Good News in the Bad News


The markets got a bit spooked today by the unexpected drop in GDP for the final quarter of 2012. But buried in the numbers are signs of a positive transition from a war to a peace economy.

The drop in gross domestic product was driven by a plunge in military spending, as well as fewer exports and a steep slowdown in the buildup of inventories by businesses…Despite the overall contraction, there was underlying data in the report suggesting the economy is not on the brink of a recession or an extended slump. Residential investment jumped 15.3 percent, a sign that the housing sector continues to recover, for one. Similarly, investment in equipment and software by businesses rose 12.4 percent, an indicator that companies are still spending.

I continue to be very optimistic about the direction of American policy as we emerge from our eight year Interregnum. Imagine if the 11 million undocumented workers emerged from the underground (cash) economy and started paying taxes. What would that do to the actuarial calculations of Social Security and Medicare? Imagine if Lockheed Martin started to manufacture wind turbines instead of fighter jets.

The greatest task of the next ten years will be Economic Conversion, the process of converting from a military economy to a civilian/peace economy. The economist Seymour Melman, who did the most important work on this subject, noted that the task ahead of us will not be easy.

“The problem of conversion from military to civilian work is fundamentally different now from the problem that existed after World War II. At that time, the issue was reconversion; the firms could and did go back to doing the work they had been involved in before the war. They could literally draw the olds sets of blueprints and tools from the shelf and go to work on the old products. At the present time, the bulk of military production is concentrated in industries, firms, or plants that have been specialized for this work, and frequently have no prior history of civilian work”

A larger part of the problem will be that the Military Industrial complex is situated deeply in the Red States, particularly Texas and the Deep South. Alex Bowles has pointed out to me that this could create even more Anti-Obama anger. Any attempt to pacify the South with some sort of Government aid to ease the Conversion, will be met with resistance.

The upshot is the mollifying the GOP will be easier said than done. Their response to the last election (“We’ll just rig the next one”) makes their contempt for both outsiders and democracy explicit. They are becoming, in a very real sense, un-American in that the overarching ideal of Government of, by, and for the people is becoming the focal point for organized rage directed at both the government and the people.
As Alex points out, even the Republicans most ardent anti-tax corporate benefactors will not be comfortable with the right wing pitchfork brigade. Fox’s firing of Sarah Palin is just one sign of the corporate pull back from what Bobby Jindal calls “the stupid party”.
As many of you know, I have had an open battle with some of the Libertarians who commented on this blog, including John Papola. But I must confess I found myself agreeing with the central argument (but not some of the details) of this piece he wrote for Forbes entitled “Think consumption is the engine of the economy, think again”.
Increased investment drives economic growth, while retrenched investment leads to recession and reduced employment–and it always has. Those who blame our stagnation on a lack of consumer demand rely on a toxic brew of dubious data and dangerous theory.
As I have argued for years, if our whole aim of the recovery is just to build “mall fever” again, so people hock their homes and their lives to buying the latest flat screen–then we’re screwed. As I wrote in 2009,
It seems to me that the American public has already made a shift to a culture in which spending at the mall will be a lot less important and yet the politicians are acting like their job is to restore the status quo ante–a world the public no longer cares about. Larry Summers talks about getting the big banks lending again, but what business wants to borrow when there is so much excess capacity? There are too many damn malls. Too many car dealerships. What person in their right mind would start a new retail clothing business today?
Papola points out that GDP is a terrible way to gauge the health of an economy and Rick Turner has been saying the same thing for years. This transition from a consumption and debt economy to a savings and investment economy is going to be painful, but when we emerge from this Economic Conversion we will be a much healthier society.


This entry was posted in Business, Futurism and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

67 Responses to Good News in the Bad News

  1. John Papola says:

    Thanks for the nod, Jon. It’s never really been a “battle”. You know I love you. I’m curious which details you take exception with in my Forbes piece. I spent a good deal of time comparing the St. Louis Fed data, BLS and BEA data to support it.

  2. Rick Turner says:

    Thanks for the nod, Jon. I, too, listened to the news today with some bemusement. Kind of like we went over a fiscal bump rather than the cliff so dreaded by so many. The MICC is scared shitless of having to switch to a peacetime sort of economy. They love their $400.00 hammers, and they, in the public guise of Boeing, have just shown yet again how they react to screwups. This battery thing on the new airplanes could just take them down, and what do they do? Ignore and cover-up until they can’t anymore. Damned good thing one of those planes didn’t go down…

    Also, have you all noticed the latest news on the major effects of modern automated manufacturing? The result is a future of permanent major unemployment in the sense of manufacturing jobs not coming back even as manufacturing itself is returning to US shores. This will absolutely require some sort of wealth redistribution, as hated as that very concept might be. Even I, in my small shop with three well trained workers, am going as fast as I can into computer controlled wood carving. My 17 year old son has become an absolute wiz at computer drafting, and he’ll be programming my CNC machine this summer. And desk-top 3D printers are now well under $2,000.00… You can bet that more automated farm working is just around the corner; you’ll notice that fast food “wait staff” behind the counters don’t have to even read or write…they just punch icons; manufactured housing is getting better and better; and even attorneys can just call up boiler plate on their computers to overwhelm you with crap you have to read.

    Jon, you may think the interregnum is coming to a close, but I think we’re barely a fifth of the way through. The social changes coming from (hopefully) less MICC and fewer workers needed to do the needed work are going to be upsetting for at least another hundred years.

  3. Rick Turner says:

    John Papola, wow, same first sentence!

  4. len says:

    The MICC is scared shitless of having to switch to a peacetime sort of economy.

    Not really. They’ve been preparing and the guidance came from the major commands late last year. It’s out there on the web if you want to acquaint yourself with the facts.

    The bad news: spending has actually been going down for a couple of years. Sequestration or not, it will go back up sooner rather than later. You may want to figure out how to grow employment instead of looking for other budgets to raid.

  5. JTMcPhee says:

    When it comes to the possibilities of trading guns for butter, or whatever is in the air in the Village:

    Maybe I’m not using the right search terms. Is this typical of the state of the guidance you refer to?

    Defense Department Prepares Plans for Sequestration

    By Jim Garamone
    American Forces Press Service

    WASHINGTON, Dec. 5, 2012 – The Defense Department has received guidance from the Office of Management and Budget and is now planning for sequestration, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said today.

    Speaking during a press availability, Little stressed the department still hopes Congress will be able to avoid sequestration that would take effect Jan. 2, 2013.

    “We are consulting with the Office of Management and Budget and have been instructed to pursue internal planning on sequestration,” Little said. “We are at the very start. We don’t have all of the details firmed up. Naturally, we hope very much that sequestration will be avoided. We don’t want to go off the fiscal cliff.”

    DOD officials believe it is prudent to begin the planning process. OMB delivered the guidance this week. “We are going to have to do some detailed planning at some point on the numbers and the specific consequences of sequestration, which we’ve anticipated and already talked about,” Little said.

    Senior defense officials, led by Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, have warned Congress since the Budget Control Act was passed that sequestration would be a disaster for national security. Essentially, the process would cut the DOD budget by $500 billion. This would be on top of the $487 billion in cuts already planned.

    Officials also warn that sequestration would blow the bottom out of the defense strategic guidance released earlier this year. DOD used the guidance to plan the fiscal 2013 defense budget.

    “If this is triggered, even in light of this absurd mechanism that was created to avoid absurdities, our intent is to not implement sequestration in an absurd way … inside the Department of Defense,” Little said.

    He said that the effects of sequestration will not begin all at once on Jan. 2, 2013. Rather, he believes the department will have some months at the beginning of 2013 to put in place directives and policies to carry out the law.

    “We expect in our planning efforts to identify not just numbers, but how we communicate to our 3-million-plus workforce, to prepare them for what may come down the pike,” he said.

    The military manpower portions of the defense budget are exempt from sequestration, but Little promised to communicate with all segments of the DOD workforce in the weeks ahead.

    “Hopefully, Congress will come to resolution on sequestration, but we have looked at those impacts and will plan against them,” he said.

    Or these:

    And from the other side of the uniformed divide:

    There’s lots more, of course. Maybe there’s stuff that actually elucidates that part about spending going down (presumably “defense” spending) and going back up sooner than expected.

    I guess, as was discussed here so long ago, it’s a jobs program, providing lots of good-paying middle class jobs to people who are Performing the Mission, whatever that is… I do, personally, from my point of observation, categorically reject that the overall Mission of that $1 trillion or so a year is honestly describable as “defending America.” However comfortable that sounds. Especially when you break it down into budget categories and programs and procurements…

    And on a personal note, I actually do hope that the part of that so archly named “budget” you are covered under does not get “raided.” Forgive me, as a disabled vet, if I am just a little worried that us Thank You Four Your Service types sure look to be in the way of taking it in the shorts, to “stabilize” the rest of the “budget.”

    And on another personal note, do we now have a resurrected resident libertarian, bolstered by growing personal notoriety, to once again dictate definitions and keep us from remembering what a libertarian world would likely look like? Like this:

    The Fairness Doctrine, that does not apply except to suckers who actually believe in fairness, dictates that I link the Responsible Opposing Viewpoint:

  6. len says:

    I expect we will get raided. I’m sanguine about that. It is the natural order of contracting and I’m a wage slave, not a fresh recruit.

    I’ll find the link and post it. It’s what one expects: temps laid off immediately, no new hires, facilities maintenance reduced and work orders shifted to enlisted personnel instead of contractors, travel funds slashed (no conferences), and furloughs if necessary. Contracts under review and so on. Priorities are forward operations and existing payments already obligated.

    They don’t panic. They plan. Peace dividends seldom are.

    Meanwhile Jon and Alex are beating the usual suspects. I sorta kinda expect more adult behavior from the so-called Progressives but so far it’s Spy vs Spy. Political operatives and their lackeys, ooops, minions are pretty much the same and use the same tactics regardless of the party or ideology. Please forgive my aging hippie hopefulness that one side might actually grow up.

  7. Hugo St. Victor says:

    Parts of this defy my own experience with defense industrial and defense base conversion a generation ago in California, and parts of this vision excite me. Bad things, including the fiscal insolvency of “California, Inc.”, once “The American Gibraltar”, did ensue, but bright, even brilliant and beneficial things ensued too. I guess that’s why I remain so fond of William Blake’s unlikely lesson in Logic: “If a blight kill not a tree yet it still bear fruit, let none say that the fruit was in consequence of the blight”. If you’ll check with the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Export Amininistration you’ll see that California didn’t turn from swords to plowshares so much as to the world’s engine of entertainment, wine, sporting goods and innovation in sports aparrel. That left the biotech and the semiconductor industries, both of which flee California largely because California’s compulsorily amateur politicians, constantly prodded by training-wheels term limits to move on in Politics or die, can’t see past the short-term logic of taxing and spending as though the Navy still ran the Bay Area; the aerospace industry, Southern California; and San Francisco the State’s finances. I fear the chance has passed for California to lead in defense industrial conversion. As the globe remains defined by nation states, within our nation California is Audie Murphy 1958.

    It could’ve been so beautiful, so smoothly handled, California’s transition to peacetime, the post-Cold-War “peace dividend”. President Clinton thought so, and so did Vice President Gore do. But state politics got in the way. Term limits necessarily infantilized the leadership of both parties and lobotomied the institutions created to support the Legislature and Governor by igniting an exodus from Sacramento of the professional staff capacity that, years earlier, Governor Edmund G. (Pat) Brown Sr. and Speaker/Treasurer Jesse Unruh knew would be required for the rational management of massive demographic growth under conditions of economic fluctuation. It’s hard to imagine now, how much Albany and Springfield rooted for Sacramento in those days. In California by the 1990s, though, state lawmakers were becoming mere political squatters, theatrical understudies at best, and there was little time or incentive to learn what it takes to govern such a great state, to husband such vast flowing resources, to pull together, plan, save, innovate in keeping with such a bulb garden.

    Somewhere amongst those vast regional changes over the past 25 years was a wide synapse betwixt the superb planning capacity to which len attests and the equally estimable macroeconomic forecasting prowess of which Jon’s an examplar. If our New Federalism is to work then I’m afraid we’ve got bulbs to replace here and there. Honestly I don’t see any way around that. We’ve discussed, sometimes in rather deep detail, the necessity and forensics of a national Constitutional Convention. As Jon knows, that a point at which my jurisprudential Id

  8. JTMcPhee says:

    From my aging refused-to-be-a-hippie perspective, Right On! to the observation on sameness. That to me is the human failing: all those abilities and perceptions and promises, and it all eventually devolves back to “A Distant Mirror,” rinse and repeat. The thing that does change is the scale of destruction possible to people who master the self-serving skills, the tactics as you say, and the ever-advancing technology. Especially the seeming geometric progression of mutual if asymmetric vulnerability.

    “I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.” Just try to imagine what ol’ Oppenheimer might have actually felt as all that effort produced this:

    Now we got 3-D printers that will soon churn out wondrous new inventions (and anyone-want-a-ceramic-handguns) not even dreamed of. And gadgets that will assemble atoms into complex molecules like new (or resurrected) strains of virus and bacterium. And increasingly autonomous “robots” with increasing skill sets. And ever higher velocity, bigger-bang explosives. And nanodevices that can theoretically clean the plaque off your arteries or teeth, disassemble your tumors, and with a tiny tweak, morcellize that frail carriage for that massive combined summing intellect without any kind of overarching goal or direction except MORE! and NEW! and Really Kewl! And of course those suprapolitical economic weapons generated by Jingoists or just greedheads, to destroy a currency to enrich another, to debase a culture into mindless consumption of serial bubbles, to bring us a world of “government-like organizations” headed by “Papola-like executives.”

    There’s a reason for the same-ness: we are all forced, peradventure, structurally, to play the same game. It’s what we are, except for a few “saintly” outliers, who still screw women not their wives and cuss and spit on the sidewalk and empty their ashtrays out the car door at the stoplight.

    It seems to me that there really is a Strange Attractor,, but it ain’t about creating pseudo-order. It’s more like the pretty-picture behaviors of atoms and their constituent bits of matter and energy or whatever is the Real Nature of Reality, featured in that God-awful video linked above.

    It feeds the family, though. Hence the careful planning, to do what the body does when it falls into deep, frigid water: shut down the periphery, conserve the core functions, basic circulation to the respiratory and pumping mechanisms, even sacrificing the brain, in an effort to keep the gonads alive. Female, mostly, as it turns out. To make Ever More Of The Same.

    There is not, cannot be, any kind of “peace dividend.” Not in the cards or in the stars. We are made to self-destruct, far as I can see. Local domains of pseudo-order and “success” and “dominion,” the general movement toward that terminal chain reaction. And the starry-eyed say “Isn’t it wonderful? All that progress! All that opportunity!” While the folks who see the clear path to their Main Chance, plan.

    Interregnum? A comfortable concept, that has sunshine and green fields at the end of it. I’m just a grumpy old cynical curmudgeon, but I go with Frost’s insight:

    “Some say the world will end in fire,
    Some say in ice.
    From what I’ve tasted of desire
    I hold with those who favor fire.
    But if it had to perish twice,
    I think I know enough of hate
    To say that for destruction ice
    Is also great
    And would suffice. ”

    Ice-9 would be convenient for troops wanting to cross marshy terrain to steal a march on The Everpresent Eternal Enemy. If only there were some brilliant way to keep the catalyst from sweeping in the whole stupid planet…

  9. Hugo St. Victor says:

    Parts of this defy my own experience with defense industrial and defense base conversion a generation ago in California, and parts of this vision excite me. Bad things, including the fiscal insolvency of “California, Inc.”, once “The American Gibraltar”, did ensue, but bright, even brilliant and beneficial things ensued too. I guess that’s why I remain so fond of William Blake’s unlikely lesson in Logic: “If a blight kill not a tree yet it still bear fruit, let none say that the fruit was in consequence of the blight”. If you’ll check with the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Export Amininistration you’ll see that California didn’t turn from swords to plowshares so much as to the world’s engine of entertainment, wine, sporting goods and innovation in sports aparrel. That left the biotech and the semiconductor industries, both of which flee California largely because California’s compulsorily amateur politicians, constantly prodded by training-wheels term limits to move on in Politics or die, can’t see past the short-term logic of taxing and spending as though the Navy still ran the Bay Area; the aerospace industry, Southern California; and San Francisco the State’s finances. I fear the chance has passed for California to lead in defense industrial conversion. As the globe remains defined by nation states, within our nation California is Audie Murphy 1958.

    It could’ve been so beautiful, so smoothly handled, California’s transition to peacetime, the post-Cold-War “peace dividend”. President Clinton thought so, and so did Vice President Gore do. But state politics got in the way. Term limits necessarily infantilized the leadership of both parties and lobotomied the institutions created to support the Legislature and Governor by igniting an exodus from Sacramento of the professional staff capacity that, years earlier, Governor Edmund G. (Pat) Brown Sr. and Speaker/Treasurer Jesse Unruh knew would be required for the rational management of massive demographic growth under conditions of economic fluctuation. It’s hard to imagine now, how much Albany and Springfield rooted for Sacramento in those days. In California by the 1990s, though, state lawmakers were becoming mere political squatters, theatrical understudies at best, and there was little time or incentive to learn what it takes to govern such a great state, to husband such vast flowing resources, to pull together, plan, save, innovate in keeping with such a bulb garden.

    Somewhere amongst those vast regional changes over the past 25 years was a wide synapse betwixt the superb planning capacity to which len attests and the equally estimable macroeconomic forecasting prowess of which Jon’s an examplar. If our New Federalism is to work then I’m afraid we’ve got bulbs to replace here and there. Honestly I don’t see any way around that.

    We’ve discussed, sometimes in rather deep detail, the necessity and forensics of a national Constitutional Convention. As Jon knows, that’s a point at which my jurisprudential Id kicks in and I take things really seriously, especially with regard to rights and responsibilities (especially those of the Fourth Estate and the religious estates). I just want to throw it out there that any serious reconsideration of the national charter will occasion a review of the consistencies within and the eccentricities among the 50 state constitutions. I feel those contracts are due for such a review directly by the People and not merely by the Judiciary.

  10. Hugo St. Victor says:

    …JTM you’re not a Hippie. You’re Beat. We’re all beat to shit, loads of road on on our backs, we just come by it very differently man…like you wouldn’t believe and shouldn’t care to know…the rest are just old newspapers blowing down Bleecker Street~~~

  11. Alex Bowles says:

    @Rick Turner I think you’re right about the rest of the century being a roller-coaster. Assuming we haven’t wrecked the climate, the effort to avoid doing so is going to make today’s world seem closer to the world of powdered wigs than what emerges between and then.

    The focal point will be energy, since that’s the most immediate source of the carbon that’s doing so much damage to the oceans and climate. But energy systems turns out to be interconnected with water and agriculture in myriad ways, so really, the change will revolve around resources in general. Jon mentions transitioning from “a consumption and debt economy to a savings and investment economy” and to me that has to do with a lot more than people focused on individual retirement. It’s a much deeper change that focuses on the economy of the economy in general, and one that shifts focus on how “well” we live as individuals to how effectively we cooperate as a society, because that’s where the real savings can be found.

    We all know that corporations are pretty ruthless about cutting costs. You mention your own interest in robotics. Imagine what happens when people everywhere start thinking about water and energy in the same terms, and realize just how little they can do on their own, and how much more can be done at the civic level. That awareness can lead to some fairly big re-engineering projects, which is when our security budget (approaching a trillion dollars per year) starts looking like the worst value for money imaginable.

  12. JTMcPhee says:

    @Alex Bowles
    Back to the land, via the New Serfdom Model:

    So much depends on water, so many of the “permaculture” projects I read about require a steady downhill-flowing supply of surface water, and the landforms and soils and climate that work are also in short supply. And how many of us are suited for the back-bending and knee-twisting and are smart enough to figure out the interconnects and pathways and efficiencies, let alone how you organize sociopolitically, who gets to be IN CHARGE, who OWNS the stuff, in an age that is so far removed from village life and the inherited, now largely lost, skills of that other way of living, hand to mouth? Not me, with my bad back and busted knees…

    And yes, we have not just a “defense spending problem,” we have a self-creating monster that engulfs and transforms everything it touches, from sucking people into thinking in acronymized Mil-babble, to seeing the personal utility in perceiving hypothetical-horrible “threats” under every bed that just DEMAND a counterthreat with no thought to maybe some kind of, you know, negotiated arrangement to render the threats nugatory, to detaching its minions from any loyalties to the larger entity that feeds it and turning them into yammering apologists for their “programs.”

    I recall the WPA and CCC participants generally had a pretty strong esprit de corps and sense of meaning. And I bet the folks at old Bell Labs felt a common, productive glow, too… a healthy and very distant kin to the closed partisanship of a Boeing or a General Atomic or a Lockheed Martin. Though given how we’re wired, that tribal us-versus-them, squinty-eyed ClintEastwoodianism is so much more seductive and more easily and cynically manipulated.

  13. Rick Turner says:

    Hugo, there were good reasons for the term limits coming to Sacramento…crony politics and the world of Willie Brown, for instance.

    The energy thing…well, the energy monopolists are slowly losing. They wanted large and technically complex solar farms…remember all those proposals for motorized mirrors aiming sunlight at boilers, etc.? Or massive arrays of solar tracking photoelectric cells? Well, it turns out to be much better to disperse the solar collectors onto every south facing roof, and the photovoltaic panels are getting so cheap that nobody bothers with solar tracking or even with ideal angle to the south anymore. If your roof is even close to facing south, you’re good to go. So what we need is the smart grid…to be owned by all of us, just like the Interstate highway system. Home builders should get a break on orienting new houses for solar panels…and those breaks could be tax breaks or building permit fee breaks or whatever. The pay-off/break-even point is getting faster and faster on grid connected solar power…about seven years around here in Northern California…and that’s without factoring in any probable rise in rates.

    We simply have to de-centralize all this stuff as much as possible…it’s safer, more reliable, and ultimately much cheaper. Of course, the problem is that it also de-monopolizes what is now a cash cow… Remember Enron?

  14. Hugo St. Victor says:

    I focus on recent California history because I agree strongly with Jon and with Seymour Melman that the task ahead is economic, and particularly defense industrial conversion. However, I suspect that Len and I might’ve scratched our respective heads simultaneously upon reading Melman’s odd claim that reversion to the manufacture of “the old products” was the order of the day in postwar USA, and that the major obstacle to our present conversion lies in the purposive specificity of present modes of production. That’s just not how it worked in California after WWII and Korea, not how it worked there in the 1990s, and not how it’s happening now across the country. Melman’s describing Slovakian problems circa 1993, but those were not our problems. We have relatively no problem with reengineering. Our problem is leadership. The “vision thing”. Getting the Executive and Legislative to come together in charting a destination they both want to touch.

    The challenge is not to blow the dividend. Again. The largest legal class of Enron’s victims consisted of California taxpayers who got stiffed for $44 Billion by legislative Enron groupies, led by the State’s present Treasurer, who by dint of law were too inexperienced to know a Ponzi from a Fonzi. Much less were they capable of coming together even to formulate strategy for lifting California from Cold-Wartime to a secure peacetime under condition of demographic growth. See, in the days of the old, inveterate pols drafting that sort of template would not have been a very big deal. The CA State Archivist curates a collection of restaurant and bar napkins, spanning 35 years, that attest to this. But then he’s got a scribble concerning Enron too.

    Maybe we could collaborate in raising money to commission from Failure Analysis a study of the term limits initiative. In my limited experience I’ve not seen such a lopsided example of unintended, adverse consequences vs. no benefit intended. The alternative was civic engagement but we Boomers evidently exhausted ourselves on that front long before. As for Willie Brown, he became Paterfamilias of California’s “term limits babies”, kids-in-candy-shops all, and saw them safely from their Sacramento nursery into the huge California Congressional Delegation. “Remember Enron?”

  15. len says:

    If you take Gallup’s word, Alabama is the most conservative state at slightly over 50% which means almost half of us aren’t. Note where California ranks.

    The politics of Red/Blue are dumb as rocks in both extremes. The country is slightly more liberal. I wonder if voting and doing are two very different agendas.

  16. Hugo St. Victor says:

    …in keeping with Jon’s 2009 metaphor, the folk may be into savings and investment but it’ll be a real moonshot to pry a pack of cash happy 13 year-old lawmakers from the pre-adolescent thongs in their Abercrombie & Fitch catalogs. I know well only one area of public finance and expenditure, schooling. Our federal officials are so ignorant, so even dangerously spendthrift, in this regard that two of the best experts I ever knew quit, as of the First of this month, because they were ill from trying to sleep with the adverse consequences of misspending for all but the political parties involved. We keep spending to prop up failing structures, institutions, modes of delivery, labor blocs of voters. What we as a nation need, and can agree upon, is literacy and numeracy. Those objectives can have a happy outcome for everyone provided our leaders stop invoking penultimate terms such as “Education” and “Schools” and “Teachers” as though these talismans eclipse the ultimate end, children, literacy, numeracy, democracy. The greatest, saddest weakness of this country today is the hiddenness of the prevalence of illiteracy. I’ve come the point where I feel that only a dangerous fool in power would conflate this problem with perceived underfunding of universal, compulsory public schools or with the magical word “education” which I am certain President Obama could not come close to defining.

    In my view–and not mine alone–we’ve got to roll back a 35 percent illiteracy rate and ~20-25 percent innumeracy immediately and undoubtedly we’ll need all…hands…on…deck. The reason why I keep digressing, in these conversations, to the common learning is not because it’s my favorite ploy or whatever but because I believe I see, in the beauty of futures that Jon and most of you regularly propose, presuppositions that (a) like as a law of thermodynamics, this country cannot break a rule of plurality in literacy and numeracy; (b) our ancient and exquisite post-segregationist systems of public schooling have found these natural laws and proportions; and (c) the more we spend on institutional metaphors the greater the number of the tribe’s children show us that they can read, or add. Heaven forbid, for themselves.

    We’re engaged–President Obama is engaged–in such comfortably lullabying anti-intellectual boomerfucked jabberwocky (the Feds funding and over watching “Education”!) that I doubt any of us living will create a structure that places an individual child before the glorious Venus or Adonis of the glistening system itself. We all were schooled to forget, first, schooling’s end. It’s nothing personal…

  17. Hugo St. Victor says:

    I know, Len. Even my girlfriend kicked me as a California chauvinist (and she & I both grew up at both ends) until she agreed about four months ago that we really should offer California as counterpoint and canary. It’s hard because we both love my state so much, and sometimes we hide tears from each other. We do not believe that other than governmental hyper-spending reversed California’s fortunes. Nothing else of commensurate consequence is to blame. And she’s a good deal smarter than am I.

  18. Rick Turner says:

    Hugo, note well that it took a Democrat governor…formerly known as Governor MoonBeam…to rein in spending here in California, and now that it seems that the budget is almost under control, the first thing the gov wants to do is to help the California university system…once and perhaps still the best state uni system in the US. The ironic thing for me as the parent of a boy who will be going off to college next year is that Harvard, Stanford, and Carnegie-Mellon are all much better financial deals for him, his mom, and myself. So I’m knocking on wood and gettin’ my mojo working for one of those three rather than any of the UC schools. The funny thing is that it will be UC’s loss in five or six years time.

  19. len says:

    The greatest idea ever thought remains: one white pebble for yes, one black pebble for no.

  20. Alex Bowles says:

    @Rick Turner Tea Party sideshows aside, I keep thinking the Republican party’s raison d’être is the protection and propagation of fossil fuel interests, even when that means siding against the military. It’s really is about the (now slipping) level of political power that a very small number of people can wield in a world where energy – which is fundamental to all other economic activity – is, itself, controlled in a very centralized way. When the executive suite in the headquarters of Exxon Mobil got dubbed “The God Pod” during Lee Raymond’s tenure as CEO, the name stuck for good reason.

    As you pointed out, once you start thinking seriously about solar, the logic and economics leapfrog to the most decentralized arrangements very, very quickly. The resulting freakout – which makes no sense on strictly economic grounds – underscores the extent to which the implied meaning of “economic” is really an expression of moral philosophy concerned with the degree to which sharp social stratification is truly good, as opposed to merely necessary. It’s easier to claim that your system is the only one that can work when its underpinnings are the only ones being allowed to work.

    This, I suspect, is something Steven Chu experienced in spades. As the Post notes in its coverage of his resignation

    At Energy, Chu was most closely identified with his oversight of a massive, $35 billion loan guarantee program funded by the 2009 economic stimulus law. He also led efforts to develop a cutting-edge, alternative energy lab known as ARPA-E, or Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy.

    While tarnished by Solyndra, the loan program has had many successes, including huge solar projects in California and Arizona and wind farms in Oregon and Maine. The department also has boosted electric cars and nuclear power plants. Counting loans and guarantees to U.S. car makers and the nuclear industry, the program is supporting as many as 60,000 jobs and generating up to $40 billion in private investment, Chu said.

    The ARPA-E project has led research in fields from electrofuels to batteries. “While it is too early to tell if we have home runs, there are a number of investments that have certainly rounded second base,” Chu said in his farewell letter.

    Note that the Solyndra meltdown revolved around $535 million – roughly 1.5% of the budget it came from – and an even smaller percentage of the private capital that the program attracted. That’s an astonishingly low rate of failure, which was eclipsed by Obama’s singular failure in letting proxy attacks on the program go unanswered. The GOP should never have been able to utter “$535 million” without being punched in the jaw with “That’s what percent of $35 billion? You need us to do the math for you?”

    That may seem harsh, but it should have been clear how acidic the Republican response to clean energy investment would be. Threats to fossil fuel interests aside, the program also demonstrated the absurdity of the idea that the market – and only the market – can allocate capital successfully. In that sense, it was a magnified threat to GOP ideology. While a tendency to spend badly may be a feature of a government composed entirely of lawyers, Chu’s tenure points to the value of scientists and engineers operating at the policy level. Indeed, if the government can’t handle money, that’s no a strike against government in general. That’s a strike against the kind of people in it (e.g. ones who are unembarrassed about an apparent inability to do basic arithmetic, along those with those unwilling to challenge such conspicuously malicious idiocy).

    Ideologically driven choices to support socially-destructive interests seem part and parcel of what’s been dubbed the Endarkenment, a particularly toxic byproduct of the Regan-Thatcher era that peaked under Bush II, and is finally being put on the defensive (though not nearly fast enough). Interestingly, parallel problems exist in the UK, where the Royal Society has formulated this especially clear and succinct response.

    The whole thing is a gem, but as we move towards our own post-Empire future, there’s special relevance to America in this approach to strengthening diplomatic power and reducing domestic poverty, especially when you consider the role that America can play in leading (as opposed to pushing) others in dealing with what the Royal Society calls “the human predicament”, defined in this excerpt from the introduction to their recently published proceedings (PDF here).

    Virtually every past civilization has eventually undergone collapse, a loss of socio-political-economic complexity usually accompanied by a dramatic decline in population size. Some, such as those of Egypt and China, have recovered from collapses at various stages; others, such as that of Easter Island or the Classic Maya, were apparently permanent. All those previous collapses were local or regional; elsewhere, other societies and civilizations persisted unaffected. Sometimes, as in the Tigris and Euphrates valleys, new civilizations rose in succession. In many, if not most, cases, overexploitation of the environment was one proximate or an ultimate cause.

    But today, for the first time, humanity’s global civilization—the worldwide, increasingly interconnected, highly technological society in which we all are to one degree or another, embedded—is threatened with collapse by an array of environmental problems. Humankind finds itself engaged in what Prince Charles described as ‘an act of suicide on a grand scale’, facing what the UK’s Chief Scientific Advisor John Beddington called a ‘perfect storm’ of environmental problems. The most serious of these problems show signs of rapidly escalating severity, especially climate disruption. But other elements could potentially also contribute to a collapse: an accelerating extinction of animal and plant populations and species, which could lead to a loss of ecosystem services essential for human survival; land degradation and land-use change; a pole-to-pole spread of toxic compounds; ocean acidification and eutrophication (dead zones); worsening of some aspects of the epidemiological environment (factors that make human populations susceptible to infectious diseases); depletion of increasingly scarce resources, including especially groundwater, which is being overexploited in many key agricultural areas; and resource wars.

    In sum, they point to the 21st century’s defining issue:

    These are not separate problems; rather they interact in two gigantic complex adaptive systems: the biosphere system and the human socioeconomic system. The negative manifestations of these interactions are often referred to as ‘the human predicament’, and determining how to prevent it from generating a global collapse is perhaps the foremost challenge confronting humanity.

    The paper is equally direct when framing a response to this all-encompassing situation.

    How can scientists do more to reduce the odds of a collapse? Both natural and social scientists should put more effort into finding the best ways of accomplishing the necessary re-modelling of energy and water infrastructure.

    Or as the GOP would say “massive, government sponsored social re-engineering”. To which the obvious answer is “yes, exactly”. I won’t say the need for this re-engineering is undeniable because these dipsticks can deny the existence of their own mothers. But that doesn’t make it any less real. And meeting it with the least amount of pain would be a lot easier of guys like Steven Chu didn’t feel so intolerably uncomfortable in government – which he wouldn’t if the electoral system weren’t so massively rigged against the people who have the sense and who would otherwise have the numbers to vote trolls like these into oblivion.

    As David Roberts has noted, if you want to pass climate legislation, you have to fix US politics.

  21. Alex Bowles says:

    …and the Alpha and Omega of that Herculean task comes down to un-rigging the Vote, largely by doing away with the closed primaries, gerrymandered districts, and dependency on private campaign finance that turn our elected officials into “elected” officials.

  22. Hugo St. Victor says:

    Rick, your son’s catbird situation, elite privates vs. UC, I agree is telling. I’m a retiree of the UC president’s office, UCOP, and staffed the three increasingly ineffective and controversial revisions of the 1960 Master Plan for Higher Education, which today is de facto mortis–making this a crucial interregnum for CA education as well as for the Nation’s economy. (I’d worked previously for UCD, UCLA and UCB).

    At Cal, as at other campuses, my title was Education Planning Specialist, and my first duty was to work on a state structure for defense industrial conversion. It turns out that defense conversion has almost everything to do with Higher Ed. This is true in spades in California, which uniquely hosts three national Energy Labs and three NASA centers. Add to this the fact that UC is the contractor-operator of Lawrence Livermore, Lawrence Berkeley and Los Alamos, together with the fact that the University receives about three federal dollars for every state dollar of funding, and pretty soon the spin-off and spin-on potentialities to and fro’ the classification pipeline require a very fat, fast pipe. Then add the long histories of UC collaboration with Stanford, USC and Caltech, and suddenly the landscape of industrial conversion no longer resembles a Rose Bowl gridiron. It more resembles, for starters, the DARPAnet those various teams already had cooked up in close collaboration with each other in furtherance of communication with the East Coast and points between. (UC owns labs, installations, teaching facilities and other holdings all over the globe and by tradition politely declines any request from the Governor California to give a full accounting; much of the stuff is classified after all, and the University never forgets who really butters its bread). So while I don’t advocate rule by elites, I do worry that a newly elected Assembly Speaker, with two or three year’s slaried experience in elective office, might not be aware of how to rework a regional economy based on workings previously unknown to him. Six years as an SEIU organizer or four as Council Member of the City of La Puente do not augur well for the productive civilianiztion, commercialization and dissemination of defense-related know-how. And spin-off is the easier trick. If the national conversion’s to be successful President Obama will need robust spin-on as well. Perhaps Leon Panetta will become a force in that direction when he returns to Monterey County.

    There’s just about nothing I wouldn’t do to help Gov. Brown or anybody else to achieve the statewide objectives you ascribe to him. Their mine too. (I’d add that not only UC but especially the California State University system is critical now). I’m just saddened upon reflection of so many really good folk, from such diverse stations, who tried in vain to keep the State of California from balancing its books with runaway fees and tuition at UC, CSU and the California Community Colleges. To say nothing of California’s unique, five-part system of public libraries intentionally capable of tailoring to user need long before cybernetics. If your son is destined for Carnegie-Mellon, or the Yard or the Farm, I truly hope that one day he’ll hook up with one of California’s public post secondary institutions and share his learning.

    Let me end by saying that several of us, polka-dotted across the country, are working hard on ideas for preventing another cohort from encumbering insupportable, lifelong student debt. We really are unsympathetic with institutions and their proliferating subspecies of superintendents. Consider that the notion of a college or university “administrator”, who could speak for the college or even the university, was confected here, in the United States, way back in the 1920s.

  23. Hugo St. Victor says:

    Also, Rick, one thing I don’t regret is my having worked, on a kind of fitful retainer, for Willie Lewis Brown, Jr. over the course of 19 years. A devoutly wicked man, an innovatively corrupt city superintentendent of schools who made millions on the Typhoid Mary scam, parlaying buyout-to-buyout, at lunch one day remarked to me, somewhat awestruck, that Brown was the only person who could venture a Pawn and make you mistake it for a Queen. Earlier that day Brown very graciously had sent the man packing. Banished him from California. Understood. OK.

    Where would California be if the Brown with the wrong breeding hadn’t held off against countervailing forces for 15 years? You won’t believe it I know, but that man always has put California first, and he agrees with you and me, and with Governor Brown, that the university structure is our finest legacy. Willie Brown’s unnoticed regret is that he couldn’t do more to help bootblacks to bootstrap by way of CSU and UC. He’s said as much, unnoticed by readers. I know how seriously he’s meant it. We all paid the dues. He was a leader.

  24. Hugo St. Victor says:

    Excuse the shop talk: in the Ed Biz some urban school administrators make money by getting bought out (truncating the terms of their contracts) and bought off to stop them from deliberately underperforming by, in effect, stupefying pupils. In such instances the enterprising urban school superintendent for hire takes his winnings to moves on to under-perform lucratively elsewhere. Willie Brown characteristically saw through this sort of long con, Gray Davis never could’ve done, and Arnold Schwarzenegger in fact did not do. Jerry Brown, for his part, sees such scams coming. This example is metaphorical of course, meant as representative of what it takes to achieve the twin goals of governmental efficiency and restoration of e.g. the educational structures. (Personally I loathe those structures, but that’s just Moi. I’m not as conservative as Jerry Brown or any of you.) As for your son, Rick, the artistically bent CAD/CAM savant, I should think that his presence would be missed most at MIT over the next few years; they’re actually looking for such people, apurpose. I wish I could make a play on behalf of the CalAggies, but you and your wife and he are right. Nolo contendere. Jesus, can you believe it?

  25. Hugo St. Victor says:

    Sorry, but FIAT effin’ LUX!

  26. len says:

    Alex Bowles :…and the Alpha and Omega of that Herculean task comes down to un-rigging the Vote, largely by doing away with the closed primaries, gerrymandered districts, and dependency on private campaign finance that turn our elected officials into “elected” officials.

    Just so. The generalized concept is the weakness of direct participatory democracy. That is, Clythenes notion that one white pebble for yes and one black pebble for no is a brilliant one but time and again, it fails to be sustainable and applicable to some classes of problems. An example to contrast with others here is the Internet Religion discuseed in the article Jon posted on FB this morning.

    Now that Internet-centrism is not just a style of thought but also an excuse for a naïve and damaging political ideology, the costs of letting its corrosive influence go unnoticed have become too high.

    Note how the irritants you cite interfere or amplify the effects noted by Morozov. If that can be compared to the social effects of regions delineated by maps of clearly gerrymandered districts, you’ll have a case worthy of a major publication.

  27. len says:

    BTW: if you want to study a classic runaway induction scenario, go read the FB threads popping up on why the lights went out in the SuperDome and how the answers are dominated by the assertions/beliefs of the dominant personalities in the threads. No amount of reason will turn a mob once they settle on a leader.

    This is supersitious acquisition, the very problem we said back in the 80s such a system as the Intenet would create: seeing patterns in the cloud because we wish to see them and our mammalian heritage predisposes us to do that effectively: “That thing about hats.” This is by the way a critical flaw in direct participatory democracy.

    The Wisdom of Crowds proves to be very little in situations where there are no tests that can be transparently applied or which are acceptable to the dominant personalities. AKA, the Tea Party and scientists who dismiss UFOs without looking at the body of collected evidence. (Yes, UFOs are controversial. The problem is the very large body of corroborated evidence and the inability to apply tests that would confirm or deny.)

  28. Rick Turner says:

    I work in a field where there are centuries of empirical evidence of issues like instruments “opening up” sonically over time, even “going to sleep” when not played for days or weeks or months, and then “waking up” when played again for a while. I know of no builders of stringed instruments nor any top tier players who have not experienced these phenomena and thus believe that these changes happen. Yet, when discussions come up on-line, there is always a vocal hard core of people who demand “scientific” evidence, and then claim that nobody has good enough long term aural memory to be able to know these things. As we come to understand some of the reasons for these changes, the non-believers dig in and refuse to accept some of the actual “scientific” evidence…real reasons for aging changes in wood that we can hear before we’ve figured out how to measure them.

    Does this sound familiar? Just substitute “climate change” to get to what should be the least controversial of these kinds of “inconvenient truths”, to quote one well known gent.

    From my point of view, a trained brain with a good set of ears is an incredible scientific tool; every great audio engineer (and I’ve worked with some amazing audio circuit designers) I know trusts his or her ears over the ‘scope and an FFT analysis. We all heard the issues with early transistor power amps before anyone figured out how to measure them. But mob mentality does rule…until the insidious truth takes over. Then there’s a new mob dealing weirdly with another myth. As with the 2nd amendment crowd. I say single shot muskets for all…just like the founding fathers had…

    The good news is that some of our young are being well educated and they want to do great things in the world. Some of them are even being well educated in public schools. Whoda thunk it?

  29. len says:

    But it doesn’t slow down the mob of self-proclaimed wizards or in practice, sorceror’s apprentices. When one of them falls by his own hand it is hypocrisy to blame the wand, the brooms or the well. Aaron’s demise and the law being proposed are rife for both corruption and illumination.

    It is time for the silly valley wizards to learn that mastery of spells is not mastery of natural forces and that to use one to invoke the other without appreciation of the easily forseen consequences even if unintended robs them of any claims to superior morality, intelligence or purpose. If they point to their wealth, they are on the same bill as the Wall Street banksters. If they point to liberation of information from evil corporations or big government, they are faced with the artists they impoverished.

    In the end, the lab is a mess. Disney has that part right. The web cabal is Mickey Mouse.

    Results matter.

  30. JTMcPhee says:

    @Rick Turner
    Please don’t forget duelling and pocket and horse pistols and blunderbusses — not everyone had a musket, let alone a rifled barrel, but likely as many as had a Brown Bess or equivalent had “handguns” and shotguns, and there were even some “revolvers,” The NRA and further “right” folks sure won’t forget.

  31. JTMcPhee says:

    Inspiration > innovation + vulnerability + resource + application of effort x greed to the power n = ?

  32. Rick Turner says:

    JTM, those “pepper boxes” were as likely to blow up in your hand as give you several shots at close range…

    BTW, I grew up in a house that had up to 30 rifles, shotguns, and pistols at any given moment. I was taught gun safety…it was drilled into me, and yet one of the most emotional moments in my life was when my mother asked me to unload and hide the 1911 Colt .45 auto because my dad, who had metastatic cancer affecting his brain, was starting to have nightmares and hallucinations at night; he was back in the Aleutian Islands fighting hand to hand. She no longer felt safe in the house with what we would now call his latent WWII PTSD was kicking in…and he loved her dearly and vice versa.

  33. len says:

    @Rick Turner

    Grew up in the same house and my Dad did exactly the same thing. It took some effort to find all of the guns stashed in every part of the house. I was astounded.

    And we think getting the driver’s license away from them is the tough problem.

    The good news: he also stashed phillips head screwdrivers. While assembling and disassembling a failed front door lock after the power went out at night last week, that habit proved reliable and well, a seabee to the last.

  34. len says:


    I’ll come back to this. The vulnerabilities get generalized and that leads to faulty assumptions as well as the application of negative evidence to induct causes.

  35. JTMcPhee says:

    Speaking of which, I see where the Department of Energy wants to give us the gift that keeeps on giving, our very own local neighborhood nukular power plants!

    Quoth the engineer, “Of course it can be done.”

  36. Rick Turner says:

    And the great thing about nuke power plants is that the feed the hungry maws of monopolists…even the tiny nukes. Just what we need: dozens and dozens of nukes for terrorists to blow up one by one. Each community can have it’s own private Chernoble or Fukushima.

    Gimme a solar roof, please…

    And you should see them multiplying here in Northern California. It’s fantastic. I wish my landlord would do our huge south facing roof with panels, but since the tenants pay for the electricity, he doesn’t give a shit.

  37. len says:

    There was a line in a sci-fi program last night where a character said “yes, ever since we went to a decentralized nuclear mini-plant fusion design, the terrorists can’t hurt us” and that went blithely by. It harkens to what the fellow said about the fallacy of solving all problems in terms of “Internet memes”. The idea of decentralization is appealing in terms of control theory and can for some limited space of applications work well. Not all. And those who think elites will be managed away simply don’t understand the intersection of management norms and human nature. As soon as shared resources have to be managed by people, an operating system is insufficient and controls will emerge and hierarchicalize regardless of who has the wealth. The wealth just makes it cohere more tightly.

    A problem of the ongoing IP religious wars is generalization of some cases to others. There are indeed domains where copyrights and patents are impediments to innovation. Software is one particularly if the software standard is being discussed in open forums. We’ve discussed it before but to refresh:

    1. Submarine patents: participant enters open discussion and suggests features or changes that can only be implemented using techniques they or others have secret patents on.

    2. Harvesting: organizations that lurk on lists and as ideas are discussed, document them an patent them secretly. I’ve seen this more often than I like. One learns not to share.

    However, these problems rarely come up in songwriting, painting or movie making. Yes one can steal song ideas, script ideas etc. How often do they and what is the value of doing it PRIOR to the song becoming a hit?

  38. len says:

    :) Sorry Callie. It’s simply true.

    The second half of the first decade of the 21st century saw the rise of management unions. Where the 20th century witnessed the employee unions that asserted the rights of the workers, with the replacement of the well-trained adult and overwhelming male worker class by the self-obsessed, whiny, undertrained and underperforming, scheming survivor savants and their use of social media, it was clear that the management class was under siege and only by banding together in unions could they protect and promote the economic prosperity of the globe. This was, as history proved, the right solution.

  39. Rick Turner says:

    Be very suspicious of technologies that “want” centralization and claim the economic benefits of monopolies. They invariably exist on Peter Principle management styles, waste untold amounts of cash, and work hard to support the trickle up theory of finance. The MICC is, of course, one of the biggest and most egregious examples, and I dare say it’s what has happened to a lot of education where the foot soldiers…the real teachers…get dissed and dumped on and the executive class…the administrators and ed theorists…do fine.

  40. len says:

    I am also suspicious of technologies based on decentralization that rely on megaserver systems that have the carbon footprint of a midsized state.

    No free lunch.

    They can claim the benefits. It is when they secure it first by guile then by law that I get pissed. If someone told you in 1989 that they were building and selling a technology that would take away your privacy, your royalties and your peace of mind and all you would get is free porn, would you have taken that deal?

    Almost everyone did. So… kwitcher bitchin’ and pay the light bills. :)

  41. Hugo St. Victor says:

    This is the truest string I ever read. Some of it is over my head but so much of it hits home, even in minute particulars, that this conversation straightens my back, helps me to rise. I pray the next couple years will see our host and all of us in peak form. In my case that’ll be very hard, but still it feels close to a resolve. We’re each describing something like the moral synapses betwixt the capacities of our chosen fields and our hopes, even our efforts, in our fields. Just for myself, I choose to chuck the lacks and revert to the old aspirations leaping.

  42. len says:

    Try this Hugo: Hillary wins the South.

    The practical reasons of politics pale beside the magic of the impossibly provocative good.

  43. Hugo St. Victor says:

    I wouldn’t mind her winning the South and the election, man, but look. My bag has been to look big-eyed scholchildren in the eyes, and to try to displace hard assholes who can’t do. My people are the Texas Rangers of schoolteachers, never fools for bluff from any flank. In teacher-training programs a candidate requires five separate alimentary canals, so gusting is the upsmoke, and only some elders who actually care for children endure the sorting with hearts intact. Naturally, the best would be the first to go, so gristle comes in together with superior technical training on the sly. (You’d be surprised how close it brushes with your field; for example, defecting code-crackers who rue simplistic testing and drill&kill)

  44. Hugo St. Victor says:

    Manichaean pepples, not ethical binaries, never. Our best people lie between. Lie, not lay. Big black hat vs. white hat distinction, who lays vs. who lies

  45. len says:

    I am married to a teacher of special needs children, as you may recall her. My gig is to pay the bills so she can afford to do her gig. We also serve who only earn. :)

  46. len says:

    Yeah yeah yeah. I just wanta get laid. But no… I am not destiny’s child. Just an old grigori with a broom and a song in his heart. :(

  47. Alex Bowles says:

    @JTMcPhee Ok, so it’s neo-serfdom. On the other hand, hedgehogs.

  48. Rick Turner says:

    Alex, hedgehogs are a favored delicacy of the French gypsies, the Roma. Gut ’em, sew them up in a ball, toss ’em in the fire, and pull them out a while later all nicely cooked. Info gleaned from Michael Dregny’s incredible bio of Django Reinhardt.

  49. Hugo St. Victor says:

    Rick, sometime when we we meet we’ll discuss the Smithsoniann, the Shoah, the Six versus the eleven sacred Million, and the Romany member installed on the prospective museum’s board by the President of the United States. It took doing.

  50. Hugo St. Victor says:

    Lest We Forget: Six Million Is the Lie; Eleven Million is the Truth. Gentiles somehow don’t count. Gypsies Are Mythical Animals.

  51. Hugo St. Victor says:

    I interviewed Simon Wiesenthal in L.A. In the 1970s and he didn’t like this fiction. Gentiles do not understand the Jewish theological doctrine of “Specialness” that permits Six commended in our memory as though another five million, totalling eleven million in all, had not also been systematically named, ridiculed, expelled, humiliated, tortured and put to death. Only Jews. Deliberately forget the remnant. Lest we forget the Six so special. What’s Five Million, give or take a dozen?

  52. JTMcPhee says:

    @Alex Bowles
    All kinds of hedgehogs. Like this?

    Or this?

    Innovation and ingenuity at their best…

  53. JTMcPhee says:

    And then there’s the irresistible seductions of threat perception, mission identification, and TECHNOLOGY! to make it all even ever better and better! And Cost Effective, and Affordable, and stuff, TOO! And wait! There’s more! and more…. just follow the youtube path through all the related stuff that the Game is bringing to us… gotta love that calm, serene voice of the annouincer.

  54. Alex Bowles says:

    @Rick Turner Wait, they eat them? That shows how naive I am. I thought they were putting cute animals on their web site to make Portugal seem generally inviting. I didn’t realize it was an invitation to dinner.

  55. Hugo St. Victor says:

    As ever McPhee your subversive humor tickles & pricks, but lemme aks U: have you ever imagined empathicly what it must be like to sit as the Pentagon’s Undersecretary of Defense for Procurement? I mean, there is such a person. What if you’d been him? Would you have pressed Carter toward Stealth, or Reagan toward missile defense, or Clinton toward non-lethal warfighting, or Obama toward cyber-defense? Any or all of the above? When finally we the Peeps shrink the defense budget, obviously the remaining Pentagon dollars will count all the more. How would you bet the chips? You’re probably seven or eight years older but we seem to share the old habit of ridiculing and spoofing Pentagonian Jabber, but seriously in recent years the big Suits and Brass do seem quite dangerously lost in the illogic of their weird locutions, e.g. “defensive weaponry” and “defensive warfare”. This newer kind of oxymoronic un-thinking seems quite different from, say, thinking up tools with which to defend an expressly offensive force such as USMC strike teams. (But please let’s not go Hedgehog –> Warthog). Seriously, I guess I’m asking whether the voters, or their civvie Prez, stand any chance of determining whether the fewer dollars are not as perversely misspent as the too many dollars have been squandered heretofore. I’m talking about cash payments for goods; am not questioning the Military’s quasi-civilian R&D structure. Were you the appointee whose recommended military procurements have to be approved and then defended by the President in lean times, what would you propose?

  56. Rick Turner says:

    Alex, and in Ecuador they eat cuy…otherwise known as guinea pigs…yes, the pets of daughters all over the US…

  57. Alex Bowles says:

    @Rick Turner I do know about the Cuy. When I was in high school I spent a summer in Ecuador doing volunteer community development work. One of my partners on the project, a really sweet girl from Texas, thought we were just being awful when we explained they weren’t pets. And then, one fateful day, we took a trip into town, where darling Wendy saw the succulent truth slowly roasting on a spit.

    “Oh. My. Gawd.”

    And that was all she said.

  58. Hugo St. Victor says:

    Wonderful! Bully! Excelsior!

  59. Hugo St. Victor says:

    Jesus, you guys. What pisses you off? It’s not a parlour trick, just look back at your various ugly assertions. Does any of you suppose that by diminishing the Romany he is correspondingly, auto-mechanically elevating Jews and Judaism? I’m sorry but that’s lame. The Roma belong to nobody, not even to me. They were so more thoroughly slain than were anyone else that the The Third Reich’s last official documents, written under condition of ravenous Russians in the suburbs, gloated over the thoroughness of the Gypsy slaughter even while lamenting the lack of time to finish off Jewry. And now, seventy years later, it seems anti-Semitic to point out that there are millions and millions missing from the funeral. You know, that’s flat weird.

  60. JTMcPhee says:

    @Hugo St. Victor
    Hugo, why ask me? I’m just a piss-ant $30k a year/0 net worth guy, to establish exactly how meaningless I am, cursed with a millstone of a notion that it’s somehow important to try to figure out how stuff actually works. Knowing that IT DOESN’T MATTER, even if I get any of it right. See, e.g., your above comment on the fate of the Roma. The question of the 5-yr-old is “WHY?” And the answer of the exasperated parent is, eventually, “JUST BECAUSE!”

    You got a pretty good idea how we have gotten to where we are. Words don’t do it, there’s no way to de-syncretize it all one phoneme at a time. it’s a I guess grokogestalt, or nothing. All the interest holders and players, the liars, the creators of world visions that are hehephenomenal frauds, born out of some combination of realism, greed, paranoia, the urge to Rule and Control, mingled with myth-particles of kindness and reason, every little subterfuge of Interested Parties from the line guy at Lockheed-Martin “who knows who he works for” to the engineer with an IDEA! pickled off by something he saw at the latest trade show or read about in the trade press or dreamed up out of some nightmare after one too many “Terminator” runs on cable, to the bureaucrats who are Just Doing A Job to all the consultants and contractors who have shoulders to the wheeeeeeels, all the Brass whose careers are linked to this or that procurement and whose post-careers are linked to the continued Victory! of the System, all the Charlie Wilsons and other Friends of Defense! in Congress and their aides and associates, all the huge egos on the bodies of sneaky little Al Haig shits in the West Wing doing their thing, the petroleum extracters, the utilities, the coders and the companies they work for, and of course the whole psychedelic lunacies of human interaction where people who seek and use POWER! are always looking for some advantage over the village idiot with money or land or OIL! or whatever, read Tuchman on how we got to WW I and WW II and how the human system operates and all the smart folks before and since who have smaller or larger windows and lenses and filters into what we humans do and why, big picture views with smaller or larger azimuths and ranges, all tending, to my nerveless view at least, toward one single pole, one sigularity, which is STUPID! writ in florid cursive, unable to control our passions, rewarded for our idiocies that are locally beneficial to a few, a very few usually, and mortal to the rest taken as an integral of all the points on the spread. Who will be the last GI to die in Notagainistan? And what follows that? “U.S., Afghanistan At Odds Over Weapons Wish List.” Hmmmmm- which weapons have the highest “CQ” (corruption quotient)? F-16s? 155mm cannons? Can’t help but wonder what the little guys in green and berets are thinking in the cover shot…

    What would I do? The choices are self-limiting by the processes that bring the Undersecretary into position, with thousand-dollar pen in hand, to sign off on ideas and commitments written in white ink by others who are interested, in the sense of self-interest, with a pastiche of Patriotism and a flappery of flags, in being the little Richelieus who can bow away from the throne with their imprimaturs, heh heh heh heh…

    Old wooden ships of war had rudders, but were mostly steered by the selection and trim of a whole shipload of different sails, from the spanker to the fore-topmast-skysail-studdingsail to the flying jib and jib of jibs. The rudder could kind of generally direct things, but this huge crew with its hierarchies of officers and Marines to maintain order and its whole dependency on “the land” to provide iron balls and gunpowder, salt beef and tallow, sailcloth and spongers and swabs and marlinspikes and all the rest, was what moved the cannons from one place of violence against other humans to another. Progress. Procurement and logistics, all nudged by shits like McNamara and Rumsfeld and Petraeus and the People of the Project for a New American Deadend and all the others who add a bit of vectored energy to the mix. All part of a complexity that’s beyond “management,” since it’s a multiple-body-collision reality compounded by the character of the table surface, the balls, the cues, the spin applied, the friction coefficients of all the surfaces, the motions of the impinging air molecules, the initial conditions and the constraints of the GAME, that requires all thought to be torqued tightly through whatever the current Received Wisdom and “serious thinking” is, in a seductive diction of Parenthesized Acronymized Nomenklatur Tribalism (PANT) which in turn are the product of an infinity of person-moments given structure and meaning by whatever the belief structures and opportunities for gain, pleasure, revenge, dominance happen to be at the moment. It’s all part of the Occupation that really counts: the human occupation of the planet, and why is the notion of the Badness of the aliens in “Independence Day” so noxious to us (mimesis? projection?), since hey, that is exactly where we are headed? there are Netizens who are all on about how we use up Planet Earth, then go on to mine the asteroids and colonize and eat up the terraformable planets and moons of our local space, and then HO! for the possible lightspeed=plus drive and WHOOP and WAHOO! we’ll be on our way! to what is the fucking endpoint again? Guns Are Fun! (Note the proud momma, capturing the moment on imperishable silicon… “All right! You DID iiittt!”) “Wise” is sparse and shrinking; “Stupid” is wide and deep and heavy and self-generating.

    Nice thought experiment though.

  61. JTMcPhee says:

    And, randomly, lest we forget:


    (Cue the Wagner: — imagine the Krupps’ engineers imagining those 305 and 405mm cannon, oh the technical challenges of making them sufficiently portable across all those landscapes! and the marketing guys imagining all those sales to Japan and Russia and stuff, 50% to Germany, 50% to everywhere else…

  62. JTMcPhee says:

    How come, with Google (0+ / 0-)

    and all, people still just revert to their “religions” when there’s the possibility of maybe some kind of epiphany that might lead to, I don’t know, survival of the species? Purely a rhetorical question, of course. We all have those damn limbic systems as our principal source of initiation and principal obstacle to cognition.

    All I got is two notions:

    We are perforce, willy-nilly, beyond peradventure, all in this together — cats with our tails tied together by some naughty G_D and hung over a clothesline, cats who could figure out how to cooperate and chew ourselves free, if we weren’t so busy clawing and biting each other…


    There is more than enough of everything that matters to go all the way around the table, if only we could keep the tiny Few from cramming all the chops and broccoli and chocolate chips into their infinitely elastic cheeks and bellies, and if only we were smart enough to not be then suckered by those same Few into glaring suspiciously at each other and then all reaching for the crumbs at once, and fighting over them.

  63. Hugo St. Victor says:

    Well obviously I asked because I respect your opinion. And you gave it. “Guns are fun”. I’m afraid that’s just about right. Not many other than you have the moxie to distill such things so. Whenever the lab results come back terminal I’ll want some No B.S. SOB like you to deliver the news. Fortunately nobody here takes the Body Politic unseriously, so it’s just well that we be real: the Department of Defense should be disestablished, and the Pentagon razed. Done. Now, how is it that I can discern, through your acerbity, a patriotic insistence upon better forms of governance and better structures for civil defense? You’re a softie, JTM. Admit it. You’re among friends. Why hell, I myself attack the NEA and even the old schooling structure from time to time, so that goes to show that I want Americans ignorant just as you want them dead.

    But seriously, (a) thank you for that mindbending response; (b) neither you nor I ever should vie for Undersecretary for Procurement; and (c) it occurs to me that there’s a little-known book I reckon you’d enjoy, one I commend for no personal purpose: Daniel Calhoun’s “Intelligence of a People”. Certainly on Amazon it’s greatly undervalued. You remind me not of its irascible author but of his bloody brilliant book.

  64. Hugo St. Victor says:

    Just saw your antireligoius post, JTM. I may be an old chaplain but I won’t call the MPs. You can’t say anything about religious constructs that’ll offend me. I confess Three, not a manufactured fourth.

  65. Hugo St. Victor says:

    …and con-fess, in plaintive praise, bestest for the mustest, and about as good as we can do right now unless you traffic in pleasantly plentiful untruths! Well done. Masterful mindbending. Normally we turn our thoughts to happier endeavors, frequently in consideration of the young, but hell, if you power maniacs want to go for it then what the hell. I mean, absolutely, What The Hell. Period. No partisan claim. Total blanket. As in, Deal. Most of us won’t like it, but are too chicken to resist, as I personally believe most persons would do, depending horribly upon who constructs the Scales. n

    At that point it can go one way or the other, and whichever way it swings surely will augur Truth, Happyness, and adolescent measurings and joinings that nobody thought quite legal. Nobody any longer has the balls. I’m so sorry, but on the other hand only a whore could afford not to

  66. Octavio says:

    Which they can excel as wedding planners, publicists, entertainers, hosts, or managers.
    If you wanna buy some local crafts, these are your good choices:
    Damagao, Matisu, Zhimatang, Changzhou Luobogan, Chaye, Liuqimushu,
    Dengxinrongbu, Luanzhencixiu, Liuqingzhuke, Liyaobaiqing, Liyangfenge,
    Tianmuhuyutou, Changdanghu Pangxie, Banli, Yanshanshun, Wumifan.
    Similarly, whenever you talk about the pricing of dragon city cheats
    engine then you will be happy to examine that these tend to be absolutely free associated with cost.

Leave a Reply