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  • Archive for December, 2018

    They Shall Not Grow Old

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

    I went to see Peter Jackson’s They Shall Not Grow Old, built from actual footage and recordings from The Great War. Jacksons’s attention to detail, to get the colorisation, movement, and sound right make it a different experience than what we usually see in archival film, where people are moving jerkily and too quickly. This is smoothed and shaded, and the sound recordings made by the BBC in the 50s and 60s of actual veterans of the war have been cleaned up as well, so that much of it seems as if it had been filmed recently. A good deal of it is grim, of death and decay, rats, lice, mud, and noise. The audience is not spared those realities.

    The lighter and matter-of-fact attitudes of the soldiers are also captured with film and recording. We had a job to do and we did it… A lot of the lads were volunteering and I went down at lunch and signed up direct.  My boss said he couldn’t promise me a job when I got back.

    There is a fascinating half-hour at the end in which Jackson describes the techniques they used to recover the footage and make it come alive, which is also fascinating stuff. For example, he describes how the original filming speed was not uniform, as it was cranked by the cameraman at 11-18 frames per second, usually about 15. Getting the speed right was not linear, but involved guesswork, which he says the eventually got good at.  Jackson describes seeing very clearly when the speed is right, and when he shows the film movement, you see exactly what he means.  When the speed is exactly right, the movement looks natural and human, it jumps out at you.  A touch slower or faster and it just isn’t right.

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    Posted in Miscellaneous | 1 Comment »

    Communist Influence

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

    I have neglected my cross-posting. I( will make it up slowly over the next few days.

    One of my Romanian sons sent this.  Please push through it a bit, even when it is not fascinating at the moment.  People should remember.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bp3sZbGmR2c&t=001s

    Posted in Miscellaneous | No Comments »

    Chicago Boyz Waiting Room Series: 20

    Posted by Jonathan on 18th December 2018 (All posts by )

    Exit

     

    Posted in Photos, Waiting Rooms | 6 Comments »

    The Costs of Formalism and Credentialism

    Posted by David Foster on 16th December 2018 (All posts by )

    Via Grim, an interesting post at the Federalist:  Our Culture War Is Between People Who Get Results And Empty Suits With Pristine Credentials.

    Subtitle:  Donald Trump declines the authority of the cultural sectors that most assertively claim it. That’s the real conflict going on.

    I’m reminded of an interchange that took place between Picasso and Monet as the German Army advanced through France in 1940.  Monet was shocked to learn that the enemy had already reached Reims.  “But what about our generals?” asked Monet. “What are they doing.”

    Picasso’s response: “Well, there you have it, my friend. It’s the Ecole des Beaux-Arts”

    …ie, formalists who had learned one set of rules and were not interested in considering deviations from same.

    It was an astute remark, and it fits very well with the observations of Andre Beaufre, who before the invasion had been a young captain on the French General Staff. Although he had initially been thrilled to be placed among this elevated circle…

    I saw very quickly that our seniors were primarily concerned with forms of drafting. Every memorandum had to be perfect, written in a concise, impersonal style, and conforming to a logical and faultless plan–but so abstract that it had to be read several times before one could find out what it was about…”I have the honour to inform you that I have decided…I envisage…I attach some importance to the fact that…” Actually no one decided more than the barest minimum, and what indeed was decided was pretty trivial.

    The consequences of that approach became clear in May 1940.

    In addition to the formalism that Picasso hypothesized (and Beaufre observed) on the French General Staff, the civilian side of the French government was highly credential-oriented.  From the linked article:

    In the first days of July, 1940, the American diplomat Robert Murphy took up his duties as the chargé d’affaires at the new U.S. embassy in Vichy, France. Coming from his recent post in Paris, he was as impressed as he expected to be by the quality of the Vichy mandarinate, a highly credentialed class of sophisticated officials who were “products of the most rigorous education and curricula in any public administration in the world.”

    As the historian Robert Paxton would write, French officials were “the elite of the elite, selected through a daunting series of relentless examinations for which one prepared at expensive private schools.” In July 1940, the elite of the elite governed the remains of their broken nation, a few days after Adolf Hitler toured Paris as its conqueror. Credentials were the key to holding public office, but not the key to success at the country’s business.

    It certainly appears that the current protests and riots in France are at least in part due to long-simmering resentment at that country’s credentialed class, whose performance has not matched their pretensions.  An interesting anecdote about Macron, in the Sunday Express:

    This is a man who chastised a teenager at an official event for calling him “Manu” (the friendly diminutive of Emmanuel), saying that he should not express a view until he has acquired a degree and a job.

    and

    Macron is a graduate of the Ecole Normale d’administration (ENA), an elite Grande Ecole created by General De Gaulle in 1945 to break the upper class control of top Civil Service positions. 

    In reality, only nine percent of ENA the graduates that fill the corridors of power in industry and government have a working class background.  The top 12 or 15 students will move to L’Inspection générale des finances (IGF), and then into a career in politics, or finance, Macron’s chosen route since he became a partner with Rothschild and Cie bank.

    Americans should not feel smug about our relatively-lesser obsession with credentials.  I’ve previously quoted  something Peter Drucker wrote in 1969:

    One thing it (modern society) cannot afford in education is the “elite institution” which has a monopoly on social standing, on prestige, and on the command positions in society and economy. Oxford and Cambridge are important reasons for the English brain drain. A main reason for the technology gap is the Grande Ecole such as the Ecole Polytechnique or the Ecole Normale. These elite institutions may do a magnificent job of education, but only their graduates normally get into the command positions. Only their faculties “matter.” This restricts and impoverishes the whole society…The Harvard Law School might like to be a Grande Ecole and to claim for its graduates a preferential position. But American society has never been willing to accept this claim…

    and

    It is almost impossible to explain to a European that the strength of American higher education lies in this absence of schools for leaders and schools for followers. It is almost impossible to explain to a European that the engineer with a degree from North Idaho A. and M. is an engineer and not a draftsman.

    We as a country are a lot closer to accepting Grande Ecole status for Harvard Law School and similar institutions than we were when Drucker wrote the above.  We haven’t gone as far as France and other European nations, but the trend has clearly been in the wrong direction.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, China, Deep Thoughts, Education, Europe, France, History, Society, Trump, USA | 12 Comments »

    Inherited Trauma

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 13th December 2018 (All posts by )

    Whilst I was perusing this story about the possibilities of trauma being a heritable thing, on my home office computer, my daughter came in to see what I was up to, and to lavish some small affection on our own bit of inherited trauma – that is, Mom’s cat, Isabelle. Isabelle was the last of those purebred apple-head Siamese cats which had been Mom and Dad’s. When their house had to be sold upon Mom becoming an invalid, my sister took the dogs to live with her (along with Mom) and Blondie and I inherited her two cats, one of whom has since passed away from advanced age. But Isabelle … sigh. Mom can’t remember how old she is exactly, since she was one of a long series of pure-bred apple-headed Siamese cats – and this iteration turned out to be as nutty as squirrel poop. Also mind-blowingly timid, unaffectionate, hostile even, unhygienically given to pee and crap where she slept (or where I slept, which was even more disgusting), and negative to the existing cats. We speculated that either Isabelle had been dropped on her head too damned many times as a kitten or was just as inbred as heck. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Blogging, Diversions, Miscellaneous | 24 Comments »

    ChicagoBoyz Waiting Room Series 19

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 13th December 2018 (All posts by )

    Posted in Waiting Rooms | 8 Comments »

    ChicagoBoyz Waiting Room Series 18

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 11th December 2018 (All posts by )

    Posted in Waiting Rooms | 5 Comments »

    Social Media As Small Town

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

    A lot of 20th C American fiction was about a small-town boy leaving his oppressive upbringing. It is one of those themes that combines truth and untruth. Small homogeneous communities have pluses and minuses. David Foster recently posted about how the internet in general mimics those small-group interactions, and social media accentuates those negatives.

    Gavin Longmuir gave examples of peer-pressure groups that believe in Political Correctness, in contrast to the rest of of the society, which is less in sympathy with it. Academia, the media, the politically active, the bureaucracy.  I would add in students, which while part of academia, are not who we usually think of when we use that term.  Those groups have a strong tie-in with each other that might not be immediately apparent, and that is the social competitiveness of youth. Bear with me for a moment on that. That high school students care deeply about what is fashionable and who is cool is well-known. There is something about this that is developmentally normal, as each age cohort must learn to get on together to take on responsibility in the future. This used to be more limited, as children coming of age did not spend so much time exclusively with each other.  They were in larger families, and those families were together more (not always a good thing, but generally so). They had more contact with extended family, multigenerationally. They worked at jobs earlier, went to churches, and had more contact with physical neighbors, all putting them in contact with people of different ages more than is common now. As the years of education increased, children spent increasing time with each other. Since, say, the 1950’s, high school and college students increasingly have their own world.

    And they have money, or parents who will spend money on them for things like, oh, college. Suddenly there are lots of people who care what the opinions of 16-26 year olds are. High-turnover entertainment targets that group: music, movies, video games, youtube, sports. Political activists are disproportionately young. Unless they can get jobs doing activist work, they stop having time once they get jobs, spouses, or (gulp) children.  Even for Trump rallies, lots of people who might go just can’t, because
    Tyler has a doubleheader that day, or work is really busy just now.  I wish I could find the article I read years ago by an ex-environmental activist who believed that environmentalists got extra exercised about peers having children, not just because of the ZPG extra drain on the earth’s resources, but because experience had taught them that they would now stop having enough time to volunteer for The Cause.  Politicians in campaign mode need to hire lots of people at temporary, low-paying jobs, and that means a steady supply of young people.
    Read the rest of this entry »

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    Posted in Miscellaneous | 19 Comments »

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Jonathan on 10th December 2018 (All posts by )

    Rush Limbaugh on Dec. 7:

    Donald Trump arrived, the way I hear this Tillerson sound bite, Trump arrives knowing what he wants to do. He doesn’t arrive unsure and he’s not gonna admit that who doesn’t know what to do because he’s not from this world. He’s there, and he has a specific agenda that everybody that elected him knows what it is: Make America Great Again.
     
    Sadly, he hasn’t done a lot on that agenda. He hasn’t built the wall yet. We haven’t repealed and replaced Obamacare. There’s a lot of things in the Trump agenda that have not happened yet. But that’s not what Tillerson’s talking about. Tillerson’s talking about some guy comes in and says, “This is what I want to happen.” And your typical Washington bureaucrat or CEO bureaucrat will say, “Well, where’s the memo? Where’s the plan? Where’s the blueprint?”
     
    Trump said, “There’s no blueprint. Just do it! This is what I want to happen. This is what I want.”
     
    “Well, uh, you know, you shouldn’t do it that way.”
     
    “I don’t care what you — just make it happen.” Trump is one of these, this is how he’s worked, “make it happen.” If he’s talking to Jared, if he’s talking to Trump Jr. or Eric or Ivanka, “This is what I want, make it happen.” That’s not how Washington works. Washington works on things not happening. The whole point of bureaucracy is to not do such that it looks like you’re getting things done. There might not be any need for you after you finish. So everything’s never done. Of course Trump’s gonna have compatibility problems with that.

    [emphasis added]

    Posted in Big Government, Business, Politics, Quotations, Systems Analysis, Trump | 14 Comments »

    Freedom, the Village, and Social Media

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

    This rerun (retitled from the original) inspired by Glenn Reynolds’ decision to deactivate his Twitter account.

    I’ve reviewed two books by German writer Hans Fallada: Little Man, What Now?, and Wolf Among Wolves (the links go to the reviews), both of which were excellent. I’ve also read his novel Every Man Dies Alone, which is centered on a couple who become anti-Nazi activists after their son Ottochen is killed in the war…it was inspired by, and is loosely based on, the true story of  a real-life couple who distributed anti-Nazi postcards and were executed for it.

    I thought this book was also excellent…the present post, though, is not a book review, but rather a development of some thoughts inspired by a particular passage in the story.

    Trudel, who was Ottochen’s fiancee, is a sweet and intelligent girl who is strongly anti-Nazi..and unlike Ottochen’s parents, she became an activist prior to being struck by personal tragedy: she is a member of a resistance cell at the factory where she works.  But she finds that she cannot stand the unending psychological strain of underground work–made even worse by the rigid and doctrinaire man (apparently a Communist) who is leader of the cell–and she drops out. Another member of the cell, who has long been in love with her, also finds that he is not built for such work, and drops out also.

    After they marry and Trudel becomes pregnant, they decide to leave the politically hysterical environment of Berlin for a small town where–they believe–life will be freer and calmer.

    Like many city dwellers, they’d had the mistaken belief that spying was only really bad in Berlin and that decency still prevailed in small towns. And like many city dwellers, they had made the painful discovery that recrimination, eavesdropping, and informing were ten times worse in small towns than in the big city. In a small town, everyone was fully exposed, you couldn’t ever disappear in the crowd. Personal circumstances were quickly ascertained, conversations with neighbors were practically unavoidable, and the way  such conversations could be twisted was something they had already experienced in their own lives, to their chagrin.

    Reading the above passage, I was struck by the thought that if we are now living in an “electronic village”…even a “global village,” as Marshall McLuhan put it several decades ago…then perhaps that also means we are facing some of the unpleasant characteristics that–as Fallada notes–can be a part of village life. And these characteristics aren’t something that appears only in eras of insane totalitarianism such as existed in Germany during the Nazi era. Peter Drucker, in Managing in the Next Society, wrote about the tension between liberty and community:

    Rural society has been romanticized for millenia, especially in the West, where rural communities have usually been portrayed as idylic. However, the community in rural society is actually both compulsory and coercive…And that explains why, for millenia, the dream of rural people was to escape into the city. Stadluft macht frei (city air frees) says an old German proverb dating back to the eleventh or twelfth century.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Blogging, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Current Events, Deep Thoughts, Media, Tech | 25 Comments »

    Remember that “White Nationalist ” rally where a woman was hit by a car and killed?

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 8th December 2018 (All posts by )

    Remember the “White Nationalist”demonstration in Charlottesville in 2017? Many have forgotten but the trial of the driver who killed a “Democratic Socialist” demonstrator is going on now.

    Why are the news media not reporting? Why do we have to read “Russia Today” articles about it?

    Maybe it is not going well for the left ?

    Fifteen months after the now notorious Unite the Right rally (UTR), James Alex Fields is finally having his day in court.

    Fields is facing a slate of charges including first degree murder for crashing his Dodge Challenger into a crowd in downtown Charlottesville two hours after UTR was forcibly disbursed by police. He was arrested minutes after the incident, denied bail, and has been imprisoned ever since. He has also been charged with federal hate crimes, for which he will likely face prosecution next year.

    Who is he ? The “Unite the Right” group is on trial.

    the outcome will affect several other key cases. One such case is Sines v. Kessler, a sprawling civil suit brought on behalf of 11 plaintiffs against every key figure and organization who participated in UTR. The suit is being argued by two New York-based law firms, Boies Schiller Flexner and Kaplan Hecker & Fink, whose ethnic composition is worth noting. The suit alleges that UTR attendees conspired to commit violence because of “hate,” “racism,” and other species of badthink. The Fields trial will also likely affect the trials of four UTR attendees who were recently arrested in California and accused of “conspiracy to riot.”

    Testimony for the defense is going on.

    On Aug. 12, 2017, a “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville turned deadly when a 20-year-old Ohio man allegedly accelerated his car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and leaving 19 others injured, five critically.

    Now, some of the same right-wing groups involved in those events in Charlottesville are planning another protest to coincide with the anniversary this weekend. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and the city of Charlottesville declared states of emergency ahead of this weekend’s anniversary. The governor said in a press conference Wednesday he will allow agencies to call in the National Guard to assist in security efforts.

    That was ABC at the time. What does the defense say ? First the Prosecution.

    The prosecution isn’t pulling any punches. The facts are not on their side, so they are going in for maximum emotional effect. During her 20-minute opening statement, Senior Assistant Commonwealth’s attorney Nina Antony stressed the gruesome nature of victim’s injuries, and suggested that Fields had premeditated the whole thing, mentioning that three months before UTR, Fields had posted an image of a car running into a crowd of people on Instagram. “Fields was here in Charlottesville with anger and images of violence fixed in his mind.”

    Now the Defense.

    Hill did provide some useful details about Fields’ activities and interactions in the two hours between the time when UTR was forcibly (and illegally) dispersed and when the car crash happened. Fields left Lee Park by walking west–the safer way–and returned to the UTR staging ground at McIntyre Park. He went back to his car at the McDonald’s up the road (presumably this one). At the Shell gas station across the street, he met three other UTR attendees, who needed to get back to their cars, all parked in the still-dangerous downtown. Fields volunteered to give them a lift back to their cars. Dropping them off, Fields and his new acquaintances resolved to meet up later for lunch.

    Next: a rifle toting leftist testifies.

    The defense called Dwayne Dixon, an “anti-racist activist,” to testify about his actions that day, and about a Facebook post, in which Dixon claimed that he had used an AR-15 rifle “to chase off James fields from our block… before he attacked the marchers.”

    And: Read the rest of this entry »

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    Posted in Culture, Law Enforcement, Media | 6 Comments »

    Dross to Gold and Vice Versa

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 7th December 2018 (All posts by )

    I was skimming through the various stories about the late President Bush the First this week, especially one about how he and Barbara were so considerate of and beloved by the Security Service agents who guarded them. It was kind of sweet, the account of a peckish agent going through the White House kitchen in the wee hours, looking for the cookies that he knew that the stewards of the kitchen had baked for the next day … and being joined by Bush the First, in ransacking the kitchen in search of the elusive cookies. That Bush the First and Barbara were loved and respected by the agents whose mission I can attest to at second hand. One of the Air Force security service NCOs I served with in Korea had just come off an assignment at the White House protection detachment. He adored Barbara, BTW – to hear him tell it, he was one of her favorite agents. She called him “Timmy”, which was kind of cute, as he was one of these six-foot-something guys and built like a concrete traffic bollard; probably Barbara was the only one aside from his mother who called him by that name. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Conservatism, History, Holidays, Obama | 6 Comments »

    For the Anniversary of Pearl Harbor: Radio Silence

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 7th December 2018 (All posts by )

    (I was inspired last year about this time to do a fictional short for the Luna City universe, drawing on certain family memories of that time. The story itself is included in this collection,)

    Adeliza Gonzalez-Gonzales – who was never called anything but ‘Adi’ back then – was just thirteen when her older brother Manuel – Manolo to the family, Manny to his Anglo friends – came to Papi and Mama and said to them, “Papi, I want to see more of the world than Karnes County, an’ at the Navy recruiting office, they say that I’ll get a paycheck nice and regular, and I can work on ship engines that are bigger than this house. Besides, everyone says if America gets into a war, then they’ll be drafting men my age, an’ I don’t wanna be a soldier, marching around in the mud and all that. The Navy lives good, and they say that the food is great. Can I have your permission, Papi?”

    Mama got all pinch-faced and weepy, because Manolo was her favorite and oldest child. Papi sighed and looked solemn and grave, saying, “Manolo – mi hijo – if this is what you truly want, I will sign the papers.” To Mama, he added, “Do not cry, Estella, can you see your boy as a soldier, following orders?”

    “But he still must follow orders – the Navy is as military as the army,” Adeliza piped up, and Manolo jeered and replied, “Nothing like the same at all, Adi!”

    Read the rest of this entry »

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    Posted in Book Notes, History, Texas | 3 Comments »

    Snowballs, Sleds, and Cultures, with Some Thoughts from Goethe and the Kaiser

    Posted by David Foster on 5th December 2018 (All posts by )

    A 9-year-old boy lobbied successfully to get his town’s ban on snowball fights overturned.

    Reminded me again of some comments by Goethe, circa 1828, which were the subject of a post here several years ago. He observed that when Englishmen came to town, they were invariably a hit with the local women. Indeed, when one of them came to visit, Goethe found it necessary to brace himself for the inevitable female tears upon the visitor’s departure. His friend Eckermann objected that Englishmen were not “more clever, better informed, or more excellent at heart than other people.”

    “The secret does not lie in these things, my good friend,” returned Goethe. ““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.”

    Goethe goes on to contrast the upbringing of English boys with that typical in his own country:

    “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.

    It’s not obvious to me why Goethe didn’t take up this issue of excessive policing with his very good friend Karl August, who as Grand Duke was pretty much the absolute ruler of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach. Still, an interesting remark, given the increasing constraints on childhood in our own present culture.

    What is also very interesting is that almost a century later, former Kaiser Wilhelm II made some rather similar observations in his memoirs:

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Britain, Civil Society, Education, Germany, History, Human Behavior, USA | 24 Comments »

    Heather MacDonald

    Posted by David Foster on 3rd December 2018 (All posts by )

    …on identity politics.  Interview with Mark Levin.  Highly recommended.

     

     

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    Posted in Academia, Feminism, Leftism, USA | 2 Comments »

    Is Paris Burning ?

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 2nd December 2018 (All posts by )

    A famous request from Adolf Hitler was also the tile of a book about the liberation of Paris in 1944, and might be a question about the riots of this week by the “Yellow Vests”

    There is not a single media report about the Yellow Vest demonstrations in Paris and France that I’ve read or watched that has not been slanted by Fake News.

    It has (usually) not been deliberate, I gather, and nobody has said anything factually wrong; what is the problem is the fact that (very) important stuff has been omitted.

    It is not wrong to say that the demonstrations were caused by the government’s decision to raise gas prices. What is missing is that this is just one of several draconian measures dating back half a year, i.e., ‘tis the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.

    It requires someone on the scene to describe what has really been happening.

    For the past four to five months, the French government has done nothing but double down on bringing more and more gratuitous oppression and more and more unwarranted persecution measures down on the necks the nation’s drivers and motorcycle riders.

    In fact, the imposition of ever harsher rules has been going on for the past decade and a half or so — whether the government was on the right or on the left — and that is why the choice of les gilets jaunes (the yellow jackets) by the demonstrators is particularly ironic.

    The 2008 law (under the presidency of Nicolas Sarkozy) requiring the presence of high-visibility vests (gilets de haute visibilité) aka security vests (gilets de sécurité) in every vehicle — hardly an unreasonable rule, for sure, as similar ones exist throughout the continent — was just another example of the myriad of evermore-onerous rules for car and motorcycle owners over the past 15 years, and so the government in effect provided the 2018 rebels with their uniforms.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Book Notes, Current Events, Europe, France | 56 Comments »

    Santa Arrives, Texas-Style

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 2nd December 2018 (All posts by )

    Merry Christmas, ho, ho, ho, y’all!

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    Posted in Americas, Holidays, Photos | 10 Comments »

    A Retrotech Adventure

    Posted by David Foster on 2nd December 2018 (All posts by )

    The Essex Steam Train and Riverboat leases 22 miles of railroad track from the state of Connecticut, and owns several steam and diesel locomotives plus various rolling stock. They operate regular passenger excursions plus seasonal specials.  Essex also offers a training and experience program for people who would like to learn a little bit about operating a steam locomotive.  Being interested in steam power, I signed up.

    The program includes some written material to be reviewed at home, a group classroom session of about an hour, and then an individual hour operating a locomotive under the guidance of an experienced engineer.

    On arriving, I was surprised at the scale of the operation.  Although I was there in the off season (early November), judging by the parking lot and the number of railcars the place must be quite busy during prime months.  First was the class, which covers safety rules and basic steam locomotive principles.  It was taught by the railroad’s machinist, who described himself as the “spare parts department.”  Next was a group visit to the locomotive cab to familiarize ourselves with the layout of controls and indicators.

    For our group, the locomotive was #40, a Mikado type built in 1920.  (The name “Mikado” became popular because an early batch of locomotives of this type was sold to the Japanese Railways.)  #40 started its life hauling logs and lumber in the West, then pulled passenger and freight trains in North Carolina until it was retired circa 1950…purchased by the Essex for restoration in 1977.  The locomotive has a rated boiler pressure of 180 psi and can generate a tractive effort of 35,000 pounds.

    On a steam locomotive, the cutoff point of steam admission to the cylinders can be controlled by the engineer.  Early cutoff lets the steam do more of its work expansively, improving fuel economy at the cost of some reduction in power.  The reverser sets the cutoff point as well as controlling the direction of travel–while the reversers on early locomotives were manually-operated and required considerable strength to operate (and sometimes led to broken arms), the reverser on #40 is a fingertip control, using air pressure to do the hard work.

    It was a drizzly and somewhat chilly day, but very comfortable in the locomotive cab. (The boiler backhead is very hot, do not touch!)  Basic controls and indicators include the throttle, the reverser, the boiler pressure gauge, the injectors, the boiler water glass, and the brakes with their associated pressure gauges.

    Read the rest of this entry »

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    Posted in Business, Energy & Power Generation, History, Tech, USA | 4 Comments »

    The Revenge of John McCain.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 1st December 2018 (All posts by )

    John McCain Was elected to Congress in 1982 and elected to the Senate in 1986 taking the seat previously held by Barry Goldwater. In 1989, he was involved in the “Keating Five Scandal.

    The five senators—Alan Cranston (Democrat of California), Dennis DeConcini (Democrat of Arizona), John Glenn (Democrat of Ohio), John McCain (Republican of Arizona), and Donald W. Riegle, Jr. (Democrat of Michigan)—were accused of improperly intervening in 1987 on behalf of Charles H. Keating, Jr., Chairman of the Lincoln Savings and Loan Association, which was the target of a regulatory investigation by the Federal Home Loan Bank Board (FHLBB). The FHLBB subsequently backed off taking action against Lincoln.

    The late 1980s were the era of the Savings and Loan scandals.

    The Federal Home Loan Bank Act of 1932 created the S&L system to promote homeownership for the working class. The S&Ls paid lower-than-average interest rates on deposits. In return, they offered lower-than-average mortgage rates. S&Ls couldn’t lend money for commercial real estate, business expansion, or education. They didn’t even provide checking accounts.

    In 1934, Congress created the FSLIC to insure the S&L deposits. It provided the same protection that the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation does for commercial banks. By 1980, the FSLIC insured 4,000 S&Ls with total assets of $604 billion. State-sponsored insurance programs insured 590 S&Ls with assets of $12.2 billion.

    Inflation in the late 1970s and early 1980s led to pressure on Savings and Loan institutions that had been lending money at 6% to home buyers but savers were demanding higher interest rates to compensate for inflation. The S&Ls were caught in the “Borrow high and Lend low” vise that led to their demise.

    My review of Nicole Gelinas’ book on the 2008 economic crisis includes some discussion of the 1986 problems.

    The story of the 2008 collapse begins in 1984 with the rescue of the Continental Illinois Bank. Here began the “too big to fail” story. Two things happened here that led to the crisis. One was the decision to bail out all depositors, including those whose deposits exceeded the FDIC maximum. Secondly, the FDIC guaranteed the bond holders, as well. Thus began the problem of moral hazard. Another feature of this story was the role of Penn Square Bank, which had gone under two years earlier in the wake of the oil price collapse, which devastated many of its poorly collateralized loans in the oil industry. Both banks had been caught seeking higher returns through risky investments. Penn Square, however, had been allowed to collapse. Continental was rescued and that began a trend that the author lays out in detail through most of the rest of the book.

    The 1986 crisis and the 1989 scandal affected McCain deeply. He was a freshman Senator and was probably included in the group for two reasons. First he was the only Republican and Second, Keating, a Phoenix developer, was a constituent. McCain was humiliated and his ego was as big as all outdoors.

    His reaction to his humiliation was once of the worst pieces of legislation in the 20th century, The McCain-Feingold Act.

    In 1995, Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Russ Feingold (D-WI) jointly published an op-ed calling for campaign finance reform, and began working on their own bill. In 1998, the Senate voted on the bill, but the bill failed to meet the 60 vote threshold to defeat a filibuster. All 45 Senate Democrats and 6 Senate Republicans voted to invoke cloture, but the remaining 49 Republicans voted against invoking cloture. This effectively killed the bill for the remainder of the 105th Congress.

    McCain, still in his “Maverick mode and still running on ego, persisted.

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    Posted in Big Government, Elections, Health Care, Personal Narrative, Politics | 19 Comments »