December 31, 2011
If this don't make your blood boil, you are a worm...
Michael and Chantell Sackett were building their dream home on less than two-thirds of an acre of land near Priest Lake in northern Idaho. They owned a small business nearby and had been looking forward to the day when they could stop renting — they purchased the property in 2005 for $23,000. In 2007, gravel was being laid in preparation for the pouring of a concrete foundation.
However, construction screeched to a halt upon the order of three agents of the Environmental Protection Agency. The property was a federally protected "wetlands," the Sacketts were told, and they were served with a compliance order to immediately restore the property to its prior condition.
In fact, the EPA compliance order went even further. Relying on authority it claimed to have received under the Clean Water Act, EPA officials prescribed a set of conditions that went beyond the prior condition of the property when the Sacketts purchased it.
The Sacketts were ordered to plant "native scrub-shrub, broad-leaved deciduous wetlands plants and [have the property] seeded with native herbaceous plants." Further, they were ordered to fence the property and monitor plant growth for three years.
All of this came as quite a shock to the Sacketts because their sliver of land was located in a platted residential subdivision with water and sewer hook-ups, and was bordered by roads on the front and rear and existing homes on either side.
There wasn’t any natural running or standing water on the property. None of the surrounding homes in the community were designated as having occupied wetlands.
The Sacketts conducted regulatory due diligence before they bought the property. Even the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had been consulted. After buying the property, they applied for and received all of the pertinent local permits to build a residential dwelling as local zoning ordinances permit.
The EPA compliance order ended all of their hard work and saddled them with exorbitant financial costs. They faced monstrous-level fines — currently set at $37,500 for each day they failed to comply with the order.
Today, the Sacketts owe more than $40 million in fines....
Tyrants love to pick victims at random and destroy them publicly. That keeps every else guessing and groveling.
December 27, 2011
Loathsome animals. But you knew that. What's amazing is how divorced they are from reality. Having government "pick winners" and direct investment into "socially beneficial" industries has always failed. But they seem oblivious.
Partly of course because every failure is just dropped down the memory hole. The Chinese high-speed rail project is now collapsing in scandal and and waste and gross failure. But will Tom Friedman apologize for repeatedly lauding this project and wishing the same on us? No, it will just be dropped and forgotten. The real world isn't real to these people. The 'optics" are reality.
...The documents reviewed by The Post, which began examining the clean-technology program a year ago, provide a detailed look inside the day-to-day workings of the upper levels of the Obama administration. They also give an unprecedented glimpse into high-level maneuvering by politically connected clean-technology investors.
They show that as Solyndra tottered, officials discussed the political fallout from its troubles, the "optics" in Washington and the impact that the company's failure could have on the president's prospects for a second term. Rarely, if ever, was there discussion of the impact that Solyndra's collapse would have on laid-off workers or on the development of clean-energy technology....
....Political calculus was especially on display in an e-mail early this year between administration staffers who calibrated the damage that could result from pushing back Solyndra's collapse by a few months at a time.
"The optics of a Solyndra default will be bad whenever it occurs," an OMB staff member wrote to a colleague. "If Solyndra defaults down the road, the optics will arguably be worse later than they would be today. . . . In addition, the timing will likely coincide with the 2012 campaign season heating up."
Solyndra executives and investors were attuned to the value of playing politics. Memos from Solyndra's lobbying firm, McBee Strategic Consulting, stressed the need to "socialize" with leaders in Washington and to mobilize a lobbying effort described variously as quiet, surgical and aggressive.
Beyond the West Wing, the documents provide a vivid glimpse into high-level machinations inside the world of clean-energy entrepreneurs.
Solyndra's strongest political connection was to George Kaiser, a Democratic fundraiser and oil industry billionaire who had once hosted Obama at his home in Oklahoma. Kaiser's family foundation owned more than a third of the solar panel company, and Kaiser took a direct interest in its operations.
With the 2010 midterm elections just days away, Kaiser flew to Las Vegas to help the party cause. He was a guest at a private fundraising dinner for Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.), but the real attraction at the event was its headliner — Obama. Realizing he might have an opportunity to talk with the president, Kaiser's staff prepped him with talking points about Solyndra.
Kaiser did not have to angle for Obama's attention. Organizers seated him next to the world's most powerful man — for two hours.
December 24, 2011
It's sort of like a riddle....
Your voice speaks:
In my arms I still carry flowers from the wilderness, the dew on my hair is from the valleys of the dawn of humankind.
I have prayers that the meadows lend an ear to, I know how storms are tempered, how water is blest.
I carry in my womb the secrets of the desert, on my head the noble web of ancient thought.
For I am mother to all Earth’s children: why do you scorn me, world, when my Heavenly Father makes me so great?
Behold, in my long-vanished generations still kneel, and out of my soul many pagans shine toward the infinite.
I lay hidden in the temples of their Gods, I was darkly present in the sayings of their wise men.
I was on the towers with their star-gazers, I was with the solitary women on whom the spirit descended.
I was the desire of all times, I was the light of all times, I am the fullness of all times.
I am their great union, I am their eternal oneness. I am the way of all their ways, on me the millennia are drawn to God.
~ Gertrude von le Fort
Happy Christmas to you all! I hope Santa is kind.
December 22, 2011
Not all problems go unsolved...
Most of you won't be interested, but I got an e-mail that made me feel better about the world:
Dear Quicken Mac Customer:
As a fellow Mac fan and customer, I wanted to personally introduce myself, and share some highlights of our Apple-related efforts with you.
I recently became General Manager of the Personal Finance Group at Intuit, responsible for Quicken and Mint.com. Intuit's 25 years of leadership in personal financial management software makes me excited to lead this team and I am committed to creating products to help you reach your financial goals.
I recognize, however, that we have not always delivered on this promise to Quicken Mac customers.
As you may know, Quicken for Mac 2007 does not currently work on Apple's latest operating system, Mac OS X 10.7 (Lion). I understand the frustration this may have caused you and have put a team in place to address this issue. I am happy to announce that we will have a solution that makes Quicken 2007 for Mac "Lion-compatible" by early spring. There are still details to be worked out, so I ask your continued patience as we work through these. In the meantime, you can find more information on our Mac FAQ page...
General Manager, Intuit Personal Finance Group
It's not that I love Quicken, it's more that the other ones are worse. As I discovered when I upgraded to Mac OS 10.7, and couldn't use Q. Mostly I had Q all down-pat for those particular reports and such I needed, and I've hated starting over.
And this development is interesting from a business management perspective. Intuit stopped Mac development just at the moment (2007) when anybody with sense should have seen that the Apple platforms were heading in exciting directions. The first iPhone was unveiled on January 9, 2007. The Apple Stores were by then a clear success, iTunes and the iPod were king in music, Mac OS-X was clearly a winner.... So of course that's the right moment moment to put all your chips on Microsoft. I bet Intuit was full of those faux-manly tech types who dismiss Apple customers as "fanboi" who have "drunk the Steve Jobs Kool-aid."
December 21, 2011
In the wake of yet another fiasco at the latest U.N. Convention on Climate Change (COP 17) in Durban, South Africa, and on the heels of another release of damaging emails between high-profile climate scientists (Climategate 2.0), I believe this to be a propitious time for the Catholic Church and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) to faithfully re-evaluate their position on climate change science. As a practicing Catholic and one who has also diligently researched this subject for the last several years, I am increasingly disconcerted to see the church and the bishops take such an inflexible position on an issue that has become more fraught with controversy and uncertainty as new studies and data fail to corroborate earlier claims of the climate-change alarmist community.
Moreover, the Catholic Church’s active membership in the National Religious Partnership for the Environment — the NRPE is an organization of mainline churches promulgating “environmental sustainability and social justice” — is disturbing given the radical environmentalist positions taken by various ecotheologian leaders in the history of this group and the principles the organization embraces.
Coming full circle, the Catholic Church and the USCCB, in associating with the NRPE and its more extremist affiliate members, have disingenuously communicated a message to church members conflating ideas of stewardship of the Earth with the debauched science supporting the claims of those in the radical environmentalist community....
It's disgusting to me to see the Church sucked into this kind of malarky. But you have to realize that there is a bigger issue. For most people, re-thinking is a worse thing than death. To admit that lefty environmentalism might be flawed (not to mention anti-Christian, as I think) would be to admit that all sort sof other lefty notions might be flawed. Impossible!
Hmm. I wonder which term denotes the greater amount of tricksy hidden wickedness and folly, "social justice," or "sustainability?"
December 17, 2011
"Response, acknowledgement, and welcome"
CS Lewis, from The Weight of Glory ...
In speaking of this desire for our own far-off country, which we find in ourselves even now, I feel a certain shyness....I am trying to rip open the inconsolable secret in each one of you--the secret which hurts so much that you take your revenge on it by calling it names like Nostalgia and Romanticism and Adolescence;...We cannot tell it because it is a desire for something that has never actually appeared in our experience....The sense that in this universe we are treated as strangers, the longing to be acknowledged; to meet with some response, to bridge some chasm that yawns between us and reality, is part of our inconsolable secret. And surely, from this point of view, the promise of glory...becomes highly relevant to our deep desire. For glory means good report with God, acceptance by God, response, acknowledgement, and welcome into the heart of things. The door on which we have been knocking all our lives will open at last.
Now for what's wrong with Stiglitz's article...
In my previous post I praised the insight in this article on the underlying cause of the Great Depression, that due to advances in agriculture we had far too many people on the farm, and needed to move a lot of them to manufacturing. And that, analogously, we now have too many people in manufacturing, and need to move them to services. I think there's a lot of truth in that.
However the author's prescriptions, his fixes, are beyond stupid. So I'm going to indulge myself in a bit of fisking.
...The private sector by itself won't, and can't, undertake structural transformation of the magnitude needed—even if the Fed were to keep interest rates at zero for years to come. [We don't know that, because the private sector is tied down, like Gulliver, by a thousand threads of regulation and uncertainty.] The only way it will happen is through a government stimulus designed not to preserve the old economy but to focus instead on creating a new one. [This is insane dreaming, because government is currently obsessed with preserving the old economy. And it is unlikely that any government, Rep or Dem, could be visionary enough to not put its efforts into the known and familiar.] We have to transition out of manufacturing and into services that people want—into productive activities that increase living standards, not those that increase risk and inequality. [That's so vague as to be platitudinous.] To that end, there are many high-return investments we can make. Education is a crucial one [The current world of education is utterly poisoned with statist and reactionary thinking. Pouring more money into it will make things much worse.]—a highly educated population is a fundamental driver of economic growth. [This guy should be reading Goldman's book, How Civilizations Die.. In most parts of the globe increasing education has been accompanied by catastrophic declines in birthrates. (Not catastrophic in America, so far, but bad.) We are educating people to nihilism. Civilizational suicide.]
Support is needed for basic research. Government investment in earlier decades—for instance, to develop the Internet and biotechnology—helped fuel economic growth. [No, government did NOT develop the Internet. (See my post here.) Most government-directed research is ineffective.] Without investment in basic research, what will fuel the next spurt of innovation? [Hey, wait a minute? I thought this was about moving people from manufacturing to services? But this is just the usual Big-Government-Liberal laundry-list.] Meanwhile, the states could certainly use federal help in closing budget shortfalls. [Clueless. Governments aren't suffering "budget shortfalls." They have gone INSANE. All the Blue states and cities have made promises they can't possibly keep, even if the entire Federal treasury is handed over to them. They are bankrupt. They must die in their present form.] Long-term economic growth at our current rates of resource consumption is impossible, so funding research, skilled technicians, and initiatives for cleaner and more efficient energy production will not only help us out of the recession but also build a robust economy for decades. [Green bullshit. All untrue. And the smart money has already realized it!] Finally, our decaying infrastructure, from roads and railroads to levees and power plants, is a prime target for profitable investment....
There's more, but you get the idea. This is so pathetic, because the Mr Stiglitz has had one sterling insight, and yet is unable to imagine (or maybe endure) the possibility that a lot of other things he's been taught are wrong. He is utterly stuck in Industrial Age thinking, and is seemingly unaware that we are in the Information Age. Where things work very differently. He is trapped in the thinking of the Blue Model.
There is another underlying cause of our present problems. That is, that while the private sector has been brutally wrenched into the Information Age, government and quasi-governmental institutions are still working on an Industrial Age paradigm. They have become disconnected with reality, and that's another way of saying, crazy. All around us we see governments and schools and hospitals and NGO's that are dysfunctional. That are bloated and sclerotic. That are stuck in the ideas of the past.
I guess universities are part of the "service sector," but we should be moving people OUT of them, because they have become horrible drags on our world. The UC system and the Calif State University System now have more administrators than faculty. That's not just bad management, it is insane! And I doubt that even Stiglitz is arguing that they are producing graduates ready to do great things for our economy.
Poor Mr Stiglitz can only offer us the usual tired lefty list of desiderata. How will building bridges move people into the service sector? Huh? Levees? Or pouring money into bankrupt local governments? (Well, we've been doing that. With no results.) Stiglitz considers WWII to have been a "Keynsian stimulus." That just renders the concept meaningless. And he has no clue as to what a new "WWII" might be. Nor can he tell us what IS the "basic research" that might help here. He has nothing to offer. He should be reading Random Jottings!
Actually, things in the Information Age morph and change so rapidly that the whole concept of experts deciding what must be done has become an absurdity. In a mere decade or so Blockbuster invented a new way of distributing video, and then was blitzed when Netflix came up with a better way, and now Netflix is floundering in the new world of direct downloads and YouTube. SO, imagine that government had wanted to "stimulate" video distribution! Imagine bureaucrats intervening, or writing regulations to improve all this! Ugh! We'd just now be asking for comments on drafting protocols to prepare to subsidize basic research in VHS tape technology.
Clue-bat to Mr S. We need to be moving towards systems that are self-regulating. I can give some hints if anyone is interested.
December 16, 2011
"An alternative theory of the Depression"
I recommend this piece By Joseph E. Stiglitz, A Banking System is Supposed to Serve Society, Not the Other Way Around". Both as insight into the Great Depression, and the depression-like-thing we are in now. It's a thought-provoker...
...The trauma we're experiencing right now resembles the trauma we experienced 80 years ago, during the Great Depression, and it has been brought on by an analogous set of circumstances. Then, as now, we faced a breakdown of the banking system. But then, as now, the breakdown of the banking system was in part a consequence of deeper problems. Even if we correctly respond to the trauma—the failures of the financial sector—it will take a decade or more to achieve full recovery. Under the best of conditions, we will endure a Long Slump. If we respond incorrectly, as we have been, the Long Slump will last even longer, and the parallel with the Depression will take on a tragic new dimension...
...For the past several years, Bruce Greenwald and I have been engaged in research on an alternative theory of the Depression—and an alternative analysis of what is ailing the economy today. This explanation sees the financial crisis of the 1930s as a consequence not so much of a financial implosion but of the economy's underlying weakness. The breakdown of the banking system didn't culminate until 1933, long after the Depression began and long after unemployment had started to soar. By 1931 unemployment was already around 16 percent, and it reached 23 percent in 1932. Shantytown "Hoovervilles" were springing up everywhere. The underlying cause was a structural change in the real economy: the widespread decline in agricultural prices and incomes, caused by what is ordinarily a "good thing"—greater productivity.
At the beginning of the Depression, more than a fifth of all Americans worked on farms. Between 1929 and 1932, these people saw their incomes cut by somewhere between one-third and two-thirds, compounding problems that farmers had faced for years. Agriculture had been a victim of its own success. In 1900, it took a large portion of the U.S. population to produce enough food for the country as a whole. Then came a revolution in agriculture that would gain pace throughout the century—better seeds, better fertilizer, better farming practices, along with widespread mechanization. Today, 2 percent of Americans produce more food than we can consume...
...The cities weren't spared—far from it. As rural incomes fell, farmers had less and less money to buy goods produced in factories. Manufacturers had to lay off workers, which further diminished demand for agricultural produce, driving down prices even more. Before long, this vicious circle affected the entire national economy.
The value of assets (such as homes) often declines when incomes do. Farmers got trapped in their declining sector and in their depressed locales. Diminished income and wealth made migration to the cities more difficult; high urban unemployment made migration less attractive. Throughout the 1930s, in spite of the massive drop in farm income, there was little overall out-migration. Meanwhile, the farmers continued to produce, sometimes working even harder to make up for lower prices. Individually, that made sense; collectively, it didn't, as any increased output kept forcing prices down...
...Government [war] spending unintentionally solved the economy's underlying problem: it completed a necessary structural transformation, moving America, and especially the South, decisively from agriculture to manufacturing. Americans tend to be allergic to terms like "industrial policy," but that's what war spending was—a policy that permanently changed the nature of the economy. Massive job creation in the urban sector—in manufacturing—succeeded in moving people out of farming. The supply of food and the demand for it came into balance again: farm prices started to rise. The new migrants to the cities got training in urban life and factory skills, and after the war the G.I. Bill ensured that returning veterans would be equipped to thrive in a modern industrial society. Meanwhile, the vast pool of labor trapped on farms had all but disappeared. The process had been long and very painful, but the source of economic distress was gone...
The current problem is similar, according to the authors. Now we have too many people in a declining industrial sector, who need to move with the jobs to the service sector. (I don't think industrial output is declining, rather industry needs fewer people.)
December 13, 2011
The Blue Model
I've referred often to Walter Russell Mead's concept of the Blue Model. But I don't think I've ever blogged his original post wherein he explains it. So I'm putting the link and an excerpt here, just so I can easily find it when I need it. It's definitely worth reading; its explanatory power is great.
...it is sometimes hard to believe, but out there in the workaday world the long and graceful decay of the American social model is accelerating into a more rapid and dangerous decline. The core institutions, ideas and expectations that shaped American life for the sixty years after the New Deal don’t work anymore, and the gaps between the social system we’ve inherited and the system we need today are becoming so wide that we can no longer paper them over or ignore them.
In the old system, both blue collar and white collar workers hold stable jobs, a professional career civil service administers a growing state, with living standards for all social classes steadily rising while the gaps between the classes remain fairly stable, and with an increasing ‘social dividend’ being paid out in various forms: longer vacations, more and cheaper state-supported education, earlier retirement, shorter work weeks and so on. Graduate from high school and you were pretty much guaranteed lifetime employment in a job that gave you a comfortable lower middle class lifestyle; graduate from college and you would be better paid and equally secure.
Life would just go on getting better. From generation to generation we would live a life of incremental improvements — the details of life would keep getting better but the broad outlines of our society would stay the same. The advanced industrial democracies of had in fact reached the ‘end of history’: this is what ‘developed’ human society looked like and there would be no more radical changes because the picture had fully developed.
Call this the blue model, and the chief division in American politics today is between those who think the blue model is the only possible or at least the best feasible way to organize a modern society and want to shore it up and defend it, and those who think the blue model, whatever benefits it had in the past, is no longer sustainable. That division is going to begin to erode in the next few years because the blue model is breaking down so fast and so far that not even its supporters can ignore the disintegration and disaster that it entails....
Jonah Goldberg asks the right question...
...As to whether he can beat Obama, opinions vary. But many feel that a Gingrich victory might be scarier than a GOP defeat. Gingrich's defenders say such fear is a compliment because it shows that he's a "change agent" threatening the status quo.
They have a point. Inside D.C., it sounds very strange to say that Gingrich is an "outsider." Gingrich has eaten from just about every trough imaginable inside the Beltway. And yet, he's always been very clear that he wants to ("fundamentally," "historically," "categorically" and "radically") overturn the existing order. Some critics always thought, plausibly, that such pronouncements were part of his act or a sign of his megalomania.
But there's another possibility: It's true. Moreover, the times may be ripe for precisely the sort of vexing, vainglorious and all-too-human revolutionary Gingrich claims to be. That's the argument a few people have been wrestling with. Gingrich, after all, is the only candidate to actually move the government rightward. While getting wealthy off the old order, he's been plotting for decades how to get rid of it. To paraphrase Lenin, perhaps the K Streeters paid Gingrich to build the gallows he will hang them on?
That remains a stretch. Mitt Romney is still the sensible choice if you believe these are rough, but generally sensible, times. If, however, you think these are crazy and extraordinary times, then perhaps they call for a crazy, extraordinary — very high-risk, very high-reward — figure like Gingrich.
This helps explain why Newtzilla is so formidable. In order to stop him, you need to explain to very anxious GOP voters that the times don't require him....
(My emphasis.) I'm in a hard spot, because I am not a fan of Mr Gingrich. His antics have offended me deeply. On the other hand I think we are definitely in "crazy and extraordinary times," and we need some crazy medicine.
Also, as Jonah puts it, "Moreover, conservative voters distrust the conservative establishment — variously defined — almost as much as they distrust the liberal establishment." That's me these days. The Jennifer Rubins have just sat in the same place too long. Sat as a sort of "loyal opposition" to the Blue Model. Phooey. Send 'em home.
December 11, 2011
In a nutshell...
Tim Blair describes wind turbines concisely and accurately...
...useless bird blenders...
December 10, 2011
Bible facts you may not know, #3
1. No nuclear families. Usually where the Bible shows an individual doing something, it would have been assumed by all early readers that the person was accompanied by an entourage. I recently read Anne Rice's novel about Jesus' childhood, Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt. I think the whole idea of Jesus novels, including those of Ms. Rice, to be preposterous folly. But the book is good as historical fiction. Especially in the way it shows the household of Joseph and Mary as a crowd of uncles and cousins and children, working and living together. And traveling together, to Bethlehem, and to Egypt. All those pictures of Joseph and Mary meandering by themselves with a donkey are nonsense.
The picture is by a favorite artist, Jules Guerin. But Joseph and Mary would likely have headed for Alexandria, and never come near the pyramids.
2. The Gospels were not written for specific communities. It is a commonplace among biblical scholars that each of the Gospels was written for an isolated community. (i.e.: the Gospel of Matthew was written for the "Matthean Community.") And that scholars can discern the nature of that group by what was being written for them, and then write papers about their pecularities. This might be called the "Scholars Full-Employment Act," since there is no end to the blarney one can come up with when writing about imaginary things. There is in fact no independent evidence for the theory. And the First Century world simply didn't work like that. People and ideas and manuscripts circulated rapidly, much like today, and no one writing a book on some important topic would have imagined that it would only be read by his local group.
This is what the world of Jesus was really like: (From Paul's second letter to Timothy, chap. 4)
...Do your best to come to me soon. For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessaloni'ca; Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you; for he is very useful in serving me. Tych'icus I have sent to Ephesus... Greet Prisca and Aq'uila, and the household of Onesiph'orus. Eras'tus remained at Corinth; Troph'imus I left ill at Mile'tus. Do your best to come before winter. Eubu'lus sends greetings to you, as do Pudens and Linus and Claudia and all the brethren.
3. The Diaspora. By the time of Jesus there were probably more Jews living outside Palestine then within. All the major cities of the empire had Jewish communities. Christianity first spread to these groups, as the early Christians were mostly Jewish, and were addressing questions that Jews were very aware of, such as the coming of the Messiah. I used to imagine that when the family of Jesus fled to Egypt, they would have been penniless refugees in a strange land, and unable to speak the language. In fact there were lots of Jews in Egypt, and it would have been like the way now that someone from China can go to any large city in the world, find the Chinatown, and be right at home. And a bit of Greek could make you understood anywhere, even in Rome.
4. WORD NOTE: "The gates of hell." People commonly take the phrase: "and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18) as a sort of poetic way of saying that the power of Hell will not defeat the Church. (Example.) But Jesus spoke in the days when siege warfare against walled cities was a major component of war. There's nothing cutsey or poetic about it; he meant something tough. It's the Church which is attacking Hell, not the other way around. And the Gates of Hell will be battered down, be they never so strong! We are not on the defensive!
5. St Ignatius of Antioch. You will recall that when Ignatius, the third Bishop of Antioch, was being transported to Rome to be thrown to the lions, he wrote a series of letters to Christian communities that we still read today, with great profit. (Well, actually, when I was growing up an Evangelical Protestant I never even heard of him. I wonder why.) Antioch in Syria was then the third largest city of the Empire, and Ignatius, who was its Christian bishop for about 40 years, would have been a high-value target. High value if one assumes, like the Roman authorities did, that a cult would melt away if its leaders were killed. Ha!
One should also realize that the bureaucratic efficiency with which we deal with prisoners did not exist before the Industrial Age. Prisoners in the past were almost always accessible; a small payment to the guards would get your friends in to bring you comforts and have a nice visit. It is not at all surprising that John the Baptist, while in Herod's dungeon, was able to send his disciples to question Jesus. Likewise Ignatius, though traveling under a military guard, received many Christian visitors.
6. The real name of Easter. Chaps like Christopher Hitchins scoff because the chief Christian holy day is named after an Anglo-Saxon pagan goddess, Eostre. But Easter isn't the name of Easter. The real name of what we call Easter is Pascha, and has been since long before the Anglo-Saxons even came into existence. (The h is silent, it's pronounced Pahss-kuh.) Pascha is the Greek form of the Hebrew word Pesch, which is the Passover. Actually Eostre also meant "Spring," so the whole question may be moot. BUT, Christ is Lord of all, and He is not in the least bit diminished by pagan names. Or any other pagan things we absorb and put to good use. We devour them, we crunch them up like peanut brittle. (By the way, does anyone still eat peanut brittle? I haven't encountered it in years. Does that date me?)
7. Fishing rights belonged to the state. Peter and Andrew, or James and John and their father Zebedee, were fishermen because they bought a contract to do so. Possibly through Matthew the tax collector. You didn't just fish on a whim. Presumably the cost of a contract was high enough that you couldn't get rich, but low enough that fishermen could afford boats and nets, etc.
Shouldn't Elizabeth Warren and the other fake-liberals...
...be put to work cleaning up this mess? I suggest orange jump-suits, leg-irons, and to clean with, tooth-brushes.
The Utopian dreamers of Occupy Boston are leaving behind a disgusting field of filth on the formerly scenic Rose Kennedy Greenway, where trees will have to be replanted, grass resodded, sprinklers repaired or replaced and the entire area power-hosed in a massive cleanup that could take weeks....
December 8, 2011
"The oldest battle in our political history"
Walter Russell Mead, The Age of Hamilton:
...As we gear up for 2012 and beyond, American attention is increasingly returning to the oldest battle in our political history: the battle between the Hamiltonians and Jeffersonians that split George Washington's cabinet down the middle and established our first party system.
That fight was essentially over three things that divide us intensely today: the role of the federal government, the nature of the credit system, and the future of the social hierarchy. Alexander Hamilton favored a strong federal government at home and abroad, a centralized credit system similar to the British one with a Bank of the United States acting as our central bank, and believed that the best educated and most widely experienced people in the United States constituted a natural aristocracy and should play the leading role in our politics.
Thomas Jefferson disagreed with virtually everything Hamilton believed. He wanted a weak federal government, detested Hamilton's banking system, and feared that the alliance of a social elite with a powerful government and a strong central bank would turn the US into a European-style aristocratic or monarchical society.
Bipartisan Establishment, meet Mr. Tea Party. The disagreement between these two men continued to reverberate down the years. John Quincy Adams, Nicholas Biddle, Henry Clay, Daniel Webster and Abraham Lincoln sided with Hamilton up through the Civil War. Presidents Madison and Monroe followed Jefferson, more or less; so in his own irascible way did Andrew Jackson. The Southern Confederacy tried to write Hamilton out of the constitution when it modified the Philadelphia document to serve the rebel government....
My off-the-top-of-my-head response is that I think the Information Age is going to trend more Jeffersonian. Industrial Age organizations were characterized by top-down management by "the few," because they needed these to manage the flow of information, which was done mostly by moving pieces of paper around. The Information Age will be characterized by smaller, more informal organizations, and by more opportunities for outsiders to route around elites.
And credit systems will probably not be controlled centrally, just because they have already become too complex and protean to be even understood by any central control. My suggestion is that the only regulation be the requirement that a certain percentage of all financial instruments be held by the people and companies that issue them. That would make them self-regulating.
December 6, 2011
Can't I vote for "None of the above?"
The people who get on their computer to access the internet to send a note to their friends about the dangers of big government are using a device developed by the U.S. government — a computer, with an interface developed by U.S. government grants, what we then called the (Defense Department's) Advanced Research Projects Agency, in order to access a worldwide system (also) developed by the Advanced Research Projects Agency.
This is stupid in SO many ways.
1. Research into promising new technologies is not the sort of thing conservatives are worried about. Especially if the technology is then passed on to the private sector. But government tends to grow inexorably, even in technology research. And to cling to control. As witness NASA. We should be developing and colonizing Space right now, but we can't because of the stranglehold of government.
2. DARPA was not trying to create the Internet. It was simply trying to link a few dozen computers so that they could be used more efficiently. DARPA was funding numerous computer projects at various universities, and had to buy fabulously expensive new computers for each project. They wanted a simple way for a researcher in one place to use a computer in another.
3. If there had been a government project to create the--tah dah!-- "world communications project of the future," it would almost certainly have failed. As I recall there were such attempts, ponderous and official, and the Internet simply grew so fast that they slipped into irrelevance.
4. When the Internet started to explode in the 1980's, many of the early users hated what was happening. They wanted bandwidth to be reserved for the important things they were doing and not squandered by a frivolous public. If government had still been in control, who can doubt that it would have tried to strangle change?
December 5, 2011
"The longer it takes for the blowup to occur, the worse the resulting harm..."
Nassim Nicholas Taleb and Mark Blyth, The Black Swan of Cairo— Foreign Affairs:
Why is surprise the permanent condition of the U.S. political and economic elite? In 2007-8, when the global ﬁnancial system imploded, the cry that no one could have seen this coming was heard everywhere, despite the existence of numerous analyses showing that a crisis was unavoidable. It is no surprise that one hears precisely the same response today regarding the current turmoil in the Middle East. The critical issue in both cases is the artiﬁcial suppression of volatility -- the ups and downs of life -- in the name of stability. It is both misguided and dangerous to push unobserved risks further into the statistical tails of the probability distribution of outcomes and allow these high-impact, low-probability "tail risks" to disappear from policymakers' ﬁelds of observation. What the world is witnessing in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya is simply what happens when highly constrained systems explode.So how can systems be robust in the Information Age? If you follow the author's point that "suppressed volatility" leads to fragility, then where do we see volatility unfettered? Un-suppressed? One place is in the world of business. (Not including the financial sector, which I'm not sure is really "business" anyway.)
Complex systems that have artificially suppressed volatility tend to become extremely fragile, while at the same time exhibiting no visible risks. In fact, they tend to be too calm and exhibit minimal variability as silent risks accumulate beneath the surface. Although the stated intention of political leaders and economic policymakers is to stabilize the system by inhibiting fluctuations, the result tends to be the opposite. These artiﬁcially constrained systems become prone to "Black Swans" -- that is, they become extremely vulnerable to large-scale events that lie far from the statistical norm and were largely unpredictable to a given set of observers.
Such environments eventually experience massive blowups, catching everyone off-guard and undoing years of stability or, in some cases, ending up far worse than they were in their initial volatile state. Indeed, the longer it takes for the blowup to occur, the worse the resulting harm in both economic and political systems....
In America one can start a business, flare up into the sky like a rocket, and then plummet to the earth and crash and burn—all within a single decade. This, paradoxically, has created a business world that is profoundly stable. How so? Because everything is tested and hammered on all the time. Iron pyrites can't pass as gold for very long. Scams are soon exposed. Individual businesses fail constantly, but the realm of business just grows stronger.
The challenge of the new age we are in is to give other realms the same stability. Above all the realm of government, which we now see failing catastrophically all around us..