I Am Become America; the Destroyer of Dreams

Or not, what will we choose?

In 1903 this happened


Those bicycle mechanics from Ohio flew about half the wingspan of a 747, and changed the world, forever.

66 years later, yesterday we, America, did this.


Later on, we left a car, like this:

That’s a good summary of my America

But 24 years to the day before that flag went up, a man, in Alamogordo, NM said this:

I am become Death, the Destroyer of Worlds.

He had just watched this

But, you know, Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer was wrong, at least so-far. The nuclear weapons program has not destroyed any worlds, in fact its very first result was to save at least two million casualties, half of them Japanese, it then went on to help prevent war between the US and USSR.

Si vis pacem, para bellum

And thus America’s course through the stormy 20th century.

But you know, yesterday was the 45th anniversary of the day we landed on the moon. Other than the internet, what have we accomplished since?

Maybe this is why.

Think about it.

This is more like America

“World War I on the Home Front,” By Ralph Raico

1934_cartoonThis is considerably heavier (and longer) than what I usually do on Saturday. That’s not an apology, it’s also important. Most of it comes from Nomocracy in Politics, which is a wonderful source for us. Many of you have seen my utter disgust for Woodrow Wilson, and my belief that he ushered in many of the policies that slowed down or maybe stopped the miracle that was America. And I’ll bet you haven’t heard any of this in school, because even back when I was in school, the official line was that Wilson was a great president. He wasn’t. In fact, he may have been the worst of American presidents, even including Obama, if for no other reason than Obama is inconceivable without Wilson.

The break point to me is in three parts:

  1. The income tax, that penalizes Americans for success.
  2. The Federal Reserve, that allows the government to spend money that it didn’t have, without specifically borrowing it, and
  3. World War I. This was the worst of all because the government did all sorts of things that were (and are) illegal and or unconstitutional.

In this essay, Ralph Raico, summarizes very well the pernicious changes instituted by Wilson during the war. You’ll note that most of them continue in force. As you are reading this (and do follow the link) I want you to think about how much freer our society was before these things

The changes wrought in America during the First World War were so profound that one scholar has referred to “the Wilsonian Revolution in government.”[1] Like other revolutions, it was preceded by an intellectual transformation, as the philosophy of progressivism came to dominate political discourse.[2] Progressive notions — of the obsolescence of laissez-faire and of constitutionally limited government, the urgent need to “organize” society “scientifically,” and the superiority of the collective over the individual — were propagated by the most influential sector of the intelligentsia and began to make inroads in the nation’s political life.

As the war furnished Lenin with otherwise unavailable opportunities for realizing his program, so too, on a more modest level, it opened up prospects for American progressives that could never have existed in peacetime. The coterie of intellectuals around the New Republicdiscovered a heaven-sent chance to advance their agenda. John Dewey praised the “immense impetus to reorganization afforded by this war,” while Walter Lippmann wrote: “We can dare to hope for things which we never dared to hope for in the past.” The magazine itself rejoiced in the war’s possibilities for broadening “social control … subordinating the individual to the group and the group to society,” and advocated that the war be used “as a pretext to foist innovations upon the country.”[3]

Woodrow Wilson’s readiness to cast off traditional restraints on government power greatly facilitated the “foisting” of such “innovations.” The result was a shrinking of American freedoms unrivaled since at least the War Between the States.

It is customary to distinguish “economic liberties” from “civil liberties.” But since all rights are rooted in the right to property, starting with the basic right to self-ownership, this distinction is in the last analysis an artificial one.[4] It is maintained here, however, for purposes of exposition.

As regards the economy, Robert Higgs, in his seminal work,Crisis and Leviathan, demonstrated the unprecedented changes in this period, amounting to an American version of Imperial Germany’s Kriegssozialismus. Even before we entered the war, Congress passed the National Defense Act. It gave the president the authority, in time of war “or when war is imminent,” to place orders with private firms which would “take precedence over all other orders and contracts.” If the manufacturer refused to fill the order at a “reasonable price as determined by the Secretary of War,” the government was “authorized to take immediate possession of any such plant [and] … to manufacture therein … such product or material as may be required”; the private owner, meanwhile, would be “deemed guilty of a felony.”[5]

Once war was declared, state power grew at a dizzying pace. The Lever Act alone put Washington in charge of the production and distribution of all food and fuel in the United States.

By the time of the armistice, the government had taken over the ocean-shipping, railroad, telephone, and telegraph industries; commandeered hundreds of manufacturing plants; entered into massive enterprises on its own account in such varied departments as shipbuilding, wheat trading, and building construction; undertaken to lend huge sums to business directly or indirectly and to regulate the private issuance of securities; established official priorities for the use of transportation facilities, food, fuel, and many raw materials; fixed the prices of dozens of important commodities; intervened in hundreds of labor disputes; and conscripted millions of men for service in the armed forces.

via “World War I on the Home Front,” By Ralph Raico | Nomocracy In Politics.

There were, of course, precursors going back at least to Lincoln and becoming noticeable in Theodore Roosevelt’s, and Taft’s administrations but, they were just that: precursors. This is when Progressivism got its real hold on our country–much to our detriment.

Can we go back? I doubt it, at least not all at once, unless the whole thing falls apart, like the Soviet Union in 1989, and that’s a hard way to fix things.

Should we? Yes we should. We were the wonder of the world, some things were harder but on balance we did more for ourselves–and for the world–than we have since. This is where we came from and how we did it.

Maybe not all the way, all at once. It did take us a hundred years to get this screwed up, but we need to change the direction, or we will go off that cliff at some point. If that happens, everything we have stood for, individual liberty, free market success, free innovation and all the rest will be lost, including the free world, maybe for a long time, maybe forever.

But remember, on this journey, you are responsible for you and yours, no one else is.

Redskins and the Rule of law

Redskins primary logo 1972-1981, 1983-present

Redskins primary logo 1972-1981, 1983-present (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Let’s talk about this Washington Redskins thing a bit shall we. in many ways, it’s a shiny squirrel but, there is some meaning buried in there as well, that we should think about. The thing is that the Redskins name, and the associated image is a trademark (abbreviated this way ™). in essence that means that if you want to sell a coffee mug with the logo or the name, you have to pay some amount of money to the team, and if they find your use inappropriate they can refuse to let you. In the same way the name nebraskaenergyobserver is mine as is my Gravatar. So is in a way the design and layout of the blog and so forth. The same is true for you, and that is why we all are careful about fair use.

They provide a reasonable assurance when you see them that you are seeing my work, not Harvey Lunchbucket from Podunk’s. Trademarks exist and are enforceable with or without the blessing of the US Patent and Trademark Office. In other words, the Redskins still own their name and their rights are enforceable in court. Volokh put it this way yesterday:

My tentative view is that the general exclusion of marks that disparage persons, institutions, beliefs, or national symbols should be seen as unconstitutional. Trademark registration, I think, is a government benefit program open to a wide array of speakers with little quality judgment. Like other such programs (such as broadly available funding programs, tax exemptions, or access to government property), it should be seen as a form of “limited public forum,” in which the government may impose content-based limits but not viewpoint-based ones. An exclusion of marks that disparage groups while allowing marks that praise those groups strikes me as viewpoint discrimination.

And that is the problem here, really. It’s only slightly more difficult for the Redskins to prove their case. And that’s the nub of the matter. it is their property. to decide the name, to decide, who can use it (or not) and how much they should pay for the privilege. It belongs to them, not to me and not to you, and not to anyone else, it’s theirs to use as they wish.

And so in many ways this is a meaningless act of disrespect, for the Redskins, yes, but also for all property. Our blog designs, our homes, our stock holdings, our retirement, all of it. And that goes to the very basis of our society.

Free society is built on property rights. Infringement of their property rights was one of the cause that led to the signing 799 years ago this week of Magna Charta, as well as the Declaration of Independence that hangs next to it in the National Archives. Without that right to private property there is no private sector, which has always been the driving force of our economy. It makes money (as do the Redskins), unlike the government which redistributes wealth (which is not the same as money) which it has taken from one citizen for the benefit of another. See the difference there? Government creates nothing.

In other words, property rights is one of the basics of The Rule of Law, and that is what has set the (mainly) English speaking world off from everybody else, through revolution and civil war, flood, famine, and plenty, our property has always been our property, subject to certain objective rules. And while this case is trivial, it is also a symbol, as have been other cases of our government’s disrespect for the rule of law. That has made many of us comment that we now have a lawless regime (the common term is a banana republic) because in some measure we have become in John Adams words, reversed:

A government of men, not of law

Its Time to Stop Controlling Kids

th1Leslie Loftus wrote an article over Father’s Day weekend that struck me strongly, and as right. The thing we’re not teaching our kids is judgement, I see it nearly everyday with young guys at work, they always have to have someone’s approval before doing the simplest thing, to the point that they are a supervisor’s nightmare–they literally can’t see work in front of their face. Leslie has some idea why, so read her article.

Gen Xers often joke—on Facebook, naturally—about how much trouble we would have wreaked if our youthful stupid mistakes had gone viral. But what could have mortified us 20 years ago we handled by destroying photos and negatives. Photo burning was a staple of late 90’s bachelorette parties.

Contrast that with the Dropbox porn story coming out of Virginia, in which two boys put a bunch of nude or semi-nude photos of female fellow students on Dropbox and passed around the password. A little flash nudity has been a staple of Truth or Dare games for generations. What’s new is the capture and distribution capability—and the children unprepared for its consequences. Today we have no simple fix to save these girls from crisis or, perhaps, the boys from incarnation.

After one of these events, a chorus begins to ask, “Where were the parents?” But I often wonder about the teens. How could they possibly think these acts were a good idea? Or put another way, for how long do we think parental supervision is the answer?

I don’t ask to assign blame, but to focus on the problem at hand. Controlling the Internet isn’t an option—not legally, not logistically. Sufficient supervision isn’t possible. I have tried every Internet filter variation, including prohibition. They all have exploitable flaws. We will have to teach children to use judgment.

But modern parents don’t like judgment. We like control. Some parents brave culture for their children, clearing all obstacles. Other parents set all the rules and boundaries for their children. In both cases, parents substitute their judgment for their children’s and leave each of them vulnerable to life.

Modern parents don’t like judgment. We like control.Stories of how well children of helicopter parents fare in the adult world are reaching legend. Some homeschoolers get heartache when their carefully pruned broods rebel. Similarly, many Christian denominations are puzzled by the trend of the young leaving the church, with only a fraction returning later and usually to more traditional Catholic or Anglican traditions.

via Its Time to Stop Controlling Kids and Teach Them Judgment.

She’s right but I don’t think she has it thought all the way through. Judgement comes from initiative taken–and consequences paid. You’ll hear many of us of my generation relate how we were told after breakfast (in the summer) “Go out and play, I don’t want to see you till lunch”. Those stories are true. Our parents trusted us not to, not get into trouble, they knew we would, but to figure out how to get back out. They trusted us to show responsibility for ourselves first in small things, like entertaining ourselves. They also knew that we, and they, would pay a price, usually in cuts and scrapes, occasionally in more serious things. About those cuts and scrapes, I can still hear Dad saying, “I didn’t feel a thing.” He wasn’t callous, if I hurt myself, he was all for fixing the hurt but he gave me room, to get a minor scrape or 20. And most importantly, to learn the lesson.

He never did anything that sapped my initiative, either. When I was about four, I managed to jack up an old car that was out behind the house, and take off a tire. He certainly didn’t praise me for it (I do suspect he was a bit proud, but thought it shouldn’t be encouraged), what he did was, at the earliest opportunity, remove the car, before I hurt killed myself. Similarly, since he was mowing 5 acres of yard, being a boy, I wanted to mow, about that same time he came up with a little riding mower, removed the blade, and designed an electric start system for it. Well I still couldn’t mow, but I could pretend, with real tools, and I did. I’ll bet I put 5,000 miles on that ‘tractor’.  And by the time I was ten, I fulfilled my quest, mowing the yard was primarily my responsibility, and you know something it was fun too. I still enjoy mowing, it reminds me of my childhood.

And one final example, like most people living in the country, dad had a shotgun, for all the uses we talk about, except that he wasn’t a hunter, he knew enough to, he just didn’t care for it. Growing up watching westerns, you know how much I wanted to play with that old .410! It was one of very few things forbidden, with serious consequences for violations, another was playing in the road. They were all things that could kill you. But about the time I was seven, on Christmas, there was that Daisy “Red Ryder” in all it’s glory. It came with a very serious lecture on firearms safety, and the promise that there were no second chances for violations. Even at seven, I knew those lectures were reserved for things that had real, life and death, consequences, and acted accordingly. When I was ten, it was followed by a .22, with a more advanced lecture involving the explosion of a watermelon. Lesson learned, to this day, a half century later, I have never had a firearms accident (except for breaking a stock when I fell down an ice hill).

What am I saying here, is simply this: You cannot teach judgement, you can only learn it. I always put it this way

Good judgement comes from experience

Experience come from bad judgement,

preferably others.

Here’s another part of that, I’ve said how I grew up around dad’s work and crews, especially as an early teen. One of the things I saw was this. The company got a report on every fatal accident in a rural electric in the United States, we all read them, and some formed the basis of safety meetings Thusly we learned not what to do but, what not to do, and we were all safer people for it.

And that is how you teach the two things that are lacking in most young people (and it is not their fault, in my opinion). Good judgement and initiative. Leslie’s right but she doesn’t go far enough. All kids have initiative, our challenge as parents and adults is to channel it and not destroy it.

A child needs room to learn, even by failure, even by losing, that’s how one learns to win and to pay the price for either. It’s the parent’s job to control the environment just enough to keep the costs of failure within bounds.

And do understand this, if you are a parent, you are your child’s hero.

Nobody ever died of a skinned knee.

“Trigger Warnings”, “Special Snowflakes”, and Failure

Condoleezza Rice London, England March 1, 2005...

Condoleezza Rice London, England March 1, 2005 source (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the blogs I most enjoy, is written by a neighbor (the way we figure things out here, anyway) Hercules and the Umpire, who is a Federal Judge in Nebraska, and yep, he is the one who had the guts to comment on how women (and sometimes men) lawyers dress in court. I have no idea what his politics are, although I suspect that like mine, they are based mostly on reality. Anyway yesterday, he posted this, and while I don’t have a courtroom, I think this is an appropriate warning to any of you ‘special snowflakes’ who wander in here as well because frankly, my dears, I don’t give a damn about your feelings. Here we do and say thing based on experience, success yes, but more often failure, reality, and figuring things out enough to keep most unintended consequences at bay. Here’s Judge Kopf, read and heed, because it applies to life as well as his courtroom.


By the way, there are no “trigger warnings” in my courtroom, just a mean ass guy who doesn’t spend a lot time worrying about your feelings. Be damn sure you grow up before you begin practicing law. That’s legal realism.

via Note to law students: No “trigger warnings” in Kopf’s court « Hercules and the umpire..




From the things that do NOT work file: Rutgers University.


If you remember they disinvited Condoleezza Rice from being their commencement speaker. It sounded to me like they were afraid that their graduates might not survive a few minutes contact with the real world.  Anyway since he is a nice guy, P.J. O”Rourke penned a piece to help them out. Here’s some excerpts


I hear Condoleezza Rice stood you up. You may think it was because about 50 students—.09 percent of your student body—held a “sit-in” at the university president’s office to protest the selection of Secretary Rice as commencement speaker. You may think it was because a few of your faculty—stale flakes from the crust of the turkey pot pie that was the New Left—threatened a “teach-in” to protest the selection of Secretary Rice.

“Sit-in”? “Teach-in”? What century is this?

I think Secretary Rice forgot she had a yoga session scheduled for today.

It’s shame she was busy. You might have heard something useful from a person who grew up poor in Jim Crow Alabama. Who lost a friend and playmate in 1963 when white supremacists bombed Birmingham’s Sixteenth Street Baptist Church. Who became an accomplished concert pianist before she tuned her ear to the more dissonant chords of international relations.

Secretary Rice was Phi Beta Kappa at the University of Denver and received a B.A. cum laude in political science—back before the worst grade a student had ever heard of was a B-.

The professor who influenced her most was Josef Korbel, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s father.

Secretary Albright and Secretary Rice don’t agree on much about international relations. But they don’t sit-in or teach-in at each other’s public appearances.

Secretary Rice got a master’s in political science from Notre Dame, a Ph.D. in political science from Denver and, in the meantime, was an intern at the Carter administration State Department and the Rand Corporation and studied Russian at Moscow State University.

Well, maybe nobody does need to be smart. But that’s your problem, sitting here thinking you’re so smart for graduating from Rutgers.

She rose from assistant professor to provost at Stanford. (Ranked fifth-best university in America byU.S. News & World Report. You’re ranked 69th.) While she was doing that, she also served, from 1989 to 1991, as the Soviet expert on the White House National Security Council under President George H. W. Bush. [...]

Some of your professors don’t believe that Secretary Rice would be worth listening to. Some believe you need to be taught to disapprove of her morals and ethics. I am quoting your state’s Star-Ledger newspaper: “‘Attending the teach-in will be a strong signal that we will not sit quietly while a small group of irresponsible people [although I’d thought we’d established who they were during the sit-in] dishonor our beloved university,’ said history professor Rudolph Bell.”

Rudolph “Jingle” Bell. It is to be hoped poor Rudolph doesn’t have a very shiny nose.

Anyway, you might have heard something good from Secretary Rice. You’ll hear nothing good from me.

Here you are graduating from Rutgers, which is, as I mentioned, the 69th-best university in America.  Maybe Rutgers should add more vegan selections to its cafeteria fare. U.S. News & World Report scorekeepers go for that kind of thing. Actually, you’re tied for 69th with Texas A&M, an NFL first-round draft with a small college attached.[...]

Now let me address just the young men in the audience. Guys, of the 21.8 million college students, 12.5 million are women and 9.3 million are men. Guys? What? As someone who’s been married a couple of times, I can tell you your wife was always going to be smarter than you. But you’re letting her frame it and hang it on the wall.

I have done research. I have done mathematical analysis. I have also done fieldwork. That is, I’ve talked to people who went to college after the jingle bells of academia took over the institutions. Gosh.

What constitutes a “college education”?

You need to study history, so that it doesn’t come around again and, per Santayana, bite you in the Ukraine. You’re thinking, “Santayana—historically great guitar player.”[...]

Eight or so subjects to get a college education. Think you could find 100 wonderful experts in each of these, 800 professors, for $1.4 billion? That’s $1.75 million a year apiece. There would be applicants. You could hold classes in the Moose Lodge or at the Y. Classes would be large. So was the agora where Socrates taught. But there’s no free WiFi in the Moose Lodge.  And this kind of college education sounds like work.  Which is something you’ll be looking hard for, starting tomorrow.

Go Forth and Fail.

via My Commencement Speech to Rutgers’ Geniuses: Go Forth and Fail


And along that line, Bill Whittle has something to say about our old friend failure as well.



Now start thinking, and failing until you get it right, just like every generation has done.





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Minimum Wage

jack_n_box_copy_1Last time I looked the Federal minimum wage was $7.25 an hour. In some localities it’s higher. Federally, the Democrats want to raise it to $10.10 and in Seattle they’d like to raise it to $15.00 and hour. You’re not going to do a decent job of raising a family on any of those numbers.

But then, in the real world, minimum wage jobs are either for kids learning about having a job, both the good and bad, or for people who are losers for one reason or another (no judgement implied here, it really isn’t always their fault).

In this economy there are also a lot of people with real world skills working at 1, 2, or 3 of these jobs trying to keep their heads above water. But as long as Washington goes ahead with their plans for Obamacare, overregulation of industry, green energy boondoggles, lying about inflation and all the rest, we’re going to stay stagnant at best. Welcome to Great Depression 2.0.

But that first paragraph is also a lie. Why? the minimum wage cannot be set by government fiat. The minimum wage is and always has been $0.00. That’s what you get paid when you don’t have a job. And that category has grown since the recession of 2007, it’s higher now than it ever has been

The primary supplier of those minimum wage jobs for the last half century has been fast food, McDonald’s and the like. They’ve trained entire generations of workers in the basics of having a job, and done it well. But that’s ending.

Why? Very simple, the government meddling is pricing entry-level employees out of the market. In France, where the minimum wage is $12.22 and hour (and it’s nearly impossible to fire people) every single McDonald’s has a kiosk taking the place of the cashiers. Where is the point where in America it become more economical to replace cashiers with machines? I don’t know but I’d bet McDonald’s does. They aren’t successful because of the gourmet food, they’re successful because they’re efficient.

And it not just cashiers either. Take a look at this: From the manufacturer’s website:

Our alpha machine frees up all of the hamburger line cooks in a restaurant

robotIt does everyting employees can do except better:

  • It slices toppings like tomatoes and pickles immediately before it places the slice onto your burger, giving you the freshest burger possible.

  • Our next revision will offer custom meat grinds for every single customer. Want a patty with 1/3 pork and 2/3 bison ground to order? No problem.

  • Also, our next revision will use gourmet cooking techniques never before used in a fast food restaurant, giving the patty the perfect char but keeping in all the juices.

  • It’s more consistent, more sanitary, and can produce ~360 hamburgers per hour.

The labor savings allow a restaurant to spend approximately twice as much on high quality ingredients and the gourmet cooking techniques make the ingredients taste that much better.


What they don’t say is that it doesn’t take sick days, doesn’t come to work stoned, or not show up, doesn’t need health care, and is perfectly happy to work 24/7/365, or at least close. No, I don’t know what it costs but I’d bet the payback is less than 5 years now, and if you raise wages, it gets shorter.

I didn’t look around but I’m betting somebody has a machine that does french fries too.

At that point we have an unmanned open 24 hours a day hamburger joint. Think about that. Send somebody around every day or so to refill the machines, and maybe do a little cleaning, and that’s it.

Where I come from it’s called pricing yourself out of the market, and it is nearly always fatal. Ask a buggy whip manufacture, if you can find one.

Think going to college will fix your (un)employment problem? It might, although your doctorate in gender studies isn’t going to help much. The easy days of surplus money all over the place are gone. America is going to go back to basics or starve, that means you need to be able to do something that will both earn your salary (+ benefits, if any and taxes) and return a profit on the investment your employer is making in hiring and training you. If you can’t do it, those of us who are productive, aren’t going to feel very sorry for you.

Why? Simply because we warned you.



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