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  • Archive for the 'Society' Category

    A Sadly Revealing Story

    Posted by David Foster on 13th February 2021 (All posts by )

    A Houston physician named Dr. Hasan Gokal had a limited quantity of the Moderna covid vaccine to distribute.  The vial had been opened, and the vaccine would expire in six hours. He could either find 10 qualified people to administer it to, or just throw it away.  He chose the former course, rounding up 10 people, some of whom were acquaintances and others strangers.

    For that, he was fired from his job and criminally prosecuted.

    Officials maintained that he had violated protocol and should have returned the remaining doses to the office or thrown them away. According to Dr Gokal,  one of the officials startled him by questioning the lack of “equity” among those he had vaccinated.

    So, if he had just thrown away this scarce and valuable vaccine, he would have been just fine.  Because he used his judgment and took action, he lost his job and was prosecuted…the judge threw the charge out for its ridiculousness, but the prosecutor, whose name is Kim Ogg, has vowed to present the matter to a grand jury.

    We seem to be moving to a point in America today where the less you do, the better off you are: don’t use your individual judgment, don’t take action without bureaucratic approvals, don’t conduct informal conversations and don’t tell jokes.

    I am reminded of the Spanish naval official (see my post here) who in 1797 wrote a plaintive essay on the topic: Why do we keep losing to the British, and what can we do about it?

    An Englishman enters a naval action with the firm conviction that his duty is to hurt his enemies and help his friends and allies without looking out for directions in the midst of the fight; and while he thus clears his mind of all subsidiary distractions, he rests in confidence on the certainty that his comrades, actuated by the same principles as himself, will be bound by the sacred and priceless principle of mutual support.

    Accordingly, both he and his fellows fix their minds on acting with zeal and judgement upon the spur of the moment, and with the certainty that they will not be deserted. Experience shows, on the contrary, that a Frenchman or a Spaniard, working under a system which leans to formality and strict order being maintained in battle, has no feeling for mutual support, and goes into battle with hesitation, preoccupied with the anxiety of seeing or hearing the commander-in-chief’s signals for such and such manoeures…

    Thus they can never make up their minds to seize any favourable opportunity that may present itself. They are fettered by the strict rule to keep station which is enforced upon then in both navies, and the usual result is that in one place ten of their ships may be firing on four, while in another four of their comrades may be receiving the fire of ten of the enemy. Worst of all they are denied the confidence inspired by mutual support, which is as surely maintained by the English as it is neglected by us, who will not learn from them.

    I think Don Grandallana would recognize many of the behavior patterns in America today as being the same kind of thing that were so destructive to his country’s chances in battle.

    Note that Dr Gokal was questioned about a lack of ‘equity’ in his distribution of the vaccines. “Are you suggesting that there were too many Indian names in that group?” he asked.  Exactly, he was told.

    Time available for the vaccine distribution was strictly limited; Dr Gokal probably contacted patients and other people he knew and many of them were Indian.  Was he supposed to get demographic data for his county and ensure that the people he contacted matched the average statistical profile?

    I am also reminded of something written by historian AJP Taylor about the Austro-Hungarian Empire, cited in my post here:

    The appointment of every school teacher, of every railway porter, of every hospital doctor, of every tax-collector, was a signal for national struggle. Besides, private industry looked to the state for aid from tariffs and subsidies; these, in every country, produce ‘log-rolling,’ and nationalism offered an added lever with which to shift the logs. German industries demanded state aid to preserve their privileged position; Czech industries demanded state aid to redress the inequalities of the past. The first generation of national rivals had been the products of universities and fought for appointment at the highest professional level: their disputes concerned only a few hundred state jobs. The generation which followed them was the result of universal elementary education and fought for the trivial state employment which existed in every village; hence the more popular national conflicts at the turn of the century.

    We are now at the point in America where every possible decision and situation, down to the time-critical administration of vaccines, must be looked at through ethnic lenses. We may be heading for the same kind of creaky and rather dysfunctional society as was Austria-Hungary…and it’s quite possible that the actual outcome will be something much darker.

    Lead and Gold cited Sir John Keegan on British impressions of American GI’s who arrived in that country during WWII:

    Americans did not defer; that was the first and strongest of the impressions they made. European travelers to the United States had made that observation even in the eighteenth century, and it was made wholesale by British observers of the GIs. In a society which worked by deference, there were many who were shocked by the upstandingness of the individual American soldier. Enlisted men did not know their place, and their officers seemed unconcerned by the free-and-easy ways of their men. Many of the British, who had been taught their place well, found they liked the Americans for their casualness and admired a system of discipline which worked by getting things done. American energy: that was the second impression. 

    In America today, we seem to have lost much of that spirit.  Can we get it back?

     

     

    Posted in Civil Society, Culture, Organizational Analysis, Society, USA | 50 Comments »

    Back Stories and Suicides

    Posted by Ginny on 7th February 2021 (All posts by )

    Today, a friend complained of the death of a young man in Portland, of the heart rending interview of his father on Hannity. Some deaths are memorialized, mourned and others disappear from the headlines. Deaths in gang shootings in Chicago of toddlers are given less attention than those of victims of drug overdose in police custody. Not surprisingly, ceremonial ritual respect is given to a police officer killed in defense of the capitol, while the family of a young veteran, a woman whose business was destroyed by the covid lock down, is not. One an “insurrectionist”, the other a defender. Antigone might understand the distinction, if lamenting it. Creon certainly would. Another woman is trampled. Medical emergencies happen. Chaos.

    Later, suicides. Of those we speak softly, negation of life hard for strangers and even harder for families. I knew a mother who spent years denying her son was dead – long after she had buried him.

    For three suicides following the 6th, we ask, as we always do of these, why? We wonder about a back story? Would it help us understand the fences about the capitol, the vitriol of the impeachment?

    One was a rioter, a middle aged man, an officer in a bank, who had been charged by the police. Given the “everyone is an insurrectionist” rhetoric, being charged would make life difficult and being convicted? The proportions of why and what he did – and why and what was said, was charged – were important to him and might well be to us.

    Then, the two suicides of defenders, one of a Capitol policeman and the other in the Washington force. They had their reasons – but are they ones we need to understand as citizens or only as sympathizers? Policemen are often of an honor culture who feel keenly their responsibility to protect. A friend posited another reason: resignations and firings are likely (though responsibility for inadequate preparation does not appeared to be the fault of the police but rather of politicians – seldom members of an honor culture). My friend observed that when the airline for whom her husband had piloted for decades went into bankruptcy (along with their pension fund), several pilots committed suicide. Middle aged, they were unlikely to find work of the same kind and pay; they had (according to the financial planner who served the group) chosen to leave their families in a stronger financial place than the coming bankruptcy would. The planner’s responsibility was to ensure those wishes were fulfilled. (She clearly was glad her husband had not chosen that path although 15 years later they have not yet received the appropriate pension.) Protecting family, protecting reputation – those are motives. Most suicides are prompted (if partially) by clinical depression. Back stories can be sad, but need not be, really, our business. But, given the political machinations before and after that day, the back stories might be telling.

    This isn’t much of a post – I hope the comments are more substantive than it is.

    Some newsy discussions:
    For one, such responsibility was inherited – see CNN for what it is worth.
    And Politico gives both officer’s names.
    NBC gives details.

    2/8 – Adding links
    Banker
    Another on him
    The Financial Planner gives more information about Georgia’s employment; apparently he’d spent decades in finance and the order was because he had not “dispersed” when asked to by police. The difference between these arrests and those 4 years ago that protested Trump’s inauguration are telling and are not so much apples and oranges as some contend.

    Posted in Current Events, Elections, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Society, Terrorism, The Press, USA | 54 Comments »

    Narrowing Horizons

    Posted by David Foster on 31st January 2021 (All posts by )

    William Shirer, on his experiences in Germany during the early Nazi era:

    I myself was to experience how easily one is taken in by a lying and censored press and radio in a totalitarian state. Though unlike most Germans I had daily access to foreign newspapers, especially those of London, Paris and Zurich, which arrived the day after publication, and though I listened regularly to the BBC and other foreign broadcasts, my job necessitated the spending of many hours a day in combing the German press, checking the German radio, conferring with Nazi officials and going to party meetings. It was surprising and sometimes consternating to find that notwithstanding the opportunities I had to learn the facts and despite one’s inherent distrust of what one learned from Nazi sources, a steady diet over the years of falsifications and distortions made a certain impression on one’s mind and often misled it. No one who has not lived for years in a totalitarian land can possibly conceive how difficult it is to escape the dread consequences of a regime’s calculated and incessant propaganda. Often in a German home or office or sometimes in casual conversation with a stranger in a restaurant, a beer hall, a café, I would meet with the most outlandish assertions from seemingly educated and intelligent persons. It was obvious that they were parroting some piece of nonsense they had heard on the radio or read in the newspapers. Sometimes one was tempted to say as much, but on such occasions one was met with such a stare of incredulity, such a shock of silence, as if one had blasphemed the Almighty, that one realized how useless it was even to try to make contact with a mind which had become warped and for whom the facts of life had become what Hitler and Goebbels, with their cynical disregard for the truth, said they were.

    Even though Shirer had plenty of access to outside news and information sources, and was well aware of Nazi lies, he still found it difficult to escape psychologically from the effects of the stiflingly-constrained information environment.

    Many of us have wondered how intelligent people–some of whom we may know personally–can fall so completely under the spell of the Democrat worldview, as it exists in its present ‘woke’ state…a worldview which is replete with ‘the most outlandish assertions,’ to use Shirer’s phrase.  But consider: if one gets one’s news from CNN, MSNBC, and even the traditional networks, and from newspapers such as The Washington Post and The New York Times and their imitators…and one’s entertainment from mainstream movies and musical groups…and one works for a company, university, or ‘nonprofit’…then one is living within a highly uniform information and opinion environment. Yes, you might be exposed to the occasional dissident opinion on social media or directly from friends and acquaintances, but you will develop ‘antibodies’, inculcated by the approved sources, which lead you to dismiss such opinions as conspiracy theories, brainwashing by Trump, or something similar.

    It is, of course, much easier to find dissenting voices in 2021 America than it was in the time and place of which Shirer wrote.  (Shirer does say that ‘in those days, in the Thirties, a German listener could still tune his dial to a score of foreign radio stations’ without taking much risk…but most didn’t, evidently, or chose to disbelieve what they heard from outside sources.)

    The psychological drive to conform reinforces the controlled information environment and discourages explorations outside of it.  In my post Oxytocin and Conformity, I cited some research on how the ‘cuddling and belonging’ hormone oxytocin affects public and private conformity, and recalled one of the episodes of the TV series The World at War in which a German man spoke about the temptation to conform.  He had been strongly anti-Nazi, but admitted that he had felt a strong emotional pull to join the rallies and be a part of the the movement.  (He said it much more eloquently than the foregoing sentence would suggest)  I also cited a blog post whose author, after critiquing the craziness of the extreme “progressives,”  went on to say:

    I’m going to be very real with you for a moment, and take off my hat has a blogger, an author, and whatever else I may be, and just speak to you as a man.

    This could have been me.

    Does that surprise you? There was a time I skirted so close to falling under this spell, it would shock you. I felt the guilt, the social pressure, the desire for conformity. Despite the terrible weight such ideology carries on the mind, it is absurdly easy to fall into it. Every day we are assaulted by the agitprop. It is so easy to just say “yes, it’s all my fault, I will submit and obey.”

    It will bring momentary relief, because you will no longer have to fight a narrative that is bombarded upon you 24 hours a day. That mental effort is, itself, rather exhausting on the mind. But if you accept the chains, that is a far greater weight, one that will destroy you. The chains are seductive. They call, because of the enormous weight of social power behind them.

    The pressure is both great and subtle. Imagine a conversation about the weather, innocent enough on its own. A friend might say “wow, that global warming sure is kicking in today!” You’ve a few choices here. You can challenge him, but the immediate counter is likely to be something like “well, 99% of scientists agree, sooooo….” The implication, of course, is that you are stupid for disagreeing with 99% of scientists (whether or not there is any truth to that claim, either). You could remain silent because it’s easier. Or you could just give in, regardless of the truth of the matter, because it’s easiest. Meanwhile, if you counter your friend successfully, you may be down a friend by the end of the night.

    So whether or not a lot of folks believe this thing, soon consensus is reached, as much to peer pressure as anything else. Then it is, further, easier to agree on welfare, tax policy, affirmative action, black lives matter, social justice, etc… Each one has a superficial rhetorical argument which sounds nice, and which has enormous media programming and social pressure behind it.

    A thousand such chats happen every day, both in the real world, and the social media world. The sum total of which is designed to move you, via peer pressure and Weaponized Empathy, toward self-hatred, and intense personal guilt for things which you neither did, nor were capable of preventing.

    Soon a man might find himself agreeing with lunatic propositions that all Republicans are literal Nazis, and Donald Trump is worse than Hitler because… well, nobody really knows the reasons.

    Submission is always the easier short-term choice. Long-term, however, it just destroys a man’s soul.

    I am not asserting that the present-day Democrat belief system is identical to Naziism (although there are indeed some disturbing similarities as well as differences), or that the control of the information environment is as tight as what existed in mid-1930s Germany…but still, when you step back and look at all the ways in which a consistent worldview is being promulgated and views from outside that worldview are being suppressed, then the information horizons–especially for those people who don’t have a particularly strong need to think for themselves or willingness to challenge accepted beliefs–are narrowing at a pretty frightening rate.

     

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Deep Thoughts, Germany, History, Human Behavior, Science, Society, USA | 52 Comments »

    A Diversion: Famous For the Wrong Reason

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 29th January 2021 (All posts by )

    We read this with much amusement earlier in the week in the Daily Mail– the lamentations of one Brett Alder, a California sales exec who moved his family to Austin apparently in haste and with minimal to non-existent prior research on his new home, who repented at leisure after a brief year and afterwards (upon moving back to California) expanded on woes and the general shortcomings of Texas in an editorial in Business Insider. The original column is behind a paywall, so unavailable to me, but the Daily Mail posted the list of his lamentations. This brought about considerable hilarity in the comments on the various articles which repeated the story, among Texans. The Daughter Unit and I found the article most particularly amusing – especially me; California born and bred, lived there without interruption (save two trips to Europe) until I joined the military, where for twenty years I moved frequently to new communities and wasted little time or heartburn on making a new home. I’ve lived in Texas since 1995 now, with occasional trips to the formerly-Golden State, the last one in 2010 when Dad passed away and I spent a couple of weeks helping Mom sort out things.

    To continue with a fisking of Brett-the-male-Karen’s lamentations on life in Austin: Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Conservatism, Culture, Diversions, Humor, Leftism, Society, Texas | 51 Comments »

    Feudalism in America?

    Posted by David Foster on 13th January 2021 (All posts by )

    Veronika Kyrylenko believes that we may be headed for a new era of feudalism in this country. I don’t completely agree with her analysis, but it’s a thought-provoking piece.

    See also my 2018 post Coupling, which makes the point that the expansion of connectivity–geographically and otherwise–has downsides as well as upsides. The downsides may well lead individuals to seek security and protection, even at the cost of autonomy and freedom.

    Posted in Deep Thoughts, Society, USA | 35 Comments »

    Smashing the State

    Posted by Jay Manifold on 9th January 2021 (All posts by )

    There won’t be any surprises in this one for anyone who knows me at all well, but I’ll try to at least make it entertaining.

    My very first lasting memory of a news event with political content took place on the afternoon of Sunday 21 January 1968. A B-52 with four hydrogen bombs aboard took off from Thule AFB and crashed somewhere in the Arctic, location unknown.
    Ten days later, the Tet Offensive began.
    Nine weeks and one day after that, Dr King was assassinated.
    Nine weeks less one day after that, Bobby Kennedy was assassinated.
    Twelve weeks to the day after that, I first saw real human blood shed live on television via cameras above the intersection of Michigan and Balbo as the Chicago police attacked demonstrators during the Democratic National Convention.

    I was eight years old.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Anti-Americanism, Big Government, Book Notes, Chicagoania, Christianity, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, COVID-19, Current Events, Health Care, Human Behavior, Law Enforcement, Leftism, Libertarianism, Management, Personal Narrative, Political Philosophy, Politics, Religion, Society, Terrorism, USA | 42 Comments »

    Whom Do You Trust?

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 16th December 2020 (All posts by )

    Who are you? What do you want? Where are you going? Whom do you serve – and whom do you trust?! – TV Series Crusade

    I’m an American, of mostly Anglo-English descent, who mostly wants to be left alone to pursue happiness and a modicum of fame as a writer of historical or comic fiction. Frankly, if I am going anywhere, it’s slightly crazy, and as for whom I serve, my family, good friends and close neighbors, more or less in that order. As for whom I trust …

    Not as many as I once did. One by one by one, the people and institutions which I once assumed to be competent, honest, and worthy of my trust and respect have revealed themselves to be corrupt, shallow, incompetent, partisan and cynical users of those ordinary American citizens like me. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, Anti-Americanism, Civil Society, Conservatism, Current Events, Leftism, Society, Tea Party, Trump | 128 Comments »

    Living in the Hate of the Common People

    Posted by David Foster on 9th December 2020 (All posts by )

    Someone at a social media site, who I will not dignify with a link, wrote:

    I think we need to find a way to stop the working class from voting altogether.

    This individual, who is in the UK and is obviously a furious anti-Brexiter, also wrote:

    Idiots and racists shouldn’t be able to ruin the lives of people who do well in life by voting for things they don’t understand. The problem in this country boils down to low information morons having the ability to vote.

    The above attitude reminds me of something written by that great historian and social analyst Harry Flashman, describing how people of his aristocratic class viewed the workers of the Chartist movement, circa 1848:

    You have no notion, today, how high feeling ran; the mill-folk were the enemy then, as though they were Frenchmen or Afghans.

    There are people in the US who have similar views of politics, only with reference to Trump voters rather than to Brexit.  Many Democrats, and especially ‘progressives’, assume and assert that Trump voters are ignorant people who are failing economically.  It is difficult for them to credit that there are quite a few Trump voters who are educated and thoughtful, and who in some cases are quite successful in career/economics terms…if such people exist, it is assumed that they must either be an insignificant minority or devious malefactors who are manipulating the ignorant masses in their own self-interest.

    An example of this attitude appeared on MSNBC back in August, with anchor Chris Hayes and Washington Post writer Dave Weigel avidly agreeing with one another about the characteristics of Trump supporters (of whom they don’t approve)…men without a college degree who have enough income to buy a boat (Hayes qualifies it as *white* men).  Personally, I tend to *admire* people who have managed to do ok or very well for themselves without the benefit of a college credential. (And anyone believing that a college degree necessarily implies that an individual has acquired a broad base of knowledge and thinking skills hasn’t been paying very good attention of late.)

    The snobbery we are seeing today is partly income-based. it is partly based on a faux-aristocratic contempt for people who work with their hands, and it is…more than any other single factor, I think…credential-based.

    Indeed, education-based credentials seem increasingly to fill the social role once filled by family connections.  In his outstanding autobiography, Tom Watson Jr of IBM mentions that in his youth he was interested in a local girl, but her mother forbade her to have anything to do with him because he didn’t come from an Old Family…the fact that his father was the founder of IBM, already a successful and prominent company, evidently wasn’t a substitute.  Such ‘really, not our sort’ thinking would today be more likely based on the college one attended than based on family lineage.

    Those expressing such attitudes exist in the Democratic Party in parallel with those who talk about their great concern for Working People. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, for example, talked just recently about how physically tiring her work as a bartendress had been…and I don’t doubt that this was so…and asserted that Republicans don’t tend to have any experience doing such jobs.  Yet this same AOC posted a picture of her staring angrily at Joe Manchin–who one might think she would have considered as a possible ally on behalf of Working People–because he dared to question any Defund the Police policy.  And this same AOC helped ensure that Amazon, with the jobs it would have brought for those Working People, was not made welcome in her district.

    It appears that a lot of those to whom the we-care-about-working-people message is targeted aren’t believing it.

    (I’m not fond of the term ‘working class’, btw, it implies a fixed social structure and lack of mobility which is alien to American ideas.  The fact that Class terminology has become so common is a worrisome indicator.)

    Discuss, if so inclined.

     

    (classic song reference in the title)

     

    Posted in Academia, Britain, Education, Europe, Leftism, Society, Trump, USA | 134 Comments »

    Hope and Fear

    Posted by David Foster on 15th November 2020 (All posts by )

    I saw a bumper sticker yesterday that said “Liberals vote with their hope, conservatives vote with their fear.”  Of course the same car was also decorated with a Biden-Harris sticker.

    I think that the sentiment on the hope/fear bumper sticker was, if not 180 degree wrong, at least 170 degrees wrong.

    Take K-12 education, for example:  Conservatives see hope in a more open system with more options and more competition, providing not only hope for those kids attending the new alternative schools, but also hope for the public schools via the improvement sparked by competition.  Liberals and ‘progressives’, in the current meaning of those terms, seem happy to maintain the current institutional structure, which no serious person can believe will yield meaningful improvement regardless of how many dollars are dumped into it.  Their fear of changing the institutional arrangements that exist dominates any hope for possible improvement.

    Take manufacturing.  Conservatives, or at least the Trump flavor of same, see hope for reinvigoration and growth.  Liberals, generally speaking, do not.  More generally, ‘progressives’ tend to see the entire American economy–and America’s position in the world–in terms of managing the decline.

    Or take free speech.  As repeatedly documented here and elsewhere, there is growing hostility to free speech on the left.  And anti-free-speech views tend to be strongly associated with generalized fear.

    Peter Drucker (I think it was) wrote that before World War I, socialism was largely about hope, afterwards, it was about envy. He was talking about European socialism. In America, I think that the relative amount of hope in the overall “progressive” mix is a lot lower than it was in the FDR era or the JFK era.

    Regarding fear, I’ll note that it is a lot easier to disclaim certain kinds of fear–such as the fear of crime–when living certain neighborhoods (like the high-income area where I saw the bumper sticker) than in others.  Similarly for many other kinds of fear.

     

     

    Posted in Civil Liberties, History, Leftism, Society, USA | 15 Comments »

    The Multi-Front Attack on Free Speech (rerun)

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

    (I don’t usually rerun posts that are less than a year old, but in this case…)

    Free speech…free expression generally…is under attack in America and throughout the Western world to a degree not seen in a long time. I think there are some specific phenomena and (partially-overlapping) categories of people which are largely driving this attack–I’ve written about this subject previously, here, but the situation has gotten even more serious since that post, and some of the important factors were underemphasized.  Here are the current fronts, as I see it, in the war (not too strong a word, I’m afraid) on free speech.

    The Thugs. As I pointed out in my post The United States of Weimar?, illegal actions against political opponents, ranging from theft of newspapers to direct assault and battery, have in recent decades become increasingly common on university campuses, and now are well on track to being normalized as aspects of American politics. Incidents of political thuggery are reported almost daily: just the other day, pro-Trump women at an upscale DC hotel were verbally attacked and apparently physically assaulted by members of a wedding party that was heavy on Democrat attendees; including, reportedly, some top officials from the DNC. A pro-free-speech film was reportedly interrupted by two men wearing masks. Interruption of movies they didn’t like was a tactic used by the Nazis prior to their obtaining official censorship powers. The film “All Quiet on the Western Front” was plagued by Nazi disruptions when released in Germany in 1930. And attempts to shut down dissident speakers on college campuses, such as this, have become so common as to now be almost the default expectation.

    The Assassins. These individuals go beyond the level of violence practiced by the Thugs, and make credible death threats they attempt to carry out against those whose actions or believe they view as unacceptable. The majority of threats and attacks falling in this category have certainly been the doing of radical Muslims; however, some of the more extreme ‘environmentalist’ and ‘animal rights’ groups have also demonstrated Assassin tendencies. At present, however, it is those Assassins who are radical Muslims who have been most successful in inhibiting free expression. Four years in hiding for an American cartoonist. But see also Ecofascism: The Climate Debate Turns Violent, how long until this justification and practice of violence reaches the level of justifying and carrying out actual murders?

    The Enclosure of the Speech Commons. Whereas the Internet and especially the blogosphere offered the prospect of political expression and discussion unfiltered by the traditional media, the primary social-media providers have taken various levels of controlling attitudes toward free speech; Twitter, in my opinion, is especially bad. Partly this is ideological; partly, it probably reflects their ideas about protecting their brands. Yes, there are plenty of ways to communicate online outside of the social media platforms, but their growth has been so rapid that a large proportion of the potential audience is not easily reached outside their domains. Note also that conversations that one would have been private friends talking at home, or over the telephone are now semi-public and sometimes made fully public. Plus, they become part of an individual’s Permanent Record, to use the phrase with which school officials once threatened students.

    The Online Mobs. The concerns of the social media providers about providing online “safe spaces” does not seem to have in the least inhibited the formation of online mobs which can quickly make life unpleasant for their targeted individuals, and even destroy the careers of those individuals. Decades ago, Marshall McLuhan referred to the technology-enabled Global Village; unfortunately, it turns out that this virtual village, especially as mediated through the social media platforms, has some of the most toxic characteristics of the real, traditional village. See my post Freedom, the Village, and the Internet.

    And the mobs do not limit themselves to attacks on the target individual: they frequently attack other individuals who fail to participate in the shunning of that target person. As an example:

    A few weeks ago, shortly after I left my magazine gig, I had breakfast with a well-known Toronto man of letters. He told me his week had been rough, in part because it had been discovered that he was still connected on social media with a colleague who’d fallen into disfavour with Stupid Twitter-Land. “You know that we all can see that you are still friends with him,” read one of the emails my friend had received. “So. What are you going to do about that?”

    “So I folded,” he told me with a sad, defeated air. “I know I’m supposed to stick to my principles. That’s what we tell ourselves. Free association and all that. It’s part of the romance of our profession. But I can’t afford to actually do that. These people control who gets jobs. I’m broke. So now I just go numb and say whatever they need me to say.”

    Increasingly, it’s not just a matter of limiting what a person can say, it’s also a matter of edicting what they must say.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Big Government, Business, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Education, Environment, Feminism, Media, Society, Tech, Terrorism, USA | 22 Comments »

    American Weimar or American Habsburg?

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

    Aaron Sibarium has an interesting article on the Weimarization of America thru the normalization of political violence and intimidation…it is a trend I’ve raised concerns about in the past, for example, here:  The United States of Weimar?  An article by Dominic Green, though, argues that Weimar is less of a threatening precedent for American today than is the Habsburg monarchy of Austria-Hungary:

    The Habsburg monarchy was riven with ethnic division, but:

    Where the Hapsburgs had nationalism, we have ‘identity’. Like the Hapsburgs, we have racialized nationalism within an imperial framework. The result is what English-speakers call ‘Balkanization’. You need only look at the history of the Balkans in the half-century before 1914 to see where our current path leads.

    I was reminded of a quote from historian AJP Taylor:

    The appointment of every school teacher, of every railway porter, of every hospital doctor, of every tax-collector, was a signal for national struggle. Besides, private industry looked to the state for aid from tariffs and subsidies; these, in every country, produce ‘log-rolling,’ and nationalism offered an added lever with which to shift the logs. German industries demanded state aid to preserve their privileged position; Czech industries demanded state aid to redress the inequalities of the past. The first generation of national rivals had been the products of universities and fought for appointment at the highest professional level: their disputes concerned only a few hundred state jobs. The generation which followed them was the result of universal elementary education and fought for the trivial state employment which existed in every village; hence the more popular national conflicts at the turn of the century.

    Taylor also noted that the ethnic conflicts were exacerbated by the government dominance of economic life. “There were no private schools or hospitals, no independent universities; and the state, in its infinite paternalism, performed a variety of services from veterinary surgery to the inspecting of buildings.” The present-day US doesn’t have that level of government dominance, certainly, but the degree to which many nominally-private activities are now government-funded (universities, healthcare)–combined with the extreme politicization of everything from coffee to football–is helping to drive those same behaviors of intergroup squabbling.

    Also from Dominic Green:

    Above all, the typical affluent young American, the sort who in a more stable time might have thrown in his or her lot with the bureaucracy or a management job in the Mittelstand, the corporate heart of the economy, now resembles no literary figure so much as Ulrich, the protagonist of Robert Musil’s 1913 novel The Man Without Qualities.

    Ulrich is a forerunner of our college-educated millennials: morally enfeebled, sexually frustrated, professionally stunted. He has acquired enough sophistication to see through the forms of politics and social life — ‘critical thinking’, as the imposters of our schools call it — but not enough conviction to act in a way that might improve his life by bringing him into authentic contact with ‘reality’, which he knows is somewhere out there but cannot touch.

    I’m reminded of some comments by the deposed German Kaiser and by the writer Goethe, 94 years apart…not sure how directly relevant these points were to the Austria-Hungary of the time, but they are relevant to America today:

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Civil Society, Education, Europe, Germany, History, Human Behavior, Leftism, Society, USA | 16 Comments »

    Parallels?

    Posted by Ginny on 31st August 2020 (All posts by )

    Lately we’ve become interested in Richard Pipes, the Russian scholar. In an old You Tube Firing Line, we found him discussing his 1990 The Russian Revolution.

    The intro by Kinsley concisely sums up Lenin’s “innovations”: to Pipes, the Russian revolution was “arguably the most important event of the 20th century,” because its acts would be copied by later dictators – Hitler, Mao, etc. First, clear the stage for a one party state, then give omnipotent power within the state to the political police, and finally enforce that power with deadly terror and “re-education” camps.

    Pipes is not confident about the 90s: a “free” Russia would be difficult; he notes that only 20% of Russians thought the October Revolution was a good thing and only 14% had full trust in government. Purpose, energy, trust are necessary to navigate huge change and certainly found a democracy; razing the past is not a good way to move into the future, but the Russian past is poisonous. Instead of energy and purpose, he saw apathy and immorality (my impression was that a deeply rooted cynicism expressed in humor but felt bitterly characterized communist states). He argues Russia lacked human spirit, morale, and morality. (Perhaps the Gramscian effect on Russia of 70 years of Soviet culture.)

    The leap.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Current Events, Europe, History, Human Behavior, Leftism, Politics, Predictions, Society | 3 Comments »

    Reopening — I (Practice)

    Posted by Jay Manifold on 17th August 2020 (All posts by )

    For most Americans, the great day of realization of the seriousness of the COVID-19 threat—or more precisely, the seriousness of the official reaction to it—was Thursday, March 12th, when they woke to the news that the previous evening, the National Basketball Association had postponed an OKC Thunder-Utah Jazz game after a player’s test result came back positive, and then quickly canceled the remainder of the season. I was less concerned with the NBA, but coincidentally, also on Thursday the 12th, was informed that a certain institution of higher education that we all know and love was moving to remote learning for undergraduate and graduate classes for its entire Spring Quarter of 2020. Simultaneously, nearly all students were ordered to plan to vacate their on-campus housing by 5 PM CDT on Sunday, March 22nd.

    I had also just returned home from a severely truncated trip to Italy which had gotten no farther than New York City. Had the Italy leg been undertaken, I would have been on one of the last flights out of that country before it was locked down entirely, and would have been a strong candidate for two weeks of quarantine upon arrival in the US. I was therefore necessarily concerned with pandemic response, and on the day after my return home, sent an e-mail to several leaders and volunteers in my church with a general offer of expertise and recommendations to pursue several of the items discussed below, especially a communications plan.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Christianity, Civil Society, COVID-19, Current Events, Health Care, Management, Personal Narrative, Religion, Society, USA | 8 Comments »

    Quote of the Day

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

    Helen Pluckrose, quoted in Spiked:

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

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

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

    How Much Do Black Lives Matter?

    Posted by Kevin Villani on 9th July 2020 (All posts by )

    Ask Mr. Jones

    Mr. Jones – the title of a movie released last year now playing on Amazon Prime – discovers that the New York Times’ Moscow Bureau and its Pulitzer writer Walter Duranty is covering up Stalin’s starvation of 4 million Ukrainians (16 million relative to today’s global population) to protect the gloss of socialism, later explaining “You can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs”. All the other journalists except Jones apparently go along for the same reason. The death toll of socialist ideology would reach 100 million (300 today) during the next several decades in the pursuit of Utopia. There were no omelets.

    Only a few thousand (almost all black) deaths have as yet resulted from prior Black Lives Matter (BLM) Movement protests, but this is only the beginning. The question is, what is their leaders’ version of Utopia and how many lives are they willing to sacrifice to achieve it?

    Socialism, Fascism and Crony Capitalism are Sisters

    Over the past several centuries two systems of political economy, socialism and capitalism, have competed. The distinguishing characteristic of all socialist variants is the authoritarian hand of politicians, whether or not “elected.” The distinguishing characteristic of capitalism is the invisible hand guiding the competitive market. Neither system promises “equal” outcomes: capitalism “fair” outcomes based on individual merit without eyesight to discriminate by color or sex, socialism in theory based on need as determined by politicians and bureaucrats.

    Jonah Goldberg in Liberal Fascism (2008) argues that fascism is a sister to Soviet socialism. What the U.S. has called “crony capitalism” has different features than the fascism of Hitler and Mussolini, but includes authoritarian control over business and markets. Similarly, the welfare state democratic socialism has different features than Soviet socialism, but shares state control over income. The Progressive Movement in the U.S. has historically used the authoritarian political hand to benefit not just the rent-seeking cronies at the top (politicians, the intellectual elite, etc.) but also the working and under-class. The competitive market system that remained somewhat out of the state’s reach produced most of the income and wealth that funded this progressive largesse.

    What is Racial and Social Justice?

    Political power – in the hands of the Democratic Party – was indisputably the source of racist oppression from its founding through the Great Society. The black/white wage gap has remained unchanged since for those employed. What has changed is black participation in the labor force. The old generation of eminent Black economists Tom Sowell (90), Walter Williams (84) and Shelby Steele (74) have, in hundreds of books and thousands of articles, many addressing the issue of race in America, argued that the Great Society has been the source of income and wealth disparities by creating dependence on the welfare state, massive penalties for marriage (raising the percent of live births outside of wedlock from 10% to over 70%) and work (a marginal tax rate over 100% on earned income), restrictive policies such as minimum wage, and opposition to charter schools.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Civil Society, Current Events, Law Enforcement, Political Philosophy, Politics, Society | 9 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 »

    Charlottesville Revisited – The Next American Rebellion Won’t Be a Black Swan

    Posted by Kevin Villani on 22nd June 2020 (All posts by )

    The 2020 Presidential election is being tee’d up to foment racial animosity between Biden’s Blacks and Trump’s Deplorables.

    The2020 Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden is far ahead of the incumbent Donald Trump in the polls, but two thirds of his supporters cite fear of Trump being re-elected, mostly due to perceptions of racism, rather than support for the candidate or his Party’s Platform. Biden’s core supporters are angry black protestors, Trump’s core are largely angry white “deplorables.

    The Charlottesville Premise

    Bucolic Charlottesville is rich in political symbolism as home to the University of Virginia founded by Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence and founder of the Democratic Republican Party. Virginia was the Capital of the South during the great Civil War, Charlottesville the site of the statue of the Confederate military leader Robert E. Lee. In 2017 riots broke out there between black groups led largely by the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement leading protests of this and other statues. After strongly condemning the historically racist groups that a Charlottesville resident had invited to oppose the destruction, President Trump said that there were “good people” on both sides of the monument issue, then insisted that the racial hatred must stop.

    Some conservatives would go along with tearing down Confederate statues. But predictably, the Founding Fathers were targeted next. Statues of George Washington have already been destroyed and the Washington Monument is on the chopping block. In New York, where the current governor and Democratic presidential hopeful Andrew Cuomo renamed the Tappan zee Bridge after himself (technically, his father), political leaders have voted to remove Thomas Jefferson’s statue, the Jefferson Memorial sure to follow. Even Lincoln isn’t safe.

    The Charlottesville premise is that America was born to slavery and American racist oppression never ended, causing the current income and wealth gap with whites, and that the statues are symbols of this inborn oppression, The Democratic Party Platform to be finalized in August promises to eliminate racial income and wealth differences by doubling down on traditional socialist redistribution. The young party leaders correctly argue that this will require “fundamental change,” a political Jacobin revolution converting America from a failed meritocratic Republic to a “peoples’ democracy.”

    I’ve argued elsewhere that the economic and social costs of this agenda pose an existential threat to America. However unrealistic, “moral imperatives” trump constitutional, institutional and resource constraints. Nations don’t choose suicide, they just stumble into it one step at a time.

    Governor Cuomo responded to Trump’s 2016 campaign theme to Make America Great Again (MAGA) that “America was never that great” based on its racial history. The liberal main stream media labeled Trump, the Republican Party and anyone who might disagree with their Charlottesville premise – hence their platform – as racist. When the Democrats decided to shift attention from their platform by choosing as an interim “centrist” leader the soon to be 78 year old Joe Biden, it wasn’t surprising that when announcing his candidacy he chose to make Trump’s racism his central campaign issue by replaying a truncated clip of Trump’s Charlottesville “good people” quote.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Leftism, Politics, Society, Trump, USA | 13 Comments »

    Saying “No”

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

    I lifted a graphic from last weekend’s Powerline Week in Pictures, and posted it on my Facebook feed (where I post only anodyne stuff and things to do with my books, home improvements, and social schedule) which pretty much sums up how I’m feeling this week. Kermit the Frog stares out a rain-drop-misted window, and says, “Sounds Like Thunder Outside – But With the Way 2020 is Going, It Could Be Godzilla.”

    Even before one could draw a breath of relief that the Chinese Commie Crud had not ravaged the US population anything like the 1918 Spanish Flu did, and that life was returning to something like normal, what with businesses slowly reopening – here came the stomping behemoth of violent protests and race-riots, in the wake of the death (possibly caused by drugs rather than the apparent mistreatment) of a long-time violent criminal of color at the hands of a white police officer.

    This entire brutal and grotesque encounter was on video and understandably condemned as unacceptable overreaction on the part of the officer by just about every reasonable person of any color who watched it. Serious concerns regarding the militarization of police have been raised for at least a decade among thoughtful citizens, what with so many instances of police barging into houses in no-knock and full SWAT mode (often the wrong house, and opening fire indiscriminately), of abusing civil forfeiture statutes and traffic fines as a means of making budget. This concern was exacerbated by resentment during the Chinese Commie Crud lockdown enforcing social distancing – like pursuing a solitary paddle-boarder, all alone on the ocean, and going all-out on parents tossing a softball in a park with their kid. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, Capitalism, Civil Society, Conservatism, COVID-19, Crime and Punishment, Current Events, Just Unbelievable, Law Enforcement, Leftism, Media, Personal Narrative, Society, Urban Issues | 63 Comments »

    Deja- Poo

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 1st June 2020 (All posts by )

    Why, yes, as a matter of fact – I have seen this sh*t before; several times, as a matter of fact. The first go round of racial/political rioting, looting, arson and general mayhem that I took notice of was that long hot summer of ’68, interspersed with political assassinations and anti-Vietnam War protests, although the Watts riot had taken place three years before. I was fourteen in the year of ’68 mayhem, and already well-aware of current events, through reading the Los Angeles Times when it was still a great and meaningful newspaper. Mom also had subscriptions to Harpers’ and Atlantic Monthly, when they also were still solid and more or less centrist publications, and although Mom and Dad didn’t watch TV news regularly, Granny Jessie did. I believe that it was sometime during that late summer, watching coverage of the riot attendant on the Democrat Party national convention, that I remarked to Granny Jessie that it seemed as if the world were all seriously going to Hell. Recall that I was only fourteen, and had led a comfortable, fairly sheltered middle-class life. Violence was something only seen t a distant remove as part of the plot in movies and TV adventure shows (and pretty anodyne, considering what I would have seen in them back then) and the real-life violence played out on the TV news was shocking. Granny Jessie replied, “It always seems that way, I guess.” Her tone was so jaded, and world-weary, I found it actually rather comforting.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, Capitalism, Civil Society, Conservatism, Current Events, Society, The Press, USA | 22 Comments »

    There is a plan here.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 31st May 2020 (All posts by )

    Patriot_Prayer_vs_Antifa_protests._Photo_11_of_14_(25095096398)

    The present rioting, which is occurring in cities that have leftist Mayors and administrations, is part of a plan. We have seen this slowly coming together. The “Black Lives Matter” theme goes back for years. It is increasingly radicalized. The election of Donald Trump made everything about politics.

    An article in Bazaar from a few days ago: If you are married to a Trump Supporter, Divorce Them:

    Supporting Trump at this point does not indicate a difference of opinions. It indicates a difference of values…You do not need to try to make it work with someone who thinks of people as “illegals.” Just divorce them

    This would be amusing if it were not behind the latest attack on civilization. Are we becoming the Weimar Republic ?

    In 2002, a pro-Israel event at San Francisco State University was interrupted by ‘protestors’, screaming things like “go back to Russia!” and “get out or we will kill you!’ and shoving Hillel students against a wall. Laurie Zoloth, a campus Jewis leader “turned to the police and to every administrator I could find and asked them to remove the counter demonstrators from the Plaza, to maintain the separation of 100 feet that we had been promised. The police told me that they had been told not to arrest anyone, and that if they did, ‘it would start a riot.’ I told them that it already was a riot.”

    That, of course, was San Francisco, ground zero in the war on civilization, which is being directed from walled compounds in rich areas.

    The insurrection, which is going on now, is an attempt to create another Kent State event, which would radicalize more young people as that event did. The Governor of Minnesota, who daughter seems to be a participant in the riot direction is desperate to find a “white supremacist” to blame.

    So far, he has been blaming “outsiders,” a claim that has been proven false. Few of those arrested gave other than Minnesota addresses.

    KARE11 reviewed 36 arrests on the Hennepin County Jail roster and found that 86% of the arrests they reviewed had a Minnesota address.

    Following the revelation, Mayor Carter and Mayor Frey said that the information about rioters being from out of the area was inaccurate, according to KARE11.

    Mayor Carter blamed the police for providing bad information.

    Minneapolis Police spokesman John Elder said that he believes many of those arrested gave false addresses.

    Oh, OK.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Society, Crime and Punishment, Law Enforcement, Society | 23 Comments »

    Lament for a Mall

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 28th April 2020 (All posts by )

    Malls were the latest, trendiest, most oh-there thing in retail development about the time that I was in high school and college. There were a couple of them that I went to, early on, and they were … OK. A nice diversion if one was in the mood or purse for retail therapy. Most of them were enclosed, two or three levels, almost always expensively decorated, adorned with plantings, sometimes with dabs of architectural creativity here and there. All of that made sense in places where the weather was bitterly cold for at least half the year or boiling-hot for three-quarters of it – still does, in the upper mid-west and mountain west, especially in snowy winters. It was, however, a serious and time-burning excursion to go to the mall; finding a place to park nearest an entrance, walking … and walking, and walking, and carrying whatever you had purchased. If there was a nice and varied selection of shops, not wall to wall big chain outlets, exactly the same as every other mall – so much the better.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Business, Current Events, Personal Narrative, Society, Style, Urban Issues | 40 Comments »

    Risk Register

    Posted by Jay Manifold on 18th April 2020 (All posts by )

    There are, of course, many items that could be placed in a risk register for our ongoing management of COVID-19. I find myself drawn to those categorizable as, or perhaps triggered by, human perception and behavior. By way of limiting the scope of this post to reasonable attention spans, here are my current top 3: Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Business, Capitalism, China, Civil Society, COVID-19, Current Events, Health Care, Human Behavior, International Affairs, Law Enforcement, Markets and Trading, Predictions, Religion, Society, Statistics, USA | 21 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 »

    In Medias Res

    Posted by Jay Manifold on 4th April 2020 (All posts by )

    What I’ve got so far:

    1. Everything’s on the table. The likelihood that your preexisting ideology or priorities are an entirely adequate match to what this situation truly requires of us is close to nil. “In a time of drastic change it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.” ― Eric Hoffer
    2. That said, your life experience will give you insights. Privilege your experience over your ideology and nominal priorities.
    3. All disasters are local. Concentrate on your meaningfully immediate environment, which in this case will be the local market for medical resources. For most of the US, that will be our MSA. For those outside an MSA (metropolitan or micropolitan) that will be their county; and for some it will be the group of counties that feed into the one hospital in the region.
    4. Deprioritize pandemic news from outside your local area. There are people in the massive NY/NJ/MA outbreak that I worry about, but what happens there will only modestly resemble what happens in the KC MSA, not least because of the difference in population density, which can approach 20x.
    5. Mitigate or avoid your own risk (including the risk you pose to others) by both following the hygiene advice we’ve all heard and minimizing your physical interaction with anyone outside your immediate household. Internalize R₀ = b × k × d, where R₀ is the reproduction number of the virus, b is the probability of infection given contact with an infectious person, k is the contact rate, and d is the infectious duration. While the nominal R₀ of COVID-19 is ~3, your personal R₀ can be driven to < 1 by your own behavior.
    6. The general form of the challenge confronting us is abrupt wide variation in formerly relatively constant phenomena. In Talebian terms, we have migrated from “mediocristan” to “extremistan.” The multiplicative nature of a novel viral pandemic, especially by comparison to the relatively predictable seasonality of influenza viruses, has a thick-tailed (power law) probability structure and complex payoffs (notoriously ranging from large numbers of nearly asymptomatic cases to abruptly life-threatening “cytokine storm” reactions). For detail, see The Fourth Quadrant: A Map of the Limits of Statistics.
    7. So we find ourselves at serious risk of running out of ventilators, ICU beds, and even hospital beds generally, to say nothing of supplies (but see “all disasters are local,” above), raising the prospect of significant second-order mortality among those unable to obtain adequate care for entirely unrelated illnesses and injuries.
    8. In this connection, many prior customs, techniques, tools, and materials are being revealed as highly dysfunctional and, if all goes sufficiently well, will be swept into the dustbin of history. The bad news for me is that my earlier fears about easily-bottlenecked processes have been realized. But we may look forward to significant adaptation, including deregulation of medical services.
    9. Similarly, a large number of purported fixes and remedies will fail. Folk remedies, in particular, seem likely to be disastrous, and this blog’s audience needs no persuasion that attempts at central planning will fail thanks to the Hayekian local knowledge problem. In that connection, and to quote something I wrote a few years back: “John Gilmore famously said that ‘the Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it.’ The future adaptation of representative democracies will depend on our capability, as individuals, to interpret endemic institutional dysfunctionality as damage and route around it.”
    10. The relatively vulnerable are closer to the center of the network: affluent, living in high-density major cities, well-traveled, extroverted, socially active, with large numbers of regular contacts (even if mostly in a “bubble” as per Murray’s notorious quiz). But some are the alienated and defiant who reject risk avoidance or even risk mitigation tactics (or attempt folk remedies instead), ordinarily associated with …
    11. The relatively invulnerable, who are at or near the edge of the network: impoverished, living in rural or low-density metro areas, untraveled, introverted, socially isolated, rarely in face-to-face contact with others. Many of these people have mental health issues and associated substance abuse problems. But the relatively invulnerable are also the intelligent and conscientious who promptly adopt appropriate risk management strategies.
    12. The post-pandemic preferences of the relatively invulnerable will have massive economic and cultural effects. I expect a reasonably quick partial recovery from the economic shutdown, but full recovery may take several years. Many of the “third places” which have done well over the last few decades will not regain their patronage, and as of early April 2020, we can only guess which ones. Fond hopes of some of my co-religionists aside for a sudden revival, I believe church attendance and involvement will be well down in the aftermath, and will not significantly grow until the next “Awakening,” which per Strauss and Howe should occur at mid-century. Until then, believers will be culturally marginalized and congregations will be smaller—but comprised of relatively fervent, active members.
    13. Geopolitical risks are heightened, especially US-China tensions, and if Xenakis’ “58-year hypothesis” holds, this very year will see an echo of the Cuban Missile Crisis.
    14. The most important output of this process—and it is a process, with inputs, providers, outputs, recipients, etc—will be a collective lessons-learned database, comprised of both tacit and explicit knowledge, and somehow transmitted to future generations.

    Posted in America 3.0, Big Government, Business, China, Christianity, Civil Society, COVID-19, Culture, Current Events, Economics & Finance, Health Care, Human Behavior, International Affairs, Libertarianism, Military Affairs, Organizational Analysis, Predictions, Religion, Society, Systems Analysis, USA | 34 Comments »

    American Has an Autoimmune Disease

    Posted by David Foster on 31st March 2020 (All posts by )

    An autoimmune disease is an illness that occurs when the body tissues are attacked by its own immune system.  The US today has this condition big-time.  Historically, the condition has arisen and reached toxic levels in other countries; as an example, France, during the run-up to the Second World War and even during the campaign of 1940.

    General Edward Spears, who was Churchill’s military liaison with France, was told by Georges Mandel, the combative interior minister, about the mayor of a district in Paris which had been bombed who went about the lobbies, screaming:  I will interpellate the Government on this outrage as soon as the chamber meets!  Mandel expressed his contempt for this kind of behavior, saying sarcastically “Paris is bombed by the German?  Let’s shake our fists at or own government.”  Spears notes that “The other way, that of silently going off to collect a gun and have a shot at the enemy, was a solution that occurred only to a few…How Hitler must have laughed, I told myself.”

    A few months earlier, an interviewer asked Paul Reynaud, who had just become Prime Minister of France, about his long-standing and bitter rivalry with Edouard Daladier.

    Nevertheless, ”the interviewer  said, “Daladier is certainly a man who loves his country.”

    “Yes,” Reynaud replied, “I believe he desires the victory of France, but he desires my defeat even more.”

    This may have been a bit unfair to Daladier, who was far from the worst of the leading French politicians of the day. But it gives an accurate impression of the state of things in the late Third Republic.  And it may actually understate the state of things in America today, where for many politicians and journalists, the well-being of America and of Americans doesn’t seem to enter into the equation at all compared with the search for political advantage.

    The obsession with political power, and with the denunciation of opponents, is not today limited to politicians, journalists, and ‘activists’…it has spread to a large proportion of the population.  Millions of Americans, it seems, are in a state of visceral rage against not only Trump, but against any and all of his supporters.  There is no activity, of any sort, that is safe from volcanic overflowings of political rage…not even knitting, as strange as that may seem.

    It often seems impossible to find any point of entry for an attempt to get Progs to reconsider their beliefs, in however small a way.  I’m reminded of something written by Arthur Koestler, himself a former Communist, on the subject of intellectually closed systems:

    A closed system has three peculiarities. Firstly, it claims to represent a truth of universal validity, capable of explaining all phenomena, and to have a cure for all that ails man. In the second place, it is a system which cannot be refuted by evidence, because all potentially damaging data are automatically processed and reinterpreted to make them fit the expected pattern. The processing is done by sophisticated methods of casuistry, centered on axioms of great emotive power, and indifferent to the rules of common logic; it is a kind of Wonderland croquet, played with mobile hoops. In the third place, it is a system which invalidates criticism by shifting the argument to the subjective motivation of the critic, and deducing his motivation from the axioms of the system itself. The orthodox Freudian school in its early stages approximated a closed system; if you argued that for such and such reasons you doubted the existence of the so-called castration complex, the Freudian’s prompt answer was that your argument betrayed an unconscious resistance indicating that you yourself have a castration complex; you were caught in a vicious circle. Similarly, if you argued with a Stalinist that to make a pact with Hitler was not a nice thing to do he would explain that your bourgeois class-consciousness made you unable to understand the dialectics of history…In short, the closed system excludes the possibility of objective argument by two related proceedings: (a) facts are deprived of their value as evidence by scholastic processing; (b) objections are invalidated by shifting the argument to the personal motive behind the objection. This procedure is legitimate according to the closed system’s rules of the game which, however absurd they seem to the outsider, have a great coherence and inner consistency.

    The atmosphere inside the closed system is highly charged; it is an emotional hothouse…The trained, “closed-minded” theologian, psychoanalyst, or Marxist can at any time make mincemeat of his “open-minded” adversary and thus prove the superiority of his system to the world and to himself.

    In attempting to debate with “progressives,” one often encounters this kind of closed-system thinking:  there is absolutely no way you are going to change their minds, whatever the evidence or logic.  (I don’t think this is true of  all  “progressives”–otherwise the situation in America today would be even more grim than it actually is–but it’s true of a lot of them.)

    But today’s Progressivism is not a coherent intellectual system with definable axioms like Marxism or a Christian theology; it seems much more a cluster of emotional reactions.

    Certain Progs have gone so far out on the limb that there seems no hope they could ever come back; this certainly is true of most commentators on CNN and MSNBC…they will just become angrier and more extreme, and it will all be broadcast to millions as long as their owners (AT&T and Comcast, respectively) keep the money flowing.  But what about ordinary people, those whose lives do not center (or at least previously have not centered) around politics?…Is there any sign that some may be willing to reconsider some of their beliefs, specifically in the midst of the Cornavirus crisis?  I have seen comments by people saying they have friends who have recently been willing to reconsider their support for open borders, or for offshoring most American manufacturing to China, in the light of current events.  I haven’t seen much of this, personally.  What I see is more people who are so completely aligned with their ‘side’, that they view events largely through the light of how they can be interpreted to support that side.  These are often people who were not particularly interested in politics or political philosophy  prior to recent years.

    This isn’t one of my more coherent posts, but I’d like to discuss: Can the American autoimmune disease be cured?  Why did it develop and get so bad?  What, as individuals, can we do to help with the cure or at least the mitigation?

    Posted in Current Events, Leftism, Political Philosophy, Politics, Society | 15 Comments »