Interesting posts

James Howard Kunstler on how the madness of the Baizuo has finally provoked the blond beast.

We had it shackled, locked in a lead-lined nailed coffin, entombed in a stone mausoleum, for seventy years. And these unspeakables, so righteous in their indignation, have roused it from its slumber, and freed it from its gaol. Dark days ahead.

David Stockman again hits it out of the park with an essay on the US’ intervention in the Middle East.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali brings the world’s attention to Dawa, which she calls the islamic equivalent of the marxists’ ‘long march through the institutions’.

Posted in Critical Thinking, Cult-Marx Inversion, Democracy and freedom of mind, Flotsam and Jetsam, Insights, The Mind & Society | Leave a comment

Europeans shaping the Middle East

Recently, while bored at work waiting for replies to emails, I surfed Infogalactic to the page on Mark Sykes, the Englishman who worked with the Frenchman Picot to draw the lines in the sand that defined the boundaries of a number of countries in the modern Middle East.

Interesting man – his biog is well worth a read. But one thing that really caught my attention was this passage:

Sykes designed the flag of the Arab Revolt, a combination of green, red, black and white. Variations on his design later served as flags of Jordan, Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Sudan, Kuwait, Yemen, the United Arab Emirates and Palestine,[15] none of which existed as separate nations before the First World War.

Really!

The Arabs had their borders drawn by an Englishman working with a Frenchman, and had the basic design of their national flags – in which they take such pride – by the same Englishman.

Further east, the Persian Shah was encouraged in 1935 by a German – the dubious character of Horace Greely Hjalmar Schacht – that he should ask foreign delegates to call their country Iran, to reflect its people’s origins as Aryans. Hence we have the country called Iran.

Other excerpts from the entry:

Evidence suggests that Sykes had a hand in promoting the Balfour Declaration to the Cabinet issued on 2 November 1917.[27] It stated that: “His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine…”

How on earth anyone thought that was supposed to work is beyond me. The two are completely incompatible: establishing a homeland for the Jewish people could only ever have been at the expense of the rights of ‘existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine’. Interestingly, both the Palestinians and the Zionists knew this, and still know it: hence, the endless tension and frequent violence. Not very bright, Mark.

Sykes was in Paris in connection with peace negotiations in 1919. At the conference, a junior diplomat present, Harold Nicolson, described Sykes’ effect: “It was due to his endless push and perservance, to his enthusiasm and faith, that Arab nationalism and Zionism became two of the most successful of our war causes.”

Yeah. What a success. Again, well done. More evidence for my sad conclusion that World War I was the greatest man-made tragedy ever to befall human civilisation.

Posted in Epistemic Rationality, Flotsam and Jetsam, Goal Rationality | Leave a comment

Foresight – Enoch Powell

A letter to the Financial Times, from Mr Julian Boswall, 20 June, 2017:

Sir, It is not correct that the people in Britain were mendaciously told in 1975 that the common market had “no political agenda” (Letters, June 16). Enoch Powell, for example, acknowledged this on the BBC referendum results show (available on BBC Parliament) when he said: “I make no complaint for the pro-Marketeers, particularly people like Edward Heath and Peter Kirk. They have been beyond criticism in that they have made it perfectly clear that to remain part of the Common Market is to renounce national status for Britain. They say the nation state is obsolete and we are to recognise it.”

He went on to say he thought the British people “do not mean it” because they have “not been able to credit the implications” of membership and that ultimately they would insist on their departure once those implications had sunk in.

The real shame of our present predicament is that we were actively negotiating a free-trade deal with the European Economic Community in 1958, which was blocked when Charles de Gaulle regained power – his first and most important veto. Here we are 60 years later having another go. Imagine how much trouble everyone could have saved all round if de Gaulle had said Yes.

If you don’t know much, or anything, about Enoch Powell, I recommend you spend a few minutes reading up his biography. An extraordinarily gifted man, whose tremendous intellect encouraged in him a strongly conservative bent and allowed him to see far into the future. Sadly, while his intellectual powers produced an impressive level of epistemic rationality, he wasn’t able to sway or convince those around him of the correctness of his conclusions, even though he always spoke with perfect clarity. Compounding his problem with persuasion was his honest attachment to his conservative outlook, which, in an era of collectivism and mania for progress, made him seem out of touch.

The children of the British who ignored Powell are now paying for the errors of their parents with their blood and treasure.

Fingers crossed they learn something from the difficulties they are suffering.

 

 

Posted in Benefits, Critical Thinking, Epistemic Rationality, Good Thinking, Insights, intuition and judgment, Narrative and Taboo, Sound Reasoning, The Mind & Society, The Suicide of the West | Leave a comment

Play stupid games, win stupid prizes

From the Australian Financial Review, 29-30 July – ‘Slow Connections’:

When Stephen Sims hears one of his clients is getting the National Broadband Network installed, he sends them a wireless router and a 4G dongle.

“The NBN connections have been causing us so much pain, we just assume now that we’ll need an emergency back-up,” the chief executive of Brennan IT, which runs information technology for over 1000 Australian businesses, told AFR Weekend.

Mr Sims recounts multiple situations where NBN technicians have not shown up at the appointed time, only for the monopoly to then reschedule for days or weeks later.

“In the meantime they have shut off the ADSL, there’s no service level agreement, so it’s chaos. One of our clients is a jeweller, staffed by teenagers selling mainly to teenagers, and for days they were using credit card imprinters and writing paper receipts that none of them knew existed before.” …

Of the 2,010,210 premises which had ‘activated’ their NBN connection as at the end of March 2017, out of 4,621,404 premises ‘passed’, 82 per cent have opted for plans offering speeds of either 25 megabits per second (mbps) for download and 5 mbps for upload, or 12 mbps on downloads and 1 mbps on upload.

“For the same money in New Zealand you will get 100 mbps,” said ASsociate Professor Mark Gregory, from the School of Engineering at RMIT University.

There has been a blame game going on between the NBN Co and its retail service providers over Australia’s relatively expensive household and small business internet plans, for average speeds which recently fell out of the top 50 countries in the world …

“[NBN Co chief executive] Bill Morrow can talk all he wants about internet service providers not buying enough bandwidth to deliver the speeds they want. What he won’t talk about is that design imposed on him by the government means that people more than 400 metres from a node can never get the speed they want even if the ISP buys enough bandwidth to provide it,” [disgruntled NBN user David Vernon] said …

The heavy reliance on FTTN would become “a train wreck” as data consumption continued to grow, said founder of NBN reseller Barfoot Telecom, David Fazio.

“You’ve got data consumption growing at 51 per cent year-on-year; people are crying out for faster speeds but we can’t afford to give it to them at a price they will accept,” he said. BArefoot offers a 100mbps download speed plan at $100 a month, but tells any customer on a FTTN connection to start with a 25 mbps plan and work up from there if their experience is good.

“Anywhere copper is involved, that’s where you get the complaints,” he said.

And from the same newspaper’s 22-23 July edition – from the aptly named column ‘NBN complaints? We’re receiving what we voted for’, by Paul Smith:

Suddenly you cannot turn around for stories about Australians dissatisfied with their broadband lot …

The problem is that now the previously ill-informed or disinterested public are seeing the NBN in their own streets instead of in headlines that they flock past, they aren’t happy with what we have collectively signed up for.

Complaints can be split largely into three camps: those that have been connected and are realising that the experience is largely similar to or even worse than they already had (when’s the brave new future coming?!); those that have been connected and had it messed up by NBN, their internet service provider or both (can I have my old internet switched back on, please?); and those that are still waiting for any sign that the NBN is coming to them and are feeling increasingly like they are in an endless queue at a food stand, where they can already see people ahead of them spitting the food in the bin …

We are finally seeing the reality of a flawed policy being realised, with the frustrating thing being that there has been no shortage of people pointing out that it was flawed to begin with.

One of the country’s most knowledgable internet entrepreneurs, Bevan Slattery, has told the government that to get the job done properly they must stop forcing NBN to make a commercial return. That way NBN could stop charging ISPs so much and make higher speeds more affordable.

However, there is away too much political water under the bridge to make that a feasible move for either party, because whichever treasurer or finance minister puts the NBN on the books will have big deficit numbers to explain to a population that doesn’t understand enough not to simply bloame the government of the day.

So we are stuck with the situation we have today. Great, isn’t it?

Plenty of the people who are now complaining voted for the government to be doing exactly what it is doing, and probably tut-tutted along as shock jocks spoke of Labor’s “white elephant” NBN …

The ironic thing is that Labor’s initial NBN plan was electorally popular, so feasibly they could have sold it as a necessary infrastructure investment in the nation’s future, without all the ROI nonsense to begin with. It’s not like the promised national surplus arrived anyway.

The National Broadband Network was ill-conceived from conception: an idea dreamt up in a short conversation between two ill-informed, cynical morons seeking to solve a political problem which, although simple, was well beyond their intellectual upper threshold – how to solve the problem of a telecommunications monopolist which, under Sol Trujillo, was acting like a monopolist?

And that problem was the result of an inexcusably poor decision by the Howard government in 1997 to privatise the telecommunications monopolist without splitting it into an infrastructure company and a service company.

I was only a mediocre economics student at the time, and even I could see this was a dumb idea that would create no end of problems in future.

And so, twenty years later, here we are. And ordinary Australians wonder why the quality and speed of their internet connections – when they are working! – are deteriorating. They can’t fathom that the reason for their frustrations stems from two poor decisions made by two relatively new prime ministers, one twenty years ago, one seven (I think) years ago.

Note that both of those prime ministers live well off both public pensions and the money that accrues to them from private institutions as a result of their time in the Lodge. They don’t lose a wink of sleep over the problems that they created for ordinary Australians.

Decisions have consequences. Some more important than others. Best to spend the time getting them right.

For those with an interest in this subject: my December 2015 post on the NBN clusterfrack.

Posted in Critical Thinking, Decision-making, Epistemic Rationality, Esau Problem, Instrumental Rationality, Moral Hazard, Principal-Agent Problems, Prize for Myopia, Sunk Cost Fallacy | Leave a comment

Anomalies, Red Flags and Insights – an Example

From the Australian Financial Review, 29-30 July – ‘Nudity, fish and guns in the new age of inflation’:

To casual readers, the cover of the June 2009 edition of British Vogue, featuring supermodel Natalia Vodianova in the nude, was a little unusual and perhaps a bit daring.

To London-based economist and entrepreneur Pippa Malmgren, however, the magazine’s departure from its usual celebration of haute couture was a sign that the fashion industry had lost a large slice of its consumer base.

These were “the young who were receiving unsolicited credit cards with large borrowing balances in the mail”, writes Malmgren in the first chapter of her just-launched book, Signals.

The rest, as they say, is history. The shockwaves of a financial crisis that started in Wall Street rolled out across Main Street, taking with them businesses, jobs, confidence and spending power.

“Once the financial crisis hit, the fashion industry became aware that it had no idea who its new customers would  be,” says Malmgren.

An excellent example of a single data-point, or observation, indicating to a well-trained and observant mind a development of greater significance.

Posted in Insights, intuition and judgment, Mind-sets and Logic-Bubbles, Sound Reasoning, Strat. Assumptions v. Tac. Indicators, Thinking Course | Leave a comment

Monk. Islam.

Further reading of the Monk archive allowed me to find this, in his essay ISIS and the Pathology of Islam:

In short, the one God of Islam is not the God of Abraham, of Micah, of Isaiah – or of Jesus. Muhammad’s deity is a God of war and conquest and the Sunna, the example of the Prophet, is one of jihad and the killing of one’s enemies and critics. This fundamental problem Manne does not address.

Islam did not arise or spread by peace or persuasion, nor did Muhammad preach that it should do so. It arose as a religion calling for the violent overthrow of all non-Muslim religions and principalities, in order that the ‘truth’ might prevail. For several centuries, its adherents strove by all means at their disposal to conquer the whole of Europe and Asia. The much criticized crusades were a belated and relatively small scale response to these wars of conquest.

The Ottomans renewed those wars of conquest and took Constantinople, Greece and the Balkans. Modern jihadists, including Hassan al-Banna, founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, decades before Sayyid Qutb wrote Milestones, sought to revive this tradition of Muslim militancy. It is very active now in many parts of the Muslim world and by no means confined to that vicious enclave which calls itself the Islamic State.

This is the larger problem. Sayyid Qutb’s master work was In the Shade of the Qur’an (1954). Those who insist that ISIS is an aberrant form of Islam and its rise the fault of the West, must reckon with the fact that ‘the shade of the Qur’an’ is the complacent, but dangerous assumption that Islam is the ‘final revelation’ and that sooner or later the world must and will become Muslim – through jihad and as the ‘will of Allah’. If you are reading Manne’s book closely, you will perceive this between the lines – but it is not directly stated or addressed. It needs to be.

It most certainly does.

And for that to happen, we in the west have to throw out the prevaricating, equivocating, deracinated, craven, worse-than-useless politicians whose avarice has led us to the dangers in which we find ourselves.

 

 

Posted in Narrative and Taboo, The Mind & Society, The Suicide of the West | Leave a comment

Critical Thinking – what is it?

Making my way through the library of Paul Monk’s essays that I recently discovered, I came across this passage in the essay Expert Knowledge and Scientific Thinking are Under Siege:

The most important of…intellectual capabilities and the one most under attack in American universities is critical thinking: the ability to examine new information and competing ideas dispassionately, logically and without emotional or personal preconceptions.

This may or may not be true. My own efforts are directed towards improving people’s thinking and decision-making, but only because I think this is a worthy pursuit and that more can be done in this area, not because I think that quality thought is under attack.

But what caught my attention was the definition of critical thinking provided by the author:

the ability to examine new information and competing ideas dispassionately, logically and without emotional or personal preconceptions

Is this critical thinking?

Continue reading

Posted in Critical Thinking, Epistemic Rationality, Instrumental Rationality, Thinking Course | Leave a comment

Well said

From Unz, in a post about the Trump-CNN meme:

Do journalists do anything else these days besides dredge up the worst sewage produced by academics in the Current Year, rub our noses in it, and lead struggle sessions against dissenters big and small?

Well, they also feverishly root out the thoughtcrime in anyone who lampoons them, the little guy who provides ammo to their enemies.

Well written, soundly observed.

Posted in Flotsam and Jetsam | Leave a comment

Winner, Meme Wars

Delightful.

Posted in Flotsam and Jetsam | Leave a comment

Reid – on point

After all the garbage spewed in the media about Trump and his supporters, it’s a pleasant change to hear what to me sounds like the fundamental reality articulated so clearly.

Well done Ms Reid.

Note that this clip is from early 2016. If only people had listened to her then.

 

Posted in Epistemic Rationality, Narrative and Taboo, The Mind & Society | Leave a comment