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  • Archive for the 'Deep Thoughts' Category

    In Accordance With the Prophecies…

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 24th November 2020 (All posts by )

    …the Schlichter prophecies, I mean, wherein the good Colonel Kurt S. postulated a political/geographic split of the United States along red-blue lines. In his bleak and blackly humorous vision, (carried out over a five-volume series) the middle portion of the States carried on with fidelity to the Constitution, free-range capitalism, and universal military service as an obligation for full citizenship. Meanwhile the east and west coasts as a so-called “People’s Republic” carried on under a selection of increasingly deranged and erratic progressive principles, turning into a dysfunctional combination of Portland’s CHAZ/CHOP, any PC-addled university you could name, Zimbabwe under Robert Mugabe and Venezuela at this very moment. The series is meant to be grimly entertaining, but I’m beginning to believe that the split has already happened – not in the neat geographic manner (with some violent hiccups) outlined – but in a slower and murkier manner. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Book Notes, Civil Society, Conservatism, Current Events, Deep Thoughts, Leftism, Trump, Urban Issues, USA | 17 Comments »

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Jonathan on 23rd November 2020 (All posts by )

    J. E. Dyer:

    This is a profound crisis for America. In my view, it has reached the level of the question of slavery, which was too big an issue to be settled by conventional expectations for courts of law and social and political transactions.
     
    In 1861, there were many Americans, as there are many today, who didn’t see the question as being that much beyond the scope of ordinary remedy.
     
    But it was. For what it’s worth, I don’t foresee an armed battle erupting over the 2020 election, per se. That’s partly because there’s no obvious way to organize one. Unlike the situation of the Civil War, there’s no territorial division to make options plain.
     
    But the spiritual divide between Americans who don’t perceive a crisis (or whose intention is to provoke one and benefit from it), and Americans who do perceive one, could not be deeper. Either there must be a fight, to authenticate the 2020 vote and ensure that it produces a new president only if it was really honest and fraud-free, or there need not be a fight, but only a formulaic consultation which cannot possibly establish the meaningful absence of fraud.
     
    If the choice is supposed to be the latter, voting is meaningless anyway, and no one is under moral compulsion to agree to be governed by its “outcomes.”

    Worth reading in full.

    Posted in Current Events, Deep Thoughts, Elections, Political Philosophy, Politics, Trump | 30 Comments »

    Is Free Speech Too Exhausting?

    Posted by David Foster on 25th October 2020 (All posts by )

    A group of Duke Law students, demanding the disinvitation of visiting speaker, used the phrase ‘we are tired.’  Jonathan Turley remarks:

    Those three words sum up a great deal of the anti-free speech movement growing on our campuses. Students and faculty have grown tired of free speech. Opposing views are now treated as threats and intolerable for students.

    It does seem that a lot of people these days–especially, perhaps, people of college age–find it incredibly wearying and even threatening to be presented with any views that contradict their own.  Reading the above, I was immediately reminded of a remark that a young woman made (to writer Ida Wylie) during the Nazi era:

    We Germans are so happy.  We are free from freedom”

    There definitely seems to be a reaction against free expression going on in America today…how strong it is and how deep it goes remains to be seen.  But as one indicator, a survey by YouGov shows that 43% of those who identify as Liberals favor firing an executive who *privately* donated money to Trump, and 22% of those who identify as Conservatives favor firing an executive who privately donated to Biden…the numbers are 50% and 36% for *strong* liberals and conservatives respectively.

    What are the causes for the apparently-growing hostility toward free speech in the US?  Part of it, perhaps, is a hankering for security.  David Brooks suggests that:

    The values of the Millennial and Gen Z generations that will dominate in the years ahead are the opposite of Boomer values: not liberation, but security; not freedom, but equality; not individualism, but the safety of the collective; not sink-or-swim meritocracy, but promotion on the basis of social justice…Distrustful people try to make themselves invulnerable, armour themselves up in a sour attempt to feel safe… start to see threats that aren’t there.

    I’m not generally much of a fan of Brooks’ analyses and conclusion, but even a stopped (analog) clock is right twice a day.  Perhaps he has a valid point here?

    Another factor, I suspect, is changes in family structure.  Kids who are put in a day-care situation at a very early age may develop a lifelong or at least long-term tendency to identify with the group…whatever that group might be…more than those who are raised in a traditional family situation, and especially so if there is only one parent in the home.  As one data point, here’s an interesting article by someone who was raised in a collective situation in an early Israeli kibbutz.

    And perhaps the threats and realities of Islamic terrorism have also had an influence…for 20 years now, there has been a constant (if low-level) sense that ‘if you say anything that the radical Islamists don’t like, they may kill you.’  Has this led to a habit of speech-guarding that has been generalized into many aspects of life?

     

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Deep Thoughts, Human Behavior, Israel, USA | 38 Comments »

    History Friday: The Princess Who Went Her Own Way

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 23rd October 2020 (All posts by )

    (History Friday is back – this is part one, of two.)

    She wasn’t actually a princess, through it is the usual understanding that the sons and daughters of a ruling monarch are princes and princesses. But they did things differently in Russia; up until the Russian Revolution, the legitimate offspring of the Tsar were grand dukes or grand duchesses, born to the purple and far outranking mere princes and princesses, who seem to have been, in the Russian scheme of things, merely mid-ranked nobility.

    This grand duchess was named Olga; the youngest of five children of Tsar Alexander III and his wife, the Tsarina Maria Feodorovna, originally Princess Dagmar, daughter of King Christian IX of Denmark. (Her older sister Alix was married to Albert, Prince of Wales.) Born in June, 1882, the infant Olga was not in the most robust of health. Her father as the Tsar of all Russians, and her mother being a veritable whirlwind when it came to duties social and administrative, Olga and her next-oldest brother Michael were raised day to day by governesses and tutors, as was customary for the upper classes. They had a comfortable, but rather Spartan lifestyle at Gatchina, the country palace of the Romanovs. She and her brother slept on plain cots, ate porridge for breakfast, bathed in cold water, rarely saw other children and had daily lessons – and private time for walks in the nearby woods with their formidable father. Olga excelled at painting and sketching – and in fact, for the remainder of her life, most always had a paintbrush in her hand, and as an adult earned a modest living from her watercolors. (a selection of her watercolors is here) Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Deep Thoughts, Diversions, Europe, History | 22 Comments »

    Paint it Black

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

    Well, if this isn’t a good reason for a grad student passionately interested in English literature – meaning the study of classic literature written in English (starting with Beowulf and running all the way to Tom Stoppard) to avoid the U of Chicago and embrace a program of self-education then I don’t know what is. It’s akin to being invited to a grand, lavish multi-course banquet and then only allowed a single tiny plate of hors d oeuvres. Which you must consume, and praise lavishly, and not even consider looking over at the main course. Or for another comparison – be fascinated by American pop music all through the 20th century, and then only be permitted to specialize in Motown. Because … reasons. Anyone fascinated by Chaucer or Tin Pan Alley is just plain out of luck, because of systemic racism, and overwhelming whiteness of the culture and the stain of slavery, et cetera, which is usually the reason given. Frankly, I think it’s just momentarily fashionable to Paint everything Black. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Arts & Letters, Civil Society, Conservatism, Current Events, Deep Thoughts, Human Behavior | 30 Comments »

    The Year That Everything Happened

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

    Weirdly enough – and this apparently happens to authors at random – I had a dream about the plot of a new book late this past summer and woke up just in time to remember it all. A novel set in WWII, which is at least half a century or more out of my fictional headspace; I like the 19th century. Got all the reference books, the books or art, a grasp of the vocab and the look of the whole 19th century universe and outlook. But – WWII. For me, it is just enough close in time that I knew a lot of people personally involved, from Great-Aunt Nan, who was one of the first-ever women recruited for the WAACs, to any number of high school teachers (some of whom were more forthcoming about their service than others) to the Gentleman With Whom I Kept Company for about a decade, to a neighbor of Mom and Dad’s who had been a prisoner of war in the Far East and fortunate enough to have survived the experience. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Anglosphere, Book Notes, Deep Thoughts, History, Military Affairs | 42 Comments »

    In the Field

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

    Sometimes, long after first reading a book or watching a movie and enjoying it very much, I have come back to re-reading or watching, and then wondering what I had ever seen in that in the first place. So it was with the original M*A*S*H book and especially with the movie. I originally read the book in college and thought, “Eww, funny but gross and obscene, with their awful practical jokes and nonexistent sexual morals.” Then I re-read after having been in the military myself for a couple of years, and thought, “Yep, my people!”

    The movie went through pretty much the same evolution with me, all but one element – and that was when I began honestly wondering why the ostensible heroes had such a hate on for Major Burns and the nurse Major Houlihan. Why did those two deserve such awful, disrespectful treatment? In the movie they seemed competent and agreeable enough initially. In the book it was clear that Major Burns was an incompetent surgeon with delusions of adequacy, and that Major Houlihan was Regular Army; that being the sole reason for the animus. But upon second viewing of the movie, it seemed like Duke Forrest, Hawkeye Pierce and Trapper John McIntyre were just bullying assholes selecting a random target for abuse for the amusement of the audience. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Deep Thoughts, Film, History, Holidays, Korea, Medicine, Middle East, Military Affairs, Personal Narrative, War and Peace | 30 Comments »

    The Rolling Kristallnacht

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 19th August 2020 (All posts by )

    The rolling Kristallnacht of “mostly peaceful” protests organized and sponsored by the unholy union of Antifa and BLM continues unabated in those mostly progressive Democrat party municipalities such as Chicago, Minneapolis, Portland, and New York. Give the protesters, rioters and looters credit for stamina; they’ve kept it up for nearly two months now, and look to be going strong, still. They haven’t much dared venture out and away from those progressive sanctuaries, although half a dozen did make a trip to Sturgis to provoke the bikers rallying there, which futile bit of resistance theater they did from behind a screen of local police. Which brings to mind Insty the Blogfaddah’s oft-repeated observation that the police – which the Antifaites and BLM protesters wish to abolish – are there to protect accused criminals from the rest of us. Frankly, it would have been laugh-out-loud comic if the bikers in Sturgis had been allowed to pants the Antifaites and run them out of town naked, but there you are. Obviously the Antifaites and BLMmers are hoping to provoke an over-the-top violent reaction and a blooming new crop of martyr Horst Wessels; they must be quite annoyed that so far, the rest of us have kept our temper. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Capitalism, Civil Society, Conservatism, Current Events, Deep Thoughts, Urban Issues | 58 Comments »

    Goedel’s Theorem Extended

    Posted by David Foster on 8th August 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 »

    It’s a Multi-Multi-Causal World

    Posted by Lucretius on 3rd August 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 | 31 Comments »

    The Newsmaking Machinery Behind the Popular Song

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 30th July 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 »

    Worth Contemplating

    Posted by David Foster on 24th July 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 »

    The Unbearable Whiteness of Being Robin DiAngelo

    Posted by Lucretius on 18th July 2020 (All posts by )

    Dear Robin:

    I watched your video. No, not that free one on YouTube, but the one you presented to me and my co-workers and for which you probably charged ten thousand dollars. Nice work if you can get it, as Ira Gershwin once quipped. (Do Jewish folks count as white, too?)

    No, I haven’t read your book on white fragility. The video was enough for me, riddled as it was with execrable reasoning directed against ridiculous strawmen such as: individualism is the doctrine that human beings are utterly uninfluenced by the culture in which they live. Also, reading all those little black letters surrounded by an expanse of white paper is kind of a metaphor for structural racism, isn’t it? So reading must be bad.

    Although I’m not buying what you’re selling, I’ll grant that you’re full of passionate intensity for your cause. Sadly, this reminds me of that great poem by the Irish poet William Butler Yeats, in which he observed that “the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.” (Do Irish folks count as white, too?)

    The exact nature of your cause is somewhat unclear, couched as it is in the fog of critical discourse analysis and other Marxist claptrap; yet apparently it has something to do with establishing the cultural hegemony of your black-and-white ideology in which skin color is the only thing that really matters in life: in other words, a cleverly manipulative repackaging of the ideas of Italian communist Antonio Gramsci. (Do Italian folks count as white, too?)

    As you no doubt know but wish to suppress, 100 years ago there was no such thing as whiteness. Instead, the Anglo-Saxon majority in America drew cultural, not color, distinctions between themselves and the Irish, Italians, Slavs, and everyone else – at best barely tolerating some of these peoples. Your precious notion of whiteness is a more recent ideological construct, into the origins of which you and your ilk likely don’t want us to inquire.

    So Robin, what’s really the point? All I got out of your talk is that anyone who doesn’t have really dark skin (yes, I noticed your jibe about light-skinned blacks and their distasteful “colorism”) should feel endlessly guilty in an original sin kind of way and therefore should endlessly atone for their sins through self-renunciation, confessions of complicity in systemic racism, and preferably re-education at the hands of high-paid diversity consultants like you.

    Finally, your talk didn’t mention any actual Black people – like, say, Martin Luther King, Jr. The reason isn’t hard to find: MLK eloquently said that “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” Yet to you that is unacceptable, because you believe a money-grubbing, power-hungry, paleface re-education professor has the right to dictate to Black folks what they can think and how they can live (and if they don’t submit to your dictates, I guess they too must count as white, at least on the inside). Last I heard, that kind of dehumanizing condescension was called racism.

    Posted in Current Events, Deep Thoughts | 9 Comments »

    “My advice to you is to get a sextant”

    Posted by Jonathan on 12th July 2020 (All posts by )

    This was said to me by someone who had watched the Shackleton documentary on Amazon video.

    I’m wondering if we could substitute an iphone?

    Posted in Deep Thoughts | 23 Comments »

    America’s Maoist Moment

    Posted by Lucretius on 7th July 2020 (All posts by )

    Well, here we are, transfixed at the spectacle of a slow-motion riot by a benighted mob, beneath whose thin patina of concern for justice is the base metal of Maoist ideology. Their obsession with desecrating statues reveals not an interest in the fate of particular human beings but a symbolical cast of mind. The fact that they moved quickly from Confederate generals to the Founding Fathers and thence to Abraham Lincoln (“The Great Emancipator”) and even the black former slave and abolitionist Frederick Douglass leads many observers to decry the abject ignorance of this mob.

    Au contraire! These people know exactly what they are doing and who their enemies are.

    For Lincoln and Douglass, emancipation was emancipation into citizenship within a free society, encapsulated in Douglass’s “three boxes”: the ballot box (the right to vote), the jury box (the right to trial by a jury of one’s peers), and the cartridge box (the right to keep and bear arms) – often supplemented with the soap box (the right to freedom of speech, which Douglass exercised as eloquently as any American ever has).

    For modern-day Maoists, universal human rights such as these are noxious impediments to the true liberation of a socialist society.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Current Events, Deep Thoughts | 7 Comments »

    Shall It Be Sustained?

    Posted by David Foster on 4th July 2020 (All posts by )

    For the last several years, on July 4th I’ve posted an excerpt from Stephen Vincent Benet’s poem Listen to the People.  The title I’ve used for these posts prior to 2013 was It Shall Be Sustained, which is from the last line of Benet’s poem.

    Narrator:

    This is Independence Day,
    Fourth of July, the day we mean to keep,
    Whatever happens and whatever falls
    Out of a sky grown strange;
    This is firecracker day for sunburnt kids,
    The day of the parade,
    Slambanging down the street.
    Listen to the parade!
    There’s J. K. Burney’s float,
    Red-white-and-blue crepe-paper on the wheels,
    The Fire Department and the local Grange,
    There are the pretty girls with their hair curled
    Who represent the Thirteen Colonies,
    The Spirit of East Greenwich, Betsy Ross,
    Democracy, or just some pretty girls.
    There are the veterans and the Legion Post
    (Their feet are going to hurt when they get home),
    The band, the flag, the band, the usual crowd,
    Good-humored, watching, hot,
    Silent a second as the flag goes by,
    Kidding the local cop and eating popsicles,
    Jack Brown and Rosie Shapiro and Dan Shay,
    Paul Bunchick and the Greek who runs the Greek’s,
    The black-eyed children out of Sicily,
    The girls who giggle and the boys who push,
    All of them there and all of them a nation.
    And, afterwards,
    There’ll be ice-cream and fireworks and a speech
    By somebody the Honorable Who,
    The lovers will pair off in the kind dark
    And Tessie Jones, our honor-graduate,
    Will read the declaration.
    That’s how it is. It’s always been that way.
    That’s our Fourth of July, through war and peace,
    That’s our fourth of July.

    And a lean farmer on a stony farm
    Came home from mowing, buttoned up his shirt
    And walked ten miles to town.
    Musket in hand.
    He didn’t know the sky was falling down
    And, it may be, he didn’t know so much.
    But people oughtn’t to be pushed around
    By kings or any such.
    A workman in the city dropped his tools.
    An ordinary, small-town kind of man
    Found himself standing in the April sun,
    One of a ragged line
    Against the skilled professionals of war,
    The matchless infantry who could not fail,
    Not for the profit, not to conquer worlds,
    Not for the pomp or the heroic tale
    But first, and principally, since he was sore.
    They could do things in quite a lot of places.
    They shouldn’t do them here, in Lexington.

    He looked around and saw his neighbors’ faces

    The poem is very long, and is worth reading in full. The full text was published in Life Magazine; it is online here. The Life text may be a little difficult to read; I posted an excerpt which is considerably longer than the above here.

    Benet’s poem ends with these words:

    We made it and we make it and it’s ours
    We shall maintain it. It shall be sustained

    But shall it?

    The probability that the American experiment will survive seems lower now than in any prior year in living memory.  We still have a good fighting chance, but the outcome is by no means assured.

    I keep thinking of the words of the British general Edward Spears, describing his feelings in the aftermath of Munich:

    Like most people, I have had my private sorrows, but there is no loss that can compare with the agony of losing one’s country, and that is what some of us felt when England accepted Munich.  All we believed in seemed to have lost substance.

    The life of each of us has roots without which it must wither; these derive sustenance from the soil of our native land, its thoughts, its way of life, its magnificent history; the lineage of the British race is our inspiration.  The past tells us what the future should be.  When we threw the Czechs to the Nazi wolves, it seemed to me as if the beacon lit centuries ago, and ever since lighting our way, had suddenly gone out, and I could not see ahead.

    Yet it was only two years after Munich that Britain demonstrated its  magnificent resistance to Nazi conquest. Perhaps the United States of America will similarly rediscover its spirit.

     

    Posted in Deep Thoughts, History, Poetry, USA | 7 Comments »

    Another Possible Explanation for the Absence of Space Aliens

    Posted by David Foster on 26th June 2020 (All posts by )

    The physicist Enrico Fermi wondered why we haven’t seen any evidence of visitors from another planet, given that he believed intelligent life elsewhere in our galaxy was highly probable.  (Maybe we have seen such evidence, given some recent UFO incidents, but for the sake of argument…)  This question is known as Fermi’s Paradox.

    Standard answers to the Paradox involve emphasizing the vast distances involved, and the fact that “as far as our galaxy is concerned, we are living somewhere in the sticks, far removed from the metropolitan area of the galactic center,” as Edward Teller put it.  Another theory is that species which are sufficiently intelligent to achieve interstellar travel have a tendency to blow themselves up long before they reach anywhere in our vicinity.

    Don Sensing cited another possible explanation, suggested by Geoffrey Miller:

    I suggest a different, even darker solution to the Paradox. Basically, I think the aliens don’t blow themselves up; they just get addicted to computer games. They forget to send radio signals or colonize space because they’re too busy with runaway consumerism and virtual-reality narcissism. They don’t need Sentinels to enslave them in a Matrix; they do it to themselves, just as we are doing today. Once they turn inwards to chase their shiny pennies of pleasure, they lose the cosmic plot. They become like a self-stimulating rat, pressing a bar to deliver electricity to its brain’s ventral tegmental area, which stimulates its nucleus accumbens to release dopamine, which feels…ever so good.

    See my post here for thoughts related to the above explanation and the psychology of decadence.

    But I have a new theory, suggested by recent events: The aliens invent something like Twitter, their whole planet becomes the equivalent of a particularly nasty middle school on earth, and they melt down under waves of mutual accusations and denunciations.

    Posted in Deep Thoughts, Human Behavior, Science, Space | 14 Comments »

    I’m Tired…

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 5th June 2020 (All posts by )

    I’m tired,
    Tired of playing the game
    Ain’t it a crying shame
    I’m so tired…

    Oops, there I go, channeling Lili Van Shtüpp, the Teutonic Titwillow from the movie Blazing Saddles – which cinematic offering must be about the last time we were allowed to meditate on matters racial in a mainstream entertainment offering with wit, good humor and malice towards none. Sad to say, that movie could not have been made in the last ten years, and certainly not this week. The social media meltdown would achieve nuclear levels even before production began, and by premier time would sink through the mantle of Earth to the burning core of it’s molten center, which I wouldn’t mind observing from a safe distance. Because I am tired.
    Tired of a lot of things, so tired that I have gone beyond being polite and considerate of others’ feelings. Of what am I tired? Oh, liebling, let me begin the list … Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Advertising, Civil Society, Conservatism, Current Events, Deep Thoughts, Media, Trump, Urban Issues | 23 Comments »

    Consent of the Governed

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

    “…to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…”
    “The consent of the governed” – and what a concept, hey? And outlined in our very own Declaration of Independence. That the government has authority only as far as those it governs permits, allows or tolerates; a notion which seems to have escaped the more stubbornly authoritarian among us, such as the governors of certain states: among them Gavin “Gruesome” Newsom, of California, the Unspeakable Kate Brown of Oregon, Gretchen Witmer, the Grand Karenator of Michigan, J.B. “Jabba the Hutt” Pritzker of Illinois, Ralph Northam, the Baby-Killer of Virginia and the weaselly and nipple-pierced autocrat of New York, Andrew “Missed It By That Much!” Cuomo. All the above-listed, and a good few others of lesser notoriety and office went on an authoritarian kick: “Close all the things!” seemed to be their rallying cry, after first ignoring the first warning signs of the Wuhan Coronavirus, aka the Chinese Commie Crud, and then losing their damned minds when the National Establishment Media lost theirs. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, Civil Society, COVID-19, Current Events, Deep Thoughts, Human Behavior | 13 Comments »

    Adventures in Social Media – Mil-Vet Version

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 11th May 2020 (All posts by )

    As I retired from a relatively uneventful career in the peacetime Air Force in 1997, I’ve been out of the military for longer than I was in it. I don’t hang around so much in military veteran circles online as I did early in the decade afterwards, when my daughter was serving in the Marines after 9/11 and deployed to Kuwait and Iraq. But she does venture into veteran social media circles, on a local basis through organizations and outlets like Bourbiz, Grunt Style, Ranger Up, and Black Rifle Coffee … and she called my attention to what amounts to a dumpster fire ongoing in veteran circles. Holy heck, it’s more a raging nuclear inferno than your plain ordinary social media dumpster fire. Read the series of articles, she said, it’s jaw-dropping – and so I did. Oh. My. G*d. I thought the Vietnam-era “stolen valor” incidents so thoroughly documented in this book were the far frozen limit, but this Steele character appears to have ventured into hitherto unexplored dimensions. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Business, Culture, Deep Thoughts, Media, Military Affairs | 32 Comments »

    Worthwhile Reading

    Posted by David Foster on 22nd April 2020 (All posts by )

    Waiting for Good Dough.  Excerpts of some thoughts on central banking and monetary policy, from a newsletter issued by Paul Singer’s hedge fund, Elliott Management.  Best post/article title I’ve seen in a long time.

    Remote work in industry during the pandemic and maybe afterwards…some thoughts from the CEO of GE Digital.

    Skills development in industry.  Career progression doesn’t always have to involve college education.

    Grim excerpts and critiques an Atlantic article which is a rather hysterical attack on a class of people who are very different from the author.

    Venture capitalist Marc Andreessen (he was coauthor of the first widely-used web browser and cofounder of Netscape) writes about the need for America to focus on building things. Surely most of us here will agree with that spirit, but a lot of his specifics seem dubious to say the least. Stuart Schneiderman offers some thoughts; worthwhile comment thread.

    A cat and a dog offer differing views about the merits of the work from home approach.

    Posted in Big Government, COVID-19, Deep Thoughts, Economics & Finance, Education, Leftism, Tech, USA | 11 Comments »

    Random Covid Related Thought

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 15th April 2020 (All posts by )

    I’m guessing that the overall deaths in the USA will be down this year compared to previous years. My line of reasoning is that all of the social distancing and hand washing and soaking ourselves in sanitizer will shut down the regular flu to such an extent that those lack of fatalities and related issues will far overcome any Covid related deaths.

    Posted in COVID-19, Deep Thoughts | 24 Comments »

    SARS-CoV2/COVID-19 Update, Easter 2020 edition

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 12th April 2020 (All posts by )

    There are lots of hopeful reports — despite the USA COVID-19 infections being over 1/2 million and the total deaths of over 20,000 people — that the pandemic will soon be “Over.”

    This is fantasy thinking at best.  SARS-CoV2/COVID-19 won’t be over, until it is over, for YEARS.

    “Over” being defined as world wide mass vaccinations to the tune of 70% of humanity or human herd immunity.  Assuming such a thing is possible, which it may not be, given this recent report from the UK Daily Mail on post SARS-CoV2/COVID-19 infection immunity —

    Blow to Britain’s hopes for coronavirus antibody testing as study finds a THIRD of recovered patients have barely-detectable evidence they have had the virus already

    .

    – Nearly third of patients have very low levels of antibodies, Chinese study found
    – Antibodies not detected at all in 10 people, raising fears they could be reinfected
    – Explains why UK Government repeatedly delayed rolling them out to the public

    .

    https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8203725/Antibodies-prove-difficult-detect-Chinese-coronavirus-survivors.html

    .

    Related studies:
    Wu F et al. Neutralizing antibody responses to SARS-CoV-2 in a COVID-19 recovered patient cohort and their implications. medRxiv 2020.03.30.20047365; doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.03.30.20047365

    .

    and

    .

    Zhao J et al. Antibody responses to SARS-CoV-2 in patients of novel coronavirus disease 2019, Clinical Infectious Diseases, , ciaa344, https://doi.org/10.1093/cid/ciaa344
    total by July 1st 51,197

    Or this South Korean story on coronavirus “reactivation” —

    South Korea reports recovered coronavirus patients testing positive again
    APRIL 10, 2020
    Josh Smith, Sangmi Cha

    .

    https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-southkorea-idUSKCN21S15X?utm_campaign=trueAnthem%3A+Trending+Content&utm_medium=trueAnthem&utm_source=facebook

    The issue with most COVID-19 tests, like the ones mentioned in South Korea, is they detect SARS-CoV2 RNA. They do not detect whether the viral particles are active or not. The issue here is whether these people are shedding active viral particles that can re-infect people.  We don’t know if that is the case here from the story text.  Given how infectious it is.  This coronavirus will tell us in due course.

    There are some viral diseases like Herpes that hide inside your body and reactivate to make you infectious. We do not know enough about the SARs-CoV2 virus to say whether that is the case here.

    If the SARS-CoV2 virus is like Herpes in that once contracted, it never goes away and flares infectious several times a year.

    And there is no herd immunity for some people no matter how often they are infected.

    Then we will need multiple, cheap,  out-patient style “cure-treatments” as well as multiple vaccines, based on co-morbidities, and possibly to account for racial differences like sickle cell blood mutations, as SARS-CoV2 may well be more a blood disease than a respiratory infection in terms of it’s killing mechanism.

    See:

    COVID-19: Attacks the 1-Beta Chain of Hemoglobin and Captures the Porphyrin to Inhibit Human Heme Metabolism

    https://chemrxiv.org/articles/COVID-19_Disease_ORF8_and_Surface_Glycoprotein_Inhibit_Heme_Metabolism_by_Binding_to_Porphyrin/11938173

    There is not enough reliable data, d*mn it!

    Until we get to “Over,” our old economic world of Just-In-Time, Sole Source anywhere, but especially in China, is dead without replacement.

    The world is in the same position as Germany was from August 1944 – April 1945 or  Japan from August 1944 until August 1945 versus the Allied strategic bombing campaign.  We have entered the world of  End Run Production as world wide supply chains grind to a halt from various fiddly bits of intermediate parts running out without replacement.  The on-and-off hotspots world wide of COVID-19 at different times and places in the world economy is no different than WW2 strategic bombing in terms of causing random damage to the economic life support.

    See also  “End Run Production” here from this one volume WW2 history book The Great Crusade:

    https://books.google.com/books?id=5L-bwPZK7PQC&pg=PA420&lpg=PA420&dq=%22End+Run+Production%22&source=bl&ots=kc30FQflCj&sig=ACfU3U2kmF-kTPo0Tgr2A9_ESPKpEQAEOg&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjfpurOnOPoAhUKA6wKHemwBMcQ6AEwAHoECC4QKQ#v=onepage&q=%22End%20Run%20Production%22&f=false

    Be it automobiles, self propelled construction equipment, jets, power plants or the latest electronic gadget, anything that has thousands of parts sourced world wide with lots of Chinese cheap/disposable sub-component content anywhere in the supply chain simply won’t be produced for the next 18 months to three years.

    This “random damage to the economic life support” effect is amplified by the unwillingness of Western private industry to invest in building the capitol equipment to produced those intermediate parts.  Because of the threat of China coming back with predatory pricing — using bought politicians to cover for them — means those parts won’t be built without massive cost plus contract government buy out of the investment risk like happened in the USA in the 1942 WW2 mobilization.

    The story of  one American n95 mask manufacturer’s experience with the Obama Administration in 2009 with the Swine flu is a case in point.  The n95 mask is a 50 cent item where China pays 2 cents a mask for labor versus 10 cents a mask for American labor.  When the American manufacturer geared up to replace Chinese mask production.  China came back on-line and the Obama Administration refused to keep buying the American mask producer’s 8 cents more expensive mask when the Chinese masks were available.

    Unlike almost 80 years ago, current Western and particularly American politicians are too corrupt to go too massive cost plus contract government buy out this private investment risk.  Mainly because these political elites  can’t be bothered to figure out their 10% cut.  Instead we are getting more “fiscal stimulus” AKA boondoggles that the elites will saddle the rest of us with high interest payments on huge public debts.

    It will take local small to mid-sized business to get the American economy going during the COVID-19 pandemic via making products and services that don’t use the intermediate products China threatens with when the pandemic ends.

    My read on what comes next economically is local/distributed production with limited capitol investment that is multi-product capable.  The name for that is additive manufacturing, AKA 3D Printing. Here are a couple of examples:

    1. The idea of 3D Printed Sand Casting Molds For Automobile Production

    voxeljet enters alliance to industrialize core tooling production using 3D printing

    2. And the replacement of physical inventory with 3D printers, print media and electronic drawings:
    Such “Make or buy” decisions have always been the key decision of any business.  The issue here is that middle men wholesalers and in-house warehousing holding cheap Chinese-sourced  intermediate parts are both set to go the way of the Doe-Doe Bird in a 3D/AM manufacturing dominated world.
    .
    Distributed production in multiple localities with 3D/AM vendors for limited runs of existing intermediate products to keep production lines going.  Or the re-engineering intermediate products so one 3D/AM print replaces multiple intermediate products for the same reason, will be the stuff of future Masters of Business Administration (MBA) papers describing this imminent change over.

    .

    But, like developing SARS-CoV2/COVID-19 vaccines, this new locally distributed manufacturing economy will take time.  The possible opening of the American economy in May 2020 will not bring the old economy of December 2019 back.

    .

    That economy is dead.  It cannot, will not, come back.

    .

    We will have to dance with both the sickness from SARS-CoV2/COVID-19 and the widening End Run Production product shortages that the death of the globalist  just-in-time, sole source in China economic model causes for years.

    .

    And this is a hard reality, not a fantasy, we must all face.

    Posted in America 3.0, Business, Capitalism, China, Civil Society, COVID-19, Culture, Current Events, Deep Thoughts, Entrepreneurship, Germany, Health Care, Human Behavior, International Affairs, Medicine, Miscellaneous, Politics, Public Finance, Science, Systems Analysis, Taxes, Tradeoffs, Uncategorized, USA | 64 Comments »

    The Shape of the Future?

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

    Historian Niall Ferguson cites “the most succinct statement I’ve yet seen of the “massive enduring social and economic change post-pandemic” hypothesis.”

    Offices>>Remote Work
    NFL, NBA>>Esports
    Movie Theaters>>Streaming
    TV News>>YouTube stars
    College>>ISAs, MOOCs
    K-12>>Internet homeschooling
    Corporate journalism>>Citizen journalism
    EU/EEC>>27 sovereign states

    I’m surprised he didn’t also include Stores>>Home delivery.

    Of course, the degree to which these changes happen and are sustained will be largely a matter of how long the coronavirus pandemic lasts and how definitively it is suppressed.  But even if coronavirus continues as a recurrent plague, none of these trends are likely to be absolute.  For example: Offices>>Remote work…my own experience with new-business initiatives, both in existing corporations and in startups, suggests that there really is a lot of advantage in the in-person human interaction. Some of these never would have gotten started in the first place unless such interaction had taken place.  And, of course, there are a lot of things that can’t be done at home, including most manufacturing and all construction work. Ditto transportation.  And I’m not sure what TV News>>YouTube stars has to do with coronavirus or other epidemics, given that neither modality need involve person-to-person contact.

    Assuming that coronavirus is largely or completely suppressed, what are the long-term effects likely to be?  Are there now so many people who will have been exposed to the convenience of on-line grocery shopping that they will feel little need to visit physical grocery stores?  Will spending half a day at the mall ever again be a thing?  Will people want to be densely packed into a movie theater or will they just decide that streaming movies at home (especially with large screens that I bet a lot of people are buying under the current circumstances) is just as good and a lot cheaper?  How about airline travel (or sea travel) for vacations?

    Colleges..traditionally, the on-campus college experience was (at least supposed to be valued) for free discussion and interaction with professors.  Yet much of this has already been suppressed, both via giant lecture classes and by fear of creating offense.  College was also valued for its social opportunities, especially those involving dating and mating and the finding of spouses.  Yet reports indicate that this has become pretty awkward due to the administrative sex police and their frequent condemnation of people (especially men) with no form of due process.  Plus, people are now getting married a lot later, so the pressure to find someone during one’s college years is less-strong than it used to be.

    In his tweet, Niall Ferguson also makes the excellent point that “I’d be more persuaded if there were evidence of comparable changes after the (much more lethal) 1918-19 influenza pandemic.”  Although media influence in those days was much less comprehensive and continuous; also, many alternatives that exist today (such as work-from-home as opposed to work-at-the-office) really weren’t feasible in those days.

    Thoughts?

    Posted in COVID-19, Deep Thoughts, History, Society, Tech | 33 Comments »

    Rethinking the Value of Cities in an Era of Plague

    Posted by Stephen Karlson on 6th April 2020 (All posts by )

    It’s the tension between “contagions for good,” the possibilities for sharing ideas and exchanging goods in thicker markets, and “contagions for evil,” when it’s your viruses and bacteria that are being shared with others.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Society, COVID-19, Deep Thoughts, Economics & Finance, Tradeoffs, Urban Issues | 18 Comments »