Friday, May 29, 2020

The Fighting Temeraire

ASM826 has been posting about the fate of old ships, which reminded me of one of the most famous nautical portraits of all time.

It's "The Fighting Temeraire". painted in 1839 by J M W Turner.  You can see it in London at the National Gallery.  The complete title gives a better sense of what's going on: The Fighting Temeraire, tugged to her last berth to be broken up, 1838.  It was the last voyage of a renowned ship,

She came by her fame honestly.  She was in line of battle immediately behind Admiral Nelson's flagship HMS Victory at Trafalgar, and saved the day when Victory was in hard fighting.  She not only saved the flagship but captured two french ships as well.

But time and tide wait for no man, and for no ship.  A 98 gun ship of the line was not only expensive (it took a small forest of oak to build her) but the advent of steam power made her obsolete.  Wikipedia tells the sad tale of her fate:
Temeraire was hauled up onto the mud, where she lay as she was slowly broken up.[62] The final voyage was announced in a number of papers, and thousands of spectators came to see her towed up the Thames or laid up at Beatson's yard.[72] The shipbreakers undertook a thorough dismantling, removing all the copper sheathing, rudder pintles and gudgeons, copper bolts, nails and other fastenings to be sold back to the Admiralty. The timber was mostly sold to house builders and shipyard owners, though some was retained for working into specialist commemorative furniture.[62]
A lot of famous furniture seemingly was made from her.

The painting also has an interesting history.  It made Turner famous.  It was also the favorite of all his many paintings (at least one of which has graced the pages of this blog).  He only loaned it once, and regretted it.  He refused to sell it, and on his death bequeathed it to the Realm.  If you find yourself in London, you can see his painting in the National Gallery and his grave in St. Paul's, and muse on how tempus fugits.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

There are no atheists in a foxhole

Especially with priests like this around.  Wow.  "Just War Doctrine" goes all the way back to St. Augustine.  Maybe this guy is a saint, too.

Like I said, wow.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

A decade of Liberal failure

Actually, it's more like two decades.  Maybe more.  I posted this ten years ago, and it has held up remarkably well over that time. 

The one thing I could add looking back from the present is that Donald Trump has figured out how to successfully exploit the weakened trust in our corrupted institutions, and that this is at the core of why so many people hate him with the fire of a thousand suns.  They were expecting to make further advances using the power of those institutions, but Trump shows them (again and again) that the institutions are now easily bypassed.

For example, who follows the Nightly News anymore?  Only Tools and Fools.  Everyone else has wised up - thus the inability of the News to get rid of Trump.

I also predict that governmental institutions like CDC will never recover their reputations once people realize just how badly CDC screwed up their virus projections and recommendations, and how much damage that did to the economy.  Not that this is a hard prediction to make ...


The Liberal Crackup

Antonio Gramsci was an Italian political theorist and Communist during the early part of the twentieth century. His ideas about the importance of the Intellectual Elite led to what is called "the Long March Through the Institutions", where leftist ideology gradually takes over the key intellectual institutions - film, the media, Universities - as a means of fostering social change.

It's fair to say that by the 1990s, that march was complete. The education system, Television, movies were safely bastions of leftist thought, with any few remaining islands of non-left thinking (say the College of Engineering) safely marginalized. At this point, the left were finally free to indoctrinate at will, to mold society in their image.

The election of 2008 is perhaps the greatest success of these institutions, where a combination of news media propaganda, University group-think spoon fed to students, and a glittering collection of Hollywood stars led to the election of Barack Obama, the most liberal president in history. The ground had been carefully prepared, and now the left could finally complete the transformation of the Country, as Gramsci had predicted.

It hasn't worked out that way. Certainly Obama has had some legislative victories, but at terrible cost. Maybe a million people have taken to the streets in protest, in the Tea Party movement. Even if a supine news media downplays or simply refuses to report these events, it's clear that the careful preparation of the Intellectual battlefield have not had at all the expected result. The Intellectual organs do not seem to be pushing the country in the desired direction. On the contrary.

The Long March Through The Institutions is complete, but the results are not what were expected:
  • American's trust in the news media has been falling since 1976.
  • Newspaper circulation has been falling since 1990.
  • None of the top dozen highest grossing Hollywood films has been made in the last 25 years (counting in inflation-adjusted dollars). [written in 2009 - Borepatch]
  • Previously respected initiatives like the Environmental Movement are no longer respected.
  • Trust that the Government will do the right thing has been falling since the early 1960s, from a high around 80% to the mid 20% range.
The only conclusion we can reach is that the Long March Through The Institutions has effectively destroyed the Institutions.

At what should be the height of the Intellectual's power under the Obama Administration, they are being rejected by the country. And so they're cracking up, like Woody Allen and Tom Friedman dreaming about a Dictatorship.  Roger L. Simon suggests why:
They sense — and Woody and Friedman sense with a different reaction — that the Culture Wars are turning. It’s partly the Tea Parties, but it’s more than that. It’s the zeitgeist. The times, they are definitely a-changin’. Liberalism, as we have known it for decades, is on the defensive. With the welfare state unsustainable, it has nowhere to turn and its adherents are turning tail in every direction. They are mad and they are, in many cases, unmoored. Lifetime ideologies are beginning to crumble. Personality constructs are at risk.
Gramsci was wrong, at least for America. We don't care about Intellectualism, and never have. All the dreaming and wishing that America "becomes more like Europe" is empty. Not happening, at least on this side of the Atlantic.

The crackup isn't pretty. Bush wasn't supposed to win, and we saw Bush Derangement Syndrome. Obama did win, but we still see Palin Derangement Syndrome. Charges of "racist" and "sedition" are tossed around, to general derision. At what should be their moment of final victory, it's all turning to dust.

Will the last people to leave the Institutions please turn out the lights? We're trying to be Green and Save the Planet ...

UPDATE 3 June 2010 10:57: Welcome visitors from Tam's place, and she's quite correct: you should also read this and this and this. I've focused here on the Great Tyranny, the one on the national level. The petty tyranny of the local school board or zoning council is another post or ten. You should also read this follow-up post that was triggered by Wolfwalker's excellent comment here.

Monday, May 25, 2020

What happens to Memorial Day when nobody serves?

Decoration Day - the predecessor of today's Memorial Day - was established in the aftermath of the War of Southern Independence*.  There were essentially no families untouched by that charnel house.  When co-blogger and Brother-From-Another-Mother ASM826 and I grew up in the 1960s, the Second World War was still fresh in the nation's memory.  No families were untouched by casualty, and Memorial Day parades were a key event in towns across the land.

But today's wars are fought with a much smaller military.  Casualty reports are smaller, and simply don't effect many people.  As one of the soldiers remarked from Iraq: America's not at war.  We're at war.  America is at the Mall.

But not quite everyone.  Some hear the Call, and some of them die.  Those left behind know the full meaning of Memorial Day.  I posted this eight years ago, and it is worth thinking about today.  Christian Golczynski is now 20 years old and going to the University of Alabama on a scholarship from the Marine Corps Foundation.


Memorial Day isn't about barbecues for Christian Golczynski.  He was eight years old when LTC Ric Thompson handed him the flag that had draped his father's coffin.  That was nine years ago.

This weekend will be the ninth Memorial Day where he won't be thinking about barbecues.  Next month will be the ninth Father's Day with an empty chair at the dinner table.

That is what Memorial Day is about.

I've posted this song a number of times over the last few years, as it captures in music the sound of a heart breaking.  The song alternates between memories of the loved and lost, and the stumbling emptiness as the singer tries - and fails - to make sense of the loss.  It's not your typical sentimental Country music song, it's pure, distilled, 100 proof grief.

For some, that is what Memorial Day is about.

There is no official music video for this song; Messina is no longer the chart topping singer that she was in the 1990s.  But people have taken this music and found photographs that amplify the music and make it personal.  The second picture in the video is one that I found particularly moving - nearly as much as the one of young Mister Golczynski shown here.

This is what Memorial Day is about. 

Heaven Was Needing A Hero (songwriter: Jo Dee Messina)
I came by today to see you
Though I had to let you know
If I knew the last time that I held you was the last time,
I'd have held you and never let go
Oh it's kept me awake night wonderin'
Lie in the dark, just asking "why?"
I've always been told you won't be called home until it's your time

I guess Heaven was needing a hero
Somebody just like you
Brave enough to stand up for what you believe and follow it though
When I try to make it make sense in my mind
The only conclusion I come to
Is that Heaven was needing a hero like you

I remember the last time I saw you
Oh you held your head up proud
I laughed inside when I saw how you were, standing out in the crowd
You're such a part of who I am
Now that part will just be void
No matter how much I need you now
Heaven needed you more

'Cause Heaven was needing a hero
Somebody just like you
Brave enough to stand up for what you believe and follow it though
When I try to make it make sense in my mind
The only conclusion I come to
Is that Heaven was needing a hero like you

Yes, Heaven was needing a hero...that's you.
Abraham Lincoln's letter to Mrs. Bixby is justly famous:
Executive Mansion,
Washington, Nov. 21, 1864.

Dear Madam,

I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant General of Massachusetts that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle. I feel how weak and fruitless must be any word of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save. I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.

Yours, very sincerely and respectfully,

A. Lincoln
Christian Golczynski also laid a sacrifice on that same altar of our freedom, a sacrifice costly beyond our reckoning.  I hope that the fullness of time will ease his anguish as well.  I fear that it will not.

That is what Memorial Day is about.  Not a barbecue in sight, just pure, 100 proof grief.  This weekend as you go about your normal business of life, remember SSgt Marcus Golczynski.  And Christian.  And what that sacrifice means.  May this Republic be worthy of them.

* It wasn't a "Civil War" because the South didn't want to take over the North.  "War Between The States" is not specific about the issue involved.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

John Williams - Hymn To The Fallen

This weekend is Memorial Day - not Thank A Veteran Day.  It used to be called Decoration Day, when people would go and decorate the graves of the fallen with flowers.  It is a day set aside for those who gave that last measure of sacrifice.

I am frequently quite harsh in my opinion of Hollywood, but every now and again something remarkable emerges from that Gomorrah.  Saving Private Ryan was such a film, one that is perfect for this weekend of remembrance.

John Williams wrote a remarkable score for the film, and this finale to the soundtrack perfectly captures the mood of the survivors, looking back.  Ave atque vale.

Friday, May 22, 2020

The lamp of civilization flickers

But it does not go out.  As ASM826 has posted, the Past is a foreign country - they do things differently there.  But even from Blighty, where it seems that the post-whatever elite has made fair their triumph, comes this: the first real Commando raid, sponsored by Churchill himself.

Yeah, it suffered two thirds casualties, but it accomplished the mission.  I wonder what the current generation would make of this.

Actually, I don't.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Puff, puff

This is Borepatch, resurfacing.  Life has been busy, and I'm very grateful for co-blogger and Brother-From-Another-Mother ASM826 single handedly keeping the lights on here while I've been otherwise occupied.  Everything is well, but hokey smokes it's been busy.

I'll get back to work here presently.  I guess I better, before the Management here cans me.  You know what a jerk The Management can be ...

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

The Soviet B-52

OK, the post title is misleading - the airplanes are very different.  But the Tu-95 serves the same role as the BUFF and has been in active service for as long.  The propellers make it look like an anachronism, but an almost 70 year service history belies that.

Say what you will about the Soviets, they could make some good designs.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Florence Foster Jenkins sings "The Queen of the Night" by Mozart

Her performance was never exactly an aesthetic experience, or only to the degree that an early Christian among the lions provided aesthetic experience; it was chiefly immolatory, and Madame Jenkins was always eaten, in the end.
- William Meredith
The not-divine Mrs. Jenkins
The Queen Of The World is delightful in every way imaginable, but one of the things I most enjoy about her is how she sings only when she thinks that nobody's listening.  I can't figure out why, because she has quite a nice singing voice, but I only hear it when she's off in some corner of Castle Borepatch and thinks that nobody's around.  I love to listen to her, and sometimes sneak a little closer to hear better.  Like I said, she's quite good (if shy).

But what about someone who wasn't good, and wasn't shy?  That would be Florence Foster Jenkins, a wealthy socialite who had enough money to produce her own recitals - staring herself, of course - but who didn't have enough self-awareness to realize just how stunningly bad she was.

This piece by Mozart is famously difficult.  Here's the divine Maria Callas doing it properly so you know what it should sound like:

The vocal fireworks start about 40 seconds in.  You'll notice that this piece was not for the faint of heart.

Fortunately (or unfortunately), Mrs. Jenkins was not faint of heart.  But fools rush in where Angels fear to tread.  Warning: this is without doubt the worst performance of this ever recorded:

She was called the "Anti-Callas" for good reason.  What's funny is that Jenkins became quite popular, and regular attendees at her performances included Enrico Caruso and Cole Porter.  She attracted the loyalty of quite an impressive audience because she was completely fearless.  A few years back they made a film about her:

This Mother's Day I hope that all the Moms sing as fearlessly as Mrs. Jenkins, for the joy of it - even if they don't have the voice of a Maria Callas or The Queen Of The World.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

The lockdown death toll

The Silicon Graybeard looks at New York Governor Cuomo's comment that the cost of a human life is priceless.  He's less than impressed:
Get this through your thick skull:  No Matter What You Do People Will Die.  Like when you ordered nursing homes to take covid positive patients in and killed more people in nursing homes alonethan have died in total in all of my state (Florida)?  Like how 66% of patients with covid in NYC supposedly were isolated and staying at home - if it's even possible in NYC to stay in your apartment and not breathe the air from the whole building.  Or the whole block you're on.  

The big question is whether what you're doing is saving more lives than it's costing.  Add up all the good things you're accomplishing, add up all the bad things you're causing and weigh them against each other.  You can't answer that because you don't know any of those except the death count.  
I was listening to the radio yesterday and a (medical) doctor was being interviewed (can't remember his name, but he's from Stanford University's Hoover Institute).  He talked about this exact point - the death toll from the shutdown.  Three points in particular stuck with me:

  • Each month 150,000 Americans are diagnosed with cancer.  Medical Science tells us (loudly and repeatedly) that early detection and treatment is the key to survival.  Well, for two months, people haven't been getting biopsies because Governor Cumo's (and other Governor's) lockdown has basically shut this down.  We won't know the death toll for this for years, but there will be a spike in cancer deaths down the road because of the lockdown.
  • Cancer patients are foregoing chemotherapy, probably because the politicians and the media have frightened them with stories about increased risk for co-morbidities.  They seem to be more worried about catching a hypothetical disease that they are not taking therapies against a disease that will literally kill them.  How many will die is unclear, and we won't know for years, but the number sure isn't zero.
  • Organ donation surgeries are down 85% from a year ago, for the same reason.

There is a death toll here.  Nobody is looking at this, nobody is counting it, but it's real.  As Governor Cuomo put it, human life is priceless.  End the lockdown.

Friday, May 8, 2020

Observe your Philosopher-Kings in action, and despair

The central conceit of progressivism is the dream that really smart public servants can conceive of and implement optimal public policy.  The problem is simple - who are you going to believe, Progressives or your lyin' eyes?

"Smart" public policy for the Kung Flu doesn't include shutting cemeteries:
Nobody on the inside is at risk to either transmit or receive the disease.  And anyway, by definition they are all six feet away even if you are indelicate enough to stand right on them.
Tim is much kinder to them than I would be, but he's much more of a gentleman than I.  But he was also an ER doctor, and so there is a clarity to his thinking that our Governmental Overlords could use a heapin' helping of:
The vehicle gate on the other end of the cemetery was naturally open so this the sort of response to the Current Unpleasantness that grates because it is ineffectual as well as petty and lazy.
We have top men creating public policy.  Top.  Men.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Your must-read post of the day

It's over at Aesop's.  Go.  Read.

Plus (because he hasn't spent his entire career in healthcare, but in film and audio as well) you have a great film clip and a great song to illustrate his post.  Which is 100% correct.

He and I have been jousting over the quality of the CDC virus database (and quite frankly, nobody wins that, at least for 3-4 weeks or more).  But he is one wicked smaht bastid, and you should go get you there for this post.  And probably his others which - while I probably don't agree 100% on all of them - are all wicked smaht.

And oh by the way, Aesop - I wouldn't mind being a Rooftop Korean with you, if it came down to it.  I'm not the world's best shot, but I can ring the gong all day at 200 yards with my Enfield ...

And in the spirit of his posts, and describing what he's talking about, here's John Mellencamp bringing the Coronavirus situation home:

And even though I like to try to keep this place rated PG, this is indisputable:

The Kung Flu death data *is* getting better

I've been criticized for citing CDC data in yesterday's post because CDC updates the data.  Fair enough.  I haven't been tracking how the updates have been running.

But other people have:
As of Monday, the CDC reported that deaths from covid-19 in the week ended May 2 (Saturday) were 138 nationwide. That is 1% of the 12,516 covid-19 deaths for the week ended April 11, which was the peak week of this pandemic.

Now then, the CDC cautioned readers.

It said, "Death counts for earlier weeks are continually revised and may increase or decrease as new and updated death certificate data are received from the states by NCHS. Covid-19 death counts shown here may differ from other published sources, as data currently are lagged by an average of 1–2 weeks."

The week ended April 25 initially was reported as 461 covid-19 deaths.

Now it is listed at 3,699 -- a nine-fold increase.

A nine-fold increase in week ended May 2 would mean a 90% drop from the peak week. Clearly the time has come to re-open the nation.
Like I said in yesterday's post, we're on the other side of the mountain.

Anyone who wants to keep the lockdown in place (with the possible exception of the New York City metropolitan area) needs to do some justification that includes data showing that there is an existential crisis.  Just saying that "people will die" isn't enough to keep 30M (and counting) out of work.

At this point the government is doing nothing but immiserating the working class and going full frontal fascist.  Oh, and destroying the health care system.  Enough.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Happy Quatro de Cinco!

A fawning press tried to explain his gaffe away, but couldn't.  I guess his teleprompter isn't bilingual.

The data on Kung Flu deaths is getting better

CDC just revised Wuhan Flu deaths down by 44%, to 37,000.  Here's why:

Click through to the CDC's web site - the data are very interesting.  Everything that I've seen reported by the idiot media has been a big grab bag of "Death by Kung Flu" + "Death with Kung Flu" + "We think it might have been Death with Kung Flu but couldn't be bothered to test to make sure".  Now CDC has broken this all out explicitly.  Looking at just the "Death From Kung Flu", things are looking pretty encouraging:

Source: CDC

We're on the other side of the mountain.  The graph looks the same if you plot "We think it might have been Death with Kung Flu but couldn't be bothered to test to make sure":

Source: CDC
How dodgy is this particular plot (the "Kitchen Sink" Kung Flu Deaths)?  About the same number of people died in the week of 4/25/2020 as before the flu broke out.  That is either extra crazy medical juju, or it's crummy data.  But even with data this bad, it's clear that we've crossed the mountain.


1. The data have been dodgy but we're getting better visibility.  Things are better - a lot better - than anyone has been saying.

2. Even using crappy data (where nobody dies of natural causes anymore) it's very clear that things are a lot better than anyone has been saying.

3. Prediction: when the data for this week are in, the plot trajectories will continue in the same direction, heading towards zero.

4. There is absolutely no data justifying maintaining the lockdown that has thrown 30 Million out of work.  The trajectory of that graph is also clear - each day another million people lose their jobs.

5. There is no data that shows that the lockdown is saving lives.  There is no data that shows that the lockdown is preventing ICUs from being overloaded.  You can say that after the lockdown were imposed the deaths peaked and then declined, but the lockdown went into effect a month ago - why the delay in turning the curve? Where's your control group so you can compare lockdown vs. non-lockdown deaths?  This is nothing but post hoc ergo propter hoc reasoning.  OK, maybe it's also bureaucratic ass-covering.

6. The lockdown is being implemented by fascists.  That by itself is sufficient reason to end it.

We're over the mountain.  It's over, we're just waiting for the Fat Woman to sing.  Given how wretched our government is, that means it will only be another month of lockdown.

Monday, May 4, 2020

The past is a different country

People act differently there.

On April 25, 1908, a tornado touched down in Griffin, GA.  This was part of an event that is called the 1908 Dixie Tornado outbreak where 29 tornados across 15 States killed over 300 people.  I blame Climate Change ...

In Griffin, 7 people died (plus another one in neighboring Locust Grove).  It also damaged the Mill, where most people in town worked.  The Mill, the town, and most of its people faced financial ruin.  And so the townspeople worked together to repair the mill and get it running again.

They didn't wait for the town to be declared a Disaster Area, or for the National Guard to come in and sort things out.  They picked up their tools and got to work.

This country has lost a lot in the last 50 years.

Saturday, May 2, 2020

30 Million unemployed

Great job, CDC.  Told ya.

And the fun is only just begun: Federal Reserve says job losses could top 47 Million.

Tagged "Government cockups" because, well, you know.

Friday, May 1, 2020

The past is a foreign country

They do things differently there.

ASM826 has been posting about the Lost America.  He posts about lost factories, but there's so much more..For example, they have operators that connect your call, rather than direct dial:

Of course, that calls to mind obsolete humor: "We're the Telephone company.  We don't have to care."  But they sure do know security:

And a note to anyone who is 40 years old or younger: yes, this was a thing.  It was a thing so thingy that it became one of the classic songs of the 1970s:

... with my best old ex-friend Ray ...

... Thank you for your time.  You've been so much more than kind.  You can keep the dime ...

They were Giants in those days.