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    The ghost at all our feasts: three lectures by Adam Tooze

    Posted by L. C. Rees on 11th September 2014 (All posts by )

    One of Zenpundit’s most influential book recommendations for me was The Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy by Adam ToozeWages of Destruction made most other books on the Nazi complicated run German economy of 1920-1945 look infantile. I read Tooze’s newest book The Deluge: The Great War and the Remaking of Global Order 1916-1931 over July. A review is in the works. While you stay up nights waiting for that, Tooze gave three lectures at Stanford University’s Europe Center worth absorbing based on The Deluge:

    1. Making Peace in Europe 1917-1919: Brest-Litovsk and Versailles
    2. Hegemony: Europe, America and the problem of financial reconstruction, 1916-1933
    3. Unsettled Lands: the interwar crisis of agrarian Europe

    The rise of the American empire 1849-1922 is the great question of our time.

    [Cross-posted on Zenpundit]

    Posted in Boyd/Osinga Roundtable, History, Russia, Tradeoffs | 6 Comments »

    Unhistory Friday: The Discovery of Middle Earth

    Posted by L. C. Rees on 5th September 2014 (All posts by )

    As The Discovery of Middle Earth: Mapping the Lost World of the Celts nears its end and appeals to Geoffrey of Monmouth as a source of historical truth proliferate, even the most oblivious reader starts to get the joke: Geoffrey’s Historia Regum Britanniae was a milestone in the genre of historical fiction satirizing historical non-fiction by posing as historical non-fiction.

    Geoffrey succeeded so well that he earned 900 years worth of cranks mistaking his fiction for fact. As with Arthur Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes, Geoffrey’s character of King Arthur is so compelling that many Historia readers keep insisting that Arthur must be real. This insistence is yet another demonstration that fiction believed shapes history as much as fact believed. The ideal of the real (but fake) Arthur shaped how Latin Christian rulers portrayed themselves and (sometimes) acted, and how their subjects thought they should portray themselves and act. Edward I even resorted to digging up Arthur’s bones to co-opt fiction to support his conquest of Free Britain.

    Longshanks to Britons: See here? Arthur’s bones. No Once and Future King can save you now.

    (Twirls mustache).

    The Discovery of Middle Earth does not approach works by titans of its genre like Rachel Carson or Umberto Eco; the library Discovery of Middle Earth belongs in would explode in swirls of subatomic particles if it ever brushed against Eco’s antilibrary. But, even if it does not belong in Eco’s library, it does belong in another Eco chamber. Like Eco’s Foucault’s PendulumDiscovery of Middle Earth satirizes independent scholars who start drinking their own research. Though it lacks the deep scholarly verve and meticulous revelry in small details that makes Eco’s masterpiece a feast for readers, Discovery of Middle Earth is more approachable to readers who might get lost in Foucault’s weeds of arcana but who want more than the thin swill of the Dan Brown corpus.

    The protagonist of The Discovery of Middle Earth (a thinly veiled pastiche of best-selling British highbrow tourist guide author Graham Robb) is an English independent scholar who spirals down into madness as an artifact recovered in the backyard of his Oxford cottage leads him to discover a previously unseen “Celtic” geography of lines drawn across Europe by “Druids” so contemporary that they would not be out of place at a Davos symposium. Soon enough he starts seeing this pattern staring back at him from obscure rural corners of France and later Britain and Ireland. As with all madness, he first becomes one with the pattern and then descends below that oneness when he finds the pattern staring back into him.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Britain, Europe, France | 7 Comments »

    John Quincy Adams on Gaza

    Posted by L. C. Rees on 18th July 2014 (All posts by )

    Our relations with Spain the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) remain nearly in the state in which they were at the close of the last session. The convention of 1802 Oslo Accords of 1991 and 1995, providing for the adjustment of a certain portion of the claims of our citizens for injuries sustained by spoliation, and so long suspended by the Spanish PA Government has at length been ratified by it, but no arrangement has yet been made for the payment of another portion of like claims, not less extensive or well founded, or for other classes of claims, or for the settlement of boundaries. These subjects have again been brought under consideration in both countries, but no agreement has been entered into respecting them.

    In the mean time events have occurred which clearly prove the ill effect of the policy which that Government has so long pursued on the friendly relations of the two countries, which it is presumed is at least of as much importance to Spain the PLA as to the United States Israel to maintain. A state of things has existed in the Floridas Gaza Strip the tendency of which has been obvious to all who have paid the slightest attention to the progress of affairs in that quarter. Throughout the whole of those Provinces to which the Spanish Palestinian title extends the Government of Spain the PLA has scarcely been felt. Its authority has been confined almost exclusively to the walls of Pensacola and St. Augustine the West Bank, within which only small garrisons have been maintained. Adventurers from every country, fugitives from justice, and absconding slaves have found an asylum there. Several tribes of Indians Islamists, strong in the number of their warriors terrorists, remarkable for their ferocity, and whose settlements extend to our limits, inhabit those Provinces.

    These different hordes of people, connected together, disregarding on the one side the authority of Spain the PA, and protected on the other by an imaginary line which separates Florida the Gaza Strip from the United States Israel, have violated our laws prohibiting the introduction of slaves, have practiced various frauds on our revenue, and committed every kind of outrage on our peaceable citizens which their proximity to us enabled them to perpetrate.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Israel, Law Enforcement, Markets and Trading, Space | 4 Comments »

    HOWTO: improve a historic document via committee

    Posted by L. C. Rees on 4th July 2014 (All posts by )

    How the Declaration of Independence evolved from its first draft by Thomas Jefferson (blue) to the revised draft by the Committee of Five (John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Robert Livingston, and Roger Sherman (red) to the final changes made by the Continental Congress as a committee of the whole (bold black) (source):

    A Declaration of the Representatives of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, in General Congress assembled. In Congress, July 4,1776. The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen United States of America.
     
    When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for a People to advance from that Subordination, in which they have hitherto remained, one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the Ppowers of the Eearth the equal and independant Station the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent Rrespect to the opinions of Mmankind requires that they should declare the Ccauses which impel them to the Change separation.
     
    We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal and independant, that from that equal creation they derive rights inherent and inalienable, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, among which that among these are the Preservation of Life, and Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. tThat to secure these Ends rights, Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the Cconsent of the governed; t.—That whenever any Form of gGovernment shall become becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Rright of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Ffoundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient Ccauses; and accordingly all Eexperience hath shown, that mankind are more disposed to Ssuffer, while Eevils are Ssufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of Aabuses and Uusurpations, begun at a distinguish’d Period and, pursuing invariably the same oObject, evinces a Ddesign to reduce them under absolute Power dDespotism, it is their Rright, it is their Dduty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. Such has been the patient Ssufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the Nnecessity which constrains them to expunge alter their former systems of government. The history of his present Majesty, the present king of Great Britain is a history of unremitting repeated injuries and usurpations, among which no one Fact stands Single or Solitary to contradict the uniform tenor of the rest, all of which have having in direct object the Eestablishment of an absolute Ttyranny over these Sstates. To prove this let Ffacts be Ssubmitted to a candid Wworld., for the Truth of which We pledge a Faith, as yet unsullied by falsehood.
     
    He has refused his assent to laws the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
     
    He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his assent should be obtained; and, when so suspended, he has neglected utterly to attend to them.
     
    He has refused to pass other Laws for the accomodation of large Ddistricts of Ppeople unless those Ppeople would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a Rright inestimable to them, and formidable to Ttyrants only.
     
    He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public rRecords, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
     
    He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly and continually,for opposing with manly Ffirmness his Iinvasions on the Rrights of the Ppeople;
     
    He has refused, for a long Space of Ttime after such Ddissolutions to cause others to be elected, whereby the lLegislative Ppowers, incapable of aAnnihilation have returned to the People at large for their Eexercise, the sState remaining, in the mean Ttime meantime, exposed to all the Ddangers of Iinvasion from without, and Convulsions within.
     
    He has endeavoured to prevent the Ppopulation of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for nNaturalization of fForeigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their Mmigrations hither, and raising the Cconditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
     
    He has suffered obstructed the Administration of Justice totally to cease in some of these Colonies, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.
     
    He has made our Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the Ttenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their Ssalaries.
     
    He has created a Mmultitude of nNew oOffices by a Self-assumed Power, and sent hither swarms of oOfficers to harass our Ppeople, and eat out their Ssubstance.
     
    He has kept among us, in Ttimes of Ppeace, Standing Armies and Ships of War without the cConsent of our legislatures..
     
    He has affected to render the mMilitary independent of and Superiour superior to the cCivil Ppower.
     
    He has combined with others to subject us to a Jjurisdiction foreign to our Cconstitution, and unacknowledged by our Llaws; giving his Assent to their pretended Acts of pretended Legislation:
     
    fFor quartering large Bbodies of armed Ttroops among us:
     
    fFor protecting them, by a Mmock Tryal Ttrial from Ppunishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
     
    fFor cutting off our Ttrade with all Pparts of the Wworld;
     
    fFor imposing Taxes on as without our Consent—fFor depriving Uus in many cases of the Bbenefits of Trial by Jjury;
     
    fFor transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:
     
    fFor abolishing the free sSystem of English Llaws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an aArbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these cColonies:
     
    fFor taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable lLaws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Government:
     
    fFor suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with Ppower to legislate for us in all Ccases whatsoever.
     
    He has abdicated Government here withdrawing his Governors, and by declaring us out of his Allegiance and pProtection, and waging war against us.
     
    He has plundered our Sseas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the Lives of our Ppeople.
     
    He is at this Ttime transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to complete compleat the Wworks of death, Ddesolation, andTtyranny, already begun with Ccircumstances of Ccruelty and Pperfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized Nnation.
     
    He has excited domestic insurrection among us, and has endeavoured to bring on the Iinhabitants of our Ffrontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known Rrule of Wwarfare is an undistinguished Ddestruction of all Aages, Ssexes, and Cconditionsof existence.
     
    He has incited treasonable Insurrections of our Fellow Citizens, with the allurement of Forfeiture and Confiscation of our Property.
     
    He has constrained others our fellow citizens taken cCaptive on the high sSeas, to bear arms against their cCountry, to become the executioners of their friends and bBrethren, or to fall themselves by their hHands:
     
    He has waged cruel War against human Nature itself, violating its most sacred Rights of Life and Liberty in the Persons of a distant People who never offended him, captivating and carrying them into Slavery in another Hemisphere, or to incur miserable Death, in their Transportation thither. This piratical Warfare, the opprobrium of infidel Powers, is the Warfare of the Christian King of Great Britain.
     
    He has prostituted his Negative for Suppressing every legislative Attempt to prohibit or to restrain an execrable Commerce, determined to keep open a Market where Men should be bought and sold, and that this assemblage of Horrors might want no Fact of distinguished Die.
     
    He is now exciting those very People to rise in Arms among us, and to purchase their Liberty of which he has deprived them, by murdering the People upon whom he also obtruded them: thus paying off, former Crimes committed against the Liberties of one People, with Crimes which he urges them to commit against the Lives of another.
     
    In every stage of these oOppressions wWe have pPetitioned for rRedress, in the most humble tTerms: oOur repeated Petitions have been answered by repeated Iinjury.
     
    A Prince whose Ccharacter is thus marked by every Aact which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the Rruler of a People who mean to be free people. future ages will scarce believe, that the Hardiness of one Man, adventured, within the Short Compass of twelve years only, on so many Acts of Tyranny, without a Mask, over a People, fostered and fixed in the Principles of Liberty.
     
    Nor have wWe been wanting in Aattentions to our British Bbrethren. We have warned them from Ttime to Ttime of attempts of by their Llegislature to extend a an unwarranted Jjurisdiction over these our States us. We have reminded them of the Ccircumstances of our Eemigration and Ssettlement here no one of which could warrant so strange a Pretension. That these were effected at the expense of our own Blood and Treasure, unassisted by the Wealth or the Strength of Great Britain; that in constituting indeed, our Several Forms of Government, we had adopted one common King, thereby laying a Foundation for Perpetual League and Amity with them; but that Submission to their Parliament, was no Part of our Constitution, nor ever in Idea, if History may be credited; and wWe have appealed to their Nature, native Jjustice and Mmagnanimity and we have conjured them by as well as to the Tties of our common Kkindred to disavow these usurpations which were likely to would inevitably interrupt our Correspondence and Connection connection and correspondance. They too have been deaf to the Vvoice of Jjustice and of Cconsanguinity. and when occasions have been given them by the regular Course of their Laws of removing from their Councils, the Disturbers of our Harmony, they have by their free Election, re-established them in Power. At this very Time too, they are permitting their Chief Magistrate to send over not only soldiers of our common Blood, but Scotch and foreign Mercenaries, to invade and deluge us in Blood. These Facts have given the last Stab to agonizing affection, and manly Spirit bids us to renounce forever these unfeeling Brethren. We must endeavour to forget our former Love for them, and to hold them, as we hold the rest of Mankind, enemies in War, in Peace Friends. We might have been a free and a great People together but a Communication of Grandeur and of Freedom it seems is below their Dignity. Be it so, since they will have it: The Road to Happiness and to Glory is open to us too; we will climb it, apart from them We must therefore and acquiesce in the Nnecessity which denounces our eternal Sseparation and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
     
    We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress aAssembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by the Authority of the good People of these States Colonies, reject and renounce all Allegiance and Subjection to the Kings of Great Britain, and all others, who may hereafter claim by, through, or under them; We utterly dissolve and break off, all political Connection which may have heretofore subsisted between us and the People or Parliament of Great Britain, and finally we do assert solemnly publish and declare, that these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be fFree and iIndependent States; that they are Absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as fFree and iIndependent States, they shall hereafter have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which independent States may of Right do. And for the Ssupport of this Declaration, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our Sacred Honour Honor.

    Posted in Crime and Punishment, Deep Thoughts, History, Holidays, Rhetoric, Systems Analysis, Tradeoffs, USA | 3 Comments »

    Unhistory Monday: The General

    Posted by L. C. Rees on 26th August 2013 (All posts by )

    The best written portrayal of Douglas MacArthur. More truthful than factual.

    Posted in Speeches | 7 Comments »

    Kill the Department of Defense

    Posted by L. C. Rees on 13th August 2013 (All posts by )

    Franklin Delano Roosevelt knew bureaucracy: “You know, I’m a juggler, and I never let my right hand know what my left hand does.”

    Uncle Theodore

    Uncle Theodore

    As in many aspects of FDR’s life, his wife’s uncle was a model. As Assistant Secretary of the Navy, young hotshot Uncle Theodore proved chronically wearisome to his boss, veteran Massachusetts state Republican machine cog John Davis Long. When Long took a day off once, Uncle Theodore, liberated by a sudden vacuum of adult supervision, tried to start a war. Long countermanded Uncle Theodore’s orders but it was too late: Uncle Theodore had his war and it was splendid.

    Padawan

    Portrait of the master as a young man

    In 1913, to prevent regime uncertainty, newly elected Thomas Woodrow Wilson (may his bones be crushed) said, “Fine, you want a Roosevelt as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, I got your Roosevelt as Assistant Secretary of the Navy right here.” So into the family sinecure went spunky 31 year old New York State Democratic Senator Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He immediately commenced his own Long struggle against his boss, Raleigh, North Carolina News & Observer publisher and race baiter Josephus Daniels. While Daniels focused on high-level issues like controlling every radio in America, FDR Uncle Theodored him by secretly lobbying Congress to build up U.S. naval strength to levels Daniels opposed. FDR even attempted to start his own splendid little war by mobilizing the U.S. Navy against unrestricted Hun submarine attacks in 1917.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Organizational Analysis, Politics | 2 Comments »

    You will be gamed

    Posted by L. C. Rees on 10th August 2013 (All posts by )

    It is dangerous to promote an ideal and pretend it’s not for entertainment purposes only.

    From time to time, motivational slogans like “national interest” and “grand strategy” have proved useful in prodding the slothful along. Fiction has power to move people and move people it does. Mixing up myth for reality, however, leads to cognitive whiplash when reality steps, as it must, on myth. Many gleaming ideals are little more than bright colors painted on after the fact to cover up grimy back stage shenanigans and less than visionary ad hoc improvisations, usually for temporary short-term political gain.

    Entering politics, if you lead with your idealistic chin, you will soon discover you have a glass jaw. As Warren Buffet might have said once, “If you’ve been playing poker for half an hour and you still don’t know who the patsy is, you’re the patsy.” This is true even in organizations that are reputedly non-political. Experience suggests that, the more someone protests how non-political they are, the more political they prove to be. Consider three of the most consequential peace treaties of the twentieth century:

    Key West Agreement” (Function of the Armed Forces and the Joint Chiefs of Staff)

    Signed: April 21, 1948

    Belligerents: United States Army, United States Navy, United States Air Force

    Results:

    • ‘The Navy would be allowed to retain its own combat air arm “…to conduct air operations as necessary for the accomplishment of objectives in a naval campaign…”‘
    • “The Army would be allowed to retain aviation assets for reconnaissance and medical evacuation purposes.”
    • “The Air Force would have control of all strategic air assets, and most tactical and logistic functions as well.”

    Pace-Finletter Memorandum of Understanding

    Signed: November 4, 1952

    Belligerents: United States Army, United States Air Force

    Results:

    • “removed the weight restrictions on helicopters that the U.S. Army could use”
    • “widened the range of tasks the Army’s helicopters could be used for”
    • “created an arbitrary 5,000 pounds weight restriction that limits the Army’s ability to fly fixed-wing aircraft”
    • “the U.S. Army…is dependent upon the U.S. Air Force to purchase and man fixed-wing ground-attack aircraft to fulfill close air support missions”

    Johnson-McConnell agreement

    Signed: April 6, 1966

    Belligerents:  United States Army, United States Air Force

    Results:

    • “the U.S. Army agreed to give up its fixed-wing tactical airlift aircraft”
    • “the U.S. Air Force relinquished its claim to most forms of rotary wing aircraft”
    These are examples of what Paul Wolfowitz said about the use of “weapons of mass destruction” as the primary justification for the Iraq intervention:

    “The truth is that for reasons that have a lot to do with the U.S. government bureaucracy, we settled on the one issue that everyone could agree on which was weapons of mass destruction as the core reason,” Wolfowitz was quoted as saying in a Pentagon transcript of an interview with Vanity Fair.
     
    The magazine’s reporter did not tape the telephone interview and provided a slightly different version of the quote in the article: “For bureaucratic reasons we settled on one issue, weapons of mass destruction, because it was the one reason everyone could agree on.”

    America’s armed forces are, and always have been, dens filled with vipers scrambling for procurement bucks. For every John Boyd willing to subsist on morning dew and lichen gnawed from the bottom of rocks for principle, there are fifty James Wilkinsons with eyes single to the glory of their personal bottom line.

    Some of this is due to unideal incentives to let slip the inner sociopath when someone, previously constrained by circumstance of the most bootlicking sort, acquires power. A professor of H.W. Brands used to observe “a country gets the foreign policy it can afford”. This is why, since political power is a form of supply that generates its own demand, today’s U.S. has a finger in every global pie. Similarly, a problem at a lower rank can become a catastrophe when promoted to higher rank. More power comes with more opportunities for pratfalls: an officer gets the Paula Broadwell he can afford.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in That's NOT Funny | 11 Comments »

    The ghost of database past

    Posted by L. C. Rees on 18th July 2013 (All posts by )

    Section 2, Amendment XIV:

    Section 2. Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed. But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the Executive and Judicial officers of a State, or the members of the Legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such State.

    Article I, Section 2, U.S. Constitution:

    Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons. The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct.

    For working on the paternal genealogy of Howard Ira Milligan, my mother’s father, U.S. Census records have proved to be an important primary source.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Statistics, USA | 1 Comment »

    America 3.0: Media appearances

    Posted by L. C. Rees on 8th June 2013 (All posts by )

    All Jim Bennett and Mike Lotus media appearances for America 3.0 with publicly available audio or video are now on YouTube.

    Posted in America 3.0 | 2 Comments »

    “We will start the war from right here.”

    Posted by L. C. Rees on 6th June 2013 (All posts by )

    My Fellow Americans,

    Last night, when I spoke with you about the fall of Rome, I knew at that moment that troops of the United States and our Allies were crossing the Channel in another and greater operation. It has come to pass with success thus far.

    And so, in this poignant hour, I ask you to join with me in prayer:
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in War and Peace | 6 Comments »

    Google Reader: The End

    Posted by L. C. Rees on 14th March 2013 (All posts by )

    Google will discontinue Reader, their online newsfeed reader for RSS and Atom, on July 1, 2013. Reader users must find a replacement.

    Google is killing Reader as part of a spring cleaning ritual where products with little following are sacrificed:

    We launched Google Reader in 2005 in an effort to make it easy for people to discover and keep tabs on their favorite websites. While the product has a loyal following, over the years usage has declined.

    Finding a Reader replacement is complicated by why Reader’s usage declined: those who used newsfeed readers to follow blogs and other web syndicated content now use “social media” like Facebook, Twitter, or even iTunes. A small minority even use Google Plus, Google’s most recent try at “social media”.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Blogging, Internet, Tech, Tradeoffs | 3 Comments »

    Christmas: A Parthian Shot

    Posted by L. C. Rees on 24th December 2012 (All posts by )

    A favorite Christmas story…from Wikipedia c. 2008:

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Holidays | 3 Comments »

    Crap Cleaner

    Posted by L. C. Rees on 9th August 2012 (All posts by )

    Though my own use of Microsoft Windows has fallen off sharpely, I still have family (that I will acknowledge) who use Windows. Since I’m a “computer guy”, I’ve been called in before to clean family computers that have grown slow from crap building up on their hard drives. There’s a lot to clean: since Windows isn’t housebroken, it tends to gather all sorts of garbage: TEMP files (*.tmp), bad Registry entries, bad data discovered by Window’s chkdsk hard drive scanner (*.chk), log files, cached internet files, and all sorts of other junk. And this doesn’t include that malware, viruses, and spyware that are ubiquitous on Windows.

    CCleaner, a freeware utility from Piriform, has long been my goto Windows cleanup utility. It’s graphical user interface is self-explanatory enough that my father and my late mother could be taught to use it and they are/were in their late sixties. My years spent doing technical support have revealed one inescapable fact: most people over 65 have difficulty making the mental leap needed for use personal computers effectively. The leap can be made but the largest component of their mental block, a paralyzing fear that they’ll “break” their computer, is hard to overcome. Explaining that having Windows on their computer meant that their computer was already broken was rarely comforting.

    Now I learn that there’s a version of CCleaner for MacOS X. MacOS X is superior to Windows in almost every way (mostly because it “lacks” the Windows Registry). But it is not immune from accumulating crap on your hard drive. So far, CCleaner is just as good at cleaning out obscure corners of MacOS X (I’m using MacOS X 8.0 “Mountain Lion”) as it is at cleaning out obscure corners of Windows.

    If you’re using MacOS X or Windows, download, install, and run CCleaner regularly. Given the price (free), it’s a no-brainer.

    Now they just need to bring their disk defragmenter Defraggler to MacOS X and HFS+ and my MacOS X system maintenance collection will be complete.

    [Disclaimer: I am not an agent provocateur from Piriform]

    Posted in Tech | 12 Comments »

    Mr. Market, Mr. War, and the Uncanny Trinity

    Posted by L. C. Rees on 7th August 2012 (All posts by )

    To demonstrate how the stock market works, Benjamin Graham created the parable of “Mr. Market”:

    Imagine you had a partner in a private business named Mr. Market. Mr. Market, the obliging fellow that he is, shows up daily to tell you what he thinks your interest in the business is worth.
     
    On most days, the price he quotes is reasonable and justified by the business’s prospects. However, Mr. Market suffers from some rather incurable emotional problems; you see, he is very temperamental. When Mr. Market is overcome by boundless optimism or bottomless pessimism, he will quote you a price that seems to you a little short of silly. As an intelligent investor, you should not fall under Mr. Market’s influence, but rather you should learn to take advantage of him.
     
    The value of your interest should be determined by rationally appraising the business’s prospects, and you can happily sell when Mr. Market quotes you a ridiculously high price and buy when he quotes you an absurdly low price. The best part of your association with Mr. Market is that he does not care how many times you take advantage of him. No matter how many times you saddle him with losses or rob him of gains, he will arrive the next day ready to do business with you again.

    When the stock market is irrationally pessimistic about a stock that you estimate worth more than its current price, you exploit the market’s irrationality by buying the stock at a discount. When the stock market is irrationally optimistic about a stock that you estimate is selling at or above its true value, you exploit the market’s irrationality by selling the stock at a premium. Most stock market investors do the opposite: they sell a stock as its value plunges and they buy a stock as its price skyrockets.

    This is the exact opposite of what they’d do if they were buying a shirt. If the shirt was on sale, they wouldn’t deliberately hold off until after the sale was over just for the privilege of buying the shirt at a higher price; they’d buy the shirt while it was on sale. Yet, when stocks are on sale, investors often sell instead of buy. Instead of exploiting Mr. Market’s shifting moods to buy low and sell high, they join in his madness and sell low and buy high. They fail to notice, as Graham said, “In the short run, the market is a voting machine but in the long run it is a weighing machine.”

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    Posted in War and Peace | 5 Comments »

    Mirror, Mirror: Comedy for a Friday Night

    Posted by L. C. Rees on 27th July 2012 (All posts by )

    Occasionally I watch a talk show hosted by Charles Peete Rose, Jr. Rose’s forum is where aspiring ruling elites go to tell other aspiring ruling elites what to think. What they discuss is uninteresting. Who says what how, when, and why is. Here are glimpses of the current balance of power between agendas, competing and complimentary, within the network of personal relationships that form the real org chart of government, society, and business.

    While most viewers get caught up in tactical theatrics of interaction between Rose and guests, it’s the underlying shifts in the tectonic plates of power, for which Rose’s guests, the timing of their booking, and their chosen storyline for the evening are the seismometer, where real entertainment lies. The prevailing ideology of Rose’s guests is that soft tyranny of low visibility known as “libertarian paternalism”, where business savvy needed for successful modern rent seeking meets the aspirations of 1960s leftist social engineering. They rarely use outright coercion to advance their goals (at least not at the moment). They draw on cutting edge fields of social control like behavioral economics and prospect theory to create “sensible defaults”. You get the freedom to choose something other than the defaults but you have to make an effort to do so. The research that libertarian paternalism is based on suggests that most people will never make the effort. This is how “sensible” defaults become insensible realities.

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    Posted in Academia, Anti-Americanism | 6 Comments »

    The Politics of Politics

    Posted by L. C. Rees on 3rd July 2012 (All posts by )

    I don’t remember why I took Debate 101 my sophomore year of high school.

    I’m not an enthusiastic public speaker nor was I inclined to become one. Perhaps I was interested in learning advanced debating techniques. Then I’d be ever triumphant in the important debates of daily life:

    “You think you deserve that last piece of pizza? Let me tell you why you don’t.”

    The explanation may be much simpler:

    • my experience suggests that teenagers aren’t terribly bright
    • my later experience as a junior and senior suggests that sophomores aren’t terribly bright either

    Entering Debate 101, I was:

    1. a teenager and
    2. a sophomore.

    The evidence, however circumstantial, is sufficient to convict.

    If I was interested in learning debate technique, I was disappointed: the debate class wasn’t designed to systematically instruct students to taking apart their own position, reassemble it into a stronger position, and then use their new strong position to destroy their opponent’s position. This debate class was designed to cull skilled debaters out of the general student body who would then go on and compete in regional and state debate competitions. Some technique was dispensed in miserly bursts but mostly it was one instruction-free speaking assignment after another. Those with innate debating instinct went on to join the school team with all the glory that bestowed (not much). The rest of the class had to live with disappointment (again, not much).

    One debate format we were taught, Lincoln-Douglas (LD), was roughly similar to this format laid out by Wikipedia:

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    Posted in Advertising, That's NOT Funny | 1 Comment »

    Follow Up: Passing of an Internet Gem

    Posted by L. C. Rees on 1st June 2012 (All posts by )

    Following up on Twilight of an Internet Gem, eschatological blogger John J. Reilly passed away Wednesday, May 30, 2012 from a disease that unfortunately proved to be, as Wikipedia clinically observes, “incurable and invariably fatal”.

    Mr. Reilly’s obituary from the The Jersey Journal:

    JOHN J. REILLY, JERSEY CITY, John J. Reilly of Jersey City, 58, passed away on May 30, 2012. Beloved son of Jean Reilly (nee Harkins) and the late John Reilly, dear brother of Donna Reilly (Dennis Goonan), Mary Spence (Jack Spence), Nancy Reilly Zollo (Louis Zollo) and Nora Reilly, and uncle to David, Jennifer, Elizabeth, Kathryn and Michael, he was also cherished by many compassionate friends, especially those with whom he worshiped at Holy Rosary Church. After graduating from St. Peter’s College and earning his law degree from Georgetown University, he embarked upon a career as a writer, editor and attorney. His keen intellect and wry sense of humor resulted in many publications and a world-wide network of correspondents. His intellectual preoccupations ranged from theology and in particular eschatology to politics, alternative history, and the philosophy of science and literature. He published four books includ-ing Apocalypse and Future, Notes on the Cultural History of the 21st Century. John regularly appeared in First Things, Kirkus Reviews, and had been an editor at Culture Wars before he withdrew in protest to a drift toward anti-Semitism which he publicly denounced. John also maintained a blog, The Long View, where John serenely surveyed the world and opined that, indeed, everything is going to be OK. John’s intellectual interests also expressed themselves in various societies in which he was active including The International Society for the Comparative Study of Civilizations, the Center for Millennial Studies, the Simplified Spelling Society, and American Literacy Council. A man of breathtakingly ecumenical feeling, he was without compromise a true and devout Catholic. It must have been his faith and his character formed by it and by his loving family that made him without a doubt the most optimistic expert on apocalyptic movements and dystopias. John explained himself thus: After long thought, I realized that the most important thing in life is to be helpful. So, I have taken to explaining things, carefully and empathetically, and often at very great length. ‘Spengler with a Smile’ is how I usually characterize the organizing principle. The loss of John’s self-effacing cheerful genius has left the world a darker place and, for those who were privileged to share his company, a son, brother and friend whose absence will always be felt. A wake will be held on Friday, June 1, from 4 – 8PM at McLaughlin’s Funeral Home, Jersey City. A requiem mass will be held at 10AM on Saturday, June 2, at Holy Rosary Church followed by interment at Holy Cross Cemetery in North Arlington. In lieu of flowers, John would have appreciated donations to Holy Rosary Church. McLaughlin Funeral Home 625 Pavonia Avenue Jersey City, NJ 07306 (201) 798-8700
    Requiescat in pace.

    Posted in Obits | 1 Comment »

    Twilight for an Internet Gem

    Posted by L. C. Rees on 26th May 2012 (All posts by )

    The Evil Baron Evola

    The Evil Baron Julius Evola (with monocle)

    Over the past few years I’ve followed the weekly postings of John Reilly, a philosopher (and lawyer) from New Jersey. Mr. Reilly is a Man of the Right but his views are very individual. His interests are wide-ranging, from the End of the World and millennialism to politics to alternative history to English spelling reform to the curious relationship between Fascism and the occult driven by the evil Baron Evola. He posts “diligently but irregularly” to his old school web log but also wrote longer and thoughtful book reviews that were always worth reading.

    Two of his occasional fiction pieces are especially noteworthy: “The Gray Havens“, a story (narrated by Bilbo Baggins) that explores a Middle Earth where Sauron recovered the One Ring after Frodo Baggins, Samwise Gamgee, and the creature Gollum fail to destroy it in the fires of Mount Doom and “The Stopping Problem” about how the disappointing reality of artificial intelligence leads to a human mind bomb.

    Two of Mr. Reilly’s smaller fiction pieces give a flavor of his style and ecumenical tastes. Here’s an obituary for the war criminal Clive Staples Lewis that begins:

    From the Obituaries of The New York Times, November 26, 1963


    Argentine police officials today confirmed that the remains of Clive Staples Lewis were among those found in the ashes of a bungalow on the outskirts of Buenos Aires. The building burned to the ground on November 22, just as Mr. Lewis, a long-time international fugitive, was about to be apprehended by agents of the CIA and MI5. Allegations of his involvement with this week’s tragic events in Dallas are continuing to stir worldwide controversy [See Page A1]. Mr. Lewis is believed to have committed suicide by self-immolation. The exact number of his companions and the cause of their deaths are still under investigation.
     
    With the death of Mr. Lewis, the hunt for the major war criminals of the Second World War can be said to be over.

    Here’s the beginning of another obituary for former president and admiral Robert Anson Heinlein written in Altscript:

    Frum the Obitiuerees ov the Nw York Tyms


    May 9, 1988


    Robert Anson Heinlein, former prezident ov the Uinyted Stayts and wunss the yungest Fleet Admirel in the history ov modern warfair, dyed yesterday, May 8, 1988, at his estayt “Bonny Doon” in Santa Cruz, California. He was 80 yeers oald. The caws ov detth was complicaytions asoasiated witth cronic emfizeema. “The Admirel,” as he continiued tw be noan eeven during his yeers in the Wyt Howss, is reported tw hav dyed peesfuly in his sleep during a morning nap.

    Mr. Reilly has not posted to his blog since April 15, 2012 (a post on the Titanic centennial). Since Mr. Reilly has now exceeded the bounds of both irregularity and diligence, his forum denizens decided to find out what happened. Since Mr. Reilly did not respond to email, they took the indirect route of contacting Mr. Reilly’s choir group at his local Roman Catholic parish through Facebook. The choir respondant replied and relayed the news that Mr. Reilly is suffering from the sudden onset of a neurological disorder and has been hospitalized for almost one month and a half. This morning, it seems that Mr. Reilly has contracted pneumonia and is now teetering on the edge of leaving mortality.

    I, like his congregation, online community, and other interested parties, pray to the Father for a miracle for Mr. Reilly. Irrespective of the ultimate outcome of Mr. Reilly’s twilight struggle, I believe it timely to direct interested readers to his online works since they form the primary legacy of this rare gem on the Internet.

    Posted in Deep Thoughts | 6 Comments »

    Grasshoppers and Frost

    Posted by L. C. Rees on 26th April 2012 (All posts by )

    On September 22, 1859, Edmund Rees, wife Margaret, and the five Rees children (ages 12-18 months) arrived in Great Salt Lake City, the twelve-year old capital of the nine-year old Utah Territory. Edmund and Margaret were natives of Monmouthshire in the southeastern corner of Wales. While they’d both joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the early 1850s, they didn’t gather to Zion and emigrate to Utah until Edmund developed asthma after years spent cutting coal in the Monmouthshire mines that fueled the early Industrial Revolution.

    The Rees family started their journey with $500, the results of selling their home. $100 got them from Wales to Iowa: they left the old country on April 11, 1859, sailed across the Atlantic on the John Talbot, landed at New Orleans, and sailed up the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers to Council Bluffs, Iowa by steam boat. Another $100 got them two oxen, a covered wagon, a milk cow, and safely across the Plains to Utah.

    Edmund was unfamiliar with handling livestock: the first time he put the yoke on the oxen, he put it on upside down.

    So Margaret took over.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in History, Immigration | 19 Comments »

    Art Thou Only a Stranger in Jerusalem?

    Posted by L. C. Rees on 8th April 2012 (All posts by )

    Supper at Emmaus (1642), Rembrandt van Rijn

    Supper at Emmaus (1642), Rembrandt van Rijn

    13 Καὶ ἰδοὺ δύο ἐξ αὐτῶν ἦσαν πορευόμενοι ἐν αὐτῇ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ εἰς κώμην ἀπέχουσαν σταδίους ἑξήκοντα ἀπὸ Ἱερουσαλήμ, ᾗ ὄνομα Ἐμμαοῦς.

    14 καὶ αὐτοὶ ὡμίλουν πρὸς ἀλλήλους περὶ πάντων τῶν συμβεβηκότων τούτων.

    15 καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν τῷ ὁμιλεῖν αὐτοὺς καὶ συζητεῖν καὶ αὐτὸς ὁ Ἰησοῦς ἐγγίσας συνεπορεύετο αὐτοῖς·

    16 οἱ δὲ ὀφθαλμοὶ αὐτῶν ἐκρατοῦντο τοῦ μὴ ἐπιγνῶναι αὐτόν.

    17 εἶπε δὲ πρὸς αὐτούς· Τίνες οἱ λόγοι οὗτοι οὓς ἀντιβάλλετε πρὸς ἀλλήλους περιπατοῦντες καί ἐστε σκυθρωποί;

    18 ἀποκριθεὶς δὲ ὁ εἷς, ᾧ ὄνομα Κλεόπας, εἶπε πρὸς αὐτόν· Σὺ μόνος παροικεῖς ἐν Ἱερουσαλὴμ καὶ οὐκ ἔγνως τὰ γενόμενα ἐν αὐτῇ ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις ταύταις;

    19 καὶ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς· Ποῖα; οἱ δὲ εἶπον αὐτῷ· Τὰ περὶ Ἰησοῦ τοῦ Ναζωραίου, ὃς ἐγένετο ἀνὴρ προφήτης δυνατὸς ἐν ἔργῳ καὶ λόγῳ ἐναντίον τοῦ Θεοῦ καὶ παντὸς τοῦ λαοῦ,

    20 ὅπως τε παρέδωκαν αὐτὸν οἱ ἀρχιερεῖς καὶ οἱ ἄρχοντες ἡμῶν εἰς κρίμα θανάτου καὶ ἐσταύρωσαν αὐτόν.

    21 ἡμεῖς δὲ ἠλπίζομεν ὅτι αὐτός ἐστιν ὁ μέλλων λυτροῦσθαι τὸν Ἰσραήλ· ἀλλά γε σὺν πᾶσι τούτοις τρίτην ταύτην ἡμέραν ἄγει σήμερον ἀφ’ οὗ ταῦτα ἐγένετο.

    22 ἀλλὰ καὶ γυναῖκές τινες ἐξ ἡμῶν ἐξέστησαν ἡμᾶς γενόμεναι ὄρθριαι ἐπὶ τὸ μνημεῖον,

    23 καὶ μὴ εὑροῦσαι τὸ σῶμα αὐτοῦ ἦλθον λέγουσαι καὶ ὀπτασίαν ἀγγέλων ἑωρακέναι, οἳ λέγουσιν αὐτὸν ζῆν.

    24 καὶ ἀπῆλθόν τινες τῶν σὺν ἡμῖν ἐπὶ τὸ μνημεῖον, καὶ εὗρον οὕτω καθὼς καὶ αἱ γυναῖκες εἶπον, αὐτὸν δὲ οὐκ εἶδον.

    25 καὶ αὐτὸς εἶπε πρὸς αὐτούς· Ὦ ἀνόητοι καὶ βραδεῖς τῇ καρδίᾳ τοῦ πιστεύειν ἐπὶ πᾶσιν οἷς ἐλάλησαν οἱ προφῆται!

    26 οὐχὶ ταῦτα ἔδει παθεῖν τὸν Χριστὸν καὶ εἰσελθεῖν εἰς τὴν δόξαν αὐτοῦ; 27 καὶ ἀρξάμενος ἀπὸ Μωϋσέως καὶ ἀπὸ πάντων τῶν προφητῶν διερμήνευσεν αὐτοῖς ἐν πάσαις ταῖς γραφαῖς τὰ περὶ ἑαυτοῦ.

    28 Καὶ ἤγγισαν εἰς τὴν κώμην οὗ ἐπορεύοντο, καὶ αὐτὸς προσεποιεῖτο πορρωτέρω πορεύεσθαι·

    29 καὶ παρεβιάσαντο αὐτὸν λέγοντες· Μεῖνον μεθ’ ἡμῶν, ὅτι πρὸς ἑσπέραν ἐστὶ καὶ κέκλικεν ἡ ἡμέρα. καὶ εἰσῆλθε τοῦ μεῖναι σὺν αὐτοῖς.

    30 καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν τῷ κατακλιθῆναι αὐτὸν μετ’ αὐτῶν λαβὼν τὸν ἄρτον εὐλόγησε, καὶ κλάσας ἐπεδίδου αὐτοῖς.

    31 αὐτῶν δὲ διηνοίχθησαν οἱ ὀφθαλμοὶ, καὶ ἐπέγνωσαν αὐτόν· καὶ αὐτὸς ἄφαντος ἐγένετο ἀπ’ αὐτῶν.

    32 καὶ εἶπον πρὸς ἀλλήλους· Οὐχὶ ἡ καρδία ἡμῶν καιομένη ἦν ἐν ἡμῖν, ὡς ἐλάλει ἡμῖν ἐν τῇ ὁδῷ καὶ ὡς διήνοιγεν ἡμῖν τὰς γραφάς;

    - Luke 24: 13-32

    Posted in Christianity, Holidays | 2 Comments »