Tuesday, January 15, 2019
One may well ask, "How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?" The answer is found in the fact that there are two types of laws: there are just laws, and there are unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that "An unjust law is no law at all." Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine when a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law, or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas, an unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority. To use the words of Martin Buber, the great Jewish philosopher, segregation substitutes an "I - it" relationship for the "I - thou" relationship and ends up relegating persons to the status of things.
-Martin Luther King, Jr., as excerpted from here
At the bookstore: John Le Carré......A Small Town In Germany
"Why don't you get out and walk? I would if I was your age. Quicker that sitting with this scum."
"I'll be all right," said Cork, the Albino coding clerk, and looked anxiously at the older man in the driving seat beside him. "We'll just have to hurry slowly," he added in his most conciliatory tone. Cork was a Cockney, bright as paint, and it worried him to see Meadowes all het up. "We'll just have to let it happen to us, won't we Arthur?"
"I'd like to throw the whole bloody lot of them in the Rhine."
"You know you wouldn't really."
It was Saturday morning, nine o'clock. The road from Friesdorf to the Embassy was packed tight with protesting cars, the pavements were lined with photographs of the Movement's leader, and the banners were stretched across the road like advertisements at a rally: The West Has Deceived us; Germans Can Look East Without Shame. End The Coca-Cola Culture Now! At the very center of the long column sat Cork and Meadowes, becalmed while the clamor of horns rose all around them in unceasing concert. Sometimes they sounded in series starting at the front and working slowly back, so that their roar passed overhead like an airplane; sometimes in unison, dash-dot-dash, K for Karfeld out elected leader; and sometimes they just had a free-for-all, tuning for the symphony.
-John Le Carré, being the opening paragraphs to his fifth novel, A Small Town In Germany. Published in the U. K. in the fall of 1968, it was a U. S. best-seller in 1969.
"Whatever you think is going to happen ten years hence, unless it is something like the sun rising tomorrow that has nothing to do with human relations, you are almost sure to be wrong. I find this thought consoling when I remember some gloomy prophecies of which I myself have rashly been guilty. . . .
It is safe to assume that a great modern world war will not raise the level of prosperity even among the victors. Such generalizations are not difficult to know. What is difficult is to foresee in detail the long-run consequences of a concrete policy. Bismarck with extreme astuteness won three wars and unified Germany. The long-run result of his policy has been that Germany has suffered two colossal defeats. These resulted because he taught Germans to be indifferent to the interests of all countries except Germany, and generated an aggressive spirit which in the end united the world against his successors. Selfishness beyond a point, whether individual or national, is not wise. It may with luck succeed, but if it fails failure is terrible. Few men will run this risk unless they are supported by a theory, for it is only theory that makes men completely incautious."
"The qualities most needed are charity and tolerance, not some form of fanatical faith such as if offered to us by the various rampant isms."
-Bertrand Russell, as cut and pasted from here
"We have also become, in certain respects, progressively less like animals. I can think in particular of two respects: first, that acquired, as opposed to congenital, skills play a continually increasing part in human life, and, secondly, that forethought more and more dominates impulse. In these respects we have certainly become progressively less like animals."
-Bertrand Russell, as culled from here
Monday, January 14, 2019
Be very wary of opinions that flatter your self-esteem. Both men and women, nine times out of ten, are firmly convinced of the superior excellence of their own sex. There is abundant evidence on both sides. If you are a man, you can point out that most poets and men of science are male; if you are a woman, you can retort that so are most criminals. The question is inherently insoluble; but self-esteem conceals this most people. We are all, whatever part of the world we come from, persuaded that our own nation is superior to all others. Seeing that each nation has characteristic merits and demerits, we adjust our standard of values so as to make out that the merits possessed by our nation are the really important ones, while its demerits are comparatively trivial. Here, again the rational man will admit that the question is one to which there is no demonstrably right answer. It is more difficult to deal with the self-esteem of man as man, because we cannot argue out the matter with some nonhuman mind. The only way I know of dealing with this general human conceit is to remind ourselves that man is a brief episode in the life of a small planet in a little corner of the universe, and that, for aught we know, other parts of the cosmos may contain things as superior to ourselves as we are to jelly-fish.
"Man, viewed morally, is a strange amalgam of angel and devil. He can feel the splendor of the night, the delicate beauty of spring flowers, the tender emotion of parental love, and the intoxication of intellectual understanding. In moments of insight visions come to him of how life should be lived and how men should order their dealings with one another. Universal love is an emotion which many have felt and which many more could feel if the world made it less difficult. This is one side of the picture. On the other side are cruelty, greed, indifference and overweening pride. . . ."
Thus did the fifty-four-year-old Ohioan begin the day that would see him become the twenty-fifth U. S. president. If weather is augury, the day was auspicious. "Not a cloud cast its shadow over any part of the inaugural proceedings," reported the New York Times. For nearly a week the city had filled up with all manner of citizenry—political bigwigs, Republican loyalists, office seekers, ordinary folks hankering for a glimpse of history. Railroad companies estimated that they had brought into the city some 225,000 visitors, and the Baltimore and Ohio line laid down fourteen miles of temporary track to handle excess rail cars. . . .
It was a burgeoning nation, full of zest and optimism, that bestowed the mantle of leadership upon William McKinley on that crisp March day. Not even the 1893 Panic, which still dampened commerce, could seriously erode the American sense of opportunity. The U. S. population had nearly doubled since 1870 to 75 million, with fully two-thirds of the increase coming from native births, the rest from immigration. The industrial era was generating an economic bustle in America that was recognized throughout the world as a rare phenomenon.
-Robert W. Merry, President McKinley: Architect of the American Century
Ed. Note: The year of McKinley's first inauguration was 1897. One wonders if the the high percentage population growth was a post-Civil War "baby boom".
"There are many kinds of populism, both Left and Right, and as gentle reader may be aware, I have never trusted The Peeple. It took me quite a few years even to trust God. Every electorate is fickle, as well as appallingly ignorant. But by creating a permanent underclass, dependent on hand-outs, the pagan liberal and progressive parties are able to maintain them as a permanent voting block, terrified of losing their pogey. Once in each blue moon these victims twig to their predicament. In Europe and the Americas — throughout what is left of Christendom — we would seem to be enjoying such a moment. Count me as a Populist, for as long as it lasts."
-David Warren, as cut and pasted from here
"There’s also something to be said for tackling uncertainty head on and building it into your expectations about the future."
-Ben Carlson, as lifted from this post
Sunday, January 13, 2019
"The attitude of unhappiness is not only painful, it is mean and ugly. What can be more base and unworthy than the pining, puling, mumping mood, no matter by what outward ills it may have been engendered? What is more injurious to others? What less helpful as a way out of the difficulty? It but fastens and perpetuates the trouble which occasioned it, and increases the total evil of the situation. At all costs, then, we ought to reduce the sway of that mood; we ought to scout it in ourselves and others, and never show it tolerance."
-William James, as taken from here
The Youngbloods.................................................Get Together
Purists out there might say that this song was released in 1967, because it was. But it was re-released in 1969 and spent time at #5 on the 1969 music charts.
..............but one thing I am certain about is that the science is never settled. Nature's systems seem to be significantly more complicated than our ability to understand them. To wit:
Sure enough, when he exposed volunteers to the equivalent of 30 minutes of summer sunlight without sunscreen, their nitric oxide levels went up and their blood pressure went down. Because of its connection to heart disease and strokes, blood pressure is the leading cause of premature death and disease in the world, and the reduction was of a magnitude large enough to prevent millions of deaths on a global level.
-Rowan Jacobson, from this essay "Is Sunscreen the New Margarine?"
Another thing I am certain about is that I prefer butter to margarine. Apparently I'm not the only one:
"As for butter versus margarine, I trust cows more than chemists.”
Saturday, January 12, 2019
Irreconcilable differences between old and new can be found in something as seemingly trivial as naming conventions. The industrial age insisted on portentous-sounding names of great seriousness and formality, to validate the organizations which spoke with the voice of authority: "Bank of America," "National Broadcasting Corporation," "New York Times." Each of these three names stood for a professional hierarchy which claimed a monopoly of specialized knowledge. They symbolized a starched-collar kind of mastery, and they meant to impress. Even the lowest-ranking person in these organizations, the names implied, had risen far above the masses.
The digital age loves self-mocking names, which are a way to puncture the formal stiffness of the established order: "Yahoo!," "Google," "Twitter," "Reddit," "Flickr," "Photobucket," "Bitcoin." Without having asked the people in question, I feel reasonable sure that the founders of Google never contemplated naming their company "National Search Engine Corporation" and Mark Zuckerberg never felt tempted by "Social Connections Center of America." It wasn't the style.
-Martin Gurri, The Revolt of the Public
The incumbent structure is hierarchy, and it represents established and accredited authority—government first and foremost, but also corporations, universities, the whole roster of institutions from the industrial age. Hierarchy has ruled the world since the human race attained meaningful numbers. The industrial mind just made it bigger, steeper, and more efficient. From the era of Rameses to that of Hosni Mubarak, it has exhibited predictable patterns of behavior: top-down, centralizing, painfully deliberate in action, process-obsessed, mesmerized by grand strategies and five-year plans, respectful of rank and order, but contemptuous of the outsider, the amateur.
Against this citadel of the status quo, the Fifth Wave has raised the network; that is, the public in revolt, those despised amateurs now connected to one another by means of digital devices. Nothing within the bounds of human nature could be less like a hierarchy. Where the latter is slow and plodding, networked action is lightning quick but unsteady in purpose. Where hierarchy has evolved a hard exoskeleton to keep every part in place, the network is loose and pliable—it can swell into millions or dissipate in an instant.
Digital networks are egalitarian to the brink of dysfunction. Most would rather fail in an enterprise than acknowledge rank or leaders of any sort. . . . Networks succeed when held together by a single powerful point of reference—an issue, person, or event—which acts as a center of gravity and organizing principle for action.
Typically, this has meant being against. If hierarchy worships the established order, the network nurtures a streak of nihilism.
-Martin Gurri, The Revolt of the Public
Those deliberations unfolded against a backdrop of America's long and often unsuccessful effort to maintain equilibrium between the demand for money and its supply, an effort that extended back to the controversy unleashed by Hamilton's First Bank of the United States, designed to give the economy sufficient liquidity, maintain currency stability, and ensure economic efficiency. Jefferson and his Republican allies attacked the bank as a dangerous concentration of financial power, and its charter lapsed in 1811. But the War of 1812 revealed the need for a central banking authority. State banks in the Northeast, where the war was unpopular, hoarded the country's meager reserves of specie (gold and silver), forcing banks in the other regions to rely on printed money. The result was a menacing wave of inflation and considerable economic dislocation. Thus the Second Bank of the United States was established in 1816—and immediately slipped into corruption as its officials speculated in the bank's stock and fostered venal practices by its branch members. When new bank leaders sought to clean up the mess by foreclosing on overdue mortgages and redeeming overextended notes from state banks, they triggered the Panic of 1819. Banks failed, prices collapsed, unemployment soared.
President Andrew Jackson, a sound-money man who hated all concentrations of power, killed the national bank with a series of bold and highly controversial political maneuvers in the 1830s. But the state banks he fostered couldn't always maintain the needed balance between money demand and money supply, and that proved disastrous when the Panic or 1837 ravaged the U. S. economy for nearly seven years. An anguished call rose up for rescinding Jackson's last executive action, his Specie Circular, designed to curb a dangerous inflationary wave sweeping the country in conjunction with wild land speculations in the West. Jackson's answer was to require purchases of government property to be transacted in gold or silver.
But when the threat of inflation suddenly gave way to the threat of falling prices, or deflation, Jackson's protege and chosen successor, New York's Martin Van Buren, couldn't see that the Specie Circular was precisely the wrong medicine when the country desperately needed liquidity. In the name of a sound currency, he clung to Jackson's old policy even as it deepened the Panic and destroyed his presidency in the 1840 elections.
-Robert W. Merry, from his book, President McKinley: Architect of the American Century
The context for this passage is framing the silver-versus-gold debate in the lead-up to the 1896 Republican National Convention's nomination of William McKinley for president.
"Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving."
-a loose translation of Albert Einstein's “Beim Menschen ist es wie beim Velo. Nur wenn er faehrt, kann er bequem die Balance halten.”
"And what of others? The way they are, is the way they are. And the way the world is, is the way it is. It will change when it is good and ready and not one day sooner. Once you accept than, you can set yourself free to concentrate and empower yourself."
Charlie and I view the marketable common stocks that Berkshire owns as interests in businesses, not as ticker symbols to be bought or sold based on their “chart” patterns, the “target” prices of analysts or the opinions of media pundits. Instead, we simply believe that if the businesses of the investees are successful (as we believe most will be) our investments will be successful as well. Sometimes the payoffs to us will be modest; occasionally the cash register will ring loudly. And sometimes I will make expensive mistakes. Overall – and over time – we should get decent results. In America, equity investors have the wind at their back.
-Warren Buffett, from page 10 of this Berkshire Hathaway annual report