who had asked her to dance at the balls in Ostade and Frankfurt. The latter had always treated her with extreme courtesy; she was always the “young lady” with whom they chatted airily and politely of hunting, horses, and perhaps of the harvest. In Lieutenant Fritz she had as yet discovered no politeness. He had dawdled through the woods with her, chatting away as if she were some ordinary girl; he had taken her arm and held it, and had let it go again, as if this had been no favor…Just because he thought so little of her, because his visits were so short and irregular, just because all his promises were so unreliable…just because he was never polite to her, she had succumbed to him almost without resistance. He was so different. Mystery and adventure hovered around him…Infinite fire, mysterious adventure, a wonderful darkness, in which one may be naked without shame! Poor Mamma, who has never known this! Poor Papa–so old with your white temples! For me ever new paths, ever different adventures!

    Read the rest of this entry »

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    Posted in Book Notes, Civil Society, Economics & Finance, Germany, History | 3 Comments »

    Is Trump the Herald of “Localism?”

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 25th July 2018 (All posts by )

    Donald Trump is the source of great pain on the left and also in the professional politician class of the GOP.

    Why ?

    He was an outsider in GOP politics but the GOP politicians had failed a lot of the voters, including me. Like Ross Perot in 1992, he attracted a lot of people who were tired of being taken for granted by the regular politicians.

    Now there are some interesting theories of what is happening.

    Henry Kissinger, who knows Trump personally, has said some interesting things about him.

    The 93-year-old Nobel laureate told CBS show Face The Nation that the Republican’s unconventional style could be an asset and an ‘extraordinary opportunity’ for the US.

    ‘Donald Trump is a phenomenon that foreign countries haven’t seen. So it is a shocking experience to them that he came into office, at the same time, extraordinary opportunity,’ Kissinger said.

    ‘And I believe he has the possibility of going down in history as a very considerable president,’ he added.

    Naturally, this has disturbed some of the usual Trump opponents.

    Now, as Donald Trump signals that he wants a more cooperative relationship with Moscow, the 93-year-old Kissinger is positioning himself as a potential intermediary — meeting with the president-elect in private and flattering him in public. Like Trump, Kissinger has also cast doubt on intelligence agencies’ conclusion that Russia sought to sway the election in Trump’s favor, telling a recent interviewer: “They were hacking, but the use they allegedly made of this hacking eludes me.”

    The headline, of course, smears Kissinger, always hated by the left, as “a longtime Putin confidant.”

    What is going on ?

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Civil Society, Politics, Trump | 15 Comments »

    Rerun: The Dream(liner) and the Nightmare (of Social Toxicity)

    Posted by David Foster on 22nd July 2018 (All posts by )

    The FAA has issued an Emergency Airworthiness Directive against the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. The AD requires that the battery system be reviewed and modified as necessary to eliminate the danger of fires such as those that have recently occurred on these aircraft. The changes needed could presumably involve manufacturing processes, sourcing of components, electrical-system design, or some combination of these things.

    The FAA’s action here seems to me like simple and reasonable prudence. It is not uncommon for new aircraft types to encounter problems during their early operational days, and the 787 is an innovative plane in many ways, especially in the use of electrical means to replace functions traditionally done by hydraulic systems and by engine bleed air.  There may well turn out to be simple fixes that can be quickly implemented to resolve the issue; on the other hand it’s possible that the fix will involve signficant redesign and will cost Boeing and the airlines considerable money. Purely as speculation, I’d guess that the worst-case result for the study required by the AD would be the mandated replacement of the plane’s lithium-ion batteries with conventional aircraft batteries, at some sacrifice in the plane’s useful load and some redesign both of the relevant control systems and of some interior spaces.

    But the purpose of this post is not to talk about 787 technical issues, as much fun as that might be.

    After clicking on the Yahoo report about the AD issuance yesterday, I took a look at some of the comments, and a depressing experience it was. Here are some samples:

    Makes you wonder if Boeing did not have the FAA inspectors in their back pocket while certifying this airplane “air worthy”? Maybe a few bucks went along stuffing their respective back pockets as well. Good example of certifying government agencies working too close with the manufacturer.

    For the FAA to say it’s safe and then ground the planes, all credibility and trust in competence is out the window.

    Were they just going to wait until the costs of wrongful death lawsuits surpassed the cost of fixing the problem?

    They do lots of testing but just like windows they release it to the public and then we will fix all bugs in the system

    Parts made in China

    #$%$ batteries made in China and a world-class American airplane manufacturer fell for their cr@p product. Do you think that perhaps Chinese agents were behind deliberately sabotaging our country’s product?

    Dream gone bad. Overseas outscourced components on the cheap, assembled by redneck scabs in South Carolina.

    Just one more example of the FINE work being produced by wonderful, hardworking and dedicated union workers.

    Just more retaliation from Obama for the move to non- union South Carolina.

    no one care anymore all the factory workers just go to work to try to make $$$$$ and this it is hard too the pride in making or to build something does not exist anymore!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Too bad the GOP helped rich buddies ship all the manufacturing jobs to china? Expertise comes with manufacturing. Burger jobs make poor planes?

    Read through several pages of comments like these, and the overwhelming overall impression is one of social toxicity…of people glaring furiously at one another, quick to assume that anything to goes wrong in any aspect of life is due to either malice or incompetence or both. It is a picture of generalized resentment and distrust, coupled with entitled ignorance.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Aviation, Big Government, Civil Society, Human Behavior, Tech, USA | 7 Comments »

    The Coming Impeachment of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 15th July 2018 (All posts by )

    According to a number of right wing media sites — Glenn Beck’s “The Blaze”, Gateway Pundit, True Pundit among others — Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is going to face a House authorizing vote for an impeachment investigation after Rosenstein was caught out lying to HSCI Chairman Nunes about his communications with former FBI attorney Lisa Page in her testimony Thursday and Friday of last week. 

    (See link — https://theconservativetreehouse.com/2018/07/13/lisa-page-testimony-highlights-deputy-attorney-general-rod-rosenstein-lied-to-chairman-devin-nunes/#comments).

    This impeachment vote will invoke “United States Vs Nixon (1974)” which was a 9-0 SCOTUS decision in favor of Special Prosecutor Leon Jaworski during Pres. Nixon’s impeachment proceedings that said there are no “Executive” or “National Security” classification privileges versus a House impeachment investigation subpoena. And thus President Nixon had to turn over the contents of the White House tapes of President Nixon’s office to Jaworski.  

    Short Form — An impeachment investigation subpoena is the thermonuclear weapon of Congressional oversight of the Executive branch.  The Deep State has to cough up all the classified DoJ, CIA, and FBI counter-intelligence documents to include the names of sources, the surveillance methods used, and who were targets in the Trump campaign when, to the HSSCI Chairman Nunes or go to jail for obstruction of justice.
    .
    The problem with this thought is the the FBI and DoJ are in open rebellion against both the Constitution and the American people. I’ve spoken as to the reasons why in my May 2018 Chicagoboyz post THE DEEP STATE CIVIL WAR AND THE COUP D’ETAT AGAINST PRESIDENT TRUMP. 
    .
    The DoJ won’t cough up the subpoenaed documents unless US Marshall’s arrive to take said documents at gunpoint from the DoJ-National Security Division and FBI counter-intelligence SCIF’s (AKA Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility ). Which is when we will find many of them have been erased or altered at times the access logs for the SCIF’s say no one was there, and videos of those time periods are missing.  And given that the DoJ is in charge of the prosecutions for these obstruction of justice crimes…they won’t.  
    .
    At best, there will be a few token dismissals or firings. There is one set of rules for THE SWAMP and a different set for everyone else.  In other words, there is no federal justice, at Justice, when it comes to the criminal abuse of power by the Department of Justice.  
    .

    Posted in Americas, Anglosphere, Big Government, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Culture, Current Events, Iran, Iraq, Politics, Uncategorized, USA | 10 Comments »

    Wilder Othering

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 14th July 2018 (All posts by )

    I cannot say how much the ditching of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s name for a yearly award for the best in published books for children and young adults distresses and disappoints me. I am one of those millions of readers who read and adored the Little House books early on, which various volumes my parents presented to me for Christmas and my birthday from the time that I could read – basically from the age of eight on. I would sit down and read the latest gift from cover to cover almost at once, so much did I love the books. After so many decades of honor, respect, and dedicated fanship, after having basically created (along with her daughter) a whole YA genre – historical adventure novels set on the 19th century frontier – LIW is now writer-non-grata, in the eyes of a segment of the American Library Association which deals primarily with library services to kids. Henceforward, sayeth the Association for Library Service to Children, the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award will now be called The Children’s Literature Legacy Award, or something equally forgettable. The public reason given for this are two-fold, as nearly as I can deduce.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Americas, Arts & Letters, Book Notes, Civil Society, Culture, Current Events, History, Libertarianism, Society | 20 Comments »

    I would take it a step further.

    Posted by Jonathan on 9th July 2018 (All posts by )

    The conclusion of a Glenn Reynolds USA Today column about pro-governing-class selection bias in US Supreme Court nominations:

    To counteract this, we might want to bring a bit more diversity to the court. I’m not recommending that we eliminate the informal requirement that judges have law degrees (though non-lawyer judges were common in colonial times, and some countries still use them). But maybe we should look outside the Ivy League and the federal appellate courts. A Supreme Court justice who served on a state court — especially one who had to run for election — would probably have a much broader view of America than a thoroughbred who went from the Ivy League to an appellate clerkship to a fancy law firm.

    I would expand on this thought to suggest US presidents give preference to candidates who have run small businesses, have had run-ins with bureaucratic authorities and/or been arrested.

    Lex adds:

    Agreed.

    If Trump gets a second term, I’d like to see Mike Lee on the Supreme Court.

    I like Glenn Reynolds’s idea: 59 Justices. Nine appointed by the President, and one appointed from each state by the governor. Bloody brilliant.

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Law, Politics, Tea Party | 7 Comments »

    On Public Display of MAGA

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 7th July 2018 (All posts by )

    San Antonio, the town that I am pleased to say is my place of residence, made the national and international news this week – and not in a good way. My particular quadrant of suburban San Antonio was the scene of the now-notorious MAGA-hat-stealing-and-drink-throwing-incident. (A good selection of the resulting headlines are here )
    The Whattaburger outlet where this took place is about two and a half miles from my house, adjacent to a brand-new Walmart, and the bank branch I used to do business with, and around the corner from the bank branch that I now do business with. The arrested-and-released-on-bail Kino Jimenez lives in another outlaying suburb – apparently with his mother. He also seems to have committed a series of prior offenses; not exactly an upright citizen, it appears, and one with extraordinarily poor impulse control. Looking at the video of this incident – and keeping in mind that nothing good happens at 2 AM – I see a rather thuggish Hispanic guy getting his jollies picking on a couple of weedy Anglo teenagers in an all-but-empty-restaurant in the wee hours. I’d venture a guess that if it hadn’t been the MAGA hat, it would likely have been something else. Bullies always find an easy target, and a ready justification for their thuggish impulses. Read the rest of this entry »

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    Posted in Civil Society, Conservatism, Crime and Punishment, Current Events, Human Behavior, Leftism, Society, Texas, Trump | 33 Comments »

    True Civility

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 3rd July 2018 (All posts by )

    This is either efficient or lazy.  I will plead to either. I have posted before at length on the subject of The True Patriot, and have referred several times to the section in Mere Christianity where C S Lewis talks about the True Christian. Rereading both this afternoon, I don’t think I can do better, other than to note that the current True Civility claims, which I encountered looking for other things at The Ringer and 538, fall into the same category. Straw men.  False dichotomies. Most importantly, redefinitions of everyday words in order to show that all real virtues are, ultimately, just liberalism. Who woulda thaought, eh?

    Also, critiquing the Knibbs editorial, there is the point that language doesn’t work that way.  It is not valid to say “this is the root of the word centuries ago, this is its real meaning, its better meaning, its more educated meaning now.” Even if there’s an interesting book out there by another liberal who claims that civility is supposed to equal the larger category of civic virtue (because just look at the root word!), which means protesting against evil authorities for the good of The People, it still doesn’t work. Word derivations are interesting more than illuminating. See how the word silly, related to German salig, has changed over the centuries, for example. BTW, I wish Protestant preachers would learn that as well.  What the word meant in the KJV is not what it is really, really supposed to mean now. Nor what Noah Webster thought, either. Words change, and are an agreement in a speech community, not cast in stone.

    You can figure out what my current essay about True Civility would be from reading the first two links. You can even write it yourself, just for the fun of it.

    They can see the faults of conservatives clearly.  They cannot see even the simplest things about themselves.

    Update: Someone interesting weighed in on civility, in just this way. Even now, listen for the questions she is not being asked.

    Ann Althouse seems to agree with me.

    Posted in Civil Society, Culture, Politics | 4 Comments »