A HipBone approach to analysis VI: from Cairo to Bach

[ by Charles Cameron – cross-posted from Zenpundit ]


The description of Egyptian troops attacking a Christian monastery that forms the first quote in this DoubleQuote is horrifying in many ways.


Recent events in Egypt had featured mutual support between Muslims and their Coptic Christian neighbors, each group in turn acting as human shields to protect the other while they were praying. Here, by contrast, the army – which is effectively now “ruling” Egypt in the interregnum between the fall of Mubarak and the election of a new President and government – is attacking the humans it is supposed to protect.

But what does that have to do with Bach?


Part I: a monastery attacked in Egypt

This is vile.

Those who are being attacked happen to be Christians and monks, no less human on either account, and just as subject to bleeding as others – so they might ask, with Shakespeare‘s Shylock speaking for the Jews:

If you prick us do we not bleed? If you tickle us do we not laugh? If you poison us do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?

That last question of Shylock’s is an interesting one, and gets to the heart of what I want to discuss here, as we shall see.

Specifically, these human beings were monks. Muhammad had a higher opinion of monks than of many others. In the Qur’an, we find:

The nearest to the faithful are those who say “We are Christians.” That is because there are priests and monks among them and because they are free of pride.



These “followers” of Muhammad were attacking Christian monks with live ammunition and RPGs continuously for 30 minutes, wounding 19.

They felt superior to their compatriots the monks, they cried “God is Great” and “Victory, Victory” as they did it.

In this they resemble GEN Boykin, who famously responded to a Somali warlord claiming that God would protect him, “Well, you know what? I knew that my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol.”

I could easily have made that my second quote here, pairing it with the description of the Egyptian army attack on the monastery, for between the two of them they raise the question of whether weaponry is stronger than belief – and while some Christians might agree with General Boykin, some Muslims might agree no less strongly with the members of the Egyptian military shouting “Allahu Akbar”.


I believe that taking sides here misses the point.

Which I am happy to say, Abraham Lincoln made with considerable eloquence in his Second Inaugural Address in 1865, almost a century and a half ago:

The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes.

That point is one which HaShem made to his angels, according to rabbinic teaching:

The Talmud teaches us that on the night that the Egyptian army drowned in the Red Sea, the first true moment of freedom for the Jews fleeing Egypt, God refused to hear the angels sing their prayers, and said “my creations are drowning in the sea, and you will sing songs?”

So, no — revenge is not the way to go…


But please note that the point I am making is not one of moral equivalence.

That God which created “both sides” in any human conflict and loves each and every one of his own creations, might indeed find one creed superior to another, as he might find one scientific law more accurately describing the workings of, say, gravitational attraction than another – or the night sky at Saint-Rémy portrayed by Van Gogh more or less moving than the thunderous sky over Toledo of El Greco.

In the view I am proposing, the “God who takes neither side” in fact takes both, but with this distinction: he sides with the wounded more than with those who inflict wounds – not because one side has a better creed than the other, but because he made us to learn not to unmercifully maim and destroy one another…

…one of whose names is The Merciful, in whose scriptures it is written:

If thou dost stretch thy hand against me, to slay me, it is not for me to stretch my hand against thee to slay thee: for I do fear Allah, the cherisher of the worlds.

…one of whose names is The Lord is Peace, in whose scriptures it is written:

Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.


Part II: Bach and contrapuntal analysis

All of which brings me to the second “quote” in my DoubleQuote above: JS Bach‘s “concordia discors” canon in two voices, BWV 1086 – which you can hear or purchase here.

Bach’s mastery was in counterpoint, the play of one musical idea against another, and in this particular work, the two ideas are exact opposite: in musical terms, the melody is played here against its inversion. And the point of counterpoint, if I may put it that way, is not to provide “harmony” but to show how discord can become harmonious and concordant — or to put that in the geopolitical terms that interest me, how conflict and opposition can be resolved…

Not, you understand, that this state of affairs then leads necessarily to the singing of Kumbaya or the kind of ending in which “they all lived happily ever after”.

Concordia discors: the resolution of the present conflict, in a continuing overall “music” of great power and beauty, in which further conflicts will inevitably arise and find resolution.


Here’s the essence: Bach takes contrasting and at times conflicting melodic ideas and makes music.

He teaches us to hear distinct and differing voices, to allow ourselves to hear and feel both the discomfort that their disagreements raise in us, and the satisfaction that comes as those disagreements are worked out. He does this by teaching us to hear them as voices within a choir, ribbons in a complex braid, making together a greater music that any of them alone could give rise to. And in this process, their differences are neither denied nor lost, but resolved and transcended.

Edward Said, whose politics my readers may dislike or like or even perhaps be unaware of, was for years the music critic for The Nation, wrote three books (and an opus posthumous) on music, and with his friend the pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim co-founded the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, named for the West-östlicher Diwan, Goethe’s collection of lyric poems.

Barenboim (the Israeli) wrote of Said (the Palestinian):

In addition to being well versed in music, literature, philosophy, and the understanding of politics, he was one of those rare people who sought and recognized the connections between different and seemingly disparate disciplines. His unusual understanding of the human spirit and of the human being was perhaps a consequence of his revelatory construct that parallels between ideas, topics, and cultures can be of a paradoxical nature, not contradicting but enriching one another.

And there we have it again: Bach’s insight, this time transposed by an accomplished musician into the key of thoughts and ideas…


Said talks quite a bit about counterpoint, both musically:

Musically, I’m very interested in contrapuntal writing, and contrapuntal forms. The kind of complexity that is available, aesthetically, to the whole range from consonant to dissonant, the tying together of multiple voices in a kind of disciplined whole, is something that I find tremendously appealing.

[Said, Power, Politics and Culture, p. 99.]

and politically:

When you think about it, when you think about Jew and Palestinian not separately, but as part of a symphony, there is something magnificently imposing about it. A very rich, also very tragic, also in many ways desperate history of extremes — opposites in the Hegelian sense — that is yet to receive its due. So what you are faced with is a kind of sublime grandeur of a series of tragedies, of losses, of sacrifices, of pain that would take the brain of a Bach to figure out. It would require the imagination of someone like Edmund Burke to fathom.

[Said, Power, Politics and Culture, p. 447.]


As I commented in an earlier post that ties in with this one, the great pianist Glenn Gould was also preoccupied with counterpoint, both in Bach’s music and in conversations overheard at a truck-stop cafe or on long train journeys — he too was “working” the parallel between melodic and verbal forms of counterpoint.

And JRR Tolkien made the reconciliation of discordant musics in a greater concord the central to his creation myth in The Silmarillion, “The Music of the Ainur”, which can now be read online at the Random House site.


Part III: invitation

May I strongly commend to your attention the movie, Of Gods and Men, which just opened in limited release, having won the grand jury prize at Cannes…

If We Outsourced the DMV

Writing on public sector unions Walter Russell Meade says in passing:

Public sector unions did not have to face that kind of pressure until recent years. You can’t outsource the Department of Motor Vehicles or the local public school to China.

He’s right but wouldn’t it be awesome if we could?

Just imagine the scene…

(Scene: The local DMV. As you approach the doors, they are thrown open by two Chinese dressed in silk robes. As you pass, they throw themselves to the floor in a kowtow. Inside, the office is decorated in red silk and gold. A fountain burbles somewhere. A peacock saunters by. An elderly gentlemen with a fumanchu mustache and flanked by four others hurries up and prostrates himself before you.)

Li Chou: Oh, most esteemed and honored citizen! Pray tell us what glorious task we most humble and unworthy public servants may have the honor of performing for your most graciousness today?

You: Uhm, well, I need to get my license renewed.

Li Chou: (Rising up to kneel) Aiee! Having grown in years more beautiful and wise you now justly demand the articles of success that the mandate of heaven grants you?

You: Er, yes?

Li Chou: (Looking to the ceiling and claps his hands rapidly) The citizen has spoken! Bring forth the citizen’s throne and ring the gong of renewal!

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Chicagoboyz Comments-Display Upgrade

You may notice the new comments-display setup in our right sidebar. It should be an improvement. If not, please leave a comment below or email me with a description of any problems.

(Note that this comments-display upgrade does not fix the ongoing problem with our over-aggressive anti-spam system, which I am working on.)

All Quiet on the Western Front

Corporal Frank Buckles, U.S. Army
Corporal Frank Buckles, U.S. Army

World War I: a War so Great that it demanded a sequel.

One that topped the original.

In bloodshed.

Long after the guns fell silent on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of the one thousand nine hundred and eighteenth year since the year Dennis the Small misidentified as the year Our Lord came in the flesh, the war raged on the in the memory of those caught up in the collective madness that consumed Western Christendom. The last living soldier who experienced World War I died today.

Frank Buckles was 110 years old when he died. He was 16 1/2 when he lied about his age in order to join the U.S. Army:

“I went to the state fair up in Wichita, Kansas, and while there, went to the recruiting station for the Marine Corps,” he said. “The nice Marine sergeant said I was too young when I gave my age as 18, said I had to be 21.”
Buckles returned a week later.
“I went back to the recruiting sergeant, and this time I was 21,” he said with a grin. “I passed the inspection … but he told me I just wasn’t heavy enough.”
Then he tried the Navy, whose recruiter told Buckles he was flat-footed.
Buckles wouldn’t quit. In Oklahoma City, an Army captain demanded a birth certificate.
“I told him birth certificates were not made in Missouri when I was born, that the record was in a family Bible. I said, ‘You don’t want me to bring the family Bible down, do you?'” Buckles said with a laugh. “He said, ‘OK, we’ll take you.'”
He enlisted Aug. 14, 1917, serial number 15577.

His war service wasn’t the end of Buckles’ adventures:

In the 1940s, Buckles worked for a shipping company in Manila, Philippines. He was captured by the Japanese in 1942, and spent the next three and a half years in the Los Baños prison camp. He became malnourished, with a weight below 100 lb, and developed beriberi, yet led his fellow inmates in calisthenics. He was rescued on February 23, 1945.

Buckles married after the war and moved to the farm in West Virginia where he passed away today:

When asked about the secret of his long life, Buckles replied: “Hope,” adding, “[W]hen you start to die… don’t.” He also said the reason he had lived so long was that, “I never got in a hurry.”

IKC Dog Show Chicago 2011

On Saturday I went to the IKC Chicago Dog Show. I don’t really go to see the events or judging that they typically show on TV; I like walking around and looking at all the dogs and their owners while they are being groomed and resting before and after the performances. The dogs are all so well behaved and trained and the vast majority of the owners are happy to show off their prizes, although many of the owners are extremely busy grooming so I try not to bother them.

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Thinking and Memorizing, continued

Here’s a post by a pseudonymous teacher whose school is following the “21st century skills” model now being heavily promoted by various “experts.” Apparently one of the cornerstones of this approach, at least as implemented at this teacher’s school, is that content knowledge isn’t really all that important…”most content, after all, can be googled anyway.”

This post reminded me of something I wrote back in 2005, in response to other assertions by educationists to the effect that technology makes memorization unnecessary. I quoted some lines from a song by Jakob Dylan:

Cupid, don’t draw back your bow
Sam Cooke didn’t know what I know

…and observed that in order to understand these two simple lines, you’d have to know several things:

1)You need to know that, in mythology, Cupid symbolizes love
2)And that Cupid’s chosen instrument is the bow and arrow
3)Also that there was a singer/songwriter named Sam Cooke
4)And that he had a song called “Cupid, draw back your bow.”

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Shutdown of the Capitol

It is past four pm central time. Four pm was the time that the Wisconsin DOA said they needed to have the capitol building cleared for cleaning and sanitation. And BOY does it need cleaning. From now on the capitol building is supposed to have regular hours.

Fox News just had a reporter assaulted there, while he was being shouted down by angry protesters.

I assume that there will be arrests. I think that footage of people being arrested, especially if it gets violent, will backfire in a huge way.

If they do not clear the capitol building, I can safely assume that we are now in an essentially lawless society and I will be taking some precautions for the safety of myself and my family. First and foremost will be not to have my wife and children anywhere near that building.

A HipBone approach to analysis V: DARPA and storytelling

[ cross posted from DIME/PMESII ]

I seem to be writing some mini-essays that braid together more of the various strands of my interests and thinking than usual – geopolitics and poetics, games and reality, warfare and peacemaking.

Here’s one that I posted yesterday, on a list devoted to modeling and simulation, in a topic discussing DARPA’s STORyNET briefing tomorrow.


DARPA and Storytelling:


Sophocles, pushing the human mind to its limit, genius, wrote the Oedipus trilogy. His plays, which turn on the parallel guilt and innocence of a man who – unknowingly, the fated plaything of cruel gods — kills his father and sleeps with his own mother, were performed by the great actors of his day in the great amphitheater of Epidaurus, the sanctuary of Aesculapius to which the Greeks went for healing.

Freud, also brilliant, also concerned with the human mind and healing, reduced Sophocles’ plot to his own “Oedipus Complex” – which he would then painstakingly find in the murkiest regions of his patients’ mental processing.

Further reduced, the concept becomes a word of abuse so radical it takes two letters, one hyphen and ten asterisks to print it – and finally, it slides into song and speech as mofo, all meaning leached from the two words, let alone the complex insights of Sophocles or Freud.


Story, you might say, has a trunk, limbs, branches, lesser branches, twigs…

Trees and ferns, we now know, are fractal. The mathematical “story” of a tree is arguably just one story: branching. Different trees branch differently, the yucca pushing out its limbs in 90 degree rotation, oaks and birches, beeches and cottonwoods, poplars and ferns each having their own mathematical characteristics, and each individual of each species answering to certain specifics of context – water, sunlight, wind forming clusters of trees into copses.

For the purposes of lumber, the “trunk” of a story may be enough, or trunk and limbs, mofo or m*****-f***** an adequate telling of Sophocles tale. For a winter wood supply, cords of sawn branches, for a camp fire, some branches some twigs — for Sophocles, for Ansel Adams, the one pushing the human mind to its limit, genius, only the full tree, root, stem, branch, and leaf, rich in all its detail and context, will suffice.


So there are six stories, there is only one, the stories in the ocean of stories are infinite, as Salman Rushdie, another of those who pushes the human mind to its limit tells us:

… the Water Genie told Haroun about the Ocean of the Streams of Story, and even though he was full of a sense of hopelessness and failure the magic of the Ocean began to have an effect on Haroun. He looked into the water and saw that it was made up of a thousand thousand thousand and one different currents, each one a different color, weaving in and out of one another like a liquid tapestry of breathtaking complexity; and [the Water Genie] explained that these were the Streams of Story, that each colored strand represented and contained a single tale. Different parts of the Ocean contained different sorts of stories, and as all stories that had ever been told and many that were still in the process of being invented could be found here, the Ocean of the Streams of Story was in fact the biggest library in the universe. And because the stories were held here in fluid form, they retained the ability to change, to become new versions of themselves, to join up with other stories and so become yet other stories …

— and as Edward Tufte, another of the pushers of the mind, illustrates for us in his beautiful book, Visual Explanations, in a page or two of which this snapshot gives only a poor glimpse.


So there is utility in the single equation, the single story line, and there is use for the outlines of the major branchings and knowing the main varieties of trees, and there is beauty and insight and pushing the mind to its limit in the whole tree, individual and splendid in all its detail, the great story, magnificently branching from its seed-story under the influence of a Shakespeare, a Kafka, a Dostoyevsky, a Borges, a Rushdie…

The full spectrum of understanding that narrative might bring us will be found when the full spectrum from “one story” through “six” or “sixteen” to Rushdie’s “infinity” is taken into account, when we weigh the insights of the great novelists and poets of all cultures – Rumi, Shakespeare, Kalidasa, the anonymous singers of the Navajo Beautyway – alongside those of the critic, the psychoanalyst, the guy who puts together the Cliff’s Notes, and the editor with a headache’s headline version of the tale.

We need the forester and the lumber baron, the watercolorist and the fellow who identifies the habitats of the Lepidopterae

Narrative goes all the way from the obvious platitude to the work of genius. Somewhere along that scale, each one of us will have our area of interest, the place where our skill set fits and perhaps stretches. Numbers of board feet and likely return on investment can be assessed by quantitative means: the beauty of a particular oak tree in the eye of the novelist John Fowles is entirely qualitative, as is the language he must use to describe it.


I suspect DARPA may be stuck at the quantitative end of the spectrum. The mind of a Musab al-Suri demands a finer level of interpretation.

Minimal Investment of “Wooing”

Over the years the process of “wooing” the better half by men has changed significantly. Even the simplest reading of the literature classics contained balls, letters, furtive meetings, worries about parental views, etc… Certainly this has changed over the years in the US, as formal dating became less and less formal.

To some extent it can be viewed as an “investment”. The man is investing in a relationship with an attractive woman so that he can date her, and presumably do even more. The variable that is interesting to me is the COST of those dates, or the amount of investment that he has to put INTO the relationship before he is able to extract what he desires OUT of the relationship.

In the NY Times today they had a brief advice columnist discussion in the “Social Q’s” section. Here is the question that was asked:

I’ve been on two dates with this girl. We get along great and have a blast together. Problem is, I end up buying all the drinks. She doesn’t even pretend to offer, even after I hint. This doesn’t seem right, especially in the age of $14 Belgian beers. My friends tell me she’s a mooch and I should ditch her. Or should I just keep paying?

I find this to be amazing. The guy ISN’T EVEN BUYING HER DINNER. He isn’t picking her up at her place and taking her to a movie. He isn’t even springing for cab fare. He is merely buying her drinks at a bar (probably a bar located conveniently for him, no less, but I am just speculating here).

And he, and his friends (whom he cites in the letter) think that BUYING HER DRINKS to presumably loosen her up a bit is TOO HIGH A PRICE to be paid for what appears to comprise “dating” as it is defined, at least by this guy.

In one of the classical economic concepts – people put a VALUE on items that they acquire based on their COST, whether or not that is truly relevant to the current value. One great example of this is “anchoring”, where people stick to certain stocks or other investments based upon what they paid for it regardless of its current actual value in the marketplace; I for one fell into this trap with Nokia stock as I watched it fall down the drain in value but continually referenced what I paid for the damn stock in the first place.

While taking economic costs and applying them to social relations isn’t always clean, neat or even applicable, in this case we might want to think of the value that this guy is putting into the relationship IF HE WON’T EVEN PAY FOR HER DRINKS, especially when drinking is so clearly in his benefit (dinner or a movie, not so much).

I guess you are part of the older generation when you just can’t understand what the younger generation is thinking. This is where we’d part company. At a minimum I’d at least pay for drinks, in this case.

Cross posted at LITGM

Nothing Is Inevitable

Neither rise nor decline. Pay attention, American-declinist intelligentsia of various stripes:

Is 2011 the year that the India story—carefully buffed for the better part of a decade by boosters and dispassionate observers alike—begins to lose its sheen? If foreign investors are a bellwether, then the answer may well be yes.
In January, foreign institutional investors, driven in part by high inflation and the sluggish pace of economic reforms, pulled $900 million out of India’s stock markets. According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, foreign direct investment in India plunged 32% last year to $24 billion, making it Asia’s only large economy to suffer a decline in that period. (China attracted more than four times as much FDI as India in 2010.) A recent survey of 89 fund managers by Morgan Stanley showed that only a quarter of buy-side investors believe that India will beat other emerging markets this year, the glummest outlook in two years.

Sadanand Dhume, WSJ-Asia (via the AEI Enterprise blog.)

America wastes no talent
Conventional wisdom holds that America’s global competitiveness is driven by geniuses flocking to its shores and producing breathtaking inventions. But America’s real genius lies not in tapping just genius — but every scrap of talent up and down the scale.

Shikha Dalmia, the Daily (via HotAir.)

My father likes to make the same point (“America finds a way to use everybody.”) Some immigrants pay attention, you know. Sometimes better than certain intelligentsia.

Some time back Lexington Green asked, musingly, what exactly drew us all to this corner of the blogosphere known as ChicagoBoyz?

One underlying theme, in my opinion, is how hard it is to create and sustain a prosperous, safe society. Rule of law, a sound moral grounding, a good quality educational system, scientific study, a well-trained and funded military, proper planning and understanding of various logistics, a keen sense of what is possible and what is not, and so on. Wealth, beauty, comfort, kindness, and, well, “goodnesses” of all sorts don’t just happen. It takes effort. It takes thought. It takes understanding.

It takes a lot of hard work. Nothing is inevitable. Neither rise nor decline. We Americans have many advantages. We should cultivate them.


Details here.

Register here.


David Hale, Rockford Tea Party Organizer. David has successfully confronted the runaway Wisconsin State Senators on multiple occasions. Videos of the confrontations have gone viral and received national attention because David asked them questions the media is not asking.
Bruno Behrend, Director of the Center for School Reform with the Heartland Institute. Bruno will discuss education reform, pension reform, the situation in Madison, WI, and what the tea party movement in Illinois can do to bring reform here.
Brian Costin, Director of Outreach at the Illinois Policy Institute. Brian heads up IPI’s Liberty Leaders program. Brian helped organize the first Chicago Tax Day Tea Party and is now running for Mayor of Schaumburg in the April 5 election.

I plan to be there.

Protesters Disrespect War Memorial

In the capitol rotunda here in Madison there is a war memorial for those who died so we can enjoy our freedoms. Last Saturday when I was there the memorial wasn’t touched. It was the first place I looked to see if there were any issues. Via Ann Althouse, it is apparently not the case anymore, sadly.

I will be there today to see if this memorial is still defaced, and if it is, they are going to get a piece of my mind and if they don’t take that crap down immediately I will take it down myself. Althouse and her husband do a fine job letting these kids have it. These are some of the most disgusting and disturbing images I have seen of this last fortnight.

Scott Walker, the Koch Brothers, and State of Wisconsin Owned Power Plants

I am trying to put together the new lefty meme of the day. Let me see if I can do it.

1) Koch Brothers give money to Scott Walker’s campaign
2) Koch Brothers are in the energy business
3) Scott Walker folds a no bid process to sell the state owned power plants into the budget repair bill
4) Koch Brothers get sweet deal on said power plants as payback for campaign contributions
5) ?

This is what I am gathering from my facebook friends and demonstrators and some articles I have read. Most of the usual suspects are trumpeting this black helicopter theory as the real deal. Many in the Wisconsin state assembly brought up this in the debate that finally ended on Friday morning.

So what is the deal, really? What about this Koch Brothers connection? Why on earth would they want the Wisconsin owned plants? Do they? Lets do a little digging and try to come up with some answers.

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The End Game In Madison

After a marathon session (the longest ever, iirc), the State of Wisconsin Assembly has passed Scott Walker’s budget repair bill. The Senate is unable to debate the bill since a quorum cannot be met on matters financial with our state senators having fled the state. In an interesting twist, an Illinois representative has said that the senators should pay Illinois tax on their salary, akin to a football player getting paid for playing the Bears in Chicago. He has a pretty good point, and has pointed to some of our senators on TV saying that they are “working” while in Illinois.

Meanwhile the state senate has debated voter ID, but there is a cost associated with that so they can’t pass that either. I am sure they will pass everything they can while the Democrat senators are away. I sincerely hope that someone can trace the resources that the Wisconsin Senators are being provided in Illinois to find out if they are accepting illegal monies.

Walker isn’t moving. I think he will shut down the state. He is holding all the cards. I think he will win.

Leftists and the Pierian Spring

Victor David Hanson’s has a good post on”The Rise of the Adolescent Mind” which discusses how much of the public discourse seems driven by an adolescent mind set of “I want it, why won’t you give it to me?”. It inspired me to write a comment that turned out unusually well so I thought I would repost it here:

I think the problem with adolescents and Leftists in general is best summed up by Pope:

A little learning is a dangerous thing;
drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring:
there shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
and drinking largely sobers us again

When the mind starts to flower in late adolescence we feel empowered and wise because we compare our new found level of knowledge not with the sum of all knowledge but only relative to that which we personally knew a few months or years before. We feel that since we know so much more than we did, we must know all we truly need to know. This trait in youths has been noted since classical times. Usually, we only lose that arrogance when we graduate to life’s only true school, the school of hard knocks. The teachers in the school of hard knocks shove our heads under the water of the Pierian spring and force us drink or drown.
Unfortunately, many people never attend the school of hard knocks and never take those very vital deep draughts of experience. For those who spend their entire lives in government, activism or academia, inescapable physical reality never intrudes to disrupt the intellectual elegance of their fanciful hypothesis. Facts and physical limitations become strange mythological things spoken of only by the ignorant pagans in business, technology or the military. We grow up only when we have to. These people’s intellects and emotion freeze in late adolescence because they are never challenged to grow up.
A true education teaches humility. In a real education, every new thing we learn only expands the radius of our ignorance allowing to see how much more of the world actually exist and how very little of it our personal real knowledge covers.
A failed education, an indoctrination, teaches arrogance. It teaches that all that one needs to know lies within the circumference of the ideology. Anything outside the circumference is trivial. That is what we see in various collectivist ideologies. “Our knowledge is so vast and so encompassing that we have right, even the duty, to impose our will on everyone for the collective good.”
Perhaps we could find the Perian spring, bottle the water and market as something rich people drink to help the environment. Only then can we force our hoards of adolescents to imbibe the wisdom they truly need.

Israel, the Middle East, the Left, and Obama

Brendan O’Neill quotes journalist John Pilger:

“Until the Palestinians are given back their rights we’re going to have instability throughout the Middle East,” declared John Pilger on ABC1’s Q&A last night. “That is central to everything.”

O’Neill responds:

Yet, one of the most striking things about the uprising in Egypt was the lack of pro-Palestine placards. As Egypt-watcher Amr Hamzawy put it, in Tahrir Square and elsewhere there were no signs saying “death to Israel, America and global imperialism” or “together to free Palestine.” Instead, this revolt was about Egyptian people’s own freedom and living conditions.

Yet on the pro-Egypt demonstration in London on Saturday, there was a sea of Palestine placards. “Free Palestine,” they said, and “End the Israeli occupation.” The speakers had trouble getting the audience excited about events in Egypt, having to say on more than one occasion: “Come on London, you can shout louder than that!” Yet every mention of the word Palestine induced a kind of Pavlovian excitability among the attendees. They cheered when the P-word was uttered, chanting: “Free, free Palestine!”

This reveals something important about the Palestine issue. . . . [It] has become less important for Arabs and of the utmost symbolic importance for Western radicals at exactly the same time.

I’m not so sure O’Neill is right about the lack of anti-Israel sentiment among the Egyptian revolutionaries and elsewhere in the Arab world—I certainly hope so, but have seen several items pointing in the opposite direction. For example, USA Today reported that “the top leaders of the protest movement that toppled the regime of Hosni Mubarak” have demanded that the government cut off the flow of natural gas to Israel, on grounds that “the Zionist entity” is mistreating those same Palestinians. I’m not all that positive that USA Today or anyone else can clearly identify “the top leaders of the protest movement” so clearly at this point in time, but this report is surely grounds for serious concern about the attitude of the emerging Egyptian government toward Israel. And here is a very disturbing report about anti-Semitism in Tunisia. Again, I hope O’Neill is right about declining anti-Israel sentiment in the Arab world, but I have my doubts.

O’Neill is clearly correct, though, about his other point: the absolute centrality of the anti-Israel (“pro-Palestinian”) cause to the leftist movement throughout the western world.

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Environmentalism Isn’t About the Environment

So, here’s a NYTimes story [h/t Environmental Economics] about three separate groups filing environmental lawsuits blocking a solar thermal project in California. The three groups filing the lawsuits are: The Sierra Club, the First-American Quechan tribe and “a labor group.”

Each group gives a different rationale for blocking the project and I think it reasonable to ask what each group’s real agenda is. (But let’s remember this is the NYTimes reporting here, who are not exactly known for their competence.)

The Sierra Club’s rationale is given as:

“The task at hand is to bring clean energy online, which includes large-scale renewables,” said Bill Corcoran, the western regional director for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign in Los Angeles. “But as we looked at all of the fast-track projects, Calico was far and away the most harmfully located project.”[emp added]

Okay, firstly, that statement seems to imply that most or all of the alternative-energy projects are “harmfully located” and this one is just the worst of the lot. Secondly, the statement doesn’t say that the harm is actually of an unacceptable level. Does the project really threaten the environment to any great extent? Does this lawsuit really give Sierra Club donors the most environmental bang for their donated bucks? The statement really leaves the impression that the Sierra Club is more interested in finding an excuse to file a lawsuit, any lawsuit, than they are in protecting the environment. Is the Sierra Club more interested in brushing up its radical environmental creds or drumming up donation-generating publicity than they are in targeting the worst environmental damage?

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“Decision-Making in the Pressure Cooker: Lessons Learned from the Collapse of Lehman Brothers”

Presented by the Lumen Christi Institute and the Catholic Lawyers Guild.

Thursday, March 3, 5:30 PM, Jenner & Block, 353 North Clark Street.

Info here.

Register here.

The speaker whom I am most interested in hearing is Luigi Zingales. I mentioned his essay Capitalism After the Crisis in this post. Zingales was one of the economists who urged Congress to hold hold hearings on the Paulson bailout plan, and as we know that did not happen. I just read his essay Learning to live with not-so-efficient markets, which I commend to your attention. A compendium of his recent writing, entitled “MY LOSING BATTLE AGAINST THE LEVIATHAN (Public interventions of a desperate free-market economist” can be found here.

And What Isn’t True

The Tea Parties were not violent. Mobs didn’t go after bankers with pitchforks. Instead of sending American Muslims off to interment camps, we tred so softly that 13 people lay dead at Fort Hood. When white slavery appeared encouraged at Acorn and Planned Parenthood, we did not shut our eyes. We wanted both closed down. We recognized the clear lack of justice in the principle of public sector unions; we cited human nature & the inevitable bloat. We saw as farce politicians/bureaucrats negotiating with unions to set deals that other parties – mainly the taxpayers – would have to pay. We understand the importance of the rule of law, of restraining our desire for money & power & sex.

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The Right to Earn a Living: A Revolutionary Idea in Tunisia and America

Revolution against tyranny has blazed across North Africa and Arabia, as President George W. Bush envisioned in his idealistic second inaugural address. The conflagration was lit on December 17, 2010 by Mohamed Bouazizi of Tunisia, who had been denied a license to sell fruits and vegetables from his cart because he didn’t pay a bribe. A policewoman confiscated his vegetable cart and his wares. He was beaten when he protested, and on December 17 the humiliated young man set himself on fire. He died a few weeks later. Contagious demonstrations in Tunisia quickly followed the fateful denial of Mr. Bouazizi’s liberty.

The liberty whose denial inspired the overthrow of regimes in Tunisia, Egypt and, with any luck, Libya was economic liberty, or the right to earn a living. Although that liberty was obviously important to Mr. Bouazizi, the left regards economic liberty, to the extent it regards it as a liberty at all, as a lower order of liberty.

So do the federal courts. Economic regulations get minimal scrutiny under the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Constitution. The Takings Clause and the Contract Clause, which were intended to protect property rights and contract rights, have been enfeebled by the Supreme Court.

The division between economic liberties and other liberties is not one the Founders of this republic would have understood. Our revolution too was provoked by economic depredations. The interrelation of liberties is hard to miss. Free speech is much more difficult to exercise effectively without property that individuals rather than governments control.

State and local governments do most of the suppressing of the right to earn a living and the confiscating of vegetable carts in the United States. Conservatives who believe in federalism should be careful not to romanticize the states. From the perspective of an entrepreneur, another layer of regulation is no more felicitous merely because it emanated from a state capital.

States require licenses for all manner of innocuous occupations. Although consumer protection is the usual excuse, little is accomplished by occupational licensing beyond preventing people from getting a start or a new start in life and restricting the supply and increasing the cost of a given type of professional.

The District of Columbia, which unfortunately for its residents possesses home rule powers, recently decided to require wildlife control operators (people who trap varmints infesting houses) to be licensed. As is often the case with occupational licenses, wildlife control operators will have to take a class, pass an exam, and pay a fee. But in addition, the legislation eccentrically requires licensed wildlife control operators to capture and remove animals in ways that aren’t lethal, painful, or even “stressful” for the animal.

While states are the primary malefactors when it comes to occupational licensing, the Obama administration, of course, would not want to miss out completely on a means of controlling economic activity. And so the Internal Revenue Service has recently adopted regulations requiring tax return preparers who aren’t lawyers or CPAs to obtain a tax preparer identification number and to pay a user fee. The IRS intends to require competency testing and continuing education of tax return preparers.

On a larger scale of licensing, the Obama administration has capriciously denied permits to businesses that want to produce energy. Last month the Environmental Protection Agency vetoed a water permit that the Army Corps of Engineers had granted to a West Virginia coal mine in 2007 after nearly a decade of study.

The administration has imposed a series of unlawful moratoria on drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. Companies servicing offshore oil and gas drilling argued before U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman, a fiery intellectual, that the first moratorium violated the Administrative Procedure Act because it was arbitrary and capricious. Writing that he was “unable to divine or fathom a relationship between the [government’s] findings and the immense scope of the moratorium,” Judge Feldman issued a preliminary injunction against the moratorium.

The Interior Department quickly issued another moratorium, which it withdrew in October. Since then, the administration has imposed a de facto moratorium by not granting any permits for deepwater drilling in the Gulf. Finding those evasions to be in contempt of his preliminary injunction, Judge Feldman ordered the government to pay the companies’ attorneys’ fees. And last week he ordered the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to act on five pending permit applications within thirty days, saying that the “permitting backlog is increasingly inexcusable.” So far, neither the court’s order nor soaring oil prices have awakened the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.

Perhaps the ardor for freedom will circle back from the Middle East to the United States without any unemployed miners or offshoremen having to set themselves afire.

Even Iran is Calling Out Libya

In an amazing display of “the pot calling the kettle black” Iran’s dictator figurehead Mahmoud has condemned the use of overwhelming force in Libya.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has condemned the killings of protesters in Libya, calling the government’s actions there “unimaginable.” Ahmadinejad said Wednesday that Arab leaders must listen to their people, and he questioned how leaders could use “machine guns, tanks and bombs” against their citizens.

Like the use of anti-aircraft weaponry against unarmed protesters, getting the government of Iran to call you out represents new and un-precedented lows for Gaddafi.

Now we need to start thinking of what the end game will look like for Gaddafi and his cronies. It is hard to see what country would be willing to take him in now that he has been thoroughly discredited. You never know, but even when Iran’s dictator who has no qualms about calling for the execution of opposition leaders says that your actions are “unimaginable” it is hard to see where you are going to find a happy home.

I briefly thought about putting a “humor” tag on this post but I can’t bring myself to do it.