Sunday/ Monday Funnies

Didn’t want to overshadow, Remembrance/Veteran’s day so here we go, a day late, and a dollar short. Normal in other words.

One hopes.

 

A historical artifact, left in place to make people wonder!

 

And, of course

Advertisements

Bolsonaro, Brazil, and the Right Wing Victory

I don’t know much about Brazil, but am pleased that  Bolsonaro won the Presidency. I think that Rodrigo Constantino writing in Law and Liberty covers it pretty well.

Imagine the worst labels that can be placed on a person. “Fascist” has to be the very worst—and that is Jair Bolsonaro according to the mainstream Brazilian media, the nation’s professoriate, its artists and intellectuals. Despite this, Bolsonaro won the second round of Brazil’s presidential election last week by a wide margin, 55 percent to 45 percent for the candidate of the Workers’ Party, Fernando Haddad. Are there 57.7 million fascists in Brazil? Or did the “progressive” elite get it all wrong?

Yes, Bolsonaro was and is a supporter of the military regime that ruled the country from 1964 to 1985. But it was the Cold War, and the alternative was communism. That’s what the “anointed” people just don’t get, because they are sympathetic to socialism. Bolsonaro represents the anti-Left movement—the people tired of the legacy of the Worker’s Party, which ruled in Brazil for 14 years until President Dilma Rousseff was impeached two years ago.

The former army captain and seven-term deputy of the Social Liberal Party is not a classical liberal, though he has said lately that he has changed his mind about a lot of important economic issues. Importantly, he has chosen a free market advocate, Paulo Guedes of the University of Chicago, as his powerful Finance Minister. What he has always been is an ordinary guy who values decent mores, family, and tradition, and is not afraid to say so in a time when it’s the opposite of fashionable to do so.

The resounding victory of a hard-Right candidate is the Brazilian people’s response to economic depression, massive unemployment, large-scale corruption at the top,  soaring crime, and unease over the crisis in Venezuela caused by the leftwing authoritarianism of Nicolás Maduro—a crisis that has impelled a rising number of Venezuelan migrants to enter Brazil. It’s also a backlash against the political elites, who betrayed democracy as they tried in vain to stave off the Workers’ Party’s fall from grace.

Speaking ideologically, the Left lost all contact with reality, with the common people, and got stuck in its cognitive bubble where everyone loves gender identity, political correctness, feminism, and racial movements. This Brazilian “victim’s revolution” (under the leadership, by the way, of rich white people) failed, and its failure opened the gates for the Right’s upsurge.

Donald Trump in America, Brexit in England, Mauricio Macri in Argentina, and now Bolsonaro in Brazil—they are part of the same phenomenon. The “forgotten men” found a way, with the help of social media, to push back against elitism. Yes, there is a populist component in all of this, and every classical liberal and even conservative should be alert to the risks. But as was the case in the 1960s, the alternative is worse: to keep going in this sinister direction, which could implode our Western civilization as we know it.

Freedom does not survive in a vacuum of moral values. The void is soon filled by something. In our modern times, it has been moral relativism, hedonism, identity policies, and tribalism. The Left has been promoting this agenda for a long time now, with horrible consequences. As the American Founding Fathers understood, inspired by the thinkers of the Scottish  Enlightenment, only a virtuous people can sustain liberty. To think that we can ignore the moral structure that allows individual freedom and still have individual freedom is not only naïve, but dangerous.

Take the institution of the family, for instance. Whenever it weakens, the state steps in and the result is less individual freedom. Jonah Goldberg, in his book Suicide of the West (2018), explains it this way:

Healthy, well-functioning families are the primary wellspring of societal success. Unhealthy, dysfunctional families are the primary cause of societal decline. The family is the institution that converts us from natural-born barbarians into, hopefully, decent citizens. It is the family that literally civilizes us. Before we are born into a community, a faith, a class, of a nation, we are born into a family, and how that family shapes us largely determines who we are.

More at the above link, of course. What is easy to forget is that to most of the media in the west, anybody to the right of Stalin is hard right, but real people know better. His point on the family is well taken, a vacuum always sucks whatever it finds, no matter how bad it is, and it is often very bad.

So we’ll see, but it is still another very hopeful sign that the world is awakening, and as Americans, we should remember that this is one of our traditional allies, who was with us as far back as World War Two.

Brazil, like America and Britain (and some other parts of Europe), now has a shot, it’s up to the people, and you may only get one shot, so aim carefully.

Totenfest, All Saints Day, Heroes and Saints

I see a fair number of you have been reading this, from back in 2012, so let’s bring it forward for the rest. It’s one of the few where I talk about my family, and it goes to the purpose of All Saints Day. Enjoy

I’ll bet Totenfest is a new term for many of you, actually, it’s a corrupted spelling of Todtenfest, what it translates as is “Feast (or festival) of the Dead. It has a bit of that German propensity for calling things what they are, like Krankenhaus (house of the sick) for hospital. It comes from the Evangelical church, that strange Prussian hybrid of the Lutheran and Reformed Churches committed by King Frederick Wilhelm III. Totenfest was instituted to remember the soldiers killed in the Prussian war (unless I’m missing something we’re talking about what the rest of us call the Napoleonic Wars). It soon expanded to remember members of the congregation who had passed in the last year.

When I was young my home church (which was Evangelical and Reformed) read the passed members names with a single bell toll after each. It was a moving service which served in lieu of All Saints Day, which is now commonly celebrated on the first Sunday in November, as The last Sunday in October is Reformation Sunday. When I was a kid, and it was still the E&R before the merger which formed the UCC, every Sunday the first hymn was this, which is nearly always appropriate.

Same purpose really, since we in the Protestant tradition tend to refer to those who have gone before us as saints. It is important to remember our forefathers in the faith for the same reason that we all admire the saints in the Catholic tradition. I think our way perhaps makes it even more personal. On  Friday, Jessica over at The Watchtower said this:

All Souls’ day is a time when I pray for the souls of my parents and other relatives now dead. I know many Protestants who ask me why I do so, as they are now with God, and He alone will judge; do I, they ask, think that somehow my prayers will influence Him. I try to explain that this is not what I believe at all. Yes, I believe God makes the decision, and I don’t believe He will be in the slightest bit influenced by me. But it is an act of piety to my dead parents. They are no longer here in the flesh, but that does not mean I forget them, and praying for them seems to me to be a way of saying that I still love them and still care about them.

I completely agree with her, which is not unusual. This is the time of year when I think a lot about and pray for my parents as well, knowing that God will be just, which is enough for me. But I want the folks to know that I still think of them and care about them, and even that I have remembered the lessons they taught me, about many things. And that’s what I’m going to talk about today, even as Jess talked about her daddy in that post you should read.

I was born when my folks were in their forties, so it wasn’t like dad had time or energy to play with me but, he spent a lot of time with me, or maybe the other way around when I was a kid. Many people think I’m a bit of a hard case, they may well be right. The lessons I learned as a child were all about doing things right always and taking responsibility. Sure I learned about electricity and line work and wiring buildings and a bunch of other skills but, the real lessons were about honesty and justice. With dad you never got unearned praise, in truth not saying anything about what you did was usually all the praise you were going to get, screw up and you heard about it though, guess where I learned the catchphrase, always make new mistakes. Doing it wrong because you just didn’t get it was allowable, doing it wrong again was simply unacceptable, and you learned that quickly. One of the other lessons taught was that bad news is not like wine, it doesn’t get better with age. Learning those two lessons will take you quite a way in this life; there are others.

But, in truth, it’s certainly not about me, and it’s not even about dad, it’s about those who have gone before us in the faith. I find it easier to understand if I personalize, and it’s fun for me to talk about dad. Of all the men I have known in a fairly long life, he more than any of them deserved the title of “Lightbringer” for that is what he did for countless rural families in Minnesota, in the Amana Colonies in Iowa, and in Indiana. From 1935 until he retired in 1969 he was a man of rural electrification.

That was his mission, nearly from the time he held his father in his arms as he died and so became the head of the family as a junior in high school, until he retired, with honor. Because we in the family understood, even his pallbearers were linemen, and executives from rural electrification, including the President of the Statewide coop. There was no glory in the mission, it was always a struggle, and to his dying day, he regretted being essential in World War II. But his work enabled dozens, maybe hundreds, of farm boys to join the service, without reducing food output. But he never thought he did his part. In truth, he was the most righteous man I have ever known. No, I don’t mean self-righteous, he was never in it for himself, he was there to serve. The old REA Co-op motto fit him perfectly: “Owned by those we serve”. He didn’t write it, he lived it, it was the mission

The energization of the first house on Kankakee Valley REMC in 1939; courtesy KVREMC

But you know, it wasn’t only him, ever. here’s one of the very few pictures I have from those days, one of the interesting things about it that in the ’60s, many of those pictured here were still on the board of the co-op. I knew most of them, and I wish they were still with us. They too understood the mission. When the couldn’t get the power companies to serve them, they did the thing that d’ Tocqueville had commented on all those years before- they formed an association to do it for them. And they built a very successful business on what the power companies had said could never be done. That’s part of Dad‘s story, but you have to multiply that by thousands of these associations all over the country to understand the accomplishment. For what they did was nothing less than bring the American farmer into the 20th century. These were men that you could make a thousand dollar deal with on a handshake, and never worry. Their word really was their bond. As I commented on Jess’s post, there truly were giants in the earth.

But we are talking about saints, well that’s not for us to say, is it? Of all the men in that picture, I know nothing of what church, if any, they attended. Given the make up of the area, I would guess most were Lutheran, Catholic, or Evangelical & Reformed, and a few Methodists. But I would also bet that many, like dad, were afraid the church would fall down if they entered, and besides they had work to do. I suspect I could count on my hands the number of times that dad attended church, in my lifetime. The other half of that we children and Mom were strongly encouraged to be active members. In fact of the 3 siblings, we have all been officers of our churches. But James 2 tells us:

14 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?

15 If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food,

16 And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?

17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.

To me, by that standard, they are saints indeed. I was going to end with a different hymn but can’t find an appropriate version so I will repeat Jess’s choice of one of the great old All Saints Day hymns.

It strikes me that maybe some of you may read this as me bragging about my dad, and I have been known to do that. But what I am doing here is giving you an example of a man, who lived his life as he felt God commanded, and did his duty.

My purpose is to remind you of the saints, in your family, who have gone before us to prepare the way and to remind you how much we all have to live up to if we wish to be worthy of our forebears.

Diverse Wonderful Things

I’ve got three articles, here, well I’ve got a lot more than that, but three is enough for today, none long enough for me to make a post about, but all quite interesting, so let’s combine them.


Well, that didn’t take long…

Davos just declared that America is great again.

The World Economic Forum, which hosts the annual conference of global elites in Switzerland, said on Tuesday that the United States is the most competitive economy in the world.

The U.S. has not held the number one spot since 2008, when the aftermath of the financial crisis and bungled recovery efforts left the U.S. economy limping.

“The United States, as one of the world’s great innovation powerhouses, is very well positioned in this new competitive landscape,” the Forum said in an article explaining its ranking. “It ranks first overall in the world in three of our twelve pillars; business dynamism, labour markets and financial system. It comes second in another two; innovation (behind Germany) and market size (behind China).”

From Breitbart. Amazing what can happen when you cut the strings holding Gulliver down, and that is an exact analogy for what Trump has done. If we are smart enough to stay the course, there is no telling what the world will look like in 2024, but America will be leading it.


Polls are not news, they are news filler.

Everything I need to know about polls I learned in Junior High

It’s funny how some episodes from your past stick in your memory, while more significant ones don’t.

In ninth grade, all students were asked to complete a written survey on the topic of alcohol and drugs. We were told that the survey was being conducted by a grad student at the local university.

Among my friends, this seemed like the perfect spoof. I don’t remember if I’d even tasted beer at the time, but according to my survey answers I was a frequent drinker who blacked out regularly. Drug use? Sure, why not: LSD, cocaine, pills. Heroin too, but no more frequently than once a month.

The induced paranoia of another crowd convinced them that “narcs” were really behind the survey. Answer honestly? Riiiight.

I’m sure the survey made a beautiful grad school paper, complete with line charts, bar graphs and R-squared factors.

But the data it was based on wasn’t worth ca-ca.

From Maley’s Energy Blog. Your mileage may differ, of course, but I bet it doesn’t. Not least because that is my exact experience as well. An anonymous poll is just asking for us to lie, it’s Walter Mitty time, to admit and/or brag about all those things that you know you’d never do, but wish people thought you did. Is there anyone, anywhere, who tells a pollster the truth? Frankly, I doubt it, although a fair number may come within shouting distance of it.


Mind games

The headline of this Washington Post article (paper edition) is “Warren dust-up shows Trump sway over Democratic contest.” A better title would substitute “minds” for “contest.”

Trump certainly got in Elizabeth Warren’s head. His constant “Pocahontas” references induced her to take a DNA test, publicize its results, and thereby make herself a source of greater ridicule than before.

Trump is also responsible for the fact that clownish Michael Avenatti is mentioned as a contender for nomination in 2020. Democrats seemed intrigued, for a while at least, by the prospect that he could get into Trump’s head the way Trump has been getting into theirs. (The Dems might want to revise this view after Avenatti’s performance during the Kavanaugh struggle and now that Avenatti’s frivolous suit against Trump resulted in his client having to pay the president’s legal fees).

From PowerLine. It’s true and obvious. Not only the Dems, but the so-called news media worldwide, and, I suspect, a goodly share of other country’s leadership, as well. It’s a hell of an advantage for him, and for the United States. Hardly anybody anywhere is acting anymore, they are reacting to what the US President is saying or doing. And since he speaks pretty closely to what (in my experience, anyway) the average American wants, it has put America in the ascendant, again.

That is the magic wand that Obama insisted didn’t exist – listening to John Q. Public, internalizing what he thinks and turn it into US policy because the people are, and always have been much smarter than the so-called elites in their bubble.

Tariffs, Trade, and the British Corn Laws

David Foster over at Chicagoboyz has some good thoughts on tariffs and such.

Stuart Schneiderman linked an article by Robert Samuelson on the 1846 British repeal of the tariffs on food imports, which further linked an Economist article arguing that:

With the repeal of the tariffs, instituted to protect British corn farmers, liberal economic policies ascended. Free trade, free enterprise, free markets and limited government became the rule. And the world has not been the same since.  (Schneiderman’s summary)

To me, it is highly questionable how much the elimination of tariffs had to do with limited government and internal free enterprise. The view that the British 1846 action was economically a very good thing for almost everybody is, however, generally accepted.  From the Economist article:

The case for getting rid of British tariffs on imported grain was not a dry argument about economic efficiency. It was a mass movement, one in which well-to-do liberal thinkers and progressive businessmen fought alongside the poor against the landowners who, by supporting tariffs on imports, kept up the price of grain…When liberals set up the Anti-Corn Law League to organise protests, petitions and public lectures they did so in the spirit of the Anti-Slavery League, and in the same noble name: freedom. The barriers the league sought to remove did not merely keep people from their cake—bad though such barriers were, and strongly though they were resented. They were barriers that held them back, and which set people against each other. Tearing them down would not just increase the wealth of all. It would bring to an end, James Wilson believed, the “jealousies, animosities and heartburnings between individuals and classes…and…between this country and all others.”

Again, this is all mostly generally-accepted thinking.  But Stuart’s post and the links reminded me of something I read–oddly enough, in a 1910 book on railroad history.  The author (Angus Sinclair) describes the transition to steel rails (from cast iron) and the heavier trains they enabled, and then discusses the political-economic impact of this transition:

The invention of cheap methods of making steel rails has exerted a tremendous effect upon railroad transportation, and has created social revolutions in certain part of the world…It threw many farms in New England and along the Atlantic seaboard out of cultivation; it caused a semi-revolution in farming business in the British Isles, and strongly affected the condition and fortunes of millions of people in other countries.  Irish peasants used to go in thousands to England and Scotland to work in the harvesting of grain crops and thereby earned enough money to pay the rent of their small holdings.  Steel rails and Consolidation locomotives stopped the cultivation of so many wheat fields in the British Isles that the help of the Irish worker was no longer needed…

The woes of Ireland were merely the preliminary manifestations of hardships inflicted through the grim ordeal of competition worked out by our cheapened  methods of land transportation.  (The heavier locomotive enabled by steel rails) is steadily forcing more grain raising farms of Europe out of cultivation and is raising a demand for protection against cheap land, just as our politicians have so long urged the necessity for protection against the cheap labor of Europe.

About 60 years ago Great Britain abolished all duties on grain…By curious reasoning the statesmen believed that this policy would not only make the British Isles the manufacturers of the world, but that it would increase the prosperity of the agricultural communities as well.  The first thirty years’ experience of free corn did not seriously  challenge the correctness of the free trade theory, for more of the American wheat lands were yet unbroken prairie or virgin forests, and our steel rail makers and locomotive builders were merely getting ready…In 1858 the rate per bushel of wheat from Chicago to New York was 38.61 cents.  The rate today is 11.4 cents…

The effect of that cheapening of transportation in the United States has been very disastrous to Great Britain, for during the last thirty years there had been a shrinkage of 3,000,000 acres in wheat and another of 750,000 acres in green crops; an enormous amount of land had reverted to pasturage…and the number of cultivators of the soil  had declined 600,000 in thirty years–1,000,000 in fifty years.

That is a high price to pay for the devotion to a theory which fails to work out as expected.

Keep reading, it’s well out my knowledge area, so I don’t know either. But it makes sense to me. The Great Plains could not be farmed until a way to get the crop to market could be devised – that was the railroad, and by 1900, it went almost everywhere.

The point I took here is this. Free trade is great, for those it helps, sometimes it doesn’t help some, sometimes it actively hurts people, like those Irish migrant workers in England.

The other point is that it’s not obvious who gets helped and who doesn’t. If you’re a farmer in the EU, it’s protectionist policies on food probably help, but if you eat, they probably hurt. Where exactly is the balance point, and how often does it change?

Questions without answers, mostly, I suspect. But things we should think about.

Trumping the UN, and Cutting Our Own Throats

If you haven’t seen President Trump’s excellent speech at the UN, here it is.

There are quite a few highlights, but the only one I’ll put here is this:

We cannot allow the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism to possess the planet’s most dangerous weapons. We cannot allow a regime that chants “Death to America,” and that threatens Israel with annihilation, to possess the means to deliver a nuclear warhead to any city on Earth. Just can’t do it.

Long ago, like Lou Aguilar at The American Spectator, I saw the 1953 movie The War of the Worlds. I remember it much the way he does, especially this:

The setup comes soon after the A-bomb fail. A desperate general tells physicist Gene Barry (in a superb stoic performance) that there’s nothing more his military can do against the Martian war machine, and the last best hope for Earth is for Barry’s band of scientists to develop some sort of chemical weapon. They drive trucks full of scientific equipment into the last city standing, Los Angeles, only to have its panicked residents manhandle Barry, smash his equipment, and seize the truck in a suicidal attempt to flee the Martians. “They cut their own throats!” declares the shaken Barry to his colleagues.

The image of a berserk crowd destroying its best long-term bet for illusory gain could be a metaphor for the upcoming midterm elections. Under the management of Donald Trump and the Republicans, this country has seldom been in finer shape. It enjoys record-high employment, consumer confidence, stock value, and rising wages. Two nuclear threats have been reduced, and a terrorist caliphate dissolved to attain that most elusive balance of peace and prosperity. And none are benefiting more from this condition than the three pillars of progressive identity politics — blacks, Hispanics, and women. Black, Latino, and female unemployment have never been lower.

He is exactly correct. These are by almost any measure, the good old days, and they are improving by the week. But what are we seeing? A slow moving soft coup in the government, a revolt of the opposition party who is putting their thugs into the streets, just as the Blackshirts and Brownshirts were in Italy and Germany in the 20s and 30s. Not to mention the spectacle of one of the best judges in the country dragged through the mud (not of his creation) for partisan political purposes. The whole garish spectacle has become sickening, and must be tamped down, or we will see violence in the streets.

This is all quite literally insane. It threatens the freedom of the United States, and cannot be tolerated. Jefferson wrote in The Declaration of Independence, and we all believe that: “Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.”

Surely, one does not throw prudence to the wind when things are going well for almost everyone. Only a deluded fool or an ideologue (often the same thing) would even think of such a thing. But that is where the United States is.

Well, in just a few weeks we will have an election, the projections run from a blue wave to a red tide, with the blue wave getting more press (given the press’ bias, that should surprise no one) but even conservative pollsters are warning of such a thing

But Lou’s last paragraph is spot on so it will end my post as well.

It really is a War of the Worlds, between the real world and a fantasy one. Right now, the fantasists are leading. If people vote them into power this November, they will be cutting their own throats.

%d bloggers like this: