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  • Thrift and the Virtue of Home Made

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on April 20th, 2021 (All posts by )

    It amused me this week, to read of the list of professions which have proved historically to always provide a living of sorts to those who practice them; fine carpentry, construction carpentry, metalworking, innkeeping and I don’t know what-all. Seamstressing was not among them, which is a pity … but since it his historically been an almost exclusively female-practiced profession/hobby/amusement, perhaps it’s one of those things that we can really blame the patriarchal establishment for. Women could make a living, even if relatively a barely marginal one from sewing, although if you glommed onto a high-visible and high-value client who patronized you extravagantly, a certain degree of prosperity would be assured  … but I think mostly that it was one of those things that women were expected to do anyway as part of keeping and maintaining a house, which brought the wages down for those exercising the skill professionally. Eh … never mind. Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Business, Culture, Current Events, Customer Service, Economics & Finance | 57 Comments »

    Random Pic

    Posted by Jonathan on April 15th, 2021 (All posts by )

     

    Posted in Photos | 10 Comments »

    Random Observations From the World of Industrial Distribution

    Posted by Dan from Madison on April 15th, 2021 (All posts by )

    Things got kooky in my world last year, and they continue to be, well, interesting (I guess that is one word you could use – this is a family blog after all) this year. A few random notes for those who may be interested. For those who may not know, I own an HVAC distributor, which is a subset of industrial distribution.

    We recently received an increase of 15% in sheet metal fittings. The manufacturer just announced that due to continued pressure on steel, there will be another 15-20% increase coming in 60 days.

    This news about sheet metal fittings dovetails into some interesting news I have been hearing about new construction. Lumber and other materials are skyrocketing so fast that builders are going back to people who are building houses and redrawing up contracts and demanding more money. Banks aren’t appreciative. It’s ugly.

    Cans are in short supply. We sell a boatload of aerosol based cleaners for everything from commercial cooking equipment to air conditioners to refrigeration coils – I have heard that there are problems in aluminum, and cans themselves as the sanitization industry is taking up much of the can consumption for cleaners and germicides.

    One of the major HVAC equipment manufacturers that we represent announced a mid year price increase. I can only remember one other time this happened. It is rumored to be in the 8% range.

    An ice machine manufacturer just announced a 10% price increase, then another 20% on top of that one month later.

    There is a force majeure on one of the components that is used to make foam in a can – I think this is from the damage in Texas that was caused by the cold snap but I am not sure. This affects a lot of markets. I have heard that a refrigerator manufacturer is getting ready to idle production because they can’t get foam.

    Industrial distribution is on allocation for PVC pipe and fittings.

    Shipping woes worldwide continue. The Suez Canal thing didn’t help. Shipping costs are triple what they were last year.

    I am getting daily bulletins from all of our vendors with these types of things. With copper, steel, plastics, silver and chemicals all having problems right now and at record prices, it is going to be another interesting year, to say the least.

     

    Posted in Business | 45 Comments »

    The Age of Duty

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on April 12th, 2021 (All posts by )

    The age of duty passes, I suppose, with the death of Prince Philip, the chosen spouse of Her Highness, Queen Elizabeth II of England and whatever remains of the Commonwealth and domains. (And in the theology of a remote South Pacific island tribe, the worshipped deity and incarnation of a local volcano spirit, through a process which no one outside that tribe can quite figure out.)

    No, I’m not a royalty devotee, in any particular degree. I’m an American, of British descent yet purely republican (small r there, let it be known), so I suppose it is a sentimental thing on my part – or even a degree of decent human sympathy. As my daughter said, unforced, on reading the news the other morning, “Oh, poor Queen!” A seven-decade long marriage, for that time always under the constant, unblinking, pitilessly Sauron-like, and censorious eye of the public media – ended by death at the end of a horrible and trying year. Poor Queen. A woman who was (and still remains) under unsparing scrutiny for nearly all of her life from the age of twelve or so, and yet performed flawlessly in the public sphere, on practically every occasion. The loss of her sister, her mother, now her husband, and all this on top of  a fraught and very public estrangement from an adult grandson … poor Queen, indeed. Her private circle of heart-friends and close-mouthed supporters is narrowed substantially by one, and that possibly the dearest and most personal supporter of all. Sympathy indeed. She has a pair of new dogs, and the remaining family and friends to comfort her, so at least she has that. Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Anglosphere, Britain, Crime and Punishment, Crony Capitalism, Current Events, Leftism | 33 Comments »

    “Yom HaShoah and the importance of recognizing when the rules of the game have changed.”

    Posted by Jonathan on April 12th, 2021 (All posts by )

    Worth reading.

    Sarah Hoyt summarizes:

    Not just the conviction that “it can’t happen here.” There is also the deep in-built certainty that tomorrow will be more or less like today, and the worst that can happen within relatively safe bounds. Even while everything is shifting against you. From Pompeii to Nazi Germany, from Alexander’s conquests to Communist Russia, the normalcy bias has killed more human beings than any other factor in history.

    See also Note 12 here.

     

    Posted in Deep Thoughts, History, Human Behavior | 42 Comments »

    The Logic of Insatiable Centralization

    Posted by David Foster on April 8th, 2021 (All posts by )

    People and businesses have been leaving New York City, and the state of California, at a considerable rate. Some of these people/businesses are *resources* from the standpoint of government and its leaders: they are tax money on the hoof.   Cuomo, de Blasio, and Newsome would surely like to have a way of keeping them there.  Would these leaders, if they were allowed, favor a legal prohibition on exits, or at least a prohibitive tax penalty for such exit? This is the logic of the Berlin Wall, or of the Reich Flight Tax, the Reichsfluchtsteuer.   Such things may seem impossible in America, but the Dems have pushed for a lot of things that would have previously been considered impossible in America.

    Comes now Janet Yellen of the Biden administration, with a proposal for a global minimum tax on businesses, thereby nailing the feet of companies to the floor and keeping them from going elsewhere to avoid excessive exactions.  Just as Blue-city mayors would rather not have to worry about offering a tax system that is fair and economically-rational, the same is true of the Blue Biden administration.

    As a writer at Ricochet has pointed out:

    (Yellen’s proposal) is a terrible idea, for a very simple reason: “harmonizing” between governments eliminates competition between them. And it locks in the kind of bloated incompetence that is a feature of even the best governments out there.

    We want companies to be able to shop for their preferred home, just as we want Americans to be able to move to low-tax states. Similarly, if a poor country is trying to attract tenants (companies), why should they not be able to offer advantageous tax rates or less bureaucratic overburden?

    It would not just be a matter of keeping companies from moving–the proposal would also tend to reduce or eliminate pressure to keep taxes low and minimize government waste.

    Basically, this global minimum tax would represent the collusion of the political and bureaucratic classes against everybody else.

    And against diversity–any diversity of political and economic philosophies.

    “Progressives” don’t like fine-tuning incentives; they like issuing prohibitions and giving orders.

     

    Posted in Economics & Finance, Leftism, Taxes | 38 Comments »

    Back

    Posted by Jonathan on April 8th, 2021 (All posts by )

    Apologies for the prolonged downtime. We had some site issues that are now fixed. No left wing conspiracies, purges or censorship were involved. Thanks for your patience.

    tech support

    Chicagoboyz technical support staff are on the case.

     

    Posted in Announcements | 10 Comments »

    Better Explanations?

    Posted by Ginny on April 5th, 2021 (All posts by )

    We might be forgiven for thinking that China does not have our best interests in mind, given their halt of all national movement from Wuhan and encouragement of all international travel from Wuhan in the pandemic’s early months, given the secrecy that surrounds the Wuhan Institute and the belated admission of and tight controls on the WHO inspectors, etc. etc.

    The tragedy at our border is huge and this seems almost a small part of it, but some acts seem to parallel China’s: Why are Americans expected to isolate themselves from useful pursuits (such as work and education and church), while Covid-infected illegal immigrants are sent on planes and buses to the interior (not that I’m all that crazy about how their policies are also refreshing the epidemic in Texas).

    Stirring division, encouraging wokeness and discouraging economic recovery in Atlanta, ignoring the vulnerability of the border to human trafficking and terrorist entry, encouraging defunding the police and justice systems that show little (in some cases any) respect for property or the victims of violent crime: the quantity of “ironies” might be more easily explained as expected consequences to Biden/Harris policies. And so we might be forgiven for thinking that they, too, do not have our best interests in mind.

    With Trump I’d turn to Instapundit and notice every day little and big things that seemed to free us or make the future more attractive, one of the values was that doing and speaking seemed aligned and Orwellian obfuscation was not omnipresent; it is, now, as opposite patterns can be easily discerned. Both seemed to be “busy” presidents – though that this seems to be coming from Biden seems hard to believe, it certainly is coming from “his” White House. And one’s busyness leads to productivity and the other’s to stasis – the position of a sitting duck.

     

    Posted in China, Civil Society, Current Events, Immigration, Leftism, Texas | 29 Comments »

    The Deep State and World War I

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on April 4th, 2021 (All posts by )

    I have been reading, actually rereading, a book on the origins of World War I. It is titled “The Sleepwalkers” It is a bit of a revisionist treatment of the topic which has been popularized by Barbara Tuchman and “The Guns of August which lays the blame for the war on Germany. This book does a pretty good job of assigning responsibility to two new culprits, Sir Edward Grey, who is also blamed by Pat Buchanan in “The Unnecessary War.” Buchanan blames Grey and Churchill, which I disagree with. Buchanan goes on to blame Churchill for WWII, as well but I think he has a good argument with Grey about WWI.

    What is striking to me on this rereading, is the role of the bureaucracies of several countries. Many know of the willfulness and erratic behavior of Kaiser Wilhelm. His ministers often did not inform him of serious matters, lest he impulsively make them worse. A gross example was “The Daily Telegraph Affair.” In this example, the Kaiser wrote a letter to then English newspaper making some extreme statements. His ministers were horrified.

    The Russian Czar was equally erratic and his ministers frequently maneuvered to discourage his role in foreign affairs.

    What seems to me to be new insight concerns the English and French bureaucracies. Edward VII had been a Francophile and Germanophobe and had encouraged The Entente Cordiale with France and Russia. Edward died in 1910, leaving his son George V on the throne. George V was new, uncertain and left foreign affairs in the hands of his Foreign Minister Sir Edward Grey. Grey was a quiet, seemingly passive man but he was also a bureaucratic manipulator. He was a Germanophobe and had a collection of like minded men in the foreign office. The worst of the Germanophobes was Eyre Crowe born in Germany and spoke with a German accent but a Germany hater. Grey’s policy was not popular with other Liberals in government so he kept the policy of alliance with France vague right up until 1914. He denied the existence of an alliance with France right up to the declaration of war. As for Crowe:

    He is best known for his vigorous warning, in 1907, that Germany’s expansionist intentions toward Britain were hostile and had to be met with a closer alliance (Entente) with France.

    Crowe organized the Ministry of Blockade during the World War and worked closely with French President Georges Clemenceau at the Supreme Council at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919.

    Lloyd George and Crowe’s rivals in the Foreign Office tried to prevent Eyre’s advancement but as a consequence of his patronage by Lord Curzon, Eyre served as Permanent Under-Secretary at the Foreign Office from 1920 until his death in 1925.

    A similar group in France ran the foreign Ministry and was referred to as the “Centrale.” The French government was as unstable as it was before WWII and for the same reasons. Weak parties and weak Foreign Ministers who came and went, often in months not years. The man who was the center of this system was Maurice Herbette. There is very little about this man in English sources. He apparently controlled the Foreign Ministry’s public communications and very nearly caused a war with the Agadir Crisis of 1911.

    The point of this discussion of history is that we have a similar situation in this country right now. We have a weak, very weak, president in Joe Biden who is senile and who is being controlled by someone mysterious. The Deep State is a term used to describe the federal bureaucracy and probably includes a network of rich corporatist donors who control the Democrat Party.

    The faceless bureaucrats of 1914 botched the crisis the followed the assassination of the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne. Yes, the Serbian Black Hand created the crisis and there has been much discussion of the competence of the “Three Emperors” who ruled the main belligerents, but the real rulers of these three countries plus republican France were unknown (to the public), unelected bureaucrats who might well have resembled the people running Joe Biden.

     

    Posted in Big Government, Book Notes, Britain, Europe, France, Germany, History, Military Affairs | 58 Comments »

    Whose Lives Matter?

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on April 1st, 2021 (All posts by )

    The seriously insistent woke of mostly upper-caste activists among us now insist that black lives matter, and matter most of all. And why? They claim that those Americans of somewhat African descent are consistently and viciously targeted by the rest of us solely for the color of their skin. The content of the character of the inner-city urban element of that demographic gets rather less consideration on the part of the Professionally Woke. The conduct of those poor, misunderstood children of the inner city sink neighborhoods is, to say the least, somewhat questionable. Examples abound, the most recent example being the pair of feral teenagers who hijacked a delivery driver’s vehicle in Washington DC last weekend, and subsequently crashed the vehicle, killing the delivery driver in the wreck. For decades there have been depressingly violent crimes perpetuated by the urban thug elements of color on their neighbors, local retailers, and passing strangers of all colors and ethnic backgrounds occurring on a regular basis, without much comment by the Professionally Woke other than to blame white prejudice/systemic racism for Making Them Do The Crime.

    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Civil Society, Conservatism, Crime and Punishment, Current Events, Leftism, Media, Urban Issues | 73 Comments »

    Biden’s Climate Fixation.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on March 30th, 2021 (All posts by )

    Joe Biden, or whoever writes his stuff, announced that “Climate Change” will be the #1 issue for his administration. What does this mean and portend? There are a number of articles in “Asia Times” that discuss this. I ran across this series at an Australian blog I read ever day, Catallexy Files

    In his January 27 “Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad,” US President Joseph Biden declares that his administration aims at “putting the climate crisis at the center of United States foreign policy and National Security.”

    Taken literally, this statement – as I think any sober observer of today’s situation in the US and internationally will agree – is a piece of insanity. Joe, please tell us you don’t mean it.

    Whatever one might believe about an oncoming climate apocalypse, the urgent domestic and international problems the Biden administration will face in the immediate months ahead have little or nothing to do with the temperature of the Earth’s atmosphere. They include the likelihood of crises that might decide between war and peace on a short time-horizon.

    I am reading the articles, there are 6 so far. I think they are worth a read. The author is a PhD in Math at age 22 from UC Berkeley

    The first article

    The second

    The third.

    BlackRock Inc, the world’s largest investment management company with about 8 trillion dollars of managed assets, plays a singular role in US President Joe Biden’s climate policy. Indeed, it looks like BlackRock and the Biden administration are married to each other.

    The marriage was consumated, one might say, with the appointments and nominations of prominent BlackRock executives to high posts in the administration. All of them are typical of the “revolving door” phenomenon of leading personnel shifting back and forth between government and big finance.

    The fourth.

    Most importantly: Given sufficient support for research and development in the context of large-scale infrastructure investment worldwide, ending the era of dependence on fossil fuels could be accomplished without austerity and with a minimum of coercive measures by governments. The major drivers would be higher efficiency, lower costs, competitive advantages.

    This would be a natural process if guided by rationality rather than quasi-religious belief in a coming “climate apocalypse.”

    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Big Government, Energy & Power Generation, Environment | 36 Comments »

    The Suez Canal and Industrial Distribution

    Posted by Dan from Madison on March 27th, 2021 (All posts by )

    As you all probably know, there is a ship stuck in the Suez Canal, which is blocking transit. You may not think this directly affects you, but it will. It’s just a matter of time.

    I own an HVAC distributor, and HVAC is a subset of industrial distribution. Most manufacturers are still reeling from last year’s Covid issues. Commodities like copper, steel, aluminum and sliver were already spiking in price before this latest logistics issue.

    I spoke with one of my major component suppliers this week. The cost of a container from Asia to the US was $5k last year. This year it is $15k. And there simply aren’t enough to go around.

    While the Suez blockage doesn’t directly affect this trade route, it does affect the overall global logistical issues – and wreaks havoc on just in time producers.

    I have one manufacturer of HVAC equipment that suspended all new orders a few months ago as they grapple with staffing issues.

    When you combine all of this, I don’t think that there is any question that there will be finished good shortages again this Summer. First affected will be stuff made “over there”. We are already seeing shortages on things like ductless mini split systems because of the continuing port slowdowns on the west coast of the USA. It isn’t even Summer yet.

    Here is where it affects you. The guys who have the stuff will win. Hands down. I made an enormous inventory investment this Winter and Spring, placing orders far in advance of what I normally would. I’m not going to let that investment go to waste – and I’m not spending basically every waking hour getting stuff in my barns to help my contractors get their jobs done for nothing. If I’m the only guy who has it (and trust me, on some things, I will be) – the price just went up. It’s nothing personal, just business.

    Believe me when I say that I wish my life were easier and yours cheaper, but I won’t be alone in this. If you end up with an issue with anything from car parts to electrical to something as simple as a washer breaking down, you will be paying more in the very near future.

    Sorry.

     

    Posted in Business, COVID-19 | 77 Comments »

    Trimming the Kids to Fit the Template

    Posted by David Foster on March 26th, 2021 (All posts by )

    Kevin Meyer, in his post Leveraging the Solitude of Leadership, cites a lecture delivered at West Point by essayist William Deresiewicz…who started by describing his experience on the Yale admissions committee:

    The first thing the admissions officer would do when presenting a case to the rest of the committee was read what they call the “brag” in admissions lingo, the list of the student’s extracurriculars.

    So what I saw around me were great kids who had been trained to be world-class hoop jumpers. Any goal you set them, they could achieve. Any test you gave them, they could pass with flying colors. They were, as one of them put it herself, “excellent sheep.” I had no doubt that they would continue to jump through hoops and ace tests and go on to Harvard Business School, or Michigan Law School, or Johns Hopkins Medical School, or Goldman Sachs, or McKinsey consulting, or whatever. And this approach would indeed take them far in life.

    That is exactly what places like Yale mean when they talk about training leaders. Educating people who make a big name for themselves in the world, people with impressive titles, people the university can brag about. People who make it to the top. People who can climb the greasy pole of whatever hierarchy they decide to attach themselves to.

    But I think there’s something desperately wrong, and even dangerous, about that idea.

    Dangerous how?  Largely because of all that emphasis on hoop-jumping…

    What we don’t have, in other words, are thinkers. People who can think for themselves. People who can formulate a new direction: for the country, for a corporation or a college, for the Army—a new way of doing things, a new way of looking at things. People, in other words, with vision.

    A couple of weeks ago, a WSJ bookshelf piece titled The Price of Admission reviewed Little Platoons, by Matt Feeney, the theme of which is “a growing incursion of market forces into the family home.”

    In the ambitious, competitive environments that Mr Feeney describes, year-round sports clubs and camps promote not joyful play or healthy exertion but ‘development’ and preparation for advancement to ‘the next level’–where the good, choiceworthy thing is always a few hard steps away.  If there is a terminus to this process, it is admission to a good college, which is, for many of the parents Mr Feeney describes, the all-encompassing goal of child-rearing.

    As a result, the most powerful and insidious interlopers in Mr Feeney’s story turn out to be elite college admissions officers.  These distant commissars quietly communicate a vision of the 18-year-old who will be worthy of passing between their ivied arches, and ‘eager, anxious, ambitious kids’, the author tells us, upon ‘hearing of the latest behavioral and character traits favored by admissions people, will do their best to affect or adopt these traits.’

    The emphasis on college admissions, especially ‘elite’ college admissions, has given enormous power to the administrators involved in this process–people who are ‘vain and blinkered’, in Mr Feeney’s words. They are also capricious:

    Admissions officers once looked favorably upon students who captained every team, founded every club and spent every school break building homes in Africa and drilling for the SATs. Ambitious students and parents obliged, shaping family life in accordance to those preferences. In time, though, colleges found themselves deluged with résumé-padding renaissance students. Doing everything was no longer a sign of distinction, so admissions personnel changed the signals they were sending. “Now,” Mr. Feeney says, “instead of ‘well-rounded’ generalist strivers, admissions officers favor the passionate specialist, otherwise known as the ‘well-lopsided’ applicant.” Striving families are only too happy to comply.

    I haven’t read Mr Feeney’s book, but at least as far as the college admissions process goes, I’d question whether it reflects ‘the intrusion of market forces’ into family life–if America was to go all the way to government ownership and control of those functions now performed by businesses, the malign effects of the admissions hoop-jumping described by the author would be just about the same.

    In any case, people who are taught to center their lives and personalities around this admissions process, and the subsequent educational experience, are unlikely to be either first-class innovators or first-class leaders.

    And, worse, the process makes them less likely to become thoughtful and courageous citizens.  In the comments to this post, commenter OBloodyHell quoted Walt Whitman:

    There is no week nor day nor hour when tyranny may not enter upon this country, if the people lose their roughness and spirit of defiance.

    “Roughness and spirit of defiance” are not likely to be compatible with the admissions process…and the education…that are all too common in American universities today.

     

    Posted in Academia, Civil Society, Education, Society, USA | 48 Comments »

    The World Turned Upside Down – What Is The Endgame?

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on March 23rd, 2021 (All posts by )

    Seriously, I’m still trying to make sense of it all – that an anodyne and apparently harmlessly patriotic organization like the Oathkeepers can suddenly become the Awful Violent and Whiteness-Counterrevolutionary Group From Hell, at least in the eyes of the National Establishment Media and their minions in social media. In my Tea Party days, we met with a couple of members of the Oathkeeper leadership cadre; they were speakers at a couple of events, IIRC. A fair number of the local Tea Party organizers whom I worked with were retired military. And frankly, the Oathkeepers looked to be … well, just ordinary and earnest common or garden-variety patriots with a background in the military and law enforcement.

    This is only to be expected in a town like San Antonio, familiarly known as the Mother In Law to the Air Force (as enlisted basic training is located there as are a number of specialty tech schools, officer training used to be, and flight training for various aircraft is still carried out). San Antonio is also the Home of Army Medicine, as training for Army medical personnel has been performed at Fort Sam and Brooke Army Medical – the end result being that one cannot heave a brick in any direction in San Antonio without hitting at least a dozen military retirees of every rank and service. The schtick of the Oathkeepers was basically – renewing the enlistment oath.

     “I, __________, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”

    It seems now that the words “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic” are those that give the heebie jeebies to the powers that be in the rickety and ramshackle structure that is the Biden Administration, and those sad and addled creatures who have the unenviable task of doing their media bidding. Kind of sad, really – as a sidebar to my main thesis, that the Mainstream Establishment Media is willingly, nay yet enthusiastically volunteering to do the same job that propagandists for Stalin’s Red Empire did at the threat of a sentence to the Gulag or to a shot in the back of the skull in the basement of a CHEKA HQ somewhere. But willing toadies to power are always a dime a dozen.

    Seeing conservative activists being arrested for merely being in Washington on the day of the massive protest (commonly called a riot or insurrection by prog-leaning media and law enforcement) and held indefinitely without bail, while frequent-flyer Antifa/BLM rioters are on the catch-and-released-on-bail/charges dropped program, in spite of the year-long Antifa/BLM riots actually having done reckless damage to various cities. I presume that this difference is because the Antifa/BLM riots actually did substantial damage to ordinary flyover-country American property owners, whereas the Washington protest in January only scared the crap out of the Ruling Class.

    Different strokes for different folks, according to the convenience of the Ruling class. Now there is a political measure afoot to pressure businesses into pledging loyalty to the regime by publicly affirming that the 2020 Election was completely fair and above-board. Or else. What is the eventual endgame in all of this? Pushing ordinary and patriotic citizens into a violent reaction, and thereby justifying further repression of non-prog thought? Discuss as you wish. I’ll get to the politization of the military in another post.

     

    Posted in Anti-Americanism, Capitalism, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Conservatism, Current Events, Law Enforcement, Leftism, Personal Narrative, Politics, Tea Party, The Press, Urban Issues | 34 Comments »

    Green Shoots

    Posted by David Foster on March 23rd, 2021 (All posts by )

    It’s springtime, and there are some signs of hope.

    People who reached their breaking point on ‘wokeness’.

    See also: How to defend free speech.

     

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Civil Society, USA | 5 Comments »

    A (partially successful) attempt at a reasoned response

    Posted by Ginny on March 20th, 2021 (All posts by )

    to Harris/Biden in Atlanta on Friday. Or an exercise explaining Why I swear at the tv. Mid-way to rational thought, it is at least better than ***!!!###. Aside: Posting here is a great gift. Writing – like speech with others – forces us to use words. Our founders would use the word deliberate, to move from gut response to reason. Let’s begin with them for perspective:

    “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed . . . “

    “Hate crimes” violate not only our laws but our core belief that in each (and all) is a divine spark, that is one way we are truly equal. However, “hate” for an individual or a random act of pointless violence is also hate. Inchoate anger is hardly virtuous. Haters choose the weak, the dependent, the isolated, the outlier; they want neither consequences nor pricks of conscience. “Knock out” punches throw the weak, the elderly, the unprepared to the ground and are often too random to easily assign blame; knowing society identifies less with such victims makes quick punishment less likely; an important distance comes from convincing one’s self such a victim is not “equal”, is not human – that stills the conscience.
    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Americas, Civil Society, COVID-19, Crime and Punishment, Current Events, Human Behavior, Immigration, Politics, Texas, Tradeoffs | 59 Comments »

    Book Review: The Year of the French (rerun)

    Posted by David Foster on March 17th, 2021 (All posts by )

    The Year of the French, by Thomas Flanagan

    St Patrick’s day gives me a good hook for re-posting this review, in the hope of inspiring a few more people to read this superb book.  Ralph Peters calls this it “the finest historical novel written in English, at least in the twentieth century,” going on to say “except for ‘The Leopard,’ I know of no historical novel that so richly and convincingly captures the ambience of a bygone world.”

    In August of 1798, the French revolutionary government landed 1000 troops in County Mayo to support indigenous Irish rebels, with the objective of overthrowing British rule in Ireland.  The Year of the French tells the (fictionalized but fact-based) story of these events from the viewpoint of several characters, representing different groups in the complex and strife-ridden Irish social structure of the time.

    Owen MacCarthy is a schoolmaster and poet who writes in the Gaelic tradition.  He is pressed by illiterate locals to write a threatening letter to a landlord who has evicted tenants while switching land from farming to cattle-raising.  With his dark vision of how an attempt at rebellion must end–“In Caslebar.  They will load you in carts with your wrists tied behind you and take you down to Castlebar and try you there and hang you there”–MacCarthy is reluctant to get involved, but he writes the letter.

    Sam Cooper, the recipient of the letter, is a small-scale landlord, and captain of the local militia.  Indigenously Irish, his family converted to Protestantism several generations ago to avoid the crippling social and economic disabilities imposed on Catholics. Cooper’s wife, Kate, herself still Catholic, is a beautiful and utterly ruthless woman…she advises Cooper to respond to the letter by rounding up “a few of the likeliest rogues,”  jailing and flogging them, without any concern for actual guilt or innocence. “My God, what a creature you are for a woman,”  Cooper responds. “It is a man you should have been born.”  “A strange creature that would make me in your bed,” Kate fires back, “It is a woman I am, and fine cause you have to know it…What matters now is who has the land and who will keep it.”

    Ferdy O’Donnell  is a young hillside farmer on Cooper’s land.  Far back in the past, the land was owned by the O’Donnell family…Ferdy had once shown Cooper  “a valueless curiosity, a parchment that recorded the fact in faded ink the colour of old, dried blood.”

    Arthur Vincent Broome is a Protestant clergyman who is not thrilled by the “wild and dismal region” to which he has been assigned, but who performs his duties as best he can. Broome is resolved to eschew religious bigotry, but…”I affirm most sincerely that distinctions which rest upon creed mean little to me, and yet I confess that my compassion for their misery is mingled with an abhorrence of their alien ways…they live and thrive in mud and squalour…their music, for all that antiquarians and fanatics can find to say in its flavor, is wild and savage…they combine a grave and gentle courtesy with a murderous violence that erupts without warning…”‘

    Malcolm Elliott is a Protestant landlord and solicitor, and a member of the Society of United Irishmen.  This was a revolutionary group with Enlightenment ideals, dedicated to bringing Catholics and Protestants together in the cause of overthrowing British rule and establishing an Irish Republic.  His wife, Judith, is an Englishwoman with romantic ideas about Ireland.

    John Moore, also a United Irishman, is a member of one of the few Catholic families that have managed to hold on to their land.  He is in love with Ellen Treacy, daughter of another prominent Catholic family: she returns his love, but believes that he is caught in a web of words that can only lead to disaster.  “One of these days you will say a loose word to some fellow and he will get on his horse and ride off to Westport to lay an information with Dennis Browne, and that will be the last seen of you”

    Dennis Browne is High Sheriff of Mayo…smooth, manipulative, and devoted to the interests of the very largest landowners in the county, such as his brother Lord Altamont and the mysterious Lord Glenthorne, the “Big Lord” who owns vast landholdings and an immense house which he has never visited.

    Randall MacDonnell is a Catholic landowner with a decrepit farm and house, devoted primarily to his horses.  His motivations for joining the rebellion are quite different from those of the idealistic United Irishmen…”For a hundred years of more, those Protestant bastards have been the cocks of the walk, strutting around on acres that belong by rights to the Irish…there are men still living who remember when a son could grab his father’s land by turning Protestant.”

    Jean Joseph Humbert is the commander of the French forces.  A former dealer in animal skins, he owes his position in life to the revolution.  He is a talented commander, but  the battle he is most concerned about is the battle for status and supremacy between himself and  Napoleon Bonaparte.

    Charles Cornwallis, the general who surrendered to the Americans at Yorktown, is now in charge of defeating the French and the rebels and pacifying the rebellious areas of Ireland.   Seen through the eyes of  a young aide who admires him greatly, Cornwallis is portrayed as a basically kindly man who can be hard when he thinks it necessary, but takes no pleasure in it.  “The color of war had long since bleached from his thoughts, and it remained for him only a duty to be scrupulously performed.”

    This book is largely about the way in which the past lives on in the present, both in the world of physical objects and the world of social relationships.  Two characters who make a brief appearance are Richard Manning, proprietor of a decrepit and debt-laden castle, and his companion Ellen Kirwan:

    He ran his hand along the stone.  When was it this keep had been built?  The fourteenth century or the fifteenth. The MacDermotts had held it in Cromwell’s day…When the Cromwellian army moved west from Sligo, the MacDermotts had been blown out of their keep, quite literally. The yawning crater in the east wall was the work of Ireton’s artillery…

    And here stand I, Manning thought, inheritor of that conquest, sick at heart because other armies are moving along the same road.  Faces flushed by candleflame in Daly’s gaming rooms, children, like himself, of Cromwell’s spawn, bank drafts written against the harvests of Muster and Connaught.  Ellen Kirwan, taken by right of Cromwell’s conquest, peasant’s daughter brought gawky and long-legged into the big house, her legs spread to receive that ancient conquest, Ireton’s battering cannon.  More wife than mistress now, fussing over him, reminding him to shave, knitting patiently by firelight as he worked and reworked the account books.  

    “It is a sorry mess that history has made of us,” he tells Ellen.  “Old wounds and old debts.  God help us all.”

    The book is also about the way in which history is driven by words and abstractions.  “Words have a splendor for us,”  observes Malcolm Elliott, “and so we send them off into the world to do mischief.”

    Ellen Treacy:

    On a rise of ground from which she could see the distant bay, she stopped and sat motionless, the reins slack in her thin, capable hands. The bay was empty, not a sail or a hull in sight, the water lifeless and gray.  History had come to them upon these water, three foreign ships riding at anchor, filled with men, muskets, cannon.  History had come ashore at Kilcummin strand, watched by fishermen standing beside their huts.  Poetry made actual.  Not her mother’s, not Goldsmith’s or The Seasons by Mr Thompson…That other, older poetry, the black letters of an alphabet remote from English, with prophesies of ships from France, gold from Spain, the deliverance of the Gael. History, poetry, abstractions, words which had transformed and shattered her world. 

    An incredibly good, involving, thought-provoking, emotionally-affecting book.  I recommend it very highly.

     

    Posted in Book Notes, Britain, France, History, Ireland | 8 Comments »

    Deleting Disney

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on March 16th, 2021 (All posts by )

    With considerable regret, I must confess to deleting Disney, their products, works and ways from my personal media consumption. I’ll not be trashing the various DVDs of classic Disney or Disney/Pixar movies that I own – but I definitely will not be purchasing any more of them, or streaming and watching any future Disney productions, buying any Disney-licensed merchandise for my grandson, or visiting any Disney theme parks. It would appear that the corporate masters of Disney are more interested in being woker-than-thou and selling their products to a Chinese audience anyway Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Business, Media | 31 Comments »

    A Machine for Preventing Civil War

    Posted by David Foster on March 12th, 2021 (All posts by )

    Scott Alexander, in a 2017 post at Slate Star Codex:

    People talk about “liberalism” as if it’s just another word for capitalism, or libertarianism, or vague center-left-Democratic Clintonism. Liberalism is none of these things. Liberalism is a technology for preventing civil war. It was forged in the fires of Hell – the horrors of the endless seventeenth century religious wars. For a hundred years, Europe tore itself apart in some of the most brutal ways imaginable – until finally, from the burning wreckage, we drew forth this amazing piece of alien machinery. A machine that, when tuned just right, let people live together peacefully without doing the “kill people for being Protestant” thing. Popular historical strategies for dealing with differences have included: brutally enforced conformity, brutally efficient genocide, and making sure to keep the alien machine tuned really really carefully.

    Very insightful and correct, I believe, if by liberalism one means free speech, freedom of religion, and limited government, rather than the cluster of ‘progressive’ believe that often fly under the ‘liberalism’ brand today.

    And when the above attributes of a society do not exist or are eroded, then live-and-let live  become difficult to impossible, and all questions become politicized, because political outcomes determine everything.

    When the government controls everything, there is no constructive relief valve for all this pent-up tension.  It all boils down to a “historic” election once every couple of years, upon whose outcome everything depends.  They’re all going to be “historic” elections from now on. That’s not a good thing.

    Ultimately, the game of politics becomes like those Aztec ball games in which the losers are said to have been sacrificed.  Indeed, some of this is happening in America already today, with Democrats demanding that Trump and his supporters be pursued post-election in almost every possible way.

    If the machine of liberalism (as defined above) is destroyed, then another kind of machine will quickly take its place…the machine described by Jean Anouilh in his version of Antigone:

    The spring is wound up tight. It will uncoil of itself. That is what is so convenient in tragedy. The least little turn of the wrist will do the job . . . The rest is automatic. You don’t need to lift a finger. The machine is in perfect order; it has been oiled ever since time began, and it runs without friction

     

     

     

     

     

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Deep Thoughts, History, USA | 90 Comments »

    The Zombie of Reparations

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on March 7th, 2021 (All posts by )

    Oh, for the Love of Life Orchestra, the rotting spectral zombie of reparations for slavery of African-Americans is staggering out of the graveyard of bad political ideas once more, and onto the stage of public discussion. It’s a Biden-approved notion (or a notion of whichever puppet-master has their hand up Biden’s fundament) and I note that the thrust of the matter is only to discuss the possibility.

    Which makes me suspect that this new and respectably presidential consideration is a token gesture, a sop to the militant BLM activists and the old racial shakedown coterie, and the constituents they proport to represent; mostly the semi-literate, barely skilled lifetime welfare-receiving urban thug element, who have an insatiable appetite for monetary graft, free stuff and slivers of unearned privilege. The racial shakedown coterie does very well out of catering to those clients in any case, and it is their best interests that the shakedown continues even unto the umpteenth generation. If we are very fortunate, the stupidest, most controversial and divisive bad idea since Prohibition will never get any farther than the discussion phase, but if it does – and I wouldn’t put it past the current batch of Woke-ists to their best to make it work – it won’t. It will likely fail, catastrophically. Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Big Government, Civil Society, Conservatism, Crime and Punishment, Current Events, Leftism, Politics, Predictions, Urban Issues | 59 Comments »

    To Disappear in Dreams

    Posted by David Foster on March 6th, 2021 (All posts by )

    An article in Wired says: The future of virtual reality is far more than just video games. Silicon Valley sees the creation of virtual worlds as the ultimate free-market solution to a political problem. In a world of increasing wealth inequality, environmental disaster, and political instability, why not sell everyone a device that whisks them away to a virtual world free of pain and suffering?

    and quotes John Carmack,  Doom co-creator and the former CTO of Oculus:

    People react negatively to any talk of economics, but it is resource allocation. You have to make decisions about where things go. Economically, you can deliver a lot more value to a lot of people in the virtual sense.

    Actually, I doubt that there is any kind of tech-industry-wide conspiracy to cool the people out and keep them from revolting by enmeshing them into virtual worlds…mostly, this is just about making money and doing cool technical stuff…on the supply side that is.  On the demand site, it should be of more than a little concern that escapism is so important to so many.

    I’m reminded of some of the reactions when the movie Avatar came out.  CNN reported at the time:

    James Cameron’s completely immersive spectacle “Avatar” may have been a little too real for some fans who say they have experienced depression and suicidal thoughts after seeing the film because they long to enjoy the beauty of the alien world Pandora.

    According to the article, there were more than 1000 posts to a forum for people trying to cope from the depression they experienced after seeing this film..and not being able to stay within it permanantly.

    Neptunus Lex responded: “Some folks don’t get the point. You have to come home when it’s over.”

    But we seem to have an increasing number of people who don’t want to come home when it’s over…who don’t want it to ever be over…but want to stay in that virtual world permanently.

    And, relatedly, there is also pharmaceutical-based escapism, legal or illegal.  Various forms of addiction, already at concerning levels, have risen considerably over the last year.  And, apparently, it has long been true that considerable numbers of people find an ordinary trip on an ordinary commercial airliner to be so stressful that they medicate themselves beforehand.

    In my 2010 post on the Avatar reactions, I said:

    I immediately thought of the old Chinese opium dens…which were largely inhabited by people whose lives were so miserable that their desire to disappear in dreams was entirely understandable.

    But what misery or bleakness are the would-be permanant habitués of the Avatar den seeking to escape?

    And this question can be extended to other types of addiction-dens, as well.

    The title of this post was inspired by a line in Tom Russell’s song Ambrose Larsen and another song on the same album, The Dreamin’.

     

    Posted in Deep Thoughts, Human Behavior, Media, Society, Tech | 29 Comments »

    Jimmy Stewart and My First Job

    Posted by Ginny on March 5th, 2021 (All posts by )

    A comment on one of Dan’s great posts of business reminded me of my work life. Plunging in – getting caught up in the moment – I don’t have much to give someone beginning. I love his ability to step back, to analyze, to learn. This is personal, of a time past.

    I haven’t had a career – I’ve had jobs: a Kelly job here, teaching one there and here, building the business. Hannity talks manual labor, beginning long before he was 16 and ending in front of the cameras in blue jeans; he’d think himself less of a man in a suit. Work = who I am, yes, that I understand. I consider myself the kind of person who delivered papers: from 6th grade through 8th, I think, the Omaha World Herald; in high school the Hastings Tribune. That was who I was, what Kenesaw was, what the fifties were. It reassures me – I came from that time, that place, that role. I’m less and less sure of memories, but bicycling around town, putting the paper in the doors – that was me.

    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Civil Society, Education, Film, Personal Narrative | 11 Comments »

    Picking Up The Pieces

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on March 1st, 2021 (All posts by )

    Well, two weeks ago we were freezing our butts off. Two days ago, we are having to run the AC because it turned warm, muggy, and humid. And today it’s cold and rainy again. Welcome to Texas. Don’t like the weather? Wait five minutes or a week or two, and it will change. Absolutely-freaking-guaranteed.

    However, the damage that a week of sub-zero temperatures did to my neighborhood – the process of picking up the pieces is underway. For the civic stuff – a couple of burst pipes got taken care of by the utility company almost the instant that everyone thawed out. The one house in the neighborhood that burned is still a ruin: the FD had all their hydrants frozen on that night that it burned, couldn’t bring in enough water in the pumper trucks and so the house – which still stands, barely – is a total loss. Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Current Events, Energy & Power Generation, Texas | 47 Comments »

    Worthwhile Reading

    Posted by David Foster on February 28th, 2021 (All posts by )

    Vitaliy Katsenelson writes worthwhile content for those interested in investing, art, classical music, and philosophical thoughts about life in general.  See his recent post about coveting and envy.

    Doggedness, canine and human.

    A piece about skateboarding and flying, with thoughts from St-Exupery.

    Speaking about flying, TxRed the Cat Rotator writes about some of her aerobatic experiences.

    Projecting (simulated) 3D images onto your plate.

    Doctors and state borders.

     

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Aviation, Economics & Finance, Medicine, Music, Philosophy, Sports | 11 Comments »

    Random Pic

    Posted by Jonathan on February 26th, 2021 (All posts by )

    big sky

     

    Posted in Photos | 5 Comments »