We are here in Scottsdale again attending the annual conference of the Mercatus Center and Institute for Humane Studies. For the last several years it has been an annual event for us and friends to caravan down and enjoy a few days of exceedingly interesting presentations and workshops on economics and national issues. The conference attracts about three hundred attendees, most of whom are donors to the two organizations connected to George Mason University. What always amazes us is the number of well-read and informed people who also make this their annual pilgrimage for stimulating discussions and debates.
This year’s keynote speakers were PJ O’Rourke and economist Tyler Cowen. PJ was a last minute stand-in for syndicated columnist George Will who had to deal with a family emergency. And everyone got a chance to rub elbows and talk at length with the nationally prominent scholars who do the institutes’ research and present their work here, in scholarly publications, national news media, and in congressional hearings.
In the interval I have not been able to monitor the goings on hereabouts. Looking in on RR, I am more than a bit dismayed over the exchange that has been going on in ‘Sandbox – 11mar15’ during my absence. I notice that RR is again the tromping ground for Mr Jeff Pelline and some of his cohort. And the dialogues such attendance has given rise to are nothing to write home about, let alone memorialize for the ages on the web.
Mr Pelline’s contributions are the indelible derivatives of his nature delivered to raise him to the extent that he can successfully push down those he attacks. As usual, he brings no ideas to discuss or dissect, only ad hominem vituperation. But what continues to puzzle me is that RR readers take the man seriously enough to more than give him the time of day. These readers, who have already established their credentials in debating issues and ideas, actually are seen to engage with Mr Pelline at length and at his level. The resulting mudball fights bring nothing to the large number of this blogs regular, albeit silent, readers. But they do bring out the bitter angels that inhabit a select few of those who oppose Mr Pelline and all that he stands for. My question again is what end is justified by entering into such exchanges at his peerage. Are there not better ways to shorten his pointless visits here?
As I’ve said before, if Pelline’s attacks on RR readers are ignored, then I will delete them as I would flick away any pesky fly. But if his droppings solicit an exchange, then I must conclude that certain RR readers actually enjoy engaging the man. And according to the established sandbox rules (as they now stand), the dialogue can continue. But again, to what end??? Any thoughts on this?
To jog the understanding is a greater feat, than to jog the memory: for it takes more to make a man think, than to make him remember. ... Gracian #68
When RR launched back in 2007 its purpose was to capture my and my readers’ views on humanity’s efforts to concurrently prepare for or studiously ignore the advent of an epochal milestone in this planet’s ‘Story of Man’. The topic matter and opinions recorded in these pages cover everything from geo-politics, culture, education, economics, history, science, and of course, the Singularity, in the advent of which we now find ourselves. Readers recall that when we do realize that the Singularity has happened – I don’t believe we can predict that hour – all of our prepared plans and hopes will become moot. A new age will start on this blue, brown, and white ball.
Reading postings from some years back, I knew then that my views within most of the listed areas were charitably ‘on the fringes’ of what passed for common wisdom in our media. I was prepared for that since being on the fringes has been a common thread of my life. So I took the obligatory slings and arrows from more mainstream folks as a matter of course. But over the last few years things have begun changing as also noted by my correspondents. My outlandish notions of yesteryear are being discovered and embraced by more and more observers of the human condition. What was a fringe notion on, say, items like unfunded liabilities and its impact on public policy are now repeated as alarums so common as to be in danger of again being ignored because of their repetitions. Or even more significantly, the undeflected growth of systemic unemployment due to accelerating technology and declining education in these pre-Singularity years.
Today one can point to such ideas starting to penetrate even the denser thickets of the Left (while the densest continue to be blissfully immune). I was reminded of this most recently during the critiques of President Obama’s SOU speech. As Exhibit A I offer the 22jan15 commentary – ‘Obama’s American Sniper’ - of Wall Street Journal’s deputy editorial director Daniel Henninger. This respected award-winning journalist and commentator is read internationally as an established voice of America’s Right. The referenced column on the recent SOU speech makes arguments about Obama (as a chronic liar) and America’s geo-politics that could have been drawn straight from my ‘fringe’ commentaries of yesteryear, and now few would find them surprising in the pages of one of the world’s pinnacle (and yes, profitable) publications covering business, politics, and international affairs.
Of course I am heartened to see these ideas begin to leak into the mainstream. And it matters not if the recently arrived make claims to have always been here. The point is that such a migration of ideas spells hope that we may yet reverse course, and, as a society, struggle against all odds back to the tipping point. My hope is that humans will meet the Singularity as a sane species worthy to participate in a trans-human future, instead of having become yet another dying species witnessing the dawn of post-humanity. Such are my musings as I ponder the future of RR, and the efforts required to stay the course. Thoughts?
OK, all you Ruminators, pay attention. If you live in northern California, the NWS promises lots of water and wind coming our way starting tomorrow night (Wed) and going through Thursday. PG&E is betting on power outages with crews doing last minute tree trimmings over/near vulnerable power lines. But we all know that power will go out; some places for quite a while.
Time to get your vehicles gassed up, generators and chain saws fueled, oiled, and exercised, candles, flashlights, and kerosene lamps standing by, firewood stacked and handy, and all kinds of extra nummies stuffed into the ice box that you’ll have to eat cause else it will spoil (ha!). Extra DVD movies to watch during the storm – after all, why did God invent generators.
Oh yes, and charge up all those up chargeables like your pad and cell phone. Grab some good books. Then strap on a set of your favorite snuggies, set up your favorite adult beverages, put on some music, and let come what may. Stay safe.
RR reader/debater, musician, producer, KVMR news director, and friend Paul Emery is long known in Nevada County for his many talents and activities which keep us entertained and informed. This fall Paul is outdoing himself with a bevy of productions that promise to keep the county’s toes a’tappin’. I am constantly amazed how such a seemingly laid back guy can accomplish all that he does. This morning he sent out an email that details the various courses of the latest feast he is serving up in the coming weeks. Take note also that Paul now has a first class website that displays his wares. Here is how he tells it.
Nevada City Live - Fall 2014
The beat goes on! This week we have a fantastic line-up at the Nevada Theatre.
Last year, author and poet Molly Fisk brought the house down with her performance during Nevada City Live. Her humor, wit, impeccable timing, astute observations and colorful storytelling is a joy to see in person! Don't miss her on Friday, October 10.
And don't forget Troubadours: Peter Wilson, Moe Dixon and Mountain John Hilligoss will reunite for a very special concert Saturday, October 11.
When not touring as Troubadours, Wilson regularly performs at Northern California festivals, concerts and nightclubs. He's been a featured performer at the California WorldFest, KVMR Celtic Festival and has opened concerts for headliners including The Band, Etta James, Jessie Winchester, and The Smothers Brothers. Dixon now divides his time between Oregon and Colorado and is considered one of the top solo artists in the country, for his unique finger-style and ragtime guitar. He's shared the stage with such familiar names as Phil Oches, Pete Seeger, Robben Ford, Buddy Guy, Doc Watson, Maria Muldaur, John Denver, and more. Mountain John was a fixture in the LA and Nashville music scenes, performing with Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Emmylou Harris and more, before moving to Pennsylvania to pursue his poetry.
Shows start at 8pm and tickets are $20. Tickets are on sale on at BriarPatch Co-Op in Grass Valley and Yabobo in Nevada City. Tickets are for sale for all shows through Vendini.
You can find more information on these shows plus the entire lineup on my new website at www.paulemerymusic.com
We still need volunteers for all shows. You can sign up for a show by sending an email to Robin Karistedt at email@example.com and she'll give you details.
[This is the addended transcript of my regular KVMR commentary broadcast on 15 Auguest 2014.]
Imagine the next time the lights go out and your house settles into that unnatural but familiar silence when there is a power outage. You know what to do. If you have a landline phone in your house, you call PG&E to report your outage or get a recorded update that tells you they know about the problem. But your landline phone is dead. You automatically grab your cell phone, but it also is dead. As you go through the house attempting to turn on every battery powered electronic device the result it the same, it is dead.
Going outside you meet your next door neighbor who has just gone through the same experience. As other people start coming out of their houses, you and your neighbor decide to drive into town to see if you can discover the nature and extent of such an outage that no one has experienced. But turning the ignition key in your car yields the same result. Nobody on your street can start their cars. And then you notice it, an eerie silence from all directions that is not broken by any distant sirens or road noises. The world has shut down.
Do not exhibit your sore finger for all to strike upon, and do not complain of it, for malice always pounds where it hurts most. ... Gracian #145
Due to a little medical emergency last night, my output requiring typing may be bit sparse for the next few days. With apologies to Father Baltasar, we’ll see how fast the brainbone can adapt.
I have sabraged champagne bottles for decades, and have demonstrated and taught the fine art to friends and colleagues. Sabraging is the classical method of opening champagne with a sabre or sword that has been practiced by officers of almost all armies when wearing their (now ceremonial) long knives. Not being so accoutered, I have substituted a garden machete with equal effectiveness, if not the formal grace of a hilted sword.
Last night was our traditional monthly gathering of brothers for the study of psychostochastics held in my downstairs ‘man cave’. This seminar is now established in Nevada County for over a decade, and enjoys a more hoary provenance in soCal where eager students first gathered ages ago and continue in the pursuit to this day. In both locales we use poker as the medium of study which organizes and focuses the teaching methodology while promoting a certain level of enthusiasm and attentiveness in the attendees. The affair includes dinner and appropriate libations to lubricate the bonhomie and subsequent academics which will occupy us for the evening.
Our group includes local notables and a dedicated contingent from Auburn who always arrive with a magnum of champagne. A physician among us had never witnessed sabraging, and I was asked to do the honors. After being handed a cold magnum and while explaining the preliminaries, I took my position with the business end pointed toward the lawn. With one mighty swipe of the machete the cleanly severed neck and cork were destined for the center of the grass, followed by a bit of the bubbly arcing a couple of feet in front me. Instead, the whole bottle exploded in my left hand with large shards falling through my fingers followed by a gush of blood as the largest piece neatly sliced my ring finger to the bone.
Fortunately the fellow student standing two feet away instantly recomposed himself as a physician, examined the now very bloody hand, determined that a band-aid would definitely not serve, and dispatched me to the local ER for some more serious medical attention. So in bloody shorts and with hand wrapped in several rapidly reddening towels, Jo Ann rushed me to the Sierra Memorial Hospital’s ER where I continued bleeding while signing countless forms assuring the establishment that I would not stiff them for their services or sue them for lack thereof, after which I received a new dressing and was directed to go bleed in the waiting room.
Two hours later they were ready to take X-rays, and we wondered whether I was ready for a transfusion. They needed the pictures before the wound could be cleaned and then sewn back together. But that’s another story for another time. With seven stiches re-establishing structural integrity in the finger, and a mighty metal splint protecting the injured appendage, we arrived back at Casa Rebane at around 10pm.
By that time the dinner was over, and the seminar was in, shall we say, intense progress with the chip trays giving evidence as to who had been learning from whom during the intervening hours. I was able to join in for a round or two appealing to more intact hands to shuffle those sweet little tickets.
Several of the brothers good-naturedly asked whether I would again offer to sabrage the next bottle of the bubbly. Absolutely I would. However, bowing to discretion as the better part of valor, I might perhaps now use a towel to wrap the bottle so that if lighting were to strike twice … .
It is clear to many, perhaps most, that evil abounds in the world today. Yet the concepts of evil are varied to the point that among their extremes there may be no agreement at all on what constitutes evil. I admit to being on or near a semantic extreme myself. In any case, given all the worldwide killing and corruption, I would like to put down some thoughts about how I judge that something or someone should be labeled evil. In doing so I don’t seek agreement, but a reasoned critique would be welcome.
Having a clear thought about what is and is not evil is important, because we tend to react differently when we confront what we judge to be evil as opposed to, say, ignorant, misguided, arising from a different yet acceptable perspective, or a purely random happening. We don’t want to ignore evil, knowing evil gnaws on us, especially if we consider it our duty to oppose or eliminate it. And it does so even if it’s not our duty but that we see the opportunity and have the means to diminish it. Also, we feel good if we have successfully struck a blow against evil. Most religious traditions exhort us to deal with evil through scriptural prescriptions that range from turning away to facing it head on and doing some things much more proactive.
1. For me evil involves an agent/agency of evil that is sapient or at least sentient – sapient in the sense of being wise or knowing its role in promulgating the evil act, and sentient in being conscious of oneself but not necessarily aware of one’s role.
2. Evil must have a target or a victim that is at least sentient enough to be capable of suffering the effects of evil. The target may or not be intended by the agent to suffer the consequences of evil. The target need not perceive the identity of the agent(s) of evil.
3. Evil must cause its target unjust suffering and/or pain. The injustice of evil must also be apparent to and communicable by those who witness evil or hear its report. Most importantly, absent the notion of justice, the idea of evil has no meaning.
4. Ultimately evil is in the eye of the sentient and sapient target and/or the witness to it. Universal evil is a rarity among humans.
5. An agent of evil need not believe that the consequent he causes or catalyzes is in his own eyes evil. Here we understand that agents of evil come in many flavors and functions. Agents are also those who perceive the evil, have the ability to prevent the evil impacting its target, and yet let the evil proceed unimpeded. And abetting agents do not instigate the evil but merely support its progress.
6. With or without noble motives an agent can enable evil through ignorance. Therefore enduring ignorance that enables and/or inflicts unjust pain is evil.
Resisting evil, even unto its destruction, is perceived as being just, responsible, dutiful, and/or noble. Therefore it is easier to marshal a cohort to fight something that can be ascribed and accepted as being evil, because evil usually evokes a strong emotional response in people. For that reason evil is often invoked by demogauges seeking popular support for a political or commercial agenda. In such cases the desired supporters are also made to believe that they are the targets of the posited evil.
In this light we see that evil abounds and more so as the world becomes tightly connected. Daily we are made aware of purposely or carelessly inflicted pain which we are told is unjust. In contrast, without such widespread evil, good works and acts of altruism would not be celebrated. Evil has also been the classical progenitor of religions whose adherents’ most beseeching prayer to their god(s) is ‘deliver us from evil.’
Yet in spite of experienced evil or feeling helpless in its affront, we also continue to teach the stoic and character-building palliative best captured in the Chinese proverb, ‘Pain makes a man think, thinking makes a man wise, and wisdom makes life bearable’ - which we apply to both just and unjust pain.