Not making a difference since 2006. Blog motto: Always be sincere whether you mean it or not.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Is there anything to miss?

Today, George W. Bush says au revoir. His reign has been, well, squalid. Still, one has to admit a grudging admiration. He was, maybe, the least Conservative president since Coolidge, yet he kept the loyalty of a majority of self identified Conservatives until the end. There are two reasons for this. Most self identified Cons wouldn't know what Conservatism really is if it bit them on the nose. Also, where could they go. Well, to the Paulistas, but they would have to do some thinking and reevaluating.

A Fox headline blares, Pelosi Open to Prosecution of Bush Administration Officials. That's understandable. He had his way with La Nancy more times than she would like to admit. As hated as he was at the end, his popularity dwarfed that of Congress.

It is easy to dismiss someone who appears as dumb as your man, but the class that loves to make jokes about how dumb he is, should think again. He may have done nothing for the country, but that does not mean he did not serve well a constituency. It just wasn't the constituency that voted for him.

George was as shrewd as all the folks who laugh at him in Harvard Square. They just never got the joke. They like to think it was all Rove or Cheney pulling strings. Maybe, maybe not. Keeping in mind that, I am going to repost , er, in the spirit of the age, recycle an old bit about the outgoing maximum leader from October, 2006.

The Dirty Little Secret is ....Dubya is a lot smarter than you think! Probably smarter than you.

No, he is no genius, but so what. De Tocqueville made the point that it is the second rate men (and now women) who go into politcs anyway. No, George is just smarter than anyone thinks he is. Now, I didn't vote for the man. I disagree with his foreign policy and most of his domestic agenda. So why am I on a crusade to defend his intellectual prowess?

I am not so much standing up for the man as observing the blindness of those who belittle his mind, which is just about everybody in the country who voted against him and thinks they are far brighter than he. Which is just about everyone in the country who voted against him. In fact, a lot of the people who voted for him figure they could give him a queen and two rooks and beat him in three moves.

Typical of the feelings of superiority expressed is this ancient entry in the old gnxp blogspot from 2002 by a very smart man who calls himself Godless Capitalist and is a scientist to boot:

"Not only is he inarticulate, he is neither well read nor curious to find out what he's missing. The man quoted "Jesus" as his favorite philosopher. Jesus! Now, perhaps my atheist bias may be showing, but I doubt that Bush would have been able to fill spots two through five on that list of the all time philosophical greats. Whether you believe that Jesus was really Bush's favorite philosopher or not, such a remark is equivalent to answering "E=mc^2" to "what's your favorite equation?" or "Einstein" to "who's your favorite scientist?". It's not that it's impossible that these are indeed the favorite equation or scientist, but rather that there is immediate doubt as to whether the questioned individual has any knowledge of science beyond popular culture."

Of course, he was referring to el Presidente and he was logically proving your man to be a babbling idiot. Certainly, his logic was complete. Christ never opined on the problems of existence in the manner of a philospher. Bush has never given any indication he is conversant with the tenets of any school of philosophy.

Sorry, but Monsieur Godless was wrong as are all of you who laughed your heads off. Bush gave the right answer. Yeah, all you geniuses, GWB was dead on. It may have been the wrong answer if it had been given in an oral exam for honors students majoring in philosophy, though the question of favorite lover of wisdom would not have been asked in such a test. It was certainly the smart choice in a nationally televised debate when the question was asked by some smarmy little inquisitor who was hoping the candidate would fall flat on his face.

Just what would go through your head when asked who your fave wise man is before a nation who would decide between you and another pol they would be stuck with for four years. Would you have thought, "Let me dazzle them. I wrote a great paper on Kant and the categorical imperative* sophmore year and if I can expound on it for two minutes the American people will be so taken with me that the election will be called off and even Gore will support my elevation." In the words of one of my favorite philosphers, Jon Lovitz, "Yeah, that's the ticket."

Now I know this is tough, but let us assume something did go on in the then governor's mind when the question was asked. Let us assume, from a political point of view, that it was as follows, "What kind of question is this? The people don't know from Aristotle to Wittgenstein and neither do I. Okay, what is my best choice, assuming the prejudices of the American people?"

Good job, George. If you had named any philospher, there would have been constant analysis all night of what a fool you were for your choice. The fact that the commentators couldn't say anything more than, "Of course Jesus was not actually a philosopher," was all to your advantage. Your born again base loved it and it did not hurt you at all with the three dozen Latinos and seven African American who actually voted for you.

Now let us contrast dumb ol' George with a man everyone in my home state acclaimed as a stone genius. Michael Stanley Dukakis. In his first gubernatorial campaign, the bumper stickers read "Mike Dukakis Should Be Governor." He was thought of as a messiah (even so, GW was smart enough not to choose him). Everybody respected the brain power of Dukakis.

How did he show it off when he had the big question tossed at him? Time has not been kind to my memory, but I believe it was Bernard Shaw who asked how he would react if his wife had been raped and murdered as he had the squishy liberal rep on the subject of crime. Well, our governor did reflect on the question and a national audience was treated to his reflection. And, it was treated to some more of his reflection. And, then a little more. Sleep eze sales had to suffer.

The Duke's answer was honest and stupid. He did not get it that he was talking to real people out there. What I don't get is how he stayed alive. Most married men who had answered the way he did and had gone home would have had a frosty reception. The wife would be thinking along these lines, "Oh, so I get raped and murdered and all he can think about is understanding the perp." Me, I'd stay up all night figuring I did not want to take a chance on being stabbed in my sleep. Maybe Mike spent the night in the famous tank.

The correct answer, had he really wanted the presidency, should have started with, "If someone did that to my wife I would want to cut off their balls and watch them bleed to death." The desire for revenge is a natural emotion and being so philosophic about everything tells people Dukakis was (still is, probably) on another planet and could care less about their very real concerns.

Bush the Father was easily able to triumph over Dukakis with "read my lips, no new taxes." Dad would get his comeuppance when he exposed himself as a liar on the subject. I am no admirer of the American electorate and it hardly makes us all out to be geniuses that when we turned our back on someone who so blatantly lied to us, we elected twice a man who never told us the truth, but the Old Man did get what was coming to him.

His son led us into a war we did not need and his "Compassionate Conservatism" is little more than social democracy lite (albeit an expensive sd lite). With gas prices starting to skyrocket before the last election, I thought he would lose. Is his maladministration going to take his party down in flames in November? Who knows? Still, on one night he beat the world. Whether he did because he was smart or lucky is no matter. He did it and the people who make fun of his intellect don't get it.

*Full disclosure, I was required to take four semesters of philosophy. Like our president, I took the gentleman's C. However, as I was not to the manor born and was doing it at a backwater papist college, it was a foolish thing. My method of attaining a C grade was to ask a friend majoring in philosophy, the minimum I needed to study to attain my goal. It worked, and there is not much at this late date I can tell you about the Categorical Imperative.

Will the new Divine Augustus have as good a run as George? Hard to say. George kept the expectations low. That Obama has been all but anointed makes the expectations unreal. Especially with the mess that Bush has left him. Hmmmm. Did W do that on purpose?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Don't Just Do Something, Stand There. Always.

Over at Dennis Mangan’s blog they are discussing a weighty subject, reaction. They might even call it Reactionism. It may not be the first annual Carnival of Reaction, but there is a lot of firepower with Mencius and Auster chiming in and de Maistre harked back to as an eponymous hero. He's even set up a totem. One post and I might have stayed afloat, but Dennis and friends have gone on a tear and I’m awash.

With that in mind, I will give you the bit of literature that turned me into a reactionary.

‘Very well,’ I said quietly, ‘Why do you always answer no?’
He stirred perceptible in his chair and filled the teacup up again before he spoke. He seemed to have some difficulty in finding the words.
‘ “No” is, generally speaking, a better answer than “Yes”,’ he said at last. He seemed to speak eagerly, his word coming out as if they had been imprisoned in his mouth for a thousand years. He seemed relieved that I had found a way to make him speak. I thought he even smiled slightly at me but this was doubtless the trickery of the bad morning light or a mischief worked by the shadows of the lamp. He swalloed a long draught of tea and sat waiting, looking at me with his queer eyes. They were now bright and active and moved restlessly in their yellow wrinkled sockets.
‘Do you refuse to tell me why you say that?’ I asked
‘No,’ he said. ‘When I was a young man I led an unsatisfactory life and devoted most of my time to excesses of one kind or another, my principal weakness being Number One. I was also party to the formation of an artificial manure-ring.’
My mind went back at once to John Diviney, to the farm and the public house and on from that to the horrible afternoon we had spent on the wet lonely road. As if to interrupt my unhappy thoughts I heard Joe’s voice again, this time severe:
No need to ask him what Number One is, we do not want lurid descriptions of vice or anything at all in that line. Use your imagination. Ask him what all this has to do with Yes and No.
‘What has that got to do with Yes and No?’
‘After a time,’ said old Mathers disregarding me, ‘I mercifully perceived the error of my ways and the unhappy destination I would reach unless I mended them. I retired from the world in order to try to comprehend it and to find out why it becomes more unsavoury as the years accumulate on a man’s body. What do you think I discovered at the end of my meditations?’
I felt please again. He was now questioning me.
‘That No is a better word than Yes’ he replied.
This seemed to leave us where we were, I thought.
On the contrary, very far from it. I am beginning to agree with him. There is a lot to be said for No as a General Principle. Ask him what he means.
‘What do you mean?’ I inquired.
‘When I was meditating,’ said old Mathers, ‘I took all my sins out and put them on the table, so to speak. I need not tell you it was a big table.’
He seemed to give a very dry smile at his own joke. I chuckled to encourage him.
‘I gave them all a strict examination, weighed them and viewed them from all angles of the compass. I asked mysef how I came to commit them, where I was and whom I was with when I came to do them.’
This is very wholesome stuff, every word a sermon in itself. Listen very carefully. Ask him to continue.
‘Continue,’ I said.
I confess I felt a click inside me very near my stomach as if Joe had put a finger to his lip and pricked up a pair of limp spaniel ears to make sure that no syllable of the wisdom escaped him.
‘I discovered’,’ he said, ‘that everything you do is in response to a request or a suggestion made to you by some other party either inside you or outside. Some of these suggestions are good and praiseworthy and some of them are undoubtedly delightful. But the majority of them are definitely bad and are pretty considerable sins as sins go. Do you understand me?’
‘I would say that the bad ones outnumber the good ones by three to one.’
Six to one if you ask me.
‘I therefore decided to say No henceforth to every suggestion, request or inquiry whether inward or outward. It was the only simple formula which was sure and safe. It was difficult to practise at first and often called for heroism but I persevered and hardly ever broke down completely. It is now many yeas since I said Yes. I have refused more requests and negatived more statements than any man living or dead. I have rejected, reneged, disagreed, refused and denied to an estent that is unbelievable.’
An excellent and original régime. This is all extremely interesting and salutary, ivery syllable a sermon in itself. Very, very wholesome.
‘Extremely interesting,’ I said to old Mathers.
‘The system leads to peace and contentment,’ he said. ‘People do not trouble to ask you questions if they know the answer is a foregone conclusion. Thoughts which have no chance of succeeding do ont take the trouble to come into your head at all.’
‘You must find it irksome in some ways,’ I suggested. ‘If for instance I were to offer you a glass of whiskey...’
‘Such few friends as I have,’ he answered, ‘are usually good enough to arrange such invitations in a way that will enable me to adhere to my system and also accept the whiskey. More than once I have been asked whether I would refuse such things.’
‘And the answer is still no?’

From Flann O’Briens The Third Policeman.

Just remember, not every idea is wrong, but the number that are right is statistically insignificant.

Okay, I admit, I’m glad they improved hernia surgery.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Genius Will Out, as buffoonery

TV Magazine 60 Minutes thinks they have the goods. They are sure oil prices defied the law of supply and deman so that evil investment banks could profiteer. Steve Kroft is clueless as usual. Supply and demand does not mean everything is always in balance depending on what that balance is. Maybe at certain points markets reflect an oversupply of stupidity.

Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence

The Bonaparte quote is overused and I’m late to the game with it. Still, we can employ it to start. The big boys at the Morgan and Goldman Deutsche Bank thought they knew everything about everything as did all the hotshots throughout the financial world. They took positions in a commodity that few can do without. Were they trying to go all Nelson Bunker Hunt on the world. Beats me, but the results were the same.

How much of their activities caused the run up in oil prices, I would guess a lot. It’s as if someone in the office came in on a Monday and said, “Hey, I read this great book last weekend called “The Long Emergency” and there’s almost no oil left. If we can get it all, we can, “Dare I say it, rule the world.”*

Actually, they started their quest in 2004 before Kunstler published his book. In May of 2008, well before prices collapsed, someone noticed. The blog Peak Oil Debunked (PO) posted about how Morgan, Goldman and others were putting the stuff by to make a killing. He wrote when prices were $130 and were poised up ever up until $147 and then the Masters of the Universe had us all in the palm of their hands.

Er, no. We have seen what has happened to the price those stone geniuses were betting on. They must have lost big. I just wonder how much of the bailout, if any of it, was to cover stupid bets that if there Hahvud Economics Doctorates or (across the Charles) the B School MBAs should have figured out was bound to happen.

On commenter on the PO site mentioned a 15 May 2008 Reuters article,

"JPMorgan to start physical oil trade, eyes $200 oil"

As they say on the Guinness commercial, Brilliant.

Our family only gets gas stingy cars and so my mantra became is this trip necessary. Other folks sold the SUV and boom, demand collapsed enough to kill the game. Supply and demand came back into balance, not. The geniuses still can’t get rid of the stuff.

That still doesn’t stop Kunstler from being a doomer, but I don’t feel all that well about the economy either.

I should mention as an aside, back in May, when PO posted, some commentters called him an idiot. In the words of Brenda Lee, "Who's sorry now?"

*Apologies to Victor Spinetti and the Beatles movie, Help!.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy New Year!

he voice of humility wishes everyone a happy and politically incorrect 2009 Anno Domini.