Quotulatiousness

August 31, 2014

Politispeak – describing a slower rate of increase as an absolute cut in funding

Filed under: Cancon, Government, Health, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 11:20

Paul Wells says the almost forgotten leader of Her Majesty’s loyal opposition in Parliament is doing his job, but illustrates it with a great example of how political rhetoric sometimes warps reality in favour of a more headline-worthy claim:

Here’s what he said: “After promising to protect all future increases to provincial transfers, Conservatives announced plans to cut $36 billion, starting in 2016,” Mulcair told the CMA. “This spring, Conservatives will announce, with great fanfare, that there is now a budget surplus. I’m here today to tell you that an NDP government would use any such surplus to, first and foremost, cancel those proposed cuts to health care.”

This needs parsing, but first, let’s let Mulcair finish: “Mr. Harper, it’s time to keep your word to protect Canadian health care. After giving Canada’s richest corporations $50 billion in tax breaks, don’t you dare take $36 billion out of health care to pay for them!” He said that part in English, then repeated it in French, which has become the way a Canadian politician delivers a line in italics.

Well. Let’s begin with the $36 billion. In December 2011, Jim Flaherty, then the federal finance minister, met his provincial colleagues to announce his plans for health transfers after a 10-year deal set by Paul Martin ran out in 2013-14. The 2004 Martin deal declared that cash transfers to the provinces for health care would increase by six per cent a year for 10 years. Harper simply kept implementing the Martin scheme after he became Prime Minister.

What Flaherty announced, without consulting with the provinces first, was that health transfers would keep growing at six per cent through 2016-17. Then, they would grow more slowly — how slowly would depend on the economy. The faster GDP grows, the faster transfers would grow. But, if the economy tanked, the rate of growth could fall as low as three per cent per year. Flaherty said this scheme would stay in place through 2023-24.

Add up all the shortfalls between three per cent and six per cent over seven years and you get a cumulative sum of $36 billion. Despite what Mulcair said, this isn’t a “cut,” it’s a deceleration in increases. And $36 billion is the gap’s maximum amount. If the economy shows any health, the gap will be smaller.

We could have fun complaining that Mulcair calls something a “cut” when it extends what is already the longest period of growth in federal transfer payments in Mulcair’s lifetime. But it’s more fun to take him at his word. He promises to spend as much as $6 billion a year in new tax money on health care. Mulcair couldn’t buy much influence over health policy with that money; he would simply send larger cheques to provincial governments. If he has other plans for the federal government, he’d have to pay for them after he’d sent that up-to $6-billion cheque to the provinces.

Emphasis mine.

Combat situation in Ukraine

Filed under: Europe, Military — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 10:41

Current situation map released on Twitter by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine:

Ukraine situation 20140831

NATO’s assistance for the Kurds – the spirit may be willing, but the military is weak

Filed under: Europe, Middle East, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 10:29

Strategy Page explains why NATO aid for the Kurds in northern Iraq may not be sufficient or even timely:

The recent ISIL (al Qaeda in Iraq and Syria) misbehavior (mass murder and so on) in Syria and Iraq has caused a public uproar in Europe and generated demands that NATO send forces to try and stop all the killing. The German government responded on August 20th with a pledge to send weapons to the Kurds who are fighting ISIL in northern Iraq. But Germany was reluctant to send warplanes or troops. A few days later a German Defense Ministry readiness report was leaked and it made it clear why even getting weapons to the Kurds would be difficult. The report showed that only 8 percent of 109 Eurofighter (similar to the U.S. F-15), 11 percent of 67 CH-53 transport helicopters, and 10 percent of 33 NH90 helicopters were fully operational (not sidelined for upgrades, repairs or other problems.) However 38 percent of 56 C-160 twin turboprop transports were available. This made it possible to fly some weapons into northern Iraq, but not much else. Normally a combat ready military has at least half, and more normally over 70 percent of its warplanes ready to go. While this situation shocked many, those who have followed European military trends since the 1980s were not surprised.

The problem is that the European NATO members never spent as heavily on their armed forces as did the United States and Russia, especially after 1991. Britain and France are still heavy spenders, but not enough to make up for what the rest of European NATO members are not doing. European NATO members are aware of this problem, but it has never been a high enough national priority to actually fix.

There was some hope in the decade after September 11, 2001 as the need to deal with international Islamic terrorism changed the armed forces of Europe in unexpected ways. More money was spent on the military and many of the troops got some combat experience. Now the Europeans have more capable and professional forces than they have had for many decades. None of this was expected. But in the last few years these changes have begun to fade. Thus the shocking readiness numbers for German aircraft.

[…]

For example, in 2008 the German parliament was in an uproar over a report depicting German soldiers as physically unfit for military service. It was found that 40 percent of the troops were overweight, compared to 35 percent of their civilian counterparts (of the same gender and age). The investigation also found that the troops exercised less (including participation in sports), and smoked more (70 percent of them) than their civilian counterparts. The military now encourages sports and physical fitness, and discourages smoking, but those efforts did not appear to be working.

When other Europeans looked around they found that it was not just a German problem. It was worse than that. Most European military organizations were basically make-work programs. It’s long been known that many European soldiers are not really fit for action. They are mainly uniformed civil servants. One reason many are not ready for combat, or even peacekeeping, operations, is that they don’t have the equipment or the training. And that’s because up-to-date gear, and training, are expensive. A disproportionate amount of money is spent on payroll. That keeps the unemployment rate down more effectively than buying needed equipment, or paying for the fuel and spare parts needed to support training.

Update: Some supplies and weapons are getting to the Kurdish forces. Here’s the Operation IMPACT page at the Canadian government website:

Operation IMPACT is the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) provision of strategic airlift to assist in the delivery of critical military supplies to security forces in Iraq fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have been threatened and displaced by the militants of ISIL that began seizing territory in northern Iraq earlier this year. This support will enable security forces in Iraq to provide effective protection to Iraqis faced with ISIL aggression.

Canadian Air Task Force Iraq

One Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) CC-130J Hercules transport aircraft and one CC-177 Globemaster III strategic airlifter have been committed to transport military supplies donated by allies. Approximately 100 Canadian Armed Forces personnel are deployed, including air crew, ground crew and logistical support personnel.

The aircraft, along with those of contributing allies, will work from staging locations in the Mediterranean and in Eastern Europe.

The CC-130 aircraft is used for a wide range of missions, including troop transport, tactical airlift and aircrew training. The CC-177 Globemaster III specializes in rapid delivery of troops and cargo for operations taking place in Canada or abroad.

Both aircraft and their personnel will remain deployed as long as the Government of Canada deems necessary.

Vikings cut down to 53 players

Filed under: Football — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 09:52

All NFL teams had to report their final rosters to the league office by Saturday afternoon. The Vikings were among the last teams to confirm their roster and list the players who were released. With so many players back on the market, the bottom few spots on each team’s “final” roster are subject to change. For example, it seems likely that the Vikings will look to pick up another tight end to back up Kyle Rudolph and Rhett Ellison, and there were a couple of marginal players who made the squad, but who are still at risk of being released to make room for players at other positions of need.

This is the Vikings roster as of yesterday evening:

Position Starter(s) Backup(s) Released Notes
OL LT-Matt Kalil 75
LG-Charlie Johnson 74
C-John Sullivan 65
RG-Brandon Fusco 63
RT-Phil Loadholt 71
LG-David Yankey 66 (R)
C-Joe Berger 61
RG-Vladimir Ducasse 62 (FA)
RT-Austin Wentworth 79 (UDFA)
RT-Mike Remmers (FA)
RG-Jeff Baca
C-Zac Kerin (UDFA)
C-Josh Samuda (FA) and LT-Antonio Richardson (UDFA) placed on injured reserve.
QB Matt Cassel 16 Teddy Bridgewater 5 (R)
Christian Ponder 7
   
TE Kyle Rudolph 82 Rhett Ellison 85 Alan Reisner (FA)
Chase Ford
 
RB Adrian Peterson 28 Matt Asiata 44
Jerick McKinnon 31 (R)
Joe Banyard
Dominique Williams (UDFA)
 
FB Jerome Felton 42 Zach Line 48    
WR Greg Jennings 15
Cordarrelle Patterson 84
(Jerome Simpson 81)
Jarius Wright 17
Adam Thielen 19
Rodney Smith 83
Kain Colter (UDFA)
Donte Foster (UDFA)
Jerome Simpson will be suspended for the first three games of the season.
DL DE-Everson Griffen 97
NT-Linval Joseph 98 (FA)
UT-Sharif Floyd 73
DE-Brian Robison 96
DE-Scott Chrichton 95 (R)
DE-Corey Wooton 99 (FA)
UT-Shamar Stephen 93 (R)
UT-Tom Johnson 92 (FA)
NT-Fred Evans
UT-Isame Faciane (UDFA)
DE-Justin Trattou
NT-Chase Baker
Linval Joseph slightly injured in shooting after 1st preseason game, expected back by early September.
LB WLB-Chad Greenway 52
MLB-Jasper Brinkley 54 (FA)
SLB-Anthony Barr 55 (R)
WLB-Brandon Watts 58 (R)
MLB-Audie Cole 57
SLB-Gerald Hodges 50
WLB-Michael Mauti 56
WLB-Larry Dean 51
MLB-Mike Zimmer (UDFA)
SLB Justin Jackson (UDFA)
SLB-Dom Decicco (UDFA) placed on IR.
CB Xavier Rhodes 29
Captain Munnerlyn 24 (FA)
Marcus Sherels 35
Jabari Price 39 (R)
Shaun Prater 27
Josh Robinson 21
Julian Posey (FA)
Kendall James (R)
 
S FS-Harrison Smith 22
SS-Robert Blanton 36
FS-Andrew Sendejo
SS-Anton Exum 32 (R)
SS-Kurt Coleman (FA)
Chris Crocker (FA)
SS-Mistral Raymond put on IR 26 August. SS-Jamarca Sanford put on short-term IR 30 August.
P Jeff Locke 18 N/A   Locke is also the holder for field goal attempts.
K Blair Walsh 3 N/A    
LS Cullen Loeffler 46 Audie Cole 57*, Michael Mauti 56*    
PR Marcus Sherels 35* Adam Thielen 19*, Jarius Wright 17*    
KR Cordarrelle Patterson 84* Marcus Sherels 35*, Adam Thielen 19*, Captain Munnerlyn 24* (FA)    

* Already listed on roster at main position.

Colour coding: Free agent signing, Drafted in 2014, Undrafted free agent in 2014, Waived, cut, or left team.

Practice squads can be assembled 24 hours after the final cuts are made (to allow waiver wire pickups and roster adjustments). Practice squads increase from 8 to 10 this year, and the two extra players do not have to meet the same strict criteria as the other 8. The Daily Norseman summarizes the practice squad eligibility rules here.

Generally speaking, any UDFA players are eligible for the practice squad. Likely signings include center Zac Kerin, cornerbacks Kendall James and Julian Posey, defensive tackles Isame Faciane and Chase Baker, running backs Joe Banyard and Dominique Williams, and wide receiver Kain Colter.

Arif Hasan analyzes the cuts here. The Vikings have done well with depth in the last three drafts:

QotD: Organizational Paralysis

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Humour, Quotations — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 00:01

The first sign of danger is represented by the appearance in the organization’s hierarchy of an individual who combines in himself a high concentration of incompetence and jealousy. Neither quality is significant in itself and most people have a certain proportion of each. But when these two qualities reach a certain concentration — represented at present by the formula I3J5 — there is a chemical reaction. The two elements fuse, producing a new substance that we have termed “injelitance.” The presence of this substance can be safely inferred from the actions of any individual who, having failed to make anything of his own department, tries constantly to interfere with other departments and gain control of the central administration. The specialist who observes this particular mixture of failure and ambition will at once shake his head and murmur, “Primary or idiopathic injelitance”. The symptoms, as we shall see, are quite unmistakable.

The next or secondary stage in the progress of the disease is reached when the infected individual gains complete or partial control of the central organization. In many instances this stage is reached without any period of primary infection, the individual having actually entered the organization at that level. The injelitant individual is easily recognizable at this stage from the persistence with which he struggles to eject all those abler than himself, as also from his resistance to the appointment or promotion of anyone who might prove abler in course of time. He dare not say, “Mr. Asterisk is too able”, so he says, “Asterisk? Clever perhaps — but is he sound? I incline to prefer Mr. Cypher”. He dare not say, “Mr. Asterisk makes me feel small”, so he says, “Mr. Cypher appears to me to have the better judgment”. Judgment is an interesting word that signifies in this context the opposite of intelligence; it means, in fact, doing what was done last time. So Mr. Cypher is promoted and Mr. Asterisk goes elsewhere. The central administration gradually fills up with people stupider than the chairman, director, or manager. If the head of the organization is second-rate, he will see to it that his immediate staff are all third-rate; and they will, in turn, see to it that their subordinates are fourth-rate. There will soon be an actual competition in stupidity, people pretending to be even more brainless than they are.

C. Northcote Parkinson, “Injelititis, Or Palsied Paralysis”, Parkinson’s Law (and other studies in administration), 1957.

August 30, 2014

It is to LOL

Filed under: Gaming, Humour — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 11:12

I loved this:

No lose betting – predictions in the media

Filed under: Media — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 10:55

Back in 2010, Dan Gardner pointed out that the “risky” business of making predictions to the media is actually a no-lose proposition almost all the time:

We’re coming to the end of the year and the pundits are lining up to tell us what’s going to happen in the one to follow. And why not? People want to hear predictions. And for the expert, there’s no way he can lose. If the prediction hits, he can boast about it and reporters will cite it as proof of his wisdom. But if it misses, no one will ever hear about it again.

Heads, I win. Tails, you forget we had a bet.

Of course the rules of the game would be a little different if, at the end of the year, instead of asking for new predictions, we looked back at what was predicted to happen in the year ending. Think of it as holding people to account for the predictions they make.

So let’s get on with the humiliation.

Whoah! Did I write that? I meant “fair and judicious review of past predictions.” Or, as this exercise might more accurately be described, “a bunch of predictions presented in no particular order and selected for no reason other than that they made me smile.”

Another example of the subtle workings of Gell-Mann Amnesia (although a variant of the phenomenon).

H/T to Bryan Caplan for the (retweeted Stephen Pinker) link.

That’s not vintage wine. This is vintage wine.

Filed under: History, Wine — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 10:31

Storing a few old bottles in your cellar? Not as old as these bottles:

Israel isn’t particularly famous for its wine today, but four thousand years ago, during the Bronze Age, vineyards in the region produced vintages that were prized throughout the Mediterranean and imported by the Egyptian elite.

Last summer, archaeologists discovered a rare time capsule of this ancient drinking culture: the world’s oldest known wine cellar, found in the ruins of a sprawling palatial compound in Upper Galilee.

The mud-brick walls of the room seem to have crumbled suddenly, perhaps during an earthquake. Whatever happened, no one came to salvage the 40 wine jars inside after the collapse; luckily for archaeologists, the cellar was left untouched for centuries. [In Images: An Ancient Palace Wine Cellar]

Excavators at the site took samples of the residue inside the jars. In a new study published today (Aug. 27) in the journal PLOS ONE, the researchers describe what their chemical analysis turned up: biomarkers of wine and herbal additives that were mixed into the drink, including mint, cinnamon and juniper.

[…]

The residue from all 32 jars sampled in the study contained tartaric acid, one of the main acids in wine. In all but three jars, the researchers found syringic acid, a marker of red wine. The absence of syringic acid in those three jars may indicate that they contained some of the earliest examples of white wine, which got its start later than red wine, Koh said.

The researchers found signatures of pine resin, which has powerful antibacterial properties and was likely added at the vineyard to help preserve the wine. Scientists also found traces of cedar, which may have come from wooden beams used during the wine-pressing process.

The researchers noticed that the cellar’s simplest wines, those with only resin added, were typically found in the jars lined up in a row against the wall near the outdoor entrance to the room. But the wines with the more complex additives were generally found in jars near a platform in the middle of the cellar and two narrow rooms leading to the banquet hall next door. Koh and colleagues believe the wine would have been brought from the countryside into the cellar, where a wine master would have mixed in honey and herbs like juniper and mint before a meal.

As for the taste, Koh said the ancient booze may have resembled modern retsina, a somewhat divisive Greek wine flavored with pine resin — described by detractors as having a note of turpentine. (Koh said he and his colleagues usually hear two different kinds of remarks about the ancient wine: Some say, “I would love to drink this wine,” while others say, “It must have just tasted like vinegar with twigs in it.”)

QotD: We are slaves to our stomachs

Filed under: Health, Humour, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 00:01

How good one feels when one is full — how satisfied with ourselves and with the world! People who have tried it, tell me that a clear conscience makes you very happy and contented; but a full stomach does the business quite as well, and is cheaper, and more easily obtained. One feels so forgiving and generous after a substantial and well-digested meal — so noble-minded, so kindly-hearted.

It is very strange, this domination of our intellect by our digestive organs. We cannot work, we cannot think, unless our stomach wills so. It dictates to us our emotions, our passions. After eggs and bacon, it says, “Work!” After beefsteak and porter, it says, “Sleep!” After a cup of tea (two spoonsful for each cup, and don’t let it stand more than three minutes), it says to the brain, “Now, rise, and show your strength. Be eloquent, and deep, and tender; see, with a clear eye, into Nature and into life; spread your white wings of quivering thought, and soar, a god-like spirit, over the whirling world beneath you, up through long lanes of flaming stars to the gates of eternity!”

After hot muffins, it says, “Be dull and soulless, like a beast of the field — a brainless animal, with listless eye, unlit by any ray of fancy, or of hope, or fear, or love, or life.” And after brandy, taken in sufficient quantity, it says, “Now, come, fool, grin and tumble, that your fellow-men may laugh — drivel in folly, and splutter in senseless sounds, and show what a helpless ninny is poor man whose wit and will are drowned, like kittens, side by side, in half an inch of alcohol.”

We are but the veriest, sorriest slaves of our stomach. Reach not after morality and righteousness, my friends; watch vigilantly your stomach, and diet it with care and judgment. Then virtue and contentment will come and reign within your heart, unsought by any effort of your own; and you will be a good citizen, a loving husband, and a tender father — a noble, pious man.

Jerome K. Jerome, Three Men in a Boat (to say nothing of the dog), 1889.

August 29, 2014

This week in Guild Wars 2

Filed under: Gaming — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 12:26

My weekly Guild Wars 2 community round-up at GuildMag is now online. This week is the second anniversary of the GW2 release, and ArenaNet has been spending a lot of time publicizing what will be coming in the September Feature Pack. The Feature Pack is intended to revamp existing systems and introduce new quality-of-life items, but it doesn’t have any new playable content. A few days after the Feature Pack is released, we’ll see the start of the next World versus World tournaments. In addition, there’s the usual assortment of blog posts, videos, podcasts, and fan fiction from around the GW2 community.

GuildMag logo

Vikings defeat Titans 19-3 to finish preseason undefeated

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 00:03

Queue the “Detroit Lions 2008” jokes (the Lions went undefeated in the preseason, then lost 16 games in a row to become the first NFL team to lose every game since the schedule expanded to 16). Last night, the Vikings visited Nashville to play the least meaningful of the four preseason games: almost all the starters sit this one out, so the teams are composed of second-, third-, and fourth-string players desperate to make a positive impression on the coaches before the final cut to 53 players is due on Saturday.

At The Viking Age, Dan Zinski reports on the injuries highlights:

Teddy Bridgewater got in some work in the first half and threw another touchdown, hitting Adam Thielen with a nice touch pass in the corner of the end zone. Bridgewater finishes the preseason with 5 TDs and 0 INTs.

The defensive stars tonight, if there were any true defensive stars, were Shaun Prater and Corey Wootton, the latter of whom collected a strip sack against Tennessee’s Zach Mettenberger.

In extended action, Christian Ponder did very little of consequence. If his appearance represented a trade showcase, it wasn’t much of a showcase.

[…]

The negatives were all injury-related. Adam Thielen left with a bad hip, Zach Line was felled by an ankle injury and Antone Exum seemed to jar his shoulder when making a big hit. We await status reports on all three men.

It was also announced that Justin Trattou injured his shoulder during the game. Exum could have returned to the game.

The Daily Norseman‘s Eric Thompson also reported:

In honor of our very own Ted Glover, I’ll address his favorite Twitter question first: #HowDidTeddyLook? Teddy Bridgewater got the start on Thursday and led the Vikings to the game’s only touchdown on the first drive of the game. The Vikings traveled 80 yards in 12 plays thanks to a healthy dose of runs from Jerick McKinnon and Joe Banyard. The drive culminated with a gorgeous corner fade route pass from Bridgewater to Adam Thielen. Unfortunately Thielen went out later in the game with an apparent hip injury; let’s hope it isn’t anything major because Thielen has truly been a breakout player this preseason.

[…]

Holding your opponents to one meaningless fourth quarter field goal usually means your defense had a good day. The D looked good in a lot of areas, but there are still a lot of questions to be answered as the team takes on the St. Louis Rams next week.

For instance, who the heck is going to be playing linebacker? With a lot of injuries to the LB corps the Vikings fielded some weird personnel packages. At one time there were three middle linebackers on the field at once: Jasper Brinkley, Audie Cole, and Mike Zimmer. After tonight’s up-and-down, mix-and-match performance from that unit, not many people outside of the Vikings coaching staff have much of a clue what the team is going to do with that part of the depth chart after Anthony Barr and Chad Greenway.

Deadspin – “Why Your Team Sucks 2014: Minnesota Vikings”

Filed under: Football, Humour — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 00:02

Deadspin‘s Drew Magary doesn’t have to troll very far at all to find unpleasant things to say about last year’s team. Three games into last season, I was making noises about how “creatively” the Vikings managed to lose their games, and they were looking as if they didn’t want to be in any of the games they played by midseason. A shift from Christian Ponder to Matt Cassel meant that at least the team looked semi-respectable for the second half, but the end result was a 5-10-1 record and a high draft pick this year.

The standard narrative on Norv Turner is that he’s a shitty head coach and a great coordinator. Well, it turns out that’s a lie, and that Norv sucks at EVERYTHING! Be still my heart! Norv is still riding the coattails of the 1990s Cowboys, who could have flourished with Andy Dick calling the plays. It’s 2014. The offensive strategy of “run the ball 45 times and have Michael Irvin push off everyone” is now somewhat dated.

Your quarterback: Matt Cassel, who was clearly the best quarterback over Christian Ponder and Freeman last season, which is like being the tastiest option on a Guy Fieri menu. In the past three years, Cassel has thrown 27 TDs and 30 INTs. Oh yay. To make an inevitable 4-12 season look like the foundation of something better (it never is), the Vikings drafted Teddy Bridgewater with the final pick of the first round. Bridgewater has already openly worried that he’s overthinking every fucking play. You know who else worried about that? The last asshole QB we drafted in the first round. Great. Fucking great. Beautiful. Why can’t we draft an IDIOT? Is it really that hard? Johnny Manziel was there for the taking and he can’t even read unless you write stuff out in lines of coke. I want THAT guy. I want all balls and no brain, thank you.

[…]

What has always sucked: This is the shitty team and criminal organization that Vikings fans like me deserve. These people never get excited about anything except when they have a chance to whisper “I hear it’s very Jewish” under their breath to other people. They can’t get enough of that. Minnesotans are as fickle as Sun Belt-area fans, without the justifiable excuse of having better things to do. They hate everything and everyone, and if you aren’t from Minnesota they’ll treat you as if you aren’t even there. You may as well be a fucking ghost. It’s like you speak a whole other language if you didn’t grow up six blocks from the Hansenjohnsons in White Bear Lake. The most exciting thing about Minnesota is when people get shot there in various iterations of Fargo.

We are a fake people. That includes me, too. Imagine a state populated entirely by real estate agents. That’s Minnesota. If I see a Packers fan in a bar, I’m courteous and jokey, and then I run to my computer five minutes later to be like I JUST SAW THE BIGGEST DIPSHIT AT THE BAR. That’s me. Fake as shit. Minnesota did this to me. And now you know.

QotD: Answering the question “how should we live?”

Filed under: Liberty, Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 00:01

One of the biggest problems facing the Right these days is an inability to answer the question, “How should we live?” One reason for this is that we don’t want the government imposing an answer. Another reason is that we rightly don’t want to tell other people how to live. A third is that the conservatives who do try to tell everyone how to live are simply buzzkills and pariahs in the mainstream culture. A fourth reason is that we simply assume that the institutions of civil society that we draw meaning from are adequate for others to draw meaning from as well. And maybe they are — but something is stopping a lot of people from drawing sustenance from the Burkean little platoons of civil society. And, as a result, many are also having trouble making the most of what capitalism has to offer.

This was my point about how the Constitution is powerless against Satan. A healthy society should not have to resort to constitutional arguments to explain why building a shrine to devil-worshippers on public land next to the Ten Commandments is incredibly stupid. Indeed, if all you have left are constitutional arguments, you’ve lost.

“Today, the New Left is rushing in to fill the spiritual vacuum at the center of our free and capitalist society,” Irving Kristol wrote over three decades ago in Two Cheers for Capitalism. Indeed, because they are liberated from the need to pay tribute to the idols of the old order, the Left has always had an easier time telling people how they should live. Conservatives — who wish to conserve what is good or even eternal about the old order — are always at a disadvantage in this regard. (Our advantage is that our ideas may be boring but they have been proven to work. “What is conservatism?” Abraham Lincoln asked. “Is it not adherence to the old and tried, against the new and untried?”)

Thanks to the mostly healthy influence of libertarianism, conservatives have lost interest in making arguments about right and wrong, good and evil, honorable and dishonorable, preferring instead to fall back on the principles of the Constitution, federalism, and individual liberty. We’ve largely gotten out of the business of telling people how to live. And that’s probably a good thing, at least in most circumstances.

The problem is that the Left hasn’t gotten out of that business — at all. It is selling people an answer to “How should we live?” It’s fine for us to point out the deficiencies of their offer. But it would be nice if conservatives had a counter-offer that people wanted to hear.

Jonah Goldberg, “It’s Still Only Two Cheers for Capitalism”, The Goldberg File, 2014-01-31

August 28, 2014

Reason.tv – Pentagon Has ‘Everything Must Go’ Sale

Filed under: Humour, Law, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 13:47

Published on 28 Aug 2014

After protestors in Ferguson, Missouri, were met with a militarized police force, new attention was brought to the Pentagon’s 1033 program, a program that supplies military-grade equipment to local police departments, often for free. Check out a commercial Reason TV has unearthed advertising the program to law enforcement.

Extremely minor quibble: the “tanks” are actually armoured personnel carriers. But as I’ve moaned on about before, everyone in media thinks every tracked vehicle is a tank and every navy vessel that isn’t a submarine or an aircraft carrier is a battleship. (And some even mistake earplugs for rubber bullets…)

Feeding Tommy Atkins – WW1 food for British troops in the trenches

Filed under: Britain, History, Military — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 13:16

In the Express last week, Adrian Lee reports on a new exhibit at the Imperial War Museum in London:

They say an army marches on its stomach, so feeding the two million men who were in the trenches at the height of the First World War was some task. It was a great achievement that in the entire conflict not one British soldier starved to death.

Yet no one should think that the Tommies enjoyed the food that was served up by the military. According to the wags on the frontline, the biggest threat to life was not German bullets but the appalling rations.

Most despised was Maconochie, named after the company in Aberdeen that made this concoction of barely recognisable chunks of fatty meat and vegetables in thin gravy.

When served hot, as per the instructions on the tin, it was said to be barely edible. Eaten cold for days on end in the trenches, where a warm meal was usually no more than a fantasy, it was said to be disgusting.

It was the stated aim of the British Army that each soldier should consume 4,000 calories a day. At the frontline, where conditions were frequently appalling, daily rations comprised 9oz of tinned meat (today it would be known as corned beef but during the First World War it was called bully beef) or the hated Maconochie.

Additionally the men received biscuits (made from salt, flour and water and likened by the long-suffering troops to dog biscuits). They were produced under government contract by Huntley & Palmers, which in 1914 was the world’s largest biscuit manufacturer. The notoriously hard biscuits could crack teeth if they were not first soaked in tea or water.

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