Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Post No. 100: If Tin Whistles are Made of Tin, What are Credit Default Swap Derivatives Made Of?



© 2009, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

There’s a reason the Logistician likes the Laughingman. He can reduce crap to its irreducible essence.

We try to avoid taking sides in our discussions. It just doesn’t get us anywhere. No party or ideologue can legitimately lay claim to the concepts Common Sense and Personal Responsibility. We try our best to weave the concepts into each original article posted.

Our goal is to get 95% of the heads nodding. Sometimes we get close. Others times, it’s a reach.

We recently sought topics from you, with the hope that we would all learn something new through the exchange, and take away something of value. Exasperated by all the barking about our economic situation, the Logistician posted the following comment on a number of blogs he frequents. His thoughts jived with the topic suggested by the Laughingman, and thus the title of this piece.

“We as a society have to take responsibility for where we find ourselves today. By doing so, we might be able to turn this thing around.

“We have a tendency to forget the basic, big picture stuff, and complain when things deteriorate.

“Things on planet Earth are actually quite simple. (Gore Vidal once referred to us as the ‘United States of Amnesia.’ Perhaps we’re such a young nation, we haven’t fully learned to appreciate history.) Consider the following:

“1. Innovation and technology, leading to building and creating 'things,' determines EVERYTHING in a civilized society. (If you don't personally know a scientist or inventor in your neighborhood advancing society's interests, or some kid who WANTS TO DO SO, you have a long term problem.

“2. New technology, followed by the production of things using the technology, generates JOBS. The tax revenues derived from those technological enterprises determine what government ultimately can do. No innovation and no production of things - no tax revenues.

“3. The more hours that one works, the more one produces. (Up to a point, of course. We do not want people collapsing from exhaustion.) Exhaustion occurs way beyond 40, or even 60 hours a week for that matter. Take a break, and you run the risk of falling behind your competition.

“4. When the vast majority of a substantial segment of your society's time is spent trying to cover the essentials, that segment isn’t particularly useful. It’s no different than the role played by mass agriculture in history. Food production has to be relegated to a few, so that the others can engage in the advancement of innovation and technology, and the trade and exchange of the products produced.

“5. The simplest way to reduce rising health care costs? Stop eating Kentucky Fried Chicken, smoking Camels, drinking Colt 45, and hit the treadmill. You'll see a dramatic improvement in health, and at a pretty low cost.

“6. Retirement (when workers still have talent and the ability to contribute) kills your society and generates other problems, especially when you shift tax revenue to people who sit on their asses for years. Capable people who work until the day they die are more productive members of society, physically and mentally. And, they feel that they have some value in society.

“7. War is not a revenue generating enterprise. There are few positive ramifications. It’s a resource drain. It kills productive members of society (who could be inventing some stuff), and gets people pissed off at you.

“8. When you treat any segment of society unfairly, for whatever reason, they become less motivated, and less capable, to work in concert with you to pursue long-term societal interests. It makes more sense to have them voluntarily and emotionally 'buy into' your societal goals. They'll be more motivated .”

If one looks back in history, it’s clear that this is simply Common Sense.

A society which rationalizes its poor choices for too long a period of time is ultimately doomed. It might ride its success for a short period of time, but not for very long.

We, as a society, are ignoring all of the stuff that really matters. We're fooling ourselves while we engage in meaningless debates.

And wasting time.

It's like a boat sinking because of a leak, and the sailors are all arguing, while blowing tin whistles, about who’s responsible for the leak, and what mechanism to use to get the water out of the vessel.

If tin whistles are made of tin, what are credit default swap derivatives made of?

We’d like to know.

64 comments:

  1. Capable people who work until the day they die are more productive members of society, physically and mentally. And, they feel that they have some value in society.

    If one looks back in history, it’s clear that this is simply Common Sense.

    Common sense for ants and bees, maybe.

    So, what do they make foghorns out of? And, more importantly, Does your chewing gum lose its flavor on the bedpost over night?

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  3. I have often worried about that bottle of baby oil.

    To understand the difference between Vidal's and Rodak's take on "working until death takes you", we would need a clear and agreed upon definition of work. They are both correct, I think, under differing definitions.

    I would take exception to Vidal's understanding of war. I sometimes think that war is man's greatest endeavor. It has spawned great advancements in technology and medical techniques. I do not know if anyone has tallied the lives saved vs the lives lost but I wonder which is greater over time. War is essential, an absolute necessity, for those who are attacked. And, occasionally, for those who attack. Certainly not all war is good. Perhaps none are good for those directly involved (though we revere great generals and soldiers whose deeds saved others) but wars are inevitable and, in a the grand scheme of things, probably necessary from time to time.

    I have little disagreement with his other points. Not that I agree entirely with them but that the differences are insignificant.

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  4. I sometimes think that war is man's greatest endeavor.

    "War has always been the grand sagacity of every spirit which has grown too inward and too profound; its curative power lies even in the wounds one receives."

    ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

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  5. Douglas said: "I sometimes think that war is man's greatest endeavor."

    That someone actually thinks so and articulates it as such, speaks volumes.

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  7. Consider all the things that were either advanced greatly or invented because of wars or the threat of wars.

    Without war, there might not be a United States of America.

    Without War, despots and tyrants might rule throughout the world.

    Without war, civilization might never have advanced beyond farming communities.

    I also miss plagues.

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  8. Consider all the things that were either advanced greatly or invented because of wars or the threat of wars.

    Right. Forinstance: where would drug trafficking be today without the invention of the assualt weapon?
    And how could 9/11 have happened without the invention of the jet airliner?
    Where would General Motors be without the Hummer?
    And there must be dozens of commercial uses of Napalm and White Phosphorus which escape me at the moment...but they will come to me!

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  9. Rodak, you are such a pessimist. To take war out of humanity (I know, sounds like a contradiction in terms) would be to remove one facet of advancement. War has spread (in addition to misery, destruction, and suffering) ideas throughout the world. It has been the means by which cultures interact since the beginning of time. It is how the gene pool broadened regionally and worldwide. It is how stagnant cultures are removed and vibrant ones emerge. How would the world look today if there had been no empires? Certainly, there have been terrible consequences to wars but there have also been great benefits.

    Perhaps you'd prefer an existence in primitive huts without power or running water, scrabbling for survival with only your own and your tribe's farmland for sustenance. I take a broader view.

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  10. It has been the means by which cultures interact since the beginning of time.

    Have you ever heard of (dare I say it?)...trade?

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  11. Even if we stipulate, btw, that war was historically one means of spreading culture, there is no way to countenance its continued use for that reason in the contemporary world.

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  12. Rodak, which do you think came first? War or Trade? Do you also realize that trade was cause for war at times?

    Our greatest inventions and advancements have been made in order to fight wars, defend against wars, to ease the sufferings of wars, to prepare for wars.

    War is an outcropping, a consequence, of man's nature to expand, to seek more, to gain power, to protect what he has, to spread his ideas, to improve the cultures of others (as he sees it). If you eliminate war, you must also eliminate that part of man which pushes him to greater things.

    To accept the good, you must also accept the bad. To understand that war is a necessary evil is not to say "I love war" or "war is good".

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  13. The good side-effects that you tout no longer pertain to historical reality. War is now only a struggle over resources, waged in promotion of differing ideologies concerning how and who will control the distribution those resources.

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  14. Correction: Where I said "historical reality" in my previous comment, it would have been more accurate to have said "historical necessity."

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  15. Many medical advancements started out to benefit the military but have had sweeping effects on civilization in general. Does this make war a "good" thing? No. Just that I believe many of our leaps in medicine have come from those who wanted to make things better *because* of what they witnessed. I do not want to go back to "the good old days", before the modern drugs we have now, before the sanitation and clean water, before (fill in the blank). I also think that many of the leaps we have made in psychiatric medicine have been due to the trauma of war. Again, this does not make war "good" but it has forced us to look for or make or see changes that we might not have looked for without it. Would these changes have occurred without the prodding of a host of injured individuals coming back home? Maybe but maybe not too.

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  17. Thank you, Holly, you "get" it where rodak does not. It isn't about "good" or "bad" as an endeavor of its own. It is always the unintended consequences which affect us most. Medicine, space exploration, communications, all kinds of technologies, have made great strides because of war (either the fear of it or the waging of it).

    To remove the fear of war (by eliminating it) would have, in my opinion, a stagnating effect on human endeavor and, therefore, on human advancement.

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  18. I "get" it. I just think mankind is at a stage now where we no longer need to count on war to spur advancement, and that war is now, in fact, an impediment to advancement. Enough is enough.

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  19. You list a bunch of broad categories in which you claim that war has spurred great advancement. I will give you that military rocketry gave birth to the space program. And I will give you that the space program has given us Tang and some really nifty toilets and has greatly increased on knowledge of the effect of weightlessness on a whole range of flora and fauna. I think it might also have given us Teflon, but I'm not sure about that one. How else has the space program improved your life?
    I would, in fact, argue that the majority of the things that you claim to have been developed BECAUSE of war simply made war more terrible, or more possible, than it previously had been. Manned flight did not develop out of war; war took manned flight and made it possible to wipe out whole cities in one fell swoop. War did not develop antibiotics; antibiotics did make it possible for many more wounded soldiers to survive their wounds. Maybe it had been better if they were never wounded in the first place. Telecommunications were not developed for use in war, but for use in business; ditto computers. The internal combustion engine was not developed for use in war, but it sure made it easier to conduct war. Please be more specific: what is it that you feel we would be doing without, had the last war been fought in, say, the 18th or 19th century?

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  20. Ok, rodak, let me first get you to be specific. Would you say that the Civil War did not need to be fought, that slavery could remain in place in the south and/or that states could secede from the Union? If you say that the Civil war was necessary then you move us up to the last 35 years of the 19th century. So, let's start there. Spain would remain in control of Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines (among others). There would still be many kings ruling in a great number of countries; China would still be under British control, as would India and Malaysia (among others). Much of Africa would still be colonies of the European countries. Russia would still be under control of the Czars. All of these things changed through war, or as a result of wars.

    Your turn.

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  21. I don't see how any of your "woulds" addresses my point, which is that your claim that war has been responsible for many important advancements is just a given.
    None of the things that you praised Holly for citing were developed BECAUSE of war. It's true that national boundaries would be different today is no wars had been fought. But they will be different again in the future if wars continue to be fought. When would you like to see them become static?
    If the Civil War had not been fought and the Confederacy had remained sovereign, industrialized farming would have ended slavery eventually, if religion didn't. Should Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, et al. choose to secede tomorrow, I'd say, Please turn the lights out when you leave.

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  22. Ooops. Got interrupted and blew my first sentence. Should say: ...which is that your claim that war has been responsible for many important advancements is NOT just a given.

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  23. Let me see... what you say would have happened, or would happen, if wars didn't exist is a given but what I say would happen, or would have happened, isn't a given? Who decided you were infallible?

    Wars, and the threat of wars, are great incentives to develop and invent. Are you seriously denying this? Wars have shaped civilization and its advancement since the beginnings of civil life. Are you denying that?

    I realize it would be nice if there were no wars but that simply will not happen. It is pure fantasy. The same human nature that allows wars to occur is the one that pushes man to improve our lives. You do not believe that and I won't be able to convince you otherwise. The reason I won't be able to is the same reason why we have wars. That difference of opinion, that strong belief we each have, is at the core of all wars. Some people like to blame religion, others greed or a thirst for power, some spread that blame across all of those and more. I say that the cause of war is man. It is his nature. It will never go away so long as humans exist.

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  24. It will never go away so long as humans exist.

    Neither will theft, rape, murder... That doesn't mean we have to make virtues out of them.

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  25. What advances have come about as a result of theft, rape, and/or murder? You have an interesting habit of using strawmen, obfuscation, and diversion rather than honest debate.

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  26. You have a totally uninteresting way of not being able to follow an argument.

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  27. There are good and bad ramifications which flow from all technological advances. The assimilation of the cultures which were conquered by the Romans, after they raped, pillaged, and plundered them, was a key factor in the dominance of western civilization for many years.

    However, as Jeffrey Sachs of the Earth Institute, we are blessed with brains, and working in a collaborative manner, we ought to be able to figure out better ways to address issues, and minimize the negative ramifications.

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  28. Anyone have any further thoughts about the issues raised in the post other than war?

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  29. Rodak, you were arguing, I was presenting a point of view.

    Log, my point was that not all "bad" things are necessarily bad. What is "common sense"is not all that common and sometimes does not make immediate sense.

    We do, because of the devastating impact of war, seek a number of alternatives. Some of these have unintended consequences that are counter to the original intent. We do not yet have a viable alternative to war, for example, and our current concept of "surgical strikes" and minimizing "collateral damage" often fails to accomplish the greater goal.

    Gore Vidal was a good writer. I disagree with his political ideology, however.

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  30. Hanger Orthopedic Group, Inc. is the oldest and one of the largest prosthetics and orthotics (O & P) companies in the world. It was started by a man named J.E. Hanger who lost a leg in the civil war and developed a business due to that injury.

    Disc-O-Tech was founded in 1998 in Israel by four men with entrepeneurial backgrounds, to develop less invasive implants by using patented technologies in the fields of metal folding and expansion. Much of their interest derived from the need to treat wounded Israeli soldiers and civilians

    Group for the Advancement of Psychiatry was founded in May 1946 by a group of young psychiatrists who had served in World War II.

    I am sure there are others, but providing them here will not convince you of their value. If you wish to continue the argument that war provides no benefits or advancements....you will regardless of what anyone says.

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  31. "make virtues out of them"

    who is making a virtue out of war? Certainly not me. I think war is heinous...you asked for examples of things that came from a war.

    Understand there are cultures where war is the standard against which a mans courage is defined. There are cultures that do not mind war or fighting or death. In order to change THOSE cultures you would have to make them...not them.

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  32. “8. When you treat any segment of society unfairly, for whatever reason, they become less motivated, and less capable, to work in concert with you to pursue long-term societal interests.


    or they become used to it and are content with doing less. Some of the individuals would be this way no matter how they were treated...UNLESS they had to make some difficult decisions about survival.

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  33. Douglas, we've spent quite a bit of time thinking about your comment:

    "Consider all the things that were either advanced greatly or invented because of wars or the threat of wars.

    Without war, there might not be a United States of America.

    Without War, despots and tyrants might rule throughout the world.

    Without war, civilization might never have advanced beyond farming communities.

    I also miss plagues."

    We assume that this perspective is one from an historical angle, looking back at the effects. Should we entertain affirmatively commencing wars and plagues under some managed system, with a goal of achieving what you refer to as the positive results? Have any nations done so recently?

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  34. Without war, civilization might never have advanced beyond farming communities.

    An argument could be made that art, philosophy, music would have developed out of religion, without war. An argument could be made that business, commerce, trade, transportation, communications, would have evolved out of barter, without war.
    It is quite true that it is man's nature to be violent and to apply force, rather than cooperation and brother-love, to satisfy his desires. It is also true that man has the capacity and the potential for self-transcendence, as shown by the worldviews of teachers such as Jesus and the Buddha who have presented an alternate way for men to get along. It is not necesseary that man continue to exist as a killer ape--in that aspect no more advanced than the chimpanzee--however likely it is that he will. While all of our gizmos, bells and whistles have made our lives much easier, they have simultaneously moved us ever closer to the day when our toys destroy our civilization.
    You may get your plague, Douglas, when the ability of some microbe to mutate out-paces our ability to find a specific antibiotic for it. Or, because we are violent and stupid, it may one day all go Boom! We could starve. We could run out of fresh water. There are four horsemen of the apocalypse, only one of them being war.

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  35. Log, I do not argue that we should welcome war or seek it for its benefits. I am merely refuting Vidals' statement:

    7. War is not a revenue generating enterprise. There are few positive ramifications. It’s a resource drain. It kills productive members of society (who could be inventing some stuff), and gets people pissed off at you.

    There are many positive ramifications. WWII proved this. People are pissed already or war would not even be considered. It does kill productive members of society, it also makes other members even more productive. His position is one of those "feel good" positions. It is not thought through properly and it is not defensible (radak's attempts notwithstanding).

    I am a realist, I acknowledge that which I cannot change and try to adapt to it. I no longer engage in idle fantasy of an ideal world. As I like to say... I used to be a liberal but I grew up. I am reminded of an old slogan from the 60s that went:

    What if they gave a war and nobody came?

    Therein lies the problem, one side will always show up. Then it is not a fight, it is a mugging. War exists, it will not go away. Plan for it, prepare for it, be ready to win it at all times. Learn from it, profit from it if possible, use it to advance civilization where the opportunity arises (which it always does after a war ends).

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  36. Douglas: You wrote: "War has spread (in addition to misery, destruction, and suffering) ideas throughout the world. It has been the means by which cultures interact since the beginning of time. It is how the gene pool broadened regionally and worldwide. It is how stagnant cultures are removed and vibrant ones emerge."

    What is a "stagnant culture," what are the criteria which comprise the definition, and who or what entity bestows the right or mandate to a nation to determine that another culture is stagnant and thus do something about it?

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  37. Douglas wrote: "War is an outcropping, a consequence, of man's nature to expand, to seek more, to gain power, to protect what he has, to spread his ideas, to improve the cultures of others (as he sees it). If you eliminate war, you must also eliminate that part of man which pushes him to greater things."

    We agree with this statement to a significant extent. We're not quite sure that the improvement of another culture is part of the thought process as one nation considers invading another; however, we do believe that it is part of what drives man. Before moving on, we'd ask at this point, what restrains a nation and ensures that it does not "cross the line?"

    Assuming that is the case, let's apply that concept to things much smaller in size and closer to home. Does that concept of drive, improvement and conquest also apply to the inter-community war going on between those who have, and those fighting to take things (who we call criminals) from those who have? Or perhaps the Mexican or Columbian drug cartels?

    On an interpersonal level, apply that concept to the relationships between men and women. Is it justifiable in some theoretical way that men use force (individual war)against other men, or other women for that matter, to advance their individual causes and interests? (I.e., is there something positive which can be identified during the course of one man whipping the crap out of another, or his wife for that matter?)

    Conscience, law, police, and morality come into play on the interpersonal and community levels. What serves to restrain the actions of nations on the global level?

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  38. Holly: Welcome back. You spoke eloquently about the fact that we had large numbers of injured soldiers return home from war which led to new ways to approach medical conditions, including those psychiatric in nature. While we agree with the general tenor of your comments, couldn't we have theoretically made those same advances by responding to the injuries received by auto and industrial accident victims?

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  39. Historically speaking, when free trade breaks down - war is a greater possibility. I can't think of an instance in history that when two countries are involved with one another economically, there was a war between them.

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  40. Here's one for you.

    The US has extensive and very sophisticated military capabilities. Should we, as a benevolent empire builder, and desirous of spreading our culture and values, go into friendly countries, take Mexico and Canada for example, and simply take them over without firing one single shot or killing one single citizen, and then applaud our action as a positive one?

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  41. benevolent empire builder

    Now there's a contradiction in terms if I ever saw one!
    To answer your question directly: No! I have no desire to be a citizen of McWorld.

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  42. Log, you are looking at war from, in my opinion, the wrong perspective. You are viewing it only as the destructive force that it is, as a victim of war might see it. Step outside of the box. There is no one person who decides which cultures are good or bad, which should live or perish. Masses of people do that and, most often, they do this through wars. They also do it in attempts at genocide. I like to use the American Revolution as an illustration of how wars can be agents for positive change. Our revolution against the British Crown helped alter the perception of how nations should be governed, about royalty, about the efficacy of democratic governance. Both you and rodak suggested that I am only looking at the past and perhaps we have evolved beyond the need for war. Perhaps we have but not all the world has. There are still people who believe in "strongman rule", still people who think that others must be bent to the will of others for the "good of all." Look at what is happening in Sudan, for example. Look at North Korea. Listen to Iran's Ahmadinejad's threats against Israel. Look at what recently happened in Georgia (the old Soviet state).

    Finally, your final proposition suggests that you see the US as a threat to the world, a threat to peace and stability. We do not do those things and we don't even contemplate them in any serious manner. I find the proposition beyond silly.

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  43. The original post read: "8. When you treat any segment of society unfairly, for whatever reason, they become less motivated, and less capable, to work in concert with you to pursue long-term societal interests."

    Holly commented:
    "...or they become used to it and are content with doing less. Some of the individuals would be this way no matter how they were treated...UNLESS they had to make some difficult decisions about survival."

    This is an interesting way to characterize it which may desire some further thought. However, doesn't someone getting used to something also fall within the definition of motivation, or lack of it?

    And when you use the word "survival," would you suggest that any subjugated people use "whatever means necessary" to remove the yoke?

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  44. "Violence" is arguably a characterization of a collection of actions which might be distinguished from "force." Can there be a "peaceful" or "negotiated " merger of countries or cultures, like the annexation of territories or the merger of corporate entities? Is violence a necessary ingredient?

    Have there been any occupations in history where not a single shot has been fired?

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  45. Better to ask "Have there been any peaceful mergers of cultures?"

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  46. "couldn't we have theoretically made those same advances by responding to the injuries received by auto and industrial accident victims?"

    Perhaps, but history may have gone in a different direction also, there is no way to tell now (if you look at it from a historical point of view, and really..is there any other way to look at it?). War is *usually* a cultural catastrophe, in that many are deeply affected rather than an individual catastrophe, in which a few individuals are deeply affected (as in auto and industrial accidents), with other that are touched extending sympathy and sometimes support during that initial crisis period.

    Which makes me wonder about this, if war is a cultural calamity, how can so many of the people today be so indifferent to this one? Certainly there has been plenty of fallout, in many areas and yet, I don't see the citizens pulling together to end or not end this conflict. It is almost like we/they have become desensitized to it. Almost like the fallout is individual instead of cultural.

    Again, this does not mean that war is a good thing, especially overall.

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  47. Holly, what particular war are you referring to? I am assuming here that you are referring to some war when you say "this one."

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  48. My apologies for not being clear Douglas.

    I am referring to the "War on Terror".

    there *are* people who care but many do not and it bothers me.

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  49. Holly, I suspected as much. The problem is that it may not be a war on terror but a war against a radical ideology. Terror is the primary tactic being used by the proponents of the radical ideology. If we wage a war against a tactic, it will not be effective. There was a hopeful sign today in articles about the flogging of a young girl by the Taliban in the Swat region of Pakistan. If things like this can be brought out in the open so that people see what the ideology is really like, perhaps progress can be made.

    Here's a link to Google News about the incident.

    http://news.google.com/news?pz=1&cf=all&ncl=1324678485

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  50. Logistician: I read your blog frequently, but I do not like to comment. This time I have to comment on something which I am seeing with more frequency. Some people frequently comment on issues you raise and assume that you have some underlying motivation or position. I find that surprising since most of your questions are neutral statements, designed to get people to think about different ways to look at things, without any suggestion one way or the other. In fact, I am sometimes irritated with the theoretical way you approach issues, but I understand why you are doing so.

    A lot of times, people reply to your questions by inserting THEIR views into the question. They should read your questions more closely. I think that there would be better discussions on your blog if there was less emotion expressed by the people leaving comments. No one wants to read snide, nasty comments. They can take their nastiness to some other blogs. It appears that you want to have all people feel that their opinions are valued and respected. Thanks for trying to set up a place like this.

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  51. Anonymous wrote: A lot of times, people reply to your questions by inserting THEIR views into the question


    but of course we insert our views. Why wouldn't we?

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  52. In reading the comments, I see many which appear to extol the virtues of war (while admitting to its heinous nature).

    What I find laughable, however, is that the pro-war arguments have been made in a historical context ending around WWII.

    Interestingly, not one of the so-called "hawks" has extolled the virtues of Korea, Vietnam, Iraq I, or Iraq II in their arguments. Why?

    Yes, the American Revolution was a great thing. But it's 2009. Let's bring the argument into, at very least, the last 50 years.

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  53. Holly:

    Although we do not claim to have our fingers on the pulse of the American public, we offer the following 4 reasons for the current attitude, however that may be characterized, of Americans:
    1. No attacks on American soil since 9/11;
    2. The average American does not have a friend, relative, or neighbor serving in the effort;
    3. We have a voluntary military force; and
    4. The average American is not concerned about potentially being called into service, as was the case with the draft.

    These factors theoretically contribute to the attitude.

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  54. Ooops, forgot one Holly. 5. The relative lack of visual images of the dead streaming back here to be displayed on mass media outlets.

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  55. I was referring to tendency of certain people who comment to assume that the Logistician or others within the "Institute," have taken or stated a position when they have not. I was referring to making assumptions about the original author's mindset when no indicators have been provided. Of course, the readers who comment are entitled to inject their views.

    For example, if I were to say, "It is raining outside." Certain readers might reply, "You seem to think that rain is a good thing, and I don't."

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  56. The History Channel has a new series, "Battles B.C." One of the shows is airing right this moment on the East Coast, and another follows at the top of the hour.

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  57. Out of curiosity, why was so much attention paid to the issue of war, and so little discussion about technology and the invention of things, other than the connection to war?

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  58. mvd, the reason more recent wars may have been omitted is probably the emotional factor. The more in the past, the less likely to have had a direct personal impact. We use historical perspectives to evaluate events. In most cases, that is the only way we can objectively view them. However, since you asked, great strides in trauma wound treatment were made during the Vietnam War. Yes, those strides could have been made without that war but they would have taken a much longer time to develop. War provides a concentration of trauma and a need to quickly adapt to that trauma. These advancements in treatment of violent trauma translated quickly into procedures adopted by hospitals around the world to handle victims of violent disasters. There were other areas, much in technology, that were affected. The Gulf Wars drove improvements in technology (the use of drones, laser and GPS guidance systems, anti-weaponry such as the Patriot Missile System) which have begun to translate into traffic control, crowd control, crime control, and so forth.

    Log, your response to Holly (and Holly's comment) seems to indicate that we are responsible for the "War on Terror". That if we (meaning the US public) want it, we somehow have the power to stop it. If I am wrong about this, please let me know. If I am not, please see my response to Holly about what really needs to happen to have it come to an end and what it is really about in the first place.

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  59. To all: We've been fascinated with all of this talk about "war" and the technological and cultural advances flowing from it.

    While we fully appreciate the cultural arguments advanced, we're not quite convinced of the significance of the military or war factor.

    Since he has an engineering degree, the Logistician practiced intellectual property law during a significant component of his roughly 30 year career. For a somewhat smaller period of time, he was Special Counsel with one of the country's largest and oldest boutique patent firms, and another full-service firm with a large patent practice.

    While he will readily admit that there were no major wars during the years of his practice, the vast, vast, vast majority of the inventions which passed through his firms had nothing to do with war or weapons. (His best friend was a patent prosecution specialist with a major defense firm, but even that activity was more related to space, guidance, and communications technology.)

    We only mention this to note our hope that the "war" discussion does not take on a disproportionate significance, in the minds of our readers, in terms of its effect on advancing societies.

    Just because people want to focus there attention on one subject and debate it extensively, does not necessarily mean that it is the dominant factor to be taken into consideration.

    This article was about how America's ability or desire to make "things," and trade them, which affects jobs, the economy, and the way in which people here earn a living, had diminished, resulting in a level of dissatisfaction amongst its citizens. It was also about the replacement of "things" with some rather illusory financial instruments which most citizens do not understand.

    The article further attempted to focus the readers attention on other factors to consider in the economic downturn here in America, and suggested that the factors had developed over a rather lengthy period of time.

    For some reason, the responsive comments went off on a path about the cultural and technological advances attributable to "war."

    Interesting. Maybe you folks feel that "war" is a more powerful force in society than we view it. Everyone is entitled to their opinion.

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  60. Douglas: Please excuse our lack of sophistication and analysis, however, we're unable to follow the line of reasoning which you suggested regarding the Logistician's response to Holly's comment.

    Without spending an extensive amount of time going back to re-examine this issue, we recall Holly expressing some surprise at the relative indifference on the part of many in our country to "this war." You were, to the best of our recollection, unsure as to which war she was referring. She responded that it was the "war on terror." The Logistician responded and provided several reasons why there might have been relative indifference in our society.

    We are not aware of any language that we put forth to suggest that "we are responsible for the war on terror." If you can point that language out, we can try to respond to your concerns. Totally apart from the textual issue, that is not a position which we have ever advanced in any discussion. We're not quite sure what this is about.

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  61. Let me try to explain in this way, Log... Here is Holly's comment:

    Which makes me wonder about this, if war is a cultural calamity, how can so many of the people today be so indifferent to this one? Certainly there has been plenty of fallout, in many areas and yet, I don't see the citizens pulling together to end or not end this conflict. It is almost like we/they have become desensitized to it. Almost like the fallout is individual instead of cultural.

    The inference was that we (meaning U.S. citizens) are capable of ending the war. Your reply also only addressed the attitudes and concern (or lack of) of the American citizenry. Might I remind you that wars are not fought unilaterally? That we have been attacked (repeatedly and long before 9/11/01) and are under continued threat of attack. On the other hand, I offered a link to a relatively rare outrage at the belligerents ( the radical ideologues) or, at least, some of them. Did you read it? If this war is to end, and end successfully for us, the enemy must be willing to end all aggression. The US has always been willing to refrain from hostilities. It has nothing to do with a lack of body bags, proximity to soldiers, or the lack of a draft.

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  62. Holly said:

    "if war is a cultural calamity, how can so many of the people today be so indifferent to this one?"

    Perhaps because no one can connect "9-11" and "Iraq." Not even our government.

    Perhaps because we have enough to worry about in our own country (unemployment at 25-year highs, foreclosures, financial implosion, poverty, homelessness, cancer, etc.), to care whether a nameless Iraqi can live a better life.

    Perhaps because toppling a maniacal dictator with no ties to 9-11 did little, if anything, to assuage the fear of terrorism.

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  63. mvd, I can connect Iraq and 9/11 but you may disagree with my reasoning. The 9/11 attacks were carried out by followers of al Quaeda and Usama bin Laden who were given safe haven by the Taleban who, in turn, ruled Afghanistan. Within a few months, we had routed the Taleban and al Qaeda from that country. Al Quaeda would then need to seek a new safe haven somewhere; a place that would give them access to more resources, perhaps. Now, switch to Iraq in your mind and examine the dynamics there at the time. Ruled by a despot, angry at the US, and still (officially) at war with the US. It also had resources, arms, and already proved to be a training place for terror operations. An agreement between al Quaeda and Hussein would have created a haven for terrorists who could then create havoc and diversions for Hussein. While there would be diplomatic setbacks for his regime (he was on the verge of getting sanctions lifted, not through cooperation but by using the indifference of many of our allies), there would be that "positive" of being a real thorn in our side. The best way to prevent a place from becoming a haven for terrorists is to deny them a regime which might, logically, grant them one.

    Now, I know that not many agree with my reasoning on why I did not think Iraq was a bad idea (there are other reasons I supported it also) and I can accept their logic (when it is presented as a "positive" and not a "negative"). I just offer the above for consideration.

    By the way, the reason that I asked Holly what war she was referring to was to determine whether it was the overall war or the fighting in Iraq. Technically, we are no longer at war with Iraq. The government has been changed, there are agreements between our two governments, and the fighting is with insurgents and terrorists who moved in to take advantage of the initial turmoil following the toppling of Hussein's regime.

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  64. You list a bunch of broad categories in which you claim that war has spurred great advancement. I will give you that military rocketry gave birth to the space program. And I will give you that the space program has given us Tang and some really nifty toilets and has greatly increased on knowledge of the effect of weightlessness on a whole range of flora and fauna. I think it might also have given us Teflon, but I'm not sure about that one. How else has the space program improved your life?
    I would, in fact, argue that the majority of the things that you claim to have been developed BECAUSE of war simply made war more terrible, or more possible, than it previously had been. Manned flight did not develop out of war; war took manned flight and made it possible to wipe out whole cities in one fell swoop. War did not develop antibiotics; antibiotics did make it possible for many more wounded soldiers to survive their wounds. Maybe it had been better if they were never wounded in the first place. Telecommunications were not developed for use in war, but for use in business; ditto computers. The internal combustion engine was not developed for use in war, but it sure made it easier to conduct war. Please be more specific: what is it that you feel we would be doing without, had the last war been fought in, say, the 18th or 19th century?

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