Archive for November, 2017
30 Nov 2017

“Most Beautiful Woman of the Middle Ages”

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Uta von Ballenstedt (c. 1000 — 23 October before 1046), a member of the House of Ascania, was Margravine of Meissen from 1038 until 1046, the wife of Margrave Eckard II. She is also called Uta of Naumburg.

When Umberto Eco was asked with which women from European art he would most like to spend the evening, he replied: “In first place, ahead of all others, with Uta von Naumburg.

30 Nov 2017

Cat Stuck in a Tree? Here’s the Russian Way of Dealing With the Situation

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2:09 video

30 Nov 2017

Brown University to Allow Students to ‘Self-Identify’ as Persons of Color

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Brown students will obviously not be the first Americans to self-identify as “persons of color.”

Whether costumes and banjos will be issued remains a mystery, according to the College Fix.

Brown University is implementing a change to its graduate school application that will allow applicants to “self-identify” as persons of color. Multiple efforts by The College Fix to clarify the details of this change were ignored by campus officials.

The policy comes as a result of complaints made by graduate students on the Graduate School advisory board that international and Asian American students are not treated as members of historically underrepresented groups by the university, according to The Brown Daily Herald.

One graduate student, Lydia Kelow-Bennett, told The Herald that this decision has led to “institutional invisibility” for these students. Brown defines historically underrepresented groups as “American Indian, Alaskan Native, African American, Hispanic or Latinx and Native Hawaiian and/or Pacific Islander.” The school’s diversity initiatives are intended to benefit members of these groups.

Brown’s criteria for historical underrepresentation “caused some students to not receive invitations to certain events, such as a multicultural student dinner,” The Herald reported.

How allowing applicants to self-identify as persons of color will affect policy relating to the diversity initiatives, and whether the university will take any steps to verify applicants’ self-identification, remain unclear. The Fix reached out multiple times to Brown’s graduate admissions office to inquire into how Brown would ensure that applicants were telling the truth about their self-identified ethnicity. The office did not respond.

RTWT

29 Nov 2017

Faith vs. Reality

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0:52 video

28 Nov 2017

Germany, Failing Again?

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James Madison” thinks the same old German flaws are leading once again to the same old disaster.

Germany does one thing exceptionally well. It can harness its natural tendency toward rigor bordering on arrogance, self-preservation, and an abiding need for social conformity to achieve unparalleled economic dominance in the region. But, because it is consumed by fears – fears arising from its exposure lying at the nexus of the east and west along the wide Northern European plain – it cannot control its urge to overcompensate. Whether it is provoking war against France in 1870, baiting Austria into confronting Russia leading to WWI, or allowing a megalomaniac to seize power and neighbors to create buffer states in WWII lest they threaten, Germany keeps repeating the same mistake. It always eventually turns its industrial power into a tool to exploit others in an effort to protect itself.

After WWII, Germany adopted a kind of “never again” mentality driven first by reconstruction and later by contrition. The German Constitution, the Basic Law, was designed to avoid a repeat of Hitler, Weimar, and Hohenzollern rule which led to economic expansion, exploitation, and calamity. It also structured its government to stop communism, avoid religious division, and prevent class warfare.

The Basic Law is designed to be clear and obtuse, central and diffused, and strong but weak. Thus, with no clear Magna Carta, Bill of Rights, or “Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité” to define itself, everything eventually boiled down to local matters, local politics, and local interests. Economics dominates in Germany – followed by lifestyle. The green movement flourished in Germany when scientists falsely reported the Black Forests were being denuded with acid rain – so there is that too. Green money and green forests or an amorphous concept of social responsibility, therefore, define an undefined social contract, with jobs coming first, vacations second, and social justice and the environment in there somewhere.

By the 1990s, Germany recovered fully from the devastation of WWII and was faced with the enormous cost of integrating the East. Faced with the necessity of converting the low-skill, low-wage East Germans into a productive resource, it developed a political-union-management plan to temper wages in the western side of the country, invest in automation and low-end production in the East, and in the process trim and redesign its production model. The key result was more job flexibility than most Europeans were willing to accept at the time. This led to rapid transformation and a remaking of German production. Germany increased its quality and lowered its relative costs. With the Soviets out of the way, military spending was trimmed and redirected to pay for retraining, social costs, and funding economic efficiencies. This was a win-win politically since reductions in defense spending fed the ever-present anti-war sentiment of a nation that has always struggled to control its fears.

At the same time, the Euro currency entered in 1999 and diluted the relatively high cost of the German Mark and German efficiency. Suddenly, a blending of Germany’s productive workforce with the extremely unproductive, low-skill Mediterranean and growing eastern EU countries in one currency shielded and boosted German competitiveness. The Euro’s arrival meant Germany could hide behind a currency that did not fully value its costs. Its products and companies began to experience better fortune. The timing was perfect. China and the other BRICS needed machine tools, equipment, and technical know-how. Germany would export its way to pay for East-West integration and create itself as a world trade power.

By now the politicians were fully on board – including the left Socialist Democratic Party under Gerhard Schröder. They were delivering a new Reich, one that would dominate in the marketplace with high technology, luxury, and world-class products. German companies dominated segments of China’s, Brazil’s, India’s, and Russia’s auto and fabrication markets. To smooth things out, much talk of green energy, policies, and global accords was tossed about. Germany was in a fugue of green that would eventually lead its politicians to pull the plug on nuclear after the nation hysterically failed to fully understand the Fukushima incident. Nevermind, Germany would pretend to be green while it turned more brown – burning coal to generate power and subsidizing solar and wind everywhere at great cost to the average German. Electricity costs would rise substantially – non-competitively.

Germany’s economic success, however dominant, was not unique. It could be mimicked. In fact, much of its transformation was patterned after Japanese methods. So to address this, German politicians began working to ensure German standards and technology were adopted or imposed by using the growing power they accumulated within the EU. The phony German diesel engine debacle (only German diesel engines could meet the new German-written EU standards) or the German obsession (silly fad) with renewable energy resulted. With over 20 percent of German jobs (over 10 percent due to VW alone), corporate profits, and exports dependent upon creating a global auto footprint, all of Germany rallied around the phony “clean diesel” technology – deceptively and fraudulently represented as cleaner than it actually was. EU skies in Madrid, Milan, and Paris turned gray with diesel pollution that was not possible using the new German clean diesel. In 2015, they got caught. Something was rotten in Berlin, Brussels, Frankfurt, and Strasbourg.

With the promise of a better tomorrow, Germany began to encounter additional bumps. Russia turned revanchist, forcing hard choices about sanctions over Ukraine, choices moralistic Germany belatedly accepted. China did not adopt western democratic ideals with free markets, in fact, it became more repressive. Human rights issues had to be overlooked by Angela Merkel on her trade visits to China. German export markets in Brazil and India were built upon rather primitive economic foundations that eventually caught a downdraft. The rise of Turkish and Hungarian nationalism and authoritarianism presented conflicts between economic interests and a German aversion to authoritarian rule.

Finally, its look-the-other-way tolerance in exchange for the opportunity to “sell, sell, sell” arrived at a beggar-thy-neighbor strategy which eventually sold and banked Greece, Italy, Spain, and Portugal into near or actual insolvency. There were other cases of German goods being sold to dictators and winding up where they should not be. Germany, rather than being seen as a responsible citizen, a trusted partner, and source of trade and technology, was seen as a ravenous exploiter. Even sales of its military hardware – items it was not purchasing sufficiently to defend itself or Europe – saw an uptick in sales. German might be the leader of Europe – but it was a leader that lacked both the high ground and the high road.

It was clear as far back as 2006 when oil prices were skyrocketing that Russia planned to rearm. Despite this, Germany continued to disarm and unarm. And by 2015, Britain saw the EU for what it was becoming – a Franco-German alliance with deep interests in telling local merchants in Barcelona to do things the way they were done in Bavaria. The EU regulations set how many paper towels could be used in a public bathroom or which diesel cars met EU standards (answer: German). Germany was calling the shots in public and behind the scenes whether you lived in Leyden or Leicester. The EU could not challenge the one nation that generated all the positive export balance for the EU in total. The EU needed Germany and Germany knew it. It alone still manufactured things that could be sold around the world.

Yet, Britain and France paid for the nuclear forces, they alone funded the limited means to project military force, and they alone held some real soft power to influence the United States – the only power that still mattered if the EU was to hold sway. It was evident looking back that even the Clinton and Obama administrations barely deferred to Germany. She was a non-factor.

The great German waltz suffered its last blow when Germany turned away from sincere concerns about social harmony and cohesion and Angela Merkel opened her borders to flocks of young, unskilled males roaming in from the Middle East to enter the country as refugees. This horde was encamped with government cooperation and little national debate or reflection – and they remain in German-funded schools and transition programs to this day. Underlying this somewhat disastrous decision to accept about a million new citizens from Syria, Iraq, etc., is a stark reality that Germany — if it is to continue to be a workshop for VW’s, Airbus’s, and machine tools — needs workers. The population reproduction has lagged behind replacement levels and no one wants to clean sewers, bathrooms, or pick up garbage. Thus, an economic policy driven by a demographic problem led to a rushed rationalization of an immigration policy that quickly became unpopular.

Nationalist sentiments – the vilest and most detested sentiments in post-WWII Germany – have surged forth. And the nation is now locked in a political impasse over forming a new parliamentary coalition to rule – a little over a month ago the Christian Democrats (Angela Merkel’s center-right party) experienced their worst election since 1949! No coalition is forthcoming.

Meanwhile, Germany’s economy is strong. The nation is weak. It is even perhaps unstable. It is in some respects isolated – from Britain (Brexit), France (reluctantly pro-EU expansion), the Mediterranean EU countries, the more demanding, intolerant, and authoritarian Eastern EU, a resurgent Russia, and its old protector, the United States – which is now a political card played to demonstrate moral superiority. Its old fears of exposure on the Northern European plain nestled between nations who do not trust each other or worse, do not trust Germany, will emerge again. That which unites Germany’s regions and people, their natural proclivity toward a kind paranoia and fear, also destroys it. Will it continue to overplay, overextend, overcompensate? Can it pull itself back a bit, realign, and find a national consensus? Can it arm itself, protect itself, and become a trustworthy ally?

The answer is simply that since its creation as a balance of power between imperial Russia and France, Germany is too small, too large, too aggressive, too passive, and too weak to lead. And when others, or Germany itself, attempts to do so, sooner or later she oversteps and things start to spin out of control. Germany is its own, and quite often the world’s, worst enemy.

RTWT

28 Nov 2017

Hitler Reacts to Grad Student Thought Crimes

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Also via Vanderleun.

28 Nov 2017

Millennial Job Interview

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HT: Vanderleun.

27 Nov 2017

Yale Psych Prof Finds Cause (Fear, Of Course) of Conservatism and Discovers Cure

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Professor Bargh tells all in the Washington Post:

Conservatives, it turns out, react more strongly to physical threat than liberals do. In fact, their greater concern with physical safety seems to be determined early in life: In one University of California study, the more fear a 4-year-old showed in a laboratory situation, the more conservative his or her political attitudes were found to be 20 years later. Brain imaging studies have even shown that the fear center of the brain, the amygdala, is actually larger in conservatives than in liberals. And many other laboratory studies have found that when adult liberals experienced physical threat, their political and social attitudes became more conservative (temporarily, of course). But no one had ever turned conservatives into liberals.

Until we did.


John Bargh, the (God help us!) James Rowland Angell Professor of Psychology at Yale.

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Personally, I’d bet if I could get my hands on Professor Bargh for experimental purposes, I could prove empirically that the liberal Professor would react a lot more strongly to the physical threat of getting punched in the nose than I (the extreme conservative) would. We could play Mexican Standoff, and I’d even let the good professor have the first punch.

I had thought that the supposed ability of savants to associate physical features with psychological dispositions or states (Phrenology) was long discredited, but obviously in today’s academic culture ancient heresies and crackpot notions do keep coming back.

When I read this kind of thing, I blush for Yale and I wish once again that Peter Salovey could be immediately replaced by someone genuinely educated and serious: the kind of old-fashioned scholar who would take one look at this Washington Post article and send the onomatopoeic Professor Bargh and his entire preposterous department of “social psychology” packing.

27 Nov 2017

Opening Day of Deer Season

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Two very old (and quite damaged, due to basement storage decades ago) photos of my father with his opening day bucks taken in the late 1940s in Locust Valley, PA.

27 Nov 2017

Tyrian Purple

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(My apologies for inflicting on you the sanctimonious cant at the end of the video.)

“(…) Purple dye production was a gritty and often conspicuous, seaside business for those doing the intense manual labor required to harvest it. Although there are few other references to it, the Roman poet Martial alludes to the fact that Tyrian purple, named after the city of Tyre, retained a distinct, rather fishy smell even after it had been made into a garment. He mentions a certain Philaenis, who enjoyed wearing the luxurious textile for its smell rather than for its color. The poet also composed a list of bad smelling things that he would rather smell like than a woman named Bassa: sulphurous waters, a fish pond, an amorous goat, the old shoes of a veteran soldier, the breath of a Jew who had been fasting, ointment made from Sabine oil, and fleece twice dipped in Tyrian purple (‘bis murice uellus inquinatum’). Smelling worse than even a double-dipped fleece of Tyrian purple was quite the slur against the woman. (…)”

Via Ratak Monodosico.

26 Nov 2017

Gold Richard III Half Angel Found Not Far From Bosworth Field

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Leicester Mercury:

A metal detectorist has tracked down a rare gold coin from Richard III’s reign near to the site of the Battle of Bosworth.

The Half Angel is one of just a handful of such coins that have survived from the king’s two-year reign.

It was discovered by Michelle Vall while she was taking part in a charity detecting rally in September at Monks Kirby, near the Bosworth Field. News of the discovery has just come to light.

The coin will be auctioned international coins, medals and jewellery specialist Dix Noonan Webb in London on December 13. It is expected to fetch up to £15,000.

Christopher Webb, head of the coins department at Dix Noonan Webb, said: “This is a very rare discovery that has miraculously survived in a field for more than five centuries.

“Its importance as a coin is enhanced by the tantalising possibility that it may have belonged to one of Richard’s army, whose defeat at Bosworth ended the Wars of the Roses and ushered in the Tudor dynasty.”

Michelle, a 51-year-old primary school teaching assistant, from Blackpool, said: “After detecting for two-and-a-half hours in a farmer’s field, I got a signal.

“The coin was deep down, about 16 inches below the surface, and the soil there is thick clay so it took a bit of digging out.

“I spotted this glint of gold in the hole, although I obviously did not know exactly what it was at first. I put it in the palm of my hand and then I went back to the organisers’ tent.

“One of them identified it and people became very excited. That was when I realised that it was a Half Angel.”

Michelle has decided to sell the coin as, she said, it is “too valuable to keep”.

She added: “I did not want to keep it in a locked cupboard.

“I feel very privileged that I have found something so precious and historic.

“The memory of that day, the excitement not just of myself but also of other detectorists, when I found that beautiful, tiny, piece of historic gold will live with me forever.”

The Half Angel gold coin was first introduced in 1472 and was half the value of the Angel coin.
The rare gold coin was discovered near the site of the Battle of Bosworth

Richard III issues of the coin are rare because his reign was so brief and there has always been a big interest in items from the controversial king’s rein particularly since his remains were discovered in Leicester in 2012.

It is possible that the coin might have belonged to one of Richard’s soldiers fleeing from the battle that changed the course of English history.

26 Nov 2017

Bad Career Fit

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25 Nov 2017

VDH Remembers the Old Breed

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William G. Zincavage, 1945.

At Thanksgiving, Victor Davis Hanson is grateful for our parents’ generation, the generation that won the War, particularly those like my own father who served in the Marine Corps.

Much has been written about the disappearance of these members of the Greatest Generation—there are now over 1,000 veterans passing away per day. Of the 16 million who at one time served in the American military during World War II, only about a half-million are still alive. …

More worrisome, however, is that the collective ethos of the World War II generation is fading. It may not have been fully absorbed by the Baby Boomer generation and has not been fully passed on to today’s young adults, the so-called Millennials. While U.S. soldiers proved heroic and lethal in Afghanistan and Iraq, their sacrifices were never commensurately appreciated by the larger culture.

The generation that came of age in the 1940s had survived the poverty of the Great Depression to win a global war that cost 60 million lives, while participating in the most profound economic and technological transformation in human history as a once rural America metamorphosed into a largely urban and suburban culture of vast wealth and leisure.

Their achievement from 1941 to 1945 remains unprecedented. The United States on the eve of World War II had an army smaller than Portugal’s. It finished the conflict with a global navy larger than all of the fleets of the world put together. By 1945, America had a GDP equal to those of Germany, Japan, the Soviet Union, and the British Empire combined. With a population 50 million people smaller than that of the USSR, the United States fielded a military of roughly the same size.

America almost uniquely fought at once in the Pacific, Asia, the Mediterranean, and Europe, on and beneath the seas, in the skies, and on land. On the eve of the war, America’s military and political leaders, still traumatized by the Great Depression, fought bitterly over modest military appropriations, unsure of whether the country could afford even a single additional aircraft carrier or another small squadron of B-17s. Yet four years later, civilians had built 120 carriers of various types and were producing a B-24 bomber at the rate of one an hour at the Willow Run factory in Michigan. Such vast changes are still difficult to appreciate.

Certainly, what was learned through poverty and mayhem by those Americans born in the 1920s became invaluable in the decades following the war. The World War II cohort was a can-do generation who believed that they did not need to be perfect to be good enough. The strategic and operational disasters of World War II—the calamitous daylight bombing campaign of Europe in 1942-43, the quagmire of the Heurtgen Forest, or being surprised at the Battle of Bulge—hardly demoralized these men and women.

Miscalculations and follies were not blame-gamed or endlessly litigated, but were instead seen as tragic setbacks on the otherwise inevitable trajectory to victory. When we review their postwar technological achievements—from the interstate highway system and California Water Project to the Apollo missions and the Lockheed SR-71 flights—it is difficult to detect comparable confidence and audacity in subsequent generations. To paraphrase Nietzsche, anything that did not kill those of the Old Breed generation made them stronger and more assured.

As an ignorant teenager, I once asked my father whether the war had been worth it. After all, I smugly pointed out, the “victory” had ensured the postwar empowerment and global ascendance of the Soviet Union. My father had been a combat veteran during the war, flying nearly 40 missions over Japan as the central fire control gunner in a B-29. He replied in an instant, “You win the battle in front of you and then just go on to the next.”

I wondered where his assurance came. Fourteen of 16 planes—each holding eleven crewmen—in his initial squadron of bombers were lost to enemy action or mechanical problems. The planes were gargantuan, problem-plagued, and still experimental—and some of them also simply vanished on the 3,000-mile nocturnal flight over the empty Pacific from Tinian to Tokyo and back.

As a college student, I once pressed him about my cousin and his closest male relative, Victor Hanson, a corporal of the Sixth Marine Division who was killed on the last day of the assault on Sugar Loaf Hill on Okinawa. Wasn’t the unimaginative Marine tactic of plowing straight ahead through entrenched and fortified Japanese positions insane? He answered dryly, “Maybe, maybe not. But the enemy was in the way, then Marines took them out, and they were no longer in the way.”

RTWT

25 Nov 2017

Saving Private Kaepernick

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