It never ends: now we have a stink over NFL (and other) players “taking the knee” during the National Anthem. Our President and just above everybody else is involved. It’s another way to fill up Twitter with vitriol, as if we don’t have enough.
The trout in the milk for American loyalty has always been the government. The concept of the United States is wrapped around the Constitution of 1787. It wasn’t our first and isn’t really our founding document but until we go through the procedure of replacing it our identity and validity as a nation cannot be separated from it. Along with the Constitution all the government formed under that document goes with it. That’s so ingrained in our national consciousness that few really grasp what it really means.
Those on the right reflexively wave the flag without realising that its form, shape, star pattern, etc., are all set by an act of the…government, along with many other things they like (like the military.) And they don’t realise that, if our government has passed into the hands of those whose intellectual antecedents hated the place, then it’s time to reconsider our whole attitude towards this country and not always retreating to some idealisation.
The left likewise needs a reality check: the power of that government, even though it doesn’t always go their way (especially at times like this) is the chief enabler for their agenda, and has been for a long time. When their heroes in the NFL “take a knee,” they’re delegitimising the government from which all (well, a lot of them) liberal things come. Put another way, they’re cutting their own nose off to spite themselves, and that may come back to bite them.
As far as the NFL is concerned…if the NFL dries up and blows away I could care less. (Given the ratings drops, that isn’t out of the realm of possibility either.) Then we could turn our attention to other things, and when the time comes say with one voice:
Given the hatred the left feels for Trump and that former FBI Director James Comey is a career martyr to the cause, you’d think he’d be welcome on campuses. But no…
Students at Howard University loudly protested former FBI Director James Comey Friday as he delivered a convocation address.
As Comey, making a rare public appearance since leaving the FBI, began his speech welcoming new students at Howard University, protesters could be heard yelling from the back of the room, raising their fists and shouting. Some of the slogans included “No justice, no peace, “We shall not be moved” and “white supremacy is not a debate.”
Standing before a packed auditorium, Comey stood silently for over 15 minutes as the students yelled, “I love being black” and “Get out James Comey — you’re not our homey.”
Evidently “intersectionality” doesn’t work as well as its enthusiasts say it does. That’s something conservatives could take better advantage of if they were better led.
Those of you who follow this blog know that I have the habit of making “speeches” on the blog. I’ve done this for two reasons: I think I have something to say, and I don’t get invited. The upside to that, however, is that I don’t get disinvited either, the current sport on college campuses. And getting disinvited isn’t the worst of it: if you don’t get disinvited, you can get the same treatment that James Comey is getting, or worse.
With the major hurricanes done for the moment and a debt crisis averted by Trump’s deal with the Democrats, Congress must turn to the issues in front of it. Tax reform code is at the top of the list, although I’m not holding my breath. Behind that is the DACA program, or the “Dreamers,” where young people brought here outside of our immigration legislation have special dispensation to pursue their education here.
Immigration, like infrastructure, is one of those issues where bipartisan agreement (or at least under-the-table collusion) has resulted in inaction. Business interests would like a labour force with an interest in work, so they pressure the Republicans, and leftists would like an electorate that votes for them, so they pressure the Democrats. Both of these use the appeal that, if these people are sent back to their ancestral homelands, their dreams will end. And that’s an easy sell with Americans; we’d all like to think that we’re the only place in the world where dreams and goals in life come true.
But that’s really not the case.
My lack of enthusiasm for this issue is purely personal, and goes back to a time in my life where I was making my own decisions about life aspirations. That in turn should be set against the backdrop of the time, and that scene wasn’t pretty.
Growing up I was presented with two options about what this country was all about. In one corner was my father, who was a super-patriot. In his mind our country could do no wrong and it was not permitted to question anything it did. That may seem odd in a country that fancies itself on freedom, but professing freedom while taking it away is more common than you might think.
On the other end were the hippy-dippy people who professed to seek a deeper meaning in life but in the end could only find it in getting laid, high or drunk. This didn’t strike me at the time as particularly American, but in a way it is. There’s been a strong streak in the country that we came here to run the woods free and act the way we wanted to, and that was part of the ooze that bubbled to the surface in the 1960’s. There was also the “hick moving to town” theme; growing up in Palm Beach left me with no sympathy for this. History taught me that a country this sybaritic wasn’t going to make it, and I wasn’t too keen on sticking around for the end.
The disaster of Watergate ripped our political system apart; that only created despair. It became obvious to me that only foreign intervention would fix this broken culture, which lead to this. But with the atheistic Soviet Union being the most likely option, the reality of that wasn’t too appetising. Maybe, I said to myself, what I need to do is get out of here.
The opportunity to do just that presented itself in the spring of 1976 at the Offshore Technology Conference, when I stopped by the booth of Motherwell Bridge, a Scottish engineering and construction firm. I talking to one of their representatives, mentioned that I was graduating that year and would be looking for a job. He expressed an interest in speaking to me about a position with them. I told him I’d be in the UK two months from then, and would call him then.
That was all well and good, so when I got to the UK and Scotland was in the plans, I rung him up. Unfortunately I butted into that European habit of going on holiday during the summer; he was gone to sunnier climes and I was out of a job interview. (The UK was experiencing a major drought that year; he really didn’t have to go anywhere for sunny weather.)
I could have gone to a “Plan B” to emigrate in the fall by strategically choosing my job interviews. But by then I had lived in Texas three years and both seen and experienced a part of this country that was truly good and highly productive. So the man who started to emigrate ended up with a security clearance at Texas Instruments.
It’s always tempting to play “what if” with a situation like this; certainly life would have been different on the other side of the pond. One of my commenters pointed out that average income in the UK is considerably below that of the US. But that meant nothing to me at the time; I took a “pay cut” to work for TI as opposed to working in the oil industry (which, after a bit, I ended up doing .) One thing it would have done is, if I tired of Old Blighty, becoming an expat is easier for just about anyone than it is for an American, thanks to our possessive tax legislation.
The good part of this country–which surfaces in things such as the response to Hurricane Harvey–has been under relentless attack from a wide array of groups with elite support, including the New Urbanists, the various “diversity” groups, and indeed the “Blue state” mentality. That it has survived as well as it has is amazing, a testament to the viability of the lifestyle itself as much as the tenacity of its practicioners. But the outcome is still in the balance.
As far as DACA is concerned, I hope that Congress can come to a resolution on this. It’s always good to attract people who will actually work and make things happen. But we need to be real about this: if more dreams could be fulfilled in places like Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras, we’d be better off as a country. We would have more stable southern neighbours and an additional market for our goods and services. And that’s not as far-fetched as it might seem: at this stage it’s easier to start a small business in Mexico than in the US, thanks to our ridiculous legal and regulatory system.
Americans on both sides of the divide love to gush forth rhetoric about how this is the only place where people’s dreams can be fulfilled. The country would be better off, however, if, instead of mellifluous rhetoric, we’d spend as much effort making this country inviting for dreamers as we do talking about it.
I could not pass up this gem from Philo Judaeus, in his Life of a Man Occupied with Affairs of State, or on Joseph, I:
Now, this man (Joseph) began from the time he was seventeen years of age to be occupied with the consideration of the business of a shepherd, which corresponds to political business. On which account I think it is that the race of poets has been accustomed to call kings the shepherds of the people; for he who is skilful in the business of a shepherd will probably be also a most excellent king, having derived instruction in those matters which are deserving of inferior attention here to superintend a flock of those most excellent of all animals, namely, of men. And just as attention to matters of hunting is indispensable to the man who is about to conduct a war or to govern an army, so in the same banner those who hope to have the government of a city will find the business of a shepherd very closely connected with them, since that is as it were a sort of prelude to any kind of government.
When I worked at Church of Lay Ministries, our last bookkeeper lived on a farm and, as part of that, tended sheep. The whole concept of a real shepherd working in a Christian organisation was more fun than a human being ought to have, and I made the most of it. Her response was that sheep are pretty dumb, and comparing people to sheep (a common theme in the New Testament) isn’t very complimentary to people.
Given the current state of American politics, Philo’s words resonate, and one would wish that more American politicians had spent their early years watching over the flocks by night than haunting the halls of ivy.
Philo’s idea also puts this passage in a new light:
And Samuel did all that the Lord told him; and he came to Bethlehem: and the elders of the city were amazed at meeting him, and said, Dost thou come peaceably, thou Seer? And he said, Peaceably: I am come to sacrifice to the Lord. Sanctify yourselves, and rejoice with me this day: and he sanctified Jesse and his sons, and he called them to the sacrifice. And it came to pass when they came in, that he saw Eliab, and said, Surely the Lord’s anointed is before him. But the Lord said to Samuel, Look not on his appearance, nor on his stature, for I have rejected him; for God sees not as man looks; for man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart. And Jesse called Aminadab, and he passed before Samuel: and he said, Neither has God chosen this one. And Jesse caused Sama to pass by: and he said, Neither has God chosen this one. And Jesse caused his seven sons to pass before Samuel: and Samuel said, the Lord has not chosen these. And Samuel said to Jesse, Hast thou no more sons? And Jesse said, There is yet a little one; behold, he tends the flock. And Samuel said to Jesse, Send and fetch him for we may not sit down till he comes. And he sent and fetched him: and he was ruddy, with beauty of eyes, and very goodly to behold. And the Lord said to Samuel, Arise, and anoint David, for he is good. And Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brethren: and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward: and Samuel arose, and departed to Armathaim. (1Samuel 16:4-13 LXX)
A recent study conducted by a Grand Valley State University professor suggests that political correctness, at least among millennials, is little more than a charade.
In an August 16 study, Professor Karen Pezzetti explains that millennials pursuing careers in education “position themselves as good, non-racist people,” but in many cases may just be going through the motions of using “politically correct” terminology to “talk about students from diverse backgrounds.”
King James Bible fans will recognise the title as a take-off of this:
For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. (2Ti 3:2-5 KJV)
It simply means that these people don’t “walk the talk,” and that evidently includes many Millennials and diversity.
Looking at problems from the perspective of others has never been Americans’ strong suit, but the closing of the American mind (one heralded by Allan Bloom many years ago) has taken place, making matters only worse. What that means is that Millennials may have the moral wish for diversity but lack the intellectual capacity to really have it. So, given the intense social pressures of the day, they simply do an act to make others happy without internalising it. That doesn’t bode well for the day when they actually have to do it for themselves, which is too bad really because, when practiced in the context of a truly task-based work environment, diversity can be very powerful.
Personally I am coming to realise that the diversity business, as it is practiced these days, is a whitewash, analogy intentional. It covers up the fact that it not only attempts to replace real diversity of thought with racial/gender quotas, but also that more heat than light has resulted. That’s the dilemma that was exposed with James Damore’s piece that got him fired. For all of Google’s rhetoric, the racial/gender distribution is still skewed, which has made them the subject of a federal investigation. From a legal standpoint the last thing Google needed was Damore’s piece, which explains much of their vigourous reaction.
One of the most popular posts I have on this site is Trump Opens the Club to Blacks and Jews? Not Quite, which is about two years old. It’s gotten a good deal of traffic and the gamut of reactions. I’m glad to inject a little Palm Beach perspective to this question, because both what Trump did and Palm Beach’s social system run against a lot of conventional wisdom out there.
One @RobertBarber64 liked my piece enough to attempt to tweet it. On my Twitter laptop notifications, it looked like this:
But when I looked on my iPhone Twitter app, this is what greeted me:
My, my, I think it’s Twitter that’s sensitive, at least in a schizophrenic sense. Maybe their mobile app people think one way and their desktop people another…
I’ve had commenters go postal on me when I challenge conventional wisdom, but this is the first time a social media organisation has done so, AFAIK.
I’m certainly bothered by the apparent censorship going on here. But that’s what happens when you hand over the internet to a few organisations; they run things to suit themselves. We can invoke law all we went, but tech has thrived by basically outrunning the law. I’ve always assumed that sooner or later the powers that be would start shutting down their opposition (or at least try to) and they’re busy doing that these days. That’s especially true of Google, whose offensive against their former employee is probably lawyer-driven by attorneys attempting to fend off the feds.
I was kind of nudged by one of my illustrious relatives (who is now in the Old Country) on the subject of our Confederate ancestors, and this is what I came back with:
I think that what’s been neglected in this debate is an answer to the simple question “How did the ‘Lost Cause’ lose?” The answer to that goes a long way to clearing up many of the “rural legends” that surround the whole issue of the war here in the South.
The Confederacy went into the war with the better part of the U.S. Army, the better part of West Point’s graduates, etc. (The Navy was another story altogether.) It was in a defensive position, forcing the North to slog through a vast, underdeveloped territory with few railroads, making it difficult to move large numbers of troops around. (Napoleon, Kaiser and Hitler alike faced the same geography problem when invading Russia, albeit on an even larger scale.)
But the underdevelopment of the South was its undoing. While Southern grandees contented themselves with living off the sweat of black slaves, their Northern industrial counterparts were building a modern economy based on making things and improving productivity. When Lincoln was elected and the South reacted impulsively by seceding, they were in no position to defend themselves in a long, protracted modern war. And, once the North figured out how to make it work (and that did take a while,) the result was a disaster.
And I must say that, after living in this part of the country for nearly two score, I can see how this happened. (And this in a part of TN that was divided over secession, many fought for the Union.) White “supremacists” don’t have anything to be supreme about, their ancestors wouldn’t have lost the war if they had. All of the rural legends they’ve spread around only covers up their past and present failures.
It’s disheartening to live in a country that goes off on one moral crusade after another without stopping to think what’s really necessary to preserve and move forward the general welfare and the strength of the nation, to preserve its integrity. To me the Confederate monuments are a reminder of what happens when you allow hotheads to drag a region into a war it wasn’t prepared to fight, and that’s defeat.
One of the “supremacist” protesters from this area expressed his pro-Nazi sentiments in school and wondered what it would have been like if Hitler had won. That assumes that Hitler would have recognised these people as fellow Aryans, and that’s unlikely. (Just ask the Slavs.) My guess is that, in the end, the white “supremacists” would have put a victorious Hitler in the same category as William Tecumseh Sherman, and that’s a name that doesn’t get mentioned too often in polite company around here.
Given the general level of ignorance about American history, this debate seldom gets past the level of platitudes, but it’s still worth a try to change that.
“We need to talk about what people think about when they wake up in the morning, and it’s not Russia,” Sragow said. “The more we talk about stuff that voters don’t truly care about in their daily lives … it confirms that the Democratic Party’s brain has been eaten by the elites in Washington who have been sitting fat and happy for a lot of years while working Americans have lost their jobs and lost confidence in the future.”
I’ve always felt that the push over the Russia scandal was bizarre. The whole concept of a foreign state influencing a country which is still as mentally insular and provincial as this one is strange to begin with. It gets stranger when we profess moral outrage over someone else influencing our elections while at the same time we meddle in others. And, of course, we’ve always been unjustifiably obsessed with the Russians. They just don’t have as strong of a hand as it looks to us.
I think the Democrats have it in their minds that if they can conjure images of the Cold War in the old white voters that put Trump in the White House, they can sink him, and at the same time put their own reputation as soft on national security behind them. But that’s fighting yesterday’s war. The best they can hope for is to hog airtime with this campaign of theirs.
It may seem that posts on this blog are slowing down, but elsewhere it’s another story. There are actually four sites to this “family” and one of them, vulcanhammer.info, is being moved to WordPress hosting. (The other two, vulcanhammer.net and Chet Aero Marine, were moved around the first of the year.)
Moving a site that large is a major task, especially with all the photos and documents. It’s had to be done pieces; the piece that’s just been completed is Vulcan: the Offshore Experience. My brother said that it was the “experience of a lifetime,” and I’m inclined to agree with him. There’s a lot of history in offshore oil, history that’s not well-known, and that was one of the reasons the series was first put up in 2003. I want to focus on two aspects in particular: offshore oil as a form of “inner space” and how years in the industry is a cure for much of the conventional wisdom that plagues our “deep state” types and their hangers-on these days.
To its credit, the oil industry likes to recount its history. There’s an entire museum in Galveston dedicated to the history of offshore oil, and it’s definitely worth the visit. The involvement of my family business, Vulcan Iron Works, was primarily in the platform installation segment of the business, and for a long time it got the short shrift in the story. That’s been remedied to some degree, and I think the contribution of the construction side of the industry is getting its due.
It’s easy, with all the really large coastal projects out there, to forget just what a challenge it was to fabricate and build platforms to extract oil offshore. Onshore oil had advanced technologies such as deep drilling and geophysical exploration methods, and these had spin-offs in the construction industry. But offshore, with conventional platforms sometimes exceeding 300 m in depth, it was necessary to develop advanced fabrication and installation techniques. Without the benefits of directional/horizontal drilling and underwater completion, that meant lots of platforms to the surface, and the Gulf of Mexico–on both the American and Mexican sides, I might add–was a busy place in the 1960’s and 1970’s. These projects helped to advanced the technology of construction in many ways which still benefit construction not only of large onshore and marine projects but also for offshore wind farms.
The Gulf, however, along with Southeast Asia and the Persian Gulf, were relatively easy places to build and install platforms compared to the North Sea. The Europeans “drew the short straws” in finding oil in a place as challenging to do anything as the North Sea, especially in the area between Scotland and Norway where much of the oil was located. But thanks to their lack of easily accessible onshore oil deposits (before fracking) and the unstable situation in the Middle East, they had little choice. Facing a harsh environment coupled with a short construction season, another set of new technologies were developed or improved, including gravity platforms, improved safety equipment in marine environments, quick connectors for pile add-ons, finite element analysis for earth structures, and underwater pile driving.
Although most of these technologies are unfamiliar to most people, they contribute to the improved standard of living that many take for granted. The outer space program contributed to the advance of general technology and science, and so did the “inner space” program of offshore oil.
Bringing up the Europeans leads one to consider the relationship of their governments to the enterprise. Like most industries in the US, the oil industry operated in the legal framework with a minimum of government direction. The Minerals Management Service was the chief agency of interest, but otherwise the enterprise was pretty much self-funded and directed. When countries such as the UK, Norway and the Netherlands got involved, it was a different story. We’d see their national exhibits at the Offshore Technology Conference, we’d wonder why this was necessary and sometimes thought their method was mad.
But there was method in their madness. For one thing, as Dr. Adel Rizkalla of McDermott explained to my brother and me in 1980, their idea was to stretch out the extraction of oil and not only prevent overwhelming their economy with the revenue (something we’d soon learn the virtue of the hard way,) but also to offer benefits from that revenue for a longer time and for a great good to the country. For another, their approach was part and parcel with the European concept of industrial policy. Implicit in that approach is that the oil industry was of value to the country. We’d soon find out that this was better than the alternative, a country whose ruling elites believed that the oil industry was an existential threat to them.
Offshore oil came into the big picture in the 1960’s, at the same time that the American left first let out the primal scream which has echoed down the halls of history to the present time. They first tried to put the stall on the leasing process, an on-again, off-again process that only delayed the advance of offshore oil in Louisiana and Texas. They did manage to keep it out of the rest of the East Coast and eventually got it shut down in California. The environmental movement was a large part of that; as happened with manufacturing, the oil industry has had to improve its techniques to prevent environmental impact, and that’s another place where the North Sea experience was helpful.
But it was more than the environment that drove the left against the oil industry; it was their other pet peeve, suburbia. Suburbia wouldn’t exist without oil, not only because of the automobile and commuting, but also because of the economic development that made suburbia possible. The two were part of a fork that has stuck in the left’s craw for more than half a century, and as the left oozed its way into the nation’s intelligentsia, the potential for the oil industry to hit the wall in the US increased.
Not that there weren’t alternatives. The most serious was nuclear power, which if it had been implemented on a relative scale to the French, could have solved most of the balance of payments problem and avoided the costly wars we’ve fought in the Middle East. But that was (and is) unacceptable to most of the environmental community, and in any case would only perpetuate suburbia.
The left’s hope of high prices for a commodity in short supply–the shortness enhanced by their regulatory and legal efforts–never quite panned out; the oil and gas industry has proven more resilient than they thought. And the forward march of technology, even in the industry’s lean years, has helped. We got directional drilling and subsea completions, which reduced the cost of offshore oil. But the biggest game changer has been fracking, which found the left “asleep at the switch” to stop. It has shifted hydrocarbon based energy towards natural gas, at one time a “luxury” fuel, which is much cleaner to burn. As a result the need for coal or offshore oil has been reduced, turning the U.S. to become a net fossil fuel energy producer for the first time since the days of the primal scream.
Today we find Europeans following the siren sound against nuclear power and fracking, leaving the wisdom of the past generation behind and embracing yet another American neurosis. Many of the platforms which helped bring this oil out of the sea floor are being dismantled, their field lives ended; some are left as artificial reefs for fishing, another one of those unintended consequences. Offshore oil isn’t what it used to be, but it set the stage for better things, and made life good when it was possible, and for that it should be remembered positively.
On Friday, the Crimson reported that the surprising recommendation to ban all social organizations received only 7 votes from the 27-member Committee on the Unrecognized Single-Gender Social Organizations, which had been empaneled to review implementation of last year’s plan to blacklist members of off-campus single-gender clubs. And according to the Crimson, despite other proposals garnering more support, the committee “never conducted another vote.”
The whole saga of Harvard and social organisations has been a sorry one. They started by attempting to ban students from single-sex organisations (how that would play out with the trangender business is a subject in its own right) but that got pushback. Then they proposed to ban all social organisations, which is also getting pushback. Now we see that the “voting” and “committee” business has been sidetracked.
Most accreditation processes make faculty governance a requirement, but anyone involved in academia knows that this is often honoured in the breach. Conservatives generally regard faculty governance as giving the inmates control over the asylum, but that assumption needs to be re-examined in view of this.
Anti-discrimination legislation and regulation is giving freedom of association the squeeze these days. The long-term effect–perhaps desired–of pushing social organisations out of college life is to make the only focus of the students the college itself. In a world where civic and even private life is cornered in this way, the result will be like the Ottoman “slave institution,” the Janissaries, whose loyalty (in theory) was only to the Sultan. In a country where an Ivy League education is the necessary ticket to the top in so many fields, this will only accelerate an unfortunate trend.
Personally I had little use for social fraternities, and went to a school (Texas A&M) where they were virtually nonexistent. But that was the result of the school’s compulsory military status, one not even a decade past when I started. But I think that a person should have the choice to opt in or out of such a system.
The Turks refer to the end of the Janissaries as “auspicious.” If Harvard and the other Ivy League schools don’t desist from social engineering like this–which they will then push on the rest of us–they may find their own auspicious moment.