Author's posts

Quote for Discussion: Thy will be done

I was born into self-actualization, I knew exactly who I was, but I never got my chance to be young,

so when you lay me inside of a coffin, bury me on the side of the hill. That’s a good place to get some thinking done.

It didn’t work out the way that I planned it. They all seem to want to take it away, everything that I thought to be true,

so it’s obvious to me somebody, somewhere must have really done a number on you and I know because the fuckers got me too.

All the pretty horses, all flowers and trees, they will all mean less than nothing when it all has come to be.

God sent me a vision of the future in a dream on a Saturday night and I see no reason to celebrate,

for when I saw it I wept like a child. It came to me like a knife in the chest. You and me and everyone, forever, to ache and ache and ache.

So Father, if it’s possible, let this cup pass me by,

but if it can’t without my drinking it, then thy will be done.

-Titus Andronicus, “Upon Viewing Bruguel’s “Landscape with the Fall of Icarus”

Quote for Discussion: Deviant Globalization

The underlying political process associated with deviant globalization is the disaggregation of the “sovereignty bundle” of powers associated with the high modernist liberal state. In many places the state is no longer (if, indeed it ever was) the de facto governing authority, in the sense that it does not control the delivery of fundamental political goods, such as security, infrastructure, education, and health care. Different pieces of that bundle are being parceled out to (or, more commonly, grabbed by) a variety of actors: tribal leaders, gangsters, NGOs, religious leaders, transnational and local corporations, mercenaries, ethnic militias, and so on. The particular combinations vary from place to place, and there is a great deal of path dependency. In many places, the same actors who control the resource flows associated with deviant globalization are also de facto providers of “state-like services” such as security or infrastructure. And naturally enough, the common people who rely on these providers tend to align their political loyalties accordingly.

What’s new in this situation is that in many cases these “political actors” have no interest in actually becoming a state or taking over an existing state. They’re happy to wield state-like authority and power, while enriching themselves via dubious business operations. I’m thinking here of groups as various as the Mahdi Army in Iraq, the PCC in Brazil, the ‘Ndrangheta in Italy, or Laurent Nkunda’s crew in Congo. None of these organizations plan to declare sovereign independence and file for membership of the United Nations. What they want, simply, is to carve out a space where they can do their business and not have the state mess with them. This means that, unless a state confronts them, they’re disinclined to challenge states directly-directly challenging the state is expensive, and generally bad for business. As this new class of post-state political actors takes over functions formerly monopolized by states, they and their constituents lose interest in the state. From a political perspective, therefore, deviant globalization leads to (and also is facilitated by) the proliferation of jurisdictionally ambiguous spaces where sovereignty as it has traditionally been conceived simply no longer exists. It’s a self-reinforcing dynamic.

Western pundits and politicians like to describe these sorts of spaces with highly misleading terms such as “failing states” or “undergoverned zones.” The implication of such terminology is that the people living there want to be just like us, but that somehow they’re unable to get there. But such a belief is, if I may be blunt, a narcissistic delusion masquerading as political science. Contrary to what the bien-pensants claim, most so-called failing states don’t want to get fixed. In many of these zones, the local powers that be are quite content with these novel, informal political arrangements. It allows them to make fabulous amounts of money running globe-spanning commercial empires, while being recognized as the “big men” within the communities that they care about. They have no desire to attain the West’s ideal of an inclusive, welfare-providing modern state. These guys are “postmodern” in the sense that they realize that the West’s form of modernity will never include them, and they’re charting an entirely different path. It’s very different from the classic revolutionary movements of the twentieth century.

Nils Gilman

Quote for Discussion: The Evil Pleasure

We feel a deep pleasure from realizing that we believe something in common with our friends, and different from most people.  We feel an even deeper pleasure letting everyone know of this fact.  This feeling is EVIL.  Learn to see it in yourself, and then learn to be horrified by how thoroughly it can poison your mind.  Yes evidence may at times force you to disagree with a majority, and your friends may have correlated exposure to that evidence, but take no pleasure when you and your associates disagree with others; that is the road to rationality ruin. 

~Robin Hanson

Move On Over, Or We’re Going To Move Over You

I turned thirty-two years old today.  And one week from today, I will do something I have never done before: cast my vote for the winning candidate for President of the United States, Senator Barack Obama.  It will be an interesting change to have a President who has my actual endorsement.

It has been an interesting political season, as well.  The prospective election of a multi-racial man to the Presidency has brought out much of the worst of Americans.  All of us are familiar with the reprehensible public statements, the shouted epithets at crowds and rallies, the slanderous emails which many of us have received.  A loud, angry minority perceives that they have lost their grip on the country, and fear what it means for the “Real America”, which they define as excluding me, you and pretty much everyone we know.

All of this has offended many of you; it has offended me as well.  It offends me to hear believers in other political principles than I describe where my friend Summer and her husband and daughter as not being the “real Virginia”, although I imagine that Summer herself was fairly enthusiastic to hear it.  It offends me to hear that my friends and I in New York City are not among the “best of America” because we don’t live in small towns in Republican states.  I may have spent the bulk of my life on the East Coast of the US, but that has not diminished my appreciation for Texas, where my aunt lives, or Louisiana, where my father is from.  Indeed, my political representatives have shared that view as well.  There was no diminished distress when Louisiana, among the “reddest” of states, was drowning from government apathy while the President took time out to celebrate John McCain’s birthday.

Many notable voices have deplored these offensive and divisive remarks.  But I am glad for them, both because sunlight truly is the best disinfectant and because that these voices are so willing to speak openly is proof that they know they are losing, and are desperate because of it.

And in this moment, I want to take a minute to thank all of you.

Quote for Discussion: Met the Banker and it Felt Like Sin

I’ve always been a religious man

I ‘ve always been a religious man

but I met the banker and it felt like sin

he turned my bailout down

The Banker Man, he let into me

let into me, let into me

The Banker Man, he let into me and spread my name around

He thinks I ain’t got a lick of sense cause I talk slow and my money’s spent

Now, I ain’t the type to hold it against, but he better stay off my farm

Cause it was my Daddy’s and his Daddy’s before

and his Daddy’s before and his Daddy’s before

Five generations of an unlocked door and a loaded burglar alarm.

Lots of pictures of my purdy family

lots of pictures of my purdy family

lots of pictures of my purdy family in the house where I was born.

House has stood through five tornadoes,

Droughts and floods and five tornadoes.

I’d rather wrastle an alligator than to face the Banker’s scorn

Cause he won’t even look me in the eye

He just takes my land and apologize

with pen, paper, and a friendly smile, he says the deed is done.

The sound you hear is my Daddy spinning, The sound you hear is my Daddy spinning

The sound you hear is my Daddy spinning over what the Banker done.

Like to invite him for some pot roast beef and mashed potatoes and sweet tea

follow it up with some banana pudding and a walk around the farm

Show him the view from McGee Town Hill

Let him stand in my shoes and see how it feels

to lose the last thing on earth that’s real

I’d rather lose my legs and arms

Bury his body in the old sink hole

Bury his body in the old sink hole

Bury his body in the old sink hole under cold November sky

Then damned if I wouldn’t go to church on Sunday

Damned if I wouldn’t go to church on Sunday

Damned if I wouldn’t go to church on Sunday

and look the Preacher in the eye.

~Drive-By Truckers, “Sinkhole”

Yeah, that’s a damned shame, too. I feel really badly for the guy.

Matt Taibbi can be a bit out there, and he’s not really correct about the Commodities Future Modernization Act or how come derivatives are unregulated (partly because they are too new, and partly because of not the Republicans, but Greenspan, who argued that they shouldn’t be and at the time was the great and all-powerful Oz of the economy – btw, Ron Paul and the anti-Federal Reserve extremists are looking a bit better now, ain’t they?), but this exchange is utterly priceless.  

OT: Dog Question

Has anyone ever adopted a dog rescued from a puppy mill?  Are there any special concerns about these dogs?

Background: I’m considering getting a dog and would prefer to get one who needs adoption than buying one from a breeder.  But I want to make the choice carefully.

Thanks to anyone who replies.

Who Really Pals Around With Terrorists?

Five weeks before I was born, a handful of blocks away from my parents’ apartment on Conneticut Avenue in Northwest Washington D.C., terrorists detonated a car bomb.  The bomb killed Chilean national Orlando Letelier and his assistant, American Ronni Moffitt.  This act of terrorism was a part of Operation Condor, a campaign of political repression carried out jointly by the military and intelligence services of eight South American nations, which took place with support by the United States.  No one is certain of the total number of victims of the campaign, but all estimates confirm that thousands were killed.

Black Thursday

The stock market has just dropped 7.3%.  So far this month, the Dow has fallen nearly 25%.  In October 1929, it dropped 20%.  The market has already exceeded the crash of 1929.

Don’t like relying upon the Dow?  In the crash of 1987, the Standard and Poor’s 500-stock index dropped 20.5%.  So far, in the last eight days, the S&P 500 is down 22%.

I have no words.  The TED spread is an unbelievable 4.23 – over double the average of the last year, meaning that the premium to borrow money is so high that it is nearly impossible for any entity to do so.  Nearly 1 in 6 homeowners – almost 20%! – owe more on their mortgage that their homes are worth.

This isn’t even supposed to be possible.  Safeguards instituted after the crash of 1987 are supposed to stop trading entirely before these kinds of drops happen.  It beggars belief.

Like I said, I have no words.  But you need to pay attention to this.  One day you’ll tell your grandkids about how you were there during the crash of 2008.

Escaping Nixonland

And yet it only stood to reason that if you believed your opponent was neither sensible nor sober and would do anything to win, and his victory would destroy civilization, a certain insobriety was permissable to beat him.

Thus a more inclusive definition of Nixonland: it is the America where two separate and irreconcilable sets of apocalyptic fears coexist in the minds of two separate and irreconcilable groups of Americans.  The first groups, enemies of Richard Nixon, are the spiritual heirs of Stevenson and Galbraith.  They take it as an axiom that if Richard Nixon and the values associated with him triumph, America itself might end.  The second group are the people who wrote those telegrams begging Dwight D. Eisenhower to keep their hero on the 1952 Republican ticket.  They believe, as did Nixon, that if the enemies of Richard Nixon triumph = the Alger Hisses and Helen Gahagan Douglasses, the Herblocks and the hippies, the George McGoverns and all the rest – America might end.

~Rick Perlstein, Nixonland

“While you are 100 percent certain that your preferred candidate’s stance on issues such as foreign policy and the economy would appeal to any human being with half a brain, there is, in this very same country, an equally large voting bloc which believes that you and your candidate of choice are absolutely insane,” the report’s co-author Dr. Mark Grier said during a press conference. “Every single thing you love about your candidate’s personality, vice presidential pick, and family, 60 million other registered voters absolutely deplore.”

“What you consider to be this country’s ruin,” Grier added, “these other people actually consider to be this country’s savior.”

~The Onion, 60 Million People You’d Never Talk To Voting For Other Guy

With the second Presidential debate behind us, the outcome of the election is essentially clear: Barack Obama will be the next President of the United States.

Quote for Discussion: The Revolution is not about Revolting

Food isn’t about Nutrition

Clothes aren’t about Comfort

Bedrooms aren’t about Sleep

Marriage isn’t about Romance

Talk isn’t about Info

Laughter isn’t about Jokes

Charity isn’t about Helping

Church isn’t about God

Art isn’t about Insight

Medicine isn’t about Health

Consulting isn’t about Advice

School isn’t about Learning

Research isn’t about Progress

Politics isn’t about Policy

~Robin Hanson, Politics isn’t about Policy

Perfect From Now On

you don’t tell me anything

that’s not a dream

that’s not a big lie

you’re not going anywhere

you don’t care

you think that’s fine

you don’t owe me anything

you’re offering

it’s already mine

your best friend is everywhere

they don’t care

they think you’re slime

you don’t even know

what it means to take your own advice

and then

expect me to look surprised

after awhile you know their style and that’s enough to know they suck

and when you know they’ll stop the show because they know you know

I know it’s sad but don’t feel bad they knew they had it coming

after awhile it hurts to smile and if you laugh it’s just a typical miracle

~Built to Spill, “Stop the Show”

Last Friday, I skipped watching the debate between Obama and McCain to see Built to Spill perform their seminal album “Perfect From Now On” in its entirety at Terminal 5 in Manhattan.  I could hardly have made a better choice.

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