A month ago I visited my friend Sadie in Cincinnati. During a chat in her apartment, I confessed to a morbid fascination with the possible collapse of society. She laughed and, in a tone of gentle sarcasm, said she'd noticed my enchantment with that subject.
Saturday, May 08, 2010
The Tories lost the Election. Let me say that again, as so many of their media toadies are pretending otherwise. The Tories lost the Election. There’s no way round this.
In British Elections, you only win if you get a majority in the House of Commons. They couldn’t obtain that majority. Winning 36 per cent of 65 per cent of the electorate (I make that a ‘mandate’ from less than a quarter of the voting public) does not confer a moral right to rule.
They go on about how they gained a lot of seats. But that is only because they lost so many under John Major (who is now back among us from his 13-year lecture tour, grinning at Mr Cameron’s elbow). How could this failure have happened?
The Tories had millions of pounds from Lord Ashcroft, poured into every winnable seat. They had the benevolent neutrality of the BBC and the fierce support of the Murdoch Press.
They were up against the worst British Government of modern times, led by a man so unattractive, unloved and incompetent that a well-briefed Teletubby could have beaten him. Yet still they lost. How could this be?
Was their loss so great that Mr. Hitchens's desire for a new conservative party to emerge will be satisfied?
Well, yes, I was right
The Manhattan Forum Presents
"Conflict and Accommodation:
Matteo Ricci’s Approach to
Catholic Evangelization in China"
Anthony E. Clark, PhD
Saturday, May 8th at 3:00 PM
The lecture will be in the parish hall for St. Margaret Mary Church.
For those that think that this will bring about a surge of peaceful economic vigor, you will be wrong. It will fragment society and lead to perpetual stagnation/depression, endemic violence/corruption, and squalor. For absent any moral basis (a social compact), stability, or (widely shared) prosperity: new sources of order will emerge to fill the gap left by the demise of the nation-state. These new sources of order will be first seen in the rise of the criminal entrepreneur, whether they be the besuited corporate gangster or the gang tattooed thug. For in the world of hollow states (without a morality that limits behavior) and limitless connectivity to the global economic system, these criminal entrepreneurs quickly become dominant, violently coercing or corrupting everyone in the path to their enrichment.
However, you have a choice.
- You can stand alone and do nothing. Thereby suffering the predations of this new criminal class (these global guerrillas).
- You can join them and prey on your former compatriots, enriching yourself in the process.
- Or finally, you can build something new. A resilient community based on freedom, prosperity, and a new moral compact.
Are novels bad because they celebrate the mundane? What about television dramas and movies? incidentws? If novels portrayed the road of "ordinary holiness" would the reactionary [Catholic] critic still have grounds for complaint? What about those stories that have no morals, but seek only to portray life "realistically"? Petty squabbles and petty behavior? Or the inflated drama one finds on television, when people handle "relationships" poorly or selfishly, even if they adhere to some sort of bizarre contemporary romantic ideal? (The fantasy of the woman taming the bad boy, for example.) Those who produce television dramas have a financial incentive to drag a serial on, because keeping it on the air ensures future income. Usually this leads to a decline in the quality of story-telling, not a rise. The stories themselves may make for poor fare for the moral imagination, but there may also limitations due to the medium. If the characters make significant life choices, are we able to remember them? Or does everything blur together after 4 or 5 seasons of images? Movies and series that written with a limited number of episodes in mind would be better in this regard.
How often is conflict between competing personalities depicted, and without a truly Christian resolution! Some have criticized attempts at Christian art that are too overtly Christian or "preachy" and thus result in bad art. Or at least art that seems unrealistic. Can novels capture the everyday spiritual practices of Christians without being boring? Bernanos is said to have captured "ordinary holiness" in Diary of a Country Priest. It has been a while since I read it. How many good stories can be written about the daily life of the "ordinary" righteous man and his 7 falls? And the 70 times that he gets up again, with the help of God's grace? The lives of the saints may be better material for reflection and meditation than novels (and movies and television). Perhaps even exaggerated legends still have some usefulness. But I still believe that novels can rise above the level of mere diversion/entertainment, and fulfill a didactic purpose.
Mozart Adagio and Fugue K 546 - English Concert Andrew Manze
Mozart violin concerto no. 3 - Andrew Manze - English Concert
The English Concert
Friday, May 07, 2010
A U.S. Army soldier with 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, part of the 82nd Airborne Division stands at an outpost atop a mountain overlooking the Arghandab valley in Kandahar province, southern Afghanistan May 7, 2010. (Reuters/Daylife)
An U.S. Army soldier with 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, part of the 82nd Airborne Division, secures a pomegranate orchard during a patrol in Arghandab valley near Kandahar, in southern Afghanistan May 5, 2010. U.S. forces are massing on the outskirts of Kandahar for the biggest military offensive of the nearly nine-year-old war, in the hope of turning the tide against a strengthening Taliban insurgency. (Reuters/Daylife)
An U.S. Army soldier with 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, part of the 82nd Airborne Division, jumps over a wall during a patrol in Arghandab valley near Kandahar, in southern Afghanistan May 5, 2010. U.S. forces are massing on the outskirts of Kandahar for the biggest military offensive of the nearly nine-year-old war, in the hope of turning the tide against a strengthening Taliban insurgency. (Reuters/Daylife)
Sarge says the a battalion of the 82nd was testing out the USP-D during the trial last year determining what new camo pattern would be adopted.
Source of the photo -- the author of the post mentions the Alexander technique.
More about the Alexander technique:
The Complete Guide to the Alexander Technique
Alexander Technique International
American Society for the Alexander Technique
At her talk at Google, Esther Gokhale responds to a question about how the Gokhale method differs from the Alexander technique. Someone explains how the advantages of the Gokhale method. (There is some discussion of how it impacts martial arts.)
Posts on the Gokhale Method at Complete Body.
COURSE ON THE LIVING LATIN LANGUAGE, Second Edition, Amended and Enlarged, by Father Suitbert H. Siedl, of St. John of the Cross, O.C.D. One volume with twenty-six compact discs. [U.S. $90.00 plus $7.05 postage and handling and U.S. $19.77 P & H to Canada.] This course is the fruit of a nearly lifetime long experience in teaching and using Latin as a spoken language. It is entirely different from other available instructional materials in method and approach to the language; you learn from the very beginning to think in Latin and to avoid the usual method of “deciphering and decoding” by grammatical analysis and by constructing “translations.” Moreover, this course is based on the obvious assumption that language is an acoustic phenomenon and has to enter into our mind through the ears and not through the eyes, and that our memory has to keep the sound of the words and not the image of a printed text; therefore the compact discs which go with the Cursus are an essential part of this method.
I have it on tape... should have waited the 10 or 12 years for the CD. hah.
FAMILIÆ SANCTI HIERONYMI CENACULUM MIAMIENSE
CENACULUM FAMILIÆ SANCTI HIERONYMI
"For the Church, the Economy Is Not the Center of Human Activity"
Glendon's Summary of Social Science Academy Plenary
"Our Plenary Addressed Itself Explicitly to the Economic Crisis"
Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences
Web Exclusive: Orthodox Christian Icons
Posted: 2010-04-23 Icons are more than art for Orthodox Christians throughout the world. CTV Reporter Mary Timby and Photojournalist Ethan Frogget take a closer look at the mystery of the Orthodox Icon
Since I place all things in this political context, given e.g. any technological proposal I ask cui bono?, and the answer always seems to be that the elites will benefit while the position of the non-rich is further eroded. So it always looks like we’d be better off if something didn’t exist than if it exists only to further enslave us. (For example, what good are even the wonders of modern medicine if they are ruthlessly rationed by wealth? Even these become a weapon against us.) This would be true even if something really did improve our material situation while further enslaving us politically and spiritually.
That’s what it boils down to – if we love freedom, it must follow that we’d rather live free even under spartan material conditions than enjoy luxury but as a slave.
And of course, all the lies about trading freedom for material well-being are now coming undone anyway. The “middle class” who made the pernicious trade is now being economically liquidated anyway.
There are some (very few) among those who exalt technology who agree that it must be kept out of the hands of corporate elites, but they fail to explain how this can be done. It seems that large-scale energy generation, high capitalization, and high tech as such imply the existence of large, centralized structures. It’s hard to see what alternative political and economic structure would support such massive and intensely coordinated projects.
I think the artists, philosophers, and spiritualists of antiquity proved humanity doesn’t need massively materialized and capitalized technology to exercise its ingenuity or its creativity, while ample production of food, clothing, shelter, and consumer goods was always possible, and only thwarted by flawed political structures. But in principle we’ve learned enough by now that we could be more sapient regarding our politics. We don’t need hyper-tech for that either. So it’s puzzling why anyone who’s not a corporatist would claim that it’s necessary to keep building these massive high-energy high-maintenance structures, always at such dire political risk.
The system is unsustainable and must collapse anyway. It’s simply our choice whether we do it the hard way or the not-as-hard way. Whether we make it a complete disaster, or can salvage something from it.
If we resolved to live within our means, in all ways, and renounced all versions of trying to get something for nothing, which in practice has always meant exploiting others and trashing the planet, we’d find that we’d still have sufficient material lives (probably more bountiful than under the serfdom toward which we’re now heading), while our truly creative existence could be as boundless as our imaginations. We never needed material crutches for that.
Political centralization and big government have always corresponded with integrated technological structures, no matter what a system’s proclaimed ideology was. Today we have intensive political and technological concentration, yet as we see with electricity the impetus is to integrate even further. But it was the same way with the alleged ideological opposite of “capitalism”. Lenin’s formula for what the revolution was trying to build was “soviets plus electrification.” [A soviet was a directly democratic council and legislative body elected by a small or relatively small group - a factory, a peasant village, a military base. It's the same thing as a town or regional council (if these were directly democratic), or Jefferson's cherished idea for wards, or the New England town hall government. These are all versions of the kind of relocalized political bodies we should be trying to establish.] They already had the soviets but little electrification. But in practice the Bolsheviks fought to integrate both technology and politics, to destroy the real authority and freedom of the soviets and achieve centralized political power in the course of building centralized technological structures, and justifying the political betrayal by the alleged exigencies of the technological imperative.
So we can see how “growth” and centralized industrialism always head in the same corporate direction. Lenin came to explicitly call what the Bolsheviks sought “state capitalism”. It was the mirror image of the state capitalism, a contradiction in terms, that we have today.
The direction of the solution is the opposite of these: the decentralization and relocalization of politics and electricity (meaning all technology). This will be physically imposed upon us by nature regardless of our political choices. But politically, morally, spiritually this is also the choice in the direction of better health and the renaissance of freedom.
In the end, the cult mantra “technology will save us” is reactionary and anti-political. It implicitly supports corporatism and tyrannical government, and most of its professional propagandists are conscious agents of tyranny. Lenin’s formula, and today ours, seeks the separation of economics/technology from politics. It’s the ideology of technocracy, of totalitarianism. We who want to relocalize and redeem freedom must restore the old unity of concept, political economy.
We no longer want to be ruled by technocracy, by bureaucracy, by the machinery of big government and of big corporatist structures. When they call for the same old “electrification plus democracy”, they tell the same lie the Bolsheviks did. Both really want corporatist tyranny. (The only difference between the “capitalist” and ”communist” versions of corporatism, between the modern US and the USSR, is the presence in the US of private racketeers extracting private rents, while in the USSR the Party maintained a racket monopoly directly via the state.)
No. We want the truly human, democratic politics of town halls/councils/wards, and then the level of electrification and of all technology which corresponds to this decentralization and is politically safe for it. This too is part of freedom’s vigilance. “Consumerism”, in choosing to throw away all citizenship and freedom for the sake of an illusory material and technological improvement which is now being rescinded anyway, chose the opposite path. And today with things like a nationally integrated grid we see the continued attempt to prop up the consumerist zombie, and by extension the whole Babel of debt, “growth”, and the Bailout.
This is all one comprehensive battlefront. Everywhere it’s centralization vs. relocalization, helplessness vs. independence, weakness vs. robustness, fragility vs. resiliency, corporate pseudo-politics vs. true democracy, materialized greed vs. human morality and spirit, tyranny vs. freedom. Nowhere will we see any large-scale issue where the positions aren’t defined by this line. It may sometimes be hard to find the will to see things this way, where we find that something we once cherished and thought to be good has been corrupted beyond redemption. That’s part of the rackets' crimes against humanity, that they’ve thrown their filth upon so many things which could have been good and beautiful. But it’s too late for nostalgia. If we’re going to fight for our freedom and any hope for future prosperity, we have to fight it out all the way down the trench line.
The explosion and destruction of the Horizon deepwater rig and the subsequent oil spill disaster are only the latest in a series of wake-up calls you’ve received. Are you listening now? Your first warning came in 1956, with the publication of M. King Hubbert’s model of US oil production, which correctly predicted its peak in 1970. When Hubbert updated his model on camera in 1976, he also nailed the peak of worldwide conventional oil production in 2005.
Thursday, May 06, 2010
During the rally, a female student was talking about equal rights, ethnic pride, and celebrating their "national holiday." Do French-Americans celebrate Bastille Day? How much importance do people give to days commemorating important events in the history of modern nation-states? For East Asians celebrating Lunar New Year this may just be merely a cultural tradition they observe, which has not bearing upon their loyalties or allegiance. But there is a concern among some that Mexican-Americans do not see themselves as being part of the same nation as Anglo-Americans.
More often than not, a national flag represents the nation-state and not the people(s) living in that nation-state , though many may believe the two to be the same. One can see this sort of nationalism during international events like the Olympics. I think it would be a mistake for an American [citizen] to fly a flag other than the national flag or the state flag if they were just celebrating their ethnic heritage. To express a solidarity with those of the same ethnic background and still living in the "home country" on par with, or surpassing, the solidarity they should have with their fellow Americans is morally questionable.
Is California in danger of being balkanized? It doesn't really take much to develop a separate identity -- even if non-Anglos are not so different, culturally, from Anglos, it suffices for them to have a distinct identity so long as they do not view themselves as being part of the same group as the Anglos.
Even if I had remembered, I might not have gone to the showing of Autumn Gem at Saratoga Public Library last Sunday. Once I was a supporter of the Chinese Revolution and the founding of the Chinese Republic. Now, not so much. Chinese nationalism was tainted with too much of modernity, and in embracing the modern nation-state, it exacerbated the centralizing tendencies of the Chinese Empire. If Qiu Jin was a feminist, what did she believe and advocate? How much of it was a normal and justified reaction to the real oppression of women?
Apparently someone has drawn a pseudo-icon:
Elsewhere she is advertised as the Chinese "Joan of Arc."
When the Chinese assimilate into contemporary Anglo-American society, they really assimilate to the worst of liberal excess. Everything traditional is measured by the standard of modern egalitarianism, even if Qiu Jin was "traditional" in comparison to contemporary Chinese-American feminists. I suppose I'll have to watch the movie to determine if this suspicion is correct or not.
The China Beat
Raffi's Wushi Notes
Chi Am Circle
Film explores the life of China's first feminist | ASU News
A Martyr for Modernity: Qiu Jin, Feminist, Warrior and Revolutionary
Timothy Olyphant is starting to grow on me, but the perceived lack of authenticity would be an enthusiasm-killer.
'Justified': Timothy Olyphant Is a Man With a Gun ... Again
Timothy Olyphant is a lawman in a 'Justified' hit
Following a meeting between Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Trieta and Pope Benedict XVI, Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet, the controversial archbishop of Hanoi who led protest vigils calling for the return of government-confiscated church properties and greater religious freedoms, resigned, citing health reasons. Signs point to a cozy quid pro quo between the Vatican and Hanoi. - The Hanoist
The dispute over the sins of the Church rages on. Here's how Ratzinger, as a young professor, explained why "the divine so often presents itself in such unworthy hands." Page written more than forty years ago, but highly relevant
(His previous post on the topic: Sinner Church? A Myth That Needs to Be Busted.)
Talk a little about what militarism is, and what imperialism is.
What I want to introduce here is what I call the “base world.” According to the “Base Structure Report”, an annual report of the Department of Defense, in the year 2002 we had 725 bases in other people’s countries. Actually, that number understates in that it does not include any of the espionage bases of the National Security Agency, such as RAF Menwith Hill in Yorkshire.
So these are bases where we have listening devices?
These are huge bases. Menwith Hill downloads every single e-mail, telephone call, and fax between Europe and the United States every day and puts them into massive computers where dictionaries then read them out. There are hundreds of these. The official Base Structure Report also doesn’t include any of the main bases in England disguised as Royal Air Force bases even though there are no Britons on them. It doesn’t include any of the bases in Uzbekistan or Kyrgyzstan, any of the bases in Afghanistan, the four bases that are, as we talk, being built in Iraq. They put down one major marine base for Okinawa—there are ten—and things like that. So there is a lot of misleading information in it, but it’s enough to say 700 looks like a pretty good number, whereas it’s probably around 1,000.
The base world is secret. Americans don’t know anything about it. The Congress doesn’t do oversight on it. You must remember, 40 percent of the defense budget is black. No congressman can see it. All of the intelligence budgets are black.
No public discussion.
In violation of the first article of the Constitution that says, “The American public shall be given, annually, a report on how their tax money was spent.” That has not been true in the United States since the Manhattan Project of World War II, even though it is the clause that gives Congress the power of the purse, the power to supervise.
The base world is complex. It has its own airline. It has 234 golf courses around the world. It has something like seventy Lear Jet luxury airplanes to fly generals and admirals to the golf courses, to the armed forces ski resort at Garmisch in the Bavarian Alps. Inside the bases, the military does every thing in its power to make them look like Little America.
There are large numbers of women in the armed forces to-day, [yet] you can’t get an abortion at a military hospital abroad. Sexual assaults are not at all uncommon in the armed forces. If you were a young woman in the armed forces today and you were based in Iraq, and you woke up one morning and found yourself pregnant, you have no choice but to go on the open market in Baghdad looking for an abortion, which is not a very happy thought.
Militarism is not defense of the country. By milita rism, I mean corporate interest in a military way of life. It derives above all from the fact that service in the armed forces is, today, not an obligation of citizenship. It is a career choice. It has been since 1973. I thought it was wonderful when PFC Jessica Lynch, who was wounded at Nasiriyah, was asked by the press, “Why did you join the Army?” She said, “I come from Palestine, West Virginia; I couldn’t get a job at Wal-Mart.” She said, “I joined the Army to get out of Palestine, West Virginia”—a perfectly logical answer on her part. And it’s true of a great many people in the ranks to-day. They do not expect to be shot at. That’s one of the points you should understand; it’s a career choice, like a kid deciding to work his way up to Berkeley by going through a community col-lege, and a state college, and then transferring in at the last minute or something like that.
Standing behind it is the military-industrial complex. We must, once again, bear in mind the powerful warnings of probably the two most prominent generals in our history. George Washington, in his farewell address, warns about the threat of standing armies to liberty, and particularly republican liberty. He was not an isolationist; he was talking about what moves power toward the imperial presidency, toward the state. It requires more taxes. Everything else which he said has come true. The other, perhaps more famous one was Dwight Eisenhower in his farewell address, where he invented the phrase “military-industrial complex.” We now know that he intended to say “military-industrial-congressional complex,” but he was advised not to go that far.
What interests me here is that we’re talking about something that looks very much like the end of the Roman Republic—which was, in many ways, a model for our own republic—and its conversion into a military dictatorship called the Roman Empire as the troops began to take over. The kind of figure that the Roman Republic began to look for was a military populist; of course, the most obvious example was Julius Caesar. But after Caesar’s assassination in 44B.C., the young Octavian becomes the “god” Augustus Caesar.
I’m not trying to be a sensationalist, but I actually do worry about the future of the United States; whether, in fact, we are tending in the same path as the former Soviet Union, with domestic, ideological rigidity in our economic institutions, im perial overstretch—that’s what we’re talking about here—the belief that we have to be every where at all times. We have always been a richer place than Russia was, so it will take longer. But we’re overextended. We can’t afford it.
One of my four “sorrows of empire” at the end of the book is bankruptcy. The military is not productive. They do provide certain kinds of jobs, as you discover in the United States whenever you try and close a military base—no matter how con servative or liberal your congressional representatives are, they will go mad to try and keep it open, keep it functioning. And the military-industrial complex is very clever in making sure that the building of a B-2 bomber is spread around the country; it is not all located at Northrop in El Segundo, California.
I have grave difficulty believing that that any president can bring under control the Pentagon, the secret intelligence agencies, the military-industrial complex. The Department of Defense is not, today, a department of defense. It’s an alternative seat of government on the south bank of the Potomac River. And, typical of militarism, it’s expanding into many, many other areas in our life that we have, in our traditional political philosophy, reserved for civilians. [For example,] domestic policing: they’re slowly expanding into that.
Probably the most severe competition in our government today is between the Special Forces in the DOD and the CIA over who runs clandestine operations.
What you’re really saying is that, lo and behold, we’ve created an empire of bases, a different kind of empire, and that it’s basically changing who we are and the way our government operates.
The right phrase is exactly what you said: “lo and behold.” It reminds you of the Roman Republic, which existed in its final form with very considerable rights for Roman citizens, much like ours, for about two centuries. James Madison and others, in writing the defense of the Constitution in the Federalist Papers, signed their name “Publius.” Well, who is Publius? He was the first Roman consul. That is where the whole world of term limits, of separation of powers, things like that, [began].
Yet by the end of the first century B.C., Rome had seemingly “inadvertently” acquired an empire that surrounded the entire Mediterranean Sea. They then discovered that the inescapable accompaniment, the Siamese twin of imperialism, is militarism. You start needing standing armies. You start having men who are demobilized after having spent their entire lives in the military. It’s expensive to pay them. You have to provide them, in the Roman Empire, with farms or things of this sort. They become irritated with the state. And then along comes a military populist, a figure who says, “I understand your problems. I will represent your interests against the Roman Senate. The only requirement is that I become dictator for life.” Certainly, Julius Caesar is the model for this . . . Napoleon Bonaparte, Juan Perón, this is the type of figure.
Indeed, one wonders whether we have already crossed our Rubicon, whether we can go back. I don’t know.
In your indictment of what we are becoming, or maybe have become, you go through a list. We can’t do all of it; we don’t have enough time. But, essentially, civilians who think in military ways now making decisions, the Pentagon expropriating the functions of the State Department, a policy being perceived as military policy as opposed to all of the dimensions of—
People around the world who meet Americans meet soldiers. That’s how we represent ourselves abroad, just as the Roman Empire represented itself abroad as the Legionaires. People have to conclude, even if they don’t come into military or armed conflict with us, that this is the way the Americans think. This is the way they represent themselves today. It’s not foreign aid any longer. It’s not our diplomats. It’s not the Fulbright program. It’s the military. It’s uniformed eighteen- to twenty-four-year-old young men and some young women.
American Empire Project
From April: "Debate Settles Key Question for SF Republicans" (John Dennis)
Michael Shedlock: John Dennis for California District 8 - San Francisco
MultiCam Camouflage Pattern Selected for U.S. Army Uniform and Equipment
"Several camouflage patterns were evaluated by the U.S. Army in 2009. Six such patterns are shown above, where members of the camouflage assessment team wearing the different camo patterns they evaluated. From left: AOR II, UCP, MultiCam, Desert Brush, UCP-Delta, and Mirage. The photo was taken in Khost province, close to the Pakistan border, in late October 2009. Photo: U.S. Army PEO Soldier."
MultiCam® - Home
UCP-Delta « Soldier Systems
Digital Camouflage History
A portrait of Queen Elizabeth, by artist Rupert Alexander, is seen in a photo released in London April 27, 2010. The painting of the Queen, who turned 84 years old last week, will hang in the Council Room of the Royal Warrant Holders Association near Buckingham Palace. (Reuters/Daylife)
New portrait of the Queen by whizkid Rupert Alexander unveiled, plus other paintings of Her Majesty
New portrait of the Queen unveiled by youngest artist to paint Royals for 400 years
Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust
The Hub Magazine
Monsters and Critics
This Feb. 12, 1926 photo provided Wednesday, April 21, 2010 by the Royal Collection shows then-Princess Elizabeth, who later became Britain's Queen Elizabeth II. The Royal Collection released photos of the future Queen's first portrait sessions on Wednesday to mark her 84th birthday. (AP/Daylife)
This Feb. 12, 1926 photo provided Wednesday, April 21, 2010 by the Royal Collection shows the Duchess of York, right, with then-Princess Elizabeth, who later became Britain's Queen Elizabeth II. The Royal Collection released photos of the future Queen's first portrait session on Wednesday to mark her 84th birthday. (AP/Daylife)
This June 30, 1927 photo provided Wednesday, April 21, 2010 by the Royal Collection shows the Duke and Duchess of York with their daughter, then-Princess Elizabeth, who later became Britain's Queen Elizabeth II. The Royal Collection released photos of the future Queen's first portrait sessions on Wednesday to mark her 84th birthday. (AP/Daylife)
Wednesday, May 05, 2010
On the whole, though, the pursuit of complexity as a solution for the problems caused by complexity is a self-defeating strategy. It happens to be the self-defeating strategy to which we’re committed, collectively and in most cases individually as well, and it can be dizzyingly hard for many people to think of any action at all that doesn’t follow it. Take a moment, now, before reading the rest of this post, to give it a try. Can you think of a way to deal with the problems of complexity in today’s industrial nations – problems that include, but are not limited to, rapidly depleting energy supplies, ecological destruction, and accelerating economic turbulence – that doesn’t simply add another layer of complexity to the mess?
There’s at least one such way, and longtime readers of this blog will not be surprised to learn that it’s a way pioneered decades ago, in a different context, by maverick economist E.F. Schumacher. That way starts with what he termed the Principle of Subsidiary Function. This rule holds that the most effective arrangement to perform any function whatsoever will always assign that function to the smallest and most local unit that can actually perform it.
It’s hard to think of any principle that flies more forcefully in the face of every presupposition of the modern world. Economies of scale and centralization of control are so heavily and unthinkingly valued that it rarely occurs to anyone that in many situation they might not actually be helpful at all. Still, Schumacher was not a pie-in-the-sky theorist; he drew his conclusions on the basis of most of a lifetime as a working economist in the business world. Like most of us, he noticed that the bigger and more centralized an economic or political system happened to be, the less effectively it could respond to the complex texture of local needs and possibilities that makes up the real world.
The Economics of Immigration Reform
In reality, the same Wall Street corporations that in part caused the current recession and benefited from it via bailouts are also responsible for the destruction of the Mexican economy and the consequent migration wave.
Bill Clinton’s 1994 “Mexican bailout” was supposedly used to save the Mexican economy from disaster. In reality, much of the money went to Wall Street investors who helped inflate the Mexican economy but didn’t get out in time when the bubble burst (similar to the recent housing bubble in the U.S.).
Bill Clinton used U.S. taxpayer money to bailout Wall Street via the Mexican government, but Mexico still had to pay back the money that went to Wall Street. The Mexican loan came with devastating strings attached: state industries were to be privatized; the Mexican currency was devalued; state workers were fired by the hundreds of thousands; and social services were slashed. The ruinous results sent hordes of desperate Mexicans north to escape poverty and starvation.
When this massive fraud was being orchestrated, Republican Senator Alfonse M. D’Amato continued his opposition to Clinton by actually telling the truth about the bailout: "The rescue plan has failed. And we are just perpetuating a myth if we think we are helping anyone except rich investors, who the United States has saved while everyone else in Mexico starves." (The New York Times, April 2, 1995).
U.S. Corporations. The Mexican economy was cracked open to rich U.S. investors who take advantage of slave wages south of the border, while also benefiting from the Mexican migration to the U.S. that corporations use to drive down wages in the U.S. (corporations in the U.S. massively advertised in Mexico to bring more workers across the border).
If Latino immigrants in the U.S. are not afforded basic civil rights — including the right to form unions without being deported — they become easily exploitable by corporations; wages for all workers in the U.S. consequently drop. This sad state of affairs will continue if the Democrats’ anti-immigration bill is passed.
What if they are illegal? That is the question that is being ignored. Will allowing them to organize in order to protect wages fix what is wrong with Mexico? Or the corporations? Is this the best practicable solution? Wouldn't it be better to do something about the corporations?
Sheldon Richman, Immigration, Civil Liberties and the Drug War
Turn your back on a ram and he will plant his head into the small of your back and send you to the nearest chiropractor for the rest of your life. And don’t think you can teach him a lesson by returning the favor with anything short of lethal force. Rams love getting hit in the head.
Growing local organic food may be the best path toward economic recovery. It may also be key to building stronger and healthier communities. “Our [struggling] economy is making a compelling case that we shift toward more local food,” said Ken Meter of the Crossroads Resource Center in Minneapolis. “The current system fails on all counts and it’s very efficient at taking wealth out of our communities.”
The contest will be held on October 9, 2010 in Union Square. I saw a poster advertising the event the last time I was in Chinatown, which was last Monday. I was there seeing family and we had dinner at this Shanghainese restaurant near Portsmouth Square. (The food there was so-so, a bit too oily.)
Should I watch City of Life and Death? I think the movie may be too depressing.
Tuesday, May 04, 2010
Too big to save
By Henry CK Liu
The post-Civil War Populist movement
The Civil War was not followed by a union of mutual fraternal forgiveness and reconciliation, as Lincoln had hoped by his speech: "With malice toward none; and charity for all." The victorious North treated the defeated South as a conquered territory more harshly than the victorious US treated defeated Germany and Japan after World War II. Rather than reconstructing the war damaged South, Northerners were bent on reconstructing Southern institutions to keep the South from ever again considering rebellion.
The North was undeniably the aggressor, a role clearly evidenced by the fact that all of the fighting was on Southern territory. As a result, the Southern economy was destroyed by war while the Northern economy industrialized and prospered from war production. War debts issued by the Confederacy became worthless after the war. Not a single bank in the South was solvent as Southern savings had been spent on financing the war. After the conflict, the Federal Treasury ordered the confiscation of Confederate government property but refused to assume its war debts. Corrupt Northern agents looted the South indiscriminately. In contrast, Northern war debts were honored by taxing the whole economy, including the South.
Two years into the Civil War, Congress passed the National Banking Act in 1863. While its immediate purpose was to sell war bonds to finance military costs for the North, it served also to create a national paper currency. Banks that bought war bonds equaling up to one third of their capital were invited to apply for federal charter. Since the Jacksonian period, bank supervision was the province of the states. In 1860, more than 1,500 banks issued bank notes, many of which were accepted only with high discounts.
The new banking regime was far from perfect. The currency it provided was insufficiently elastic for the needs of the expanding economy. As the federal government redeemed it war bonds after the war, the quantity of money in circulation decreased, causing deflation that created hardship for debtors, such as Southern and Western farmers. Also, money capital tended to be concentrated in the Northeast. The farming regions in the South and the West continued to suffer from a chronic scarcity of cash and credit. This situation continued until the establishment of a central bank in 1913, in the form of the Federal Reserve.
The one remaining asset the South still possessed was the fertility of its soil. There was hope that economic recovery could begin with the first harvest of the cotton crop. But large-scale cotton production was not possible until the financial system was restored and the liberated former slaves return to work as paid labor. Hundred of thousands of former slaves had joined the Northern army and were informed that they were freed by the Civil War. They now wandered aimlessly in the North and the new territories in the West. They had interpreted the new freedom to mean they no longer had to work for their former masters. Many were disappointed that their expectation that the Union government would grant them free land to farm for themselves was mere fantasy. Illiterate and totally unprepared for survival as independent workers, many died of starvation and homeless exposure in the cold early spring of 1865 in the North.
In March, the Federal government set up the Freedmen's Bureau to provide food, shelter and medical attention to the indigent, but did not provide job opportunities for workers. White workers in the North did not want competition from Southern blacks who were willing to work for low wages. Southern attempts to put the former slaves back to work were interpreted by Northern radicals as schemes to restore slavery.
The North was divided on policy towards the South, whether to grant the South its full constitutional state rights or to take measures to prevent the recurrence of sectional conflict and future attempts of secession. The Northern radicals wanted to subdue the South permanently by destroying the traditional power structure of the plantation and by establishing racial equality. Yet while the constitutional States Rights issue was the cause of the secession, it was not the cause for the Civil War. In practice, minority sections in the Northeast, such as New England during the War of 1812, had used state rights arguments to limit federal power.
The reason for the Southern secession was distinctly different from the reason the North had for launching the Civil War. The South by its own statement seceded to maintain the institution of slavery, which was vital to its socioeconomic structure. Official Southern statements placed secession as a legitimate response to the North's violation of the rights of Southerners by excluding them from the new territories, refusing to restore fugitive slaves and threatening the institution of slavery itself.
The North resorted to prevent secession by force to preserve the Union for political and economic reasons, not to abolish slavery, even though its abolition might be the result of the war. Lincoln himself repeatedly made the distinction, and he personally was not an abolitionist. To Northern industrial interests, an independent Confederacy closely linked to Britain would deprive the North of a big part of its protected domestic market.
Congress did not meet until December 1865, nine months after the fighting ended. Until then, reconstruction was under the exclusive control of the executive branch. Andrew Johnson succeeded the assassinated Lincoln in April and continued Lincoln's conciliatory reconstruction program, which was opposed by the Republican Radicals.
Some radicals were ideologues who saw the Civil War as a war to abolish slavery. Other radicals were merely using abolition as a pretext to hold on to Republican political dominance and to strengthen the North's control of the economy. If the South were to be permitted to return to the Union on Lincoln's terms, then the pre-war dominance of the Democratic Party would be restored to win the next election to dislodge Republican control of the federal government.
Northern industries and banks were concerned that the tariff would then be lowered to allow foreign competition. Free trade would allow the South to sell more cotton to Britain and form an economic alliance with British capital to oppose the North. Northerners feared that the national debt held by Northern banks might be repudiated by a Democratic congress controlled by Southern politicians the same way Confederate debt was repudiated by the Republican congress controlled by Northerners. Congress would then be controlled again by the agrarian South and strip the North of all economic benefits of having won the war. Electoral politics required Republican support for enfranchising former slaves in order to win votes in Southern states with large black population.
Still, despite less than pure moral incentives, the Republican radicals pushed through the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution on July 9, 1868, a year after the Civil War ended. The amendment provides a broad definition of citizenship, vacating the Supreme Court decision in Dred Scott v Sandford (1857), which had excluded slaves and their descendants from possessing constitutional rights. The relevant question before the court was whether, at the time the constitution was ratified, former slave Scott could have been considered a citizen of any state within the meaning of Article III of the constitution.
According to the court, the authors of the constitution had viewed the "Negro" race as:
beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations, and so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.
Thus strict view of the constitution held by Southern Democrats would deny blacks all constitutional and civil rights despite changing conditions. Later, Richard Nixon, as Republican president, co-opted the term and concept to described conservative Republican politics and judicial philosophy.
The amendment's "Due Process Clause" has been used to apply most of the Bill of Rights to the states. This clause has also been used to recognize substantive due process rights, such as parental and marriage rights, and procedural due process rights, which require specific legal steps before a person's right to life, liberty, or property can be infringed.
The amendment's "Equal Protection Clause" requires states to provide equal protection under the law to all people within their jurisdictions. This clause later became the basis for Brown v Board of Education (1954), the Supreme Court decision that precipitated the dismantling of racial segregation in the United States and the Civil Rights Bill of 1964.
"Hundred of thousands of former slaves had joined the Northern army and were informed that they were freed by the Civil War." Is this correct?
Mr. Liu expressed the same view in his earlier series on populism.
What sort of movies has she been watching? Do Italian horror movies deal with the occult and Satanism? What about Mexican horror movies?
I agree with Dr. Fleming that it is important to know something of primary documents===the letters, diaries, and even speeches and newspapers of our forebears. (I have found in recent years that students are unable to do this. Set to read the Declaration or the Constitution they come back with the standard misconstructions they have been taught rather than the text in front of them.) Mel Bradford’s BETTER GUIDE THAN REASON, ORIGINAL INTENTIONS, and FOUNDING FATHERS are good places to start. I recently put together a bibliography on Southern history and literature that should be on the Abbeville Institute website one of these days. I agree also with Dr. Fleming that the creative literature of a period, having more insight than historians, should be resorted to. Even that not written within the period. Faulkner’s THE UNVANQUISHED contains a truer picture of the WBTS than any history written. This is also true of American history in general at the hands of such Southern writers as Andrew Lytle, Caroline Gordon, Mary Johnston, Mary Lee Settle. Generally, older histories, those written in the early 20th century before Marxist ideological labelling took hold, are better than most recent ones. I would suggest Shelby Foote’s CIVIL WAR and NORTH AGAINST SOUTH by Ludwell Johnson. Besides Simms’s novels of the colonial period, Revolutionary war, and Southwestern frontier, get hold of Simms’s LIFE OF FRANCIS MARION and his article “Daniel Boon.”
Still, it's not a good thing for the fan or for the celebrity. It feeds the illusions and disordered emotions of the fan and the narcissism of the celebrity (and possibly an inflated sense of nobility for their deigning to associate with their fans).
A security officer walks by as snow collects around and on the statue of President Thomas Jefferson at the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, Saturday, Dec. 19, 2009. (AP/Daylife)
Snow collects on the statue of President Thomas Jefferson at the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, Saturday, Dec. 19, 2009. (AP/Daylife)
Many traditionalist Catholics have a negative view of the American founding. Once I thought of it as the American rebellion, though the American Loyalists may have a stronger constitutional case than is commonly believed. There is a discussion of traditionalist Catholics and "anti-Americanism" in the comments to Dr. Fleming's post on the Arizona law on illegal immigrants.
With respect to traditionalists and Dr. John Rao, and George III and the American Revolution, Dr. Fleming writes:
There is a strong tendency even among the best Americans to go off the rails in the search of an absolute set of simple principles that can be used to defend an identity. I admire John Rao a great deal, but he does not understand American history at all, much less our constitutional system. Americanism, of courses, is only a subspecies of theological modernism, which is the eternal quest for the ever-receding horizon of fashionable opinion. Some Protestants want to make of this country a propositional nation with a divine mission; some Catholics damn the whole country, largely because they accept the stupid Evangelical-liberal version of US history. Both sides are not only wrong: They are tedious. Freemasonry did influence the revolution, though, and there is no good excuse for any honest Christian to have joined a secret conspiracy that, at its best, attempted to bypass Christianity and and its worse aimed at its destruction. British masons were generally nice people but they were not Christians, whatever they may have thought they were.Dr. Fleming responds to a query about book recommendations:
George III was an essentially decent man with an inherited condition that made him first unstable and ultimately quite mad. He was a far more patriotic and honest ruler than any US president of the past 100 years. In my view, supported by considerable evidence, the American Revolution began as a project of conspiratorial Yankees who had been plotting treason for years. They only succeeded when the British government overreacted and created sympathy in the South for the Yankeee traitors. One branch of my family were Tories, not because they liked George III: In fact they did not regard him as legitimate–as indeed, he was not–but they were Scots who had given their word and they fled to Canada. Even some Scottish supporters of the revolution were rabbled and mistreated. (I too belong to a persecuted minority). There were elements of good and bad in the revolution, and it is as naive to claim that it was essentially conservative, as Russell Kirk did, as to insist that it was essentially radical, as leftists and some Catholics do. It was a very mixed bag. There were men of honor both in North and South, but there were also free-thinkers and libertines like Franklin.
If it is true that by their fruits we shall know them, then it should have been clear by 1820 that the Revolution had already gone much too far. Divorces were becoming easy and informal, and the sons of the original Yankee conspirators had made up their minds to enslave the sons of their former Southern comrades in arms. Neither the Almighty nor the Enemy created the United States, indeed, a correct understanding of the republic would prevent us from speaking of this confederation as if it were a unitary nation. In the end, the unitarian libertines beat the trinitarian conservatives, and there is no use crying over spilt milk.
I have very little faith in modern historians who generally seek to impose an interpretation–ideological, economic, racialist, religious– on complex events whose participants have many motives. One wise starting point is a very strange Italian novel written (in a mixture of difficult dialects) by the cousin (Milanese) of a good friend of mine: Carlo Emilio Gadda’s Quer Pasticcacio Brutto de Via Merulana (That Ugly Mess on Via Merulana). In this intellectual crime novel, the detective is notorious for boring his colleagues with his assertion that it is never right to speak of a cause of a crime, but only of causes. I know this book so well because I have tried to read it in Italian–I know some Milanese–but never quite made it through to the end. William Weaver has a careful translation that I just recently discovered, and it is good for the main themes but useless so far as it cannot express the dialects.
Rather than read a book with a big perspective–whether that of Charles Beard or Forrest McDonald–I prefer to read diaries, letters, novels, autobiographies so that even where the writer is lying, he is lying from a perspective his contemporaries would understand. I am far from claiming to be a specialist in colonial American history or the Revolution, which I first studied in college in an excellent class by Phinizy Spalding, though I was bored to tears at the time. You might start with such histories as David Ramsay’s and Henry Adams’, then read Jefferson’s Notes and letters. Clyde Wilson and James Meriwether long ago persuaded me of the importance of Simms’ novels on the revolutionary period as sources. Of recent historians, I have learned the most from David Hackett Fisher and one of Mel Bradford’s favorite books, Colbourne’s The Lamp of Experience. Bradford’s essays collected in A Better Guide Than Reason are excellent and path-breaking. But by all means go and read Cotton Mather for the point of view of an intelligent and decent Yankee who was also quite mad, so far as I can see, or Hawthorne’s magnificent portrayals of the Yankee mind. In general, fiction is a better guide to what people thought than later works of history, both because poets and novelists are deeper thinkers than most historians and because books became popular because they resonated with the popular mind. And then, too, narrative is a primary way of organizing our memories and making them coherent, which is why modern historians, abandoning narrative, have little to teach us. I have gone on far too long. The liberals simply make up their history as they go long; there is much in the republican tradition so long as it is not self-consciously republican. Do not forget to read the pamphlet war over the Constitution, not just the Federalist, which is one side, but the pamphlets on both sides collected in the LOA volumes, Debates on the Constitution. This is just a start, of course, and I am a rank amateur, but my first glimmerings of truth came from family tales of distant ancestors who refused to fight against a king they disliked. Such family stories, collectively, represent an historical memory that only occasionally finds its way into books.
My Backyard Farmer
My Farm Grows From San Francisco Backyards
Has My Farm SF gone out of business, or did it move?
Silicon Valley Farming in the Great Recession
Two Small Farms
Mr. Stooksbury recommends:
I am not so naive as to believe that we can put up a couple of windmills and solve all of our problems, but the first step is obvious: tax the consumption of coal and crude oil to encourage conservation and substitution.Wouldn't this penalize the middle and working class, who may have limited options when it comes to securing alternate means of transport, and small farmers and business owners? Large corporations would be better suited at absorbing the increased expense and passing it on to their customers, no?
Now it may be the case that even if the government were to admit the fact of peak oil and take control over the distribution of oil and electricity that corporations would still be privileged over normal Americans, and that they would receive a greater allotment of oil and electricity, all in the name of economic necessity.
It seems that the "right" thing for the government to do would be to ensure the equitable sharing of resources, as much as possible, and at the same time to commit to the goal of relocalization. Curtailing consumption of energy can be fair only if the burden is distributed justly, and society as a whole makes those structural changes that would enable people to do with less. Can the Federal Government get its act together, cast off corporatism, and coordinate with the states? (Or, allow the states exercise their sovereignty?)
Edit. Mr. Stooksbury is not alone in suggesting a tax -- Tom Whipple: What ONE Policy Change Would You Make?
The first Goldman Sachs panel to line up before Senator Carl Levin’s subcommittee on April 27 consisted of Daniel Sparks, Joshua Birnbaum, Michael Swenson and Fabrice Tourre. Mr. Sparks headed the Mortgage Department and supervised the other three who worked in the Structured Product Group at the time the SEC has alleged the securities fraud occurred.
To hear these four tell it, their jobs included trading for Goldman’s benefit (proprietary trading), originating investment products, selling the products to customers once they were created (distribution), and, in Mr. Tourre’s case, even speaking with the rating agency that would transform these subprime bets into AAA derivatives. And how did they sum up all of this as a job description? They testified, under oath I might add, that they were “market-makers.” In a sane world, a market maker is an entity that matches buyers with sellers and profits from capturing a portion of the spread (bid and ask) on the buy and sell price of securities.
To a lay jury, this might fly as legitimate conduct; something akin to a short order cook who shops for the groceries, whips up the omelets, throws a little parsley garnish on the plates, serves the diners, and tallies up his P&L at the end of the day. If he overbought on ground beef, he might have to have three days of specials like Shepherd’s Pie, Hungarian Goulash, and Spaghetti with Meat Sauce to “flatten” his position and “get closer to home.” Nothing criminal going on here; just good ole American know-how and innovative workouts.
The major problem with this analogy, and most others in defense of Goldman, is that the short order cook wasn’t trying to pass off E. coli beef for prime rib. Another problem for Goldman is that embedded in the heart of every securities law is the principle that the customer must be treated honestly and fairly and any mechanism or device to deceive, manipulate or defraud is patently illegal. Remember, securities laws grew out of the ingrained Wall Street corruption exposed in two years of Senate hearings in 1932 and 1933.
It is difficult to see how one can be engaging in proprietary trading for the benefit of the firm at one moment, acting in an agent capacity for the benefit of the customer the next moment, and creating investment products designed to fail on a latte break. Sparks, Birnbaum and Swenson all had principal licenses to engage in investment banking activities like underwriting as well as the Series 7 license to trade securities. Mr. Tourre had only the Series 7 and Series 63 licenses to trade securities. He had no principal license according to his regulatory file available online. That could be a big legal issue for Goldman as a firm, for Mr. Sparks who supervised him, and for the controlled-demolition investment product he assisted in creating without a principal license. Failure to supervise is one of the first areas security lawyers review in assessing a firm’s liability.
"The Christian Is Distinguished by the Fact That He Places His Security in God" [2010-05-03]
Pope's Remarks After Venerating Shroud of Turin
"In the Hour of Extreme Solitude We Will Never Be Alone" [2010-05-02]
Papal Homily in Turin
"If We Are United to Christ, We Can Truly Love" [2010-05-02]
"From Her We Can Always Learn How to Look Upon Jesus" [2010-05-02]
Monday, May 03, 2010
2. A commercial for Wells Fargo featuring a (fictional?) interracial couple -- a white man, and an Asian girlfriend (who is ostensibly living with him). The man wanted to rebuild his father's motorcycle, that was his dream. His girlfriend's dream? That her boyfriend's dream come true. How supportive. Was the commercial solely for the California market? Or is it being aired nationwide? Does this reinforce the animosity that some white women may have against Asian women? And does it strengthen the stereotype that Asian women make for better girlfriends?
3. Another Asian character on 24 with a non-Asian family name. This time it was Devon Rosenthal, one of the analysts working for CTU? Daniel Dae Kim played "Agent Baker" back in season 2 and 3. (It turns out that Agent Baker's personal name is Tom. Was one of the writers a fan of Doctor Who?) This is really bizarre.