< meta name="DC.Date.Valid.End" content="20050825"> Amendment Nine: June 2006

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Kosola Story

I've stayed away from the Kosola story mainly because I pretty much knew about it all quite some time ago, and figured everyone else did too. Tim Russo, a former guest blogger here (though appears to have hung up his hat for awhile), had gone into most of the details people are now all a buzz about.

But I hadn't seen the government complaint against Jerome Armstrong. He was a pumper and dumper apparently during the dotcom boom. When you actually read the government's complaint, you'll no doubt find it sort of boring... unless of course, you were one of the hundreds of thousands of people out there that had a great deal of blood, sweat, and tears caught up in the net business during those days. And perhaps you were one of those people who lost a great deal of money because people were paid to lie to you about a stock's worth. Yeah, you were stupid, but you were also innocent, being taking advantage of, all while they walked away with golden shorts.

What Jerome Armstrong did in the BluePoint pump and dump scam was only different from what Ken Lay did at Enron by a few degrees. Liberal bloggers quick to jump to Jerome's defense shouldn't forget that. And if Jerome and Markos are trying to BluePoint the Democratic party, they wouldn't be the first. Not really news, just a reminder.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

(iii) What is Taught By Liberal Education?

Some A9 readers emailed me why I have given up the Liberal Education Series (parts one and two)? Not true. In fact, I was eagerly anticipating Eva Brann's latest essay: A College Unique and Universal. A little bird had tipped me off it was in the works when I had posted my latest on liberal education, and I'm glad I waited to post again on this until I had a chance to review it. A wonderfully written piece, as is typical of Eva. There is so much here to write about, I will attempt to limit my comments on this post to just one particular aspect. What is it that a liberal educator "teaches" (the term itself is oxymoronic for liberal learners)?

After going on at some length about how a liberal educator helps students learn, Eva sums it all up a wonderful phrase.
So we tutors at St. John's believe - all of us most of the time - in directness and immediacy; we put nothing between ourselves and the reading and behave as if every one of our books was indeed an open book to our students. I call this the "a cat may look at a king" principle - these royal books were written for us, the willing laity.
A College Unique and Universal, pg. 18.

Indeed. This is the American principle which Eva turns into a memorable phrase. No more precise an explanation of our jurisprudence, our morals, and our constitution (small c) has ever been made. It is something we forget in today's world of dark windowed limousines, fenced off free speech zones, private jet excursions, and closed session meetings. Now onto the substance of liberal education. While initially trying to get away from the far too easy tag of "Great books" Brann relents:

I think it is hard to get away from the Great Books designation for the simple reason that "greatness" has real sifnificance for us. It is the criterion by which we have chosen our hundred-plus works-based in part on these millienia-old lists.

Here are some of these crieria: Greantess shous up as inexhuastibility. [...]

Second, these works are pretty self-sufficient. Writers of stature strive to be as context-independent as they can be. [Ed. note: interesting that so many bloggers strive for exactly the opposite isn't it?] They tell you what you need to know to understand them. Good editions with pertinent notes will do the rest.

Third, and most telling, these books are original in two senses. They are often the earliest version of something new that will sweep the world, when it was still close to its roots in common experience and accesssible to lay people. And they are original in the sense of being charactersistic, of bearing the stamp of their author's personality - not only their personal crotchets and idiosyncrasies, but their peculiar ways of reaching depths.

Fourth, these works are infinitely artful, bold and subtle, beautiful by design or ugly on purpose. These authors are masters of the liberal arts that are a large part our Program.

Fifth and finally for present purposes, the works, though their message may sometimes be dismal and dark, are not themselves dreary or depresing but grand and redemptive. We have a sense that this four-year gift of semi-adult freedom that parents make to their children would not be spent on mediocre documents of societal problems and their academic solutions - the world will soon teach all that - but on the deepest, most exhiliarating exemplars of human achievement. The principle here is: First have acquantaince with the best, then face the worst.
[Emphasis mine] Id. at 21-23.

Liberal education helps the learner's soul experience greatness. It seems that simple. I know a great many people, myself included, who believe they experienced a liberal education. But was what we experienced greatness in any sense? Did we view master artworks? Listen to master symphonies? Read master poets? Or did we instead learn about all the greatness through the filter of a professor - someone whose very title is an obstacle to learning - and a professor's favorite "critiques"?

And of course, Brann concedes that the listing of a set program of books that students will read directly is of course elitist. But "so what" seems to be her attitude. Know the best, then face the worst. That sounds like both practical and theoretical wisdom. So what if learning from great works of art is elitist, is it bad to experience greatness or is it necessary? And to those who would argue there is no body of elite works, they miss the point (if they are being honest). Surely no one would deny that Bach's St. Matthew's Passion is one of the greatest musical works ever made. Maybe not the very best, but certainly on anyone's top 100 of all time. That is the point, learning from the best means learning from the greats.

Moreover, and this is me talking not Eva (I'm sure she would bristle at the following notion) but how often is it that we find today circling in the halls of justice, or the surgery room, or the war cabinet even, the most philistine of people? In these grand and powerful places often sits a dangerous sort of recluse, one incapable not only of senstitivity, but of even tolerance or mere appreciation for the things of another. Thieves in suits. I myself have seen such absence of refinement throughout both parties, in the highest offices in government, and of course we all know about Justice Thomas and his Coca-Cola cans.

Decency, civility, these are the building blocks of honor and discipline. And of course, without a culture of honor and discipline, accountability and respectability are soon to suffer. Those who we entrust to guard our Republic are often the bellweathers of such drought. So what if its considered old fashioned? I'm often told manners and gracefulness are old fashioned, and yet they never seem to go out of style. And when we surround ourselves with greatness, with great workers, with great works, can we not but hope some of it rubs off? Can we not help but feel inspired when we hear the works of Palestrina, when we read the works of Shakespeare, when we discuss the Gospel in a free and open format? Is this not communing with the immortals?

Another way of phrasing this would be: It all starts at the top. Or as He once intimated: do not cast your pearls amongst swine. Every American has a pearl, and it should not be cast amongst an education built upon forgetful mediocrity or academic abstruseness. In my next post, I will continue to discuss other aspects of Brann's latest essay.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Modern Day Misanthropes

That's my new name for inflation deniers. Recently I've had some meetings with several of them. Some so slippery they almost won't even admit that inflation exists at all. And while the goal of today's inflation deniers appears to be primarily a "save the status quo" sort of goal, in truth, they simply hate humankind. They mistrust the basic principle of economic liberty upon which this country was founded, and instead, believe they are the ones who should determine how much of your personal fortune should be melted away by government fiat. I'd call them communists, but some of them would probably appreciate that, so I'll call them misanthropes.

Stefan Karlsson at the Mises Economic Blog has an interesting post on the latest strategy of inflation deniers: they are now proposing a "core" core inflation instead of just looking straight in the ugly face of today's CPI. While I think Stefan's previous article on the fallacy of "core" inflation misses the whole point, which of course is not that inflation ex food and energy is somehow more important, but mainly that inflation ex food and energy shows the rate of supply shock pass through into the broader economy, this quick article lands the hammer flush on the head.

Note of course, he again uses the same misleading bias, even though his overall point is well made. The higher rents are not merely a result of higher land prices and higher rates. While that's obviously a good chunk of it, the steepness or quick acceleration in rent prices (which is the real problem) is catalyzed by the quick acceleration in cost per unit rented. And there is where you see the nasty commodity picture take hold.

Anyway, another recommend from me. I've been busy, as it seems most of you have been as well, and I'll keep posting as time permits.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Indonesia's Bird Flu

Some pretty serious developments over the last 24 hours.
Bandung, W Java (ANTARA News) - A 25-year old nurse identified by her initials as `Ci` is currently being treated at the Hasan Sadikin Hospital here for bird flu-like symptoms.
By the way, talk about a breach of patient fucking confidentiality! Can you imagine this happening here? "A 32 year old man working on the thirty second floor of the Mens Apparel Building has come down with syphilis. He prefers to remain anonymous but his initials are GLK." Jesus! This nurse is having hard enough time it seems, can't we let "her" (why even say the sex?) deal with this without having her name blasted all over the world? Ok, back to the story...
We could not confirm whether she is positive of having been infected by avian influenza virus or not, although she had earlier have contacts with siblings, 18-year old Ad and 10-year old Ai, who died of bird flu virus recently.
They also say she doesn't eat poultry, so it is likely that IF she has bird flu (which they haven't confirmed yet) she got it from the kids who died recently (that familial outbreak). This is an enormous deal for two reasons. First, the reported cases of human-human bird flu transmission have all been in cases of very intense, very close, very intimate human contact. The story only says she had "contacts" with the two bird flu victims, it doesn't say how intense or how prolonged those contacts were. Unfortunately, it sounds like they weren't very intense, and they weren't very long. This suggests some mutation.

Second, of the cases of earlier human-human bird flu transmission, almost every single one was with another family member. There was talk of a genetic trait which made one susceptible to such transmission. While the story doesn't rule out that she was a relative, it also doesn't state it, and I think if she were a relative (given their seeming unconcern for her privacy) they would have printed it. This also suggests some mutating.

Remember, we need to get the test results back. Having bird flu like symptoms and having bird flu are totally different things. But if a nurse has contracted it from an unrelated patient after not very prolonged contact, these tests are likely to reveal the virus is mutating.

The next big update is from Pamulang (outside Jakarta). A seven year old girl has died from bird flu, it now appears (though we're still awaiting confirmation). A couple of things about this case are troubling. First, she was taking Tamiflu before she died. This isn't such a huge deal since her parents also refused hospital admission, but it is nevertheless troubling. Second, her brother also recently died after showing flu like symptoms. He wasn't tested when he died though. This suggests that there is a second cluster.

Now I just checked Drudge's site and it looks like he is getting to run with a story talking about how there have been plenty of human-human transmissions of bird flu but no one has spoken about them before. That is simply untrue. We've known about human-human transmission for quite awhile, but no one was concerned because it was so isolated and almost exclusively a by-product of families living closely together. If he runs with that, he's full of shit (as usual). He's probably wanting to fan the flames of discontent against WHO. But of course, it is a mistake the media makes, not WHO, when stupid reporters quote a doctor and don't really understand what they are being told.

So let's recap, given that some misinformation is about to be dished. First, there have been numerous cases of human-human transmission. WHO has been upfront about that for quite some time. Just because Drudge and other lazy reporters can't be bothered to check the infectious disease communities around the web doesn't mean that WHO or other infectious disease scientists haven't been reporting this for a long while now.

The human transmissions have mostly been limited to family members. A new suspected case of bird flu appears likely to be a case of human-human transmission. This new suspected case is alarming in that there are no signs of familial relationship or prolonged contact. Another cluster of bird flu in Indonesia appears to have been discovered, and there may be human-human (brother to sister) transmission there as well. That's the bird flu update.

Friday, June 02, 2006

What the ?

I've always loved this picture. Still do. It's one of the pictures I have in my slideshow for my screensaver. You'll note, it still shows the WTC. Some think that's morbid, but I like seeing them still there. Reminds of a better time...

Which is why this stuff, Via PurpleSlog, pisses me off. Apparently the reason the DHS reduced NYC's anti-terrorism budget was that it didn't really have any landmarks, and only had "four significant banking assets." That's how they describe the Big Apple folks. That's what they think of the financial capital of the world. What a bunch of nitwits. I join PurpleSlog... fire the bastards. Turning anti-terrorism funding into pork barrel politics is a high crime in my book. Throw out every single incumbent, every vestige of the current political class. They all must go. Then, replace them with the firefighters, subway operators, janitors, volunteers, school teachers, nurses, EMTs, and all the other civic minded folks we have running the day to day of this country and we'll probably save ourselves some money and some lives.

I've pasted some non-landmark, insignificant, not worthy of protection NYC landmarks... Hopefully many will recall that we were once told, during a presidential election notsofar away, that several of these non-landmark landmarks were on terrorist hitlists.

Says a lot that our current ruling political class doesn't think these are worth protecting, doesn't it? Look, they already destroyed one of the best landmarks ever achieved, how much more are we going to let them take from us?