“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

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Not so happy fourth thoughts. But shoot your firecrackers, you guys and gals!

Fourth of July thoughts

Truly, this is shaping up to be one of the most depressing presidential elections since Harding vs. Cox. I thought the 00s were the worst decade I'd ever seen, but this one is already a complete washout and it isn't four years old. We have a drone em candidate, Obama, and the spend more on the military and cut taxes on the rich candidate, Romney. And we will once more have the insane conversation about 'executive' abilities. If such things really do exist, then we can all save much money by computerizing them, firing en masse the parasitic cadre of CEOs, and putting in their place expert programs. To tell the truth, I think this would work - most CEO 'magic' happens only when the market is rising, and some corporation ekes out a bit more on that rise, usually compensated for when the market is falling and the extra risk taken by the corp bites em in the ass and they lead in the loss column. CEOs have as much to do with job creation as the gargoyles on cathedrals have to do with holding the cathedrals up. It is to laugh...

Bains was a creature of de-regulation, a symptom of speculative rot - no worse than the Carlyle group, perhaps. A good candidate with a populist, anti-corporate program would attack Romney with promises of a real program to curb speculative power. Even some one hundred year suggestions from T. Roosevelt could start us off: a postal bank, capitalized by the Fed, which would operate for households and small businesses the same way the Fed operates for giant casino banks; a complete revamping of laws on incorporation, making it the case that any interstate corporation would have to register with the Commerce department and obey federal law, rather than spreading the law of inshore offshore states (like Delaware) like the measles through the land; a complete revamping of our military 'committments'; a strong state presence in developing new power sources; progressive taxation, starting not by taxing the 99 percent more, but - amazingly - by taxing them much less, and the rich much more; a complete revamping of the guild system in health care, shifting much of the work monopolized by doctors, expensively, to medical tech who could do the work much more cheaply; a new auction system for IP, ending the abuse of the notion of "fair profit", which has become untenable monopoly. If the Bain ads actually generalized to a discussion of the kinds of investment vehicles that the big money was allowed to invest in - the pension and mutual funds, etc. - that would at least be useful. Because the wisest course in reversing the entrenchment of wall street wealth over the rest of us is to dry up the source of that wealth, the huge capital flows that are allowed to land anywhere. We would find a pension fund that bet all its money on roulette tables in Vegas shocking, but we allow such money to get involved in CDO swaps and the most arcane derivative instruments, which is the same thing, except with larger downsides.
I expect to see nothing like this. Rather, the Bains ads will be personal. The thing is, the Bains rot is systemic. And Obama, who has spent his time in office trying to return us to 2006, is as committed to that rot as any bobo. So once again, we will have the equivalent of miserable weather, a presidential election which involves one politician or another peeing down our necks, while the organized media boobs cheer one or another of them on, said boobs being comfortable 1 percenters, every one. I don't expect that Romney would be that much worse than Obama, but still, he would be worse. On the other hand, maybe the system, sloping downhill, needs just the kind of kick that a person rotten enough to devise the Bains strategy would provide.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

paper dualism


“It is more difficult to understand how they can write proper names, especially foreign ones, for these are things that they have never seen, nor could they have invented a picture for them. I tried to examine this when I was in Mexico with some Chinese, and I asked them to write this sentence, or something resembling it, in their language: “Jose de Acosta has come from Peru.” The Chinese gentleman thought about it for a long time and at last wrote, and then the others read what sas indeed the same sentence, athought there was some variation in the proper name; for they use the device of taking the proper name and finding something in their language that resembles that thing, and then they write down the picture of it.” – Natural and  Moral History of the Indies, Jose de Acosta (1590)

There was always something philosophically magic about the relationship between the figure and the thing inscribed. There was something entangled about the figure and the thing that held it, for how could the sign or picture exist without the surface upon which it fell? There was something non-entangled about the figure and the thing that held it, for how could one transpose the same figure – or a token of the same figure – onto another holder, another tablet, another scroll, another piece of paper, unless the characters could fly away? They could fly away by being read outloud, true – and here sound became the carrier of sense, and flocks of sounds would carry flocks of sense – but they could also fly away by being copied. So there was always the object written upon and the object of writing, and they were separate things, except the type of the one always came with the type of the other, and this type of thing was perplexing in the life of a person and it was perplexing when one tried to think about it seriously, as a sage.  
At the same time writing systems were ‘invented’ in Mesopotamia, seals and stamps were also being invented. But it took a long time for the technology of the stamp to be transposed to the technology of the writing system in the West – that is, it took a long time to invent the printing press. This puzzles historians of technology. When you have the technology to stamp coins, you have the basis for stamping manuscripts – for printing. Yet the leap was not made by the Greeks. In China, on the other hand, the technology of the stamp was already being transposed to the character in 200 B.C., and woodblocks were used on paper in 800 A.D. It was Pi Sheng, an “unlearned man of the people”, [Otto Fuhrman] who invented a moveable type made of earthware in 1045.
In the always wounded dualism of the scribal cultures,  the design, the character, the figure, the word, the discourse, and even the thought gets divided from the matter, the clay, the stamp, the dead letter, the clay tablet, the screen. The narrative of thought is of bound majesty – the prince among slaves, the spirit fallen into the machine. The nobility of the idea is that it really exists in the world of flight, the world of forms, and the ignobility of matter is proven by the fact that it sticks to the idea, the thought, the word, the symbol. Though it be as light as a leaf of paper, still it is of the world of heaviness and labor, this substratum.