Tuesday, January 31, 2006


Bush and Enron.
They believed what they wanted to believe about the company, the feds say, because it allowed them to avoid the difficult decisions that corporate executives have to make every day.
Selling confidence. Confident selling.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

atypical USians

"Every once in a while in life, if you're lucky, you get to be part of something unambiguously good." There's a tag line waiting for its feature film to be made, from Sheila Lennon at the Providence Journal, who knows a story when she sees one.

The Journal tells the story of a married couple from New England who will be honored by Israel in June for helping hundreds if not thousands of Jewish people to escape death in 1939-40. They will be only the second and third persons from the US to be so recognized.

Projo offers both a story and a flash presentation about Martha and Waitstill Sharp's gumption at a time when most USians were somewhat vague about Nazi peccadillos. The mystery of some people's rightness of intuition, the rarity of not just seeing into the actuality of what's going on, but then of doing the necessary thing at astonishing personal risk. How far the Sharps seem from, say, these fine specimens of Legion XXIV, whose most compelling ethical burden appears to involve choosing the right footwear to go with their togas, fasces, and Maine weather:

Today a lot of US citizens are working all over the place -- including Palestine -- because they're driven by the same inability to not give a shit. All media capital's efforts to the contrary.

(By the way: Anyone interested in the awakening of Prague to what the Nazis were up to at the time the Sharps were there could do worse than Sebald's Austerlitz and Radok's Distant Journey (Daleká cesta).)

What we have here...

Monologue pretends to be the ultimate word. It closes down the represented world and represented persons. (Bakhtin)

It didn't take long for the good droids of Michelle Malkin's Wingnut World to rock n roll. Dave Winer liked it. Winer also cites Jason Calcanis:
Everyone knows the government of China can't police all of Google, let alone the Internet. No one knows this more than the Chinese government.
That's in line with elements of my note.

This (found here) is going to become a litmus test:

Tianamen Square via Chinese Google

Tianamen Square via US Google

But what is it testing?
  • Let's say part of the difference has to do with the algorithms, and part with policy.
  • Let's say the world begins to see that Chinese Google is a tad Potemkin Village-ish.
  • Let's say the world begins to see that US Google reflects certain vectors of the US Guvmedia's symbolic order.
  • The Googles are reflecting differences between two distinct cultural notions of a square, which has (oversimplifying) both a literal geographical location and a figurative political-historical resonance.
  • Google balkanized. malkinized.
This could be a necessary first step toward something like communication.
With a monologic approach…another person remains wholly and merely an object of consciousness, and not another consciousness.
Meanwhile, one foresees tchatchka: Google sunglasses - across the frames, they will read: "made in China," or, "made in the USA." Mirrored lenses, inside out.

(See Dialogic for the Bakhtin reminder, and Mr. Scruggs for the Dialogic reminder.)

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Call for crowd business

Regarding this:
George W. Bush's delivery of the State of the Union address will take place on Tuesday, January 31, a little more than a week from now. It is my strong belief that every single Democrat present in the House chamber for the speech should, at a predetermined moment, stand up and walk out. No yelling. No heated words. Every Democrat should simply stand silently and leave.
What's right with it: The occasion is engorged with signifying potential. It is the World Trade Center of occasions. Its political theater, however, has long abided by tedious conventions involving feigned crowd enthusiasm, robotic applause, becks and nods and shows of joint sympathy, seated pantomimed demurral, etc.

What's probably wrong with it as idea: To simply turn and walk out would require a dollop of gumption that nearly everyone feels is currently unavailable to most of the elected officials allowed in the room. Besides, it wouldn't break any expressive ground. The silent turning-of-back schtick sends a sort of sullen thud. It's the feckless "just walk away" ploy advised by mothers to children who are debating whether 'tis nobler in the mind to cry, run, or slam Jake the Booby with the nearest sledgehammer. Rove would yawn.

What would work better? I don't know, but in a vision I see the familiar coiffed heads behaving counter-to-type. E.g., as Bush toils through his Dogberry imitation, the camera surveys
  • Kerry sitting back, lighting matches and tossing them into the air. They fall onto the shoulders of people sitting around him, starting small hairfires in some.
  • Lieberman dropping trou to reveal his "Blue's Clues for Big Boys" diaper.
  • A group on the side playing roulette.
  • Murtha watching "Le Samourai" on his iPod.
  • That sort of thing.
Suggestions for other bits of business welcome.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Ungoogle mahjong and budgetary turkeys

According to Douglas J. Holtz-Eakin, who recently resigned as head of the Congressional Budget Office, the Bush Administration each year consistently chooses not to include the costs of the Iraq debacle in the budget it sends to Congress. Those costs receive an accounting after the fact, long after the budget has been debated and modified and approved, as add-ons, Holtz-Eakin said in a Fresh Air interview.

So the budget that represents the total accountable spending of the USian people, when it is submitted to elected representatives for scrutiny, discussion, analysis, etc., is missing a few pieces. Those whose job it is to see if the budget makes sense have to do so without these pieces. Of course "everyone" knows that the budget is missing the war pieces. But what can they do? They have to consider the budget as if the war did not exist, as if there were no costs to be reckoned with. That piece of reality is not accessible at this time. The non-fiction procedure known as the Budget of the United States -- the express statement of the will of the people in matters of spending, saving, and allocating its substance -- is presented, debated, and enacted within the parameters of this fiction, this as if.

A bit of a jump here, but not a change of subject: The folks who are angered at or agonizing over Google's apparent willingness to allow China to dictate certain access parameters might do well to consider the the multiple uses to which filters can be put.

Google could be playing a strategic bout of mahjong with China -- agreeing to jump some hoops to gain a seat at the table. There the game begins, as Google's agreement to Ungoogle -- because filtering is very much the suicidal contradiction of what Google is -- turns into a battle of wits to see whether Chinese officialdom can get its repressive hands around all the necessary knobs to control the billions of stabs in the dark that Chinese Google searches will generate every second. Whether in fact more light may enter the realm of searching than the alleged agreement permits.

That is to say, we don't yet know what tricks and hacks might be possible that can only be finessed if Google is first given the foothold within places like China to operate. For Google to operate as Ungoogle is a doomed idea. For Ungoogle to enable users to route around itself is at least possible, and could be evolutionary. I'd tend to give Google folks credit for being at least smart enough to entertain such thoughts.

Which is all just to say there are filters and filters. Filters that could themselves conceal an effort to subvert and blindside the naked efforts of totalitarian power are one sort. Filters that render the costs of a controversial war unavailable to deliberative scrutiny, process and decision in the highest chambers of the world's #1 self-advertised democracy, year after bloody year, under the noses of allegedly opposing parties and the pinocchio beaks of the free, fair and unbiased independent press, are another.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

One reason the reasoned debate about wikipedia is trodding an irrelevant path

is articles like this.

I mean, in terms of the usual generic expectations of encyclopedic knowledge, this alarum comes vertiginously close to Borgesian articles with titles like, "Where Mrs. Bumstead's dog is hiding just now."

It's the bodice of archival form deployed in service of a passion and a shudder. One of the prettiest things I've seen in a long time. Makes me giddy.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

"It had to be PUT there (programmed) on purpose"

I was one of ten people present at the "hack" of the Leon County, Florida voting system, which took place on Tuesday, December 13, 2005 around 4:30 in the afternoon at the county elections warehouse. Leon County's voting system is the Diebold Accu-Vote OS 1.94w (optical scan)....

What follows is my description of that hack and its significance for our nation...

here, via qlipoth

GoogleNews games

OK, let's play:

a right tur...

- "d"?
- "tle"?
- "k"?
- stet?

Monday, January 23, 2006

now this

We apologize to any residual visitors of IMproPRieTies for afflicting them with our Christmas 2005 Travelogue for what is now, begosh, almost one month.

There were technical difficulties. Followed by a bout of amnesia. a stint of anomie. a complaisance of dejection. a career of runny noses. a sleuth of bears. an octave of ennui. a plate of poached distraction. i.e., the usual.

We wish you a very good year. Now this.