An Avalanche of Scholarship – Flood tide at the Augean Stables, more on the dialectic of “culture counts” and the revolution in civil polity in medieval Europe


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.

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A Roman Holiday – Chiefio on the problem of no fixes for the same ol’ same ‘ol


I’ve been on an extended holiday from blogging, but since I still seem to have something to say I’ll say just say it now.

E.M. Smith aka Chiefio, – I have to get used to this, E.M seems to have ditched his pseudonym and is now going by his initials in public – has a new post up Same Solution, Same Problem, no fix which is a musing on the classic Audrey Hepburn movie Roman Holiday, the light hearted fairtale of a truant princess who skips out on her royal responsibilities for a day for before returning to the more serious duties as a figurehead of state.   Solutions proposed by fictitious princesses in 1953 don’t seem to be much different than what is proposed by fairy tale politicians today according to E.M.

From the screenplay [bold by The Chiefio]

AMERICAN CORRESPONDENT [speaking from the crowd] Does Your Highness believe that Federation would be a possible solution to Europe’s economic problems?

ANN. I am in favour of any measure which would lead to closer cooperation in Europe.

E.M had this to say:

Looks like the particular fantasy that “closer cooperation” or integration or “Federation” will solve economic ills has been around since at least 1953. You’d think after 1/2 Century they would have figured out it doesn’t do that. (Heck, you’d also think they would have figured out how to avoid financial problems…)

So is it time we started talking about Angela Merkel being on a Roman Holiday?

Fulfilling my role as prophet for the group I had this to say:

The tendency towards, “… any measure which would lead to closer cooperation in Europe,” is a faulty response to the general evolutionary pressure towards the globalization and unification of human culture and civilization.

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The Psychic Octopus – Modeling Magical Oracles of Irrational Processes, A Comment on Pielke and Silver


Wygart has a comment in over at Pielke the Younger’s blog on his recent post Parlor Games and Predicting Presidential Elections in which he discusses an article by Nate Silver at the NY Times on the ability of political scientists to predict elections based upon measurements of various [mostly economic] “fundamentals”

Silver asks:

Can political scientists “predict winners and losers with amazing accuracy long before the campaigns start”?

And his answer

The answer to this question, at least since 1992, has been emphatically not. Some of their forecasts have been better than others, but their track record as a whole is very poor.

And the models that claim to be able to predict elections based solely on the fundamentals — that is, without looking to horse-race factors like polls or approval ratings — have done especially badly. Many of these models claim to explain as much as 90 percent of the variance in election outcomes without looking at a single poll. In practice, they have had almost literally no predictive power, whether looked at individually or averaged together.

Pielke the younger says:

“Ouch.”

And he goes on, in his usual inimitable way, to dissects the issue, establishes the parameters of what a ‘skillful’ model would have to accomplish in order to prove its, er, skillfulness, how modelers fool themselves and others into thinking that their pet model has some skill, and then lays out the actual track record – not good.

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The Peregrinations of Chiefio-A Comment on the Downfall of the Slavery Driven Expansion of the Antebellum United States


William Tecumseh Sherman

William Tecumseh Sherman, 1865 by Mathew Bradey - The face of Experience.

I’m not sure what inspired the Chiefio on this particular foray into the history of the Gadsden Purchase, How Slavery Shrunk America, and how it played into the politics of antebellum US westward expansion, but where he leads I will follow… and register a comment.

The basic outline of the history of the Gadsden Purchase that he lays out jibes pretty well with what I learned as far back as high school, but the larger context is something I’ve missed till now, very interesting.  I think he did a good job pulling the various strands together, but I also think the point of how strongly the Antebellum South was driven to expand its slave holding was not put strongly enough.

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