The Meme Merchant Culture Society went out the other night to a house hoot, for the first time in many ages, as a possible encouragement to use our French with people who actually speak French for a living, even if they are from the tail end of the Francophone world and tend to get a lot of grief from the Parisian epicenter of the Francophone world about their pronunciation and grammar. C’est la vie. This particular evening’s experience was a musical encounter with Québécois folk music trio Le Bruit Court Dans La Ville,“The buzz around town” more or less, le bruit court [literally ‘the noise short’] may also be rendered as “rumor has it,” though we are not sure if there is a Québécois vs Parisien distinction here – possible.
This is not another music blog, this is a blog mostly about odd ideas; in the course of the evening we encountered enough unusual ideas to be worthy of promotion of the evening’s experience to a blog post. The first odd idea was not that three Québécoises should be trying to make a living reviving a declining folk music tradition by giving concerts in people’s living rooms aux Etats Unis – a worthy idea – but not that odd. The first odd idea was that in the Québécois folk music scene, les pieds [the feet] are an instrument you are likely to find credited in an album’s liner notes – extraordinaire. The second odd idea is that in addition to the usual stories of marital infidelity by wife, or husband you may also find reference a theme of the now largely defunct Social Credit movement.
FAIR WARNING – you may have some reading to do. This article is mostly a slim collation of other articles you may want to read if you want to bring yourself up to speed on the subject of ‘energy access’ and energy poverty.
The other day Pielke the Younger unwittingly, handed me the perfect graphic to illustrate the scope of the problem that lies at the crux of the good humored dispute I have been having with Willis Eschenbach from WUWT regarding Willis’s scheme for The Powerhouse School Concept.
Willis’s rural power generation and transmission scheme for the rural poor arose out of his insight that Expensive Energy Kills Poor People, an insight with which I am in total agreement with Willis. The problem I see with Willis’s scheme is that it doesn’t go far enough to solve the real problem of energy access in the developing world. I commented at Willis’s article at WUWT and expanded upon that comment here with my article Powerhouse School Project-unintended consequences of what works.
I was fisked today [in a gentle way], it was actually a small honor in this case, the author of The Powerhouse School Concept bog post I wrote about yesterday, Willis Eschenbach, did me the honor of taking some of his time to respond to my comment almost point by point. I actually appreciate this kind of critique, and in this case also garnered some appreciation for some of the points I was making and general agreement on others.
As far as I know Willis hasn’t figured out that the ping-backs to his post are coming from here and hasn’t read either of these two posts. Or, maybe he has better things to do. Of course he is welcome to comment or guest post here.
I think the greatest bone of contention arose between Willis and I over my insisting on emphasizing the importance of economic development for the adults in his community based scheme, which Willis seemed to interpret as a downplay of his scheme’s educational aspect. This was not my intent at all. My intent was to express that both were equally important and that there was a danger of one undermining the other.
Willis Eschenbach, one of the regular authors and commenter over at WUWT has a thought provoking new article up: The Powerhouse School Concept, This article is a further development of his thoughts on bringing low cost electricity to the rural poor of the world who are suffering grave hardships, disease, and excessive mortality due to their reliance on expensive or dirty biomass fuels and coal.
Access to energy is one of the big global issues that has hovered around the fringes of international policy discussions such as the Millennium Development Goals or climate policy, but which has been getting more attention in recent years. In my frequent lectures on climate policy I point out to people that 1.3 billion people worldwide lack any access to electricity and an 2.6 billion more cook with wood, charcoal, tree leaves, crop residues and animal waste (an additional 400 million cook with coal).
The “success” scenarios of climate advocates hoping to power the world with carbon-free energy almost always leave a billion or more people in the dark and several billion cooking with dirty fuels. Sometimes, magic is invoked to suggest that “electricity can be brought to everyone” without appreciably increasing carbon emissions. Of course, if we could bring electricity to the 1.3 billion without any access with no effect on emissions, then we could probably do it for 6 billion others.
In response, amplifying Pielke the Younger’s argument in comments I wrote:
People send me things. Original attribution unknown
This came across the electronic desktop this morning, sent to me by a friend.
Here’s a quick syllogism on the subject. Rothschild is a bank, banks enable modernity and development therefore banks are found where ever you find development and or modernity.
To a certain extent Rothschild in particular may also be self-serving to the point of being evil – much like any trans-national corporation whose corporate controllers no longer have any ties of either: friendship, kinship, nationality, culture, or interests with the vast majority of the people they serve and the only people they have any genuine ties with are their fellow controllers of trans-national institutions in government, business, and academia.
The real problem seems to be much more that “the global village” is still very much a zero-sum tribal affair where trans-national quasi-individuals are either in naked collusion with one another or are involved in the kind of cattle rustling operations favored by the archaic warrior prince.
The only real antidote to the problem is societal evolution. We need better people, fortunately evolution is hard at work on the problem.
A torrent of scholarship cleanses the Augean Stables [The Twelve Labors of Hercules, 1808, colorized by Atani]
Turn your back for one moment and you find yourself three or four posts behind the power curve.
It seems in the last week since my previous post, Landes, Landes, Taleb and MemeMerchants, that there has been an avalanche of scholarship over at TheAugeanStables. My previous post noted the recent congruencies between this blog and Prof. Richard Landes and his blog TheAugeanStables, regarding some ideas about the dialectic of “cultural capital” and “societies that make things vs societies that take things”, the current bit torrent over at TheAugeanStables greatly expands the previous enterprise into interesting and new dimensions about the origin of civil polity in the West.
Two days ago I noticed that Prof. Richard Landes had posted a second in a series of articles at his blog, regarding the fallout from the recent “culture counts” controversy surrounding US Presidential candidate Mitt Romney over remarks he made during a recent visit to Israel, for which he received wide spread criticism, especially from Palestinians who felt slighted by Mr. Romney’s remarks.
Yesterday I posted a comment there and then set to working that idea up into a new post here. As I was getting set to post that article here, I noticed that I had in missed the real second article in the series over at Landes’ blog and I had actually read article number three, and that as I was typing he had posted two new articles.
There has been an interesting congruence this week between the workings of the Meme Merchants Consortium and Richard Landes’s, blog the Augean Stables, which has been cited here before on several occasions, most recently: Poison in the Well of Culture. Landes’s latest article, Romney Cites Landes, Offends Palestinians is a discussion of the recent controversy surrounding US Presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s suggestion that key differences in Palestinian and Israeli culture are responsible for the stark divide between the two societies economic productivity.
In reading Landes’s article I was struck by the congruence between our separate conclusions about two ostensibly different societies, in Landes’s case the Palestinians of the 21st century, and in the Meme Merchants case the Barbary Corsairs of the 16th to 19th centuries. Landes concludes [emphasis mine]:
On the other hand, Arab political culture, amply embodied by the Palestinian variety, promotes a cultue of contempt for hard work by leisured elites, widespread commitment to zero-sum games of dominance, an distrust of intellectual openness and external influences, a strong emphasis on rote learning and respecting those older and more powerful, hostility to women in the public sphere, ubiquitous protection rackets (e.g., Arafat the PA), a violent repression of public criticism… in a phrase, a culture dedicated to taking, not making.
The Defenestration of Prague - Matthäus Merian the Elder, copperplate engraving
Chiefio, someone who’s blog I frequent because I enjoy his “mind pleasers” and general thinking style, has a new post entitled, “Defenestration of Prague”, an event in European history that has been a favorite topic of mine for some time, so I am pleased whenever I see it turn up.
Naturally I felt impelled to add my two cents – which Chiefio may regret, but how was he to know? Live and learn I guess.
Basically, Chiefio takes us down a rather long winded boustrophedon from present geopolitical concerns regarding Euro-American troubles with everything going on generally East and South of the Bosporus back through history to the origins of our modern Occident/Orient conflicts in the aftermath of the Thirty Years War and the events of the Defenestration of Prague which precipitated it.
For over two thousand years the idea of a ‘Black Swan’ has been synonymous with something that does not exist or cannot exist, and comes down to us originally from Aristotle’s Prior Analytics where the concepts: white, black and swan are proposed as predicates in syllogisms using white + swan as a necessary relations and the black + swan as an improbable or impossible one – not an entirely unreasonable position when you consider that no one had ever seen anything but white swans and seven eights of the world was unknown to the Greeks.
The Black Swan form was further popularized from the 2nd century on by Roman satirist Juvenal’s couplet:
rara avis in terris nigroque simillima cygno
[a rare bird in the lands, and very like a black swan]
Dr. Roger Pielke Jr, [‘Pielke the Younger’ around here] my go-to-guy for science policy related topics posted a video on his excellent blog produced by NPR entitled, “Filling Up – 7 Billion, How Did We Get So Big So Fast” a several days ago which hasn’t attracted much comment, but was particularly interesting to me in light of having spent an electricityless weekend two weeks ago reading David P. Goldman’s [the online columnist ‘Spengler’ over at Asia Times Online] very new book, “How Civilizations Die, (and why islam is dying too)” – a must read for people interested in the geo and socio-political implications of demographic trends [well worth looking at as long as you remain aware that his thesis has some theoretical limitations] If you are frightened of the Islam angle for some reason, it is possible to subtract out that aspect and you still come up with a fascinating thesis – which I will let you read the book to discover – or maybe I will write more at a future date.
The take away I will leave you from that book is that the radical decline in fertility rates in the Western world in the last three centuries and the currently collapsing fertility rate in the muslim [you didn’t know either?] and much of the developing world requires a radical rethink of the neo-Malthusian paranoia, of overpopulation apocalypse we have been force fed since the Ehrlichs and their ilk made their onto the scene in the ’60’s and continues to be a core assumption of a great many people, as we grope out way forward into a global future that may be dominated by demographic decline rather than a population bomb. In other words, it reintroduces that concept of depopulation to the modern vocabulary, which used to be a subject of great concern in the premodern and classical worlds.
The thinking behind this post began as a comment over at Jeff Id’s blog The Air Vent
within a guest-post by Mr. Leonard Weinstein on the relevance of the factors that allowed the United States civilian economy to emerge from the Great Depression and the command economy of World War II with such extraordinary vigor in the years following WWII, and how this is relevant to the current administration’s economic policy. It is Mr. Weinstein’s view that the Obama Administration is making the same Keynesian mistakes that the Roosevelt Administration made in the 1930’s under the Second New Deal that may have actually prolonged and deepened the Great Depression, which is more of an Austrian view of economics.
This of course was in complete in contradiction to Keynesian economic theory which at the time was predicting another depression and massive unemployment – which obviously did not occur – the US in 1946 experienced the greatest surge in economic growth, 30% that year, that it ever has, before or since.
The BIG THREE factors as put forward by Mr. Weinstein are:
There were three major factors that ended the Depression:
The destruction during the war of most of the industrial capacity of most of the major industrial powers (including in Europe and Japan), but not including the United States, left us with a near monopoly on production of major items. In fact, many of the factories greatly built up their capacity for the war, and the increased capacity was used to advantage after the war. This advantage lasted several decades, and gave us a long head start on establishing markets.
A pent-up needs for automobiles, appliances, and many other items developed due to the manufacturing plants converting to manufacturing supplies for the war. After the war, the conversion back allowed huge amounts of sales of these items. This lasted long enough to establish many businesses solidly.
The GI bill allowed huge numbers of military personal to buy homes, and even more important, go to college. The large increase in well-educated people resulting had a major effect on the level of technology that could be developed. The middle class grew to a much larger percent of the population, and consumer buying increased greatly.
It has been the intent here for the past couple of weeks to couple the topic of interest here at this blog to a couple of discussion threads that have piqued my interest in other on-line forums hoping to engage in some intra-blog pollination; unfortunately always managing to lag about a day and a half behind the cutting edge of the discussion by which time the discussion had ended or moved on. I guess we’re not quite quick enough around here yet to keep up with the quick pace of the blogosphere. It has been both interesting and frustrating to watch people who’s blogs I follow regularly coalesce at another blog for a discussion then disperse again within a matter of a few hours. It’s hard to keep up with such a fast moving crowd.
Instead, until I can manage to synchronize my output with the outside blogosphere, we will be presenting an essay with two aspects which relate only by the one word, black swan. In the first installment I will consider some of the conceptual defects in Black Swan Theory as proposed by Nassim Nicholas Taleb in his book The Black Swan. In the second aspect our Arts & Aesthetics editor Atani will consider the excellence of the recent Darron Aronofsky film entitled, Black Swan.