Name guaranteed to attract women

Vladimir Scott Wayne Crippen-Teach.

From Intellectual Takeout.



Whatever Happened to Baby Sears?

A recent Business Insider article (linked at Instapundit) showed a very depressing Sears store somewhere in northern Virginia.  I suspect that I feel more pain than many others do when seeing the residual waste products of a once-great American giant.

My mother worked for a Sears catalog store in the small town where I grew up in the late 70’s.  It was her first job back in the workforce since she married my father.  Stagflation drove a large number of middle-class women back into the job market.  She left for a job in the county government a couple of years before Sears closed all the catalog stores, in part because it was clear that the catalog stores were on their way out.  They had always been a low-margin marginal business for Sears and the declining rural economy turned most of these stores into perennial money-losers.

As an aside, I’ve seen comments that Sears got out of the catalog business exactly as e-commerce (specifically Amazon) took off.  Not exactly; there was a year’s lag between the Sears catalog stores closing in 1993 and Amazon starting in 1994.  It’s also worthwhile to remember that Amazon started fairly small (books-only) and lost lots of money getting started.  Could Sears have succeeded in e-commerce?  It’s hard to see how without turning the business over to someone willing to keep losing money for an extended amount of time building the platform.  Someone like Jeff Bezos, I suppose.

I always had the sense that somehow, “the best and the brightest” never ended up working for the Sears of the late 20th century.

Sears was also the epitome of middle-class; unexciting, durable, reliable products brought to you by a centralized bureaucracy and tons of paperwork and obscure product coding systems.  Even today, you’ll see way more keystrokes from the register operator at Sears than at almost any other store.

Why yes, I still go to Sears stores on occasion.  I have a Shop Your Way card and will occasionally get offers too tempting to turn down, although it’s hard to see how Sears makes any money off of me, as I usually don’t buy more than what I can get under the discount.  I’ll still take my car to the local Sears Auto Center for tires and batteries.  Kenmore appliances seem to be about as durable as any other major brand, but nothing seems to last as long as appliances did in the 70’s and 80’s.  My Kenmore washer is 19 years old and still going strong, while the dryer is 17 years old and had to have the heating element replaced a couple of years back and has lost the moisture sensor, but still works fine on time-only settings.

However, my next-to last Kenmore microwave lasted four months past the end of its warranty, while my last Kenmore microwave died after one day.   I’d say that I won’t make that mistake again, but it seems like almost all microwave vendors have similar problems with durability.

Land’s End still has good products that, if you catch them at the right sale, are reasonably priced.  However, Land’s End products that are actually found in a Sears retail store are very limited in styles (no pocket polos!) and varieties and almost never reasonably priced.

Second aside:  Once upon a time, back in the 80’s, I believe you could buy “lifetime” alignments at Sears Auto.  Essentially, as long as you owned the vehicle in question, you could bring it in for tire balancing and alignment; no questions asked, no charge.  I had a 1987 Chevy Nova (really a rebadged Toyota Corolla assembled in California) that took advantage of that policy for 16 years, if I remember correctly.  I also remember hearing from my mother that the lifetime coverage ended up costing Sears a lot of money over the long run.

Even before my mother started working at Sears, it was a large part of our life.  I had Toughskins for the better part of my youth, and a good pair of Toughskins could last for 4 kids (me, two of my cousins, and my younger brother) before being finally outgrown.  I’m sure some died, but mostly they were just outgrown.  Sure could have used something that durable for my kids.

In addition to Sears being an indispensable clothier, vendor of appliances, and supplier of car and insurance services to rural communities, Sears as an anchor store promoted “mall culture” back when malls were clean and exciting.  I still have a soft spot for malls because, when I was a kid in the country, going to the city was a big deal.  3-4 times a year we would load up the car and drive two hours to the nearest large urban area to stock up on lower-cost groceries and other commodities and window-shop in those clean, air-conditioned architectural marvels of commerce.  I can still spend an enjoyable afternoon on occasion at the local “good” mall window-shopping, even if I have to risk the elements to get to the Apple Store or Barnes and Noble.

Sears spent much of the second half of the 20th century forming a large conglomerate of businesses designed to cater to the expected needs of the American middle class.  When Sears then didn’t make the expected return on the conglomerate, they sold off all the clast and kept the muddy matrix of the retail stores and the land the retail stores sat on.  They then sold the matrix to K-mart, a retail store in even worse shape than Sears, essentially converting into a giant mall/shopping center real estate investment company with a retail appendix just at the moment when shopping centers stepped on a banana peel directly in front of a bobsled run.  Now Sears Holdings is essentially the landlord for stores like Harbor Freight and Big Lots, when they can find a tenant at all.  It’s a long, bittersweet good-bye for an American titan.

Those wacky feminist academics versus rationality

“The author argues that a regime of rationality still operates in the academy and is made evident when feminist course content is met with continual dismissal or disavowal”.

Here’s the link to the article

I leave it to you whether or not you want to pay for access to this particular bit of drivel.  I do find it ironic that “Women’s Studies International Forum” is published at a website called “”.  Yes, I know that the website is a catch-all for Elsevier journals, but from a branding perspective, I think I would keep journals such as Vaccine and Biochemical Pharmacology at this website and move well, dreck like this to a well, less-rational website?

Hat tip to Real Peer Review.

How Rome Fell

Just finished the book by that title, by Adrian Goldsworthy.  Read Gibbon many years ago, and still have my copy.  This isn’t Gibbon in it’s sweep, but it is a fresh look at a question for the ages.  Why did the most technologically advanced nation on Earth, a nation that left traces of its industrial prowess in the polar ice thousands of miles away, lose so much technology and industry so quickly?  Why did the strongest military power of its age, literally unmatched by any combination of its neighbors, eventually fall to relatively small bands of barbarians?

Goldsworthy’s primary thesis is that the political climate post-Marcus Aurelius, where civil war became the primary means of competing for and winning imperial power, resulted in the dissipation of Roman power.

Emperors could not trust in civil society to keep their throne safe.  Their rivals with the most potential power, the Senatorial class, were gradually shunted aside from loci of power such as military and provincial commands in favor of lower-ranking men who were, in theory, more beholden to the Emperor.  However, the lack of clear lines of Imperial succession led to more frequent civil wars and other contests for power such as coups.  The more disordered the political landscape, the greater dispersion of power in order to reduce the ability of any one particular provincial leader to challenge the current Emperor.  The greater the dispersion of power, the larger the bureaucracy and the more room for graft and featherbedding as more and more layers came between the Emperor and the power of the empire.

Additionally, the growth of bureaucracy led to an alternative route to power with less personal risk than the traditional route of a military career.  At the end of a civil war, the military leaders on the losing sides usually were killed, but the bureaucrats associated with the same side may have had a greater chance of survival.

The constant loss of trained military personnel tied to the nearly continual state of civil war in the third century AD would also lead to a gradual decrease of effectiveness, blunting the gladius of Roman military power.  As Roman military power declined, the need to recruit barbarians to “do jobs Romans wouldn’t do anymore” grew.  The need for barbarian troops led to the incursion of additional barbarians.  Eventually, the hollowed-out husk of the Roman military could not adequately control the borders and the Western Empire fell in a series of stepwise conquests by various barbarian tribes in the 5th century AD.

As for the Roman economy, again, the drain of constant civil war gradually eroded trade and drove movement of people from the less secure countryside into more secure towns.  The money needed to pay for the warring armies led to currency debasement and inflation.  All of these factors throttled trade, first impacting luxury items and specialty trade chains, then driving down the trade in staple items that, in the long run, held the empire together.  The loss of Roman Africa to the Vandals in the 420s was the final nail in the coffin for the Western Roman Empire, while the loss of Egypt to the Arabs in the 640s had a similar, if not as extreme, effect on the Eastern Roman Empire.

Summing up, it appears to me that, in the long run, Romans were given multiple incentives not to learn how to fight, leading to a gradual loss of the skills and drives that built the Roman Empire.


Trump’s First 100 Days

So far, pleasantly surprised, I am.  So far, he hasn’t acted like Hillary-with-a-penis, which is what I was afraid he would be.  Great Supreme Court Justice, good initial efforts to shrink bureaucracy and drain the swamp, and a non-clown car foreign policy are things to applaud.  Repeal/replace Obamacare 1 was a fiasco, but things haven’t been made worse yet.  Trump will realize that the people who voted for him, by and large, also vote for the Freedom Caucus, and when that happens, he’ll go looking for RINOs to mount on the wall.  His tweets, though, are best ignored.  Good thing that the Democrats haven’t realized that yet, as they are even more distracted by Trump tweets than I am.

When to confront evil

In George Bush Intercontinental today, and the man in front of me was wearing a Maoist fatigue cap complete with not-so-little red star on the front.  Googled the cap description to confirm, and  I was right.  I wimped out and didn’t give the mass-murderer supporter a well-deserved piece of my mind.  I can justify it for a number of reasons, but the long and the short of it is that I feel both angry and guilty about it.

So, pass the original repeal already!

Now that the Trumpcare fiasco has flopped, pass the original repeal that Obama vetoed and dare Trump to veto that.  Promise any RINO squish who voted for the original repeal but threatens to vote no this time around that they WILL have ads running in their district in 2018 pointing out that they could have stopped Obamacare, but failed their constituents and the country.  Find some more Dave Brats and primary their butts.

People’s Republic of Chapel Hill strikes again.

Knickers twisted; schools closed Wednesday.  I had to sleep on this news tidbit, but after mulling it over, I believe the proper response for any parent living in Chapel Hill or Carrboro would be to call your local private or charter school and see if there are any openings, or a waiting list, or something.  Homeschool if you can pull off the time and dedication.  Or sell your house and move out of the city limits to a school district that won’t put up with this nonsense.  Or rent your house out to 6-10 UNC students looking to live off-campus if you can’t sell fast enough.  You could march in protest in front of the school board with your kids on Wednesday, but you probably have to work and have to save your protesting time for the weekends.