Comments on: The two sides of inequality Wed, 07 Oct 2015 17:23:32 +0000 hourly 1 By: paintcan Wed, 30 Nov 2011 02:42:08 +0000 I’d make a poor politician but that is beside the point. You would make a better one – you are a smoother talker. Reagan may have inspired a lot of people but what really won them over were tax cuts and the now questionable economic philosophy of neoliberalism.

Garbage in – garbage out has been a rule of the computer programmers. I am not saying it always pumps out garbage. I just can’t tell many times. This was a subject of other posts.

The basic subject of this article is inequality. I sent an article to someone recently about the Belgian elections and he sent back a reply that no government means no corruption and that the wealthy can rule their neighborhood in a paternalistic way. I don’t know how he arrived at that conclusion but the social situation he describes is too like a very romanticized version of Mario Puzzo’s godfather, Don Corleone. The Godfather was his own government.

The first Godfather was somewhat humane but the second one was becoming a more ruthless monster. You really must read the Old Roman histories of the Imperial period in translation if you haven’t already. I cannot stress how corrupt the military regime actually was. The system was a killing machine and could turn its gaze on anything. It never spared the leaders or those who profited most. Maybe it was smart. Few of the emperors were able to live as long as a one-term president. The Pax Romana was followed by 100 years of civil war.

There are better ways to describe the “mood swings” of the ancient roman civilization. Europeans have been drinking wine for centuries and they were not introducing lead into the mix. That struggle for balance of power, or territory, or wealth and autonomy and civil rights has characterized their history for the past 2000 years.

The history of the Roman Empire and the histories of many other historic empires all tend to resemble each other in many ways and they all differ just enough to defy easy characterization. Roman history was also a primer for later periods. We haven’t ever tried to look at Chinese dynastic history or the empires of the Middle East. This country disliked a standing army during its founding years. The Roman imperial army was a volunteer army too.

By: OneOfTheSheep Tue, 29 Nov 2011 23:34:48 +0000 @paintcan,

If all truth is, to you, a mirage, you would make the quintessential politician.

You would make a poor friend, for anything we have in common today you might shed tomorrow as a snake sheds it’s skin. Hitler inspired people to bring our their worst. It was Mussolini, nor Hitler who dreamed of a new Roman Empire. Despite their “marriage of convenience” Hitler did not respect fascist Italy because their military was poorly lead and of limited potential or accomplishment.

Reagan inspired Americans, even those who shared few of his values, to believe again in America. We need a bit of that magic today for America remains the best hope for a world where each may have a chance to be all they can be.

Knowing there are better players “out there” makes the prudent cautious, but they do not retire to their bed and pull the covers over their head. That which does not kill us makes us smarter and stronger.

Today, the computer is an 1d10T that accepts what it is told and can regurgitate it piece by piece as appropriate almost instantly. No one has yet programed one to recognize truth from mere information except by looking for an “acceptable match” which a person must program in.

It would be more accurate to say that a player “plays” the momentary best combination of programmer input AND machine speed and accuracy. GIGO. Garbage in, garbage out.

By: paintcan Tue, 29 Nov 2011 18:28:34 +0000 You make very nice sounding but very false homilies. I know of a dog down the street that has been taken from a police-training program and has since been fed well by a kinder caretaker and he is still a very dangerous animal. Apparently only the new owner can go near him at all. He barks without provocation and is the only dog in this entire neighborhood I cannot even touch. In a way, the attack-training program drove the dog insane.

You also failed to reveal a “core truth” about any of my questions. The truth you claim to see is very like a mirage. All that glitters is not gold, not even glittering core truths as you claim.

Hitler thought he could establish a third Roman Empire and what he founded instead was a killing machine that would have made the Romans blush. Hitler knew how easy it was to pull the wool over a nation’s eyes and how ready they are to believe what they want to believe. He knew how to play on prejudices and hatreds as well. He put people in touch with dearly held “core truths” and many loved him for it.

It may be wiser in fact – not to accept easy or deceptive core truths and to realize that the world is always full of better card players than one can ever be. It is nearly impossible to beat a computer at anything and a computer can eat core truth whole. It can be programmed with myriad variations of them as well.

By: OneOfTheSheep Tue, 29 Nov 2011 18:00:42 +0000 @paintcan,

You asked for information, I gave. Take it or leave it, with or without gratitude. I care not.

I did not assert that wine killed the ruling classes of the Roman civilization. I merely offered academic speculation that wine adulterated with dissolved lead could be the reason for the considerable and sometimes lethal apparent “mood swings” of some of Rome’s leaders.

The entire population was constantly being replenished by healthy children…lead is individually accumulative in it’s effect, and is not passed sire to son, etc. Many of the upper class chose not to have children. More than a few were gay. Thus there were fewer “new Romans” than most societies of the day, and the average life span was about forty (if I recall facts correctly).

The “end” came when invaders destroyed the aqueducts that brought pure water into Rome in the quantity necessary to sustain a large population in a relatively small area. When the water ceased to flow that their way of life depended upon, they dispersed quite quickly. Many were probably unsuccessful in making the necessary transition from urban to rural life.

Most of us function in life guided by some religion or adopted “core values”. These differ according to individual experience and circumstance to forge an utterly unique perspective.

The “moral compass” of a majority usually points in the same direction and is influenced similarly by the challenges that we encounter. All must play the cards they are dealt, but the deal is sometimes influenced for or against us by our own hand or that of others. Some play well, some badly; but all must play.

I think there is usually a “right” or best path for each at any given time, but it is not always obvious at the time or timely chosen. My “notion” is that we are each exposed to a never-ending stream of information all of our waking moments. It is for us to see the sparkle in the pan that is truth and not be diverted by the “fools gold” that has the shine but not the value.

Each of us has the tools to find our own way; but we, alone, must use those tools. The sledge hammer can be used to build a railroad or destroy the train’s engine. Our choice. Our responsibility. Our consequences, good or bad.

I see “core truths” as those each of us fit together to form or reinforce an interlocking self-compatible self-reinforcing mental matrix to facilitate timely decisions that are usually, but not always, correct (for us). I think Mark Twain gave us an “essential truth” when he described “human nature” in these (or similar) words: “If you take a starving dog and feed him and make him prosperous, he will not bite you; and that is the difference between a man and a dog.”

By: paintcan Tue, 29 Nov 2011 14:11:15 +0000 OOTS – I withdraw my thanks. The Romans population tended to engage in bouts of slaughter of the upper classes and the lower classes were being forced into long military service for which the terms could be changed at will. They seemed to have grown accustomed to thinking of the gladiatorial games as sadistic entertainment. I was talking to a vegetarian friend who suggested that the games were a way for everyone to get a meat rush. Their diets were generally low in animal protein and the games were a kind of community barbeque. The bread and circuses ethic made them gullible (Dio Cassius mentions many very dubious miracles) venal and easily lead. Murder by cruel and unusual methods in the arena was reinforced by a feel good sense of being better fed than at normal times. The entire Roman system ultimately made slaves out of the entire population. Rich or poor were reduced to having no political voice and could only take political power back in short term coups d’etat. The state became so degenerate the Historia Augusta is apparently a work of fiction. The later histories – and I am not an expert – may be fictions. Your assertion that wine killed the ruling classes doesn’t quite explain why the entire population didn’t die off. And you ignore the effects of the paid informers and spies the imperial system employed whenever they needed money. You down play the effects of military tyranny.

You claim to know the truth. One very large difference between the way the various people’s of the world live has to do with marriage practices and I wonder how much of the animus aimed at the Islamic world by the West may arise from that difference? The Islamic world lives with polygamy. The west doesn’t approve it as a legal practice and yet tends to practice a modified serial form of it in terms of marriage, divorce and remarriage. Gay people want the right, and have it in some states, to marry. I know many people who don’t marry at all. The Chinese government still practices the one child policy and you are one who would encourage that. They wanted a limit to the birth rate so that resources could be devoted to development of the economy. I suspect they will make a disastrous decision and allow the new millionaires to have as many children as they can afford but I don’t know for sure. Is there a true practice or a right way?

I still think your notion that information yields core truths is partly right and is wrong at the same time. What is the essential truth about the structure of subatomic particles or even about human nature for that matter?

By: wajand96 Mon, 28 Nov 2011 14:07:55 +0000 Trade offs and getting the economy moving is a difficult balancing act in the United States. My major concern is the Democrats will not move on medicare reforms. In my opinion if people who do not have private medical insurance where paid for not using the traditional medical system could this be a long term stragedy. You could work out the demographics and have a rebate say starting at $10000 in total over 5 years reducing each time you use the medical system.You may even let people borrow funds in advance against this scheme. You could also work out what consults this is to apply to. You could also give chemists greater power to distribute medications.
With the internet people can better self manage there health life cycle. A Health life cycle programme may even be set up by the Department of Health on the internet and supported by call centres. Maybe you could have blood tests with out Doctor follow up eg. lab give a short summary.
In my opinion the only way to make cuts to Americas health system is to give people who do not have access to private health insurance incentives to control there own health life cycle.
Perhaps a model can be developed and used by other countries. The internet and personal responsability and financial incentives could be a cure to the market failure of not only Americas but other countries in similiar positions who have multi tiered medical systems.
David Wajand

By: paintcan Sat, 26 Nov 2011 23:04:51 +0000 @oneof the sheep – Thankyou for the information and thankyou.

By: OneOfTheSheep Sat, 26 Nov 2011 21:13:12 +0000 @paintcan:

9-10/08: American Interest, “Through a Wine Glass, Darkly (Ian Brunskill) – “Wine and fraud have gone together for as long as wine has been made. Unscrupulous Roman vintners… beefed up poor vintages by adding lead, too, in a pre-modern act of octane boosting.

[various sources]: [An obvious] cause of chronic lead poisoning…was the consumption of defrutum and sapa. Cato, Columella, Pliny, and Palladius (On Agriculture, XI.18) all describe how unfermented grape juice (mustum, must) was boiled to concentrate its sugar. “A product of art, not of nature,” says Pliny (XIV.80), the must was reduced to one half (defrutum) or even one third its volume (sapa), and the thickened syrup used to sweeten and preserve wine and fruit that otherwise was sour or would spoil.

Cato, for example, recommends that olives and pears be preserved in boiled must (VII.4) as does Varro (I.59.3). And Columella indicates that defrutum should always be boiled with quinces or some other flavoring (XII.20.2). Apicius, in De Re Coquinaria, offers directions for preserving quinces in defrutum and honey (I.21) and added the rich syrup to many of his sauces to enhance the color and flavor of almost every dish, whether meat, fish, fowl, or fruit. Accordingly, “…the dainties and elaborate sauces prepared with defrutum by gourmands…are likely to have been [a] primary source of ingested lead by the Roman aristocracy.

Pliny advises the must be prepared in lead vessels…”…boiled-down must and must of new wine should be boiled…; and moreover leaden and not copper jars should be used…”. He writes that “When copper vessels are coated with stagnum [a lead alloy], the contents have a more agreeable taste and the formation of destructive verdigris is prevented” (XXXIV.160) and that the best bronze was alloyed with ten percent lead and tin (XXXIV.95).

“…assumptions [must] be made regarding how much defrutum was added to sweeten and preserve the wine, the amount of wine consumed, and its lead content. Both Eisinger and Patterson et al. found that must reduced to one-third its volume contained approximately 1000 milligrams of lead per liter. If, as Columella recommends (XII.20.3), one sextarius of defrutum should be mixed with one amphora of wine, which held approximately 26 liters, the resulting proportion would be one part in forty-eight or almost 21 milligrams of lead per liter (2100 µg/dL), a concentration that certainly would induce symptoms of lead poisoning (even more so, if one follows Cato’s recommendation of one part in thirty, XXIV).

“Martial accuses a wine merchant of Marseilles of shipping poisonous and overpriced wines to his friends and, indeed, being reluctant to visit Rome for fear of having to drink them himself. (Epigrams, X.36). Pliny, too, complains that…”So many poisons are employed to force wine to suit our taste—and we are surprised that it is not wholesome! (Epigrams, XIV.130)”. So much for Romans and probable lead poisioning.

The “…corporate world [I] praise…” (actually the correct word would be “admire”) has, by and large been the primary economic engine by which the AVERAGE American standard continues to surpass that of any large society in the history of the world. Is it perfect? No.

It doesn’t have to be. It just has to be the best of acceptable genuine alternatives. “The system” works, even though it can and has been be corrupted by individuals. You point out and fixate on minor imbalances present to some degree in all organized societies. We are men, not Gods; and warts, or imperfections will always be with us.

You have earlier confessed yourself unable to glean nuggets of “truth” from “information”. I cannot envision how one builds meaningful “core” VALUES on a foundation of anything but truth.

The very challenge of standing erect on intellectual quicksand must make our world appear ever threatening and unsatisfactory. That might explain your evident frustration and dissatisfaction. May you someday find that which you seek, and may it give you satisfaction.

By: paintcan Sat, 26 Nov 2011 18:22:48 +0000 OOTS – You, and the few people who share your views completely, criticize people like me for not having credible suggestions for improvement. The biggest problem is finding the problem(s). There is very little agreement on that. You don’t offer many suggestions. You usually describe the line you want everyone to toe. There are worldwide disagreements about where the line should be drawn. There may actually be no line to draw and it is only a figment of your self serving hallucination. But I have to admit I like some of my self sevrivng rationals for my life too. I couldn’t live without them.

BTW – To what kingdom are you afraid of loosing control of the keys? Are you sure it isn’t a rattle trap because the owners were often absent, exploitive and very selfish slum lords?

You are right perhaps, that I cannot see, but I can’t see other people’s hallucinations either. Isn’t it obvious that societies too can wander off into self-induced dreams? You may want courage – but you have to have some idea where you’re going first. You may fancy yourself the best pilot but they can’t deal with crashing either- they just try to avoid it. In times of crisis, even those in control may not see either.

It’s funny how people like you won’t complain about prisons but will balk at public housing. You tend to complain about the residents bad lifestyle choices. Prisons cost a lot of money that could be used elsewhere – and societies that want large degrees of personal safety, that institutionalizes their own collective fears and prejudices, can put people in there and even lie about it. They do not even always have to rely on good sense or tolerance and any kind of compassionate, legal or sane matters of appropriate crime and punishment. The way states impose punishments for specific crimes is very like the way the Catholic Church created definitions of venial and mortal sins and the number of prayers required for absolution. I have no idea what the exchange rate for crimes and punishment is in “absolute terms” that you so stupidly cling to. There is no absolute valuation of tangible things and there is certainly no absolute valuation of crime.

By: paintcan Sat, 26 Nov 2011 12:24:06 +0000 OOTS – Where are you finding that idea that lead added to wine made for better taste? How would anyone know? I even have questions about lead poisoning arising from ancient water systems. Concentrations of lead only seem to occur when water has been siting still in pipes for an extended period. Roman water systems did not seem to have valves of any kind and were continuously flowing systems. The pipes may have been made of lead – usually the parts within buildings – but they always emptied, apparently, either into fountains or cisterns. The fountains and cisterns were most often stone or stuccoed brick. Since it isn’t generally possible to do tissue analysis on many roman corpses – they tended to be cremated – that idea about lead poisoning may be an old wives tales or a good guess. How does one add lead to wine at all? Was it a powder?

But that theory ignores many episodes of purges of the Aristocracy for political or economic reasons. The upper class was selfish and cruel in many ways and burdened the lower orders while absorbing the available resources of land and natural resources.

The military/police state that was imperial Rome – something many wonder we are becoming – was given to massive rounds of political paranoia and overt class warfare. Unlike you, apparently – I read all of Gibbon (except for the Byzantium period) and some of Dio Cassius and am now reading Herodian. I’ve also read Juvinal, Tacitus, Suetonius and Petronius and some of the plays. The Colosseum was show time for capital punishment and people shared your very smug attitude about crime. Their justice system was corrupt too and the lower the person was in the social hierarchy, the less likely they would get fair treatment.

And even if what you say were true about lead – there is allot of evidence to suggest that the populations of modern industrial societies are accumulating toxins not only in their bodies but in the environment and of a broader array of contaminants and potential harms. What makes you think the modern world has all it’s marbles either? There is no absolute yardstick in the matter. You don’t believe in “psychobabble” as I recall. But Nero does not read like a mad man as much as a person unfit by temperament and background for the office. The Romans fluctuated from mild to fierce it seems, depending on the political attitude of the ruling factions.

The Romans were trapped in a system of low literacy, centralized and very corrupt government without a constitution, and a huge displaced underclass without significant property and dependent, through the client system, on the wealthy for survival. They were controlled by a very corrupt military apparatus.

The corporate world you praise is very like the client system and very unlike the new territory that made this country and so many others, including the Roman world while it was at it’s a happiest, prosperous and most peaceful.

I tend to see Roman history as some kind of trace of a biological organism and BajaArizona makes a good point about stress playing a large factor in human well being and probably on how societies function as well. Mathewslyman also noticed social imbalance. Their attitudes are sounder than your comfortable certainties.

Actually Roman history during the monarchy and again during the Imperial period look and sound so alike it is boring.