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In his book, Inside the Soviet Army, Viktor Suvorov described an event that occurred when he was a peasant working on a collective farm. The Party decided to increase agricultural output by using more fertilizer. With a lot of fanfare, banners and posters were unveiled bearing the slogan: Strength Through Chemicals. A chemical plant was […]

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I bet you’re tired of various posts on social media and elsewhere on how to respond to your MAGA or Progressive family members at Thanksgiving. Trite and insulting, frankly. These small-minded tribal busybodies need other hobbies. I have a better idea, and it’s neither new or rocket science. If hosting politically diverse family members at […]

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Service-Gathering the Fragments

 

The Holocaust took place during World War II, and millions of Jews were put to death over the years of the War, in Nazi concentration camps like Auschwitz, and in forests of Eastern Europe, and in their own towns and ghettos. Today, 75 years later, there are still Survivors alive to tell their inspiring stories. But soon, there will be no Survivors left. For many years, Yad Vashem in Israel, the great Holocaust Memorial, has been seeking and collecting memories; videos, audio records, photos, and other ephemera of Survivors. In the latest issue of Martyrdom and Resistance, the newsletter for American supporters of Yad Vashem, there was an article about the program they call Gathering the Fragments, describing their efforts to collect as many memories as they can from living Survivors and families of victims, to better document the lives of all who were affected by the Holocaust.

This Thanksgiving, Choose Gratitude over Grievance

 

Political commentators spend most of their days following the awful things happening in the world. Bad news, after all, is what dominates the news cycle.

War, death, poverty, and injustice (and the occasional cat video) fill our laptop screens from the moment we wake until we go to bed. By the fourth day of the workweek, it’s easy to cycle between outrage and despair.

People on all sides succumb to this emotional low road, which is why there’s so much anger about failed politicians, terrible policies and broken promises. Our grandparents would yell at the newspaper, our parents at the TV, but now everyone can hear our complaints. Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube spread everyone’s misery worldwide.

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Announcing my next book, coming out early next year. I’ll get back to you with more later, but here’s an early intro. Augustine thinks reason and authority are two complementary methods of getting to the truth, and four topics he investigates a lot are apologetics (defense of the faith), ethics, metaphysics and the problem of evil, and the […]

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Rudy Giuliani, supposedly Trump’s attorney (working on what issues, exactly?), and recently featured in a starring role in the impeachment hearings as Trump’s capo and sub rosa Secretary of State (specialty, smearing career State Department employees with the assistance of a couple of since-indicted Soviet émigrés), was interviewed this week by the Guardian. During the […]

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Here’s How Defense R&D Affects US Productivity Growth

 

It’s not a natural impulse for politicians or activists to highlight trade-offs. Take cutting defense spending. Some Democratic presidential candidates envision a sizable reduction to the Pentagon’s budget if they’re elected. If that should happen, one possible program on the chopping block might be R&D investment. There is a lot of it, after all. A 2018 Congressional Research Service report found that in 2016 the United States spent $78.1 billion on defense R&D, “more than seven times as much on defense R&D than the rest of the OECD countries combined.”

And what do we get for all those tens of billions? That question is partially answered by a new working paper, “The Intellectual Spoils of War? Defense R&D, Productivity and International Spillovers” from Enrico Moretti, Claudia Steinwender, and John Van Reenen. Here’s what the researchers found (bold by me):

In the US and many other OECD countries, expenditures for defense-related R&D represent a key policy channel through which governments shape innovation, and dwarf all other public subsidies for innovation. We examine the impact of government funding for R&D – and defense-related R&D in particular – on privately conducted R&D, and its ultimate effect on productivity growth. We estimate models that relate privately funded R&D to lagged government-funded R&D using industry-country level data from OECD countries and firm level data from France. To deal with the potentially endogenous allocation of government R&D funds we use changes in predicted defense R&D as an instrumental variable. In both datasets, we uncover evidence of “crowding in” rather than “crowding out,” as increases in government-funded R&D for an industry or a firm result in significant increases in private sector R&D in that industry or firm. A 10% increase in government-financed R&D generates 4.3% additional privately funded R&D. An analysis of wages and employment suggests that the increase in private R&D expenditure reflects actual increases in R&D employment, not just higher labor costs. Our estimates imply that some of the existing cross-country differences in private R&D investment are due to cross-country differences in defense R&D expenditures. We also find evidence of international spillovers, as increases in government-funded R&D in a particular industry and country raise private R&D in the same industry in other countries. Finally, we find that increases in private R&D induced by increases in defense R&D result in significant productivity gains.

The Existential Threat to Our Democracy

 

From a friend who happens to be a particularly shrewd observer:

I find it telling that is the past couple of weeks two of the so-called “moderate” Democrats (Bloomberg and Buttigieg) have referred to Donald Trump as an “existential threat” to democracy. Well, consider that. Trump has been in office for 3 years. The country held perfectly free and open elections a year ago, which Trump opponents largely won. Ditto, on a much smaller scale, a few weeks ago. If Trump attempted to use the apparatus of the Federal government to interfere in any of those elections, or to prevent any of his opponents from being seated, I must have missed those stories. Print, broadcast, and electronic media in this country have been overwhelmingly critical of Trump every day of the past 3 years. To the best of my knowledge, Rachel Maddow, Jim Acosta, Chuck Todd, and hundreds and hundreds like them are still free as birds, and still writing and speaking whatever they want. Every single week, even the briefest scan of Apple News reveals scores of entertainers, business leaders, elected officials, academics, and other high-status individuals offering everything from sharp criticism to unhinged invective against Trump. If any of those individuals have suffered any measurable personal or professional harm as a result, I am unaware of it. Jack Dorsey still runs Twitter; Robert De Niro is still a mega-celebrity; Ilhan Omar is still in Congress. And on and on.

Quote of the Day: Islands

 

It is a trope that during the holiday season loneliness, anxiety, and depression grip a certain portion of the populace. Psychologists and sociologists warn us about epidemic levels of loneliness, especially in regard to increasing suicide rates, particularly among adolescents. Blame it on godlessness, the opportunities technology provides for narcissism, or what have you, our increasing isolation (literal and figurative) turns us into islands. So, John Donne:

No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe
is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as
well as any manner of thy friends or of thine
own were; any man’s death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee. 

An Example Has Been Made: Pour Encourager les Autres

 

The now-fired Secretary of the Navy apparently sought to provide cover to senior NCIS, legal weasels, and an admiral over the SEAL teams, as they sought to slap the Commander in Chief in the face and cover up their own alleged criminal wrongdoing (now subject of another IG investigation). No military officer, of any rank, would tolerate such gross insubordination from a subordinate: “Sir, you didn’t put in a written order, so I didn’t have to do it.” Oh, but it was just a tweet, and we don’t like his tweets, and besides… Nonsense! In the words of Justice Scalia: “pure applesauce!”

The first two-star general for whom I directly worked gave me a great lesson in followership. He called attention to the way a staff training team reacted to him. The staff training team existed to exercise and develop staff in support of their commanders. The moment the commanding general opened his mouth, team members all had their notebooks out, pens poised and proceeded to write down every single word he said.

The general explained that that showed the doctrinally correct view of general officers’ words. All the words were to be treated as important guidance to their staff. The trainers now had the general’s words and were checking everything the staff did to see if it conformed, to see if the general’s staff was operating competently and correctly in support of the general.

Member Post

 

A cheesy campaign slogan we’ve all heard before is “country over party.” It belongs in the starter kit for every centrist running for Congress in a district tilted toward the other party. But this cliché attributes to the politicians a sin that is more properly attributed to individual partisan voters. The sin of the politicians is […]

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Another Magic Bullet: The Psychology of Persuasion

 

Police officers live in the world of possibility, not probability. They don’t memorize the stats on the number of violent encounters between officers and the public. When conducting a traffic stop, or sent on a call from a dispatcher they are dealing with people that they don’t know. They don’t have the time to contact someone’s former scoutmaster, rabbi, priest, minister, or former sixth-grade teacher for a character reference. Calls that are dispatched concerning violent crimes in progress gives the responding officers more time to mentally prepare for a dangerous situation.

There are no magic bullets; whether it is a Taser, non-lethal impact munitions, baton, or pepper spray when confronting someone with a knife. Sometimes those options are effective, and sometimes they are not. Every potentially violent situation is different, and every violent situation has its own set of facts. In other words hypothetical second-guessing after an incident to try and come up with one standard that will solve all future encounters without lethal force is nonsensical.

Conservation Beats Environmentalism

 

American Conservatism is conserving America. Conserving we the people and the land on which we live. Democrats have used environmentalism to give a generation of young voters a feeling of purpose, but it is time for Conservatives to demonstrate how conservation is something superior. People will sometimes use the terms synonymously but there are profound differences between the tradition of conservation and the religion of environmentalism.

Specifics vs. Abstractions

Conservation is a practical tradition of managing specific resources with specific goals in mind. Conservation is measuring the populations of animals, the conditions of habitats, the accessibility and utility of land, and actively managing it with a specific plan. When a species is threatened or endangered we make a plan to bring them back to a stable population so that we can enjoy that species in our ecosystems and our communities. The Bald Eagle, The Grizzle Bear, The Gray Wolf, only a few successes of looking at specific objectives and taking sensible goals to achieve them.

This Thanksgiving, Be More Like Meghan

 

On the View earlier this week, co-host Meghan McCain was asked about Lindsey Graham, ostensibly in order to throw him under the bus on national television. McCain and her father, former Senator John McCain, were close friends with the Grahams and the younger McCain grew up with Sen. Graham. McCain got a considerable amount of heat for her refusal to comment on Graham on air:

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If social phenomena showed no order except in so far as they were consciously designed, there would indeed be no room for theoretical sciences of society and there would be, as is often argued, only problems of psychology. It is only in so far as some sort of order arises as a result of individual […]

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My Favorite Movie

 

Ed Driscoll, over at Instapundit, linked to an old Bleat by James Lileks. In it, he mentions putting on the soundtrack to Local Hero, which he says, “…might be the one record I cannot live without”. I have to agree with him. It is a beautiful work of early ’80s atmospheric music with Celtic seasoning, written and performed by Mark Knopfler. I bought the soundtrack before I had ever heard of the movie, because I was such a fan of Dire Straits. When the movie showed up on HBO, I was apprehensive about watching it. The music is so good in its own right, and I feared a terrible movie would ruin my listening pleasure.

I need not have worried. From the opening shot in Houston, TX to the final fade of a small Scottish fishing village at dawn, every scene in Local Hero is perfect. Written and directed by Bill Forsyth (Gregory’s Girl, Comfort and Joy, Breaking In), this is a movie that will appeal to all ages and tastes. The basic story is of a young, status-conscious oil executive, MacIntyre (Peter Riegert – Animal House), who is sent to acquire an entire Scottish village so his company can build a refinery there. Mac figures he can close the deal in a day or two, but the villagers know why he’s there, and do their best to delay him. In the meantime, he begins to fall in love with the slower-paced life and the community the people of the town enjoy. Burt Lancaster plays Knox Oil’s slightly batty CEO, Happer. He is obsessed with discovering a new comet, and continually asks Mac for updates on the night sky. There’s also a young marine biologist who might be a mermaid, a Russian sailor who is an avid capitalist, and an eccentric beach bum who isn’t quite the fool he appears to be.

A Valhallan Interlude, Part 3: Smokey Bourbon Blues

 

The horse’s ears flattened down on instinct. He knew that voice. He knew that silhouette … Not here. Not now. He leaned down to the girl in brass next to him, and said out of the corner of his, admittedly, long-muzzled mouth, ‘When I give the word, run. This is no time for heroics. We need to get out of here … Hey, are you listening?’ 

‘Naughty-naughty, horsey!’ said the figure in the doorway, stepping in out of the storm. Heavy raindrops ran down her biker’s leathers and dripped onto the floor as she walked. Behind her, more figures, also in bikers’ leathers, stepped through. (Just knew this was a bad idea, the horse was thinking.) The woman in the lead pulled off her helmet and shook her hair out with, it seemed to the horse, a gratuitous amount of flourish. It didn’t seem quite so gratuitous to some of the people standing around in the bar. In fact, some of them were now standing with their mouths open. Swan maidens tended to have that kind of effect on people. And particularly, swan maidens who’d, so to speak … gone to the bad. This was not good.