My new toy

Well, actually, it is not that new. For some years I edited the journal of the Conservative History Group, called (somewhat unimaginatively perhaps) Conservative History Journal. Soon after I took that over, I set up a blog that was dedicated, more or less, to conservative history as I always thought the small ‘c’ was more important than the big one. The same applied to the journal itself.

For various reasons to do with changes in the Conservative History Group, editing of the printed journal has now been taken over by the new Director of the group and I have decided to concentrate on the blog. A friendly geek turned it into more of an online magazine (though a few tweaks are still needed) that will incorporate the old blog, written by Tory Historian and other articles, short and long, written by me and, I hope, other contributors.

One of the first blog postings in the new format will be of special interest to CBz readers: an brief account of a very useful new pamphlet, published by the Adam Smith Institute, a condensed version of The Wealth of Nations. I shall be reviewing it for my blog and, I hope, the Salisbury Review but, in the meantime, this gives and indication of its quality and all the necessary links.

Shopping and sacrifice

[ cross-posted from Zenpundit — values ]


Sacrifice was high among the unifying ideals that many Americans hoped would emerge from the rubble of ground zero, where so many Good Samaritans had practiced it. But the president scuttled the notion on the first weekend after the attack, telling Americans that it was his “hope” that “they make no sacrifice whatsoever” beyond, perhaps, tolerating enhanced airline security. Few leaders in either party contradicted him. Bush would soon implore us to “get down to Disney World in Florida” and would even lend his image to a travel-industry ad promoting tourism. Our marching orders were to go shopping.

I’ve drawn this partial paragraph from Frank Rich‘s New York piece of August 27th, The 9/11 decade is now over. The terrorists lost. But who won? – it really caught my attention.

If you shake it down in the mind like someone panning for gold to get rid of the lightweight details, the heavier material that remains for you to sort through will, I think, consist of two words: “sacrifice” as representing one order of values, gleaming in contrast with the darker “shopping” representing another.

Yesterday I made a post about words and culture, this one is about culture and sacrifice… what comes next will be the series on ritual and ceremonial…

On Being a Real Arthur

That expression became something of a family joke, as I came around, by easy steps, from being a teller of tall tales, an intermittent scribbler, an unrepentant essayist, a fairly dedicated blogger … to being – as my daughter put it – a real arthur. Yes, a “real arthur” in that I have a number of books, ranging free in the wilderness of the book-reading public. Not that I am in any danger of buying the castle next-door to J.K. Rowlings’, and my royalty checks and payments for consignments and direct sales dribble in but slowly. Slowly, but steadily, which is gratifying. Readers are buying my books, as they find out about them in various ways; through internet searches, through word of mouth, and the odd book club meeting, casual conversation and interviews on blogs and internet radio stations. It has been my peculiar good fortune to have come about to being “a real arthur” just when the established order of things literary was being shaken to the foundations, so I did not waste very much time fighting it and trying to smuggle my books past the toothless old dragons of the literary-industrial complex, defending the crumbling castle of Things That Once Were.

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Bureaucracy and Business Regulation

A friend of mine, who is a running enthusiast and lives in a red state, has for the past few years been putting on an annual foot race in a county park. A few hundred people participate. Everyone has fun and it is a successful event that gains participants with each successive year. I don’t think my friend makes any money from his efforts. He is doing it because he himself has participated in many races over the years and gets satisfaction out of giving back, as he put it. It takes a lot of work to organize even a small event of this type.

My friend told me that he is not planning to put on the race after this year. Why? He used to go to the park manager to arrange the necessary permits and so forth, but the County now requires him to arrange everything through a county office that makes event arrangements for the entire system. This leads to a great deal of additional hassle for my friend. Where the park manager was helpful in dealing with issues that are important in organizing a small race, his counterpart in the county office is clueless. The county office has a one-size-fits-all written agreement that is designed for big events and they are unwilling to negotiate on anything. For example, the contract stipulates that my friend must show proof that he carries workman’s comp, even though he has no employees, and that he must obtain from each service provider (portable toilets, race timing services, etc.) a signed statement that they do not do business with the governments of Iran or Sudan. This is crazy and my friend doesn’t think it’s worth the trouble.

My friend doesn’t put on foot races for a living and can simply walk away, but small businesspeople increasingly have to deal with similar issues. The net aggregate cost must be enormous.

Carl Prine: recommended reading

[ cross-posted from Zenpundit — war, reading lists ]

Not exactly delighted by the reading list recently provided by the inbound Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Carl Prine at Line of Departure will be offering a “weekly discussion about how one might know one’s self” – Sun Tzu suggests that such knowledge is of value to the professional soldier — via texts other than the “middlebrow books of a recent vintage, pulp paperbacks” of the Army’s recommended readings.

Today he opened with an essay on the First World War poet Siegfried Sassoon, and quoted the final paragraph from Sassoon’s Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man:

And here I was, with my knobkerrie in my hand, staring across at the enemy I’d never seen. Somewhere out of sight beyond the splintered tree-tops of Hidden Wood a bird had begun to sing. Without knowing why, I remembered that it was Easter Sunday. Standing in that dismal ditch, I could find no consolation in the thought that Christ was risen. I sploshed back to the dug-out to call the others up for “stand-to.”

I could only respond with a passage that I first encountered, likewise, on a blog – Pat Lang‘s Sic Semper Tyrannis – from Sassoon’s friend and fellow poet of the Great War, Wilfred Owen:

For 14 hours yesterday, I was at work-teaching Christ to lift his cross by the numbers, and how to adjust his crown; and not to imagine he thirst until after the last halt. I attended his Supper to see that there were no complaints; and inspected his feet that they should be worthy of the nails. I see to it that he is dumb, and stands mute before his accusers. With a piece of silver I buy him every day, and with maps I make him familiar with the topography of Golgotha.

And I think to myself how much more power there is in either one of those paragraphs, than in that quip about “no atheists in foxholes”.

* * *

It’s not a matter of one of those “God or no God” debates in which some clergyman might triumph over some atheist, or vice versa, on TV or at the town or village hall. It’s a matter of cultural riches, of having a reference base of image and story that’s strong enough to express the horrors of Passchendaele or the Marne in a way that speaks to the hearts of those who were not there — and of those who will find themselves there, all too really, in other times and other lands.

It’s about narrative deep enough to go with you to Golgotha and back. It’s about the words, and about the furnace.

Prine himself puts it like this:

I care only of your soul and how it might be fired in the smithy of this blog and then hammered by your experiences in the coming years.

Our culture is the smithy.

Camera Obscura, Swans (2009)

The song is here.

(The video is just the album cover, so no point in putting it on here.)

It is absolutely triple-A rated ear candy.

I was having dinner at Noodles & Company (which is a pretty good chain) on Michigan Ave. a while ago and I heard over the noise this incredibly sweet pop song, with a girl singer, exactly my kind of thing, but I could not discern enough to track it down in the few seconds I heard out of it. I was downcast by this, figuring it was lost forever into the void. But then I went back there a few weeks later and was elated to hear it again. It was as delightful as I remembered it being. This time I was able to capture a few scraps of lyrics, and I was able to — get this — whistle the melody into my phone, so I wouldn’t forget it. I thought it might have been Camera Obscura, but I wasn’t sure, and my first efforts to identify it did not work out. When I got home I related this all to my son, who is by now well acquainted with my musical obsessions, and who has mad Internet noodling skilz. He quickly found it. So, a happy ending.

(I previously had another song by Camera Obscura on here called French Navy.)

Lyrics below the fold

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“Americans, who are you?”

I left the following comment at zenpundit :

Kabir says,

“I don’t touch ink or paper
This hand never grasped a pen
The greatness of four ages
Kabir tells with his mouth alone”

Tom Tom Club (Wordy Rappinghood) says,

“Words in paper, words in books
Words on TV, words for crooks
Words of comfort, words of peace
Words to make the fighting cease”

And Asia Times writes,

The channel broadcasts in Pashto language from 12 pm to 3 pm in the afternoon and 6 pm to 8 pm in the evening. The programs include jihadi taranay (jihadi motivational songs….

And drones the size of bees, some day

And mobiles crossing the Kush; they play

Tribal songs for jihadi alms, a call-to-arms

On 11/11 our cell phones say:

And Americans can talk endlessly about the importance of democracy, but they never thought to explain to the chiefs why they came back to Afghanistan. They arrived with suitcases full of cash to buy help – but they never told the chiefs that they were there because the way al Qaeda attacked the US on 9/11 meant that many Americans couldn’t find so much as a fingernail of their massacred relatives to bury because the bodies were ground to dust.
Not to be able to bury one’s dead or even a piece of one’s dead — knowing THAT would have meant a great deal to the chiefs and those in their tribes. But the Americans never explained, never even cried, never showed emotion. THEY NEVER ACTED HUMAN; they never interacted with the Afghans in ways that are the same for all — not only all humans but all mammalian creatures. In other words, they displayed not a whit of common sense.
What do you talk about when you first sit down with a man whose life has been circumscribed by war and who knows nothing about you and your tribe? The answer is you tell me of your battles, I’ll tell you of mine and in this way we establish a commonality of experience.
You transform the rug or patch of sand you’re sitting on into the terrain of the battle, and you use sticks and stones or teacups as place markers for the troops to show how the battle was fought. In this way, you demonstrate that the battle is truly in your heart, that it means enough to you that you can bring it alive for another.
If you don’t show what’s in your heart, then you haven’t established a basis for developing a mutual understanding, so then there is no way to move off the dime. Only when you’ve demonstrated by your stories of war that your tribe also shed much blood for independence, can you move on to explaining stuff about government. You can explain that you were losing too many of your sons in battle so you devised a type of government that would help defend your freedoms and with less bloodshed. And so on.

Pundita, “Americans, who are you?

Contra Pundita, I bet this has been done sporadically between some who are working together as NATO attempts to build an Afghan Army – one able to protect its borders and serve as an irritant to transnational groups in the region. Many stories have yet to be told….

About the Tea Party, Let’s Get One Thing Straight Here

Tea Party Patriots Mission Statement and Core Values

Mission Statement
The impetus for the Tea Party movement is excessive government spending and taxation. Our mission is to attract, educate, organize, and mobilize our fellow citizens to secure public policy consistent with our three core values of Fiscal Responsibility, Constitutionally Limited Government and Free Markets.
Core Values
* Fiscal Responsibility
* Constitutionally Limited Government
* Free Markets


The Tea Party is about these core values. Other issues, however worthy they may be, have their own advocates and their own place.

Do not be fooled by the propaganda.

Iain Murray, Stealing You Blind: How Government Fat Cats Are Getting Rich Off of You

Iain Murray, in his excellent new book, takes the reader on a tour through the sprawling, wasteful, oppressive and destructive mess that we are all paying for upon pain of imprisonment.

Most readers of this blog are of a conservative or libertarian disposition already. Our inclination is to see the government, as presently constituted, as a ruinous burden on the economy, and a noxious growth choking out our freedom and our future prospects. Iain Murray’s book provides facts and evidence, and many anecdotes, demonstrating the accuracy of this view. If anything, by the detail and specificity of his depiction, he shows that things are worse than I thought, which is an achievement.

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Hurricanes: In Literature, Film, and Music

I thought it might be fun this weekend, especially for those on the east coast, to talk about books/movies/songs in which hurricanes and similar events play a prominent role. For starters:

Admiral Hornblower in the West Indies, C S Forester. Features not only a hurricane, but a Marine bandsman who faces execution on charges of willfully playing the wrong note.

The Caine Mutiny, Herman Wouk. The troubled and inadequate captain of a WWII destroyer-minesweeper panics during a typhoon.

Big Water Rising, Tom Russell and Iris DeMent. A Mississippi River flood.

Lost and Found, The Kinks. Hurricane hits NYC.


Quote of the Day

Leo Linbeck III, from a comment he left in response to this post at Belmont Club:

The good news is that we can fix our nation’s problems. How? Well, the first step is to reverse this trend toward centralization and scale. We have to stop concentrating power, and start dispersing it. Corruption and regulatory overreach are political pollution, and the solution to pollution is dilution.
And, believe it or not, voters in both parties support the idea of moving decision-making closer to the people. Republicans call this “federalism,” and Democrats call this “local control.”
The media tries to divide us, but we’re really together on the need to move money and decision-making closer to the people. The Ruling Elite don’t want this to happen, of course, so they try to convince us that we are enemies of each other. Don’t believe it.
Yes, we disagree on policy. But we agree on governance, we believe in self-governance, and it is the current governance system that is broken.
There is lots of room for disagreement and political fights. But those fights must be engaged at the local level, because they’re the only level at which we can come to consensus. The problems are literally unsolvable at the federal level.

The genius of the Tea Party lies in its emergent ability to concentrate voter attention on a common political denominator of core public-finance issues.

Bidwell-Bartleson, 1841

The westward movement of Americans rolled west of the Appalachians and hung up for a decade or two on the barrier of the Mississippi-Missouri River. It was almost an interior sea-coast, the barrier between the settled lands, and the un-peopled and tree-less desert beyond, populated by wild Indians. To be sure, there were scattered enclaves, as far-distant as the stars, in the age of “shanks’ mare” and team animals hitched to wagons, or led in a pack-train: far California, equally distant Oregon, the pueblos of Santa Fe, and Texas. A handful of men in exploring parties, or on trade had ventured out to the ends of the known continent … and by the winter of 1840 there were reports of what had been found. Letters, rumor, common talk among the newspapers, and meeting-places had put the temptation and the possibility in peoples’ minds, to the point where an emigrating society had been formed over that winter.

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Humor as we slouch toward. . .

An entertaining aspect of Perry’s entry has been commentary explaining Aggies (even in Texas, one says, Aggies are considered hicks;yuh think). As the t-sips describe the yell leaders and Aggies boast of National Merit scholars, true outsiders may not realize the Corps was compulsory for much of its first century. Today Perry was ably (or at least energetically) commended by a t-sipper (Plan 2) and poliltical rival. Perry’s a mensch Kinky Friedman concludes. Friedman’s style is discursive; he never edits a good one-liner. And he acknowledges that at this point he’d choose Charlie Sheen over Obama. Still the piece is affectionate and, in the end, forceful: “A still, small voice within keeps telling me that Rick Perry’s best day may yet be ahead of him, and so too, hopefully, will be America’s.” (With Kinky irony & sentiment are often paired.)

Mark Steyn, too, is a nail that hasn’t been hammered down – he, too, argues “that there are already too damn many laws, taxes, regulations, panels, committees, and bureaucrats.” (It’s about an hour.) He, too, sometimes sacrifices coherence for humor. But, in the end, his arguments for human rights and self-reliance, the core of After America, have a steady aim. His historical context is not the southwest but northeast; he chose the granite state and citizenship. And Steyn reminds us why someone – someone who thinks and someone who is a nail too stubborn to be hammered down – would choose what we too long took for granted.


On LinkedIn, there is a frequently-appearing ad that says “Learn Ivy League management at eCornell.” I finally clicked on it and got this page. Note especially the headline:

“Add an Ivy League credential to your résumé” (right under the “save 15% this August” line)

and, under “topics you will master”

How to Strategize for Success
Scenario Analysis
Executive Decision Making
Leading Through Creativity
Unlocking Your Leadership Potential
Motivating Members of Your Team

I’d suggest that anyone who seriously believes they can “master” a single one of these topics, let alone all 6 of them, in an 8-week class requiring “just 3-6 hrs per week” of your time” shouldn’t be allowed near the management of anything or anybody. And I’d also suggest that a university which encourages this kind of thinking is not exactly doing itself proud.

Things That Make You Start to Laugh, Uncontrollably

So there we were on Monday, sharpening up our awareness of odd things one might pick up at a yard sale or a thrift store for fifty cents or a dollar and which might later turn out to be worth a small or medium-sized fortune, by watching Antiques Road Show (US version) when this particular item was spotlighted for an appraisal.

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Resolution for the Next 15 Months: Don’t Obsess

Elections get me obsessive.

The Internet — with its perpetual incoming tide of news and commentary — is my crack pipe.

But there are way too many important things going on in my world to waste a lot of energy and focus and time on an election I can do nothing to influence.

So, yeah, my plan is to read, and be aware, but don’t be obsessive.

Let’s see how I do.

It will be hard.

Kenosha Velodrome and Big Fish

Every year my father and I go salmon fishing on Lake Michigan for Fathers Day out of Kenosha. Due to scheduling conflicts we were not able to make it until last Sunday. Above is the Washington Park Velodrome, the oldest operating velodrome in the United States. Too bad there were no races this day, but it was cool to see it. The banking is steeper than it looks. Information and history on the velodrome here and here.
The following day I caught a beauty king. It was a good weekend with dad.

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Do You Have A Plan?

Today’s (admittedly minor) earthquake in the DC area reminded me that I need to get my emergency plans in order once again. I have let things slip a bit.

I always try to have a plan with the wife to evacuate to a certain place. In the past it was to a meeting place in the Dells. Now it is at our farm property.

I have to admit, learning how to run a farm has given me a feeling of freedom. It is in a pretty out of the way place, somewhere that not many people would think of going. We have a backup generator and are on a well, so clean water for our animals (and us) is no problem. We have a ton of hay stacked up at all times so we would be able to make it through winter if the animals were not able to be on pasture. My garden harvest this year was spectacular and I now have enough canned vegetables to last a very long time. We always have plenty of chicken food around so eggs are always in abundance. We are pretty good to go, as long as the farm can be defended. I imagine we are good enough friends by now with most of the local farmers that this will not be an issue. We have helped farmers with donations of hay when they have run short and that has helped form a bond with a lot of the local ag coummunity. Everyone has guns and ammo and I assume if the sh1t hits the fan, we would all bond and help each other by sharing the wealth.

But most people don’t have this opportunity. What is your plan if you live in a high rise in New York and an earthquake hits? Do you at least have fresh water and food available for a week? A heat source if it happens in winter? Do you have a way to defend yourself and your family? Do you have a meeting place in the chance that the cell networks go down and the kids are at school and you and your mate are at work?

I think it imperative that everyone have at least a very basic plan in place. You can get food and fresh water survival packs from Amazon that will last you weeks if needed. Have a plan of some sort to unite with your loved ones if there is a major natural disaster or act of terrorism. Plan ahead. Review the plan every year or two.