Tuesday, September 30, 2014

According To Oswald Spengler

Oswald Spengler wrote the spectacular opus The Decline of the West shortly before WWI and the book was published in Germany in 1918, provoking universal reflections on man and civilization. The following passage is found on pages 104-105 in volume 2 of the 1961 Knopf edition:

When the ordinary thought of a highly cultivated people begins to regard "having children" as a question of pro's and con's, the great turning-point has come. For Nature knows nothing of pro and con. Everywhere, wherever life is actual, reigns an inward organic logic, an "it," a drive, that is utterly independent of waking-being, with its causal linkages, and indeed not even observed by it. The abundant proliferation of primitive peoples is a natural phenomenon, which is not even thought about, still less judged as to its utility or the reverse. When reasons have to be put forward at all in a question of life, life itself has become questionable. At that point begins prudent limitation of the number of births. In the Classical world the practice was deplored by Polybius as the ruin of Greece, and yet even at his date it had long been established in great cities; in subsequent Roman times it became appallingly general. At first explained by the economic misery of the times, very soon it ceased to explain itself at all. And at that point, too, in Buddhist India as in Babylon, in Rome as in our own cities, a man's choice of the woman who is to be, not mother of his children as amongst peasants and primitives, but his own "companion for life," becomes a problem of mentalities. The Ibsen marriage appears, the "higher spiritual affinity" in which both parties are "free"--free, that is, as intelligences, free from the plantlike urge of the blood to continue itself, and it becomes possible for a Shaw to say "that unless Woman repudiates her womanliness, her duty to her husband, to her children, to society, to the law, and to everyone but herself, she cannot emancipate herself." The primary woman, the peasant woman, is mother. The whole vocation towards which she has yearned from childhood is included in that one word. But now emerges the Ibsen woman, the comrade, the heroine of a whole megalopolitan literature from Northern drama to Parisian novel. Instead of children, she has soul-conflicts; marriage is a craft-art for the achievement of "mutual understanding". It is all the same whether the case against children is the American lady's who would not miss a season for anything, or the Parisienne's who fears that her lover would leave her, or an Ibsen heroine's who "belongs to herself"--they all belong to themselves and they are all unfruitful. The same fact, in conjunction with the same arguments, is to be found in the Alexandrian, in the Roman, and, as a matter of course, in every other civilized society--and conspicuously in that in which Buddha grew up. And in Hellenism and in the nineteenth century, as in the times of Lao-Tzu and the Charvaka doctrine, there is an ethic for childless intelligences, and a literature about the inner conflicts of Nora and Nana. The "quiverful," which was still an honourable enough spectacle in the days of Werther, becomes something rather provincial. The father of many children is for the great city a subject for caricature; Ibsen did not fail to note it, and presented it in his Love's Comedy.

At this level all Civilizations enter upon a stage, which lasts for centuries, of appalling depopulation. The whole pyramid of cultural man vanishes. It crumbles from the summit, first the world-cities, then the provincial forms, and finally the land itself, whose best blood has incontinently poured into the towns, merely to bolster them up awhile. At the last, only the primitive blood remains, alive, but robbed of its strongest and most promising elements. This residue is the Fellah type.  

Monday, September 29, 2014

Happy Birthday, Ludwig!

Today, September 29, is the birthday of Ludwig von Mises, one of the great economists, teachers and thinkers of all time, who would have been 133 years old if only he had laid off the cigarettes and schnapps.

More Federal Cops Chasing State Counterparts

The Feds seem to spend an inordinate amount of time and effort trying to trap state officials. Maybe this is because a state judge is unlikely to resist arrest in any meaningful fashion but it appears more likely that the they wish to assert their central government authority over the provinces. This story from the city of brotherly love shows how far they're willing to go. In order to trap a judge that had fallen from favor they created not only a crime but a ficticious defendant. The best part of this little morality play is the fact that all the judges involved, members of the bar with the special qualifications required to determine the fate of others, hire other attorneys to represent their own interests.

Of course these judges are the arbiters of civilized society, as graduates of law schools they're better than us at separating right from wrong, legal from illegal. They're the priesthood of the agnostic society. We're lucky to have them around.

Judge Dawn A. Segal was allegedly asked for help by Judge Joseph C. Waters. Now facinga probe, she denies wrongdoing.
Judge Dawn A. Segal, one subject of the federal probe.

David P. Khoury, imaginary felon.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Wounded Bear Mauls Ineffective Hunter

Somewhere near the rural community of Duxbury, Minnesota a bear is wandering around in pain after being wounded by a hunter and then being stabbed by the guy when Mr. Bruin returned to talk the situation over, as we learn in this account. If you read the article linked, you'll notice that the hunter is referred to more than once as a "victim". Sorry, but the bear is the real victim here. He wasn't airlifted to a sophisticated trauma care center after being wounded while out doing his bear business. Nothing against bear hunting but let's face it, the bear is at something of a disadvantage or these mighty hunters wouldn't venture out in the woods attempting to kill one. When Nimrod fails at dispatching his quarry, well, things like this can happen. It ain't like the bear attacked him while he sat on the couch watching the Gophers maul the Wolverines.

Additionally, in the religion of the outdoors it's a cardinal sin to fail to pursue and dispatch a wounded animal of any species. Even a duck or grouse isn't supposed to be left to suffer. In the case of a bear, there's not only the suffering of the animal to consider but also the danger that an angry bear presents to some innocent bystander on a stroll through the forest. The article doesn't state if Pine County sheriff's deputies are actively pursuing the dangerous bruin through the swampy countryside of the upper St. Croix Valley.
Don't fool around with this guy unless you're serious. He will be.

Robert Poli, who led 1981 strike that led Reagan to fire traffic controllers, dies at 78

This WaPo obituary sheds some light on the man that led the most unsuccessful work stoppage in American labor history. In 1962, President John F. Kennedy signed executive order 10988 that permitted collective bargaining with the federal work force. Things mushroomed from there. However, even though federal, and ultimately other public employees, were able to organize, they weren't in exactly the same position as unions in the private sector. When someone goes to work for the federal government they sign an oath not to engage in a work stoppage. Going on strike not only violates this oath, which is grounds for mandatory dismissal, but also violates the law. When Poli advised his membership to engage in a work stoppage, he gave Ronald Reagan, once the head of the Screen Actors Guild, license to fire them. Planes continued to take off and land with replacement workers drawn from controllers that honored their oath and trained military personnel. Poli disappeared from the national spotlight and the public employee unions suffered a real but temporary setback.

Crash in Women's Elite Race at 2014 World Road Racing Championships

This disastrous crash in the most important race of the year eliminated the entire Canadian team. Karol-Ann Kanuel suffered a fractured hip and Leah Kirchmann a broken collarbone. Joelle Numainville, recovering from a serious concussion, received a blow to the head and Lex Albrecht injured her elbow so badly that she was forced to withdraw from the competition. A sad result for a group with justifiably high hopes earlier in the day.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Protecting the Elected

The man that's a fish bone in the gullet or an errant golf ball from the most powerful position on earth, US vice president Joe Biden, made a trip to Aspen, CO last weekend that put the financial crunch on at least two counties that provided security for the visit, as the local press describes.  The idea that it should take 40 black SUVs to provide protection for this fraud is preposterous on its face but why should these local agencies even be concerned about his short stay in the Rockies? Perhaps there's some federal law, regulation, executive order or administrative fiat that requires the law enforcement personnel of Mayberry, RFD to drop whatever they're doing and erect traffic barriers whenever the Secret Service says they must.  Nonetheless, there are various levels of cooperation, the sheriffs, who are in many ways the most powerful officials in America, have a certain amount of discretion in affairs like this. They should use that discretion.

Back on the Potomac tidewater, some disturbed individual successfully scaled the fence surrounding the White House and actually managed to enter the holy sanctuary before the legion of Secret Service praetorians managed to subdue him and haul him away. The noteworthy aspects of this event were that the intruder wasn't filled with bullet holes and that, horror of horrors, he had, on his person, a folding knife with a blade 2 3/4 inches long! Within the living memory of many Americans, the possession of a small jack knife was almost mandatory for any normal boy or male adult. It's not a weapon but rather a tool, the regular use of which is one of the differences between us and monkeys. Yet the media is aghast that anyone can come within a Miguel Cabrera fly ball of a politician with an edged item normally used for sharpening pencils and peeling apples.

Pre-Columbian native Americans, and even pre-historic Europeans, employed stone axes. While they may have been flaked down to a taper, these items weren't really edged tools. They weren't very sharp. They were more on the order of sophisticated clubs. Today, as a result of our advanced technology, we have hammers that are much nicer and more effective than those primitive tools. How much longer will it be before the media makes breathless comment on a felon having a framing hammer in the trunk of his car after being stopped for having a faulty headlight?

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Annamieke van Vlueten Leaves Rabo-Liv For Bigla

Dutch national road racing champion in 2012 and current Dutch time trial champ, Rabo-Liv rider Annamieke van Vlueten has moved her operation to the Swiss Bigla racing team. An integral part of the squad that has helped world and Olympic champion Marianne Vos to become perhaps the best cyclist on earth, van Vlueten, in her prime at 31 years of age, now joins a different team where she's likely to be the star, rather than a member of the supporting cast.

Update: Leading the Rabo-Liv team time trial riders in the world championships at Ponteferrada, Spain, Annemieke struck a barrier in a roundabout, causing a crash that  left star rider Anna van der Breggen with a broken pelvis. Van Vlueten has been forced to withdraw from further competition at the worlds with a foot injury. This video shows the crash. 

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Anne-Mieke gives us the thumbs up from her hospital bed.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Joe Biden Proves He's Out Of Touch By Using Term "Orient"

The man that's a fishbone in the gullet or an errant golf ball away from the presidency of the most powerful country in the world has continued his career of verbal gaffes by referring to the area of the world between the Black Sea and the International Date Line as the "Orient".

This is unacceptable vocabulary because? The word itself comes from Latin and means "East", it doesn't refer to people. It doesn't have a racial, ethnic or religious component. In this article that describes the simple VP's verbal transgression the statement is made that "The terms “orient” and “oriental” are considered widely outdated and offensive to Asians." What determines when a word is "outdated"? How could it be offensive to Asians? What about the term "Asians", itself? Have we taken a poll of people with origins in the land mass east of Europe to see if they're satisfied with that word? Maybe it's offensive as well. In Minnesota it's now verboten to refer to an invasive fish species as an "Asian carp" because that somehow offends the Orientals.

Verbal denigration of "the other" has been a feature of human communication probably since humans moved on from monosyllabic grunts. In the case of the US, there's never been a shortage of derogatory nomenclature for those lower on the social totem pole, although some are more disrespectful than others. The use of mick, kike, wop, polack, greaser, spic, slopehead, gook and other terms has fallen into disfavor except in situations where the individuals to which they refer are not present or some secret agent of the thought police might be near. But there isn't a correspondence between these nasty expletives and a geographic term like "Orient". I hadn't considered it but perhaps the company advertised as "Northwest Orient Airlines" beginning in 1949 failed to change its name quickly enough by not dumping the "Orient" until after its merger with Republic Airways in 1986. In fact, the airline doesn't exist in that form any longer, having been absorbed by Delta. Delta was never known as "Cracker" Airlines or "Redneck" Airways, despite generally buzzing around the Atlanta area.

Kids Can Stare At People

For reasons I don't fully understand children stare at me. They probably stare at others as well. They might very well stare at any stranger or person with an appearance they consider unusual. It's doubtful that most people are offended by a child's intense gaze and if they were what could they do about it? Anyway, my question is, "When and how do children learn NOT to stare at strangers? I don't remember anybody ever telling me that it's socially unacceptable to stare at someone, although I may have forgotten such an instruction. I've never told my kids not to stare at people, either. This is a subject that deserves some serious study.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Friday, September 12, 2014

Property Rights, Treehouse Edition

An anonymous neighbor, unhappy with the presence of a treehouse next door, began the process of its removal with a complaint to Minneapolis zoning officials and now the unregulated structure has to go, according to this story in the Star-Tribune. An earlier story contained more details.

  As usual in these cases, the offended party, the complainer, the imposed-upon individual, remains anonymous. The city is probably correct in demanding the destruction of this hold-over from another era. As it's not as regulated as even a playhouse there's always the possibility that some unscrupulously clever social misfit or an organization along the same lines could build a tree manufacturing facility unhampered by city codes and zoning restrictions. Or arboreal housing units that could be inhabited by undocumented aliens. In fact, if treehouse owners allowed Honduran children to move in they could probably get city funding for carpets and electricity.

Monday, September 8, 2014

More Death Penalty, This Time For A Cougar

News erupted through the media yesterday of the unprovoked attack on a six year-old boy hiking with family members by a mountain lion near the wilderness village of Cupertino, CA, also the home of Apple, Inc., a company that makes popular electronic devices, not a grower of fruit, as this article explains. Fortunately the toddler was saved by his quick-thinking father and has since been released from the hospital after treatment for bites.

Once again, an animal is being judged in human terms and will be, as they say, "euthanized" for showing the temerity to consider a small human as food. When and if a cougar is found and killed its DNA will be matched to samples found on the victim to determine if, indeed, this particular individual is the bad guy. If not, no doubt the search will continue. What the status of a dead but innocent cat will be isn't mentioned.

There's something of a Darwinian selection process being invoked here. If proven aggressive and dangerous animals of a given species are killed and not allowed to reproduce, over time the remainder will be more and more friendly toward man, the peaceable kingdom will have arrived. On the other hand, it might be assumed that all large carnivores are a danger to humans and when they prove this on an individual basis must be done away with. Both thoughts have a certain validity.

In any event, people prefer their animals on the Discovery Channel, not in their backyard.

A cougar. This isn't the cougar that attacked the little boy. Nobody got a photo of that one. This is a picture of some other cougar but it's probably just as dangerous as the one stalking hikers near the Apple, Inc. headquarters. Hopefully, it's been dispatched as well, sent to a taxidermist, and its preserved form displayed at some popular sporting goods store.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Women's Cycling Europe, It Ain't Easy


Optum Pro Cycling sent its varsity girls team to France to compete in the Tour de l'Ardeche stage race with high hopes that the move would prepare the ladies for the upcoming world championships in Ponferrada, Spain, Sept. 21-28. Maybe it did but the results weren't encouraging. The best the orange and black could do in the GC was a 17th place finish by Janel Holcomb, 2011 NRC champion. Lauren Hall came in 40th, followed by US national champion Jade Wilcoxson at 42 and triple Canadian champ Leah Kirchmann in the 51st spot. Star-to-be Brianna Walle finished 60th and Annie Ewart 75.

Rochelle Gilmore's Wiggle Honda team impressed with a GC victory by time trial grinder Linda Melanie Villumsen and stage sprint wins by world champion Giorgia Bronzini. 

One of Optum's biggest rivals, the Specialized-Lululemon ladies, took their squad to the Holland Ladies Tour where they placed four riders in the top 20, with Evelyn Stevens winning the GC and team mate Lisa Brennauer finishing second. It's hard to predict the results of future bike races on the basis of one event but the Optum ladies might have a problem extending their huge success in North America to the tougher European environment. We wish them luck.

Edward E. Baptist, the Economist, and US Slavery

Edward E. Baptist

A teapot tempest blew up when The Economist reviewed Cornell University professor Edward E. Baptist's new book, The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism. After the predictable negative response to their review, the editors of the British magazine apologized for their critique. The author himself followed with a response to the apology here.

Baptist's book is meant to bring to our attention the importance of the peculiar institution to the development of the vibrant American economy and its origin in the plantation production of cotton for the textile industry, one of the first beneficiaries of the industrial revolution. Ergo, Americans sitting in front of their televisions watching the Vikings play the Redskins while nibbling on taco chips and guacamole owe this pleasantry to enslaved Africans who were freed 150 years ago.

We believe today that involuntary servitude is morally wrong. Yet that never stopped the use of conscription, many thousands of men being involuntarily drafted into the military over the years until the practice was discontinued in 1973. In fact, the Select Service System still exists and all men between 18 and 26 are required to register for a possible draft. Failure to do so is a felony. Evidently, some kinds of involuntary servitude are OK, since we never hear  about the children that weren't born because their father was conscripted and used for cannon fodder in a foreign country. Our buddies in China, South and North Korea, Kuwait, Egypt, the Scandinavian and Baltic countries and most South American countries, among others, still conscript draftees into military service. We don't see any news coverage of protests in front of the Kuwaiti embassy over their mandatory military service. There are no books being published about the economic cost of jerking thousands of young men out of their families and communities, training them for jobs that don't exist in the civilian world, and then sending them to foreign  lands where they can be targets for the unhappy locals.

You're saying, "Gee, conscription doesn't justify slavery, even though its the same thing. Bringing up other wrongs doesn't diminish the terrible tragedy of slavery. And it was based on race." Fair enough. That brings us to the people the Washington NFL team is named after.  In spite of the fact that they were victims of a racial genocide quite similar to that imposed by the Mongols on the 13th century Persians and that their land and property was literally stolen from them, they are not a political cause celebre. Even the liberals with the nicest limousines don't complain much about the fact that practically all of the US was taken away from its New Stone Age owners at the point of a gun. Unlike African slaves in the south, who were regarded as valuable property, the native Americans were considered as hostile vermin to be eradicated in the name of "manifest destiny". Historians need to get their priorities in order.

One could make the case that the biggest problem with American slavery wasn't lack of freedom as such but was instead the various wrongs inflicted on the slaves by callous or evil owners. Just as there was in 1850 no EPA, no Department of Education, no OSHA, there was no Department of Slave Administration to prevent or punish lashings (flogging was outlawed in the US Navy in 1850) and other mistreatment. Perhaps if there had been a DSA prior to the War Between the States, an agency that could define and regulate human bondage, it would exist even today, despite any conclusion reached by the conflict. The Bureau of Indian Affairs was established in 1824, as part of the War Department, and continues to exist today, administering over 55 million acres of land held "in trust" by the US government, among other duties. There are federal agencies that appear to be designed to advance the cause of the descendents of slaves, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a division of the Justice Dept., for instance, but it didn't come into existence until 1965.

The central tenet of Baptist's book is that all Americans, and even citizens of other countries, owe much of their current affluence to the exploitation of black slaves during the roughly 250 years that they were a factor in the US economy. The reality is that the foundation of US economic success was the millions of acres of virtually free land confiscated from the native Americans, some of which was used for the production of cotton by slaves.

There isn't any possible rectification for the native Americans, or the descendents of slaves, for that matter. The state of Wisconsin isn't going to be  returned to the Winnebagos and Ojibwa that once called it home. The issue is the continuing hypocrisy displayed by the US government and its patriotic apologists that keep singing the national anthem before hockey games and pretending that the US is unique in its embrace of freedom. 

Saturday, September 6, 2014

FAA Gets Half Million Dollars For Alaska Airlines Electrical Fire In 2010

alaska.JPG In a tactic that seems to be becoming more and more common, as well as remunerative, for various government agencies the one that runs the show in aviation, the FAA has fined Seattle-based Alaska Airlines $500,000 for an incident that occurred in 2010 while a Boeing 737-400 was being serviced at a gate at the Anchorage airport. A misplaced clamp caused a short circuit in the cockpit electrical system that caused a fire of undisclosed size. Evidently the aircraft was not destroyed. Details of the affair are sketchy.

 While nobody wants an airplane to catch fire ever, what's really going on here? Four years ago there's some kind of an accident on a commercial passenger jet undergoing maintenance at an airport. Steps were taken to prevent similar occurrences in the future. Case closed? No. The FAA, as an untouchable federal agency with literally the power of life or death over the businesses under its control, can exact what amounts to a half-million dollar addition to its budget by supposedly punishing Alaska Airlines four years after the fact. As a government-licensed corporation, no management figure has been fined or sent to the hoosegow over this but the fine has been deducted from a dividend to the common stock holders, in the unlikely event that one is ever paid. The last payment was 12 1/2 cents a share on Aug. 15.

Not all the news is bad for Alaska Airlines. The Defense Dept. has awarded the company a $203.37 million transportation contract.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

2014 National Sports Center Velodrome All-Star Team

As summer turns to autumn and the competition at the National Sports Center Velodrome in Blaine, MN comes to its annual conclusion it's time to recognize the riders that made the biggest impressions on the track in 2014. Here they are:

Linsey Hamilton, not just a 2014 all-star but a permanent all-star, she's headed to Manchester, UK for the World's Masters Track Championships after winning the Minnesota State Points Race championship, among others.

Brandon Krawczyk is always a threat to win any Category 1-2 race he starts.

Matt Montesano has developed into one of the most aggressive and exciting riders in the track peloton.

Local lady Margeaux Claude moved her athletic talents from the ski slopes to the velodrome with continuing success.

Cyclocrosser Josh Roeser has been tough to beat in the Category 3 arena.

Junior teen-ager Anya Malarski has been an inspiration for years with her competitive fire.

Adam Weitzner is generally on the front end of any Cat 3 tussle.

Jacob Okamoto has moved rapidly up the ladder to become one of strongest Cat 1-2 riders.

Minneapolis firefighter and track demon Dan Casper heads to Manchester, UK to defend his masters world championship in the individual pursuit after winning the Minnesota Cat 1-2 80 lap points race.

California Superior Court Judge Scott Steiner Has Sex In Courthouse, No Big Deal

This story in the Orange County Register tells us the outcome of an investigation into the sexual shenanigans of Superior Court Judge Scott Steiner, who engaged in sex with two of his former students at Chapman College in his chambers in the County Courthouse in Santa Ana. He also attempted to influence the hiring of one of his sexual partners by the District Attorney's office. For these undignified and probably illegal activities Judge Steiner was censured by the California Commission on Judicial Performance. What this punishment actually means is a mystery as Steiner remains on the bench with full salary and benefits at least until 2017.
Judge Scott Steiner and family.

Joelle Numainville Goes to Lotto-Belisol

New World women's cycling fans won't be able to personally  lay eyes on one of the most determined and exciting riders in the North American peloton for awhile. Canadian champion Joelle Numainville has cut ties with Optum Pro Cycling and moved to Europe to ride for Belgian team Lotto-Belisol, per this story in the outstanding Canadian publication Pedal.

We look for Joelle to easily adapt to the more competitive European racing.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Military Dogs Abandoned

Someone has brought it to Jonah Goldberg's attention that not every military working dog stationed overseas is brought back to the US after his combat career has come to a conclusion. This Breitbart story comments on the moral bankruptcy of a military that leaves its canine soldiers in a foreign land while the dog's handlers return home to the states.

That certainly is a lapse of ethics on the part of the military but just the final one in a line of them. Why are these poor beasts being used by the military in the first place? They can't volunteer for the duty, their smaller minds can't comprehend the geopolitical issues that require their service. Exposing these animals to danger that soldiers can't or won't face is what is truly wrong.