Animal’s Daily NoRK Gulag News

Thanks as always to The Other McCain for the Rule Five links!

Apparently North Korean athletes should fear a bad performance – not fear of embarrassment, but actual fear for their lives.  Excerpt:

Having failed to land a single medal in South Korea so far, its Winter Olympic team could suffer the same fate as previous underperforming athletes – imprisonment in one of the country’s sick gulags.

The most infamous case is that of the North Korean football team which made history for reaching the second round of the 1966 World Cup.

Former leader Kim Il-Sung is widely believed to have ordered them to be arrested after they lost to 5-3 Portugal days after they were seen drinking with local women in public.

Instead of going home to a proud welcome, the are reported to have been sent to one of the reclusive nation’s most notorious gulags.

North Korean defector Kang Chol-Hwan claims he met some of the team while they were being held in Yodok prison, or Camp 15, usually reserved for political prisoners.

In his tell-all book The Aquariums of Pyongyang, he asserts that footballer Pak Seung-Zin became infamous for his ability to endure torture.

Another inmate, dubbed “The Cockroach” after gobbling any insects he could find to fight off hunger pains, would often be thrown into a solitary chamber known as the “Sweatbox”.

While they are the best known case of the country’s harsh attitude towards “failure”, they are far from the only ones.

Dennis Rodman has been strangely quiet on the issue.

One wonders why the NoRKs were even allowed to participate in the Olympics.  I suppose it was a show of how the Korean peninsula may be re-united one day.  One might also wonder why none of the athletes have (so far) made any attempt to defect to the South, but then, consider what it likely to happen to their families were they to do so.

This is the problem with autocratic regimes like North Korea, especially when one is led by a stunted little gargoyle with bad hair from a long line of stunted little gargoyles with bad hair.  Absolute power corrupts absolutely, and Little Kim was pretty damned corrupt when his father was still alive.  The Olympics just being one more example that, in North Korea, you piss off the dictator at your mortal peril.

What is mildly amazing is that none of this punk’s own people have taken him out yet.

Goodbye, Blue Monday

Goodbye, Blue Monday!

Thanks as always to Pirate’s Cove for the Rule Five links!

It seems some rules for our nation’s military are changing.  the new rule is, if you aren’t deployable, you aren’t serving.  Excerpt:

New rules requiring members of the military to be able to deploy or get out were put in place to ensure fairness in deployment rates, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said.

“You’re either deployable, or you need to find something else to do. I’m not going have some people deploying constantly and then other people, who seem to not pay that price, in the U.S. military,” Mattis told reporters Feb. 17 in his first comments on the issue since the new policy was formally introduced.

“If you can’t go overseas [and] carry a combat load, then obviously someone else has got to go. I want this spread fairly and expertly across the force.”

Under new rules first reported on by Military Times, military members who have been non-deployable for the past 12 months or more will be separated from the military.

Approximately 11 percent, or 235,000, of the 2.1 million personnel serving on active duty, in the reserves or National Guard are currently non-deployable, Command Sgt. Maj. John Troxell, the senior enlisted adviser to Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joe Dunford, told Military Times earlier this month.

Of that total non-deployable force, Troxell said, about 99,000 are on that list for administrative reasons, such as not having all their immunizations or their required dental exams. About 20,000 are not deployable due to pregnancy, and 116,000 are not deployable due to either short- or long-term injuries.

Maybe the Israel Defense Force has something going for it.

Plenty of service members have been non-deployable at one time or another, for injuries (not necessarily combat – plenty of folks have been hurt in training), pregnancy, family issues and so forth.  But this policy is aimed at the “permanent profile” folks.  If you’ve served, you know the type.

The military is not a jobs program.  It is an organization that is essential to the nation, one of the few legitimate functions of the Imperial government in concordance with the Constitution, and it has a primary purpose:  To kill people and break things.  Anything that interferes with that mission is bad.  It’s bad for the mission, bad for the people who have to pick up the burden of the service members who can’t, and bad for the country.

Once again General Mattis has the right idea.  Of all of President Trump’s appointments, James Mattis and Neal Gorsuch are probably the best.

Rule Five Love Hotel Friday

Note:  Another short stint in Japan beckons, beginning early next month.  Regular readers know how Mrs. Animal and yr. obdt. enjoy our forays in to the Land of the Rising Sun, so look for some photos and travel commentary from those environs very soon.

With that said, and in spite of the tendency of young Japanese to eschew sexual relationships, the love hotel industry in Japan is still robust.  Excerpt:

Japan’s population is shrinking.

Deaths now outpace births, marriage is plummeting, and young people aren’t having sex. The media are calling it sekkusu shinai shokogun, or “celibacy syndrome”—an alarming trend that has the Japanese government funneling tax dollars into speed dating and matchmaking services over fears of an impending economic collapse.

But in a neon-lit pocket of Tokyo’s Shibuya district, BDSM equipment, mirrored ceilings, vibrating beds, and condom vending machines paint a different reality. Welcome to Love Hotel Hill, where Japan’s sex industry is flourishing.

Clandestine Encounters

True to their moniker, pay-by-the-hour love hotels cater to millions of Japanese couples every year, and increasingly, tourists. There are more than 30,000 love hotels in the country, and hundreds in Tokyo alone—a multibillion-dollar business that accounts for a quarter of the sex industry.

With increasing life expectancies, the rising age of marriage, and high population density, multigenerational households are ubiquitous. When married couples live in close quarters with elderly parents and children, love hotels offer a practical alternative to thin-walled Japanese homes where privacy is scarce.

Oddly, this isn’t a sign of any renewed fecundity:

Japan’s love hotel industry may be prospering, but the country is experiencing a paradoxical decline in marriage, childbirth, and sex.

More than 40 percent of men and women aged 18-34 in Japan have never had sex, according to the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research. If the current trend continues, it is projected that by 2060 Japan’s population will have shrunk by 30 percent—an impending economic disaster.

But in the midst of a stagnant economy, staying single has become an attractive choice.

Now, this next stint will have us in the Tokyo region for 2-3 weeks, where a visit to the Shibuya district is not only possible but likely.  Since our first visit to that country in 2009, I have (unsuccessfully) tried to persuade my own dear Mrs. Animal to undertake a visit to a love hotel, of course strictly in the name of research; you see, True Believers, how there are no lengths to which I will not go to bring you the best reporting on other cultures and the wonders to be found in exotic lands.

However, Mrs. Animal has been and remains of a conservative bent in such matters, and prefers to eschew any role in conducting such research.  Oh well.

Anyway:  I do love Japan and the Japanese people’s demographic trends has been a cause for concern.  As scribe Mark Steyn points out, the future belongs to those who show up for it, and the Japanese seem to have opted out.  What’s more, Japan has evidently decided to die Japanese.  While Europe has become a hotbed of Islamic activism thanks to their unchecked immigration policies – in no small part to attract younger workers to prop up their generous social welfare programs – Japan remains a difficult country to establish yourself in on a long-term basis.

But the love hotel industry gives one hope.  Maybe young Japanese people will rediscover the joys of sex.

Animal’s Daily Hooray for Capitalism News

Actual illustration from the article. Go, capitalism!

Free markets are a wonderful thing – here are a few of the reasons why.  Excerpt:

When the Great Recession hit, late capitalism came back into vogue. Finally, markets and economies were collapsing all around the globe, comrades! And yet…here we are, a decade or so later and capitalism is still doing pretty well. To be sure, it’s nowhere near perfect, but what economic historian (and Reason contributing editor) Deirdre McCloskey calls “the Great Enrichment” proceeds apace, with fewer and fewer people living in what the U.N. calls “extreme poverty.” As everyone except Pope Francis will tell you, that’s because of free-er trade and more (not fewer) markets. As Ronald Bailey has documented, higher levels of economic freedom correlate strongly with longer lives, less disease, better environmental indicators, and even higher rates of life satisfaction.

Communists, socialists, progressives, and critics ranging from Fredric Jameson to Bernie Sanders to Thomas Frank to Naomi Klein to Hans Magnus Enzenberger continue to marvel at and grouse about the ways in which capitalism “absorbs” economic and philosophical challenges, “commodifies” them, and then keeps on truckin’. Capitalism’s genius, it turns out, is a form of repressive tolerance that, as economist Joseph Schumpeter observed, brought more and more stuff to more and more people. “The capitalist achievement,” he wrote, “does not typically consist in providing more silk stockings for queens but in bringing them within reach of factory girls.”

Or, to put it in slightly different terms, capitalism allows more people to express themselves through work and live relatively high on the hog. Which brings to me three examples torn from today’s headlines that show why capitalism persists—and why that’s not a bad thing at all.

Here’s an example for you:  Wal-Mart (or, as it’s known these days, Walmart.)  Some years back, the Old Man had to buy tools, construction stuff and housewares from the old Coast to Coast store in Decorah, Iowa, the nearest town of any size to his old homestead.  He remembers buying a toaster-oven form there for $65, a year or so before the massive Walmart Supercenter opened on the edge of town.

At first, the Old Man didn’t care for the Walmart, thinking (correctly) that it would put some small locally owned stores out of business.  He was a convert when next he needed a toaster-oven, and was able to buy one at Walmart for $25.

Markets, given time, usually get things right.  No person or body of people could ever hope to “manage” the tens of billions of individual daily decisions that make up a national economy; only the people, freely deciding for themselves what they want to do with their money, their time, their talents and abilities, can properly make up an economy.  And that’s the only way an economy should exist -free people making their own decisions freely.

If you disapprove of my choices, then you are free to piss right off, and the same applies in reverse.  That’s the wonder of liberty, True Believers; that’s the wonder of liberty.

Animal’s Hump Day News

Happy Hump Day!

National treasure Dr. Victor Davis Hanson weighs in on embarrassing Republicans.  Excerpt:

Free-marketers are right that tax cuts stimulate economic growth that in turn lead to expanding production and eventually more federal tax revenue.

But the problem traditionally has been that to obtain tax reductions, Republicans also have had to sign on reluctantly to larger expenditures. Or, worse, they willingly believed they could spend more, simply because more money poured into the federal treasuries.

George W. Bush doubled the national debt. After running against Bush profligacy (remember the Chinese credit card trope), Barack Obama doubled it again by doubling Bush’s levels of borrowing. Conservatives blasted Obama for his even greater lack of thrift. The Tea Party movement emerged in reaction to reckless expenditures and borrowing to fund Obamacare.

Now Donald Trump is caught in the same old matrix. His deregulation, tax cuts, and energy expansion will likely increase federal revenue. But his various budget concessions and his own proposed increases in defense spending and infrastructure would likely bleed the budget at a far greater rate than the growing federal revenue.

Once again, new spending will discredit conservative vows of budget prudence and supply-side economics. (Budget-wise, what good does it do to expand the economy if the political price is acquiescence to ever greater and costlier government?)
Trump is blasted for not filling federal positions and for his threadbare staff. In reality, he probably gains support for the mere appearance of parsimony. He should press that advantage by enacting a government hiring freeze and a pay-as-you-go philosophy, even if at first it is only symbolic.

If Trump wants to build the wall and “make Mexico pay for it,” why not simply slap a 10 percent tax on the $50 billion in remittances that flow annually to Mexico and Latin America, largely from illegal aliens and foreign nationals? In addition, the government could help fund the wall with fees and fines from DACA qualifiers who seek green cards.

President Bush (43) was only a mediocre President at best, but his rhetorical blindness is rather staggering, as Dr. Hanson points out:

While in Dubai, Bush criticized the Trump Administration’s lack of progress on immigration reform. Then he weirdly noted, “Americans don’t want to pick cotton at 105 degrees, but there are people who want to put food on their family’s tables and are willing to do that.”

Where to start when Republican elites confirm their own stereotypes?

Doing work American’s won’t do?

(I’m sternly resisting the urge to type “Now, wait just a cotton pickin’ minute” here.)  Picking cotton?  Seriously?  For one thing, cotton picking has been automated for decades.  As Dr. Hanson also points out, many other types of agricultural work, even the harvesting of fragile crops like peaches and grapes, is likewise becoming automated.  So President Bush’s argument is not only ill-advised and rather condescending, it’s factually incorrect.

They don’t call the GOP the Stupid Party for nothing, and the recent Senate-passed budget is another example; increasingly, both parties seem to only be concerned about spending and debt when the other party is in power.  As a staunch libertarian, I generally vote GOP because 1) I live in a swing state, and a protest vote for a Libertarian party candidate may have the outcome I desire least; b) the Libertarian Party seems to have a penchant for running knuckleheads for office (“What’s a Leppo?”) and 3) the GOP generally at least comes close to what I want to see in matters such as the 2nd Amendment, trade and tax/fiscal policy.

But they make it difficult when their supposed “senior statesmen” spout off in foreign countries.  What the hell ever happened to politics ending at the border, anyway?

Animal’s Daily Blue Flight News

File this under “big surprise:”  People who advocate for statist policies increasingly flee the places where their preferred statist policies are in place.  Excerpt:

According to United Van Lines, the top 10 states people are leaving include the blue states Wisconsin, Ohio, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey and Illinois. Only three red states made the list; Kentucky, Utah, and Kansas.

The top 10 states people are moving to include the red states Idaho, South Dakota, South Carolina, North Carolina, Alabama, Nevada and Colorado (the last two are purplish states). Only three solidly blue states made the list, Vermont, Oregon and Washington. In 2017, Vermont slipped, with its inbound and outbound moving becoming about equal. Notably, all three of those states used to be much more moderate, only turning blue within the past 25 years or so. Longtime residents in Washington and Oregon regularly rant about Californians taking over their states and turning them blue. People in Vermont complain about Democrats from Massachusetts and New York moving into their state. The bluer those three states become, the fewer people will move there as we’re already seeing with Vermont.

Last week, CBS in San Francisco reported that the number of people leaving the Bay Area reached its highest level in more than a decade. Topping the list of reasons for moving was the high cost of housing. Democrats are more reluctant than Republicans to allow permits for homebuilding, and pile on regulations.

A comment on the linked article expressed the hope that the people leaving those blue states would contemplate why they left and vote accordingly on their arrivals in their new residences.  While that may happen in some cases – California has made life pretty unhappy for anyone to the right of Leon Trotsky, and part of that state’s polarization is due to the departure of right-of-center types – the opposite is more often the case.

I can point to my own Colorado as an example.  Having lived in Colorado for almost thirty years, I can attest to the transformation of that state from a right-of-center state with some strong libertarian influences to a purple state today.  And that purple is increasingly turning blueish; the state went for Her Imperial Majesty Hillary I in 2012, even as many purple states (Michigan and Wisconsin, among others) answered to President Trump’s populist message.

When I first moved to Colorado, I figured I’d probably stay there for the rest of my life.  That was before I saw Alaska.  Hopefully The Last Frontier will stay clear of such nonsense; urban illiberals that try a move there generally don’t seem to last through their cheechako year.  Alaska may remain one of the few good places left.

Goodbye, Blue Monday

Goodbye, Blue Monday!

Thanks once again to Pirate’s Cove and The Other McCain for the Rule Five links!

Moving right along:  Sometimes, you know, the difference between the political Left and the political Right really starts to blur.  Here is one such incidence, in which PJMedia’s Michael Walsh calls for the breakup of the Big Four tech companies by the force of the Imperial government, because, reasons.  Excerpt:

Monopolies themselves aren’t always illegal, or even undesirable. Natural monopolies exist where it makes sense to have one firm achieve the requisite scale to invest and offer services at a reasonable price. But the tradeoff is heavy regulation. Florida Power & Light serves ten million people; its parent company, NextEra Energy, has a market cap of $72 billion. However, pricing and service standards are regulated by people who are fiduciaries for the public.

The Four, by contrast, have managed to preserve their monopoly-like powers without heavy regulation. I describe their power as “monopoly-like,” since, with the possible exception of Apple, they have not used their power to do the one thing that most economists would describe as the whole point of assembling a monopoly, which is to raise prices for consumers.

Nevertheless, the Four’s exploitation of our knee-jerk antipathy to big government has been so effective that it’s led most of us to forget that competition—no less than private property, wage labor, voluntary exchange, and a price system—is one of the indispensable cylinders of the capitalist engine. Their massive size and unchecked power have throttled competitive markets and kept the economy from doing its job—namely, to promote a vibrant middle class.

Not all of us, Mr. Walsh, have a “knee-jerk antipathy towards big government.”  Some of us have a thoughtful, carefully-considered antipathy towards big government, and part and parcel of that antipathy is due to people like you flipping over to the side of more Imperial intrusion at any perceived “wrong” on the part of private enterprise.

If you don’t like Amazon, don’t use it.  If you don’t like iPhones, don’t buy one.  If you don’t like Google, use another search engine.  If you don’t like Microsoft, set up a computer on Linux.  There are alternatives to all of these things that Mr. Walsh decries as the “Big Four,” and what’s more, more will arise.  Nobody had heard of Microsoft before about 1984, and in another thirty years, Microsoft may well have been supplanted by some other software company with products that appeal to more people – you know, in the marketplace.

In the meantime, Mr. Walsh would be well advised, if he wants to continue to claim to advocate for liberty and free markets, to stop calling for Imperial power to shut down private enterprises.  It’s not the role of government to pick winners and losers in the marketplace – it is the place of consumers.  Hands off my free market!

Rule Five Rockin’ Friday

This Friday I thought I’d do something different.  Enough serious stuff has gone down lately that I thought I’d do a culture post, and by “culture” I mean “shit I’m familiar with.”  So here, interspersed with the usual Friday Rule Five totty, are a list of twenty of my favorite classic rock songs, with a few of my comments.  Note that this isn’t necessarily the top twenty, just twenty that would be on any of my classic rock playlists.  Comments and additions are welcome.

  1. Paradise by the Dashboard Light, Meat Loaf

A concert staple by the big guy, generally featuring Richard Thomas’s (John-Boy Walton) wife (!) in the co-starring role.  Every kid that went to high school in the Seventies knows well the meanings in this song.

2. Stairway to Heaven, Led Zeppelin

Maybe the greatest rock & roll song ever created, at least from the standpoint of the influence it had on the music scene.  Every garage band in the country has covered Stairway at some point.  I say this even though it’s not my favorite Led Zep tune; I like Kashmir, The Immigrant Song and Dazed and Confused more.

3. Hotel California, Eagles

The Eagles were a big deal back in the day, and while they did some songs that I liked better in some ways (See Stairway, above) like the haunting Desperado, this is the song that they are remembered for.

4.  Tangled Up in Blue, Bob Dylan

All I can say about this is that it’s the best song written and performed by America’s Songwriter.

5.  Bohemian Rhapsody, Queen

Seriously, if you’re over 40 you can’t listen to this song and not picture the famous Wayne’s World scene.  Still, the best song by a ground-breaking band – and I would also recommend Weird Al Yankovic’s cover of it, Bohemian Polka, which is priceless.

6.  Carry On Wayward Son, Kansas

A rare one, this; Kansas had a few good tunes but were never on the level of a Led Zeppelin or Aerosmith.  But Carry On is a masterwork, a huge, rocking epic tune.

7.  Dream On, Aerosmith

I was fortunate enough to see this one performed live once, as I remember in 1979.  Aerosmith’s music runs the gamut from fun to thoughtful to hardcore, but Dream On was probably their masterwork.

8.  American Pie, Don McLean

This may well be the greatest ode to American rock music ever written.  As with Stairway, almost every garage band in the Seventies would cover this song, and why not?  It’s got a good tune, shades of meaning that no two people interpret the same way; it’s deep blue Americana.

9.  Frankenstein, Edgar Winter

Edgar Winter, a musical prodigy, played several instruments; on this massive instrumental tune alone the world’s greatest albino rocker played synthesizer, electric piano, saxophone and timbales.  The synthesizer portion of this song was an odd one even for the Seventies; my friends and I referred to it as “electric pigs.”

10.  Dreams I’ll Never See, Molly Hatchet

This is actually a cover of an Allman Brothers tune, but it’s on the list of covers done better than the originals.  Molly Hatchet was one of the best southern rock bands, and Dreams was one of their best releases.

11.  YYZ, Rush

Some of the best percussion work ever done is found in this song, even more so in live cuts than in the studio single.  Neal Peart stands alone.

12.  Edge of Seventeen, Stevie Nicks

Stevie Nicks isn’t know for slam-bam rock & roll, but in her first solo album, she proved she could keep up with anyone in the genre.  Edge was the tune that proved she had some rock & roll chops, after all the fluff and flutter of Fleetwood Mac.

13.  Barracuda, Heart

Ann and Nancy Wilson probably broke a few glass ceilings while Her Imperial Majesty was still taking cattle-futures payoffs in Arkansas.  I had a hard time choosing one of their tunes for the list, but finally settled on the hard-hitting Barracuda as the best showcase for their talents.

14.  Free Bird, Lynyrd Skynyrd

While it’s Skynyrd’s best tune, in the Seventies it was probably the single most-requested song at every wedding reception, anywhere.

15.  Stage Fright, The Band

Probably the best song by one of the best bands ever; Robbie Danko’s great vocals led the way for a tune that was all about finding joy in performing.

16.  We’re an American Band, Grand Funk Railroad

What more could you ask for in an essentially American rock & roll song?

17.  I Love Rock & Roll, Joan Jett

Along with Lita Ford in The Runaways, Joan Jett pioneered the genre of bad-girl rock.  While Lita sort of faded after The Runaways, Joan went on to carry the genre by herself for a while, and I Love Rock & Roll was her paen to an era.

18.  Funk #49, James Gang

Beginning with a signature guitar riff, Funk goes on to lay down some not-too-impressive lyrics supported by some great guitar work by Ronnie Silverman.  It’s a fun song that had us reaching to turn the car stereo’s volume dial up back in the day.

19.  You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet, Bachman-Turner Overdrive

While this song probably did not inspire a famous comment by President Reagan, it did have BTO’s signature sound, and lyrics that were good fun.

20.  Bang a Gong (Get It On), T. Rex

Nothing deep or thoughtful about this one; it’s just good fun.  A good solid rock & roll song with decent guitar work, decent vocals, and a theme that appeals to those very youths upon which youth is wasted – like yr. obdt. at seventeen.

Honorable mentions (I knew I’d never be able to hold it at 20):

1.  Tush, ZZTop.

This song summed up the weekend aspirations of every teenage boy in the Seventies, and got no small amount of play for that reason.  It’s also a great representative piece from an iconic Texas band in their heyday.

2.   Rock and Roll All Nite, Kiss

Honestly I wasn’t a big fan of Kiss when they first came on the music scene.  I thought that rather than being iconic, their signature makeup just detracted from the music, and I’ve always been one to favor good tunes over fancy showmanship.  Still, this is a good solid tune.

3.  Peaches en Regalia, Frank Zappa

Zappa was several kinds of musical genius; he wrote and conducted freakin’ symphonies, for crying out loud.  But he was also one of the greatest guitar players ever, and always seemed most at home on a stage in front of a big, dozen-or-so piece band.  Peaches shows off the unique genius that was Zappa amazingly well; a variable instrumental that combined a big-band sound with Zappa’s own signature style.

4.  Abracadabra, Steve Miller Band

For the most part, despite having plenty of radio play back in the day, Steve Miller was for the most part only so-so.  This song, though, while distinctly Steve Miller’s style, managed to be a good solid tune musically, even if the lyrics were kind of weak.

As always, feedback, comments and suggestions are welcome.

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