Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Daily Growler Wisdom Excerpts--to the Wise

Foto by tgw, "Southwest Sky Over Lower Manhattan," 2010
Overlooked Wisdom From the Past

Our surrounding institutions, customs and public opinion calls for conformity: they require us to act in masses like herds of cattle: they do not recognize the fact that we think and feel individually and ought to be at liberty to act individually.

Laws and governments are professedly instituted for the security of person and property, but they have never accomplished this object.

The greatest crime which can be committed society and which causes poverty and lays the foundation of almost all other crimes, is the monopoly of the soil.

Laws cannot be adapted to the individuality of cases, and if they could, laws are language which is subject to different interpretations according to the individuals who are appointed to administer them. Therefore, it is individuals rather than laws that govern. Every election illustrates this: we are told that our destinies depend on the election of this or that man to office. Why? It is men not laws or principles that govern society. There is an individuality among judges and jurors as among all other persons, so that he whom one judge or jury would acquit, another would condemn.

Citizens cannot know today what will be lawful tomorrow; laws made this year are unmade the next and their repeal is often our only intimation that they existed. All these uncertainties must exist even when laws are framed with greatest wisdom and administered with the purest devotedness to the public good without the least tinge of personal feeling or private interest, provided such phenomena are to be found, but every newspaper that comes to hand convinces that such are not found even in the proportion of ten to the population of Sodom; but that, notwithstanding all that revolutions have cost the world, laws and governments still are what they always have been, viz. public means for private ends.
josiah warren

The above quotes are from Josiah Warren's The Peaceful Revolutionist, a small pamphlet he printed himself in 1833.
Wisdom Now
From this week's Freeman:

In the early 1980s, while the U.S. economy was suffering through a severe recession, Lester Thurow, dean of the business school at MIT and a Newsweek columnist, came up with what he thought was a great idea: a value-added tax. According to Thurow, a VAT would encourage production and discourage consumption, making it what he called a “true supply-side policy.”

Thank goodness not many people listened to Thurow. I hoped his suggestion would fall into the dustbin of Really Bad Ideas forever, but unfortunately, less than three decades later, the policy wonks in Washington are promoting this bad idea as the Next Economic Elixir.

First, what is a value-added tax? It is something like a sales tax, except that it is levied on the “value added” at each stage of production. Politicians and bureaucrats love it because consumers cannot separate the tax from the price of the products they purchase. They simply become used to paying higher prices for goods than they normally would pay without the tax.

From The Freeman--see "Blog List" to the right side of The Growler.
Delightful Introduction to a 1972 Volume: The Sleeping Brain
"Sleep, like any other biological structure or process, has a history. In common with other historians, we who are attempting to reconstruct the history of sleep have several problems. Our primary sources are irretrievably lost. We can interrogate informers, but how reliable are they? Is this turtle telling me the truth about his 232nd grandfather or is he only talking about himself? Historians also have self-made problems. They are apt to be as ignorant and biased as anyone else. If I believe that I descended from a chimpanzee, who in turn evolved from a lemur, opossum, alligator, and so on into the primeval ooze, the history of sleep derived from this model may be entertaining, but entertaining nonsense. Even the best evolutionary models we now have are fragile things, full of holes and thin places. If we ignore the distant past and merely try to write the history of living animals, problems still intrude. We can ask our fellow man for correct answers and often get them (the answers may be incredibly complicated, but that's another matter!). But in order to obtain information from other species we must take prisoners, and prisoners, out of boredom or frustration, tend to lie. In short, we are just beginning to reconstruct a credible history of sleep. What will it tell us? I like Walls' answer. In a postscript to his classic study of the evolution of the visual system, he wrote: 'Looking at any biological system, I may wonder about it in several ways; but one of my wonders will always be, how did it come tobe as it is -- how did it get this way' (Walls, 1962)."

From: The Sleeping Brain, ed. Michael H. Chase, Perspectives in the Brain Sciences, Vol 1, Brain Information Service - Brain Research Institute, University of California, Los Angeles, 1972, "Introduction," Truett Allison, p. 1
From Jose Ortega y Gasset's Wonderful The Revolt of the Masses Published in 1932

--"Physical space and time are the absolutely stupid aspects of the universe" (p. 27).

--"Speed, which is made up of space and time, is no less stupid than its constituents, but it serves to nullify them. One stupidity can only be overcome by another" (p. 27).

--[Because of man's mortality] "he needs to triumph over distance and delay. For an immortal being, the motor-car would have no meaning" (FN, p.27).
Now that to me is wise thinking--brilliant thinking in fact. Think about what Ortega y Gasset is writing: the stupidity of space and time; Speed = space and time = stupidity=nullification of space and time: meaning: "One stupidity can only be overcome by another." Yahoo! shout I. Which leads Ortega y Gasset to determine that because we die we instinctually desire "to triumph over distance and delay"--thus--why would an immortal need a motor-car? Whew, that sort of reasoning rattles me timbers and opens up valuable space and time in my mind's universe.
From the Mighty Mind of the Very Wise Thorstein Veblen From 1899
"The thief or swindler who has gained great wealth by his delinquency has a better chance than the small thief of escaping the rigorous penalty of the law; and some good repute accrues to him from his increased wealth and from his spending the irregularly acquired possessions in a seemly manner" (p. 89, The Theory of the Leisure Class, New American Library Mentor Edition, 1953).
I thought of the above excerpt as I was listening to the Goldman-Sachs thieves and swindlers lying like lying low-life mangy dogs by excusing their piracy on the grounds that Goldman-Sachs is too big to fail; therefore, they are also too big to do WRONG! Trust me, too, nothing really bad's gonna happen to Goldman-Sachs--I guarantee you--they'll be back stealing another few billions of our wage-earnings taxes in a matter of another quarter when once again they'll turn in billions of dollars of profits and will be praising themselves and rewarding themselves with bonuses for being thieves and swindlers too wealthy to be under any worry of being penalized by the law.
We Continue Our Wisdom Issue With Something Written by a Man Named H. Christopher Longuet-Higgins, a Very Wise-Sounding Name
"The fact that people can associate ideas, such as names and faces, or sounds and symbols, is too obvious to need documentation. If there were a limited number of possible ideas, the developing brain could allocate a separate neurone to each, and connect every pair of such neurones by a modifiable synapses, to be facilitated if and only if the two ideas occurred in association. Ideas can, however, be very complicated, so the number of possible ideas is enormous--far too large for each to be assigned a neurone on the off-chance of it turning up. Complex ideas, 'patterns', must therefore be indexed by the association of simpler ones, 'features', to which neurones can be allocated without extravagance. By recording the pairwise associations between the features of a pattern we can set up a simple associative memory (Marr 1969), from which the pattern can be recovered by activating enough of its features and allowing these to activate the remainder. Memories of this kind not only solve the problems of 'store allocation' and 'content-addressability', but are also relatively robust against partial corruption of the contents" (p 3, Parallel Distributed Processing, Ed. R.G.M. Morris, Oxford Science Publications, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1989).
I love neurobiology because of its purposed complicated binary way of thinking--the above wise collections of neurobiological wordings reminds me of my own theory of parallel aligned likes--the complications solving each other's problems in such a relationship.

From the same book (Parallel Distributed Processing):
"Neuroscientists study firing rates, excitation, inhibition, and plasticity; cognitive scientists study rules, representations, and symbol systems. Although it's relatively easy to imagine ways to run cognitive symbol systems on digital computers, how they could be implemented in neural hardware has remained obscure. Conversely, it is easy to get neural networks to execute simple forms of associative learning, but learning a language or engaging in logical reasoning is quite another thing . Any theory of this middle level faces a formidable set of criteria: it must satisfy the contraints of neurophysiology and neuroanantomy, yet supply the right kind of computational power to serve as the basis for cognition.

"Recently there has been considerable enthusiasm for a theory that claims to do just that. Connectionist or parallel distributed processing (PDP)...." (p 182, Parallel Distributed Processing, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1989, "Rules and connections in human language" by Steven Pinker and Alan Prince).

These dudes go on to describe what they call "A connectionist model of language acquisition." I understand this stuff and praise all lords for giving these poor "professors" the leisure time needed to come up with these complicated systems of cognitive reasoning, thinking, figuring out, applying, evolving.... After all of this reading, I'm still questioning: if I came from a chimpanzee, who came from a lemur?...or an alligator?...or an o'possum? Most of my fellow human beings seem to have ascended like I from the chimpanzee. I know no one of them who resembles a lemur--though I did once know a guy in college who did look like an o'possum--that little hairless baby face. Except we called him Skunker, because though he had a sweet o'possum baby face, he smelled like a skunk.

and austinhighchew,
The Daily Growler managing editor,
for The Daily Growler Book of Wisdom
Note: The The Daily Growler managing editor has ordered marvelousmarvinbackbiter to either file a sports report or "Hit the Road" Marv. I mean, come on, he has time to call basketball games.... Marv reports he'll turn one in soon or else give the job over to Mr. Met.

The Yankees, by the bye, are in second place behind Tampa Bay...
The Mets--Hey, they're tied for second with the Marlins and the Nats. The Braves are in the basement.

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