Miscellany 6: Shall I Continue?; Hubbert’s Peak; Jessica Williams; A Country Filled with Spies; Bush Suggests War on Terror Cannot Be Won; Bertrand Russell and Neale Donald Walsch; The Way of the Warrior; Culture Change; What’s In a Name?
© 2004 Joseph George Caldwell. All
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Commentary on the past month’s news and reading.
When I started the Foundation website in 1999, it received very few visitors – about three a day during the week, and none on the weekends. Over time, as I have added more material to the site and it has been noticed by search engines, the number of visitors and hits increased very much. A few months ago, however, the rate of increase in the number of hits seemed to be peaking. I tried resubmitting the site to the major search engines, but this did not make much difference.
In the early 1980s, my wife and I
opened a ladies-wear-fashion store, Sonora Fashions, in
The first few weeks went great. People really liked our things. But then, after a few weeks, when no new
shipments arrived, our customers would say, “Where’s the new stuff?” They wanted to drop by the store every week,
and see new things similar to (but different from) what we had. Well, the only practical way for a small shop
to do this is to buy from a “middleman” – in this case, wholesale merchants in
Well, my website reminds me of the Sonora Fashions experience. When people find out about the site, they are excited about it. They download lots of files, and they post links to it. They talk about it in discussion forums. Occasionally, they send me e-mails.
But they often ask, when are you going to write another piece? “Where’s the new stuff?”
The problem is that I don’t write new pieces very often. Sometimes months go by without any activity. And, it appeared, the slow rate of adding new material was a drawback to keeping the site in the public’s eye and increasing its exposure.
So, a few months ago, I decided to do things a little differently. Instead of investing most of my energy in writing a few longer articles, I would write lots of short ones. The result was this series of Miscellany pieces. Each of them contains a half-dozen or more notes or sketches on news items or books that I have read recently. Since my primary interest is planetary management, and trying to draw attention to the topic, I would often relate the book or news item to this subject.
My wife suggested that this was not a good idea. Her opinion was that the people that my site attracted were interested in planetary management and related topics (environment, energy, oil, politics), and that including items about other topics (e.g., current events) would simply dilute the website and defeat my purpose.
Several months have now passed since the first Miscellany piece, and I am about to make a decision about whether to continue the series. If you have a comment about whether I should continue or stop, please let me know, at mailto:email@example.com . Thanks!
My site receives a fair number of hits from search engines to which people have entered the phrase, “Hubbert’s Peak” or “Hubbert’s Curve.” There are lots of books and articles on this topic. A good reference is the book, Hubbert’s Peak: The Impending World Oil Shortage, by Kenneth S. Deffeyes (Princeton University Press, 2001).
Last month I had to travel to
More money is spent on subsidizing a cow for a
single day in the European Union (50, or about eight
· A third of the world’s population is at war. In 2002, 30 countries were fighting in 37 armed conflicts – a combined population of over 2.29 billion people. A quarter of the conflicts in recent years have involved a struggle for natural resources (diamonds, columbine-tantalite for laptops and cellphones, rainforest timber).
In 2003, the
To fly a kiwi fruit from
In 2002, 81% of the world’s state executions
took place in three countries:
· People in industrialized countries eat between six and seven kilograms of food additives every year.
According to the US Environmental Protection
Agency, the air inside a typical American house is two to five times more
polluted than the air outside – sometimes up to 100 times more contaminated –
largely because of household cleaners and pesticides. Cancer rates are also rising in the
· About 60% of the contents of the average household black rubbish bag is recyclable – glass, paper, metals and plastic.
· A ton of recycled paper is the equivalent of 17 pine trees in paper production.
· Standby power – the power used when an appliance is turned off but not unplugged – could account for 10% of electrical power use in industrial countries by 2020, according to Worldwatch Institute.
· Recycling just one aluminum can saves enough energy to keep a laptop computer running for four hours.
· The research group Inform calculates that by 2005, consumers will have stockpiled over 500-million cellphones. When they end up in the landfill, they could release up to 142 tons of deadly lead into the environment.
· Each 100% organic cotton T-shirt you buy eliminates the use of 150 grams of agricultural chemicals.
After terrorists destroyed the two
Commenting on the vulnerability of
Act of 1965 was the legacy of John F. Kennedy, who wrote the book, A Nation of Immigrants. It was sponsored and promoted by his brother,
Edward Kennedy, capitalizing on sympathy for his brother’s death. Now, after almost 40 years of mass
immigration from all sorts of cultures, the
It is not too
has vowed to mobilize against terrorism.
It will be interesting to see what happens next. On CNN a few nights ago I heard reference to
the adoption of “personal profiling” by
is illegal in the
and other personal profiling techniques are scientifically well founded as very
effective ways of finding criminals (Bayes’ Rule, search theory). If
On Monday, August
30, President Bush suggested that the war on terrorism could not be won. In an interview on NBC-TV’s “Today” show, he
suggested that an all-out victory against terrorism might not be possible. When asked whether the
As I pointed out
in an earlier note (“Some Notes on Strategy for Fighting Terrorism”) the
The situation is
similar with the war on terrorism. If
the terrorists do nothing or if they are incredibly destructive, then the
economic activity and wealth generation are less than if they continue to wage
a low-level guerilla-style conflict. As
a result, as long as they continue to operate at a low level, the
A physicist friend of mine once commented on the Second Law of Thermodynamics as, “You can’t win (get more energy out of a system than you put into it); you can’t even break even (no perpetual motion machines; no process involving energy transformation is 100% efficient); and you can’t even get out of the game (the universe is “winding down” to an eventual “heat death”).
At first glance, the war against terrorism seems a little like this. As George Bush observed, you can’t win (in the traditional military sense). And, it seems, you can’t get out of the game (since the conditions that have spawned the war on terrorism – industrial globalization – will grind inexorably on as long as world oil supplies last and industrialization / economic development continues). But there is, in fact, a very big difference. For the owners of the economy (the oligarchs of the industrial-world plutocracy), it is very profitable to continue waging the war. From an economic perspective, it is not practical to end it; it is, in fact, more profitable to invest in continuing the war on terrorism than in many other economic activities (i.e., building bombs and blowing them up generates more economic activity and wealth (for the oligarchs) than building TVs or refrigerators (for the common folk)). Hence, the war on terrorism will continue indefinitely (as long as the industrialized world continues).
The situation is a little complicated, and it is no wonder that President Bush misspoke. In the war against terrorism, there are several players (the oligarchs who control the economy, the workers in the industrial-world, the Islamists, and the third-world population, to name just a few), and each of them has different values and objectives (and resources). Bush recognized that the war would not be won in a traditional military sense. As long as it continues at a low level, however, the oligarchs win big – that is why Bush could so easily say a day later that we would in fact certainly win it. The terrorists also win big, since they are each awarded 80 virgins on reaching heaven. About the only people who lose are the American consumers, who will be trading more and more TVs, cars, and refrigerators for security and surveillance systems, troops, tanks and ordnance. If someone would go to the trouble of analyzing the situation as a nonzero-sum game (preferably involving more than two players), the nature of what is going on would be a lot better understood.
In the 1950s, when I was in high school, I enjoyed reading the philosophy of Bertrand Russell. A few weeks ago, in a bookshop in the Johannesburg airport, I noticed a book of Russell’s essays, Why I Am Not a Christian and Other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects (1957, Simon & Shuster / Touchstone). Remembering my enjoyment of reading Russell’s work, I purchased the book and read it.
I enjoyed this very much. Someday, I will summarize some of Russell’s observations from the book. For today, however, I will simply note a paragraph from the chapter, “What I Believe,” which was originally published as a small book in 1925. The paragraph is of interest because the views presented therein are essentially those of Neale Donald Walsch in his Conversations with God series, viz., moral relativism. Russell is writing about the “good life,” which he defines as follows: “The good life is one inspired by love and guided by knowledge.” He defines love as follows: “Love at its fullest is an indissoluble combination of the two elements, delight and well-wishing.” With respect to knowledge, Russell writes, “When I speak of knowledge as an ingredient of the good life, I am not thinking of ethical knowledge but of scientific knowledge and knowledge of particular facts. I do not think there is, strictly speaking, such a thing as ethical knowledge. If we desire to achieve some end, knowledge may show us the means, and this knowledge may loosely pass as ethical. But I do not believe that we can decide what sort of conduct is right or wrong except by reference to its probably consequences. Given an end to be achieved, it is a question for science to discover how to achieve it. All moral rules must be tested by examining whether they tend to realize ends that we desire. I say ends that we desire, not ends that we ought to desire. What we ‘ought’ to desire is merely what someone else wishes us to desire. Usually it is what the authorities wish us to desire – parents, schoolmasters, policemen, and judges. …When I say that the morality of conduct is to be judged by its probably consequences, I mean that I desire to see approval given to behavior likely to realize social purposes which we desire, and disapproval to opposite behavior. At present this is not done; there are certain traditional rules according to which approval and disapproval are meted out quite regardless of consequences.”
There is a strong “warrior tradition” in certain philosophical and mystical traditions. Writing in The Teachings of Don Carlos: Practical Applications of the Works of Carlos Castaneda, Victor Sanchez writes the following, in a section entitled, “The Way of the Warrior: The Only Aid on the Voyage into the Unknown.”
“Don Juan said in Castaneda’s first book that a man goes to knowledge the same way he goes to war: with fear, respect, wakefulness, and with absolute confidence. Therefore, those who go to knowledge could very well be called warriors. The correct way to walk this path is in the manner of a warrior. In Tales of Power, the Yaqui sorcerer reveals that to live like a warrior ‘is the glue that glues together all the parts’ of individual knowledge.
“The spirit of a warrior is one of the central themes found throughout the work of Castaneda, and it constitutes the fundamental attitude required for the demands made by the path of knowledge. Don Juan tells Carlos that only as a warrior can a person survive in the sorcerer’s world, although it is not necessary to be a sorcerer in order to be a warrior. The possibility is not easy, but it is open to anyone.
“The way of the warrior of which Castaneda speaks has little or nothing to do with human wars such as we know them, principally because it has nothing to do with violence or the intent to destroy anything or anyone. Far from it, in fact. This is perhaps difficult to understand in a culture such as ours where the word ‘war’ signifies one of the most frequent activities of ‘civilized’ societies, whether it be on an individual or social level, and where it always refers to the intent to impose our will on others through subtle or outright violence.”
In Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior,
Chögyam Trungpa writes: “…this volume draws on ancient, perhaps even primordial,
wisdom and principles of human conduct, as manifested in the traditional,
pre-industrial societies of
I am 62 years old. The difference between society when I was a
kid and now is really striking. I was
The other day, I remembered an
incident from my childhood that exemplifies the difference in culture between
now and then. I must have been about six
or seven, and was walking home from school, alone (in
On this particular day I was taking my time, walking slowly, not paying attention to anything in particular. At one point I was walking past a house where an old lady was sitting on a rocking chair on the porch. As I was walking along, I was dragging my shoes slightly on the sidewalk. This waste of sole really bothered the old lady, who called out to me, “Don’t drag those shoes on the sidewalk! Don’t you know your parents will have to replace those worn-out soles!”
Well, I was certainly surprised by her remark, and duly chastised. At that age, my reaction was not at all defensive. I had not thought at all about the wear that my foot-dragging was causing, and thought only of the good point that she was making. I acknowledged her remarks, picked up my feet, and went on my way. I don’t believe that I have ever dragged my feet since that day.
There are several interesting points
here that reflect cultural differences between then and now. First, a six- or seven-year old would not be
walking home alone in a city the size of
The first really
big antivirus system was developed by McAfee Corporation. After some years, McAfee was taken over by
Network Associates, and the “McAfee” brand was almost everywhere replaced by
“Network Associates.” At the time, I was
rather amazed why a firm (Network Associates) would acquire such a well-known
brand name (McAfee) and then proceed to suppress it. When Nationsbank (of
So why did Network Associates not do this, I always wondered. Well, a few weeks ago I noticed that Network Associates was now proceeding to adopt the name McAfee. Makes sense. A rose by any other name may smell just as sweet, but if few people know it is still a rose, you lose a lot.