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  • Posted by Jonathan on February 3rd, 2021 (All posts by )

     

    Posted in Video | 6 Comments »

    Have we ever seen anything like the Biden administration and China?

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on February 3rd, 2021 (All posts by )

    The Roosevelt administration was significantly infiltrated with Soviet spies. Harry Dexter White was assistant Secretary of the Treasury and played an important role in the Bretton Woods Conference.

    After the war, White was closely involved with setting up what were called the Bretton Woods institutions—the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. These institutions were intended to prevent some of the economic problems that had occurred after World War I. As late as November 1945, White continued to argue for improved relations with the Soviet Union.[21] White later became a director and U.S. representative of the IMF. On June 19, 1947, White abruptly resigned from the International Monetary Fund, vacating his office the same day.

    The Wikipedia article is quite defensive about White’s role vis a vis the Soviet Union.

    This codename was confirmed by the notes of KGB archivist Vasili Nikitich Mitrokhin, in which six key Soviet agents are named. Harry Dexter White is listed as being first “KASSIR” and later “JURIST”.[65]

    Another example of White acting as an agent of influence for the Soviet Union was his obstruction of a proposed $200 million loan to Nationalist China in 1943, which he had been officially instructed to execute,[66] at a time when inflation was spiraling out of control.[67]

    Other Venona decrypts revealed further damaging evidence against White, including White’s suggestions on how to meet and pass information on to his Soviet handler. Venona Document #71 contains decryptions of White’s discussions on being paid for his work for the Soviet Union

    The Venona transcripts make it clear that White was a Soviet asset.

    What of Biden? We have the Hunter Biden laptop revelations, which have been largely suppressed. Hunter was paid millions by China, even though he is an addict and weak link to his father. Other Biden family members are deeply corrupt in other areas.

    Biden appointees are pro China if anything. and a significant matter.

    Biden’s appointees won’t be weak on China, they will be pro-China. The geopolitical implications of Biden coming to office are going to have long-term repercussions. Even before the election China was threatening the US military, crossing the sea boundary into Taiwan’s territory with invasion forces 2-3 times each week, threatening other neighbors, attacking diplomats of other countries, and attempting to destroy Australia’s economy. Given Pres. Trump’s opposition to Chinese communist bullying of other countries vs. Biden’s pro-China stance, it was understandable that China has supported Biden from the beginning. Having worked in several countries neighbors to China, I can say that many people overseas are not happy with the idea of Biden as president.

    China is not shy about asserting its opinion

    February 2021 reprises a red-line drama, not yet as tragedy and not as farce but definitely as a threat to world peace. The repetition tests the will of President Joe Biden’s administration to defend American security and a common-sense understanding of human freedom.

    On Feb. 1, communist China’s top foreign policy guru, Yang Jiechi, gave a speech to a virtual audience hosted by the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations.

    Yang reportedly told his audience, “The United States should stop interfering in Hong Kong, Tibet, Xinjiang” — western China where Uighurs live — “and other issues.” Yang said these three regions are Chinese “internal affairs.”

    Then Yang added the most nuanced phrase: “They” — the so-called internal affairs — “constitute a red line that must not be crossed. Any trespassing would end up undermining China-U.S. relations, and the United States’ own interests.”

    “Red line” meaning China’s rules.

    What is behind this ?

    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in China, Elections, International Affairs, National Security | 30 Comments »

    Narrowing Horizons

    Posted by David Foster on January 31st, 2021 (All posts by )

    William Shirer, on his experiences in Germany during the early Nazi era:

    I myself was to experience how easily one is taken in by a lying and censored press and radio in a totalitarian state. Though unlike most Germans I had daily access to foreign newspapers, especially those of London, Paris and Zurich, which arrived the day after publication, and though I listened regularly to the BBC and other foreign broadcasts, my job necessitated the spending of many hours a day in combing the German press, checking the German radio, conferring with Nazi officials and going to party meetings. It was surprising and sometimes consternating to find that notwithstanding the opportunities I had to learn the facts and despite one’s inherent distrust of what one learned from Nazi sources, a steady diet over the years of falsifications and distortions made a certain impression on one’s mind and often misled it. No one who has not lived for years in a totalitarian land can possibly conceive how difficult it is to escape the dread consequences of a regime’s calculated and incessant propaganda. Often in a German home or office or sometimes in casual conversation with a stranger in a restaurant, a beer hall, a café, I would meet with the most outlandish assertions from seemingly educated and intelligent persons. It was obvious that they were parroting some piece of nonsense they had heard on the radio or read in the newspapers. Sometimes one was tempted to say as much, but on such occasions one was met with such a stare of incredulity, such a shock of silence, as if one had blasphemed the Almighty, that one realized how useless it was even to try to make contact with a mind which had become warped and for whom the facts of life had become what Hitler and Goebbels, with their cynical disregard for the truth, said they were.

    Even though Shirer had plenty of access to outside news and information sources, and was well aware of Nazi lies, he still found it difficult to escape psychologically from the effects of the stiflingly-constrained information environment.

    Many of us have wondered how intelligent people–some of whom we may know personally–can fall so completely under the spell of the Democrat worldview, as it exists in its present ‘woke’ state…a worldview which is replete with ‘the most outlandish assertions,’ to use Shirer’s phrase.  But consider: if one gets one’s news from CNN, MSNBC, and even the traditional networks, and from newspapers such as The Washington Post and The New York Times and their imitators…and one’s entertainment from mainstream movies and musical groups…and one works for a company, university, or ‘nonprofit’…then one is living within a highly uniform information and opinion environment. Yes, you might be exposed to the occasional dissident opinion on social media or directly from friends and acquaintances, but you will develop ‘antibodies’, inculcated by the approved sources, which lead you to dismiss such opinions as conspiracy theories, brainwashing by Trump, or something similar.

    It is, of course, much easier to find dissenting voices in 2021 America than it was in the time and place of which Shirer wrote.  (Shirer does say that ‘in those days, in the Thirties, a German listener could still tune his dial to a score of foreign radio stations’ without taking much risk…but most didn’t, evidently, or chose to disbelieve what they heard from outside sources.)

    The psychological drive to conform reinforces the controlled information environment and discourages explorations outside of it.  In my post Oxytocin and Conformity, I cited some research on how the ‘cuddling and belonging’ hormone oxytocin affects public and private conformity, and recalled one of the episodes of the TV series The World at War in which a German man spoke about the temptation to conform.  He had been strongly anti-Nazi, but admitted that he had felt a strong emotional pull to join the rallies and be a part of the the movement.  (He said it much more eloquently than the foregoing sentence would suggest)  I also cited a blog post whose author, after critiquing the craziness of the extreme “progressives,”  went on to say:

    I’m going to be very real with you for a moment, and take off my hat has a blogger, an author, and whatever else I may be, and just speak to you as a man.

    This could have been me.

    Does that surprise you? There was a time I skirted so close to falling under this spell, it would shock you. I felt the guilt, the social pressure, the desire for conformity. Despite the terrible weight such ideology carries on the mind, it is absurdly easy to fall into it. Every day we are assaulted by the agitprop. It is so easy to just say “yes, it’s all my fault, I will submit and obey.”

    It will bring momentary relief, because you will no longer have to fight a narrative that is bombarded upon you 24 hours a day. That mental effort is, itself, rather exhausting on the mind. But if you accept the chains, that is a far greater weight, one that will destroy you. The chains are seductive. They call, because of the enormous weight of social power behind them.

    The pressure is both great and subtle. Imagine a conversation about the weather, innocent enough on its own. A friend might say “wow, that global warming sure is kicking in today!” You’ve a few choices here. You can challenge him, but the immediate counter is likely to be something like “well, 99% of scientists agree, sooooo….” The implication, of course, is that you are stupid for disagreeing with 99% of scientists (whether or not there is any truth to that claim, either). You could remain silent because it’s easier. Or you could just give in, regardless of the truth of the matter, because it’s easiest. Meanwhile, if you counter your friend successfully, you may be down a friend by the end of the night.

    So whether or not a lot of folks believe this thing, soon consensus is reached, as much to peer pressure as anything else. Then it is, further, easier to agree on welfare, tax policy, affirmative action, black lives matter, social justice, etc… Each one has a superficial rhetorical argument which sounds nice, and which has enormous media programming and social pressure behind it.

    A thousand such chats happen every day, both in the real world, and the social media world. The sum total of which is designed to move you, via peer pressure and Weaponized Empathy, toward self-hatred, and intense personal guilt for things which you neither did, nor were capable of preventing.

    Soon a man might find himself agreeing with lunatic propositions that all Republicans are literal Nazis, and Donald Trump is worse than Hitler because… well, nobody really knows the reasons.

    Submission is always the easier short-term choice. Long-term, however, it just destroys a man’s soul.

    I am not asserting that the present-day Democrat belief system is identical to Naziism (although there are indeed some disturbing similarities as well as differences), or that the control of the information environment is as tight as what existed in mid-1930s Germany…but still, when you step back and look at all the ways in which a consistent worldview is being promulgated and views from outside that worldview are being suppressed, then the information horizons–especially for those people who don’t have a particularly strong need to think for themselves or willingness to challenge accepted beliefs–are narrowing at a pretty frightening rate.

     

     

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Deep Thoughts, Germany, History, Human Behavior, Science, Society, USA | 52 Comments »

    Your “It’s Gonna Be A While Before You Get Vaccinated” Banana Cherry Nut Bread Recipe

    Posted by Dan from Madison on January 30th, 2021 (All posts by )

    I have been rewarded with many correct calls so far while watching the botched and hilarious clownshow that is the vaccination rollout. Just about every single thing I predicted would come to pass, has. These predictions included:
    1) Sensational tales of adverse reactions to a vanishingly tiny amount of people (I’m guessing these are the same communists that can’t eat peanuts)
    2) Freezers “breaking down” and/or vaccines getting “misplaced” and heroic technicians vaccinating random people (Does anyone really believe these stories? Or at a minimum doesn’t everyone assume we are missing at least part of the story?). The media always, always has to have a hero.
    3) Ridiculous systems and classifications of those supposed to receive the vaccine
    4) Logistic and other failures
    I have worked in industrial distribution all of my adult life, and know a thing or two about logistics. I also know a thing or two about government. I can’t think of too many worse combinations than logistics and government. Naturally, and predictably, the vaccination program is a total and complete farce. If we just would have left it to Walgreens and/or CVS and let them make some money at it, the whole shebang would probably be done by now, subject to availability of the vaccines of course. The whole debacle makes me sigh out loud, and creates hunger. I looked through grandmas recipe box and found a recipe that worked perfectly as I had exactly three bananas that were “on sale”, so to say, in my fruit basket.

    This recipe is attributed to Alice Petersen, and is marked by my grandmother on the card as “very good”. I agree. It is very good.
    Banana Cherry Nut Bread
    1 cup sugar
    2 eggs
    1 10 oz jar cherries and juice – leave the cherries whole *I love ingredients like this. Upon going to the supermarket, it quickly becomes apparent that cherries are not sold in jars anymore, nor in 10 oz sizes. I saw a 15 oz can but was then faced with the choice of cherries in heavy syrup or water. I chose water and it worked out. I just cut the 15 oz can down to 2/3 (and naturally, began to snack down the other 1/3 of the can, before having to give some to my spousal unit, who threatened to burn my possessions in the street if I ate them all). I’m guessing back when grandma wrote this one up that the packaging for cherries was quite different than it is today.
    1/2 cup butter or margarine
    3 mashed bananas
    2 cups flour
    1 tsp soda
    1/2 cup walnuts

    Cream the sugar and butter; add eggs; mix. Then add bananas and mix thoroughly. Blend in flour and soda. Add cherries, juice and nuts and stir until mixed. Pour into 2 small loaf pans and bake one hour at 350.

    Super simple and rewarding. Enjoy!

     

    Posted in COVID-19, Recipes | 9 Comments »

    A Diversion: Famous For the Wrong Reason

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on January 29th, 2021 (All posts by )

    We read this with much amusement earlier in the week in the Daily Mail– the lamentations of one Brett Alder, a California sales exec who moved his family to Austin apparently in haste and with minimal to non-existent prior research on his new home, who repented at leisure after a brief year and afterwards (upon moving back to California) expanded on woes and the general shortcomings of Texas in an editorial in Business Insider. The original column is behind a paywall, so unavailable to me, but the Daily Mail posted the list of his lamentations. This brought about considerable hilarity in the comments on the various articles which repeated the story, among Texans. The Daughter Unit and I found the article most particularly amusing – especially me; California born and bred, lived there without interruption (save two trips to Europe) until I joined the military, where for twenty years I moved frequently to new communities and wasted little time or heartburn on making a new home. I’ve lived in Texas since 1995 now, with occasional trips to the formerly-Golden State, the last one in 2010 when Dad passed away and I spent a couple of weeks helping Mom sort out things.

    To continue with a fisking of Brett-the-male-Karen’s lamentations on life in Austin: Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Conservatism, Culture, Diversions, Humor, Leftism, Society, Texas | 51 Comments »

    The Past as a Foreign Country

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on January 26th, 2021 (All posts by )

    I’ve just finished and released into the wild a WWII novel, My Dear Cousin, for which the concept came to me in a dream last July. Since the current year-long plus covidiocy demolished nearly every fall market and holiday event which would otherwise have taken up my time, I set to work and finished it in six months.  As much as is possible, I did my research – and the internet makes the kind of information I needed available at my fingertips: a detailed 1930s map of Singapore, a hand-written diary of a woman who escaped Malaya in early 1942, a breakdown of what constituted the tents and facilities for a frontline Army hospital in 1944, and the newspaper archives of the wartime Singapore Straits Times and Brisbane Courier Mail. All that and more went into an account of the war, as seen through the lives of two cousins, on opposite sides of the world.  Accuracy is what I strive for – and most times, I think I come very close. The rest of this entry is what I felt obliged to include in the notes at the back of the book.

    In the interests of fidelity to history and racial attitudes of the 1940s with regard to the Japanese and to a lesser extent, the Germans, the current social climate requires me to add the following caveat; yes, the general attitudes of American and Australians towards the Japanese were by current standards, viciously and unrepentantly racist. However, this book is, as nearly as I can make it, written with an eye to fidelity to the historical record. I will not cut and tailor my fictional cloth in accordance with current fashion. ‘Presentism’, wherein the accepted fashionable attitudes and conventional opinions of the current day are retrofitted, however unsuited and historically unlikely, onto those characters living in past decades and centuries, is a grim transgression against the art of bringing a past era into life, warts and all. Writing a so-called historical novel merely by placing 21st century characters in different costumes and strange technological shortcomings is a disservice to the past, and a hampering to complete understanding. It’s the past – they did things differently, back then. Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Book Notes, History, Miscellaneous, War and Peace | 68 Comments »

    Worthwhile Reading, Viewing, and Listening

    Posted by David Foster on January 25th, 2021 (All posts by )

    Smiling Victorians…a photo essay

    A tour of the Atlanta Hartsfield air traffic control tower

    Speaking of ATC…a controller at Boston Center and a Delta pilot on her frequency discover that her grandfather was the man who hired him, back in 1981.

    The transistor:  a documentary from 1954.

    Tonight being Burns Night, here’s a song I like from Robert Burns...musical setting by Ludwig Beethoven, oddly enough.  Some 19th-century musical entrepreneurship was involved in the Burns-Beethoven connection. Lyrics, including modern-English translation, here.

    Think I’ll pass on the kilt and the haggis, though.

     

    Posted in Aviation, History, Music, Photos, Poetry, Tech, Transportation | 14 Comments »

    Your Post Apocalyptic Cinnamon Coffee Cake Recipe

    Posted by Dan from Madison on January 23rd, 2021 (All posts by )

    Well, after all fifty state capitols being assaulted last week as predicted by the FBI and an extremely excited media, along with an inauguration that was marred by violent, huge mobs of country overthrowers and coup starters, I’m in the mood for some coffee cake.

    When my grandmother died many years ago and we were doing her death cleaning, I wanted just a few things – the collection of antique beer steins, the stand mixer and the box of recipes. I was fortunately granted all of the above. Today’s recipe is one that grandma got from one Clara Jensen according to the index card, a person I don’t necessarily remember. This coffee cake turned out really good, but in general, most coffee cake, to me at least, has a ceiling as far as quality and taste goes. It is very easy to make and of course you can alter to your taste but this is pretty solid.

    2 cups flour
    1 tsp cinnamon
    1 cup sugar
    1/2 tsp salt
    1 tsp baking soda
    1 tsp baking powder
    1/2 cup brown sugar

    Sift all of these dry ingredients together. Mix that with:

    2/3 cup room temperature shortening
    2 eggs
    1 cup buttermilk
    Put in a 9×13.

    Topping:
    1/2 cup brown sugar
    1/2 tsp nutmeg
    1/2 tsp cinnamon
    nuts (optional)

    Sprinkle topping on top of dough.

    Bake at 350 for 25-30 mins. I went 28 and it turned out just fine.

    Enjoy!

     

    Posted in Recipes | 17 Comments »

    Big Brother Watches Dilbert

    Posted by Ginny on January 23rd, 2021 (All posts by )

    Chicagoboyz are excellent managers – and have opinions. I’m curious how effective you see:
    TECH THAT AIMS TO IMPROVE MEETINGS.

    If you aren’t sufficiently paranoid about 25,000 National Guards brought in for a nonexistent “coup” sleeping on the freezing floor of a parking garage and hearing they will be there until March (I don’t know how Abbott’s order to bring his men home is going – at least the Texas contingent should leave sooner), then consider Big Brother recording your blood pressure and eye contact at your next business meeting. (Does this seem a breakthrough in efficiency or something akin the Stasi in The Lives of Others?)

    It gives useful information; it might encourage quieter members and rein in talkative ones. Could interest be faked for the camera? But a leader who doesn’t sense the mood of the room and who doesn’t encourage contributions and differing approaches tactfully would probably not use AI information well either.

    Neither as employee or employer did I find these necessary (probably incorrectly). Forced into biannual meetings, I fell asleep or went off on diversions. This technology would quickly cull me (“Doesn’t play well with others”). But I’m not sure that makes it, well, bad. Invasive, yes. Nonetheless, I suspect it fosters conformity and forces consensus: in short, is UnAmerican. But maybe that’s just me.

     

    Posted in Business, Civil Society, Diversions, Management, Miscellaneous, Organizational Analysis, Tech | 22 Comments »

    An Amateur Observer Sums Up

    Posted by Ginny on January 21st, 2021 (All posts by )

    Pundits describe a fractured Republican party: the cult of Trump versus policy conservatives. This narrative compounds wishful thinking with ignorance of life outside the beltway, but has some truth. Trump, some say, is considering nurturing a third party.

    The Republican establishment thinks they are more Republican than the Trumpists and have decades of battle scars to prove it. But they need him – whether he runs again or campaigns for others or is a strong voice. But for him the structural support of a party with a century and a half’s institutional memory can be helpful; most voted consistently with him. When Biden swears in 1000 appointees before his first full day in office, I worry that any Republican splits weaken a future Republican president’s hand. It is true that some of Trump’s best bets were ones the establishment would never have considered, but it is also true minor posts took a long time to fill.

    The Trumpists need to accept that all of the people pulling back are not the sorry excuses for Republicans of the Lincoln Project, though they may not want to share a foxhole with them. Trump could have handled the last two months better and in not doing so, he irritated some, like McConnell, left to pick up the pieces. McConnell may be a Rino but he got those appointments through because he knew what he was doing. However, the establishment needs to remember, Trump nominated and backed them, their strengths came from their abilities rather than political resumes.

    The establishment needs to be honest with itself. For decades the party promised and didn’t deliver, risks weren’t taken. They must acknowledge where Trump’s strength lay – at least in terms of the people I read, the people I know. It was policies. His actions – and boy did he act – in a Republican tradition. A good many people first voted for Trump as the better of two bad choices and came to see him as a transformative president. Some that hadn’t in 2016 said they’d crawl over broken glass to vote for him in 2020. Sure, some found him offensive, some had buyer’s remorse. He engendered turmoil and tension, though often in response to the wolves that circled him. (A baying that hasn’t stilled as he leaves the White House.) A resonant fact, however, is that many more voted for him in 2020 than in 2016. And the reason for most was, I suspect, what he’d done. Whether or why he lost, with 74 million votes he’s a force.

    He was volatile and transparent. He wounded and was wounded. We winced at ad hominem attacks on his staff. He entertained. We were used to laconic heroes, but here was a man of action but also of emotional responses. But the four years – how and what he accomplished, the assumptions that made of his tenure a coherent whole – embodied instincts true to human nature and its potential. And that whole was conservative, American conservative.

    He seemed to possess endless energy to push back while striding forward, he persevered. And his focus was on what counted: internationally, improving the United States’ ability to respond quickly and forcefully, to expand its frontiers; domestically, reducing the government’s (especially the national government’s) impositions and cleansing the unAmerican doctrines of tribalism parading as political correctness. In doing so, he implicitly respected his constituents. Are these not what they wanted, had wanted?
    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Americas, Big Government, Conservatism, National Security, Political Philosophy, Politics, Trump | 79 Comments »

    Comm Check

    Posted by David Foster on January 20th, 2021 (All posts by )

    When the First World War broke out, a British cable ship set sail with orders to cut the German undersea cables.  Given the British control of the seas, the cables could not be repaired during the course of the war, and this led to a British dominance of communications with neutral countries–especially the United States.  While Germany was not totally cut off from the world–they had a powerful radio transmitter at Nauen–communication from the Allied Powers was more convenient and subject to British influence; war correspondents, for example, tended to file their reports from Britain.  In the opinion of many writers (here, for instance), this gave the Allied Powers a considerable advantage in propaganda.  (Also in message interception for purposes of espionage, of course)

    Availability of communications is of great importance in conflicts of all kinds. “Congress can make a general, but only communications can make him a commander,” is how the American general Omar Bradley put it.

    We have seen in recent how control of communications can influence political outcomes, with, for example, the playing down and outright banning of the Hunter Biden story perpetrated by both traditional and social media.  How many people would have voted differently had they been aware of this matter?  One survey suggests that the number would have been quite significant.

    And is it beyond the realm of the possible that certain ‘tech’ and infrastructure companies might go beyond the blocking of political communications with which they disagree and…actively or passively…block government operational communications that they don’t like?  See this post:

    The Department of Defense uses software created, delivered, and maintained by many of the same high-tech companies now engaged in shutting down online speech. If the titans of tech can pull the plug on public communications tools people have come to rely on, some observers fear, they might do the same to the Pentagon in response to a military action deemed unacceptable by San Franciscans.

    Something along those lines already happened with Project Maven, a major Pentagon initiative using Google algorithms to identify drone targets. The software was well under way when, in 2018, thousands of Google’s workers protested their company becoming a defense contractor. 

    Could companies, acting on their own opinions or in order to placate key groups of employees, really get away with refusing to supply urgently-needed capabilities to the government?  From the article:

    The Hudson Institute’s Clark says that if a tech giant withdrew access to services it had agreed to provide to the military, it would likely have to pay penalties for breach of contract. Such fines might make little difference to the bottom line of Big Tech. But the loss of cloud capabilities in the middle of a conflict could be disastrous for warfighters.

    During the Iraq War, the Swiss company Swatch refused to supply parts for the JDAM missile.  I don’t know whether litigation was filed by the DoD to recover damages. But the consequences of such refusals could well involve lives as well as money.

    (Gregory Sanders, a fellow at the Defense-Industrial Initiaves Group) says the Pentagon could always invoke the Defense Production Act “if a company pulled out of a service provision in a crisis environment in a non-orderly manner.” As the Congressional Research Service puts it, the act “allows the President to require persons (including businesses and corporations)” to “prioritize and accept government contracts for materials and services.”  But that isn’t a guaranteed strategy for success. “The quality of work you get when compelling an objecting vendor wouldn’t necessarily be the best, so DoD wouldn’t want to invoke those authorities needlessly.”  It’s well-known that ‘working to rule’ can greatly slow things down in activities of all kinds; much more so, surely, where creative thinking is a big part of the work to be done.

    H G Wells’ 1933 novel The Shape of Things to Come posits the emergence of the Air Dictatorship: global rule established by a technocratic group that begins with the imposition of a monopoly over global trade networks and especially control over the air.  Benevolent, rule, of course, as Wells saw it.

    Are we in danger of de facto rule by a Communications Dictatorship, or at least a Communications Oligarchy?

     

     

    Posted in Aviation, Business, Civil Liberties, Tech, Transportation, USA | 27 Comments »

    Amazon and Me

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on January 18th, 2021 (All posts by )

    I have to confess to a lot of dissonance with the current conduct of Amazon.com – being that I have a huuuuge number of books up there on Amazon, buy an equally huuge number of books from them, and as an indy author among many, went into enthusiastically providing content for their launch of the Kindle e-reader early on. The Kindle was seen (correctly, in my humble opinion) as a means to economically route around the whole indigestible bolus of providing print copies of books to interested readers through traditional publishing, a means which involved discounts to a distributor, print costs, shipping costs, storage costs, return discounts and return charges … it cut out that whole cycle of shipping and accounting for concrete (in the metaphorical sense, not the literal) copies of printed books, in favor of … wheee! Text files downloaded to a reader device! Instanter! No shipping or warehouse fees, no dependency on the eccentric whims or availability of a local bookstore! No return fees, for possibly and eventually a sullen little trickle of royalties three or four months after the original sale! Freedom! Our books, straight to the reader! I did a talk early on, to a book club in a small town in South Texas, where there was nothing much for 170 miles in any direction for any but perhaps small religious bookstores, now that drug stores and the like no longer even have the wire racks of paperbacks stocked by small distributers the way that they used to do. I think that most of the readers at that event bought the Adelsverein Trilogy on their Kindles – all that they needed to do was order the book, go outside (remember, this is at least a decade ago) and bam! They had their book! Was the 21st century great, or what?!! Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Capitalism, Customer Service, Personal Narrative, Political Philosophy | 26 Comments »

    Censorship Week

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on January 14th, 2021 (All posts by )

    This week has seen a sharp jump in censorship. The most obvious is the ban of President Trump from Twitter. I never joined Twitter but it did give the president a way around the “Legacy Media” which was uniformly hostile. Fox News was a partial exception but that is limited to a few hosts like Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity.

    Trump was not the only one to be censored. An alternative to Twitter was Parler, a similar site that promised an alternative. It was quickly canceled by Amazon Web Services, which is the money making arm of Bezos’ empire. The reason given was the usual “violation of standards,” which means “We disagree with your politics.”

    Thousands of Trump supporters have been banned or deplatformed by the militant left, or in a few instances, the NeverTrump right. I have been suspended by Facebook for using the term “Russia Hoax.” Obviously, the political left is determined to oust anyone who questions the election result. This is more typical of Fascist and authoritarian regimes, like Turkey or China. Since we have an incoming regime aligned with China, this is not much of a surprise.

    What was a bit unusual was the same censorship by the NeverTrump right. I quit and rejoined the blog Ricochet several times. The first was a squabble over evolution. I discussed it at the time.

    Subsequently, I joined again, encouraged by a friend. I quit again, when suspended for using the term “TDS” and then rejoined again. My friend has subsequently quit himself. I had noticed a distinct NeverTrump tone, which has diminished as Trump’s presidency has been successful. What did not diminish is the NeverTrump sentiments of the administrators. Today, I received the email below.

    “Dear MichaelKennedy,

    Your Ricochet account has been suspended for 7 days, during which time you will be unable to post or comment. When you joined Ricochet, you agreed to abide by the Code of Conduct. In the last month you have racked up the following violations.

    You have a habit of insulting members who you disagree with as “Vichy Republicans”.

    https://ricochet.com/857597/senator-tom-cottons-statement/#comment-5109752
    https://ricochet.com/857165/good-for-nick-sandmann/comment-page-2/#comment-5108696
    Perhaps you didn’t realize that this was offensive. But in the following comment a moderator warned people in this thread that it is not acceptable.

    https://ricochet.com/857165/good-for-nick-sandmann/comment-page-2/#comment-5108759
    Rather than acknowledging that warning or letting it pass without comment, you argued your case.

    https://ricochet.com/857165/good-for-nick-sandmann/comment-page-2/#comment-5109503
    Then you continue your defiance in this comment.

    https://ricochet.com/857165/good-for-nick-sandmann/comment-page-3/#comment-5110322
    Then you whip it out again here.

    https://ricochet.com/867992/rep-jim-jordan-to-seek-ouster-of-rep-liz-cheney-from-leadership-position/comment-page-2/#comment-5155010
    Here’s another example of your incivility.

    https://ricochet.com/864572/a-withdrawal/comment-page-4/#comment-5146865
    D.A. Venters has been arguing in good faith and you issued the following insult. “Arsonist in a field of straw men again. Go away. Maybe Democrats would have you.”

    A moderator redacted part of that and in this comment,

    https://ricochet.com/867992/rep-jim-jordan-to-seek-ouster-of-rep-liz-cheney-from-leadership-position/comment-page-2/#comment-5155061
    Regards,

    The Ricochet Moderators”

    Since I consider the administrators, at least those who have posted their opinions, Vichy Republicans, I am not surprised they are upset. I consider those who represent themselves as Republicans and then join the opposition/enemy when a battle is lost or in doubt to be similar to the members of the French government that joined the Nazis when France lost the war in 1940. Some of those Ricochet members that I “insulted” had announced they were voting for Biden, others have supported the sham impeachment.

    Anyway, I quit for the third and last time.

    I should add that I do not like the current version of WordPress. I could not get it to publish this post on my blog.

    

     

    Posted in Blogging, Civil Society, Conservatism, Internet, Trump | 74 Comments »

    Only on Bended Knee Should You Address Us

    Posted by Ginny on January 14th, 2021 (All posts by )

    Our betters on the left can’t seem to distinguish between reading 1984 as dystopia or guidebook. That doesn’t mean they didn’t learn something, though more probably from the communism that so rightly disturbed Orwell.

    Hannity can be irritating, but today his response to the impeachment seemed correct – that he (and the right in general) were not invested, interested in the impeachment. It seemed little different from every other political subversion of Trump’s presidency. And with only days left, it also seems silly. The left’s apparent motives are, nonetheless, maddening. Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Americas, Big Government, Current Events, Politics, Trump | 40 Comments »

    Feudalism in America?

    Posted by David Foster on January 13th, 2021 (All posts by )

    Veronika Kyrylenko believes that we may be headed for a new era of feudalism in this country. I don’t completely agree with her analysis, but it’s a thought-provoking piece.

    See also my 2018 post Coupling, which makes the point that the expansion of connectivity–geographically and otherwise–has downsides as well as upsides. The downsides may well lead individuals to seek security and protection, even at the cost of autonomy and freedom.

     

    Posted in Deep Thoughts, Society, USA | 35 Comments »

    The Times That Try Men’s Souls

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on January 13th, 2021 (All posts by )

    The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. Thomas Paine, The Crisis No. I – December 1776

     Frankly, it’s a time which try women’s souls, as well – not just being disenfranchised en masse, but having the Establishment News Presstitutes and the Tech Oligarchs gag all mention of conservative simmering unhappiness and discontent in the major media, and chopping off access to social media for designated so-called ‘thought criminals’ in response to a relatively benign – that is, relatively benign in comparison to what has been going on all year in cities that are prog strongholds – a massive protest at the US Capitol. I’m fairly certain that the ruling political oligarchs had the snot scared out of them last Wednesday, when protestors overran the Capitol building. Here’s my tiny violin to play “My Heart Bleeds For You”, and my dainty Victorian lace-trimmed linen handkerchief to sop up the tears. (And BTW, one of those protesters was shot, fatally, by … well, er, someone, whose’ identity is yet unknown, prompting the observation that if he were a regular policeman and shot a protester of color in a prog-run city he would have his identity instantly spread all over the Presstitute Media, along with his home address, his spouses’ employer and the name of the school that his kids attended. But never mind…) Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Civil Society, Conservatism, Current Events, Internet, Leftism, Media | 39 Comments »

    Smashing the State

    Posted by Jay Manifold on January 9th, 2021 (All posts by )

    There won’t be any surprises in this one for anyone who knows me at all well, but I’ll try to at least make it entertaining.

    My very first lasting memory of a news event with political content took place on the afternoon of Sunday 21 January 1968. A B-52 with four hydrogen bombs aboard took off from Thule AFB and crashed somewhere in the Arctic, location unknown.
    Ten days later, the Tet Offensive began.
    Nine weeks and one day after that, Dr King was assassinated.
    Nine weeks less one day after that, Bobby Kennedy was assassinated.
    Twelve weeks to the day after that, I first saw real human blood shed live on television via cameras above the intersection of Michigan and Balbo as the Chicago police attacked demonstrators during the Democratic National Convention.

    I was eight years old.

    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Anti-Americanism, Big Government, Book Notes, Chicagoania, Christianity, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, COVID-19, Current Events, Health Care, Human Behavior, Law Enforcement, Leftism, Libertarianism, Management, Personal Narrative, Political Philosophy, Politics, Religion, Society, Terrorism, USA | 42 Comments »

    Marching to the Beat of Pretty Much the Same Drummer

    Posted by Dan from Madison on January 8th, 2021 (All posts by )

    Quite the week out there in DC. Meanwhile, back in flyover country, things seem somewhat, well, the same. Let us unpack a few things.

    I am in the HVAC business, the owner of a distributor. Business is good. Since it is Winter and it is cold, we are firmly into the H of HVAC. Heating products are selling briskly. Customers coming in the door seem to be acting as they always have. Outside of a little water cooler talk about the riots in DC, the employees seem to be acting exactly the same. In fact, if I didn’t know about the riots, this could be pretty much any week in any January.

    But…social media and all that. While waiting for some cream cheese to come to room temperature for a key lime pie I am making (the pie is completely inauthentic and made with Persian lime juice to boot) I decided to look at a few news sites and scroll twitter a bit and then write this post. What a cesspool social media is. Lots of CAPITAL LETTERS and rage and fury.

    I see that the same benefit of a few “bad actors” won’t be applied to this riot like all of the other ones over the Summer. Hey that’s not fair! Sorry I laughed out loud while I typed that. We know. We get it. Too bad everyone couldn’t have gotten their panties in a bunch when the idiots were trashing the Federal Courthouse in Portland (they still are from what I hear) or any of a number of other federal, state and municipal buildings, as well as billions of dollars of private property – some of which literally went up in smoke.

    I saw some video of the cop in the Capitol blowing that poor woman away. Looks bad. Will be interesting to see how he is treated.

    Lots of calls for Trump to resign, get 25th amendmented, impeached and all that. I haven’t actually had time to hear exactly what he said, but I’m guessing that it wasn’t “hey thanks to all of you for coming, now get your asses up to the Capitol and trash that thing”.

    I have to go to work tomorrow to get some things done that I couldn’t attack during the week. I plan on keeping off of social media as usual, and letting the screamers scream. I won’t hear them.

    Will this event go down in the annals of history and be one of those “I remember where I was when” moments? I don’t think so. I could be wrong. I have a pie to make.

     

    Posted in Current Events | 37 Comments »

    What happened Wednesday?

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on January 8th, 2021 (All posts by )

    Roy Says:
    January 7th, 2021 at 10:23 pm
    Mike, does there exist a way to prove your observation about Antifa cadre and about cops helping them specifically up the stairs? I know that we’re not supposed to trust our instincts nor our lying eyes, but…

    We will probably never get proof as the evidence will be swept away as quickly as evidence of vote fraud has been swept away. This operation was designed to harm Trump’s ability to influence policy in the next four years and to discredit him with the gullible who have not already become Democrats.

    Here is one account from eyewitnesses.

    According to the website “wildprotest.com,” the original plan was to gather at the Whitehouse Ellipse from 9am to 12pm, then gather at the North lawn of the Capitol building at 1 pm. As you may well know, not only did it not happen this way, but the aforementioned website went blank. Did they take it down to make it harder for Trump supporters to show that storming the building was never part of the initial plan?

    This account is from an attendee who witnessed some of the events but not inside the capitol.

    My group boarded a D.C. Metro train at 10:30am. Upon arrival to the next station, I saw three young white men board the train with dark clothes and skeleton face masks. My immediate concern was that these were Antifa thugs who would give us trouble as soon as they saw us get off the train with our signs. As I watched them from the corner of my eye, I noticed that one of them wore a cape with the American Revolution snake “Join or die.” Were these Trump supporters? Something did not seem quite right. As the train approached our destination, other rally participants started to fill our coach and we arrived at the Ellipse with no incident.

    It seemed a typical Trump rally.

    The main difference that struck me as unusual during this rally (apart from the three young men who boarded the train) was the frequent smell of marijuana.

    We were present during much of the President’s speech, but since we could not hear it clearly, we walked to the National Mall in search of a bathroom. We found a public restroom on the mall with two lines of over 50 people. We then proceeded to walk down the Mall towards the Capitol building in search of porta-potties and found one with a line of about 20-30 people. Our wait was only 20 minutes, but it was overflowing, and I felt very bad for the women in our group. During the previous rally there had been many portable toilets on the Mall. This lack of facilities was anticipated because we were advised in one list serve to wear diapers. I had the impression the D.C. mayor wanted to make it less comfortable for us.

    There is more, a lot more. You will have to search for it, though.

    Here is another account from the NY Post.

    At least two known Antifa members were spotted among the throngs of pro-Trump protesters at the Capitol on Wednesday, a law enforcement source told The Post.

    The Antifa members disguised themselves with pro-Trump clothing to join in the DC rioting, said the sources, who spotted the infiltrators while monitoring video coverage from the Capitol.

    The infiltrators were recognized due to their participation in New York City demonstrations, and were believed to have joined in the rioting so that Trump would get blamed, the source said.

    Here is another known Antifa/BLM terrorist.

    I expect there was a cadre of up to 100 Antifa terrorists and they used the same tactics we have seen since Minneapolis in June. They do the window breaking and encourage others, black looters in Minneapolis, Trump overenthusiastic supporters in DC, to follow their lead.

    It was a successful op. Someone should have anticipated this but Trump staffers are too busy abandoning ship. I have read of “hundreds” of arrests coming. Who wants to bet that they will all be the Trump people and Antifa will get clean away?

     

    Posted in Civil Society, Conservatism, Current Events, Elections, Law Enforcement, Politics, Trump | 46 Comments »

    The Twilight Zone

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on January 5th, 2021 (All posts by )

    Well, it appears that the mullahcracy in Iran is still steamed over the death of their military mastermind Quassam Soleimani, the chief of so-called Quds Force – sort of the Iranian SS, I have always thought. On the one-year anniversary of that momentous drone-zap (a consummation quite overdue in my opinion) the president of Iran directly threatened the life of President Trump. Talk is cheap, and Iranian threats of dire revenge are the equivalent of those teeny and nearly worthless Spanish 1-peseta coins, which were struck from aluminum in the early 1990s, about the size of a child’s fingernail and looked like nothing so much as doll money. But still … the militant Muslims of Iran are certainly dedicated and determined sufficiently to have racked up any number of lesser-known and less-protected hits, so I wouldn’t be surprised at all if this was something more than just tough talk for the benefit of their domestic audience and fans of Islamic mayhem in other countries. Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Big Government, Conservatism, Current Events, History, International Affairs, Iran, Media, Middle East, Trump | 81 Comments »

    Book Review: Year of Consent, by Kendell Foster Crossen

    Posted by David Foster on January 5th, 2021 (All posts by )

    Year of Consent, by Kendell Foster Crossen

    —-

    This is a pulp SF novel from 1954, which has uncomfortable relevance to our present era.

    The story is set in the then-future year of 1990.  The United States is still nominally a democracy, but the real power lies with the social engineers…sophisticated advertising & PR men…who use psychological methods to persuade people that they really want what they are supposed to want.  (Prefiguring “nudging”)  The social engineers are aided in their tasks by a giant computer called Sociac (500,000 vacuum tubes! 860,000 relays!) and colloquially known as ‘Herbie.’  The political system now in place is called Democratic Rule by Consent.  While the US still has a President, he is a figurehead and the administration of the country is actually done by the General Manager of the United States….who himself serves at the pleasure of the social engineers.  The social engineers work in a department called ‘Communications’, which most people believe is limited to such benign tasks as keeping the telephones and the television stations in operation.  Actually, its main function is the carrying out of influence operations.

    One approach involves the publishing of novels which are fictional, but carry implicit social and/or political messages…via, for example, the beliefs and affiliations of the bad guys versus the good guys. Even the structure of novels is managed for messaging reasons: romance-story plots should not be boy gets girl…loses girl…gets girl back, but rather boy gets girl, loses girl, gets different girl who is really right for him.

    Some methods are more direct, although their real objectives are not stated.  One such objective is population control: If the fertility rate is running a little low, advertising is ramped up for a pill called Glamorenes, which are said to create the “rounded, glamorous figure of a TV star…remember–it’s Glamorenes for glamor.”  Actually, the real function of Glamorenes, which is top secret, is to increase a woman’s sex drive and expand the fertility window.  On the other hand, if the birth rate is running too high, the ad emphasis switches to Slimettes for women and Vigorone for men, both of which have a contraceptive effect.  The book’s protagonist, Gerald Leeds, is one of the few who is in on the secret, and when he hears a Glamorenes ad, he realizes that this is the real reason why his girlfriend, Nancy, has been acting especially affectionate lately.

    Few people, even at the highest levels of government, realize just how powerful the Communications Department really is.  “Even the biggest wheels only know part of it.  They think the Communications Administrative Department exists to help them–and not the other way around.”

    The computer known as Sociac (‘Herby’) accumulates vast amounts of data on individuals, including such things as shopping, dining, and vacation preferences. “Thus, when the administration wanted to make a new move, they knew exactly how to condition the people so that it would be backed. Or they knew exactly what sort of man to put up to win a popular election.” Telephone calls are tapped, but are rarely listened to directly by government agents; rather, they are fed directly to “a calculator” (perhaps a front-end to Herbie) and added to “the huge stock of intimate knowledge about the people.”

    Those individuals who resist the conditioning and are found to hold unapproved opinions–or find themselves to hold unapproved opinions–are said to have “communications blocks,” and good citizens will act on their own to request treatment for such blocks. The first level of treatment is the Psychotherapy Calculator, an interactive system which will help the patient change any objectionable opinions and behavior.  But in some cases, the PC determines that stronger methods are necessary, and in those cases, the patient is referred for a lobotomy.  The escorting of patients for mandatory psychotherapy and lobotomy procedures is done by a white-uniformed police force known as the Clinic Squad.

    Citizens are, of course, expected to report any instances of unapproved beliefs or actions.  When the protagonist’s girlfriend Nancy overhears one of her colleagues expressing sympathy for a man who is in serious trouble, she reports the girl immediately. (“For the moment I disliked Nancy,” says Gerald.  “Then I felt sorry for her.”)  Nancy herself is concerned that there may be something wrong with her, and has considered reporting herself for voluntary automated psychotherapy.  “If I did have (something wrong with her), I’d want to be purged of it quickly before it could make me do something awful like that poor Mr Shell”…Gerald notes that her hand was shaking as she lifted her glass to finish the drink.

    Gerald, the protagonist, works within the Communications Department…unknown to his superiors, he is a member of a resistance organization which aims to overthrow the existing system of government and to restore individual liberty. He must feign agreement when his immediate boss talks about how wonderful the system is and how misguided are those who oppose it:

    Never has there been more freedom anywhere than in America today.  We’ve done away with police and even prisons.  Crime has been almost wiped out since we recognized it as a social disease.  We’ve done away with poverty. There are fewer restrictions on people than ever before in the history of mankind.  For the first time they’re really free.

    Gerald reflects:

    Even if it hadn’t been dangerous, I wouldn’t have argued with him.  He believed what he was saying. His faith was the faith of a Torquemada backed by science.  There was no way to make him see that the social engineers had taken away only one freedom, but that it was the ultimate freedom–the right to choose.  Everything…was decided for them and then they were conditioned to want it.

    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Advertising, Big Government, Book Notes, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Deep Thoughts, Human Behavior, Russia, Tech, USA | 16 Comments »

    You Can’t Handle The Truth

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on January 3rd, 2021 (All posts by )

    The new sermon series at church is going to be “You Can’t Handle the Truth,” focusing on Daniel. That’s a nice convergence for me after just seeing the Max McLean production of The Great Divorce and just finishing Till We Have Faces. Of all Lewis’s works, those may be the two where that lesson is strongest.  It is in fact a common theme of Lewis’s throughout his works, that there are truths we do not wish to be true, but refusing to accept them keeps us from God.  If that seems unkind or condemning on his part, know that his works are often autobiographical, and the excuses he puts into the mouths of characters are ones he has used himself. 

    James’s comment about the holy being both dark and light is like that for me.  I am not attracted to the earthy, hidden, primitive parts of Christianity like eating the god or imagining the witness of the dead watching us. Even singing as a necessity I think I might rebel against, as I would prefer that music just be an entertainment. I would stay with the idea portion of the faith if I could, of things to contemplate and discuss.  But Lewis taught me decades ago to beware of that as a thin, incomplete faith – we are not wired as cerebrally as we pretend, and mystery is a tunnel, not a swamp.

     

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 3 Comments »

    Ways of Knowing

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on January 3rd, 2021 (All posts by )

    I would like to start by thanking Mike Kennedy for his observations over the last months. We all bring some knowledge to the pandemic, but he brings a good deal more. I think he has been properly cautious in interpreting information as it has emerged and even more cautious in offering advice, even though he might be tempted. It has been a reminder to me throughout not to pretend I know more than I do and not leap to conclusions. If he can refrain from pronouncements, how much more should I refrain, eh? Saying this, I admit my memory might be inaccurate. Mike may have made all sorts of knuckleheaded predictions and offered cockamamie theories over the last ten months and I just forgot them. Yet I think my overall impression has been correct, and I am grateful.
    ****

    When my oldest was a small boy, he took it into his head that not fastening our seat belts would cause us to get into an accident. He had clearly picked up associations we had made between the concepts of accident and seat-belt.  The distinction between “in case we get into an accident” and “because we’ll get into an accident” is not easy when you’re three or four. No real harm done at the time.  He fastened his seat belt willingly and we didn’t think he’d graduate from highschool with that misapprehension.

    There are a lot of theories and descriptions of the various ways people come to think they know things and what they trust.  They are not mutually exclusive.  We all trust our own experience while attaching some importance to what we hear happens to others.  We all have authorities we trust, but also trust our own ideas and reasoning. We also have opinions about what other people trust in ways of knowing. We particularly dislike it when those benighted other folks trust the wrong authorities or exhibit poor reasoning.  We also mix categories. In the long sorry state of CoVid commentary, we have had lots of complaints about people trusting “experts,” always in sneer quotes, yet our solution is nearly always that they instead believe…different experts.  Ones that we like better.

    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 40 Comments »

    New Year’s Eve, 2020/21

    Posted by David Foster on December 31st, 2020 (All posts by )

    A thought from the late and very great Neptunus Lex:

    “I’ve often wished that you could split at each important choice in life. Go both ways, each time a fork in the road came up. Compare notes at the end, those of us that made it to the clearing at the end of the path. Tell it all over a tumbler of smokey, single malt.”

     

    Posted in Deep Thoughts, Holidays | 36 Comments »

    Welcome Wagon – Progress Note II

    Posted by TM Lutas on December 31st, 2020 (All posts by )

    I’m currently soliciting for source material and authors to write material for the Welcome Wagon on Quora. You can see that here.

     

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 1 Comment »