Let’s ponder some thoughts, memories and reflections of the events of yesteryear and today and hope they might interest you, irk you, but at least not bore you.
We note with sadness the passing of the printed Encyclopedia Britannica. It will be all digital from now own. That and the World Book Encyclopedia were the standard works for all those research projects and essays during school years from long ago. I sure hope they keep lots of the old paper copies around at least in the libraries forever. If Armageddon ever comes we won’t have all these computers and someone will need to know about how things work.
You should read some of the original diaries, journals and autobiographies of our pioneers from the early and mid- 19th century. You will appreciate how tough and resilient they really were. I don’t think we are at our core any softer than they were but we live softer because we are accustomed to so many comforts and necessities being provided for us by government. When those early folks set off in their wagons they truly were on their own. Everything they needed for survival and then to improve their lot in life had to be in the wagon with them and they had best not encounter a tragedy along they way that cost them some of those supplies. It is hard for us today to imagine that in reality. There were no Home Depots, CVS’s, doctors, Sears or the like anywhere around. When an axle broke or a wheel came off you had to figure out how to fix it on your own. You got sick or injured you took care of yourself. There was no one coming to the rescue. More likely than not they were days from the nearest outpost of any kind. They had guts. They had initiative and clearly were imaginative to solve all the problems they met and conquered on their own. Wish we still had some of that spirit; maybe we do but it is not on display or noted as much as I would like.
Our high-tech revolution of the last couple of decades reminds of a much earlier leap forward in technology that was equally dramatic. In the late 15th and early 16th centuries the printing press was in its infancy and this coincided with the burst of exploration voyages around the world. Maps had always been important but now the technology existed to produce them in much greater numbers and accuracy. Before this time frame maps were hand drawn and notoriously inaccurate. When Kings or Emporers wanted to invade another land that had to use local guides, word of mouth and hand drawn maps that were as likely to be mis-leading as accurate. Now rulers and their generals all over the world wanted these new maps. In some places the maps were considered state secrets and possession of them was deemed treasonous because they could reveal data to an enemy of vital interest and use. Business boomed for the map makers. Mercator was the most famous and he spent as much time fighting his creditors and those who owed him for his maps as he did making them. They were expensive but valuable. By the time of the Napoleonic Wars they were a standard part of the kit of all the generals.
The first assassination attempt against a US President was during Andrew Jackson’s second term. It happened at the Capital building and the attempt failed at least in part because the guns had a misfire, twice. No cartridges in those days; it was still ball and cap era. There was no secret service in those days and only aides or maybe a military escort. Old Hickory immediately took after the assassin with his cane, knocked him down and had to be restrained by the entourage. Like some many others of that ilk he was a madman. Even it that long ago time they had justice and he was found not guilty by reason of insanity and spent the rest of his life in prison until the War Between the States. Jackson had faced hostile fire and smelled the gunsmoke many times in his life. The assassin didn’t pick the easiest target.
Some of the most brilliant people in the world worked at Bletchly Park in England during the War on the Enigma Code. They built some of the very first “computers” in the world. The entire project though was so top-secret that most were destroyed after the War and the whole project and its operations were kept under wraps for decades. All the details still won’t be released for another few decades. Alan Turing died only a few years later. All that cutting edge work was lost. A slightly different turn of fate and decisions made and the computer revolution could well have occurred in England. Silicon Valley would be in the Midlands.
I thought the rate on the 10-year treasury would be at least 4% by now a couple of years ago. I was wrong. I didn’t anticipate that the Fed would do QE one and two and the Operation Twist to push the rates artificially low. But they did. But I do know that all things have a “norm” and that when things swing out of balance they swing back toward the norm sooner or later. We’ll get that historic rate which is about 5% for the 10 year during the middle of this decade no matter what the Fed does. Add about another 500 billion each year to the Federal budget just to make the interest payments which must be made. Regrettably those calculations aren’t used by the CBO in their projections which become more mythological each passing year.
The Muslims consolidated their gains on European soil after their conquest of Constantinople. Their next major move was with their vast fleet to invade Europe. At the battle of Lepanto in 1571, the Venetians, Spanish and Papal fleets destroyed that armada completely and ended for at least another century any attempt by the Muslims to conquer Europe. www.olcranky.wordpress.com