dilemmanade
Tuesday, July 12, 2016
  The Good War
The greatest thing about the Internet, besides pictures of cats with funny captions, is that you can find intelligent discussions and learn things.

To wit: I learned a couple things from a discussion today at Crooked Timber.

*We say Axis powers; they said Anti-Comintern International Pact.

*We say "Third Reich" and don't translate "Reich" as Empire.

This is astounding to me:

*That I could be so uninformed as to not know the former.

*That the import of the latter never occured to me.

I am ignorant and stupid. (Now, I may very well have learned the former, maybe even more than once. But if so, it happened years before "Comintern" meant much of anything to me, and so didn't stick.)

In any event, "Axis powers" has a different ring to it than "Anti-Comintern International Pact". "Axis powers" has an "X" in it, has "Ax" in it, sounds brutal, and justifies nothing. "Anti-Comintern International Pact", on the other hand, means "we are protecting ourselves from Communism", something pretty popular in America at the time. Those who would take America to war had to come up with another name for use in their propaganda.

Reich sounds and reads scary in English, I think. Maybe it's mostly after-the-fact associations. Maybe it's partly the sound and spelling, being a foriegn word.

But Empire has other, meatier associations. Empires are what the French and English did and were still doing in 1939. The problem was that the German Empire was dominating our friends. The French and British Empires were dominating people we didn't care about.

This is not very inspiring: "The German Empire has invaded and taken over the very center of the French Empire, and now is bombing the British Empire! The U.S. must mobilize and go to war! We must save with our blood and treasure the French and British Empires from the German Empire!"

Now that's an unfair characterization to be sure. But perhaps no more so than the standard framing.

I've always felt pretty smug in my peacenick attitudes. I'm a "never met a war I liked" kind of guy. I've been sympathetic to Tolstoy's portrayal of war as a wave of murder and plunder moving one way, and often back the other way.

But I couldn't quite condemn the morality of going to war against fascism. WW II was an exception-- the Good War.

I've had my doubts. I've wondered how things would have turned out had we not militarily intervened. Would as many millions have died if we hadn't opposed Hitler militarily but did so with money and covert ops? Surely he would have overextended himelf eventually-- that's what Empires do, and then they collapse. But that's all I had: doubts.

Now I have more of them.

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Thursday, July 07, 2016
  Peak Computing

I commented on "Peak Computing" at the Archdruid Report.

I would put it around 2000 or the early aughts.

In the 90s a colleague here at Prestigious University (PU) advised me that I'd never rise above bare subsistence if I didn't change job categories. She gave me a copy of the dBase programming language.

So I wrote a program that replaced 20 hours a week of typing (on a typewriter) with maybe an hour of computing. I gave the program to other (bigger) units. This got me promoted to Programmer.

In the aughts PU decided we should scrap that program, and spend a million dollars to get the same commercial software that our sister universities were all buying.

Long story short: it was inferior. Two colleagues went on disability rather than switch back to tons of repetitive typing (albeit now on a computer).

To be fair-- management was by then becoming scared of coders, because when one got hired away, they could be left with code that nobody else could maintain. This fear swept over all industries and burocracies, as near as I can tell.

(But there must have been a better solution-- training and cross training more programmers, and paying them well, for instance.)

Anyway, I could tell story after story of good homegrown programs that did exactly what we wanted being replaced with expensive bloated monstrosities marketed as miracles that they assured us would do exactly what we wanted, but never actually did, while making some suits rich.

Our IT department is filled mostly with people called Programmers who can install software and maintain machines, but who can't write a bit of code.

JIRA, Peoplesoft, Kronos: "Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated."

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Wednesday, April 27, 2016
  The Trump movement
The Trump movement is a religious movement, and Trump is their Messiah.

The religion is Progress, but for this group the definintion of progress is that things would remain good and continue to get better for the working class.

Which it hasn't. It's gotten worse.

And the way to understand that, short of complex political or economic theorizing, is that "we was robbed," that bullshitting pompous venal political types have rigged the game. (And they are actually right about that.)

Trumpists have the idea that somebody who wins, somebody who is demonstrably a winner because he's rich, well, he can fix things. He'll get a better deal for them. (But, sadly, they are probably wrong about that.)

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Thursday, April 21, 2016
  Sociology

My first Sociology class was a revelation. I still have the notes I took, though they're in a cabinet in the back of the overstuffed garage.

The Professor was soft spoken, Iranian, brilliant, refined, and visting from somewhere. (Hence my realization that Prestigious University (PU) got heavy hitters from around the world who wanted a term or a year at PU. So I sought them out during the rest of my college years.)

There are different methods of explaining why things are the way they are, he explained:

*Who benifits?

*Who rules?

*The "Great Men" theory.

*Historical Materialism.

*Psychological or Social Psychological theories.

*And so on.

They are obvious, with regular people using them willy-nilly, switching back and forth haphazardly, not really noticing. (Social scientists presumably are more rigorous.)

All of them have their strengths and weaknesses. (None of them can actually contain reality, no explanation can. The map is not the territory.)

I don't really have a larger point. I was just remembering the class, and hadn't posted to this powerful blog in a while.

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Thursday, March 17, 2016
  Rambling on or through the trouble with statistics, MMM, Sanders.


The trouble with statistics...

Take the unemployment rate. Say it goes up a half a percent. Not such a big deal. But wait. Down at the granular level, so to speak, you've got actual living, breathing human beings who have lost jobs. From that position that slight uptick in the unemployment rate is a very big deal. A very. Big. Deal.

For them, for their families.

Losing a paycheck is a disaster for most people. This isn't the 1970s when (I came of age) and if you wanted work you could find it. (And maybe that was only true for me because I was young, white, and living in Los Angeles...)

Full Employment should be (and is supposed to be-- see the long forgotten other aim of the Fed) an object of great importance to a democratic government. "For the people." Get it?

MMM...

People have bought into the Myth of the Magical Marketplace: that if government would get out of the way of business we'd all have rainbows and ponies.

Nonsense. If a market isn't properly regulated, the unscrupulous will win, and you will get poverty, pollution, corruption, theft, usury, and so on.

It's having that Myth in the back of our minds that keeps us from demanding full employment, by government where necessary.

Sanders...

Democratic Socialism of the Sanders type isn't really socialism; it's capitalism with a human face. Sanders is right in many ways that no candidate has been right in generations. But he doesn't go far enough. (Besides Full Employment, see, for instance, the post directly below on this powerful blog's powerful call for a Military Repatriation Corps.)
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Tuesday, March 15, 2016
  Militay Repatriation Corps


Dmitri Orlov has a great essay up today on how utterly hopless and wasteful is the U.S. military.

The empire is ending, and we can whistle past the graveyard, pretending it won't happen to us, not putting on the brakes to minimize the impact. Or we can make the best of it.

We need to bring the armed forces home, and dismantle and recycle most of their weapons and machines. We could not fight a world war with them anyway-- we cannot even prevail with them where we employ overwhelming might against single militarily inferior countries. We can destroy their infrastructure, kill lots of people, but we cannot achieve cessation of hostilities on favorable terms (which must be the goal or what the hell is?).

Invasion risk? We won't be putting our selves at risk, we'll be gauranteeing a better future. Protecting our borders will require a small fraction of ther resources required for being The Global Superpower. We're pretty safe having borders only with Canada and Mexico.

First Strike risk? If we step down from Global Superpower, no country on earth would have us in their sights as the Great Evil.

Now, to close down all those bases in an orderly way; to decomission, deconstruct and recycle all those aircraft carriers and fighter jets; to disarm our nuclear weapons and find (temporary!) solutions for storing the radioactive materials: is going to take a lot of people a long time.

What to do?

A Militay Repatriation Corps.

*To effect an orderly redeployment home of all our troops worldwide.

*To effect an orderly relinquishing of empire.

*To dismantle the foreign war machine.

We don't want to have an abruptly unemployed bunch of former soldiers. So we initially staff it with the current armed forces. But we also do a lot of hiring-- there's plenty of work to do for a long time, and new and different expertise will be needed at all levels.
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Wednesday, June 17, 2015
  On Free Trade
Free trade is good!-- it must be because its got the word free in it!-- and a rising tide lifts all boats, amirite?

Where's my boat?

Free trade is not some sort of magical mystical good-in-itself. Making trade more free is obviously profitable for some traders. But higher tariffs are just as obviously good for other people, by protecting American companies and jobs. Similarly, ensuring safe food and other commodities is good for consumers, and not always conducive to the freest of trade relationships.

Free-for-all trade is good for capitalists. (And I don't mean entrepreneurs or small business owners. I mean capitalists: people who buy and sell and make a profit without adding value. This confusion of terms has long contributed to Main Street mistakenly thinking its interests are perfectly aligned with those of Wall Street.)

The people who were young adults when NAFTA passed are middle-aged now. We know what happened to our jobs, or the jobs of our friends and relatives. NAFTA was a disaster for the working class.

In fact, we voted for Obama partly based on his promise to renegotiate NAFTA.

He did not honor that promise. He didn't even try. Instead, he tried (is still trying!) to stick it to us again, with the TPP.

We know what happened with NAFTA, and we know TPP is more of the same. So: stop it.

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