Wednesday, April 23, 2008

No More Stalins. No More Hitlers.

"We have a new type of rule now. Not one-man rule, or rule of aristocracy or plutocracy, but of small groups elevated to positions of absolute power by random pressures and subject to political and economic factors that leave little room for decision.

They are representatives of abstract forces who have reached power through surrender of self. The iron-willed dictator is a thing of past.

There will be no more Stalins, no more Hitlers.

The rulers of this most insecure of all worlds are rulers by accident. Inept, frightened pilots at the controls of a vast machine they cannot understand, calling in experts to tell them which buttons to push."

—William S. Burroughs, “No More Stalins, No More Hitlers,” from Dead City Radio, Island Records, 1990

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Getting past denial

John Cole of Balloon Juice feels the economy is in for long term pain. Robert Reich is there too.

SAT question of the day
Michigan :: Economy
Canary :: ?

Monday, October 22, 2007

Good night sweet Allendale..the saga continues

Check the update to the "Straight outta Conklin" post. Things are indeed getting much worse in Ottawa county. August set a recent record for Ottawa county with 102 foreclosures.

Also today via Calculated Risk, a graphic from the IMF indicating the reset dates for the various mortgage products out there.

A quick search revealed that relatively well-off Oakland county saw foreclosures up 120% (month to month) from a year ago. I think I would rather see a year to year comparison.

Friday, October 19, 2007

William Gibson: The US has emotionally regressed in response to 9/11

Not sure how I got to this one. Maybe through Boing Boing. William Gibson author of Neuromancer and anointed (supposedly reluctantly) creator of the cyberspace myth comments on futurists, terrorism and other things at Tyee Brooks, a Vancouver website. The interview is interesting at least. Here are some snippets, some out of context but they still work.

On America's response to 9-11:
"I think that if I were Osama Bin Laden, I can't really imagine what more I could ask for. The strafing of Mecca, possibly. But we've done everything we could wrong..."

"But emotionally, I think it caused an understandable infantilization of society."

"Invade countries. Use air power. Well, it turns out, those are the two things not to do. The old paradigm is the wrong paradigm."
What I found most interesting was Gibson's take on reality, authenticity, and virtual reality.
"I think a lack of concern about virtual and real maybe telling us as much about what we used to call real as it is about what we now call virtual. I think that everything we've been doing since we sat around camp fires telling stories and started making cave paintings, everything we've been doing as a species seems to me to be part of this [desire and ability] to create prosthetic aspects of the self that are capable of surviving the death of the individual or indeed the death of an entire society."
I take away from this that things like building an online presence are in a way a response to mortality. Building virtual worlds that are more lasting than the real one. Interesting thought.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Interesting Take on Drug Legalization

From Slate sourced from BoingBoing over RSS.

Cory Doctorow claims that Tim Wu, writing on Slate has written his "opus" on the enforcement of laws in the U.S.

From part I:
"Tolerated lawbreaking is almost always a response to a political failure—the inability of our political institutions to adapt to social change or reach a rational compromise that reflects the interests of the nation and all concerned parties."
I'm all for the claim that politics is/has failed us but I hope to see some discussion of alternatives in addition to the evidence that Tim has put out so far in parts 2 and 3. Tim Wu does go on to explain how certain laws are not enforced or (more importantly for my own devices) how those laws are enforced based on class. Just to be clear I do not see that he is trying to prove that lack of enforcement is a sign of complete failure of the political system, only that it shows an inability to reach a viable compromise on specific subjects.

In my social circle I have been known to rant on the seeming inevitability that "rights" (i.e. free speech, firearms) as we know them seem destined to become privileges available only to those available to afford them. For example, while a lower-middle class may be able to afford to open a gun smithing shop and the protection of the law that activity requires, combining that shop with a printing press may get him in trouble if his views do not match a given social norm. Maybe he'll throw both out the window if he commits a youthful indiscretion like downloading music on Bit torrent.

In his first installment, Mr. Wu, explains the how illicit drugs may have (functionally) become the equivalent to narcotics, though something enjoyed by those with higher incomes.
Antidepressants and anxiety treatments aren't cheap: A fancy drug like Wellbutrin can cost anywhere from $1,000 to $2,400 a year. These drugs also require access to a sympathetic doctor who will issue a prescription. That's why, generally speaking, the new legalization program is for better-off Americans. As the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University reports, rich people tend to abuse prescription drugs, while poorer Americans tend to self-medicate with old-fashioned illegal drugs or just get drunk.
I wonder where the majority of law-enforcement dollars are spent? Questioning the need for the use of Ritalin (compared to nicotine and coccaine in the article) among those with a "need" and an ability to pay. Or cracking down on drinking and smoking? Is self-medication a symptom of ills in society, a response to the human condition, or just the inability to find a suitable hobby?

It would be interesting to explore how nicotine and alcohol are regulated in comparison with prescription drugs especially when you through the insurance industry into the mix. I also wonder how advertising plays into the mix. After all, new drugs are heralded in the MSM, can't say the same for the newest liquor concoction.

Tim's next installment explores the transmission of pornography across state lines evolving the previous section into discussion of how obsolete laws are dealt with (as opposed to repealing the law). Good stuff and I look forward to hearing more from Mr. Wu. I'm particularly interested to see if he brings up speed limits as an example of laws that (as any teenager can tell you) are not enforced uniformly.

I suspect in the end that where laws are enforced unequally or not at all their lack of enforcement stems (in some part) because it inconveniences upper class white men or aging hippy lawmakers.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Game Over man....Game Over

The Fed keep pumpin in the money....not good news. Note: Pessimism seems to be lingering in my thoughts these days.


Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Free Speech

Whether or not this falls under the domain of free speech is a different debate altogether. Or, maybe, it is the debate altogether. For those not in the loop, Opie and Anthony have been (according to fansite fired from XM radio.

Now, despite my obvious objection to violence against women, I am a vehement supporter of freedom a speech no matter how vulgar. This point especially, is one that stirs conflicted feelings. Certainly, I have reason to detest those that would subjugate and abuse women, be they my friends, my wife, or my family. At the same time, this country was founded on the idea that unpopular speech should be protected. In this particular circumstance, this speech deals with dis empowerment, some men genuinely degrade women while others can relate to the sense of powerlessness in society they face in a society where women are equal if not a privileged group.

I have seen many women abused, and literally oppressed and the very thought of it makes me sick. Similarly, I have seen women take advantage of their privileged status to belittle men. Fair enough. Regardless, men of today should not be paying for the sins of their fathers. Both men and women need to learn to respect each other more and intimidating either sex into hiding away their frustrations is no help to anyone.

In college I faced a similar argument from a brilliant and fair woman who felt that a list comparing women to dogs was too offensive for publication. While I agreed that the list was offensive it was obvious the impetus for the publication was a sincere frustration and confusion relating to women at a school where women were in a severe minority(read privileged status). I stand now as I stand then, men and women should be free to say what they like. Hopefully, the consequence of such speech will be honest dialog. My Alma Mater, influenced by this brilliant co-student, decided that the dialog needed to be separated and controlled. In my mind, this essentially maintained the status quo. In the end though, it didn't matter, political acrimony trumped to marketplace of ideas. Some men still treated women like crap, many men were still treated terribly by women.

Personally, I would have loved to see the talented, gifted women of our school put to shame the frustrated frat boys and misogynists. Unfortunately, in my mind at least, they choose not to acknowledge the feelings on the other side of the table, ignoring them instead and starting their own self-involved dialog. The policy of our piss-ant paper was to not execute editorial judgment over article submitted by "authors" responding to a deadline. I remember clearly bringing the issues that ultimately brought down our paper to the print shop. I remember thinking that the issue and article were crap, but I wasn't an editor..I just believed in the power of the press. After all, the article in question was 2 authored lines followed by an internet forward. I also remember thinking that, if anyone cared, perhaps men and women would talk about the relationship between the sexes on campus. Instead, nearly 10 years later, nothing has changed, but there is a group of self-important humanities women talking amongst themselves about their unprivileged status in society and there is one less free speech publication in the upper midwest.

So it goes with Opie and Anthony. O & A were a tough sell to me. Honestly, I wasn't a huge fan when I lived in Philly back in 2002. Sex for Sam really creeped me out. I wondered how they were getting away with it. Of course, eventually, they didn't.

I finally caught O&A again when they returned to FM in Grand Rapids, MI on WKLQ. Somehow, O&A and I had both grown up while maintaining our penchant for immature humor. O&A seemed perfectly aware of the low-browness of their humor. They were OK with it,so was I. What made everything funny was how the humor itself was so disconnected from reality. That leads us into "Homeless Charlie" I heard the bit on replay, on XM, and felt that the humor in the situation was completely due to the absurdity. The man making the comments was a homeless man, he felt powerless. Charlie may have felt empowered but they didn't change the reality of his situation. In that way, I don't feel his comments were any more offensive than a black man using the "n" word. Similarly, any person in an oppressed/underprivileged situation using offensive language to feel empowered. That's what you do, you use language to feel empowered. It's a liberal idea.

O & A were simply reacting the to Charlie's situation, they weren't cheering him on. Similarly, by publishing the "10 ways dogs are better than women" in a college free speech publication I was only validating one man's feelings, not giving credence to his ideas. It just so happens that what homeless Charlie had to say was so outrageous it was funny and undeniably offensive. So what? Listeners tune in to O and A to be offended. Condi, Laura, the queen and their supporters weren't listening. These comments were projected at an idea, not at individuals.

I've canceled my XM and won't be tuning back in without a sincere apology, waiving of any "activation fees" and some serious ass-kissing.

O and A are welcome to $5-10/month if they want to pull of a subscription podcast. Keep talking free speech, stay funny, and I'll be there.