No Running Back

Heinlein said if you must travel in time, do it forward, never to the past, because in general (with interludes) the future is better than the past.

I realized last night that one of the most unsatisfactory aspects of this election is that both main candidates are trying to run to the past.

Hillary’s whole plan “More government paying for things and more redistribution” is, as the left’s program has been for years, an attempt to return to the thirties when collective action was the future.

I’ve said it here before and I’ll say it again that part of the dem fascination with nationalized health misses WHEN nationalized health was implemented in most other countries.  In the thirties and forties, it was possible to provide “universal health” without having such demands that it requires the enslaving of most of the population to provide for that “right.”  Also, the spare quality of government provided health would be about the same or better than the patchwork private solutions.  At the level of healthcare we are used to experiencing, there is simply no way to provide it by government fiat without enslaving not just doctors and nurses, but medicine researchers, medical apparatus creators, and most of the population to pay for this drain.  Medicine today and the medicine that the dems see when they say “single payer” are not even comparable, much less the same art.

Then take their crazy fascination with unions.  Unions were important, not to say vital, when most of the work force was non-English-Speaking and just learning to be citizens, not subjects.  In the great industrial cities, crooked and skimming though unions were (it’s a human collective thing) they were better than being taken advantage of.  Now, most of their “gains” were not the result of of “shoulder to shoulder.”  As with feminism, most of the gains of unionism were the result of science — in this case in the form of labor saving that allowed the same gains in less time.  But at any rate, they kept demands alive until they were possible.

The problem now is that their demands have reached the “blue sky” level and do in fact impair the functioning of any entity they take over.  The post office does a lot of things for its own comfort, for instance (have I mentioned I DESPISE the bank-of-mailboxes thing?) and it’s losing badly to private package carriers.  Would be out of business I suspect, if it didn’t have a monopoly on first class mail.  (And if Amazon weren’t throwing business their way.)

The “future” Hillary envisions is all “collectives” and “collective action” as the vast masses of widgets assemble to petition the great industrialists and the ever-benevolent government.  One gets the feeling — and considering everything the feeling is probably right — that the cyber revolution hasn’t processed.  She doesn’t get that technology is now running the opposite way of mass production and mass action.

As for Trump, having listened to his speech, I was shocked at how much he wants to go back to the imaginary fifties.  Take his beef with Amazon — and before you say it wasn’t prompted by their owning the Washington post, he himself brought it up in his speech as why Amazon needed to be taken down a peg.  Considering this was in the context of Hillary supporters and he never brought up either facebook or twitter, it just shows his mind is in the past — he wants to smash Amazon with punitive taxes, so that “department stores stop struggling.  They’re struggling and it’s very bad.”

Or he could lighten the tax burden of department stores, of course, but that is never part of the plan, is it?

He also wants to bring back manufacture, by means of taxes and tariffs.

One gets the idea that the end point of his vision is some sort of Smallville, with department stores, and Sunday drives.  Given his head he’ll probably come up with a plan to revitalize driving on vacation and bring back all the small picturesque motels.  (And given the way his mind works this will be by taxing airlines, big hotels and airbnb.)

He either doesn’t understand that all the taxes and tariffs will also take Americans back to fifties levels of wealth (and if you think that was great you don’t know anyone who actually lived in the fifties.  I didn’t, but I’ve read bios and seen pictures) and bring innovation to a halt.

Look, I get it.  Intellectually I get it.  The human race is now and has always been in a fight between those who want to create and innovate and those who want to go back to the past when things were comfortable.

Chances are when fire was invented the old timers talked about the wonderful benefits of chewing raw mammoth the young were missing out on, and how that was why they all had such weak chins.

But the one thing we know about human development/invention is that it’s unstoppable.  You can manage to stop it and regress it for a while, in a small area, at great human cost, but it won’t still be quite the same.  And it will cost in lives.  For instance, I’m sure the real Korean middle ages were a better place to live than North Korea.

You can’t go back again.  Even when the future scares you.

The future scares a lot of people.  I think Obama’s promise to undo everything Reagan did (he’s getting there) had to do with bringing back the “safe” cold war world he’d grown up with.  Safe has many meanings, and in his mind I think the bipolar world with the smug underlying certainty that the USSR would win (remember on whose side his parents were) was “home.”  Which now I think about it, explains a lot of his ilk’s blind, unreasoning hatred of Reagan.  He took away their safety.

I was talking last week to a Libertarian gentleman who both welcomes the new media and is afraid of the upheaval it is creating in his own life, as a journalist.  I love the opportunities opened by indie publishing, but I won’t lie and say I’m not just a little scared that I won’t be able to make a living, if it all goes tits up and I have to go indie-only.  Though honestly, to be a writer is to live with insecurity, any way.

Most of us right now are caught in this.  To me the changes in publishing loom so large, that everything else seems opaque.  Even my husband’s job is a puzzle to me, let alone other people’s.  BUT whenever I sit down to talk to someone, everything from teaching to dentistry is changing and changing very fast, as technology has hit a turning point.

And I think most people are both excited by the new things in their field, and wishing they could go back to a place of safety.  “I want all of indie, but I want the houses to be healthy enough to know that I can continue publishing traditional forever” for instance.  Or “I want the new media, but the paper I work for should remain healthy.”

But that’s now how the tech change works.  Could we have Amazon and department stores?  Maybe, for a while.  We certainly need competitors to Amazon.that do things the way Amazon does.  And I’m not going to lie and say not having local sources is a way of shopping that is secure in emergencies, but here’s the thing: just as boutique indie bookstores and craft shops and local-grown shops and coming up, I suspect we’ll see others.  NOT department stores, but smaller, specialized stores, with knowledgeable retail people, whose slightly higher prices are more than compensated for by having the type of support Amazon can’t give.

But department stores?  that’s like saying the government needs to bring back Borders and shore up Barnes and Noble. (Don’t give them ideas.) These same stores who were the devil to the left, became an object of nostalgia, once they were replaced by something even more futuristic.

I understand the feeling and the longing.  It’s not that the human world was ever fully stable, tech wise, but it used to be more stable.  Change took longer.  The left probably thought they could bellyache about chain bookstores forever.  They’re none of them involved in real commerce or invention.

When my dad gave me a typewriter when I was 14, and went out of his way and spent more than he should to make it a GOOD one in the belief I’d spend my entire life working on it, he had reason to think that it was true.  The fact I’m typing on a gadget he couldn’t imagine tells you how fast tech has changed.

Perhaps the curious “time machine set to the past” effect of this presidential campaign is the result of us running really old people for the presidency.  But I don’t think so.  I think it’s because things are changing so fast that people chose these two horrors under the idea they’d take us back somewhere safe.

They won’t.  Or at least I’m fairly sure one of them can’t command enough physical force to do to us what was done to North Korea and make us a sort of dysfunctional time capsule.

Because technology is moving forward.  And the way it is now, we’re moving away from mass media and mass production and mass everything and towards a future in which the individual is the measure of everything.

Which is why in the end we win, they lose.

We just have to get us past the shakes, first.

 

333 responses to “No Running Back

  1. We’re suffering a One-Size-For-All mentality at the dawning of the Age of Customization.

    The local stores that are doing well? Well, supermarkets since people need to eat, but also hardware stores. The places where you need to get that particular dingus *now* and someone there knows not only just where to find it, but what additional items you’ll need to replace or install it.

    • Big future market for the high quality/precision 3D printers at the local level. While I don’t doubt that home printers will be available, I’m thinking for the really critical parts, things will still be faster to go to the local print shop than even Amazon!

      • Yeah, I might be able to come with (or download) the right design for the needed nathenganger, but the guy who does 3DP for a living will likely do it faster, better, and possibly cheaper – certainly if he gets the design right the first time and it would take me a few cycles.

        • Besides: Good luck finding the right raw material to print the nathenganger out of. Yeah, like you’re going to have (for instance) industrial tool-grade vanadium steel lying around.

          3D printers are great at reproducing the form, but the matter also matters. Don’t believe me? Print out a pizza and see how it tastes.

          • Better than Pizza Hut of late I suspect.

          • Forget thee not thy Pizza Hut’s competition.

            • Having run a Dominos I can honestly say they are better than when I ran one. Papa Johns used to be prefered but if we do chain pizza these days we are a Marco’s family.

              • The ONLY advantage to living in northern Illinoisy is that it has the best pizza in the US. All the national chains are here, but they have a hard time competing with the little Mom and Pop pizza shops and the bigger local chains. There are more ;pizza shops than any other kind of restaurant type here.

                • This is true of southern New England as well.

                • The big chains have the market power to offer* insurance and other benefits to employees while also navigating regulatory hurdles designed to impeding market entry of small business competitors. Easier access to capital, too.

                  *As is often noted about the various afterlifes, much is offered but not delivered

                • Best pizza shops are in Northern New Jersey and NYC. Bar none. But, that’s a matter of opinion. Now a commercial plug. Ciccino’s in Waterloo NY makes really good pizza. I’ve been told the owner brought the recipe with him from Northern New Jersey, so, what I said first still counts.

            • Papa Murphy’s take and bake, especially Ten Dollar Tuesday. (Now only available for online ordering, but like that hurts?)

          • I think printed pizza could be done fairly well. Depending on toppings. The dough would still have to be cooked, though.

            • How do you print pepperoni? How do you print cheese? Come on, now.

              • How do you print cheese?
                Probably rather well, via extrusion.

                How do you print pepperoni?
                Probably not well at all.

                And then there’s olives. Having once mistakenly bought a can of minced rather than sliced olives, I am willing to say it would be a miserable failure that would make even the current President of the USA look… er.. less than horrifically rotten.

                • How do you print cheese?
                  Probably rather well, via extrusion.

                  Using what raw material? If you’re going to buy cheese to put into the printer, you haven’t solved any manufacturing problem at all, and there is no point in complicating the process by adding the 3D printing step. If not, you are going to need a 3D printer that can chemically synthesize cheese (and pepperoni, and bread dough, and everything else) from simpler substances on the fly; and this is, to say the very least, a non-trivial technical problem.

                  The way some people talk about 3D printers, you’d think they were Star Trek replicators and could do any kind of magic one wished. They’re not, and never will be.

        • They pay me my rate not for drawing the X, but for knowing where to put the X and doing it only once.

      • This. The analogous thing is the highly automated, self-service photo-print machine in practically every drugstore. It’s become a small profit center for them, because it’s quicker/better quality for almost everyone who wants a physical photograph than buying/loading/printing on specialized paper on your home computer.

        Similarly, expect manufacturers (and then Amazon!) to sell you spare parts as control files for POD – much cheaper and more responsive than waiting several weeks for the spare part to come from Korea, etc.

        • Those devices replaced the corner of the drugstore dedicated to selling film and film development services.

          Of course, these days hardly anyone buys film stock — digital photos are sooooo much easier to retouch.

          • Of course, these days hardly anyone buys film stock — digital photos are sooooo much easier to retouch.

            That’s not the reason. A dollar a picture for film, paper, and processing is why most people don’t buy film stock anymore.

            • And you can delete the one where Cousin Bertie is in the middle of a sneeze without wasting the paper it would have been printed on.

              • and (in my case) you can take 300 reference photos at an airshow without spending hundreds on development.

        • If publishers had half a brain that is what a B&N would turn into…a good selection of display books and several print on demand machines in the back. I could go in, get any book printed and drink some coffee and eat some cheesecake while I wait and browse for books I can add to that print order.

          Plus, staff would be better paid (the more capital you work with the better you are paid generally), inventory would quit being an issue (meaning back catalogs could be done and that would be captured by publishers and bookstores instead of Amazon via Kindle), and it would (to please the Trump crowd) bring manufacturing of books back from China.

          I honestly thought by now that would be happening in the major cities at least but publishing isn’t willing to risk the change.

          • “I honestly thought by now that would be happening in the major cities at least but publishing isn’t willing to risk the change.”

            The feeling I get is that the decision makers in Big Publishing really aren’t very bright, and they are extremely unwilling to try anything new. The combination is killing the industry.

            I mean, killing it to death. I keep saying this, but it keeps being true: I am not seeing the stories I want to read at the store. At all. Since Sarah and Larry and the few others I like can only type so fast, I’m forced to write my own. While tedious, at least I get what I want.

          • We had a Barnes & Noble for a few years. I went in a few times. The problem was, they had the same selection of crap that the other bookstores had. Stuff that probably sold well somewhere else, stuff they wished would sell, stuff that was obviously old/salvage inventory (ancient computer books), and the bargain bins, which had a selection of books that I suspected were printed specifically for that purpose…

            No great loss when they closed. And all their competition closed. And if I need a book, I buy it online, where I had to buy them anyway.

            • Similar to the tale of On Cue becoming Sam (not so) Goody:
              http://vakkotaur.livejournal.com/209947.html

              “It wasn’t that the town (and surrounding area) couldn’t support such a thing. It was that the town (and surrounding area) wouldn’t support a bad one.”

            • Sell, my POD bookstore would fix that problem while keeping their current cash cow: the Starbucks.

              Anyone of the big chains or a new one could do this. I think the stumbling block, based on how they are reacting to eBooks and fear they will cannibalize physical book sales.

              Under this model the publishers quit doing printing and move only to the core competencies of discovering authors, editing, and promoting. They get rid of all the physical overhead.

              The biggest issues have been solved: book sizes are already standardized although they’d probably only support the big three: mass market paperback, trade paperback, and standard hardback. Off sized would need special order. POD technology, while still improving, is pretty stable. I have been quite happy with my Wearing the Cape series Amazon POD books.

              For the bookstores it allows them to at least partially negate Amazon’s key advantage, breadth of catalog, while leveraging their own, you get it today. While Amazon already does someone same day I doubt they will combine breadth with same day without getting the publishers to allow POD either.

              • Under this model the publishers quit doing printing and move only to the core competencies of discovering authors, editing, and promoting. They get rid of all the physical overhead.

                Publishers, generally speaking, are competent at none of those things. Their core competency is restricting access to the means of distribution, and they no longer have that power.

                • Incidentally, publishers have not ‘done printing’ for decades now. Printing is outsourced to large job presses.

                • As I typed it I knew it was speaking more of an ideal world than a real one.

                  Also, I know printing has been outsourced but they still have to carry the overhead (and costs) of managing a supply chain even if each part of it is farmed to a third party (a printing in China, a warehousing company in the US, railroads and trucking companies to move it all around).

                  However, I maintain in theory that is the value add they used to and should provide. If they want to survive as businesses it is the one wedge they have given, as you have pointed out, their ability to insert into the pipeline while providing nothing is dying if not dead.

                • I was going to say this, but noticed you had. I snorked HARD at the “discovering authors and editing.”

        • Cheaper? 3D Printing is only cheaper when it comes to making a custom part that would involve several days/weeks of work to make a mold and then cast and machine the part (if metal), place the mold in a multi-million dollar plastic molding machine to form the part, or in the case of ceramics, pour the slip, then trim and fire the greenware, paint, and glaze. All for a limited number of parts, so that the overall price per part goes down.

          Then there is quality – It’s unlikely that 3D Printed metal will ever be as strong as cast or forged, and there’s the tolerance of the print, which leaves ridges on the parts, which are usually not desired. And finer tolerances slow down the printing process.

  2. Now, most of their “gains” were not the result of of “shoulder to shoulder.”

    The irony is modern leftists miss one of the crucial things unions were: a pressure relief value. If they recognized that their efforts to silence everything would be much smaller.

    As for Trump, having listened to his speech, I was shocked at how much he wants to go back to the imaginary fifties.

    You’re probably right but in fairness to Trump that has been a common GOP primary theme with at least one major proponent per cycle for a while now. He stands out for winning the contest.

    And given the way his mind works this will be by taxing airlines, big hotels and airbnb

    Well, airlines and airbnb…not hotels given his interests. 🙂

    I think it’s because things are changing so fast that people chose these two horrors under the idea they’d take us back somewhere safe.

    As for the resistance to change embodied by Trump and Sanders (not so much the Hillary) I think what we are hearing is those who couldn’t keep up and feel (and I choose feel deliberately not as the common synonym for “think” it has become…or as I consider it “supposedly think”) that their own culture has decided they deserved it.

    We’re finally seeing economic studies looking at the benefits and costs of trade that does less aggregation and a lot of the complaints of less skilled people are born out: that they got the majority of the costs and the minority of the games. Yes, they have more and cheaper goods but when you add in the collapse in their incomes its pretty close to a net wash. Specifically, they have been hammered by the entry of China into the WTO.

    Now, recognizing this doesn’t mean we should go back to the past. Bells cannot be unrung. However, I think it does imply that we might want to rethink how such people are treated. I don’t mean by government but by the culture. Telling them they are fools and they are better off because cheap stuff at Walmart ignores the fact they know their lives better than those commenting on the virtues of trade and that some knowledge could flow both ways.

    The iconic version of this is of course Kevin Williamson’s anti-white working class article at NR. Yes, I get it was taken out of context but I think Williamson knew that and didn’t care. Even giving it the best spin, that he was simply stating conservatives should give no more space to victim claiming by working class whites than they do poor blacks, it’s not the article to convince anyone. First, the level of contempt for real problems is palpable. Second, the people it has contempt for know damned well that level of contempt wouldn’t be displayed for poor blacks. While conservatives might want to end the culture of victimhood in both poor black and poor white communities there is only one of those cultures about which that very out of context line, “just need to die”, would be used.

    In this post you display more compassion while not endorsing unringing of bells for the struggles of technological change than a year’s worth of many MSM outlets. If the MSM had that level of compassion that current wouldn’t have been nearly as strong as it was when Trump (and to a lesser degree Sanders) tapped it.

    • There is the ideal of a perfect 50s or perfect 80 or perfect 90s that seeps thru the polity and ya, it’s always whitewashed and a lie, just as how confiscatory democracy is.

      But at least to me it does seem that there is a real feeling that A. Politicians are acting as rulers. And B that if you are not part of the information class you are a second class citizen. Yeah, we have hundreds of innovations coming out from and within the cities but those outside them see their homes collapsing and control of market passing to outside corporations, some of which then go on to harm them in other fashions, normally politics. Right now the innovations are held tightly by a small group of people who almost all have identical viewpoints and there is a reason to fear that they can monolithically affect lives of those under them (Google, Facebook censorship, etc) just as publishing houses, colleges or the media did. Right now it may be trending toward individuals but there is a valid concern that progress may indeed be progressive rather than for everyone.

      As for the mindset of being worthless, I think there is a reason that the suicide rate of white men runs significantly higher than other cohorts. An article earlier on it this year attracted a bunch of ‘they deserve it’ style comments. Add in the standard requirement for villainous swm and there is a large group that do feel slighted and that the world has passed them over. And then someone comes and says that, yes, there was a massive mistreating of you.

      Trump is the pressure valve for that/those groups this year. Sadly posturing and presence do drive voting for majority of people.

      • Thank you for doing much better than me in your second paragraph.

        • I had to show ya up somehow. :p

          But ya. It’s a question of trust in the rulers atm and that has proven a poor choice too often in past.

          • On and off for a few years now (not sure if before or after 2012) when I get really depressed I will point out that I should not be expected to act as a citizen when I am merely a subject.

          • There is a limit to people’s tolerance toward being told, “Shut yer gob and do what you’re told,” especially when the one telling you that is a clueless git who makes Bertie Wooster seem smart in comparison.

            If I do not want to make your penis-shaped wedding cake then no court should have the power to force me to do it or go out of business. If I don’t want to launder your effing Klan sheets, no court should have the power to force me to do it or go out of business.

            And idiots who cannot see those are the same damned thing need to stop telling me how to live my life, because when I meet my judgment day the only way they will be there is if I have sent an Asgardian honor guard ahead of me.

            Which strikes me as nearly sufficient justification to converting to Asatru: You cannot violate my religious right to servants in Valhalla!

            • Dangerous part is how that dislike ends up being expressed.

            • The thing that strikes me about the cake wars is the complete lack of consideration of what that mandatory cake would taste like.

              • I suspect the first baker to try that method of compliance will be arrested for criminal assault.

                • Well, I suppose it depends on how bad the bad cake was. Does tasteless and dry count the same as dark chocolate, goat cheese, sardine and vinegar flavored cake? How about “just tad dry”? Does “I didn’t like it” equal an automatic assault charge?

                  Quite the Pandora’s box opened there…

                  • Any cake not perfect will be assault chargeable as a hate crime due to anti-gay animus. After all, the groom is allergic to whatever it is they adulterer it with.

                    I know you’re being somewhat flippant. I am not. In this case what you or I would demand our money back for and write a bad yelp review will, I suspect, be considered assault for members of a protected class within a few years if trends don’t reverse.

                    • I generally find the appropriate approach to such issues is mordantly depressed.

                      Of course, I find myself at a stage in life when that is an appropriate approach to darn near everything, so YMMV.

              • Intent is not to get the cake. It is to shame and bully.

            • Colorado has upped the ante on that by ruling a gay baker can refuse a Bible cake because he is only displaying reasonable animus to the evil verses from Leviticus while the deplorable Christian baker is displaying unreasoning hatred of all gay people.

              • Does the insanity ever stop?

                • Why should it? We should note that there is one religious group proven immune to this. The incentives to adopt their methods is strong, if for no other reason than to demonstrate that there is an outer limit to the bullying that can be engaged in.

            • There is a limit to people’s tolerance toward being told, “Shut yer gob and do what you’re told,” especially when the one telling you that is a clueless git who makes Bertie Wooster seem smart in comparison.
              ——————

              In fairness to Mister Wooster, it should probably be noted that he’s almost certainly smarter than all of his friends. After all, he does actually come up with ideas on his own. Admittedly, those ideas usually fail in some spectacular fashion. But his plans often actually have a somewhat sound basis before they fly spectacularly off the rails and need to be saved by Jeeves. And let’s be honest – even Batman is a simpleton in comparison with Jeeves.

              Plus, who do all of Wooster’s friends turn to when they need help? They never come up with any ideas on their own. No, instead they ask Wooster for help.

              😛

          • My understanding of History inclines me to the opinion that trust in rulers atm is generally misplaced and frequently abused.

            There am reasons American colonials declared (to Sen. Kennedy’s disappointment) they would have no king but Jesus, and why some colonials preferred one ruler 3,000 miles away over 3,000 (would-be) rulers one mile away.

            Once you start eroding self-rule you typically find debtors’ prisons not far down that slope.*

            *N.B. – “slope” in this usage refers to geographic contours and mathematical projections; no persons of actual Asian ancestry need take offense.

            • Problem is right now we do have unaccountable rulers who put their fingers on.scale.

            • Debtors prison is back if you are male and can’t afford court mandated child support.

              • I’ve long held a quiet appreciation for Eddie Cantor …


                Every time I hear that dear old wedding march
                I feel rather glad I have a broken arch
                I have heard a lot of people talk
                And I know that marriage is a long long walk

                To most people
                Weddings mean romance
                But I prefer
                A picnic or a dance

                Another bride, another groom
                Another sunny honeymoon
                Another season, another reason
                For making whoopee

                The chorus sings, “Here comes the bride”
                Another victim is by her side
                He’s lost his reason ’cause it’s the season
                For making whoopee

                Down through the countless ages
                You’ll find it everywhere
                Somebody makes good wages
                Somebody wants her share

                She calls him “Toodles” and rolls her eyes

                She makes him strudles and bakes him pies
                What is it all for?
                It’s so he’ll fall for making whoopee

                Another year or maybe less
                What’s this I hear, well, can’t you guess?
                She feels neglected, so he’s suspected
                Of making whoopee

                She sits alone most every night
                He doesn’t phone or even write
                He says he’s busy, but she says, “Is he?”
                He’s making whoopee

                He doesn’t make much money
                Five thousand dollars per
                Some judge who thinks he’s funny
                Says, “You’ll pay six to her”

                He says, “Now judge, suppose I fail?”
                The judge says, “Budge right into jail”
                You better keep her, you’ll find it’s cheaper
                Than making whoopee

                • And Cheer Up! Smile! Nertz!

                  Though I’ve heard the intro (to Makin’ Whoopee) as:

                  Whenever I hear that march from Lohengrin,
                  I’m always on the outside, lookin’ in,

  3. > smash Amazon

    I’m not an Amazon fan, but I use them quite often. Their search function bites roadkill, but it’s good enough, most of the time.

    Amazon is, for all practical purposes, Sears, as it was a hundred years ago. Sears had a giant catalog, and you could buy almost anything – airplanes, driver’s licenses, surgical tools, live animals, educational materials, entire freakin’ *houses*. My grandmother bought a bathroom from Sears; they sent out a local construction crew to add a room onto the house and do all the plumbing.

    Sears ran on top of the US Postal Service, which was both communications and delivery. Amazon uses the World Wide Web for communications and various carriers, including USPS, for delivery.

    Sears was in a position to hand Amazon its ass… and, to give them credit, they did make an attempt at it – I’ve bought AK-47 parts and plumbing supplies from sears.com. But the site was slow and ugly, and more trouble than it was worth, most of the time.

    Wal-Mart has a web storefront, but it’s even uglier and slower than Sears’ attempt. I suspect the problems with both are “but our business is brick and mortar stores, not this “web stuff.” And then they probably go back to whinging about Amazon…

    • Wal-mart’s ship-to-store is nice, but needs work. I had to cancel and restart a few times before it offered ship to the store in THIS town rather than the one miles over the state line. And the search is.. well, it’s amazing how poor almost all search functions are, for pretty much everyone.

      • “SKUs check in, but they never leave.” I’ve had the entire first page of a Wal-Mart search come back with “discontinued” by every price.

        Also, I want to go to a Wal-Mart store almost as badly as I want a colonscopy.

        • It’s going during the day (pick up after 10 AM *grump*) that hurts. If I know it’s on the shelf (gee, website is dubious about that, too) I’ll go at 3 AM and not be bothered much.

      • If you can’t wait the two days. I still have a 20 mile drive to Wal-Mart and Amazon delivers to the door.
        Their search can be incredibly good or incredibly off the mark. In the latter case, I do the same search on Google, and then look down the URLs returned until I see one from Amazon.com. Google can usually find ‘fuzzy search’ items better. It can get close enough that the Amazon product will reveal the ‘key-words’ for Amazon’s search.

        • Anonymous Coward

          Might I suggest using Google to search but adding
          site:amazon.com
          to your search string. It will only return hits from Amazon’s web site.

        • Shipping and handling figures into my purchases. If I can drive and get it cheaper than the shipping and handling fees, I do.

          The problem, well, Sam Walton must be spinning in his grave. Walmart has gone down both in items and customer service. It’s hard for be to buy clothes at Walmart now; heck, it’s even hard to buy a blood pressure cuff and disposable gloves; I feel like I’ve visiting Munchkin Land. It’s always skimped with the number of cashiers operating the check-outs and it’s gotten worse. I used to have a soft spot in my heart for Walmart for how well they treated my wife when she worked there; now I hate to go into the stores.

          • The local WM has a set of self-checkout (What’s the real minimum wage? $0/hr. How much am I being paid to check myself out?) scanners watched over by one person “after hours.” In some ways it’s nice – no need to interact. But, if you DO need to, it tends to be a mess.

            • Yeah, especially when it’s obvious that the software designers of every self-checkout system I’ve ever seen HAVE NEVER ACTUALLY SHOPPED FOR GROCERIES!!!!!

              Ahem.

              You can only put so much in the plastic bags before you have to move them and open another one. This should not lock the system up. It takes time to open the bags if you didn’t do it before scanning. This should not lead to system lockup because of “unexpected items”. The entire software team should be required to actually check out a cartload of groceries with it.

              • Aye. Much like I once claimed that any “web designer” ought to be made to demonstrate his site… on a 386* connected via 14.4 dialup (It was a while back) and *NOT* on a local machine, or even a new one on a LAN or the (then new and still rare) broadband – even if it was DSL.

                * There were some sites so badgawdoffal, they should have been restricted to an LM386.

                • And system admins should be required to access the systems they support by routing through some external proxy, using a login that is twinned from the login their customer is using in order to see what the problem is, rather than accessing it from the local LAN with their admin account.

                • Jesse Thorson

                  Much like I once claimed that any “web designer” ought to be made to demonstrate his site
                  Had that experience when I was demonstrating the new magistrate common filing forms while working for the courts. We went to a local hotel (that promised us a high speed connection) to demonstrate the new system that worked via the Internet. Only the response time was so slow, the Magistrate clerks started walking out.

              • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                Well, at Meijer there’s a “more than twelve items” self-check out lane where you don’t have to “bag items” before you can scan more.

                I usually scan & pay for all my items before I start bagging them.

                Mind you, I don’t like those plastic bags as well as I liked the “old-fashion” paper bags. 😉

              • They’re more worried about it being a pain the butt to steal things than it being a pain to BUY things.

                I hate it, but I’ve also seen multiple grocery stores put out of business because expensive items walk.

              • The Walmart system scores well on this account. Once you put items in the bag, you can remove entire bags and put them in the cart without it complaining. The no-removal-of-bags things on other grocery stores is why most of them at first only used the self checkout for express lanes, with less than 15-20 items. That’s about what would fit in the ~3 bags that they allotted you in on the scale. The ones that bucked that express trend went to larger bag carousels on the output scale. (I typically cheat on the older limited systems, and just open a second bag in each slot and slide the existing bag forward a bit. The second bag can’t hold as much, but I can still fill 6 bags up.)

                Most of the shelf checkout machines are wizard style dummy systems, meant to be usable by people who haven’t used them before. That’s part of why you have to do everything one step at a time, compared to the high-speed learn-able systems that the cashiers use. Because a random person could walk in with no training and use them, they have to be a bit anal about walking them through the steps, they can’t expect the user to have spent hours training on the machine. This makes them a lot slower to use.

                As a software developer, I’ve had plenty of experience dealing with higher ups who want to dumb down a product even more at the expense of functionality, just to avoid confusing an inexperienced user so they don’t have to spend any time teaching the users anything.

                • Some Wal-Marts may have that; the Neighborhood Market near my house doesn’t.

                  • I haven’t actually tried the neighborhood market that is local here myself, but all 3 of the regular walmart stores near here have that. Maybe it’s a regional thing? Is shoplifting a common thing there? They may be crime-profiling areas and deploying more restrictive systems in areas where they’ve had more loss.

              • That’s odd. I’ve almost never run into that. I did happen a couple of times when I have had problems with the bags, but normally there’s a grace period on the self checkout for the local stores.

            • I tried the self-checkout thing one night. It was designed by a madman; there were *four* keyboards, one down at shin height, one a long stretch across the conveyor. It took me, an experienced IT professional, close to fifteen minutes to find out that the system only accepted credit cards. I walked out with the items still on the conveyor.

              Some years later I was in and the only lines open were self-checkout. Four or five clerks were in a huddle forty yards away, staring at me. After several minutes it was apparent they weren’t going to open a register. I left the buggy and walked out.

              That’s not even counting the times I’ve been in during the daytime, trying to buy ammunition or propane. Wal-Mart, at least the local one, has customer service equalled only by Comcast.

              The crazy thing is, poor customer service is “normal”; most people don’t even *notice.*

      • Walmart does have a new grocery feature where you can shop online, drive up and park in a numbered spot at their store, and they’ll bring your order out to you. I need to try it sometime here.

        • Kroger here in Plano TX has started the same feature. There’s also Amazon Fresh and Instacart.com.

        • I’ve heard good things about that online — from a mother of small children who particularly cites the kids as the reason.

    • I’ve been astounded at how Sears has collapsed in the last couple of years. They could have given Amazon real competition, given how huge and varied their catalog was in the past. (Yes, and you could really order an entire house shipped to you – out of their catalog.) They could have moved to a website rather than hanging on to the print catalog and the brick and mortar stores.

      I visited the local outlet last year, shopping for mattress sets. It was sad – the store had no linkage to the Sears website, couldn’t match the pricing … and I swear there were more employees than customers. The place was a tomb.

      • It did not help that Sears discontinued their U.S. catalogue operation (because there was no future in mail-order) at almost exactly the same time that Jeff Bezos started Amazon.

        • …and before that, they added a stiffish “handling” surcharge to catalog items, making them substantially more expensive than the same item in the store. This charge also applied to items the store didn’t carry and probably never would.

        • There were still some pick-up sites available until… at least five years ago, my aunt ran one. It seriously mostly consisted of people (mostly little old ladies) calling her, telling her what they wanted to order, she’d order it and it would arrive at her store. There were at LEAST a dozen orders a day. (Secondary business, walk-ins were alright with waiting because it’s a fairly small town and you Do Not Cross the little old ladies brigade.)

          They shut it down, like you said, because there was “no future.”

          So now they don’t make ANY money in that town, because there’s no Sears for a hundred miles.

          • I call that the “MBA Syndrome.”

            It’s not worthwhile just to make a profit. If you’re not making a killing, cut your losses.

            Also, the idea that a business that’s not growing is dead; cut your losses.

            • I find it interesting that I and some folks on the far opposite side of the supposed political fence agree that the MBA is perhaps the most worthless degree there is. Sure, there are more useless degrees, but the MBA seems to be actively harmful.

              I once had to fill out a schedule and only two course (of any interest) fit. One was “Isotope Handling” (with a long lab) and the other was “Intro To Business.” Due to the rest of the schedule and the lab, I took Intro to Business. It was painful. Not difficult, but painful to sit through. It was so much stuff that I thought any child with even half a brain would realize. The terrifying part was hearing some people’s questions. If timing had worked out better, I am sure that I would have been better off, if only from lower stress, had I dealt with radioisotopes.

    • There definitely need to be local alternatives to Amazon, though we use it all the time. Quick story: I’m going camping with my older two kids for the first time since I was a teenager. When I was setting up my husband’s old tent to check it, I heard a pole crackle. Though I’ve taped it up, I knew that rambunctious kids would destroy it in short order, so I’ve given it to a local homeless charity. (An adult will be careful with it.)

      Went to Amazon; ordered a tent. Tent was supposed to arrive today (camping is tomorrow.) Checked on the order: not happening for whatever reason. So we’ve canceled the order, but it doesn’t matter, because I can go to the local stores and buy one there. If this were not the case, we would have to cancel and disappoint the kids.

      • This is the troublesome issue. I had a inlet line fail to the water heater. Could have ordered thru Amazon but would like hot water so got at the despot same day.

        But internet also means I can go to McMaster and buy pneumatics or machine parts without searching for the one store open 10-4 an hour away.

        It gives and takes.

        • We can buy shoes for older son: sizes either 15 or 17 depending on make, EEEE. Before the internet, and after he was twelve, we used to have to drive to Denver where ONE store carried his size, and hope they had whatever he needed in stock: tennis shoes, or snow boots, or whatever. Half the time we had to order and it took a month.

          • That’s definitely a useful feature of internet stores. I can get shoes in my size in 4e-wide, instead of having to buy shoes a size or two larger so they’re wide enough like I used to.

            • Being a rather Odd person — stop laughing — I find I often need odd stuff. In the past this required driving all over creation or finding catalogues for things like “antique sewing accoutrements”. Now I go to Amazon.

              • The next step will be to offer shoes in mismatched pairs, as many people have a half-size or more variance between right & left.

              • I’m a bit loathe to go to Amazon first, partly because of their poor control over the stock (mixing up stock from different sellers, so you never know if what you get is genuine or counterfeit even from reputable dealers.) They’re a vendor of last resort for me because they do genuinely have things I can’t easily find elsewhere at times. I used to use them a lot and have a Prime subscription, but I let it lapse when the price rose to $100.

            • That’s all fine if you have an off-the-shelf foot, but 3/4 of the shoes I try on are cut so strangely I can’t even stand up in them, much less wear comfortably.

              Shopping for shoes is a miserable experience. Last time, I bought eight pair. I’m down to the next-to-last pair now, and of course they’re not made any more, so I’ll have to go through the whole process again.

              Also, has anyone else noticed that shoe sizes are shrinking? In the last ten years I’ve gone up four sizes on new shoes, but my 30-year-old steel toe boots still fit fine…

              • Also, has anyone else noticed that shoe sizes are shrinking? In the last ten years I’ve gone up four sizes on new shoes, but my 30-year-old steel toe boots still fit fine…

                I haven’t run into it. Some brands seem to be cut different. My wife has found considerable variation and tries all of hers on first. I did have a cheap pair of shoes last year that were a size larger than stated.

              • Tried New Balance? They’ve got a wide that’s actually wide, although sometimes you gotta get the extra wide, and I’ve only gone up one in them.

                I assumed it was the infamous pregnancy-makes-your-feet-expand thing.

                • Yeah, I’ve been sticking to New Balance brand shoes for the most part for the last 10 years. The last time I tried a different brand, Nike, their widest shoes were about 2 sizes too narrow for my feet.

              • I haven’t noticed any shoe size drift, but I’m there with you on the “not off-the-shelf” foot thing. My feet are narrow (thanks, mom!), and my instep is unusually high. Until a few years ago, the high instep thing wasn’t a problem, but then something happened and every time I tried wearing my shoes that tied, my feet would swell up way more than normally, so I had to switch to slip-ons. Now in order to get shoes to even go on my feet, I have to buy them about two sizes too long, and I can’t tighten them down, so my foot slides around in the shoe, tending to the outside, so I wear the soles down on the outside, and am currently walking with a serious tilt to my shoe.

                Fortunately, I recently found that if I can get a shoe with thick enough padding in the tongue, I can wear shoes that tie again, so that’s a relief.

                • Jesse Thorson

                  my instep is unusually high
                  According to my friend who taught physiology to college students, as you age you feet get longer because your instep gradually falls. e.g., When I joined the Navy in 1958, I wore an 8 1/2, now I wear an 11 1/2. My friend went from an 11 to a 15.

                  So now you know, it’s just a part of getting older.

                  • My instep was pathologically high — as in, I wore corrective footware to fix it — then I got pregnant and had pre-eclampsia, and carried 40+lbs of water. My arches fell. COMPLETELY. This, it turns out, also has serious issues.

                  • My feet are not longer. When I find a slip-on I can get my foot into, it’s nearly an inch too long.

    • Sears does load faster, but you can’t FIND anything on it, and most of the time the thing you clicked on is not available.

      At least Amazon has a couple of attempts at what I asked for before they start guessing at what I “really” mean.

      I think the most spectacular Sears.com failure I had was when I was looking for… I think it was an SHIELD coffee mug, as in Marvel, Avengers, etc.

      It gave me baby stuff. Without even a Spiderman or something.

  4. The big public attraction of one payer public medicine is the idea that you can get the rarest, most expensive to treat illness there is and the government will cure you. When the movie “Lorenzo’s Oil” was released, Roger Ebert whined that socialized medicine would pay for this and all rare illnesses. Not true. Great Britain for instance pays for a basic, limited treatment regimen for common illnesses, they don’t do rare and expensive. And you know, Amazon is just trying to turn into late Nineteenth-century Sears, except they don’t mail order revolvers, rifles and shotguns.

    • Yep. Well, give them ten years and that might come.

      • Too leftist anti-2nd-Amendment to do that. I see in my latest Sportsmans Guide that SG does sell firearms that way.

        • That is my concern with a lot of the tech companies. There is already internal enforcement of opinion and attempts at external (twitter or Facebook’s letters to ban trump because the reviewers disliked him and wanted to selectively interpret the rules.) A number are more monopolistic than any robber barons. And there is already a lot of control over info lines. Censorship is no more or less damaging if done by private industry vs govt. Honestly I feel it can be more damaging.

        • Also might be considered too much of a hassle given how each state has its own requirement on how online gun purchases are to be handled. That’s not to say that they couldn’t do it. But if you’re already making a lot of money doing other things, you might want to avoid walking into the regulatory mess that different state laws will catch you up in.

          • If you comply with the Federal rules, the state rules don’t matter, because you can’t have it delivered to your door; you have to go to an FFL, except possibly for curios and Relics.

            • You have to have a C&R license (03 FFL) to get “curio and relic” guns delivered to your door.

              The problem with a C&R is that it makes it easy for you to buy more old guns…

              There are also the “antique” (pre-1898) guns that the ATF arbitrarily decided don’t concern them.

    • Technically and legally there is no reason why they could not do exactly that today. Just have to deliver to a local presence with FFL to perform the background check. Which is what mail order gun sales do now.
      That Amazon will not sell firearms is a choice made by the company, nothing else.

      • I suspect it is a matter of Amazon not believing the profits worth the costs to sell firearms, given current regulatory structure.

        It isn’t an issue I expend much grey matter on, but my impression is that in order to sell firearms Amazon would have to establish relationships with Federally licensed firearm dealers across the nation. An article series by a Washington Times reporter on her efforts to get a DC licensed carry firearm a few years back explained the rigmarole involved, basically a matter of a manufacturer not being able to sell directly, that they could only sell to a local licensed vendor able to do appropriate background checks and so on and so forth. Essentially, the law required a third party intermediary: the seller could only sell to a FFL dealer, who could then sell the firearm to the reporter.

        That may be part of DC’s connivance to prevent self-defense among their citizenry, but I suspect that across the breadth of this nation there are thousands of such complications. Sounds like a good “Ask Larry” question, but as stated, I doubt Amazon wants the agita … especially as the first time one of their Amazon-sold guns was used in an assault the plaintiff’s lawyers would start attempting to riffle through the deepest available pockets, i.e., Amazon’s.

        • Ebay banned firearms sales as a policy choice – fully legal willing-buyer-willing-seller sales, routing through FFL holders for interstate transfers as needed, were going through with no problems before that ban. Part of that was not wanting to become a deep-pockets lawfare target after the next high profile event, but part was they are pure Silicon Valley “guns are icky” lefties who have no problem throwing fundamental constitutionally protected rights that they don’t like under the bus.

        • While generally unrecognized, “Emily Gets Her Gun” was one of the best pieces of actual Honest-to-God journalism I’ve seen in years, if not decades. Strongly recommended to those on the fence about terrible feel-good firearms policy as well as to those who already know what terrible policies DC’s current gun control gurus are pursuing at the moment.

    • Whenever I think of one payer medicine I keep remembering the VA.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        Chuckle Chuckle

        One person in the Politics conference on Baen’s Bar “thought” he had a good defense for Obamacare by bringing up the VA.

        IE “If Government Healthcare is OK for the vets, why isn’t it OK for everybody else?”

        He got an earful from people talking about the problems with the VA. 😈

        • I was reading an article yesterday about the VA which discussed how the problems there are a result of a disconnection between upper and middle management. Policies are announced without any follow-through, any metrics to ensure they are effective. Frankly, when I read it it sounded pretty much like any other government bureaucratic agency: policy changes are just PR while the agency itself just keeps cranking along.

      • Mad Mike has/had a great bit where he goes on about having lived in Britain, Canada, and being US Vet. and having exposure to three systems that he found substandard.

    • Apparently they also don’t do common and preventive so much. To the best of my recollection/understanding (and I could be wrong), part of the expansion of health insurance coverage from catastrophe to everything was that the companies found it cheaper to pay for preventive care. E.g. lots of flu shots being cheaper than treatment for a smaller number of severe cases of flu.

      Was told recently that in the UK they only give you the flu shot free or encourage you to get it if you’re in an at-risk group. Limited budget, you know. I was surprised.

      • In theory, preventative is cheaper.

        In practice, a portion of people do get sick– colloquially, ‘the flu,’ which causes all sorts of fun when folks insist on understanding it as a clinical description– from flu shots, and a significant portion of people do get ‘the flu’ after they get the flu shot, even higher than the percent of those actually tested-and-verified influenza strains after the flu vaccine.*

        And “people sick with the flu” is a simple thing.

        You get something complicated, like everything that gets blamed on “excess weight”?

        Then you pour ever more money into a “prevention” issue that, in most cases, not only doesn’t prevent what it’s supposed to if it works– it’s probably causing other health problems, some of which are serious and expensive.

        *I’d actually love to know what the exact statistics for this is– in normal life, the people who consistently get sick after the flu shot don’t get it. In the Navy I know there were several other people who would consistently get ‘the flu’ after the flu shot, with symptoms ranging from a fever and aches (probably the body responding to the dead flu virus, but you’re not contagious so it’s technically not the flu…not that it helps YOU any) through full-on worship-at-the-porcelain-altar for 24-ish hours. I’m usually one of the “sick but not contagious” folks, although I do have a pretty high rate of getting sick the week after that, not sure if it’s because of exposure to the place where sick people go or just my immune system getting tired. But I don’t know strict statistics for a healthy young population, even.

  5. I was born in 1951, graduated high-school in 1969.
    Looking back at that period what I can recall mostly was equal parts of fear and hope. Fear of a nuclear armed USSR. Fear of disease, mainly polio. I do recall our entire town of 5,000 lining up for the blue sugar cubes that carried the Sabin oral vaccine, and that on top of the months earlier Salk needle vaccinations. Used to have a pretty diamond shaped scar, but after 60 years that’s faded. And of course there was the commonly held “settled science” that we were headed for a new ice age. And that of course we would be running out of oil any day now.
    But on the hope side, jobs were plentiful, we were selling wonderful new stuff both at home and abroad. Made in Japan was still a term of derision applied to cheap trinkets, and the best electronics were American made. Normal people drove Fords or Chevys, though the exotic might own a VW bug. And anyone who showed the least promise was career tracked towards a four year liberal arts degree. In fact I was actively discouraged from considering an engineering degree because all the HS councilors were certain I must get a BA first. So as George Carlin famously advised, when someone tells you to lead, follow, or get out of the way, it’s your duty to obstruct. I didn’t attend college until 15 years later to get my BS-ISE followed immediately with my MS-OR.
    And towards the end of those early days everything changed. Vietnam was a big part of it, and a general mistrust of government as time after time our fearless leaders made the wrong decisions for the wrong reasons.
    And now today the fear’s still there. Players are different, but we still live in fear. What’s lacking for many seems to be hope.

    • I remember our fearless leaders as Democrats. JFK got us in, LBJ kept us in, and McNamara just made things worse. Nixon got us out, but the Dem congresscritters sold out the SVNs to the NVNs.

      • All correct – but don’t forget Henry Kissinger’s “Of course you can leave all those NVA armored divisions on the wrong side of the border up in the South Vietnamese highlands and in Laos, and you can resupply and refit them, as long as we get to declare peace and go home” deal at the Paris peace talks.

        Nixon was so desperate to cut a deal and get out that he left the South in a precarious position that only heavy supply shipments and US air power could counter. When Teddy and the congressional Dems cut that off after Watergate, they were doomed.

        • Nixon was desperate to cut a deal because Congress de-funded the war, and he couldn’t pay the expenses out of the White House operational fund…

    • I’m maybe 6-7 years older than you, Lar, but remember much the same. Except about college: high school counselors understood that STEM existed, that the major in-state colleges had engineering schools, and that the then-popular college aptitude and interest tests showed I should do that. Dad had seen too many kids put off college for a couple of years and never get back on an academic track, so encouraged my going straight on. I picked the college across the state more to cut apron-strings than because I knew enough to say which college had the better EE department – but it all worked out well enough.

      About fear, though: I think there’s a little higher level, for a bunch of reasons.
      1) change = disruption = a cost to your ability to do things efficiently (constantly re-learning), and we’re changing faster than in the 50’s; it doesn’t all seem necessary or beneficial.
      2) it’s easier (blogs, etc.) to talk & listen with a large number of people with the same fears as you, perhaps harder to find places where people of differing opinions talk together and argue polltely – i.e. more of us are in self-reinforcing bubbles, to some extent.
      3) the government and MSM we used to think we could rely on for at least basic facts (cost of living, unemployment rates, etc.) has been shown to be lying to us more than then; so trust in institutions is down, at the same time a lot of people are both aware they need more info and are less sure about where to get it reliably
      4) domestic disagreements are no longer civil except for a weird group over there somewhere (SDS, etc.), but characterized by repeated violent outbreaks that have no plausible rationale and occur closer to home – our communities no longer feel as safe.

      I could probably go on, but you get the point – it’s NOT just fear of discomfort from necessary changes.

      • Alan, I am even older by a couple of years. When I told my high school course adviser I wanted to be an engineer he tried to pout me in shop for all four years! Little math little science. I ignored him

        • We had “counselors” and “career advisers” too. Along with more standardized testing…

          I wanted engineering. Their tests supposedly said I would be happy as a forest ranger.

          Like, WTF?! I hate the outdoors and “nature” in general, and it hates me right back. Of all the possible career choices I could imagine, “forest ranger” would be close to the bottom.

          • One test said I should captain a ship. I disagree. And probably any potential passengers, or cargo owners, would as well.

          • Forest ranger and dancer were two of the ones suggested for me. (NEVER writer.) I have to left feet and think nature is a great thing to get away from.

            • Some people see a beautiful green lawn.

              I see a well-prepped surface waiting for the asphalt truck and roller…

              • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                But it is a “beautiful green lawn”… as long as you don’t have to mow it. 😉

                • I’m allergic to grass. As is “nasty rash” allergic, not an occasional sneeze.

                  Concrete is much better.

            • All the aptitude testing stuff is residue of mass conscription, which in for WWI was a fustercluck of massive proportions (like most of the WWI mobilization effort), and by WWII they had thought through the challenges of getting certain people for certain roles and had invented testing regimes to shunt off the especially mechanically adept conscriptees to be trained as mechanics, and make sure the clerk-typists could actually type. Of course this mostly went out the window when they started running short of infantry near the end of the war, but it started out mostly better, so the “lessons learned” after war reports all said “keep doing this,” and as a result we still have tests like the ASVAB today.

              After the war those military testing folks influenced a lot of the pre-Hippies-take-over US education establishment, which apparently migrated worldwide since Sara hit it too. By the 1970s it was falling out of favor in California public schools, so the last one I recall taking was in Junior High. I do really well on tests generally, to some extent because I could read behind the questions and figure out what they wanted the answer to be, so I’m not sure my results actually told me anything useful – nothing I recall other than it was OK for me to think about going to colllege (which was not even a question in my mind).

              The thing is, while those tests are grossly OK at answering “In what military jobs will this particular draftee will be useful?”, they are not answering the question most kids are asking, “What should I do?”

              I don’t know if those tests are back in style these days. I suspect not since everything now is about affirmation and such, as that test might say little Johnny should under no circumstances be allowed to pursue his hearts desire of operating heavy machinery, and I can’t imagine the uproar if a California public high school gave the ASVAB test in the library during ‘career week’ like mine did. But the fact that the tests were answering a different question than most thought it was probably means they are long gone.

              • No. I took the test in Stow Ohio, when I was an exchange student.
                I too am normally pretty good at answering things so I get the result I want (became an exchange student that way) BUT that one shocked hell out of me.

              • If I recall correctly, and I usually do, the premise of those tests was that “people of this personality type tend to gravitate into these professions, so if your personality is similar to those it is probable you will enjoy the same professions.

                That the drafters of such tests were blind to the fallacies in their reasoning proves their reasoning — dolts who think similar personality types can be identified through testing are likely to do well in careers that rely on thinking your tests reveal personality types, if only because you will never make a professional pariah of yourself by publicly challenging their premises.

              • Jesse Thorson

                WWII they had thought through the challenges of getting certain people for certain roles

                A good friend of mine was tested in WW II when he enlisted. Turned out he could fire a full-auto machine gun in 3 shot bursts. So he spent the remainder of the war as a machine gunner. He was also very strong thus able to carry every thing (at times about 200 pounds).

              • Both my sons took the ASVAB, the younger one in 2014, so yeah, it’s still on around here.

                • Oh, I know the ASVAB still is given, since AFAIK it’s still required for enlisting in the military. I’d just be gobsmacked if California public schools still allowed it to be given on school grounds during the school day.

  6. He either doesn’t understand that all the taxes and tariffs will also take Americans back to fifties levels of wealth

    The funny thing about the taxes was that the ridiculously high top rate of 92% applied to marginal income over $450k, which adjusted for inflation would be like $5 million today. Nobody was close to being subject to it except for guys like Bob Hope. And more importantly for the economy were the loopholes like the investment tax credit which allowed rich people to avoid taxes by keeping their capital invested in their businesses. I’m a big supporter of reducing the rates and simplifying the code, but we need to be careful when comparing the rotten apples of the past with the desiccated oranges of the present.

    Also, not everyone remains convinced about tariffs being worse than income taxes. Now that I understand tariffs and customs and duties are taxes on the consumption of foreign goods, I think they can be a very good thing. If a country can’t afford to produce a consumer good within it’s own borders, then, maybe that country can’t afford to be consuming huge quantities of it. Finally, how do the debt levels compare? Was there more debt or less debt in the 1950’s?

    WW2 was still being paid off, but otherwise were people consuming far beyond their means the way we are today by running up their credit cards?

    Very truly yours, James Edward Solbakken < CTEC #A125347 ACIC Bond #201475 EXACT TAX SERVICE 1151 Harbor Bay Parkway Suite 208-I Alameda CA 94502-6561 510-217-8115 fax 510-995-8249 cell 510-258-4410 jsolbakken@aol.com PLEASE NOTE: Electronic mail is not secure and Exact Tax Service does not accept or take responsibility for acting on time-sensitive instructions sent by email. SERVICE NOTICE: Exact Tax Service does not accept or consent to the service of process, motions, pleadings, documents, or any other items by electronic format. Correspondence via electronic format does not indicate agreement or consent to acceptance of service in that format. CONFIDENTIALITY NOTICE: The information contained in this e-mail and attachment(s), if any, is: (i) legally protected pursuant to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, 18 U.S.C. § 2510, et seq., inter alia, and may contain privileged and confidential information; (ii) not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, for the purpose of avoiding tax penalties that may be imposed on any taxpayer; and (iii) only for the use of the intended recipient(s). If you know or have any reason to believe that you are not an intended recipient, you are hereby notified that any dissemination or duplication of this e-mail is prohibited and you are requested to immediately notify the sender by e-mail or collect telephone call. Any e-mail you send to or receive from this firm will not be privileged in the absence of an attorney-client relationship with this firm. Your receipt of this e-mail neither waives any privilege or confidence nor creates any tax preparer-client relationship.

    • Not only that about the taxes, but there was all this rebuilding from the War going other places. The USA was largely unscathed and barely had any real competition.

      • That is the thing I just can’t seem to get other people to comprehend. If you have the only car/radio/pump/whatever factory left that hasn’t been bombed into rubble or taken by communists you can pretty much set your price.

        It was the thinking his would go on forever that lead to those wonderful union won contracts that 20 years later destroyed Detroit when it didn’t go on forever.

        • People seem incapable of grasping that not only did the US have the only First-world level industrial economy, there was no Second-world level alternative, either. The reason for the rapprochement with post-war Germany is that they had the only semi-First-world industrial production facilities remaining, having looted France’s and bombed English & Russian industrial plants.

          Machine tools don’t grow on trees.

      • True that US industry got a jump start right after WWII and Korea, but as you note Japan, Germany, and others were rebuilding mostly from scratch. Which meant that the US was patching new technologies onto 1920s infrastructure while our competition got a fresh start. That along with a willingness to adopt modern theories of production go a long way towards explaining why Asia along with certain European conglomerates began eating our lunch starting in the 1970s and continuing on today.

        • The clean slate is a big factory…steel is probably the perfect example because even more than automobiles, the most common, production of steel from iron ore is damn near impossible to retrofit new tech into…it’s whole new, very expensive plant time.

          • Even back in the Gilded Age, Andrew Carnegie once tore down a relatively new steel plant and replaced it because a new steelmaking technology made it obsolete overnight.

            • But we’ve taught at least three generations that Andrew Carnegie was an evil capitalist exploiter of the helpless workers who at best partially redeemed himself by giving it all away.

        • Well, and we were helping them build modern factories from scratch, while failing to update our old factories that had done well-enough in the wartime spend-whatever-it-takes economy. We couldn’t have sabotaged our international competitiveness better if we’d tried!

          • One other factor is that US Labor relations were such that there were few benefits to be gained by investment in new, more productive equipment.

            Look at the 2002 California dock strike over attempts to institute electronic tracking of shipping containers. Dockworkers were sure that relinquishing their clipboards and pens would result in lost jobs and they’d shut everything down rather than allow that.

            Nice analysis of recent troubles there and the way in which icreased productivity has increased vulnerability:
            Small but powerful union is at center of port dispute

        • This is stuff that should be in economics textbooks.

  7. If the choice is between Imaginary 1935 and Imaginary 1955 I know which one I’m picking.

  8. When Britain started its National Health system things were a lot simpler. You had morphine, that new pencillin stuff, and aspirin. You could carve out tumors or cancers, set broken bones, and do crude cataract surgery. You had X-rays. Other than that… the medicine of the era was pretty primitive.

    No modern diagnostics – no MRIs, no CAT scans, no ultrasound. No heart caths. Practically no pharmacopia. No transplants, no heart valves, no bypasses. And most important, no vast corporate pharmaceutical and healthcare systems with their attendance price-fixing and lobbying.

    “Free” national healthcare is dirt cheap, as long as you’re providing healthcare at the 1950 level.

    • It still burns my tuchus that so many parents of UK filkers died of treatable conditions, because they insisted on meekly waiting in the NHS queue. I know everybody has to die sometime, but it was such a waste for them to die ten or twenty years early.

    • One way or another, rationing happens. It is merely a matter of whether it is by agreement between private parties or by bureaucrat

  9. I’ll admit it is less her back to the 30s aspects about Hillary that scares me.

    It is that we’ll get a SCUS that would rule “hate speech” prohibitions don’t violate the First Amendment and a Congressional majority made up of Democrats, “whites are going to be the minority soon so we need to suck up to minorities Republicans”, and “we are afraid of being called racist/sexist Republicans” who will pass them.

    I genuinely fear that three years after she wins joining in Sad Puppies or Larry writing his blog will be federal crimes.

    As is I’m trying to imagine what samizdat will look like in the Internet age.

  10. Here’s some research for anyone who wants to undertake it:

    Some years ago, I was asked, by someone with a beef against online sales, to do some research into how it was impacting brick and mortar business. This let me to some old Commerce Department (I think) PDFs of annual reports. There I found a classification called mail order. Surprise! Mail order for the years I looked at was a larger percentage than online sales when I did the research.

    This means taking punitive action against the Amazons of the world isn’t rolling things back to the 1950s; it’s rolling things back to the pre Sears and Roebuck and Montgomery Ward era. We’re talking 19th Century here.

    This also meant that the “villain” here isn’t online sales. Since online sales at that time was less than mail order when mom and pop stores thrived, then the issue has to be something else. I suspect it’s chain stores that can buy in bulk. And yet, other than Walmart bashing, we hear very little of that.

    Could it be the issue is taxation, not mom and pop stores? That was why I was asked to research online sales impact. But here’s the thing: Unless a mail order company had distribution in that state, there was no collected sales tax, either. Could it be simply be government wanting to get their greedy fingers on more money?

    Don’t know, but I’ll think I’ll try and find the Beatles Taxman and play it.

    • Don’t know about that, but I do recall when Pa was running his business (in Wisconsin) he gave some serious thought to the idea of moving to more business-friendly South Dakota. Didn’t do that, but I suspect that was largely due to how small the business was and how close the customers were. There was one place that Did. Not. Get. ordering ahead. There would be phone calls, “Hey, the line’s stopped, we’re out of $THING.” And Pa would pull the extra box of 500 or 2000 of $THING (small injection molded plastic pieces) made just because of this situation and deliver it – usually in under an hour.

    • ” Could it be simply be government wanting to get their greedy fingers on more money?”

      I also think it’s about control. It is much harder to keep track of everything if people can order from anywhere in the world over the internet and have stuff shipped directly to them. The old way, mail order companies had to import stuff, then sell/ship it from a warehouse in the US. Much harder to track.

  11. These people need to read some Schumpeter. Creative destruction is part of life. You can’t be stagnant and expect things to get better. Re-allocation of resources is painful but it’s necessary. If a corporation or industry is going to go down in flames, they should be allowed to. (Think big three auto.) Competition is an ugly thing to be on the receiving en of but it makes things better in the long run. Oh, well.

  12. Okay, this is going to be contentious, and let me say up front that I don’t have a side in it, but it’s something I’m wondering about.

    I’m not going to argue about tariffs, but about strategic industries. These are things which are in our best interests to manufacture here in the US not only from the standpoint of waging war, but in war prevention. If our military comes to rely on the production of unobtanium modules, and they only come from Lower Slobovia, we’re going to have a high interest there and may be willing to go to war to be sure we never run out of the modules.

    This raises the question of electronic components and maybe widgets. It’s surprising what gets made outside of the US. Then what about farm goods? And what about Senator Snort’s nephew who runs a distillery and so the senator argues that fine Kentucky Bourbon is a strategic material because it helps moral?

    Ideally, the conditions that caused industry to move abroad in the first place should be addressed rather than tariffs. Assuming that doesn’t happen . . . well, what do you all say? Is it in our interests to regard some manufacturing as strategic?

    • You are not alone in wondering about some of that.

      • Tungsten. The US Army switched to it from lead, because lead was declared eco-unfriendly.

        Tungsten comes from China.

        Somebody made a LOT of money there. That somebody lived in China.

        Also, the last operating lead mine in the USA closed a couple years ago. EPA killed them. American lead now comes from Canada and elsewhere.

        Currently, it has been discovered that tungsten is much more dangerous that lead. US Army is now buying foreign lead. Somebody is making a LOT of money again, somebody not in America.

        • On the plus side, if anyone finds out how to get lead smelting going in the US again, they can take advantage of that “Your infrastructure has been obliterated, you must start over from scratch, here, have more advanced technology to start out” thing mentioned earlier in the thread, because all of our pre WW2 smelters have been torn down as environmental hazards.

    • It is in our interest but that requires a governing class who thinks of themselves as Americans first and Citizens of the World second.

      It probably wouldn’t require tariffs or other forms of government intervention, although there are some very heavy industries where it might. Ship building is the biggie that comes to mind immediately. In fact, protectionism in steel, which is as old as me (and I’m turning 50 in six days) ,has slowed modernizing of the steel industry.

      I would also point out Federal Debt is a strategic industry. Letting too much be held by potentially hostile nations inhibits warfighting. Read up on Ike and the UK during the Suez Crisis for a prime, and relatively recent, example.

    • Yes. After reading all the mess with Chinese computer tech having code that may or may not do something “interesting” if the PLA or Communist Party decides to activate it, (and yes, the US .gov bits on US computer tech), I firmly believe that we need at least one or two US based tech players who are completely free of outside control, and who are shielded just enough financially if needed. Ditto arms makers, agriculture, stuff that keeps people alive and able to defend themselves. Which does clash with my inner free-market libertarian big time, and opens all sorts of worm cans. *SIGH*

    • Yes. Related concept – a few decades ago, the buzzword “core competency” was a major part of industrial planning about whether to subcontract the building of parts and assemblies, or keep it in-house.
      For some reason, probably having to do with short-term price advantage and ignoring long-term effects on creating competitors, when the off-shoring craze started you suddenly didn’t hear anything about conserving your company’s core competencies any more. And as a result, we have a lot of “international” companies who have transferred critical manufacturing skills and knowledge to people who are perfectly happy to leave the company and take that knowledge to new competitors in China, India, many other lower-labor cost locations.
      America has strategic core competencies, and we’ve been p*ssing them away for the last couple of decades.

    • Part of the problem with “essential” industry is that it tends toward becoming a situation of the tail wagging the dog. Once an industry is deemed essential it becomes (along with corrupt and inefficient, or, at any rate, more so) fixed into the national infrastructure. It is hard to come up with clear examples off the top of my head, but …

      A: once the military commits to the M1903 Springfield there is entrenched resistance to the M1 Garand

      B: a navy committed to the construction, deployment and servicing of battleships is resistant to acceptance of carrier-based task forces

      C: a navy in which esteem and promotion derive from a service path based on carrier-based task forces is resistant to alternate means of force projection, such as littoral craft

      D: a landline-based telephone system has vested interests which fight and delay acceptance of wireless telephony

      E: once hammers are an essential industry, problems tend to resemble nails

      Declaring certain industries essential tends to diminish the vitality and adaptability of an economy. These may be acceptable costs for the protection of vital components, but it also tends to make us more dependent on those vital components.

      Conceivably the whole question of tariffs could be alleviated by a consumption-based tax system, which I trust all here already are sufficiently versed in the dynamics of as to preclude need for further discussion of that topic … especially as we will never get there because the powers-that-be will never give up the leverages granted them by our present system (see above discussion of vested interests as opponents to adaptation.)

      ALL OF WHICH sufficiently depresses me about the essential need for societies to periodically collapse that I think I shall go wash dishes.

      • A2:Once the Garand is designated the greatest implement of war ever devised, there is considerable resistance to replacing it with one of them newfangled assault rifles.

    • The most disturbing thing I hear regularly is that we can no longer get parts built of which hundreds were built 40 years ago, designed half a century ago. The part has not changed, but it’s too difficult to get approval for chemicals or the process has been lost. I’m significantly concerned that if we ran into another major industrial war, we would lose solely because we can no longer churn stuff out.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        Worse than you said.

        Many products depend on “rare earth” minerals that EPA regs prevent the US from mining and the major source is China.

        And guess who is one of the nations that we’d likely go to war with? 😦

        • Oh I know. I just deal with simple (comparatively) structure. We seriously get told that no one can make parts anymore

          • ’06 or so, the Chinese decided they needed to get a few more bucks in the coffers, so in ’07 they stopped several “Rare Earths” production for a while to drive the price upwards. These were GOING to be needed and used whether they we on hand or not, so while not, the stuff got used up, the price climbed, and after several stoppages world wide they then released product to the world at the new higher price. Our raw I deal with comes 440 pounds to a drum (200 kilos), and the newest pricing I heard was over $180,000 at the slightly lower price than it was at the time of the Chinese restart, so still not cheap. But when the Reds stopped it affected lots of things. It would take time, but eventually no fire fighting foam , no printer ink, poorer paint (especially the new Non-VOC stuff), solder fluxes, some epoxies, and that is just my end of things. Now there are workarounds, but they are less effective, or they too rely on something likely only currently available from the Reds, and unlikely to become available from an alternate for a very long time.
            Think Ringo’s Last Centurion story. Folks have no clue as to what they rely on happening in the background. As clueless as those who say “We could stop using Oil. We don’t need to drill!”

            • Yep. And we do not recognize that you need to start ball rolling years in advance for lots of these operations. When things get loud it’s not like you can just send men out with shovels

    • I recall a mil SF story (of many years back) about a mercenary fighting somewhere, and his specially-built radio comm failed. Seems the people who built it wanted him to work for them,

    • Is it in our interests to regard some manufacturing as strategic?

      If an army does its logistical planning without consulting a map, that’s dumb. If the army wants three domestic producers of an unobtanium module, let them carry the factories as a cost on their own budget. It is crooked and contrary to the purpose of accounting for the army to receive things without counting the cost.

      • If the army wants three domestic producers of an unobtanium module, let them carry the factories as a cost on their own budget.

        Go ask the Middle East how that works out.

        Egypt is one of the nice examples– their military isn’t totally apeshit.

    • I figure that’s one of the major reasons for laws along the lines of “military can only use made-in-America stuff unless it’s a very special order” laws.

  13. Hillary’s agenda, I have concluded, is worse than takiing us back to the Thirties (because Big Government didn’t actually work here, in America, even then.) Hillary’s … the Progressive agenda is actually to take us back to 1750, before Americans got this pesky idea that they’d have no king but Jesus into their ornery heads.

    What else would a government by an enlightened elite and their courtiers be? Thanks to the Clintonian Cronyism we can observe how such a process would, in very few generations, produce an aristocracy of birth, with the rulers and administrator’s children attending the Right colleges and stepping into the high profile, highly compensated positions their friends (or their parent’s friends) proffer them.

    • Utter tangent but you date brought this back into my head.

      Could George have averted the revolution by adding NYC, Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Savannah, and Charleston (plus perhaps a few others) to the House of Commons and creating an Earl of New England, and Earl of the Hudson, and an Earl of Chesapeake and added them to the House of Lords. After all, the early revolutionaries started in demanding their rights as Englishmen. No taxation without representation was a battle cry of the period.

      Could representation have headed the Revolutionary War off and if so how late (this is where your date comes in) would that have worked?

      • It very well could have, but there was a whole attitude issue as well. George Washington was a loyal British soldier in his youth. But because the British Army of the day was a huge load of cronyism, and colonials were deemed to be inferior, he was treated like dirt and had a lot of people promoted over his head. It did not endear him to Britain, and part of his participation in the Revolution was because he was finally getting the respect he felt he deserved.

        • Well, I would think granting seats in Parliament and titles of nobility to people in the colonies would have pretty much required the attitude about the colonials shift. Your Washington point is perhaps good evidence on the “how late would it have worked” question. I had previously thought as late as 1772 but maybe I’m being optimistic.

        • I would have to check with Beloved Spouse, who has been more recently reviewing the literature on the era, but I believe a big part of Ben Franklin’s antipathy toward the Brits was a consequence of being treated like a red-headed stepchild during an early visit he made to the Mother-effing Land. Somewhat the same complaint many in the nation of Flyover have with the people of Coastlandia.

          As the greatest part of the complaints issued in the Declaration was that Americans were being tasked to pay for the privileges of being British subjects without receiving the perquisites of British citizenry, then it seems quite likely that George III (more probably, Lord South*) could have finessed the problem had he been less of an upper class British twit.

          Which is to say, if a frog had wings he wouldn’t bump his asss all the time.

          *I know, it was Lord North but as things went South on his watch I beg your indulgence of this genial mockery.

          • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

            Nod, there were elements of “if Hitler wasn’t Hitler” in any discussion of alternate history especially in that era.

        • The cronyism in the British Army was still a major factor early in WWII; the entire British officer corps basically went on strike *in wartime* over the idea that British troops might have to serve under “colonial” officers. (leaving aside things like the various semi-independent military forces dating back centuries, and things like the Royal Navy deliberately firing on the British Army in Norway “because orders…”)

          Churchill bypassed the whole pecking-order mess by putting all British forces under nominal American command, which forced all the chaotic bits of traditional elements into a halfway sane structure.

          Apparently the Sandhurst types were okay with that; at least the Americans weren’t filthy colonial Canadians, Australians, etc.

          If Churchill hadn’t spent so much time on the subject in his history of WWII, I would suspect someone of pulling my leg.

          Different people, different culture, different times…

      • Quite likely. The Spanish actually did that in the early days of their Central and South American colonies, until protectionist elements in Spain persuaded the court to treat New Spain as a subject land instead of part of Spain itself.

        Traditionally, conquering nations have found their newly acquired lands to be actively resented by the people at home…

        England *almost* avoided that after losing part of British America; they granted limited self-rule to most of the colonies without too much trouble. But they were still client states, not “Britain.” Churchill lobbied to have the colonies represented in Parliament, but the Members didn’t want to see their power diffused, and after the war it was too late.

        • scott2harrison

          Canada’s laws had to be confirmed by the British Parliament into the 70’s. No-one seemed to care (or even know) apart from Trudeau.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        It’s hard to say.

        Of course, it won’t have been just a matter of adding American Nobles to the House of Lords but it would have been a matter of adding Americans to the House of Commons.

        While it might have delayed matters, there was also a problem of “different mindsets” in America.

        The years that America faced “benign neglect” from England caused Americans to travel different paths than England had.

        With the long travel times between England and America, I doubt that representation in the English Parliament would have prevented England and American thought from continuing to be different.

        On the other hand, assuming that some sort of compromise had been worked out, England may have found that Americans would be “running” the British Empire once America expanded to fill North America.

        After all, the population of modern Britain is less than the population of some of our modern States. 👿

        • I did include commons.

          As for the Americas running Britain I suspect having the colonist in Parliament would have delayed action on the rotten boroughs issue that came to a head in the 1830s. Or perhaps it would have been fixed in the UK only to reappear again in the 1930 in the Americas.

          One has to wonder if expansion would have occurred at anything resembling the historical rate if the US had remained in the UK. I suspect it might have also colored UK interest in Africa during the late 19th Century.

          Hey, don’t a bunch of writers read this stuff….it’s almost 1:30pm, why isn’t the novel about this on Amazon yet 😉

          • Well, Ireland and Scotland had had UK sub-parliaments, mostly to handle local issues where there was a time factor. Obviously a lot of colonists wanted something like that, but also sufficient seats in Parliament to give a fair say.

            • Don’t they both have sub-parliaments today as well.

              • Now they do. After a long time in abeyance.

              • That’s reedickulous! Subs can’t have parliaments; that’s a dom activity!

                • Yeah, like that would work. Only subs can let go of their egos long enough to work together.

                  • I know it’s tongue in cheek but it’s an interesting thought given DC. The politicians each have their own ego but work together to beat us down.

                    • Who said it was tongue in cheek. There is a Submissive Journey Weekend, run by subs for subs, and it has two spin offs after only 10 years. There is no corresponding event for Doms. 🙂

                      As for DC, they are predators, the kind we try to keep out of the community IMHO.

                    • Decades ago Beloved Spouse and I wandered into an emporium just off Philadelphia’s Rittenhouse Square, hight The Pleasure Chest (hey, it was downstairs from a head shop ((ask you mother)) which sold underground comix.)

                      Interesting place. The front sold incense, oils and lotions and edible undies (arguably proof that guys will eat anything, as there seemed no such garments for men on sale.) Middle of the store offered … simulacra of human anatomy and products that used batteries. The back of the store was a cork-walled selection of what might best be termed leather goods. Expensive leather goods, many offering chains and other appurtenances.

                      In discussion with the clerk it came out that a disproportionate number of purchasers for those leather items were judges and court officials, although how the clerk knew this I hesitate to speculate; I doubt they came in to buy harnesses while in their robes of office.

                      I have found, over the years, that respect for the dignity of the court is somewhat less than awe when I envision the judge trussed up with a ball gag, butt plug and penis cage.

                    • I’ll refrain from some of the responses in my head. Mostly mean just that people are remarkably good at putting differences aside when they can assert power over others.

          • Alternate History, HOOOOOO! Get those wagons moving!

          • I’m not an expert in British history, but it looks like much of Britain’s colonial empire came from “because it was there and nobody else had a firm hold on it.” Other chunks came sort of accidentally, like South Africa. And the Raj was basically a commercial operation that the government wound up administering.

            There never did seem to be any coherent plan to the British Empire. By contrast, Germany’s empire was easy: conquest and exploitation.

            I’ve never come across a good description of how France’s empire worked, if anyone knows of a good book in English, I’d appreciate a pointer.

            • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

              IIRC the other British “African conquests” were somewhat accidental as well.

              They were a result of Britain’s fight against the Slave Trade as African nations were strongly involved to capturing other Africans to sell to Europeans.

            • My vague and admittedly historically uninformed impression of the Raj is that it was basically found cheaper for indigenous interests to conspire to use the Brits to resolve internecine squabbles than to engage in open warfare themselves.

            • The whole point of the British Empire was the quest for something good to eat. As a result once they had India they kinda lost interest.

          • Hmmmmmm … if Americans are in Parliament, how does that affect Britain’s abolition of the slave trade in 1833?

            For that matter, with a non-neutral America, how is Bonaparte’s strategy affected? Perhaps he invests in expanding Mexico northward to cut off American supplies for Britain?

            • Your last paragraph might be irrelevant. Does Napoleon even happen, absent the American War of Independence?

              • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                True, but a strong America part of the British Empire would be a factor in future wars against France.

              • Heh. Spotted that, did you?

                I do not care to engage in debate over which paragraphs of mine might be irrelevant as I am sure the result would be dismaying.

              • the bankruptcy of France might have occurred later, which would throw all sorts of things out of whack.

            • I think the 1833 thing depends on a couple of factors:

              (1) Does Britain’s enjoyment of Southern cotton mean they do their best to make arrangements to ensure that the Southern agricultural system is able to keep going somehow? If so, there’s probably some grumbling, but overall, things adjust and we continue. If not, I see a revolt happening.

              (2) Has Britain really accepted that the Americans are Englishmen who just happen to live on a different continent, or are they still looking down their noses at the filthy colonials who are getting uppity ideas? Again, if they’ve adjusted, the Northerners are probably on their side, and the revolt gets put down relatively quickly. Otherwise, seems likely that the various Northern folk who have been dissed by the British use this as their excuse to say, “Eh, screw it!” and throw the revolution 60 years late.

              • Heck, I’m not sure all the British ever stopped looking down their noses at Americans as filthy colonials with uppity ideas, even today.

                • I have the feeling you are correct.

                  • http://www.poetryloverspage.com/poets/kipling/american_rebellion.html

                    “The American Rebellion

                    1776
                    Before
                    Twas not while England’s sword unsheathed
                    Put half a world to flight,
                    Nor while their new-built cities breathed
                    Secure behind her might;
                    Not while she poured from Pole to Line
                    Treasure and ships and men–
                    These worshippers at Freedoms shrine
                    They did not quit her then!

                    Not till their foes were driven forth
                    By England o’er the main–
                    Not till the Frenchman from the North
                    Had gone with shattered Spain;
                    Not till the clean-swept oceans showed
                    No hostile flag unrolled,
                    Did they remember that they owed
                    To Freedom–and were bold!”

                • Well, of course not ALL of them.

                  For heaven’s sakes, we have Scottish folks here.

                  This is related to why not ALL of the Scots would be ok with us– we’ve got English folks here!

              • Remember that the North had the support of the working class and royalty during the war — among Prince Alfred’s last acts was telling the Prime Minister that he had to give Lincoln a way to back down from seizing two Confederate officials from a British ship without war.

            • With America as part of the Empire, let’s see- England doesn’t have to waste money on sending crims to Australia, because they still have Georgia. Prisoners of the crown provide a potential source of competition to slaves for plantation labor.

              • If the American MPs allowed it. Franklin suggested that the colonies should ship back rattlesnakes in return, though it was not fair: the snakes after all gave warning before they attacked.

          • Hey, don’t a bunch of writers read this stuff….it’s almost 1:30pm, why isn’t the novel about this on Amazon yet😉

            I have a short story that just won’t gel. There’s a clear beginning and a clear end. Getting between the two is, unfortunately, boring.

          • Can you imagine this group writing a Novel together? That could be chaos.

            • Doable. Insane, but doable.

              See, not quite a *novel* idea, but there are anthologies with many separate stories under one overarching mega story, set in the same time/setting. Squish ’em together, you get… well, a novel. That would need a *lot* of polishing to make the bits look coherent.

              Working together I’m not worried about. We can do that. It’s making it all a seamless whole rather than a… well, an obvious mishmash that’s difficult. *chuckle* But if someone else (not me!) wants to take a stab at it…

            • Allowing me to write anything that is not meant to be process by an interpreter or compiler is a bad choice. Period.

          • Parliament started off representing Londoners. A lot of them never got over having hicks from Cornwall or Yorkshire stomping around the House like they were real people.

      • Or, here’s a possibility. The UK comes up with the idea of dominion status a century early, and grants it to Canada and the American colonies just after the French and Indian War.
        Also, no Proclamation Line of 1763, one of the stupidest decisions ever made.

      • I’ve thought about this on occasion, and discussed it over at the Warlord Games forum (which is frequented by a lot of Brits). One thing to keep in mind is that even as things were, a lot of the American Colonials weren’t particularly interested in leaving the Empire. I’m probably misremembering the numbers, but I think it was roughly one-third who were revolting or actively supporting the rebels, another third who actively wanted to stay, and a final third who didn’t really mind leaving, but weren’t interested in risking their lives over it.

        Given that, letting the colonists have representation in Parliament likely would have cut the legs out from under the independence movement.

        Also – by the early 1800s, the largest English-speaking city in the world was New York City. Even if Parliament started out with a patronizing attitude toward the American MPs in their midst, I don’t think that they would have been able to keep it up for very long. The speed with which the American colonies grew would have meant that when the British updated their boroughs, the Americans would have occupied an increasingly large number of seats in Parliament.

  14. Maybe we are entering the final phase of Heinlein’s crazy years?

    • I’m more afraid they’re just getting started.

      • I have yet to see any women undressing in the streets of my town…

        • Undressing implies they were dressed to begin with.

          I realized the day I became old: I lived in a college town and the freshman had started moving in. Instead of my reaction being, “look at the cute new co-eds” I wanted to walk up to them and ask, “Do your parents know you’re dressed like that.”

          It is bad enough friends who frequented ManRay (the goth industrial club) with me at times wearing boots, fishnets, skirt, fishnet top, and four pieces of electrical tape started complaining about what young women wear out and about. When I challenge them they point out that, one, they were going to a specific venue where this was appropriate and expected, and two, they wore a coat over it before arriving because it wasn’t appropriate outside the venue.

          • …it wasn’t appropriate outside the venue

            This, this is one of the elements of a civilized society which is most notably being forsaken. We seem to have essentially abandoned the idea of “appropriate” attire. We are breaking down the walls between public and private and that inevitably results in the destruction of the private life in lieu of one in which every action, every decision, is susceptible to public review.

            Where the hell is the fun in transgressive behaviour if there are no standards except the ad hoc-ptui of Political Correctness?

            More importantly, in the absence of standards how do we limit the psychopaths?

            • More importantly, in the absence of standards how do we limit the psychopaths?

              One of the things I used to try to explain to people both socially conservative and social liberal that neither got (although from different sides) is the need for a DMZ between acceptable behavior and unacceptable behavior. An area of behavior that was tolerated (in the true meaning of the word) but we were taught “decent people just do that” but also knew that everyone knew Uncle Bernie did it and just kept quiet because other than that he was a decent guy.

              That way those who had a genuine need for something that would be harmful if widely practiced could do so safely but those without a genuine need would generally avoid it limiting its practice.

              • There was a law professor, IIRC, who came to prominence the first term of Bill Clinton, with an argument that we had fallen into a cult of regulatory imposed equality, by which Sixties-era complaints about unfairness (the truth of which were undeniable) had persuaded a vast swath of intellectuals (i.e., over-educated morons) that regulations were the solution, that if laws were simply sufficiently well crafted the nation could end discrimination forever.

                As always, the Devil is in the details. And those particular details simply served to create loopholes in every permitted contingency through which Satan could drive a sixteen-wheeler.

                The most often cited example from his writings was the attempt in NY City to provide free-standing public restrooms on street corners, self-cleaning and paid for by advertising on their exteriors. Then the Handicapped Disabled Differently Abled Lobby got involved, complaining that the booths were not wheelchair accessible, so the plans were redrawn to ensure every sixth booth was wheelchair accessible (which incidentally meant they were large enough to act as “service” facilities for certain professions commonly believed to walk the streets of the city.) Not enough, cried the lobbyists! If every booth is not wheelchair accessible, then this plan discriminates!!!!!! The larger booths being more expensive, both in purchase and maintenance costs and in the real estate occupied, the advertising was deemed insufficient to cover the costs and as a result the scheme was crippled and could not become implemented. Thus the perfect becomes enemy of the good.

                And because human ingenuity is insufficient to craft laws covering every contingency (and very inventive at creating unanticipated contingencies) efforts to legislatively, administratively impose perfect equality are forever doomed — yet seeking to attain that Utopian state creates intolerance for the role of prosecutorial discretion that allows Sheriff Taylor to allow Otis to come and go but keep a drunken driver under lock and key. Or to say “Uncle Bernie is allowed to do that because, unlike you, he isn’t a jerkwad.”


                No matter how laws are written, no matter how laws are administered, there will be some injustice in this world. The issue is how best to instill institutions for moderating that injustice.

            • I recently read an article about an experiment in which groups of college aged women waited in a room and another woman came in to ask a question. Sometimes she was dressed like a college student, and sometimes more overtly sexually. After she left, the groups were much more likely to say something unflattering about the second attire. The researchers interpreted this all in terms of the group’s being catty, not at all — as the article writer observed — in terms of inappropriate attire and whether a woman in a ball gown would have gotten the same reaction.

              Or the experiment where the researchers gravely talked about the effect of showing more of a person’s body and so less proportionately of the head made people think the person was less intellectual and more earthy and alive to sensation. The comments on that article were full of observation that the man in the photo was shirtless, and the woman wearing a bikini top. OF COURSE they would be evaluated according to what they choose to wear for a photo.

          • Nor just walking around naked.

          • Oh yes. I’ve seen female students at a local public high school wearing things that would have made the “professional women” from the Boulevard say, “Go put some clothes on!” twenty years ago.

          • Christopher M. Chupik

            Here in Alberta, a few winters back, I watched a young lady with a very short skirt crossing the street on a very cold day. I thought to myself, “He must be some guy.” 😀

        • scott2harrison

          Move to Lane County Oregon where a judge ruled years ago that women have the right to go topless anywhere than men are allowed to. Only a few women take advantage of this, but that few do.

          • I suspect if combined equal sized sets of the few that do and the few you wish did they would intersect in the empty set.

          • There was a young lady a few years back who was wont to ride her bicycle around the streets of Ashland, Oregon topless when weather permitted.

            As a college town and domicile of many many old hippies, this attracted nearly no notice and zero controversy, and in the end she gave up her brave-topless-pedalling-to-power and flounced off elsewhere, presumably where she could get more attention.

    • Christopher M. Chupik

      But that means the next president is Scudder . . .

      Damn. 😦

  15. I never got a good definition of the “greatness” sought in this campaign anyhow.

  16. Two things about the United States Postal Service and Amazon. I actually prefer the bank of mailboxes thing because it’s a lot tougher to steal mail out of one of those than the standalone mailbox that I have now. Packages are left on my stoop, and that’s even worse.

    I was driving home from work the other day and stopped to purchase a refreshing soda from a local convenience store. I noticed they had a bunch of yellow lockers on the outside where I would expect the Redbox(tm) to sit, and the sign announced the availability of a new Amazon Locker location. Apparently, in some parts of the world (now including this one) you can have your Amazon purchases delivered to a locked box. If you don’t think this is at least partly aimed at the USPS, I believe you’re mistaken.

    • We have that at the QT where I get morning caffeine. Have for several months. I am considering using it if Hillary wins along with disposable credit cards and the cat’s name on certain purchases.

    • It may be more targeted at those people who live in places where the architect neglected to provide them with a stoop on which packages may be placed. Or those, like my sister, who live in controlled access point, mixed used apartment complexes, whose ground floor businesses post signs saying “we do not accept packages addressed to the residents. don’t drop them off here.”

      • Actually, I think it’s more directed at one of the main weaknesses that Amazon has. Namely the delay between ordering and receiving your goods. They might also be angling to give people reasons to use Amazon Marketplace rather than eBay.

        In both those cases, the damage they might do to the USPS is kind of a side-effect, but it’s still there.

    • I have a small concrete front porch. By the door, I have a large blue steel “job box” (the kind you see in the back of contractors’ trucks) bolted to the concrete. Stick on letters have the house number and “DELIVERY” on the front.

      I still had to catch the UPS and Fedex drivera and explain to them that “DELIVERY” meant “put the packages in the box, not laying on the porch.” The mailman figured it out on his own…

      “Out of sight, out of mind” has worked well, and so far nothing had been stolen or wet…

      • Our regular USPS guy is named Alfred – nice guy, veteran, efficient and hard-working. We know him rather moderately well, as we are out and about walking the doggles when he is delivering. (On days when he is off duty – whoever has the route is usually not so prompt on his rounds – we call that delivery-person “Not-Alfred”)
        We are quite fond of Alfred – and we have been having a spate of community mail-box robbing in our neighborhood. In that someone is going around, prying open the back of the community mailboxes and the package lockers. As you might imagine, this kind of antisocial behavior pisses us all off – and Alfred, too. We have had to divert all letter mail to the business address at a UPS store close by, but Alfred brings us our packages, either to the house, or to the community box – because we have asked him to. We are home during the day, and can retrieve any packages as soon as they are delivered.

        He pointed out to us today – that the back of his truck was loaded to the top with Amazon stuff – including three heavy boxes of what we assume to be potting soil – lamenting that people are going to Amazon and USPS delivery to their doorstep rather than go to a local vendor and schlep the stuff home themselves.

        Which is kind of interesting … there once was a time when local merchands did do home delivery. I pointed this out to Alfred, and it was a revelation to him.

        Yes, I remember when dairies made home delivery. My mother held on to the last service in the LA area that did that,

        • He pointed out to us today – that the back of his truck was loaded to the top with Amazon stuff – including three heavy boxes of what we assume to be potting soil – lamenting that people are going to Amazon and USPS delivery to their doorstep rather than go to a local vendor and schlep the stuff home themselves.

          Ignoring our gas costs, on Amazon we can get a month’s worth of diapers for both of the littles for the price that it costs to get the cheap ones for one kid.

          They even beat Costco’s generic brand.

        • Which is kind of interesting … there once was a time when local merchands did do home delivery. I pointed this out to Alfred, and it was a revelation to him.

          Building supplies started doing this in the 1970s. Really ticked off my old boss. Once, when a load of sheet rock showed up, he took us aside and told us he was going to “break that up” because they knew better than to send one man with a flatbed full of sheet rock. He had us stagger ourselves so that the poor driver tailed every pack (they use to ship sheet rock with two bound together because the stuff is fragile – they might still do that).

          The next delivery, the building supply sent enough people to help unload it.

  17. Jesse Thorson

    the taxes and tariffs will also take Americans back to fifties levels of wealth (and if you think that was great you don’t know anyone who actually lived in the fifties.

    I did. Granted I was a teenager, but, finding a job was easy, things were relatively cheap, and I made enough money to do pretty much whatever I wanted. My folks didn’t make a lot (quite a bit less than $1,000 a month) and we never went hungry. I had my first job at 11 (in 1951) and worked all through high school, until I joined the U.S. Navy in 1958 (for $78 per month, which was plenty).

    I don’t know if that was great for some people. It was for me.

    • Yes… and you’re willing to live with that level of food, clothing and electronics, are you? Get a grip.

      • $HOUSEMATE’s father is amused by the ‘nostalgia’ around the ’57 Chevy. He owned one, bought it new. And says it was a nightmare to keep running right. Now wants exactly nothing to do with such a thing.

        People think they want or might get the better part of Leave It To Beaver when what they would actually get is the worst parts of Green Acres – climb a pole to use the phone? “Can you hear me now?”

        • Jesse Thorson

          Exactly! I bought a ’65 GTO new. It was one of the worst cars I’ve owned. (and I’ve owned nearly 50 so far) I was astounded by the enjoyment difference between a ’67 Alfa Romeo spider and a ’78 Saab EMS. The Saab was much more enjoyable.

          I don’t want to go back to the way things were because most products are much better. Society I’m not so sure about.

      • Jesse Thorson

        Turns out I’m not. But, the time (1950’s), it was great, for me. And insulting me because you don’t agree (the “Get a grip”) with my perspective of a time I was alive and you weren’t isn’t conducive to polite discourse.

        A few things.
        I lived most of my time in the ’50’s very near, sometimes in, slums or ghettos. Yet I was never afraid of walking anywhere, and did ’cause I didn’t own a car. Ten years after I left high school, the ghetto that supplied all of my black friends was the location of a large riot that burned most of it down. Today, there are places I won’t even drive through.
        There were 7 of us, 5 kids, my mom and dad. We didn’t lack for anything necessary. True, we didn’t get things we didn’t need. Today, folks want things they don’t need, e.g., cell phones (what kid in grade school needs a cell phone?), continuous connections to social media, and etc. And, yes, I have a cell phone with text and talk only, and I bought my daughter a cell phone (talk only) when she began driving.
        The only drug available for kids was marijuana, and that was very hard to get. Even cigarettes were hard for kids to get. Today, nearly any kid can get just about any drug they think they’d like to try. I know in my kids high school more than half the kids have tried marijuana, and a significant fraction are hooked on other, nastier drugs.

        The food was better then because most of it wasn’t full of additives. The clothing, for me anyway, was better because most of it was from natural sources, e.g., cotton and wool. Electronics for most people were limited to TV and radio that used vacuum tubes. So, yeah, electronics are much better today.

        • And insulting me because you don’t agree (the “Get a grip”) with my perspective of a time I was alive and you weren’t isn’t conducive to polite discourse.

          You decided to rather unpleasantly ignore the entire point in your original response, and get pissy because someone wasn’t as impressed with how clever you are as you seem to be?

          A suggestion that you control your histronics isn’t an insult– disrespect or scornful abuse.
          It is responding to you in exactly the same tone you offered.

          Don’t like it? Then don’t dish up that gravy, Gander.

          • Jesse Thorson

            Well it would seem you missed the point of my original post. I was pointing out that for some people (me) things were pretty great in the ’50’s. I was not suggesting that was true for everyone. Nor was I suggesting things would be better if we could return to that time.

            As far as the comment about “Get a grip,” I considered it an insult. You don’t. Fine. When someone expresses an opinion about something they haven’t directly experienced, they’re relying on the source(s) of their opinion, which may or may not be accurate. I have direct experience of the ’50’s because I was alive and observant of my surroundings, and how I lived. And that was point of my original post.

            It is responding to you in exactly the same tone you offered. If I were to respond to you in the way you responded to me. I would call you something negative (Gander perhaps) for assuming something not in evidence.

            • Well it would seem you missed the point of my original post. I was pointing out that for some people (me) things were pretty great in the ’50’s

              No, I got it just fine– which you would realize if you’d bothered to read what I wrote.

              You either utterly missed, or chose to ignore, Sarah’s point– and then got pissy when that was pointed out.

              Twice, now.

              • Jesse Thorson

                Since you claim I missed Sarah’s point. What exactly was it? I can’t seem to understand.

                Her entire comment “Yes… and you’re willing to live with that level of food, clothing and electronics, are you? Get a grip.”

                I understood her asking me if I wanted the 50’s back. No, I don’t and as I read what I originally wrote, that’s not what I said. The “get a grip” was an extraneous nasty comment that had nothing to do with what I wrote, and I said so.

                • The point is that, like in the fifties, given tariffs (do you know how much of your food is grown abroad?) you’ll have to eat a lot more canned food, and it will all be way more expensive. I don’t have the statistics on hand, but I’m sure someone else does. In the fifties food and clothing cost a much higher percentage of everyone’s salary, leaving a lot less for everything else, and what today would include personal electronics.
                  NO ONE asked you if the fifties were great for you. We’re all very glad you had such a great time in the fifties. It’s not relevant to whether your life would be tighter now if things climbed to relative fifties prices.

                  • Jesse Thorson

                    We’re all very glad you had such a great time in the fifties.

                    Good. Then why all the fuss about my post? It would seem a pissing contest started because I had a good life in the 50’s.

                    If you wanted to comment about how tariffs affect the cost of food, etc. why not say so in the original reply? You always tell other writers in Mad Genius Club to say what they mean. Perhaps you should take your own advice.

                    • Because that is not the point of the post.
                      Because you decided to answer a post that said “Tariffs will make your life much harder” with “Oh, I’d love my life in the fifties.”
                      You know something else we say at MGC? No? This: READ THE FORNICATING POST. https://madgeniusclub.com/2016/11/03/read-the-fornicating-post/

                    • Jesse Thorson

                      I did read the post. Didn’t get the “Tariffs will make your life much harder” part. My bad. Still wasn’t worth the pissing contest that ensued.

                      I guess that means either you weren’t clear, or I misinterpreted what you wrote. Still wasn’t worth the pissing contest that ensued.

                • Nice game.

                  I don’t play.

        • It’s not a matter of “I don’t agree” — it’s a matter of “You wouldn’t be content with what you had then, and you know it” and tariffs put on it means that’s all we could afford.
          As for the food not having additives… IN THE FIFTIES? In the thirties, maybe. In the fifties they had additives in horse dosage.
          SIGH.

          • Jesse Thorson

            You’re right. I wouldn’t be content with what I had then, and I know it.

            In farm country (even though I lived in a city), fresh food was what we bought. I assume because for the most part it was cheaper and we didn’t have a lot of money. I would add, since I read everything, and did even in the 50’s, I read the ingredients of everything. I can remember asking my Dad what some of the ingredients of Wonder bread meant.

            In a way, that says a lot about the differences between folks who live in rural areas, and those who live in large cities (especially). In a city food comes from a store. In a rural area food comes from the ground or the pasture, whether bought in a store or not. Food bought in a store of necessity needs help to stay fresh. As an aside, at one time I was going to own a feedstore in rural Minnesota until financing fell through.

          • As for the food not having additives… IN THE FIFTIES?

            It’s true — I grew up in the Fifties and the additives had no food. We all ate Wonderbread, Hostess Twinkies and Jello molds; that’s why the Boomers are living such long healthy lives.

          • In the 50s, they BRAGGED of additives.

  18. I think one of the problems is that our memories of our past are colored by our realities of the present.

    For most of us (not all, of course) – the decade before our teens is now a time of “utopia.” Yes, we had a lot of anger and annoyance then – but over things that are pure peccadilloes now, and largely do not exist, whereas we have “real” problems now. I don’t know what I’ll feel twenty years from now about those, either – will my current serious financial problems now seem like minor things when my sight, hearing, and mind are failing (or failed)? Probably not…

    I will most likely feel about my current problems like I feel now about not getting to watch Star Trek when it was originally aired (I never saw it until one local station bought it and stripped it, airing it at 4 PM, after school and before my father came home.) I would trade that “problem” in a heartbeat for my problems now, even though I can watch ST any time I feel like it on Netflix. I’ll probably want to go back and shake that young (56 year old) and scream at him that he has his health!

    And the younger set has this, too – my son would like nothing more than to go back to high school, not juggle his work, his own bills, his USMCR duties, and so on, and on, and on… His problems from only two or three years ago are tiny things in the rear view mirror of his life.

    • One the best bits of advice for dealing with things (which I admit I don’t manage to take well…) is consider:

      Will this matter tomorrow?
      Will this matter in a week?
      Will this matter in a month?
      Will this matter in a year?
      In five years?
      Ten?

      And most things really don’t matter all that much over time. Though they sure seem to at the time!

      • My historical research takes me back into the 2000 BC/BCE period, and farther. Certain things seem a lot less pressing when you use that scale.

    • There were probably just as many problems when I was a kid. But they weren’t *my* problems; I was just a kid. My parents were the ones who dealt with that stuff.

  19. South Park. One large subplot this entire season has been about how everything in modern culture is about remembering past, from the election to the movies, and how societies collapse when everyone’s ‘membering rather than doing.

  20. As an aside:
    Campaign News item: NASA and FEMA exercise looks forward to SMOD 2020: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?feature=6669

  21. BTW, new news. The first
    of the faithless electors has announced. Where there’s one, there’s more.

  22. Kinda makes sense– if Kids These Days are uniquely horrible, as we’re constantly assured they are (category of “kid” lining up generally with either the children or grandchildren of the one bitching) then the past must be better.

  23. Pingback: News of the Week (November 7th, 2016) | The Political Hat