Category Archives: Totty
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Rule Five Civil War Friday
I’ve spilled some pixels on the topic of a second civil war in the United States before. While I still think (hope) the prospect is unlikely, I recently stumbled across a post from one Matthew Bracken, author of Enemies Foreign And Domestic, Domestic Enemies – The Reconquista, and Foreign Enemies And Traitors, about the CW2 “Cube,” which although written in 2010, still makes some very good points. Note: In this post I won’t talk about the likelihood of a civil war, but instead, as in the point of Mr. Bracken’s analysis, how the factions would likely split up. He points out:
Before we move on to the cube, let’s begin with the CW2 Square. The cube is best tackled in another step. Draw the square and label one axis Poorer to Richer. Label the other axis Darker to Lighter. Darker, for brevity, includes African-Americans, Hispanics and so on. Lighter refers to those of European ancestry. The two opposed meta-groups are the poorer and darker versus the richer and lighter, or whiter if you wish to be blunt. The richer/whiter have the power of their wealth, but counterbalancing that advantage is the fact that the poorer/darker have succeeded in wresting control of much of government power. This is so, even if most of their elected leaders are anything but poor or dark.
Note that these are really, really broad categories. In 1980 I may have been more optimistic that the racial angle would be far less significant than the wealth angle, but after a few decades of ever-more-strident race-baiting by the Left, I’m no longer so sanguine. But let’s move on to the cube, which is the part I really find interesting:
Now, let’s add the third dimension and shoot another axis out from the square to form the CW2 Cube. Label the third axis Urban versus Rural, or City versus Country if you prefer. This axis gives a geographical dimension to the meta-terrain, but there will be no convenient dividing line between the opposed sides as there was during the first civil war. It has frequently been observed that today’s red-blue political map is better understood at the county than at the state level. Even blue states like Illinois, California and New York are rural-red outside of their blue urban cores. Obviously, these urban cores are heavily populated but geographically small, with all that means to the electoral process today and to a possible civil war later.
So the opposing corners of the CW2 Cube can be seen as the poorer, darker cities versus the richer, whiter rural areas. Again, don’t quibble about outliers. Yes, there are a few rich, conservative African-Americans living in Wyoming, many poor white liberal Democrats in rural West Virginia, some rich conservatives in San Francisco and every other exceptional case imaginable.
Here’s the cube (click to embiggen):
Now look at how that falls out. Wealth, sure, color, sure, but also – and I think that now, in 2023, the bigger divide – is urban/rural. Too many in the big cities have started viewing us crazy rednecks who own lots of guns and live out in the woods as a threat, and too many of us crazy rednecks are increasingly distrustful of the big cities and their denizens – not to mention resentful when they wag their fingers at us and try to tell us how to live. Mr. Bracken continues:
Most of us live in the mushy, mongrel middle, far from the tips of the two opposite corners. But the centers of gravity of Civil War Two shall be as I have described: the relatively richer, whiter and more rural against the poorer, darker and urban. One can also propose many more axes of conflict than can fit on a cube, such as the religious versus the non-believers, socialists versus capitalists, statists versus individualists and so on. However, after you reflect upon the CW2 Cube, I think you will find that most of these extra axes can be overlaid parallel to one of the three already posited.
Bear in mind that this was written in 2010. Almost every aggravating factor that Mr. Bracken describes has gotten worse, not better, since then. The corners of the cubes have mostly drawn farther away from each other. The people in those segments are increasingly polarized against each other.
We always say “it can’t happen here.” I’m still thinking a hot civil war unlikely, although I’m thinking the odds of such a thing are increasing. But people in Bosnia in the Nineties thought the same thing:
After the fact, a common sentiment heard from urbane, secular Bosnians living in the Olympic City of Sarajevo expressed complete disbelief that a brutal, bloody civil war could have come to their modern European city and tear their lives apart.
But it did.
A parting suggestion to students of modern civil war is to read “Seasons in Hell: Understanding Bosnia’s War” by the British journalist Ed Vulliamy. It’s currently collecting dust at your local public library, waiting only to be read.
Forewarned is forearmed.
It is indeed.
Mrs. Animal and I are indeed fortunate to have our rural home in the great Alaskan Susitna Valley. We know all our neighbors well. Almost all of them are hunters. Almost all of them are armed. We’re far enough away from any major city – even Anchorage – that the “troubles” won’t impinge us directly. But they will hit us indirectly, as we are dependent on the Forty-Eight for so many things, from manufactured goods to fresh fruit. Not to mention that our children and grandchildren are all down there, although not in major cities.
A second civil war would be catastrophic. It would be fought not on distant fields, not by massive armies maneuvering against each other in open country. It will be fought in the streets, in the towns, amongst us in ways no other war has touched us since the Revolution, and if similar conflicts are any indication – see not only Bosnia but also the Spanish Civil War – it will result in hatreds that will last generations. A second civil war would be the end of the United States as we know it, and it’s unlikely anything that arises out of the ashes will have any respect for individual rights and liberties.
I’d like to say the more we know, the better able we are to avoid all this. Problem is, too many folks either don’t want to know – or don’t care. As Yeats said:
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
I’d rather not see that happen here. But I am aware of the possibility that my druthers may not be taken into account.
Rule Five Nuclear Threshold Friday
Russia Matters’ analyst Kevin Ryan thinks Putin may order the use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine:
Many Western experts say they take the threat of a Russian nuclear strike in Ukraine seriously but make the mistake of asserting that the odds are low. The result is that many officials view the problem of tactical nuclear weapons as serious but not urgent. Earlier this month, U.S. Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines told a Senate hearing that Putin’s weakened conventional force would make him more reliant on “asymmetric options,” including nuclear capabilities, for deterrence, but that it was “very unlikely” that Moscow would use nuclear weapons in its war against Ukraine. Speaking at the same hearing, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier, also assessed the chances as “unlikely.”
In fact, the evidence is strong that the problem is urgent and I argue that Putin will use a tactical nuclear weapon in his war in Ukraine. Western leaders need not wonder about Putin’s nuclear-use red lines and how to avoid crossing them while supporting Ukraine, in my view. Putin is not waiting for a misstep by the West. He has been building the conditions for nuclear use in Ukraine since early in the war and is ready to use a nuclear weapon whenever he decides, most likely in response to his faltering military’s inability to escalate as much as he wishes by conventional means. This article will not consider exhaustively what may prompt Putin’s decision, but we should not fool ourselves by thinking we can prevent it. Instead, we should prepare responses for a new world in which the nuclear genie is out of the bottle.
I’m not sure I agree. Putin is a creature of the Cold War, and while apparatchik he has been and apparatchik he may be, but the use of nuclear weapons throughout the Cold War was a big, shiny red line that nobody wanted to cross. And I’m skeptical in the extreme that Putin has any notion that once that bottle is uncorked, there will be anything much left in the way of control – and the nuclear-armed world, I remind you readers, includes such wildly unstable regimes as North Korea and, in the near future and thanks largely to Barack Obama, Iran. Indeed, if Iran manages to build a working nuke, I think they will use it in short order, with Tel Aviv the likely target – and any reservations they may have about that will be off the table if Putin has given them a precedent.
Skeptical as I am, though, I’m reluctant to say that this is an impossible scenario. If Russian forces are being pushed back, and Putin sees the necessity of a win for his political (or maybe even physical) survival, well, desperate men are known to take desperate actions. And Putin isn’t the most stable guy on the table. As for the U.S. response, if any? Well, Putin isn’t the most dementia-raddled guy on the table, either. I suspect the response of the Biden(‘s handlers) Administration will be no more than a strongly worded letter.
Speaking of that, Mr. Ryan concludes:
As soon as Russia uses a nuclear weapon in Ukraine, the “fallout” will begin and spread. Tens of thousands of Ukrainians will be dead, suffering or dealing with the effects of the nuclear explosion. Hundreds of millions of Europeans will be bracing for war. But 7 billion others around the globe will go about their business, alarmed to be sure, but physically unaffected by a nuclear explosion in Ukraine. This last outcome of a Russian tactical nuclear strike may ultimately be the most dangerous to the international order. The image that many people have of nuclear arms as civilization-ending weapons will be erased. In its place, people will see these weapons as normal and, although tragic, acceptable in war. Just a “bigger bullet.” It is in this dramatically changed context that the United States will have to decide how to respond.
In this Mr. Ryan is correct. If Putin pops a nuke, even a low-yield tactical nuke over, say, a big assembly area or a major logistics base, then it may well be Katie-bar-the-door, and the world as we know if irrevocably changed. I would not care to be in Seoul or Tel Aviv were this to happen.
No regular post today, as I have early medical appointments down in Wasilla this morning, then I’m taking Mrs. Animal out on the town for a nice lunch on this, our 31st anniversary. Regular posts resume tomorrow on Rule Five Friday. To ease the sting of my playing hooky, here is some totty from the archives.
Rule Five Ninth Annual Commencement Speech Friday
It’s that time of year again, when high school and college graduates all over the country are trying on caps and gowns and making post-graduation plans. Today, for the ninth year, I will present here my own carefully prepared commencement speech to those grads – presented here because there’s damn little chance of my being asked to deliver it in person to a group of impressionable yutes.
So, here it is. Enjoy.
“Graduates of the Class of 2023, let me be the first to extend to you my congratulations on this, your day of entry into reality.
For the last four years you have been working towards this goal, towards this day. That’s a good thing. One of the most important skills you will ever need, one of the most important ways to achieve success in the world into which you are about to enter, is the ability to formulate goals, to plan how to achieve those goals, and to see things through until you reach those goals. Today you’ve shown you can do that. Congratulations and good job.
Now, before you go out to enjoy the rest of this day, before you go out to celebrate this goal you have achieved, let me tell you a few harsh truths about the world you’re entering. I’m not going to give you any trigger warnings; if you can’t handle what I’m about to say, there’s damn little future for you out there in the real world, so cowboy up. Moments ago I congratulated you on your day of entry into reality, so to get you started off right, here is a hefty dose of reality for you.
In spite of what you may have been told during all your years of education, nobody owes you anything, and you aren’t special. Any perceived ‘need’ you may have does not entitle you to anything – most especially, not to one red cent of the product of anyone else’s effort. If any of your professors have told you that, then they are economic illiterates, moral frauds or outright charlatans.
Our wonderful Constitution, which has stood for well over two hundred years as the founding document of our Republic, guarantees you the opportunity to your pursuit of happiness. It does not require anyone to provide you the means to your happiness at their expense. You and you alone are responsible for your own life. You have no moral claim on anyone else’s productivity. Accept that fact and you are already one step ahead of most of your peers.
You are entitled to what you have earned through your own efforts, and not:
If you are accepting a degree today in LGBT Studies, or Women’s Studies, or any of the other assorted bullshit Underwater Dog Polishing degrees our universities crank out today, then you have my sympathies. You are the victim of a fraud perpetrated by our university system, a vicious and cynical fraud that has resulted in you spending a lot of money for no gain. But more importantly, you are the victim of your own poor judgement. You decided to pursue a useless degree, and now you’re stuck. Here is another harsh reality: You are responsible for your own situation. It’s not anybody else’s fault. Nobody else is responsible. You are.
Your university experience had one goal – producing a young adult with marketable skills, someone who can provide value to an employer and to the economy. In this your university has failed, and in choosing this degree, so did you. You have relegated yourself to uselessness in the workplace, and when a few years from now you are working as a barista or checkout clerk and crying over your six figures of student debt, remember what I said a few moments ago: You and you alone are responsible for your own life. You made a decision; now you get to deal with the consequences of that decision. Pull yourself up, look around at the other opportunities around you, and figure a way out of this mess your youthful indiscretion has landed you in.
But you still have one thing going for you. You have shown that you can set yourself a goal and achieve it. Do so now.
So, where do you go from here?
Because nobody owes you anything, including a living, one of the tasks ahead of you now is finding gainful employment. If you’re going to find employment, it will only be because you can demonstrate to the employer that you can provide value to him or her in excess of your costs of employment. Employment is an economic transaction. In any free market transaction, both parties have to realize a perceived gain in value or the transaction won’t happen. If a prospective employer doesn’t think you’re able to provide value to his/her business in excess of your cost of employment, which includes not only your salary but all the extra taxes, fees and other various government extortion that you never see in your pay stub – then they won’t hire you. So be able to present yourself as someone who can provide value, in whatever field you have been studying these last few years.
Once you have gained that employment, once you are in the workplace, remember these three rules for success:
Show up a little earlier than the other guy,
Work a little harder than the other guy,
Never pass up a chance to learn something new.
Words that should never pass your lips include such things as “that’s not my job,” and “I don’t have time for that.” Your reputation in the workplace should be, to put it bluntly, the one who can get shit done. Results matter. Be the one that the boss can count on. Be the one who brings things in on time. Be the one who finishes the job. Be the one that produces value and you will never have to worry about where your next meal is coming from.
Bear in mind also that you are entering the workforce as a tablua rasa as far as potential employers are concerned. You’re not going to leave these halls and be CEO of General Motors. You will be working in an entry level job, probably not making a lot of money, probably doing work your longer-term co-workers don’t want to do. Suck it up. There are no lousy jobs, only lousy people. Any work that produces value is worth doing. How do you know if your work is producing value? The answer to that is trivially easy: If someone is willing to pay you to do the work, then you are producing value. Bear in mind also that the job belongs to the employer, not to you, and if you don’t meet the employer’s expectations, someone else will.
How do you meet those expectations? Better yet, how do you exceed them? When you are doing that job, keep these things in mind:
Be known for your integrity. Don’t say anything you don’t believe and don’t make promises you can’t deliver on. Your employers and co-workers must know you as the person who means what you say and who delivers on your promises.
Be known for your reliability. Show up on time, every day, for every event. Show up on time for meetings. Your employers and co-workers must know you as the person who will always be there when you’re needed.
Be known for your responsibility. If you take on a task, finish it. If you commit to a timeline, meet it. If you accept responsibility for something, own it. It’s yours. Don’t expect anyone else to take care of it for you. Your employers and co-workers must know you as the person who, when put in charge, takes charge.
Be known for your dependability. Plan your tasks to bring them in on schedule. If that means long hours, work them. If that means working a Saturday, work it. Your employers and co-workers must know you as the person who can get the job done.
Success isn’t a mysterious thing. It’s not that elusive and it’s not even all that hard. I did it, and you can too, but it does involve one four-letter word:
Thomas Edison once said “people often fail to recognize opportunity when it knocks, because it usually shows up in overalls and looks like work.” At these commencement events it’s common to be told to follow your dreams, and that’s nice, flowery stuff, but in most cases nobody is going to pay you to follow your dreams. They will pay you to produce value, and that means work. Follow your dreams on your own time.
Finally, I will leave you all with some unsolicited advice:
All through your life, people will promise you things. Most of them won’t deliver. Many of those people will be people seeking political office, and many more of them will be people pushing some sort of supposed business opportunity. Some years ago the science fiction writer Robert Heinlein observed a fundamental law of the universe, which law is represented by the acronym TANSTAAFL: There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch. Remember that; if someone offers you something for nothing, they are lying. If someone is offering you something at someone else’s expense, they are offering to commit theft on your behalf. The only moral answer to such offers is outright refusal.
There are only three types of economic transactions and only one of those – a free, unfettered, voluntary exchange of value – is morally acceptable. If a transaction is done by force, that is theft. If a transaction is done by deceit, that is fraud. Have no interaction with anyone who advocates either.
Accept responsibility for your own successes. Accept responsibility for your own failures. Learn from both. Rely on yourself. Rely on your own skills, your own abilities. Many other people will let you down, but you can always rely on yourself.
In her epic novel Atlas Shrugged, author Ayn Rand presents the protagonist, John Galt, describing his decision to solve society’s troubles by an epic act of creative destruction. He describes the ultimate moment of his decision process with two sentences, two sentences which I have found more inspiring than any long-winded ethical or political monologue ever delivered since the times of Plato and Aristotle. These words are the very essence of the self-directed man of achievement:
‘I saw what had to be done. I went out to do it.’
Those are good words to live by. Now, today, you graduates see what has to be done.
Go out and do it.
Thank you and good luck.”
If anyone was offended by anything contained in this hypothetical speech, too damn bad.
Rule Five Understanding Crime Friday
Check out my latest column over at the American Free News Network! If you aren’t visiting that site daily, you should be.
Now then: I recently stumbled across a very interesting piece by Francis Menton over at the Manhattan Contrarian on understanding urban crime. It’s accepted that violent crime is a serious urban problem, but what’s not apparent, or at least not intuitive, is how concentrated most high-crime areas are. Read it all, but here are some highlights. As Mr. Menton points out:
What rural and suburban readers may be missing is an understanding of the extent to which serious and violent crime is concentrated in a handful of quite small areas. It is understandable that many people fail to appreciate this phenomenon, because it is difficult to find good information on the subject. The press almost completely misses the issue, when not intentionally burying it. The mainstream sources will not report on the concentration of violent crime in a few areas because they think (correctly) that accurate reporting on this subject will reflect badly on minority communities; and the conservative sources are afraid to appear racist, and are mostly happy to report city-wide crime statistics as sufficiently demonstrating the disaster of governance by progressive Democrats.
This much is, of course, accurate. While I live in a rural setting now (you don’t get much more rural than the Susitna Valley) and grew up in a rural setting (you also don’t get much more rural than Allamakee County, Iowa) I did live in the suburbs of Denver for many years, and have done business in a wide range of urban settings, from Boston to Shanghai. I don’t trust cities and never will, and while I understand part of that is sheer bias on my part, not all of it is – but what many of us don’t get is how much violent crime happens in a few small areas.
Mr. Menton adds:
Here are some more data on crime concentration by geographic location, this time from Chicago:
[I]n 2019, the United States had a homicide rate collectively of about five per 100,000. Chicago that year . . . was close to about 18 per 100,000. If you look at just the 10 most dangerous neighborhoods in that city, it was over 60 per 100,000. If you look at the most dangerous neighborhood in that city, which was West Garfield Park in 2019, their homicide rate was 131 per 100,000. If you compare that to the 28 safest neighborhoods in the city of Chicago that year, their collective homicide rate was less than two per 100,000 for some of those neighborhoods or for a good chunk of those neighborhoods, the homicide rate was zero per 100,000.
Chicago had 630 homicides in 2022, for a rate of about 24 per 100,000. I think you can be sure that most to all of the neighborhoods that had zero murders in 2019 still had zero murders on 2022. Meanwhile, if West Garfield Park had an overall murder rate of 131 per 100,000, and almost all of the victims were from the one-eighth of the population that are young adult men, then the murder rate among young adult men would be over 1000 per 100,000 — more than 1% per year. Over a ten year period, that would give a young man in that neighborhood around a 10% chance of getting murdered.
What Mr. Fenton doesn’t get into is root causes. In fact I haven’t seen anyone do what I would consider to be a robust root cause analysis for this phenomenon. Remember, root cause is always at the point where a person or group of people made a decision (or several decisions) and Mr. Fenton concludes with some bad ones:
However, I should note that Bessette’s piece in the Claremont Review also includes a review of another book titled “What’s Prison For? Punishment and Rehabilitation in the Age of Mass Incarceration,” by Bill Keller. Keller is the former executive editor-in-chief of the New York Times, and now working at something called the Marshall Project. On his examination of the current state of our criminal justice system, Keller reaches more or less the opposite conclusions from myself and Mangual. A few quoted by Bessette:
“Decriminalize such minor crimes as ‘low-level drug offenses’; divert some criminals to ‘mental health and addiction programs, or probation or community service’; . . . ‘raise the age at which accused youngsters are subject to adult punishment’ . . . .”
I guess that Keller has been reading the crime coverage of his old newspaper, which makes a point of hiding from the readers everything important about what is happening.
So, were I to conduct a cause analysis here, one of the first cause/effect chains I’d look hard at is the ‘urban policy’ path. We’ve seen these results time and again, in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, St. Louis and many other places. But I’d also (and Mr. Fenton doesn’t mention this) look hard at the educational pathway. Our big-city schools are failing, horribly, with some of them cranking out only single-digit percentages of graduates that are proficient in math and written English. That can’t help.
Add in the inexplicable growth of a toxic, brutal, misogynistic urban “thug” culture, and you have a recipe for trouble.
One thing supporting the ‘urban policy’ pathway, of course, is easy to find: New York under Giuliani. In the 90s New York was one of the safest major cities in the world, and that happened when Rudy Giuliani set the policy of vigorously pursuing career criminals and showing no tolerance towards petty acts of vandalism, theft and hooliganism that can lead to more serious acts.
Our major cities are melting down. I’m not sanguine about things turning around any time soon; Chicago just suffered four years of incompetent leftist leadership by an incompetent mayor, and reacted by kicking her out of office and electing an even more incompetent leftist, on the theory that if ‘progressive’ policies don’t work, then one just needs to ‘progressive’ harder.
A combination of Giuliani-like policies and education reform (and by reform I mean privatize, and if that means kicking the teacher’s unions to the curb, all the better) might save our major cities. But I don’t see any of that happening. America’s great cities are destroying themselves, and I don’t see that changing any time soon.