Saturday, November 14, 2015
.........................about the notion of "universal values"? At the :19 mark, the President says "an attack on all of humanity and the universal values we share." I'm wondering if the current and previous administrations aren't/weren't seriously confused on this issue. I would agree that history would seem to indicate that, for the most part, for the past three hundred years or so, "western civilization" has shared a set of common values. Acting on the thought process of extrapolating that, since the "west" thinks this way, "all of humanity" thinks this way has caused us considerable heartbreak.
Ed Note: As I tend to do when confused by an issue, the Oracle Google was consulted. Under the heading "Universal value", this was found: "Whether universal values exist is an unproven conjecture of moral philosophy and cultural anthropology..." Hmm. Culture matters. Not all cultures are the same. Forget that at your own peril. Just saying.
The amount of solar energy that hits our atmosphere has been well established at 174 petawatts (1.740 x 10^17 watts), plus or minus 3.5 percent. Out of this total solar flux, approximately half reaches the Earth's surface. Since humanity currently consumes about 16 terawatts annually (going by 2008 numbers), there's over five thousand times more solar energy falling on the planet's surface than we use in a year. Once again, it's not an issue of scarcity, it's an issue of accessibility.
Moreover, as far as water wars are concerned. Masdar sits on the Persian Gulf - which is a mighty aqueous body. The Earth itself is a water planet, covered 70 percent by oceans. But these oceans, like the Persian Gulf, are far too salty for consumption or crop production. In fact, 97.3 percent of all water on this planet is salt water. What if, though, in the same way that electrolysis easily transformed bauxite into aluminum, a new technology could desalinate just a minute fraction of our oceans? How thirsty is Masdar then?
The point is this: When seen through the lens of technology, few resources are truly scarce; they're mainly inaccessible. Yet the threat of scarcity still dominates our worldview.
-Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler, Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think
This is a book about a handful of men with a curious claim to fame. By all the rules of schoolboy history books, they were nonentities: they commanded no armies, sent no men to their deaths, ruled no empires, took little part in history-making decisions. A few of them achieved renown, but none was ever a national hero; a few were roundly abused, but none was ever quite a national villain. Yet what they did was more decisive for history than many acts of statesmen who basked in brighter glory, often more profoundly disturbing than the shuffling of armies back and forth across frontiers, more powerful for good and bad than the edicts of kings and legislatures. It was this: they shaped and swayed men's minds.
And because he who enlists a man's mind wields a power even greater than the sword or the scepter, these men shaped and swayed the world. Few of them ever lifted a finger in action; they worked, in the main, as scholars - quietly, inconspicuously, and without much regard for what the world had to say about them. But they left in their train shattered empires and exploded continents; they buttressed and undermined political regimes; they set class against class and even nation against nation - not because they plotted mischief, but because of the extraordinary power of their ideas.
Who were these men? We know them as the Great Economists. ...
-Robert L. Heilbroner, The Worldly Philosophers: The Lives, Times, and Ideas of the Great Economic Thinkers
This raises another question about the morality of means and ends. We have already noted that in essence. mankind divides itself into three groups: the Have-Nots, the Have-a-Little, Want-Mores, and the Haves. The purpose of the Haves is to keep what they have. Therefore, the Haves want to maintain the status quo and the Have-Nots to change it. The Haves develop their own morality to justify their means of repression and all other means employed to maintain the status quo. The Haves usually establish laws and judges devoted to maintaining the status quo; since any effective means of changing the status quo are usually illegal and/or unethical in the eyes of the establishment. Have-Nots, from the beginning of time, have been compelled to appeal to "a law higher than man-made law." Then when the Have-Nots achieve success and become the Haves, they are in the position of trying to keep what they have and their morality shifts with their change of location in the power pattern.
I do not know if the next paragraph is true, The Oracle Google was not consulted, but holy wow!
Eight months after securing independence, the Indian National Congress outlawed passive resistance and made it a crime. It was one thing for them to use the means of passive resistance against the previous Haves, but now in power they were going to ensure that this means would not be used against them! No longer as Have-Nots were they appealing to laws higher than man-made law. Now that they were making the laws, they were on the side of man-made laws! Hunger strikes - used so effectively in the revolution - were viewed differently now too. Nehru, in the interview mentioned above, said: "The government will not be influenced by hunger strikes ... To tell the truth I didn't approve of fasting as a political weapon even when Gandhi practiced it."
-both paragraphs from Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals; mid-post comment by me.
We humans scorn what is not concrete. We are more easily swayed by a crying baby that by thousands of people dying elsewhere that do not make it to our living room through the TV set. The one case is a tragedy, the other a statistic. Our emotional energy is blind to probability. The media make things worse as they play on our infatuation with anecdotes, our thirst for the sensational, and they cause a great deal of unfairness that way. As the present time, one person is dying of diabetes every seven seconds, but the news can only talk about victims of hurricanes with houses flying in the air.
-Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Antifragile: Thing That Gain from Disorder
Friday, November 13, 2015
Thursday, November 12, 2015
Childhood is a magical time. There are so many new experiences, so many things to do and see. That’s one reason I decided to take Xavier with me to toddler yoga. It’s a safe place to meet other kids, try something new, and have fun. It’s also the perfect place for him to learn how to vanquish his enemies and conquer the entire fucking world. This will be his legacy. This will be my legacy.
-as excerpted from this McSweeny's Internet Tendency blog post
"Regulation is often the enemy of competition. Where regulation prescribes the conduct of business in considerable detail, it is inevitable that all firms will behave similarly: a particular conception of 'best practice' will be shared between regulators and regulatees. Incumbent firms with close links to agencies may use regulation to resist innovation and raise barriers to new entrants."
-John Kay, Other People's Money: The Real Business of Finance
Wednesday, November 11, 2015
I want gezelligheid in my life. I want to create a sense of gezelligheid for my loved ones. I want my home to ooze gezelligheid. I want to make people feel gezelligheid just by being around me. Lofty goals, but from the moment I learned of the word, I got it. It’s the word that expresses something that I literally yearn to have/be/create.
-Gina, as excepted from here
“If our school system exists, not in view of a chosen minority, but in view of all, its average level should answer the average level of the population as a whole. Hence the unavoidable consequence that the best gifted among the pupils will be discriminated against. Nor should we imagine that creative minds will multiply in direct proportion to the growth of the school population. The reverse is much more likely to happen. In aristocratic societies, genius has often found access to higher culture, even under adverse circumstances; in democratic societies, it will have no higher culture to which to gain access. Since equality in ignorance is easier to achieve than equality in learning, each and every teacher will have to equalize his class at the bottom level rather than at the top one, and the whole school system will spontaneously obey the same law. It is anti-democratic to teach all children what only some of them are able to learn. Nay, it is anti-democratic to teach what all children can learn by means of methods which only a minority of pupils are able to follow. Since, as has been said, democracy stands for equality, democratic societies have a duty to teach only what is accessible to all and to see to it that it be made accessible to all. The overwhelming weight of their school population is therefore bound to lower the centre of gravity in their school systems. The first peril for democracies, therefore, is to consider it their duty, in order to educate all citizens, to teach each of them less and less and in a less and less intelligent way.”
“There comes a time in your life, when you walk away from all the drama and people who create it. You surround yourself with people who make you laugh. Forget the bad and focus on the good. Love the people who treat you right, pray for the ones who do not. Life is too short to be anything but happy. Falling down is a part of life, getting back up is living.”
-José N. Harris
Tuesday, November 10, 2015
"A man only begins to be a man when he ceases to whine and revile, and commences to search for the hidden justice which regulates his life. And as he adapts his mind to that regulating factor, he ceases to accuse others as the cause of his condition, and builds himself up in strong and noble thoughts; ceases to kick against circumstances, but begins to use them as aids to his more rapid progress, and as a means of discovering the hidden powers and possibilities within himself."
-James Allen, As A Man Thinketh
“People always make the mistake of thinking art is created for them. But really, art is a private language for sophisticates to congratulate themselves on their superiority to the rest of the world. As my artist’s statement explains, my work is utterly incomprehensible and is therefore full of deep significance.”
-Bill Watterson of Calvin and Hobbes fame
Bruce Eric Kaplan cartoon from here
"Never wear your best trousers when you go out to fight for freedom and truth."
-Dr. Stockman, as channeled by Henrik Ibsen in An Enemy of the People
"The complexity of modern finance has been designed, and has operated, principally to benefit financial intermediaries rather that the users of financial services. The claims of Alan Greenspan, Timothy Geithner and others, that the innovative use of new instruments made the financial system more robust, were false. Interdependencies between financial institutions have increased to a point at which the system as a whole displays fragility born of complexity."
-John Kay, Other People's Money: The Real Business of Finance
Monday, November 9, 2015
Julie Andrews..............................................The Hills Are Live
The hills are alive,
With the sound of music
With songs they have sung
For a thousand years
The hills fill my heart,
With the sound of music
My heart wants to sing
Every song it hears
My heart wants to beat
Like the wings of the birds
That rise from the lake to the trees
My heart wants to sigh
Like a chime that flies
From a church on a breeze
To laugh like a brook
When it trips and falls
Over stones on its way
To sing through the night
Like a lark
Who is learning to pray
I go to the hills
When my heart is lonely
I know I will hear
What I've heard before
My heart will be blessed,
With the sound of music
And I'll sing once more.
......................................................with the Uberization of money?
The most immediate change will be an explosion in peer-to-peer lending. Just as Uber returns us to a world where anyone with a car could offer a ride to anyone with a thumb, peer-to-peer lending is both new and old. Before there was a robust retail and commercial banking system, there were people with money to lend and people who wanted to borrow it. But the current wave of peer-to-peer services takes this much further, into a hypercharged virtual realm where pools of small lenders can combine online to disperse pools of small loans. And they can do it without the friction, cost or heavy regulatory hurdles of traditional banking.
-as extracted from this WSJ published essay on the topic.
For almost forty years, we have watched, with more than a passing interest, the intersection of real estate and finance. We don't know much for certain, but we are fairly sure that any financial practice that can be described as "hypercharged" will end badly.
One of the frictions involved with borrowing from traditional banks is their quaint notion of return of capital as well as return on capital. Or more plainly stated, they firmly believe that they should get their principal back, with interest and on time. This may seem odd, but one of the major causes of the late recent economic unpleasantness was Wall Street's hunger for more securitized mortgage products to sell. That hunger had grown exponentially once Wall Street learned that they could disconnect, without risks to themselves, the act of first lending money from the second act of getting the money back, with interest, over time, and on time. That simple disconnect almost brought down our financial system. It will be interesting to watch how the latest innovations in "peer-to-peer" financing handle the all important repayment issue.
..............................if an "economic civil war" is on the horizon.
I assumed it was going to be another story of us Boomers vs the Youngsters. Nope. Bad assumption. It is Joel Kotkin's take on the growing conflict between high tech and industry. A few excerpts:
In contrast to engineers laboring in Houston or Detroit, those who work in Silicon Valley focus largely on the intangible economy based on media and software. The denizens of the various social media, and big data firms have little appreciation of the difficulties faced by those who build their products, create their energy, and grow their food. Unlike the factory or port economies of the past, those with jobs in the new “creative” economy also have little meaningful interaction with working class labor, even as they finance politicians who claim to speak for those blue collar voters.
The love-fest between Obama and Silicon Valley grows from a common belief in being extraordinary. The same media that has marveled at Obama’s celebrated brilliance also hails Silicon Valley’s ascendency as a triumph of brains over brawn.
Full post is here.
Sunday, November 8, 2015
I have known about Saul Alinsky since I was a kid growing up in the '60's. His efforts at "community organizing" did not always meet with approval with my parents' generation, and I suppose, instinctively and without ever actually reading his works, I picked up their bias. Chicago based community organizers have been much in the news here of late. At some point the question floated by, "what did Alinsky really say?" Since he wrote a book, it seemed like an easy question to answer. Still in the early pages, but this paragraph is interesting:
Does this then mean that the organizer in a free society for a free society is rudderless? No, I believe that he has a far better sense of direction and compass than the closed-society organizer with his rigid political ideology. First, the free-society organizer is loose, resilient, fluid, and on the move in a society which is itself in a state of constant change. To the extent that he is free from the shackles of dogma, he can respond to the realities of the widely different situations our society presents. In the end he has one conviction - a belief that if people have the power to act, in the long run they will, most of the time, reach the right decisions. The alternative to this would be rule by the elite - either a dictatorship or some form of a political aristocracy. I am not concerned if this faith in people is regarded as a prime truth and therefore a contradiction of what I have already written, for life is a story of contradictions. Believing in people, the radical has the job of organizing them so that they will have the power and opportunity to best meet each unforeseeable future crisis as the move ahead in their eternal search for those values of equality, justice, freedom, peace, a deep concern for the preciousness of human life, and all those rights and values propounded by Judaeo-Christianity and the democratic political tradition. Democracy is not an end but the best means toward achieving these values. This is my credo for which I live and, if need be, die.
The Zero Hedge blog points to an obvious fact about Social Security: there will be some solvency issues. The big and unanswered questions are why? and what to do?
We could point a finger at the government, as he does:
Ultimately this is a just another chapter in the same story– that government cannot be relied on to provide or produce, only to squander and fail.
Or, we could point a finger at us boomer citizens, as he also does:
The US Government Accountability Office recently released a report showing that tens of millions of Americans haven’t saved a penny for retirement; and roughly half of Baby Boomers have zero retirement savings.
Ultimately though, haven't we, as a society, become confused about the responsibility of control over our own lives? To wit:
Financial literacy is absolutely critical here, which includes the ability to both generate income and manage money, two things that aren’t taught in the government controlled education system.
Ultimately, learning to rely on yourself is no easy task, but it is an incredible opportunity to become more free.
Can I get an Amen............................................?
Ed Note: For further understanding, and a lesson in government-speak, you may want to read this.