Friday, December 16, 2011


The other day we learned that the SEC doesn't have the money necessary to aggressively pursue cases of financial malfeasance. Today we learn that the DOJ has spent god knows how much money pursuing Barry Bonds for lying about cheating in a game that harmed no one.

Priorities people: sportsmen and women will cheat and this must be stopped even if it means a few miscreants cheat the world out of its life savings and face no punishment. Just like it's important for poor folks to shiver in winters deep dank darkness so long as we can continue to spend on failed jets and other luxuries necessary blowing up of things.

History's Got Rhythm

I mentioned recently that Hungary was looking more and more like much of 1930s Europe, i.e., fascistically inclined. Some years ago a guy wrote a short but convincing book about the censoring of Doblin's Alexanderplatz from Weimar's radio waves being an ideal way of understanding the forces that destroyed Weimar. In a recent article on Der Speigel online we learn of how Hungarian culture is being "reclaimed" by the fascists and authoritarians who now dominate its parliament. There are also hunger strikes on because of press "manipulation," unpunished violence against racial minorities, and other unpleasantness.
Perhaps becasue they are overly concerned with the non-democratic imposition of the neoliberal project, Europe and the US are essentially silent on the dangerous trends, they are more than willing to defend the sanctity of an independent central bank. A quick search of the NYT for Jobbik finds three results two of which are Krugman in an op ed and on his blog and one a straight news report from the most recent election. The same for Hungary gets a few more hits but nearly all of them on Hungary's economic circusmstances. There's very little on the Department of State's webpage on either and search of Secretary Clinton's remarks for the past year yields zero.

Why bring this up. The world is a dangerous place what with multiple American wars some declared, others undeclared, and at least two winding down and it's easy to get distracted and miss the real danger what with all the enforcing of austerity and pommeling poor people.

Heightening Their Own Damn Contradictions

Some years ago, controversial marxist Benny Levy, aka Pierre Victor, argued that 
[i]t can be normal to take as a starting point needs that have been covered over, fabricated and then turned to other uses by the bourgeoisie. And then from within institutions that are still accepted clearly show that there are contradictions, and then heighten these contradictions in order to arrive at their explosion, to arrive at the point where the masses create their own legitimacy and confront the law
The long march through institutions, in other words, is the best means of fomenting revolution by ruthlessly enforcing the worst aspects of any political or economic system.  The roots of neoconservativism in the radical left are well known.. Recently, Republicans cut money for poor people's education, heating, and related-whatnotery while protecting the super rich and the military.  With their allies the neoliberals they have been working on cutting the wages of everyone else and generally dedicated their lives to destroying the economy and ensuring that the many viewed the world with a kind of desperate hatred. Recent figures suggest that with nearly 46.2 million Americans in poverty, up from @ 32 million just 10 years ago the deadly duo has succeeded.

Clearly, the neos are heightening the contradictions in an attempt to overthrow the system. Other than being sociopaths, there is no explanation for the continuation of neoliberal economic and neoconservative foreign policies.

Thursday, December 15, 2011


Remember the SEC/Citigroup case a judge threw out because, on the whole, he found it too lenient and wanted an admission of guilt? Instead of going to trial and convicting, the SEC is appealing the ruling. Why? Because:
The S.E.C. has long contended that it must settle most cases rather than take them to trial because its limited resources cannot afford much litigation. In addition, the commission says it frequently achieves in its settlements much the same result that it could hope to obtain in court, without enduring the expense of a trial.
It's the first half of the equation, not enough money to pursue crooks, rather than the I don't think we could have got more money half, that explains why prosecution for financial fraud is at a 20 year low.

This situation is, if you are wondering, by design.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

End College Athletics Now

The Historiann finds out that her university, Colorado, is giving its new football coach 1.5 million per year because that's the market and is outraged. She's right. Higher Education is supposed to be about education and yet some how or another the professional administrators and those who are assimilated to their bizarro world view "successful" athletics, climbing walls, CETLs, and other "learner" success crap means excellence in education.

We are going the wrong way. It's time to end technocratisme and end the notion that teachers and other educators don't know how to educate.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

6, 2, and Even

Belgium suffered a terrorist attack just now. If one can idly speculate as to the identity of the perpetrators, one would point in the direction of right-wing separatists. Because of Europe's recent history with right-wing terror, but jumping to conclusions is nearly always wrong.

Told ya not to speculate:
Authorities have not pinpointed a motive for the attack, but have ruled out ideological terrorism.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Rhyming History

People often forget the number and kind of fascist regime that rose in the inter-war period. It wasn't just Italy and Germany. The new democracies created by Versailles didn't last long and, indeed, the war really didn't stop in 1918. Fighting in the east, between freikorps and commies, between indigenous fascists and commies, and so on, continued and relatively rapidly fascist movements sprang up from Finland to Portugal and, in many cases, rose to power. Salazar was no more an outlier than Mussolini.

One of the hallmarks of a fascist party is its reliance on brute force. All the fascists had some kind of a paramilitary force, brown  or black shirts for example, on which it relied to beat up opponents and generally stop the mouths of critics. Right now the 3rd largest party in Hungary has this:

Yes that's right a paramilitary force associated with a legitimate, in the sense that it garners votes, political party. Worse still even yet 
[o]n May 14, 2010, Gábor Vona, the chairman of Jobbik, was about to make an appearance at the Hungarian parliament, whose seat is probably the world’s most beautiful parliament building, a domed, neo-Gothic structure protected by bronze lions. Everyone was concerned that Vona would appear dressed in a fascist uniform from the past. As it happened, he showed up in a black suit, to the relief of many in the audience. But shortly before the swearing-in ceremony, the radical right-wing politician threw off his jacket to reveal a vest reminiscent of the uniforms of the Arrow Cross Party. Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung described it as “sort of a Nazi outfit.”
 The far right ruling party recently passed legislation that granted it unusual censorship powers and, in general, things look to be going to hell in a handbasket.

Why bring this up? Hungary is a member of the EU and NATO. Right now either or both of those institutions could act to isolate an increasingly undemocratic state in a way that makes it clear that Hungary's future in both or one or the other hinges on a re-commitment to democracy and  rejection of both authoritarianism and its near cousin technocratisme.

What, you wonder, is the likely outcome? Given that the democratic United States and the democratic, kind of, EU are pushing for an expansion of technocratisme and are rejecting democracy, I'm going to go out on a limb and predict nothing consequential.

History Remains a Discipline, Economics Remains a Bunch of Stuff People Assert

Over to Crooked Timber, Daniel Davis ends a long post with this claim: economics isn’t a morality tale. This is something Krugman likes to say as well. It is, of course, wrong. If we accept that modern economics starts with Smith, which we might not want to but many do, he was explicitly using Jansenist arguments about how God created greed to substitute for "real" charity and how this allowed society to continue despite humanity being depraved. Smith clearly thought that a market based system provided the greatest good for the greatest many. So did Hume. So, in fact, did all the early pro-market capitalism economists. Indeed, it is difficult to find, or to even imagine, an economist arguing that his or her preferred economic policy doesn't provide the greatest good for the greatest many.

In other words, economics is so a morality tale but contemporary economics is a morality tale told by a sociopath.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Books, Bikes, and Freedom

I've mentioned how the bicycle liberated women and, just as importantly, terrified men. The freedom engendered by the bike offer women a way out. It also, so the medical profession insisted, turned them into lesbians because of the friction of the seat and women's unmentionables.  The other day, I returned to this site and discovered that it now offers all manner of versions of the various texts it hosts. I found there this H.G. Wells story, which concerns a draper's assistant, a run away half orphan and several different kinds of bicycle.

What's interesting is that in this story it's not just that bikes promote women's freedom but also that it breaks down class barriers and shows how a low-born assistant draper is both better than a well-born intellectual. Crucially, I think, the assistant draper realizes that he's screwed and the brief taste of social equality he enjoyed is unlikely to transform his miserable existence and, in fact, the whole episode, viewed from the Hoopdriver's perspective, achieves nothing but the realization of actual existing misery.

So in this case the bike frees Hoopdriver from a form of false consciousness, lets call it, that he cultivated especially to avoid the actual existing misery of his life.

Odd little morality tale.

Sort of Like Robots

So this video suggests that some kind of a replicator is in the works.

 Unfortunately, or so it seems to me, this will not led to a more egalitarian society but rather, given the 21st century's political dynamic, more stuff for the one percent and decreased life expectancy for the rest of us.

I think the time has come to refocus on political and social arrangements before creating the next shiny  bit of technology.