Month: April 2020

A Modest Proposal

Warning System

The news headlines are veering more and more to future Coronabeer outbreaks. This tells me: the current crisis is passing. If there’s not enough current bad news to keep readers engaged (scared), the media needs to focus on future bad news.

The thing they’re focusing on: the virus will probably come back in the fall and winter.

I don’t believe them.

I think it might; I think it might not. The only thing I know for sure is that the experts have swung and missed way too many times with this thing.

A few samples:

We need legally-enforced lockdowns. But Sweden didn’t and the results haven’t been bad.

Michael Osterholm, an internationally recognized expert in infectious disease epidemiology, went on the Joe Rogan Experience and said warmer months probably wouldn’t reduce the spread of Corona. Now everyone seems to be saying it will.

We were told that, once you have it, you’re safe. That now doesn’t appear to be true.

We were told to social distance by three feet, then six. Now we’re told the infectious particles can travel 20+ feet.

The list of wrong information from the experts goes on and on and on.

So what do we do?

I honestly don’t know, but I would suggest that drastic measures like mandatory shutdowns aren’t the answer. Let’s face it: the experts don’t know when this thing will return or how it will return or what it will look like when it returns. If the experts don’t know, on what grounds does the government shut down the economy and our rights?

And on top of that, even if the infectious disease … Read the rest

Miscellany

Maris and Money

The MLB is looking to a 100-game season, using a three-division, 10-team plan in which teams play only within their division. Crazy times call for crazy solutions, but this doesn’t strike me as crazy. The MLB changes its format so often, I long ago stopped trying to keep up, even before they completely apostasicized and put the Astros in the American League in 2013.

But I gotta believe there would be little interest. I mean, if your team wins it all, the record books will forever put an asterisk next to it (which translates to, “100-game season, so not a legitimate World Series winner”). The same for the guy who hits .400. They say the asterisk next to Roger Maris’ 61-home run season plagued him to his early grave.

Nearly everyone in American fears economic collapse. 89% of us.

Well, yeah.

What else should we be expecting? If we aren’t producing anything but instead merely printing money, of course a huge depression is coming.

That’s only common sense.

But I’m increasingly thinking we can print money to create wealth. No effort needed. Just print. How does it work? That, I’m afraid, is a shadowy thing, but it basically boils down to the other countries accepting our dollars as if they have real value. Because they think the dollar has value, they sell us the products of their sweat and toil in exchange for these trillions of dollars It’s a psychological game.

Cynics say it’s a thuggish game: If a country starts to decline to take our dollars, there’s suddenly a reason to send troops there. I honestly have no firm … Read the rest

Iowa

Regionalism Redux

It might be a good time to revisit Grant Wood’s “Revolt Against the City” (PDF can be found here). The American Gothic artist wrote the essay in 1935, in the throes of the Great Depression. The gist of the essay: The Great Depression has been good for the United States. It has helped free its arts from European influence and, in particular, compelled the eastern coastal cities to appreciate regional, rural art more.

If you substitute “COVID crisis” for “Great Depression,” “China” for “Europe,” and “commercial interests” for “art,” parts of the essay become contemporary:

Economic and political causes have contributed in these days to turn us away from Europe [CHINA] . . . The Great Depression [COVID] has taught us many things, and not the least of them is self-reliance. It has thrown down the Tower of Babel erected in the years of false prosperity; it has sent men and women back to the land; it has caused us to rediscover some of the old frontier virtues.

The essay focuses on the arts, so it doesn’t work, grammatically, to substitute “commercial interests” for “art” throughout the entire essay, but the theme of the essay applies.

Every region of our country is different, Wood says, so each region gives rise to different art. In the “Middle West,” where Wood lived, the art doesn’t jump out at you, like it does in the perfect scenes of New Mexico, California, or parts of New England, but rather must be “hunted for.” It requires more analysis and reflection, plus an intimate acquaintance with the region, which gives such art more depth.

I think Wood … Read the rest

An Evergreen Piece

Humble Men

Socrates was an ugly, poor man with no pretensions. In the eyes of the world, he was a misfit and fool, a constant butt of jokes around sophisticated Athens, but he didn’t mind. He was very humble, thinking little of himself and caring little for his earthly affairs.

His humility was combined with intense wisdom, as evidenced by the spontaneous school of promising young men (like Plato) gathered about him to learn about the higher issues of existence. Socrates became known for his ability to stump Athens’ “important” men through what became known as the “Socratic method,” which is popularly assumed to be a browbeating device of intellectuals against students. But Socrates in reality stumped them because his questions permeated the depths of important issues, depths he had plumbed in his quiet and simple life of contemplation.

This combination—intense humility and deep wisdom—is not exclusive to Socrates. It has happened many times. Most significantly, it occurred four hundred years after Socrates’ execution, when Jesus Christ was born into an intensely humble life, remained a poor and humble man all His life, but possessed unparalleled wisdom. It is also a consistent feature of Christ’s best followers, like St. Thomas, one of the most-learned and wise men in history, but a man who always remained humble, and St. Therese of Lisieux, a simple girl who, notwithstanding her lack of higher education, became a doctor of the Church. It is perhaps the most-stunning characteristic of St. John Vianney, the Cure d’Ars.… Read the rest

Episode 73

New Episode Released

1400s, Florence Banking, Heroes, States Rights

We are at the 1400s. We are going to take this segment all the way to 1491. It is the penultimate segment of this historical survey.

The Renaissance is in full swing. If you want to cement easy poles in your brain, think: 1300s: Black Death and War. 1400s: The Renaissance.

This is the age of Machiavelli. All the Italian city-states battling each other. The Medici family.

No one knows why the Renaissance took hold so strongly in Italy and, in particular, Florence, but many scholars think it was the result of a depression, partly caused by the Black Death and falling prices. Perhaps also caused when Edward III defaulted on his loans from Florentine bankers. He had obtained the loans to finance the 100 Years War. When he defaulted on them, there wasn’t a whole lot the Florentine bankers could do (stab him with their quill pens?). They were ruined, thereby driving Florence into a serious depression. It’s like, things already weren’t good, but now they got a whole lot worse. Florentines no longer trusted conventional investments, so they looked to other things, especially art, thereby attracting artists whose work was valued.

Perhaps the biggest event in the 1400s was the fall of Constantinople. 1453.

1453: Constantinople fell. Should’ve happened sooner. By 1400, the Byzantine Empire (which was, remember, still the Roman Empire and only known as the Roman Empire . . . Use of the term “Byzantine Empire” didn’t start until way after it had fallen). But by 1400, the Byzantine Empire was just Constantinople, an outpost in a sea of Turks, who were … Read the rest

BYCU

Top Gin

Dang! I saw this article, The 8 Best Bottles Of Gin You Can Buy At Any Price Point, glanced at the picture and thought, “Wow, I’ve owned and drank every one of those bottles at least once.” But then I noticed one of the bottles is Aviation Gin, which I’ve never tried.

The top six are strong selections, but the article is snobbishly misleading. It says “any price point,” but they mean, “any price point mid-shelf and higher.” It offers no lower mid-shelf or low shelf options.

For the lower mid-shelf, I strongly suggest New Amsterdam gin. This gin is one of my favorites, period. And combined with Fever Tree tonic? You’d need a very discerning palate to notice a difference from, say, Hendrick’s. Of course, I suppose the very discerning palate doesn’t use tonic at all, but if you like a solid gin and tonic for a reasonable price, I definitely endorse New Amsterdam, especially if you like the western style gins.

For lower shelf? I’m afraid I don’t have much experience, but a friend of mine once served me Kirkland’s Dry Gin, and it was fine. Like Sam’s Club’s Member’s Mark liquors (notice the possessive trifecta), Costco produces big bottles of good liquor. None of it will blow you away, but if you’re merely looking for a mixer, I highly recommend them. I keep a few giant bottles of Sam’s American Vodka on hand at all times. It’s my “go to” vodka when I need to entertain more than a handful of guests.

If your guests are snobs, you can pour the American Vodka into an empty Grey Goose … Read the rest

Heroes?

The Noun Murderers

Are medical personnel heroes?

When our culture went gaga over the first responders (gender-neutral term . . . can’t use “firemen”) after 9/11, I went gaga too. Actually, I would start to cry a bit, thinking of all those young men charging up the towers, knowing there was a good chance they would collapse, which they did.

And then we started referring to every soldier in Afghanistan as a “hero.” That made me squirm a bit. Traditionally, soldiers become heroes while in the line of duty. That, anyway, is what the war movies taught me. A soldier became a hero by ripping off his gear, running across no-man’s land with enemy bullets flying around him, retrieving wounded Ace the Army Dog, and running back to the trench.

The dude who hung back, watching it unfold, maybe shooting vigorously at the enemy in order to distract them from the man who was running across the field?

That dude is a soldier. Maybe a friend. Maybe a good guy.

But not a hero.

Is every doctor or nurse who shows up to work these days more like the man who retrieved Ace the Army Dog or more like the dude who shot at the enemy while the hero ran across the field?

Both are commendable, by the way. Both deserve far more applause than I deserve by showing up at my computer every day to work on critical infrastructure contractual matters for my clients.

But are they both heroes?

Based on the military example above, no. A hero is someone like that soldier who retrieved Ace the Army Dog. A hero, in other words, … Read the rest