No extra notes this morning. A red-eye to Denver and then an early flight to Des Moines beckons, and I’ve other work to get to before heading to the airport. So stand ready! Here comes the Wednesday usual.
No extra notes this morning. A red-eye to Denver and then an early flight to Des Moines beckons, and I’ve other work to get to before heading to the airport. So stand ready! Here comes the Wednesday usual.
I’ve written before about the possibility of small, modular nuclear reactors and their possible use in providing clean, reliable electricity to remote communities – like, say, much of Alaska. Here’s another interesting piece on that topic.
SMRs are advanced nuclear reactors that have a power capacity of up to 300 MW(e) per unit, equivalent to around one-third the generating capacity of a traditional nuclear reactor. SMRs are much smaller than traditional reactors and are modular, making it simpler for them to be assembled in factories and transported to site. Because of their smaller size, it is possible to install an SMR on sites that are not suitable for bigger reactors.
If these live up to expectations, they could be game-changers for small rural communities. But that’s a pretty big ‘if’ – and don’t underestimate the odds of the government regulating them out of existence.
Best line in a story this past week:
Children can go to California to have their bodies irrevocably altered by surgery and be pumped full of drugs that could cause health issues in the immediate and distant future that could ruin their lives. Crime is rampant and the streets are full of homeless encampments, needles, and human waste. The term “Golden State” could soon refer to the fact that everyone there has contracted hepatitis. BUT the kids will be safe because they can’t get a bag of Skittles.
Read Lincoln Brown’s take on this stupidity here. ‘Nuff said.
RIP, Ray Stevenson. I’ll always remember him as Titus Pullo in HBO’s amazing series Rome.
Can California be turned red again? Color me skeptical, but still…
The Supreme Court makes a 9-0 ruling (Sackett v. EPA) and Democrats immediately start lying about it. Hey, you jackasses, look up the difference between “concurring” and “dissent.”
This will be interesting to watch. Full disclosure: I’m on Team DeSantis, but if Trump gets the nomination, I’ll vote for him. The alternative is unthinkable.
I remember when sitzpinkler was an insult. Hell, I live out in the woods. I pee outside more than in the house. Kind of hard for a dude to sit for that.
My friend Brandon Morse has an excellent piece on Memorial Day. Yes, that’s me in the comments.
The Nation’s D.D. Guttenplan & John Nichols (Repeat Offender Alert) are both idiots. Biden doesn’t need to remake his candidacy – he needs to resign, for the good of the republic.
Back in the day – and still today, in fact – one of the most powerful male singers was the Welsh master Tom Jones. He projected his voice like few today can, and he also combined style and class with talent.
One of his best-known tunes is actually a cover of Paul Anka’s 1970 tune She’s a Lady, but Jones, in 1971, recorded what would be far and away the most popular take on this song. Here, then, is that tune. Oh, and as a bonus, take a look at Tom Jones on the Ed Sullivan show in 1968, with his signature song It’s Not Unusual. Enjoy!
Now then: Take a look at this, just as an illustration of how brutal most of human history has been. Excerpt:
In a new paper published in the journal Scientific Reports, a team of scientists analyzed a collection of at least 12 severed hands found in an ancient Egyptian palace. The macabre trove (which would surely peak the interest of Wednesday Adams) may be the first physical evidence of a gruesome, militaristic ceremony.
Archaeologists originally unearthed the grisly find back in 2011. The hands were strewn in three pits in front of the throne room of a palace dated to around 1600 BC at Tell el-Dab’a in northeastern Egypt. This would have been during the century-long 15th Dynasty, when invading Hyksos from the Levant ruled the northern part of the country from their capital Avaris. Tell el-Dab’a is where Avaris once stood.
Here’s the interesting bit:
Hieroglyphs discovered in various locations dated to the second half of ancient Egypt’s roughly 3,000-year history hint that soldiers would sometimes present the severed right hands of defeated foes to the Pharaoh to garner the “gold of honor,” a prestigious reward that came in the form of a collar of golden beads. But it was hard to know whether these depictions portrayed an accurate or mythologized account of the past.
The new analysis of the severed hands leaves little doubt that the “gold of honor” ceremony actually occurred.
There’s a distinct tendency for folks to glamorize the past. But the simple fact is, as this discovery shows very plainly, the past was pretty damn gory and brutal. Romantic depictions aside, things like this – cutting off the hands (and other appendages) of defeated enemies wasn’t all that uncommon. And when it was done to appease a ruler, such as the Egyptian pharaohs – who were sort of “god-kings” – well, all I can say is, fuck that whole notion, sideways!
Most of human history is replete with this kind of crap. We’ve been extremely fortunate over the last few decades; I’d like to think we’ll remain so fortunate. But recent events have me wondering. Make no mistake, True Believers; this is what we are in danger of slipping back to.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. The Mises Institute recently released Rome’s Runaway Inflation: Currency Devaluation in the Fourth and Fifth Centuries. Excerpts, with my comments, follow.
By the beginning of the fourth century, the Roman Empire had become a completely different economic reality from what it had been at the beginning of the first century. The denariusargenteus, the empire’s monetary unit during the first two centuries, had virtually disappeared since the middle of the third century, having been replaced by the argenteusantoninianus and the argenteusaurelianianus, numerals of greater theoretical value, but of less and less real value.
The public excesses in the civil and military budgets, the incessant bribes and gifts, the repeated tax increases, the growth of the state bureaucracy, and the continuous requisitions of goods and precious metals had exhausted the Roman economy to incredible levels. To cap this disastrous reality, inflation had risen from 0.7 percent per year in the first and second centuries to 35.0 percent per year in the late third and early fourth centuries, impoverishing all social strata of the empire by leaps and bounds.
Holy crap! Does any of that seem familiar to you? There’s an old truism that states that ‘history may not always repeat, but it frequently rhymes.’ This is one of those cases. Almost every one of those issues in fourth-century Rome are also issues of twenty-first century America: Excessive government spending, corruption, the runaway growth of the Deep State, and inflation. And, as happened in Rome, none of these things are going away.
In 301, Diocletian sought to put an end to this out-of-control situation by promulgating the Edictum de pretiis rerum venalium (Edict Concerning the Prices of Goods for Sale), which prohibited, on pain of death, the raising of prices above a certain level for almost thirteen hundred essential products and services. In the preamble to the edict, economic agents were blamed for inflation, labeled as speculators and thieves, and compared to the barbarians who threatened the empire.
Most producers and intermediaries, therefore, opted to stop trading the goods they produced, to sell them on the black market, or even to use barter for commercial transactions. This weakening of supply drove real prices even higher, in an upward spiral that further deteriorated the complex Roman economic system. Just four years later, in 305, Diocletian himself, overwhelmed by his political and economic failures, abdicated in Nicomedia and retired to his palace in what is today Split, Croatia.
The Nixon Administration flirted with price and wage controls in the Seventies. A number of people on the political Left are advocating for the idea today. And, in some ways, wage controls are already here; what is a state-mandated minimum wage if not a wage control? As Diocletian did in 301, so the United States does today, moving increasingly towards central control.
During the fourth and fifth centuries, the Roman economy finally deteriorated completely, taking with it society and, consequently, the ambitions of the politicians of the time. The Roman Empire was now a failed and outdated project. The persistent excess of public spending between the first and third centuries forced Roman rulers to devalue the currency continuously. This chronic devaluation, together with the decline in population and economic activity throughout the third century, triggered price inflation throughout the empire, a phenomenon that the Romans did not know how to handle.
Roman rulers attempted to use harmful price controls in order to mitigate the decline in the effective purchasing power of the middle and lower classes. For instance, the Edictum de pretiis rerum venalium of 301 ended up withdrawing what little supply of products remained on the white market, making them more expensive on the black market. It is truly shocking to note how many politicians and populist parties of all ideological stripes continue to propose these same “remedies” even today.
The response to attempted market control is always the rise of black markets. The Soviet Union was notorious for goods and services being sold Nalevo, or “on the left,” in the thriving black markets that sprang up almost on the inception of the Soviet system. America has a thriving black market in recreational drugs. Market demands will always be met by supplies.
And that, True Believers, is the rub; currency, like any other commodity, is subject to the rules of supply and demand. When the currency supply is increased, the value decreases. When the currency is degraded, the (relative) price of every other commodity increases. Black markets will spring up, and barter will increasingly replace currency. That was the case in the Roman Empire, and it’s the case now.
Taken together, the aggregate effects of public overspending and inflation on the Roman economy in between the first and third centuries ultimately led to an unprecedented structural weakening of the economic capacity of fourth- and fifth-century society, reflected in the incompetence of its rulers and elites to hold the empire together in the face of external threats, which, to quote Ludwig von Mises himself, “were not more formidable than the armies which the legions had easily defeated in earlier times. But the Empire had changed. Its economic and social structure was already medieval.”
Now then: I’ve long been an admirer of the great Benjamin Franklin. I’m especially fond of his (apocryphal) quote, “beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” He was America’s first international celebrity; a publisher, editor, scientist, bon vivant, lady’s man and diplomat. Truly a Renaissance man. And now, from Kite & Key Productions, is a video making the case that Franklin gave rise to the spirit and character of America. Excerpt:
It’s a real testimony to America’s obsession with our Founding Fathers that nearly 250 years later … we’re still fixated on these guys. Alexander Hamilton gets the biggest Broadway show of all time. John Adams gets a best-selling book and an HBO series. George Washington gets … ok, for real though, does anyone know what this is supposed to be?
Now, those guys definitely deserve the attention, but let us put in a word for the man who gave us our name here at Kite & Key…
[Yeah, think about it for a second. Ok, got it? Good. Now you can stop sending us emails about it.]
That’s right, our guy: Benjamin Franklin. Now, we’re not gonna tell you that he’s the greatest American ever — everyone knows that’s Dolly Parton
— but he may just have been the most American American ever.
Here’s what we mean: Chances are that almost every trait you think of as part of our national character … is something you can find in the life of Benjamin Franklin.
America is a country where you can rise from nothing to achieve great things, right? Well, that describes Ben pretty well.
One of 17 children, his formal education only went up to the age of 10 — although people ended up calling him Dr. Franklin, because he nevertheless got an honorary doctorate from Oxford, in addition to honorary degrees from Yale and Harvard. And at 17, he got his start when he ran away from Boston — violating an employment contract with his own brother — to start a new life in Philadelphia.
So yeah, he started his career as a fugitive … also pretty American.
And in short order he turned into a big success. Between his newspaper, the Pennsylvania Gazette, and his best-selling book series, Poor Richard’s Almanac, Franklin did so well as a publisher that he was able to retire by the age of 42.
Benjamin Franklin wrote essays on farting. He recommended that young men married older women, citing “experience” and noting that “…all cats are grey in the dark.” When on a diplomatic mission to France during the Revolution, the widower Franklin reportedly cut quite a swath through the ladies of the court. He was a guy any red-blooded American today would love to set down and have a beer with.
The synopsis concludes:
So, yes, the father of our country was a strapping military man who carried himself with grace and dignity. The mind behind the Declaration of Independence belonged to a country gentleman with the heart of a poet. But the real seeds of our national character … go back to a fat dude with a mullet who just kinda did a little bit of everything. Which is about as American as it gets.
God, is this a great country or what?
It still is. It’s come a long ways since the days of Dr. Franklin, and not always in the right direction, but yes, it still is a great country.
Check out the video. It’s worth the watch.
I recently finished reading Peter Zeihan’s recent book The End of the World is Just the Beginning: Mapping the Collapse of Globalization, and I certainly found it thought-provoking. Mr. Zeihan is a senf-described Green, a “small-d” democrat, but primarily a researcher and geopolitical analyst, specializing in demographics – and regardless of Zeihan’s political leanings, demographics don’t lie. I recommend everyone read this work, and think on the conclusions presented therein. Selected excerpts, with my comments, follow.
Modern petrochemicals are responsible for the bulk of what we today consider “normal,” comprising the majority of the inputs in food packaging, medical equipment, detergents, coolants, footwear, tires, adhesives, sports equipment, luggage, diapers, paints, inks, chewing gum, lubricants, insulation, fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides, and the second-largest component of material inputs in paper, pharmaceuticals, clothes, furniture, construction, glass, consumer electronics, automotive, home appliances, and furnishings. Oil-derived transport fuels do constitute the majority of oil use – nearly three-fifths, to be specific – but petrochemicals account for a full one-fifth. That’s about as much as the Persian Gulf exports in a typical year.
Peter Zeihan may describe himself as a “Green,” but he is not blind to the role petrochemicals pay in our modern society. And it is the end of our modern society that he writes of; he is predicting a major demographic crisis, one that will bring the existing global order to an end to be replaced by something… else.
But there’s a bright spot in Peter Zeihan’s reckoning. Sort of. The United States. Yep, us – with our 31 trillion in unfunded debt, with an entire generation (mine, the Baby Boomers) about to retire en masse, with our own dysfunctional government, with a deep state run amok – we are the bright spot.
So, yes, American Boomers aging into mass retirement will break the bank. But between their smaller relative size as compared to global norms and their offspring’s increasing contribution to the government’s bottom line, their financial hammer blows are nothing compared to the meteor swarm of challenges that will utterly destroy the governing systems of countries as diverse as China, Korea, Japan, Thailand, Brazil, Germany, Italy, Poland, Russia and Iran. Meanwhile, American Millennials’ very existence means the United States will at least in part recover from its financial crunch in the 2030s, and probably its labor crunch in the 2040s. But for the rest of the world, it will never get better than it was in the 2010s. Never.
In Zeihan’s view – a view I share – much of the world is about to succumb to a demographic crisis. But in this book he lays out all the implications of that demographic crisis, including the global collapse of markets, of supply chains, of transports, of the entire world marketplace; in other words, the end of globalization. The US is well-placed, as our demographic crisis is not as severe as most of the developing and developed world, as well as vast territory and ample resources, many of which we have left untapped.
Zeihan also sees the end of the Pax Americana, a world in which the United States largely withdraws from enforcing the global peace. Consider the implications of that; the United States Navy currently maintains safe travels for all shipping in the world’s oceans. Withdrawal of that guarantee, and global shipping will greatly decrease, in the face of hostile nations and even piracy.
I’m not so sure about the latter. Both major political parties seem willing to keep shoveling billions of taxpayer dollars into Ukraine, unfairly invaded by the dying giant Russia but also one of the most deeply and fundamentally corrupt governments in Europe.
The air wings of those ships alone pack more striking power than all the air forces of the rest of the world combined.
Granted much of our military is a woke mess right now, but that can be fixed; that must be fixed.
The demographic problems, though, are headed our way. China, in the next fifty years, may cease to exist as a nation. Ditto Russia. And while Zeihan writes of the demise of Europe as a discrete set of cultures, he does not discuss what is likely to replace it; a Muslim caliphate, courtesy of the EU’s unchecked immigration policies and generous social welfare programs.
I recommend reading this book. You may not agree with all of Peter Zeihan’s conclusions; I don’t. But it’s worth reading, and thinking about, nonetheless.
Recently, in a discussion over the newly-minted King Charles III’s multi-billion dollar inheritance, British royal commentator Hillary Fordwich had some interesting remarks when CNN commenterdroid Don Lemon asked her about using some of that wealth for “reparations.” Here, watch:
— Tom Elliott (@tomselliott) September 20, 2022
In case you don’t want to watch Don Lemon beclown himself in that video – I can’t blame you – here’s the text of her reply, from the story linked above:
Her response was epic. After initially giving the impression that she agreed with Lemon, she schooled him royally.
“Well, I think you’re right about reparations in terms of if people want it, though, what they need to do is you always need to go back to the beginning of a supply chain,” Fordwich replied. “Where was the beginning of the supply chain? That was in Africa, and when it crossed the entire world, when slavery was taking place, which was the first nation in the world that abolished slavery? The first nation world to abolish it, it was started by William Wilberforce, was the British. In Great Britain, they abolished slavery.”
She continued, “Two thousand naval men died on the high seas trying to stop slavery. Why? Because the African kings were rounding up their own people, they had them on cages waiting in the beaches. No one was running into Africa to get them. And I think you’re totally right.”
The look on Lemon’s face was priceless. Fordwich succeeded in agreeing with him, although for different reasons than he was obviously suggesting. And she wasn’t done with the lesson.
“If reparations need to be paid, we need to go right back to the beginning of that supply chain and say, ‘Who was rounding up their own people and having them handcuffed in cages?’ Absolutely. That’s where they should start. And maybe, I don’t know, the descendants of those families where they died at the, in the high seas trying to stop the slavery, that those families should receive something too, I think, at the same time.”
After she was done, Lemon sat there, stunned for several seconds, before responding, “It’s an interesting discussion, Hillary, Thank you very much, I appreciate it.”
In plain English – American style English, that is – Don Lemon just got his ass handed to him. In thin slices.
In 1800, slavery was legal pretty much everywhere. I’d like to think that it would have eventually been outlawed in the civilized world even if Great Britain had not led the way, but the fact is that they did, and the fact also is that a lot of African slaves were sold into slavery by their own people. The fact also is that this is a practice than continues in sub-Saharan Africa to this day.
But that doesn’t fit The Narrative. And shallow, weak thinkers like Don Lemon are all about The Narrative. Once in a while, it’s nice to see that exposed.
Now then: Bob Riel’s Quest for the Presidency: The Storied and Surprising History of Presidential Campaigns in America presents an interesting picture of the history of Presidential elections and what the 2024 contest might look like. Excerpt:
Among elections of more recent history, that of 1968 is likely the best-known. There was a Hollywood movie about it just last year, concerning the riots at the 1968 Democrat National Convention in Chicago. These protests showed how deeply divided the Democratic Party was over the Vietnam War; though the party nominated Vice President Hubert Humphrey, many Democrats opposed President Lyndon Johnson’s policies on Vietnam. But most readers will not know or remember that both parties saw tumultuous primary seasons that year, that Mitt Romney’s father ran in the Republican primary, or that controversial segregationist George Wallace ran as a third-party candidate, trying to outflank both GOP nominee Richard Nixon and Humphrey on issues such as civil rights and economics. Riel details how Wallace knew that he could not win but understood that if he could garner 10-15 percent of the popular vote nationally, he might deny either candidate a majority in the Electoral College. From there, the race would be decided by the House of Representatives, which could put Wallace in position to play kingmaker, since he would have congressional allies in the Southern state delegations. Wallace won only five states in the end, however, and failed to accomplish his goal.
Riel uses these stories to demonstrate how often political realignments happen through elections, such as the 1860 election that established the Republicans as a major party, or the 1932 election that helped enshrine the idea that the federal government had a duty to help people in need. Sometimes an election’s consequences don’t become apparent until years later. Barry Goldwater lost big in 1964, but 16 years later, Ronald Reagan won decisively on the platform that Goldwater had introduced.
Riel also stresses that the United States is going through a tumultuous political period. He recognizes that presidential elections will continue to be divisive and produce strong emotions on both sides, but the country has held elections through wars, riots, and economic collapse. Past elections can offer useful lessons as we grapple with today’s challenges.
While the article is interesting – and the book is now on my ‘to-read’ list – I’m not sure how predictive an analysis of previous elections, especially presidential elections, will prove to be in 2024. Why? Well, I’m a-gonna tell you.
First, we’re dealing with something new here: A sitting President that is clearly and unarguably impaired, who nevertheless insists he will seek re-election. There are good odds he’ll be removed from office for one reason or another before 2024, but his replacement will be a cackling imbecile whose approval ratings are about as high as syphilis.
We’re also dealing with an abrasive billionaire who managed to rock the political class back on its heels in 2016 who is likely to try to Grover Cleveland himself into another term. While his first term was good for the economy, he faced brutal non-stop attacks from the legacy media and agents of the Democratic party (but I repeat myself) and while he promised to “drain the swamp,” the swamp seems to have survived his first four years just fine.
The field may well welcome a wild card in 2024. In any case, this year’s mid-terms may give something of a preview.
Over at PJ Media, Rabbi Michael Barclay had some interesting things to say about current affairs. Excerpt:
A criminal is wrongfully killed, and “peaceful demonstrations,” which are actually violent riots, break out nationwide. The flag of a radical and violent group is placed next to the national flag on government buildings. Out of fear of being canceled and losing business, individuals and corporations succumb to publicly supporting this violent organization. Mandated behavior is compelled upon threat of arrest by the political elite and leadership. Despite objections from parents, schools begin teaching an alternative “history” and embrace prejudice, anti-Semitism, and sexual permissiveness as part of the school curriculum.
A President overreaches and takes on “emergency powers,” which create an authoritarian regime that demands supportive behavior and calls any criticism “disinformation.” A new agency of the government is created to “fight this disinformation”… an agency that even has access to armed personnel. This new agency is led by a fanatic who is arguably delusional in their own self-perception and fully committed to stopping the dissemination of any information that is not part of the authoritarian narrative. And through it all the media is a willing accomplice, even striking against other media outlets that try to present opposing views.
Sound like a brief recap of the recent past in this country?
The challenge is that this is actually a description of the development of the Nazi regime in Germany almost a century ago.
If this scares you, it should.
It’s been said that history may not always repeat, but it often rhymes.
Of course, there’s a reason that Godwin’s Law is a thing. And the Left is far, far more prone to falling afoul of this than the Right; after any significant event in the political world, you can almost set your watch by the hysterical screech of “Nazi!” that follows. But there’s a difference between the late Weimar Republic and our current situation today, and that can be summed up in one word:
Say what you will about the Germans in the Nazi Party in the 1930s, but they weren’t stupid. They knew what they wanted and they were willing to climb over piles of bodies to get there. Whereas the current political Left in our country right now is about at the Keystone Kops level of ability. Hell, for that matter, when you’re talking Congress, most of the Right is little better.
Our current political class is much more likely to stumble us into ruin that deliberately direct us there. But when you consider the likely destination, how much difference does that make?