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  • Archive for the 'History' Category

    Oh, FFS!

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Intimidation vs Persuasion

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Read the rest of this entry »

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

    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 »

    History of Jamaica Book Suggestions

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 27th June 2020 (All posts by )

    Ladies and Gents,
    I am looking for recommendations on books about the history of Jamaica, told from a neutral standpoint if at all possible. If you know of a great history of the Caribbean in general that includes Jamaica that is also fine. I recently read James Michener’s “Caribbean” and very much enjoyed it and it inspired me to learn a bit more about the history of the area. Thanks in advance.

    Posted in Book Notes, History | 6 Comments »

    Lamar Alexander on Statues

    Posted by Ginny on 24th June 2020 (All posts by )

    A few years ago I started considering fiction, non-fiction, speeches, movies in subjective terms: some made me simply “happy”; some didn’t. This is probably a function of sentimental aging; maybe I let my guard down to accept the hokey. But cynicism tops everything when we are rebels without a cause and perhaps I finally left that behind. Certainly, it is more difficult for me to appreciate a Bergman movie than in the sixties.

    Of course happiness is part identification – in being an American (or Texan or Nebraskan or woman). But it also comes from a telling religious narrative. Warmth came from narratives or axioms or theories or gestures that seemed quintessentially human. We are aware of our broken nature – all of our broken natures – but we see an action prompted by our better angels – heroism, love, loyalty, generosity, nobility, strength. We are moved by the sailor at the gate at Corpus Christi, the generosity of music sung to the elderly during covid quarantines. Plenty of works seem inspired by our worse angels – cynical, bitter, moving into nihilism: paintings from the the thirties in Germany, harsh preachy modern art simmering with “Gramscian” arguments. In short, the ugly: graffiti on a statue, violent destruction of the great Shaw statue, the ignorance of the mob. But yesterday, I turned on the tv and paused at Lamar Alexander in mid-argument on the removing of statues.

    I felt, well, happy & filled by the richness of human nature he described. I wonder about his effect. The objective, thoughtful rational comments, which make this blog so attractive, might be a bit subjective here. What does this and other moments in the last few weeks make you feel? Does he disgust you or do you feel warmth from it? What do our feelings mean? Some of the best lit crit begins with the feeling of the reader and then bores down on it, trying to analyze what prompted the feeling, what the feeling meant in a broader and deeper way than just one person’s response.

    Thanks to Grurray, a link comes in below. I had found the transcrit and it lies below the fold; a border state statesman’s statement.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Biography, Culture, Current Events, History, Human Behavior, Miscellaneous, Society, USA | 10 Comments »

    Iconoclast

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

    I had in mind the deliberate destruction of religious icons, and a vague memory of it having happened at least once in the Russian or Eastern Orthodox church in the medieval period; such things being, in the judgment of the sternly orthodox, ungodly and unsuitable, and therefore to be expunged … but it seems that spasms of righteous destruction are almost a human constant, across culture and time. The current passion for defacing and destroying public monuments – and not just those memorializing Confederate heroes – turns out to be not all that new and revolutionary. (channeling Private Gomer Pyle: Surprise, surprise, surprise.) Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Anti-Americanism, Civil Society, Conservatism, Crime and Punishment, Current Events, History, Holidays, Human Behavior, Just Unbelievable, Leftism, North America, Politics, Tea Party, Terrorism, Texas | 27 Comments »

    Sell Your Soul or Lose Your Livelihood (updated)

    Posted by David Foster on 18th June 2020 (All posts by )

    Every day, people are losing their jobs because of political opinions or assertions about reality which are considered unacceptable. David Shor, a political data analyst, lost his job after tweeting a summary of research indicating that nonviolent protest tactics tend to be more effective than violent tactics. At the Poetry Foundation, both the president and the chairman resigned after being heavily attacked because their statement on the current situation…which said that the members “stand in solidarity with the Black community, and denounce injustice and systemic racism”…was vague and lacked any commitment to concrete action. An Illinois high school principal finds her job under attack after advising students that, if they protest, they should refrain from violence and looting. The list could be expanded indefinitely and includes people in all industries and at all levels.

    This isn’t new. For the last two decades, the ‘progressive’ left has loudly insisted that dissenting voices (dissenting from the Prog worldview, that is) must be suppressed. But the trend has accelerated sharply.

    I am reminded, as I often am, of the memoirs of Sebastian Haffner, who grew up in Germany between the wars. One very affecting section of the book describes what happened to Haffner’s father–a civil servant under both Weimar and the Kaiser–following the Nazi takeover. The elder Haffner, long-since retired, had considerable accomplishments to his credit: There had been great pieces of legislation in his administrative area, on which he had worked closely. They were important, daring, thoughtful, intellectual achievements, the fruits of decades of experience and years of intense, meticulous analysis and dedicated refinement”–and it was extremely painful to him to see this work ruthlessly trashed by the new government. But worse was to come.

    One day Mr. Haffner received an official letter. It required him to list all of the political parties, organizations, and associations to which he had ever belonged in his life and to sign a declaration that he ‘stood behind the government of national uprising without reservations.’ Failure to sign would mean the loss of his pension, which he had earned through 45 years of devoted service.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Elections, Germany, History, Media, USA | 20 Comments »

    Worthwhile Reading

    Posted by David Foster on 6th June 2020 (All posts by )

    A long but interesting essay about Peter Thiel, who is IMO one of the more thoughtful and creative among the Silicon Valley set.

    The politicization of everything…including websites like nextdoor.com, “designed for people to share useful information within a neighborhood like dates of bulky trash-pick, locations of road closings, and postings of lawn equipment for sale”…as seen by a woman who is a music historian, with a particular concentration on Russia.

    Dispatches from the front lines of the knitting wars.  Can these people be trusted with knitting needles? Those things can be dangerous, you know.

    A post by a police officer’s wife.

    Violent protest and the intelligentsia.  Disturbing parallels between pre-revolutionary Russia and contemporary America.

    A walk across a beach in Normandy.  Today, June 6, marks the 76th anniversary of the Normandy invasion..I haven’t seen much remembance of this today.

    Posted in Academia, History, Internet, Law Enforcement, Leftism, Russia, Tech | 22 Comments »

    Retro-Reading, Mechanical Engineering, Part 2

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

    (This is a continuation of my Retro-Reading post, based on the April 1930 issue of Mechanical Engineering magazine.  Part One is here)

    A View from the Left.  One of the most interesting things in the magazine is an excerpt from the writing of Sidney Webb, the well-known Fabian socialist.  (The magazine refers to him as a “publicist,” maybe that was 1930-speak for an activist.)

    The manual-working population of the cities was, in fact, mainly composed of laborers who were lifelong hewers of wood and drawers of water whilst that of the vast stretches of farmland and forest outside the cities was as devoid of art as of letters. And the proportion of merely mechanical work in the world s production has, taken as a whole, lessened, not increased. What a multitude of laborers quarried the stones, dragged and carried the stones and lifted the stones of the cathedral walls on which half a dozen skilled and artistic masons carved gargoyles? From the building of the Pyramids down to the present day, the proportion of the world’s work of the nature of mere physical digging, pushing, carrying, lifting and hammering, by the exertion of muscular force, has almost continuously diminished….

    And it must not be forgotten that, in Western civilization to-day, the actual numbers of men and women engaged in daily work of distinctly intellectual character, which is thus not necessarily devoid of art, are positively greater than at any previous time. There are, of course, many more such workers of superior education, artistic capacity, and interesting daily tasks in Henry Ford’s factories at Detroit than there were in the whole city of Detroit fifty years ago! Along side of these successors of the equally exceptional skilled handicraftsmen of the Middle Ages there has come to be a vast multitude of other workers with less interesting tasks, who could not other wise have come into existence, and who represent the laborers of the cities and the semi-servile rural population of past times, and who certainly would not themselves dream of wishing to revert to the conditions of those times. It may be granted, that, in much of their daily tasks (as has always been the case) the workers of to-day can find no joy, and take the very minimum of interest. But there is one all important difference in their lot. Unlike their predecessors, these men spend only half their waking hours at the task by which they gain their bread. In the other half of their day they are, for the first time in history, free (and, in great measure, able) to give themselves to other interests, which in an ever- increasing proportion of cases lead to an intellectual development heretofore unknown among the typical manual workers. It is, in fact, arguable that it is among the lower half of the manual workers of Western civilization rather than among the upper half, that there has been the greatest relative advance during the past couple of centuries. It is, indeed, to the so-called unskilled workers of London and Berlin and Paris, badly off in many respects as they still are and notably to their wives and children that the Machine Age has incidentally brought the greatest advance in freedom and in civilization.

    Rather different from the view of our present-day leftists, wouldn’t you say?  Indeed, both the American New Deal and the Soviet Communist Party were huge supporters of hydroelectric dams… today, many of the Progs want to tear them down.

    I’ll continue in a future post with some other highlights from the magazine, including the articles on transportation and metalworking.

    Posted in History, Leftism, Miscellaneous, Tech, USA | 42 Comments »

    Video Review: The Dawns Here Are Quiet

    Posted by David Foster on 17th May 2020 (All posts by )

    This is both a 2015 Russian WWII TV series and a 1972 Russian movie, both based on the same novel.  The original movie is apparently considered a classic in Russia; so much so that making a new version was viewed as almost blasphemous by some.

    Sergeant Vaskov is in charge of an antiaircraft battery in a (so far) quiet area.  His troops have been a drunken and quarrelsome lot, and when they are swapped out and sent to the front, he asks for replacements who will not drink and carouse with the local women so excessively.  He is surprised and initially dismayed when the replacements show up and they are all women…girls, really, just out of AA gunner’s training.

    The movie starts out with a rather light tone, but quickly darkens.  Two German paratroopers—apparently saboteurs targeting a vital transportation junction—are spotted in the woods, and Vaskov takes five of his women and goes out after them.  It turns out that there are actually a lot more of the enemy than two…sixteen, in fact…and stopping them will be practically a mission impossible for Vaskov and his five newly-minted AA gunners.

    I first watched the recent TV series, which has excellent cinematography and some really striking scenery. The backstories of the women and of their male commander are shown via a series of flashbacks. Lisa Britschkina, a shy girl, was sent to Siberia with her family on grounds of being Kulaks, yet she seemingly feels no conflicts about fighting for the Soviet state.  Another of the five ‘volunteers’, Sonia Gurvich, was an excellent student and loves to read poetry aloud. Her husband was killed on the first day of the war–she has a son, who is living with Sonia’s mother. Vaskov when we meet him is a rather troubled person:  his wife has left him for another man, he was wounded on his first day of battle and has guilt feelings about now being assigned to this relatively-safe backwater in the midst of a war for national survival.

    I don’t want to include any spoilers in this review: suffice it to say that this isn’t a strong-and-independent-female-superhero movie. The women accomplish remarkable things, but they and Vaskov are a true team.  Some of the scenes and events seem improbable, but the story draws you in and the characters will not be easily forgotten.

    I was curious as to how the 1972 movie would compare with the more recent series…watched it, and was pleasantly surprised–I was expecting a lot more heavy-handed Soviet propaganda than was in it.  The use of color in this film is interesting: most of it is in black & white, but the flashbacks…most of which refer to the time before the war..are in color. The story is pretty close to that in the 2015 series; the portrayal of the characters, particularly the women, is pretty different–for one thing, those in the 1972 movie seem even younger, and act (at least initially) rather girlier.  One backstory is notably different in this version–that of Lisa Britschkina–the part about her family having been sent to Siberia isn’t there.  (I’m not sure if it was in the original novel, but based on when it was published (1969) I’m guessing not.)  In both versions, some of the women smart off toward Vaskov in a way which they seem unlikely to have been gotten away with in the 1940s or for that matter today, even with a leader as fundamentally kindly as he is portrayed as being.

    One objection some Russians have to the recent video is that it is “too Hollywood-ized”…this is a fair criticism of the action scenes near the end, but not, I think, of the whole thing.  Both versions are worth seeing.

    I’m preaching largely to the converted here, but–we should always keep in mind, when watching Russian WWII films or reading books on the same subject, that the great heroism demonstrated by so many Russians, and the fact that they were allied with America, do not negate the extreme evil of the Soviet regime.

     

     

    Posted in Film, History, Leftism, Russia, War and Peace | 25 Comments »

    The Difficult Transition from Black and White Cinematography

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 10th May 2020 (All posts by )

    During the ‘rona era, I have received a pretty nice benefit – more time. Time to do other things than work, that is. I now understand what they mean when people who fly privately say that private jets are like “time machines”. While private jets harvest time and the ‘rona has made me inherit time, the end game is the same. While I’m making less money, my life sure is more enjoyable. So maybe I actually have more treasure now. I’m digressing.

    In this extra time I have been studying French and watching old movies on FXM and Turner Classic Movies. I love looking at the historical technology (i.e. dial phones), elaborate sets both in sound studios and in locations around the world, and the differences in culture between “then” and “now”. The history of movie making is also interesting to me. We like to take Spring Break in LA and I always try to hit one of the studios for the museum and historical tours they offer.

    This morning’s feature was “Intent to Kill“, a somewhat ridiculous movie with some nice cinematography. As with anything, you win some and you lose some.

    The movie is in black and white. When I looked up the movie I saw that it was filmed in 1958 and thought to myself “Didn’t they have color movies way before then?”. My Google-fu was strong this morning, and now I have the answer to that question. This is a fascinating article for those who like movies (especially old ones) or for those who are interested in economics and old tech.

    Posted in History, Tech | 28 Comments »

    Recommended Watching – Women at War, 1914-1918

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

    I am learning French and part of that is watching French entertainment with English subtitles. I googled “Netflix shows in French with English subtitles” and stumbled upon one of the most interesting things I have watched on TV, well, ever.

    Women at War, 1914-1918 is the story of how the women in France handled, or were made to handle, their men all leaving for the front lines. Subjects included pacifism movements, women working in fields and munition plants, among many other topics. There was also a lot of front line footage. Some of the footage was from Germany, but the vast majority is from France.

    Speaking of the footage, it was simply amazing. The producers digitized and colorized photos and films from the era and I was stunned at the quality. I paused the movie a bunch of times to take in certain frames.

    Highly recommended for those with not just an interest in the main subject matter of women at war, but anyone with a WW1 interest.

    ***Caution*** Some of the footage is graphic (war wounds and dead bodies), and there is a bit of nudity.

    Posted in Feminism, Film, France, Germany, History, War and Peace | 3 Comments »

    Retro-Reading

    Posted by David Foster on 30th April 2020 (All posts by )

    I have a copy of Mechanical Engineering magazine for April 1930. It marks the 50th anniversary of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and contains not only commentary on the past, present, and future of mechanical technology, but also some thoughts concerning the social/economic impact of this technology. Very interesting reading, some of it relevant to today’s issues.

    There are excerpts from an address given by the ASME President in 1881:

    When the last generation was in its prime our factories were in operation twelve or thirteen hours; “Man’s work was from sun to sun, and woman’s work was never done.”  today man works ten hours, and woman is coming to a stage where she will work where, when, and how she pleases.  Then three yards an hour was the product for a single operative; today ten yards per worker are produced….A single mill operative at Fall River, Lowell, or Providence makes each year cloth enough to supply 1500 of the people who pay her wages by sending her tea.

    From the 1930 article on Fifty Years of Power:

    Turn back to 1880…It was a machine age, true, but only in spots–and very small spots at that. Along the streams of Eastern communities, mainly in New England, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, were dotted little mills.  Water power determined their original location.  Steam aided their growth.  Within their walls spindles whirred and rolls turned almost as in a modern plant.

    Step out of these nuclei of power and the machine age of that day disappears.  On the streets, the horse and buggy, the oil lamp, or gas at best, and the lamp lighter.  Horses for the street and for the plow…In the home, the oil lamp and scrub-board.  Pick and shovel in the ditch. Hod carriers on construction.  Ten-and twelve-hour days of back-breaking labor.  In the worker’s cottage, food and a little sleep…No time or money for reading, music, or play.

    Points made in the multiple articles on steam power: the transition from hand-fired furnaces in power stations to mechanical stoker firing…increased steam pressures…and the transition from reciprocating engines to steam turbines.  The result was that cost per kilowatt-hour generated fell from 3.1 cents in 1883 to .77 cents in 1929.

    Interestingly, only about half the power consumed in factories in 1930 was in the form of purchased electricity…the rest was self-generated, in the form of either self-generated electricity or of direct mechanical drive.  One type of reciprocating steam engine…the Uniflow..is seen as having a continuing applicability in horsepowers too low for efficient use of the steam turbine.

    Indeed, the advertising section at the back of the magazine contains an ad from the Skinner Engine Company noting that the newly-built New Yorker Hotel had chosen five Uniflow engines to generate electricity for the hotel rather than purchasing power from a utility. They claim that hundreds of engines have been installed in stores, office building, hospitals, and factories, and that the savings over utility power has proved so great that the engines brought greater returns on money invested and on floor space than any other department in the business.

    Refrigeration was apparently a hot area (sorry) in 1930, and there’s a pretty long article on the topic.  One thing I hadn’t known is that some cities had central systems for cooling, in which chilled brine was circulated through pipes to individual refrigerators in homes and businesses…the refrigerator could then be very simple, with no active parts other than a thermostat-actuated valve. Such systems were in use in Boston and in New York City as early as 1890.  Sort of a “cloud” approach to refrigeration—Cooling as a Service!

    Textiles were a very important industry in the US in 1930, and there is a long article on the subject. One interesting subtopic within the article has to do with dyes:

    The first use of the chemical or aniline colors dates back to about 1850, when the chemists of Germany presented several new colors obtained by subjecting various fabrics to the action or absorption of liquor holding a derivative of coal tar in solution…America did not make much progress in this direction owing to certain complications and the lack of consolidated action.  What was produced here was in most cases equal to the imported product, but owing to the greater facilities for producing the color, the greater attention given to research, substantial government financial aid, and, primarily, the exceedingly low labor cost abroad, competition was out of the question.  Hence up to 1914 we had practically no dye industry and depended on Germany not only for dyes but also for many valuable pharmaceutical preparations as well as for phenol, the basis for many of our explosives.  

    This problem was solved by intensive efforts during the First World War, and “whereas the value of our dye products in 1882 was $1.8 million, which increased to about $3.3 million in 1914–but with the aid largely of foreign intermediates–we now have over 200 firms producing $220 million worth of products, all more or less directly connected with this and allied industries.”

    The article briefly discussed an intriguing piece of textile technology–the knot-tying mechanism:

    Fifty years ago it was considered a mark of superiority to tie a perfect “weaver’s” knot, a knot that would properly unit the ends of the yarn and stay united while it was passing through the different processes…the number of operators who could tie rapidly and skillfully a series of these knots was limited.

    One of the handiest mechanical devices one can see in the industry is known as a “knotter,” which forms a smoothly-tied, not-slipping knot…Just a handful of mechanism, but in the particular processes where it is used it shows an economy of operation estimated at 50 per cent in time and an unlimited amount in patience.

    The author goes on to say that now (in 1930) there is equipment for collective tying of knots, bringing 2000 ends of warp together and uniting them by tying in eleven minutes.  Pretty intelligent-seeming for a purely mechanical system!

    The woodworking industry was also important in the US in the 1930s, and the author of the article on this industry notes that it had only been fairly recently that this industry had emerged from small-scale operations into mass production. (The author distinguishes between “intimate industries,” those having to do with the home, and “non-intimate industries” such as mining, iron & steel, and transportation, arguing that the non-intimate industries have tended to be mechanized earlier than the intimate ones…not sure this paradigm is really consistent with the very early mechanization of textile spinning and weaving.) There’s an intriguing observation about the emergence of the automobile industry and the characteristics of different American regions:

    It is a rather interesting side light on New England industry that the building of automobile bodies first started in the carriage and buggy shops of Amesbury and other parts of northern Massachusetts, while the first gasoline motors and steam engines were made in the machine shops of Hartford, New Haven, and Bridgeport.  New England had the genius to invent and develop the highly skilled product that was the forerunner of the modern automobile.  New England, however, fell short in vision and daring, and her factories were unwilling to venture their capital and reputation in such as risky experiment as the building of “horseless carriages” that were considered only as a luxury.  It required the daring and venturesome spirit of the Middle West to nurture and develop the tremendous automobile business of Detroit and the neighboring cities.

    This is probably long enough for a single post…I’ll continue with excerpts and comments in a later post, to include the magazine’s articles on aviation, railroads, sea transportation, and machine shops…also, some additional social/political commentary.

    Posted in Energy & Power Generation, History, Tech, USA | 19 Comments »

    This Post Has Absolutely Nothing to do with Coronavirus

    Posted by David Foster on 18th April 2020 (All posts by )

    The US Naval Institute has posted some links to their archives.  This one is interesting:  a 1912 think piece on the future of the submarine, written by then-lieutenant C W Nimitz.

    Link

    Posted in History, Military Affairs, Tech, War and Peace | 8 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 »

    China Virus

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

    Seriously, I do wonder if there isn’t a strong antipathy against all things Official-Mainland-Chinese/ Chinese Communist Party and all its works building among Americans, in the wake of the almost-universal infection by the Wuhan Corona-virus epidemic. I mean – the damn plague started there, despite what all the official CCP agencies and bodies, and their sympathizers and hired media can and will insist. Bungling containment, concealing practically everything about the epidemic (the third devastating epidemic originating in China, by the way, the swine flu and the H1N1 virus being the first two) and then having the unmitigated gall to blame it on the United states – that takes the absolute cake, as far as I am concerned. It reminds me of the books I absorbed, growing up; most by English and American authors of the mildly popular sort (some fiction, some non) and dating anywhere in the first half of the 20th century whose detestation of Germany and Germans hung in the atmosphere of those books like a particularly dank fog. It was an almost visceral dislike, for all that we generally had been inclined favorably towards Germany before the turn of the previous century. Martin Luther, Johan Sebastian Bach, the Brothers Grimm, Schumann, Beethoven, Goethe, scientific, technological and medical advances all flowed to the rest of Europe and to the Americas, making us all the richer for it – but German ‘frightfulness’ in World War I, and the horrors inflicted by Nazi Germany burned through that enormous fund of respect and favorable opinion, leaving a very bad taste in the mouths of those old enough to have been exposed to them, either directly or at first and second remove. That bad taste may only now be fading with regard to Germany, but I wonder if it isn’t now about to be replaced with burning resentment of China, or at the very least, the Chinese Communist Party. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, Business, China, COVID-19, Current Events, Germany, History, Society | 33 Comments »

    Ruin and Recovery

    Posted by David Foster on 21st March 2020 (All posts by )

    A brokerage note I received recently included the following quote:

    What has so often excited wonder, is the great rapidity with which countries recover from a state of devastation, the disappearance in a short time, of all traces of mischief done by earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, and the ravages of war. An enemy lays waste a country by fire and sword, and destroys or carries away nearly all the moveable wealth existing in it: all the inhabitants are ruined, and yet in a few years after, everything is much as it was before.

    John Stuart Mill, Principles of Political Economy, 1848

    Questions for discussion:

    –How well has Mill’s assertion held up over the 170 years since he wrote the above?

    –Will American recovery from the Coronavirus follow Mill’s pattern, or is there reason to think that it will be different this time, and not in a good way?

    Posted in COVID-19, Current Events, Economics & Finance, History, Human Behavior | 7 Comments »

    Book Review: The Year of the French (St Patrick’s day rerun)

    Posted by David Foster on 17th March 2020 (All posts by )

    The Year of the French, by Thomas Flanagan

    (This being St Patrick’s day, I’m again taking advantage of the hook to re-post this review, in the hope of inspiring a few more people to read this incredibly fine historical novel)

    Ralph Peters calls this book “the finest historical novel written in English, at least in the twentieth century,” going on to say “except for ‘The Leopard,’ I know of no historical novel that so richly and convincingly captures the ambience of a bygone world.”

    In August of 1798, the French revolutionary government landed 1000 troops in County Mayo to support indigenous Irish rebels, with the objective of overthrowing British rule in Ireland.  The Year of the French tells the (fictionalized but fact-based) story of these events from the viewpoint of several characters, representing different groups in the complex and strife-ridden Irish social structure of the time.

    Owen MacCarthy is a schoolmaster and poet who writes in the Gaelic tradition.  He is pressed by illiterate locals to write a threatening letter to a landlord who has evicted tenants while switching land from farming to cattle-raising.  With his dark vision of how an attempt at rebellion must end–“In Caslebar.  They will load you in carts with your wrists tied behind you and take you down to Castlebar and try you there and hang you there”–MacCarthy is reluctant to get involved, but he writes the letter.

    Sam Cooper, the recipient of the letter, is a small-scale landlord, and captain of the local militia.  Indigenously Irish, his family converted to Protestantism several generations ago to avoid the crippling social and economic disabilities imposed on Catholics. Cooper’s wife, Kate, herself still Catholic, is a beautiful and utterly ruthless woman…she advises Cooper to respond to the letter by rounding up “a few of the likeliest rogues,”  jailing and flogging them, without any concern for actual guilt or innocence. “My God, what a creature you are for a woman,”  Cooper responds. “It is a man you should have been born.”  “A strange creature that would make me in your bed,” Kate fires back, “It is a woman I am, and fine cause you have to know it…What matters now is who has the land and who will keep it.”

    Ferdy O’Donnell  is a young hillside farmer on Cooper’s land.  Far back in the past, the land was owned by the O’Donnell family…Ferdy had once shown Cooper  “a valueless curiosity, a parchment that recorded the fact in faded ink the colour of old, dried blood.”

    Arthur Vincent Broome is a Protestant clergyman who is not thrilled by the “wild and dismal region” to which he has been assigned, but who performs his duties as best he can. Broome is resolved to eschew religious bigotry, but…”I affirm most sincerely that distinctions which rest upon creed mean little to me, and yet I confess that my compassion for their misery is mingled with an abhorrence of their alien ways…they live and thrive in mud and squalour…their music, for all that antiquarians and fanatics can find to say in its flavor, is wild and savage…they combine a grave and gentle courtesy with a murderous violence that erupts without warning…”‘

    Malcolm Elliott is a Protestant landlord and solicitor, and a member of the Society of United Irishmen.  This was a revolutionary group with Enlightenment ideals, dedicated to bringing Catholics and Protestants together in the cause of overthrowing British rule and establishing an Irish Republic.  His wife, Judith, is an Englishwoman with romantic ideas about Ireland.

    John Moore, also a United Irishman, is a member of one of the few Catholic families that have managed to hold on to their land.  He is in love with Ellen Treacy, daughter of another prominent Catholic family: she returns his love, but believes that he is caught in a web of words that can only lead to disaster.  “One of these days you will say a loose word to some fellow and he will get on his horse and ride off to Westport to lay an information with Dennis Browne, and that will be the last seen of you”

    Dennis Browne is High Sheriff of Mayo…smooth, manipulative, and devoted to the interests of the very largest landowners in the county, such as his brother Lord Altamont and the mysterious Lord Glenthorne, the “Big Lord” who owns vast landholdings and an immense house which he has never visited.

    Randall MacDonnell is a Catholic landowner with a decrepit farm and house, devoted primarily to his horses.  His motivations for joining the rebellion are quite different from those of the idealistic United Irishman…”For a hundred years of more, those Protestant bastards have been the cocks of the walk, strutting around on acres that belong by rights to the Irish…there are men still living who remember when a son could grab his father’s land by turning Protestant.”

    Jean Joseph Humbert is the commander of the French forces.  A former dealer in animal skins, he owes his position in life to the revolution.  He is a talented commander, but  the battle he is most concerned about is the battle for status and supremacy between himself and  Napoleon Bonaparte.

    Charles Cornwallis, the general who surrendered to the Americans at Yorktown, is now in charge of defeating the French and the rebels and pacifying the rebellious areas of Ireland.   Seen through the eyes of  a young aide who admires him greatly, Cornwallis is portrayed as a basically kindly man who can be hard when he thinks it necessary, but takes no pleasure in it.  “The color of war had long since bleached from his thoughts, and it remained for him only a duty to be scrupulously performed.”

    This book is largely about the way in which the past lives on in the present, both in the world of physical objects and the world of social relationships.  Two characters who make a brief appearance are Richard Manning, proprietor of a decrepit and debt-laden castle, and his companion Ellen Kirwan: 

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Britain, France, History, Ireland | 1 Comment »

    Schumer’s Threats, in Context

    Posted by David Foster on 10th March 2020 (All posts by )

    Democrat Charles Schumer, speaking to “protestors” outside the Supreme Court: “I want to tell you, Gorsuch, I want to tell you, Kavanaugh, you have released the whirlwind, and you will pay the price. You won’t know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions.”

    This statement was clearly a threat, but what kind of threat? Perhaps a direct physical threat, but more likely, I think, a threat to subject the two justices to the kind of orchestrated slander campaign that was already unleashed against Justice Kavanaugh; a slander campaign the would result in great emotional pain to the Justices and their families and great disruption to the operations of the Court.

    The crowd to which Schumer was speaking is typically referred to as “protestors” in news reports, but what are they protesting? No decision has been made in this case. Evidently they are protesting the willingness of the Court to even consider the arguments made by the two sides in this case.

    I’d call them a mob. Judge Andrew Napolitano, who does not believe Schumer’s statement violated any laws, nevertheless called the statement an “effort to politicize the court, to make them look like they can be intimidated by a mob outside of the courthouse.”

    The present-day Democratic Party together with its media/academic/activist archipelago has become quite friendly toward mob action and mob intimidation. One especially appalling event was the attempt to shut down law professor Josh Blackman’s talk at the City University of New York law school. When Blackman said the way to deal with a law you don’t like is to change the law…

    A student shouted out “[expletive] the law.” This comment stunned me. I replied, “[expletive] the law? That’s a very odd thing. You are all in law school. And it is a bizarre thing to say [expletive] the law when you are in law school.” They all started to yell and shout over me.

    There has been an awful lot of this sort of thing, and it seems to have been increasing exponentially over the last several years.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Current Events, Germany, History, Human Behavior, Law, Leftism, USA | 13 Comments »

    SARS-CoV2/COVID-19 Update 29 Feb 2020

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 29th February 2020 (All posts by )

    The themes of this update will be on issues of

    – COVID-19 spread,
    – World Headlines,
    – US Good News,
    – US Mixed News,
    – A sample of US Relevant Coronavirus Stories,
    – Medical Information of the Day,
    – The SARS-CoV2 Virus and it’s COVID-19 infection ARE NOT THE FLU
    – The On-Going Just-in-time, Sole Source in China Supply -Chain Crisis, and
    – The social media and videos COVID-19 tracking source section.

    Top line, There are currently 85,996 confirmed COVID-19 cases worldwide, including 2,942 fatalities as of the 29 February 2020 at 2:46 p.m. ET time hack on the BNO News corona virus tracking site (https://bnonews.com/index.p…/…/the-latest-coronavirus-cases/) There are 59 and growing nations including China plus three “Chinese special administrative regions” (Macao, Hong Kong and Taiwan) that have reported COVID-19 infections. China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, Thailand, Singapore, Italy, Iran, Germany and R.O.K. all appear to have local, or endemic, spread of the disease.

    The US may currently have endemic spread as the CDC has confirmed 62 cases of coronavirus in the US (and there late breaking news of a COVID-19 death in Washington State and the slimming of a senior care facility in Kirkland). These include 44 people who were aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship, three people repatriated from China and 15 US cases.

    Spread inside the US cases include:
    California: 9
    Massachusetts: 1
    Washington state: 1
    Arizona : 1
    Illinois: 2
    Wisconsin: 1

    World Headline Summary:

    o Health authorities in Texas and Oregon report 12 new coronavirus cases in US
    o US coronavirus case total hits 63, 2nd case ‘of unknown origin’ confirmed
    o US issues travel advisory for Italy
    o Italy says first case discovered in Lazio
    o China, SK release nightly figures
    o Google says employee who visited Zurich office has coronavirus
    o France confirms 57 cases
    o Italy reports 3 deaths in Lombardy; nat’l toll now 21; total cases 821
    o Google employee tests positive for coronavirus after visiting Zurich office
    o British man becomes 6th ‘Diamond Princess’ passenger to die
    o Two Japanese dogs tested positive for coronavirus
    o Mulvaney says school closures, transit disruptions may happen in US
    o Dr. Tedros said Friday that there’s no evidence of ‘community outbreak’
    o Mexico confirms 1st virus case [More below]
    o Fauci warns virus could take ‘two years’ to develop
    o Kudlow says “no higher priority” than the “health of the American people
    o Toronto confirms another case
    o WHO says 20 vaccines in development
    o St. Louis Fed’s Bullard pours cold water on market hopes
    o Netherlands confirms 2 more
    o United cuts flights to Japan
    o Advisor to CDC says shortage of tests in US creating a “bottleneck”
    o Nigeria confirms first case in sub-saharan africa
    o South Korea reports more than 1,000 new cases in under 48 hours
    o Italy cases surpass 700
    o WHO says virus will ‘soon be in all countries’

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, Business, China, Civil Society, COVID-19, Ebola, Health Care, History, Miscellaneous, USA | 44 Comments »

    Flashy Himself – A Literary Diversion

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

    So it took a link on Powerline last week to bring to my attention that George McDonald Fraser’s first Flashman book came out fifty years ago.

    My, I don’t know how the time flies – but it does. I must have read the first couple of Flashy’s adventures sometime in college, shortly thereafter, and being quite the history nerd even then, they were rowdy enough, and amusing enough that I read most of the rest of them when they came out, even if I had to order them from an English book catalog when I was stationed overseas. I do remember very well reading The General Danced at Dawn, in the back of one of my more boring lecture classes at CSUN and nearly self-strangulating in trying to not laugh uproariously out loud. The professor lecturer would not have been amused – he was a medieval history expert with a thoroughly tedious interest in the most comprehensively boring of early dark age church confabulations and absent any detectable sense of humor.

    My main regret as far as the Flashman series goes is that GMF never wrote of Flashy’s adventures in our own Civil War, which sounded from references in other books, as if Flashman conducted himself in the manner which we came to expect of him – that is, purely and basely devoted to the preservation of his own skin, while dodging, lying, fornicating and back-stabbing on battlefields spread across three continents, as well as hob-nobbing socially or sexually with all sorts of likely participants. As one early reviewer put it, Flashy saw 19th century history briefly over his shoulder as he fled down the corridors of power at high speed. His adventures in our very own Civil War would have been … interesting, although when I touched on this matter before, a reader pointed out that a) Flashy was a British officer and hardly gave a toss as to what we recalcitrant ex-Colonials got up to, and that b) that all our native ACW experts, amateur and professional alike would have made passionate objection to any error or omission, fancied or with historical backing that GMF might have worked into the plot. So, the effort wouldn’t have been worth the candle to him … although I and most of his fans would have loved to read it anyway. Just to see the process by how Flashy got suckered into participation by Abraham Lincoln, fought on both sides, and wound up being pals with George Armstrong Custer and well-acquainted with General Grant, and how many other Civil War notables.

    I myself would have loved to see Flashy entangled in some kind of partnership with Elizabeth Van Lew, the Richmond spy queen, or perhaps a much deeper entanglement with Allan Pinkerton, of the national detective agency … it all would have been great reading, no matter how contentious the fallout might have been with Civil War historians. His take on Robert E. Lee and other Confederate generals would have been interesting, as well. Because GMF had the eye, an absolute gift for writing 19th century dialog, and loved history enough to go into the deep weeds about it all … and most of all, make it interesting to the reader. Pop media is not downhill from culture, it’s in a symbiotic relationship with it. One shapes the other, mutually.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Book Notes, Culture, Diversions, History, Humor, Media, War and Peace | 21 Comments »

    The Roaring Twenties, Revisited

    Posted by David Foster on 6th February 2020 (All posts by )

    Here’s a piece that mentions some of the technological, social, and economic trends that were important in the 1920s, and goes on to discuss seven tipping points that the author thinks will be key in the 2020s.

    Posted in Economics & Finance, Energy & Power Generation, History, Society, Tech, USA | 13 Comments »

    A Christmas Reading From Thomas Pynchon

    Posted by David Foster on 24th December 2019 (All posts by )

    I’ve always liked this passage from Thomas Pynchon’s great novel Gravity’s Rainbow.

    The setting: it is the grim winter of 1944, just before Christmas. The military situation in Europe is not good, and WWII seems as if it will never end. London is under attack by V-2 rockets and V-1 cruise missiles (as they would be called today.) Roger and Jessica, two of the main characters, are driving in a rural area in England and come upon a church where carols are being sung. They decide to go inside.

    They walked through the tracks of all the others in the snow, she gravely on his arm, wind blowing her hair to snarls, heels slipping once on ice. “To hear the music,” he explained.

    Tonight’s scratch choir was all male, epauletted shoulders visible under the wide necks of white robes, and many faces nearly as white with the exhaustion of soaked and muddy fields, midwatches, cables strummed by the nervous balloons sunfishing in the clouds, tents whose lights inside shone nuclear at twilight, soullike, through the cross-hatched walls, turning canvas to fine gauze, while the wind drummed there…..The children are away dreaming, but the Empire has no place for dreams and it’s Adults Only in here tonight, here in this refuge with the lamps burning deep, in pre-Cambrian exhalation, savory as food cooking, heavy as soot. And 60 miles up the rockets hanging the measureless instant over the black North Sea before the fall, ever faster, to orange heat, Christmas star, in helpless plunge to Earth. Lower in the sky the flying bombs are out too, roaring like the Adversary, seeking whom they may devour. It’s a long walk home tonight. Listen to this mock-angel singing, let your communion be at least in listening, even if they are not spokesmen for your exact hopes, your exact, darkest terror, listen. There must have been evensong here long before the news of Christ. Surely for as long as there have been nights bad as this one–something to raise the possibility of another night that could actually, with love and cockcrows, light the path home, banish the Adversary, destroy the boundaries between our lands, our bodies, our stories, all false, about who we are: for the one night, leaving only the clear way home and the memory of the infant you saw, almost too frail, there’s too much shit in these streets, camels and other beasts stir heavily outside, each hoof a chance to wipe him out…….But on the way home tonight, you wish you’d picked him up, held him a bit. Just held him, very close to your heart, his cheek by the hollow of your shoulder, full of sleep. As if it were you who could, somehow, save him. For the moment not caring who you’re supposed to be registered as. For the moment, anyway, no longer who the Caesars say you are.

    O Jesu parvule
    Nach dir is mir so weh…

    So this pickup group, these exiles and horny kids, sullen civilians called up in their middle age…….give you this evensong, climaxing now with its rising fragment of some ancient scale, voices overlapping three and fourfold, filling the entire hollow of the church–no counterfeit baby, no announcement of the Kingdom, not even a try at warming or lighting this terrible night, only, damn us, our scruffy obligatory little cry, our maximum reach outward–praise be to God!–for you to take back to your war-address, your war-identity, across the snow’s footprints and tire tracks finally to the path you must create by yourself, alone in the dark. Whether you want it or not, whatever seas you have crossed, the way home…

    Posted in Christianity, History, Holidays, War and Peace | 8 Comments »

    The Old Navy, by Daniel Pratt Mannix III

    Posted by David Foster on 16th December 2019 (All posts by )

    Admiral Mannix served in the Spanish-American War, the conflicts in Cuba and the Philippines, and the First World War.  His career spanned the years of America’s emergence as a major player on the world stage, and this book offers memorable portraits of the Navy and of America…and of much of the world…during this period.

    After spending his childhood in China (his father was a torpedo expert working for the Chinese government), Mannix entered the US Naval Academy in 1885. When the battleship Maine blew up in Havana harbor and the Spanish-American war erupted in 1898, he requested permission to leave the Academy early, and joined the battleship USS Indianapolis.

    The war resulted in a rapid American victory, despite some serious deficiencies in the American conduct of operations (such as the failure to use smokeless powder), and Mannix observed the sad passage of the Spanish admiral into American captivity, in an open boat, wearing civilian clothes loaned to him by an American captain and with his head lowered in deep dejection: “I was never so sorry for anyone in my life.”  He was impressed by the exquisite courtesy of a badly-wounded Spanish officer who had lost a leg:

    As though making his adieux after an enjoyable evening, he thanked us for our “hospitality” (no, he wasn’t being sarcastic) and expressed his profound regret for the annoyance that his unfortunate arrival had caused…I have met men of all nationalities during my years in the Navy; in “good breeding” none of them could equal the upper-class Spaniards.

    After returning to Annapolis, Mannix graduated in 1900, and he sketches what life was like in America at the turn of the last century: some of the popular songs and comedy acts, the Gibson Girl (“the loveliest of all feminine ideas”, in his view), but also the fear of riots and attempted revolution when President McKinley was assassinated in 1901…New York’s ‘streetcar rowdies’, who molested women and beat up any man who tried to stop them…and a riot in Pensacola’s red-light district which involved civilians, soldiers, and sailors (“a far rougher lot than today’s bluejackets”) and which Mannix led a landing party to suppress.

    In 1903, Mannix was assigned to a “friendly mission” of four warships to German ports, as ordered by Theodore Roosevelt.  “These ‘friendship tours’ were quite common in those days and paradoxically served a dual purpose:  they reminded the foreign power that we had a powerful Navy that could reach their home waters while at the same time allowed the people to meet Americans and learn that we were not all strange, uncivilized barbarians.”

    Assigned as an aide on the Admiral’s staff, aboard the battleship Kearsage, he met many German officers and found them mostly friendly.  The Kaiser also visited Kearsage, and Mannix was impressed that he chatted with the enlisted men as well the officers.  “Much to my surprise, he showed a sense of humor.”

    One potentially-disastrous incident involved a collision between a German (or at least Prussian) custom:  civilians on the street were supposed to give way to any uniform-wearing officer…and an American naval custom:  officers generally did not wear their uniforms when ashore.  This collision of customs lead to a physical collision, followed by the use of fists by the American officer, and a challenge to a duel.  The situation could have led to a serious diplomatic incident had it not been defused.

    Throughout his travels, Mannix enjoyed meeting people from other countries…a view that he says was far from universal.  Speaking of a luncheon given by the Lord Mayor of London, he says, “To my astonishment, most of the junior officers were reluctant to attend the luncheon and would far  rather have spent their time playing cards together or chatting in the wardroom mess.”

    Some of the officers he met at the luncheon were members of the First Life Guards, an “elite” regiment that was open only to the wealthy and titled…”Kipling referred to them contemptuously as the “fatted flunkies of the Army.”  But:

    Twenty years later I was in Constantinople and the Household Brigade of the British Army was stationed there.  I looked over the list to see if I could recognize any old acquaintances.  Among all those names there were only two or three who had titles…Where were all those young earls and baronets and honorables?  They were dead.  Most of them had died in August 1914 during the terrible retreat from Mons when the old British Regular Army virtually ceased to exist.  They were not “fatted flunkies” there.”

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, Britain, China, Europe, Germany, History, Middle East, Military Affairs, USA, War and Peace | 22 Comments »

    The Integrity of the Dialectic Must Be Preserved.

    Posted by Stephen Karlson on 14th December 2019 (All posts by )

    We begin with a general lament by Max Boot.

    Kids, don’t become like Donald Trump. Study history. The fact that so many Americans know so little about the past means that we as a society are vulnerable to demagogues. “Don’t know much about history” is a catchy song lyric but a dangerous motto for a democracy.

    Historians may not want to admit it, but they bear some blame for the increasing irrelevance of their discipline. As historians Hal Brands and Francis Gavin argue in War on the Rocks, since the 1960s, history professors have retreated from public debate into their own esoteric pursuits. The push to emphasize “cultural, social and gender history,” and to pay “greater attention to the experiences of underrepresented and oppressed groups,” they write, has been a welcome corrective to an older historiography that focused almost entirely on powerful white men. But like many revolutions, this one has gone too far, leading to the neglect of political, diplomatic and military history — subjects that students need to study and, as enrollment figures indicate, students want to study but that universities perversely neglect. Historian Jill Lepore notes that we have ditched an outdated national narrative without creating a new one to take its place, leaving a vacuum to be filled by tribalists.

    Put another way, democracy dies in a darkness brought about by, inter alia, writers at influential newspapers. Consider, for instance, the 1619 Project from New York’s Times, which somehow wrote about slavery and secession and emancipation without asking any history professors.
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    Posted in Academia, Anti-Americanism, Civil Society, Deep Thoughts, Education, History, Political Philosophy | 19 Comments »