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  • Archive for September, 2018

    Done With Feminism

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 30th September 2018 (All posts by )

    I am done with officially-sanctioned, automatically-expected-full-throated solidarity with other women no matter what the issue or complaint. I am done with the whole reproductive-health-motte-and-bailey-abortion-sacrament. I am more than done with women who think that the crusade for political, legal, and educational equality is merely an excuse to be viciously-manipulative bitches to those men unfortunate enough to be involved with them personally. I am also so done with women who are of an inter-connected social class sufficiently well-to-do to have had damn-near everything handed to them on a silver platter, complaining at an ear-splitting level about being downtrodden and oppressed; this when women in the Middle East must wear burkas out in public, have to be escorted when out in public by a male relative … and oh, yes – sold as sex slaves in Daesh/ISIL markets, or routinely have their clitorises excised. I am also done, by the way, with female protesters done up in cheap red-cloak and white bonnet costumes drawn from a bad dystrophic novel by a Canadian who knows f**k-all about the American Protestant tradition. (I’d respect Margaret Atwood ever so much more if she had done her Handmaids’ Tale schtick in an Islamic setting, but I guess she isn’t all that brave about having a fatwah declared on her. Pity.)

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 39 Comments »

    Women Are All Precious Flowers Now

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 28th September 2018 (All posts by )

    I always like to get my wife’s take on things, as she is smart, good looking and, frankly, I way outkicked my coverage, so to say, in my choice of spouses.

    In watching some of the Kavanaugh hearings yesterday I asked her opinion on the whole deal. She says that pretty much every female she knows (herself included) got groped at some time in their lives but all have moved on from things that happened oh so long ago. She also says that this circus will severely damage any claims by, well, pretty much any female that may have been actually sexually abused in the past. “What happened to strong women? Are we all precious flowers now that must be so delicately handled?”

    My wife also doesn’t think that Kavanaugh actually did said groping – but that even if he did, it was in high school some 3.5 decades ago so, well, bfd.

    Her social media feeds have exploded with vitriol. I am glad I deleted my facebook account some time ago. I am sure it is awful.

    That is one strong woman’s viewpoint – I would love to hear from some of our other what I would consider strong women contributors here on their take of the situation.

    Posted in Current Events | 73 Comments »

    Seth Barrett Tillman: Peak Conlawprof (I) and (II)

    Posted by Jonathan on 27th September 2018 (All posts by )

    https://reformclub.blogspot.com/2018/09/peak-conlawprof-i-and-ii.html

    Too short to quote; worth clicking.

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    Posted in Law, Leftism, Politics | 3 Comments »

    A Reductio ad Absurdum of the “Progressive” Categorization Obsession

    Posted by David Foster on 25th September 2018 (All posts by )

    Here’s a “lifeboat” exercise for students at an Ohio middle school.  The scenario is that Earth is doomed–a spaceship is escaping, but there is only room for 8 passengers out of the original 12 who were selected.  Students were required to choose who should go and who should stay, based on such descriptive criteria as:

    –“an accountant with a substance abuse problem”
    –“a militant Afro-American medical student”
    –“a female movie star who was recently the victim of a sexual assault”
    –“an Asian, orphaned 12-year-old boy”

    etc etc

    Note that these descriptions are mainly about demographics categories and sexual preferences/behavior/experiences, and about attitudes toward these things.  There’s a little about occupations, not much about skills, and very little indeed about personality and behavior.  We are a long way here from Martin Luther King’s dictum about judging people by the content of their character rather than by the color of their skin.

    The above may be a particularly egregious example, but this kind of thinking has become quite common in American universities.  Administrators, along with substantial parts of the faculties and now also the student populations, tend to view people through exactly this kind of lenses.  I’m reminded of the University of Delaware indoctrinator who became rather disturbed when one of his indoctrinees responsed to the question “When were you first made aware of your race?” with  “That is irrelevant to everything. My race is human being” and  “When did you discover your sexual identity?” with “That is none of your damn business”…and, most significantly, responded to  “When was a time you felt oppressed? Who was oppressing you? How did you feel? with this:

    “I am oppressed everyday on basis of my undying and devout feelings for the opera”

    …which elegantly makes the point that people are more than the sum of their demographic categories, and that the things that result in their “oppression” or “privileging” are often things other than those categories.  I greatly admire this young woman’s courage.

    This sort of thing may have started in odd corners of American universities, but has now become one of the defining characteristics of those universities, and has substantially spilled out with toxic effects for the entire society.

     

    Posted in Academia, Leftism, USA | 15 Comments »

    ChicagoBoyz Waiting Room Series 13 – Improved With Music Selections!

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 24th September 2018 (All posts by )

    The Waiting Room DJ was not kind to me – songs on PA while I waited:

    Sharp Dressed Man – ZZ Top
    Love Rollercoaster – Ohio Players
    Waterloo – ABBA
    Hold Me – Fleetwood Mac
    Baby Blue – Badfinger
    Conga – Miami Sound Machine

    Mercifully, I only made it halfway through “Conga” and it was my turn.

    Posted in Photos, Waiting Rooms | 11 Comments »

    Humor…Machine and Human

    Posted by David Foster on 23rd September 2018 (All posts by )

    There have been some articles lately, in Financial Times and The Wall Street Journal for example, concerning efforts to give Artificial Intelligence systems something resembling a simulated sense of humor.

    Interesting research, perhaps, but at this juncture I’m less concerned above providing a sense of humor for AI systems than maintaining a sense of humor for human beings.  Several professional comedians have commented about the increasing difficulty of doing comedy in an environment of hysterical political correctness.  But even more important is the degree to which fear of denunciation and mobbing seems to be affecting personal life and workplace behavior.

    Effective organizations, at least in this country, have tended to involve a certain level of easy interaction–including kidding around–among people.  What happens when we lose this?

    I suspect that the productivity impact, although hard to measure directly, will be quite significant.  As will the impact on the happiness and mental health of individual humans.

    Posted in Business, Deep Thoughts, Human Behavior, Leftism, Management | 9 Comments »

    Something Nasty in the Woodshed

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 21st September 2018 (All posts by )

    The Kavanaugh-Ford-Feinstein kerfuffle appears to be this week’s progressive-tantrum du-jour, just as the Kavanaugh hearing itself was of last week, and John McCain’s funeral and epic post-mortem diss of his former running mate was that of the week before. The whole thing – a hazily recalled teenage memory of a clumsy grope at a booze-fueled suburban bacchanal – reminds me nothing so much as Great Aunt Ada Doom in Cold Comfort Farm and her incessant insistence on having “seen something nasty in the woodshed” which sight so traumatized her that she was able to ride roughshod over the rest of the clan at Cold Comfort for decades. What the ‘something nasty in the woodshed’ was is never actually described in the story – but Great Aunt Ada wields her hysterical claim of having suffered from it with the expertise of a master in conducting guided guilt trips through most of the book, until she is talked down from her room by the clever heroine.
    Read the rest of this entry »

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    Posted in Civil Society, Just Unbelievable, Politics | 55 Comments »

    New! – Your Vaguely Stressed-Out Middle Class Post-20th Century Haikus

    Posted by Jonathan on 21st September 2018 (All posts by )

    Bless our New Age friends!
    You need cancer remedies,
    They suggest. . . massage.

    —-

    It’s the Age of Waze:
    Rush hour turns across traffic,
    Third World risk taking.

    —-

    Windows networking –
    Still a huge pain in the ass.
    Some things never change.

    —-

    Turns out your girlfriend
    Ran an asset search on you.
    Time to hit the road?
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Poetry | 11 Comments »

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Jonathan on 20th September 2018 (All posts by )

    “Of course they make a ton of money, they’re a non profit.”

    (Said by a friend who used to work for a nonprofit organization.)

    Posted in Business, Quotations | 6 Comments »

    Truman Show World

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 18th September 2018 (All posts by )

    Or maybe “The Matrix” would be more accurate.  I’m not that conversant.

    Part of me feels some obligation to weigh in on the accusations against Brett Kavanaugh. Because of both profession and interest, I do know something about the reliability of memory, and of trauma memories in specific. I do know something about trauma and the range of behaviors people show afterward. I know less, though still more than average, about people lying and being evasive. Being the Assistant Village Idiot, I am also at least better than average at noticing simple things (though still not good enough); in particular, things that do not fit together. Why did various actors do X and not Y? Readers might expect me to weigh in on such matters, in hopes of sorting things out for themselves. Or at least that’s what we tell ourselves. In reality, most of you have already formed an opinion of what is most likely true, what is inconclusive, and what is false. Inconclusive often does not last long in the human mind. We have to make an effort to stand back and hold pieces aloft and separate, or we just automatically move to one story or another. We must fit everything into a story. We can decide to say that something is simply unknown and unlikely to ever be known, and thus put irresolution to bed, but this takes more effort.

    I refrain now because my knowledge is general, and we have moved beyond that. Had I been paying attention the first 24 hours I might have provided value-added by posting on the general questions, which would help others move toward More Likely/Less Likely. Even at that, I would not have been able to provide anyone with answers. General knowledge on such topics involves on-the-one-hand, on-the-other-hand discussions. Women who have been in similar circumstances usually do X; but not all women do. Some women do Y or Z. Memories are usually reliable in this circumstance, but unreliable in that circumstance. We are beyond that because this is now a specific accuser, who we can discover information about. What “women usually do” is much less of an issue. It is a mere indicator, not real evidence for this day and time.

    Of the many things that bother me, the failure to recognize this distinction may be at the top. A letter from 65 women who knew Brett Kavanaugh when he was young, asserting that he was an unfailing gentleman, is minor evidence that his character is inconsistent with this action. A similar letter from the opposite POV, asserting that Brett was a known problem when he had a few drinks in him would likewise be minor evidence that such things were possible. Neither would be proof, but they have some value. The letter signed by 200 women who went to this woman’s school, spanning years both before and after the alleged incident in question and noting that it feels like their experience, is not in the same category. It is worse than useless, because it stirs up people into thinking that this is germane. The question before the Senate, and thus before the country, is not a referendum on whether men in general are likely to do these things or women in general are likely to misrepresent them. The same would be true of a counter-letter signed by 200 males from Kavanaugh’s school asserting that Holton girls have been making false accusations for years and they’re sick of it. In both cases it’s irrelevant, even if true. Even if all 200 women had bad experiences, even if all 200 men had been falsely accused, it tells us nothing about this case. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 21 Comments »

    Indy-Writing Scene; 2018

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 18th September 2018 (All posts by )

    The indy-author scene is not the only thing which has radically changed over the last decade; just the one that I know the best, through having the great good fortune to start as an indy author just when it was economically and technologically possible. It used to be that there were two means of being a published author. There was the traditional and most-respected way, through submission to a publishing house – which, if you were fortunate enough to catch the eye and favor of an editor, meant a contract and an advance, maybe a spot on the much-vaunted New York Times best-seller list. This was a method which – according to the old-timers – worked fairly well, up until a certain point. Some writers who have been around in the game for a long time say that when publishing houses began viewing books as commodities like cereal brands and ‘pushing’ certain brands with favored places on the aisles and endcaps, and treating authors as interchangeable widgets – that’s when the traditional model began to falter. Other experts say that it began when tax law changed to make it expensive to retain inventory in a warehouse. It was no longer profitable to maintain a goodly stock of mid-list authors with regular, if modest sales. Mainstream publishing shifted to pretty much the mindset of Hollywood movie producers, putting all their bets on a straight diet of blockbusters and nothing but blockbusters.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Book Notes, Business, Diversions, Entrepreneurship, Internet, Marketing | 13 Comments »

    Summer Rerun: The Five-Pound Butterfly Revisited

    Posted by David Foster on 17th September 2018 (All posts by )

    Several years ago, the WSJ wrote about the tendency of many companies to do hiring based on a long string of highly-specific (and excessively-specific) requirements. One person interviewed remarked that “Companies are looking for a five-pound butterfly. Not finding them doesn’t mean there is a shortage of butterflies.”

    Since that article was written, the five-pound butterfly effect has probably gotten worse rather than better in the business world. (Until very recently–see below.)  But hunting for five-pound butterflies also seems to be increasingly affecting other areas of life, including college admissions and the search for love and marriage.

    First I’ll talk about the five-pound butterfly effect in a business context and then develop its applicability to other areas. The WSJ article mentioned a company that makes automobile bumper parts and was looking for a factory shift supervisor. They eliminated all candidates who didn’t have a BS degree, even though many had relevant experience, and also insisted on experience with the specific manufacturing software that was in use at the plant. It took six months to fill this job (during which time the position was being filled by someone who wouldn’t ultimately be chosen for it.) Another company, Wabtec, which makes components for railcars and buses, insisted on knowledge of a specific version of the computer-aided design system it uses, even though the differences between that version and the earlier version were not all that great.

    And as the article (which focused mainly on engineering jobs) didn’t mention…there were certainly talented salespeople who didn’t get hired this week because they lacked specific experience with the particular sales automation or customer resource management system being used..knowledge that they could have easily picked up during their first week or two on the job.

    As I said in my original post inspired by the WSJ article: It’s a basic reality of life that you can’t optimize everything at once. So, if you insist on a perfect fit for certain things, you are probably getting less of some other attributes–and these may be ones that matter more. I’d personally rather have a salesman who has demonstrated (for example) skill at managing the customer politics in a large and complex sale than one who has specific experience with the Snarkolator CRM system. It’s a lot easier to train for the second than for the first.

    Similarly, if a newly-hired mechanical engineer doesn’t work out, the cause will probably not be his lack of experience with the latest version of a CAD system. More likely, it will be a lack of good design intuition…or poor interpersonal skills…or an inability to integrate mechanical design with electrical and electronics aspects of the same product…or fit with the cultural style of the organization. Maybe he comes from an environment where he was closely supervised, and the new environment is more open and requires more self-starting…or vice versa. These things are not easily represented in “checklist” form, as is knowledge of a specific software package and version, but they matter a lot. The problem with increasingly long lists of requirements is that they tend to shortchange those things that cannot be easily compressed into a yes/no format, and also tend to screen out potential employees whose extreme excellence on certain criteria could well make up for their deficiencies in others.

    Moving from work to love…there are apparently a lot of single people (especially women, it seems) who have developed long checklists for prospective partners. (It’s rumored that one woman had something like 350 items on her “mandatory” list.) As in the work environment, long checklists tend to delay the search..but more important, they can shortchange the factors that matter most. If someone insists on a prospective husband who is an investment banker with a good sense of humor and cooks gourmet meals and really likes kids, then she might, if she is very lucky, eventually find someone who satisfies all these criteria to some degree…but the sense of humor might not be quite as great, and the liking for kids not quite as strong, as if she were willing to compromise on the investment banker and the gourmet meals criteria. (And, of course, there are plenty of factors that operate below the conscious level and can’t be meaningfully represented on a checklist at all.)

    (Update 9/17/18:  There are some indications that, as full employment gets closer, more employers are willing to compromise on educational requirements, and also experience requirements.)

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Blogging, Education, Human Behavior, Management, USA | 10 Comments »

    Summer Rerun: Lewis vs Haldane

    Posted by David Foster on 15th September 2018 (All posts by )

    J B S Haldane was an eminent British scientist (population genetics) and a Marxist. C S Lewis was…well, you probably already know who C S Lewis was.  In 1946, Haldane published an article critiquing a series of novels by Lewis known as the Ransom Trilogy, and particularly the last book of the series, That Hideous Strength. Lewis responded in a letter which remained unpublished for many of years. All this may sound ancient and estoteric, but I believe the Lewis/Haldane controversy is very relevant to our current political and philosophical landscape.

    In That Hideous Strength–my review is here–Mark, a young sociologist, is hired by a government agency called NICE–the National Institute for Coordinated Experimentation–having as its stated mission the application of science to social problems.  In the novel, NICE turns out to be a conspiracy devoted to very diabolical purposes, as Mark gradually discovers.   See the review for more detail

    Here are some of the highlights of the Lewis/Haldane controversy:

    1)Money and Power. In his article, Haldane attacks Lewis for the latter’s refusal to absolutely condemn usury, and celebrates the fact that “Mammon has been cleared off a sixth of our planet’s surface”…clearly referring to the Soviet Union. Here’s part of Lewis’s response:

    The difference between us is that the Professor sees the ‘World’ purely in terms of those threats and those allurements which depend on money. I do not. The most ‘worldly’ society I have ever lived in is that of schoolboys: most worldly in the cruelty and arrogance of the strong, the toadyism and mutual treachery of the weak, and the unqualified snobbery of both. Nothing was so base that most members of the school proletariat would not do it, or suffer it, to win the favour of the school aristocracy: hardly any injustice too bad for the aristocracy to practise. But the class system did not in the least depend on the amount of pocket money. Who needs to care about money if most of the things he wants will be offered by cringing servility and the remainder can be taken by force? 

    This lesson has remained with me all my life. That is one of the reasons why I cannot share Professor Haldanes exaltation at the banishment of Mammon from ‘a sixth of our planet’s surface’. I have already lived in a world from which Mammon was banished: it was the most wicked and miserable I have yet known. If Mammon were the only devil, it would be another matter. But where Mammon vacates the throne, how if Moloch takes his place? As Aristotle said, ‘Men do not become tyrants in order to keep warm’. All men, of course, desire pleasure and safety. But all men also desire power and all men desire the mere sense of being ‘in the know’ or the ‘inner ring’, of not being ‘outsiders’: a passion insufficiently studied and the chief theme of my story. When the state of society is such that money is the passport to all these prizes, then of course money will be the prime temptation. But when the passport changes, the desires will remain.

    2)Centralized scientific planning. Haldane: “Mr. Lewis’s idea is clear enough. The application of science to human affairs can only lead to hell.” While denying that this is a correct statement of his views, Lewis goes on to say:

    Every tyrant must begin by claiming to have what his victims respect and to give what they want. The majority in most modern countries respect science and want to be planned. And, therefore, almost by definition, if any man or group wishes to enslave us it will of course describe itself as ‘scientific planned democracy.

    and

    My fears of such a tyranny will seem to the Professor either insincere or pusillanimous. For him the danger is all in the opposite direction, in the chaotic selfishness of individualism.  I must try to explain why I fear more the disciplined cruelty of some ideological oligarchy. The Professor has his own explanation of this; he thinks I am unconsciously motivated by the fact  that I ‘stand to lose by social change’. And indeed it would be hard for me to welcome a change which might well consign me to a concentration camp. I might add that it would be likewise easy for the Professor to welcome a change which might place him in the highest rank of an omnicompetent oligarchy. That is why the motive game is so uninteresting. Each side can go on playing—ad nauseam, but when all the mud has been flung every man’s views still remain to be considered on their merits.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Conservatism, Leftism, Philosophy, Religion, Science, Society | 16 Comments »

    Making iPhones in the USA?

    Posted by David Foster on 12th September 2018 (All posts by )

    Trump’s proposed tariff increase on Chinese imports would affect Apple products including the Apple Watch, though apparently not the iPhone itself.  Here is Apple’s response.

    And from President Trump:

    Apple prices may increase because of the massive Tariffs we may be imposing on China – but there is an easy solution where there would be ZERO tax, and indeed a tax incentive. Make your products in the United States instead of China. Start building new plants now. Exciting!

    There has been much discussion for some time about the economic feasibility of building Apple products–especially the iPhone–in the United States, and considerable new commentary in the wake of the tariff controversy.  In 2011, then-President Obama asked Steve Jobs what it would take to make iPhones in the US.  Steve’s response was that, basically, the problems were more about skill levels and cultural factors–in particular, he is said to have mentioned a need for 30,000 manufacturing engineers.

    This strikes me as a very improbable requirement.  Manufacturing engineers are the people who design and improve manufacturing processes:  I can’t imagine why you would need 30,000 of them for all of Apple’s product lines combined, let alone for the iPhone alone.  (It’s possible that the term “manufacturing engineers” was a misquote of what Jobs actually said, or the Jobs was speaking very loosely–indeed, he apparently went on to say that the people in question could be educated in trade schools.  Maybe he meant toolmakers…although also, 30,000 toolmakers sounds like an awful lot for iPhone or indeed all of Apple…or shift supervisors, or something of the sort.

    There was a Quora discussion in 2016 on the topic:  How much would an iPhone cost if Apple were forced to make it in America?  Out of all the responses, which were of various quality, Forbes chose in January of this year to reprint one that seems to me to be rather extreme:  In the $30,000 to $100,000 range…assuming it could be made at all.

    The author quotes Apple CEO Tim Cook on the skills gap between China and the US:

    … the reason is because of the skill … and the quantity of skill in one location … and the type of skill it is. The products we do require really advanced tooling. And the precision that you have to have in tooling and working with the materials that we do are state-of-the-art. And the tooling skill is very deep here.

    In the U.S. you could have a meeting of tooling engineers and I’m not sure we could fill the room. In China you could fill multiple football fields.

    The author says:

    Tooling engineering is a highly skilled position that requires years of training and experience. It is an “analog” type skill that combines artisanal craftsmanship with precision engineering skills. And as Mr. Cook alludes to later in the talk, the Chinese have developed and scaled these skills over the last three decades while the U.S. and other countries have gone the other direction and de-emphasized them.

    (The author also talks about the fact that the iPhone supply chain is now largely centered in the Far East, which is true–but “moving iPhone manufacturing to the US” does not imply that every single component or subcomponent or raw-material element in the periodic table would need to come from the US.)

    It is certainly true that the US over the past couple of decades has deemphasized manufacturing-related skill sets:  but I doubt seriously that the problem is so severe as to make the US manufacturing of a product like iPhone infeasible.  After all, cars and trucks are made in the US, and they involve quite a lot of production engineering and tooling.  Airplanes and jet engines, too, are made here, and I’d expect that the production engineering challenges for a GE or P&W jet engine equal or exceed anything involved with making an iPhone.  And there are plenty of other products and components manufactured in the US as well.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Business, China, Trump | 36 Comments »

    An interesting analysis of the 2008 housing collapse.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 12th September 2018 (All posts by )

    The 2008 economic collapse gave us ten years of economic malaise and the presidency of Barack Obama.

    Why did it happen ? I have been a fan of Nicole Gelinas’ book, “After the Fall”

    I wrote a long review of it at Amazon, which is still a favorite of readers.

    Now, we have a very interesting new analysis, which blames housing almost exclusively.

    Looked at in terms of the popular narrative that there was a “financial crisis,” readers shouldn’t be fooled. There was nothing financial about what happened ten years ago. The “crisis” was made in Washington. Left alone, economies and markets never go haywire when natural market forces are putting out to pasture the weak, only to redirect the previously underutilized resources of the weak to higher uses.

    He makes an interesting point, which tracks with my own observations.

    a booming housing market of the kind experienced in the ‘70s and ‘00s is not a sign of economic vitality. Getting into specifics, a home purchase is not an investment. It won’t render the buyer more productive, open foreign markets for same, or morph into capital meant to develop something productivity-enhancing like software. Housing is consumption, that’s it. On the other hand, investment is what powers economic growth, so the very notion that a reorientation of precious capital away from consumptive goods and into production would foster economic crisis is for those who presume to comment on the economy to reveal how little they understand what they’re writing about. The feverish consumption of housing was what was holding the economy down, which means a reversal of what weighed on the economy would logically be good for growth. If so, markets would have discounted housing’s correction positively.

    I moved to Orange County in 1972 to begin my medical practice. I already owned two homes in South Pasadena which I had difficulty selling after the move. There was no appreciation of housing. By 1975, when a bear market caused a malpractice insurance crisis for doctors, my 1972 house had tripled in value. The South Pasadena house I finally sold in 1972 for the same ($35,000) price I had paid for it in 1969, was by 1979 for sale for $595,000.

    What did happen in both the 1970s and 2000s is that the dollar substantially declined vis-à-vis foreign currencies, commodities, and seemingly everything else. This matters because in both the ‘70s and ‘00s, gold, oil, wheat, land, rare stamps, art, housing, and just about every other kind of hard asset performed well. Well, of course. When money is losing value, the hard assets least vulnerable to currency devaluation perform best. In a repeat of the ‘70s, housing and other commodities proved a safe haven in the ‘00s from the U.S. Treasury’s policies in favor of a devalued dollar.

    I remember well the rush to buy gold and antiques as hedges against the post 1974 inflation. An elderly woman in Oceanside California got wide publicity for her “crazy” decision to invest her money in buying four Rolls Royces and putting them in storage. She paid about $50,000 each. Five years later they were worth about $200,000 each.

    Then came 2008.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Book Notes, Conservatism, Economics & Finance | 11 Comments »

    The Giants of Flight 93, Plus 17 years

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 11th September 2018 (All posts by )

    In October 2002 a friend of mine, Tom Holsinger, wrote about 9/11/2001  and the people on Flight 93 — Our fellow citizens who rose up and fought Al Qaeda, when all others, our military, our political leaders, our law enforcement, were frozen in surprise — at the strategypage.com web site.

    While today’s dedication speech by Pres Trump of the “Tower of Voices” in Shanksville, PA. came close, I have not read any written commemoration of their act, before or since, as moving as this passage:

    Students of American character should pay close attention to Flight 93. A random sample of American adults was subjected to the highest possible stress and organized themselves in a terribly brief period, without benefit of training or group tradition other than their inherent national consciousness, to foil a well planned and executed terrorist attack. Recordings show the passengers and cabin crew of Flight 93 – ordinary Americans all – exemplified the virtues Americans hold most dear.

    .

    Certain death came for them by surprise but they did not panic and instead immediately organized, fought and robbed terror of its victory. They died but were not defeated.

    .

    Ordinary Americans confronted by enemies behaved exactly like the citizen-soldiers eulogized in Victor Davis Hanson’s Carnage and Culture.

    .

    Herman Wouk called the heroic sacrifice of the USS Enterprise’s Torpedo 8 squadron at the Battle of Midway “… the soul of America in action.” Flight 93 was the soul of America, and the American people know it. They spontaneously created a shrine at the crash site to express what is in their hearts and minds but not their mouths. They are waiting for a poet. Normally a President fills this role.

    .

    But Americans feel it now. They don’t need a government or leader for that, and didn’t to guide their actions on Flight 93, because they really are America. Go to the crash shrine and talk to people there. Something significant resonates through them which is different from, and possibly greater than, the shock of suffering a Pearl Harbor attack at home.

    .

    Pearl Harbor remains a useful analogy given Admiral Isokoru Yamamoto’s statement on December 7, 1941 – “I fear we have woken a sleeping giant and filled him with a terrible resolve.” They were giants on Flight 93.

     

     

     

    A chainlink fence covered in mementos and flags dedicated to the flight 93 crash


    This is the spontaneous memorial wall erected by Americans for the passengers and crew of Flight 93 in a field near Shanksville, PA.

    Posted in Middle East, USA, War and Peace | 5 Comments »

    The other 9/11.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 11th September 2018 (All posts by )

    Today we mourn the loss of thousands of lives in a terrorist attack on 9/11, 2001.

    There was another 9/11 attack in 2012. It was three months before the 2012 presidential election and the implications of this were obvious.

    A recent movie documented some of the lies about that event.

    Despite Obama’s and Clinton’s recurring lies to the contrary, the deadly attacks of September 11, 2012, on U.S. diplomatic and intelligence facilities in Benghazi, Libya, had no connection with political protests. In director Michael Bay’s political-action thriller, which Paramount Pictures calls “a true story,” these two outposts get slammed ferociously by growing waves of well-armed jihadists who know exactly what they are doing. As if mocking Obama’s and Clinton’s lies, they do not drop their picket signs and then suddenly grab grenades, rocket launchers, and mortar shells. Instead, these killers skip the placards and head straight for the firepower.

    We actually know quite a bit about how that event came to pass.

    It began as “Operation Zero Footprint.”

    We know Operation Zero Footprint was the covert transfer of weapons from the U.S to the Libyan “rebels”. We also know the operation avoided the concerns with congressional funding, and potential for public scrutiny, through financing by the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

    We also know that officials within the government of Qatar served as the intermediaries for the actual transfer of the weapons, thereby removing the footprint of the U.S. intervention.

    We know the entire operation was coordinated and controlled by the State Department and CIA. We also know (from the Senate Foreign Relations Benghazi hearings) that “Zero Footprint” was unknown to the 2011 Pentagon and/or DoD commanders who would have been tasked with any military response to the 9/11/12 attack – namely AFRICOM General Carter Ham.

    However, it would be implausible to think that then Defense Secretary Bob Gates or Joint Chiefs Chair Admiral McMullen were completely unaware of the operation. Even today, despite the numerous hearings and reports, this aspect remains murky. Read the rest of this entry »

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    Posted in Big Government, Elections, Military Affairs, National Security, Terrorism | 5 Comments »

    9/11 Plus Seventeen Years

    Posted by David Foster on 11th September 2018 (All posts by )

    I guess I thought they were all gone, those types of monsters, stranded on reels of black and white film.Cara Ellison (blog no longer available), in a 2007 post about 9/11/01.

    Bookworm:  “My life is divided into two parts:  Before September 11, 2001 and after September 11, 2001.”

    Simply evil: Christopher Hitchens suggests that sometimes the simple and obvious explanation for an event is more accurate than an explanation which relies on an elaborate structure of “nuance”

    An attack, not a disaster or a tragedy. George Savage explains why the persistent use of terms like “tragedy” by the media acts to obfuscate the true nature of the 9/11 attacks.

    Claire Berlinski was in Paris on 9/11. Shortly thereafter she wrote this piece for City Journal

    Marc Sasseville and Heather Penney were F-16 pilots with an Air National Guard squadron. Their order was to bring down Flight 93 before the terrorists in control of it could create another disaster on the scale of the World Trade Center…but their aircraft were configured for training, with no live ammunition and no missiles. A video interview with Major Penney here

    Joseph Fouché writes about how the Taliban’s destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas in March 2001, and the murder of Ahmed Shah Masood on September 9 of that year, prefigured the 9/11 attacks.

    The Diplomad posts a speech he gave on 9/14/01, when he was charge d’affaires at a U.S. embassy.  You did not hear speeches like that being given by diplomats under the administration of Barack Obama.

    On September 11, 2005, Rare Kate didn’t go to church. Follow the link to find out why. In my original post linking this, I said “What if American and British religious leaders had responded the depradations of Naziism in the spirit of this liturgy?  Actually, some of them did. The impact on preparedness was certainly malign, and the people who took such positions certainly bear a share of moral resposibility for the deaths and devastation that took place. Ditto for those who are behaving in a similar way today.”

    Dietrich Bonhoeffer, an important leader of the anti-Nazi resistance in Germany (executed in 1945), wrote the following:

    Today there are once more saints and villains. Instead of the uniform grayness of the rainy day, we have the black storm cloud and the brilliant lightning flash. Outlines stand out with exaggerated sharpness. Shakespeare’s characters walk among us. The villain and the saint emerge from primeval depths and by their appearannce they tear open the infernal or the divine abyss from which they come and enable us to see for a moment into mysteries of which we had never dreamed.

    The refusal on the part of many individuals to face the seriousness of the radical Islamist threat to out civilization stems in significant part, I feel certain, from a desire to avoid the uncomfortable and even dangerous kind of clarity that Bonhoeffer was talking about.

    In previous posts I’ve introduced the metaphor of the attrition mill–a machine in which two steel disks, rotating at high speed in opposite directions, crush between them the grain or other substance to be milled. Our society is caught in a gigantic attrition mill, with one disk being the Islamic terrorist enemy and the other being the “progressive” Left within our own societies–some of whom are wishful thinkers who deny uncomfortable realities, an alarming number of whom forthrightly despise their own societies and the majority of their fellow citizens. Without the existence of the second disk, the terrorist threat would be serious, inconvenient, and dangerous, but would not be an existential threat to Western civilization. But it is the interaction of the two disks, despite the differences in their stated philosophies of life, that increases the societal threat by orders of magnitude.

    Monica Crowley digs up an article written on September 19, 2001, by an Illinois State Senator named Barack Obama…and analyzes what it tells us about this man’s worldview and lack of intellectual depth.

    Enid and Geraint…a poem written by Grim on 9/11/2001

    Three Days in September, by Sarah Hoyt

    A time bomb from the Middle Ages. Roger Simon explains how 9/11 altered his worldview and many of his relationships.

     

     

     

    Posted in Anti-Americanism, History, Middle East, Obama, Terrorism, War and Peace | 8 Comments »

    25%

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 10th September 2018 (All posts by )

    BSKing over at Graph Paper Diaries referenced an interesting study in her What I’m Reading September 2018 post, concerning tipping points in social conventions.  I could link to the study directly, but I want you to see her discussion, plus her answer to my question in the comments.  You can get distracted and read her other stuff there if you want.  I’ll wait.

    Her caveats are important.  It was an artificial situation, and the 25% may not hold on something people cared about more deeply. The intensity of either the minority or the majority about something like gay marriage, going to war, or toppling statues might move the number up or down considerably.  Also, the tested subjects were WEIRD – Western Educated Industrialized Rich and Democratic – as social-science test subjects usually are.  (They are usually college students, and so young, non-military, and single with no children as well.)

    Yet let us pretend, just for the moment that something like this is true. A determined minority of only 25% can flip the group opinion. Consider something like the TEA Party.  It seems to have approached that number and had influence but didn’t quite flip the GOP everywhere.  It did flip it in some places (and Trump may have been more beholden to that than we have credited). The Tea Party rose up to the tipping point and then receded slightly.  They might have been doomed to just fade out, election by election. Until…Donald Trump’s supporters may have been very much this 25% phenomenon.  A lot of people who eventually voted for The Donald didn’t like him much at first. They were okay with a Jeb or a Rubio, though not excited.  They may have relished the thought of watching Carly Fiorina debate Hillary Clinton, or wanted to go to a more-conservative, don’t-care-if-he’s-annoying Ted Cruz.  But almost no one was sold out for any of those.  Trump’s supporters, though few, were sold out.  It simmered for a while, with Trump getting something in the neighborhood of that 25% in various primaries, enough to win, though a majority still opposed him.  Eventually the 25% moved the other 75%.  Bernie almost did the same thing with the Democrats.  He would have, actually, if they weren’t so corrupt and had their thumb on the scale for Clinton. The sold-out-for-Bernie crew was over 25% of the Dems, I think.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 5 Comments »

    Hate Crime Speech

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 10th September 2018 (All posts by )

    When it first became politically trendy to back passage of ‘hate-crime’ legislation, I privately thought it a bad idea, while understanding completely why it was an appealing notion, especially for political and social entities which presumed to act on behalf of those threatened by weaponized hate. The fear in such communities was real, every bit as real as the threats, the vandalism, the lynch mobs, and disenfranchisement. It would take a politician with balls of brass to stand up before a group who justifiably were frightened by all that, and discount those fears. It was the easy way out for politicians, the media and social organizations to portray hate crime legislation as a good and discount those doubts held by those of us with inclinations toward the philosophical. A crime was a crime: there were already laws on the books dealing with vandalism, murder, arson and so on. A motivation for committing a crime ought to be of interest only in establishing the guilt of the perpetrator, not for piling on additional penalties. We do not have windows to peer accurately into the souls of others. Essentially, classifying a crime as a ‘hate crime’ was punishing the thought, over and above the actual crime itself. I didn’t think it was a good idea then, and still don’t think so – especially given the overwhelming numbers of so-called “hate crimes” which turn out to be either deliberate hoaxes, or the deeply imaginative letting their imaginations run away from them. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, Big Government, Civil Society, Conservatism, Crony Capitalism, Customer Service, Just Unbelievable, Leftism, Society | 7 Comments »

    Summer Rerun: That Hideous Strength, by C S Lewis

    Posted by David Foster on 9th September 2018 (All posts by )

    That Hideous Strength, by C S Lewis

    This was the first thing Mark had been asked to do which he himself, before he did it, clearly knew to be criminal. But the moment of his consent almost escaped his notice; certainly, there was no struggle, no sense of turning a corner. There may have been a time in the world’s history when such moments fully revealed their gravity, with witches prophesying on a blasted heath or visible Rubicons to be crossed. But, for him, it all slipped past in a chatter of laughter, of that intimate laughter between fellow professionals, which of all earthly powers is strongest to make men do very bad things before they are yet, individually, very bad men.

    Mark Studdock is a young on-the-make sociologist, a professor at Bracton College, in an English town called Edgestow. He is is far more interested in university politics than in his research or teaching. and as a member of the “progressive element” at the college, he strongly supports Bracton selling a tract of property to a government-sponsored entity called NICE. The NICE is the National Institute for Coordinated Experimentation,which Lewis describes as “the first fruits of that constructive fusion between the state and the laboratory on which so many thoughtful people base their hopes of a better world.”  What excites Mark most about the NICE is this:

    The real thing is that this time we’re going to get science applied to social problems and backed by the whole force of the state, just as war has been backed by the whole force of the state in the past.  One hopes, of course, that it’ll find out more than the old freelance science did, but what’s certain is that it can do more.

    Trigger Warning: There is something in this book to offend almost everybody.  It contains things that will offend technologists and believers in human progress…social scientists…feminists…academic administrators…bioscience researchers…and surely many other categories of people.  It will probably also offend some Christians, for the way in which Christian theology is mixed with non-Christian magic. By the standards now becoming current in American universities, this book, and even this book review, should be read by no one at all.  But for those who do not accept those standards…

    The Basic Story. Mark has recently married Jane, a woman with strong literary interests and with vague plans for getting an advanced degree. She has recently started having disturbing, indeed terrifying, dreams, which suggest that she has a clairvoyant ability to see distant events in real time. Afraid that she is losing her mind, Jane seeks advice, and is told that her dreams are actually visions, they are very real, will not stop, and are of utmost importance:

    “Young lady,” said Miss Ironwood, “You do not at all realize the seriousness of this matter. The things you have seen concern something compared with which the happiness, and even the life, of you and me, is of no importance.”

    Miss Ironwood warns Jane that extremely evil people will seek to use her gift, and that she would do well–both for her own interests and those of the entire human race–to join the community of which Miss Ironwood is a part, located at a place called St Anne’s. Jane responds quite negatively to the invitation, afraid that membership in the St Anne’s group will limit her autonomy. She is not interested in the dreams’ meaning; she just wants them to go away.

    Mark, on the other hand, responds enthusiastically when he is invited to take a position at the NICE, temporarily located at an old manor called Belbury.  One of the first people he meets there is the Head of the Institutional Police, a woman named Miss Hardcastle (picture Janet Napolitano), nicknamed the Fairy, who explains to Mark her theory of crime and punishment:

    “Here in the Institute, we’re backing the crusade against Red Tape.”  Mark gathered that, for the Fairy, the police side of the Institute was the really important side…In general, they had already popularized in the press the idea that the Institute should be allowed to experiment pretty largely in the hope of discovering how far humane, remedial treatment could be substituted for the old notion of “retributive” or “vindictive” punishment…The Fairy pointed out that what had hampered every English police force up to date was precisely the idea of deserved punishment. For desert was always finite; you could do so much to the criminal and no more. Remedial treatment, on the other hand, need have no fixed limit; it could go on till it had effected a cure, and those who were carrying it out would decide when that was.  And if cure were humane and desirable, how much more prevention?  Soon anyone who had ever been in the hands of the police at all would come under the control of the NICE; in the end, every citizen.

    Another person Mark meets in his first days at Belbury is the acclaimed chemist William Hingest…who has also come down to investigate the possibility of a job at Belbury, has decided against it, and strongly advises Mark to do likewise:

    “I came down here because I thought it had something to do with science. Now that I find it’s something more like a political conspiracy, I shall go home. I’m too old for that kind of thing, and if I wanted to join a conspiracy, this one wouldn’t be my choice.”

    “You mean, I suppose, that the element of social planning doesn’t appeal to you? I can quite understand that it doesn’t fit in with your work as it does with sciences like Sociology, but–“

    “There are no sciences like Sociology. And if I found chemistry beginning to fit in with a secret police run by a middle-aged virago who doesn’t wear corsets and a scheme for taking away his farm and his shop and his children from every Englishman, I’d let chemistry go to the devil and take up gardening again…I happen to believe that you can’t study men, you can only get to know them, which is quite a different thing. Because you study them, you want to make the lower orders govern the country and listen to classical music, which is balderdash. You also want to take away from them everything that makes life worth living and not only from them but from everyone except a parcel of prigs and professors.”

    Nevertheless, Mark decides to remain at Belbury, and is drawn ever-deeper into its activities–which, as only those in the innermost circles of that organization realize, are not only consistent with the goals of the 20th-century totalitarianisms, but go considerably beyond them.  The NICE seeks to establish a junction between the powers of modern science and those of ancient magic, accessing the latter by awakening the medieval wizard Merlin and using him for their purposes.  At the same time, Jane–despite her reservations–becomes increasingly involved  with the company at St Anne’s and is entranced with its leader, a Mr Fisher-King. (His name comes from the Wounded King in Arthurian legend.)  The St Anne’s group is aware of the truth about NICE and its ultimate goals, and exists for the primary purpose of opposing and, hopefully, destroying that organization.

    I will not here describe the war between the forces of Belbury and those of St Anne’s (in order to avoid spoilers), but will instead comment on the characters of some of the protagonists and some philosophically-significant events in the novel, with appropriate excerpts. Hopefully this will be enough to give a sense of the worldview that Lewis is presenting in this book.

    Mark Studdock. His character is largely defined by his strong desire to be a member of the Inner Circle, whatever that inner circle may be in a particular context.  The passage at the start of this review where Mark agrees to engage in criminal activity on Belbury’s behalf is proceeded by this:

    After a few evenings Mark ventured to walk into the library on his own; a little uncertain of his reception, yet afraid that if he did not soon assert his right to the entree this modesty might damage him. He knew that the error in either direction is equally fatal.

    It was a success. Before he had closed the door behind him all had turned with welcoming faces and Filostrato had said “Ecco ” and the Fairy, “Here’s the very man.” A glow of pleasure passed over Mark’s whole body.

    That “glow of pleasure” at being accepted by the Belbury’s Inner Circle (what Mark then thinks is Belbury’s Inner Circle) is strong enough to overcome any moral qualms on Mark’s part about the actions he is being requested to perform.  Lewis has written a great deal elsewhere about the lust for the Inner Circle, which in his view never leads to satisfaction but only to a longing for membership in another, still-more-inner circle. In That Hideous Strength, there are concentric Inner Circles at Belbury, which Mark does penetrate–and each is more sinister than the last.

    Read the rest of this entry »

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    Posted in Academia, Anglosphere, Arts & Letters, Bioethics, Book Notes, Britain, Christianity, Civil Society, Conservatism, Crime and Punishment, Deep Thoughts, Human Behavior, Leftism, Morality and Philosphy, Political Philosophy | 5 Comments »

    Political Personality Difference

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 7th September 2018 (All posts by )

    I listened to Grant Hill being interviewed about being chosen for the basketball Hall of Fame this year. I always admired and liked him – the honor is much deserved. The interviewer turned to discussing what Hill is doing now, and what he might do in the future. He mentioned he might like to go into politics, and I groaned inwardly. I knew where the interview was going next. Most of that was all very standard and uninteresting. I tried to notice his skill, and charm, and willingness to at least try to understand different points of view rather than focus on…well, I already hinted that I’m not going to say. Hill talked with a concerned tone about people who had hard times in their lives, and were worried about jobs and their future, and how they were easily misled in such circumstances. He said it without anger.  I have heard such things before, of conservatives being fearful of change, of clinging to their guns and religion – oops, sorry, that just slipped out – and so forth. It’s condescending without necessarily being sneering, or angry, or in-your-face accusing. It is clear that the speaker thinks of himself as trying to be understanding, empathetic, trying to see the other fellow’s point of view.

    I thought conservatives don’t talk like this. I couldn’t think of an equivalent flowing in the other direction. A conservative might sound like this when talking about their child or some person they were fond of but disappointed in. Well, she went away to college, and she wanted to fit in, and she’s always been a compassionate person so she got involved in some causes… But more usually, a conservative will be more clearly angry and condemning about people’s reasons for being a liberal or voting Democrat, whether it is because they are single women, or government employees, or black/hispanic/native – or work in a field surrounded by mostly leftists.  There isn’t a regretful sigh that it’s unfortunate but understandable. I did just think of another exception.  Conservatives will sometimes talk like that about Hispanics having been frightened by the Democrats, convinced that Trump is going to send them all back to Mexico without warning or right of appeal. The anger is not directed at the voter so much as the political operatives and journalists.

    It’s an open question which is worse. While anger can be necessary, anger can also be unnecessarily offensive, and in an angry time, people should at least be cautious. Being openly antagonistic isn’t going to win votes, though it may win applause from your friends. On the other hand, I think concern-trolling provides an inoculation against seeing oneself. In my imagination, you could tell an angry person “you are being unkind here” and you might get heard. Yet I don’t think the Grant Hill’s of the world will hear it if you tell them they are being unkind. At least, they don’t seem to have yet. (And not to pick on Hill especially.) They believe they are being kind.  Didn’t you hear them?

    I used to say “Conservatives make pronouncements. Liberals sneer.”  I would like to back down from that a bit, but I do think it remains largely true. First, sneer is too strong a word.  Condescend would be better, because it is along a continuum, and sometimes it is quite mild.  My father-in-law, a kind and gracious Roosevelt Democrat, would sometimes echo the condescension he got from reading the Boston Globe and the materials the Democrats would forever be mailing to him.  Yet he never came close to sneering.  (The liberals on my side of the family are another matter – though with exceptions.) Secondly, I think this is blurring over the last thirty years. Liberals become the status quo in the culture and start making pronouncements, conservatives take on sneering more and more.

    I relate this to another observation I have made about liberal and conservative protest and violence.  Conservatives are defensive. When getting extreme they “hole up with their guns and dare Obama and the gun-grabbers to come after them.” Liberal extremists are more attacking, burning cars, pushing over statues, breaking windows, occupying somebody else’s space (as far back as the college dean’s office in the 60’s), defacing property. They are – or were – less likely to talk about doing damage to human beings. They confined themselves to objects, or to shouting in people’s faces.  I fear that both self-limitations are breaking down. Those inclined to violence on the right are increasingly going out into public, those on the left inclined to violence are increasingly attacking humans.

    The gross oversimplification is conservatives saying “This is how things are, and how they will stay,” while liberals say “No, we’re taking that down.” It is not only a difference in tactics, it is a difference in personality. Though it may be blurring, as I noted. I don’t have the feel for such things that I used to.

    There has been some research on whether one’s personality drives politics, but as sweet as that siren song is, I have been suspicious from the start. Liberals are supposedly more open to new experiences, which fits the “conservatives fearful of change” stereotype. Yet when you look at what they measure, it’s mostly surveys that are begging the questions.  Joining the military is a much more different experience than checking out the new Thai-Cuban fusion restaurant downtown.  Becoming a missionary in a poor country is to experience more diversity than going to Reed or Oberlin. Thus, while I am offering some personality differences that I think hold for liberals and conservatives, I am also aware it could all be malarkey.

    Cross-posted at Assistant Village Idiot.

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    Posted in Miscellaneous | 32 Comments »

    Change

    Posted by Jonathan on 7th September 2018 (All posts by )

    A CFTC report explains that open interest in long-dated NYMEX West Texas Intermediate crude oil futures continues a long-term decline.

    Jessica Summers on Bloomberg:

    That’s because oil extraction has become more efficient in tight oil fields compared to conventional wells and producers have more flexibility in turning on and off the taps in response to oil prices.
     
    The increasing amount of crude coming in from tight oil in portfolios of production firms has left them with less crude to sell five or more years forward, reducing their need for long-dated futures contracts, according to the study. U.S. weekly production has skyrocketed to 11 million barrels a day, the highest level on record, according to Energy Information Administration data.

    Posted in Business, Energy & Power Generation, Markets and Trading | 6 Comments »

    Seth Barrett Tillman: Some Reflections on Trump and his North Korean Condominiums

    Posted by Jonathan on 4th September 2018 (All posts by )

    On Omaha Beach, the French have put up two monuments—one traditional and one more modern. The beach itself is open and used. People traverse the beach and dip their feet in its cold water. Small children play in the sand. There is ample parking for tourists. There are places to buy souvenirs. And not so distant from the epicentre of the beach and its monuments—people have private homes. Maybe some of those homes are condominiums—I don’t know. What this means is that at some point, temporally and geographically, the mourning and the monuments must run out. Yes, the dead are buried. But the earth belongs in usufruct to the living.

    Read the whole thing.

    Posted in Current Events, Korea, Trump, War and Peace | 2 Comments »

    Two Quick Movie Reviews

    Posted by Jonathan on 3rd September 2018 (All posts by )

    Review 1: Cuban Food Stories

    I saw this one at the Tower Theater while drinking Cuban coffee on an empty stomach. It’s a documentary by a Cuban emigre who travels around Cuba and talks to people about food. These are people who catch, grow, prepare, serve and/or sell food. The film is beautiful, the people charming, the settings picturesque, the food wonderful. There are spectacular drone shots of colorful towns, lush forests and rural landscapes, and closeups of ceviche, grilled octopus, roast pork and other delicacies. You will leave the theater hungry.

    This movie made me feel good about Cuba, which leads to another thought. In addition to its good qualities this movie is slick, well done propaganda. Perhaps the film maker really is ambivalent about having emigrated, as he suggests. Or perhaps he would not have been allowed to make this movie without showing Cuba in the most favorable light, i.e., things were bad in the ’90s but today they are getting better, people are better off and happy, it’s a great place to visit, etc. However, the hardships of daily life are obvious to anyone who looks. As my movie viewing companion said afterwards, the people in the film spend most of their time looking for food. One notices their teeth, their overall look of having been through hard times. The electricity fails. The happy fisherman was trained as a physicist and now rationalizes his difficult life (what else can he do?).

    I recommend this movie as long as you can enjoy the food and not be bothered by any political subtexts. Verdict: Four thumbs up, one thumb down.

    —-

    Review 2: The Black Stallion Returns (also available on Netflix)

    This is a really bad movie. I enjoyed the original whose plot involves a special horse that falls off a boat and saves the little boy who rides the horse to victory in the big race. Cartoonish but so are most movies and this one was visually beautiful, apolitical and had a happy ending. Plus the horse porn if you are into such things. Then I got talked into watching the sequel.

    The newer movie revolves around a struggle between good and bad Arabs to repatriate the famous horse to the Sahara where they plan to run it in a hokey every-5-years race on which tribes with poor risk-management skills bet the farm. You can tell the good from the bad Arabs because the main bad Arab is fat and has a Brooklyn accent and the good Arabs are thin and have Roman accents. Also we are made to understand that the bad Arabs cheat rather than follow important movie rules of noble-savage fair play. The good Arabs take the horse and explain to the little boy that it’s really theirs, and who can blame them. They head off for Casablanca and the boy follows in a flying boat. Much drama and silly plot escapades follow until inevitably the little boy wins the big race for the good Arabs but then is too stupid to either take the horse back home with him or sleep with the hot Arab chick who would do him in a second since he’s now the high-status race winner.

    I recommend this movie if you liked Mystery Science Theater, or if you have young daughters who are into horses as horse porn is probably more wholesome than vampire porn. Verdict: Four thumbs down, three thumbs up.

    Posted in Cuba, Diversions, Film | 11 Comments »