Monday, April 22, 2019

And now, a few words from....................


................................................John Bell Condliffe:

"The human race has made progress towards the good life as long as thought and economic activity were left free to cross national boundaries and creeds."  "But now," he observed, "we face a new and more formidable superstition than the world has ever known, the myth of the nation-state, whose priests are as intolerant as those of the Inquisition.  The struggle for the rights of the individual against the all-powerful and intolerant nation-state is the most difficult and crucial issue of our generation."

"the essential condition of effective planning is that the planners must be prepared to dragoon those who do not fit into their plans."

Condiliffe understood that unchecked state power was one of the root causes of poverty, not one of the solutions.

-as excerpted from William Easterly's The Tyranny of Experts:  Economists, Dictators, And The Forgotten Rights Of The Poor



On happiness.........................


When Epicurus defined happiness as the supreme good, he warned his disciples that it is hard work to be happy.  Material achievements alone will not satisfy us for long.  Indeed, the blind pursuit of money, fame, and pleasure will only make us miserable.  Epicurus recommended, for example, to eat and drink in moderation, and to curb one's sexual appetites.  In the long run, deep friendship will make us more content than a frenzied orgy.  Epicurus outlined an entire ethic of dos and don'ts to guide people along the treacherous path to happiness.
     Epicurus was apparently on to something.  Being happy doesn't come easy.  Despite out unprecedented achievements in the past few decades, it is far from obvious that contemporary people are significantly more satisfied than their ancestors in bygone years.

-Yuval Noah Harari, Homo Deus:  A Brief History of Tomorrow

Joyful..........................


     The people who radiate a permanent joy have given themselves over to lives of deep and loving commitment.  Giving has become their nature, and little by little they have made their souls incandescent.  There's always something flowing out of the interiority of our spirit.  For some people it's mostly fear or insecurity.  For the people we call joyful, it's mostly gratitude, delight, and kindness.

-David Brooks,  The Second Mountain:  The Quest for a Moral Life

Victimology...............................


     Today's world is characterized by a ferocious competition for "moral authority".  The attraction is the innate vanity and perceived power of domination and control over others.  This competition applies to whole countries, political and philosophical systems, and entire cultures, all of which claim moral superiority and, therefore, justification for all actions.  Victimology is the sly back door by which a "make wrong" becomes a manipulative level of moral blackmail and extortion.
     In today's media-driven society, even the most extreme behaviors, as well as bizarre, delusional declarations, are given equal rank with truth.  By this device, alleged rights and claims ensue that have the added value of being "righteous" and "superior", by which anything and everything can be justified or excused, or at least public opinion solicited for sympathy.  The world now worships not Divinity but the ego and thus caters to aggrandized narcissistic rhetoric and blatant falsity of even a psychotic degree. . . .Society is now the arena for competition of self-proclaimed, aggrandized moral "rights" that are actually merely selfish egocentricity for gain.

-David R. Hawkins, Reality, Spirituality, and Modern Man

Some days......................


Not every day is going to  turn out the way we want it to.  All routines and to-do lists are aspirational.  "You go diving for pearls," said Jerry Garcia, "but sometimes you end up with clams.

The important thing is to make it to the end of the day, no matter what.  No matter how bad it gets, see it through to the end so you can get to tomorrow.  After spending the day with his five-year-old son, Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote in his diary, "We got rid of the day as well as we could."  Some days you just have to get rid of as best as you can.

When the sun goes down and you look back on the day, go easy on yourself.  A little self-forgiveness goes a long way.  Before you go to bed, make a list of everything you did accomplish, and write down a list of what you want to get done tomorrow.  Then forget about it.  Hit the pillow with a clear mind.  Let your subconscious work on stuff while you're sleeping.

A day that seems a waste now might turn out to have a purpose or use or beauty to it later on.

-Austin Kleon,  Keep Going:  10 Ways To Stay Creative In Good Times And Bad

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


Henry Mancini................The Love Theme from Romeo & Juliet

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Building............................

Prosperity or adversity? The strangeness of our time consists partly in our having simultaneously too much and not quite enough: Not so much that we are free from anxiety, but not so little that we experience the kind of suffering that can give a person — and a people — some direction and focus. Direction toward, and focus on, what?
They fled from the tomb. Toward . . . ?
-Kevin Williamson, as he concludes this Easter post

One thing...............................


To a visitor who described himself as a seeker after Truth the Master said, "If what you seek is the Truth, there is one thing you must have above all else."

"I know.  An overwhelming passion for it."

"No.  An unremitting readiness to admit you may be wrong."

-Anthony de Mello,  One Minute Wisdom

Love..................................


But the world's problems are very simple.  They are the lack of love between human beings, the lack of compassion, of tolerance, of humility, and of acceptance.  They are the arrogance, hatred, and violence that have polluted human hearts.  They are prejudice and intolerance.  If a person has no peace in their heart, there can be no peace around them.  Such a person will always find a reason to argue and fight.  Only when a person's own heart is peaceful can their interactions be peaceful.
     How to solve the problem of hatred?  Is there any political solution?  Can love and acceptance be legislated and enforced?  Can any law change the human heart?   The heart only changes when it decides to change.  And that is a personal choice that each person must make for themselves.  We cannot enforce it upon them.  We can only inspire them and offer them the tools.
     Therefore, rather than trying to transform others, let us devote ourselves to our own transformation.  As for others, let us be nondemanding of them.  Let us be content to love them as they are, to accept them as they are, and to be ever ready to serve them as we would members of our own family.  This is the humanity that the world sorely needs.
     Only love can make it possible to accept another person's flaws.  Have you ever seen a mother give up on her children?  Even if her child constantly misbehaves, getting thrown out of school or worse, the mother remains by their side, even after everyone else is fed up.  This is due to the mother's love.  Where there is love, there is forgiveness.  Where there is love, there is compassion.
Love is the root of every noble quality.  Therefore, when there is love, do you need any other quality?  When love is present, acceptance, forgiveness, and compassion all become redundant.  Love alone is sufficient.  No other quality is required.  We all know this.  The great teachers of the past and present have all said so.  But if teachings were enough, wouldn't we be transformed by now?

-Kamlesh D. Patel and Joshua Pollock,  The Heartfulness Way:  Heart-Based Mediations for Spiritual Transformation

On investing and risk..........................


      Most investors assume that risk is a form of "I know it when I see it."  Unfortunately, risk is nearly impossible to define because it has so many permutations.  To some it's volatility.  To others it's losing money.  Longevity risk—outliving your money—is probably the biggest risk of all.  Then you have all the risks within each investment class:  duration, interest rates, earnings shortfalls, recessions, permanent impairment, innovation, competition, and so on.  The list cold seemingly go on forever.
      If there is an ironclad rule in the world of investing, it's that risk and reward are always and forever attached at the hip. . . . understand that there is no such thing as a free lunch.

-Ben Carlson, A Wealth of Common Sense

Talking Ohio...............


     But still, this was his hometown, his home state.  He had played for the mighty Buckeyes and then, albeit briefly, the Cleveland Browns.  He was a product of the Midwest.  He never got too high and never got too low.  He looked at the world realistically.  He was a jeans and beer kind of guy.  He could never fit inside a Ferrari, not that he would ever want to.  He always tried to do the right thing.  He helped others when they needed it.

-David Baldacci,  as found on page 298 of Redemption

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


Motherlode................................................................When I Die

Saturday, April 20, 2019

On the resident goodness of creation............




     Nothing appalls me more than to hear people refer to the drinking of wine as it it were a forbidden and fascinating way of sneaking alcohol into one's system.  My flesh creeps when I hear the legitimate love of the fruit of the vine treated as if it were a longer-winded way of doing what the world does with grain neutral spirits and cheap vermouth.  With wine at hand, the good man concerns himself, not with getting drunk, but the drinking in all the natural delectabilities of wine;  taste, color, bouquet; its manifest graces; the way it complements food and enhances conversation; and its sovereign power to turn evenings into occasions, to lift eating beyond nourishment to conviviality, and to bring the race, for a few hours at least, to that happy state where men are wise and women beautiful, and even one's children begin to look promising.  If someone wants to bare effects of alcohol in his bloodstream, let him drink the nasty stuff neat, or have a physician inject it.  But do not let him soil my delight with his torpedo-juice mentality.
     Wine is not—let me repeat—in order to anything but itself.  To consider it otherwise is to turn it into an idol, a tin god to be conjured with.  Moreover, it is to miss its point completely.  We were made in the image of God.  We were created to delight, as He does, in the resident goodness of creation.  We were not made to sit around mumbling incantations and watching our insides to see what creation will do for us.  Wine does indeed have subjective effects, but they are to be received gratefully and lightly.  They are not solemnly important psychophysical adjustments, but graces, super-added gifts.  It was St. Thomas, again, who gave the most reasonable and relaxed of all the definitions of temperance.  Wine, he said, could lawfully be drunk usque ad hilaritatem, to the point of cheerfulness.  It is a happy example of the connection between sanctity and sanity.

-Robert Farrar Capon,  The Supper of the Lamb

photo via Kelsey Knight/Unsplash

a light garment....................




     To transcend the world requires compassion and acceptance.  They are the result of inner humility by which the world is surrendered to God with increased peace of mind.  One of the most valuable spiritual tools about which, historically, little has been said is the great value of humor.  Comedy arises as a result of the comparison that is made between perception and and essence, and the resolution is a consequence of the acceptance of the ambiguity.
     Humor is quite different from ridicule or malice as it is compassionate in that it accepts human limitations and foibles as being intrinsic.  It therefore assists 'wearing the world like a light garment' and illustrates that in being like the reed that bends in the wind, one survives instead of being broken by rigidity.

-David R. Hawkins,  Reality, Spirituality, and Modern Man

On the responsibility of liberty...........


A general Dissolution of Principles & Manners will more surely overthrow the Liberties of America than the whole Force of the Common Enemy.  While the People are virtuous they cannot be subdued;  but when once they lose their Virtue they will be ready to surrender their Liberties to the first external or internal Invader.

-Samuel Adams, from a 1779 letter to James Warren

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


At the movies...................If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium

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


The Clique..........................................................Sugar on Sunday

Friday, April 19, 2019

Sometimes all you can do is grin and laugh....




"The gargoyle is this little man grinning and laughing at the absurd behaviour of men on earth"

-as cut and pasted from this Cultural Offering post

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


     On a refreshingly brisk, beautifully clear fall evening, Amos Decker was surrounded by dead bodies.  Yet he wasn't experiencing the electric blue light sensation that he usually did when confronted with the departed.

-David Baldacci,  Redemption

The peaceful easy feeling..................


"The mind is only at ease when the heart is at peace."

-Kamlesh D. Patel, The Heartfulness Way:  Heart-Based Meditations for Spiritual Transformations

Sacrificial...........................


To the disciples' embarrassment the Master once told a bishop that religious people have a natural bent for cruelty.

"Why?" demanded the disciples after the bishop had gone.

"Because they all too easily sacrifice persons for the advancement of a purpose," said the Master.

-Anthony de Mello,  One Minute Wisdom

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


"Your essence is changeable, like your mind.  Every action you take, every thought you have, changes you, even if just a little, making you a little more elevated or a little more degraded."

-David Brooks, from his introduction to The Second Mountain:  The Quest for a Moral Life

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


The Buchanan Brothers..................................Medicine Man

Thursday, April 18, 2019

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


     The subject of this memoir is revered by multitudes of his countrymen as the preserver of their commonwealth.  This reverence has grown with the lapse of time and the accumulation of evidence.  It is blended with a peculiar affection, seldom bestowed upon the memory of statesmen.  It is shared today by many who remember with no less affection how their own fathers fought against him.  He died with every circumstance of tragedy, yet it is not the accident of his death but the purpose of his life that is remembered.

-Lord Charnwood,  Abraham Lincoln:  A Complete Biography

Might be why it's so hard to find.......


"The true obligation of impartiality is that he should conceal no fact which, in his own mind, tells against his views."

-Lord Charnwood

Careful..............................


". . . intelligence doesn't mean a thing when emotions take over."

-Ben Carlson

On competence.................


Understanding the limits of your own competence is very valuable.  Venture capitalist Fred Wilson put it simply:  "The only way you win is by knowing what you're good at and what you're not good at, and sticking to what you're good at."  Munger similarly believes that investors who get outside of what he calls their circle of competence can easily find themselves in big trouble. . . .
    The idea behind the circle of competence is so simple that it is arguably embarrassing to say it out loud:  when you do not know what you're doing, it is riskier than when you do know what you're doing.  What could be simpler?

-Tren Griffin,   Charlie Munger:  The Complete Investor

Our contributions.............................


"The question we need to ask ourselves is whether there is any place we can stand in ourselves where we can look at all that's happening around us without freaking out, where we can be quiet enough to hear our predicament, and where we can begin to find ways of acting that are at least not contributing to further destabilization."

-Ram Dass, as quoted from here

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


The First Edition.................................But You Know I Love You

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Grant.................................


     Ultimately, the appraisal of Grant's presidency rests upon posterity's view of Reconstruction.  Grant took office when much of the South still lay under military rule; by the time he left, every southern state had been absorbed back into the Union.  For a long time after the Civil War, under the influence of southern historians, Reconstruction was viewed as a catastrophic error, a period of corrupt carpetbag politicians and illiterate black legislators, presided over by the draconian rule of U. S. Grant.  For more recent historians, led by Eric Foner, it has been seen as a noble experiment in equal justice for black citizens in which they made remarkable strides in voting, holding office, owning land, creating small businesses and churches, and achieving literacy.  about two thousand blacks served as state legislators, tax collectors, local officials, and U. S. marshals, while fourteen served in the House of Representatives and two in the Senate.  The South witnessed a civil rights movement that briefly introduced desegregation and vouchsafed a vision of a functioning biracial democracy.  Since Grant was president during this period, his standing was bound to rise with this revisionist view.  Even as his party and cabinet became bitterly divided over Reconstruction, he showed a deep reservoir of courage in directing the fight against the Ku Klux Klan and crushing the largest wave of domestic terrorism in American history.  It was Grant who helped to weave the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments into the fabric of American Life.

-Ron Chernow,  Grant

Revisionism..................................


     When Reconstruction was pilloried as a byword for political abuse, Grant was accused of going too far in advancing black civil rights and foisting "bayonet rule" on the South.  Recent revisionist historians have sometimes swung to the other extreme, criticizing him for backtracking on Reconstruction during the last two years of his presidency, when he hesitated to sent troops to police elections in Mississippi, South Carolina, and Louisiana.  They condemn him for not undertaking extensive land reforms in the South—a fine idea, but perhaps quixotic in a region dominated by the Klan and other terrorist groups.  The true wonder is not that Grant finally retreated from robust federal intervention, but that he had the courage to persist for so long in his outspoken concern for black safety and civil rights, as he faced ferocious backlash from Democrats and even his own party.  By the end of his second term, northern support for Reconstruction had largely disappeared.  As the Indiana senator Oliver P. Morton recognized, if Reconstruction failed, it was not because of Grant, but because it had been "resisted by armed and murderous organizations, by terrorism and proscription the most wicked and cruel of the age."

Ron Chernow,  Grant

Missed opportunity................................


     Americans today know little about the terrorism that engulfed the South during Grant's presidency.  It has been suppressed by a strange national amnesia.  The Klan's ruthless reign is a dark, buried chapter in American history.  The Civil War is far better known than its brutal aftermath.  Without knowing that history, it is easy to find fault with Grant's tough, courageous actions.  For Grant, Reconstruction amounted to a tremendous missed opportunity:  "There has never been a moment since Lee surrendered that I would not have gone more than halfway to meet the Southern people in a spirit of conciliation.  But they have never responded to it."  To protect blacks, Grant had been forced to send in federal troops whose presence provoked a virulent reaction among southern whites who believed their home states had been invaded by hated Yankees, a second time.  Despite Grant's best efforts at Appomattox, the breach of the Civil War never healed but became deeply embedded in American political culture.
     By the end of Grant's second term, white Democrats, through the "redeemer" movement, had reclaimed control over every southern state, winning in peacetime much of the power lost in combat.  They promulgated a view of the Civil War as a righteous cause that had nothing to do with slavery but only states' rights—to which an incredulous James Longstreet once replied, "I never heard of any other cause of the quarrel than slavery."  In this view, Reconstruction imposed "an oppressive peace on honorable men who had laid down their arms."  But the South never laid down its arms.  When it came to African Americans, southern Democrats managed to re-create the status quo ante, albeit minus slavery.

Ron Chernow,  Grant

A fine but ultimately doomed experiment...


     Reconstruction was a fine but ultimately doomed experiment in American life.  The tragedy of this intractable issue was that there was finally no way for blacks to enjoy their rights without a prolonged military presence, and that became politically impossible.  Could even Abraham Lincoln have appeased the white south while simultaneously protecting its black population?  It seems unlikely.  Grant saw a double standard at work:  the country tolerated terror by whites, but not by blacks.  As he wrote after leaving office:  "If a negro insurrection should arise in South Carolina, Mississippi, or Louisiana, or if the negroes of either of these states . . . should intimidate whites from going to the polls . . . there would be no division of sentiment as to the duty of the President.  It does seem the rule should work both ways.
     Once Reconstruction collapsed, it left southern blacks for eighty years at the mercy of Jim Crow segregation, lynchings, poll taxes, literacy tests, and other tactics designed to segregate them from whites and deny them the vote.  Black sharecroppers would be degraded tot he level of debt-ridden serfs, bound to their former plantation owners.  After 1877, the black community in the South steadily lost ground until a rigid apartheid separated the races completely, a terrible state of affairs that would not be fixed until the rise of the civil rights movement after World War II.

-Ron Chernow,  Grant

Quieted...............................


"The self-centered voice of the ego has to be quieted before a person is capable of freely giving and receiving love."

-David Brooks, as culled from this essay

Machines and man............................


     I believe that what the machine does is the opposite of dehumanizing.  It allows us to get rid of the routine.  It forces us to concentrate on the kinds of things that the machine cannot do, and there will always be a great number more of these.  Recall that I mentioned in mathematics as it is understood today, one can construct questions that cannot be answered within the system in which the question was formulated.  No matter how the machine is constructed, there will always be situations that the machine cannot foresee.  The human element, the element of invention, the element of true ingenuity and flexibility, is not apt ever to be taken over by machines.
     Some of the developments I have considered in this chapter will not happen in my lifetime.  They may not even occur in the lifespans of my youngest readers.  But the man-machine combination is likely to transform human thinking and transform it into something much more intricate, very much more interesting and incomparably deeper than mankind has as yet encountered.

-Edward Teller,  The Pursuit of Simplicity

Teller (1909-2003) had this book published in 1980.  I am wondering what he would write today.

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


Dione Warwick...............................You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Maybe that is why....................


....................................they're known as the "good old days"?

(The most popular magazine in America, for decades, was devoted to helping people figure out which one of three channels to watch).

-Seth Godin, as culled from here

Aging................................


..................................................................like a fine wine.

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


Tom Jones..........................................................Love Me Tonight

Friday, April 12, 2019

It's not how much money you make.......


.................it's what you do with what you make that counts.  Check out Don "American Pie" McLean's story.   A few important nuggets:

“That’s the problem with being a star or a person with a few bucks. You end up being mollycoddled and you don’t know shit. I’ve known stars who literally were made so dependent on a few people, they didn’t know what to do without them.”

A guy named James Benenson Jr., who was a very wealthy man and was once my business agent, told me, ‘Don’t ever invest in anything that you don’t like and understand.’ If you enjoy it and understand it and analytically it is a good investment, that’s a great thing. Then your money’s doing something that is pleasant for you. It’s not just a number.

 I have two stocks: Google GOOG, +1.10%GOOGL, +1.09%  and Amazon AMZN, -0.05%  , and that’s all. And I plan to hold those because they are the government, as far as I can see. 

via

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


The Charles Randolph Grean Sounds................Quentin's Theme

Thursday, April 11, 2019

An interesting letter..................


"From very early on in Amazon’s life, we knew we wanted to create a culture of builders – people who are curious, explorers. They like to invent. Even when they’re experts, they are “fresh” with a beginner’s mind. They see the way we do things as just the way we do things now. A builder’s mentality helps us approach big, hard-to-solve opportunities with a humble conviction that success can come through iteration: invent, launch, reinvent, relaunch, start over, rinse, repeat, again and again. They know the path to success is anything but straight."

-Jeff Bezos, from this annual shareholder letter

Scale.............................


As a company grows, everything needs to scale, including the size of your failed experiments. If the size of your failures isn’t growing, you’re not going to be inventing at a size that can actually move the needle. Amazon will be experimenting at the right scale for a company of our size if we occasionally have multibillion-dollar failures. 

-Jeff Bezos, from here again, as they say, read the whole thing"

Risks.......................




“Our comforting conviction that the world makes sense rests on a secure foundation: our almost unlimited ability to ignore our ignorance.” 


-Daniel Kahneman

Sort of like life its ownself.............


"Investing doesn't have to be about beating others or beating the market.  It's about not beating yourself."

-Ben Carlson

This feels accurate......................


"There is virtually always an apocalypse du jour going on somewhere in the world.  And on the rare occasions when there is not, journalism will simply invent one, and present it 24/7 as the incipient end of the world."

-Nick Murray

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


Desmond Dekker & The Aces.......................................Israelites

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

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


Derek.............................................................................Cinnamon

The Emperor's new clothes............


Irony, paradox, contradiction, consternation -- these define the times in which we live. . . . 

Historians are never going to rate Trump as a great or even mediocre president. Even so, they may one day come to appreciate the Trump era as the moment when things long hidden became plain to see, when hitherto widely accepted falsehoods, fabrications, and obsolete assumptions about American democracy finally became untenable. For that, if for nothing else, we may yet have reason to thank our 45th president for services rendered.

-As extracted from this Zero Hedge post

Monday, April 8, 2019

A second term..............


Despite conspicuous blunders in his first term, notably cronyism and the misbegotten Santo Domingo treaty, Grant chalked up significant triumphs in suppressing the Klan, reducing debt, trying to clean up Indian trading posts, experimenting with civil service reform, and settling the Alabama claims peacefully.  He has appointed a prodigious number of blacks, Jews, Native Americans, and women and delivered on his promise to give the country peace and prosperity.
     Like many adversaries in Grant's past, Greeley supporters resuscitated old drinking rumors, which haunted the president even after the reality had largely vanished.  The abolitionist Anna Dickenson claimed Grant had "a greater fondness for the smoke of a cigar and the aroma of a wine glass" than for running the country.  So many New York newspapers harped on Grant's putative drinking that George Templeton Strong erupted in indignation:  "If it be true that a beastly drunkard, without a sense of decency, can successfully conduct great campaigns, can win great battles, and can raise himself from insignificance to be a lieutenant-general and President, what is the use of all this fuss about sobriety?" . . .

The morning papers yielded astounding news:  Grant had overwhelmingly won the electoral vote, and had garnered the largest popular majority of the century.

-Ron Chernow,  Grant

Warren Meyer suggests an.......................


....inquiry into the nature and causes of the wealth of nations.

What a good idea!   If only someone had written a book.


When building your own "the best of"...........


...........................................don't overlook Sensory Dispensary.

The care and feeding.........................


......................of the Goose that lays the golden eggs:




And I say.................................


........................................................................................Amen.

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


Once upon a time, nearly two and a half centuries ago, there was a secret network that tried to change the world.  Founded in Germany just two months before thirteen of Britain's American colonies declared their independence, the organization came to be known as the Illuminatenorden - the Order of the Illuminati.  Its goals were lofty.  Indeed, its founder had originally called it the Bund der Perfektibilisten (the League of the Perfectibles).  As one member of the Order recalled its founder saying, it was intended to be:

      an association that, through the most subtle and secure
      methods, will have as its goal the victory of virtue and
      wisdom over stupidity and malice; an association that will
      make the most important discoveries in all fields of science
      that will teach its members to become both noble and great,
      that will assure them of the certain prize of their own
      complete perfection in this world, that will protect them 
      from persecution, the fates and oppression, and that will
      bind the hands of despotism in all its forms.

The Order's ultimate objective was to 'enlighten the understanding by the sun of reason, which will dispel the clouds of superstition and of prejudice'.  'My goal is to give reason the upper hand,' declared the Order's founder.  Its methods were, in one respect, educational.  'The sole intention of the league', according to its General Statues (1781), was 'education, not by declamatory means, but by favouring and rewarding virtue'.  Yet the Illuminati were to operate as a strictly secret fraternity.  Members adopted codenames, often of ancient Greek or Roman provenance;  the founder himself was 'Brother Spartacus'.  There were to be three ranks or grades of membership - Novice, Minerval and Illuminated Minerval - but the lower ranks were to be given only the vaguest insights into the Order's goals and methods.  Elaborate initiation rites were devised - among them an oath of secrecy, violation of which would be punished with the most gruesome death.  Each isolated cell of initiates reported to a superior, whose real identity they did not know.
     At first, the Illuminati were tiny in number.  There were only a handful of founding members, most of them students.  Two years after its creation, the Order's total membership was just twenty-five.  As late as December 1779, it was still only sixty.  Within just a few years, however, membership had surged to more than 1,300.

-Niall Ferguson,  The Square and the Tower:  Networks and Power from the Freemasons to Facebook

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


Spiral Staircase..............................More Today Than Yesterday

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Like blogging..............................?




Entrenched..............................


     The ideals behind Grant's presidency were often enlightened, even if the backroom tactics sometimes seemed ignoble.  He had to thrust himself into the middle of byzantine political maneuvering, becoming the true son of his father and accepting the spoils system for the sake of party unity.  Grant has suffered from a double standard in the eyes of historians.  When Lincoln employed patronage for political ends, which he did extensively, they have praised him as a master politician;  when Grant catered to the same spoilsmen, they have denigrated him as a corrupt opportunist.
      Part of Grant's need to placate party bosses was that he presided over government in the heyday of senatorial power.  Senators were still elected by state legislatures controlled by party machines and business interests.  The new political machines, many concentrated in northern cities, made politics a lucrative business for their acolytes.  Meanwhile, safely entrenched in their posts, senators ruled Washington like feudal barons, jealously guarding their turf from presidential interference.  Not having to face voters for reelection, they stood a formidable barriers to any progressive legislation.

-Ron Chernow,   Grant

Growth...............................


     The unceasing pressure for federal jobs that confronted Grant at every step mirrored a far larger phenomenon:  the vast transformation of American government wrought by the war.  Federal power had expanded immeasurably, testing the president's ability to manage the change.  The National Bank Acts, the Homestead Act, the Morrill Act setting up land-grant universities—such wartime measures dramatically broadened Washington's authority.  Boasting fifty-three thousand employees, the federal government ranked as the nation's foremost employer.  Before the war, it had touched citizens' lives mostly through the postal system.  Now it taxed citizens directly, conscripted them into the army, oversaw a national currency, and managed a giant nation debt.  As James M. McPherson has pointed out, eleven of the first twelve amendments to the Constitution constrained governmental power: starting with the Thirteenth Amendment, six of the next seven enlarged it.  The war also centralized power, welding states closer together and forging a new sense of nationhood.  As Grant told a relative, "Since the late civil war the feeling of nationality had become stronger than it had ever been before."  When the first transcontinental railroad, aided by land grants and government bonds, was completed two months after Grant took office, it heralded a new geographic unity in American life.

-Ron Chernow,  Grant

History may not repeat itself, but........


     Fueled by war contracts, the northern economy had burgeoned into a might, productive engine that exploded with entrepreneurial energy, eclipsing the small-scale, largely agricultural antebellum economy and catapulting the country into the front ranks of world powers.  As the flush of wartime idealism faded, the Grant presidency ushered in the Gilded Age, marked by a mad scramble for money and producing colossal new fortunes.  During the postwar boom, industrial trusts began to dominate one industry after another, creating growing inequalities of wealth and spawning a corresponding backlash from labor unions and the general public.  New technologies, especially the railroad and telegraph, made the economy continental in scope, bringing forth modern industries and flooding the country with a cornucopia of consumer products.
     The rise of big business required government assistance, providing fresh opportunities for graft to abound.  With the federal government bound up in new moneymaking activities, there arose a gigantic grab for filthy lucre that affected statehouses as well and saturated the political system with corruption.  Businesses bargained for tax breaks, government contracts, land grants, and other favors, undermining democratic institutions that found it hard to withstand this assault.  The mounting wealth also meant the dominant Republican Party was torn between its idealistic, abolitionist past and its business-oriented future.

-Ron Chernow,  Grant

On growing accustomed to power...................


     In dealing with these changes, Grant inevitably bore a sizable load on his shoulders.  He knew the postwar economic boom was uneven, the South having surrendered half its wealth, while four million freed slaves struggled to find their niche in American society.  He had to deal with the paradox that while demands on the American presidency had grown exponentially, the Congress-dominated system of the Johnson years had drastically weakened the executive branch.  In the nineteenth century, Congress was infinitely more powerful that in the twentieth and senators ruled as headstrong barons whose power often rivaled that of presidents.  Grant had a special conundrum to figure out.  The Radical Republicans who formed his power base were the very people who had asserted congressional power during Andrew Johnson's  impeachment.  The deep-seated habit of promoting congressional prerogatives against the president would be fiendishly difficult to subdue, many senators having grown accustomed to exercising unchecked power.

-Ron Chernow,   Grant

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


Joe South....................................................Games People Play

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Wisdom.........................


...................about investing—and about life its ownself:

"Investing doesn't have to be about beating others or beating the market.  It's about not beating yourself."

-Ben Carlson

On self-judgment................


"Begin your assessment with a prayer of thanks. Every creative journey has its rewards. It’s never wasted time. Put your disappointments aside and look for your bounty."

-Danny Gregory, from this blog post

On the importance of..........................


........................................................................."incrementals".

Talk about motivation..............


"I wrote this book because I needed to read it."

-Austin Kleon, about his book I just ordered

Standards.............................


 Success means doing the best we can with what we have. Success is the doing, not the getting; in the trying, not the triumph. Success is a personal standard, reaching for the highest that is in us, becoming all that we can be.

 -Zig Ziglar

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


Mama Cass........................................................It's Getting Better

Sunday, March 31, 2019

A conundrum....................


The information available to everyone on the planet is growing at an exponential rate.  Anyone with a smartphone today has better mobile phone capabilities than the president of the Unites States did 25 years ago.  We have better access to information than the president had 15 years ago.  We now have an unprecedented amount of information at our fingertips anytime we want it. . . .
     Information flow will only continue to speed up in the future, so we have ourselves a conundrum.  It will become more and more important to separate the meaningful from the meaningless as most people will be continuously trying to drink from the fire hose of information instead of focusing on the truly important areas that they can control.

-Ben Carlson,  from A Wealth Of Common Sense:  Why Simplicity Trumps Complexity In Any Investment Plan

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


      Some writers have so confounded society with government, as to leave little or no distinction between them; whereas they are not only different, but have different origins. Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness; the former promotes our happiness possitively by uniting our affections, the latter negatively by restraining our vices. The one encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions. The first is a patron, the last a punisher.
      Society in every state is a blessing, but Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one: for when we suffer, or are exposed to the same miseries by a Government, which we might expect in a country without Government, our calamity is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer. Government, like dress, is the badge of lost innocence; the palaces of kings are built upon the ruins of the bowers of paradise. For were the impulses of conscience clear, uniform and irresistibly obeyed, man would need no other law-giver; but that not being the case, he finds it necessary to surrender up a part of his property to furnish means for the protection of the rest; and this he is induced to do by the same prudence which in every other case advises him, out of two evils to choose the least. Wherefore, security being the true design and end of government, it unanswerably follows that whatever form thereof appears most likely to ensure it to us, with the least expence and greatest benefit, is preferable to all others.

-Thomas Paine,  Common Sense

Implications.....................




"A house implies a builder, and a garment a weaver, and a door a carpenter, so does the existence of the Universe imply a Creator."

-Akiba

enlargeable image here

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


The Isley Brothers.................................................It's Your Thing



88 Important Truths......................


The first ten:

1. You can’t change other people, and it’s rude to try.
2. It is a hundred times more difficult to burn calories than to refrain from consuming them in the first place.
3. If you’re talking to someone you don’t know well, you may be talking to someone who knows way more about whatever you’re talking about than you do.
4. The cheapest and most expensive models are usually both bad deals.
5. Everyone likes somebody who gets to the point quickly.
6. Bad moods will come and go your whole life, and trying to force them away makes them run deeper and last longer.
7. Children are remarkably honest creatures until we teach them not to be.
8. If everyone in the TV show you’re watching is good-looking, it’s not worth watching.
9. Yelling always makes things worse.
10. Whenever you’re worried about what others will think of you, you’re really just worried about what you’ll think of you.

This I believe.............................




"I find in the universe so many forms of order, organization, system, law, and adjustment of means to ends, that I believe in a cosmic intelligence and I conceive God as the life, mind, order, and law of the world."

-Will Durant

larger image, and description, via

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Revolt of the public.....................?


It wasn’t even clear Trump whether or not wanted to win. Watching him on the trail, Trump at times went beyond seeming disinterested. There were periods where it looked like South Park’s Did I offend you?” thesis was true, and he was actively trying to lose, only the polls just wouldn’t let him.

-Matt Taibbi, as extracted from here

Wondering about this........................


"Nature has instilled in our minds an insatiable desire to see truth."

-Cicero

Perplexity is the beginning of knowledge.....



Youth walked before me and I followed him until we came to a distant field.  There he stopped, and gazed at the clouds that drifted over the horizon like a flock of white lambs.  Then he looked at the trees whose naked branches pointed toward the sky as if praying to Heaven for the return of their foliage.
And I said, "Where are we now, Youth?"
And he replied, "We are in the field of Bewilderment. Take heed."
And I said. "let us go back at once. for this desolate place affrights me, and the sight of the clouds and the naked trees saddens my heart."
And he replied, "Be patient. Perplexity is the beginning of knowledge."  
Then I looked around me and saw a form moving gracefully toward us and I asked, "Who is this woman?"
And Youth replied, "This is Melpomene, daughter of Zeus, and Muse of Tragedy."
"Oh, happy Youth!" I exclaimed, "what does Tragedy want of me, while you are at my side?"
And he answered, "She has come to show you the earth and its sorrows; for he who has not looked on Sorrow will never see Joy."
Then the spirit laid a hand upon my eyes.  When she withdrew it, Youth was gone, and I was alone, divested of my earthly garments, and I cried, "Daughter of Zeus, where is Youth?"
Melpomene did not answer; but took me up under her wings, and carried me to the summit of a high mountain. Below me I saw the earth and all in it, spread out like the pages of a book, upon which were inscribed the secrets of the universe.  I stood in awe beside the maiden, pondered the mystery of Man, and struggled to decipher Life's symbols. 
And I saw woeful things: The Angels of Happiness warring with the Devils of Misery, and standing between them was Man, now drawn one way by Hope and now another by Despair. 
I saw Love and Hate dallying with the human heart; Love concealing Man's guilt and besotting him with the wine of submission, praise and flattery; while Hatred provoked him, and sealed his ears and blinded his eyes to Truth.
And I beheld the city crouching like a child of its slums and snatching at the garment of the son of Adam.  From afar I saw the lovely fields weeping over man's sorrow.  I beheld priests foaming like sly foxes; and false messiahs contriving and conspiring against Man's happiness. 
And I saw Man calling upon Wisdom for deliverance; but Wisdom did not hearken to his cries, for he had contemned her when she spoke to him in the streets of the city.
And I saw preachers gazing in adoration toward the heavens, while their hearts were interred in the pits of Greed.
I saw a youth winning a maiden's heart with sweet speech; but their true feelings were asleep, and their divinity was far away.
I saw the lawmakers chattering idly, selling their wares in the market places of Deceit and Hypocrisy.
I saw physicians toying with the souls of the simple hearted and trustful.  I saw the ignorant sitting with the wise, exalting their past to the throne of glory, adorning their present with the robes of plenty, and preparing a couch of luxury for the future.
 
I saw the wretched poor sowing the seed, and the strong reaping; and oppression, miscalled Law, standing guard. 
I saw the thieves of Ignorance despoiling the treasures of Knowledge, while the sentinels of Light lay drowned in the deep sleep of inaction.
And I saw two lovers; but the woman was like a lute in the hands of a man who cannot play, but understands only harsh sounds.
And I beheld the forces of Knowledge laying siege to the city of Inherited Privilege; but they were few in number and were soon dispersed.

And I saw Freedom walking alone, knocking at doors, and asking for shelter, but no one heeded her pleas. Then I saw Prodigality striding in splendour, and the multitude acclaiming her as Liberty.
 I saw Religion buried in books, and Doubt stood in her place.
And I saw Man, wearing the garments of Patience as a cloak for Cowardice and calling Sloth Tolerance, and Fear Courtesy.
I saw the intruder sitting at the board of Knowledge, uttering folly, but the guests were silent.
I saw gold in the hands of the wasteful, a means of evil-doing; and in the hands of the miserly as a bait for hatred. But in the hands of the wise I saw no gold.
When I beheld all these things, I cried out in pain, "Oh Daughter of Zeus, is this indeed the Earth? Is this Man?"
In a soft and anguished voice she replied, "What you see is the Soul's path, and it is paved with sharp stones and carpeted with thorns. This is only the shadow of Man. This is Night. But wait! Morning will soon be here!"   
Then she laid a gentle hand upon my eyes, and when she withdrew it, behold! There was Youth walking slowly by my side, and ahead of us, leading the way, marched Hope.

-Kahlil Gibran,  Youth and Hope from The Voice Of The Master