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Belmont Club

The Dinosaurs Who Came To Dinner

November 17th, 2013 - 1:29 pm

Michael Crichton, in his book Jurassic Park, explained how catastrophe befell his characters by remarking that “living systems are never in equilibrium. They are inherently unstable. They may seem stable, but they’re not. Everything is moving and changing. In a sense, everything is on the edge of collapse.” When human beings attempted to take control of things they didn’t understand in Jurassic Park they set in train a chain of unintended consequences. “God created dinosaurs. God destroyed dinosaurs. God created Man. Man destroyed God. Man created dinosaurs.” And in the movie dinosaurs ate man.

Crichton observed that Jurassic Park had a real world analogue. Well-meaning bureaucratic attempts to tune Yellowstone Park’s ecosystem had led instead to untold destruction. The problem had its genesis when Theodore Roosevelt visited Yellowstone in 1903 hoping  ”our people should see to it that this rich heritage is preserved for their children and their children’s children forever, with its majestic beauty all unmarred.”

By 1934, the Park Service’s efforts to fulfill this wish had turned Yellowstone into a parody of its former self.

the Park Service did everything they could to increase the number of elk. The results were predictable. Antelope and deer began to decline. Overgrazing changed the flora. Aspen and willows were being eaten at a furious rate and did not regenerate. Large animals and small began to disappear from the park.

In an effort to stem the loss, the park rangers began to kill predators, which they did without public knowledge. They eliminated the wolf and the cougar, and they were well on their way to getting rid of the coyote. Then a national scandal broke out. New studies showed that it wasn’t predators that were killing the other animals. It was overgrazing from too many elk. The management policy of killing predators therefore had only made things worse.

Actually, the elk had so decimated the aspen that now, where formerly they were plentiful, now they’re quite rare. Without the aspen, the beaver, which use these trees to make dams, began to disappear from the park. Beaver were essential to the water management of Yellowstone, and without dams, the meadows dried hard in summer and still more animals vanished.

The situation worsened further. It became increasingly inconvenient that all the predators had been killed off by 1930, so in the 1960s, there was a sigh of relief when new sightings by rangers suggested that wolves were returning. Of course, there were rumors all during that time, persistent rumors that the rangers were trucking them in. But in any case, the wolves vanished soon afterward. They needed to eat beaver and other small rodents, and the beaver had gone.

Pretty soon, the Park Service initiated a PR campaign to prove that excessive elk were not responsible for the problems in the park, even though they were. The campaign went on for about a decade, during which time the bighorn sheep virtually disappeared.

Crichton called it “a cascade of ego and error”. This catastrophe has been recreated in its essentials on a much vaster scale by the Obama administration, who finding the American healthcare system to their distaste, also decided to improve it. In order to accomplish this, shortcuts were made — for a good cause of course.  When the rules proved inconvenient they waived the rules. When waivers produced further disaster, they waived the waivers. They are now in the stage of waiving the waivers to waive the waivers and trucking in subsidies for the insurance companies the way the park service trucked in the wolves.

Megan McArdle wrote that along the way Obama’s actions had the accidental effect of destabilizing the legal system itself. “The White House seems to believe that they are allowed to shinny around any rule, as long as they wrote it. I’d argue that this is exactly backward: They have an especial duty to uphold the laws that they themselves constructed, because if they don’t, why should the rest of us go along?”

That in turn is spawning its own effects.

Mark Steyn asked whether it is seditious to observe that de facto sedition is taking place. Steyn, a Canadian, writes “it is a condition of my admission to this great land that I am not allowed to foment the overthrow of the United States government. … Fortunately, at least as far as constitutional government goes, the president of the United States is doing a grand job of overthrowing it all by himself.”

On Thursday, he passed a new law at a press conference. George III never did that. But, having ordered America’s insurance companies to comply with Obamacare, the president announced that he is now ordering them not to comply with Obamacare. The legislative branch (as it’s still quaintly known) passed a law purporting to grandfather your existing health plan. The regulatory bureaucracy then interpreted the law so as to un-grandfather your health plan. So His Most Excellent Majesty has commanded that your health plan be de-un-grandfathered. That seems likely to work. The insurance industry had three years to prepare for the introduction of Obamacare. Now the King has given them six weeks to de-introduce Obamacare.

“I wonder if he has the legal authority to do this,” mused former Vermont governor Howard Dean.

“I wonder if he has the legal authority to do this?”.  That is the wrong question. The real problem is whether any future Republican president will be allowed to do the same thing, such as droning American citizens without due process, canceling contracts at press conferences, changing the rules of whole industries at the stroke of a pen, or engaging in harmless well meaning fraud, etc.

The answer to the rhetorical question is obviously “no” since only a Democratic president named Obama can be allowed to do any such thing. The still uncomprehended result of making Obama the exception is that it establishes the rule.  After Obama … well there must never be an apres Obama. Robert Bolt in his play, A Man For All Seasons, captured the dilemma faced by anyone who would set aside the the rules in dramatic lines he wrote for St. Thomas More.

“What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? … And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you – where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws from coast to coast, Man’s laws, not God’s, and if you cut them down – and you’re just the man to do it – do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!”

One you establish the rule that there are no rules, it applies to you too. Well the laws are now flat and the devil is abroad.

Nearly a year ago a friend mused on the impossibility of challenging the Federal Government and/or Obama. “The Feds,” he said “spends more in hours than even the largest private American fortunes.” What could not be anticipated however, was that Obama would create through “a cascade of ego and error” something actually large and powerful enough to destroy his own administration. The trillions at the Federal Government’s disposal have created a Frankenstein monster big enough to challenge its creator.

One commenter at McCardle’s article cannily observed that it was the downstream consequences of insignificant actions that hurt Obama the most.

What’s most impressive now is how much Obama will sacrifice for so little. Any law, any policy, any constitutional principle, any constituency, and any national interest can be thrown under the bus for short-term political distraction, on the order of months or even weeks or days. Red line comment got him on a box on Syria? Just bomb them, without any popular or political support. Waffling on that fails? Then instead of bombing them, guarantee them in power and overturn our decades of Middle East policy, without even consulting anyone. That doesn’t look so hot? Let Iran have nukes as long as they tell us they don’t. Obamacare doesn’t work? Throw out almost four years of preparations and any pretense of constitutional government, and throw all insurance regulators and insurance companies under the bus, just because approval ratings hit 40%. It profits a man nothing to sell his soul for the whole world. But for the remote possibility of a 2 point uptick on Gallup this week?

Watch him just get more and more reckless and erratic as his popularity continues to plummet. I can’t predict what insanity he will try when he hits 30%, but we should all fear a cornered president who recognizes no limits on his power and no duty to uphold his oath.

There’s nothing for it now but to pile expedient on expedient. To patch the patches.  And to do it all without the benefit of source code control or versions. The media’s version of source control is the Memory Hole.

What happens next is anybody’s guess. Complex systems are like that, especially when you try to micro-manage them with slow, inaccurate and lagged feedback systems.  As Crichton put it, ”God created dinosaurs. God destroyed dinosaurs. God created Man. Man destroyed God. Man created dinosaurs.” And you know the rest.

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Top Rated Comments   
There’s nothing for it now but to pile expedient on expedient. To patch the patches. And to do it all without the benefit of source code control or versions. The media’s version of source control is the Memory Hole.

What happens next is anybody’s guess.
- Wretchard

Well, what happens next is obvious: Re-write history. His sycophantic press and Democrat minions will rush to write a history that meets with Obama's approval.

"You didn't build that.." logic will apply:

Something works (e.g. economy creeps out of the cellar in spite of Obama's policies): Obama did it (or, in his favorite personal pronoun, "I", which he uses endlessly in his speeches).

Something fails: (e.g. ... don't get me started) "The Republicans did it".

It's the standard progressive playbook, on automatic: the BIG lie.

Republicans are responsible for Obamacare's failures - Prominent Dems are already on the record saying so. Or, "rogue" insurance companies. Republicans are at fault for 8%++, perpetual unemployment. Gun stores are responsible for the deaths in Mexico due to "Fast and Furious" - well, of course, because they sold the guns (even though they were ordered to do so by the Justice Department/BATF). Benghazi? It was that superhuman guy in L.A. that made the video, who's been in jail for a year as a result. The list of "somebody other than Obama is responsible" is as long as the Obama's scandal sheet.

History tells us that this is true. The only reason Bill Clinton trots around like some elder statesman is that the "big LIE" was deployed for his defense as well. Kerry? Ditto?

The Progressives, a.k.a. Democrat party never takes a fall for it's politicians, because it might harm the reputation for their ideas. And no matter how outrageous the lie, progressives will stand shoulder to shoulder, marching in lockstep, with perfectly straight faces, and declare that the sky is the earth, the earth is the sky, and you're just to regressive and ignorant to appreciate it.

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1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
It is often the case in software system, where there is no way back, and where you are is complete and total failure, that you start over. At my company we call it a rescue and we love doing rescues. There is where adults need to stand up and rescue our health insurance system with a complete rewrite. Now is the opportunity to bring back free market choices by repealing not only Obamacare, but years and years worth of harmful law and regulation. The free market will save our health care system, if we are bold enough to call for a rescue and complete rewrite of the system.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Mr. Vanderleun, I have a certain trepidation in taking issue with you, but the "bad idea" may well be far better than the aternative of submission. Especially since there is no political institution to bring him back to that Oath.

Subotai Bahadur
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (72)
All Comments   (72)
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Even Obama's ardent supporters have lost faith in him in their heart of hearts. He's a bitter little pill that all American leftists must swallow if they are to avoid breaking faith with their ideological hope and blind faith. They can't admit that what they believed in is fatally flawed. They don't realize that the US can never recreate the Nordic model of social democracy. The Nordic model was the product of the correlation of historical forces among a specific group of peoples at a unique moment in time.

What few people seem to realize is that Obama is merely a symptom of the underlying malady. America has lost the ability to maintain dynamic equilibrium. The American people have moved into their bread and circuses phase. America will likely continue to exist, but in the same way that the Eastern Roman Empire devolved into the Byzantine Empire...continually diminished until external forces applied the coup de grace.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The publisher and heirs of Michael Crichton have disappeared most of his anti-sciencism work from his website, but it's still available here at the internet archive's wayback machine:

(download it all and pass it on before our ignorant and uncultured "betters" figure out how to burn these books as well)

A sad but telling insult to a great man's memory and legacy by today's cultists.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I have a track record on Belmont Club of warning that Obama now lacked constraints with his re-election - no longer are we a government of checks and balances.

Even as Democrats in Congress break ranks, what does that do? What if SCOTUS rules against him, what does that do?

Ultimately, politics devolve into force. Where are Obama's troops? Where are the troops to oppose him?

With his large scale purge of the officer corps, who will lead our forces and will those forces follow? At some point people will need to assess which side of the bread their butter is on. Following Obama leads to a dictatorship - opposing him, at the right time, leads to restoration.

Julius Cesear had loyal legions behind him, all dissatisified with the Republic.

Hilter also purged his officer corps, effectively putting the fear of the Party in all of them, even if they were of pre-disposition as Junkers to support it.

I pray Obama is not so situated as either.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Difficult to tell if it is a purge or the normal relax into a peacetime military when all the war fighters are mustered out and the Perfumed Princes are reinstalled in charge until the next balloon goes up.

I think the black mob from the inner cities is the army that Obama plans on using on the rest of us. I don't think they will do as well as the Obamaoids think they will. Cheers -
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"...With his large scale purge of the officer corps, who will lead our forces and will those forces follow? At some point people will need to assess which side of the bread their butter is on. Following Obama leads to a dictatorship - opposing him, at the right time, leads to restoration."

Preamble to the Declaration of Independence

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security."

We have a proven history of men " who will lead our forces and will those forces follow."
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
She old philosophy question:

Can Obama build a crock so big, even he can't lift it?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
He didn't build it, he don't build nuthin.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"...preserved for their children and their children’s children forever, with its majestic beauty all unmarred.”

Crichton had it right. Nature isn't a thing - it's a process. For 3.5 billion years or so, Nature has only preserved one thing: the chemical process we call "life." Individual organisms come and go. The process goes on. It doesn't need our "help" to improve it - extra elks or whatever. But if we threaten to stop it, it will kill us and something else will live instead of us. Maybe bugs. Maybe bacteria. Nature doesn't care. It doesn't need us. We're not special. Only the process is special.

I think there's some sort of "Nature" that controls - or doesn't control - the economy. Worrying about "capitalism" and "socialism" and "communism" seems kind of like worrying about T. Rexes and wolly mammoths and brine shrimp. They're like species, bits of a larger process, that are totally expendable. As long as the process goes on, that's what matters.

So what's the process? I don't know. Human commerce - people exchanging goods and services. People surviving and increasing their well-being through labor, production, and trade. People will do that, naturally, without theorizing or artificial means, whether the economic and political boffins like it or not.

We can improve the process through innovation and regulation. But only up to a point. At that point, when we get too clever and start importing more elk, the system we like will fall apart and be replaced by something that maybe we don't like as well. Communists have discovered this. Maybe central-planning Progressives will discover it, too.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Aid missions boost US troops' image, readiness

""Crisis response planning is a skillset for the military, so when you have an opportunity to execute crisis response it's good for your planning team," said Rear Adm. Mark C. Montgomery, who commands the George Washington strike group, stationed offshore in the Gulf of Leyte. "So, sure, there is a benefit there. But in reality the reason we do this mission is because in the Navy's list of missions this is one of the significant efforts we plan for."

In the week since the disaster, the Philippines has started to receive support from military forces around the region. Australia, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan have sent aircraft or personnel and more support is expected soon from Brunei, Great Britain, New Zealand and Thailand.

But none has come close to matching the U.S. Equally importantly, America's regional rival China has not sent any military personnel, and contributed relatively tiny financial aid.

"This is being done in a big way that highlights the meager response of China — that's the politics there. They're saying China is not actually your friend in the region," said Casiple

"I'm sure China is watching and assessing," he said. China announced Sunday it is ready to send rescue and medical teams to the Philippines, but did not say when the teams would depart.

For U.S. allies like the Philippines, Vietnam, South Korea, Thailand and to some extent Indonesia, it is an affirmation of the U.S. commitment. For others — Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar who are more closely aligned with China — he said the mission is a not-so-subtle message that the U.S remains the biggest power in the region.

Within hours of the typhoon, U.S. Marines were on their way from their bases in Japan to assess the damage and plan out their response. Within days, the George Washington was pulling out of Hong Kong to lead its half-dozen ship battle group to the Gulf of Leyte. By the time they arrived, the U.S. Air Force was already in action."
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The first Canadian troops arrived in the Philppines just one week after Typhoon Yolanda hit. More have arrived since then and more are on their way. They are working independently from the U.S. led effort so Canada is not included in that effort's international PR machine.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Amphibious ships to replace carrier helping with Philippines disaster

"SEOUL — The USS George Washington will likely leave the Philippines in about three days, after the arrival of two amphibious ships that are better equipped to deal with a disaster such as Typhoon Haiyan, Navy officials said Monday.

While smaller than the aircraft carrier that arrived last Thursday, the USS Ashland and the USS Germantown can move closer to affected areas and provide better helicopter support, according to 7th Fleet spokesman Cmdr. William Marks.

The two ships, expected to arrive Wednesday, are transporting about 900 Marines from Okinawa.

A third ship, the USS Freedom, with one helicopter aboard, is underway from Singapore to deliver supplies in support of Operation Damayan.

Philippine President Benigno Aquino has met with U.S. sailors to thank them for their relief efforts at Guiuan, a small city in Eastern Samar province that is the focus of about half of the 7th Fleet’s disaster relief efforts. The city is acting as a hub for helicopters moving aid to more far-flung areas.

Another 35 percent of the fleet’s mission involves flying relief supplies via helicopter to areas along the rim of Leyte Gulf, south of the provincial capital Tacloban, which was devastated by a storm surge when the typhoon came ashore Nov. 8.

The remainder of the Navy’s relief efforts are focused on Ormoc, a city in Leyte province that is seeing “a lot of progress,” Marks said."
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Aid Begins to Reach Philippine Communities

"Philippine President Benigno Aquino III on Sunday promised some of the central Philippines's hardest-hit towns that more government aid was coming.

Nearly all of the 40 storm-hit communities on Leyte Island, which suffered the most casualties, had received basic aid.

"I ask for your patience," Mr. Aquino said, speaking to residents in the town of Guiuan on Samar Island. "Our main problem now is feeding 1.4 million people every day. But the government has the resources and we're moving faster."

...In Tacloban, a water system was restored late last week, bringing running water to 200,000 people.

"This happened quicker than expected…Getting water to these people was an absolute priority," said Ben Hemingway, regional adviser for East Asia and the Pacific at the U.S. Agency for International Development's foreign disaster assistance branch.

All but six districts in Tacloban had received water, food and medical aid by Saturday, and the others were expected to be reached soon.

"Military aid will stay at this intensity until we've moved everything from Cebu and Manila to these areas, where they need to be," added Mr. Hemingway, referring to the U.S. military, which has helped the USAID airlift emergency relief supplies—including emergency shelters, soap and toothbrushes—to more than 10,000 families."
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Rather than a "preference cascade", this is all becoming a "chaos cascade".
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The Winston Smiths at the Ministry of Truth are going to be pulling some serious overtime. It's all turning out doubleplusungood.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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