“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears

Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads

Monday, February 04, 2008

A fly as big as a blue whale

“I met murder on the way
He had a mask like Castlereagh”

Saint Augustine remarked that man is born between a shit and a piss; it is the ambition of the Bush administration to die there. The shit, of course, has been amassed over eight shameful and inglorious years, that began in an act of supreme and criminal negligence – the Bushian indolence as our nineteen gremlin hijackers were able to pretty much do what they wanted (a crime so foretold that they could have put an advertisement in the fucking newspapers), followed by the shock and awe of a paniced president who came to his senses when his advisors pointed out the political advantage he could reap by not doing his simple duty to crush the very crushable al qaeda. The murder of Americans – and the numbers mount, from the incompetent war in Afghanistan to the crime of Iraq – was a small price to pay for robbing the wealth of the country and putting it in the pockets of the few and unscrupulous; as for the massive death toll inflicted on the Iraqis, the untold suffering, the four million refugees, here was a supreme Bushian performance piece indeed. While vacuous chants were intoned by our clueless President to a liberty he so dislikes in the U.S. that he has done everything in his power to strangle it, our real politics consisted of ethnic cleansing, bombing the innocent, razing cities, and arming militias. Our best friends, the Saudis, meanwhile, financed al qaeda and financed a Sunni insurgency, to which our reply was to censor this macro story from ever being told at length in any American newspaper – and certainly not on American tv, a machine that produces cretinization, 24/7.

Even the bubble enabled by Bush appointees was shabby, as far as bubbles go – having fixed the system so that productivity gains didn’t budge the incomes of the 80 percent of Americans who work for a living, instead of whatever it is the upper management class does, the Bushites contrive to make every house its own little casino – tap the automatic wealth that comes from selling property amongst yourselves even as you ignore the natural limit set by your declining incomes! What a great scheme, and how the Gaderene swine, peckerheads and warriors by proxy, rushed into it! The ownership society, as sponsored by Visa and Mastercard.

And now we have the brilliant budget, the last budget, the testament of the collected thinking of the man his admirers call President Backbone – a name that is too modest by half, as this is a president who not only exhibits his spinal column, but whose whole skeletal system seems to be exo- like the star of that b movie, The Fly. What a great enterprise it is – a true call to slavery in the name of freedom. Having spent trillions fighting the approximately ten to thirty thousand paramilitaries of al qaeda, with the tremendous result of swelling their ranks and giving them an untold amount of importance in both Pakistan and Iraq, the budget makes a joyful sound to the Lord of Flies by proposing a seven percent increase in the military budget. It is by these increases that President Exoskeleton retains the affections of the media – for the core of the political media, based in D.C., has been bathed in the butter of federal spending like nobody’s business for the past eight years. These fat and sassy eunuchs have never had it better, and though they believe – repressing their inner astonishment – the polls that proclaim how disgusting the mass of Americans find the leader of this country, in their heart of hearts they would follow the President to the gates of hell and back – at least by proxy. That is, they’d sternly teach us that all serious people support sending America’s army, recruited from those clueless masses outside the Gated Community, into whatever fucked up orgy of vanity and peculation the Grand Old Party wants to give. It is a party Party, and the invites long ago went out to our ersatz opposition party to join it. And join it they have, protecting hedgefunders from taxation here, giving the President a chance in Iraq there, and in general enjoying the D.C. butter as they’ve sold out their constituencies at rock bottom prices.

Ah, but let us look at what the Lord of Flies has wrought:

Bush reviewed the budget with his Cabinet. He held aloft a computer tablet that contained the budget details. ''This is a good, solid budget,'' the president said.

''It's not only an innovative budget in that it's coming to Congress over the Internet. It's a budget that's balanced -- gets to balance in 2012 and saves taxpayers money.''

The spending proposal, which shows the government spending $3 trillion in a 12-month period for the first time in history, squeezes most of government outside of national security, and also seeks $196 billion in savings over the next five years in the government's giant health care programs -- Medicare for the elderly and Medicaid for the poor.

Even with those savings, Bush projects that the deficits, which had been declining, will soar to near-record levels, hitting $410 billion this year and $407 billion in 2009. The all-time high deficit in dollar terms was $413 billion in 2004.

Hazlitt, in his life of Napoleon, wrote:

“Mr. Southey somewhere accounts for the distress of the country in 1817 (and probably at present) by the prhase of “the transition from war to peace”, and emphatically observes, that the war was a customer to the manufacturers of Birmingham and Sheffeld alone, to the amount of twenty millions a year. Be it so: but if this were all, and this were really a benefit and source of riches to the country, why not continue to be a customer to these manufacturers of steel and brass in peace as well as war; and having bought and paid for so many cannon and so much gunpowder, fire the off in the air as well as against the French?”

That was a true moment of prophecy. Except, of course, that we have learned how not to use the accursed share at all – here’s a government proclaiming that we are in WWIV in Iraq, while it spends the major portion of the military budget on non-Iraqi items. It would be as if Roosevelt had proposed a military budget in 1942 in which the major portion of it was not dedicated to the war at hand, but to … well, to futuristic wars that bloody minded peeps envision in their think tanks.

An odious end to a wholly odious administration.

It has been our constant hypothesis over the years at LI that this planet cannot forever support an unlimited number of blue whales, who have weights of up to 300,000 pound. That is, the planet cannot indefinitely support a system that requires of the human beings in it to go about using, on average, use as much energy in a year as a creature more than a thousand times their size. Long ago, evolutionary biologist J.B.S. Haldane wrote an essay entitled,On Being the Right Size. Here’s how it begins:

“The most obvious differences between different animals are differences of size, but for some reason the zoologists have paid singularly little attention to them. In a large textbook of zoology before me I find no indication that the eagle is larger than the sparrow, or the hippopotamus bigger than the hare, though some grudging admissions are made in the case of the mouse and the whale. But yet it is easy to show that a hare could not be as large as a hippopotamus, or a whale as small as a herring. For every type of animal there is a most convenient size, and a large change in size inevitably carries with it a change of form.

Let us take the most obvious of possible cases, and consider a giant man sixty feet high—about the height of Giant Pope and Giant Pagan in the illustrated Pilgrim’s Progress of my childhood. These monsters were not only ten times as high as Christian, but ten times as wide and ten times as thick, so that their total weight was a thousand times his, or about eighty to ninety tons. Unfortunately the cross sections of their bones were only a hundred times those of Christian, so that every square inch of giant bone had to support ten times the weight borne by a square inch of human bone. As the human thigh-bone breaks under about ten times the human weight, Pope and Pagan would have broken their thighs every time they took a step. This was doubtless why they were sitting down in the picture I remember. But it lessens one’s respect for Christian and Jack the Giant Killer.

To turn to zoology, suppose that a gazelle, a graceful little creature with long thin legs, is to become large, it will break its bones unless it does one of two things. It may make its legs short and thick, like the rhinoceros, so that every pound of weight has still about the same area of bone to support it. Or it can compress its body and stretch out its these two beasts because they happen to belong to the same order as the gazelle, and both are quite successful mechanically, being remarkably fast runners.

Gravity, a mere nuisance to Christian, was a terror to Pope, Pagan, and Despair. To the mouse and any smaller animal it presents practically no dangers. You can drop a mouse down a thousand-yard mine shaft; and, on arriving at the bottom, it gets a slight shock and walks away, provided that the ground is fairly soft. A rat is killed, a man is broken, a horse splashes. For the resistance presented to movement by the air is proportional to the surface of the moving object. Divide an animal’s length, breadth, and height each by ten; its weight is reduced to a thousandth, but its surface only to a hundredth. So the resistance to falling in the case of the small animal is relatively ten times greater than the driving force.”

Now, of course, culture is a great jimmy-er of nature. We’ve found innumerable and ingenious ways to pick Nature’s locks. However, ‘we’ did this while, all unconsciously, developing a system about us, the way an oyster unconsciously extrudes a shell. We know, now, what that system is costing – and we are doing nothing about it that would save it in any way. The scattered ingenuities that created it have now become so much shit for the richest flies to land on, led by President fly, whose minions are too busy jerking off to videos of Iraqis being shot or bombed to know that they are even putting their own pretty white asses in peril. On the contrary, we are wasting money as it has never been wasted before on triviality, murder, and plunder.
What a way to spend eight years!

20 comments:

Brian said...

And, with the selection of President McCain, look for another eight years! (Ain't no way the Red States will elect a n&*^%$ or a woman to the Presidency!)

But, we are reassured by "
glibertarians" that the United States is a "rich" country that can "afford" to spend this money.

roger said...

Brian, I'm a sadly incompetent prophet of elections, but I don't, at the moment, think McCain has a chance. Although I think it is possible that the Dem candidate will get less popular votes and still win the electoral college. Going into a recession that is going to hit the red states hard by November, the GOP is nominating a man whose weakest qualification is the economy, about which he knows and cares fuckall.

roger said...

ps - I am reminded of a story a friend told me yesterday about his parents, who have retired to a condo in Boca Raton. He says that going down there last year, you could feel the rise in tensions - the real estate market has collapsed, the insurers are not going to put their money down on expensive properties on the hurricane flyway, and retirees are on edge. He saw a sixty some year old woman, driving a car, nearly sideswipe another driver who had annoyed her at a stoplight. He saw his parents condo torn up by pointless bickering about repairs from the last hurricane. I can almost guarantee that these people, when they hear the message, suck it up, are not going to vote for the messenger.

northanger said...

AZ 73 = A MASK LIKE CASTLEREAGH = 210 CONNECTION = ALEISTER CROWLEY = CELTIC ASSIGNATIONS = CONJUGATE PRIOR (In Bayesian probability theory, a class of prior probability distributions p(θ) is said to be conjugate to a class of likelihood functions p(x|θ) if the resulting posterior distributions p(θ|x) are in the same family as p(θ). For example, the Gaussian family is conjugate to itself (or self-conjugate): if the likelihood function is Gaussian, choosing a Gaussian prior will ensure that the posterior distribution is also Gaussian. The concept, as well as the term "conjugate prior", were introduced by Howard Raiffa and Robert Schlaifer in their work on Bayesian decision theory. A similar concept had been discovered independently by George Alfred Barnard; AZ-33 CONJUGATE) = DOUBLE INDEMNITY = EMINESCU'S SPIRIT = EMPEROR FORMAT = FEBRUARY FIFTH = THE LORD OF FLIES = THE PERSONAL MYTH = WHAT MAKES A MYTH A MYTH.

AZ 106 = LOVE MINUS ZERO/NO LIMIT = ARTISTRY OF THE WRITER = GIVES TO THE LOCKMAN AT THE GATE.

AZ 210 = THE AUTHOR IS PUT FACE TO FACE WITH THE LITERARY WORK (AZ-97 DISCOVERING EMINESCU = PRIOR PROBABILITY) = IN THE DIME STORES AND BUS STATIONS, PEOPLE TALK OF SITUATIONS = READ BOOKS, REPEAT QUOTATIONS, DRAW CONCLUSIONS ON THE WALL = THE DOORKEEPER OPENED THE SEVEN DOORS, BACK HE DREW.

northanger said...

came across this trying to get google bead on posterior probability. this & this if you grok statistics.

northanger said...

oops, silly me, forgot to mention the counterintuitivity of the AZ-73 MONTY HALL PARADOX.

roger said...

North, ah, I'm surprised you haven't included last year's best condensation of probability and poetry in the dream life of our times - the Black Swan!

The black swan has landed on the housing market.

roger said...

Brian, it is stories like this, from Arizona, in the Washington Post's story about the housing bust in the Sunbelt, that make me think McCain won't make it:

"We're in so deep that it doesn't seem like anything will help," said Rebekah Ao, 33, a pregnant homemaker who lives in a new four-bedroom home in Avondale with her husband, Otto, a truck driver. The Aos, with $50,000 in income, owe a total of $607,000 on mortgages for two houses they bought since they moved to the Phoenix area about two years ago.


The struggles of Rebekah and Otto Ao in dealing with a crushing mortgage debt show how deep the problems go.
They bought their first home in 2005, for $269,000. They paid for it using an Option ARM, which allowed them to make a monthly payment of $850, which was less than what they paid for rent in Los Angeles. Only later did they realize that meant that their loan amount would grow over time, not shrink, as would their payments.
"When we saw the payments were so low we decided to buy another house," Rebekah Ao said. "With the market going crazy, we figured we could sell the other house in a couple of years."
They now owe $287,000 on the first one and $320,000 on the new home, which they are renting. Their credit card balances, which they once kept at zero, have ballooned to more than $14,000 as they struggle to make ends meet.
"It hurts to know that you are on a road that leads to a dead end," Rebekah Ao said. The Aos are weighing their limited options. Foreclosure? A sale that takes in less than they owe? "But right now," she said, "we're just throwing our money away every month."

That they thought they could buy a house for 269,000 for $850 per month on a 50,000 per year salary and the loan amounts weren’t going to grow, uh, what can I say to that? American optimism is all about there being a santa claus. American capitalism is all about scrooge. The action movie S.C. vs. Scrooge, is full of fun f/x, like foreclosed neighborhoods and jingle mail, leading to an exciting but suspenseful conclusion.

northanger said...

randomness in the housing market - yes, definitely. but... current trends show more stabilizing scenarios coming into play.

AZ 266 = A FILLY HAS A CHANCE AT BEING ELECTED PRESIDENT OF THE HOUYNHYNHYMS = TRIBAL RIVALRIES AND PETTY DISPUTES WERE LAID ASIDE AT ELADAMRI'S SUMMONS.

northanger said...

maybe i should back up a bit & talk about tight spreads.

northanger said...

AZ 96 = SUPER BOWL XLII MATCHUP = BEGRIFFSGESCHICHTE (History of concepts or conceptual history; [1] According to AZ-78 REINHART KOSELLECK (See, "Begriffsgeschichte and Social History" in Future Past. On Semantics of Historical Time, translated by Keith Tribe, MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, and London, England, 1985, 73-92.), Begriffsgeschichte investigates "... the autonomous power of words without the use of which human actions and passions could hardly be experienced and certainly not made intelligible for others", 73; [2] History of concepts or conceptual history is a research area that has gained an increasing interest in later years. In recognizing that the meaning of terms are imbedded in cultures and are constantly changing, Begriffsgeschichte maps how a given word has been associated with different meanings. The insistence in a historical perspectives makes Begriffsgeschichte an alternative to positivist orientations. An example of a semantic tool developed in this tradition is Reallexikon der deutschen Literaturwissenschaft (Weimar, 1997-2003)) = COLUMBUS SAILED THE OCEAN BLUE.

AZ 130 = IN 1492, COLUMBUS SAILED THE OCEAN BLUE = A MOVE THAT SEEMS COUNTERINTUITIVE = THAT WAS A TRUE MOMENT OF PROPHECY = THE YEAR OF COOLING THE MARK OUT.

AZ 99 = ENTICE UNDERDOG BETTORS = INDUCE UNDERDOG BETTORS = PREDICTING A WINNER.

AZ 151 = NEW YORK GIANTS VS. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS = EXPOSITION OF THE CONCEPT'S MEANING (According to the Begriffsgeschichte-research program the relevant questions to be asked are: Is the concept in common use? Is its meaning disputed? What is the social range of its usage? In what contexts does the term appear? Who uses the concept, for what purposes and to address whom? How long has it been in social use? What is the valence of the term within the structure of social and political vocabulary? What terms does it overlap with and does it converge with other terms over time? It is clear from these questions that the exposition of the concept's meaning was anticipated from the beginning to involve its placement within a hierarchy of meaning, the cumulative effect of the lexicon being to elucidate a complex network of semantic change in which particular concepts might play varying role over the time) = HIGH PROBABILITY SOWPODS EIGHTS = WEAVING TOGETHER OF PERSONAL MYTHS.

AZ 266 = THE COMMEMORATION OF THE FIVE-HUNDREDTH ANNIVERSARY OF 1492 = A FILLY HAS A CHANCE AT BEING ELECTED PRESIDENT OF THE HOUYNHYNHYMS = TRIBAL RIVALRIES AND PETTY DISPUTES WERE LAID ASIDE AT ELADAMRI'S SUMMONS.

roger said...

But will a filly be elected by a land of yahoos?

I think that Northern California and the Pacific Northwest in general isn't going to be too affected by the housing bust, but Arizona? They are fucked. When one out of ten people in an economy is working construction, that means the economy is deeply dependent on money coming in from somewhere else - like retirees. But those are exactly the people the fall in equities is killin'. In New Haven, when I moved there in the nineties, the housing bust of 89 was still going on - and four years later it was still going on. I knew, from working for an architect, what commercial property in New Haven was going for. Beautiful structures, like the telephone company building. The bottom on that one proved to be the same price that it brought ... in 1932. Of course, Bushie was the sugar plum fairy, and with the wealth money rolling into Yale, it is all gentrified and prettified now. Buffytown condos, eminently flippable, in an area of town where a man used to be able to go to get a good deal on smack.

These things can last a while.

northanger said...

But will a filly be elected by a land of yahoos?

i don't think so........

AZ 143 = 2008 JFK PROFILE IN COURAGE ESSAY = PRESIDENT OF THE HOUYNHYNHYMS = WHEN YOU GET TO A CONCLUSION, LET ME KNOW.

AZ 84 = THE HOUYNHYNHYMS = NOW I KNOW THE ANSWER.

AZ 185 = BILL CLINTON, 42ND PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES = COME FROM THE HOLY FIRE, PERNE IN A GYRE (Sailing to Byzantium, III.21).

AZ 191 = GEORGE BUSH, 43RD PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES = I SING STRAIGHT FROM THE HEART OF THE FIRE (The Colloquoy of the Two Sages).

AZ 207 = HILLARY CLINTON, 44TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES = THE GLOW FROM THAT FIRE CAN TRULY LIGHT THE WORLD (John F. Kennedy, Inaugural Address, Friday, January 20, 1961).

northanger said...

we're not a land of yahoos. we're the Land of the Proud Houynhynhyms!

Brian said...

Well...there was and is plenty of foolishness afoot in the land. I need look only in the mirror. I have no excuses...only appetites and hording behavior. Not quite THAT screwed, but not too far off, either.

Maybe a good war with Iran will turn everything around. Lots of military bases in the Deep Red South and West. What better way to stabilize the housing market in, say, Colorado Springs? Or, my town, actually. I'm sure China and Europe will be HAPPY to lend us the money to teach those Mad Mullahs a lesson (and steal the oil for ourselves, contracts with the Chinese and French be damned!)

roger said...

"we're not a land of yahoos. we're the Land of the Proud Houynhynhyms!"

North, you are the spunkiest of the spunky! And you scoff when I call you the light of my life!

northanger said...

<scoff>:-þ</scoff>

bRIAN said...

To arms, Proud Houynhynhyms! The Yahoos have weapons of mass defecation! They must be STOPPED!

Paul said...

As Augustine would have it: Remove justice, and what are kingdoms but gangs of criminals on a large scale?

And, ultimately, in the earthly city, the city of man, justice is a phantasm. Ergo ...

...

The 'despair' of the atheist, if I may say so, is the acceptance that there is no Civitas Dei.

roger said...

Paul, you have been in California too long! you are turning everybody's favorite Bishop of Hippo into a Zen aphorist!

I think you just made thousands of monks turn rustily in their graves in France.