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Showing posts from March 1, 2015

david autor and the new defense of the 1 percent: don't do the math! look over here at this shiny neo-liberal platitude!

It took a while for the research of economist David Autor to reach the rightwing mimosphere, but it is there now. Autor's claim has become gospel for the rightwing set: As David Brooks puts it, If we could magically confiscate and redistribute the above-average income gains that have gone to the top 1 percent since 1979, that would produce $7,000 more per household per year for the bottom 99 percent." This is said to mislead, so that you think, oh, 7,000 isn't much. But if yo u do the math, that means every household in american would be making 315,000 dollars more per year.  I think this is close to my estimate. To quote the EPI institute: "The CEO-to-worker compensation ratio was 20.1-to-1 in 1965 and 29.0-to-1 in 1978, grew to 122.6-to-1 in 1995, peaked at 383.4-to-1 in 2000, and was 272.9-to-1 in 2012, far higher than it was in the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, or 1990s." So, imagine that CEOs were making the same salary in 2012 and the compensation ratio was 29.0

Russia's Chalabi

I just read the gingerly New Yorker portrait of the old Yeltsin era crook and current fashionable Russian "dissident", Khodorkovskii. David Remnick loves Khodorkovskii, and so does the NYRB. He is their Chalabi. Of course, we have to overlook the blemishes in the past - which Joffe, his New Yorker Boswell, sketched with perhaps some trepidation (American liberals like not to dwell too much on the past of  their rich freedom fighters - a fraud here, an act of violence there, who cares?). I suppose the equation here is that since Putin is Hitler and the Devil, his opposition must be Gandhi and Solzhenitsyn rolled into one.  The problem, of course, is that the cleansing operation by which a Chalabi becomes a Charles De Gaulle and a Khodorkovskii becomes a "dissident" in a new Gulag (I do admire this - that the writers of a country, the US, that has the largest and one of the cruelest prison systems on the planet can calmly talk about the New Gulag) - the problem is tha

opening - an objection

Among the chief ornaments of the romance of philosophy is the high place accorded to the open, or to openness. Open the understanding or the mind or the eye, openness as a state of being – these are all on the plus side of the ledger. Heidegger, of course, is the great poet of openness in this tradition, charging openness with a numinous relationship to being that you can take or leave – but he is only building on a vast previous structure. Closing, perhaps as a consequence, is never given high marks by philosophers. Closing one’s eyes or one’s understanding is, automatically, a bad thing. Even in building an argument, to come to a conclusion – a close – is often transformed, in the text, into opening up.  After the Absolute spirit has tied itself in knots and done more tricks than Houdini, he at last is in a good place at the end of the Phenomenology of Spirit. You would think that the absolute spirit would be able to close up shop and go fishing. But no!  He has to open up once ag

photogenic and the twentieth century

Photogenic drawing was the phrase used  by Talbot Fox, among others, to describe the photographic method: chemically treating a sheet of paper so that the light falling on an object made an impression of that object on the paper.  Fox and Daguerre were contemporaries, and daguerrotype soon overtook photogenic drawing as the preferred term, to be overtaken in turn by photography. The word, from the Greek for product of light, was not forgotten, but came to be employed in technical contexts – for instance, in discussing light producting organisms like fireflies; but then it took a strange turn in its philological life history. The first references to the new meaning of photogenic come from French cinema culture. Already, in 1921, in Cinea, Jean Epstein is connectng photogenie to a particular impression of a thing or a person on the screen: “The cinema itself is movement, so much that even its natures mortes, telephones, factories, revolvers,  revive and pulsate. It isn’t a question

my problem with reductionism

I’ve never quite understood the reductionst program in the philosophy of science. I’ve edited beaucoup papers and dissertations logically proving that, happily, the mental is a level wholly reducible to the molecular, or that the vital is reducible to the laws of physics without a remainder, and I’m the editor – I don’t interpose myself in the flow of argument and shout halt! These papers grudgingly reference the problems in the field, the fact that bridging principles seem to break down and that we still have no account that would explain the higher level phenomena completely, but in the end we can, on principle, correlate every mental and vital even to an underlying physical one, and that is all we need. This is what they say. I begin to lose the thread with the word “underlying:. Underlying. Higher and lower levels. In the arguments themselves these words are used with a, it seems to me, blissful unconsciousness. Because I still don’t know what level means, here. It would s