Saturday, November 5, 2011

On A Lighter Note

Earlier today I helped the Martinez Clan move in, and never in my life nor, I expect, in the future will I see a better packed and organized truck. It would have been impossible to get one more bit of anything in it. That which was in it was as near to perfectly boxed and zip tied as it is given to us on this corrupt and fallen earth to do anything. Although I will say that that couch was the heaviest piece of furniture on the history of furniture.

Also, what ever you may have heard, disc breaks are absurdly easy to change and set up.

End College Sports Now

Via we learn of a college football coach who was a serial child rapists and of an athletic director, and president who covered it up. This is beyond disgusting and, it seems to me, evidence of the immoral nature of both college sports and the administrators who use it to foster a "brand." I am done with college sports and, to be honest about it, think that this is further evidence of the fundamental corrupt nature of our professional administrators who are if not sociopaths, moral morons who do not care about anyone or anything beyond their obscene salaries.

Sure you can argue that not all administrators coverup the child rapists in their midst; but, find me a case, outside of Chicago way back when, that recognizes the essential corrupt nature of big-time college sports and does something about like, I don't know, disbanding the athletic department and using the money to hire professors to actually teach.

And, as by the way, IOZ has a post up in which he blames education of turning all of our bright you things into drones. He is, to be blunt, full of thus and so. It's not education that creates worker bees; it is the refusal of students to take education seriously because of a larger cultural rejection of the notion of "egg heads" and learning to think aided and abetted by their own desire to root for the home team and drink like fish. Corey Robin makes the point that
what our most acute observers have long understood about the American scene: however much coercive power the state wields–and it’s considerable—it’s not, in the end, where and how many, perhaps even most, people in the United States have historically experienced the raw end of politically repressive power. Even force and violence: just think of black slaves and their descendants, confronting slaveholders, overseers, slave catchers, Klansmen, chain gangs, and more; or women confronting the violence of their husbands and supervisors; or workers confronting the Pinkertons and other private armies of capital.
His point is that conformity isn't solely or even primarily the result of state action but rather of a private citizens and employers enforcing norms of their own creation. So its the the folks who coverup for the child rapists and the weak sisters at NPR and NYT who fire people for commitment no crime who aid and abet the thuggish Koch Brothers. And its the students who mock the hard working students and dream of the day when they go to college to drink like fish that turn bright kids into zombies.

It is a fiction of the right and the left that there are eager college professor indoctrinating students to be either communists revolutionaries or men in grey suits living in little houses made of ticky tacky. With few exceptions, the enforced conformity comes for your fellows.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Two Videos and Some Questions

Most of us think of k.d. lang thusly:

Some of us remember her thusly:

Or perhaps:

Or even thusly:


Okay that's five and it was almost six or possibly seven. Back in, what was it, 84? Cabach and I traveled to the wilds of western Canada for golf and the k d lang Truly Western Experience tape, back in the day of tapes and onions on one's belt. Really liked that tape.  What, one wonders, ever happened to the Reclines?

Question one:
Why don't cyclists, which is to say students, use lights?

Question two:
What is wrong with motorists?
And as sub section, what's up with the sudden rash of chowder-headed cyclists passing me on the inboard side forcing or trying to force me into traffic? In other words, why are people assholes?

Question three:
Have any Conservatives and/or Republicans and/or Tea Party Patriots denounced Judge William Adams?

Question  four
Why did my rear break stop working?

The last one is, I admit, a bit obscure.

Question five:
Was the Greek Prime Minister's decision to force the hand of his political opponents by threatening democracy the height of hypocrisy or just clever politics?

Question six:
How is at that not everyone finds the story of the Peace of God, as told through R.I. Moore's lens, not the most exciting story in the world?

Enjoy your weekend while you still have one.

Republican Values

Obviously not all Republicans condone beating your children with belts; so, of course, we can expect every one on the right to condemn this Texas state child court judge's violent beating of his daughter, right? I was able to watch about 20 seconds of the video. The man is a horror show of wretched human detritus.

He Wants to Ride His Bicyle

Perhaps a young Sean Kelly?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011



A Dark And Stormy Night

Second ride through the darkening gloom of a fall evening's rain sodden streets, cold but worth the effort. But for god's sake get some damn lights you damned kids with your hippity hoppity music, and you pedestrians if you are in  black I can't see you and if you can see me, as you ought given the number of lights deployed, don't walk into my path.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


So Bank of America is, it seems, not going to charge poor people 5 dollars a month for a service that costs the bank next to nothing. The NYT describes this as a retreat in the face of  concerted opposition. It sounds to me like a bunch of nothing. The retreat comes when BoA does something, I don't know, good like proposing capping the swipe fee at cost plus 2% and lowers its CEO's and all execs' "compensation" by 50% while increasing tellers' by 50% and, while we're at it, lobbying for a living wage and debt jubilee.

How Many Ways to Skin a Cat Are There, Any Old How?

Today, it seems, the inclusion of political processes to decide economic matters leads to a market "slide." In the linked article, the Greek Prime Minister Papandreou wants to put both the bailout and the related austerity measures up for a vote and let the people decide their own fate. Naturally enough, transnational finance is aghast. As I mentioned, I have been reading Neoliberal Hegemony in it Dorthee Bohle and Gisela Neunhoeffer provide a nice narrative history of the depoliticization of economic decision making in Poland's late communist regime and early democratic polity. As they make clear, neoliberal economic reformers made common cause with the Communists around the depoliticization of economic policy making, in order to cut market socialism out of the picture.  The theorists of market socialism, clustered around the Solidarity movement, were, consequently, unable to resist the march to neoliberal shlock or shock doctrine. It stands to reason, therefore, that a socialist politician offering the people the opportunity to weigh in on the economy terrifies the "experts" who seek to organize society around a set of economic theories and nostrums that created the problems in the first place.

To be sure, Greece has all manner of political problems that cannot be laid to the feet of the neoliberal consensus. However, the first step in creating a decent polity is bringing politics back in and granting or more precisely recognizing the people's right to rule themselves.

(see also: Johanna Bockman and Gil Eya, "Eastern Europe as a Laboratory for Economic Knowledge: The Transnational Roots of Neoliberalism" in American Journal of Sociology , 108/2, 2002, pp. 310-352)


For a similar discussion but by someone famous, in bloggy terms, go here.


John Cassidy, speaking for all the baffled economist types in blather land takes the part for the whole
Greeks, too, are outraged. Six of Papandreou’s party colleagues called on him to resign. One quit the PASOK party. “They must be crazy,” a senior executive at one of Greece’s biggest companies told Reuters. “(T)his is no way to run a country.” With a parliamentary vote of confidence in his government scheduled for Friday, it is quite conceivable that by the end of the week Papandreou will be out office.
I count 7 politicians and businessman, which makes Greece's total population considerable smaller than one might expect. To say nothing of the fact that using democracy to run a democracy would seem to be the ideal way to run a democratic polity; but what do I know not being a senior executive at a biggest company in Greece or elsewhere.

Not happy with reducing Greece to handful of a politicians he than argues that
Faced with two unappetizing choices, Greece seems intent on choosing neither. Papandreou, for reasons of his own, is intent on forcing it to choose. But rather than doing that, it may well get rid of him and put together a new “national unity” government that will give the Greeks what they want: a European bailout and the right to complain and protest about it.
Reasons of his own? Yes on what grounds would a democratically elected official ever have for asking his constituency what they wanted to do? It's not like the Greeks have some kind of a democratic past nor is it the case that they once decided what the best use of huge sums of dough was and thus saved themselves from Persian overlordship. Oh, wait.

Matthew Yglesias, whose minimal appreciation of the role of politics in policy making is well documented, comments:
Looks like Greece is now bailing (using the fig leaf of a referendum) from the Euro rescue plan that even had it been implemented wouldn’t really have solved the problem.
And there you have it; using democratic processes to decide the future of democratic polities is a fig leaf not, let's say optimistically, the first step in a returning. sovereignity the people, which may or may not be a good thing but clearly rule by technocrats has been a bad thing.

It seems the Greeks aren't profligate monster after all.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Conversations I'd Have Liked to Overhear

It seems that Groucho Marx and T.S. Eliot wrote one another and  once had dinner.  In a letter to Gummo (Milton) Marx Groucho wrote:
  that the week before the dinner, “I read ‘Murder in the Cathedral’ twice; ‘The Waste Land’ three times, and just in case of a conversational bottleneck, I brushed up on ‘King Lear’.” They begin with cocktails. A lull in the conversation prompts Groucho to “toss” in a quotation from ‘The Waste Land’.” Eliot “smiled faintly.” Feeling perhaps slighted by this uber-goy, Groucho writes that he “took a whack at ‘King Lear’," arguing that the king was “an incredibly foolish old man”. But Eliot, whether annoyed or nonplussed, perhaps passive-aggressively ignores Groucho’s invitation to ponder “Lear”, preferring instead to discuss “Animal Crackers” and “A Night at the Opera”. “Now,” recounts Groucho triumphantly, “it was my turn to smile faintly.” Suddenly they are like two characters in a play co-written by Samuel Beckett and Neil Simon.
It's the faint smiling that intrigues. See also.


In the comments to a recent post John Rove makes the point that neoliberals think of value in terms of money and that this tendency reduce human relations to monetary exchange. In Debt, Graeber makes the same point. Once exchange is monetized it stops being a form of human interaction and becomes a matter of dollars and cents. Those who celebrate market economies, the suggestion is, would rather not consider the messy but humanistic world of exchange and its creation of society
demonstrates that the Homo Oeconomicus which lies at the basis of all the theorems and equations that purports to render economics a science, is not only an almost impossibly boring person—basically, a monomaniacal sociopath who can wander through an orgy thinking only about marginal rates of return—but that what economists are basically doing in telling the myth of barter, is taking a kind of behavior that is only really possible after the invention of money and markets and then projecting it backwards as the purported reason for the invention of money and markets themselves.
We, or more precisely I, will return to Graeber's assault on classical econ later. Right now, it suffices to say the those who monetize relationships are sociopaths who hate humanity.

Geniuses Relieve Needs; They Don't Create Wants

I've been reading Neoliberal Hegemony, which is an edited volume dealing with and detailing the individuals and institutions involved with the creation, fostering, and dissemination of neoliberalism as a project. Obviously, some of the contributions are stronger than others. One I found interesting is Peter Josef Muelbauer's" Frontiers and Dystopias: Libertarian Ideology in Science Fiction." Among other interesting arguments, he insists that market-based success requires attracting the approbation of the masses. This fact, he insists, shows that at its core there is a contradiction between being true to one's vision and selling enough crap to make a buck. Obviously, Ayn Rand's various visionaries avoid this by catering to the plutocracy. One wonders if the various obits of the late Steve Jobs, which emphasized his genius for knowing what consumers needed before they did, was or is an attempt to overcome this basic fact of market capitalism.

Is it the case that creating or more precisely manipulating preexisting technology to create, market and sell over-priced and unnecessary bits and bobs of technology is a sign of genius? Is it all that difficult to appeal the infinite wants of the mind, as Nicolas Barbon put it, to make a buck instead of working on providing the finite needs of the body? I say no it isn't. ShamWow, which is aptly named, made somebody rich but none of us better off. Having an overpriced bit of Apple gadgetry does little to ensure that, as one example, the majority of the world has a sufficiency.

Instead, the various Jobs encomium serve to continue the approbation of a spokesman for a trinket that fails to address the pressing problem of, what we might as well call, capitalists' hatred of humanity should their bodily needs interfere with profit maximization.  Indeed, the old Cynic, Stoic, and Christian trope of the wisdom of not wanting that served for a long time to restrain, at least in the west, the adoration of merchants and capitalists more generally argues against valorizing catering to the infinite wants of the mind.

It seems to me that real genius has better things to do than find a better way to peddle a mousetrap.

Slavery and Debt

David Brion Davis makes the point, somewhere or another, that the writing wasn't developed to create love poetry but rather to make clear who owned whom. Slavery, in other words, is a bed-rock institution of civilization whether western or other. 

As I mentioned, I think David Graeber's argument in Debt has a problem with slavery. On pages 167-8, for example, he suggests that most found slavery "perverse," "unnatural," and "tawdry." On 168, he insists that no one ever took the justifications for slavery seriously. This is an odd and very difficult to maintain argument. For most of human history, as he mentions on 167, slave revolts aimed not at the institution of slavery but rather on the fact that this slave and his fellows objected to they themselves being enslaved. Spartacus, in other words, wasn't striking a blow for universal brotherhood and freedom but rather for his personal freedom and, almost assuredly, his desire to return home and continue to his life with his slaves. Haiti's slave revolt is another example, as is  Cabeza de Vaca's time among the natives when he was enslaved and yet retained ownership of his "black." Graeber metions the odd case of Equiano (167) a former slave who had to be convinced to become an abolitionist. Slavery was an institution like any other and, with the exceptions of the few like the Greek Skeptics and the Quakers -- one of whose diary you can and should read, it was accepted.

He makes the rather astonishing claim that by 600 CE
the slave trade appears to have died off, and slavery itself was a waning institution, coming under severe disapproval from the Church. (171)
As evidence for this he offers this bit of nonsequetor
St. Patrick, one o f the founders of the Irish church, was one of the few of the early Church Fathers who was overtly and unconditionally opposed to slavery.  (171, note 15)
In Charlegmagnes capitulatory of 802 we find :
Secondly, that no one, either through perjury or through any other wile or fraud, or on account of the flattery or gift of any one, shall refuse to give back, or dare to abstract or conceal a slave of the emperor, or a district or territory or anything that belongs to his proprietary right; and that no one shall presume to conceal or abstract, through perjury or any other wile, fugitive fiscaline slaves who unjustly and fraudulently call themselves free. 
 The Church so  hated slavery that it named Karl der Grosse Holy. There is little in the way of evidence that the Church took any steps, beyond rhetorical moves like discouraging Christians from enslaving Christians, which no one heeded, to end slavery. Indeed the rapidity with which the Iberians and others created slave-based society in the New World and the  wide-spread slave trade, with which the Church was complicit, is evidence of the Church's lack of concern about slavery as an institution.

Or consider the Graeber's claim about no one taking justifications for slavery seriously and Stephens' famous Cornerstone Speech.
The new constitution has put at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution African slavery as it exists amongst us the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution. Jefferson in his forecast, had anticipated this, as the "rock upon which the old Union would split." He was right. What was conjecture with him, is now a realized fact. But whether he fully comprehended the great truth upon which that rock stood and stands, may be doubted. The prevailing ideas entertained by him and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old constitution, were that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically. It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with, but the general opinion of the men of that day was that, somehow or other in the order of Providence, the institution would be evanescent and pass away. This idea, though not incorporated in the constitution, was the prevailing idea at that time. The constitution, it is true, secured every essential guarantee to the institution while it should last, and hence no argument can be justly urged against the constitutional guarantees thus secured, because of the common sentiment of the day. Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error. It was a sandy foundation, and the government built upon it fell when the "storm came and the wind blew."

Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth. This truth has been slow in the process of its development, like all other truths in the various departments of science. It has been so even amongst us. Many who hear me, perhaps, can recollect well, that this truth was not generally admitted, even within their day. The errors of the past generation still clung to many as late as twenty years ago. Those at the North, who still cling to these errors, with a zeal above knowledge, we justly denominate fanatics. All fanaticism springs from an aberration of the mind from a defect in reasoning. It is a species of insanity. One of the most striking characteristics of insanity, in many instances, is forming correct conclusions from fancied or erroneous premises; so with the anti-slavery fanatics. Their conclusions are right if their premises were. They assume that the negro is equal, and hence conclude that he is entitled to equal privileges and rights with the white man. If their premises were correct, their conclusions would be logical and just but their premise being wrong, their whole argument fails. I recollect once of having heard a gentleman from one of the northern States, of great power and ability, announce in the House of Representatives, with imposing effect, that we of the South would be compelled, ultimately, to yield upon this subject of slavery, that it was as impossible to war successfully against a principle in politics, as it was in physics or mechanics. That the principle would ultimately prevail. That we, in maintaining slavery as it exists with us, were warring against a principle, a principle founded in nature, the principle of the equality of men. The reply I made to him was, that upon his own grounds, we should, ultimately, succeed, and that he and his associates, in this crusade against our institutions, would ultimately fail. The truth announced, that it was as impossible to war successfully against a principle in politics as it was in physics and mechanics, I admitted; but told him that it was he, and those acting with him, who were warring against a principle. They were attempting to make things equal which the Creator had made unequal.
As I said last time, I am not at all clear as to what good these, and other errors on slavery's history, do for his argument. One thing they do do, however, is undermine his attempt to get his history right as a means of overcoming others' errors.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Hard Work

You know who works hard?  Everyone with a job.  You know who gets too much money for the work they do?  Rich people.