I’d Give This About a ‘D’ in Marketing

The world is the world, and yes, it’s still going to hell in a handbasket. Why do you ask? But just because let’s talk about something else.

Americans are weird, we’re always ready for the next wave – often leading the way, and we’ve been doing so for a long time. But…

We also spend a lot of time looking over our shoulders and moaning that things were better back some time or another. I do it, you do it, even Aunt Polly does it. Sometimes we all want to go home again.

That’s why we have houses called colonial, Tudor revival, Victorian,  Midcentury Modern, and all those other terms realtors like to throw around. And yep, me too. I love the so-called English Tudors that were built in the early part of the last century, and I love the Midcentury Moderns, that started popping up around 1950 or so and on into the 60s. It was an optimistic time, and everything showed it. While the English were wondering what a fridge was, there were a few people in America who had sise by sides with icemakers. And those ranges with two ovens, one at eye level and the traditional lower one, but what’s this? The burners slide back to make a wider aisle. Well, I never!

There are a lot of people around who are slightly nuts about the fifties, many of them got hooked at Granmas. Not me, though, my mom was the age of their granma’s, I lived it. I chuckled at my sister’s funeral, speaking to a cousin I hadn’t seen since I was a kid, it was commented that the folk’s house had burned down. Well, she had been there, as a kid, probably forty years before but her comment was “That gorgeous house, and that amazing kitchen, gone.” Well, she was right, you don’t often see kitchen cabinets custom built out of heart redwood, with boomerang Formica countertops, nor do you often see a kitchen designed to function (and well) without a stove. That was all dad, both design and execution. I wonder if mom didn’t find it a bit overwhelming.

But there are also things that tie it all together as well. Back in 1936 and Englishman with some claim to be an artist, designed some dishware, and kitchen accouterments that were produced by a pottery mill in West Virginia. And still are, almost without change, Many people (women especially) are enormously enamored of this stuff. Not hard to see why: many very vibrant colors, freezer safe, dishwasher safe, oven safe, microwave safe, even pretty close to kid-proof. I can often remember at peoples houses when I was a kid, that were using this stuff, the various colors were mixed and matched. It may have been chaotic, but it was happy chaos.

Yeah, I’m talking about Fiestaware, and you know, I like it too. But there are actual collectors, of this stuff, from various generations, and they really love it. Obsessive you could call them. (They would probably agree). Anyway, it seems that many of them collect the 5 piece place setting, which is distinguished from the several four-piece settings by having a teacup and saucer instead of a mug.

I wandered off to the website the other day, just because, and it’s really good stuff still, and neither is it cheap, although per use, I’d bet a lot of money it is. Remember all those lessons about the cost per use being the real value? Well, anyway, there was an announcement on the website that they were discontinuing the five-place setting, although they would continue to make all the pieces. It looked to me like pretty close to a scam to generate a bit more revenue. If I were them, I’d do a Gillette real fast and get over it. Page after page of angry comments, with women who have spent thousands of dollars over the years on this stuff, and love it, saying that they’ll quit (well new, maybe) and never buy another. I suspect many of them will get over it, just as a fair number of guys will get over Gillettte’s insults. But many won’t, and they’ll talk loudly how another corporation screwed up their life.

If I were Fiestaware, I think I’d avoid that whole mess trying to pick up a dime here and there. The boxes can’t be that expensive, and most of their customers probably buy mugs as well. It just isn’t a good look. What we used to call “hurting the brand’ and here to little purpose that I can see.

Some company history here: Fiestaware: A Colorful History. And if you’d like to know what a proper business blog is, you could do worse.

And here you can read the comments for yourself.

Another New Plant

How about some good news, especially for Americans, but also for those who like freedom, and who might even like cheap energy. President Trump spoke last week at the new Royal Dutch Shell’s Pennsylvania Petrochemical Complex in Monaca, Pennsylvania. If I understand what is going on here, Shell will buy (pretty cheap) ethane from the oil fields in the area (mostly fracked fields). And then they turn it into polyethylene which is the base for many of the plastics we use for so much. Shell says this about it…

“From the phone in your pocket to the pillow you sleep on, the essentials of everyday life depend on the raw chemicals that go to make them. As global population and incomes rise, one giant chemicals plant has found ways to step up production to meet growing demand for these items.”

And that’s an American plant – in Beaver County Pennsylvania – which has been depressed ever since the steel mills closed, is now roaring back. It’s about time, and while the plan preceded the Trump administration, the confidence, and the regulatory red tape cutting, without causing environmental damage, to bring it online is down to the Trump administration.

Master Resource did a good job of excerpting the speech, here’s part of that.

  • And when the wind stops blowing, it doesn’t make any difference, does it? Unlike those big windmills that destroy everybody’s property values, kill all the birds. Someday, the environmentalists are going to tell us what’s going on with that.
  • And then, all of a sudden, it stops; the wind and the televisions go off. And your wives and husbands say, “Darling, I want to watch Donald Trump on television tonight.” “But the wind stopped blowing and I can’t watch. There’s no electricity in the house, darling.” No, we love natural gas and we love a lot of other things, too….

Or the wind blows too hard, as the United Kingdom found out last week when a steam plant went offline without warning and the grid could not maintain frequency control, and tripped off, leaving much of England in the dark. At least, this time, it was in the summer, might be more significant when it happens in the winter, and it will. To continue:

  • With your help, we’re not only unleashing American energy, we’re restoring the glory of American manufacturing, and we are reclaiming our noble heritage as a nation of builders again. A nation of builders.
  • When completed, this facility will transform abundant natural gas — and we have a lot of it — fracked from Pennsylvania wells, which they never would have allowed you to take if I weren’t President. If my opponent won … I guess you would have stopped long ago….
  • But I was talking to Gretchen [Watkins of Shell North America]. They would have never gotten the approvals to do what’s needed to fuel these plants. That wouldn’t have been good. So, probably, they wouldn’t have started. But if they would have started, it would have stopped.
  • But they put it into plastic through a process known as “cracking.” That raw material will then be shipped all over the country and all over the world to be fashioned into more products stamped with that very beautiful phrase: “Made in the USA.” … Beautiful. […]
  • Pennsylvania miners. Do we love our miners? (Applause.) They lit up our towns and powered our industries. And Pennsylvania factory workers made the American brand into the universal symbol of excellence all around the world — all over. [,,,]
  • With your help, we’re not only unleashing American energy, we’re restoring the glory of American manufacturing, and we are reclaiming our noble heritage as a nation of builders again. A nation of builders. […]
  • And other radical plans to wipe out our coal. That’s what they want. They want to wipe out our oil. They want to wipe out our natural gas industries, while allowing other countries to steal our jobs.
  • Virtually every leading Democrat has vowed to eliminate fossil fuels, obliterating millions of American jobs, devastating communities, and bankrupting factories, families, and senior citizens all across this region.
  • And, by the way, this is only fuel that has the power for plants. When you have to steam up and you have to fuel up on these giant plants, these giant generators, these giant electrical factories, you need what you’re doing. You need this. It’s got the power. The other doesn’t have the power; certainly not yet. Probably never will. […]
  • And that’s why we’re pursuing a future not only of energy independence — but not just words. You know, you’ve been hearing “energy independence” for years and years, and you’d hear it. We have real independence. But what we want now is not independence; we want American energy dominance. Dominance

There’s quite a bit more, even in excerpts at the linked article. But the story is one we have said before, America is back, Jack, and again it’s wearing its seven league steel-toed boots.

Great for us and its good for the world too, as should be obvious to all

Here is the video of the speech.

Whingey Kickballers

And so, the US women’s soccer team, world champions, so they say, is suing for equal pay. Well, Bookworm took a look. Let’s see what she found.

The 26 members of the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team, winners of the 2019 World Cup, are in the midst of a court battle against the US Soccer Federation, with whom they have a collective bargaining agreement signed in 2016. The ladies are screaming about gender discrimination and the gender pay gap. They want to be paid the same as the men on the U.S. Men’s Soccer Team. Or as CBS’s 60 Minutes frames it:

Few teams have been as glorious on the soccer field as the United States Women’s National Team. They’ve won three World Cups, four Olympic gold medals, and set the standard in the most popular sport on the planet.  But despite their achievements, the players say they have been discriminated against, paid less and treated worse, next to the U.S. men’s team. Soccer may be known as the beautiful game, but the team has embarked on a bruising and historic legal fight for equality and their opponent is the U.S. Soccer Federation, their own employer. For the players, it’s the match of their lives. They hope a victory will help close the gap, not just in sport, but in any job where women do the same work as men for less pay.

Heart rending, is it not? There is a reason everyone on the left is framing this as an equitable and emotional argument.  Neither statutory law nor the laws of free market economics are on the side of the ladies.

If their labor was purely soccer and we lived in the world of Karl Marx and the labor theory of value, they would have a good argument.  It is not.  Whether the women win or lose on the pitch, the labor of the U.S. women’s soccer team has no intrinsic value to their employer, the USSF. To the employer, the sole value of the ladies’ labor is to generate revenue, and women soccer players overall do quite poorly relative to the men.  Only a small subset of soccer fans care enough about women’s soccer to support it.  For comparison, the world soccer governing body, FIFA,reported revenues from men’s soccer in 2018 of “over $6 billion”  in revenue in 2018, while the women’s tournament “is estimated to only have brought in $131 million in 2019.”

Book makes an excellent point here. Professional athletes are not paid to play their sport. They are paid to sell tickets, TV contracts, and hot dogs. That they do that by playing a sport is as relevant as the steelworker who thinks he is paid to swing a hammer, he is part of an effort to make steel, the hammer swinging, as important as it may be, is not the point.

But it’s California where the law depends on your feelings, so they’ll probably get some unearned income, depend partly on how hard the USSF fights, I suppose.

The Babylon Bee also reported on this and may have the most relevant post of all.

U.S.—Despite the U.S. Women’s soccer team’s stunning performance in winning the World Cup, there is a giant pay gap between them and the less successful men’s team. This has caused a huge outcry, as many Americans are now baffled that anyone is paid to play soccer.

“What? Why? How?” stammered plumber Rory Eubanks, expressing the sentiment of many Americans. “Where is that money even coming from?”

Soccer is a game played by children and Europeans that involves moving a ball around without using one’s hands — the feature that distinguishes man from lesser animals. It is unclear how such an activity could generate money. “I know with actual sports, you have stadiums that make money from selling tickets and hot dogs,” said Alison Jensen, a nurse and another citizen scared and confused by the concept of soccer players being paid, “but there’s nothing like a soccer stadium around here.” Her eyes then grew large with fright. “Is there?”

Even scientists are baffled at how soccer players are being paid. “I dunno,” said scientist Earl Webb before adding, “You got me.”

Theories on how soccer players are getting paid range from tax money boondoggle to mob money laundering scheme to ISIS plot to get Americans to do a useless thing like kick a ball around instead of activities that actually help the economy like hauling lumber or driving an Uber.

Why Are the Western Middle Classes So Angry?

On American Greatness, Victor Davis Hanson asks this question. It’s a good one, I think. Because almost all of us of the middling sort are pretty angry about things. So let’s have a look.

What is going on with the unending Brexit drama, the aftershocks of Donald Trump’s election and the “yellow vests” protests in France? What drives the growing estrangement of southern and eastern Europe from the European Union establishment? What fuels the anti-EU themes of recent European elections and the stunning recent Australian re-election of conservatives?

Put simply, the middle classes are revolting against Western managerial elites. The latter group includes professional politicians, entrenched bureaucrats, condescending academics, corporate phonies and propagandistic journalists.

What are the popular gripes against them?

One, illegal immigration and open borders have led to chaos. Lax immigration policies have taxed social services and fueled multicultural identity politics, often to the benefit of boutique leftist political agendas.

Two, globalization enriched the cosmopolitan elites who found worldwide markets for their various services. […]

He gives us six, in all. All are, as one would expect, cogent and accurate. So go and read them.

One common gripe framed all these diverse issues: The wealthy had the means and influence not to be bothered by higher taxes and fees or to avoid them altogether. Not so much the middle classes, who lacked the clout of the virtue-signaling rich and the romance of the distant poor.

In other words, elites never suffered the firsthand consequences of their own ideological fiats.

That’s a huge part of it in my estimation. It’s one thing if all these things are good for us, or necessary for the world to survive, or something. It’s an entirely different kettle of fish if you’re telling me how important this trash is, but it doesn’t apply to you and your friends. “Do as I say not as I do” doesn’t work any better leading a company, group, country, civilization, or anything else than it does trying to raise a kid. Never has, never will.

What it does is bring rebels. It did when my high school said we couldn’t wear blue jeans. Suddenly my entire class showed up in them. What are you going to do now, Mr. Principal? Give a quarter of the school detention? Makes you look sort of bad, doesn’t it, that your leadership is so bad?

The same principle applies when you and a few hundred of your closest friends fly their private jets into Davos for a party disguised (badly) as a conference.

Elites masked their hypocrisy by virtue-signaling their disdain for the supposedly xenophobic, racist or nativist middle classes. Yet the non-elite have experienced firsthand the impact on social programs, schools and safety from sudden, massive and often illegal immigration from Latin America, the Middle East, Africa and Asia into their communities.

As for trade, few still believe in “free” trade when it remains so unfair. Why didn’t elites extend to China their same tough-love lectures about global warming, or about breaking the rules of trade, copyrights and patents?

Do you know anybody who believes any of this tosh, unless, perhaps, their livelihood depends on it, or the indoctrination they received in school hasn’t been rubbed off yet? I can’t think of one that I do. I know a few trolls who say they do, but I’d bet they’re paid to say that. I do know one person who believes in Global Warming, but he also believes it is beyond the tipping point, so we may as well ‘Rock on’.

If Western nations were really so bad, and so flawed at their founding, why were millions of non-Westerners risking their lives to reach Western soil?

How was it that elites themselves had made so much money, had gained so much influence, and had enjoyed such material bounty and leisure from such a supposedly toxic system—benefits that they were unwilling to give up despite their tired moralizing about selfishness and privilege?

So where does it end?

Because elites have no answers to popular furor, the anger directed at them will only increase until they give up—or finally succeed in their grand agenda of a non-democratic, all-powerful Orwellian state.

Or in an armed revolt, which I discount less each month. The people are not going to go quietly into the night.

 

Making Sense of American Conservatism

And so, time to start trying to make sense of the world again, I guess, Matthew Continetti has a long piece up at The Washington Free Beacon called Making Sense of the New American Right. It’s a valiant effort at a nearly impossible subject. Let’s look.

The story goes that, for many years, American conservatives adhered to a consensus known as “fusionism.” Economic and social conservatives put aside their differences. Freedom, they decided, was necessary for the exercise of virtue. The struggle against and ultimate defeat of the Soviet Union was more important than domestic politics or intramural disagreements. Conservative intellectuals eager to privilege either freedom or virtue like to attack this consensus, which they often describe as “zombie Reaganism.” The truth is that the strength of fusionism always has been exaggerated. The conservative intellectual movement has been and continues to be fractious, contentious, combustible, and less of a force than most assume.

Episodes of division and strife are far more common than moments of unity and peace. The more you study the history of American conservatism, the less willing you are to describe it in monolithic terms. There isn’t one American right, there are multitudes, every one of them competing for the attention of politicians and policymakers. The most prominent and politically salient varieties, as expressed in William F. Buckley Jr.’s National Review, Irving Kristol’s Public Interest, Norman Podhoretz’s Commentary, and William Kristol’s Weekly Standard, have weakened or disappeared altogether. One of the reasons the intra-conservative argument has become so personal and acrimonious is that nothing has replaced them.

Indeed, the situation today is awfully similar to that which confronted conservatives in the 1970s. Then, the Buckley consensus had to find a modus vivendi with neoconservatives as well as with the Catholic integralists around Triumph magazine, against the background of a populist revolt that called out failing elites while relying on racial and ethnic appeals that sometimes crossed the border of decency.

Indeed, that consensus is what many of us to today deride as ‘cocktail party conservatism’. It is one of the things that Donald Trump blew up on his way to the White House, with the willing help of many of us. We also tend to believe these are the people who gave us never-ending wars, mostly to enrich their friends, while denigrating our troops.

The rise of Donald Trump, Brexit, and nation-state populism throughout the world certainly suggest that something has changed in global politics. American conservatism ought to investigate, recognize, and assimilate the empirical reality before it. The trouble is that no one has concluded definitively what that reality is.

Not for lack of trying. Beginning in 2016, intellectuals who favored Trump have been searching for a new touchstone for conservative thought and politics. These writers are often described as populists, but that label is hard to define. Broadly speaking, they have adopted the banner of nationalism. They believe the nation-state is the core unit of geopolitics and that national sovereignty and independence are more important than global flows of capital, labor, and commodities. They are all, in different ways, reacting to perceived failures, whether of Buckley conservatism, George W. Bush’s presidency, or the inability of the conservative movement to stop same-sex marriage and the growth of the administrative state. And they have turned away from libertarian arguments and economistic thinking. Not everything, these thinkers believe, can be reduced to gross domestic product.

And that is an important concept. Too many, whom some call the ‘Chamber of Commerce’ Republicans do believe it is all about the GDP. And what is even worse, they tend to believe the best GDP is taken from the quarterly balance sheet. This very short term thinking has led to the deindustrialization of the US (and Britain and some other nations). There is nothing wrong in profit-seeking, but there is in putting short term profit ahead of the firms long term best interest. And that is what I see all too often.

That is rather the foundation of what we are going to be talking about, there is a lot out there, both in the linked article and some others. So much that there is at least one but probably two (maybe more) articles in it to talk about, since I write articles and not books here. So let’s discuss this much and we’ll continue, hopefully, tomorrow, if the creek doesn’t rise too much.

Sunday Funnies: Green Nude Eel Edition

Well, another week where Occasional Cortex proves the point. There really is no intelligent life in there. And so on we go, like a runaway bumper car.

From Italy comes The God Emperor Trump, including the Twitter sword

Might just be the best thing the Italians have given us since this

click to embiggen

Jungle Love

And, of course

Mostly, but not all, from PowerLine, as usual

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