Franklin Delano Roosevelt knew bureaucracy: “You know, I’m a juggler, and I never let my right hand know what my left hand does.”
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.
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.
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
- ‘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.”
Signed: November 4, 1952
Belligerents: United States Army, United States Air Force
- “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”
Signed: April 6, 1966
Belligerents: United States Army, United States Air Force
- “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”
“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.
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.
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 »
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”.
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.
[Disclaimer: I am not an agent provocateur from Piriform]
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.”
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.
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 1000, I was 1) a teenager and 2) a sophomore. That 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:
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”.
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
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.
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.
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;