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Thursday, December 29, 2016

950th anniversary of Hastings

This year was 950th anniversary of Battle of Hastings.  Ugh! Reading Brits! They refer to places like East Anglica which you can’t find on a current map.  It’s Suffolk—one of 7 tribes of Angles and Saxons in the 500s-800s.  Then they wax on about 15 different people that caused the invasion. After some digging, here’s my simple-American understanding.

            One of the troubles of Medieval monarchs is that they often didn’t live long enough or have fertility enough to sire heirs. Somebody was always dying of gangrene from a blister or a cut. Vikings, about 1000AD began trading instead of raiding and became rich and powerful. They forced their way into northeastern England—York and Northumbria along the N. Sea.  Aethelred the Unready was the Anglo-Saxon British king when Sweyn Forkbeard and his son Canute conquered the kingdom.  But Forkbeard died a year later and young Canute fled temporarily.  Aethelred had 4 sons and he sent 2 to Hungary for safety and the other two to Normandy since that is where his wife was from. That’s how Normandy gets into the act.  Canute returned to seize the throne in 1016 and ruled for 20 years.  He was also king of Denmark, Sweden, and Norway and commanded lucrative trade in the N. Sea and Baltic.  When he died in 1035 he had two sons,  Harthacnut and Harefoot, who disputed and ruled in succession--both dead by 1042. Harefoot evidently could run fast but not fast enough.

            Opportunistically, Aethelred’s 2 Norman sons returned to England before a Danish successor could be named.    The Anglo-Saxon English didn’t like either the Danes or the Normans.  Normans were once Vikings too, but quickly adapted to being French. Alfred was assassinated. Edward locked down the kingdom, but there was a dangerous rival nobleman, Godwine who had sons and ambition.  Eventually, Edward and Godwine worked out a deal whereby Edith, Godwine’s daughter married Ed. But they didn’t mate and she remained childless.  Maybe she was sterile or maybe he didn’t pick up his laundry and had to sleep on the couch.  The official story was that religious Edward had taken a vow of celibacy.  Normans were close to the church; English Saxons weren’t.  Thus Edward the Confessor became a national hero for being peaceful and supporting churches and buildings and roads.  Godwine died.  Then on his death bed, Edward reportedly gave the throne to Harold Godwineson as the only guy who could unite the English. 

            Things got hairy.  There were many claimants to the throne. Harold Hadrada, king of Norway claimed it for being a decendant of Canute and invaded Northumbria with thousands of men.  Harold held them off and killed Hadrada at the battle of Stamford Bridge.  No sooner was the battle was over and William Duke of Normandy, bastard son of a cousin, bulldog of a fighter, invaded southern England as a claimant.  Harold fast-marched his men from northern England to the southern shore, just in time to fight a battle with William.  The battle didn’t really take place at Hastings but at a town named Battle nearby. (which explains why we call such fights “battles”) Normans knights charged repeatedly but the English held the high ground.  But the Normans had 6 foot longbows which could rain long-range terror on the English and they won the day. 

            We think Willie was intent on winning allies among the Anglo-Saxon English, but he was ruthless, my-way-or-the-highway guy.  As he seized vast lands to give his 7000 followers, smaller rebellions cropped up for another ten years. Coercion, resistance, oppression followed and 1.5 million Anglo-Saxons were reduced to serfdom while 7000 Normans took control.  French became the language of the court. And instead of England becoming a Viking territory, it became linked to more-sophisticated France and Continental Europe.  Normans built wooden forts all over England to secure themselves and these turned into castles—something new for England. Willie had a massive survey done to figure out the maximum taxes he could charge (Domeday Book). He ruled autocratically, grew fat as Buddha.  At the funeral when they tried to wedge his body in a too-small crypt in the church floor, his body ruptured and caused a horrid scene. 

            The original English Anglo-Saxon language is still pretty much preserved on the Frisian Islands offshore of Netherlands and Germany and in Angleland, at the German-Danish border.  I’m no linguist, but English people who visit there say it catches you off guard-- a Germanic language that you can almost understand. French altered our English into Middle English of the 1200s-1400s. All in all, the conquest resulted in good.  England became a trading country. Laws were codified. When a Norman king, John, got ruthless, the other nobles made him sign Magna Carta [freedom of church, jury trial, equal protection under law].  John died right after he got the Pope to nullify Magna Carta, and his ten-yr. old son, Henry, was crowned.  In this power vacuum, the nobles insisted on re-instating the Magna Carta. Thus among so many faux contracts that medieval nobles made, this one stuck, the first constitution in Europe.  

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Stuff the news media should tell us

I suspect that a major reason the media doesn’t give oft-times vital information, is because they have such short time frames to write or speak and many lack analytical skills.  Years ago, I cashed in a few frequent flier points to sit 1st class and I sat down next to Art Linkletter, age 90 at the time.  He told me exactly this. Here’s more stuff…

1.     China was 2% of world's manufacturing in 1991 but is 19% today. 1/5 of US middleclass job loss is due to this. Workers are far less willing to move today (loss of home value) or re-educate (US stresses 4 year degrees which is huge down time to get a bachelors) Therefore, many try to get on disability, now 5% of 25-64 yr. olds. Food stamps has gone from 17M in 2000 to 48M today.

2.     2.6M die each year, most by health conditions. 98K die from medical mistakes, 100K from falls and accidents, 38K drug overdoses, 30K vehicle accidents.  There are only 700 deaths per year from gun accidents, but 13,000 from gun crime.  Cocaine usage fell by half in the last 10 years but heroin has gone up 80%. Marijuana abuse in Colorado has increased by 25% among the elderly since they passed legalization.

3.     It’s the federal gov’t people are fed up with.  47% of voters this fall thought Fed Gov’t is too powerful; 61% think states should be able to opt out of fed mandates and programs if fed doesn’t pay for them. Only 26% want federal funding of elections.

4.     Since 70s, land temperature readings have gone 1.5 degrees higher, but 25degrees higher since 15,000 BC. At 10,800 BC was a -15 degree re-cooling called Younger Dryas that lasted 1300 years, probably due to changed ocean circulation. Then two Sahara warmings @ 4400BC and 2200BC each lasting 150  years. (disputed causes) A  medieval warming 850-1300AD by 5 degrees, then a Little Ice Age (-8 degrees) 1309-1850 AD caused by lower solar output—known from sunspot occurance) Interglacial periods last 12,000-28,000 years. 39% of climatologists recently said they were convinced of manmade warming.

5.     In 1850, 80% of black children slaves lived with BOTH parents and this continued to 1950.  14% out-of-wedlock rate of 1950 has gone to 70% today. 7000 of 13,000 murders are committed by Af-Am who are 13% population. Half of 12th graders function at 6th grade. Teen unemployment was LESS than for whites in 1950s but is now 47%.  Black kids need Dads!  Take an unguided one under your wing, guys!

6.     Oklahoma Democrat vs. R’s in 1976 was 78% to 22% (don’t have statistics on Indies). 2016, 40 years later it is 41.5% to 45.5% in favor of R’s.  The use of marketing surveys with smart phone techniques is having a big impact on big elections—people reminding like-minded people to vote—Obama technique pioneered in 2008. Media doesn’t want you to know this. It circumvents them.

7.     Single mom, two kids (SM2K) can get assistance from TANF,WIC, Food stamps, Sect. 8 housing, and Medicaid, plus other state programs. If you make nothing $1500 a month aid is typical even in MS and AR when state is tightfisted. Earned Income Tax Credit declines as you make more than $9600 and you lose TANF.  At about 23K you lose food stamps and housing asst. Bottom line, most, but not all SM2Ks make $1500-$2000 per month no matter how poor they are.

8.     7% of men are molested sexually as kids.  46% of gay males were; 22% of gay women. Prison surveys show 86% of child molesters are gay/bi. 1.6% of population is gay; 0.7% bi—same as it has been for the last century.

9.     Save up.  30% of seniors >55 have no savings and 26% have less than $50K (9 months in nursing home).  ¼ living on retirement SS have only that. (SS retirement avg benefit is $1600/month)

10.  Racism is rare. In 1950 20% thought interracial marriage was okay.  Today it’s 90%.  Of the 10% who don’t, 2/3 cited no personal dislike but hardship on children or the couple.  That fits with 12 studies of Caucasian Americans over the last 20 years thought to be reputable—true racists are <3 3="" nbsp="" o:p="" of="" population.="" total.="">

Well, enough!  Don’t get me going on Obamacare, Islam, Taxation or Energy.  I can’t shut up.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Trump's Populism

Trump’s a populist, they say.  But I see him as a somewhat kindred soul.  I was once diagnosed as a high IQ kid, but how does that help you feed the cows?  Trump spent his childhood hanging around sheetrock hangers, despite an IQ of 140 and being the top student at NY Military Academy. But when you can use words like parsimonious and surfeit, you get accepted by the elites as one of them.  Whereupon, it can be observed that credentialed elites have engaged in a concerted revolt against traditional American values of patriotism and religion.  “The rich,” F. Scott Fitzgerald noted, “are different than us.” That is, behavior that would destroy a middle class person—drunkenness, infidelity, drug use, crime—is just a small problem for elites who can fix it with a tony rehab clinic or a sharp lawyer.  True, Trump has had his divorces and lives palatially.  But there's something different about him.

Coastal and urban, the elites choose to hang around cities, by definition, the centers of wealth.  These are the leaders of the Democrats who remind one of  Europe’s nobilesse oblige aristocracy but with a modern technocratic twist. They have bought friends among the poor by supplying welfare dependency. And where the European princes wanted to save their heads from the guillotine, the Dem elite wants to be permanently elected and in power.  Thus American politics is divided along cultural lines according to the answer to Obama’s  “who we are”.  Dem cosmopolitans say America is defined by multiculturalism and diversity.  The rest of us say it is family, flag, rights and property, and faith. And the unique American Constitution that makes us the Exception-to-the-rule in nations.

And boy, did the Democrats lose!  They lost in 2010 and thereafter—1200 local seats, 17 governorships, 13 Senate seats, 63 House seats, and finally the Presidency.  

The ordinary folks have risen up against the elites not only because the elites hog all the best jobs, but because they can’t hide their eye-rolling disdain for the mundane middle people.  This has been on display nightly in the Main Stream Media elite commentators.  By 2106, the revolt needed a President.  Every now and then a politician comes along who understands the family and faith people.  Trump, who likes wearing ball caps, went about the campaign, according to Kellyanne Conway, stopping to talk to the waitresses, doormen and security guys while the people in suits and ties waited for him.  We’ve seen pols like this before.  Reagan took his issues from the people “on the mashed potato circuit” where he mixed and spoke in small towns.  Washington was at home on his farm and in his brewery shoveling grain with the slaves he later manumitted.  TR signed up a battalion of cowboys and former friends from the Dakotas called the Rough Riders to fight in the war.  The key seems to be, not the humility of a candidate’s upbringing (like Jonathan Edwards) but of who they like to call friends in adulthood. Every now and again, it takes a populist businessman to reorganize the arrogant bureaucracy, tame the big shot legislators, and bring America back to the values that created it. Welcome home again, America.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Real Dust Bowl

From 1931 through 1938 the rainfall of the Great Plains fell by half.  In Oklahoma’s panhandle annual rainfall averages 18 inches but was 8 inches in this period.  Since 15 inches will induce desertification, the land struggled to sustain groundcover.  No one to this day has explained this enormous drought.  But a lot of people wrote about it.  People left the area known as the Dust Bowl, NE New Mexico to SW Kansas in droves abandoning land which only blew more dust.  “Okies” went to California and settled in the San Joaquin valley by the thousands as pitiful refugees.  Only after the federal government saved the day with made work jobs and assistance, conservation practices, and market controls, did the fool Okies survive.  Steinbeck’s book “Grapes of Wrath” is taken as gospel around the country.

But governors from Texas to Kansas protested Steinbeck’s sob story.  First of all, it is a myth that people left in droves.  Meade Co. KS , the heart of the dust bowl, actually gained population in the 1930s. Unemployment in OK was 22.5%, a few percent lower than the national average.  Remember there was a severe recession going on! We know from postal records that 445,000 people left Oklahoma during the decade (gorss, not net).  About half went to the Pacific Northwest where big dam projects were in the works and many of these Oklahomans were skilled welders.  60,000 went to CA and only 1/3 of these settled in the Great Valley.  Yet curiously, people in CA swear that most all the newcomers in the 30’s were “Okies”.  The reason for the myth is that AR had 48% and MS had 52% unemployment at this time.  The reason is that FDR’s Ag program, AAA, paid farmers to leave land idle. So the land barons took their checks and told most of the sharecroppers to hit the road, which they did to the San Joaquin Valley.  They had a similar accent to the Okies who were well known in the Bakersfield area in the oil industry.  So the label stuck. There were actually two other areas from which people migrated.  Western Dakotas and Montana had an equally horrid drought and many of these farmers went bankrupt and disprersed throughout the northern states.  Afro-Americans in the South, forced out as sharecroppers went to northern cities and settled in ghettos.

Just to serve the narrative of victimhood, Steinbeck has his characters beaten and taken advantage of by the CA landowners and farmers.  Naturally his Okies threatened to strike and get violent.  But the true story of labor unrest was from communist leaders of Mexican union workers who worked the fields.  State troopers had to put down the riots. In actual fact about 40,000 Oklahomans resettled in the Los Angeles area.  Their skills as horsemen and with livestock made them valuable in the movie industry which lived of horse operas.  And there were many others who found other jobs.

Nor did the Dust Bowl drive people off the land.  About half the farmland was farmed by seasonal farmers who came to plow and plant wheat, then returned to harvest.  Many lived in Denver or a farm in the east.  When fields began to blow, they were absentee to manage the dry earth.  It was well-known by many farmers in the area that strip plowing stops the dust from growing into a storm, but they were powerless to dictate to their neighbors.  Also many were well aware of the cause.  Farmers the world over love to fall plow.  Old Man Winter freezes and thaws and breaks up clods until by spring you have perfect texture like a flower bed. Trouble is, the climate of the panhandle freezes and thaws almost every day and night and the land breaks into dust.  Soils there are particularly friable and prone to blow. Cover crops, fallowing, listing, strip farming were not the invention of the federal government, but of farmers of the area. And remember, these were the days when farmers were virtually self-sufficient. I interviewed one 90-year old woman who said they didn’t raise any field crops but always had a garden.  They took gutters off the house and pumped well water into an irrigation system served by the gutters.

So if the farmers were scraping by, who wasn’t?  It was the cities where workers lost jobs and formed bread lines, wrote down-in-the-mouth novels like Studs Terkel did.  Like angry Woodie Guthrie sang.  And the armchair theorists and philosophers who were rich enough to still have a Packard, thought Steinbeck and Hoover/FDR progressivism must be right.  In fact, FDR is now credited with furthering the Depression with NHRA and dozens of foolish government programs which sucked funds out of the private sector.  Thus USA had a 12 year Depression while other countries didn’t.  In 1934, unemployment reached 25% nationwide.  In 1936 FDR proposed the Shelterbelt system.  His plan, conceived by himself and ignoring the warnings of botanists, was to plant a 100 mile wide strip of forest from ND to TX.  99% of the millions of trees planted died the first year. They build Hoover and Grand Coulee dams which will be filled with silt in another 75 years—the Colorado River carries ¾ of the sediment of North America. And at one point, the progressives wanted to force at gunpoint, all people to leave western KS to NE NM to the TX panhandle to leave and the federal government would make it into a National Park.  I think the 5 Civilzed tribes of OK thought, “We’ve heard this jive before.”             In the end, the absentee farmers blew out, Many people who left left for respiratory health reasons, the kids of the Depression who were so resourceful in the face of Dust became leaders in the fight against Axis powers, stunning the Nazis who believed the hang dog stories about pitiful Americans who were divided racially and surely wouldn’t fight together.  And the rains came back.