The Brothers Karamazov

"Actually, people sometimes talk about man's 'bestial' cruelty, but that is being terribly unjust and offensive to the beasts..."
Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Monday, April 12, 2010

The 'loyal opposition', Gone, gone with the wind

"The day of respect for the 'loyal opposition' has gone with the day of the gentleman class".
Richard M Weaver," Ideas Have Consequences"

This conclusion, written in the salad days of 1948, looks spookily omniscient six decades forward. Whatever societal rancor and ill will prompted Professor Weaver's jeremiad then, has mushroomed unbelievably since.

As I read Weaver, the somewhat archaic concept of a 'gentleman class' he is referencing is secular heir to a 'philosopher class'; a category of extreme rarity today. Indeed, since the passing of Emerson the philosopher ranks have been rather slim but, in the day, Weaver himself might have qualified as one. No known 'gentleman' exists in all of official Washington with the possible exception of one or two closeted specimens.

But that's okay as we've told ourselves historically; we are a 'can do' people. So we don't need bother with that other stuff like civility and productive discourse and such truck. Nah, we do it our way and it works. Or rather it used to do so. No more, I'm afraid. Nothing works well now. The total lack of respect or even common decency for the opposition, so visible in the halls of Congress, is projected by media onto a national screen. So much so that the public, never much given to thoughtful disagreement, lurches from one misplaced sentiment to the next. Lost, somewhere, is the ability to discern if a given decision or action is personally beneficial or not. This is true even when it could result in great loss or dire consequence.

Decades of assault first by radio and films, later by television and now the web, have sown massive confusion in the population. So much so, that a constant rise in literacy has been offset by an equal rise in credulity. The extensively, but narrowly educated consumer of goods and services, has morphed into a serf-like font of near medieval gullibility.

A goodly amount of national time has been spent polishing oafs to resemble a respectable middle class. This is no regard a 'gentleman class' effort, since as Nietzsche observed, the middle class would be moderate, even in virtue. With little chance of discovering philosophers lurking about any day soon, our best hope is an outburst of civility throughout the land. This might presage the arrival of a bevy of gentleman types arising Phoenix-like from the ashes of a burnt-out elite class and be an inspiration to us; the lumpen remainder.

Generations of pundits, preachers and educators can take credit for this melaise. A system based largely on treating constituents as mere consumers of material goods and arranging all of society around that maxim, has brought down the house on our heads.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Frontier Loss Angst; Grow Up, Folks

In 1893, three years after the superintendent of the Census announced that the western frontier was closed, Frederick Jackson Turner, a historian from the University of Wisconsin, advanced a thesis that the conquest of the western frontier had given American society its special character.
...Digital History

It didn't take long for that 'special character' to get really, really restless. No more frontier! A continent already totally subdivided and full up, drat.
That means we have to stay put! Make do! But we have always moved on. Abandoned homesteads. Conquered wilderness. Slain enemies! What will we do, we can't live this way? No more Westward Ho! No John Wayne?

. As the
Western United States was gradually becoming less of a frontier and more of a part of America, many believed that overseas expansion was vital to maintaining the American spirit.
The publication of
Alfred T. Mahan's The Influence of Sea Power upon History in 1890, which advocated three factors crucial to The United States' ascension to the position of "world power": the construction of a canal in South America (later influencing the decision for the construction of the Panama Canal), expansion of the U.S. naval power, and the establishment of a trade/military post in the Pacific, so as to stimulate trade with China. This publication had a strong influence on the idea that a strong navy stimulated trade, and influenced policy makers such as Theodore Roosevelt and other proponents of a large navy

Let's look around, surely there's a frontier to conquer, somewhere. Didn't take very long, five years to be exact, and then...
Ah, Cuba. Always had our eye on that little gem. We can beat Spain, that's an 'old country', backward, not 'go getters' like us. And so it began. And continues still.
Part of our 'special character' to always expand, to grow... to metastasize? Seems that way. We can't help it. Think: Puerto Rico-Guam-American Samoa-Marianas-US Virgin Isles-Alaska-Hawaii, it goes on. Jack Kennedy touted a 'New Frontier', space, nah, not the same. Administrations come and go; some liberal, most not. Doesn't seem to matter. It's genetic, DNA American style.

Don't you see? That's our charm. Mark Twain spoke of ' The Innocents Abroad', that's us. Willfully innocent? Perhaps. Probably not. Jury not in yet. But a full Century of thrashing about the globe longing, oh so plaintively, for our 'lost cause', our liebestraume, is quite enough. Stay home, folks. Make do. Live simply; within borders, for a welcome change. The world thanks you in advance.


Saturday, April 3, 2010

It's the < . > stupid!

And yet it moves, in the words of Galileo, "Eppur si muove"

Stare at it 'till you're cross-eyed; won't see it happen. Gang team; and keep at it 24/7...nothing. Still, it moves. During these last glorious thirty plus years , it has had a constant rightward valency; will it last? Maybe it's starting to get itchy. Wants a change of direction. Beginning to drift?

Want to test it? See it in action, so to speak. Get a copy of your local daily of say 1970 and todays edition. Look them over. Check the price of a loaf of bread, for example. 1970 about $ .25, right? Now, today, $2.50. What happened? Look at a dozen eggs,1970 $.25 now $2.50. How can it be, you ask excitedly, what's going on.
The house I sold in 1968 for $10000. it's, OMG, $100000, they were giving stuff away in those days! Wait, this old pay stub. The gross pay, one week, $80. I make $800 now. Oh, oh.

Relax, nothing's changed. Well one thing has. It's possible to control a screaming jet, a cruise liner, even a two year old's temper tantrum but one small thing cannot be controlled. You can try as you will, nothing works. Even a parenthesis ( ), for containment, no help, a hat pin through the heart, nah, a splash of white-away only creates an illusion of control.

To maul shamelessly the words of Baroness Orczy in her classic "The Scarlet Pimpernel", 'They seek him here, they seek him there, those Frenchies seek him everywhere; is he in heaven or is he in hell, that damned elusive decimal point!'

There's your culprit; that sinister imp, that impudent little wretch, that damned spot. No mistake about it. Ignore John Maynard Keynes, the entire Austrian School of Economics, even the dread Chicago Gang, they know not what they are talking through their spread-sheets about. They are missing the point. But every lowly merchant in the third world knows about the point, and has one; sort of a family icon. Keeps it always handy. Currency changes; today up-tomorrow down, out from under the apron comes... the magic decimal point. Nothing changes except the point! Life goes on. All is well. No worry.

That's the third world. With us it's different. All in the control, we say. Got the printing press, no problem. We make the money. That's our freakin' point. And so we nod off, get complacent, forget to keep watching that 'damned elusive' decimal point, who cares, until, whoa! it moved. "Did you see that? Did you?". Nobody saw it for sure, but it moved. Not all that far. Just a the right.

There it stays. For ages and ages. Is this the new reality? Will it last forever? Wait, did you see something? Oh, no, unless my eyes are getting crossed again, it leaned a the left. Gad! What next?

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Internet / The SoapBox

We communicate via the web at the sufferance of the system. Because we are no threat, perceived or actual, we are allowed to continue our harmless pursuit. The instant this usage is perceived as a threat to the elite; it ends. So keep on blogging; keep on ranting and raving, keep uttering anything that comes to mind, you are harmless by definition.

The much touted use of the net as a force majestueuse in the recent Presidential contest was pure chimera. If it really threatened to be anywhere near decisive, it would have ceased to be. Make no mistake, a culture that can fight 2 1/2 wars without provocation and with borrowed money, can pull the plug on all we hold sacred in a thrice if sufficiently challenged.

Societies love to be admired as generous and tolerant if the cost is small. The web today is no more than a soapbox was in Hyde Park, or Washington Square in the past. A leather lunged orator could bray to the crowd or to the wind as long as able but only as allowed by elites. Stray for an instant from the permissible and a minion of the law would call you down. And perhaps kick apart the soapbox for good measure. See Google v. China for splintered soapboxes.

So what is different today? Have people become nicer, friendlier, less murderous with the advent of the web? Not noticeably so, maybe a little worse. What is the corpse count by violent death in the couple of decades since Al G. or somebody set all those electrons in motion?

If you seek independence anywhere in web-land remember the Web is all Corporate and Corporate is all Government; ad nauseam.

Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wuss?

What the world desperately needs is a concerted effort to demystify the aura of invincibility and the untouchable posturing of Corporations; small and large. Especially the latter; which scare the crap out of damn near everybody. Our perceptions are somewhat garbled as regards the very nature of the Corporate beast.

" Despite not being natural persons, corporations are recognized by the law to have rights and responsibilities like actual people. Corporations can exercise
human rights against real individuals and the state, and they may be responsible for human rights violations." Wikipedia.

First of all, Corporate status is granted by a State. Not by a deity. And as such is subject to revocation for cause. So because little old Delaware is the birthplace of many rumbling behemoths and awesome brand names is not to say in time it could not become the equivalent of an corporate elephant graveyard; again, for cause.

But for Corporations to be brought down to size the myths surrounding them must first be downsized. We could start by reminding ourselves that basically we're dealing with just a bunch of guys, yeah and gals too. That's it. A bunch of folks who have managed to convince themselves and the rest of us they are something special and unique on the planet. Bull! It's legalese that created them, protects them and can banish them; always of course, for cause.

"In Oz, a Curtain conceals the wizard... In Corp., a Charter conceals the human." Twitter.

We only learn near the close of the Oz tale of the Wizard, a wizened little man, who has been manipulating reality as his own private game. Much the same is occurring in Corporations as human beings veiled behind 'The Charter' promote personal interests. Though the top brass are the usual objects of scorn, all involved, down to the lowest minions, profit from the illusion of being impregnable.

Even if the Corporate beast is more wuss than wolf, it can still be a formidable entity. This is e
specially true if not properly house-broken, overfed a diet of hubris and power and allowed a long leash. Properly controlled Corporations can become satisfactory neighbors.

Proper control necessitates removing the 'Person' status granted by a distracted Court generations ago. The recent benediction of the' Supremes' is more of the same nonsense. Personhood without accompanying mortality is a monstrous entity. How wonderful if we actual persons could exist without the probability of a ten-ton truck or nasty plague germ clouding our future prospects. Shouldn't Corporations share the same ultimate risk? They're persons, right?

Mary Shelly's rueful Dr. Frankenstein was compelled to journey to the ends of the Earth seeking to destroy the creature he had endowed with Personhood. Hopefully we will soon do better dealing with our strange new 'persons'.

Quoth the Raving



Julius Caesar

Veni,Vedi,Vici...Sidi ( I stuck around )

Uncle Sam


....Zero Gravitas

Quoth the Raving

All I know, all any of us know, is what we're told.

...Zero Gravitas


Quoth the Raving

If it walks like a depression, talks like a depression, and looks like a depression; it's a recovery.

...Zero Gravitas

Nice paint job

Nice paint job
Watch your step!

Quoth the Raving

Full scale War in Korea; we called it a Police Action
Police Action in Iraq; we call it a War.

...Zero Gravitas


Gene Pool?

Gene Pool?

Quoth the Raving

Ecology is an impending Black Swan quagmire therefore incorporation is anathema to Economists.

...Zero Gravitas


Quoth the Raving

An incoming US President who does not immediately resign his office after having received eyes-only briefings of what's really going on is hopelessly co-opted or delusional.
....Zero Gravitas

Quoth the Raving

We are now a nation of middlemen. What becomes of us if the center cannot hold?

....Zero Gravitas

Quoth the Raving


Why not use some of the red ink to make things Green?

....Zero Gravitas

"Ashes to Ashes"

"Ashes to Ashes"