Saturday, January 19, 2019
This was the situation in Egypt before the uprising of January 25, 2011. This is the situation in China today. The wealth and brute strength of the modern state are counterbalanced by the vast communicative powers of the public. Filters are placed on web access, police agents monitor suspect websites, foreign newscasters are blocked, domestic bloggers are harassed and thrown in jail—but every incident which tears away at the legitimacy of the regime is seized on by a rebellious public, and is then broadcast and magnified unto criticism goes viral.
The tug of war pits hierarchy against network, power against persuasion, government against the governed: under such conditions of alienation, every inch of political space is contested, and turbulence becomes a permanent feature of political life. . . .
But the rise of Homo informaticus places governments on a razor's edge, where any mistake, any untoward event, can draw a networked public into the streets, calling for blood. This is the situation today for authoritarian governments and liberal democracies alike. The crisis in the world that I seek to depict concerns loss of trust in government, writ large. The mass extinction of stories of legitimacy leaves no margin for error, no residual store of public good will. Any spark can blow up any political system at any time, anywhere.
-Martin Gurri, The Revolt of the Public
Sean Carpenter offers some words of wisdom for the new year:
I stands for Inspiration. I’ve always maintained that motivation must come from inside of us. No one can “motivate you” except yourself. We all have a pilot light deep inside that we must keep burning and if it is extinguished, we must get down and find a spark to re-light it. We can, however, be inspired from outside. It might be a book, movie, song, or person. Find what inspires you and make sure you put more of that in your life.
Ideals are like stars; you will not succeed in touching them with your hands. But like the seafaring man on the desert of waters, you choose them as your guides, and following them you will reach your destiny.
-Carl Schurz, an interesting man
Reviewing your resources from time to time is vital, for it allows you to take stock and to live in the truth. But it also helps you make the resources you do have into something special. It is a point of spiritual strength to give thanks for what you have. There is a tendency for our imaginations to live constantly in the future, concentrating on what we don't have and completely forgetting to acknowledge what has been acquired or achieved. Where you are and what you are right now has to be made right, even if you don't like it that much. Nevertheless, it is you, By criticizing and negating the current circumstances, what you are saying is that you are not okay. What is around you is only an extension of who you are. Look at those things and realize that they are what they are, imperfect though they may be. By accepting the truth, you propel yourself into better circumstances. By resisting, you live in the constant negativity of your own dissatisfaction. Who needs that?
-Stuart Wilde, The Trick To Money Is Having Some
Mo matter how much we struggle for financial abundance, we'll have a hard time attaining it if we disapprove of those who have it. If we're saying one thing but thinking another, we'll always end up with confused results. Many people set themselves up to lose, working hard yet giving an ambivalent message to the universe about whether or not they really want money.
Thoughts like "I want it, but I shouldn't want it, so I guess no, I don't really want it; but actually I do want it, but I don't want to admit that I want it" indicate ambivalence. This confusing mix of thoughts inevitably brings forth a confusing mix of experiences. Many people fail to manifest money because on some deep level they don't think they should.
-Marianne Williamson, The Law of Divine Compensation
Friday, January 18, 2019
When “fairness” [or “fair” trade] replaces “freedom” [or “free” trade] all our liberties are in danger.
There is no objective standard of “fairness” [or “fair” trade]. “Fairness” [or “fair” trade] is strictly in the eye of the beholder. To a producer or seller, a “fair” price is a high price. To the buyer or consumer, a “fair” price is a low price. How is the conflict to be adjudicated? By competition in a free market? Or by government bureaucrats in a “fair” market?
-Milton Friedman, as channeled by Mark Perry
“We were keeping our eye on 1984. When the year came and the prophecy didn't, thoughtful Americans sang softly in praise of themselves. The roots of liberal democracy had held. Wherever else the terror had happened, we, at least, had not been visited by Orwellian nightmares.
But we had forgotten that alongside Orwell's dark vision, there was another - slightly older, slightly less well known, equally chilling: Aldous Huxley's Brave New World. Contrary to common belief even among the educated, Huxley and Orwell did not prophesy the same thing. Orwell warns that we will be overcome by an externally imposed oppression. But in Huxley's vision, no Big Brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity and history. As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think.
What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumble puppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny "failed to take into account man's almost infinite appetite for distractions." In 1984, Orwell added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we fear will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we desire will ruin us.
This book is about the possibility that Huxley, not Orwell, was right.”
Think I need to brush up on my Huxley.
On any given day, you may struggle with your habits because you're too busy or too tired or too overwhelmed or hundreds of other reasons. Over the long run, however, the real reason you fail to stick with habits is that your self-image gets in the way. This is why you can't get too attached to one version of your identity. Progress requires unlearning. Becoming the best version of yourself requires you to continuously edit your beliefs, and to upgrade and expand your identity.
-James Clear, Atomic Habits
In June he addressed the Philadelphia Manufacturers Club, where he urged patience as he struggled to steer the country toward more prosperous times. "The distrust of the present will not be relieved by a distrust in the future," he declared, to applause. "A patriot makes a better citizen than a pessimist."
-Robert W. Merry, President McKinley: Architect of the American Century
Thursday, January 17, 2019
I, Tiberius Claudius Drusus Nero Germanicus This-that-and-the-other (for I shall not trouble you will all my titles) who was once, and not so long ago, known to my friends and relatives and associates as "Claudius the Idiot", or "That Claudius", or "Claudius the Stammerer", or "Clau-Clau-Claudius" or at best "Poor Uncle Claudius" am now about to write this strange history of my life; starting from my earliest childhood and continuing year by year until I reach the fateful point of change where, about eight years ago, at the age of fifty-one, I suddenly found myself caught in what I may call the "golden predicament" from which I have never since become disentangled.
-Robert Graves, I, Claudius: From The Autobiography of Tiberius Claudius Born 10 B.C. Murdered And Deified A.D. 54
In a market which is increasingly open and increasingly global, businesses simply have to be better and good is no longer good enough. . . . everyone is your competitor.
So what's to be done? Raise your standards. Ah - but how do you do that? Firstly understand the scale of standards. Your organization has a certain competence, talent, ability, call it what you will. Use it, 'squeeze it to the max', whatever that might be. But you can multiply its effectiveness many times by your decisions. And one decision is to raise your standards.
Here's my standards scale: Dire, poor, OK, good, very good, excellent, outstanding, awe-inspiring.
-Nicholas Bate, Instant MBA: Think, perform and earn like a top business-school graduate: 52 brilliant ideas
..................................and psychology on the economy has always seemed vastly underrated.
Observing the tariff bill's emergence from across the Atlantic, the London Standard's editor concluded that the legislation's "ultra-protectionism" would guarantee Britain's continued supremacy in the overseas carrying trade. He foresaw for America political and economic havoc in the form of "further deficits, gold shipments, a fatiguing succession of strikes and panics and fanatics as political saviors." It didn't turn out that way. The country's devastating deflationary spiral that had begun in 1891 had turned around, with raw-material prices reaching their lowest point in 1896 and manufacturing goods beginning a steady rise in value about a year later. This turnaround unleashed a spurt of economic activity, with mining, manufacturing, and farming all contributing potent spurts of productivity and growth. Not even high tariffs could dampen this surge of economic activity. "Wealth of all descriptions began to increase in an unheard of way," wrote Tarbell. Commercial interests quickly credited the president with these favorable portents, and McKinley naturally took pride in what he viewed as the vindication of his decades-long protectionist embrace, though the evidence was scant that the new tariffs actually had any impact on the economic rebound. The "business men of both parties not only express satisfaction with the situation," New York's John McCook wrote to the president, "but rightly attribute the results accomplished, to the manner in which you have been able to . . . carry through what was practically an adverse Senate, the tariff legislation."
-Robert W. Merry, President McKinley: Architect of the American Century
Wednesday, January 16, 2019
“Spirituality isn't some quaint stepchild of an intelligent worldview, or the only option for those of us not smart enough to understand the facts of the real world. Spirituality reflects the most sophisticated mindset, and the most powerful force available for the transformation of human suffering.”
Overall, don't manage time, manage your decisions. Slow down to the speed of your thinking as it's your greatest asset, and do a little less to achieve a whole lot more.
-Nicholas Bate, from Instant MBA: Think, perform and earn like a top business-school graduate: 52 brilliant ideas
At the book store.................................................................
The music-room in the Governor's House at Port Mahon, a tall, handsome, pillared octagon, was filled with the triumphant first movement of Locatelli's C major quartet. The players, Italians pinned against the far wall by rows and rows of little round gilt chairs, were playing with passionate conviction as they mounted towards the penultimate crescendo, towards the tremendous pause and the deep liberating final chord. And on the little gilt chairs at least some of the audience were following the rise with an equal intensity: there were two in the third row, on the left-hand side; and they happened to be sitting next to one another. The listener farther to the left was a man of between twenty and thirty whose big form overflowed his seat, leaving only a streak of gilt wood to be seen here and there. He was wearing his best uniform -- the while lapelled blue coat, white waistcoat, breeches and stockings of a lieutenant in the Royal Navy. with the silver medal of the Nile in his buttonhole -- and the deep white cuff of his gold-buttoned sleeve beat the time, while his bright blue eyes, staring from what would have been a pink-and-white face it it had not been so deeply tanned, gazed fixedly at the bow of the first violin. The high note came, the pause, the resolution, and with the resolution the sailor's fist swept firmly down upon his knee. He leant back in his chair, extinguishing it entirely, sighed happily and turned towards his neighbor with a smile. The words 'Very finely played, sir. I believe' were formed in his gullet if not quite in his mouth when he caught the cold and indeed inimical look and heard the whisper, 'If you really must beat the measure, sir, let me entreat you to do so in time, and not half a beat ahead.'
Patrick O'Brian, being the opening paragraph from Master & Commander
1. In his essay, Male Nipples and Clitoral Ripples, Stephen Jay Gould quotes the Marquis de Condorcet, "The perfectibility of man is really boundless. . . . It has not other limit than the duration of the globe where nature has set us." Wondering abound Condorcet and that quote, a quick check with the gnomes at Google was made, eventually leading me to John Passmore's 1969 essay, The Perfectibility of Man. Passmore's essay runs us through the entire encyclopedia of philosophers before ultimately concluding that the improvement of man is possible, even desirable; perfectibility—not so much.
"Men, almost certainly, are capable of more than they have ever so far achieved. But what they achieve, or so I have suggested, will be a consequence of their remaining anxious, passionate, discontented human beings. To attempt, in the quest for perfection, to raise men above that level is to court disaster; there is no level above it, there is only a level below it. "
2. Bertrand Russell's essay, Ideas That Have Helped Mankind.
"Democracy was invented as a device for reconciling government with liberty. It is clear that government is necessary if anything worthy to be called civilization is to exist, but all history shows that any set of men entrusted with power over another set will abuse their power if they can do so with impunity. Democracy is intended to make men's tenure of power temporary and dependent upon popular approval. In so far as it achieves this it prevents the worst abuses of power."
3. Ninety years ago yesterday, Martin Luther King, Jr. was born. One forgets how young he was when he was assassinated. King's Letter From Birmingham Jail is likely one of the most amazing essays you will ever read:
You may well ask, "Why direct action, why sit-ins, marches, and so forth? Isn't negotiation a better path?" You are exactly right in your call for negotiation. Indeed, this is the purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and establish such creative tension that a community that has consistently refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. I just referred to the creation of tension as a part of the work of the nonviolent resister. This may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word "tension." I have earnestly worked and preached against violent tension, but there is a type of constructive nonviolent tension that is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half-truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, we must see the need of having nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men to rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood. So, the purpose of direct action is to create a situation so crisis-packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation. We therefore concur with you in your call for negotiation. Too long has our beloved Southland been bogged down in the tragic attempt to live in monologue rather than dialogue.
So, we live in a time of great uncertainty, brought about by great political uncertainty. Great uncertainty leads to volatility. Volatility means that stocks are more risky, and thus must pay a greater expected return to get people to hold them. The only way for the expected future return to rise, is for today’s price to go down. So we see a correction – mild so far, to compensate for the mild risk of holding stocks through a few months of ups and downs.
-John Cochrane, as excerpted from here
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: