The ramblings of an Eternal Student of Life     
. . . still studying and learning how to live
Thursday, September 27, 2018
Current Affairs ... Economics/Business ... Technology ...

We hear that many in the Democratic Party today are warming up to the idea of socialism; and that many young adults now favor socialism over capitalism.

One of the strongest criticisms of socialism, in academic terms anyway, came from the 20th Century philosopher and economist Fredrich Hayek. In a nutshell, Hayek said that the problem with socialism, relative to free market capitalism, regards information. According to Hayek, free markets make good and efficient use of economic information, automatically – no one oversees the information flow, but it works out in a very good way. Whereby, in a socialistic economy controlled by a centralized government, human intervention gets in the way of information flow, and makes the overall economy very inefficient.

A New York Times article put it this way —

[Hayek] argued that most of the knowledge in a modern economy was local in nature, and hence unavailable to central planners. The brilliance of a market economy was that it allocated resources through the decentralized decisions of a myriad of buyers and sellers who interacted on the basis of their own particular knowledge. The market was a form of “spontaneous order,” which was far superior to planned societies based on the hubris of Cartesian rationalism.

A web site dedicated to this “knowledge problem” includes this summary of Hayek:  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 5:11 pm       No Comments Yet / Leave a Comment
Monday, September 17, 2018
Current Affairs ... Society ... Sports ...

It appears to me that Nike has taken over the role once played by the Catholic Church, in that it can decide who is to be honored within the temple of progressivism with secular sainthood. Obviously, the latest one to be canonized is Colin Kaepernick. In the Nike liturgy of the saints, Kaepernick will be remembered for sacrificing his unfolding career as a highly talented NFL quarterback by publicly protesting police violence against African Americans and other forms of racism in our nation, thorough his practice of “taking a knee” during the playing of the national anthem at the start of a game.

This practice was started by Kaepernick, but soon spread to players in almost every team in the league. In general, it was not received well by the NFL’s white game viewers. One source indicates that about 70% of NFL players are black, whereas about 70% of NFL game viewers are white (by comparison, the US population is 61% white; as to blacks, they make up 16% of NFL viewership but 12% of the population; Hispanic and Asian-Americans together make up 24% of the population, but only 13% of NFL viewership).

By 2017, it was clear that a lot fewer whites were tuning in on NFL games; TV rating trends were clearly on the decline, and big money was being lost. The first two weeks of the 2018 NFL season are showing mixed viewing results, however.

Therefore, according to the Nike litany, NFL officials and team owners banded together to make sure that Kaepernick is forever barred  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 8:26 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Thursday, September 6, 2018
Personal Reflections ... Photo ...

 »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 6:58 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Friday, August 31, 2018
Current Affairs ... Technology ... Weather ...

Eight years ago, I posted some words here about whether climate change was as serious as it was being made out to be, and whether the evidence that global warming was being caused primarily by man-made CO2 and other greenhouse gasses was as solid as climate advocates had asserted. Today, given the evolving weather trends over the past decade or so, I tend to be more sympathetic to the view that climate change is real, and I generally agree that the trend is towards higher temperatures
(both air temps and sea temps) and more instability in established weather patterns.

Personally, I don’t think that emission reduction or green energy strategies are going to do much to stem the change, at least not in the next few years or even decades. In the longer term, technology will make our industrial and transport infrastructure more efficient and less dependent upon carbon-based fuels. “Renewables” (aka “green energy” sources such as wind and solar generators) along with nuclear power now meet about 21% of global energy demand. This will get close to 25% by 2020.

Renewables and nuclear might hit 50-50 parity with carbon-based fossil fuels by around 2070, according to some optimistic projections; these scenarios assume that carbon-based fuel use starts declining by 2020. However, a 2016 US Energy Information Agency projection (made during the Obama Administration) indicates that carbon fuel usage will continue to grow thru 2040. In the EIA scenario, renewables and nuclear account for  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 6:42 am       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Wednesday, August 22, 2018
Philosophy ... Science ... Society ...


Imagine meeting a person from a different, far away place – and in that different, far away place, people get first names and last names, just like us

BUT – each person from this far away place gets a set of multiple first names, and multiple last names; E.g., the person can be [George, Martin, Louis, Roger] + [Smith, Edwards, Ortiz, Russo]. Also, every second or so, the combination changes, more or less randomly. We can’t know why right now — maybe it’s because their brains evolved differently than ours, maybe it’s because of cultural differences, could be a lot of things. But for now, we just need to accept that there’s something different about  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 7:23 am       No Comments Yet / Leave a Comment
Thursday, August 9, 2018
Current Affairs ... Politics ... Society ...

I’m not the only person these days who wonders if American society is becoming one big dysfunctional family. Or to what degree is it really “one” anymore. “One Nation Under God, Indivisible”? There sure seem to be a lot of divisions these days. Some pundits even talk about the coming of a “New Civil War” or a “Soft Civil War”.

They don’t anticipate another territorial shooting war led by a modern Robert E. Lee or William Tecumseh Sherman, but they do see increasing social and economic polarization that could cause large-scale disruptions in interstate trade, citizen mobility, cultural interchange, and political cooperation between regions and through other ways of dividing people. Today’s version of Bull Run, Chickamauga, Gettysburg, Seven Days and Shiloh may be fought largely on-line, given how important the internet and social media has become to so many areas of daily life. America today has quite a number of ways in which people seem to be dividing into “them versus us” groups. Of course, the big divisor seems to be political beliefs and philosophies (progressives versus conservatives, etc.), but in some ways, it even appears that men and women are preparing for battle!

For instance, we now have a cable TV series that picks up where #MeToo leaves off, i.e. about a female terrorist movement that kills men (i.e. Dietland, which I have been watching this summer). In the original American Civil War, the battles were between the same two governments. In a 21st Century version, the combatants will be different for most every major battle.  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 9:17 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Tuesday, July 10, 2018
Current Affairs ...

I’m glad to read that the rescue of the boy’s soccer team (the Wild Boars) that became stranded in a flooded cave in Thailand was successful.

This is one of those slow-motion rescue stories that draws public attention now and then. Every so many years here in the USA, there is (or used to be) a mine incident where workers get trapped, and rescuers race against the clock to get them out alive. The drama of these situations is like catnip to the masses, and when it works and the rescue is successful (the more dangerous the better!), everyone feels a bit of a lift. Humankind shows that it can still come together when nature threatens one or a small group of its members, and we all feel better about our tribe. Perhaps a rescue incident helps us to forget for a few minutes about all the rotten things that we do to each other in the normal course of events.

So, the public got what it wanted from the Tham Luang Cave rescue. Except that there was a bit of tragedy, one brave diver died in the effort. I didn’t see too many articles about the man, a Mr. Saman Gunan, in the US press; to read about him, you had to seek out the various tributes published in the British, Australian and New Zealand press.  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 9:07 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Saturday, July 7, 2018
Photo ...

It’s after 10, and the local Oriental restaurant has closed its doors. The staff has cleaned up and gone home, but it looks like the proprietor’s family has decided to take a break and review the day with each other, before locking up for the night. I like this scene; there’s something almost Edward Hopper-ish about it (yes, I’m thinking about Nighthawks and Automat, two of Hopper’s more famous works).

◊   posted by Jim G @ 2:48 pm       No Comments Yet / Leave a Comment
Thursday, June 28, 2018
Current Affairs ... Politics ...

In my last post, I reviewed the 2020 Presidential primary situation for the Democrats, and concluded that Senator Kamala Harris is starting to emerge from the fog as an early favorite for the nomination. I considered some of the pros and cons for Harris, including her strategic positioning amidst potential Democratic voting blocks in November, and concluded that she would have a fighting chance of beating Donald Trump, especially if Trump continues to alienate Hispanics. However, I opined that Senator Harris still needs to “up her game” a bit to achieve the stature of a national leader (and towards achieving nation-wide name recognition — in that vein, I have noticed that CNN and MSNBC are giving Senator Harris a lot more air-time these days).

Although I respect Senator Harris and I would sincerely consider supporting and voting for her in 2020, my personal favorite potential candidate remains Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota. Interestingly, both Harris and Klobuchar are former prosecutors and former Attorneys General. In a previous blog post, I explained why I believed that Klobuchar could win and would be a good President. And I stand by that opinion one year later.

However, being a political realist, I understand that Harris is closer to “where the Party is” today, with its continuing leftward shift. And I will admit that Harris, as an African American (actually, the child of a Tamil Indian mother and a Nigerian father – or roughly akin to Barack Obama with his American Caucasian mother and his Kenyan father), can probably inspire higher levels of black turnout, which could make the difference in several of the midwestern swing states that Clinton lost in 2016. I believe that Senator Klobuchar would also have the chance of taking  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 8:11 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
Thursday, June 21, 2018
Current Affairs ... Politics ...

I’ve seen some recent articles written by informed political observers (Salena Zito and Tim Swarens) indicating that Trump has a pretty decent chance of winning a second Presidential term in 2020. We’re still more than 2 years away from the 2020 election, but at the same time we’ve had Trump in the White House now for 18 months. Despite a lot of outrageous words and actions, his Presidency seems nowhere near collapse, notwithstanding the predictions of some that Trump would be gone within 2 years (e.g., John Kerry reportedly told an associate of Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in January that Trump would be likely be out of the White House by the end of 2018). Despite approval ratings that bounce between 38 and 44%, support for Trump within the GOP remains strong, although there are some early signs that his popularity in the Midwest is beginning to wane.

Still, it looks as though the Democrats may not have an easy time retaking the White House in 2020 (we will obviously get a better fix on that following the mid-term Congressional elections this November). Democrats have some heavy thinking to do regarding who their best candidate might be. The 2020 primary field for the Dems is just starting to focus, and the situation seems to parallel the GOP situation for 2016. I.e., there are a wide range of figures expressing or hinting at their interest, with no one predominating (as Clinton did in 2016, or Trump does now with the GOP). It’s likely to be a horse-race, where the strongest runners won’t emerge from the pack until late in the process.

The biggest strategic question for the Dems is whether they should attempt recapturing some of the white working-class voters that largely defected to Trump in 2016, or whether to double-down on their “new coalition” of educated professionals and working-class people of color. This choice appears to be  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 9:14 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
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