OK boys and girls, time for a little review of an arcane notion of economics that is the darling of socialists cooking up ever more ways to make our lives miserable. An externality of some good or service traded at market price is the attributed added cost to society that the consumption of such a good or service entails. For example, consider the hamburger you had for lunch. The progressive sees that hamburger as being the source of all kinds of additional costs that are not reflected in the price you paid for it, costs like treating diseases resulting from national obesity to costs of manmade global warming resulting from all the cow farts collecting in the upper atmosphere.
As you might guess, the progressives’ solution to this ‘problem’ is to increase the hamburger’s price by a tax levied to pay for fixing all the subsequent externalities that might arise due to the consumption of hamburgers. In their enlightened brave new world, such additional costs would be added to the trade of every item in an economy onto which they can pile some externalities. According to their thinking, this type of accounting would pay for itself by finally making the purchase of goods and services ‘externalities neutral’. Light thinkers at this point begin to feel fuzzy and warm all over – why didn’t they think of that?
Nevada County is the home of record to one of the largest covens of non-governmental organizations and 501c3 foundations. Most of these organizations are devoutly leftwing and doing their best to bring forward and implement the objectives of UN’s Agenda 21 (while loudly decrying anything of the sort). Their work product has contributed to California’s regulatory pandemic that has placed the state at the bottom of about every national metric which rates tax/fee burdens, business environments and personal liberties.
As if the state’s embrace of socialism (aka progressivism) was not almost totally complete, our little Nevada County wants to do more of its part to contribute to this demonstrably ideological disease. The county has announced that it will make available an online system to enable existing and wannabe NGOs and foundations unlimited access in searching for private and public sector grant monies. From the 16aug14 Union we read –
Nevada County, in partnership with the Center for Nonprofit Leadership, is now providing a new grant-searching database tool free of charge for local government, community partners, nonprofit organizations and the public. The grant searching database, EfficientGov, focuses on grants and foundation funding for municipalities and nonprofit entities, making it possible to identify thousands of opportunities for entities to leverage their current assets and programming through additional financial sources.
You have to love names like ‘Center for Nonprofit Leadership’ and ‘EfficientGov’ in a state with an exodus of for-profit leaders and oxymoronically named databases. The doubtful benefit provided by such county services is that we taxpayers have to purchase ‘EfficientGov’ and then foster local anti-growth, anti-liberty organizations that attract employees, adherents, and members addicted to operating with other people’s money.
In the same issue of our beloved Union we also hear from Mr Steve Frisch, long time RR critic and CEO of the NGO calling itself the Sierra Business Council. Mr Frisch, one of the county’s leading leftwing intellectuals, maintains that California businesses need stronger federal clean water rules. Now anyone who has some semblance of knowledge about how business and economies work would know that at this stage of regulatory inundation, the last thing California businesses need is “stronger federal rules”, especially to promote something like clean water.
(Quietly complying with added state and federal regulations is termed by the local Left as 'working with Sacramento' and 'building bridges to the coastal regions' which are the banners under which the northern counties are to fall in line under a uniformly socialist state while we succumb to the harmony and solidarity long sought by our collectivist masters. As this ship of state sails onward toward a brave new shore, those in the deck chairs would wish those in steerage to make a bit less noise.)
In the article Frisch makes no case for the water being dirtier or unacceptably dirty. The touted and new EPA proposal for expanded regulation is called ‘Water of the U.S.’, and after quoting some water statistics on sources and uses, the suggested solution to a blatantly absent problem is more regulations. These will supposedly be welcomed by “a whopping 80% of small business owners” as reliably polled by – wait for it – the American Sustainable Business Council, an organization whose business credentials no doubt match those of the SBC. (more here)
Mr Frisch goes on to give his bona fides to such credentials by citing “Senator Feinstein’s demonstrated support for California businesses”. I venture that most business people in the state don’t know how much more of such support they are able to endure. Many have and continue to vote with their feet. More of the SBC maven’s understanding of economics is revealed by his causal connection of Silicon Valley’s growth to potable water. Well the entire bay area grew because California’s generous water supply from the Sierra is available to its farms and cities. And the growth, being mainly due to a good climate and proximity to good schools, took place under a much thinner regulatory regime. Now Silicon Valley companies are expanding everywhere except in California where the likes of SBC and the ASBC seek an ever more comprehensive and constricting regulatory environment.
Although there is not a shred of evidence presented that dirtier water exists and is impeding business growth, the ideology that touts ‘More Regulations, Better for Business’ continues to run rampant across socialist America. It makes one recall the pernicious ‘Arbeit macht frei’ signs erected over concentration camp gates that today still remind us of socialism taken to its extreme.
And finally, Mr Frisch cites the now proud progressive statistic of how its policies have benefitted California by reminding us that “Silicon Valley accounts for 28% of our income tax base.” This picture of progressive pride is seen by more sober economists, business people, and (both national and international) observers of today’s faltering economy as California’s Achilles’ heel. Such unfortunate concentration of the tax base epitomizes the disparity between the state’s makers and takers, a gulf that liberal politicians are doing everything in their power to widen in a state that is already a leader in all numbers relating to poverty, welfare, and the (invited) ingress of even more illegal aliens.
In California the people who don’t drink the kool-aid purveyed by the likes of Mr Frisch have long realized that they have no representation whatsoever in Sacramento. And given the inevitable dynamics of ‘democracy’ in California, there is no hope that this minority’s vote will ever have an impact in the halls of government through anything but voting with its boots.
[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.
It is hard to believe that someone can be elected to the highest office in the world, spend six years in the most expensive learn-while-you-earn educational program, and come out a reprobate dunce. The man has the consistent counsel of countless advisers ranging from lackeys to bureau heads, department secretaries, and the Pentagon’s military braintrust. They all tell him that ISIS is now subsuming Al Qaeda, and will most certainly deliver on its promise to launch attacks on our homeland.
ISIS is no longer simply a ‘terror organization’. It rules a large multi-national territory, is rapidly enlarging its army of fighters, has acquired modern arms, money, fungible natural resources, allies, and religious zeal second to none. ISIS, now calling itself the Islamic State or simply The Caliphate, has laid out its objectives and strategy the achievement and terrible execution of which it has and continues to demonstrate in the field.
As all this unfolds, America has the moral equivalent of Stalin huddling under a coffee table during the week after Hitler’s launch of Operation Barbarossa in 1941. We also have two so-called allies in the region – one feckless (Maliki’s Iraq) and one we’ve f@^ked over (the Kurdish Peshmerga) but still eager to fight – allies who today will not or cannot stop ISIS. Our president dithers in arming the Peshmerga while waiting for Maliki to put together an appropriately “inclusive government” in Baghdad, which BTW is now surrounded by ISIS – the Iraqi government’s influence ends at Baghdad’s city limits.
So here we prevaricate, monitor opinion polls, and tremble while the broader war between Islam and the west takes on a new and terrible dimension. And our leader, who has sworn to defend America, cannot muster the will to launch a full scale attack on ISIS, and demonstrate that if you promise to kill us in our country and are gathering the wherewithal to carry out your promise, then we will do our best to visibly destroy you with all the means at our disposal. What happened to JFK’s “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty. This much we pledge—and more.”?
For our survival we don’t wait for permission from foreign rulers, we don’t wait until “inclusive governments” are formed according to some arbitrary notions, and we don’t wait for favorable polls from an electorate that knows little of what is happening where. That is why we were given a Constitution and a republican government.
I believe I’m not the only one in America who wants the president to act forcefully against an enemy that is the modern equivalent of the Mongol hordes in its ferocity, terror, and determination – an enemy that shares not a shred of our values. However, if any deem me to be some lonely outlier (a constant theme among our lightely read progressive brethren), then I’ll gladly wear the mantle with the embroidered ‘Rebane Doctrine’ on its back.
[11aug14 update] It’s as if someone at the WSJ has been reading RR ;-) Today the paper points out that three prominent Democrats – “James Steinberg, formerly the President's Deputy Secretary of State, and Robert Ford, formerly his Ambassador to Syria, and Hillary Rodham Clinton, formerly his loyal Secretary of State” – have taken Obama’s foreign policy to task. It’s interesting to note that all three were instrumental in executing the Obama Doctrine before leaving the administration (more here).
But the real scary read is the recent report by the National Defense Panel co-chaired by William Perry (Clinton’s SecDef) and Gen John Abizaid (CENTCOM commander 2003-07). They calmly conclude that the defense budget cuts under Obama have essentially left the nation naked against fulfilling its overseas military commitments to allies, and more importantly to defend ourselves against a spectrum of likely foes ranging from ragheads to Russians. You can read for yourself the scope of the damage done by this president (here).
And finally I want to remind you again that America’s progressives continue believing that the US and the free world had nothing to fear from international communism, and the Cold War was all a ruse carefully concocted to transfer wealth from America’s middle class to the military-industrial complex during those decades. They are advising us that the same thing is now taking place with the false hyping of the danger presented by the growth of radical Islam.
[13aug14 update] Schadenfreude! Isn't it delightful to see the Dems, led by Hillary, landing direct hits on the CCO's foreign policy, and then getting their accuracy confirmed by supporting columns in the Washington Post and NYT along with desperate counters coming from the likes of David Axelrod?
IBM’s new NeuroSynaptic chip was recently announced and is making a big PR splash in the print and online media (more here and here). The chip’s processing power is based on the parallel implementation of essentially identical ‘neuronal’ structures that mimic major sections of the brain’s neocortex. We reported on one such promising structure – hierarchical temporal memory - developed some years back by Jeff Hawkins (On Intelligence). The IBM chip achieves higher transistor density levels, but most remarkably has an architecture that consumes miniscule power compared to standard chips with equal numbers of transistors. The claim for the NeuroSynaptic chip is that we are now a skosh or two away from truly intelligent machines in the form factor of a human brain that don't require a dedicated utility to supply its electricity. I will get real excited when IBM starts reporting on how easily a brain from such a chipset can learn to do everyday things in the real world.
Common Core is the latest jumbo sized Community Kool-aid served in Nevada County. Opening this morning's (9aug14) Union, we see multiple articles (here and here) and commentaries (here) on the joys of the new federal education standards. RR readers long ago learned how the heavy hand of federal education funding programs now mandate the adoption of this fast track to a deeper national educational deficit. The naifs still claim that CC is the best thing since sliced bread for our kids who will now learn less at a slower rate, and be forced into college catch-up courses when they leave high school. The remediation of CC kids will be required for many majors before they can start the prescribed four-year course of study. But hey, education will then be much more expensive, employing additional legions of registered Democrats, who will take more classroom time to teach the little darlins to think correct thoughts. All of it part and parcel of the ongoing fundamental transformation. (For more, search RR for ‘Common Core’)
Data scientists are highly paid and in short supply. Data scientist is the new label for a class of STEM workers who are skilled in handling massive databases, searching them for patterns, and developing algorithms to use such pattern data to generate information that is used for making decisions in all kinds of fields from medicine, through energy production, to investing and finance. We learn that STEM degrees in data intensive fields of science and engineering can get a twenty-something upwards of $300K a year for openers. (more here)
Over the recent months (years?) there has been much discussion here (search RR for ‘STEM’) about the availability of STEM workers, the number of STEM jobs, importing STEM workers, and so on. According to my lights, STEM fields and skill sets are now so numerous and diverse that not all areas are equally likely to ‘guarantee’ employment to the graduate. It pays to do some considerable research and get in on the ground floor in a promising STEM field during school. And when in doubt, take lots of courses in applied math, physics, algorithmics (computer science), and data handling.
Romney's return in 2016. I felt kinda lonely coming to the conclucion that Mitt might not be a bad candidate again in 2016 given the absolute disaster that Barack Hussein Obama has made of the Office of the President. I have reported the recent writings of American pundits on that possibility. Now we are starting to hear people overseas looking back at the big mistake our electorate made (again) in 2012. Here is an interesting report from a very popular British outlet.
When seeking solutions to society's problems, always hold government guilty until proven innocent.
Modern progressivism is the most cynically named socio-political ideology since the world of Orwell’s 1984. Evidence abounds that there is literally nothing progressive for organizing human society in the (niggardly revealed) tenets and expanding practice of progressivism – it gives rise to arguably the most regressive politics in the so-called free world. Thomas Sowell, celebrated social theorist, economist, political philosopher, and senior fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institute, argues convincingly that “growing evidence suggests that we are living in a post-thinking era.”
He joins many learned observers of the human condition to conclude that in America we are wallowing in a rising mire of dumbth in which main street is no longer capable of thinking through even the most basic concepts that ultimately impact their lives. This deficit is the visible preamble to not being able to reason about simple decisions from what they read, see, and experience. Progressives throughout the land are uniformly blind to that state of affairs and continue promoting programs and public policies guaranteed to remove the last vestiges of independent and critical thought from the public forum. (In this context consider the online outpourings of local progressives.)
Dr Sowell gives examples to underline his assertion in ‘If people would just think things through …’. When we focus on the particulars presented it is simply mind boggling that an advanced society like ours can be induced to regress as rapidly as we have witnessed in the past decades of impeccably regulated politically correct thought, speech, and conduct. None of this should be a surprise for RR readers; we review it here because the speed of our downward spiral is picking up.
To underline this trail of tears for those who still can and do think, I draw your attention again to the Common Core education standard much covered and discussed in these pages. UC Berkeley professor emerita and honored mathematician Dr Marina Ratner recently examined Common Core’s math standards and the curricula that it has inspired across the land. She presents a summary of her analysis and professional conclusions in ‘Making Math Education Even Worse’.
There she begins by joining many of us in amazement that we have ignored the successful instruction methodologies and texts used in advanced countries that regularly beat America's youth in international math ratings, and instead have spent almost $16B in devising a new standard that is “several years behind old standards, especially in the higher grades”, and specifically “vastly inferior to the old California standards in rigor, depth and the scope of topics.”
Common Core is so flawed that even one of its authors, Jason Zimba, admits “that the new standards wouldn’t prepare students for colleges to which ‘most parents aspire’ to send their children.” To this the good professor gives sufficient examples and details to make your eyes roll and heads spin (assuming you are not among the sad cohort described by Thomas Sowell).
Dr Ratner concludes that “American students are already struggling against the competition. The Common Core won’t help them succeed”, but instead “will move the US even closer to the bottom in international ranking.”
My point here is that this may well be the progressives’ long sought coup de grace to take America down from its position of world greatness and leadership. As pointed out here and by noted national thinkers over the last years, there is a definite agenda being followed by collectivists to bring the US to heel in the community of nations. Dinesh D’souza takes his readers through an expanded trail of evidence for this assertion in his recent America: Imagine a World without her. Saddened I continue to observe how willingly and without whimper we travel this path to oblivion from the pages of post-tipping point history now being written. And yes, it is all due to the spread of the stifling and diseased memes of progressive thought already metastisized in America. We should think about it while we still can.