THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
View 446 December 25 - 31, 2006
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December 25, 2006
Dear Dr. Pournelle,
You might find this article from Touchstone Magazine about the pagan origins of Christmas interesting.
Thank you. I had been aware of this, and had let it slip my mind: the pagans invented their holiday in hopes of undermining the popularity of Christmas. (Before you write to me on this, see below.)
If you did not see yesterday's View, it may still be relevant.
Merry Christmas to all.
Glad tidings to all, noting that Google finds tidings on
AN ESP Experiment. Be sure to read the explanations.
Regarding yesterday's note: perhaps my tongue was a bit too far in my cheek? Having for all my life heard the canard that Christmas was invented to take the place of the Roman Saturnalia (which it could hardly do, given the nature of Saturnalia) it was a bit fun to turn the tables around.
The fact is that, as noted in the article, December 25 was selected because it was nine months after the Annunciation. I make no doubt that some early believer saw a Sign in having Jesus born on the Solstice (December 25 in that calendar), but it would have been no more than that. Saturnalia was not a Solstice festival. It was on December 17, and got popular enough to run through most of December. Why anyone in his right mind would propose a Christian religious festival designed to take the place of a drunken revel and then place it at the end of the revelry is a bit beyond me, but those who set out to ridicule the church never have any trouble making imbeciles out of the early church fathers.
The fact is, of course, that until Constantine there was no earthly glory in being a church father or a bishop or indeed in being a Christian (I forget which Emperor's Christian mistress negotiated the release of some Christians enslaved to the mines, but one did, so I suppose sometimes there was influence). There were periodic persecutions, some at the whim of an emperor, others by provincial officials who didn't like Christians; and of course then as now the security forces could always win a bit of favor by finding a plot and dealing harshly with it. (Think of Elizabethan England, where there was a bureaucracy whose livings depended on finding popish plots, or Titus Oates after the Restoration who did well swearing people's lives away until he went too far; and then there's modern times.) Until Constantine, being a Christian wasn't something done to get rich and famous.
I doubt that Aurelian instituted his Rebirth of the Sun holiday on 25 December as any reaction to Christian celebration of Christmas because the Christians of the time paid little attention to holidays to begin with. Easter would have been the big exception, for the obvious reason stated by Paul: "If Christ be not risen, then is all our faith in vain." After Constantine things were different, of course. See Macaulay on the subject of what happened to the Puritans after Cromwell was victorious. A persecuted sect holds the faithful; when it becomes successful and then victorious and official it attracts those who belong in the Sixth Bolgia. (For those unfamiliar with Dante, that's the place for the priests who do well by doing good.) But that's another matter.
Anyway for those who wrote to inform me that I have lost my mind, apologies: my sense of humor takes odd turns.
Incidentally, I am quite aware that Winterset festivals are common among pagans, the more so the more north you go. My Viking ancestors made a big thing out of the days getting longer again, as why wouldn't they?
I'll have mail after my morning walk. The above took up the time I had allotted for that.
Of course population decline isn't necessarily a bad thing, but in fact there is always one group willing to fill any niche. That's as true of races and populations as it is of species. White European population is declining but the population of Europe isn't really declining. Some see this as a Good Thing. It's certainly an important story.
David Em and Richard Doherty both call attention to
Article on property rights in Second Life in today's WaPo:
It is very much worth reading all of it.
Be very afraid.
No one seems to think about unintended consequences:
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were intended to make it easier for people to own houses. By putting so much money into the system they created an artificial boom, a bubble. The whole darned thing is fueled with money borrowed from China. The result is a bubble that has been a big boon to property tax collectors, but saddles the middle class with enormous debts. More debts come from college loans. We are a nation of debtors.
Of course one "solution" is to confiscate the foreign investments and debts and money loaned. That has been done before. Kings and Emperors used to do it with aplomb.
The housing "boom" has been pure inflation: my house is worth 25 times what I paid for it 40 years ago. That makes no sense whatever. To think that a housing boom is fueling an expanding economy, particularly when many of the construction jobs go to illegal immigrants and unskilled labor, is a form of insanity only an economist could exhibit. Most of us know better.
The US doesn't MAKE very much. We have a booming economy based on exporting jobs and importing the stuff the people whose jobs were exported used to make. And paying for it by borrowing from China. Water always runs downhill. Eventually it hits bottom.
Think of that. In debt to your ears... But he can always go into finance. Moving money around is very productive work.
But fear not, the kids will be protected:
Your tax dollars at work. I feel safer already.
> Jerry, here is an article you may find interesting: a
December 27, 2006
Extended discussion on IQ, poverty, and uncontrolled borders. Warning: this is not a politically correct discussion. We do not live in Lake Wobegon. The only way to be sure no child is left behind is to make certain that no child gets ahead.
This generates a crisis that is unresolved. Today's LA Times has an article on how the entire education system needs reforming and restructuring. I didn't bother to read it because Roberta did and reports that "They go together the usual experts and they all want more money."
As long as we insist, as Bill Gates did, that every child in the US is entitled to a world class University Prep education, we are doomed to have public schools that give that kind of education to no one, while doing nothing for the left side of the bell curve who need to be taught skills, not symbol manipulation and "education". It may be that there is nothing for the lower IQ citizens to do; but it is certain that there will be little employment for them among the symbol manipulators, although some may with personal charm be good at sales including sales of highly complex financial products that may or may not be scams.
A nation can only go so far when its major economic activity is moving money around in ever broader circles at increasing velocity. At some point someone must actually make something.
Providing for our less gifted -- i.e. "merely" average -- citizens ought to be one of the main subjects of intellectual thought; but in fact it is not because most intellectuals seem to believe that everyone is just like they are, they never having much to do with anyone who is not also an intellectual. This is one of the tragedies of the modern world, and could have been predicted -- as it was predicted in Herrnstein and Murray's The Bell Curve, a book that was denounced at a special session of the American Association for the Advancement of Science called for that purpose, and chaired by a man who proudly boasted that he had not read the book because he already knew it was nonsense. The meeting deteriorated from that but was loudly cheered by the "scientists" and science buffs present. I may have been the only one at the meeting who had actually read the book and had enough background in statistical inference to have an opinion on the conclusions. I don't say this in arrogance; a it is a simple statement of fact about that meeting. Those with any background in statistical inference (very few) were proud of not having read the book because they didn't need to.
Subject: Re: Steve Moore has also been backing away from "open borders"
In March 2006 Moore was still for a guest worker program. He believes that low IQ human beings are assets.
Moore described three principles of a sensible immigration policy. The U.S. should welcome legal but not illegal immigrants by enforcing secure borders and adopting a guest-worker program. The U.S. should "say yes to immigration, no to welfare." Finally, people in the U.S. should encourage the cultural assimilation of immigrants.
Moore aptly described the main difference between his perspective and that of Wooldridge. "I believe that human beings are assets," Moore said.
Which received the reply:
1) Low IQ people commit crime at much higher rates.
2) A slope of per capita GDP versus IQ shows that low IQ people not assets. Higher IQ people produce more when not surrounded by lower IQ people. Economically speaking the empirical evidence argues that low IQ humans are not assets. Again,the proof is there plain as day in the slope of a line of national per capita GDP versus national average IQ.
3) High IQ people can be recruited from low IQ nations because salaries for high IQ people are much higher in high IQ nations. If lower IQ people were not holding back incomes of higher IQ people then I wouldn't be working with any smart Indians (and I am).
4) There is lots of useful work that ought to be done by machine that is getting done by humans only because the illegal alien labor is cheap. This is a disincentive to the development of automated equipment. For example, California orchards do not use picking equipment that Australian and European orchards use. Instead California orchards use more ladder labor.
5) If lots of useful work existed for low IQ people then their incomes would have risen since the early 1970s. Well, didn't happen.
6) Lower IQ people will vote for Robin Hood taxes. Some smarter people with sympathy for their woes will join them. Few people want to see poor people turned away at hospitals due to inability to pay. Yet the cost of medical care is going up much more rapidly than the wages of lower IQ people. Rising wage inequality means that lower IQ people have a decreasing ability to buy services from higher IQ people. Hence they support the very taxes that you so vehemently oppose.
== And also the reply:
Subject: Re: Low-IQ human beings *are* assets
Even if the poor magically became libertarians tomorrow and refused all government aid they'd still cost us more. How?
2) Higher accident rates,.
3) Lower rates of insurance and lower coverage levels. They have less to lose.
4) Dumber citizens. They can't vote wisely, notice things that are wrong that should get fixed (e.g. they lack Peter's skills for analysing failures in public financing), and otherwise are less likely to make contributions that cause things to go well (e.g. they are too dumb to volunteer as tutors).
5) Dumber customers. Take a market. Raise the IQ of all buyers by 20 IQ points. Will quality of products and services rise? Of course. Intelligenctly demanding customers make for better suppliers. The people who compare cars, compare stereos, compare sock brands, etc all raise the quality of what is on offer.
You missed the biggest impact of all, schools. The consequences are at least two-fold. First, middle-class families have to either flee, endure absurd commutes, or pay private school tuition. This is one of Jim's favorite themes, rightfully so. Second, precisely because they (the kids of the poor) fail, there is endless pressure to spend more money on public education attempting to overcome the inevitable dismal outcomes. The entire battle over "fiscal equity" amounts to this to this dispute.
Roughly stated, everyone knows that the kids of the poor perform at very low levels in school. Since, no one is willing to tell the truth in public (that little can really be done, at least within the confines of the status quo), we have relentless demands to "solve" the problem by spending more money.
I rank crime as the second largest impact.
As well as:
This is a nice theory. However, the poor don't pay their own way and aren't likely to ever do so. Remember they vote for the welfare state that supports them.
A useful data point is that Hispanic Republicans are to the left of white Democrats in supporting the welfare state. Don't even ask about Hispanic Democrats.
I once personally asked Stephen Moore (by Email) about this. Specifically, "who will pay for the health care for the unskilled labor you are so eager to import?". His answer was "they will pay for it themselves".
This is the worldview of someone completely divorced from reality.
December 28, 2006
For those who have been following my comments on schools, it should be obvious that I don't in fact believe that half the population are useless and cannot contribute to a thriving economy. Quite the opposite. What I don't believe is that the entire population can be profitably engaged in symbol manipulation including moving money around in circles, or writing books, or being intellectuals. Indeed, if everyone were an intellectual we'd all starve. It may require only 10% of the population to grow and distribute food now (as opposed to about 80% when the country was founded) but it certainly does require those who are needed; we'd all be dead without them.
Nor do I think it an elitist notion that we ought to tailor our schools to accommodate those who aren't going to profit from "a world class university prep education." Mr. Gates may insist that this is everyone's right, but it isn't, and it's not a good idea anyway. Certainly no more than half the population will benefit from a world class university prep education. Whether half the population ought to go to college is a subject worth discussing, but surely it is obvious that all shouldn't?
Half the children are below average. Everyone seems shocked at that statement, and some begin using scatological language when it's said. Alas it remains true.
Our schools must have some kind of education for those who will not be symbol manipulators and stock salesmen. For the most part the school system does not serve those people well, in large part because it insists on the goal of a world class university prep education for everyone. It can't achieve that, and in trying it gives nothing to those at average and below, but by trying gives far less than it could to those above average. No one is well served. Thus those who can send their children to private schools. That includes, last I heard, more than half of the public school teachers.
Free Trade, Open Borders, and a Welfare State is a formula for disaster. The results are easily predicted. Add thoroughly unrealistic public schools that cost $11,000 per student (in California at least) and you have a formula for rapid achievement of disaster.
Joanne Dow's Daily Diatribes are up through 27 December 2006. There is considerable information in these, as well as her comments. I find myself reading them when I'm posting them. I do no editing; that content is hers, and I see no point in inserting passages indicating agreement or disagreement. My Muslim friends -- and I have some, particularly in Turkey -- are often appalled at these, but I haven't seen much in refutation. I again extend the offer to post responses (as opposed to denunciations).
Apparently they did it. We will see what happens in Iraq now.
Golly. I didn't get one to keep. IBM wants their unit back. Sigh.
It is now time to do the column and mail bags.
December 31, 2006
Happy New Year
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