Impeachment and Davos

Senator Cruz pretty much summed up the impeachment effort yesterday when he said (on Twitter)

If you have the facts, you bang the facts.
If you have the law, you bang the law.
If you don’t have either, you bang the table.

Today, we’ve seen a whole lot of table banging. pic.twitter.com/ez6HZtvu7y

In a wide ranging (but mostly economic) speech on Tuesday, at Davos, in what Rush Limbaugh said was one of his finest speeches (I agree), President Trump summed up the first three years of his presidency. Well worth your time, and I note that the audience was doing a very good job of sitting on their hands. Tells you how right the President is. Enjoy

Edmund Burke, George Will, and the Duke of Sussex

Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri notes in The Federalist that George Will was his introduction to Aristotle and Edmund Burke. I can’t say that but like Senator Hawley Will was for years a must read for me. Too bad that he changed, from Senator Hawley:

Will’s fulminations are typical of a certain set of Clinton and Bush-era commentators who call themselves “conservative” but sound more like a cartoon version of libertarianism. Will shrugs at the decline of the working class and the loss of the communities that sustain them. He celebrates instead the “spontaneous order of a market society,” by which he apparently means woke capital, offshoring, and the growing corporatist alliance between big government and big business.

Will advises working families displaced by lost jobs and neighborhoods to shut up and move, like the Joad family in Steinbeck’s “Grapes of Wrath.” Packing up all their belongings and abandoning their family farm demonstrated the Joads’ “dignity,” Will opines. Interesting. He might want to re-read Steinbeck.

Or Edmund Burke. Will casts himself as a champion of individual liberty, but his reduction of individual freedom to market choice—the right to buy cheap stuff from China—wouldn’t have made any sense to Burke. (Or the American founders. Or the voters who cast their ballots for Donald Trump.)

Burke understood that individual freedom is formed by culture and community, and you have to work to defend both. The “little platoons,” Burke said—home and church, school and neighborhood—are where we grow, where we learn to love, where we find the strength and support to make something of our lives. And they are where we forge the common bonds that sustain our national sense of purpose.

In a nutshell, that sums up much of the never Trump nonsense, doesn’t it? I can’t say with complete confidence that it is choosing one’s paycheck over one conscience, but it sure looks that way. In fact, it stinks of selling out, for a price, to the globalists, who seem to think that the most important part of trade is a cheap workforce. Of course, it also provides a way to prevent competition from other smaller companies (and individuals) who might just find a better way to make things in America (or Britain for that matter). And that’s even better for the corporatists.


A Time for Choosing

Gavin Ashenden has a few comments on the plan of the Sussex’s ‘to carve a progressive role’. I couldn’t agree more with him when he says:

There is a tragic element to the blinkeredness and immaturity that mistakes a bid for independence as ‘carving a progressive role.’It isn’t that at all of course. In reality it is choosing between two competing philosophies or ethics. One, which the monarchy is founded on and depends on, is a Christian one in which doing one’s duty on behalf of others takes priority over self-interest. The other is a concentration on self-interest and self expression (however it is justified) at the expense of self-sacrifice and duty.The problem for the Sussexes is that they  have chosen to put their own self-interests before their public  duty and family. It has been tried before both by ordinary people and by prominent people like Edward 8th. The tragedy is that it almost always ends in a growth of self-pity and sadness.

I can’t say I’m especially surprised, Meghan (or should that be ‘Me Again’?) like most actresses appears to have more ego than sense, not to mention an overdeveloped sense of entitlement, and an addiction to saying ‘Me, me, me!’ incessantly. Harry if he read his family history ought to know better though, and has shown some real leadership at times.

If one were to look at his grandmother’s and especially her mother’s life, one would see just how hard a taskmaster duty can be, even when it comes in a gilded carriage. But as General Lee often noted:

Duty, then is the sublimest word in our language. Do your duty in all things. You cannot do more; you should never wish to do less.

It is a very high and hard standard, in both stories today. But nothing less is acceptable in free people.

Going Broke in an Expanding Market

Chicago legalized recreational pot over the new year. Ordinarily, I’d be outraged, and part of me is, another part of me thinks it hilarious.

The best authority to what is going on in Chicago, Second City Cop obtained a couple of receipts. Here they are

And

Now, to be honest, I have no idea of street prices for marijuana. I’ve many weaknesses, but not this one. $80± a gram seems high to me, but what do I know is that imposing taxes of $76 on a sale of $225, an effective rate of over 30%, that the dealers on the street do not pay, is not a competitive advantage.

Illinois prosecutors, because they will not prosecute crimes far more serious than this (including gun violence and even mass killings) have long since legalized the street vendors and you can bet that they can (and will) more than meet these prices. Just like happened in California and everyplace else that the leftists get control.

Leadership and Management in America; What’s the Problem Here? Part 1

It’s a slow time, and I’m not really into the best (worst) list of much of anything in 2019, and nothing I’ve got really grabs me this morning. So I’m going to reach clean back to 2012 and a series I did on Leadership and Management, and the differences. We’ll try part 1 and if you like it we’ll try and fit the other parts in. Nothing much has changed really. One note though, the links may or may not work, I haven’t checked them, but the articles are coherent without them. Enjoy. And welcome to “The Roaring Twenties”.

Note that this started out as a post and it grew so long that it has now turned into four. I’m not going to make any excuses for that as I think everything we are writing about here is important. So these will be coming out over the next day. Some may interest you more than others but, they are all pieces of the puzzle that we as a nation, as businesses, and as leaders need to solve.

We seem to be having moral and morale problems in American society, both business and military today. I have been seeing a lot of stuff coming in in the last few weeks, and I’ll be referring to a number of them here.

First, I’m going to tell you a bit about my background, Most of you know that I am a Lineman, an Electrician, and now an operations manager. In a few days I’ll celebrate 41st Anniversary of my certification as a journeyman lineman. It was a few years later that I wired my first house as an independent electrical contractor. So, I’ve been around and seen a lot.

I think I’ve written before about how I came up. My dad was the General Manager of an REA electric coop, before that he was a lineman and a project superintendent. One of the anomalies in my life is that my parents were in their forties when I was born, and that is reflected in me. Essentially, It was almost like most of my generation being raised by their grandparents. I’m not complaining, what I missed in playing catch and football was more than made up for in life lessons.

Dad taught, without I think even realizing it, how things had been done in my industry even before the Depression. For instance, I know how to set a pole with the biggest piece of equipment being a man. Do I wish to ever do it again that way? No, it’s damned hard work, takes at least 5 men and a couple hours but, a lot of your power lines were built that way. Same thing with climbing poles. Dad’s knees gave out sometime around 1950 when he was a bit over 40. In fact, he told me one time that if he had known what was coming, he would have stuck it out without taking the manager’s job, I didn’t then, and don’t now, completely believe that, knowing how he detested dealing with fools overeducated superiors but, there you are.

Incidentally, if you are one of those people with your whole Love Me Wall covered with diplomas, degree, certificates, and pictures of you with political celebrities you might be interested in what people like me think when we see it. We think you’re a fool, and probably incompetent, too. Why? Because if you haven’t done it for real, you haven’t done it. At best you’re a crony capitalist. That is not meant to diminish real accomplishments, like engineering degrees from Purdue or MIT, J.D. Diplomas (if you’re an attorney), the shadow box containing your military ribbons, although remember a lot of us recognize them, the one for no cavities won’t buy much respect

The thing is, in an REA Coop, like anybody else where there is a lender providing the money, there are rules pertaining to almost anything and how you do it. Somebody described it, I think Herman Wouk in The Caine Mutiny, as a system designed by geniuses for execution by idiots. Add to that the rigid safety rules for working on power lines and suddenly you have a system that is stagnant, where nothing ever changes. Or do you?

It all depends, whether you have a leader, or a manager. In dad’s case, when he went in to the office, lines were worked dead, pretty much always, beyond changing an insulator. This was mostly because you either climbed the pole on hooks or a ladder. It was possible to change a pole hot but, it was a big deal, almost never done on distribution lines.

But, the times they were a changing, foresters, were having trouble climbing trees, that’s even more dangerous than climbing poles, and something new appeared on the scene. It was called a SkyworkerTM and it was a revelation. It was the first bucket truck, there had been platforms, towers, they called them, that went straight up from the truck, and self supporting ladders mounted on trucks, since about the war but, the bucket truck was insulated like a hot stick, so that you could literally bare hand a power line, and it could reach out to the sides of the truck, so you didn’t always have to park right under the line.

As in all industries that deal with things that can kill you quick, acceptance took a while. As it happens, in 1955, dad convinced his board to buy one, actually a demo unit. Talk about a difference, not only did you not have to climb the pole but, you could lift the energized wire out of the way. Now what had taken half a day could be done in a couple of hours. This made it feasible to replace anything up to poles without interrupting service. The replacement of the A-frame derrick with the hydraulic digger derrick a couple of years later made similar improvements. When I was working for a contractor, if we had a competent crew (usually we did) we could change a pole routinely in 15-30 minutes energized, with three men. Again, dad was one of the first. Why?

  1. He knew the job, he had been a lineman since the ’20s and had seen almost everything.

  2. He had been promoted to the position of authority where he could recommend the purchase and help in defining the role of the new equipment, while making sure that safety was not compromised. This included the new rescue procedures needed.

  3. He had the experience to reassure the field people that he was going to keep them safe and that this revolution wasn’t going to cost them their jobs. (Although it may have slowed down new hiring some).

  4. Most of all, he had the vision, foresight, and leadership to see how this would benefit the company, the employees, and most of all the client, the customer.

This is one major reason why companies should promote from within, or at least their own industry. The revolution I’ve outlined above would not have happened without the vision provided by men like dad, he was hardly the only one, but I knew him better. It’s been said before but, I’m going to say it again, If you are an operations company; it needs to be run by operators, everything else is support.

A lot of the trouble I see in American industry today is companies that do various things, meat packing, manufacturing, retailing, logistics, whatever, being run by accounting. That’s bass ackwards. If your company builds widgets, it should be run by people that know how to build widgets, the job of accounting is to keep score, the job of HR is to find the proper people. The job of neither, if your going to effectively build widgets for a profit, is to run the company. They are a support function, and a cost center, not a profit center. Most of them don’t understand this and think they know more than the operators.

Then there is this in my career.

We have been trying since the sixties to make life safe for 3 year olds or idiots, take your pick. The National Electric Code runs on a three year cycle. In 1968 it began requiring grounded outlets, which was a very good thing, when something went wrong with an appliance the current had a safe path to ground and would blow the fuse. That’s all well and good. In about 1975 the requirement became that the equipment grounding conductor become the same size, which if you understand the theory, it should have been from the beginning.

Then was developed in the 1980’s the Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter, which was designed to measure the current on the wires and if it wasn’t equal turn off the circuit. It’s a pretty good idea. It will protect you when you forget to unplug the toaster before rinsing it out in the sink.

Now we have Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters which detect arcs in your wiring and appliances. In fact, if you drive a metal staple too tight when you’re wiring a house, the AFCI will trip. It’s an OK device in many ways, and has probably stopped some fires from occurring.

We are also mandated now to use tamper resistant receptacles which prevent you from putting a bobby pin in an outlet.

All of these things will make your house safer when properly installed. But there is a downside. The circuit that feeds your bedroom costs about thirty dollars in material on the 1977 specification (current dollars). That same circuit wired to 2011 Code will cost about a hundred dollars in material, labor is roughly the same. Safety has a price, and so does regulation.

The most common example, of course, is your car. My first car was a 1963 Bel Air. It had headlights, taillights, parking lights, backup lights, a horn, bumpers, and lap belts which were optional.

In 1968, the government required side lights, and a locking and collapsible steering column, as well as a padded dashboard, in 1974 emission standards kicked in (killing mileage and power) as well as bumpers that would withstand a 5 mph impact. Now we have harnesses, child safety seats, air bags, and I don’t know what all. Why? To protect us from incompetents, why wouldn’t it have made more sense to teach people to drive effectively enough so they didn’t hit things?

Oh, that Bel Air, It cost less than $3,000, maybe less than $2000, new. What’s a new car worth now?

And that is one of our problems, we are protecting the incompetent at the expense of the productive. Apparently we have forgotten that life is dangerous, so dangerous in fact, that no one gets out of it alive. What would an American car be like if we hadn’t squandered all that engineering talent in protecting the incompetent? Nobody knows.

A need for Community Ahead of Efficiency

Wiring a residential loadcenter

Last Tuesday, we talked about the world I have spent my life in and how agricultural efficiency hs (perhaps mortally) wounded it. If you missed it, it is here. That agricultural society is perhaps the bedrock on which America founded, owing much more to Jefferson’s vision than to Hamilton’s, although it shares, and always has, much of Hamilton’s vision as well.

In The Federalist on Wednesday, Nathanael Blake explained much of the basis for this. Let’s look:

Counterfeiting boutique basses is a minor example, as those looking to buy high-end instruments probably won’t be fooled by a shoddy imitation, and those knowingly buying a counterfeit — oh, the strange vanity of wanting to appear to have an expensive instrument — are unlikely ever to shell out the cash for the real thing. But as the Wall Street Journal’s reporting about Chinese sellers on Amazon documents, many Americans have watched Chinese rip-offs and counterfeits damage and even destroy their businesses.

There’s another example from a few years ago. The Chinese flooded the US market with counterfeit Square D circuit breakers. For me, and for many other electricians, Square D is the silver standard. We are talking here of the residential series (Homeline) not the commercial line (QO). I dislike using any other manufacturers’ equipment, the price isn’t that different, but the quality is.

Except all of a sudden, it wasn’t. We were awash in reports of failed breakers (we call them overcurrent protective devices or OCPD, which includes fuses which do the same job) which caused all sorts of problems including a fair number of new houses burning down, and not a few deaths. Eventually, the government, Underwriter’s Laboratories, and Square D got it under control. Square D, which is owned by Schneider survived, but if they hadn’t been so big, they might not have.

Some contractors who innocently installed the counterfeits didn’t. They were mostly (but not exclusively) in the supply chain of the big box stores, so one of the effects was that we quit buying there and went back to our supply houses. And remember, Amazon is the biggest of the big box stores. Very nearly the only thing they look at is cost, and that makes them (and their customers too) vulnerable.

That’s one of the things that putting cost ahead of everything else can do.

Free markets do not necessitate soulless hedonistic materialism; they simply respond to what people want. People who want love, friendship, and beauty rather than maximal material acquisition and physical pleasure are free to pursue them. It is not capitalism’s fault if too few do so.

This overlooks the fact that some goods are only achievable in common and in community. Indeed, community in the full sense as a form of friendship is a good that cannot be attained through individual preference. Community is not a consumer good to be purchased. But the efficient flow of capital for maximum profit does not account for, and frequently harms, communities and the goods they instantiate, enable, and cultivate.

The economic instability of capitalism’s “creative destruction” damages goods for which the market cannot compensate. A moment’s decision in New York or San Francisco can destroy generations of relationships in the heartland.

Ironically, this throws grit into the gears of the market machine. Williamson points out that many industries are struggling to find good workers. True enough, but such workers are people, not robots. Good workers cannot be ordered up on demand, but are grown and cultured in families and communities that do not reduce them to their future economic output. […]

The efficient allocation and reallocation of capital is in tension with creating and sustaining stable, nurturing families and communities. Conservatives recognize this; we know that the goods of economic liberty must be balanced against the goods of communal and family stability as we try to steer between stagnation and disintegration.

For workers, an unsettled, nomadic life following the efficient allocation of capital impedes love, friendship, and communion with others. We were not created for economic efficiency. We are not defined by our productivity but by our relationships. An economic and political order that does not recognize this is unjust.

Thus, conservatives know we are not obviously better off destroying those inefficient communities Williamson disdains. I am not really better off if my grocery bill is a few bucks less but my brother is unemployed.

Yep, and that is the essential difference between conservatism, and full-on libertarianism which we see in the Koch brothers, and even the Randian Objectivists and conservatives. For many of us, there are more important things than saving a buck on a circuit breaker. Being able to sleep at night is one, and having a community is another.

And you know, for years, I followed work around, in my field we call it booming, it happens in some parts of electrical contracting just as it does in the oil fields. I can tell from experience that the main reason you’ll find us in the bar at night is company. Sure we prefer pretty girls, but an old farmer is also interesting to have a beer with.

As John Donne said long ago:

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee

Things That Grabbed My Attention Yesterday

We’re going to pull back from the daily nonsense today, the Brits are voting and there’s not much new in the Washington nonsense. Let’s take a look at some background on various things. Some days there is just so much good material out there that I can’t decide. It’s a pleasant problem.

Ben Domenech at The Federalist disagrees with Time Magazine’s choice of Greta Thunberg as person of the year, as do I. He says in relation to her…

[…] a teenager who skipped school to travel around the world telling people that they are horrible and the planet is doomed. It’s a living. Perhaps her Malthusian visions will be fulfilled by future experience. But it’s not very likely.

Heh! I wish I’d written that! His choice I also agree with…

In defiance of the most powerful authoritarian regime in the modern world, the protester in Hong Kong has stood against the authority of Red China with courage and dedication. […]

There is no bigger fight. And so, the Hong Kong protester is the Person of the Year.

He’s right. That is the person/people that free people should be honoring.


There’s a remarkable (and remarkably long) essay by George Callaghan at The Duran on the problems (and possible solutions) in British education. Some are specific to Britain and/or England, but many apply to America, as well. My curation software says 45 minutes, it’s well worth it.

I don’t see anything short enough to give you a taste, so if it is an interest of yours, go read it. I agree with all of it that I think applies to the US, I simply don’t know enough about British education to have a valid opinion.


Unintended Consequences has made Britain a frustrating laughingstock for the last three years. Why? Abram N. Shulsky at Law and Liberty has figured out some of the reasons why the British government has gotten so pear-shaped. It’s a danger we face as well, as so many (especially on the left) want to tinker with our constitution.

The recent chaos resulted from two innovations that weren’t entirely consistent with the underlying principles of the British regime: the Fixed-term Parliament Act of 2011 (FTPA) and the Brexit referendum of 2015.  Both were introduced to solve short-term political problems.

It’s an excellent explanation of how the (primarily) Conservative Party has failed to conserve the things that made the Westminster System work.


Walter E. Williams at The Daily Signal tells us that Richard Ebeling, professor of economics at The Citadel, has an essay in the American Institute for Economic Research that clarifies how Capitalism is a morally superior system.

In a key section of his article, Ebeling lays out what he calls the ethical principles of free markets. He says:

The hallmark of a truly free market is that all associations and relationships are based on voluntary agreement and mutual consent. Another way of saying this is that in the free market society, people are morally and legally viewed as sovereign individuals possessing rights to their life, liberty, and honestly acquired property, who may not be coerced into any transaction that they do not consider being to their personal betterment and advantage.

Ebeling says that the rules of a free market are simple and easy to understand:

You don’t kill, you don’t steal, and you don’t cheat through fraud or misrepresentation. You can only improve your own position by improving the circumstances of others. Your talents, abilities, and efforts must all be focused on one thing: What will others take in trade from you for the revenues you want to earn as the source of your own income and profits?

They are both spot on.


Dylan Pahman at Law and Liberty has an essay on why economic nationalism fails.

However, at present economic liberty has fallen out of favor with some who see a sea change in recent events—from the election of President Trump in the United States to Great Britain’s “Brexit” referendum—moving away from a perceived elitist, globalist liberalism and back toward the old order of nation states, not only politically but also economically.

He does an excellent job of laying out the underpinning, and I mostly agree with him, completely in theory in fact. This is the Libertarian/Conservative rationale for free trade, and mostly it is true.

But


Curtis Ellis at American Greatness lays out why Globalism and Progressivism make such a toxic stew.

The reformers of the Progressive era championed safety standards for food, drugs, and labor.

The Pure Food and Drugs Act of 1906 gave birth to the Food and Drug Administration. The chief chemist at the Department of Agriculture had mobilized a coalition of women’s clubs, physicians, and pharmacists to lobby for uniform national standards for patent medicines.

It worked, mostly, although it was and is very expensive. Now add Globalism

Communist China is the world’s largest producer and exporter of “active pharmaceutical ingredients,” the base components drug companies use to manufacture most of the medications found on store shelves across America. Today, 80 percent of prescription drugs consumed in the United States originate in India and China.

Drug companies are not required to disclose the country of origin of the active ingredients in their products. That means consumers are unknowingly exposed to the risks associated with drugs made in China.

What are those risks? Well, in 2008, 100 Americans died after taking the anticoagulant heparin that was made in China. Some of the heparin was fraudulently replaced with chondroitin, a dietary supplement for joint aches.

Now what? The free traders say the Chicoms are the low-cost producer and it makes economic sense for our drug hoses to buy their product. The families of a hundred dead Americans are likely to disagree. And if we are going to use uninspected raw material, what exactly is the point of the FDA?

That’s the kind of real-world problem that always screws up those lovely theoretical solutions. The answer? We don’t really have one yet.

That should be enough to keep you out of trouble for a while! 🙂

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