peristaltor: (The Captain's Prop)
I'll be the first to admit that most primary and even secondary educations are inadequate. No, scratch that: they are adequate for most things; for some things, they completely miss the point, because to come to the point they would have to address uncomfortable facts and what school wants to deal with uncomfortable stuff? That's just unnecessary.

So in school I learned almost nothing about Vietnam—how it started, reasons the country was even involved—even though many of my classmates had fathers and uncles still deployed there. We learned of old wars, and of course of the big one, WWII; but teachers shied away from even mentioning 'Nam, lest some student go home and mention the mention, leading to a shitstorm from one side of the kerfuffle or the other.

It turns out one of the biggest taboos of our history went back a bit farther to the Civil War. And these taboos, according to a fascinating article, regard the Dark Period after the Confederate Surrender, specifically how this period leads to, of all things, the Tea Party.To the Dark Age! )

X-Posted to [livejournal.com profile] liberal.
peristaltor: (The Captain's Prop)
Ever since the "New Democrats" have installed themselves in the political scene, many of the standard rallying calls of the Progressive Movement have been sidelined into being mere tropes and tall tales. The problem, as I see it, is that these New Dems are, rather than the raging bull liberals of our past, merely steers who mewl rather than snort with rage and charge into the breeches. They have adopted meek standards, weak tea compared with the heady strong stuff of former years, and have in pursuing these standards continued to survive the increasingly competitive political environment forced upon all potential candidates.

What might these weak standards be? )

X-Posted to [livejournal.com profile] liberal.
peristaltor: (The Captain's Prop)
I very recently finished a pretty darned good book, Henry George's Progress and Poverty from 1879. In it, he asks some serious questions of the class of scholars then known as "political economists," specifically why more people starve where civilization is most developed, and not less.

This association of poverty with progress is the great enigma of our times. It is the central fact from which spring industrial, social, and political difficulties that perplex the world, and with which statesmanship and philanthropy and education grapple in vain. . . . So long as all the increased wealth which modern progress brings goes to build up great fortunes, to increase luxury and make sharper the contrast between the House of Have and the House of Want, progress is not real and cannot be permanent. The reaction must come. The tower leans from its foundations, and every new story but hastens the final catastrophe. To educate men who must be condemned to poverty, is but to make them restive; to base on a state of most glaring social inequality political institutions under which men are theoretically equal, is to stand a pyramid on its apex.

(Henry George, Progress and Poverty, 1879, Book I, Chapter I, Paragraph 5.)


NB: Since Mr. George's book is available online in its entirety, I have decided to reference not the page numbers, but the Book, Chapter and Paragraph to make cross-referencing that much easier.

This might be the first any of you have heard of this connection between progress, also known as the development of civilization, and poverty. But throughout his book George points out example after example supporting his initial observation. Where civilization goes, poverty and want follow.

The reason? The fact that property is allowed to be held in private hands. Take this section from Book X, Chapter V, Paragraph 19: "In the very centers of our civilization to-day are want and suffering enough to make sick at heart whoever does not close his eyes and steel his nerves." Is there something we could do? How about a full-blown miracle?

Dare we turn to the Creator and ask Him to relieve it? Supposing the prayer were heard, and at the behest with which the universe sprang into being there should glow in the sun a greater power; new virtue fill the air; fresh vigor the soil; that for every blade of grass that now grows two should spring up, and the seed that now increases fifty-fold should increase a hundred-fold! Would poverty be abated or want relieved?


Any bets out there how a sudden increase in the harvests would be met by us, we mere civilized people? I doubt the answer will surprise. )

X-Posted to [livejournal.com profile] liberal.
peristaltor: (The Captain's Prop)
Several years ago, I had a quite adequate cordless drill set I got for Xmas one year. That was, I must repeat, several years ago. Then, I bought a heavily discounted cordless drill set with a removable head that could convert from drill to jig saw to sander, and all with the same battery pack that my first one used! This gave extra life to my first, now fading battery pack.

Then, with none of the battery packs working, I picked up another drill and battery pack in a pawn shop for ten bucks. The pack it came attached to was working better than the others in my collection, and my charger kept it running for a few more years.

Then, I had a drawer filled with three dead drills and a collection of potential toxic nickle cadmium batteries just waiting to poison a landfill. Dope that I am, I was determined to prevent that from happening. I bought a mediocre corded drill and resigned myself to packing extension cords for the rest of my drilling days.

Then, a glimmer of hope. [livejournal.com profile] solarbird posted a small lead acid gel cell from a UPS unit for sale, cheap. Soon thereafter, I inherited a cordless string trimmer from my sister that needed nothing but a new battery.

After I disassembled the string trimmer battery holder, I noticed how darned small the thing was. Why, it was almost as small as the little batteries that used to power my drills. And it put out the same voltage.This got me to thinking, which is most always bad. )

X-Posted to [livejournal.com profile] home_effinomic.
peristaltor: (The Captain's Prop)
Every time a shooter pulls a gun nowadays and uses it with lethal force, donations to political organizations dedicated to restricting firearms in some way skyrocket. No one can blame the donors; they see an out-of-control situation and seek a means to staunch the bloodshed.

Here's the kicker, though: after each of these incidents, donations to the NRA and other pro-Second Amendment organizations also spikes. The reason is fairly simple. If the gun restriction crowd gets its way, the lifestyle of the gun rights crowd might well go away, no matter what positive benefit to society the restriction on guns might have. Which leads to the real split, as author Dan Baum puts it:

Data bout the effects of gun-control measures could be compared and contrasted. When it came to whether restrictive gun laws did good or did harm, reasonable people could disagree.

Finding reasonable people was the problem.

(Dan Baum, Gun Guys, Borzoi Books, 2013, p. 205.)


My point here is not to debate the rise or fall in gun-related violence, though, but to note that any rise in violence should be noted with equal focus. Which leads me to last Monday. )

X-Posted to [livejournal.com profile] talk_politics.
peristaltor: (The Captain's Prop)
I'll take a break from a currently tumultuous family life and digress into a thought that has niggled at my brain for about three decades now. Back in college, a friend and I were mulling over beers about a simple question: Why is invention—specifically the rate of invention—accelerating?

Some historians say it is not, that looking at inventions from the distance history provides is like trying to judge the speed of an observed train at a distance without knowing the distance; from farther away, be they historically or in proximity, things appear slower. But this answer is, to me at least, just waving off the preponderance of evidence for an invention acceleration as simply not worth considering.

Back in college, I suggested it was education. More and more are getting more and more education. Could that be it? Perhaps, but this answer simply pushes the question down the road; why are more and more getting educated at greater rates? In other words, what changed in our education system from previous years?

Very recently, I think I've stumbled upon the answer, and I'm not sure I like the implications. More are educated today, more invention happens today, and more of us do less strenuous work today for the same reason that prisoners today do less backbreaking work in prison. )

X-Posted to [livejournal.com profile] talk_politics. Later X-Posted to [livejournal.com profile] peak_oil, with addendum.
peristaltor: (The Captain's Prop)
I just skipped over to one of Doug Short's constantly updating sites and checked out the graph of recent numbers concerning how much per capita we in the US are driving. Given the paramount importance over road travel is in these paved states, it's a good indicator of economic health generally, at least as a snapshot. I thought I'd share, and offer a prediction! )

X-Posted to [livejournal.com profile] talk_politics.
peristaltor: (The Captain's Prop)
Okay, folks, you want political correctness*? I've got political correctness.



You've undoubtedly seen this, haven't you? Good. Everyone now knows that this icon is a symbol designated by the international community to indicate wheelchair accessability (as defined by international parameters). Internationally recognized iconography is, in my most un-humble opinion, of paramount importance for encouraging the exchange of people and their ideas across the face of this fine oblate spheriod.

Others are not so certain. )

*"Political Correctness" is an oxymoron. A "political" decision is necessarily a compromise between opposing points of interest and involvement in any given subject, while a "correct" decision can only be accurate, not accommodating.

X-Posted to [livejournal.com profile] talk_politics.
peristaltor: (The Captain's Prop)
Some years ago, I asked myself a question: What is an investment, and how does it differ from an act of speculation? I'm getting closer to an answer, especially after hearing Seth and Justin interview two authors on the topic of a man who has become largely myth, and about whom we know almost nothing: Henry George.



It turns out Mr. George. . . . )

X-Posted to [livejournal.com profile] talk_politics.
peristaltor: (The Captain's Prop)
When last I shared, I noted that we in the United States have no liberal media bias, at least not when it comes to the mainstream, commercially-supported variety so dominant in our society. No sooner did I dare to mention this then the trickle of disclaimers dripped in. "Ah!," some deigned to note, "but look at these examples! Your thesis is therefore bunk!" And indeed, a link had helpfully collected the most egregious examples of pinko commie liberalism from broadcast and major print outlets.

I invite you to check them out. It won't take long; the examples run from September, 2009 to October 2013. All 13 examples.

And here we find a sampling error, exactly the same kind that failed to note the sudden extinction of ammonites following the Chicxulub asteroid impact that also killed the larger dinosaurs. Shall we sample more properly? )

X-Posted to [livejournal.com profile] talk_politics.
peristaltor: (The Captain's Prop)
Whoever has made observation on the characters of nations will find it generally true that the manners of a nation, or of a party, can be better ascertained from the character of its press than from any other public circumstance.

-Thomas Paine



Once again, I tripped over a tired trope tossed like a caltrop on an online discussion, the myth that our main news reports are "liberal," aka that they lean to the political left. To be fair, this particular discussor provided a link to a study. All well and good.

Well and good, until you read the darned thing. )

X-Posted to [livejournal.com profile] talk_politics.
peristaltor: (The Captain's Prop)
Just yesterday, I read that the belief "that we could have utopian prosperity if we got rid of private businesses and had the government run everything" should be marked down to "stubborn stupidity." Fair enough. As hyperbolic and Straw Manned-up as that statement is, thwarting all independent economic activity would be a bit delusional, given that nobody even agrees upon the definition of "individual", let alone of "collective."

That said, I find it fascinating how many screeds railing against "statism" (again, whatever that might be) completely ignore the actual clear and present danger that non-state actors are continuously exacting on the right of countries to exercise any semblance of sovereignty, and all under the geas of "free trade." Don't these folks know that given enough size, a corporation today has—via the power granted by over-reaching trade agreements—greater legal right than most countries? )
peristaltor: (The Captain's Prop)
A few years ago, a friend at work had a problem while driving. He heard a noise, probably from the front end of his vehicle. Since he was driving a 60-foot articulated passenger coach packed to the gills with commuters, this could have been a real problem. It was. Though he didn't notice anything at first, when he made a simple lane change he noticed the coach didn't respond to his steering wheel like it used to, instead becoming sluggish in turns. He dropped his speed and made for a turn-off from the freeway to inspect outside the seat. Probably a front blow-out. It wasn't.

He notified control about the weirdness and just took it slow to town, then drove the bus to the garage and notified the mechanics about the weird. The next day, all hell broke loose. )

Addendum, November 15, 2013: The Archdruid has some salient thoughts on the sequential processes both growing people and growing civilizations use to understand their worlds relevant to the above post:

It’s not merely that the government of every major industrial nation is trying to achieve economic growth by following policies that are supposed to bring growth in theory, but have never once done so in practice; it’s not merely that the populace of every major industrial society eagerly forgets all the lessons of each speculative bubble and bust as soon as the next one comes along, and makes all the same mistakes with the same dismal results as the previous time; it’s not even that allegedly sane and sensible people have somehow managed to convince themselves that limitless supplies of fossil fuels can somehow be extracted at ever-increasing rates from the insides of a finite planet: it’s that only a handful of people out on the furthest fringes of contemporary culture ever notice that there’s anything at all odd about these stunningly self-defeating patterns of behavior.

It’s at this stage of history that reflection becomes necessary. It’s only by thinking about thinking, by learning to pay attention to the way we transform the raw data of the senses into figurations and abstractions, that it becomes possible to notice what’s being excluded from awareness in the course of turning sensation into figurations and sorting out figurations into cascading levels of abstraction.


X-Posted to [livejournal.com profile] talk_politics.
peristaltor: (The Captain's Prop)
The sheer silliness of even casting a shadow of a glimmer of a sliver of blame on the Democratic Party members in Congress regarding this shutdown thing is laughable enough. There is more than enough evidence that the Tea Party has run with this ball all the way. I won't bother recounting it here.

What I found interesting was a very conservative political person suggesting why default may be the ultimate aim, not a stated consequence. Regarding the debt:

What I don’t think [the Obama administration and those on Wall Street] understand is that there has been a movement under way for some years among right-wing economists and activists not merely to default on the debt, but even to repudiate it.

Those making this argument are largely unknown to professional economists and journalists, but their research permeates the obscure Web sites where Tea Party members get their ideas. And not all are obscure.


As with most weirdnesses in our country, much of this can be traced back to the Civil War. )

X-Posted to [livejournal.com profile] talk_politics.
peristaltor: (The Captain's Prop)
Last February, NPR's Planet Money examined a unique strategy by Ecuador's government to preserve its Yasuni National Park, an isolated and wild place reached best by hours in a canoe. This is one of those places with amazing biodiversity, with more tree species in a hectare than most more northern countries have within their borders.

The problem threatening the Yasuni? It has oil, and President Correa, seeing the destruction other Latin American countries have suffered for oil exploration/extraction, wanted to avoid a similar fate for his most wild of national places. His solution: ask for money to preserve the park as is.

Seriously. Planet Money interviews those seeking to preserve the park by asking for money:

As payment for preserving the wilderness and preventing an estimated 410 million metric tons of fossil fuel-generated carbon emissions from entering the atmosphere, Correa has asked the world to ante up in the fight against global warming. He is seeking $3.6 billion in compensation, roughly half of what Ecuador would have realized in revenues from exploiting the resource at 2007 prices. The money would be used, he says, to finance alternative energy and community development projects.


So, how'd that all work out? )

X-Posted to [livejournal.com profile] talk_politics.
peristaltor: (The Captain's Prop)
Over five years ago, I wrote an LJ entry provocatively titled "The Hate Comes First". The title came from an article that I quoted regarding the psychological phenomenon called "splitting." Shall we review? )

I may have found some answers to why I feel the way I do and, perhaps more importantly, why others just a few years older than me feel the way they do. Ah, but that will have to wait for another rambling of mine at a later date.

X-Posted to [livejournal.com profile] talk_politics.
peristaltor: (The Captain's Prop)
Fun time! I got to receive two very different posts on two very different topics today in the same Friend's Feed. Trouble is, they aren't "different" at all.

The first comes to us from our Friends at Faux News.



Oh, a surf bum who eats well on the taxpayer dime! The horrors! I haven't heard about this since . . . the 1970s. Lobster-eating food stamp recipients were a common trope back then, too.

Next, compare poor Jason's chosen fate to that of others, like you and I, perhaps. Jesus, Perry, down what rat hole are you scurrying now? )

X-Posted to [livejournal.com profile] talk_politics.
peristaltor: (The Captain's Prop)
I don't feel like thinking too hard today, so instead I'll make and defend a simple observation: Today's conservative politicians rely overly-much on visceral topics instead of intellectual arguments in order to attract the undying support of those who hold those emotional trip wires tautly. In other words, modern conservative activists and many of the elected representatives that respond to them have developed a vocabulary of dog-whistle scare tactics to simultaneously frighten their base and thus shore up support by promising to, if elected, curb the scary and icky.

Ooga booga! Scary ahead! )

X-Posted to [livejournal.com profile] talk_politics.
peristaltor: (The Captain's Prop)
Recently I read an interesting LJ rundown on the various problems with the new technologies that have flooded the markets with new oil-ish and gaseous energy supplies. Long-time readers are probably familiar with my obsession with energy issues, as well as my more recent diving into economic and monetary thing-a-ma-bobs. Here's a recap for those that have wondered why the two seemingly divergent topics have occupied my reading and mulling: They aren't divergent at all. )

X-Posted to [livejournal.com profile] talk_politics.
peristaltor: (The Captain's Prop)
When I last mentioned Lewis Powell's now-infamous memorandum, I did so in a fairly limited scope, in explaining the silliness that might be behind the IRS investigation. I also found and quoted excerpts from a book, Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer—And Turned Its Back on the Middle Class by Jacob S. Hacker & Paul Pierson. I've since read that book, and just in time for Money And Ethics In Politics month! If you want a good run-down on the real story of how money got into politics in such unprecedented amounts, start with Mr. Powell's Memo, then head over to Hacker and Pierson's book.

I'll try to focus on a few salient points. )

X-posted to [livejournal.com profile] talk_politics.

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