Saturday, October 23, 2010

Thought on mortality

I was reading the intro to a book on Happiness the other day, and he asked: if you knew you were going to die in 15 minutes, what would you do? I thought about it, and decided I would do whatever I was going to do anyway.

In a very real sense, everything you do matters, but it also doesn't matter at all. It is the relative motion that matters. For me, I feel like I have been swimming upstream without break my entire life. I don't say that to complain, simply as a statement of fact: that's how I feel.

Yet, I have kept going. I have not faltered. I have fought my battles, and constantly struggled to do what is right, and further to the best of my ability what is Good in this world. I have never let up.

So whether my time comes soon or many years from now, I think I will face it in the spirit in which you get a cavity filled. It's not something I look forward to, but it is something that is necessary. If I am right, then life is better and easier on the other side. If I am wrong in my metaphysics, then I will never know it.

Either way, I have no regrets. I have done with my time what I can. As Camus put it, "Judgement day is every day." If you remember that, then I think you can go out calmly.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Madison Caveat

In one of the Federalists--I think it was 51, but don't quote me--Madison commented that if we were all angels, we would need no government. As I think about it, that is in fact the task: coverting ourselves en masse to angels. This is the only path forward to sustaining liberal orders, and preventing the emergence of autocratic world government.

In the end, the doctrine of Goodness is one trending towards benign political anarchy. No need for a UN, standing armies, or even police. This is the goal. I have provided one means.

Further thought on Demand side economics

Viewed as a strategic thrust in its totality, Demand side economics is about the State making purchasing decisions for the public. It is about funding projects whose economic utility is between uncertain and nil. Is it really the lack of a road or dam that slows economic progress, when no one wanted to use the road anyway, and when access to power already exceeded what was needed?

Ponder this: as we sit in our collective chairs this Sunday, looking at the future, no few American consumer and businesspeople have money THEY DON'T WANT TO SPEND. Why not? The future is uncertain. It's unclear what effect Obamacare--if unrepealed--necessary tax increases, and possible discretionary energy tax hikes will have on our economic life, especially if the Democrats somehow hold on to one or both chambers of Congress.

In the real world, people understand that your savings is your cushion against the unexpected. It is your cushion--with insurance--against unexpected loss, injury, unemployment. It is also your nest egg, to be used in old age, or to invest in a business. Keynesians want that nest egg. They have literally engineered an internally consistent economic theology in which you are better off giving your money to the State now, in exhange for the guarantee of benefits. They take your money, and give you unemployment benefits, health benefits, retirement money, and every other little thing your heart could desire. They just WANT YOUR MONEY. Give it to them, and nobody gets hurt. Don't give it to them, they will take it through taxes and inflation. One way or the other, and they get it.

This is the goal. What would rational economic thinking look like?

Let us look at the glut situation. You have too many cars. What do you do? Sell them at a loss, reduce production, and INVENT SOMETHING NEW that people actually want to buy. Come out with a new model, such that the sex appeal or fundamental value is so powerful that people spend their money on it. This creates profit, which gets reinvested, which causes job growth.

The problem is that innovation cannot work to produce growth if no PRIVATE capital is laying around, and the surest way to KEEP--not get, but KEEP--private capital in circulation is by not confiscating it in the first place through taxation or onerous regulation that bulks up costs that can't easily be passed along.

There can be no question that Supply Side Economics (aka common sense) works. The people who practice it always run deficits because they increase their SPENDING. It happened under Reagan and both Bush's. It didn't happen under Clinton since he had an activist conservative Congress for 6 of his 8 years. Even they, though, did almost nothing to address the debt.

We need to be clear: nothing short of a revolutionary fix is going to make the some $600 billion we pay (or soon will) annually in interest go away. How in God's name do people worry about Halliburton, when they could be thinking about the people who get this money, year in, year out, guaranteed by the US Taxpayers? Halliburton, as big as it is, is chump change.

Again, my fix makes all this go away, eradicates the vestiges of Keynesism and what for lack of a better term I have called "Monetary Mercantilism", and puts on a just economic footing as a nation--and potentially as a planet--for the first time EVER.

Demand side economics/aka Keynesism

First off, the term "Supply Side" economics did not exist until Keynes hoodwinked several generations of American economists and politicians that you could spend you way into prosperity. Obviously, it doesn't work, but academics and pol's have always been quite content simply to have a scape-goat for their failures.

I want to look at this in a bit more detail, though. The stupidity will shine through--or darken the room, as you prefer--soon enough.

Here is the argument: a recession is called by the systemic glut caused when people save rather than spend their money. Companies have made something--say cars--expecting to sell them, and horror of horrors no one wants to buy them, at least at the price they are charging. How exactly this happens, I don't think he's quite clear. Let's say it is a "loss of confidence".

If the companies can't sell the cars, then they can't maintain their current levels of employment. If they don't do that, then they law people off, such that the ability of the overall public to consume is reduced, causing the glut to be even worse. Money is needed to eliminate the glut, keep those people employed, and keep the economy moving.

Keynes offers two solutions. First in the long term he wants direct State control of personal and corporate savings, such that it can be allocated in a "rational" way by smart people like him, what he termed a Salariat, modelled on that found in the Soviet Union.

Phrased alternatively, he wants a Command economy, at least when it comes to private capital. He wants to be able to control not just the rate of savings, but the ability of people to move their (own) money in and out of the country. He wants a hermetically sealed system, of precisely the Fascist sort, which is why Mussollini thought so highly of him, in the only almost honest exposition of his real objectives, in his piece "The End of Laissez Faire".

Secondly, if the private sector lacks the will or ability to spend, then the government has to take up the "slack". Since by definition the economy is in a slow down, the government will have to use deficit spending to inject cash into the system. Tax revenues will be down, and any surpluses already spent. This money is spent. It really doesn't matter what it is spent on--with his "multiplier" effect, it will sooner or later eliminate the glut.

What has happened, then? Our government has taken the money of the taxpayers, and in effect paid off the debts of a particular industry--say cars--with borrowed money we will now owe interest payments on.

Reasonable Questions: How is it that we have not made our situation worse? What is to prevent that same industry from again running up a glut?

Ponder what was done: the taxpayers still owe, in reality, all that money to the automotive industry. We didn't really pay them back. The situation at Point A (pre-loan) remains, on the books, the same. No final solution has been achieved. And not only has the problem not been solved, we now have to pay back MORE than we otherwise would have had to, since we have to pay interest on our national debt. And as anyone with credit card debt knows, you can make the minimum payment literally FOREVER, and never touch the principle. And in point of fact, some part of our current debt dates back to the 1930's. Our net national debt has never reached zero. The Treasury Bonds, when they reach maturity, are just rolled over. It is precisely equal to paying credit card debt YOUR ENTIRE LIFE. In so doing, you eventually pay back 3-4-5 or more times whatever the initial principle was.

And to the point, if there was a glut initially, it was due to failing to adhere to business fundamentals. Price--as any competent, sincere economist (in short supply, admittedly)--is an informational signalling system which indicates the current demand for whatever supply you intend to make. Within a free market, no long term misallocation of production resources is possible. As sales decline--say everyone owns a car already--then production will decline. As sales increase, production will increase.

Quite obviously, it is sheer lunacy to say that the health of our economy depends entirely on consumer spending. It depends on job creation, which is the result of people perceiving business opportunities, and having the available capital to take advantage of them.

Capitalism is a system for converting innovation into wealth. It is a system for developing new markets, new products, new distribution systems, and improved efficiency. When it works properly EVERYONE saves money, such that in the long run EVERYONE becomes a Capitalist. The lifeblood of economic health and freedom is small business.

What disrupts this process is not savings, but the theft of savings as a result of monetary policy. Keynes--socialist bastard that he was--well understood this. Consider this quote, from 1920:
Lenin is said to have declared that the best way to destroy the capitalist system was to debauch the currency. By a continuing process of inflation, governments can confiscate, secretly and unobserved, an important part of the wealth of their citizens. By this method they not only confiscate, but they confiscate arbitrarily; and, while the process impoverishes many, it actually enriches some. The sight of this arbitrary rearrangement of riches strikes not only at security but [also] at confidence in the equity of the existing distribution of wealth.

Those to whom the system brings windfalls, beyond their deserts and even beyond their expectations or desires, become "profiteers," who are the object of the hatred of the bourgeoisie, whom the inflationism has impoverished, not less than of the proletariat. As the inflation proceeds and the real value of the currency fluctuates wildly from month to month, all permanent relations between debtors and creditors, which form the ultimate foundation of capitalism, become so utterly disordered as to be almost meaningless; and the process of wealth-getting degenerates into a gamble and a lottery.

Lenin was certainly right. There is no subtler, no surer means of overturning the existing basis of society than to debauch the currency. The process engages all the hidden forces of economic law on the side of destruction, and does it in a manner which not one man in a million is able to diagnose.

Let me be clear: I don't think Keynes was so stupid that he encouraged governments to intentionally, overtly engage in inflationary spending. He was quite clever and always thought a few moves ahead. This trait--and the culturally congenital stupidity and moral cowardice of most modern economics--is what has enabled his patent nonsense to continue being preached as gospel.

But take the case of the Great Depression. Irrefutable are the following facts: the Federal Reserve consciously pursued inflationary policies in the early 1920's, and deflationary policies from about 1928 to 1933. Inflation, to be clear, cannot happen unless someone gets something for nothing. As Keynes admits, it "enriches some".

Also irrefutable is that there was a run on our gold, by parties unknown, which led to a devaluation crisis that in turn led to the closure of some one half of American banks. In essence, our currenty was theoretically backed by some percentage of gold. The amount doesn't matter. Let us say that we had agreed to only print $100 per ounce of gold. People back then had the choice of taking money and redeeming it for gold. They wouldn't do it, unless they thought the gold was worth more than the cash. In other words, unless the government had inflated the money supply.
In that case, you could get $200 face value of gold for $100 dollars.

This sort of thing is what causes runs on currency. All currency trading is, is trying to figure out which nations are inflating the most. You keep the lower inflation currencies, and sell the higher inflation currencies. In a highly revealing detail, Keynes--privy to much inside information around the world--made millions off of daily currency speculation. He understood currency manipulation like the back of his hand. He engaged in it daily for most of his adult life.

How does Keynes, then, get private savings into the hands of the government? How does he force inflation which favors a few at the expense of the many, without making his intention (the above quote was from a best selling book he wrote, and quite public) obvious?

Let's look at a foreign example, then a domestic one. Watch the movie "Life and Debt". Jamaica, following England freeing her from direct control, was in an economic mess. They needed money for development. The IMF came in with loans, but required all sorts of stipulations, including the prevention of any trade barriers, State support of any industries, and a demand that their currency be devalued.

We always see this infernal demand for currency devaluation. What is happening, is that whoever and spends that money--usually the government--and whoever gets that money--usually a power elite--benefits. Everyone else suffers. The reason that is always offered for the loans is that it "enables exports."

Reading most of the jackasses posing as serious thinkers and wearing the suits of economists, one would think that no self sufficient economy could ever be possible. Jamaica was always destined, from Day One, to being an economic subordinate and dependent. Yet, they had many indigenous industries--farming, dairy and the like--that were absolutely wrecked, moving them from self production to importation. Now, most everything they consume comes from other countries.

Their money won't buy hardly anything. Theoretically, when you devalue your currency through inflation, you make your exports cheaper. For example. China seems to have done this. The problem, though, is that life for the ordinary citizen gets much harder, since inflation prevents true entrepreneurialism from taking root. It prevents the emergence of private capital. China as a whole--once you get past the top tier of their Class System--is facing hard working conditions, with increasingly little to show for it. They are being used, in effect by their own government acting as an imperialist power, to make a very few very rich.

This is the flip side of inflation/currency devaluation: it also makes it easier for people holding other currencies to buy up your country. Remember, the IMF forced you to allow this as part of the agreement.

And remember too that loans come due. The loans dont' work. They peter out. And yet you have to repay them. What do most countries do? Another round of inflation, combined with another deal with the devil.

Let's look at a so-called "Keynesian Stimulus" here in the US. Money is printed and spent. It is spent, say, on green jobs, whose intrinsic value is a matter of utter indifference. As such, in "stimulus" conditions, normal pricing signals are completely absent. While the money is flowing, you do well. You take that money and invest further in infrastructure and head counts. Then at some point the money runs out. If you're lucky, you might have a viable business. Much more likely, though, you are grotesquely overvalued, and what you have built will wither on the vine and die. The system eliminated the normal fail-safe mechanism from the equation, resulting in nothing but waste. Money is now owed, but it is now gone, and over time a multiple of what was owed will be paid, since the debt will never to ended.

How is this money paid? In the end, with inflation. With a truly stable currency, there would be NO inflation. On the contrary, unless stolen by the State and a power elite, the purchasing power of our money should--would--be steadily increasing. I make this full case on my other web page, here:

In the end, Keynes wanted all private capital to disappear, for all wealth to be dependent on the ability of the government to outlast everyone, in that it could create money, and with that power destroy any and all other money and wealth--and power--that could stand against it.

People need to grasp these realities. Moral midgets like Paul Krugman continue to hawk this salt water as the one and only solution for thirst.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Such a day

On such a day,
how can I do math?
Numbers scurry, then
disappear, apologizing.

What foolishness to wonder
who I am.

My desires: you can have them.
As for me, I will hold on to

Channelling my inner Rumi. I make no claims for the quality of the poem, but it is what I felt. If I have any readers, I would encourage you to write bad poetry from time to time as well. Many of the best poets were insincere, but--as Oscar Wilde reminds us--you and I mean it. That makes all the difference.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Dream of Peace

I was pondering last night, with a vague ache, that I have feared for the end of the world since learning of nuclear weapons. I was in high school at the height of the arms race, and feared often it would get set off.

More generally, though, I think many of us fear strip malls, too. We fear television. We fear packaged frozen chimichangas.

What do I mean by this? This: we fear banality. I remember growing up thinking "is this all there is?" Another cherry slurpee at Circle K? Another movie with Clint Eastwood shooting someone? Gilligan's Island?

Then you finally score with the girl, and it wasn't quite what you thought it would be. Somehow looking at all those girlie magazines you had conjured something--different. And the girls, of course, are always compromising, compromising, compromising. They think their love fantasies will be met if they just give the boys what they want. And they are almost always disappointed. None of us grow up with honor. We grow up with Sweet-Tarts, and playing video games, and cops and robbers. We are rude to our parents, who fall all over themselves trying to diagnose our moods.

We go to air conditioned moview theaters, and watch insipid humor, or insipid, morally meaningless violence, while eating popcorn and sipping on carbonated syrup.

We tend to marry for convenience, in something that might feel like love, but is really something else, and that first marriage fails at least as often as it succeeds. We have to find ourselves. We have to try new things, meet new people.

Then it is the same crowd, themselves recently dispossessed of someone else, so they, too, could "meet new people".

Ennui, mid-life crisis: what to do? Take up yoga? Skydiving?

To my mind, this is another cataclysm, a soft one, a creeping one, a moral one. Evil easily enough creeps into this world. It has legs in this world, of people who longer know themselves or one another because they have been led by the hand through their lives by a sybaritic desire for easy pleasures, and simple decisions. They don't exist, because they have never been asked to exist.

This is what political radicalism offers for many. It is the root of Nazism, Fascism, Communism. It is the root of black magic and actual sacrificial cults, of genuine Satanism, which I think we will find in our midst at some point, shocking the media and rest of us alike. But we will know, on some level, that all was not perfect in our land, the plastic facades and glittering showrooms notwithstanding.

We need to do better, and this starts with honesty and courage. It starts with taking the harder path because it is the right path. It starts with refusing the easy ride offered to you by a smiling stranger in his car, leading, he says, to a sense of purpose without effort, belonging without identity, and growth that results from no decision of yours.

We can survive. We can even thrive. We can build heaven on Earth. But first we must tell ourselves the truth about who we are and what we have built. We have built peace. We have built a generally kind, overly tolerant people. But inside I think many are alone, lost, despondent, and vulnerable.

Friday, October 8, 2010

We have a Command Economy in money

Once a product has been created, it can move wherever it wants, in a free market. In a Command economy, decisions are made centrally as to what is going to be produced, and where it is going to be allocated. From there, local bosses can make specific decisions.

The Federal Government really doesn't have the power to create money. It can BORROW money from the Fed, but it can't, technically, create it. For appearance sake, our actual cash money and coin is printed by the Treasury, but it is placed into circulation by the Fed.

Banks are required to keep a certain amount of their "Reserves" (it's not clear to me they don't loan everything out every day, then "top off" using Federal Funds money to stay solvent at midnight; that process could continue forever if they borrow it at 0%, the current targeted rate, and loan it out at virtually anything higher than that, provided the Fed didn't stop them) at the Fed. To get cash, they just convert ledger money to cash money. That ledger money still flows, sooner or later, from money the Fed created, either as paid out by the Treasury, or as it flows out of the big banking houses they finance directly with Open Market Operations.

Thus, ultimately, money creation and direction is in the hands of a very small elite, not elected by the People, and not accountable to any of our elected representatives. This is a Command economy. It is not different in principle from a small committee determining how much wheat will be produced this year, and who gets an allocation.

This situation is categorically antithetical to free markets, and to the transparency any self respecting, self governing people would expect of those who are empowered to do things, supposedly on their behalf.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Quantitative Easing

I read yesterday that the Fed is considering a policy of "quantitative easing". In no article I read did anyone discuss the actual mechanics of what is involved in this.

The Federal Reserve, our nations central bank, can write checks in any amount to anyone. The money for the purchases is created in the act of writing the check.

The "System", itself--which is really a cartel--consists in banks WHOSE NAMES WE DON'T KNOW WITH CERTAINTY, as I understand the issue. Take JP Morgan Chase, which is certainly one of the members (a special stock is issued to member banks, which is non-transferable and non-negoiable; in essence, it simply represents a ticket to the party). They are a bank which makes investments in many things. They buy overseas securities, they fund smaller banks, they invest in industries, and all the other things banks do. Their charter may be slightly limited in some ways, but that is my understanding.

Quantitative easing must necessarily consist mainly in what are called Open Market Operations, which consist in the Fed buying securities (or whatever) issued by someone. They bought up a bunch of Euros, when Europe was in the worst throes of their Greek crisis.

When the Fed talks about quantitative easing, what they mean is, in effect, giving money to banks like JP Morgan Chase, to be used however they want. JP Morgan prints some bonds, say, then the Fed buys them. Both sides are in effect printing money.

So if they pursue their recently stated policy, then they will give money to very large banks, which those banks can then use however they want. In theory, they could lend it to Americans needing capitalization, which is why some fear inflation. This money wasn't there, now it is there, so there are dollars chasing dollars, which decreases the value of each dollar.

But they could equally go buy up some African country, or buy gold, or short Wall Street, or whatever they want to do. There is, as far as I know, no regulation on this, outside of the normal restrictions on normal trading activity.

So, in effect, JP Morgan votes JP Morgan free money. If things work out, they invest it, make a handsome return, then pay the Fed back. If they lose it, they ask the Fed for a "cash infusion" to perk things back up, since they are "too big too fail."

This system is fundamentally fraudulent and undemocratic. It is not Capitalism at all, since they neither invented anything nor saved any money up. It could be argued it is in fact a type of Imperialism, in which countries and companies are not invaded, but who nonetheless transfer their property and liberty to someone who did nothing but write them a check from money they created for themselves.


I was thinking about the growth of Imperial Rome. I listened a very long series on this topic several years ago. The net of it was that they constantly expanded their borders to defend from barbarian attacks. They would get attacked from the north of Italy, so they conquered that. They got attacked by the Carthaginians, so they took over Carthage. They got attacked by Carthages neighbors, so they expanded there. They got attacked from Spain, so they expanded there.

In the end, they had at their height an Empire that ran from south Germany to North Africa, and from the Iberian peninsula at least to eastern Turkey, and I'm not sure they didn't get farther than that.

Of what benefit was all this? In the end, they still had barbarians on the frontiers, particularly the Parthians and the Germans/Goths. If memory serves they lost Caesars in both Iran and the Rumania area. They had the power to exact taxes, but they had in turn to keep up the roads, garrison the towns with soldiers, and provide a criminal justice system.

If they raised taxes to the point where they were making good money, they got revolts, which required more soldiers, which cost more money. They did forge a long term peace in the regions under their control, and as conquerors they were very enlightened. They allowed natives to do things their own way, and developed a legal code so advanced our own system is largely based on it today.

But of what concrete benefit was that to the average Roman? Yes, the elites lived well, but the ordinary Roman did not. They still had urban poverty. And to the point they lived under a tyranny, in which the Caesar could do substantially whatever he wanted, which made rebellions for power all the more common.

As I heard the history, the real reason for the decline of Rome was their frequent civil wars, which killed so many regular soldiers that their ranked had to be refilled by barbarians, resulting in a steady decline in loyalty and quality. Over time, the barbarians did most of their fighting, and Alaric, who sacked Rome, had been a Roman soldier himself. He was a commander, if memory serves.

Then the Roman Senate become the Holy See, and the Roman emperor the Pope, in effect. In that role, they held enormous power for more than another thousand years.

I guess I'm thinking out loud about the benefits and costs of Empire. Was it all worth it? How would our history have been changed if they had contented themselves with a life in Italy? They set up administrative structures which arguably enabled the creation of the Islamic Empire. Their Republic was the basis for our own.

They built roads which in some places continue to be used to this day. They provided aqueducts, some of which stand to this day. They gave us our law. They enabled Christianity to blossom.

I'm not quite sure where I'm going with it. It will come to me at some point, but not in the next five minutes.

Edit: I think where I was going with this is that I was thinking about the French in Vietnam. I don't remember what resources they coveted, but I think it was rubber. Assuming it was rubber, we have this situation where the French are killing Vietnamese rebels so they can run slave plantations such that they can get the rubber for next to nothing. The rubber, itself, is cheap. But they have to supply huge quantities of military aid to make it happen. Aside from the moral question, this makes no economic sense. Why would it not have been cheaper for them simply to support the Vietnamese in making their own rubber, and then buying it?

So much misery flows from not factoring in all the costs of decisions. As Henry Hazlitt said, when dealing with economics you always, always, always have to look at the effects on EVERYONE, and at all time phases, from the short, to the middle, to the long term. It is quite easy to achieve a desired effect in the short term--what we might term the linear outcome--but much harder to make a desired reaction self sustaining over the long haul.

This is the principle difference between Leftists and Liberals on many levels. The former believe that peace, prosperity and social order can be imposed. Liberals understand human social systems as formally complex, and work therefore not to build political orders, per se, but moral orders that can be expressed politically.

The converse, then, is that Leftists seek to build political orders that can impose "morality".

Ho Chi Minh

What effect did the "Bringer of Light" have on his world? His legacy: intermittent war from 1945 until 1980 (don't forget the war with China and the invasion of Cambodia). 35 years of many his countrymen hiding in the shadows, assassinating their fellows directly, or by attacking civilians intentionally in terror attacks. Deaths that no doubt approached a million or more, if you count lost troops, civilian deaths, mass executions, deaths by starvation, and which clearly do get into the millions if one considers that it was the destabilization of Cambodia as a result of the war that enabled Pol Pot to take power.

For that, what? A crappy economy, a secret police that is worse than that of the French, and "independence". He should go down as one of the greatest criminals of the20th Century, which is a substantial "accomplishment" when one considers the other names on the list.

This fact becomes particularly galling when one considers that he almost certainly could have accomplished BETTER ends had he used a counter-colonial policy of non-violence. The French, sooner or later, would have bowed to public pressure. The colonies never really paid out more in benefits than they required in men and resources to keep, for any of the colonial powers. It was pride that kept them at it.

Yet, he was a Cultural Sadeist. He relished power. He liked being the "Bright Shining One". And so he led his nation to the slaughter, uselessly.

The Communist conundrum

I've been reading some books filled with accounts of the Vietnam War from the North Vietnamese/Vietcong perspective, and a very common theme is that the revolution was "betrayed". Somehow the revolution for which they gave so much wound up in the hands of incompetent bureaucrats. Somehow the People were forgotten.

Ignoring the obvious naivete which this betrays, one can with justice understand some people who follow the Communist way as motivated by what they view as sincere motives. These people exist. Yet, the fact is that such people are tools, pawns, nothing more, and their responsibility is to realize this.

Communism is a system which concentrates power in the hands of an elite. This is purportedly to keep power out of the hands of "Capitalists", but the reality--to offer one very real example--is that Party members don't have to pay membership dues at exclusive golf resorts in Vietnam. They get preferred seating in restaurants. They can and do demand kick-backs to authorize legitimate business activity, and work out all sorts of sweetheart deals for themselves and their friends and family.

It amounts, quite literally, to putting the Mafia in charge of the government, and expecting something good to happen.

To be clear, the system is one in which the people at the top are those who have proven the most adept at political in-fighting, which is to say those who are the most aggressive, amoral, skilled in deception, and opportunistic.

If you combine these facts--rule by the few, and a system which selects through the law of the jungle who these people will be--no positive outcome is POSSIBLE. Ho Chi Minh had hundreds of opponents executed outright. He had hundreds more jailed and exiled. So have all the eventual Communist dictators.

One will from time to time see primitive Christianity offered as a type of Communism. This argument is not wrong: but look who their leader was.

Socialism is possible. Communism is possible. But only for a fundamentally moral people who CHOOSE to live that way. And nobody flying the Communist banner in public or deep in the depths of their souls wants the average person they want to rule to have ANY choice in the matter.


An essential element of my method is contextualization. People want to proclaim things right or wrong in and of themselves, for example murder and abortion. What I want to do, always, is look at claims in their specifics, and try and determine what is best for all in the long term.

Imperfection is necessarily an aspect of this system. Perhaps paradoxically, I think an intolerance for imperfection drives many people into nihilism. If perfect clarity cannot be achieved in moral claims, they believe, then NO clarity is possible. Yet, this is patently stupid. There IS a difference between a man executed for commiting a brutal murder, and a man executed for being a dissident or heretic. There is a difference between stealing because you are hungry, and stealing because you are simply greedy.


This is perhaps obvious, but it just occurred to me it might be worth pointing out in public that no true happiness is possible unless you tell yourself the truth about who you are and what you want. It is possible--as for example Jimmy Stewart in "It's a Wonderful Life"--to live happily not getting what you want, but it is a fool's game simply lying to yourself.

Authentic community, in turn, depends on people showing their real selves by being open to the point of vulnerability. It is, I think, a source of profound happiness to discover that having opened yourself, you have been understood and not judged. We are all flawed. It's in the nature of true friendship to persevere anyway.

A core motto of mine for many, many years has been that I don't want to live someone else's life. I want to live my life, make my mistakes, be stupid and intelligent my own way. If I fall on my ass or soar in the heavens, I want it to be because of conscious decisions I made, based on my own perceptions, not second hand opinion or knowledge.

I think it would be accurate to describe me as a non-conformist, but I want to be clear: I don't object to getting along with others, adhering to social norms and convention, and certainly don't favor willfully ignoring or flouting them. It is simply that I am always asking the question "why does this rule exist?" in a spirit of scepticism.

As an example of the sort of analysis I do, I think it is obvious that clothing fashion is almost entirely arbitrary. What is high fashion in say, Dakkar, is not going to go over well in Boise. Yet from this observation does not flow any need to demonstrate what is possible by consciously flouting norms, for example by getting a mohawk, or going Goth, or any other of many variants.

In the same spirit, clearly lightning bolts do not rain down on us if we commit evil acts. This does not mean that we should, simply to show what is possible, as is seemingly demanded by many modern artists and radicals.

Always, I look to my organizational criterion: what works for the good in this world? My fashion sense makes little difference either way. My capacity to think might, and in that realm I am quite willing and able to tear down any and all idols.

My difference is on the inside. In the end, in my view, we all must judge ourselves, and as Albert Camus said, judgement day is every day. Choose wisely.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Further thought

The following is a bit redundant, but I am sort of like an intellectual Roomba, trying to explore a large, dark room. Sometimes I cover the same ground, but usually from another angle, and often it leads to new places.

As I have said often, Socialism is a meaning system for the person who embraces it. As such, by my definition, it provides a reason to suffer--to work, beyond mere survival--and a paradigm by which to organize decision making behavior.

Given that the actual history of Socialism has been a sordid one, filled with horrific inhumanities, one must ask how people who embrace this doctrine reconcile its history with their own purported humanitarianism.

Here is a thesis I have not yet offered, I don't think: they understand, on some level, that a sustainable world must include suffering, but don't want to draw the conclusion that it is necessary for them. What they form, then is a sort of pain aggregation, that parallels in the cultural realm the centralization of resources in the economic realm. A whole new class of people whose induced slavery causes them pain is created, and in some inchoate way these "humanitarian" theoreticians believe they have solved some aspect of the human condition/problem.

This is what I have termed "Cultural Sadeism", but one which is unconscious. They know there must be pain, and the "pain math" adds up.

Yet, a true Liberal would understand that in a truly just society, we would all pick up crosses of our own choosing, and work and suffer for ends we choose as individuals.

As I have argued in the previous post, true happiness requires a bit of misery, just as a varied diet requires some bitter foods, so we can read "pursuit of happiness" not just as "pursuit of virtue", as I have said many times, but also "pursuit of voluntary deprivation and misery." This is the necessary flip side of the coin.

Thoughts on Iron Mountain

The Report from Iron Mountain is a staple in many conspiracy theories about a New World Order. It is taken by many to have been a seriously intended document, which in effect claimed that global peace was not desirable, that human societies function best in conditions of difference and violence.

Proposed enemies were aliens from outer space, and environmental problems, and there was also some support given for "blood sports", which would presumably be something like football, but moving more towards Rollerball (whose author may have been influenced by this book, who knows?).

I don't spend time worrying about things I can't really research. Even if these ideas were real at one time, who is to say that whatever hidden movers and shakers there might be still hold to these ideas. Who is to say they can't change their minds?

To the point, it occurred to me this morning that we seem to be born with a certain need for challenge and difficulty, particularly men. Our sense of self is born from making decisions, and confronting obstacles. We need, I think, a certain amount of pain and misery, and can only realize full happiness in the contrast. You need useful work to do, so that you can rest.

This fact can be internalized and accepted, or externalized through aggression. The identity dynamic of war is this: you cement your own identity as a member of group with specific attributes in the process of sharing pain fighting the other group. They do the same.

Sacrifice is much the same. Take the Aztec practice of ball games, following which the winning team was ritually--theatrically--killed in public. Those people become thereby a sort of Other; they become ritually different. Those outside their space become thereby defined in their acts of violence. The murders refresh and enable group solidarity.

In a much muted form, one sees this in sports fans, cheering their teams. Packers fans, or Steelers fans, or Vikings fans can all relate to one another, rooting for their team. Now, I have often argued for sports, the way we do it, as working to teach democracy. You have a rule defined system combined with open competition where the best team wins, but in the process of which everyone is made stronger.

Pro Wrestling gets closer to sacrifice. The more ardent fans really want to see their guy beat the snot out of the other guy.

I have to run, but I would like to propose is this: there are two types of order, the sacrificial and the post-sacrificial. To the extent the Report from Iron Mountain was ACCURATE--and we must consider that the conclusions may have had some validity--then they would apply to sacrificial systems.

For my own purposes I have discussed four types of political order: sacrificial, sybaritic leftism, cultural sadeism, and Liberalism. The first three could be conflated, where sybaritic leftism could be termed either Post-Liberalism, or a Pre-sacrificial order. Like the Eloi, sybarites lack the capacity to further their social order, so it must in the end collapse one way or another, as those in Europe will, if they are unable to embrace true Liberalism.

Liberalism is an order in which it is understood that not only is pain a part of this world, but that it is necessary for happiness, paradoxically. One must pursue difficult ends, master hard skills, take risks, and lose sometimes.

To truly love someone is to wish them a certain amount of misery and loneliness, because only in such conditions can they create themselves as the sort of person who can be happy. I have often prayed for my children difficulty and challenge, but only within a range they can handle and grow from. In no small measure, this is one roll that sports plays in our ritual order.

One sees in many tribal orders times when young men, particularly, must go out alone in the wild, to become men. We need something like this. Historically it has been service in the military, but if we think long term, we must think global peace.

When you look at history, long term stability normally comes with assigned social roles. Take the Indian caste system. It was in some respects a form of systematic cruelty. The bottom of the order was treated quite inequitably. Yet, since there was nothing to be done, they presumably dealt with it, and their beliefs allowed them to contemplate a better future life.

On one level, this system is acceptable, since it incorporates unhappiness and forces the rejection of self pity. On a higher level, though, I don't think it is structurally conducive to moral development. It enables higher caste members to improperly think of themselves as better in an ontological way, and lower caste members to lower their qualitative horizons of what is possible for them.

Ultimately, what I want is as much freedom of movement as possible for all people. Towards that end, we all must be made accountable for forming our own identities. This can be a challenging process, so we need better means of doing it. The identity of "American" is a good start. Being connected to a place, family, and religious creed is good, but ultimately I see creating an identity as a lifelong process.

Again, this would be oriented around my notion of Goodness. Something like it is necessary to prove the Iron Mountain boys wrong, if they ever existed.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

My mood

This air feels like something is going to happen, good or bad. I've been trying to diagnose it, and will say that from my perspective the mood around me--poor business conditions, dry air, dessicated plant life, vague restlessness--is well captured in this picture, by Giorgio de Chirico.

What is it that's going? What is it that's coming? Should we trust the silence? Open questions.


Drought is, to my mind, much more clearly a symptom of global cooling than warming. What we need to remember is that NASA does not have temperature gauges in the far North, and therefore uses statistical techniques to estimate the temperature. They don't actually measure it.

Logically, a warmer planet is one with less ice and more water, both in the atmosphere and in the oceans. A warmer planet sees more rain everywhere, not less. As I understand the issue, it was when we had no polar icecaps that the Sahara was green. Global cooling is far, far more dangerous than global warming.

In my view, if we do face a risk of catastrophic climate change, it is in the direction of cooling.

As I look at my local skies, they remind me of the air in winter: very blue, very dry.


It just occurred to me this morning that Alinskyism is really nothing more or less than American Fabianism: a turtle, and a wolf in sheep's clothing.

Here's a link on him, for anyone not familiar with program and ideas:

Keep in mind reading it that our President was taught the method by two of Alinsky's own students, and that he himself eventually taught courses on it. He also, of course, practiced it for quite a few years, and arguably still does, even if mainly through proxies.


Any time you look at a dog, you are looking at hundreds, maybe thousands, of years of careful pruning. They are like bonzai trees that take hundreds of years to mature. They are miracles of patience and persistence.

Somewhere, some time, people must have said of the domestication process: this will never work. That is worth remembering.

Bon mot on Keynesism

Keynesian economics is to an economic downturn what salt water is to thirst.

On my side, I have common sense and actual history. On their side the Keynesians have some very smart people, a very unclearly formulated economic incantation, and broad swathes of ideological conformity among people whose income does not depend on their results.

Friday, October 1, 2010

A plausible 9/11 Conspiracy Theory

Yes, I know that tagline alone will get me labeled a nut. Please follow me for a bit, and draw your own conclusions.

Building 7 was a 47 story building that spontaneously collapsed 7 hours after the collapse of the World Trade Center. It was not hit by a plane, and was only slightly damaged by the collapse of one of the other WTC buildings. Several floors seemed to be on fire for many hours, though, which is what the semi-official, post-conspiracy theory, investigation concluded. Here is the official explanation offered by Popular Mechanics:
WTC 7 collapsed because of fires fueled by office furnishings. It did not collapse from explosives or from diesel fuel fires.

Evidence in favor of the consensual reality is that the building was plainly damaged by the collapse of the World Trade Center, and that there was plainly fire coming out of the windows for many hours, as both filmed and seen by many firemen on site.

Here is some video of that. If you go to about three minutes, you see fire coming out almost as if it were being projected. It is inconceivable to me that much fire could come from the combustion of office furniture and the sorts of papers people keep on their desks, but that is what we are told was the cause.

According to a "truther" debunking site
"WTC 7 contained 10 transformers at street level, 12 transformers on the 5th floor, and 2 dry transformers on the 7th floor." - FEMA report

Transformers are filled with oil and can blow up. Did those large transformers blow up taking out the floors below? Remember that the building was on fire for hours.

This sounds plausible on the face of it, but the final report indicated that diesel fuels were not involved.

Here is what the NIST report, issued in 2008 after that many years of research, said:
After 7 hours of uncontrolled fires, a steel girder on Floor 13 lost its connection to one of the 81 columns supporting the building. Floor 13 collapsed, beginning a cascade of floor failures to Floor 5. Column 79, no longer supported by a girder, buckled, triggering a rapid succession of structural failures that moved from east to west. All 23 central columns, followed by the exterior columns, failed in what's known as a "progressive collapse"--that is, local damage that spreads from one structural element to another, eventually resulting in the collapse of the entire structure.

Keep that in mind as you watch this video of the collapse.

Here is the other side of the story, where he focuses on the Twin Towers, but it would apply equally--actually more--to Building 7.

Further, the report claims
the smallest charge capable of initiating column failure "would have resulted in a sound level of 130 dB [decibels] to 140 dB at a distance of at least half a mile." Witnesses did not report hearing such a loud noise, nor is one audible on recordings of the collapse.
This is not accurate. There were in fact apparently reports of hearing an explosion.

Here is some testimony from a man claimed by the website to have been an NYC cop on site
."I walked around it (Building 7). I saw a hole. I didn't see a hole bad enough to knock a building down, though. Yeah there was definitely fire in the building, but I didn't hear any... I didn't hear any creaking, or... I didn't hear any indication that it was going to come down. And all of a sudden the radios exploded and everyone started screaming 'get away, get away, get away from it!'... It was at that moment... I looked up, and it was nothing I would ever imagine seeing in my life. The thing started pealing in on itself... Somebody grabbed my shoulder and I started running, and the shit's hitting the ground behind me, and the whole time you're hearing "boom, boom, boom, boom, boom." I think I know an explosion when I hear it... Yeah it had some damage to it, but nothing like what they're saying... Nothing to account for what we saw... I am shocked at the story we've heard about it to be quite honest."
Yes, it's Prison Planet, but one can safely assume they believe what they believe because they think they have the evidence to back it up. This guy could be reinterviewed by other people, as could others who offered similar reports.

Edit 2: I have left out testimony by two senior New York City officials since I was unable to contextualize it within a plausible narrative. Barry Jennings and Michael Hess were relatively senior members of Guiliani's administration, particularly Hess. They went to the Emergency Command Center in WTC7 after the first plane hit, since they were a part of the Disaster Response Team. When they got there, they said everyone had left, and when they started to leave, an explosion blocked the stairwell they had intended to use, stranding them.

The evidence is inconclusive, since NIST claims the "explosion" was really the collapse of the South Tower. Theorist one presents timeline 1 that supports their view, theorist 2 does the same.

However, I would like to offer an interesting, to me, hypothesis: what if the actual target of United 93 was WTC7, which contained, among other things, the command center for emergency response, which is why Jennings and Hess were there in the first place? That plane took off from Newark. If the hijack went down something like it was portrayed in the movie, they missed their window of opportunity due to indeciveness, but would that not have been quite spectacular, hitting three adjacent buildings, one after the other?

To my mind, this scenario makes sense. Assuming explosives were used, no good mind would have failed to realize that buildings don't just collapse on their own.

Given the foregoing, therefore, here is my preliminary assessment (I say preliminary, since I only make final assessments when I need to make a decision; in this case, I don't need to make a final decision): I am no engineer, but it makes NO sense to me to claim that office furniture burning brought a 47 story skyscraper straight down--particularly when all skyscrapers have building codes, complete with fire walls, and the use of relatively incombustible materials. I can imagine jetfuel burning hot enough to cut through steel. I cannot imagine office furnishings doing so. This makes no sense.

Edit: I would like to expand on this a bit. Imagine in your mind a typical office building floor. I've worked in many of them. In a contracting capacity I've watched them go up many times, from demo to occupancy. On the floor you have a thin carpet, which is flame rated. On the carpet you have furniture workstations, plastic or metal garbage cans, and chairs. Both the chairs and workstations likely would have been flame rated, and depending on the age of the furniture, if they had the most popular brand, Steelcase, the panels would have been made of steel. If they weren't, they would have come with a Class A fire rating.

On the workstations you have computers, overhead compartments with a variety of thick binders and books. Pinned to the walls you have a variety of personal pictures, sarcastic or sweet pictures, and maybe a few ideosyncratic curios to identify yourself as an individual in a cubicle forest.

In the offices, you might have wooden desks and woodern cabinets. In file rooms, you might have rows of metal file cabinets, or possibly libraries filled with books.

In the bathrooms you would have toilets, sinks, paper towels. In the break areas you would have a refigerator, paper towels, cabinets, food, a coffee pot, maybe some styrofoam cups, some seats and tables, some magazines and maybe a TV.

Above this would be a drop ceiling. Typical ceiling tiles are Class A fire rated, as here. What this means is not that they don't burn, but that they don't burn easily or well, or hot.

The supporting steel beams would in all likelihood have been sprayed with a fire retardant, which normally contained asbestos when WTC7 was likely built. I am in ceilings in office towers all the time, and they always spray the joints where beams come together.

Above the ceiling also would have been data and phone cabling, ductwork, air handlers, and plumbing.

What we are to believe is that from the above mixture of components, a fire was created which caused a collapse of a 47 story steel skyscraper at the same rate which would have been expected if it had been intentionally taken down the normal way, with explosives attached to key points.

Let us dilate on that for a moment. We have all seen the pictures of the guys sitting on the steel beams, eating their lunches, or pretending to play golf. Skyscrapers are built--to point out the painfully obvious--to not fall down. To withstand high winds, and to withstand fires. The method used is simple: weight distribution. Vertical and horizonal steel I-beams are connected one to another such that any single point of failure--even at the base--will not bring down the structure, and in every construction I have personally seen, those points are specifically targeted for added protection from fire.

Let us think of this as a Tinker Toys structure, in which the wooden pieces are glued into the slots, and every level contains 20 or so supporting beams in both directions, which are connected one to the other as a web in the middle. Let us suppose the whole thing is built such that we have cardboard cutouts workout to anchor everything together, which in the real world would be the concrete which was used to build the floors, which would likely have been concrete in pan, where corrugated metal is put down, then concrete poured on top of it.

Cut 10 sticks at random places, in your mind, one at a time. Does the whole thing collapse? I don't think so, but let's suppose you disagree. If you think it collapses, does it not tilt over, one way or the other? Does it not slowly fall over, like the Titanic sinking? Do we not hear creaking as overwhelming pressure builds, tearing lose connections, such that it gradually falls over, clumsily, crookedly and probably incompletely?

OK, let's make the cardboard lead sheeting. Let's triple the weight on the structure. Now does it collapse? I still don't think so. If you go back to the Popular Mechanics link above, they have both the layout of the beams in a static picture, and a computer rendering of the collapse that still have multiple beams failing at the same time, and which terminates before we see anything like what was seen in the actual video.

Further, if one determined in advance that fires must have been responsible, then one could simply create a model of the building, and reconstruct the implosion of the building. Key beams would disappear when needed due to the fire, so "reconstructions" are scarcely evidence.

And to the point--in order to grant that ANY beams failed, we have to grant that the materials I listed created sufficient heat to sever an I-Beam. Remember, the official investigators, the people responsible for quieting the rumors of a conspiracy and coverup, said in their final report, after presumably exhaustive analysis, that diesel fuels did not contribute, and that the whole thing in their view could only be due to the combustion of office materials, which I have inventoried.

Presumably they said this since they knew where the diesel fuels were stored, and had a pretty good idea from videos in which order the beams gave way, and were unable to connect the dots. By logical extension, and leaving aside the explosives hypothesis, this left only one option: the one they pronounced as the definitive cause of the collapse.

I would like you to put yourself in the shoes of these investigators, as well. If they had said that the fires and known structural damage could not have accounted for the collapse of WTC7, what does that imply?

First it implies that WTC 1 and 2 were likely brought down by explosives too. The setup would have been simple: fly the planes into the Towers, get 1,000 cameras on them, then demo them in full view of everyone.

Second, that the conspiracy was much larger than the men who hijacked the planes and those who trained and directed them. The logistics of getting explosives into the places where they could do their work would be enormous. It would require a huge amount of planning and funding.

Third, that had the buildings not collapsed, it is quite possible that we might not have waged war on Afghanistan, although it was still likely, just as war with Iraq was also likely, for different reasons. Certainly, the sheer extent of the damage was burned into all of our collective minds, and if explosives were the principle cause of the collapses, then casualties ought properly to have been in the hundreds, not thousands.

Fourth, it would have opened up the Pandora's Box of conspiratorial confusion, and given critics of Bush more ammunition to continue to paint him as a would-be dictator.

Fifth, it would have taken much more moral courage than the investigators appear to have possessed to draw the obvious conclusion that if this skyscraper was brought down by the combustion of office materials, it would be the first one in history and it would have done so in direct contradiction of the design of the buildings, whose structure and the materials within which were explicitly intended not to burn.

Let's try this another way. Do this experiment in your mind. If you've been in an office building, imagine walking into there with a flame-thrower, and torching the place for a minute or so. This is not what is claimed to have happened, to be clear. We have the image of the jetfuel burned in our heads, but no jet fuel hit WTC7, and NIST does not believe on-site diesel fuels to have played a role, so somehow fires were started simply by falling debris. That doesn't sound very plausible, but let's run with it. In the real world our flame thrower was a thousand chairs on fire, set on fire by the jetfuel.

You torch the place. The plastic melts and catches fire on the workstations and computers. The ceiling catches fire briefly then goes out. You burn the carpet but it doesn't catch fire. The only fires to be seen minutes after your "attack" are from still simmering fuel from the gas/oil mixture in your weapon, and smoldering plastic things scattered around. You don't get a 7 hour burn from this. You don't get heat that melts steel I-beams. In WTC 1 and 2 we had 24,000 gallons of aviation fuel.

I can accept the idea that that much fuel would melt steel, and that the pancake effect could bring down a building. There are those who deny it. Frankly, I'm not qualified to comment.

But in WTC7 we had neither a jet airliner crashing through, nor a fuel fire. With only slight exaggeration we had burning chairs and paper towels.

This is the story we are expected to believe. But I don't believe it.

If, then, I accept in principle that one building was brought down by explosives, which seems the only plausible alternative for Building 7, then I must accept that--potentially at least, and this is not a necessary conclusion, but a necessarily possible one--they were ALL brought down that way.

Now, here is where I am going to differ from the Truthers. I see no reason to doubt that the planes were in fact hijacked and were in fact flown into both World Trade Center buildings, the Pentagon, and a field in Pennsylvania. We have much evidence of all of this. I see no reason not to believe that Osama Bin Laden played a role in it. I see no reason to believe that George Bush or Dick Chency DID play a role in it.

Given these caveats, what is a plausible scenario? What was going on in 2001? We had balanced the budget, ended the Cold War, and were in a relatively steady state situation, even if we were in a recession. Who would benefit from tipping us in the direction we went?

As I see it, not George Bush. This has always been a sticking point for me, since I think he was and is a fundamentally a decent person. In general, I am a good judge of character, and that is my assessment. Yes, he did want to put an end to the games Saddam Hussein had been playing with the UN and America for the better part of a decade, but it is simply inconceivable to me that he would or could have chosen those means to facilitate that end.

In the end, who benefited? First of all, the Saudis. They would have known that sooner or later we would deal with Saddam Hussein, and more generally the Al Quedists that were and are plagueing them as well. They also benefit from loaning us the money we use to fund the deficit.

Second of all, and likely the more important suspects, would be Wall Street and global financial interests, who want us to be in debt forever. Who earns the $400 billion in interest we pay every year on our national debt,much of it accumulated in the Bush years as a direct or indirect result of 9/11? We really don't know, but much of it goes to large banks, and much of the funding for the debt is created ex nihilo by those same banks, as I understand the issue. They create money from nothing, then earn interest on it. This is not a bad place to be, sort of like winning the lottery every day of your life.

So often fringe ideas that are utterly unacceptable can become acceptable with minor alterations. Do we need to believe that all Presidents have to kowtow to a shadow elite to get elected? No. Does that mean a shadow elite does not exist? No. Plainly, there are a lot of billionaires out there, with ample funds to affect national and international politics, and they don't get to be billionaires by being stupid. To assume they play no role in politics is silly. Bill Gates, as one example, is quite active. He is relatively open about it, but not everyone need be.

In particular, do we need to believe in a fabled global Jewish financial elite? That's where right-wingers usually wind up. That's John Birch territory. Answer: of course not. Some of them are likely Jewish, most of them are likely not. If you look at any professional field, say academics, physics, law or medicine, Jews are represented disproportionately. This is because their culture is one which values achievement through hard work. As a group, they are one of the most diverse imaginable, ranging across the political spectrum, but generally passionate wherever they wind up. In aggregate, they have been an enormous blessing to humankind, having earned an inordinately disproportionate number of Nobel Prizes over the years, and being very frequently involved in very sincere philanthropic work. To the point, it would make sense that they would be overrepresented in the financial world as well for no reason other than demographics.

In the end, all causes are led by individuals, who have their own history, their own beliefs, and their own goals. It is impossible and undesirable--except when absolutely necessary, and I can't imagine how that would come about--to reach final conclusions about any heterogeneous group in aggregate.

Net: if one admits that the combustion of office furnishings seems inadequate to account for the precipitous and vertical collapse of a 47 story steel skyscraper, one must admit that many parties were involved that day.

Most plausible to me would be a covert alliance between Bin Laden and some men in suits with chauffeurs. How far beyond that it went, it's hard to say. Even if one is unwilling to accept Bush's complicity--and I'm not willing to accept it--then one must still assume that not each and every member of our Defense establishment is beyond accepting the gifts which the nearly infinitely rich would be able to offer.

Sherlock Holmes would say that you have to accept the necessary conclusions from the evidence available, wherever it leads. I agree with this. I have long postponed posting my views, but today it seemed appropriate for some reason.

I won't lose any sleep over this, but I do feel it's important to tell the whole truth, and all the truths which come to you. Nothing good comes from avoiding unattractive ideas and facts simply because seeing them would cause you emotional or intellectual discomfort.

Qualitative Outliers

I have been arguing for years that the fastest path to scientific progress is not focus on what we "know", but in the effort to falsify the paradigms within which we operate. For my own purposes, I often use martial metaphors for what I call my "attacks" on knowledge. Imagine a great dark place before you, and you are the commanding general. How do you take it? How do you illuminate it? It is pregnant with the danger of error and obsession.

What is done most days in most universities is what I would term a frontal attack. They assume that the "front" they are attacking is in the shape it appears to be, and that--as an example--deconstructing the DNA of 1,000 species represents 10x the knowledge we had when we had deconstructed the DNA of only 100. I disagree. Unless something profoundly unexpected is found, almost nothing useful has been accomplished.

The focus, in my view, needs to be on anomalies, on the apparently small details that don't fit within the mix, for example the ability of salamander parts, when severed to become multiple things, depending on when and where they are reattached. It appears to depend on a magnetic field, a field which can be measured. That sort of thing is interesting. It offers up the possibility of a profoundly new conception of life.

In my own view, "Intelligent Design" happens every time any life form comes into being. We know exactly what proteins combine with what other proteins, in what order, how cells come into being, etc. Yet if, as Haeckel posited, "Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny", then we are forced to include some sort of extracorporeal, extramaterial agent of organization, since the proteins organize themselves.

The standard explanation given amounts, in effect, to the claim that this process fell into place, and has been falling into place for millions of years in roughly they same way. This seems to me patent nonsense, particularly since it seems impossible to me for the process to fall together long enough by chance for natural selection to enter the process.

The interesting question, to me, then (and I don't want to delve too deeply here) is this: what facts can we find which do NOT fit in the existing paradigm? This is where the focus should be. If we return to the military analogy, this is the equivalent of marching through the night to attack the enemy--ignorance--where it least expects us and at an unexpected time. Such attacks can lead to enormous gains at little cost. Most of what we are doing is in my view wasted time.

To do an Arlo Guthrie, let me turn to what actually prompted this post. Rejection. Sad, sad me, told no again. Specifically, a piece that was turned down for publication. Now, failure is the inevitable result of trying anything. The '72 Dolphins were perfect, but they weren't in '71 or '73. Success, likewise, is often the result of trying things, particularly if you try hard enough, long enough.

What bothers me is that most would-be thinkers across the political spectrum appear to me to be stuck in qualitative ruts. Just as we need to pursue radically new paradigms within the hard sciences, so too do we need to be asking in what ways we can achieve the end of universal human happiness. This, in my view, is the final question. The maintenance of American political sovereignty is a means to this end, but I really do see us as leading the charge for global peace and prosperity. I think that was the vision of our Founders, too.

If you look at most websites and blogs, what you see is much of the same. Outrate at this or that human thing done by a human being. Hypocrisy, stupidity, unwarranted aggression, cowardice: you know the drill. And reiteration of much the same points: variations on social justice or free markets, demonizing the fat cats, or demonizing the demonizers and would-be autocrats.

We need to think big, and nobody seems to be doing that. Take the Tea Party. What do most of the bumper stickers say? Taxed Enough Already? Obama hasn't really even raised our taxes yet. And if he does, it will be through allowing some portion of Bush's tax cuts to expire. We all know we can't afford to keep doing what we are doing, so tax increases are inevitable, but that isn't the primary problem.

The problem is spending. We are bankrupt, clinically bankrupt, in that the sum of our debts, as they exist today--if we were to enter them into a ledger honestly--is much greater than our POSSIBLE income.

ALL the Tea Party and less passionate Republicans can do is slow the hemorrhaging. They can reverse Obamacare, stop the "stimulus", and maybe even at some point do away with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, although that last would be in the current climate what Van Jones would call a "maximal" goal.

This does nothing, NOTHING, to address the interest on our national debt, or the unfunded Social Security and Medicare liabilities. That demographic wave is beginning to hit, and it is a decade or more long.

We can't postpone telling the truth: as desirable as these things are, we can't afford them.

In our current climate, that is a qualitative outlier, and making that case is, I assume, what got my piece rejected. I was accused of not citing sources, but that wasn't accurate. I did cite sources: the Dept. of Defense website, in which the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff called our national debt our top national security threat, and if memory serves in which a professional financial analyst shared the good news that the IMF has officially declared us broke, unless we double our income tax rates for the next ten years or so, which is simply not possible. I self published the piece below.

In a fit of pique which I'm not precisely proud of, but which I think was warranted, I accused the editor of a failure of moral courage and imagination. What he heard was moral courage. What he should have heard was imagination.

Imagination can only be as broad and wide as your courage. To be able to think big thoughts, to dream big dreams, you have to have the stomach both to see heavens and hells. You have to be able to see both the demons and the angels, and most people want to live in a prosaic, well ordered world, in which nothing radically new is ALLOWED to walk through the door. You can shut such ideas out simply by not seeing them. Negative hallucinations--not seeing things that are there--is a common enough hypotic phenomenon, and if you are attentive, you will catch yourself doing it daily.

In times of heightened stress, people tend either to cling more tightly to their tried and true ideas, or search about far and wide for something better. This latter tendency is well expressed in the Tea Party movement, which looks rhetorically to the past, but which must in the end realize that what is needed is not something old, but something new. We must dream new dreams, based on the ideals--not the realities, but the ideals--of the past.

We were founded as a nation run by de facto aristocrats. We were founded as a nation which accepted slavery in its foundational document. These are historical facts. Yet, we are also a nation that, over and over, when pressed to hold close to its ideals, has chosen to do so.

We need to lead the way into the future. We can do so, if we learn to think.

This is the qualitative challenge people like Glenn Beck face: altering the style of our public dialogue. It is one thing to add new information. It is another entirely to add the qualitative idea that we are all responsible for the development of our own worldviews. People that accept that latter idea can be relied on, in aggregate and over time, to reach reasonable conclusions, if given access to a genuinely free market of information. This is the point of democracy and the protection of free speech.

Few thoughts.


It seems to me that free market economists have a job to do: they need to develop a model in which economic growth halts, and the system is in equilibrium. It is precisely the fetishization of growth, growth, growth which enables both sincere environmentalists and radicals who want to use environmentalism for other ends to demonize our system. Logically, we cannot all live in hilltop mansions. We cannot all have 25 cars, not at our present population levels. It would seem inevitable that growth must stop at some point, and for that reason we cannot at that point be depending on an economic model predicated on growth.

In my view, our Gross Domestic Product should be the same as it was in, say, 1912, in the dollars in use then. What should have happened is that our BUYING power reached a point where we could afford whatever we wanted, which presumably would include a great deal of leisure, once our basic needs were met.

For that reason, my financial plan, or something like (I have had some ideas and plan to tweak it, and certainly continue to welcome feedback) it, is not just necessary to get us out of the very dangerous financial straits we are in, but points the way towards an economically and environmentally sustainable future.

Please ponder this. This is a very important point. My first stab at it is here.