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  • Archive for May, 2015

    Parallel Observations, 94 Years Apart

    Posted by David Foster on 12th May 2015 (All posts by )

    In my post Advice from Goethe on How to Attract Women, I cited some of Goethe’s thoughts about why the Weimar girls preferred visiting Englishmen to the local male talent. When his friend Eckermann objected that Englishmen were not “more clever, better informed, or more excellent at heart than other people,” Goethe responded:

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

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

    Skipping forward 94 years, I was intrigued to find some rather similar comments in the memoirs of Wilhelm II, the former Kaiser of Germany:

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Britain, Civil Society, Education, Germany, History, Human Behavior, USA | 7 Comments »

    25 Stories About Work – The Unfortunate Incident In the Base Housing Area

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 11th May 2015 (All posts by )

    (A retelling from my extensive archives of a certain unfortunate incident, and the efforts involved in keeping a straight face when broadcasting about it on the local radio station.)

    As it so happens with so many unfortunate incidents, it came out without much warning, and piece by piece, the first harbinger being in the form of an emergency spot announcement brought around from the front office by our admin NCO. The radio and television station at Zaragoza AB was situated in two (later three) ancient Quonset huts. The radio and engineering sections occupied the largest, which was two of them run together at some long-ago date. (We were never able to get permission to run all three buildings together with an extension— the cost of building such would be more than the real estate value of the three buildings being combined, and so, of course, it couldn’t be done. My heartfelt plea to build extensions to the existing buildings which would take them within six inches or so of the other structures and let us fill in the gap with a self-help project was routinely and cruelly rejected. Base Civil Engineering can be so f**king heartless.)

    Sgt. Herrera found the radio staff in the record library: a small, windowless room almost entirely filled with tall shelves roughed out of plywood, and filled with 12-inch record discs in heavy white or manila shucks. A GSA metal utility office desk, and a couple of library card-file cabinets filled up the rest of the available space, which was adorned with outrageous and improbable news stories clipped from the finest and most unreliable tabloids, Far Side cartoons, and current hit charts from Billboard and Radio & Record. The morning guy was putting away the records that he had pulled for his show, the news guy was using the typewriter, and I was supervising it all, and prepping my playlist for the midday show.

    “The SPs want this on the air right away.” He handed the slip of paper to me. “The dogs are real dangerous.”
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in 25 Stories About Work, Humor, Miscellaneous | 5 Comments »

    A Neglected but Significant Anniversary (rerun)

    Posted by David Foster on 10th May 2015 (All posts by )

    ‘When the crocus blossoms,’ hiss the women in Berlin,
    ‘He will press the button, and the battle will begin.
    When the crocus blossoms, up the German knights will go,
    And flame and fume and filthiness will terminate the foe…
    When the crocus blossoms, not a neutral will remain.’

    (A P Herbert, Spring Song, quoted in To Lose a Battle, by Alistair Horne)

    On May 10, 1940, German forces launched an attack against Belgium, France, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg. Few people among the Allies imagined that France would collapse in only six weeks: Churchill, for example, had a high opinion of the fighting qualities of the French army. But collapse is what happened, of course, and we are still all living with the consequences. General Andre Beaufre, who in 1940 was a young Captain on the French staff, wrote in 1967:

    The collapse of the French Army is the most important event of the twentieth century.

    If it’s an exaggeration, it’s not much of one. If France had held up to the German assault as effectively as it was expected to do, World War II would probably have never reached the nightmare levels that it in fact did reach. The Hitler regime might well have fallen. The Holocaust would never have happened. Most likely, there would have been no Communist takeover of Eastern Europe.

    This campaign has never received much attention in America; it tends to be regarded as something that happened before the “real” war started. Indeed, many denizens of the Anglosphere seem to believe that the French basically gave up without a fight–which is a considerable exaggeration given the French casualties of around 90,000 killed and 200,000 wounded. But I think the fall of France deserves serious study, and that some of the root causes of the defeat are scarily relevant to today’s world.

    First, I will very briefly summarize the campaign from a military standpoint, and will then shift focus to the social and political factors involved in the defeat.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Britain, Europe, France, Germany, History, War and Peace | 15 Comments »

    Future History Friday — China’s “Days of Future Past” Come Closer

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 8th May 2015 (All posts by )

    Back on July 25, 2014 I posted a column here called “Future History Friday — China’s Coming “Days of Future Past” where I stated that China’s hyper-aggressiveness with its neighbors would make Japan act like a “normal nation,” increase its military defenses of the Southern Ryukyus and make military alliances with its neighbors to contain China. Today, a “flaming datum” of that prediction arrived. Japan has just announced steps to bring those “Days of Future Past” closer for China. The Japanese are moving to militarily garrison Miyako and Ishigaki with ground troops and mobile anti-ship missile batteries.

    JGSDF Type88 Anti-ship cruise missile in truck mobile launcher.  Batteries of which are to be deployed to the Southern Ryukyus islands.

    JGSDF Type88 Anti-ship cruise missile in truck mobile launcher. Batteries of which are to be deployed to the Southern Ryukyus islands. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

    See:

    Japan prepares to deploy troops on Miyako and Ishigaki|WantChinaTimes.com

    Watch Out, China: Japan Deploys 600 Troops, Missiles near Disputed Islands | The National Interest Blog

    The May-June 2015 Issue | The National Interest

    Miyako and Ishigaki were air bases for Imperial Japanese Army and Navy Kamikaze planes based on Formosa — modern day Taiwan — during the March – June 1945 Battle for Okinawa. Today, they are being prepared to support any operations Japan’s Self-Defense Forces are ordered to do by the Japanese government…including communications to and air support of Taiwan in case of a Mainland Chinese Invasion.

     A Google map of Miyako and Ishigaki islands, part of the Okinawa Prefecture.  They are now to be the site of mobile anti-ship cruise missile batteries.as well as ground troops to secure them

    A Google map of Miyako and Ishigaki islands, part of the Okinawa Prefecture. In March – June 1945 they were forward bases for Kamikazes attacking the US Navy. Today they are become the site of Japanese Self-Defense Force Type 88 Surface-to-Ship Missile Batteries, as well as Japanese ground troops to secure them.


    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in China, History, Japan, Military Affairs, National Security, USA, Vietnam, War and Peace | 13 Comments »

    Obamacare = Medicaid

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 8th May 2015 (All posts by )

    emergency

    I have been interested in health care reform for some time and have proposed a plan for reform. It is now too late for such a reform as Obamacare has engaged the political apparatus and sides have been taken. The Obamacare rollout was worse than anticipated and it was hoped that the Supreme Court would have mercy on the country, but that didn’t happen and it has been the law for two years.

    What has it accomplished ? Well, the forecast drop in ER visits hasn’t happened. It also didn’t happen in Massachusetts when that plan took effect.

    Wasn’t Obamacare supposed to solve the problem of people going to the ER for routine medical problems? We were told that if everyone had “healthcare” — either through the ACA exchanges or through Medicaid expansion — people would be able to go to their family doctors for routine care and emergency rooms would no longer be overrun by individuals who aren’t actually experiencing emergencies.

    As it turns out, Medicaid patients can’t get appointments with physicians.

    “America has severe primary care physician shortages, and many physicians will not accept Medicaid patients because Medicaid pays so inadequately,” said Michael Gerardi, MD, FAAP, FACEP, president of the ACEP.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Business, Health Care, Law Enforcement, Leftism, Medicine, Obama, Politics | 7 Comments »

    “McDonald’s was there for me when no one else was”

    Posted by Jonathan on 7th May 2015 (All posts by )

    This is a nice story that illustrates some important features of free markets:

    -Buyers of last resort, in this case buyers of labor, perform an important role that is not always appreciated by moralists who themselves have better options. To put it differently, McDonald’s is a vulture capitalist that lowballs labor markets and exploits vulnerable low-wage workers who lack better alternatives, and that’s a good thing. Those workers are better off employed at modest wages than unemployed at higher wages, as many of them will soon find out if McDonald’s is forced to raise its entry-level wages to accommodate proposed increases in legal minimums. The author of this piece deserves credit for his insight.

    -There is always a big market for inexpensive products of adequate quality that are made to high standards of consistency. If you are on the road or in a hurry or in an airport, a standardized McDonald’s burger for a buck or two can look pretty good as compared to no food or to an overpriced bagel or sandwich of unknown quality and freshness.

    -Tastes differ. The people who criticize McDonald’s for the quality of its food may not consider that many people actually like McDonald’s food.

    (Via Instapundit.)

    Posted in Business, Economics & Finance | 4 Comments »

    A Politically Incorrect US View of the UK Election

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 7th May 2015 (All posts by )

    It is hard to get any real news of the UK elections through the Patriots/Tim Brady deflated NFL football scandal and the on-going hate campaign against Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer for the “Thought Crime” of offensive to multiculturalism free speech after the Garland, Texas shootings. And for those that try, no one is explaining the rise of the Scottish National and United Kingdom Independence Parties and collapse of the Conservatives (AKA Tories), Labour and Liberal Democratic Party. And especially the across the boards collapse of Labour in its heartland of Scotland. The PBS News Hour last night spent five minutes on the subject and completely ignored the two monstrous political elephants in the UK political room.

    Labour’s Rotherham Horror, and Tory sex scandals as depicted in the UK political cartoon below —

    The Real issues of the UK Election -- Rotherham Horror & Tory Sex Scandals

    The Real issues of the UK Election — Rotherham Horror & Tory Sex Scandals

    As the UK Telegraph summarized:

    More than 1,400 children were sexually abused over a 16 year period by gangs of pedophiles after police and council bosses turned a blind eye for fear of being labelled racist, a damning report has concluded.
     
    Senior officials were responsible for “blatant” failures that saw victims, some as young as 11, being treated with contempt and categorised as being “out of control” or simply ignored when they asked for help.
     
    In some cases, parents who tried to rescue their children from abusers were themselves arrested. Police officers even dismissed the rape of children by saying that sex had been consensual.

    This was a 16-year (between 1997 at the beginning of the Blair premiership and ending in 2013) long orgy of organized pedophilia by a Pakistani Muslim gang targeting under age, poor, white females and was defacto officially sanctioned by the Labour run Rotherham Council government, UK social services and the UK Police. The defacto acts of ratification being the prosecution and removal of female children from parents trying to save their daughters from the aforementioned Pakistani Muslim pedophile prostitution ring. Then the attacking of the UK Daily Mail reporter Sue Reid as “racist” for talking to the families of the victims and publicizing those stories.

    This scandal has caused both the white working class and the white chav underclass in Scotland to abandon Labour en mass for the Scottish National Party (SNP) because they know that Labour will leave its children quite literally naked and defenseless before other “Asian” (the BBC code word for Pakistani and other non-white Muslim) gangs and that Labour will use the police to prevent the parents of those children from trying to save their kids.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Anglosphere, Britain, Current Events, Elections | 75 Comments »

    College Students Who Can’t Stand Challenge

    Posted by David Foster on 6th May 2015 (All posts by )

    A “safe space” at Brown University:

    The safe space, Ms. Byron explained, was intended to give people who might find comments “troubling” or “triggering,” a place to recuperate. The room was equipped with cookies, coloring books, bubbles, Play-Doh, calming music, pillows, blankets and a video of frolicking puppies, as well as students and staff members trained to deal with trauma. Emma Hall, a junior, rape survivor and “sexual assault peer educator” who helped set up the room and worked in it during the debate, estimates that a couple of dozen people used it. At one point she went to the lecture hall — it was packed — but after a while, she had to return to the safe space. “I was feeling bombarded by a lot of viewpoints that really go against my dearly and closely held beliefs,” Ms. Hall said.

    and at the University of Chicago:

    A few weeks ago, Zineb El Rhazoui, a journalist at Charlie Hebdo, spoke at the University of Chicago, protected by the security guards she has traveled with since supporters of the Islamic State issued death threats against her. During the question-and-answer period, a Muslim student stood up to object to the newspaper’s apparent disrespect for Muslims and to express her dislike of the phrase “I am Charlie.”

    Ms. El Rhazoui replied, somewhat irritably, “Being Charlie Hebdo means to die because of a drawing,” and not everyone has the guts to do that (although she didn’t use the word guts). She lives under constant threat, Ms. El Rhazoui said. The student answered that she felt threatened, too.

    A few days later, a guest editorialist in the student newspaper took Ms. El Rhazoui to task. She had failed to ensure “that others felt safe enough to express dissenting opinions.” Ms. El Rhazoui’s “relative position of power,” the writer continued, had granted her a “free pass to make condescending attacks on a member of the university.”

    Why do so many college students choose to “self-infantilize?”  Judith Shulevitz, author of the above-linked NYT article, quotes Eric Posner:

    Perhaps overprogrammed children engineered to the specifications of college admissions offices no longer experience the risks and challenges that breed maturity.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Human Behavior, Leftism | 31 Comments »

    Tired of it All

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 5th May 2015 (All posts by )

    So it seems that Baltimore (or maybe I should call it Balti-less) has decided to go all out, screw their civic courage to the sticking-point, and prosecute the police officers involved in the curious and to date unexplained death of Freddy Grey while in custody of those aforementioned officers for murder. Well, yay them, I suppose, although the fearless public prosecutor certainly may have overcharged in general and overcharged regarding the officers in charge, not to mention releasing the wrong personal details regarding two of those charged. Apparently, those details – age, middle initials, occupation, addresses, etc. are those of two completely different people with the same first and last name. This does not bode well, making a goof like this right off the bat.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Islam, Religion, Terrorism, The Press | 31 Comments »

    “Report: Federal Oil and Gas Production Down Significantly Under Obama”

    Posted by Jonathan on 5th May 2015 (All posts by )

    Lachlan Markay in the Washington Free Beacon:

    Oil and gas production on federal land continues to decline even as the United States experiences unprecedented growth in overall fossil fuel extraction, according to a federal report released on Monday.
     
    The Congressional Research Service found that oil production on federal land declined by 10 percent from 2010 to 2014 while production on private land increased by nearly 90 percent.
     
    Gas production on federal land decreased by 31 percent during the same period, while production on private land increased by 21 percent.

    (Via the API SmartBrief)

    Posted in Business, Energy & Power Generation, Obama, Politics | 9 Comments »

    Growing up in Chicago in the 1940s.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 5th May 2015 (All posts by )

    I grew up in a Chicago neighborhood called South Shore. At that time, 1943 to 1956, it was one of the nicest parts of the city. Now, now, it is a cesspool of crime.

    When my father moved us to the house at 7344 Paxton Avenue, I was 6 years old. The area was quiet and peaceful. Not far away was South Shore Country Club, a beautiful club that offered golf, skeet shooting and a horseback riding to members.

    ssold1

    It was a elegant place and I visited a few times but we were not eligible for membership because my father was in the business of owning and repairing juke boxes. That was not a respectable enough occupation. Prosperity was not the criterion. Los Angeles County Club has barred people from the entertainment business for the same reasons.

    Our home had been built in 1912 and still had gas lighting fittings in the bathroom and living room, as electrical lighting was still a bit suspect.

    Paxton

    This is the house many years after we were gone. It has had the front porch enclosed in brick. Otherwise, it looks much the same. The owner saw me taking a photo and came out to ask me who I was. He insisted on showing me through the house which has had some interior remodeling. He asked if I could send him photos of what it looked like when we lived there but most of my old pictures are home movies.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Chicagoania, Personal Narrative | 20 Comments »

    Rockford – At The Top in Illinois

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 4th May 2015 (All posts by )

    I grew up in Rockford, Illinois in the seventies. I lived what would now be considered a pretty rough existence. I ate hot dogs a lot, all of my “new” clothes came from the Salvation Army, our house was perpetually cold in the winter since we couldn’t afford to turn up the thermostat too high, etc. etc. But we all understood what we had to do, and I was never wanting.

    I sincerely feel that growing up in that sort of environment prepared me very well for my later life. Through a lot of hard work, I have become relatively successful, but remain rooted in reality – I would say that I am frugal, but not cheap. I hate waste.

    My parents sacrificed a lot to send me to a private Baptist school, and I later attended a private Assembly of God school. In the seventies and early eighties, certain areas of Rockford were very rough. I saw the neighborhood I grew up in transform from one that would be considered your typical All American Neighborhood, to one that had half torn down houses, open air drug dealing and all the rest. We left that area for a better one out by the airport. When much of the heavy manufacturing base left, so did many of the good things that came with it in Rockford. But the people didn’t really change that much.

    Boy was I in for an awakening when I moved just 70 miles to the north to Madison, Wisconsin. Completely different deal to be sure. It was really quite the culture shock. I still laugh to myself when I see things in Madison that I consider strange. But I digress.

    The video below talks about some of the old manufacturing base in Rockford and even shows the (still) beautiful Sinnissippi Gardens, along with some of the hotels and other buildings that I recognized from my youth that were repurposed by the time I was growing up, and have been repurposed again since. My wife and I had our first real date at the Sinnissippi gardens where I bought her a – hot dog – for lunch. Rockford wasn’t all bad. I made it work.

    Posted in Personal Narrative, Video | 14 Comments »

    Virtual Book Review: Tess of the d’Urbervilles

    Posted by David Foster on 3rd May 2015 (All posts by )

    Tess of the D’Urbervilles, by Thomas Hardy

    I reread this book a couple of years ago (having originally read it in high school), and had intended to write a review of it one of these days.  The review recently posted at Powerline, though, is so good that I think I’ll just link it and save myself the trouble:

    The passion of “Tess”

    WWW hyperlinks:  enabling laziness since 1994

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Book Notes, Britain | 8 Comments »

    25 Stories About Work – It’s All About Cash Flow (Part II, Large Companies)

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 3rd May 2015 (All posts by )

    I was recently on a plane doodling and thought of some funny / interesting stories from 25+ years of working and traveling. So I decided to write them up as short, random chapters of a non-book with the title of this post. Hope you enjoy them and / or find them interesting. Certainly the value will be at least equal to the marginal cost of the book (zero)…

    The USA, early 1990s to mid 2010s

    When we have new staff I usually orientate them on the concept that

    You should assume that many outside vendors who bill us don’t care about getting paid

    Although this concept seems astonishing and against basic capitalist principles, it is often the case.  While each vendor is different, a share of the vendors bill us months and months after the fact and often the bills are incorrect and  incomplete.  Sometimes we have to initiate the process and call the companies to demand the invoices, so that we can match them to the purchase documents and receipts, as well as check the taxes, quantities and costing components.  If we don’t reach out to these laggard vendors and push for complete and accurate billing, we will have a crisis on our hands quarterly when we attempt to accrue for what we are owed and sort through months and months of late and incomplete bills and partial payments.

    The only time some of the vendors start to care about collections is when the bills are so delayed that the sales teams’ commissions are at risk.  At that point the company typically springs into action and is “Johnny on the spot” attempting to reach out to resolve any issues because the sales teams at the vendor have significant power in the organization and complain with vehemence whenever their compensation is at risk.

    While some vendors are laggards on collections, they all are focused on closing deals at the end of each quarter so that they can “book” these deals as revenue per accounting purposes.  There are criteria that must be met (the hardware must be shipped from their dock) but the firms will generally stay up all night or jump through whatever bureaucratic hoops are necessary to complete the deals for that quarter.

    These notes specifically apply to public companies that aren’t in major financial distress.  These companies are aligned to GAAP principles, which focus on earnings and not cash collections, so they often don’t stress timely and accurate invoicing and collection of their bills.

    On the other hand – private companies or those that have been taken over by hedge funds and other sorts of shrewder operators, are completely focused on cash flow.  If you are a private company, earnings matter (especially if you are “prettying” it up for sale) but CASH IS KING.  Private equity investors like to pay themselves cash dividends out of the companies they acquire, so they definitely sweat the timing of payments and keep a close handle on cash flow.  These same private companies also work strenuously to minimize taxes which stand in the way of dividend payments to the owner.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in 25 Stories About Work | 5 Comments »

    The Gypsy Marketplace

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 3rd May 2015 (All posts by )

    Over the last year or so, my daughter and I have moved deeper into the world of the gypsy entrepreneur market. Of course, I’ve been dabbling around the edges for a while, as an independent author, once I realized that there was more to be made – and a lot less ego-death involved – by taking a table at a local craft fair, especially those which occur around the end of the year, deliberately planned to enable the amicable separation of their money from someone shopping for suitable seasonal gifts. The first of these that I participated in – strictly book events, like the West Texas Book and Music Festival in Abilene – involved only a table and a chair. It was incumbent on the authors, though, to bring some signage, informational flyers, postcards and business cards, and perhaps eye-catching to adorn the table. But a couple of years ago, my daughter started a little business making various origami ornaments, flowers and jewelry, and last year we decided to partner together at the community market events within driving distance, and within our ability to play three-dimensional Tetris in fitting everything into the back of the Montero. It helps to have two people doing this kind of event, by the way – you can spell each other, make jaunts to other venders, go to the bathroom – and setting up and breaking down is much, much easier.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Business, Conservatism, Markets and Trading, Personal Finance, Personal Narrative, USA | 7 Comments »

    Recent Stock Moves

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 3rd May 2015 (All posts by )

    Over at Trust Funds for Kids I commented on some recent stock moves and the rally in China…
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in China, Economics & Finance | 3 Comments »

    The Energy Crisis in Africa.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 3rd May 2015 (All posts by )

    india-solar-power-2012-640x426

    This is a powerful piece on the cost of environmental extremism to the world’s poor.

    The soaring [food] prices were actually exacerbated (as the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN confirmed) by the diversion of much of the world’s farmland into making motor fuel, in the form of ethanol and biodiesel, for the rich to salve their green consciences. Climate policies were probably a greater contributor to the Arab Spring than climate change itself.

    The use of ethanol in motor fuels is an irrational response to “green propaganda. The energy density of biofuel, as ethanol additives are called, is low resulting in the use of more and more ethanol and less and less arable land for food.

    Without abundant fuel and power, prosperity is impossible: workers cannot amplify their productivity, doctors cannot preserve vaccines, students cannot learn after dark, goods cannot get to market. Nearly 700 million Africans rely mainly on wood or dung to cook and heat with, and 600 million have no access to electric light. Britain with 60 million people has nearly as much electricity-generating capacity as the whole of sub-Saharan Africa, minus South Africa, with 800 million.

    South Africa is quickly destroying its electricity potential with idiotic racist policies.

    Just to get sub-Saharan electricity consumption up to the levels of South Africa or Bulgaria would mean adding about 1,000 gigawatts of capacity, the installation of which would cost at least £1 trillion. Yet the greens want Africans to hold back on the cheapest form of power: fossil fuels. In 2013 Ed Davey, the energy secretary, announced that British taxpayers will no longer fund coal-fired power stations in developing countries, and that he would put pressure on development banks to ensure that their funding policies rule out coal. (I declare a commercial interest in coal in Northumberland.)
    In the same year the US passed a bill prohibiting the Overseas Private Investment Corporation — a federal agency responsible for underwriting American companies that invest in developing countries — from investing in energy projects that involve fossil fuels.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Crony Capitalism, Energy & Power Generation, Environment, International Affairs, Leftism, Politics, Science | 3 Comments »

    Introducing: Asabiyah

    Posted by T. Greer on 2nd May 2015 (All posts by )

    This post was originally published at The Scholar’s Stage on 2 May 2015. It has been re-posted here without alteration.

    If mankind is, as has been claimed since ancient days, a species driven by the narrow passions of self interest, what holds human society together as one cohesive whole? How can a community of egoists, each devoted to nothing but his or her own ambition, thrive? Or for that matter, long exist?


    Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury thought he knew the answer.

    John Michael Wright, Thomas Hobbes (17th c).

    Image Source

    Hobbes is famous for his dismal view of human nature. But contrary to the way he is often portrayed, Hobbes did not think man was an inherently evil being, defiled by sin or defined by vileness ingrained in his nature. He preferred instead to dispense with all ideas of good and evil altogether, claiming “these words of good, evil, and contemptible, are ever used with relation to the person that useth them, there being nothing simply and absolutely so; nor any common rule of good and evil, to be taken from the nature of the objects themselves; but from the person of the man.” [1] Only a superior power,  “an arbitrator of judge, whom men disagreeing shall by consent set up” might have the coercive force to make one meaning of right the meaning used by all. Absent such a “common power”, the world is left in a condition that Hobbes famously described as “war of every man against every man” where they can be no right, no law, no justice, and “no propriety, no dominion, no ‘mine’ and ‘thine’ distinct, but only that to be every man’s that he can get, and for so long as he can keep it.” [2]

    This description of the wretched State of Nature is familiar to most who have studied in the human sciences at any length. Also well known is Hobbes’s  solution to the challenge posed by anarchy:

    [Those in this state will] appoint one man, or assembly of men, to bear their person; and every one to own and acknowledge himself to be author of whatsoever he that so beareth their person shall act, or cause to be acted, in those things which concern the common peace and safety; and therein to submit their wills, every one to his will, and their judgements to his judgement. This is more than consent, or concord; it is a real unity of them all in one and the same person, made by covenant of every man with every man, in such manner as if every man should say to every man: I authorise and give up my right of governing myself to this man, or to this assembly of men, on this condition; that thou give up, thy right to him, and authorise all his actions in like manner. This done, the multitude so united in one person is called a COMMONWEALTH; in Latin, CIVITAS. [3]

    What is most striking in Hobbes’ vision of this State of Nature and the path by which humanity escapes it is his complete dismissal of any form of cooperation before sovereign authority is established. Neither love nor religious zeal holds sway in the world Hobbes describes, and he has no more use for ties of blood or oaths of brotherhood than he does for the words right and wrong. He does concede that if faced with large enough of an outside threat fear may drive many “small families” to band together in one body for defense. However, the solidarity created by an attack or invasion is ephemeral–once the threat fades away so will the peace. “When there is no common enemy, they make war upon each other for their particular interests” just as before. [4] Hobbes allows for either a society dominated by a sovereign state or for a loose collection of isolated individuals pursuing private aims.
     
    Hobbes’ dichotomy is not presented merely as a thought experiment, but as a description of how human society actually works. Herein lies Hobbes’ greatest fault. Today we know a great deal about the inner workings of non-state societies, and they are not as Hobbes described them. The man without a state is not a man without a place; he is almost always part of a village, a tribe, a band, or a large extended family. He has friends, compatriots, and fellows that he trusts and is willing to sacrifice for. His behavior is constrained by the customs and mores of his community; he shares with this community ideas of right and wrong and is often bound quite strictly by the oaths he makes. He does cooperate with others. When he and his fellows have been mobilized in great enough numbers their strength has often shattered the more civilized societies arrayed before them.

    The social contract of Hobbes’ imagination was premised on a flawed State of Nature. The truth is that there never has been a time when men and women lived without ties of kin and community to guide their deeds and restrain their excess, and thus there never  could be a time when atomized individuals gathered together to surrender their liberty to a sovereign power. Hobbes mistake is understandable; both he and the social contract theorists that followed in his footsteps (as well as the Chinese philosophers who proposed something close to a state of nature several thousand years earlier) lived in an age where Leviathan was not only ascendent but long established. They were centuries removed from societies that thrived and conquered without a state. [5]

    To answer the riddle of how individuals “continually in competition for honour and dignity” could form cohesive communities without a “a visible power to keep them in awe, and tie them by fear of punishment to the performance of their covenants,” [6] or why such communities might eventually create a “common power” nonetheless, we must turn to those observers of mankind more familiar with lives spent outside the confines of the state.  Many worthies have attempted to address this question since Hobbes’ say, but there is only one observer of human affairs who can claim to have solved the matter before Hobbes ever put pen to paper. Centuries before Hobbes’s birth he scribbled away, explaining to all who would hear that there was one aspect of humanity that explained not only how barbarians could live proudly without commonwealth and the origin of the kingly authority that ruled civilized climes, but also the rise and fall of peoples, kingdoms, and entire civilizations across the entirety of human history. He would call this asabiyah. 
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    Posted in Book Notes, Deep Thoughts, History, Human Behavior, Middle East, Political Philosophy, War and Peace | 12 Comments »

    Baltimore’s Lose-Lose choice

    Posted by Mrs. Davis on 2nd May 2015 (All posts by )

    Now that charges have been brought against the 6 officers involved Baltimore’s streets will return to their state of a month ago. But there will be a trial and that trial will have a significant impact on the direction of Baltimore’s future. The trial has three possible outcomes:

    First, the trial can be seen by most to have been fair and just.

    Second, the trial results in acquittals seen to be unjust by the city black community.

    Third, the trial can result in convictions seen outside Baltimore as unjust.

    The first seems least likely based on Ms Mosby’s performance announcing the charges on May Day. But in the event the prosecution and trial are depoliticized Baltimore could resume its leisurely contraction into a bedroom community for Washington D. C.

    But if either the second or third options eventuate they could turn Baltimore into a much different place. Acquittals would reignite rioting on the scale of 1968. A kangaroo court would indicate that the rule of law had degenerated into tribal justice. In either event, the abandonment of Baltimore by private employers and what’s left of its middle class would accelerate.

    Headquarters are important to a community. They provide the leaders who are committed to the health of the community. When the head of every organization has eyes on promotion to a bigger job closer to headquarters there is not the continuity or commitment necessary to make the long term investments to support the young and less fortunate in the community. Today of the 25 largest employers headquartered in Baltimore only three are not education, government or healthcare related; T. Rowe Price, the mutual fund company, and Broadway Services and Abacus, security guard and janitorial contracting firms. Johns Hopkins won’t be able to do it alone.

    This lack of headquarters also indicates that there is little economic reason for Baltimore to exist. The primary force in Baltimore is inertia leading to ever greater entropy. All solutions are temporary and Baltimore no longer solves a problem.

    So, if Baltimore’s judicial environment begins to look more and more like Dodge City circa 1880 and it has little economic opportunity, who will stay? Disinvestment and declining tax base will result in inadequate funds to provide even minimal services to an increasingly needy and unassimilated population. Financial support will increasingly come from sources other than the city itself, primarily the Federal government. Sounds like an Indian reservation to me. And Baltimore will not be alone in this transition, only first.

    When I lived there the local brew, Natty Boh, advertised to its market as the Land of Pleasant Living. Now it ain’t even got charm, hon.

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Law | 18 Comments »

    New! – Your Overcaffeinated Reality-Based Haiku Extravaganza

    Posted by Jonathan on 1st May 2015 (All posts by )

    How to disconnect?
    “Windows can’t stop your volume”
    Just turn the thing off

    —-

    “TSA Pre-Check”
    It’s like receiving a gift
    That leaves your shoes on

    —-

    On TV shows now
    It’s easy to spot the tropes
    From Manosphere blogs

    —-

    Midget urinals,
    Terrible low-flow toilets –
    Can’t we do better?

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    Posted in Poetry | 3 Comments »

    War in Heaven at Art of Future Warfare

    Posted by Charles Cameron on 1st May 2015 (All posts by )

    My science fiction piece, War in Heaven, was a finalist in the Atlantic Council’s Art of Future Warfare contest. You can read it here:

    http://artoffuturewarfare.org/2015/04/war-in-heaven/

    A taste below…

    ** ** **

    And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.
    — Revelation 12:7

    .

    The humans who nano-uploaded their minds — more accurately brains — were aware, as their uploads were not, that whatever their uploads “felt” was not also felt by them, nor was this awareness available to their uploads, once launched into space. The uploads, meanwhile, nano-burrowed deep into their designated asteroid, and continued to experience the unpleasant symptoms of phantom limbs and recursive Beatles songs, which drove them into a state known to their human progenitors, roughly speaking, as madness. Nano-small as they indeed were, they felt themselves masters of their own destiny and thus infinite in significance, and after some made futile attempts to maim others using legs, feet, fists and teeth they did not possess, the time came when, pretty much en masse, they committed Off.

    If at first you don’t succeed…

    **

    Typo, our Art of Future War theoretician mused as she read the Atlantic Council’s latest Challenge, Space and Interstellar Conflict — they must mean Spice Wars. Sun of Future Tzu is what they’ve asked for, Sun of Future War they’ll get.\

    She trans-historicized and began to channel…

    **

    Holy Russia, having more or less won the Great War of Faith against Unbelief (2025-37 with continuing skirmishes), was in a commanding position to colonize and mine the moon — but a few of the Disbelieving remained, holed out in a substantial cave in the Rocky Mountains impervious to tactical nukes — and plotted revenge. They had many scientists among them, not persuaded by the mumbo jumbo of spirit and sacrament, worshippers at the altars of calculus and calibration, and though their rocketry was primitive in manufacture it was devastating in its impact.

    They pitched swarms of tiny projectiles at the great Factory-Maker-Walker-Mines of the Holy Rus Empire, and diligent application of mosquito-like stings brought the great temples of Empire to their knees. Some claim the strategy derived from one Paul (or Jack) van Ripper, some from a treatise on statecraft named The Once and Future King – no matter, it worked beyond belief.

    The Rus, under the Tsar Rus Putin IV, finally gave up on the moon and moved their Makers to Mars, thereby gaining the Twenty Years Respite (2054-76) in which they could build their uninhabited civilization unhindered. But how could the sacramental nature of Rus spirituality, Orthodox to the core, flourish in a terraformed world of lively auto-conscious machines?

    It was the Great Fool, St Basil II, whose limericks and nudity finally collapsed peasant belief in the Tsar’s omnipotence, dislodged the siloviki in the Second Great Revolution (2077-79) with the battle-cry “the Tsar is naked” (aided by pitchforks, rifles, grenades), and led to the Regular Folks Tribunals which denounced space travel and sent Folks’ Greetings to the embattled Final Americans deep within Cheyenne Mountain.

    Meanwhile, the Holy Rus Factory-Maker-Walker-Mines mined on, preparing Mars for habitation that was fated never to occur.

    **

    Words are many, worlds are many more, if possible.

    ** ** **

    [ and more… ]

    Posted in Uncategorized | 9 Comments »

    History Friday — MacArthur’s 5th Air Force Indian Code Talkers

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 1st May 2015 (All posts by )

    The amazing thing about General MacArthur’s South West Pacific Area (SWPA) Theater is how amazingly bad the histories on it are. The place spun off more under or unreported “will-o-the-wisp” logistical and intelligence institutions than any four Hollywood movie franchises threw out sequels. You could add together the Fast & Furious, Star Wars and Marvel Superhero movie sequels and still be low.

    Today’s column on the 5th Air Force provisional American Indian code talker unit started during a hunt for the radar hunting Field Units of Section 22 — the SWPA theater electronic intelligence organization — and found this specially trained for the invasion of Japan unit of the “Vth Bomber Command”** by accident. Other research I had done showed Section 22 transferred all of its US Army Air Force and US Navy field units back to the respective services. To track that transition, I was looking through a Air Force Historical Research Agency (AFHRA) digitized microfilm, REEL A7509, on the history of the 5th Air forces “Vth Bomber Command” for April through September 1945. On pages 1318 and 1319 of 1841 I ran into the following —

    Experiments are being conducted in the use of teams of American Indians to be used for communications between this headquarters and headquarters of Subordinate unite in case telephone lines go out of operation or, in case of moves, until regular lines of communications can be installed. Indians with various units of the V Bomber Command have been assembled at this headquarters where a course in communications is being conducted. It is expected that the Indians, speaking in their native language, will be used to pass administrative traffic talking in the place of codes on the Frequency Modulation Voice circuit.

    In some ways it isn’t surprising that the Vth Bomber Command turned to Indian code talkers. At the direction of General MacArthur. the radio platoon of the 302nd reconnaissance Troop, 1st Cavalry Division recruited Lakota and Dakota Indians who used their Sioux language to communicate to other Divisional Headquarters troops. MacArthur also did the same with Navajo Alamo Scout graduates who returned to the Intelligence and Reconnaissance Platoon of the 158th Regimental Combat Team (RCT).

    General Douglas MacArthur with Native American Alamo Scout course graduates Jan 1944 (Signal Corps Photo via Wikipedia)

    General Douglas MacArthur with Native American Alamo Scout training course graduates. Jan 1944 (Signal Corps Photo via Wikipedia)


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    Posted in History, Military Affairs, Miscellaneous, National Security, Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

    Shawyer Space Drive…Arriving.

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 1st May 2015 (All posts by )

    A science fiction writer acquaintance of mine, John Ringo, is already going nuts about this “Shawyer Drive” on his Facebook page, because he
    is friends with one of the scientists involved.

    See power point page and the links below:

    Magnetron driven, reaction massless, "Shawyer Drive"

    Magnetron driven, reaction massless, “Shawyer Drive”

    Magnetron powered EM-drive construction expected to take two months
    http://nextbigfuture.com/2015/04/magnetron-powered-em-drive-construction.html

    Emdrive Roger Shawyer believes midterm EMdrive interstellar probe could flyby Alpha Centauri
    http://nextbigfuture.com/2015/04/emdrive-roger-shawyer-believes-midterm.html

    The drive seems to be a quantum “zero-point energy” phenomena that you put electricity into and get reaction massless thrust out of.

    _AND_ it looks to be both scalable and improvable with better magnetrons.

    This is also dovetailing nicely with a Lockheed Martin compact fusion reactor that

    1. Generates more power than it uses and
    2. Produces something on the order of 7.4 megawatts

    See:

    http://www.lockheedmartin.com/us/products/compact-fusion.html
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_beta_fusion_reactor

    Given the reality of Space X’s and Blue Origin’s reusable rocket successes, and it seems that Mankind is about to burst out from this planet in a very big way.

    See:

    http://www.spacex.com/news
    http://www.wired.com/2015/04/jeff-bezos-blue-origin-just-launched-flagship-rocket/

    And all of the above is driving John Ringo to despair on his science fiction writing career.

    Posted in Civil Society, Current Events, Deep Thoughts, Energy & Power Generation, Entrepreneurship, Miscellaneous, Science, Society, Space | 13 Comments »