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Archive for January, 2012

A Caution

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

[ by Charles Cameron — crowdsourcing and ye olde fine line between genius and insanity revisited ]

Surowiecki should really have titled his book Extraordinary Popular Intuitions and the Wisdom of Crowds, no?

John Robb’s New Site – Resilient Communities

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

Via Shlok, cutting edge thinker, strategist and amigo  John Robb has launched a new site, add it to your daily “must read” list or blogroll:

Resilient Communities

What Resilient Communities .com does

How do you take control of your life in an increasingly unstable world?

  1. Decide.  Right now, your success is akin a cork on an increasingly turbulent ocean.  Change that. Make the decision to take control of your future.  This decision requires a change in mindset and perspective.
  2. Act.  Take steps to actively reduce your dependencies and gain degrees of freedom.  Learn how to produce what you need at a level that meets or exceeds what you currently buy.  Learn how to make an income either locally or online in a way that has meaning and substance.
  3. Align.  Network with other people that want control and meaning in their lives too.  Learn how to build or join online networks with the people who have the expertise to help you become resilient and/or share similar goals.  Learn how to raise capital from that community to fund projects — or — how to build the online network required to design and build useful new products or services.
  4. Community.  Build, join, or move to a local community that’s dedicated to building a resilient future.  A community that isn’t dependent on a global system run amok or vulnerable to disruptions.  A community that you can trust.  A community that rewards your contribution with reciprocal loyalty.  Learn how to form a community that’s worth living in and how to propel that community into a stable, bountiful future.

The goal of this site is to help you with every step along that path.

The End

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

The End by Ian Kershaw

I have a deadline to meet this week for a publisher, so my posts are going to be short and to the point.

Just received the above title as a gift from my father-in-law. Having read Kershaw’s 2 volume bio of Hitler, as a historian, he merits the accolade “critically acclaimed” and is one of number that I direct students to read who express an interest in WWII or the history of the Third Reich. Here Kershaw explores the Nazi Gotterdammerung of 1944-45; a worthwhile lesson for those who hold supreme confidence in the ultimate rationality of states in existential matters of war and peace.

That Hitler had been unfathomable to the blinkered and idealistic Neville  Chamberlain seems all too comprehensible, but that the Fuhrer also took in the wily, Georgian monster who ruled of the USSR is less so – until you grasp Hitler’s obsession with triumph or death.  In matters of war the difference between the 20th century’s greatest dictators was that Josef Stalin miscalculated on small stakes while Adolf Hitler gambled for the pot.


Changing of the Guard at SWJ

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

Occasional ZP commenter and SWJ Editor and author Major Mike Few passes the editorial torch to Major Peter J. Munson, USMC author, blogger and occasional ZP commenter:

Dave Dilegge – Small Wars Journal Change of Command

Though a change, it is not one of command. Peter Munson has replaced Mike Few as our editor.  Mike took SWJ to a new level we only hoped to attain and Peter’s vision will ensure we stay on that upward climb. Many thanks to both as we keep on, keepin’ on.

Carl Prine– Small Wars Journal Change of Command 

I’m not sure what this particular change of command entails – perhaps the ceremonial exchange of a mouse pad, followed by light refreshments and the appearance of some brown-nosing First Sergeant to congratulate both of them excessively, all done online of course – but I thought it would be nice to highlight some of the intellectual firepower they expended here as we wish them well.

We’ll start with Few who spent his sentence at SWJ largely making it relevant again after it fell into a fat vat of who gives a **** following the so-called “Surge” in Iraq.  Because Munson also suffers no fools, he’ll take on SWJ’s apparently unceasing flood of submissions with a well-sharpened pencil and a stubby eraser.

Best replacement possible.

Peter J. Munson – SWJ Editor

In my first post here, I would like to thank Dave Dillege and Bill Nagle for taking me on as editor of the Journal and for helping to start getting me snapped in to my new duties.  In the next week, I will be working through the pending submissions and figuring out the website, so bear with me as I get up to speed.  I hope to carry on the great work that Mike Few did during his tenure as editor, getting relevant and timely content to you, the reader.  More to follow this week as I get to work.

Hearty congratulations to Peter and all of us here hope that we will continue to see Mike in a larger role of author at SWJ and elsewhere!




Recommended Reading – Articles

Sunday, January 22nd, 2012

Three articles suitable for an election year where our elite embraces a variety of oligarchic policies because they benefit themselves personally and despite evidence that these policies are inefficient, socially harmful, anti-democratic and corrupting of the body politic.

Charles Murray –The New American Divide 

America is coming apart. For most of our nation’s history, whatever the inequality in wealth between the richest and poorest citizens, we maintained a cultural equality known nowhere else in the world—for whites, anyway. “The more opulent citizens take great care not to stand aloof from the people,” wrote Alexis de Tocqueville, the great chronicler of American democracy, in the 1830s. “On the contrary, they constantly keep on easy terms with the lower classes: They listen to them, they speak to them every day.”

Americans love to see themselves this way. But there’s a problem: It’s not true anymore, and it has been progressively less true since the 1960s.

…..Similarly large clusters of SuperZIPs can be found around New York City, Los Angeles, the San Francisco-San Jose corridor, Boston and a few of the nation’s other largest cities. Because running major institutions in this country usually means living near one of these cities, it works out that the nation’s power elite does in fact live in a world that is far more culturally rarefied and isolated than the world of the power elite in 1960.

And the isolation is only going to get worse. Increasingly, the people who run the country were born into that world. Unlike the typical member of the elite in 1960, they have never known anything but the new upper-class culture. We are now seeing more and more third-generation members of the elite. Not even their grandparents have been able to give them a window into life in the rest of America.

Pete Kofd – Rise of the Praetorian Class 

….The Praetorian Class includes members of the Armed Services, federal, state and local law enforcement personnel as well as numerous militarized officials including agents from the DEA, Immigrations, Customs Enforcement, Air Marshalls, US Marshalls, and more. It also includes, although to a lesser extent, various stage actors in the expanding security theater such as TSA personnel. The main mission of the Praetorian Class is to keep the order of the day. This requires displaying an intimidating presence in their interactions with the Economic Class.

As the Praetorian Class ascends, the clear, albeit unstated, message that emerges is that actions and events in the Economic Class only occur with its tacit consent. Whether driving on roads, traveling in the air, visiting public land, walking down the street or even living in your own home, every action you take is predicated on its permission. By preconditioning the populace to enforcement of its edicts, most of which are completely arbitrary, the Praetorian Class sets itself up for a high degree of autonomy in its actions. This is confirmed by the fact that consequences for malfeasance within the Praetorian Class are almost never observed, and when it happens, it typically becomes a grotesque spectacle in which one of their own is sacrificed as an example, so as to keep appearances of effective internal controls. 

Daron Acemoglu –Why Do Nations Fail?

….That got me onto a path of research that has been trying to understand, theoretically and empirically, how institutions shape economic incentives and why institutions vary across nations. How they evolve over time. And the politics of institutions, meaning, not just economically which institutions are better than others, but why is it that certain different types of institutions stick?

What I mean by that is, it wouldn’t make sense, in terms of economic growth, to have a set of institutions that ban private property or create private property that is highly insecure, where I can encroach on your rights. But politically, it might make a lot of sense.

If I have the political power, and I’m afraid of you becoming rich and challenging me politically, then it makes a lot of sense for me to create a set of institutions that don’t give you secure property rights. If I’m afraid of you starting new businesses and attracting my workers away from me, it makes a lot of sense for me to regulate you in such a way that it totally kills your ability to grow or undertake innovations.

So, if I am really afraid of losing political power to you, that really brings me to the politics of institutions, where the logic is not so much the economic consequences, but the political consequences. This means that, say, when considering some reform, what most politicians and powerful elites in society really care about is not whether this reform will make the population at large better off, but whether it will make it easier or harder for them to cling to power.

Walter Russell Meade – Establishment Blues 

….The American people aren’t perfect yet and never will be — but by the standards that matter to the Establishment, this is the best prepared, most open minded and most socially liberal generation in history.  Unsatisfactory as the American people may be from the standpoints of Georgetown and Manhattan, this is as good as it gets.  Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and Harry Truman could only dream of the kind of sophisticated and cosmopolitan understanding that folks in Peoria have now compared to the old days.

The American people are less prejudiced, more globally aware and more willing to meet other cultures and societies halfway than ever before.  Minorities today are better protected in law and more fairly treated by the public than ever in our history.  No previous generation has been as determined to give women a fair chance in life, or to attack the foul legacy of racism.  The American people have never been as religiously tolerant as they are today, as concerned about the environment, or more willing to make sacrifices around the world to promote the peace and well being of humanity as a whole.

By contrast, we have never had an Establishment that was so ill-equipped to lead.  It is the Establishment, not the people, that is falling down on the job.

Here in the early years of the twenty-first century, the American elite is a walking disaster and is in every way less capable than its predecessors.  It is less in touch with American history and culture, less personally honest, less productive, less forward looking, less effective at and less committed to child rearing, less freedom loving, less sacrificially patriotic and less entrepreneurial than predecessor generations.  Its sense of entitlement and snobbery is greater than at any time since the American Revolution; its addiction to privilege is greater than during the Gilded Age and its ability to raise its young to be productive and courageous leaders of society has largely collapsed. 





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