Thursday, April 30, 2009

Old Things Coming 'Round Again -- Kipling

Rudyard Kippling (1865 - 1936)

on Ransom, Extortion and Payoffs


A.D. 980-1016
It is always a temptation to an armed and agile nation
To call upon a neighbour and to say: --
"We invaded you last night--we are quite prepared to fight,
Unless you pay us cash to go away."

And that is called asking for Dane-geld,
And the people who ask it explain
That you've only to pay 'em the Dane-geld
And then you'll get rid of the Dane!

It is always a temptation for a rich and lazy nation,
To puff and look important and to say: --
"Though we know we should defeat you, we have not the time to meet you.
We will therefore pay you cash to go away."

And that is called paying the Dane-geld;
But we've proved it again and again,
That if once you have paid him the Dane-geld
You never get rid of the Dane.

It is wrong to put temptation in the path of any nation,
For fear they should succumb and go astray;
So when you are requested to pay up or be molested,
You will find it better policy to say: --

"We never pay any-one Dane-geld,
No matter how trifling the cost;
For the end of that game is oppression and shame,
And the nation that pays it is lost!"

Monday, April 27, 2009

A Short History of Group Think

I started looking at the phenomenon of group think today. One of the sparks was a post by my good buddy Ultra Guy on his blog new wineskins. It seemed to me that a salient point in his argument was the decimation of the German Theoretical physics community during the 1920's and early 1930's as the tide of antisemitism drove some of the leading physicists out of Germany.
The term groupthink was coined in the early by William H. Whyte:
Groupthink being a coinage—and, admittedly, a loaded one—a working definition is in order. We are not talking about mere instinctive conformity—it is, after all, a perennial failing of mankind. What we are talking about is a rationalized conformity—an open, articulate philosophy which holds that group values are not only expedient but right and good as well.
Ultimately group think is about defending unexamined assumptions about things. As Galileo discovered with his Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, Challenging the reigning world view can be hazardous to your life. In 2008 the Church completed the rehabilitation of Galileo Galilei a process begun some 300 years after declaring him a heretic.

In our own era state sponsored and organized group think rose to new levels in Germany and the USSR. The German version, Gleichschaltung was particularly invidious and the name in German calls forth images of a system like a Gyro compass with, repeaters dutifully following the master compass. The Soviet flavor, Lysenkoism, had devastating effects throughout Soviet Society and Science. The essential core of Lysenkoism was the doctrine that acquired traits were inheritable. While the concept was not new to Lysenko, having been epressed by such worthies as Buffon, Lamarck, and giving it a patina of respectability Aristotle.

The current manifestation of group think trumping the scientific method are the conjoined triplets of liberal elitism - The Population Bomb, The Coming Ice Age, and Anthropogenic Global Warming. In each case the operating principle is the same. All research that supports the group position is loudly proclaimed, contrary research is suppressed. In the next phase research funding is filtered through a combination of peer reviewed publications ensuring that reports match the desired outcome. Funding from all sources is then based on previous publication and probability of the research being publishable in a peer reviewed publication. In the last phase, to show even handedness, contrarian research is requested and then heavily redacted to ensure that even the dissenters support the core thesis.

The final nail in the coffin and the result that proves "Mark Twain, was right when he said; "It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so." The recently released Index of Environmental Indicators, you owe it to yourself to see just how much we know about our environment that isn't so. The 70 page report also shows the progression towards impotence of most attempts to actually do something about a problem degenerate into. That one fact alone should give hope to all the AGW deniers around the globe.

Friday, April 24, 2009

An Idea as Old as the Hills .... of Rome (Athens) ....

Some days it seems like certain ideas rather than being relegated to the scrap heap of history to be destroyed for ever are instead plucked from the heap and recycled without modification. Price controls are one of them. I found while browsing Google Books, several interesting volumes on the history of price controls.
The earliest citations are for Imperial Rome, under Diocletian, and an earlier version during one or another of the wars of Greek history. Price controls seem to have some constant features:
  1. The price of some commodity, usually but not always a staple grain begins to rise.
  2. As the price increase pinches more people, and pinches harder, our ever alert Politicians seek to curry favor from the populace.
After some head scratching they usually come up with some variation on - our core constituency is being adversely affected by the increasing cost of X.

Posted in honor of the Punitive Tariff imposed on Chinese steel.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Second Verse, Same as the First

It looks like Mr. Peabody has set the Wayback Machine for the year 2000. At New Years of 2000, a hand picked team of Al Qaeda Operatives attempted a multi-site attack was planned for Seattle, Los Angeles and Aden Yemen. For reasons that had nothing to to with the basic plan, or a real effort on the part of the US Government all three attempts faile. The Seattle and LA teams were caught crossing the Canadian Border. The Yemenese team had what can only be called an equipment failure, as the bomb boat sank while being launched.
Nine months later, the same Yemenese team scored a success with the bombing of the USS Cole at the same fueling pier that USS Sulivan's avoided. In the aftermath of the Cole attack, the US government brought its full law enforcement weight to bear on the situation. With the FBI in the lead and assisted by NCIS, BATF and other agencies a full court case was made against those members of the team who survived the attack. At the end of a a very obstructed investigation the evidence was turned over to the Yemeni government, which to its credit did act on the information. The prosecution was successful and the bomb plotters were imprisoned in Yemen. In April of 2003 and again in 2006 a group of the plotters escaped from prison. The first time while they were awaiting trial, the second after conviction.
We've seen the results of US investigation of "crimes." Now a new administration is bent on rediscovering ancient truths as old if not older than the Romans. Alcoholics Anonymous teaches that Insanity is doing the same thing the same way and hoping for a different result.