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Mail 499 December 24 - 30, 2008
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December 24, 2007
David Starkey criticises the Queen: <http://www.guardian.co.uk/monarchy/story/0,,2231413,00.html
Climate cost of all decisions to be assessed: <http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2007/dec/22/climatechange.carbonemissions
Air passenger chaos here: <http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2007/dec/22/theairlineindustry.transport
> <http://tinyurl.com/2w9kp5> <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article3085254.ece
Religious studies coursework causes concern: <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/7155844.stm
Vista's long good bye: <http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/12/20/more_vista_copying_problems/
The Royal Mail is slow this year, too: <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/12/22/nonline122.xml
Harry Erwin, PhD, Program Leader, MSc Information Systems Security, University of Sunderland.
Weblog at: <http://scat-he-g4.sunderland.ac.uk/~harryerw/blog/index.php>
And a Merry Christmas to you.
"Tent city in suburbs is cost of home crisis"
and then note this quote from the body of the story (emphasis added):
"While no current residents claim to be victims of foreclosure, all agree that tent city is a symptom of the wider economic downturn. And it's just a matter of time before foreclosed families end up at tent city, local housing experts say.
Oh boy, with "journalism" like this (from Reuters, no less!), can you IMAGINE what we are in for when there ARE families in those tent camps that DID lose their homes becuase of a bad loan?
This is going to be "interesting". It always is when two groups of idiots (bad journalists and stupid homebuyers in this case) get together. After all, look what happened when Stupid Homebuyers got together with Rapacious Amoral (OKAY, pretty much AVERAGE) Mortgage Brokers. (It helps to remember that the "mort" in "mortgage" means "death". That might tend to concentrate the mind wonderfully when taking one out.
I have entirely mixed emotions on all this. In the old days before government sponsored institutions like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac began consolidating loans into huge bundles and selling them off to raise new capital to plough back into the system and thus feed the bubble, mortgage holders and owners in trouble had a personal relationship. You knew who was foreclosing on you. They knew who you were, and whether you were likely to try to make good on your debts. It's never good for a community to have foreclosures and foreclosure sales. Home ownership is a good thing for a Republic; that was the good intention behind setting up the Veterans' loans and FHA and their descendents. It is never good for the banks to have foreclosures.
The result was often a workout that mitigated the effects of a big downturn in the economy and the bursting of bubbles -- indeed, having some relationship between financer and owner made for fewer bubbles in the first place.
I have little sympathy for house flippers. "Speculators" have been the enemies of the solid middle class for a long time -- read headlines from newspapers in Andy Jackson's day. I enjoyed Charles Erskine Scott Wood's Heavenly Discourses as an undergraduate, and I found his dictum the "The stupid shall not enter Heaven" amusing as undergraduates do, but I can't really rejoice that a number of gullible people where talked into taking out loans they had no business getting -- but which the lenders had n0 business making. If I have to feel sorry for someone it would be for the dolt who took out a mortgage he had no hope of paying, rather than the speculator who bet that the dolt would be able to sell out and pay off leaving someone else stuck with the consequences.
If the lenders were stupid enough to lend when there was no chance of collecting, perhaps the softest way out of the mess we built ourselves by letting unrestricted greed assisted by government sponsored agencies have its way with the housing market would be a moratorium on rising mortgage payments. The people harmed are the lenders who certainly ought to have known better.
The nation has to take an economic dose of salts, but then our whole economy is more and more built on dreams and air. (As is my living: I tell stories and sing for my supper; fortunately for me, bards do well in both booms and busts.)
In this Christmas season I have more sympathy for Bob Cratchit than Ebenezer Scrooge. Now if we could only identify the Scrooges, who tend to be hidden through some of the most complicated financial packaging in the history of the world...
|This week:||Tuesday, December 25, 2007|
December 26, 2007
December 27, 2007
December 28, 2007
Equality in all things.
-- Roland Dobbins
Subject: Bhutto Assassination
Dear Mr Pournelle:
My wife continues to express her amazement and disapproval whenever I visit your website because you are so elitist and disrespectful. However; after the Bhutto assassination hit the news I couldn't resist the temptation to check in to see how you and the other PaleoCons are doing. Before I hurl any firebombs, I'd like to express my sympathies about your continuing health problems. As difficult as the palsy will be, it appears that it isn't terminal.
I'd also like to express my respect for your willingness to acknowledge that the surge seems to be making some progress. While Bush has acknowledged the need for more troops, this success has been accomplished with far fewer than the million plus boots on the ground (at two boots per soldier that is half a million troops) that you and the other paleocons were insisting would be needed prior to and after the initial invasion. It should be acknowledged that this success has been accomplished by developing an understanding of and a relationship with the tribal sheiks who have traditionally governed the region. In spite of Bush's rhetoric about spreading democracy, Iraq is obviously going to evolve into something more akin to a representative republic with at least one branch of the government dominated by the traditional tribal elders rather than popular vote. However; this new Iraq will be an even greater contrast to the authoritarian dictatorships that you and the other PaleoCons so eagerly support.
I also wish to express my respect for your steadfast defense of the troops against those who would denigrate them as mercenaries or government paid flunkies. I know many people who come from circumstances that afforded them virtually unlimited choices who've chosen to go into the military because they truly want to serve their country. I truly regret not making that choice when I was younger, but Carter had just pardoned all of the draft dodgers when I cam of age and I didn't serve a liberal military. Too many people of all political stripes lack the intellectual honesty to acknowledge that other people who are intelligent and well educated can have opinions different from their own.
You continue to argue that the resources invested in Iraq would have been better spent on developing energy in dependence. My response is to point out that expensive as the Iraq war has been, the expenditure is still small compared to the size of the federal, much less state and local budgets. Your counter response is that in the wake of 9-11-01, President Bush should have expended his political capital on energy in dependance. Are you advocating a massive government bureaucracy similar to NASA which has destroyed our space program to impose national energy policy? I'd prefer to follow Bush's course of allowing private enterprise to make the decisions about which alternative energy sources to develop and how to develop them. Unfortunately, we do have in place a series of idiotic regulations, tax incentives and subsidies which severely distort the market and undermine the rationality of investment decisions.
The continuing debate concerning energy policy reminds me of your chronic skepticism about democracy. While it would be idiotic of me to not acknowledge that the fundamental premise of democracy - that everyone's voice has equal value - is fatally flawed, are the self proclaimed elites going to make more intelligent decisions? While you would certainly support the notion that a monied, college educated elite should become the ruling class, my own observations of politics is that it is precisely this class that is adopting the stupidest positions regarding energy policy. In my discussions with people I've discovered that high school dropouts are invariably more pragmatic than people with college degrees or post graduate education. It is the uneducated folks who can understand a cogent explanation that the claim that nuclear wastes are extremely radioactive and have an extremely long half-life is a semantic contradiction while their more educated counterparts stubbornly cling to the fallacy. My suspicion is that the elites are subconsciously choosing to support stupid policies because they are confident that their privileged positions will allow them to prosper or at least survive the economic chaos that would result while the less advantaged will be destroyed.
On this last note, there is an interesting article on the Drudge report concerning how the alleged ecological effects of global warming will destroy the social and religious conservatives and leave the liberals in power. Aside from the fact that the basic assumptions about climate change are completely fraudulent, the presumptions that people from the rural heartland will be forced to assume a subservient position to their liberal, urban overlords is somewhat suspect. I recall that the Huns were driven by environmental difficulties to first make alliance with the Roman empire then war against it.
Ever since the 2000 elections when Karnac the Magnificient was empowered to devine the true intentions of the voters, I've feared that the fundamental respect for the rule of law which allows democracy to function has been mortally wounded. The continuing vitriol concerning Iraq confirms my fears. There are a host of calamities ranging from nuclear terrorism to economic depression or climate change which could unleash anarchy. When that happens liberals are going to be dismayed to discover the that ultimately, political power flows from the barrell of a gun. While there are some exceptions, the political schism that now exists is devided between hoplites such as myself on the conservative side and hopliphobes such as your gentled neighbors on the other. If a civil war does erupt, it isn't going to last very long.
Your summary of my position shows you ought to visit more often.
Regarding pacification of Iraq: I never said we would need 2 million troops on the ground, and I don't know who you are quoting as my spokesperson. I said then and say now that armies break things and kill people, and using the Legions for pacification is incompetent. When the US foresaw the occupation of Germany and Japan we began training of military government units -- auxiliaries -- to do that. Occupation and pacification requires entirely different skills -- and mind set -- from breaking an enemy army.
I also pointed out then, as did a number of our generals, that breaking the Iraqi dictatorship would not produce peace and democracy; and finally I said that what we needed was to empower local sheiks and tribal leaders, let them administer justice in their areas, and protect them. There is no such country as Iraq, and building a federal republic will take a great deal of time. It's not an impossible job but it is a terribly expensive one, and a job that our military isn't trained to do.
As to your contention that a trillion dollars isn't much money and there's plenty available to build energy independence as well as to continue to finance overseas adventures, I would have thought that our taxes and deficits are quite high enough now. There isn't much slack in the economy.
One more point: you said "While you would certainly support the notion that a monied, college educated elite should become the ruling class," a statement I read with astonishment. Bill Buckley once said "I'd rather be governed by the first 500 names in the Boston Telephone Directory than the faculty of Harvard University" and I can't think of many who would dispute it.
There will always be a ruling class. What I want is to limit its power over us, and where there is real personal power keep that local and responsible.
What I'd rather be governed by is a combination of local leaders, justices of the peace who live in their neighborhoods, school boards that control local schools and local taxation to finance them and hire the teachers and leave neighbors in the next community to run their schools as they wish; local constables who live in the neighborhoods they police and bring in the Big City cops only when they have to; and in general the horse whip theory of government: I want the guy who makes most of the decisions critical to my life to be accessible to a group of constituents with a horsewhip. I want Roe vs. Wade thrown out on the grounds of Federalism and States rights. I want Washington DC to be mostly irrelevant to my life, and make Congress learn to govern that city before it tries to govern me directly.
This isn't the place to write an essay summarizing what I think, but your wife clearly keeps you from reading enough of my work.
December 29, 2007
A family day.
|This week:||Sunday, December
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