Archives for category: Frames of mind

“The Texas educational system inundates the children with the almost mythical stories of Sam Houston, Stephen F. Austin, and other Texan heroes. This perpetuates the feeling that Texans are superior to others. Social Identity Theory claims that in-group biases are a direct need to feel superior to another group. By reinforcing such ideals of Texas history at an early age, they are indirectly making Texans feel superior to other states.”

Don’t mess with Texas, Justin R.Erenkranz, retrieved on February 18, 2021

In fact, Texans are so proud of their state, and so confident in themselves, that their power grid, run by ERCOT – Electric Reliability Council of Texas, has no connections linking it to the outside world.
Yes, your eyes are OK. Texas – most of it, anyway, cannot import electric energy. No matter what!

For those who know anything about power management, this is insane.
For the rest of the people, this sounds like gibberish.

Who cares where the power comes from?!?

Until it stops coming… exactly when you need it most!

Texas produces and consumes more electricity than any other state, but it is the only state in the continental United States that runs a stand-alone electricity grid, which was designed to keep the state’s energy system independent and isolated from other markets.

‘OK. But surely, there are also other systems which are independent. And isolated. What about Hawai’i? It’s too far away to connect itself with anybody else and it’s doing just fine.’

True enough. And I can name a few more, easily. Only most of them are independent because they are isolated, not by design.
And, exactly because they are isolated, they are run with utmost care. More precautions are taken than in ‘normal’ situations.

‘Precaution’ meaning, in this case, spare capacity.
The responsible people running those systems make sure that, when push comes to shove, somebody is there to deliver the goods. The megawatts of power.

Since 2010, ERCOT’s reserve margin – the buffer between what it can produce vs. forecasted demand – has dropped to about 10% from about 20%. This has put pressure on generators during electricity demand spikes, making the grid less flexible, NERC said.

NERC stands for North American Electric Reliability Corporation. Which corporation, in December 2020, had released “a long term reliability study” maintaining that “ERCOT’s market and system operations have been successful over the last several years even as demand has continued to rise in Texas“. It was the same study which had mentioned that the grid was becoming “less flexible“….

SEC Rule 156 requires mutual funds to tell investors not to base their expectations of future results on past performance before they invest.

Oops…

Reality is an Acquired Taste.

Past performance is not… John Brown, Forbes, 2016

Maybe we need to reconsider our infatuation with ‘just in time management’.
While ‘just in time management’ maximizes profits by streamlining inventory, it works its magic only when everything goes according to plan. And the stricter the streamlining, the harsher the consequences of anything not going according to plan!

As people in Texas have just learned.

And there’s something else which bothers me ever since I’ve started writing this post.
How much sense does it make to be able to pipe oil all the way down from Canada to the refineries lining the Gulf of Texas when you end up freezing to death because you don’t have enough electricity to operate those refineries?!?

And no, I’m not making fun of the ordinary people who suffer the consequences!
This being the moment when I feel the need to remind you that the author of this blog – that’s me, tries to asses the consequences of our limited consciousness. Of the fact that none of us knows much. And, furthermore, that very few of us admit that!
Which consequences might be – as too often are, tragic.

Specially when those who are not aware that their knowledge is limited happen to be invested with critical decision power.

Where there’s a will there’s a way

According to the internet, this proverb is way older than the American Constitution.

Now, will ‘they’ find a constitutional way to set a precedent?
That a guy who had so horribly – and tragically, misused the sacred notion of “freedom of expression” has no place in such a powerful position?
Or, by failing to do so – for whatever reasons, will ‘they’ leave open the ‘opportunity’ for an even more callous ‘political animal’ to climb into the Oval Office?

“At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.”

Abraham Lincoln, 1838

40 years ago, the car manual was about how to adjust the carburetor.
Nowadays it starts with a stark warning. “Don’t drink the cooling liquid!”
Then it teaches us how to use the infotainment system and how to adjust the electric seats…

In those times, most of us – regardless of what country we lived in, had nothing fancier than a washing machine. And a TV set capable of receiving no more than 12 channels. But we had a lot of time to spend with our friends and relatives.
Nowadays, our houses are choke full of appliances designed to make our lives easier… So we break our backs working to pay for this paraphernalia! And we get so tired in the process that when we finally get back home, late at night, we’re so exhausted that we cannot do anything else but watch one of the 200+ channels our cable feeds into the huge TV which dwarfs everything else in the living room.

Meaning that we wrap up most of our days watching yet another mind numbing news-bulletin… which informs us about how bad tomorrow will be… unless we follow whatever advice that channel is determined to ‘sell’ to us!

This was one of the favorite slogans shouted by the anti-communist protesters in Romania’s ‘Piata Universitatii‘.
And the anthem used by those who opposed the regime which had ‘confiscated’ the political power after 1990.

The only problem with this notion being that it doesn’t make much sense. Not on the ‘face of it’. Not in any rational way…

You see, most individuals would choose life against any other ‘alternatives’.
When ‘the going gets tough’ most of us would accept almost any compromise in order to stay alive.

I’m not offering any examples. Use your own ‘imagination’.

Let me explain what ‘being a communist’ meant in Romania during Ceausescu’s rule.

First of all, in 1989 the ‘party’ was 4 million strong. 18% of the population were ‘proud’ carriers of the red membership card!
Were all of them ‘die hard’ communists?
Not at all!
Most of them had accepted to become members simply because they had no other alternative. Without the party’s ‘approval stamp’ one could not ‘accrue’ any significance. Nada! Nothing!
Could not get any promotion. Get an education higher than the equivalent of a college degree. Go visit a foreign country – not even a communist one!
Nor could you move out from your parents home!
Not easily, anyway. To be granted your own apartment, you had to submit an application to the relevant authority. Which application had to ‘checked’ by the relevant party official if you were to have any chance of success. Which ‘relevant party official’ was way more likely to approve your application if you were already a ‘member’.
And so on.

Then why would anyone refuse to become a member?!?

Thirty years later, I finally figured out the real meaning of the whole concept.
For you to get the whole picture, I must introduce you to a few more verses.

“Bum better than traitor
Hooligan better than dictator
‘Good for nothing’ better than activist
And dead better than a communist!”

By now, I’m sure most of you already had your Eureka moment.

‘Better to be dead than an ‘active’ communist’!

You don’t know what ‘activist’ exactly meant in communist Romania?

For starters, a ‘regular’ communist was just a ‘member’. You did have some ‘potential perks’ but you had to ask for them. And you were never sure your wishes were going to come true.
The activists, on the other hand, were paid for their efforts. Their ‘well compensated’ job was to put in practice whatever the party had decided. What the brass had decided, actually…
To convince the regular members – and, through them, the rest of the population, that whatever the brass had decided was ‘in the people’s best interest’!
And to inform the higher-ups about the real situation ‘in the field’.

In a nutshell, it was the party activist’s job to keep the party together!

‘OK, to keep the party together… that makes sense… but … whose interests were promoted by the almighty party?
And why had the whole thing collapsed like a house of cards?’

Let me answer your second question first.
The whole thing had collapsed like a house of cards because there was no other alternative.

Because there was no alternative to ‘the’ party!

Because those at the top had drifted away from reality.
Because those at the top had been driven away from reality by those below them. Who had been acting in a rational manner!
Who in their right mind would contradict a powerful figure?!? Specially when there’s no alternative? When you, the ‘middle man’ see no way out? What alternative do you have but to become an yes-man? Who utters only what the higher-ups want to hear and keeps mum about everything else?

See what I mean?
Do you finally understand Frank Herbert’s message?
Do you still wonder why all authoritarian regimes eventually succumbs, being eaten from inside out by corruption?

‘Now you’ve lost me!
Are you implying that by actively promoting ideas, and acting as a back-bone for a political party, one becomes an ‘accomplice’? An enabler?!?’

Well, let me answer your first question now!
‘Whose interests were promoted by the almighty party?’

On the face of it, the main ‘beneficiary’ was ‘the people’.
Practically… the people had become ‘hungry’.
‘Hungry’ enough to applaud when the dictator had been assassinated on Christmas Night in 1989

You see, every established system tends to put its own survival before anything else.
Every individual member of the system wants to conserve its position. Which is a reasonable thing.
The problem with ‘single’ parties being what I’ve mentioned above. The party slowly drifts away from reality for the simple reason that there’s no competition to keep them ‘moored’.
‘No real alternative in sight’ allows any ‘single system’ to construe their own ‘alternative’ reality. Made of “alternative facts”.

So!
You may promote whatever ideas you want. How ever actively you want to do it.
Be the back-bone of any political party – or any other organization, you see fit.

But don’t be surprised that if you promote the ‘flat Earth alternative‘ you’ll eventually fall over.

Fall over the face of the Earth, that is!

A few short weeks ago, Trump and his supportes were celebrating the Supreme Court as the last bastion of normalcy. As they saw it…
Presently, the still President of the United States acuse many of the judges, including all members of the Supreme Court, of not having ‘enough courage’.

Consequences?

Who could have imagined something like this a few short years ago?
The most powerfull democracy on Earth being the scene of such a tantrum?

Socialism!!!

Yeah.. tell that to Otto von Bismark

Why did I even mention his name?
Simple. He was the first secular – anti-clerical, to be more precise, political leader to consider a society as an ‘organism’.
He passionately hated the self styled ‘socialists’ yet he had treated the ‘working class’ a lot fairer than the future ‘popular democracies’ which revindicated themselves from Marx’s teachings.

But enough, for now, about Marx’s blunders.

Who among us has not yet read a personal improvement book?
And what was it about?
How to make yourself ‘better’?

How to ‘stand out’?!?

How many of you have read a ‘personal improvement’ book which mentioned ‘fitting in’ as opposed to ‘standing out’ at all costs?
Finding a place where your contribution will make a more significant ‘difference’ towards the shared well being versus making ‘your’ difference more noticeable to the whole world?

‘Do such books even exist?!?’

Yep!
And the first three which come to my mind – well, four actually, are:

The Bible,

The Wealth of Nations – coupled with The Theory of Moral Sentiments, of course,

The Origin and Evolution of Species.

Also helpful would be
What Evolution Is by Ernst Mayr and
The Social Construction of Reality by Peter L. Berger and Thomas Luckmann.

I’d start with the last two though. And then jump directly to Adam Smith.

Happy reading!

How do we vote?
For a candidate/party or against? Usually against the incumbent… Or against what we dislike…

What do we vote for? What do we expect?
Leadership or stewardship?
Do we expect our elected officials to take us by our collective hand and lead us through darkness or just want them to turn on the light?
To make it so that we may lead whatever lives we choose for ourselves ? For as long as we behave in a generally acceptable manner, of course…

Which brings us to ‘what democracy really is’ and ‘how can we make it work for real’?

First of all, let me point out that no democratic ‘arrangement’ had ever failed. For as long as it managed to maintain its democratic nature, of course….
Secondly, no authoritarian regime had survived for long. And most of them had fallen under their own weight rather than under outside pressure.

You see, even the ‘weakest’ democracies are way more adaptable than any authoritarian regime. The fact that anybody can voice their concerns sheds light on each problem, as it arises. The fact that all positions under the despot are filled with yes-sayers actually blinds all authoritarian regimes.
Furthermore, the fact that ‘we, the people’ has peaceful means to ‘fire’ those who do not rise to the occasion makes it possible for the society, as a whole, to survive ‘the event’. Even if the previous ‘decision maker’ could not find a way out. Faced with the same predicament, an authoritarian regime must first pass through a revolutionary transformation…

Then, if democratic regimes have such an evolutionary advantage compared to the authoritarian ones, why are we still confronted by so many dictatorships?

Because democracy demands something which is in short supply.
Mutual respect among all members of a given society!
Furthermore, democracy works only when the questions seeking answers are about the ‘how-s’ of the matter and not about the ‘what-s’.
A democratic society will remain democratic for only as long as its members continue to stick together. To have a common goal. To share a common weltanschauung.

As soon as a society allows itself to be divided into ‘parties’ promoting antagonistic interests its previously democratic arrangement will fade into ‘mob-rule’. Which is the ante-chamber of authoritarianism.

Now, not to mention her in the same breath, but Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy,” he said. “I finished it. I finished it. You know what I mean, President Barack Obama was born in the United States, period. Now we all want to get back to making America strong and great again. Thank you.

Thank you everyone for your support and prayers as Candy and I battled COVID-19…. I have several co-morbidities and after a brief period when I only experienced minor discomfort, the symptoms accelerated and I became desperately ill. President Trump was following my condition and cleared me for the monoclonal antibody therapy that he had previously received, which I am convinced saved my life. President Trump, the fabulous White House medical team, and the phenomenal doctors at Walter Reed have been paying very close attention to my health and I do believe I am out of the woods at this point. I am hopeful that we can stop playing politics with medicine and instead combine our efforts and goodwill for the good of all people. While I am blessed to have the best medical care in the world (and I am convinced it saved my life), we must prioritize getting comparable treatments and care to everyone as soon as possible.

Lewandowski is the latest person to test positive for the virus after attended last week’s Election Night party at the White House. His diagnosis follows chief of staff Mark Meadows and Housing, Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson and several White House staffers.

“Don Jr is the second of the president’s children to test positive.”

Romanians have a proverb.
‘Each of us makes his own bed’.
Like all other popular sayings, this one is only partially true.
In many cases – in most, actually, our individual ‘leeway’ is limited by those who are higher than us.
In many cases, again, those decision makers have climbed there with our full ‘blessing’.
In a sense, the above mentioned proverb is true on more than one ‘levels…’

As some of you might already know, two weeks ago my wife tested positive.
Hence we had to spend 14 days in isolation.
During which we had some interaction with the government bureaucracy. Through mail and telephone.

Meanwhile we witnessed, with an even keener than before interest, the public discussion about the whole thing.

Here’s what I learned.

The government bureaucracy, no matter how well intended its members might be – many of them on temporary positions, as expected during an emergency, is very close to the brink.
Meanwhile, the public – at least too many of those sharing their thoughts on FB, is still far from realizing the depth of the crises.

And here’s what I experienced.

Not knowing what’s going to happen to you is the worst thing.
Not knowing what’s going to happen to those you love is even worse.

Because you’re so busy worrying, you’re practically useless.
OK, you know statistics are on your side.
But statistics are not infallible. Hence ‘what if?’!

On top of being worried for your own, and your family’s, fate, comes the ‘political’ incertitude.
That sowed by the ‘naysayers’. And trafficked by the equally worried citizens. Specially by those who find themselves backing the opposition.

Things like ‘the mask is no good’. From ‘the mask cannot protect you’ to ‘the mask is a nuisance’ and ending with ‘the mask is dangerous’.
And besides being ‘no good’, the ‘mandate to wear one in public infringes upon our human rights’!

On top of that, the naysayers attempt to convince us that ‘we’re on our own’! That ‘government will not lift a finger to help us!’.
That its entire attention is focused on serving the ‘special interests’ which control it.

For all it’s worth, here’s my ‘official position’ on the matter.

We’re indeed on our own.
As we’ve always been!
The ‘government’ – all governments, is composed of humans.
Of people, like you and me.
Hence no government will ever be willing to do more for us than we are willing to do for our neighbors!

We are the ones who need to survive.
Because in order to thrive – as we all wish, we need to survive first!
As a fully functional social organism, mind you.
Hence we are the ones who need to start doing things!

And the first thing we need to do is to determine what comes first.
Our right to walk without wearing a ‘muzzle’?
Or our right to protect each other against a disruptive virus!

Smart enough to brag about it when attempting to become the next President of the United States…. at least according to Donald Trump… and to those who had voted for him – numerous enough for him to achieve his goal.

Smart enough or smart, period?

Let me put it differently.
You have no car. Yet you need to go to work and to shop for groceries. Hence you use public transport. Do you pay for it?
What would happen if a sizeable portion of those who use it would find a way to stop paying while still using the service? Those who continue to pay would have to pay more to keep the service going? Or the community at large would have to subsidize it?

You don’t care for my example because you do have a car… Then you need roads to drive on… hence you have to pay local taxes. And federal ones for the interstate highways…
You’d like them all to be privatized? Then you’ll pay gladly?
And how much will that be?
At this point I must remind you of Ma Bell. The telephone company which had to be dismantled, by the government, to make room for the present ‘data revolution’. If prices to move information from one place to another would have remained in the same range as in Ma Bell’s time you wouldn’t have had access to internet today. Unless you were a millionaire…

Taxes, local and federal, are ‘access fees’. If you want to operate – as a corporation or as an individual, out of a civilized place – safe and all, then you incorporate your business/set up residence in a civilized country. And pay the taxes collected by the administrators – read governments, to run those places.

Taxes are too high and or ill spent?!?
That’s a completely different subject!

Most civilized places are run as democracies.
You don’t like the way your money is spent? Or how much of it is collected to run the place?
Then what’s keeping you from voicing your concern? From holding accountable those who misspend your taxes? From doing whatever you see fit? After you pay your taxes, of course…

You feel ‘crushed’ by the majority? Whom you despise, by the way?
Then you don’t live in an actually democracy.
That’s either a ‘mob rule’ – a.k.a. populist regime, or the population is so divided that no real conversation is taking place between the various social segments. And democracy without honest conversation is nothing more than make believe.
I had chosen very carefully the word ‘population’. When something like this occurs, ‘nation’ is no longer appropriate.

Still unwilling to pay your dues?
Still convinced it’s a good thing to turn your back to what’s going on in your front yard?

Still convinced that remaining ‘sane’ is more important than finding out what’s really going on?

Further reading:

“Why arrogance is dangerously contagious”.

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