April 30, 2013

Good thought for the day...

By Ron Paul (no, I'm not becoming a Ron Paul fan), Liberty Was Also Attacked in Boston :

...Sadly, we have been conditioned to believe that the job of the government is to keep us safe, but in reality the job of the government is to protect our liberties. Once the government decides that its role is to keep us safe, whether economically or physically, they can only do so by taking away our liberties. That is what happened in Boston....
Posted by John Weidner at 9:05 AM | Comments (0)

April 28, 2013

Just typical of our time...

Examiner Editorial: How the FBI was blinded by political correctness | WashingtonExaminer.com:

...It is quite possible, though, the FBI agents who interviewed Tsarnaev on both occasions failed to understand what they saw and heard because that's what they were trained to do. As The Washington Examiner's Mark Flatten reported last year, FBI training manuals were systematically purged in 2011 of all references to Islam that were judged offensive by a specially created five-member panel. Three of the panel members were Muslim advocates from outside the FBI, which still refuses to make public their identities. Nearly 900 pages were removed from the manuals as a result of that review. Several congressmen were allowed to review the removed materials in 2012, on condition that they not disclose what they read to their staffs, the media, or the general public....

They probably didn't have to remove the material for it to be removed from the institutional mind. It's unlikely those agents were all trained after 2011. But they probably had absorbed the message that finding too many Islamic terrorists was not going to make them look good or make FBI happy. And that finding the mythical Tea Party terrorist was the Holy Grail, the thing to look for.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:16 AM | Comments (0)

April 22, 2013

Voice Pitch

Rand Simberg writes on Voice Pitch:

...According to a BBC report, Margaret Thatcher got vocal coaching to lower the pitch of her voice.
Not doing that herself was one of Sarah Palin's biggest mistakes. I liked most of what she had to say, but her voice grated even on me, and most people probably couldn't get past it (particularly combined with the accent, though that was less of a problem, at least for me)....

I agree. I still think that she was the best and most qualified of the four candidates in 1998. Alas, alas, that's a very low bar! I have no regrets about supporting her.

She was successful as mayor and governor, and in other jobs, but perhaps that was her limit. She hasn't looked "presidential" subsequently.

Think back on how popular her book was, how millions of people were waiting for it. And it was a good book! But imagine that her first book had instead made the case against Obamacare, and FOR free-market reforms and patient-centered health care. The ideas are out there, but no top-notch conservative has popularized them. There's this huge leadership vacuum at the top of the conservative heap.

I had hoped she'd be the one to fill it, but, no.

Palin prayer

Posted by John Weidner at 11:01 PM

Charlene recommends...

Ed Driscoll, Off the Rails: Mad Men and American Liberalism in 1968. I recommend it too.

...While the two-hour sixth season debut of Mad Men earlier this month played oddly coy about which year the series was set in, we now know that we're witnessing Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce versus 1968.

Or perhaps it's the other way around, given how the year of 1968 came close to tearing the country apart. In many ways, the events of that year shaped our current world in ways that are still playing themselves out, so it's worth exploring just how badly the nation imploded. Apologies for the length of this post, but it's merely a partial list of 1968′s horror stories....

Any regular readers of Random Jottings will be way ahead of the admirable Mr Driscoll in understanding why things went random in the 1960's. You are the Illuminati! Two major shiftings of hidden tectonic plates erupted then, giving us volcanoes and earthquakes, chain lightning and meteor showers. It rained frogs! I was there. I alone have survived to tell thee!

One eruption was nihilism. People in the West with no explicit religious faith had retained religious habits of thought. They still believed in things like objective truth, objective morality, and the possibility they themselves might obtain religious or secular faith at some point. But habits wear off. And this one wore off with a crash in the 1960's, resulting in very different thinking in a significant portion of the American people! As I've often described.

Why the 1960's? Because people were not keen on experimentation and change during the years of Depression and war. Change was sort of put on hold. By the 60's it was clear that post-war prosperity was going to last. The Cuban Missile Crisis made WW-III seem unlikely. The Baby Boomers were mostly too young to lead the 60's changes, but they were probably giving an unconscious boost to youth culture and general craziness.

Most of all, the second movement of subterranean plates give impetus to the first one. This was the dawning of a new age of the world, the Information Age. This was another change in thinking. The dominant thought-patterns of the Industrial Age melted away, and people were suddenly waking up with new ideas.

One of the old ideas was a strong bias toward stability. The Industrial Age saw a huge expansion of the size and wealth of organizations, without much expansion in the ability to process information. The solution to this problem was for organizations to become computers of a sort, computers with human components. Clerks and filing systems and hierarchical org charts and bureaucratic rationality ruled. But this meant the need for stability was paramount. The transistors in the computer need to stay put! Stability colored all thought!

Long before PC's and the Internet, improved information processing technology was undermining the ideas of the Industrial Age. More phones, more cars, better roads, more education, airlines, IBM punch-card machines, carbon-paper, photostats, teletypes. All made information-processing more robust. The reign of stability started to crumble.

And among the ideas that had been supported and preserved by that great bias towards stability were those connected with religious faith and religious habits of mind. In the Industrial Age people tended to stick with their parent's faith. Or their parent's quasi-religious habits of mind. This meant that more and more people were believing things that they really didn't quite believe anymore. Once the great cultural bias towards stability crumbled, then it was "Katie bar the door!"

Read Mr Driscoll's article, and see if these thoughts don't fit, and make sense.

Posted by John Weidner at 5:29 PM

April 20, 2013

Chechens... What could possibly go wrong?

Howie Carr is scathing on these Muslim scum terrorists, and their America enablers. USA needs refuge from refugees. I concur. BUT, he doesn't understand how strange and evil the situation is. This mess is not just the result of fatuousness and foolishness.

The key to understanding is to recognize that for a large part of our population all meaning and belief has drained away. People have become simply nihilists. That is, they believe in nothing bigger than themselves. They typically don the disguises of liberalism or pacifism. But they are nothing like the leftists of the past, for whom the cause was often bigger than the self. Their pacifism or Quakerism is a fraud.

And what the nihilist of today hates is belief. Including anything that symbolizes belief. (None of this is conscious, by the way. They will deny the whole thing with perfect sincerity.) The things this leads them to hate are many, including America, Jews and Israel, Western Civilization and Christianity. All of these symbols of belief irritate and infuriate them, because they all demand our allegiance. They are bigger than the self. And if that's the case, then one obvious remedy is to encourage Muslim immigrants. That will tend to undermine all four!

No sane person would advocate allowing immigration from Chechnya. Chechen terrorists even frighten the other Muslim terrorists. They are beyond crazy--Google Beslan if you don't believe me. But to today's empty people none of that is real. Their world has shrunk to the circle of their own (unconscious) pain. They are like you would be if you were in agony in the ICU. A wrinkle in your sheet might be a misery you would do anything to ease. News of a million people dying in an earthquake would be meaningless. (More posts on this here.)

Here's some of Carr's piece...

So once again, no good deed goes unpunished.

Uncle Sam lets another bunch of leeching future terrorists into the country who have absolutely no business being here, gives them “asylum,” making them immediately eligible for welfare, and this is the thanks we get?

They turn into mass murderers.

We bring in thousands of Muslims from a primitive society that has been battling Christians for centuries, and put them into a peaceful Christian society — what could possible go wrong?

This is what I was thinking about yesterday, with much of the city under what amounted to martial law. Once more, law-abiding American citizens were paying the price for the insane immigration policies that have so damaged this society in recent years.

You can see the decay everywhere — in the emergency rooms, in the courts, in the welfare offices and, yes, in the epidemic of senseless murders. The only difference this time was one of the bloodthirsty fiends was actually a naturalized U.S. citizen.

And then these “refugees” started killing the generous Americans who supported them for years in their indolence. The young Tsarnaev even got a $2,500 scholarship from the City of Cambridge — which is why I never, ever gave a dime to the Cambridge scholarship fund when I lived there.

I know you’re not supposed to paint with a broad brush, unless you’re a liberal, in which case you are not only permitted, but expected to make Adam Lanza the poster boy for 100 million law-abiding legal gun owners.

But please, before the Kool-Aid drinkers in the Senate try to get amnesty for at least 12 million un­documented Democrats, can somebody please consider how many more of these Dzhokhar Tsarnaevs we really need?

A better question: How many of these jihadist “refugees” can we as a society survive?...

UPDATE: I should add that the Chechens have a reason for being even more evil and crazy than the usual Islamic terrorists. As part of their noble project of building a better world, free of the evils of competition and freedom, the Progressive regime of Joseph Stalin shipped most of the Chechens to labor camps in Siberia. When the survivors returned home (presumably purged of the false ideas of capitalism and individualism) they found their land and homes occupied by Russians. They have been quite testy ever since. Which seems perhaps very selfish of them, since the Progressives were only trying to make them better people. As they are doing here.)

Posted by John Weidner at 8:24 PM | Comments (0)

Gun control. A movement of boring old white people...

Howard Nemerov, Governor Christie Wants More Gun Control. Admits 'bad people' aren't bothered by laws.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie announced his intention to expand his state's gun control laws. But there's some flaws to his logic.
Christie acknowledges there is no way to prevent all violence in our society, but he says it is the job of government to question, to scrutinize and to demand more in an attempt to address the problem.
Christie believes the government has the right to "demand more" from law-abiding citizens, but acknowledges it can't do the same to criminals. This is standard gun control fare. One of the main features of gun control is making it harder for the law-abiding to defend themselves, while making it easier for violent predators to succeed.
The plan calls for expanding New Jersey's already strict gun control laws, expanding government-funded mental health treatment, making it more difficult for kids buy or rent violent video games, requiring that would-be gun owners show government-issued IDs and bolstering penalties for gun-related crimes.

Well, strike him off the list of possible Republican candidates. One had imagined him as a Blue State governor breaking out of the self-destructive thinking of the Blue Model. But no, every problem is a nail that needs the hammer of bigger government.

And yet the recent slaughters have been full of evidence of government ineptitude and inability to prevent or deal with a crisis. Boston ends a massive and futile lock-down, and thus a citizen can leave his house and find the perp. What will the lesson be? "We need more government. And more laws." So stupid. So Twentieth-Century. It won't even occur to most people that what we should be doing is shrinking government and putting that money into creating smarter networks for pooling the unimaginable amounts of potential that millions of ordinary people can generate.

Observe these pictures of the two recent papal elections. Try to imagine the amount of data being generated in the second picture! And imagine that some assassin is known to be in that crowd. Is there any top-down big-government way to collect and process terabytes of data in real-time, in time to act? Impossible. What you would need is crowd-sourcing. Let millions of people look at little pieces of the data, perhaps passing anything interesting on to ten-thousand higher-ranked searchers, who could pass the best possibilities to the police network.

St Peter's Square 2005 and 2013. Proliferation of phone-cameras

Look at the picture below. I bet most people would see strong effective government. But in fact it's a picture of Industrial Age cluelessness. Armored vehicles to hunt a teenage kid? How utterly stupid. All useless. All a waste. This is a picture of weakness. In 4th generation warfare, firepower is useless without information. (Which in this case came from an ordinary citizen once the cops gave up.) And once you do have information, only a smidgeon of firepower is usually necessary. If you know what house Jihadi Joe is in, one smart bomb is all you need.

Armoured cops boston

Our Army has been shrinking its weapons in recent years. Inventing new artillery pieces, for instance, that fire much smaller shells. Or bombs filled with concrete, to smash a single car without injuring bystanders. The Army is at least to some extant working in Information Age patterns. At the same time our civilian governments have been doubling down on the dysfunctional ideas of the Industrial Age! Madness and folly.

Posted by John Weidner at 10:38 AM

April 14, 2013

"The greatest friend the United States ever had,"

By Christopher Monckton of Brenchley, Give the Iron Lady a State Funeral

It will be from Heaven that Margaret Thatcher, the greatest friend the United States ever had, will observe the now-inescapable disintegration of the dismal European tyranny-by-clerk whose failure she foresaw even as it brought her down.

Margaret was unique: a fierce champion of people against government, taxpayers against bureaucrats, workers against unions, us against Them, free markets against state control, privatization against nationalization, liberty against socialism, democracy against Communism, prosperity against national bankruptcy, law against international terrorism, independence against global governance; a visionary among pygmies; a doer among dreamers; a statesman among politicians; a destroyer of tyrannies from arrogant Argentina via incursive Iraq to the savage Soviet Union.

It is a measure of the myopia and ingratitude of her Parliamentary colleagues that, when she famously said “No, no, no!” at the despatch-box in response to a scheming proposal by the unelected arch-Kommissar of Brussels that the European Parliament of Eunuchs should supplant national Parliaments and that the hidden cabal of faceless Kommissars should become Europe’s supreme government and the fumbling European Council its senile senate, they ejected her from office and, in so doing, resumed the sad, comfortable decline of the nation that she had briefly and gloriously made great again.

Never did she forget the special relationship that has long and happily united the Old Country to the New. She shared the noble ambition of your great President, Ronald Reagan, that throughout the world all should have the chance to live the life, enjoy the liberty, and celebrate the happiness that your Founding Fathers had bequeathed to you in their last Will and Testament, the Constitution of the United States. I know that my many friends in your athletic democracy will mourn her with as heartfelt a sense of loss as my own.

The sonorous eulogies and glittering panegyrics will be spoken by others greater than I. But I, who had the honor to serve as one of her six policy advisors at the height of her premiership, will affectionately remember her and her late husband, Denis, not only for all that they did but for all that they were; not only for the great acts of State but for the little human kindnesses to which they devoted no less thought and energy...
Posted by John Weidner at 8:15 AM | Comments (0)

April 6, 2013

Things we can learn from Pope Francis (and the business world)

Pope Francis

Ethan Hahn wrote and chided me on no having written anything on Pope Francis. I'm guilty, but the problem is that the perspective I want to take is rather off the world's main line of thought. People will surely think me weird. But here goes...

As I have written before, we see a multitude of failing institutions all around us, and I think this is due to their clinging to Industrial Age "mental maps" and practices when we have long since entered a new age, commonly known as the Information Age. [Link to other posts on this.] The Catholic Church is among the dysfunctional institutions. It is the great frustration of my life right now that I have utterly failed to even start any sort of conversation on this. Nobody wants to hear it.

I use examples from the world of business here because that's almost the only sector of our world that has transitioned to Information Age thinking. Our religious leaders ought to be reading business books for clues. A concept I have not managed to make popular!

Anyway, my initial impression is that the new Holy Father is very promising in this respect. I'm not saying he exactly "gets" the new age, but many things he does have the right flavor. The quotes below are from a very interesting article by John L Allen Jr, who is always worth reading. He is interviewing Cardinal Bergoglio's former press officer in Argentina...

What was Cardinal Bergoglio’s core aim in Buenos Aires?
He wanted to promote the idea of a missionary church, a church that gets out into the streets. His vision was for the church to reach out to those who have been tossed onto a sort of existential garbage heap. He was especially concerned for those about whom society didn’t seem to care, such as single mothers, the poor, the elderly, the unemployed.

In this new age you have to be FOR something. In the past an established business could just continue to exist. You could assume any Fortune 500 company would be around for the rest of your life. Levi Strauss sold blue jeans in complete stability for 100 years. Then found themselves in a world where the numbers of blue denim products probably is in the millions. No one in business expects long-term stability now, yet that remains the Catholic mind-set. I'm sure most of my fellow parishioners think what we are "for" is just continuing to exist. We just expect this to happen. Which is fatal in this age. There's just too much else going on to make an impression on minds without a clear message and non-stop marketing. Everyone in Bergoglio's diocese knew that he and his people were doing something compelling and real. (No, I'm not suggesting my parish become a slum parish. SF's problems are very different. But we desperately need to stand for something exciting.)

Concretely, how did he do that?
He was fond of saying that we already have plenty of theory about what the church should do, so let’s put it into practice. He formed a large network of people who were already working in the areas that were his priorities. For instance, he’d take a priest and move him into the shantytown areas so he could get to the schools, the soup kitchens, the churches, all of the major institutions serving the people there. He’d send the priests into these areas to be a resource for the other people who were already working there. He wasn’t interested in theory, but in concrete practice...

Successful Information Age organizations just jump in and DO things. This works because everyone can exchange information easily. The results of an experiment can be disseminated instantly to all, and all can contribute thoughts and suggestions and criticisms. Problems can be fixed on the fly.

They tend not to have experts plan everything in detail, in advance. That's too slow, the competition will race past you. Successful businesses often use the motto: "Ready. Fire. Aim." This does not mean you don't think, it means never letting thinking paralyze action.

...He used to joke that we need to learn from the model of the Evangelicals, meaning that we have to knock on doors and talk to people. He also wanted to make the church visible outside its buildings, which is why Buenos Aires developed some very interesting outdoor events. For instance, the Via Crucis procession during Holy Week moves through the entire city, going on for miles and miles. There are also lots of open-air Masses. The most important Masses here don’t take place inside the cathedral, but in the square.

Don't worry about the specifics here. See it as a different way of thinking. For one thing, an Info Age organization does not have "thick walls." My parish is like a castle, with a small door. Right now every parishioner has contact with probably thousands of people outside the castle walls. But that information can't get "inside." Most info goes through the hands of priests and staff. They couldn't possibly handle so much stuff. That's typical of an Industrial Age organization. Information processing was always a bottleneck, so they always "throttled back" the flow. Only a few people in the company dealt with the public. That sure doesn't work in business now, or anywhere else.

Where did the laity fit in to this vision?
It wasn’t just about priests doing the job. He was also concerned with getting the laity active inside these movements, and letting them take charge. Priests were just one leg of the stool, along with the religious and the laity. He felt that if you didn’t do it that way, you end up with a church that’s too focused on itself, and it shouldn’t be that way. It’s not just about what priests do, but above all the laity.

Because the Church has long been focused inwards, the position of the laity has long been odd and awkward. The job of the Church is to save the world, and that's primarily the job of the laity! Not the bishops and priests. Once the Church gets back on task, clericalism will tend to fade away. Everyone will have more than enough important work to do.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:27 PM | Comments (0)