OWS Learns More of Life's Long Words

I'm starting to think this OWS thing is going to be incredibly productive after all. Now that their carbon-guzzling generators have been confiscated as fire hazards, the organizers have decided to replace them with green generators powered by bicycles. As the enthusiastic supporters at FireDogLake put it, get your exercise, stay green, and make sure the protesters have the iPhones and laptops that are essential to any successful anti-authoritarian movement.

The next step will be the slowly dawning realization of how much manpower it takes to produce as much electricity as everyone needs and wants. How will they ration the power? Who will be in charge of prioritizing between iPods and heat as the weather deteriorates? What will be done about the freeloaders who won't take their shifts on the bikes? How many bikes is this going to take, and who will manufacture and pay for them? And by the way, did anyone here study some electrical engineering in school?

It's like a seminar that goes on and on. I suspect the occupiers are getting more useful instruction in a few weeks than they picked up in the four-year parties that left them jobless and $100,000 in debt.

There's also a certain consistency in the message: "We need you to send us more money."

“They are becoming the government we’re trying to protest"

Experiments in self-rule right here within our borders. The OWS kitchen staff are "angry about working 18-hour days to provide food for 'professional homeless' people and ex-cons masquerading as protesters."
For three days beginning tomorrow, the cooks will serve only brown rice and other spartan grub instead of the usual menu of organic chicken and vegetables, spaghetti bolognese, and roasted beet and sheep’s-milk-cheese salad.

A security volunteer added that the cooks felt “overworked and underappreciated.”

. . . They will also provide directions to local soup kitchens for the vagrants, criminals and other freeloaders who have been descending on Zuccotti Park in increasing numbers every day.

. . . Many of those being fed “are professional homeless people. They know what they’re doing,” said the guard at the food-storage area.

On top of that, there's a new percussion tax. "The drummers claim that the finance working group even levied a percussion tax of sorts, taking up to half of the $150-300 a day that the drum circle was receiving in tips."

Megan McArdle has an interesting take on anarchy and its discontents here:
But as many of us discovered back in college, ultimately, you cannot run any sustained movements along the lines of perfectly inclusive democracy. It's not just that the people who won't cooperate tend to ruin everything for everyone else, though this is a huge problem -- if you make it a policy not to exclude or punish anyone for any reason, you're going to attract a small-but-catastrophic number of sociopaths who are immune to your only tool of social control, which is shaming.
But there's another problem, one that anecdotally seems to be growing at Occupy Wall Street: without authority, you spend virtually all your waking hours negotiating trivia.

"We're All for Equality... So Long As We Get Preferential Treatment", OWS Edition

File under, "Sometimes the real world is far more amusing that my darkest fantasies":

The Richmond tea party is demanding a refund of about $10,000 from the city, claiming it unfairly charged them for rallies while allowing the Occupy protesters to use the same space for several weeks for free.

The political organization is sending the city an invoice for the charges incurred for three rallies held in Kanawha Plaza over the past three years. The Occupy protesters have been camped in the plaza since Oct. 15.

Richmond Tea Party spokeswoman Colleen Owens says it's not fair that her group had to pay fees for permits, portable toilets, police presence and emergency personnel. The group also had to purchase a $1 million insurance policy.

So the Tea Party played by the rules and were labeled violent threats to civilization. OWS refuses to play by the rules, but for some unknown reason we're not only supposed to forgive them for actually behaving in ways the Tea Party was only accused of, but pick up the tab for their antics as well?
... like many of his mayoral colleagues nationwide, Mr. Reed openly expressed frustration with the protesters’ methods.

“The attitude I have seen here is not consistent with any civil rights protests I have seen in Atlanta,” Mr. Reed said in an interview, “and certainly not consistent with the most respected forms of civil disobedience.”

From the comments, another instance of preferential treatment accorded to OWS on the taxpayer's nickel:
Interesting here in Reno the Occupy organizers just received a 90 day permit, free of the usual fees, as approved by the City Council, to occupy a local park. I am assuming this will include porta-potties and/or access to restroom facilities, etc. I was at first skeptical of a protest seeking a permit but maybe this is a more reasonable model for cities to take? Why not embrace and support our citizens rights to freedom of speech and assembly?

This commenter nailed it:

Why does teh MSM always give left wing protesters a pass on destruction of public property and violence?

Imagine the treatment the Tea Party would have gotten if they had acted like this.

Protest is a right.

Abusing the law and everyone else's rights is narcissism.

If inequality is something we should be fighting against, shouldn't OWS refuse special privileges denied to other dissenters? I kid... I kid.

Getting the House in Order

We've spoken of Greece.  The United States, though, is no Greece.  We'll do what's right to get things in order on our own.  So, what's it going to take to put things right with our budget?
[I]n order to prevent the debt situation from expanding, and depending upon which economist you trust concerning the multiplier effect, federal spending must be reduced to somewhere between $2,085 trillion on the high end and $1.344 trillion on the low end. And here are the current big-ticket items: 
$761 billion - Social Security
$468 billion - Medicare
$269 billion - Medicaid
$598 billion - Unemployment/Welfare
$679 billion - Department of Defense + Foreign Wars
That comes to $2,694 billions, which is roughly $2.7 trillion.  We need to get that down to at least $2.085 trillion, and probably much lower.

If we entirely eliminate welfare and unemployment, Medicare and Medicaid, we'd be down to $1.44 trillion, which is within the right range.  Some cuts to defense will be possible once the wars end, although we do need to replenish the machinery and stores we have used up in Iraq and Afghanistan.

So, it's doable, right?  Well, one little thing got left out.
One major difference between Social Security and pensions is that the federal government has not set aside any money, or created a “revenue source” (aka a new tax) to fund those pensions.
Last year that was $268 billion, and that's before the Boomers retire.  So, figure a good $400 billion in extra cuts are needed here.  Well, maybe we can trim Social Security a bit... say by half... or Social Security by a quarter, and the pensions by half... hm.

It's past time that we started to hear serious consideration of these issues in public.

Ye Shall Hear of War and Rumors of...

...an end of 'peace and prosperity.'

Chancellor Merkel's remarks were well-chosen.  The newspaper got the message loud and clear -- Germany warns of war if Euro fails -- but the phrasing was beautifully diplomatic.  All she technically said was that "nobody should take for granted another fifty years of peace and prosperity."  Who could object to such a sensible remark?  It would be remarkable in human history if one could take such a thing for granted.  Besides, she isn't threatening war, she's merely remarking on the possible end of the conjunction of peace and prosperity.

One must wonder, though, how well Greece will take to her suggestion that their government needs to be under "permanent supervision" from outside powers.  That is asking Greece to lay down, without a war, what mighty Persia was never able to compel from them.

Of course, these aren't the Greeks who fought at Marathon.  Perhaps they will be willing to part with their sovereignty in exchange for German coin.  It would be easy to do.  It would be the easiest thing in the world.

Missing the Point

There's a subtle weakness in this argument.

How Axe is like Schlitz Beer

Apparently Axe body spray discovered the perils of marketing to the wrong segment.  It worked at first, then...
The problem was, the ads had worked too well in persuading the Insecure Novices and Enthusiastic Novices to buy the product. Geeks and dorks everywhere were now buying Axe by the caseload, and it was hurting the brand's image. Eventually (in the United States, at least), to most high-school and college-age males, Axe had essentially become the brand for pathetic losers and, not surprisingly, sales took a huge hit.  
Then Axe faced another big problem. Insecure high-school students had been so convincingly persuaded that Axe would make them sexually appealing that they began completely dousing themselves in it.... It got to the point where the students were reeking so heavily of it that it was becoming a distraction at school.
This is akin to the marketing problem affecting Schlitz beer.  It's become so associated with losers that few people will admit to using it; and, of course, the people who use it tend to reek of it heavily.  

On the upside, both for Axe and Schlitz, both products are very likely to be available at your local store.  Somebody is still forking over cash for the stuff.  As long as that continues, hey!  You're in business.

Economics and Firearms

Is it worse to use violent metaphors, or to use them badly?

"The Last Bullet.... [but] The Cartridge is Almost Empty."

So it's a squib?  Better not to use it, then.  Otherwise, this will happen:

The Gangster Government

Er, another one.

This is an interesting piece, one relevant to the argument against social contract theory as a source of political legitimacy. It has to do with a prison gang in southern California.
The Mexican Mafia is a fairly small prison gang (perhaps 150-300 made members) and it has significant operational control only within prisons in Southern California yet the Mexican Mafia is extremely powerful. In fact, the MM taxes hundreds of often larger Southern California street gangs at rates of 10-30% of revenues. 
How does that work?  It's essentially a protection racket, at first, but has reached the point that it is regulating drive-by shootings outside of the prison (whose numbers have declined since the MM asserted its control) and providing services to gangsters. 

They certainly appear to enjoy the consent of the governed -- that is, the drug-dealing community -- more than has the de facto government of California!  So the question becomes, is this a legitimate government of a sort? Don't answer too quickly:  if we decided that it were the movement becomes an insurrection rather than simple crime, and the decks are cleared for a robust response by our own system.  

That might be healthier than the bleed-over of paramilitary tactics into our police forces:  we could employ peace officers where there is peace, and treat insurrections as insurrections.  There's something to be said for keeping your mental categories accurate to the reality of the world you face.

Dyson on the Mind

Who is in charge here?
The European: That brings us back to the indeterminacy and complexity of the human mind. Can computers ever replace that?
Dyson: It could be. In, say, the 15th century, there was the archaic view that the human mind exists on one side of the spectrum and the mind of God on the other side, with nothing in between except maybe a few angels. But that is a very strange idea, since every other hierarchy in nature consists of many different layers. It think it is much more likely that there are others layers of mind, although they might not look like a desktop computer. People are already walking around—effectively participating in a vast distributed computation—doing what their iPhones tell them. And we’re generally quite happy with that domination. 
The European: I am still skeptical whether a computer can be more than an extension to the human mind.  It is hard to see how computers could emerge as creative and imaginative entities in the near future.
Dyson: We have to wait and see. But I am not sure whether computers are just tools. When you look at your iPhone to get directions, are you asking the phone where to go or is the phone telling you where to go?
The question becomes more interesting if you consider the degree to which subconscious decisions seem to inform our activities.  Let's say a subconscious decision gets made by your brain:  We shall have a cupcake.  A few seconds later, you find yourself typing into your iPhone to ask where a bakery is nearby.  The machine tells you, and off you go to buy and eat the cupcake.  You probably have the sense that you did something consciously, but in fact your subconscious is conspiring with Google Maps to have you do something you shouldn't really be doing.

We have always been subject to a certain amount of manipulation from the meat; now there is a kind of pincer movement between the meat and the metal.  The development of conscious virtue will not be easier -- but all the more important -- in such an environment.


Answer this question:

Linda, 31, is a philosophy major who went to Berkeley. She is deeply concerned with social justice and discrimination and participated in antinuclear demonstrations. Which alternative is more likely: a) She is a bank teller; or b) She is a bank teller and an activist in the feminist movement?
Discussion below the fold.

Grim Encounters "Occupy" Protester

He called out from his occupation -- actually, apparently they applied for a permit through Christmas or so -- to tell me that he liked my boots.  He said they were "hardcore."  Well, damn right they are:  I had to pull them on this morning to catch two escaped horses.

Horses, like men, follow those who lead from the front -- especially if they seem likely to produce a reward at the journey's end.  When your faithful dog is herding them along, though, there's always a chance they may decide to outpace you a bit on the trip, so steel-toed boots are not a bad idea.

Little Avalon, now a thousand pounds, pulled down her gate this morning with such ease that she didn't garner a scratch from it.  She's going to be an interesting one. Fearless and curious, that young lady.


Speaking of Iraq...

...I keep waiting to hear something from our friend Bill, who surely has some thoughts on all this.  He said he wanted to be there when they turned out the lights, and with good luck, it seems he might be!

Instead, all we get are jokes about Scottish cattle.  (In the comments to which, Bill has already given his comeback line:  "Joke?  *What* joke?")

The Show at Freeman Field, 1945

There was more than one, actually.  You may enjoy watching this video, complete with Big Band music, of  airshows featuring captured Nazi aircraft at Freeman Field in Indiana.

The other big show that year was the Freeman Field Mutiny, a precursor of the Civil Rights Movement.


It's magic...
Cain’s “conception, gestation, and birth all occurred within” the year 1945 (his words in quotes).
1945 was also when Reader’s Digest published a version of Austrian free-market economist Friedrich von Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom, one of Cain’s favorite books. (A few other fans of the book: Rick Perry and Glenn Beck.)
Assuming Cain does become the 45th President of these United States, he would be inaugurated in 2013, the same year he will be celebrating his 45th wedding anniversary.
On one of the last legs of a campaign trip Cain once took, he was traveling on Flight 1045 at an altitude of 45,000 feet.
And last but by no means least, it is hard to overlook the fact that Herman Cain’s now-famous 9-9-9 tax slogan, shares a special relationship to the number 45 — just slice it down the middle, add the two numbers together, and, voilà!, you have yourself a nine. (Proof: 4+5=9)
The thing about numerology that makes it so attractive -- to intelligent people especially -- is that all numbers share eerie relationships with each other.  The ancient Greeks were completely fascinated with the relationship of one number to another, so much so that one of the most fundamental questions in ancient Greek metaphysics is whether the most important fact is that a thing is, or that it is one.  What do you mean to say that a table is one thing?  It has four legs (say), and a top in addition; it has both a shape and a color; it has a massive number of molecules; why do we unify all that into a single thing?

Does that unification have any real weight, or is it just for our convenience?  Before you answer, think not of a table but of a person.  They also have many parts, but a single consciousness; and though they may lose (and may replace) some parts, once that single conscious nature flees at death, what remains behind is not a man at all.  It doesn't make sense to say that they aren't 'really' a person while they are alive; so that unifying force has undeniable power.

Mathematical truths are the canonical example of truths that we can have a priori.  It's hard to imagine why you would have occasion to ponder mathematical truths without actually experiencing 'two sheep' or 'a circle,' but in theory you can work out all the details without having to have the actual experience.  Certainly it is true that you can work out the systems without direct experience of every aspect of the system -- you can prove what the size of a right triangle will be by understanding the length of the hypotenuse alone [Joseph W. provides veritable facts about the square of the hypotenuse in the comments -Grim], if you understand the geometric ratios involved.  You needn't ever see a real triangle of that size.

We put so much certainty into these things that they even influence our ideas about what other universes must be like.  Is it possible that there could be another universe in which the gravitational constant is different?  It doesn't seem unreasonable; but it takes a lot more convincing to get someone to believe in a universe in which 2+2=5.

We have gained a great deal from this fascination with the power of numbers and their relationships, which sometimes produces an insight that proves -- perhaps most mysteriously of all -- to have widespread application in a world in which no object is really precisely geometric at all.