Seeking Solace

Today is the big day. An new era full of uncertainty starts with the inauguration of Donald Trump.

God save the Republic.

I firmly believe it is critical to take the long view on this, since we are about to settle in for what is likely to be a tumultuous four years. We will have to pick our battles, declare victory where we can, and always keep our eyes on the prize. For this reason, and to keep our sanity, the wisdom of the ancients should be a primary source of comfort. Today’s readings are from the Tao Te Ching, as translated by Stan Rosenthal.

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It’s All History

As we prepare to inaugurate our nation’s second genuine psychopathic president, Andrew Jackson being the first, it’s better to look back on happy times.  Back in 2009 Barataria was celebrating by … well, strangely looking forward to something like today.  Judge for yourself.

During the many lulls in inaugural coverage, CNN knew what would dazzle ‘em.  They had their satellite image of everyone standing around in the cold waiting for The Moment – the time when Obama would formally be worn in.  Huddled around giant screens you could see the black specs, which the CNN crew dutifully told us “look just like ants!”  Yes, from a distance, we are small, but doesn’t that miss the point just a little?  It seems to me that when the great Wheel of History appears to be turning, we have one day where we should not be focusing on where we are on the rim, but on the progress of the great Wheel itself.

That’s why I started rummaging though all the ancient texts in my library.

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50MPG? Banned in the US

How would you like to have a car which gets better than 50 miles per gallon? Such cars exist, and are actually rather common in Europe. Why aren’t they sold here? They are essentially illegal, thanks to some very tight regulation. They are diesels, and as such run in Europe on a fuel which by law includes 15% minimum biofuel, a renewable resource.

But efficient engines like this run at higher temperatures and pressures, meaning they essentially burn a little nitrogen and thus produce more Nitrous Oxide, or NOx.

This is at the heart of the infamous Volkswagen “cheating scandal”, which was indeed a terrible moment. But now that Chevrolet’s small diesels may be guilty of the same thing, it’s worth talking about.

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Ex Machina

It’s been a long day.  As the 10th anniversary of Barataria approaches, it’s time to refresh and renew.  This piece from nearly ten years ago is possibly even more relevant today.

When people talk to each other, there is a social code of acceptable behavior. When they interact with machines, there is no such code. If there is a machine between two people, the rules seem to not apply as easily, and people often act as if they are dealing with a machine – because that is what they have in front of them.

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Bread and Circuses

Now that no one buys our votes, the public has long since cast off its cares; the people that once bestowed commands, consulships, legions and all else, now meddles no more and longs eagerly for just two things – bread and circuses!

– Juvenal, Satire X, “Wrong Desire is the Source of Suffering”

The “Fall of Rome” trope has always been an easy one to dismiss. After all, we’re stronger and more connected than they ever were, yes? The public is more literate, our history is stronger, and times are simply different than they were back so very long ago.

Aren’t they?

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Screwing It All Up

The news is full of Trumpestuous nonsense. Denials of Russian involvement in our election devolved into a tweetstorm lasting for days, apparently without sleep, causing many to question his mental health and/or drug use. You can read about this nearly anywhere, so consider this the main attraction of the circus.

Away from the noise there is a lot more going on, of course. As we have said here before, the real stories will be away from the nonsense presented front and center. For all of our reasonable worries about his stability and allegiances, Trump poses a far greater danger to our nation.

Where we should reasonably be about to enter a great period of economic activity, it is still entirely possible to screw it up.

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It’s All a Game

The word “Byzantine” describes an incomprehensible, unreasonable level of complexity. It came to our language as many words do, from French. The reference is to the court of Byzantium in Constantinople, where the diffuse power and responsibility made even the simplest of tasks difficult. It was an empire built for stability, not change, and no one was capable of challenging the ruling class.

We are in the process of learning just what this means in Washington. Barataria has discussed this before as well as the underlying psychology which will drive it, but as it unfolds it is important to watch. If our Republic is to survive the next four years we must understand what is in the process of happening.

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