We’ve Come a Long Way, Baby

Continental Army General Horatio Gates. by Stuart

Here is a bit about how we got from that ragtag Continental Army overlooking Boston Harbor to where we are now. It’s a saga, that’s never told too often, how this laughing upright nation of freeman, have fielded forces with, in Frederick Douglass’ words, with the eagle on their button, and the musket on their shoulder, always in defense of Freedom and Liberty.

You see when the Declaration of Indepenence was issued, there were troops (militia, really) called the Continental Army bottling up the British in Boston with some artillery captured at Fort Ticonderoga by Ethan Allen in the name of the “Great Jehovah and the Continental Congress” and hauled to Boston with great difficulty. The army could barely move or fight because of the lack of training but they hung in there.

Later that year, the British invaded New York with the largest British Armada before the invasion of Europe in 1944. We lost that battle too, but kept on keepin’ on.

General Gates in the south had a strategy a few years later best described (by Daniel Morgan “The Old Wagoner”. I think) as “we fight, get beat, retreat, and do it again. That pretty much sums up how we held on till the French showed up.

Even then we shouldn’t forget those huts in the snow where the barefoot, starving, freezing army lived at Valley Forge. Nor should we forget that the Continental Army paraded naked through Philadelphia on their way to Yorktown. And we think we have it bad?

But you don’t want to read 4000 words of military history on the 4th of July, after all there’s hot dogs to eat and beer to drink. So here’s a summary from Bill Whittle.

We’ve really come a long way even in the last 70 or so years. I doubt that anybody realizes what our military (descended from that rag-tag bunch) could really do, if we let them fight a war in the fashion of World War II, and I’d bet money I couldn’t afford to lose, that no one would try it a second time.

 

Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.

President Kennedy said it but that’s not a politician’s promise. That’s the record and promise of the American People.

If you wish us ill, you would be well advised to remember that we are also allied to most of the best warriors in the world, we learned well enough from them to beat them.

But, you know the toughest war we’ve ever been in was the one we fought with ourselves 150 years ago, today marks the beginning of the end of that one too, as Gettysburg ended today and tomorrow Vicksburg surrendered.

Eagles are patient birds but, they have a limit and a very, very long reach. When US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis was asked recently, ” What keeps you awake at night?” He could answer, “Nothing. I keep other people awake at night,”

And so, back in 1908 an Irishman was our flagbearer at the opening parade of the 1908 London Olympics and started one of our most cherished traditions.

“This flag dips to no earthly King or Potentate”

and it hasn’t.

Grenfell Tower

So let’s try to unpack this horror a bit, shall we? I happened to watch it almost in real time (on Sky) and I was appalled as it went up. As I said yesterday, it reminded me of the WTC more than anything – essentially all the heroism in the world from the emergency services (and they were, as always) of very little utility, the effects were more like the actions of a particularly malevolent god than anything else.

The best general write up I’ve read as to underlying causes was, not surprisingly on The Conservative Woman. In the immense comment stream, it degenerates a bit into partisan backbiting. Well, what doesn’t these days?

But here’s what I think I know.

  • It’s a high rise (24 stories) with one staircase and two elevators. Not uncommon, there or here, but one must always remember that once you get past roughly 10 floors the fire department is restricted to internal access. 150 feet is about all mobile equipment can reach.
  • Supposedly it was constructed to contain fire, reinforced concrete construction, fire doors and such. Normal stuff, not all that expensive, usually effective. Failed here.
  • A cladding was applied to the building, for appearance and insulation. Some reports say it was not fire resistant. It’s possible it wasn’t, but apply enough heat and almost anything will burn. What appeared to happen here is that fire got behind the cladding and into the insulation. I’ve heard that insulation described as Celotex (may or may not be true), but almost all insulation will either burn or melt, and if it does behind the cladding, it will form a flue (much like a chimney) and heat will rise very quickly feeding the flames. That is what the fire looked like on TV.
  • No sprinklers. May or may not have mattered in the public spaces. Which is all that is usually required. If they had been installed in the apartments may well have contained it, and most also have an automatic alarm, both local and fire department, which would help. Apparently, this building grandfathered the requirement, but best practice would have seen them installed.
  • No (or inaudible) local fire alarm. Inexcusable, in my mind at least.
  • Open windows. England has little air conditioning, and none here, so windows were open, increasing draft for the fire. Well, not really a lot you can do about that.
  • Lots of immigrants in the building. Not a big deal, maybe, but cultural practices do matter. May have been lots of flammable artifacts about, prayer rugs, this, that, and the other. I have also seen immigrants here cooking over open flames (improvised firepits and such) very dangerous in a multi-story building. Don’t know, but might be worth looking at. Also were firedoors kept shut? Canada, for instance, requires that the door to a connected garage have an self-closing mechanism.
  • One that will surprise Americans. There are reports of an exploding refrigerator. That’s something that just doesn’t happen here. Why? Because we use CFCs for refrigerants. If they leak and burn, they can cause phosgene poisoning, but the systems are sealed and pretty much bulletproof. Never, not once, in the last 50 years have I heard of a problem. Europe is different. They use Isobutane, essentially what we call LP gas. Yeah, the same stuff that we use in our barbecue grills, and sometimes stoves and furnaces where natural gas is not available. I won’t have it in my house for any reason, not least because, unlike natural gas, it is heavier than air and will accumulate, and a very small spark (static electricity from a woolen rug, say) can set it off. The other thing is, it’s a small molecule (unlike CFCs) and much harder to seal permanently. LP is every bit as flammable as acetylene that is used for welding, in fact, Oxy-propane is very often used for cutting torches because it burns hotter. Now get a leak in your refrigerator, and a spark in the thermostat, and you have an explosion, and not a small one. Why do they do this? Because the EU has banned CFCs for environmental reasons (we’ve changed our formulations too. The new ones aren’t as effective, but less damaging to the ozone layer).¹

Overall, this was a systemic failure, old Murphy was working overtime. The problems just piled one on the other, and as a result, likely more than a hundred people are dead and died horribly. If I understand the building was council owned (rather like an overpowered city council combined with the zoning board) and managed by a (no doubt connected) non-profit. Strikes me as plenty of room for corruption to sneak in as well, although I have no proof of anything like that. But the one thing we know about bureaucrats is that they can almost never be forced to take responsibility for anything. I doubt anything different than that here.

And yes, the pseudo pious virtue signaling, blame passing, and all those games have already started. Not to mention the wingeing about how we don’t have enough money.

¹ ISOBUTANE

You Had One Job

Sometimes, no matter your job title, you really have just one job. Theresa May was selected as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom to execute Brexit, and that was what was expected. I like Mrs. May, then and now. I think she is a steady, dependable woman. But I also think she may a bit detail obsessed, it’s a fault many share.

She decided a few weeks ago she needed a bigger majority in Parliament to carry out Brexit properly. It made a fair amount of sense, the Tories have a lot of ‘Remainers’ and maybe she could weed a few out while increasing the majority. So OK.

But why in the hell, during the campaign were we talking about a Dementia Tax, or, of all the useless distractions, fox hunting, why the stupid slogans, let alone the American style presidential conceits, ‘Team May’ and ‘Theresa’s local candidates’, (we might have some lessons to teach, but the hubris of our Presidential candidates is about the worst thing one can pick up from us.) Why issue a manifesto written by a cabal, that your government hasn’t agreed to, especially one that will cause you to have to make a U-turn. ‘Strong and Stable’? Hardly. More like Hubris meet Nemesis.

And then you suffer a couple of Islamic terrorist attacks, and you let an opponent (who spent a considerable portion of his career supporting the IRA, Hamas, and Hezbollah) take the initiative because you once perhaps cut the number of police.

Of course, part of that is that is that because you’ve (or pretty much anybody else in Westminster) never had the guts to stand up to the racists that run the BBC, you have to be oh so politically correct. So you can’t tell the people the truth. The truth that because you let in all those bearded 13-year-old refugees, and their parents, and their sisters, and their brothers and their aunts, your security services have no idea where the potential terrorists are now, not even the ones that aren’t citizens.

But your police are pretty good at catching Christian pastors who teach what your father did, that homosexual sex is a sin, maybe if they weren’t doing that, they could catch a few of the terrorists. You keep saying that you want to help those ‘just about getting by’. Well, the best way to do that is to get out of the way, and out of their wallet, and let them spend their money on what they want and/or need, instead of sending it to Inland Revenue to fund those who will not work and live off the working poor.

And just how much does the NHS spend on medical tourists, let alone those who shouldn’t even be in Britain but are anyway. Not to mention bloated administration that couldn’t care less about administrating effectively.

But, that is what you let happen, and so now you didn’t increase your majority, you lost it, and now you have a hung Parliament. As Cranmer noted this morning…

With no majority in the House of Commons, the ‘Great Repeal Bill’ fades away and grammar schools whither. With no majority, it’s hard to see how Brexit will now mean Brexit (that is, out of the single market and customs union; free of the European Court of Justice; the end of free movement; out of the CAP and the CFP; and the restoration of parliamentary supremacy). You don’t boast about being a ‘bloody difficult woman’ if those bloody difficulties lead to greater division and more instability. With Brexit in jeopardy and the clamour for ‘soft Brexit’ growing, it is difficult at this stage to see where the necessary leadership will come from.

Steven Hayward adds this…

[B]ut at a macro level there is one big thing in common with the major election results of the past year, starting with Brexit, then Trump, but including the French election (the major parties shut out of the final) and even the Italian referendum on constitutional reform—a rejection of the establishment. Bad news for Angela Merkel I think.

He’s right of course. He’s also right that there will probably be still another election in the UK within a year.

The really sad thing is: The British people deserve far better than this sorry spectacle.

Workin’ in the Mill

Apparently, Craig Bouchard has decided to build a new aluminum mill – in Ashland Kentucky. That’s something that ‘t doesn’t happen very often. In America, at least. Allysia Finley, over at The First Street Journal took a look at it following a story in the Wall Street Journal.

In April the CEO of Braidy Industries, Craig Bouchard, announced his company would build a $1.3 billion aluminum mill in Ashland, Ky., creating 550 jobs. Within the past few weeks, he has received 2,600 applications—many with heart-wrenching personal anecdotes.

Ashland, a small Appalachian town on the Ohio River, was once an industrial powerhouse. Fifty years ago, nearby coal mines churned out cheap energy and raw materials for steel production. But in recent decades the region has suffered a series of blows. In 1998 Ashland Oil relocated to the Cincinnati suburbs. Two years ago, AK Steellaid off 600 workers. Last year CSX Railroad cut 100 jobs due to reduced traffic from the coal mines. Unemployment in Greenup County stands at 8.9%.

Last month President Trump —who won the county with 71% of the vote—ordered an investigation into whether aluminum imports were jeopardizing national security. It’s a step toward the tariffs that protectionists hope will revive America’s Rust Belt. But the best hope for towns like Ashland is innovation and investment by men like Mr. Bouchard.

He’s the kind of businessman who might appear on a union hit list. The CEO cut his chops in derivatives trading before buying the scraps of a bankrupt Chicago steel company in 2003 with his brother James. Within five years, the Bouchard brothers had built their company, Esmark, into the nation’s fourth-largest steel conglomerate.

They sold it for $1.2 billion to the Russian steelmaker Severstal in 2008, shortly before the stock market and steel industry crashed. Thousands of workers subsequently lost their jobs. Mr. Bouchard blames the United Steelworkers. He had first tried to sell a partnership stake in Esmark to the Indian company Essar Steel. But the United Steelworkers sought to force a sale to Severstal, which the union perceived as more labor-friendly. Had the Essar deal been consummated, Mr. Bouchard says, “every one of those people would have their jobs today” because all of the company’s debt would have been paid off.

The episode soured him on organized labor, and it’s one reason he was determined to build his new aluminum plant in a right-to-work state, where workers can’t be compelled to join a union. Before choosing Ashland, he drew up a list of 24 potential sites. The logistics favored Ashland, and Kentucky offered $10 million in tax incentives as well as low-cost electricity. But Mr. Bouchard says he was prepared to build elsewhere had Kentucky’s Republican governor, Matt Bevin, not signed right-to-work legislation in January.

Pay at the plant, which is expected to be up and running in 2020, will start at $50,000 a year and average $70,000—about twice the median household income in Ashland. Workers will also have access to health insurance, fitness facilities and a day-care center.

There’s more at the WSJ link, although it is subscriber only. But there is enough here to draw some conclusions.

First, Ashland is a superb location, especially for heavy industry, on the Ohio River, only a few miles from an Interstate Highway, lots of railroad infrastructure, and lots of unemployed people, both a legacy from coal mining. Nor does it hurt, that the Kentucky government offered $10 million in tax incentives and cheap electricity (aluminum production takes a lot of electricity, I seem to remember).

And finally, Kentucky is a right-to-work state, and Bouchard, like so many of us, has been turned anti-union, by the unions, themselves. Many of us watched as the were the main actors in destroying many of the industries that dominated my childhood, primary steel, the big 3 automakers, and many others. Apparently including Bouchard’s Esmark Steel. Nor does he appear to be exactly planning on exploiting his workers, starting them at $50K, and averaging $70K, that’s a pretty decent living, and working conditions are no longer really a contract condition, they’re a government regulation. Yes, often a silly group of them.

One of the things that the unions used to kill enterprises, and why it is a very silly move anymore to buy a legacy business, are the defined benefit pension plan, Allysia says this.

The pension decisions of decades in the past are still weighing down American manufacturers today. Those decisions cannot all be blamed on unions; management too frequently took decisions concerning pension plans and funding which worked fine for the individual managers in the fifties and sixties, but are unsustainable today. Defined benefit plans are being replaced by 401(k) plans, and the like, plans which do not depend upon the company’s future contributions to those plans. The defined benefit plan, if not properly funded as the company moves along, is, in effect, paying retired personnel a wage for no longer working.

That’s correct, and a good deal of that was taking the easy way out, rather than fighting the union. And by the way, it is not only business, it’s the basic problem (besides corruption, of course) with government, in Chicago, in Detroit, in Illinois, in California, and pretty much anywhere that government employees have unionized, because politicians, being the weak-willed creatures they are, have almost always not funded the retirement systems as required (often the unions haven’t, either).

And that’s why smart people go for a 401k these days, which was originally designed for the self-employed. If you fund it yourself, it tends to get funded, if you depend on other people’s money, well people are subject to the temptation of shinier objects than taking care of those who used to work with them.

Fracking OPEC

Well, we’ve mentioned that this would happen a few times, here and elsewhere. And it has. Jazz Shaw wrote back in December.

If you’ve been watching the oil market half as closely as Wall Street in general you’ve seen something rather remarkable happening this week. At the end of last month, OPEC finally decided that they were getting beaten badly enough with scandalously low oil prices and decided to jointly cut production. Since oil is always a significantly volatile global market, the system responded almost immediately, with oil climbing back up above the $50 per barrel mark for the first time in a couple of years. That helps out some of the member nations while not being high enough to significantly spike gas prices at the pump back in America.

So why not trim the flow back even further and bump those prices higher still? One OPEC spokesperson was extremely open about their strategy. The low prices have largely pushed U.S. shale oil production into low gear. It’s simply not profitable to produce when the price is down in the forties or even thirties. But if the price gets up to a few bucks above sixty dollars per barrel it will be rich times in the shale fields again and we’ll bust the market open, leading to another round of depressed prices. The Nigerian petroleum minister was quite clear about it in an interview this week. (Bloomberg)

Later on, he refers to it as not an evil conspiracy but just business, which is kind of true. It’s a would-be monopoly trying to set the price of a commodity, instead of letting the market do its thing. And you know something, it never works for long. Something always changes things. Here too.

Last Thursday, John Sexton wrote this.

OPEC, the oil cartel really cares about the world. That’s the message of a new monthly report issued Thursday. OPEC says what the world needs now is a bit less supply on the global oil market. In particular, they would really appreciate it if the United States would stop producing so much damn oil…for the good of the world of course. From CNN Money:

The report said that balancing the market would “require the collective efforts of all oil producers” and should be done “not only for the benefit of the individual countries, but also for the general prosperity of the world economy.”

OPEC said that one producer in particular is to blame: The U.S., where shale producers have continued to ramp up their drilling despite lower crude prices.

The increased production has undermined OPEC’s efforts to keep prices between $50 and $60 per barrel.

But the OPEC effort didn’t work for long. Prices are back below $50 a barrel now and thanks to increased efficiency, U.S. producers can still make money at those prices. Now OPEC has to decide whether to extend the production cuts into the latter half of the year or simply give up on the effort. Nitesh Shah, a commodity strategist at ETF Securities, says OPEC’s strategy has been a bust. He writes, “repeating the same strategy for another six months will do little to shore up oil prices.” “OPEC nations have given up market share and have barely reaped any price gains,” he adds.

OPEC could try even deeper production cuts but OPEC members won’t like that. So OPEC is left begging the U.S. to give them a break for the good of the world economy. We could do that, but here’s another thought: Let’s continue taking their market share and reducing their control over the world’s energy market.

Heh! Yep, we could do that, but why would we? Our people like to work and make money for their families, and they’re damned good at it, as well. Our country is designed for cheap energy, that’s why we have been a bit sluggish since the seventies. We are also free marketeers, buccaneers, really, who always find a way to make money while providing a better service, cheaper.

It’s our way in geopolitics as well, it’s how we destroyed the Soviet Union. And for anybody who still harbors the risible notion that Putin wanted Trump as President, well, this is certainly not in Russia’s interest either. Interesting, isn’t it, that American fracking that only last year needed oil prices of ~$60 per barrel to be profitable, is now profitable in the mid to high $30 dollar range.

The free market: What can’t it do?

Moral Cowardice, the FBI, and Us

Bookworm had some more to say about Comey and the FBI in general.

Comey pretended that his moral cowardice was a virtue, a dangerous attitude that empowers weak people and that permeates the entire FBI.

As Comey’s firing as FBI director continues to roil the Left, all sorts of interesting things are emerging. For example, it was Comey who gave Bill Clinton a pass in 2002 following an investigation into Clinton’s Marc Rich pardon. Having been one of the Whitewater investigators, you’d think Comey would have figured out early that, where there’s a Clinton, there’s a rat to be smelled, but somehow . . . he didn’t.

Comey was also the one who authorized the FBI to spend $100,000 investigating Dinesh D’Souza’s $20,000 illegal campaign finance donation. One could say that keeping elections clean is so important that money is no object, but that’s not what the FBI and other government branches had said before they got D’Souza — a prominent Obama and Democrat Party critic — in their sights. Previously (and since then), for small dollar campaign finance violations, the government had handed out small punishments. […]

Kimberly Strassel has written a scathing article detailing Comey’s ongoing corrupt practices, made all the more damning by the fact that she pretends to take Comey at his word — namely, that he sees himself as a model of virtue and rectitude constantly saving the day:

. . . [I]t seems the head of the FBI had lost confidence—even before TarmacGate—that the Justice Department was playing it anywhere near straight in the Clinton probe. So what should an honor-bound FBI director do in such a conflicted situation? Call it out. Demand that Ms. Lynch recuse herself and insist on an appropriate process to ensure public confidence. Resign, if need be. Instead Mr. Comey waited until the situation had become a crisis, and then he ignored all protocol to make himself investigator, attorney, judge and jury.

By the end of that 15-minute July press conference, Mr. Comey had infuriated both Republicans and Democrats, who were now universally convinced he was playing politics. He’d undermined his and his agency’s integrity. No matter his motives, an honor-bound director would have acknowledged that his decision jeopardized his ability to continue effectively leading the agency. He would have chosen in the following days—or at least after the election—to step down. Mr. Comey didn’t.

Which leads us to Mr. Comey’s most recent and obvious conflict of all—likely a primary reason he was fired: the leaks investigation (or rather non-investigation). So far the only crime that has come to light from this Russia probe is the rampant and felonious leaking of classified information to the press. Mr. Trump and the GOP rightly see this as a major risk to national security. While the National Security Agency has been cooperating with the House Intelligence Committee and allowing lawmakers to review documents that might show the source of the leaks, Mr. Comey’s FBI has resolutely refused to do the same.

And where is the rest of the FBI in all of this? Some agents are taking a “brave” and “virtuous” stand too. In true FBI tradition, showing the backbone and strength for which they’re known, they’re changing their Facebook pictures to show Comey’s face, rather than their own [that’s sarcasm, in case you wondered]:

FBI agents are reportedly changing their Facebook profile photos to pictures of James Comey — or pictures of them with Comey — to show their support for the sacked FBI director.

The Daily Beast reported that at least a dozen agents had changed their photos, a gesture usually reserved for fellow agents slain in the line of duty.

According to Gateway Pundit, though, some agents are thinking of going public about their disagreements with Comey. The link in that article is to an October 17, 2016 article in which anonymous FBI agents say they’re displeased with Comey’s handling of matters.

Isn’t that special? They’ve changed their profile picture like any good twelve-year-old girl would do.

Bookworm calls it craven moral cowardice, I think that might be a bit strong, although basically right.

Here’s the thing, for the ordinary street agent (or his supervisors) it’s a tough call that I’m not all that willing to make for them. Think about it, you’re in (probably) your forties, married, mortgage (probably a big one if your at HQ) car payments, kids who you want to go to college, all the various and sundry financial commitments that American collect, plus likely student loans still, since these guys are all accountants and/or lawyers. Add to that the fact that most of your friends work for the government.

How likely would you be to jeopardize your entire life over a moral issue that requires you to defy your chain of command? We all sitting out here in the heartland say that we would in a heartbeat, but maybe we ought to think about it for a bit. Those things happen to us all, they’re the minor little things (seemingly) that lead us off the straight and narrow. There’s some in my life, and I’ll bet there’s some in yours. Some I did the right thing, and some I didn’t. Maybe you always did. Good for you, you’re a better man than I, or a man that lies to me and himself. We ain’t none of us perfect.

Remember when we were dating, we didn’t ask the girl to marry us when we picked her up at her parent’s for the first date – that comes later maybe, it’s a progression. So is this, it starts with a minor thing, covering an extra cigarette break, and then one gets one’s loyalty involved in the group.

We’ve heard a lot about Comey wanting to become another J Edgar Hoover, that’s a scary thought, right? Well, which one? When Hoover got the job back in 1927, his mandate was to clean up an agency badly corrupted by the Teapot Dome scandal, he did a ruthless and good job – to the point that still, to this day, we expect absolute honesty from an FBI agent. That’s some legacy, that is. Yes, he went mad, figurately (and maybe literally) when his love of power corrupted him, and the whole thing went off the rails. That’s why it’s a ten-year maximum term now. Live and learn.

But for Comey, maybe it started with the pass he gave in Clinton back in 2002, but maybe it was much earlier, and much less important. I don’t know, and I doubt Comey does either. But yes, Book is right, he’s a moral coward (perhaps a craven one) but you know, most of us are.

One of the reasons our founders are so revered is that they put everything, including their unstretched necks, on the line, and many of them paid that price. They were very exceptional men. Another one who did is Martin Luther.

One who almost did is Thomas Cranmer, Elizabeth I’s Archbishop of Canterbury when Mary came to the throne, he lost everything, and confessed the charge of heresy, at the stake he recanted his confession. That’s a noble act, but he no longer had anything to lose, no matter what he said or did, they were going to burn him at the stake. I’ve said it, so have you I bet. Nothing left to lose may as well do the right thing.

Well, Comey was there, trusted by nobody, he had little to lose, and he failed that test, as well.

God help him.

Book ends with this, she is completely correct.

The above is why those voters who pay taxes like President Trump. He’s not beholden to anybody and he reacts as a taxpayer would: This guy is doing a bad job, he’s abusing his power, and he shouldn’t be getting a salary. He needs to be fired.

No wonder Trump terrifies the resident rats in the D.C. Swamp.

 

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