The Gods of the Copybook Headings are Coming.

There is a poem by Rudyard Kipling, explained by John Derbyshire here, That warns of consequences that will come no matter how much we wish it otherwise.

Published in October 1919 when the poet was 53 years old, “The Gods of the Copybook Headings” has proved enduringly popular, despite the fact that copybooks disappeared from schoolrooms in Britain and America during, or shortly after, World War 2. A copybook was an exercise book used to practice one’s handwriting in. The pages were blank except for horizontal rulings and a printed specimen of perfect handwriting at the top. You were supposed to copy this specimen all down the page. The specimens were proverbs or quotations, or little commonplace hortatory or admonitory sayings — the ones in the poem illustrate the kind of thing. These were the copybook headings.

The poem is severe and depressing, as Kipling was when he composed it.

As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man —
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began: —
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool’s bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;

And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!

We are now in an era where the rules of civil society seem to have been repealed, or at least violated with impunity.

Retribution is sure to follow.

The present Deep State, or “Swamp” if you prefer, seems to be nearing some sort of denouement

The House Intelligence Committee now has the bank records of Fusion-GPS. They were turned over Friday after a federal judge on Thursday shot-down a last-ditch effort by attorneys from Fusion to get an emergency injunction.

Chairman Devin Nunes and the House Intelligence Committee now have the records of payments made by Fusion-GPS to “journalists and media companies” during 2016 and early 2017 when Glenn Simpson, Mary Jacoby and Peter Fritsch were shopping the Christopher Steele ‘Russian dossier’ to enhance the “Insurance Policy”.

I expect to see rats going overboard now on a daily basis.

Most of the direct (“small group”) FBI (CoIntel), DOJ (NatSec Division) and Special Counsel co-conspirators are only able to talk amid themselves. They know by now they are being monitored and they have strong suspicion the size of the surveillance upon them. [Hi guys.] No-one else is willing to put themselves at risk now. Congressional allies now view the small group as carrying a legal ebola virus. Contact is now a risk.

I consider Congressman Devin Nunes one of the two heroes of this story. The other is Admiral Mike Rogers.

Rogers warned Trump that his transition team was under surveillance right after the election. For this the Obama people tried to fire him from his position at NSA.

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Monkeywrenching Socialism – Ratchet Smashing I

The effort needed to make government bigger is much less than the effort needed to make government smaller. This is the basic principle that underlies the government ratchet effect. The beneficiaries of government action are concentrated and thus both have more at stake and know it than the beneficiaries of shrinking government which are very often the general public who derive at best a diffuse benefit that is often not even noticed or even understood.

But I believe this pro-socialist ratchet dynamic only happens so long as the starting question is “should government (or program x) be cut?” What if we start from a different question? What if the assumption is that there is a lot of bad government out there and that as a matter of course 10% (or 5% or 15%) of the government can and should be turned over each year so that poor past decisions don’t hang around forever. Which part would get cut? The answer becomes obvious, the corrupt, useless, inefficient parts, of course. The corrupt, useless, and inefficient caucus is tiny (at least when it’s identified as such). Nobody supports corrupt, useless, and inefficient government out loud, even self-described socialists. This sort of government is supported by ‘middle of the night’ bill insertions and inertia.

The counter-argument would be to assume that good, efficient, honest programs would be disrupted and now we wouldn’t want that would we? But this assumes that a significant chunk of government programs are incapable of being reformed and improved by termination, privatization, or reform. That’s something that needs to proved, not assumed.

Most everybody right now wants to protect their own ox from getting gored. so there is a fear that ‘my’ programs are going to be disproportionately targeted and ‘your’ programs will be protected by political juice. The trick to avoiding this sort of cynical CYA is to identify the targeted bottom percentage in a fair way. This is where things get sticky because it’s something of a risky proposition to point out that the emperor has no clothes.

What if we simply asked everybody who would have an expert opinion, to simply rate the worthiness of every program, to the extent they can. All members of the legislature, all members of the executive giving their opinions to identify the stinkers. What if we made it a job requirement? Of course the system would be gamed but it would be a massive improvement on current practice and would significantly reduce the ratchet effect.

Right now, there is no generalized expectation that the legislature will periodically review government expenditures, pick out the worst, and either let bad things expire, privatize the solution, or provide a better, more efficient, less expensive way to solve the problem using government action. Cutting government in this system becomes progressive, not reactionary. Getting through less than 10% of the government is a real world assertion of incompetence on the part of incumbent legislators. And all that need change to bring about this happy state of affairs is to change the expectations game. Legislation will follow to eliminate the free riders.

Book Review — Marchant, Decoding the Heavens

Marchant, Jo, Decoding the Heavens: A 2,000-Year-Old Computer–and the Century-Long Search to Discover Its Secrets, Da Capo Press, 2009, 328 pp.

Defining the Word “Anachronism”

In the latter half of the nineteenth century, the sponge divers of Greece lived through a technical revolution … the appearance of the diving helmet. After many centuries of free diving to harvest local sponges, the new equipment suddenly allowed access to much more of the Mediterranean sea floor and previously unexploited sponge beds. The industry boomed. Inadvertently, the diving helmet also led to the discovery of a shipwreck off the coast of the small island of Antikythera. Amidst the spectacular bronze and marble statues at the wreck site was a strange lunch box-sized lump, covered in a limestone coating from centuries of immersion and distorted by the effects of decomposition and corrosion. Here and there were visible bits of wood and corroded bronze, faint inscriptions of ancient Greek and what appeared to be thin loops or gears.

Compared to the glamorous artworks it was found with, the “lump” was rather unprepossessing and, indeed, it spent most of the 20th century in obscurity. Not knowing what it was, the curators made little effort to preserve the object, and increasingly, it broke into a more and more fragments in the storage rooms of the Athens’ National Archaeological Museum. The early 20th century descriptions made their way into the hands of a physicist and historian of science named Derek De Solla Price. In the 1950s, he made serious efforts to fully explain what it was, culminating in a 1974 book Gears From the Greeks. And it was partly through his efforts that people as diverse as Arthur C. Clarke, Jacques Cousteau, and Richard Feynman took an interest in the enigmatic archaeological find.

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Clausewitz, “On War”, Book VIII: War Plans are Simplicity Itself!

Book VIII deals with war plans. It was one of the parts of On War that was in a nearly finished state when Clausewitz died. After transiting the vast lumber rooms of Book VI and Book VII, which have many good things amidst the clutter, the relatively finished nature of Book VIII is a relief and a pleasure.

In the introduction, in Chapter 1, Clausewitz tells us that the vast array of factors that must be considered in preparing a plan for war seem, in the hands of great generals, to be “extremely simple” and their decision-making appears to be “uncomplicated” and “off-hand”. This is an illusion. The men of talent in command of armies are really considering these factors, but not in a “dreary” and pedantic way, but by the interior assimilation of experience and learning that leads to swift and decisive coup d’oeil.

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Quote of the Day

The conservative revolution was supposed to be a revolution. It has not been. It has been an insurgency. And while that insurgency captured a vast swath of open territory, it failed utterly to capture the key citadels of American culture, beginning with American higher education.

Academics control the narrow neck through which America’s managers, writers, thinkers, bankers, politicians, and executives must pass, and that passage has acquired an atmosphere, no matter how self-pityingly the academic left likes to deny it, in which Left assumptions are set as the default positions

Conservatives made the disastrous mistake of assuming that if they abandoned those tedious and expensive plans to lay siege to the university, they would be free to move on to the larger and more easily-annexed plains of government and finance. They were wrong. Governments change, finances crash, but the faculty is forever.

Alan Guelzo, Conservatism’s Greatest Failure: The Academy