Saturday, August 31, 2019

The Astute Hedge Fund Manager

Generally speaking when you want to get a better grasp of an understanding your best bet is to find a dour source that's invested in reality, rather than a source that trades in cuteness. And here as an example of a trader in cuteness, you've got your Boris Johnson, you've got your Donald Trump, you've got your Putin, and you've got at least 99% of the political class. So by cuteness you're looking at the often tragic and always deliberate appeals to the eye of the beholder rather than the cute factor associated with something like Kittens who are what they are and can't help it. This means to get some grasp of the current state of the Economy around the world you'd do better to find a more theoretically minded Hedge Fund manager rather than one of those 'did you see me on television, catch me on twitter, follow me on face book' type aggravations without whom we'd all live much happier and longer lives. Either way current thinking in certain 'so un-cute it's boring quarters' suggests that a wise consideration in the attempt to get a grasp of the current economic climate would be to take a good look at the economic events of 1930 to 1945. In those years Blow Off dramatically disrupted the self adjusting mechanisms that hithertofore had been relied upon to maintain the free market cycles within the economy, and this disruption resulted in a paradigm shift.  A Blow Off is a graph that goes up steeply and then suddenly falls as it reenters an equilibrium. As an example, if you take the 1980's an inflationary trend was getting totally out of hand, the graph was climbing steeply, the value of money was falling, and this potential for disaster was addressed by the regulators who raised interests rates in a most dramatic way, the graph began to fall and an equilibrium returned. A paradigm shift is when a new way of doing something to achieve the same result begins to happen, and then takes off big time. If in doubt, consider the effects the arrival of the telephone had upon the way people communicated with each other. By the early part of the 1930's equilibrium was so out of whack, mechanisms available were so overwhelmed that here in the United States for example millions were homeless and there was a net emigration, people went to Canada and Australia. By early 1940's an equilibrium was finally achieved by trying new ways of doing the same thing, and that same thing preserved the equilibrium.

The issue of course is to determine what forces and currents, winds, storms, sunny days, push the equilibrium around and sometimes just smashes it against a cliff, or devastates somewhere like Florida. When you've identified those forces and currents you can keep an eye on them. Then when one or other identified force or current begins to climb steeply, you can say one of two things. "Nothing we can do about it, let's just let it Blow Out." Or you could say "What happens to this equilibrium destroying steeply climbing curve if we did this." Sometimes you kind of know what to do because it worked before, and you say something like "We need to raise interest rates," "we need to encourage people to spend money," "the government needs to spend money before this gets totally out of hand," "the government needs to stop spending money." There's a whole list of these possibilities and traders in cute tend to sniff the solution out that most enhances their own cute factor. Serious people attempt to be a little more objective by taking the information available to their decision making process from something other than face book likes. As well, a Hedge Fund manager doesn't give a hoot for anything much more than the success of his Hedge Fund which he or she measures in terms of percentage increases in the value of the Hedge Fund. When things within the equilibrium get tough, graphs start misbehaving, then the first instinct is consider the best investment strategies for reducing the potential for damage to the value of the Hedge Fund. One why this can be done is to make an appraisal of the mechanisms available to government to deal with steepening Blow Off curves. More recently though, for a Hedge Fund manager and for the rest of us, there are a number of areas that have the potential for impacting the equilibrium which could well involve a reach for brand new solutions with which to secure or maintain a free market equilibrium. Currently too, many a Hedge Fund manager could well have concluded that there's not much point on pinning any hopes on what's called traditional monetary policy, which is raising and lower interest rates, printing money, and boosting the economy by running a government deficit. Yes indeed the problems for the Hedge Fund manager's equilibrium, problems some might argue were actually caused by people like Hedge Fund managers, are all political in origin, and for an astute Hedge Fund manager the problems to be resolved are, inequality of income that's resulted in an increasing wealth gap that's led to what's politely called Extreme Political Polarity, and there's also a massive economic power being confronted by a massive rising economic power. And this is the circumstance that's similar to but not exactly the same as 1930 to 1945 period, back then they didn't have climate change to contend with.

Friday, August 30, 2019

Dorian

The Mycenaean States was Bronze Aged Greece, and we're talking before 1000 BC. They had a range of clans, tribes, kinships and so that kind of dominated their loyalties with regard to what to fight about and who owned what. Each state Mycenaean States spoke ancient dialects of the Ancient Greek language. Back then the Trojan War was a very big event, it shook things up a little, and after the war Ancient Greece entered a period referred to as Hellenic. One of the Mycenaean states was called The Dorians, and they lived in the more southern part of big Greek Island that's called the Peloponnese. Athens is in the very southern part of the Greek Mainland. Some have argued that Dorians might have become the Spartans, but all this was a long time ago and nobody really knows.

The Hittites knew about the Dorians, so did Ancient Egyptians, and some Dorians might have settled in Southern Italy as well as Sicily. And you have to think that getting on 4000 years ago possibly the Dorians caused their fair share of trouble all around the Eastern Mediterranean. The Question, what does Dorian mean, and there are a lot of possible answers. It might mean lance, or could mean sea wanderers. Today Dorian is either a boys name or a girls name. And what I've always thought of as the really gentle name of Doris, comes from Dorian. In 1975 there was an Atlantic hurricane called Doris, and true to it's name Doris wandered west, then quickly turned to the East heading back into the North Atlantic. Doris was well named, caused hardly any damage.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Praetorian

Over the years the Praetorian Guard became incredibly unpopular, until at last in the wonderful year of 312 the Emperor Constantine the Great just got rid of them. They were supposed to be elite, specially chosen soldiers to guard Roman Generals in battle. When Brutus and Cassius failed to save the Roman Republic the new breed of politicians fell quickly into the idea of an Emperor and Emperors decided they needed their own Praetorian Guard to keep them safe, more so from pretenders to Emperor-hood than from enemy soldiers. During the Empire Period of Rome the Emperor's Praetorian Guard were the only people permitted to carry weapons when they were in the Emperor's safe place.

In time the Praetorian Guard itself had a go at making its own   political decisions, and on one occasion they decided to get rid of an Emperor who didn't offer them sufficient financial incentive to assure their loyalty. It was winning strategy, no problem at all and soon enough an Emperor knew that his Praetorian Guard was a central expense in maintaining his Emperor-hood, nothing too good for any of them. And inevitably the Praetorian Guard would swagger around behaving in most dishonorable manner, to the point where even Roman Poets wrote odes to the utter dreadfulness of Praetorian Guardsmen. And, elite-wise, it all kind of rings a familiar bell in this year of 2019.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Elites

The argument that elites are both necessary and essential to the stability of a society has merit. I too, some decades ago, was shocked when I realized this, one of those things where the mind rebels, rushes around in a foul temper, reads the wonderfully bearded Kropotkin, and the incredibly wise John Walking Stewart about how we should all live in the functional equivalent of an Iroquois longhouse, then it generally starts making things up and shouting about stuff. Central to my realization was that when it comes to society the word elite has absolutely nothing to do with excellence, or goodness, or progress, or civilization, or limited government, or not enough government any of those dream time ideas that we're all so addicted to, get worked up about.

The foundation of a stable society that lasts for a good long time has always been processes for managing powerful, well organized, interest groups. Interest groups are the flowering of wild eyed ambition, greed, vainglory and the entire list of the seven deadly sins that coalesce into floating bodies that are constantly at odds with each other as they bump around demanding this or that and apparently they do this on the behalf of the society which has enabled them to emerge. Always remember, if you're pathetic enough to find solace in trying to quote Plato, that like the founding fathers of these here so called United States, none of them held out much hope for the good common sense of us ordinary people. Our job is basically to be regularly pissed off with all interest groups and occasionally to get very, very pissed off indeed with, for example the current Republican Party.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Bo Peep and The Sheep

The word Elite comes from the French verb choose, which in turn comes from a Latin word for elect. This suggests that an elite is the result of a choosing process, they are chosen ones, either by election or by birth or by accident or whatever, and the word elite kind of contains the idea that somehow the process whatever it might be produces the best. In this context can't help but look around and wonder at what on earth 'best' means and conclude that 'best' is a bit of a moving, randomly arranged feast that has very little to do with an objective idea of excellence and depends more on mists of comprehension, a sort of swirl of BS rather then anything remotely solid. Yet there are those who will argue that elites are both necessary and essential to the stability of a society, in another way without some unifying cloud of BS promulgated by elites we are anarchy and when that cloud of BS clears then it's always a struggle to redesign a new mist of incomprehension under which elites might comfortably dwell so that the rest of us might multiply, be fruitful and not get too grumpy. 

None of this says very much about the rest of us, those of us who aren't chosen, the Sheep if you prefer. And again the awesome question why did Bo Peep lose her Sheep, begins to get an answer. The Sheep, it might be argued, wandered off in a most irresponsible way because they got overly aggravated by Bo Peep and were determined to find a whole new mist of incomprehension under which to peacefully graze. And here, I do recall, an account of a rogue Sheep that badly interrupted the routines of a small mining community in the valleys of South Wales, it disavowed all pretense at sheepishness and it bit someone's dog. Tough crew, coal miners, even if they had been workless, waiting for the trickle down for years, and they couldn't help but develop a respect for this particular Sheep, which soon enough took to behaving in increasingly dominating ways. Wandering about, nibbling at things, less and less patience with dogs, it could apparently easily surmount any kind of fencing or stone wall, it drank milk, enjoyed beer, battered fish and loved salt and vinegar crisps apparently, and it seemed to take huge pleasure from chasing little boys and the little boys for their part thoroughly enjoyed being endlessly chased. Then as the spring advanced, the Sheep, according to the account, went off by itself with no encouragement from the mining town to rejoin its flock so that it could be sheared.  Got to be a useful lesson here somewhere!

Monday, August 26, 2019

Brake Lines

Rusting Brake Lines Leak. The very idea sends shivers down the arm, not unpleasant images of driving off a cliff, momentarily in glorious flight before reality bites. It'll mean a lot of incomprehensible terminology we boys are supposed to have an innate understanding of, and woe unto he who might say something like "What's a brake hose clip." And there'll be wiggling around under a vehicle, losing tools, losing vital parts, head banging, getting bitten by insect and high risk of personal physical damage, the body is no longer remotely snake like in its capacity to worm around inside an engine. Nor will the assistant be of much use, she'll probably lick brake fluid and we'll both end up in the emergency room. The question of course is why? The answer, might just as well be Vive La France.

All the same, actually looking forward to it, keep the mind wholly engrossed and totally confused by something else for what could be a good long time if my own history of vehicle repair is anything to go by. It's a bread, milk and toilet paper type excitement. And you never know, should I survive the experience the repairs might prove roughly successful, and will give me my chance to sit around harping on about no matter how hopelessly broken something appears to be, the idea of repair offers glimmers of hope. Also the case that these sorts of projects always begin with a fatalistic resort to a Psalm of David : "Yea, prepare the table, spare the rod, a little anointing might be nice, I'll fear no evil so long as somewhere along the line my cup runneth over, if only very briefly."

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Nursery Rhymes

"Little Bo Peep, has lost the Sheep and doesn't know where to find them. Leave them alone and they'll come home, carrying their tails behind them." How incredible cute! Have to wonder where the Sheep might have gone, and good chance the Sheep were already in someone else's freezer, or maybe a rag rag of assorted so called domestic canines had had a go at them. And anyway what was Bo Peep up to when the Sheep wandered off, adjusting the bonnet, retying the bow on the crook.

Sometimes seems that stuff like "Trickle Down" is a Nursery Rhyme. Same with "Thoughts and Prayers," "Rising Tide Floats all Boats," "Good Guys with Guns," "Right to Work," and it just goes on and tragically on.  Then there's the issue of "Do you love America?"  First of all, America is Two Whole Continents. Secondly, don't mess around with the word love, in the flowery language of yet another right wing nut "love isn't a word, it's an action," and so the patriotic answer, for those in any doubt, is "Depends on what it's doing."

Friday, August 23, 2019

A Surplus

George III might have struggled dramatically with mental instability and some kind of possibly inherited sickness that caused his urine to turn blue, but when his youngest and most favorite daughter died, he finally agreed that it would probably be best if he accepted the idea that he hand off his kingly duties, not his title, to his eldest son. George III was referred to sometimes as Farmer George, he was a skinflint, preferred the simpler things and he took a great interest in the farming revolutions that were benefiting the rural populations of Britain, an explosion of agricultural surplus that helped fuel the Industrial Revolution. George III's son, George IV, was pretty much the opposite to his father, he was a total pompous ass, his ministers politely described him as selfish, unreliable and irresponsible. Dread to think what they said about him in private, but I think it fair to say they profoundly contributed to the Urban Dictionaries of their day. 

 Before it was his turn to become king, George III's eldest son George IV was already in terrible debt. He'd somehow accumulated a debt which in today's money would be something like 75,000,000 US dollars. And he had other problems especially around mistresses threatening to sell letters from him to the less reputable newspapers unless they were handsomely rewarded for their services with very generous pensions. In every respect George IV was a spoilt rich kid, he had all the characteristics including being a total all round pain, but he was the King, so everyone had to bow down and scrape a little. Quite interesting too, when George IV died he weighed around 280 pounds, or class 3 obese in today's parlance. And later in life he also developed the blue urine sickness. This blue urine issue has nothing to do with bluebloods. Blueblood comes from members of the Spanish Nobility who claimed to have no trace of Moors, Jews or other Non-Visigoth people in their blood line. And you know something, we'd all be much saner without spoilt rich kids and bluebloods constantly messing with our Zen.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Melt Downs

Your gardener does have the occasional melt down. I say occasional on the understanding that a definition of occasional includes a very flexible view of time, say only once or twice an hour as opposed to twenty or thirty times an hour. And no doubt about it a gardener as he proceeds into the joy of his melt down begins to feel a powerful sense of "My God, I'm brilliant" and he can find himself taking the Lord's name in vain to the point where a simpler, less nuanced grasp of the Christian message could suggest a Hail Mary or two might not substitute for being burned slowly at the stake.

For those of us who might never have had the experience of a melt down, you begin to get a sense that you're having one when an internal dialogue ceases to heed the niceties of politeness, elements of reasonable dialogue and out it all comes, torrent after torrent. Too late you suddenly realize that you're making no sense at all, so you try again and again, each time unsuccessful. Then fortunately you interpret an expression from your otherwise very unhelpful and a long way from hardcore gardening assistant that suggests she was rather hoping that something like a helicopter or a Bald Eagle would swoop down and whisk you off, lodge you in a secure location for an unspecified period of time, maybe throw away the key.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Conservatism

Roosevelt's speech at his first inauguration, which was in 1933, was in my view a really fine description of what the Democratic Party should be. In the speech, there was so much more to inspire a mind than his first few lines, "So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is...fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance." The speech is long and later it goes on to these lines, "Recognition of the falsity of material wealth as the standard of success goes hand in hand with the abandonment of the false belief that public office and high political position are to be valued only by the standards of pride of place and personal profit; and there must be an end to a conduct in banking and in business which too often has given to a sacred trust the likeness of callous and selfish wrongdoing."  Then in the 1990's a Democratic Party President called Bill Clinton just gave all that up with four pathetic words "It's the economy, stupid." I've had an even poorer opinion of Rhodes Scholars ever since, Cecil John Rhodes was a white supremacist, a colonialist, a business man and politician who got rich raping parts of Africa, and not so long ago girls didn't qualify for a scholarship to spend a post graduate year at Oxford University from the Rhodes' foundation. But it's money to spend a year in the City of Oxford.

Roosevelt's 1933 inaugural speech was partly written by a man called Raymond Moley. When Moley finally achieved a degree of fame in Washington DC he quit the whole idea of supporting Roosevelt's New Deal policies and soon enough became a very Conservative Republican whose punditry was eagerly anticipated by readers of such media out lets as the National Review. Egregious Mole-Type behavior in my view.  How, I ask myself, could anyone who might have contributed ideas like those in that inaugural speech, within less than a year choose to work toward the destruction of their consequences. As usual it takes years of disappointment to finally get a grasp on the truly unattractive answer. But at least the answer explains that part of our being that rejects possibilities, first with a search for evidence, then just makes stuff up. Critical to my mind, is the excitement around the extent to which the first US settlers in the colony of Virginia learned how to successfully grow, harvest and process the cash crop of Cotton from African slaves. The point being it would a powerful change to a narrative, what else did the knowledge of enslaved people make possible and why should they not be fully credited in the story of a nation. Why would anyone have a problem with it? In there, where the problem is, lies the heart of conservatism, change is a slippery slope, it spoils the way things are.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

The Itch and A State if Mind

I wanted to address a connection between Offa's Dyke, the Battle of Maldon, the Legend of the Frankish military Leader called Roland, the Ottoman Empire's several attempts to take control of Vienna and how a Sultan of Oman totally outfoxed Elphinstone to keep control of Zanzibar. Trouble is the connection is one of those long winding trails that leads a person to a place where he or she begins to develop an understanding. Never sure how this happens in a mind, does it start with an itch and with itches they are uncomfortable, remain uncomfortable until the itch is gone.  If there's a question about the itch, that question might be where does the itch come from. And it might be possible to argue that this itch comes from an almost mystical sense that you're not so much being lied to, more like you're being told what to think.

And why might that be? Possibly because it gives you a wonderful opportunity to belong to an apparent stability that is not you. Then should you prove reluctant, or at least teetering on the fence, a whole bunch of theories, facts and figures are bought into play. My own Offa to Elphinstone itch was civilization, my understanding would suggest that civilization is a state of mind, certainly nothing like an inevitable process, and I could get pretty barbaric about it. These days there's an idea in the theories promulgated by Q Anon, however basically weird they might be, they are "Good for America." Well, I guess it depends on the extent to which America can bring itself to utterly reject them. And there's the current suggestion from white supremacists that Liberal Democracy doesn't work outside of ethnic purity. This one, a full scale rash of an itch if ever I heard one, but I guess civilization depends upon how you stop the itch without making other people itch. A bit of an absent state of mind at the moment.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Fundamentals, Markets, Tea Parties and Revolutionist

Might be worth reminding myself what the Fundamentals of the Economy actually means, because there's a possibility a number of our political leaders might soon be confidently announcing things like "The Fundamentals of The Economy are Strong," before sliding off into the sunset. Gross Domestic Product is considered a big deal economic fundamental by many, the more cynical might suspect it's about as far as they go economics-wise, and well worth noting that at the end of 2008 GDP had, following two quarters of very poor, almost negative growth, started to grow a little, it was looking at 3%, very encouraging. Unemployment levels are considered a fundamental of the economy, and while there all sorts of ways of determining unemployment levels, some ways always put the figure higher and some ways always put the figure lower, so it's boondoggle of complexity just waiting to be abused. In my understanding, the lower unemployment figure is people who have been actively looking for work in the previous 4 weeks. Actively looking for work figure comes from the pledge a person makes when they apply for an unemployment benefit. Always a suspicious number, because if you're looking for work but haven't claimed an unemployment benefit you're not unemployed. The deeper dive figures attempt to include people actively looking for work in the past 4 weeks, as well as people who been looking for work for months and months, as well as people who have given up looking for work. Meanwhile, the way the figure's calculated at this lower and lower rate of unemployment it's possible we'll get negative numbers, which will be embarrassing for what remains of the Labor Department. In 2008 unemployment was at between 6% at the low end and 10% if you included those who had been looking for work for 15 whole weeks and still actively attempting to claim benefits. Both figures were at their highest level since 2003.

Another Fundamental is Real Median Income, the actual buying power of a person's income, and in 2008 real median income had gone down about 320$ since 2000, and this was the first period of negative growth for real income since 1969. In 2008 Consumer Confidence was at its lowest level since 2003. Annual Inflation in 2008 was getting on for 6%.  In 2008 the Stock Markets had been in decline for well on a year, and the crash that occurred in 2008 resulted in the markets loosing 30% of their value and with stock markets it's the percent of value, rather than the points, which a person has to watch. And finally there was a time when Deficits mattered. In 2008 the annual government spending deficit was huge 389 Billion Dollars, it had doubled since the previous year. In 2008 the US Trade Deficit had grown to 62 Billion Dollars. It was this collection of figures which in 2008 were deemed worthy of "The Fundamentals of the Economy are Strong." Guess what they really meant was that the State and her tax payers would bail out Capitalist errors rather than face the consequences on the populace of letting Banks and Businesses fail. Back then of course the State had the capacity, the knowledge and the willingness to save us from ourselves. Oddly it was the bail out of banks and big manufacturers that inspired those first Tea Party supporters, there was a speech on the floor of a Chicago stock market, a cable TV personality called Rick Santelli who for all I know is still ranting away about the error of messing with the purity of the market place, then it all started getting weird with people dressing up in 18th century military uniforms and talking about being 'revolutionists,' a tricky word for the market orientated, yet it was 'revolutionist' tendencies, rather than market orientated tendencies that kind of led to our current predicament, dear democratically elected leader-wise. And it's always the case, the money class reckon controlling tyrants is a short cut to controlling us people.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Disgust, Revulsion and Fear Reactions

After a bit it becomes necessary to intellectualize a phobia. Intellectualize means to give an intellectual character to something, which generally means you think about it, try to fit it into an established body of understandings and if you can't fit it into a body of understandings you might have to start thinking about exploring a new understanding, but tread lightly odds are your new understanding will be completely wrong, possible deranged, up there with Q Anon. If you take something like anxiety, to intellectualize the emotion of anxiety you look for what's causing the anxiety and try to do something about whatever it is that's causing the anxiety instead of just sitting there finding reasons and strategies to avoid going to the Grocery Store.  Now let's take something like Trypophobia, which is adverse reaction to "irregular patterns or clusters of small holes or bumps."  Not classified as a mental disorder by the fifth edition of the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual which is all about possible solutions to mental problems that prevent people from functioning like good diligent hard working obedient servants of our Corporate State. Trypophobia falls into the category of a Specific Phobia, which means anything, no matter how apparently ludicrous, that has the potential to upset a person to the point of his or her becoming less than fully engaged and properly functioning. So you got a body of understanding that includes the idea that debilitating and irrational mental reactions are indeed brought on by exposure to something perfectly cogent like "The Great Outdoors." And along side this you get a person's highly suspicious adverse mental reaction to something like "Coat Hangers."  The key point about a Specific Phobia is the extent to which the Phobia has been well diagnosed by reference to more objective data with special attention to the degree to which this or that phobia has indeed produced genuine, properly studied examples of debility, rather than something like "I'm terrified of shopping carts with empty Coca Cola cans inside them so I can't possibly go within seven miles of a Grocery Store, can you do my shopping for me, I really need Raspberry filled donuts." And there's always a chance with proper peer reviewed study a Specific Phobia might graduate to genuine Phobia and as a result of being deemed genuine it gets better than a shrug from discourse, it gains acceptance, becomes a source of fascinating insights into us people and if you're lucky research grants from at best the eccentric, at worst the entrepreneur.

Fortunately there's Social Media where everyone with access has to being a center of attention, develop a sense of identity, find a cause, a purpose and a belonging place in which to find comfort, so that a very, very few people can make both disgusting and revolting amounts of money. And on Social Media there are billions of groups several of which have devoted themselves to their adverse reaction to "irregular patterns or clusters of small holes or bumps," or Trypophobia. It's also true that I rather wish I was joking. However, it's a very interesting area. You can kind of understand it if you've ever had Mango Worm you might have noticed your reaction to the irregular patterns or clusters of small holes or bumps on much of your left thigh. It's not a pretty sight and it certainly gave my a screaming heebie-jeebies case of Trypophobia. Some people, I'm told, have a similar reaction to irregular patterns or cluster of small holes and bumps on fruit, soap bubbles and it's a long to my mind suspicious list. The argument is that the Trypophobia heebie-jeebies reaction is an autonomous reaction of fear, but also of disgust, and more than interesting to my way of thinking is that research into the debilitating results of disgust, rather than fear, to a heebie-jeebies reaction took on an earnestness a couple of months after the 2016 election here in the US. Hithertofore debilitating Phobia was conceived of in terms of fear rather than disgust. You can hook the person up with electrodes and know without a shadow of a doubt that he or she is genuinely afraid, as opposed to enjoying a theatrical moment. And you can do the same with Disgust. Fear, it was reckoned, was a wholly debilitating reaction that truly mess with a citizens capacity to enhance the bottom line of the billionaire class. Disgust, for it's part, was reckoned a long way from debilitating and fell squarely into the category of "shut up, pull yourself together, stop being a baby, and get with the program."  Nor was it that long ago that fear fell into that same category. Either way, in these politically dumfounding times there's a perfect opportunity for researchers to establish research norms around the degrees of disability that directly result from disgust on a population by subjecting them to images and voice patterns of our commander in chief. For my part efficiency, productivity, a capacity to get out of bed in the morning and anything remotely associated with enthusiasm is way down since 2016. Interesting, the gust part of disgust comes from early Italian and French for 'taste.' Revulsion has it's origins in the Latin for 'torn out,' which does work better for me.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Mystery of Small Comforts

There are true things and there are things you just want to believe because they make you feel better. In the early months of the First World War people in Britain began to realize what their leaders had done. Casualty lists from the German victory at the Battle of Mons, kind of acted as very, very cold and bitter shower. There was however much comfort drawn from a rumor. Apparently Russian soldiers with snow on their boots had arrived in Scotland to join British and French forces on the Western Front. This was huge for moral, and one of the problems with it was the snow on their boots part, it was August. But the whole snow on their boots idea spoke to the haste and determination of the Russian soldiers to leave their own country, which was also at war with the Central Powers, and devote their entire being to bolstering the allied forces. They'd raced as quickly as they could from snowy Russia and were ready for immediate action, and because they had snow on their boots you knew they were obviously Russians, could even have been Cossacks, everyone was terrified of Cossacks.

In some ways it was the same when a little over 50 years previously the British public learned that the crown Jewel of the British Empire, the Indian sub-continent, had rebelled, it wasn't just a minor thing, it was a major event that dragged on for 18 months of killings and massacres of whole towns and much horribleness. Nor were the British that sympathetic toward the idea that a conquered people might now and then want to control their own destiny. It seemed like an absurd idea, so it was easier for them to believe that disreputable trouble makers had spread rumors that the Muslim Sepoys recruited into the East India Company's army had been issued with a new cartridge for their newish Enfield rifles, this cartridge had been water proofed with Pig fat and it was this rather than anything like general disgruntlement, appalling pay, being treated like second class citizens and being forced to serve overseas that caused what the British History books long referred to as the Indian Mutiny. In a similar vain, following the tumult of the Euromaiden Revolution, a pro Europe movement that pissed off a lot of Russian-centric people in Ukraine and resulted in Russia first annexing Crimea then attempting to use paramilitary forces to take over parts of Ukraine, in the April of 2015 the Ukraine Parliament decided to officially change the name of The Great Patriotic War, which for the Soviet Union was 1941 to 1945, to The Second World War.


Thursday, August 15, 2019

The Ashland Aluminum Mill

Aluminum by mass makes up about 8% of planet earth, I'm told. Odds are there's a sprinkle of it in the ground all around you, but none of it sufficiently concentrated to make mining it viable. The ore for Aluminum is a sedimentary rock called Bauxite, and there's some suggestion that Bauxite occurs around ancient volcanoes, but no one is absolutely certain. The US isn't rich in Bauxite, much of it is mined in Australia. Guinea, on the West Coast of Africa, is estimated to have the highest available reserves of Bauxite on the planet. Once the Aluminum is processed out of Bauxite, it is usually turned into Aluminum Slabs, which are large thick, heavy slabs of various grades and qualities, and it's these slabs that travel to Aluminum Mills where they are rolled into the sort of thickness that you'd find in Pepsi Cola can, or somewhere on a vehicle. The thing about Aluminum for manufacturers, it oxidizes a little but it does not rust gracefully away.

The business arguments for an Aluminum Mill in Ashland, Kentucky, is that within a days truck drive from Ashland is the bulk of the US Auto Manufacturing industry. Turning coils of Aluminum into useable parts results in a lot of scrap, which is then returned to be re-smelted into Aluminum Slabs or even ingots. The Ashland area of Kentucky is financially troubled and within the population it has percentage of people skilled in metal work. And such was the excitement after the slow decline and ultimate failure of a 100 year tradition of steel milling in Ashland that the project had some success crowd sourcing funds from citizens. Our own Congressmen, Congressional District One, opposite end of the state here in Kentucky, he's a fresh faced Republican, still quite young, possible not yet too cynical, back in April of this year he did express an opinion on the Ashland project. It was a wonderful idea he reckoned, but he suggested that it was such a pity and a little odd that this brilliant project appeared to need money from a Russian source which had, briefly, been sanction by the US for its very dubious ties to the Kremlin's interference with US elections. "I wouldn't take money from Russians," our young congressman claimed.  "Curiouser and curiouser," to quote Alice as she wondered why she couldn't see her feet.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Hong Kong and the Republican Party

Hong Kong isn't a big place. It does well because it's a financial center for much of Asia. The problem in Hong Kong is that the Chinese leaders want to control Hong Kong in the same way that they control Beijing. The Younger generation in Hong Kong don't want to lose what Democracy they have, and Chinese leadership is threatened by democratic impulses.

Meanwhile it might seem to the external observer that the USA doesn't really care, in fact it appears to have given up on the whole idea of doing anything remotely constructive. This "thoughts and prayers" attitude hasn't worked to prevent mass killings in the USA. And you have to ask the question whether the Republican party has also given up on Democracy here in their homeland.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

The NDA

You have to suspect that a modern day Faust would have to  sign a non-disclosure agreement with the Devil. And it's also possible that a modern day Faust might have raised an eyebrow, "It's no secret you're wicked and evil, Satan." "My dear boy, I'm a multi-trillionaire, with world wide interests and houses all over the place for god's sake, can't have pathetic virtually homeless little creatures like you getting all fickle and trying to take back your souls by yattering on about one or other of my proprietary business practices. It's very bad for my image and wreaks havoc on my business model."

A Faust worth his salt, might suggest, "Well, you know Satan, you're not the only game in town!" As an upright and reasonably honest citizen, I'm not sure how Satan might reply, but suspect that when it comes to soul selling the only honest employment is actually manual labor, not many secrets around a shovel or Raspberry picking or bagging groceries, and having mostly been a manual labor myself I can say with high confidence that never have I been asked to sign anything like a non-disclosure agreement. Interesting that it's the more manual side of laboring for others that is most likely to succumb to the machine.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Challenging Times

At each end of the continuum there are two opposite reactions to the challenges presented by the changing climate. At the one end is "we could do something about it if we wanted to" and at the other end is "we can't do anything about it even if we wanted to." Then there are the anomalies which range from "someone in a garage somewhere will come up with a solution" to the "whole thing's a hoax." Meanwhile around the world societies are dependant upon their political class to determine a direction. And one of the things about the political class is that while they are subject to ebb and flow, their ebb and flow is usually about ten to twenty years behind the ebb and flow as it is experienced by the population. In another way they always arrive late to the party. All sorts of arguments about why this might be, but essentially most politicians lead from behind. Only when they are certain that they have sufficient support will they claim ownership of this or that description of the present, and usually by the time they claim ownership the present has moved on. And you can look at how a politician's choices are determined by his or sources of funding, if he or she has major donor, keeping that major donor happy is rather central to a politicians longevity and some times moving on with the times, aggravates donors and supporters alike. And too, there's the whole question of economics which so long as an economy is expanding has become a panacea for all ills and a total blight on imaginative solutions. Then there's this whole mystic idea of progress as being a sort inevitable process that just sort happens, an odd way to conceptualize the passing of time, a little deceitful, I'd argue but good cover for all kinds of totally static ideas, I imagine the vast bulky dinosaur all full of him or herself would have a sneer for their tinier relatives who as it happens are still with us, they have two legs, most fly around, they lay eggs and have feathers and some of them have the problem solving capacity of a seven year old human.

Given these tendencies it's almost inevitable that in it's reactions to a changing climate and the immense pressure this will put upon resources of sustenance around the world, society will have to rely upon itself to meet the challenge rather than sit back and wait for solutions to immerge, and the thing is over the past three or four thousand years the complexity of society has become such that it needs leadership through which to express purpose and intent, otherwise we individuals are more like headless Chickens. And when we're don't feel like headless Chickens our sense of powerlessness inclines us to think of ourselves as a bunch of Milk Cows being badly abused. Refugees, those who flee war, violence or natural disaster are people who have decided to do something about their lot, they leave what was their home to find somewhere new to live. Other lands less riven by distress offer hope. Other lands however would like to help, but when they do help the reaction within a society that helps tends to encourage a wholly nationalist reaction that thrives on a xenophobia and is exacerbated by the political class, sometimes exaggerated to the point of being complete fiction. When it comes to your own turf, your own kin if you prefer, non-kin sharing much as it would like to doesn't appear to rise to the occasion with open arms in each one of us. I guess non-kin sharing is a more transactional part of our being, but at the same time if as beings we make meaning, then the vicissitudes on societies from a changing climate around the world gives the diversity of social structures and meanings around the world a chance to shatter old meanings and make new meanings, many of which will be bleak, some will be brutal, some will make sense, some will work, some won't. Being all the same, is like having you're saviors in one basket. It's our diversity of cultures and minds that makes us what we become and has done so for many, many thousands of years.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Non-Kin Sharing, Racism, Diversity and the Pleistocene

You got the Pleistocene. A Period of repeated glaciations. Cold from both the poles slowly advanced and slowly retreated and as it did so it slowly changed local conditions. The Pleistocene began around two and a quarter million years ago and the professionals will suggest that it came to an end about twelve thousand years ago. What is certain, we people are creatures that emerged from the Pleistocene. And the question is why on earth did we do so well.  I mean look at us compared to something like a Domestic Cat we might just as well be a Daddy Long Legs, and yet we very quickly populated every type of environment the planet had to offer, and unlike Domestic Cats we didn't hitch rides on sailing ships, we built sailing ships or walked. The answer to the question has less to do with our being opposite thumb possessing primates and more to do with an adaption which resulted in us being able to learn from our experiences, put that learning into a form that we could hand on to the next generations of our species. In this year of 2019, the planet on the cusp of a vast new adventure, and there are some in our midst who would rather greet the adventure by arguing that the way forward for us is to do away with diversity within our midst. They see nothing even remotely useful or exciting or productive in the differences between us. Tempting to think this dumbass monopolistic tendency a genetic flaw, but that would be an error of understanding, a non-problem solving solution to impasse so well characterized by the US Senate, the world's least deliberative body.

Better to place the debate within a wider context that some have usefully described with the words "Non-kin Sharing." It can be argued that trade, the exchange of goods as opposed to stealing goods and services, is an example of non-kin sharing. And too it's perfectly possible to suppose that a non-kin sharing of some sort may occasionally occur between a secondary caregiver and two so called Domesticated Felines, but that's a bit of a hot spot at the moment so best not raise some of the more appalling sharing failures that far too often interrupt the smooth flow of this particular non-kin relationship. It's also true that Domestic Cats aren't actually kin, their survival technique is primarily posited upon abject cuteness around cardboard boxes during their formative years. And I'd argue this is more likely a genetic component than it is a long hard draw on bodies of  experience, verbalized and bundled into bodies of knowledge, which are then recorded in Cathedrals of knowledge, which can be handed down through the generations with an authority that can be described as institutional and which as a result becomes a version of truth around which minds cleave upon the off chance of finding a degree of solace, rather than anything that might actually be real. As a snowflake in good standing, I think it worth thinking of "Non-kin sharing" as a central part of the success of our species, and worth noting that monopolistic tendencies, such as racism, are one of the prime causes of inequality leading to both internal and international violent unrest in our world. Either way, given their reaction to the word "diversity" the terms employed in today's entry are pretty much guaranteed to further piss off the more rightward leaning in our number.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Niccolo Machiavelli, his Prince and his Discourses on a Republic

Strange thing, a person's mental state. We need anchors of course to prevent us drifting off, disappearing somewhere in the clouds, turning into a thunder storm, then shattering the calm with lightning bolts. Mind you it does seem that shattering the calm with lightning bolts is all the rage in those more fashionable circles were being the center of attention is all that really matters, and frankly if one more demand on me is made to follow anyone on one or other of several dozen social media accounts I might indeed just call it quits on anything like reasonable dialogue, by returning to the dawn of the Renaissance and burying myself in the ideas of Machiavelli. Extraordinary to think of him as one of the very first of the Renaissance political scientists to be well remembered by posterity. His advise had nothing to do with being nice or kind or gentler, rather when it came to achieving an end he advised cunning and unscrupulous behaviors. And here I'm quite happy to admit that I find this gift of remembrance from posterity a very disappointing way to begin a new era of thinking which I'd persuaded myself  had been kind of good to us all.  It's also true that Machiavelli had been a diplomat, he'd cut his teeth on the relationships between states, and how to gain advantage from those relationships, not a kindergarten for the softer soul. His big moment came when he realized that the King of France didn't think much of his home town of Florence, Italy. Indeed the King of France had some very disparaging things to say about Florence, much of which rang true to Machiavelli. Florence was pretty feeble and wishy-washy, they had no real powerful army, it was a nice place to live, pretty buildings, people seemed to be happy, well entertained by the flourishing of the Renaissance but they could never make a decision, just a bunch of humming and hawing from leaders, long pointless meetings about nothing too useful or constructive.

Invariably in those days a diplomatic career came to end, in Machiavelli's case he was falsely accused of plotting against a big-wig, he was jailed and tortured. It was after he was released that he wrote The Prince, and the reason he wrote The Prince was to secure work by getting himself back into the good graces of a political family that with his help might go somewhere. Indeed the book is full of splendid examples of how to grab power. Luring potential rivals by suggesting a picnic and then bumping them off. It was, Machiavelli claimed, how a good Prince achieved and maintained his power, and no good ever doing anything that might aggravate your own supporters, like generous tax cuts, they think you're fantastic but sooner or later you're going to have to tax them to pay for the tax cuts and that really aggravates if not them then somebody. In Machiavelli's day a big-wig reckoned on being a big-wig for life, so it was a little different to what we have in some  places today. The Prince got Machiavelli nowhere in terms of finding work, it wasn't published until well after his death, and he settled into writing about a wider view of the Political Process rather than the nastier individuals engaged in the process. His new direction included an understanding of Republics as the go to system if there was to be any chance of a system in which a rational leader in order to achieve honor and glory would be more likely to act virtuously. In this later work, his point was that getting ahead was fine if it's all about you, do what you want to do, do what you have to do. But if the system in which you attempt to get ahead isn't actually all about you, then odds are you'll make fewer dreadful mistakes, for example you won't bump of the Ossini Family at a picnic with the result that no one ever came to your picnic again, which led to a long horrible set of disagreements that totally destroyed your reputation on the home front, which went quite swiftly from being the wisest of men to blithering idiot. All of which, Machiavelli argued, could have been avoided within the system of a functioning Republic, which was less personal, more sporting, and where following poor decisions you could slink away, with a pension, no real hard feelings so long as you were gone to some golden pond upon which to drag some semblance of solace from your shattered reputation, instead of being stripped naked and strung up from an ornamental Florentine balcony.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

August 1919

It was a hundred years ago, the August of 1919, that the German Revolution stumbled toward a working conclusion. Centrists in the flux of politics had produced a Democratic Republic. It hadn't been easy, and in many ways it sometimes seems their achievement was astonishing, but it wasn't achieved without compromise born of some very nefarious political maneuvering that included many broken promises from the leaders of the Social Democrats to the well spring of their support which came from the further reaches of the left which had wanted a more Soviet system that would put control of the means of production into the hands of the workers through workers councils which would take over the factories and operate them for the benefit of workers. Unlike the experience of the Russian Revolutionaries, which by 1919 were well into their own much longer civil war against supporters of the Czars, German workers in the main had kind of grasped that Factories weren't that easy to run, you had a whole hierarchy to contend with, from management through the better paid highly skilled workers all the way to the unskilled workers. I guess it was fairly clear to many, and a long way from being in their own interests for a master machinist, a person who could turn a lump of metal into an engine, to accept being told what to do by a trouble maker who might have read a lot but had never even run a drill press, a person whose primary skill was that of an unskilled laborer or worse someone who'd never actually even worked in a factory. Nor did the factory owners really want to experiment too much with the means by which they earned their very good living and stature. The bankers and the Capitalists were for their part very, very nervous around the possibilities of Soviet style anything. And the thing about it was the bankers and the capitalists had the money to spare for, shall we call them campaign contributions.

Of the millions of soldiers returning from the war only 100,000 kept their work, the rest were abruptly laid off, a miserable experience for anyone. The soldiers who kept their work mostly felt fortunate, I guess, but in terms of the state using them to quell civil disturbances, regular German soldiers were unreliable. While their political sympathies were mixed, the regular soldiers essential inclination was to sympathize with the more unruly demonstrators, and they had a huge reluctance to open fire on German civilians. The dirty work was done by paramilitary units which primarily comprised laid off soldiers. These units were very much arranged around their political sympathies. The German sailors for example were more left wing, their political grit had been cast in their refusal to share their admiral's desires for one final glorious sea battle. Other units decidedly more right wing, had lodged themselves into the fundamental understanding that they'd been betrayed by elements within the home front. Nor were the services of paramilitary units without costs, they had to be maintained. And while there's always debate about these things, I think I'm prepared to argue that when it came to financial resources, the more right leaning units had better access, a point of view expressed by Hitler in his debate with the German Workers Party when he insisted Capitalists were useful a-holes and had to be utilized, not purged. In time the paramilitary units with access to the greatest resources became more and more powerful, they were kind of like untouchable gangsters, ruling their kingdoms. So much so in fact that some years later when time came for Hitler to secure his absolute personal control over the National Socialist Party he had to vigorously purge the leadership of the several paramilitary units that had made themselves wealthy and important supporting his rise to the Grand Poo-bah that is the position of Dear Leader.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Mental Health Issues

Trade Wars have traditionally hurt people. It's Ok for the chaps at the top, but down where pennies count, you end up with something like the famine that devastated parts of the British Islands because landed interested refused to permit a reduction of the import duty on cheaper grain from Europe. A slippery slope the farmers argued that would cause British grain producers to go out of business and then what would happen if the nation had another go at invading France. People might well be dying by their hundreds of thousands but national security demanded that no duty on imported grain should ever be reduced, particularly that suspect incredibly cheap stuff from somewhere like France, and anyone who suggested that import duty should be reduced had no idea about the sort of sacrifices British landowners had to make everyday to keep the nation safe and free. Either way an occasional bout of starvation was good for character, thin the herd a little, it was perfectly natural.

And oddly if you have a conversation with your genuine gun nut, they'll tell you that any attempt whatsoever to infringe upon the right to own any kind of gun your little heart desires is a slippery slope, and nothing else really matters. The fear for your gun nut is basically us snowflakes, apparently if given a chance to know who owns what in terms of guns and where they live, we snowflakes will start knocking on doors and confiscating peoples guns. I know, it does rather fill a snowflake with a sense of awe that gun nuts consider us snowflakes capable of going around knocking on doors and confiscating stuff, the more traditional pattern for that sort of behavior is the other way round, but there you go it's a topsy turvy world. Guns are vital for home protection, keeping wild animals in their place, there's the terrifying feral hogs issue, bonding with your boy children, putting sausage on the table, and look what happened to the Jews in Germany, when they had their guns confiscated and why do you think England still has a king, they're not allowed guns over there.... Think I'm kidding, then you should really get out of your bubble for a bit as we all try to come to terms with a cure for "mental health."

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

We Know What We Got

In 1934 the German State was pretty much dominated by members of one particular party. In the Civil Service you couldn't get a job or keep your job if you weren't a member of the party, to get ahead you had to be more than just a member of the party you had to be committed to the party, and to really get ahead you had to do things like come up with ways to pursue the party's less traditional policies. An area of particular concern for party leaders was the justice system and the courts, where old habits about the law as serving justice are kind of difficult to change. And it was in 1934 that The People's Court was created, it's task was to try political crimes. These courts had three judges, there was no appeal, court procedures were modified to reduce a defendants access to legal representation, kind of like the television program of the same name where litigants don't bring a lawyer along with them, and a trial was a splendid opportunity for judges to demonstrate their commitment to the cause. In the television program the cause was or is ratings, in 1930's Germany the cause was basically to replace law and long years of legal study with what was called "Good Common Sense" do away with political discourse altogether and rid society of the unlike in appearance, sexual persuasion, racial origin and anyone who held a dissident or slightly suspect opinion. By 1938, the year in the fall of which Kristallnacht "spontaneously" erupted, all the Courts in Germany whatever their purview had become People's Courts. The other thing about People's Courts they didn't really believe in jail sentences, after 1938 most who were found guilty were shot.

In our generations here in the United States there are a decreasing number of memories that experienced the 1930's in Germany. Many of those who did, or have family members with accounts of those days, you'll find that Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass, was a turning point for the German people's relationship with the dominant, actually it was the only political party, in their country. From the accounts, the general sense is "we thought things were going to work themselves out, our lives were improving, lots of food on the table, and then we realized we were stuck with these dreadful people, and too late to do anything about it."  I once worked a garden for a little old lady, who was maybe lonely with her memories. Her house was on the market, her children had decided she'd be better off in an old people's home. The task I was assigned to by the estate agent took much longer than it might have done. Midmorning break at that job was a cup of tea and biscuit, and a couple of hours of chatting, a lot of it about young people today and how lucky they are. I certainly must have looked older than I thought I was. "Yes," she said, "it was like if you woke up and found that you're government was run by football hooligans." Recently I was reminded of that little old lady when I read about a former Watergate Prosecutor who had described our president's 1918 Helsinki meeting with the Russian president. "It was a Kristallnacht Moment" was how she explained her own reaction to the meeting. "We know what we got."

Monday, August 5, 2019

Workers and Empires

In 1914, the German Empire had an Emperor, an Empress and dotted around the Empire there were something like 21 other royal Personages who had to be well in the loop of patronage so that the Empire could manage the day to day of being an empire. That's all very well for an agrarian society but Germany was well into the Industrial Revolution, massive cities, vast factories employing millions of people. And of course those millions of people all jostled together in a most un-rural manner discuss stuff, they moan and groan and many of them are perfectly capable of wondering at the possibilities of improving their circumstance. Doesn't have to be complicated, doesn't have to be get rid of the Emperor, more like an eight hour work day instead of a 10 hour or 12 hour work day, a set of work rules that made factories safer places, some sense of security should anyone fall sick or get injured. And indeed in 1914 there were many German Workers who were easily persuaded that the war the Emperor seemed hell bent upon would be fought not for the working man but for the Bankers, the Princes, the Titans of Industry, the wealthy, the middle class. The power structure in the German Empire was mostly top down, yet we poorer people did have representatives, they were well vetted representatives, but as a body they were permitted an occasional contribution to discourse on our behalf. As the war dragged on, the Generals continued to insist that they could win, but the wider discourse within German society developed doubts, and these doubts were particularly evident when munitions factory workers went on strike and the Generals could say all they wanted about their capacity to win the war, and how high their moral was, but it was very obvious to them that back home production of munitions was suffering. German Navy, which had been basically port bound since the Battle of Jutland,suddenly decided they were going to gloriously attack the British Fleet, groups of sailors mutinied. In the meanwhile the Western Allies had feelers out, their war wasn't going well either. The idea from the Western Allies was that we can all talk about an Armistice just so long as you lose your emperor and write a constitution for yourselves that might be a tad more democratic and there's a good chance we're going to need you guys to help us put an end to this communist nonsense that seems to be taking on in Russia. For those interested the desire to see Germany as a Democracy was pushed by the US President Woodrow Wilson, and would that our current president was even remotely like him.

Around November 9th 1918 the German Generals reluctantly agreed to the idea of an Armistice, their Emperor would agree to step down and a new constitution would be discussed. On the 11th of November the Armistice was signed but under no circumstances were the Generals prepared to admit that they and their soldiers had lost the war. In Germany new political alliances formed as democratic elections were given strong consideration. There were lots of political parties, to the left, to the right and to the center, the whole thing was very chaotic. There was street fighting, murder and mayhem and one of the things was in the peace treaty with the allies, Germany was only permitted 100,000 men in its army. Millions of German soldiers had to be let go, out into the communities, many of which had dramatically changed through the course of the war. Some have used the expression disillusioned to describe their experience of a army that could have won coming home to defeat and a bunch of generals still insisting they could have won had the home front not betrayed them. In Germany there was a tradition of militia, many of the returning soldiers took up with the militias, and many political parties employed these paramilitary units to protect them from the rough and tumble and down right violence of rival party gangs. Adolf Hitler at the end of the war was desperate to remain in the army and he found his opportunity to keep his work by agreeing to become a spy for a domestic intelligence service that was anxious to keep abreast of organizations and parties that could present deep problems for the already complicated management problem of turning The German Empire into the Weimar Republic, something that was managed quite well by the emerging Social Democratic Party, it's still very around and prides itself on being the oldest political party in Germany. The political party Hitler was sent to spy on was called The German Workers Party, nor did it have very many members, but the political center in Germany had a mortal fear of Soviet style takeover of their country, and anything that had the word "worker" in its title was incredibly suspect. Well Hitler turned up one day at the party meeting, he probably had his notebook, ready to report back. The German Workers Party's basic idea was that Jews lost the war for us, they're not really human beings, whether they are Jews or not all Bankers suck, Capitalists are a-holes, we Germans are Number One but we've all been badly betrayed by creeps and traitors and it's time we did something about it. Very much shades of this generation's tragic flirtation with White Nationalism. Oddly Hitler got into a bit of an argument with other party members about the extent to which Capitalists were just a-holes or whether they were useful a-holes. In time The German Workers Party became the National Socialist Party with Adolf Hitler as the Big Cheese who with the help of other devious minds crafted the political platform of the Third Reich. 

Sunday, August 4, 2019

The Night of Broken Glass

Let's start in the fall of 1938 when a German diplomat in Paris was shot by a 17 year old Jewish boy. The boy, apparently, knew the diplomat quite well, the diplomat was in the habit of frequenting those bars in Paris that catered to Gay people. It was a Monday morning, the boy purchased a revolver and box of bullets, he walked to the German Embassy asked to see the diplomat, was directed to the diplomats office and when the door was closed the boy shot five bullets at the diplomat, three missed, two hit the diplomat in the stomach. The boy was immediately arrested, he made no attempt to escape. About two weeks later the diplomat died of his wounds. The news of the diplomats death reached Adolf Hitler's dinner table just as dinner was over, a time when Hitler liked to stand up and issue a rousing speech to his important quests about whatever happened to be on his mind. Instead of making the speech Hitler appeared, stunned, shocked, outraged, excused himself and Goebbels stood up in his stead and apparently said, "...the Fuhrer has decided that... demonstrations should not be prepared or organized by the party, but insofar as they erupt spontaneously, they are not to be hampered."  Well a "spontaneous" demonstration very quickly ensued, and it was so "spontaneous" that some local party leaders across Germany had already refused to participate. A man like Herman Goring, for example, reckoned you could certainly be "spontaneous" about stealing Jewish stuff, nothing wrong with that but damaging perfectly good stuff was a terrible waste. Others, like Himmler of all people, worried a little about the international reaction to a pogrom designed to terrify Jews into leaving the country, off to Palestine, it didn't matter where, send them all back where they came from. The point was, Hitler didn't want people to know that it was all about him, he wanted people to believe it was the will of the people, so there was nothing he could really do about any of it, and after all when the people spoke he like a good Dear Leader had to listen, he was the instrument of his people, and when the people weren't exactly on the same wave length as the Dear Leader, they needed to at the very least lose their 'election to the party,' and in time there were quicker ways of dealing with less committed minds.

Across Germany it was three days of agony for the Jewish communities. Looting, killing, rounding people up, window breaking, synagogue burning. It was a pogrom conducted by the paramilitary units paid for by the Nazi Party and their hangers on. As for the paid officials of the state, police, army, firefighters, they were directed not to interfere unless non-Jewish property was in danger of damage. A British journalist called Hugh Greene reported back to his newspaper; "Mob law ruled in Berlin .... hordes of hooligans indulged in an orgy of destruction. ....... Racial hatred and hysteria seemed to have taken complete hold of otherwise decent people. I saw fashionably dressed women clapping their hands and screaming with glee, while respectable middle-class mothers held up their babies to see the "fun"." And while you can debate the spontaneity or otherwise of Kristallnacht, you can't really get away from the reaction to it. Many, many Germans, the great majority, disapproved of their countrymen's behavior. A former German Kaiser Wilhelm II let it be known that for the first time in his life he felt ashamed to be German, which was really saying something from the man who's contribution as German Kaiser to putting down the Boxer Rebellion was so intensely brutal it resulted in his nation earning the nickname of Huns. There were Church groups that took a stance against mass violence against Jews, but it was all mostly one of those "I'm sure it'll pass" type silences. And there were other church groups who re-read Martin Luther and came up with quotes that suggested Martin Luther was in fact all about burning down synagogues and getting rid of the Jews so the German people were absolutely right to be vehement anti-Semites, it was the way God wanted it. In time, less than a couple of weeks in fact, any expression of sympathy for the lot of the Jewish people in Germany became a treasonous act of unpatriotic disloyalty, and if as a good Christian you assisted Jewish people in their time of need, you got sent to die in a concentration camp. Less than a year later, in the September of 1939, German mechanized units invaded Poland. The German Army wanted more time to prepare, a couple more years, but following international reactions to the Night of Broken Glass the Dear Leader reckoned they needed to get on with the whole living space theory before the rest of the world got it's act together. Tomorrow, the German Revolution of 1918-19 and the role played by the German Workers Party.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Faust and Dear Leaders

So what does a person do when he finally becomes a Dear Leader. Well it's never that simple, and it's never that simple because a Dear Leader does spend almost 95 % of his waking hours worrying about remaining a Dear Leader, it's paranoid time spent plotting his own survival, something he can only do by maintaining a supportive coterie of what I guess it's tempting to describe with the title Storm Trooper. And while many an innocent soul might offer the suggestion that Storm Troopers are basically unfortunate victims of a lobotomy, the reality is that the bulk of us can be seduced then in all sorts of ways we can be purchased, or at least willingly submit to a lobotomy. At the same time Storm Troopers in the First World War were specially trained, physically well built and fit men, the idea being that you needed to launch highly committed individuals at the enemy trenches if there was to be any promise of a glorious victory against the enemy, and certainly no question of launching a bunch of elderly coach potatoes along with their conspiracy theory laden yelling youngsters, even if it is in unison. All of which means it might be necessary to go elsewhere for an understanding of a Dear Leader's awesomeness.

In the collection of German stories that explore the whole business of selling your soul to the devil, or Faustian Bargain, the message was basically that Faust was damned forever because he preferred Human Knowledge to Divine knowledge. In the the 16th Century accounts of his soul selling experiences it was very quickly far too late for him, as soon as he decided he wanted to be called a Doctor of Medicine instead of a Doctor of Theology there was nothing he could do, his future in eternity lay in hell where he'd be regularly poked with sticks. Later, in Goethe's early 18th Century account, which drew from a much early First Century story about a sorcerer called Simon Magnus who was apparently going to save the world, suggested that while Faust was driven by a yearning for something more than "earthly meat and drink" he'd sold his soul so that he could become something more than just an ordinary average person, his ambition was to be incredibly spectacular, a star in the firmament, a super fantastic bigwig par excellence, a viral phenomenon or something like a billionaire if you prefer a more recent iteration of an earthly Holiness from which all good things are deemed to come. And I suspect that it's somewhere in the machinations of a Faustian Bargain that enables a Dear Leader to warp both time and reality.

Friday, August 2, 2019

Party Purgers

Purging the Party has a long tradition. What happens is that over a period of time a Party experiences a schism, and this can be traumatic for members of the party and while some see the schism as an opportunity to seriously raise the possibility of a new direction for the party others see it as the kind of disunity that results in the party being lost to the wilderness of politics, wandering lonely as a pointless cloud, going nowhere and ending up as a foot note ignored by history, sneered at by the grandchildren, who these days would probably just call them losers and dismiss them with an emoji of a limp noodle or a wigweave or a totally unwoke.  Being lost in the wilderness is no fun for the politically ambitious, and while it's always possible to discuss the possibilities of compromise solutions to the schism the more tyrannical minded will dismiss compromise as just so much hot air and a waste of time. Instead they gather the like minded, write lists naming the unlike minded and then they proceed to purge the party, reduce its vibrancy, eradicate its flexibility and without a capacity to effectively manage change reduce it to the functional equivalent of a poached Elephant.

Hitler purged the National Socialist Party, which was a fairly loose knit collection of power centers, and he did this with great violence. Saddam Hussein purged the Ba'ath Party which was also a fairly loose knit collection of disagreements. He had his list and at a gathering of the more important party members he read names on the list and as each name was called the individual named was removed from the room by armed men, one at a time, and it did go on a while. A great many of those named were executed, some were executed by a firing squad that comprised the slightly suspect members of the Ba'ath party who had yet to demonstrate their absolute obedience to the Dear Leader. Now it's also true that there are still a number of nations dotted around the world where the institutions are such that they are not yet ready to tolerate something like a Dear Leader in waiting theatrically bumping off people who disagree with him. This means that Purging the Party has to rely upon less obvious sources of motivation. Amongst the political class, dignity and self worth is such that fear of simply losing a local election, and maybe having to find work washing dishes for a living, does appear to be a more than sufficient motivator to grant a Dear Leader in waiting blind obedience from his party members.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Donkey

Donkeys are from a distance cuddly. You just want to scratch their ears, pat their head and coo at them. But if you ever happen to get close to a Donkey, you might notice that there's a certain attitude, a tone, a Wittgensteinian context if you prefer, and soon enough you suspect your initial judgment that a Donkey could well be something along the lines of a four legged and hoofed teddy bear, is probably an error. There's a unnerving Coyote quality to the way they stare back at you. It's an independent, I am what I am take it or leave it expression. The kind of thing you get from a Cat without the domineering, manipulative psychological warfare Cats are so adept at and which can turn a secondary caregiver into neurotic wreck.

Fortunately there's the internet and you'll soon discover there's a distinct difference between a happy Donkey and an unhappy Donkey. A happy Donkey is a joy to be around, but apparently an unhappy Donkey is "noisy and destructive." They'll "chew fences and trees and barns."  For a Donkey to be happy, I'm told, a Donkey needs a friend, otherwise "they are pushy, mouthy and needy." The other thing about Donkeys, is that while they're perfectly happy to please, you can't bully them into anything like doing what you ask them to do, there has to be mutual respect, love and trust, whole bunch of snowflake type behaviors. So we all got that to look forward to.