But, those conservatives sure aren't right about everything. It is just baffling to me that they, who claim that they do not want goverment telling people what to do, so desperately want gov't to tell some people that they can't use a word "marriage" to describe their relationship. It has seemed to me for a long time just silly that conservatives believe marriage is a word fixed in stone (the only one ever on the planet) and do not realize that their own sexual mores have changed too, over time. Ask Newt Gingrich and Mayor Giuliani. No, they probably don’t realize it either.
It is equally baffling that conservatives, who claim they want religious freedom, want to tell people whose religions would permit same sex marriage, that the government should not recognize it because it is against theirs.
Sen. Mark Warner of
Where do we have evidence that stimulus money from the government equals growth?
Just as sometimes it is okay to cling to a tradition, it is also okay to give a strategy a chance to, although it is difficult to known when to fold. But there is something wrong with clinging to strategies that have never worked and probably never will. There is a basic flaw in the approach that government spending is a good thing. The money isn't the government's. It must be either collected from people, borrowed and paid back (ultimately through taxes on people) or created in a way that results in inflation, which eventually costs people too. Almost every argument I hear about spending more ignores these basic facts.
In the case of spending our way out of a recession, other problems arise. One of them is that in order to give certain people or groups money, the government is taking from people (who might very well need it to survive) and giving to other people or groups so that they can do better. The same scenario as described in the above paragraphs applies, except that the additional problem we usually describe as "picking winners and losers" also applies. The money going to, just as an example, GM, is not being given to competitors or to those who might want to enter into competition. Sometimes, the spending of money on certain industries becomes so institutionalized, that it is seen by some as deserved or just part of the system. This would include "big" energy and Wall Street. And both Democrats and Republicans participate in it. It seems that in their minds, if they don't do it, the system will fail. Of course, as we see, it fails anyway, and other systems that might work are frozen out, never to be given a chance. I can write on this subject for a long time (and just deleted several paragraphs when I saw it getting out of hand), so I am going to do the smart thing and move along.
The last few years there have been two books, one philosophy and one psychology, both dealing with the unfortunate workings of our minds, which have been big best sellers. One of them is Nassim Taleb’s Black Swans, which instructs us that you can’t rely on experience to tell you what is going to happen next and the other is Daniel Kahneman’s Fast and Slow Thinking, which explores the mistakes we make in our judgments by relying on the wrong kind of thinking. The authors have a mutual admiration society thing going, but, if you've read them, can you explain to me, what do they tell us that David Hume didn’t teach a quarter of a millennium ago?
In fact, I would argue that Taleb overstates his case that we should not pay so much attention to experience as many things in life are quite predictable for a long time. While Taleb certainly recognizes that many things are predictable, the emphasis and tone of the book minimizes it too much. I know at least two people I regularly debate who completely learned the wrong lessons from the book - believing that almost nothing is predictable (except, of course, for everything they rely on everyday, as we all must, and less certain things they think likely, because, we all do that too). I can't blame Taleb completely, as it is not his fault that people skim or take from books only what supports their theories. But, he did not help in my view.
I have fewer issues with Fast and Slow Thinking. Kahneman, considered one of the world’s great experimental scientists (and perhaps, economists), reviews studies showing us that we come to many decisions we think are rational for largely irrational reasons, in some part because we tend not to think statistically or logically, which is hard work. Instead, we rely on strategies that doesn’t take much hard thinking and often work on a very elemental level, but not more complex ones. Now really, what successful businessperson, magician, writer, politician, salesperson, stock trader (and so on, ad infinitum) needs Kahneman’s book to know that? Of course, there are many people who don't, and I guess that is the point of his book. However, Fast and Slow Thinking does provide us with some ammunition, in the form of experiments, to bolster our own arguements, and I appreciate it.
So, while I'm on fiction, I might as well list my favorite fictional authors here with my favorite book(s) or series of theirs. Deep breath – Shakespeare (Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth stand out), Tolkien (you guess which ones), H. Rider Haggard (The People of the Mist and Eric Brighteyes, which were far from his most famous), James Fenimore Cooper (Leatherstocking Tales), Alexandre Dumas (The Three Musketeers novels and The Count of Monte Cristo, plus the less well known La Reine Margot), Mark Twain (Pudd'nhead Wilson and Letters to the Earth, but it may be his zillion pithy quotes I love best), Rudyard Kipling (Kim, The Man Who Would be King and the poem, If), J. M. Barrie (do you really have to ask which one?), John Fowles (The Magus), Albert Camus (The Stranger), Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. (Mother Night – probably not the standard choice, and Player Piano), Knut Hamsun (Pan), Hermann Hesse (The Steppenwolf), George MacDonald Fraser (I’ll take his Flashman books to hell with me – perhaps I loved Flashman at the Charge best), John LeCarre (The Smiley trilogy, of course), John Irving (would that I could write something like The World According to Garp or Setting Free the Bears), Larry McMurty (Lonesome Dove), Damon Runyan (many short stories come to mind, but the The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown, the basis of my favorite musical, Guys and Dolls, shouldn’t be missed), John Myers Myers (Silverlock), Agatha Christie (but only the Poirot books),Tony Hillerman (I can no longer differentiate between his Navajo Indian reservation mysteries – just loved them all), Ian Fleming (From Russia with Love), Steven Pressfield (perhaps my favorite historical novelist - Gates of Fire stands out), Dashiell Hammett (The Glass Key more than The Maltese Falcon), Jim Thompson (The Killer Inside Me), Raymond Chandler (I really can’t choose between them, but, I guess I’ll just say The Big Sleep because it is probably the best known), Rex Stout (another one so hard to choose from, but probably The Doorbell Rang and The Black Mountain top my list), John Mortimer (all the Rumpole books, of course), Lawrence Block (the brilliant Mr. Block, still writing away like a madman has the Evan Michael Tanner series and the Matthew Scudder series and The Bernie Rhodenbarr Burglar series and the Hit Man series – he must never stop for a second), Robert Parker (who with Block, conquered the modern serious/light hearted detective genre – his Spenser series is priceless, the best of which was Valediction), Adam Hall (whose Quiller was even edgier and more adrenaline fueled than Bond – if I had to pick one, Quiller’s Run), Robert Crais (there are a slew of great Elvis Cole and Joe Pine novels, but one about a cop on the periphery of those characters, Demolition Angel, was my favorite), James Lee Burke (I’m done with him, but his Robicheaux novels were perhaps the most lyrical American mystery novels ever – In the Electric Mist with Confederate Dead, best), Robert Ludlum (if for nothing else, The Bourne Identity) David Lindsey (whose Mercy was like a roman candle of a novel, and one of the few sexual novels I was not bored with – why has he stopped writing?), Andrew Vachss (the first six Burke novels were superb and I’d take them in order; after that they became a little too dark and sad for me) and George C. Chesbro (one of the most original mystery writers – his Mongo and Veil series were virtually unknown mystery/fantasy classics – but even the titles sparkled – try just these three – Two Songs This Archangel Sings, The Fear in Yesterday’s Rings and Dark Chant in Crimson Key).
I left out some who really wrote only one book I loved, Hemingway (For Whom the Bells Tolls – yeah, that and The Old Man and the Sea were the only ones I could get through), Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Matt Lewis’s somehow less well known but I thought even better gothic novel, The Monk), E. R. R. Eddison (The Worm Ouroboros), John Bellairs (The Face in the Frost) and Abraham Rodriguez (The Buddha Book). Who knows what I left out – many I’m sure - but I have to move on.
I may get tired of novelists, but having lived in
I was sitting on my porch with Montana Don a few weeks ago when a red fox ran from my back yard across the street, did a jig in front some bushes and then tore off into the woods with a house cat in pursuit (I hope it didn’t catch the fox, but there didn’t seem to be a chance of it given their vastly disparate speeds). Foxes are really cool. I saw one on
I’m listening to a Cato panel talk on C-Span about the U.S. Navy’s new Littoral Combat Ship. The Navy is betting heavily on them. They are small and very fast but also powerful, and large enough to carry helicopters, land vehicles, troops and cargo. They have a shallow draft for landings. It launches air, sea and underwater vehicles. It is, hopefully, cheap (please – like all military equipment, the cost overruns have been punishing) and a multi-tasker, but a little weak in air defense and surface to surface missiles. There is a lot of controversy with it, but maybe that is inevitable when you bring something out where everything is new. This is the new Navy though. Get used to it. Actually, there are apparently two different versions, which look alike, but with different capabilities.
Of all the American commercial successes, McDonald’s tops my list. Despite the fact that I rarely eat there anymore, their burgers and fries taste so good I could happily spend my last month on earth eating nothing but them (although at the end, I'd like some Chinese, a prime rib from The Wobbly Barn in Vermont and a slice of pecan pie with vanilla ice cream and whipped cream). I laughed when two friends who fancy themselves the arbiters of taste told me that McDonald’s objectively did not taste good. There has to be a reason the golden arches can be seen all over the world and it can’t just be that it is cheap. According to Wikipedia, McDonald’s Corporation operates in 119 countries and serves 68 million people A DAY. Dick and Mac McDonald essentially married Henry Ford to fast food. Was Ray Kroc, who joined them and then bought the business, a marketing genius, or did he just know how to hire marketing geniuses? Never really looked into it, but he sure did something right. I still remember the commercials and jingles from my childhood – You deserve a break today/At McDonalds! There is a scene in Vonnegut’s autobiographical fantasy, Slaughter-House Five, when his character (he actually writes in his book that it is him – the author – which some people loved and others didn’t), a prisoner of war in Nazi Germany, sneaks a taste of sweet syrup, and has been so starved of good things to eat the effect is orgasm like and causes his friend to cry when he tries it. I feel that way with each bite of fries or cheese burgers. Not tasty? Well, they can argue it is not tasty to them, of course, and you can't argue it, but, there is such a thing in this world as consensus, and McDonald’s has the numbers on its side.
Apparently some kooky women on an airplane this week asked for a doctor and said she had an explosive device implanted in her. A jet fighter escorted them to an emergency landing. There is only one reason to have a jet fighter escort - to blow the passenger plane out of the sky if it headed towards a city. It certainly can’t help it land or stop a bomb from blowing. But, I bet that, oddly, the sight of it made the passengers feel comforted – as in, yeah, the cavalry is here.
What’s more emblematic of how foolish we are in the way we chose a president, when one side is busy still bashing Bain Capital as if Romney is Gordon Gecko and on the other side some are still playing the birther card as if Obama is the Manchurian Candidate (despite, to be fair, some on each side saying to the campaigns and supporters - What are you doing?) Really, what are they doing? The truth is – as a group – this is what we must want and what the professionals believe we want, or we would do something else. A friend of mine said to me a few months ago that there was no choice to exaggerate grossly about the other side. It all makes me realize yet again, that running for office must be a horrible experience in so many ways, and I actually feel sorry for those who have the drive to do it, at least until they retire. I would have liked
Governor Daniel’s to run for president, but I understand completely why he has
acquiesced in his family’s desire that he not do so. It doesn’t matter at all
that campaigns were worse in the past (and it was). Lots of things were worse. It reminds
me of a quote from Friedrich Hayek on a related subject – “One cannot
help wondering whether those who habitually use this cliché are aware that it
expresses the fatalistic belief that we cannot learn from our mistakes, the
most abject admission that we are incapable of using our intelligence. . . .”
I think we can, but few want to. Indiana
So, Mark Zuckerberg got married. I hate it when that happens. None of my business, of course, but don’t you just want to say to her, “That’s fine if it’s about the money, but if you really love the knucklehead, sorry, because he probably IS going to cheat on you.” Look at who Tiger cheated on. Hugh Grant cheated on Elizabeth Hurley – and how many of Christie Brinkley’s husbands (is it all of them? I don’t really keep up). I know I’m being unfair. I know that I can’t base what this billionaire will do just because so many other wealthy celebrities do it. I know they’ve dated a long time (actually, I just learned that). And I know she’s not a supermodel. I know, I know, I know. But, it’s not going to surprise you either when it happens, is it? Sometimes, contemplating celebrity unfaithfulness I think that George Clooney might just be a really thoughtful guy. And, without any right to think so either, I suspect that every once in a while his buddy Brad Pitt is on the line, and George says, “Hey, I tried to warn you.”
You want to know why our political campaigns are about such nonsense? Take this Pew Research Center poll from 2010. Asked who was Chief Judge of the Supreme Court and given 1 right and 3 wrong choices, far more people knew that it was John Roberts, than the next highest guess. Unfortunately, that "far more" for Roberts was only 28%, a little more than a quarter of those asked. And, the "next guess" was Thurgood Marshall (8%), who hadn't been on the bench in 19 years and was never the chief. Just below him was John Paul Stevens, who was at least on the bench then, but was never chief judge either (6%). Amazing, 4% guessed Harry Reid, who is a Senator (and I pray anyone who reads this knows that). Actually, Roberts was not really first choice. He was second. "Don't know" was first by close to double the amount (53%). At least in 1986, when they asked the question, some 43% knew that Rehnquist was the chief. And that name should be a lot harder to remember than Roberts. Are we getting less knowledgeable politically as a country than a quarter century ago? I really don't know. I just know it's not too good.
Last random thought. I often spend time thinking about frivolous things when working out. I really do dislike every second, of every minute, of every hour doing it and I have to entertain myself. I have spent way too much time lately wondering how the folks on Gilligan’s