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  • Archive for July, 2020

    Is the Biden Economic Plan on the Right Track?

    Posted by Kevin Villani on 31st July 2020 (All posts by )

    It promises to improve economic well-being relative to current economic policy for average and particularly less well-off citizens now and in the future, and to do the same for citizens of other countries including all immigrants. Can it deliver?

    The Mock Democratic Platform was released in February, the Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force a few weeks ago, and the draft 2020 Platform a few days ago. The economic plan is the most ambitious progressive anti-capitalist agenda at least since FDR’s New Deal and arguably in American history. It consistently proposes numerous government carrots and sticks to achieve its economic objectives, doubling down on the New Deal and Great Society methods.

    Causes and Consequences of Reducing Capital and Labor Productivity

    Potential national wealth is limited only by the amount of capital (national savings) and the incentive to maximize the productivity of capital (e.g., with new technology) and labor (through appropriate education and training). Politics often distorts individual incentives for the worse.

    Politically Re-directed Investment

    The US national savings rate hovered around 3% after turning negative in 2007-2009 and again now. The Biden economic plan for politically re-directing resources to, e.g., conservation, clean energy, transportation, manufacturing, infrastructure, affordable housing, etc. by subsidizing public and taxing private investment more has some merit. However, it may have problematic economic returns and the total cost is many multiples of total national savings.

    Education and School Choice

    Biden would limit the competition with public schools by restricting higher performing charter schools. Higher education would be made either affordable or free with reduced entrance requirements to compensate for a poor primary education, but higher education only contributes to individual and national wealth to the extent it improves productivity, e.g., with more STEM graduates.

    Labor Market Intervention

    By traditional measures, the country was fully employed prior to the Covid-19 epidemic, but the Biden plan calls for the “creation” of multiple millions of new high paying jobs, both in the nominally still private sector and the public sector. Pay would be raised by eliminating the right to work without being forced to join a union, something private sector unions have demanded since the passage of the Taft Hartley Act of 1947. But Biden plans to go beyond that, forcing all states to unionize public employees as well. For those that fall out of this broad union net, the federal minimum wage would start at $15/hour, superseding state laws. These are the tools that progressives historically used to keep blacks, other minorities and recent immigrants out of the labor force, and is is difficult to see how they would do otherwise this time around.

    Trade Protection

    As these politically inflated domestic labor costs will again be uncompetitive internationally the Biden plan opposes any trade deals, calling for manufactured goods to be sourced and stamped “made in America.” Consumer prices would have to rise commensurate with labor costs.

    Immigration

    Borders would be relatively open and immigrants incentivized to come both by the decline in export-related jobs and the benefits of the U.S. social welfare state. But they would be excluded from the formal job market by the union and minimum wage requirements once inside the U.S. border.

    Taxation, Debt and Money Printing: The Limits of Expropriation

    All senior mob leaders know two things well: 1. There is only so much extortion money to go around (gangster killings are usually over excessive greed), and 2, There are limits to how much you can extort without killing a business. At their peak in the 1980s the New York Mafia “owned” the labor unions that extorted from business, enabled by a symbiotic relationship of both with the Democratic Party. Sooner or later taxpayers and consumers always pay.

    Debt and Taxes

    State and local governments are in dire straits and blue states are technically insolvent, demanding a bailout. Federal funding has morphed the states into Soviet era oblasts with the federal government the funding source of first resort.

    Current federal debt is $27 trillion, exceeding that of WW II as a percent of the economy, with over $200 trillion in additional contingent liabilities.. The current federal deficit for this fiscal year is over $3 trillion, to which the Democrat-proposed Heroes Act would add an additional $3 trillion. Candidate Biden has offered tiny constituent groups, e.g., caregivers, almost $1 trillion, large constituent groups such as the environmentalists’ Green New Deal could cost upwards of $100 trillion, with lots of constituent promises falling in between.

    The Biden plan calls for reversing the Trump corporate tax cut that stimulated investment and exports. Taxing the “rich” will raise some revenue in the short run but reduce investment and growth in the longer run. Middle class taxes will follow, although he is committed to restoring the (blue) state and local income tax deduction for the relatively wealthy.

    The Federal Reserve and Modern Monetary Theory

    Having gone past the limit, a gangster may turn to counterfeiting as a last resort. The Federal Reserve is already “printing” enough money to be the primary buyer of Treasury debt and at the current pace would own it all in two years. Under the Modern Monetary Theory espoused by the Sanders campaign and now implicitly incorporated into the Biden economic plan, debts and deficits don’t matter so long as the Fed can print money to purchase them. The Biden plan adds “racial equity” to the Fed’s full employment and price stability goals to reduce differences in wages and unemployment.

    Biden’s Plan is an Extortion Racket on the Left-Behind Track

    Across time and space the evidence supports competitive market capitalism as the source of virtually all human economic progress. The Biden economic plan is essentially an extortion racket that fails to recognize its inherent limits, doubling down on the bad policies of the current Administration while eliminating the good, apparently because the Party’s octogenarian leaders either never learned the limits or have lost control to the young radical left. This plan so far exceeds the limits that even partial success could easily lead to hyper-inflation.

    There is a sense that America can always turns things around if it gets derailed but the progressive perspective dominates America’s intellectual elite and media. Argentina was once on the capitalist fast track parallel to the U.S., but progressive President Juan Peron switched tracks in 1946, and Argentina has been left behind ever since.

    Kevin Villani

    —-

    Kevin Villani was chief economist at Freddie Mac from 1982 to 1985. He has held senior government positions, has been affiliated with nine universities, and served as CFO and director of several companies. He recently published Occupy Pennsylvania Avenue on how politicians and bureaucrats with no skin in the game caused the sub-prime lending bubble and systemic financial system failure.

    Posted in Economics & Finance, Elections, Politics | 34 Comments »

    The Newsmaking Machinery Behind the Popular Song

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 30th July 2020 (All posts by )

    This last weekend, I had a tiny and depressing demonstration about the facile nature of local news – the news making machinery behind the popular song as the pop song used to go. I did local news-gathering myself as an in-house broadcast professional, doing a daily radio news program for Armed Forces Radio, Seoul Korea edition. I know how the pudding is made; have the basic framework for the story, go out and talk to people for the bits that fill in the story already mentally mapped out in your mind – and go and do it again the next day, and the day following. Daily news is sausage; stuff that casing with whatever the story requires, a judicious combination of meat or filler.

    There was a house fire last Sunday afternoon in our neighborhood – the first I knew of it (since I was working the final edit of Luna City #9) was when the Daughter Unit flung open the door, saying that a nearby house was on fire, that the dogs from the house were running loose on the street, and could I bring some doggie treats and help everyone catch them? Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Society, Current Events, Deep Thoughts, Dogs, Media | 13 Comments »

    Smashing the Soapbox

    Posted by Lucretius on 29th July 2020 (All posts by )

    The attack on free speech is gaining speed. Indeed, we shouldn’t expect the Internet to be a realm of free expression for much longer. Consider, for instance, an initiative named Stop Hate for Profit, which is calling on Facebook to “find and remove public and private groups focused on white supremacy, militia, antisemitism, violent conspiracies, Holocaust denialism, vaccine misinformation, and climate denialism” and to adopt “common-sense changes to their policies that will help stem radicalization and hate on the platform”; an allied group named Change the Terms has helpfully provided definitions of these so-called common-sense changes and says they should apply to Internet platforms for social media, video sharing, public or private group communication, message boards, online payments, ticket purchasing, marketing, advertising, blogging, website hosting, and domain name registration.

    In the revolutionary environment we find ourselves in, where definitions change almost weekly and purity spirals are the order of the day, this is chilling. Consider, for instance, white supremacy, which theorists like Robin DiAngelo have transformed from something like “a violently fascistic ideology based on the purported natural superiority of lighter-skinned people” into something like “the global, modern society that emerged in mostly Christian Europe and North America based on reason, science, objectivity, individual autonomy, free thought, and free markets.”

    Let’s put two and two together, shall we? (Yes, I realize mathematics is racist too, but so be it.) If expressing any fact or opinion that doesn’t conform to the ever more rigid ideology of anti-racism can subject you to effective removal from the Internet, then free speech is dead.

    Way back in 1996 at the dawn of the Internet Age, John Perry Barlow penned A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace, which among other things proclaimed “We are creating a world where anyone, anywhere may express his or her beliefs, no matter how singular, without fear of being coerced into silence or conformity.”

    How quaint.

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Current Events | 11 Comments »

    Conformity and Intimidation

    Posted by David Foster on 28th July 2020 (All posts by )

    (I mentioned these links before, in comments to this post, but I believe they are important enough to merit inclusion in a top-level post)

    According to a poll conducted by YouGov on behalf of the Cato Institute, almost 2/3 of Americans are afraid of sharing their political views. And with some reason, it seems: among strong ‘liberals’, 50% would support firing a business executive who had privately donated to the Trump campaign. Among strong conservatives, 36% would support firing an executive who donated to Biden. Even among those who identify as just ‘liberal’ rather than ‘very liberal’, 43% would be in favor of firing a Trump donator…22% of conservatives would be in favor of firing a Biden donor.

    See also this very interesting piece by the entrepreneur and venture capitalist Paul Graham: The Four Pillars of Conformism. Read the whole thing.

    Posted in Business, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Human Behavior, USA | 39 Comments »

    Systems Thinking

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 26th July 2020 (All posts by )

    Update Below

    I have not forgotten that I am going to write on systems-thinking and its problems in Christian theology.  I am thinking about it a lot, actually.  But in the interim, I have noticed something about how people think of good things versus bad things in their respective cultures.  PenGun  mentioned either here or at Assistant Village Idiot about a serious medical condition he had, and how grateful he was to the Canadian Health System that everything went well.  I have noticed the same thing from the Brits*, that when they recover from something it is because of the NHS. Scandinavians say such things about almost everything, actually. They perceive their system of everything to be better: policing, military, diplomacy, education, healthcare, traffic. When I went to Romania to pick up my boys for adoption, I went to the schools they had been attending to discuss how they were and what material was being covered to help integrate them to the private Christian school they would be attending in America.  None of the teachers were able to discuss what they were covering this year, and none knew anything about my two children individually.  They all wanted to talk about how the Romanian system was so superior to what we were doing in America. 

    You might think that just by law of averages alone that the Americans could have gotten something right, seeing as by objective measures…

    My cousin-in-law from Belgium would speak in similar fashion, that the system of schooling she was used to from childhood was so far superior to the schools she was sending her children to now (Concord, NH, very good.  Their boys went on to do well at MIT and UChicago).  Relatives of my sons who moved to Norway for better jobs took their girls out of Tromso abruptly and moved back to Transylvania, with part of the reason being that they felt the school system was much better. Similarly, when I speak to people from Quebec (and thus maybe all of Canada, or maybe not) it’s the same thing.  They believe that Quebecois everything is better in general. Stores, food, politeness – oh let me guarantee you that this is not so.  They have old-world gestures and customs but are solidly insulting – This attitude is so strong among Swedes that even other Scandinavians notice it, and resent it.  It is considered arrogant to put yourself forward as better at anything in any way, but there is this universal idea that their systems, their way of doing foreign policy, or religion, or serving food, or crossing the street is simply better. It is fascinating that all of these cultures consider Americans arrogant because individuals are boastful, or because we notice that we clearly have aspects of our culture that show considerable success – such as a longer life expectancy than any other country  after receiving a cancer diagnosis, regardless of what your income level is – and say so.  To most other places, you can brag about your culture in extreme fashion, but you should not give the merest hint of excelling in yourself. It’s an interesting value.  Once adopted, people outside of that will seem unconscionably rude, sure. We offend them in this way, and that we do not change even after they have pointed this out repeatedly just infuriates them more.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 39 Comments »

    What do Democrats Want ?

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 25th July 2020 (All posts by )

    I have been watching the gradual, then sudden, dissolution of a political party. My parents were Democrats. They were shocked when they learned I had voted for Richard Nixon in 1960. Jimmy Carter was a failure as a President but I wasn’t really worried about the country when he was in office. His actions with Iran and the Panama Canal were harmful but they were a matter of policy. Ronald Reagan, not a governor I was fond of in California, was a successful president. He was able to work with the Democrat Party in spite of some far left loonies like Chris Dodd. Many of the far left members of the Democrat Party favored communists like the Sandinistas but they were kept in line by the old pols to whom graft and spending were more important. Tip O’Neill would let Reagan win the Cold War as long as Reagan let the Democrat Congress run up the deficit.

    Bill Clinton changed much of this dynamic in two ways. First, he was a lot more ideological than previous presidents and second he was incompetent at it. Clinton is a very smart man but his wife, Hillary, was far too obvious in her corruption. First the 900 FBI files, then the White House Travel Office. Both were scandals that primed him for a big loss.

    Then the 1994 elections turned the Congress over to the Republicans and we learned how little they were interested in Conservatism. They accomplished nothing before being ousted by Democrats in 2006. This, of course, was followed by the housing and mortgage collapse of 2008. There was some attempt by Bush administration officials to rein in Congress and the debt explosion but it was probably too late anyway. The 2008 election placed Congress in Democrats’ hands for the first time with a Democrat president since 1974. Clinton’s two years did not result in much happening. The first Obama Congress spent like drunken sailors but were quickly reined in in 2010.

    What might happen if Biden won the presidency and the Democrats got a majority in the Congress ?

    In the past until now, there was zero chance that the hard Left would ever win an American election. No socialist has ever come close. Even Bernie Sanders accepted that the Democratic establishment for six years broke rules, leveraged candidates to drop out, and warped the media to ensure that he would remain a septuagenarian blowhard railing at the wind from one of his three houses. George McGovern was buried by a landslide. Most Democrats, after Kennedy and until Obama, never won the popular vote unless possessed of a Southern-accented hinting at centrism.

    Only the Great Depression and World War II ensured four terms of FDR, who still knew enough not to let his house socialists ruin the wartime U.S. economy.

    But in perfect storm and black swan fashion, the coronavirus, the lockdown, the riots, anarchy and looting, all combined with Trump Derangement Syndrome to be weaponized by the Left—and the media far more successfully than with their failed pro forma, legalistic efforts with Robert Mueller and impeachment to destroy the Trump presidency—have pushed socialism along.

    I thought Obama was an empty suit. Biden is an empty head.

    Who is behind all this and why ?

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Civil Society, Current Events, Elections, Trump | 44 Comments »

    Worth Contemplating

    Posted by David Foster on 24th July 2020 (All posts by )

    The closer men came to perfecting for themselves a paradise, the more impatient they seemed to become with it, and with themselves as well. They made a garden of pleasure, and became progressively more miserable with it as it grew in richness and power and beauty; for them, perhaps, it was easier for them to see that something was missing in the garden, some tree or shrub that would not grow. When the world was in darkness and wretchedness, it could believe in perfection and yearn for it. But when the world became bright with reason and riches, it began to sense the narrowness of the needle’s eye, and that rankled for a world no longer willing to believe or yearn. Well, they were going to destroy it again, were they,  this garden Earth, civilized and knowing, to be torn apart again that man might hope again in wretched darkness.

    –Walter Miller, A Canticle for Leibowitz

     

    Relevant to our current situation in the US and in other Western countries, perhaps?

     

    Posted in Deep Thoughts, Europe, USA | 5 Comments »

    Quote of the Day

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

    Helen Pluckrose, quoted in Spiked:

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

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

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

    Medical Genomics

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 23rd July 2020 (All posts by )

    This is an area where white privilege is real. We are increasingly able to determine risk scores for conditions that might develop later in life, and the large majority of the research subjects have been of North European ancestry. The studies have been done by Americans, Scandinavians, Dutch, etc, and a very large UK Biobank, but consider the motivations of all. Pharmaceutical and other companies have some interest in pure or general research, but mostly they want to be able to develop products for people who might buy them. Where do university labs get their subjects? Governments want to help their own people. 80% of sampling worldwide is Northern European.

    To understand why this matters, we usually take height as an example of a polygenic trait. There have been many SNP’s (smallest units) found to be “associated with” height. Even though they only have enough to account for 15% of the variance at this point, it was enough to predict that Shawn Bradley would be well above-average in height from his DNA alone. (Former NBA. 7’6″) But all of these discoveries are from Northern European samples. When you run the same tests on people of African descent, they show very few of those SNPs associated with height. They have so few, in fact that the test will predict that they are very short indeed, less than five feet, even if they are seven feet tall. Africans have different genes making them taller. A word on the side about these many genes that contribute to height. They are not so much of the form “make the shinbone a little longer,” as more general health items such as digestion and energy conversion, or when hormones activate and when they stop. A fair number may be primarily prenatal influence. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 5 Comments »

    Random Pic

    Posted by Jonathan on 22nd July 2020 (All posts by )

    death bus

    Don’t crash.

    Posted in Photos | 1 Comment »

    Oh, FFS!

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 22nd July 2020 (All posts by )

    As if it wasn’t enough for the joyless, bitter scolds among the wokerati to have an absolute tizzy over the head of Goya Foods being civil and respectful of the office of the President of the US, another provider of excellent and relatively inexpensive foodstuffs is in their cross-hairs. Unlike the president of Goya Foods who basically told them to pound sand – and is now enjoying the economic benefits of having defied the wokerati – the management of Trader Joe’s is beating a sniveling and apologetic retreat, and promising to redo their policy of labeling their various ethnic food items with a suitably ethnic variation on ‘Trader Something-or-Other’. This was a bit of light-hearted bit of humor on their part, playing with naming stereotypes, but good lord, the grim and determined wokerati cannot abide any humor at all and so the whole concept must go. The Daughter Unit tells me, and the above link conforms, that the whole thing started as a petition by high school students, which doesn’t surprise me in the least. I suspect the responsible students are the earnest and censorious sorts, desperately trying to out-woke each other.

    Frankly, the whole ‘Trader Joe’s’ South Sea Island – Tropical Paradise motif always struck me as a last gasp of the 1950s ‘Tiki Culture’ and about the only one which didn’t involve a bar decorated with fishing nets and dried starfish, and fru-fru drinks with little umbrellas in them. Trader Joe’s various products are high quality, reasonably priced, and the social-consciousness is laid on with a light hand, in pleasant contrast with the mountain of ostentatious correctitude and high prices offered at Whole Foods. There is a reason the latter is derisively known as “Whole Paycheck.” I can only think it’s only a matter of time before the social justice warriors go after Trader Joe’s for that bit of cultural appropriation as well.

    At least the providers of groceries are not having as rotten a year due to the Chinese Commie Crud as Hollywood is. Theaters shut down, premieres cancelled, top-flight releases like Greyhound, with Tom Hanks and based on C.S. Foresters’ war novel The Good Shepherd diverted to release on streaming video, the fall-out from “Me Too” and Harvey Weinstein’s wholesale-level practice of the casting couch, the apparent urge among our producers of entertainment to whore after foreign audiences, and now looking to curry favor with the hot new trend of ‘anyone but white heterosexuals in front of the camera and behind it as well as behind it in any capacity’ … well, Establishment Hollywood has earned the foul reputation they richly deserve. Those of us in flyover country are watching old movies on DVD (from our own libraries, let it be known) or on streaming video, watching foreign films or series – practically anything other than grim parables and lectures by the wokerati.

    Comment as you wish: what are you going to watch, now? The Daughter Unit and I are watching episodes of Are You Being Served? Which has the side benefit of being gloriously politically incorrect, and not featuring any masks or six-foot apart social distancing. (The Daughter Unit and I temped for a few months at an upscale department store over the holiday season some years ago. We consider ‘Served’ as nearly a documentary on retail sales at a certain level.)

    Posted in Advertising, Capitalism, Civil Society, COVID-19, Current Events, Customer Service, History, Media, Military Affairs | 37 Comments »

    Mom! She’s Touching Me!

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 21st July 2020 (All posts by )

    Well, as long as we are putting up pictures of animals relaxing …

    Posted in Dogs, Photos | 3 Comments »

    Posted by Jonathan on 20th July 2020 (All posts by )

    woof

    Chicagoboyz are kicking back and resting their dogs.

    Posted in Photos | 3 Comments »

    Intimidation vs Persuasion

    Posted by David Foster on 20th July 2020 (All posts by )

    Over recent years, I’ve notice that much political communication…ranging from formal statements by politicians down to off-the-cuff social media posts by individuals..has come to consist mostly of insulting one’s opponents. While there has always been a considerable amount of this, political insult has now become so prevalent as to drive out more rational forms of discourse. And while both/all sides do engage in the kind of behavior I’m discussing, it is much more predominant and extreme on the Left.

    From a marketing point of view, this may seem a little odd: why would one want to insult one’s prospective customers–the people one is trying to persuade? I think the answer may be provided by Willi Munzenberg, who was Stalin’s master propagandist. Here’s what Munzenberg told Arthur Koestler, back when Koestler was still a Communist:

    Don’t argue with them, Make them stink in the nose of the world. Make people curse and abominate them. Make them shudder with horror. That, Arturo, is propaganda!

    And that seems to be the objective, recognized or not, of much of today’s ‘progressive’ speech. People are being intimidated from speaking their minds not only out of fear of practical consequences…loss of customers, loss of jobs…but out of fear of being publicly demonized as a Bad Person.

    See Lead and Gold on Mediated Democracy and the Temptations of Leninism.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in History, Leftism, Marketing, Russia, USA | 31 Comments »

    Ephemeral Amusements

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 19th July 2020 (All posts by )

    The Daughter Unit was a little over two years old when we went to live in Greece, and almost kindergarten age when we left, and during that period we lived in a second-floor apartment in suburban Athens and hardly ever watched television. (I had a television set, but it was 110v, and Greece was a 220v country, and anyway, I was almost never at home in the evenings, the exception being when we went to our neighbors to watch Jewel in the Crown when it aired with subtitles on Greek TV.) This was at a time before wide-spread adoption of video players, before cable, way before streaming video. It was, in bald point of fact, rather like the three to five broadcast channels available when I was growing up. So, no, I didn’t miss TV much, and nor did the Daughter Unit, because we had books.

    Heaps and heaps of books; my parents took the opportunity of the Daughter Unit being a military dependent and entitled to have her personal items shipped to Greece gratis to include almost all of the kid-lit that Mom had accumulated for my brothers and sister and I. (Mom and Dad were in the process of moving into a travel trailer parked on the building site of their eventual retirement home, and so took every opportunity to down-size what they didn’t need or want. Like … that part of the personal library.) Off that shipment went to Athens, augmented with new books that I bought through an English mail-order service which offered lovely catalogs aimed mostly at expatriates whiling away the decades in locations devoid of English-language bookstores, and a children’s bookstore in what passed for a mall in Voula or Vouliagmeni, which featured Greek, English and I think German and French-language books. It was a small place, barely one twenty-foot square room in size, with each wall dedicated to a language. I am pretty certain that I bought the Daughter Unit’s favorite comic book series there; the Asterix and Obelix books.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Diversions, Humor, Personal Narrative | 4 Comments »

    What Future for Grocery Shopping?

    Posted by David Foster on 19th July 2020 (All posts by )

    The Covid-19 situation has caused a lot of people to try online shopping for things they had previously bought in physical stores.  Groceries, in particular, were something that most people preferred to buy in person, usually buying online only for specialty products that were hard or inconvenient to find locally.  But with the lockdowns, a lot of people have started using the various online shopping platforms.  These seem to fall into three primary categories:

    –Systems such as Giant Peapod (recently rebranded as just Giant Food), which are operated by a grocery chain or an individual store.  Some systems will deliver directly from a warehouse, bypassing their brick-and-mortar store locations.  And sometimes an option is offered to preorder electronically, with in-store or curbside pickup at the store.

    –Systems such as Instacart, which are more or less vendor-agnostic: these systems will allow you to place orders for any of several stores in your area, after which one of their shoppers will collect your order from the vendor’s regular store.

    –Systems (Boxed is an example) which are have no store presence; they are only for online ordering and home delivery, but do the delivery from their own facilities…many kinds of products, obviously, are susceptible to this model only if shipped express with dry ice or similar packaging (expensive) or if the vendor has local facilities in the same area as the customer.

    The relative success of these approaches will have great implications not only for the futures of the various merchants and system providers, but also for the commercial real-estate market.  Systems that use the existing stores for fulfillment, such as Instacart, are beneficial to the survival and thriving of strip malls and other commercial space where grocery stores are typically located; systems focused on warehouse delivery are beneficial to the industrial property market but not so for retail properties.

    Your thoughts and experiences?

    Posted in Business, COVID-19, Marketing, Tech | 20 Comments »

    The Unbearable Whiteness of Being Robin DiAngelo

    Posted by Lucretius on 18th July 2020 (All posts by )

    Dear Robin:

    I watched your video. No, not that free one on YouTube, but the one you presented to me and my co-workers and for which you probably charged ten thousand dollars. Nice work if you can get it, as Ira Gershwin once quipped. (Do Jewish folks count as white, too?)

    No, I haven’t read your book on white fragility. The video was enough for me, riddled as it was with execrable reasoning directed against ridiculous strawmen such as: individualism is the doctrine that human beings are utterly uninfluenced by the culture in which they live. Also, reading all those little black letters surrounded by an expanse of white paper is kind of a metaphor for structural racism, isn’t it? So reading must be bad.

    Although I’m not buying what you’re selling, I’ll grant that you’re full of passionate intensity for your cause. Sadly, this reminds me of that great poem by the Irish poet William Butler Yeats, in which he observed that “the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.” (Do Irish folks count as white, too?)

    The exact nature of your cause is somewhat unclear, couched as it is in the fog of critical discourse analysis and other Marxist claptrap; yet apparently it has something to do with establishing the cultural hegemony of your black-and-white ideology in which skin color is the only thing that really matters in life: in other words, a cleverly manipulative repackaging of the ideas of Italian communist Antonio Gramsci. (Do Italian folks count as white, too?)

    As you no doubt know but wish to suppress, 100 years ago there was no such thing as whiteness. Instead, the Anglo-Saxon majority in America drew cultural, not color, distinctions between themselves and the Irish, Italians, Slavs, and everyone else – at best barely tolerating some of these peoples. Your precious notion of whiteness is a more recent ideological construct, into the origins of which you and your ilk likely don’t want us to inquire.

    So Robin, what’s really the point? All I got out of your talk is that anyone who doesn’t have really dark skin (yes, I noticed your jibe about light-skinned blacks and their distasteful “colorism”) should feel endlessly guilty in an original sin kind of way and therefore should endlessly atone for their sins through self-renunciation, confessions of complicity in systemic racism, and preferably re-education at the hands of high-paid diversity consultants like you.

    Finally, your talk didn’t mention any actual Black people – like, say, Martin Luther King, Jr. The reason isn’t hard to find: MLK eloquently said that “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” Yet to you that is unacceptable, because you believe a money-grubbing, power-hungry, paleface re-education professor has the right to dictate to Black folks what they can think and how they can live (and if they don’t submit to your dictates, I guess they too must count as white, at least on the inside). Last I heard, that kind of dehumanizing condescension was called racism.

    Posted in Current Events, Deep Thoughts | 9 Comments »

    Observations on Federal Law Enforcement Actions in Portland

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 18th July 2020 (All posts by )

    Federal Lawmen arresting Portland protesters shown in recent social media video had the word “Police” on the uniforms as well as black and green “Homeland Security” shoulder patches. That the Leftist voice over says they were “not identified” is not supported by the visuals under the voice overs.

    It is clear these Federal lawmen were looking for someone specific and that they were doing so in an unmarked vehicle.

    Federal law men do this regularly. This tactic is seen most in drug cases and when they are hunting cop killers. A later Federal statement about this action after the person being detained was released made clear the Feds were looking for an individual who attacked federal officers at the court house, and the person picked up may have been a “known associate.”

    As for the rest of the Leftist voice overs, Federal law men are required to give Miranda rights in an arrest.

    They are _not_ required to do so immediately. Removing a detained individual from the scene and reading Miranda rights later has been accepted by the Federal courts for decades.

    Given the tendency of Antifa/BLM groups to mob lawmen removing their members. The Feds here were simply applying the least violent tactics.

    PERSONAL SPECULATION BASED ON OBSERVATIONS

    If the Feds are following their organized crime template. The organizations and the people wiring money to post these individual’s bail money are now under Federal electronic surveillance. This has been how the Feds deal with large organizations of people bailing out the people the Feds arrest since the “Drug King Pin,” “asset forfeiture” and RICO additions to the racketeering laws were passed in the 1980’s.

    Given the “Big Data” tools available to the Feds, every Antifa/BLM person detained in Portland is having all relevant bio-metric identification taken from them and the information is being fed into various law enforcement data bases, to include those of the Secret Service. The latter has a higher level of access to the NSA data banks than the FBI to evaluate people as threats to the President or other politicians they protect.

    In so many words, if any of the Antifa/BLM people being picked up in Portland were anywhere near a Secret Service presidential detail protected Trump campaign ot Administration event, Trump family event or Presidential /V.P. visit to any city outside Portland since the summer of 2015. Any metadata in cell phones, bank, hotel, credit card, airline, or bus line records somewhere that matches these people has been pulled. If this data compared with those Secret Service “security bubble” hits has a match.  It will cause an automated threat profile to be generated. A threat profile that will show all the electronic records of their travels and electronic money transfers for the period(s) of interest.

    The latter — electronic money transfers — will be used to map the money flows at lower levels of Antifa/BLM to reach up to the higher levels of money flowing from the big corporations and Soros backed front groups.

    Please note, Federal standard operating procedure with organized crime means some number of those Antifa/BLM being arrested & released in Portland are now Federal informants.

    One more thing,  the Feds — and the Secret Service especially — have made very extensive use of both facial recognition and visual pattern recognition technology. I guarantee that these unmarked Federal law enforcement vans cruising in Portland Oregon have cameras with both technologies.

    That Federal law men are getting out and walking a couple of blocks to their target from such vans and slow walking them back is a “poker tell” [AKA  tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTP)] of facial recognition technology’s use.  As everyone who turns to see the uniformed law men coming and watching them going with the detainee gives the watching camera’s enough eye-nose area data to match them up with their driver’s licence photos.

    Please see:

    https://www.cnn.com/2020/07…

    “A 2016 study by the Georgetown Law Center on Privacy and Technology found that one in four US state or local police departments had access to facial recognition technology, and that nearly half of all American adults are in a police facial recognition database, in part because of agreements that provide access to repositories of drivers’ license photos.”

    One of the many things that came back from Iraq  US Army surplus to American law enforcement was a visual surveillance technology called “Constant Hawk.”  The US Military pioneered artificial intelligence (A.I.) visual pattern recognition technology to beat the Iraqi road side bomb campaign, starting in 2006, with the “Constant Hawk”  camera system in MC-12 twin engine turbo props.  (A MC-12 is the Cessna King Air in olive drab and white paint job).

    Strategy page -dot- com reports in 2020 that a “Constant Hawk-lite” technology has been shrunk to the point an 11 kg (22-lb) drone can carry it.  See:

    Information Warfare: Son Of Hawk Sees More
    https://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htiw/articles/20200707.aspx

    “Constant Hawk uses a special video camera system to observe a locality and find useful patterns of behavior. Some of the Constant Hawk systems are mounted on light (MC-12s, mainly) aircraft, others are mounted on ground structures. Special software compares photos from different times. When changes are noted, they are checked more closely, which has resulted in the early detection of thousands of roadside bombs and terrorist ambushes. This largely eliminated roadside bomb attacks on supply convoys in Iraq.”

    Short Form:

    There are Federal law enforcement light planes and unmarked Federal law enforcement vans cruising above and around Portland “mapping the Antifa human terrain” the way that Google Earth does for roads and houses in your neighborhood.

    My gut says we are going to see rounds of mass arrests based on the data these systems are gathering.

    A fact to remember related to this effort is that the criminal conviction rates in Federal courts run to 98%.

    -End-

    Posted in Crime and Punishment, Current Events, Human Behavior, Law, Law Enforcement, Leftism, Urban Issues, USA | 49 Comments »

    Posted by Jonathan on 18th July 2020 (All posts by )

    sweet

    Chicagoboyz is the berries.

    Posted in Photos | 2 Comments »

    Pre-Columbian Polynesian-Native American Contact

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 18th July 2020 (All posts by )

    Very exciting stuff, which I barely got started with over at my own site on Wednesday.

    I link again to the paper in Nature by Alex Ioannidis et al about Native American-Polynesian contact before the Columbian period. One commenter alertly picked up that this is the Thor Heyerdahl Kon-Tiki hypothesis from decades ago. The paper references this in the first paragraph. The Norwegian sailed a hand-made reed boat from South America to French Polynesia in the 1940’s in order to prove it could be done.  He believed that the initial settlement of Oceania came from Peru and Chile, and that these people were later in contact with and eventually displaced by people in double-hulled canoes around 1100 AD.  That the Polynesians have the sweet potato, a New World food, has always provided some support for this theory, though plants can also wash ashore from distant places as well.

    The new paper identifies 2-3% genetic similarity in the Polynesians, especially around the Marquesas Islands, with Native American tribes in Ecuador and Colombia (Zenu) from a single* contact event around 1200 AD, before the settling of Easter Island (Rapa Nui).  Because the distances are ridiculous, all theories about how this occurred seem unlikely, but there it is.  It happened somehow.  Did these two groups have contact in the Marquesas, or did the Polynesians keep on sailing until they reached Ecuador? If you pull up your map of the Pacific Ocean, both look extremely unlikely.  The later Polynesians were extreme sailors and covered vast distances.  Such peoples must not only be able to navigate using subtle signs of sky, water, and birds, they must be adapted to living on the water for long periods. To us getting in a boat is a temporary act, but for them this was much less true. Whole groups took to the open sea together, bringing with them what they needed to found colonies whenever they did reach land. There are fishing peoples who spend most of their lives on the water in SE Asia, but these stay close to land. Still, it can be done. The Austronesians were great sailors, getting all the way to settling Madagascar off the east coast of Africa to Hawaii and Easter Island in the Pacific. Plus, if you keep sailing east, South America is hard to miss.  They had a culture where people struck out onto the sea looking for new places to live, likely for cultural reasons that are now lost to us.  Notice that these are in similar latitudes, so that the taro and banana and coconut plants would be likely to grow in a new location.  North-south movement and settlement is much more precarious on both land and sea. One of the things that Jared Diamond did get right. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 5 Comments »

    Citizens of London

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 18th July 2020 (All posts by )

    The book Citizens of London by Lynne Olson was published in 2010 – my wife came upon it recently and recommended it to me. If you are looking for further evidence that Franklin Roosevelt was a horse’s ass and that Joe Kennedy should have stood trial for treason, this will please you.  Do not read the Introduction, as Olson merely uses it to illustrate that she is a rather cliched citizen of Washington DC, with at least some of its bubble prejudices.  This is perhaps necessary if one writes approvingly about America’s history, even WWII, in order to fit in there, but it intrudes on the narrative for those outside the Acela Corridor.  Her politics do bleed through a bit, as she is quite clear what were good progressive domestic policies of the day and which were old regressive bad ones, but even I, who am very easily irritated by such things, liked her telling of the story of America’s entry into the war well enough to overlook them.

    Olson focuses on three Americans – CBS broadcaster Edward R Murrow, business heir Averill Harriman, and especially Gil Winant, American ambassador to the UK following the execrable Kennedy. She credits them with shepherding the relationship between Roosevelt and Churchill, the military staffs, and the American and British people in general enough that they could work together well enough to fight a war. We regard such cooperation as automatic now and are aware of a “Special Relationship,” however much Barack Obama did to undermine that during his presidency. Yet our nations’ positive feeling for each other now is largely a result of that successful cooperation.  There was considerable misunderstanding and animosity on both sides leading up to the war.

    John Gilbert Winant

    A friend who was a history and business professor and is also the designer of a detailed WWII wargame once commented to me how empty our historical what-ifs are, specifically in relation to the idea that the US could have saved many Jews by bringing them to America in the 1930s. While entirely agreeing that taking as many as we could squeeze in would have been of enormous benefit to American science, arts, and business, he waved the thing off as impossible. There was no way that we were going to take in additional people when there was 25% unemployment, and Jews were considered far too different for a nation that had excluded an entire continent from any immigration only a few years before. Americans, especially outside the Eastern cities, didn’t like Slavs and Irishmen and barely tolerated Scandinavians. Citizens of London will remind you that we didn’t even like the British all that much. We believed ridiculous things about them (and they about us). Our isolationism was widespread, and intense.  If Europe and Asia wanted to tear each other to pieces, let ’em, it was no affair of ours, and even England was not an exception. Once you came here you were expected to adopt much of the same attitude yourself in order to be regarded as American at all.

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 21 Comments »

    Five New England States To Change Names

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 17th July 2020 (All posts by )

    The governors of five of the six New England states announced jointly today that each would be changing its name as of January 1st, 2021. Massachusetts and Connecticut both apologized for centuries of cultural appropriation by ripping off local toponyms from native peoples, using the names for areas occupied by white colonialist settlers, while Maine and Rhode Island confessed that their names had originated from white colonialist oppressors, replacing the perfectly good Native American names that should have been kept. Governor Chris Sununu of New Hampshire stated that the Executive Council had considered standing pat because “the name just means new home town shire,” but ultimately decided that “new” “home,” “town” and “shire” all had oppressive or citizenist connotations anyway and should be discarded. “We will probably go with Granite State – though even “state” is problematic,” he said. “White Mountain State is clearly right out.” There is already a petition circulating in Portsmouth to switch to “Statey McStateface.”

    Massachusetts is considering changing to “Airstrip One;” Maine may simply drop the final “e” because it’s easier to spell; and Rhode Island, already annoyed at having to change the coolest state name in the country, is contemplating secession.

    Only Vermont is retaining its traditional name, though Governor Phil Scott admitted this is provisional. “We think ‘Mountain’ is inoffensive, and ‘Green’ has the advantage of also being the name of one of the few acceptable political parties this year. Still, you never know. Someone might come up to the State House tomorrow and declare themselves offended, and we’d have to honor that.” In the meantime, the state has decided to change the names of most its towns, beginning with White River Junction and St Alban’s, owing to their unbearable whiteness and the unfortunate religious origins of the latter. “Because almost everything is either cultural appropriation or cultural hegemony, we thought we would just move to identifying every place name by its current initial letter,” Governor Scott explained. “Unfortunately, in Vermont everything of any importance begins with a B, so it won’t be much help on your GPS” he added, throwing up his hands. The residents of Montpelier immediately took to the streets with hastily-lettered signs in protest upon hearing that explanation.

    Government officials from every other named place in the world declined to comment.

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 16 Comments »

    Random Pic – 7/16/2020

    Posted by Jonathan on 16th July 2020 (All posts by )

    sunset

    Chicagoboyz like to watch.

    Posted in Photos | 2 Comments »

    Random Pic

    Posted by Jonathan on 14th July 2020 (All posts by )

    Posted in Photos | 15 Comments »

    Dressing, Reading, and Listening for Success

    Posted by David Foster on 14th July 2020 (All posts by )

    I see that Brooks Brothers has entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy, a result of changing tastes in business apparel aggravated by the Covid-19 lockdowns.  I’m reminded of something in Father, Son, & Co by long-time IBM CEO Tom Watson Jr.  (The best business autobiography I’ve ever read)

    One of the many people mentioned by Watson in the book is a slightly older executive named Al Williams..much admired by Watson for the way he had worked his way up from a rough background in a coal-mining town to a high executive position at IBM.  When Watson asked him how he had done it–how he got so smooth, he seemed like a graduate of Yale–Williams said that his self-improvement program had three fundamental elements:

    –buy suits at Brooks Brothers
    –read the classics
    –listen to classical music

    (He also played tennis for an hour a day)

    I wonder what an equivalent program might look like in the year 2020?  The Brooks Brothers element seems pretty much negated by that company’s financial results, although there are surely differences from industry to industry.  But what would be the present-day equivalents of reading the classics and listening to classical music?

    Watching videos of TED talks, perhaps?

    Posted in Business, Culture, Current Events | 11 Comments »