Saturday, January 30, 2010

Brooks Taibbized twice in two weeks

What did poor mild-mannered Mr. Brooks do to deserve this? (h/t to wirearchized JH)

 If I’m writing about a bank that took a half-billion worth of mortgages where the average amount of equity in the home was less than 1%, and where 58% of the mortgages had no documentation, and then sold those mortgage-backed securities as investment-grade opportunities to pensions and other suckers — and then bet against the same kind of stuff they were enthusiastically selling to other people — is Brooks seriously suggesting that I also have to point out that the Chinese economy was doing well at the time? ...

Using that logic, criticizing anyone for anything is invalid:
ME: Well, Ike Turner was sort of a dick because he used to get high and punch his wife in the face all the time…
BROOKS: But it’s so easy to say that.
ME: It’s easy to say that a guy who punches his wife in the face is a jerk?(Scratching head) Well… I guess you’re right about that. Would you like me to say it while juggling three chainsaws? Would it be harder to say then, and would you have less of a problem with it?

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Monday, January 25, 2010

School of counterclockwise terror

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The corporate form

The corporation is legally bound to put its bottom line ahead of everything else, even the public good.

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Credo of an acoustical biologist

Well, the ocean is really huge. When you get out on a little boat, you know it. You're clinging to a cork. It's huge and it's capable of immense hugeness. And out there, you know, rolling around and swimming through and perfectly at home in the waves, are these enormous animals. And by golly, they're singing, of all things. They're doing something that we recognize as singing. And so what that has done for me is to make me feel that what lies ahead to be discovered is absolutely limitless. We are not at the pinnacle of human knowledge. We are just beginning. Katy Payne, acoustic biologist

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Friday, January 22, 2010

Dub Incorporation

Speech is money

"The ads will get more honest," said Keating, director of the Club for Growth, (@#$@) a group supports candidates who call for lower taxes and smaller government. "Instead of having all this nonsense about 'Call him,' they'll tell you what to do: Go vote."

But honest ads were only a collateral issue on the court's agenda. The objective of the five-justice majority was to free up the speech rights of corporations, overturning statutes and previous court rulings dating back as far as 1947. Corporations, legally considered persons under a Supreme Court cases from the 19th Century, have more limited First Amendment rights than what are known as "natural persons." National Potlach Radiation

Wouldn't an inquiry into the history and nuance and logic of "speech rights" be more relevant than asshat speculation of possible effects?

Except of course sensible speculations:

I congratulate Wealth Bondage on their Supreme Court Victory. Democracy is Game over, I guess. But maybe the polictical ads will be of higher quality now that they can be financed to infinity. I don't mind being ruled by propagandists, but I do prefer high production values, and star power. Gifthub

NPR's Ken Rudin cites Chris Good, blogging at The Atlantic:

...the accounting firewall is gone, and Wal-Mart or the Service Employees International Union, for instance, can spend their corporate money directly on candidates.
Again, the shiftless refusal to examine the basic components irks. Prompting this National Potlach contribution from me:
What is "corporate money"? The whole fictional realm of corporate citizenship, personhood deserving of constitutional protection and rights, etc. needs insight, critique, common sense. Who owns corporate money anyway? The shareholders? If so, why would a shareholder wish to bestow his money on a politician unless s/he believes the politician will work to advance the corporate interests? And what are those interests other than to make money? Therefore what we are talking about, it seems, is the legitimization of a new kind of investment - buy a politician and see your ROI skyrocket. Beats the pants off sub-primes and derivatives.

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Sunday, January 17, 2010

This is completely true

Regardless of Klein's thinking about BrandO, she nails the previous admin with this:

There are many acts of destruction for which the Bush years are rightly reviled – the illegal invasions, the defiant defences of torture, the tanking of the global economy. But the administration's most lasting legacy may well be the way it systematically did to the US government what branding-mad CEOs did to their companies a decade earlier: it hollowed it out, handing over to the private sector many of the most essential functions of government, from protecting borders to responding to disasters to collecting intelligence. This hollowing out was not a side project of the Bush years, it was a central mission, reaching into every field of governance. And though the Bush clan was often ridiculed for its incompetence, the process of auctioning off the state, leaving behind only a shell – or a brand – was approached with tremendous focus and precision. Naomi Klein h/t humorzo.

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Thursday, January 14, 2010

How do you lose...

Informant is intermittent, but still kicking:

In a speech to Pentagon employees on September 10, 2001, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld disclosed that over $2,000,000,000,000 (yes, twelve zeroes) in Pentagon funds could not be accounted for. “According to some estimates,” he said, “we cannot track $2.3 trillion in transactions.” link.

Confirmed by "media" but apparently not inquired into.

Flat out: It is impossible, not just unlikely, but entirely impossible, to misplace $2.3 trillion. Not happening. Not now, not ever, or at least not until we have Zimbabwean inflation.

Maybe there's a black hole sort of thing -- when money gets to be real money, like $2.3 trillion, its gravitational bolus self-conceals. Like it's bigger than God: everything it touches -- every one -- gets sucked in.

That guy that went to jail for whistleblowing the Swiss banks? What if it turned out some of the trillions were sitting over there? In whose accounts, Mon Sieur? Toss a few bill to Informant - kthxbye.

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

From automata to tavola rustica

For some whose life is now largely on the net, the existence of the doorman at Tavern on the Green, and his demise, won't mean much. That was then. Don't need doormen on the Web, nor the protocol of subordination that the uniform brought to bear upon every opening of the door.

Lots of rhetorical gestures are equally de trop -- corporate websites, with their elaborate flash "intros" that everyone skips. It is nothing new to note that we want small, speedy, light, functional modes. Use over exchange -- spare the sizzle, just the steak, etc.

The thingliness of dead protocols just makes them more dead, doesn't it? But then there's the return of all that in archives available to all - (those that are "private" are simply JSTORized out of common reality) - e.g., in this magnificent NYPL collection of Abbott photos of New York of the 30s:

"The machines were filled from the kitchen behind." wp

The arc of that time - dazzling technological innovation taking place in a time of impoverishment -- putting mechanical turks behind columbaria of nourishment so as to make the users seem empowered, the workers seem invisible, and the delivery of what was to be consumed appear a sort of humorous point-and-click anticipation of what we now consider pretty nifty technology -- an arc of technological advance which, by 1965, had arrived at a state of seedily dehumanized, tinfoil-hatted industrial inspiration.

Abbott's New York of 1935, at the peak of Horn and Hardartian sheen, looks at us through Manhattan's penury accompanied by a world of human presence - a place of art, and readers, and cats and placid brooms.

Neither the emblazoned Tavern nor the Foodomat seem especially appealing, comfortable, or contemporary, though for completely opposed reasons. But with these guys, I could feel at home.

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Tuesday, January 05, 2010


By planning ourselves out of creation’s wilderness, we have consigned it to destruction. Divine Wilderness

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Monday, January 04, 2010

City city

I know these statistical frighteners are a dime a dozen:
The year 2010 will likely be the first time in history that a majority of the world's people live in cities rather than in the countryside. Whereas less than 30 percent of the world's population was urban in 1950, according to UN projections, more than 70 percent will be by 2050. Lower-income countries in Asia and Africa are urbanizing especially rapidly, as agriculture becomes less labor intensive and as employment opportunities shift to the industrial and service sectors. Already, most of the world's urban agglomerations - Mumbai (population 20.l million), Mexico City (19.5 million), New Delhi (17 million), Shanghai (15.8 million), Calcutta (15.6 million), Karachi (13.1 million), Cairo (12.5 million), Manila (11.7 million), Lagos (10.6 million), Jakarta (9.7 million) - are found in low-income countries. Many of these countries have multiple cities with over one million residents each: Pakistan has eight, Mexico 12, and China more than 100.
Jack A. Goldstone, "The New Population Bomb," Foreign Affairs, Jan/Feb 2010, pp. 32-33, 38.  via

 If the urbanization of the planet is happening so rapidly, where is anyone offering any significantly improved model of the city, and of how to get there? Is there any coverage of this, other than on the local level? Oh wait, here's an old JSTOR article, three pages long. All three pages can be had for a mere $12...

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