Friday, November 28, 2008

control possibilities

One shopper, Kimberly Cribbs, said she was standing near the back of the crowd at around 5 a.m. on Friday when people started pulling the doors from their hinges and rushing into the store. She said several people were knocked to the ground, and parents had to grab their children by the hands to keep them from being caught in the crush.“They were falling all over each other,” she said. “It was terrible.” Jack H.

"The control possibilities are virtually endless."

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Thursday, November 27, 2008

Not the NY Times Food Section

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

History Management and Franchise Protection

President Bush’s depiction of the past is sanitized, selective, and self-serving where not simply false. 

Andrew Bacevich intelligently applies Niebuhr* to the Bush benightenment:

 Since the end of the Cold War, the management of history has emerged as the all but explicitly stated purpose of American statecraft. 

Much has been made of the allegedly Bible-driven subtext peering through Bush's melodramatic horseshit, e.g:

When our founders declared a new order of the ages, when soldiers died in wave upon wave for a union based on liberty; when citizens marched in peaceful outrage under the banner of 'Freedom Now'--they were acting on an ancient hope that is meant to be fulfilled. History has an ebb and flow of justice, but history also has a visible direction, set by liberty and the Author of liberty.
It's important to be clear that in critique, Bush's reading of the Bible -- if indeed that's what he (viz his handlers) were doing -- gets filtered through someone else's reading of that reading, simultaneously triangulating with their own reading of the good book.

What sort of tugs at that reduction of Bush and his "base" to mere Christian barbarism is that there may be another sort of contest built in that should not be ignored.

For example, in The Discoverers, Daniel J. Boorstin talks about how the Chinese, who early on were so advanced in optics, glassmaking, camera obscura boxes etc. were dismal in astronomy.

It seems astronomy was sort of the stem cell technology of the age. A 17th century visitor, Father Matteo Ricci, noted that the Chinese had "seen" more stars than their semblables in the West, but had failed to make any scientific sense out of them. Ricci wrote in 1605: 

...the Chinese astronomers take no pains whatever so reduce the phenomena of celestial bodies to the discipline of mathematics. . . .  they center their whole attention on that phase of astronomy which our scientists term astrology, which may be accounted for by the fact that they believe that everything happening on this terrestrial globe of ours depends upon the stars. . . . The founder of the family which at present regulates the study of astrology prohibited anyone from indulging in the study of this science unless he were chosen for it by hereditary right. The prohibition was founded upon fear, lest he who should acquire a knowledge of the stars might become capable of disrupting the order of the empire and seek and opportunity to do so.

Surely the family patriarch was also concerned to protect his franchise. Local intellectual property and monopoly rights management are always present in these thickets. My point simply is that the underlying issue really was more complex than the bare opposition of supernatural authority to natural intellect -- these hotbutton matters were in a knot whose threads included tradition, mafia power, trust, underlying cultural disposition, protection racketeering and realpolitick concerns that the sacred tools of history management (e.g., the calendar) be protected from interlopers. This much seems relevant to what's at stake in the cultural divide from which Bush and now Palin have derived both energetic support and potent opposition. 

*h/t to Informant

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Monday, November 24, 2008

Europeana: a different model from JSTOR?

Europe's heritage went digital on Thursday when the European Union launched an online library putting famous works such as Dante's Divine Comedy and Beethoven's 9th Symphony just a mouse click away.
Back from Paris and Marrakesh, Jon (Wirearchy) Husband (thanks Jon) points me to Europeana – a single access point to Europe's cultural heritage:
Europeana is a simple but powerful tool for finding resources from all over Europe. Books, journals, films, maps, photos, music etc. will be available for everyone to consult – and to use, copyright permitting. For example, the library will be a rich source of materials for the creative and information industries in developing new products and services, for tourism and for teaching.
The new site says it began receiving 10 million hits per hour, and crashed. It expects to be back in December. More here. And:

Europeana . . .will initially offer access mainly to items in the public domain.
But the European Commission said it was in talks with cultural institutions, rights holders and technology firms about finding ways to add copyright material to its stock.  ZDnet

It does seem a bit in need of cash just to set up. The main point seems to be accessibility and simplification through a centralizing order (but not a centralized server).

Still, reading this:
The internet has created an unprecedented opportunity to make Europe’s cultural heritage accessible.
one sadly thinks of the capitalistic cordon-creating thinking behind JSTOR. Yes, one needs money to operate. But look at the pent-up demand. Micropayments of fractions of pennies could go very far.
At least we have the sense that over there, some hearts and heads might be in the right place:
The British Library is bringing some of the world's rarest books online, with the intent of giving as wide an audience as possible the most accurate experience of reading the real thing.

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Friday, November 21, 2008

For MG who got what this was supposed to be.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Triangulating house negroes and unempirical spokesmen of empire

"And be aware that the dogs of Afghanistan have found the flesh of your soldiers to be delicious, so send thousands after thousands to them." Al Quaeda to Obama.

''We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality." Unidentified Bush advisor, 2002.

I can't help but think that until the alleged paper of record comes clean on the source of that paradigmatic quote in Ron Suskind's piece, it will be impossible to gauge the rhetoricity of language like that above, attributed to Al-Zawahiri.

I mean, the quote defines what has become a key node for our understanding of the guiding mind behind the last eight years - at least - of the architectonics of Washington's command of what reality is.

Yet we don't know who defined it for us so neatly, so precisely, because the newspaper of record has never divulged the source.

The newspaper of record is a record of not-for-attribution and off-the-record information that gives us a mottled panorama of journalistic narrative. We are told - sort of - the stories, but the storytellers remain behind the concertina wire of privilege.

Fuck you, New York Times. Fuck you.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

In 1615,

In 1615, Ursula Reingold, a woman in a financial dispute with Kepler's brother Cristoph, claimed Kepler's mother Katharina had made her sick with an evil brew. The dispute escalated, and in 1617, Katharina was accused of witchcraft; witchcraft trials were relatively common in central Europe at this time. Beginning in August 1620 she was imprisoned for fourteen months. She was released in October 1621, thanks in part to the extensive legal defense drawn up by Kepler. The accusers had no stronger evidence than rumors, along with a distorted, second-hand version of Kepler's Somnium, in which a woman mixes potions and enlists the aid of a demon. However, Katharina was subjected to territio verbalis, a graphic description of the torture awaiting her as a witch, in a final attempt to make her confess. Throughout the trial, Kepler postponed his other work to focus on his "harmonic theory". The result, published in 1619, was Harmonices Mundi ("Harmony of the Worlds").

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Monday, November 17, 2008


Sunday, November 16, 2008

Mean Business

Friday, November 14, 2008

No Sex, please

Multi-National Force - Iraq established this YouTube channel to give viewers around the world a "boots on the ground" perspective of Operation Iraqi Freedom from those who are fighting it.

Video clips document action as it appeared to personnel on the ground and in the air as it was shot. We will only edit video clips for time, security reasons, and/or overly disturbing or offensive images.

What you will see on this channel in the coming months:
- Combat action
- Interesting, eye-catching footage
- Interaction between Coalition troops and the Iraqi populace.
- Teamwork between Coalition and Iraqi troops in the fight against terror.

What we will NOT post on this channel:
- Profanity
- Sexual content
- Overly graphic, disturbing or offensive material
- Footage that mocks Coalition Forces, Iraqi Security Forces or the citizens of Iraq.

Speaking of teamwork:
When Iraqi imams sit down with prisoners at a US detention center in Iraq to discuss Islam, they are working for a subsidiary of Global Innovation (GI) Partners LLP, a California- and London-based private equity firm that claims to have "$2 billion in capital under management." Truthout

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Elusive canned product

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Make yourself an enemy of all that you read, Sarah

Therefore, the seeker after the truth is not one who studies the writings of the ancients and, following his natural disposition, puts his trust in them, but rather the one who suspects his faith in them and questions what he gathers from them, the one who submits to argument and demonstration, and not to the sayings of a human being whose nature is fraught with all kinds of imperfection and deficiency. Thus the duty of the man who investigates the writings of scientists, if learning the truth is his goal, is to make himself an enemy of all that he reads, and, applying his mind to the core and margins of its content, attack it from every side. He should also suspect himself as he performs his critical examination of it, so that he may avoid falling into either prejudice or leniency. Ibn al Haytham

As such

As such, she may count among the most influential women in world history.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Future to the back

So if Howard Dean with his millions of small donors was Orville Wright, and Obama with his wired grass-roots army was Neil Armstrong, what will be next?

That's easy: Fredericka the Australopithecine Televisionator:

Sara Taylor, the former political director of the Bush White House, has one idea.

"We're at a place in the country where almost everybody has a cell phone, but not many people have a smartphone, meaning a video-enabled phone. But that will change over the next three to four or five years," Taylor says.

She envisions a campaign in which "they'll be able to serve you advertising via a text message that links right to video with your candidate speaking in a beautiful video" about certain issues.

Mara Liasson gave this a pass, saying "it's just technology." Let's review what we've learned: the entire Net is merely a grunt at the service of ideological power.

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Monday, November 10, 2008

Insuring Insurance is Good Business, Clearly

"Risk controls at the company were clearly inadequate." That's Bill Bergman, an analyst at Morningstar Inc. in Chicago, who also said, "AIG keeps getting hit square between the eyes by the housing-finance meltdown."

Given the new bad news about AIG's weakness, and the new good news therein for certain elements in the market, one might want to press Bill Bergman to pin down more exactly what he understands by "clearly."

For his sentence to be clear and adequate, he must mean: "Fraud enabled AIG to operate with these clearly inadequate risk controls."

Or he means something like, "These risk controls were so inadequate that they have resulted in losses so clearly catastrophic that it's clear we'll do all we can to mitigate them, hastily, without clear policy controls, without clear monitoring -- without, in short, clarity. Some, of course, will profit."

Interestingly, the AIG site sports no AIG logo, and doesn't even pretend to be a company. It's just: "Insurance Website."

The company, or website, or whatever, remains under the stewardship of Edward Liddy.

[update] See Golby.

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Sunday, November 09, 2008

ya think?

There would be little use for large, subscription-based archives like JSTOR if scholarship and research is released online for free. link

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Saturday, November 08, 2008

Trinitarian billability

Brilliant comment by Dean Landsman responding to Doc:

There is no real “Triple Play.” Rather, there is one connectivity instance (hooking up premises) for which users are given three different recurring billable events. A recurring monthly charge makes sense - after all, they do provide this service. How they bill for it, however, is another issue.

When a cable or a fiber service offers TV (aka video from existing networks or channels, formerly known as “TV”), also offers voice (formerly known as phone service), and also offers internet connectivity, these are all merely billable events, all of which come from that original connection of pipe to premises.

The TV service breaks down into subsets of billable events, such as VOD, premium channels, and so on.

The phone service offers premium billing for certain “long distance” events, many of which are running on the net and are actually less expensive than the old paradigm of copper and undersea cable.

The internet is simply basic connectivity, allowing users to join a network of other users enjoying a connection to the backbone. The upsell here is gigs of use (up or down).

Bottom line: the costs to the companies of providing these services are nowhere near as high as the upsells and events would indicate. But until competitive offerings are allowed to flourish (and IMHO we can hope but should not set our expectation levels too very high, vis-a-vis the incoming administration), the small group of Big Cos controlling this environment will do all they can to control our connectivity, our access, and their ability to charge us for it on a premium and multiple level and event basis.

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From Obama in Sarasota

Snapped this chance shot:

Friday, November 07, 2008

You betcha

A reviewer of Robert Kuttner's new book, Obama's Challenge: America's Economic Crisis and the Power of a Transformative Presidency:

If it sounds like I'm angry, I am. I hate that most of my adult life has been lived in a country that has become the testing ground for so many hare-brained ideas and crack pot nostrums.

Between the poles of faceless regulation and unbridled markets, that's a good description: a testing ground, with human guinea pigs.

It's one thing to attempt creative approaches to finance; it's another to allow them to run amok throughout municipal, state and global economic systems.

Who gave us the dispensation to introduce the fraudulent language of marketeers and advertisers into the realm of governmental prudence and our derived sense of what actually works? At what instant did bullshit become normative evidence for critical decisions?

In the Rumsfeldian world of that which we don't know we don't know, we do not need Ms. Palin or Mr. Fuld supplementing the void with their inspirations. Kuttner was on Democracy Now today.

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Thursday, November 06, 2008

dissociative fugue episode

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

West Florida Election Day Report

The polls here were jammed this morning. One small semi-rural church poll had a fairly long line at 6 am, but there and elsewhere by noon the lines had evaporated; citizenly duties seemed to be getting exercised without obvious problems. In this area, notoriously aberrant in 2006, the machines are gone, ballots are paper. No chad, no iVotronic bollocks.

I spent a few hours knocking on doors for Obama. Quite a contrast with 2004. Then, I was given a few streets more or less at random in a neighborhood, and went from door to door. Not much interest in Kerry. Today, I was given carefully notated maps along with data including demographics and told to visit specific addresses in five or six neighborhoods. Saw quite a few Obama signs -- and was happy to find a local political organization much like this moving smoothly and deliberately and precisely.

Where McCain in his final hours has provided nothing more salutary than a Christopher Lloyd clone shrieking his eagerness "to fight," Obama's organization has worked like, well, a serious plumber to build, connect, check and recheck. It seems to me this contrast between bankrupt, ecstatic goofiness and quiet assurance speaks volumes about the candidates, about the polity, about the choice.

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Sunday, November 02, 2008

Instead of a bank, a community?

Adam Arvidsson & Nicolai Peitersen seem to be thinking on a sufficiently large scale as to perhaps be looking around the bend, past the end of capitalism, with some clue as to what might come after - and what they see coming is not supercapitalism. The book, not yet released, is called The Ethical Economy.

There's a fascinating excerpt here, and a pdf of the Introduction here. See also Phil's post at Gifthub.

An excerpt from the excerpt:

Ethics, Finance, Crisis

These might seem like three terms picked at random. However I would like to suggest that beyond its direct, contingent causes, the current financial crisis is a symptom of the emergence of a new economic system, where value is increasingly based on ethical factors, or on ‘life conduct’. I call this an ethical economy: and I will try to explain why, and how it relates to the current crisis.

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