Saturday, June 4, 2016

A side-effect.....................


     Predicting the future of China is a mug's game.  The problem isn't just that by three o'clock on any given afternoon, someone will have published an essay entitled "China's Imminent Collapse" and someone else will have published "China:  Superpower of the Asian Century."  The problem is that both essays will be plausible.  China today is one of the very few political entities with the resources and government to shape the world as a side-effect of its actions.

-Clay Shirky,  Little Rice:  Smartphones, Xiaomi, and the Chinese Dream

Potential........................




"Man's main task in life is to give birth to himself, to become what he potentially is.  The most important product of his effort is his own personality."

-Erich Fromm

Opening paragraphs.......................


     Bright-eyed Marlys Purdy carried a steel bucket around the side of the garage to the rabbit hutches, which were stacked up on top of each other like Manhattan walk-ups.  She paused there for a moment, considering the possibilities.  A dozen New Zealand whites peered through the screened windows, their pink noses twitching and pale eyes watching the intruder, their long ears turning like radar dishes, trying to parse their immediate future:  Was this dinner, or death?

-John Sandford,  Extreme Prey

A tall order...........................




"What then is true education?  It is awakening a love for truth, a just sense of duty, opening the eyes of the soul to the great purpose and end of life."

-David O. McKay

cartoon via

In.................................


 

"If you keep your mind sufficiently open, people will throw a lot of rubbish into it."

-attributed to William A. Orton

image via

KIndness.......................................




"A kind heart is a fountain of gladness, making everything in its vicinity freshen into smiles."

-Washington Irving

Who can say....................................


Enya.........................................................................Only Time

Who can say where the road goes?
Where the day flows?
Only time
And who can say if your love grows
As your heart chose?
Only time

Who can say why your heart sighs
As your love flies?
Only time
And who can say why your heart cries
When your love lies?
Only time

Who can say when the roads meet
That love might be in your heart?
And who can say when the day sleeps
If the night keeps all your heart,
Night keeps all your heart?

Who can say if your love grows
As your heart chose?
Only time
And who can say where the road goes?
Where the day flows?

Only time

Who knows? Only time


thanks craig

Focus.......................




"Can you see the holiness in those things you take for granted - a paved road or a washing machine?  If you concentrate on finding what is good in every situation, you will discover that your life will suddenly be filled with gratitude, a feeling that nurtures the soul."

-Rabbi Harold Kushner

photo via

The passing of a transformative man........


........................He wasn't always my favorite, and then he was.



Thursday, June 2, 2016

Wondering if anyone has told The Donald...............
















“We are only just beginning to understand the power of love because we are just beginning to understand the weakness of force and aggression.” 

-B.F. Skinner

ever flow.........................


56.  Take it that you have died today, and your life's story is ended; and henceforward regard what further time may be given you as an uncovenanted surplus, and live it out in harmony with nature.

57.  Love nothing but that which comes to you woven in the pattern of your destiny.  For what could more aptly fit your needs?

59.  Dig within.  There lies the well-spring of good;  ever dig, and it will ever flow.

61.  The art of living is more like wrestling than dancing, in as much as it, too, demands a firm and watchful stance against any unexpected onset.

-Marcus Aurelius,  Meditations,  Book VII

As experiments go, this is a doozy................


     This is the Chinese dream, a faith on the part of the middle-class citizens that their efforts will be rewarded, and faith that they will be able to keep most of those rewards for themselves.  China delivers the thing that most citizens want in most countries most years:  a sense that life is getting better.  The second part of the dream, the part that is in the background of the American dream but in the foreground in many places here, is the link between personal success and national greatness.  This is the Chinese Dream, upper-case, and it is now being pushed by the current government on billboards and in public announcements all over the country.
     Beijing wants a country whose citizens enjoy a high degree of economic freedom, a high degree of personal freedom, and a low degree of political freedom.  This is a strange mix, and a novel one...China, by contrast and almost uniquely, uses a vibrant market to convince the citizenry that their views of governance are both unneeded and irrelevant.

Clay Shirky,  Little Rice:  Smartphones, Xiaomi, and the Chinese Dream

an emphatic no...............................


A practice had grown up whereby the heads of the bank regulators from around the world met with central bank governors each September.  In 2007 the bank regulators were asked whether the US sub-prime mortgage market was sufficiently large to bring down major banks.  The answer was an emphatic no.  Although the stock of such mortgages was around $1 trillion, potential losses were not large enough to create a problem for the system as a whole.  After all, the loss of wealth in the dotcom crash earlier in the decade had been eight times greater.
     This time, however, the banks had made large bets on the sub-prime market in the form of derivative contracts.  Although these bets cancelled each other out for the banking system as a whole, some banks were in the money and others were under water.  The problem was that it was impossible for investors, and in some cases even for the banks themselves, to tell one from the other.  So  all banks came under suspicion.  Banks found it difficult, and at times impossible, to raise money that only weeks earlier had been easily attainable.  They stopped lending to each other.

-Mervyn King,  The End of Alchemy:  Money, Banking, and the Future of the Global Economy

Look at the way that we live...........


Coldplay..........................................................................Spies


Can't we all just get along.......................?


Megan McArdle asks for a fair-minded discussion about a fairly important topic.   Good luck with that:

The arguments about global warming too often sound more like theology than science. Oh, the word “science” gets thrown around a great deal, but it's cited as a sacred authority, not a fallible process that staggers only awkwardly and unevenly toward the truth, with frequent lurches in the wrong direction. I cannot count the number of times someone has told me that they believe in “the science,” as if that were the name of some omniscient god who had delivered us final answers written in stone. For those people, there can be only two categories in the debate: believers and unbelievers. Apostles and heretics.

As they say in our neighborhood, read the whole thing (including the Coyote Blog posts she references).

Fifty years ago..........................


The Animals...............................................Inside Looking Out


Some laws just write themselves...............


     Behind the scenes, the stocks of credits and debits were building in an unsustainable way, like piles of bricks.  It is always surprising how many bricks can be piled one on top of another without their collapsing.  This truth is embodied in the first law of financial crises:  an unsustainable position can continue for far longer that you would believe possible.  That was true for the duration of the Great Stability.  What happened in 2008 illustrated the second law of financial crises:  when an unsustainable position ends it happens faster than you could imagine.

-Mervyn King,  The End of Alchemy:  Money, Banking, and the Future of the Global Economy

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

A damn good question..................................


......................What do we do when our greatest obstacle is ourselves?

The answer may be found here, but we'll have to wait until June 14th to find out.

Gnawing....................................


............................................"self-knowledge can be messy."

destiny.............................


     Adams had many reasons for unconditionally backing Jackson's Florida campaign.  He had been horrified by reports of Seminole atrocities, which included grisly tales of Indians seizing children by the ankles and dashing out their brains against the sides of boats.  At this point in his life, it would not have occurred to Adams that the Seminoles had the right to defend their own territory against the ceaseless depredations of US settlers and soldiers;  he regarded them more as part of the order of nature than as individuals endowed with rights.  He admired Jackson's martial vigor, and he recoiled at much of the criticism of the campaign, which he regarded - rightly in some cases - as partisan.  He shared Jackson's view of America as an inexorable force destined to spread across the continent, and , like Jackson, he was inclined to favor any course that enhanced American power.  Adams himself was engaged at this very moment in his own diplomatic effort to win a vast expanse of territory from Spain.  Jackson's campaign of brutal intimidation only tipped the balance further between the rising and the declining power.  It is striking that so self-consciously moral and Christian a figure as Adams was prepared to excuse bellicose behavior in the name of national self-aggrandizement.  For Adams, American destiny had a moral force of its own.

James Traub,  John Quincy Adams:  Militant Spirit

ordinary people.....................


     Against this inequality, however, there is a Chinese dream, shared by people all over the country.  Chinese governments have always trafficked in the rhetoric of national greatness, even when weak.  (The name of the country is often translated as "Middle Kingdom", but "Central Kingdom" is closer to its sense in English, the country at the center of the world.)  What makes the contemporary Chinese dream unusual is that it is also an individual one, shared by hundreds of millions of ordinary citizens.  It started in the 1970s as the dream that maybe hard times were over, that the catastrophe of the Great Leap Forward and the madness of the Cultural Revolution could be set aside, and that ordinary people could not only get on with their lives, but that those lives might become easier.  This personal part of the Chinese Dream is very much like the American one, down to the obsession with housing, and tied to the aspirations of anyone in a market economy:  If you work hard, your life will improve, and that improvement will include material comfort and ownership of a home and a car.

-Clay Shirky,  Little Rice:  Smartphones, Xiaomi, and the Chinese Dream

broad comfort........................


   The arrival of the market in China has been a humanitarian triumph.  Poverty, endemic in Mao's China, has plummeted in a single generation, from 84 percent in 1981 to 13 percent in 2008.  For hundreds of millions, the Chinese economy has progressed from providing bare subsistence to broad comfort.  As the middle-class ranks swell, there is a market for anything anyone has ever needed or wanted in an industrialized country, from shoes to air conditioners, and it is a very large market;  if you make something that appeals to 5 percent of the Chinese population, you have a potential market the size of France.

-Clay Shirky,  Little Rice:  Smartphones, Xiaomi, and the Chinese Dream

More random stuff...................................






























This certainly seems true............................

From Ann Althouse:


"Idea for anti-Trumpites: Trump is dangerous because of his strange power to make other people lose their mind."

More than you want to think about..........



..............................................................social security:


9 "myths" inspected and rejected.  Myth #1:  We don't need to worry about social security for many years.   Reality:


Although 2034 seems to be far away, many of today’s newest retirees would likely still be on the program – turning 80 – and today’s 49-year-olds would be reaching the normal retirement age. At that point, all beneficiaries would face an immediate across-the-board benefit cut of about one-fifth.

If the sums have been done correctly, your (then aged 82) faithful blogger will be losing out on (the 2016 equivalent) $292 per month if, and when, that reduction hits.  By 2034 (Lord willing), your faithful blogger will also have received more than twice in benefits than paid into the system.  Color me not complaining.

On being careful what you wish for.................



"Incentives are a huge driver of people’s actions but happiness is not always as easy as putting a carrot on a stick. You have to have the right carrot."


-Ben Carlson, as excerpted from this post on pursuing the right goals

Ideology gone wild..................


     Mao's last great program was the Cultural Revolution of the late 1960s, where ideological purity rather than competence became the rationale for promotion at state-owned (which is to say substantially all) Chinese industry.  Colleges and universities were closed, while teenagers were released from school and dispatched to attack the Four Olds:  Old Customs, Old Culture, Old Habits, and Old Ideas.  (While touring a cave in Hangzhou filled with Buddhist carvings, I noticed that the figures near the ground level had all had their faces smashed off, while the figures higher up the walls were intact.  When I asked our guide about this, she said simply, "The high school students did not bring a ladder that day.")

-Clay Shirky,  Little Rice:  Smartphones, Xiaomi, and the Chinese Dream

morally satisfying but strategically reckless....


     When President Monroe and his cabinet members returned from their summer vacations and began meeting at the White House in late October (1817), they faced an urgent decision about the US role in the ongoing struggle between Spain and its South American possessions.  The European powers supported Spain's colonial pretensions;  King Ferdinand VII of Spain held out hopes that France or Great Britain might dispatch a force to reclaim the renegade provinces.  The United States had not yet recognized any of the self-proclaimed republics.  American foreign policy had never deviated from the strict neutrality first declared by President Washington.  This was Europe's affair, even if it was in America's backyard.  At the same time, the South American rebels consciously emulated the language of the American patriots, and many Americans viewed them as brothers-in-arms, as they had the French revolutionaries of 1789.  How could the United States remain neutral between the despotism of monarchical Europe and the citizens of the self-proclaimed republics?  Newspapers across the country set up a clamor for recognition.
     At the first cabinet meeting Adams attended, on October 30, President Monroe distributed a series of questions about policy toward Spain.  The first question was:  "Has the executive power to acknowledge the independence of the new states whose independence in not recognized by the parents country and between which parties war exists?"  Adams did not doubt that the executive had the power but was not prepared to abandon neutrality, which he saw as the great bulwark of American strength, simply to gratify the wishes of South American patriots or their American supporters.  And he had no illusions about America's relative power:  he feared that recognition might provoke European monarchs into sending an expeditionary force to crush New World republicanism or even to declare war against the United States.  He complained in a letter to his father that, "as at the early stages of the French revolution, we have ardent spirits who are rushing into the conflict, without looking at the consequences."
     Adams viewed the contest more dispassionately than did many Americans:  Spain, he wrote, had been thoroughly brutal, but so had the insurgents, who "present to us the prospect of very troublesome and dangerous associates, and still more fearful allies."  Adams' paramount goal was to strengthen America;  siding with the Spanish colonies would be morally satisfying but strategically reckless.  Adams thoroughly approved of the expedient the president had adopted earlier that year of sending a fact-finding commission to South America.  The commissioners still hadn't left, and the president seemed to be in no hurry to send them.

-James Traub,  John Quincy Adams:  Militant Spirit

always good material....................


68.  Live out your days in untroubled serenity, refusing to be coerced though the whole world deafens you with its demands, and though wild beasts rend piecemeal this poor envelope of clay.  In all that, nothing can prevent the mind from possessing itself in peace, from correctly assessing the events around it, and from making prompt use of the material thus offered;  so that judgment may say to the event, "This is what you are in essence,  no matter how rumour paints you," and service may say to the opportunity, "You are what I was looking for."   The occurrence of the moment is always good material for the employment of reason and brotherliness - in a word, for the practice proper to men or gods.  For not a thing ever happens but has its special pertinence to god or man;  it arrives as no novel intractable problem, but as an old and serviceable friend.

-Marcus Aurelius,   Meditations,  Book VII

Fifty years ago.......................


The Animals...........................................Don't Bring Me Down


Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Waiting at the door............................


Van Morrison........................................Dweller On The Threshold


Old school............................




via

Fifty years ago...................................


Them...............................................................Call My Name


Bad luck..........................


It is difficult to describe how poor China was at the end of World War II, the period when Western nations began the three decades of growth that put our economies ahead of most of the world.  Shortly after the war ended, Mao Zedong's army finally chased the nationalist government out of mainland China to shelter in Taiwan.  Eager to catch up and a great believer in the planned alternative to market economies (it seemed like a good idea at the time), the Chinese Communist Party turned its attention to rebuilding a country that had suffered two decades of civil war, interrupted by a horrific Japanese invasion.
     Mao was a better military commander than a peacetime leader.  Having taken over a desperately poor country and eager to make progress, he made two fateful decisions at the outset of his rule.  The first, widely known, was the Great Leap Forward.  This was a set of national policies implemented in the 1950s that included collectivization of agriculture, a disaster everywhere it has been tried, but nowhere as much as China.  The resulting famine killed between 20 and 40 million people in three years, the deadliest in human history.

-Clay Shirky,  Little Rice:  Smartphones, Xiaomi, and The Chinese Dream

Monday, May 30, 2016

That is a lot of phones...............


     All of this allowed Xiaomi to use its original market as a staging area for early growth before becoming a global firm.  The population of mobile phone users in China is larger than the combined population of the U. S. and Western Europe.  (Not larger than the mobile phone using population, larger than the total population.)  Nearly 90 percent of the adult population in China has a mobile phone (the only kind, in many household).

-Clay Shirky,  Little Rice:  Smartphones, Xiaomi, and the Chinese Dream

Disfluency..........................


     The people who are most successful at learning - those who are able to digest the data surrounding them, who absorb insights embedded in their experiences and take advantage of information flowing past - are the ones who know how to use disfluency to their advantage.  They transform what life throws at them, rather than just taking it as it comes.  They know the best lessons are those that force us to do something and to manipulate information.  They take data and transform it into experiments whenever they can.  Whether we use the engineering design process or test an idea at work or simply talk through a concept with a friend, by making information more disfluent, we paradoxically make it easier to understand...

     In our own lives, the same lesson applies:  When we encounter new information and want to learn from it, we should force ourselves to do something with the data.  It's not enough for your bathroom scale to send daily updates to an app on your phone.  If you want to lose weight, force yourself to plot those measurements on graph paper and you'll be more likely to choose a salad over a hamburger at lunch.  If you read a book filled with new ideas, force yourself to put it down and explain the concepts to someone sitting next to you and you'll be more likely to apply them in your life.  When you find a new piece of information, force yourself to engage with it, to use it in an experiment or describe it to a friend - and then you will start building the mental folders that are at the core of learning.
     Every choice we make in life is an experiment.  Every day offers fresh opportunities to find better decision making frames.  We live in a time when data is more plentiful, cheaper to analyze, and easier to translate into action then ever before.  Smartphones, websites, digital databases, and apps put information at our fingertips.  But it only becomes useful if we know how to make sense of it.

-Charles Duhigg,  Smarter Faster Better:  The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business

Profusion.............................


     Thin wallets are the mother of invention;  so much design in China is about saving money.  The cheaper a phone is, the likelier it is to be dual-SIM, so you can save money network-hopping.  Electronic markets are filled with every type of video and audio and network switcher and splitter and converter because people don't throw the old stuff out, they just find a new place for it to work.  This profusion of systems - high tech and low, custom-built and jury-rigged, all side by side, is the normal case here.
     This widespread competence in making is part of what made Xiaomi possible.

-Clay Shirky,  Little Rice:  Smartphones, Xiaomi, and the Chinese Dream

Fifty years ago.................................


Val Doonican..................................................What Would I Be


Change...........................


18.  We shrink from change; yet is there anything that can come into being without it?  What does Nature hold dearer, or more proper to herself?  Could you have a hot bath unless the firewood underwent some change?  Could you be nourished if the food suffered no change?  Is it possible for any useful thing to be achieved without change?  Do you not see, then, that change in yourself is of the same order, and no less necessary to Nature?

-Marcus Aurelius,  Meditations,  Book VII

The race is on.....................




via

Life imitating art........................?


From this post on the wonder of the vagus nerve:

An image of a human brain stem illuminated with fluorescent proteins.

a better answer..............................


     Although he now despaired of an easy solution, Adams wasn't ready to stop talking.  He could understand financial concerns, and he was already beginning to realize what O'Brien would later say of the pirates:  "Money is their god and Mahomet their Prophet."  Yet greed alone couldn't explain the madness and cruelty of the demands.  Unsatisfied, the famously blunt Adams wanted a better answer.  While maintaining the best diplomatic reserve he could muster - whatever their frustration, the American ministers could hardly leap to their feet and walk out of the negotiations - Adams asked how the Barbary states could justify "[making] war upon nations who had done them no injury."
     The response was nothing less than chilling.
     According to his holy book, the Qur'an, Abdrahaman explained, "all nations which had not acknowledged the Prophet were sinners, whom it was the right and duty of the faithful to plunder and enslave."
     Christian sailors were, plain and simple, fair game.
     Jefferson tried to make sense of what he was hearing.  He was familiar with the Muslim holy book.  He had purchased a copy of the Qur'an during his day of reading law in Williamsburg twenty years before but found its values so foreign that he shelved the volume with books devoted to the mythology of the Greeks and Romans.   This conversation left him even more perplexed.  The man who had written that all people were "endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights" was horrified at Abdrahaman's religious justification for greed and cruelty.
     Dashing Adams's high hopes, Abdrahaman refused to play the role of "benevolent and wise man."  Despite the Americans' horror, he wasn't apologizing in any way.  He showed no remorse or regret.  He believed the actions of his fellow Muslims fully justified.
     "Every mussulman," he explained, "who was slain in this warfare was sure to go to paradise."
     To Abdrahaman, this was not complicated.  In his culture, the takers of ships, the enslavers of men, the Barbarians who extorted bribes for safe passage, were all justified by the teaching of the prophet Muhammad.  "It was written in our Qur'an," he said simply.

-Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger,  Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates:  The Forgotten War that Changed American History

Too expensive.........................................?


     Having a brand that stands for quality at an acceptable price is a big deal here, because this country is cheap, cheap the way many Americans were if they grew up in the Great Depression.  Last fall, I went by my local Cybermart to get a Mii4, then the hottest Chinese phone since the Mi3.  I'd gone there straight from a meeting so I even looked like a businessman instead of a nerd, and I rolled up to a second-floor booth selling Xiaomis and got the attention of the lady behind the counter.  I am a bald white guy.  I speak pidgin Mandarin with a flat Midwestern accent, and I was in a suit - the only way I'd have looked like an easier mark is if 100 yuan notes were spilling out of my pockets like in cartoons.  I announced that I wanted to buy the priciest phone any Chinese company has ever produced.  The lady behind the counter looked at me and said, in English, "You don't buy that phone.  Too expensive."  China is cheap like that.  Even people paid to take your money are offended if they think something costs too much.  Tell me the next time that happens to you at Best Buy.

-Clay Shirky,  Little Rice:  Smartphones, Xiaomi, and the Chinese Dream

Take a moment to remember.............


............................It's a lot more than just another holiday.
















image via

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Nobody knows...................


David Gilmour and friends...................Shine On You Crazy Diamond

Beauty.......................


Fifty years ago..............................


Small Faces...................................................All Or Nothing


Information overload...................part one


In the past two decades the amount of information embedded in our daily lives has skyrocketed.  There are smartphones that count our steps, websites that track our spending, digital maps to plot out commutes, software that watches our web browsing, and apps to manage our schedules.  We can precisely measure how many calories we eat each day, how much our cholesterol scores have improved each month, how many dollars we spent at restaurants, and how many minutes were allocated to the gym.  This information can be incredibly powerful.  If harnessed correctly, data can make our days more productive, our diets healthier, our schools more effective and our lives less stressful.
     Unfortunately, however, our ability to learn from information hasn't necessarily kept pace with its proliferation...

-Charles Duhigg,  Faster Smarter Better:  The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business

Information overload........................part two


     In theory, the ongoing explosion in information should make the right answers more obvious.  In practice, though, being surrounded by data often makes it harder to decide.
     This inability to take advantage of data as it becomes more plentiful is called "information blindness."  Just as snow blindness refers to people losing the capacity to distinguish trees from hills under a blanket of powder, so information blindness refers to our mind's tendency to stop absorbing data when there's too much to take in.

-Charles Duhigg,  Smarter Faster Better:  The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business

Information overload..........................part three


     "We've found this in dozens of settings," said Martin Eppler, a professor at the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland who studies information overload.  "The quality of people's decisions generally gets better as they receive more relevant information.  But then their brain reaches a breaking point when the data becomes too much.  They start ignoring options or making bad choices or stop interacting with the information completely."
     Information blindness occurs because of the way our brain's capacity for learning has evolved.  Humans are exceptionally good at absorbing information - as long as we can break data into a series of smaller and smaller pieces.  This process is know as "winnowing" or "scaffolding."  Mental scaffolds are like file cabinets filled with folders that help us store and access information when the need arises...
     "Our brains crave reducing things to two or three options," said Eric Johnson, a cognitive psychologist at Columbia University who studies decision making.  "So when we're faced with a lot of information, we start automatically arranging it into mental folders and subfolders and sub-subfolders."

-Charles Duhigg,  Faster Smarter Better:  The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business

the desperate hunt.........................


     There was, however, a second and less benign reason behind the expansion of bank balance sheets.  With interest rates so low, financial institutions and investors started to take on more and more risk, in an increasingly desperate hunt for higher returns, without adequate compensation.  Investors were slow to adjust and reluctant to accept that, in a world of low interest rates and low inflation, returns on financial assets would also be at historic low levelsGreed and hubris also led them to demand higher returns - such behavior became known as the "search for yield."...
     Banks played their part in meeting this search for yield.  They created a superstructure of ever more complex financial instruments, which were combinations of, and so derived from, more basic contracts such as mortgages and other types of debt - hence their name "derivatives".  To increase their yield, banks created instruments that comprised highly risky and often opaque structures with obscure names such as "collateralized debt obligations."  The average rate of return on a risky asset is higher than that on a safe asset, such as a US or UK government bond, to compensate the investor for the additional risk - the additional return is called risk premium.  Although some of the deals offered to investors were close to being fraudulent, the desire for higher returns meant there were no shortage of willing buyers.  Only an optimist could believe that the risk premium in the market was adequate to compensate for the risk involved.  It was all too close to alchemy.

-Mervyn King,  The End of Alchemy:  Money, Banking, and the Future of the Global Economy

the traditional stepping-stone....


     In the spring of 1816, Monroe had beaten his only rival for the Republican nomination, Secretary of War William Crawford, and since the Federalists had disappeared as a national party, he was all but assured the presidency.  By November, Adams had begun hearing rumors that Monroe would appoint him secretary of state.  According to stories being circulated by both friends and opponents of Adams, Monroe was considering either Gallatin or Clay for the post as well, and Clay had responded by loudly arguing that Adams was unsuitable for the post.  But Monroe viewed Clay as a serious potential rival in 1820 and was not about to give him the traditional stepping-stone post of secretary of state.  In fact, Monroe would later write to Jefferson that he could not appoint another Southerner to the post without appearing to confirm fears of a Virginia dynasty, which would turn Northern Republicans against him.  He needed a man of the North, as well as one not known for overweening ambition.  On March 6, he wrote to Adams to tell him of the appointment.  Adams did not have a particularly high regard for Monroe, who had failed in diplomatic assignments in Paris and London, but for reasons both of patriotism and of personal ambition, it would have been unthinkable to say no.

-James Traub,  John Quincy Adams:  Militant Spirit