Thursday, August 30, 2012

  1. More on Political Dog Whistles.
  2. The ancient Republican who built something great by himself.
  3. Rare credit to the Netherlands.
  4. Could we pass RFRA again today?
  5. One of our preeminent modern myths.
  6. “Central heat”?
  7. On the Foundation of the Apostles and Prophets.

Continue reading “Thursday, August 30, 2012”

What iPads Did To My Family – Chuck’s Blog

Departure point: What iPads Did To My Family – Chuck’s Blog.

I’m a gadget guy. I occasionally feel oppressed by how many I have, and I cherish the gadget that can replace multiple other gadgets – such as my iPhone, f’rinstance, which for me pretty much replaced:

  1. Cell phone
  2. PDA or Pocket Calendar
  3. iPod
  4. E-Book reader
  5. Notebook computer (if just e-mail monitoring is needed)

But if a guy as tech-savvy as Chuck Hollis, with his tech-savvy family, can buy an iPad as a toy and then find his whole tech-savvy family waiting turns to use it, then I may have to regress, eventually, to iPhone and iPad instead of just iPhone.

Or maybe I could finally figure out how to use Skype?

Does economic growth rot the culture?

Georgetown political theorist Patrick Deneen thinks genuine conservatism is incompatible with global capitalism and that confusion of the two is a cold war artifact. I’ll not equivocate about this one: I very strongly suspect he’s right.

Other stimulating excerpts:

My goal has been (I hope) in particular to deepen some of our political understanding and vocabulary, to make visible to more readers some of the deepest presuppositions of modern politics and even the deeper philosophical ideas that inform discrete political issues.  By enlarging the view and elongating the perspective, I also hoped that some other overlooked possibilities might be entertained – particularly beyond the worn and largely unproductive contemporary political positions adopted by the Right and the Left.

[M]any modern proponents of democracy believe that true democracy will only be achieved when we have overcome all “particularity.”  The root of the contradiction of modern democratic theory is the idea that there are only two justifiable and desirable conditions of humankind – the radically individuated monad and the globalized world community.  Any intermediate grouping or belonging is seen as arbitrary and the locus of limitations – hence, unjust.

Technology aids and abets the modern project of eviscerating attachments to local places and cultures.  Not long ago, thinkers like Emerson and Dewey praised the liberating and transformative potential of the railroads and telegraph; today, it is the internet and Facebook. [No, the irony is not lost on me.]

I think there is great systemic danger in the not-distant future due to a coming (or already arrived) energy crisis.  This will be a traumatic experience for a civilization that has been built around the assumption of permanently cheap energy.  I would submit that our economic crisis, our debt crisis, and our moral crisis are all pieces of this larger energy crisis.  Because our way of thinking treats problems as separate and discrete, we tend not to see their deeper connections.  I would be happy to elaborate on this, but won’t presume to take up the space to lay this out in this venue.  The thinker who has best articulated the contemporary tendency to treat all problems as “parts” while ignoring the whole is Wendell Berry.

(I found the interview linked above through Deneen’s own summary at Front Porch Republic, which also reminds me that he was interviewed by Ken Myers at Mars Hill Audio Journal, an excellent resource for commuters or people who like something other than frenetic music on the iPod when they work out, walk, bike or whatever.)

Better cabs through innovation

From the Financial Times, an interesting article on the competition between the “Black Cabs” of London (with their legal privileges, tradition, and undeniable Knowledge of their drivers) and an upstart company, Addison Lee, that is challenging the Black Cabs on several fronts. For instance, the story opens with how Russians are working with Addison Lee to collect GPS data, the better to predict trip length, preferred routes, and fleet allocation.

We all no doubt tend to find confirmation of our prejudices wherever we can. Climate scientists claim corroboration in a winter weather pattern that coincides with global warming theory, but then, seemingly inconsistently, deny that a weather pattern to the contrary is evidence of anything. Heads, we win; tails, inconclusive.

So take it with a grain of salt however big you like that I find in this story evidence that if we regulate an industry, we should think very hard before granting it any outright monopoly. The innovation potential of allowing upstarts is especially prominent in this story. What if the regulators had crushed the upstarts, especially since they tended to be a bit shady?

Dare I think of this story even as being evidence of the virtues of policies that promote small-scale innovation so as to prevent even “free market” success from creating excessive concentrations of corporate power? (Most of our megabusinesses like Wal-Mart, ConAgra, Archer Daniels Midland and such, owe a great deal to cozy relationships with legislators and regulators – hardly examples of pure free market success. But that’s a story for another day.)