05 December 2010
The United States faced a similar situation after the Gilded Era, and the set of political and social changes (which included an unsustainable 90% rate of taxation on the wealthiest Americans) also produced a physical and social infrastructure that created real productive capacity, human capital, and real wealth creation which lasted roughly from 1946 - 2006. The radical restructuring of taxation that began with the Reagan Administration and was completed by the Bush Administration has gutted our productive capacity and human capital, and has spawned bubbles and ridiculous schemes to create notional assets (see: derivatives, credit default swaps, mortgage-backed securities) that masquerade as "wealth". What they failed to do was support an educational system and physical infrastructure that trains people for all types of work, and allows rapid development and implementation of new technologies. Anyone interview recent graduates recently for positions that require thoughtful analysis? Notice real gaps in achievement and accomplishment among mid-career professionals due to a lack of ability to manage lifelong learning? Thought these might strike a chord. Drive anyplace, and tell me that roads today are better than they were in 1990. Don't even consider that our water and electric systems have been appropriately maintained. As for mass transit and rail transit, join me and my fellow commuters on Washington's Metro system to see just how badly that's failed.
And for my affluent and wealthy friends, a gentle reminder: countries with great inequality in wealth and opportunity have a tendency towards violent and uncontrolled change. See, for example, 18th Century France and 19th Century Russia.
Finally, a very simple truth: if you want something good, you have to pay for it. States are not magical unicorns that poop cupcakes. They take real individual sacrifices to create common goods that provide individual and collective benefits greater than what can be accomplished individually.
29 October 2010
First, the good news: my mother's knee surgery was completely successful, and she is both mobile and as pain-free as an 87 year old is reasonably likely to be. That's a great comfort to me, as I saw her become more and more lost in both chronic pain and in the desperation of being shut in -- to her home, her body, and a collapsing world.
Next, the bad news: my mother has senile dementia. I hoped that the relief from chronic pain might also relieve some of the confusion that Mom increasingly displayed. For years, my mother repeated herself in conversation. I attributed it to not being engaged, and not engaging in, challenging intellectual activity. Crossword puzzles and Scrabble aside, I'm not aware of my mother having bought a new book in years, nor had she expressed an interest in politics and current events since 2003. "No blood for oil" was her mantra, and coming from a woman who was a lifelong Republican (though to her credit, she voted for Clinton both in '92 and '96, Gore in 2000, and Kerry in 2004) it was a testament to the cupidity of the Cheney-Bush Administration.
But after that the world changed: We occupied Iraq, we muddled on in Afghanistan, our economy and society floundered, and the losses in Mom's life kept piling up: the deaths of high school, college, graduate school, and professional friends were noted. The fellow residents of Mt. Angel Towers moved in, settled in, and died. Her sister, Monica Kuehner, died. My father, George Cory, her divorced second husband, died. Her closest friend, Edith Throckmorton, medical librarian extraordinary, compulsive hoarder, and fierce curmudgeon, died.
And I suspect that beyond the cumulative losses and failing joints, bits of my mother's body were betraying her. Perhaps it was the neurological changes that 50 years of hard living -- by which I mean smoking like a chimney and drinking like a fish -- can cause in a body: Decreased bloodflow to the brain; loss of glial support cells; loss of neurons in the cerebral cortex; accumulation of toxins. Who knows for sure, but the cumulative effect is the same: my mother is losing her short and medium term memory and other elements of adult cognitive function.
To be clear -- this is not Alzheimer's disease. I haven't faced the horrors that other friends and acquaintances have with parents and spouses and friends who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer's. My mother is still there, is still (mostly) content, and is still aware. But things I've taken for granted -- like setting up a daily schedule, or organizing a bill paying and filing regimen, or even having a conversation with Mom where there was information exchanged and integrated -- none of these can be assured at this point.
I realized this completely and irrevocably when on our last day together, my mother asked me not less than five times in 15 minutes if we needed to buy anything at the local grocery store. We had, two days earlier, purchased milk, cookies, cranberry juice, and toilet paper to add to mother's collection of all of the above. I threw out the existing milk, added the cranberry juice to the four bottles in the pantry, and wedged the toilet paper into the closet with the other 25-30 odd rolls. (We ate one of the two bags of cookies). So with each iteration of mom's question, I'd work through the list of items she'd likely be asking about, and assured her that she had many more of them stored in her house that she was likely to use. I was for the most part patient with her -- though our family is infamously inpatient with each other, and my patience is often suspect.
What I'm trying to come to terms with is how to accept is that at the end of my mother's life -- and for many people, at the end of their lives -- the person who we know and love is lost to us before they die.
And what I need at the store is the grace to understand just how to do this.
02 October 2010
That said, it’s a totally ridiculous book which can be summed up as Sociopathic idealized nerds collapse society because they don’t get enough hugs. (This is, incidentally, where you can start your popcorn munching.) Indeed, the enduring popularity of Atlas Shrugged lies in the fact that it is nerd revenge porn — if you’re an nerd of an engineering-ish stripe who remembers all too well being slammed into your locker by a bunch of football dickheads, then the idea that people like you could make all those dickheads suffer by “going Galt” has a direct line to the pleasure centers of your brain. I’ll show you! the nerds imagine themselves crying. I’ll show you all!Go. Read. If you must, read "Atlas Shrugged" or "The Fountainhead" (an arguably better novel than AS). But recognize that it's genre pornography.
28 September 2010
I loathe most aspects of American Exceptionalism. Except for this: The Bill of Rights -- one of the towering achievements of political philosophy -- defines what it means to be a human being in terms of inalienable rights, and from that, what it means to be American. We -- and other countries, too -- have over time, accepted and extended the Bill of Rights to include more rights applying to more people.
Women and people of color didn't do so well at first. Minorities -- ethnic, religious, and sexual -- still have issues. The same thing is true for economic inequality. We're still working on this -- and as long as we as a people continue to work on the extension of rights for all, then I'm satisfied with the American experiment.
This idea -- that we as a people need not be afraid of the other -- is the one part of American Exceptionalism I both embrace and hope to see written large across the world.
26 September 2010
Obsessive need to buy books. "Zero History," of course. Picked up trade paper copies of "Neuromancer" and "Count Zero." Fanboy nervous. Also Killcullen and McPhee. The Killcullen is for MMF. Will read first. Kilcullen's the most important military thinker since Lawrence.
Watching and listening to the staff and acolytes is funny. From Eno c. 1973 to Comic Book Guy and the usual washington technorati.
Powell's v. Politics and Prose: no contest. Powell's. Why do we stay in this miserable town?
And the battery is dying. Can I be surprised at my 'berry's intransigence? Of course, an iPhone wouldn't be any better.
Men to women ratio: ten to one - at least. I've seen more women at The Eagle!
Glad I got here early. It's packed.
Gibson looks like an Oregonian. Yah Oregon!
Gibson sounds like a less fucked up William Burroughs. And reading, it becomes a real profound similarity.
And the Bigend/Bell connection - terrifying.
Milgram is more fascinating all the time. And Bigend - more terrifying.
Gibson talking on his characters and his process is fascinating.
Cornell boxes. Ah. I never saw the Bridge as a great Cornell box. But it makes sense. And I am eternally grateful to Gibson to introducing me to Joseph Cornell with "Count Zero."
Gibson is wicked smart and savvy. Imagine this is what a reading with Twain would have been like.
Comparing Hollywood movie production to slime mold. Brilliant.
Does no one know how to ask a question? Answer: yes.
09 September 2010
21 August 2010
Really, what I'd like more than anything is to escape everything for a few days.
07 August 2010
(edited slightly for format and content. Sue me)
LCD Soundsystem, Roseland Theatre, Portland, OR May 29th, 2010
Intro music "I'm not in love" 10cc. Best FU ever. I knew Murphy was a fan.
Us and Them (Better than TH Stop Making Sense tour? It’s really close. Nancy Whang moment - she's from Portland? Was her mom really in the theatre? Cool!)
Drunk Girls (Murphy: "those are the two fastest versions of Us and Them and Drunk Girls we've played in a long time")
Yer City's a Sucker
Daft Punk is playing at my house (channeling Nirvana)
All I want (“St. Elmo's Fire” meets Morrissey, wherein I remember (in tears) running, stoned out of my mind, through Raleigh Park on an August night in 1984)
All My Friends (with I Zimbra as a reference) - un-fracking believable.
I Can Change (Murphy can really sing, if he chooses)
Tribulations (Mosh pit w 30 and 40 year olds. Cool. Sorta glad I chose the balcony. Moshing in Spanish boots and an Armani shirt not so good)
Yeah (think "swamp thing by the Cramps." Really, I only need a cover of "take me to the river" to die and go)
Someone Great (bawling – really!)
Loosing My Edge (the live Rock Snob's Version. I admit to shouting out the lyrics I know)
New York I Love You (more SPM, through the NY Dolls -- only much, much better.)
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry
05 August 2010
1. This is reasonably good news. I had written here that one of the ways in which we can get governance back on track is to clean out the arcane rules of the House and Senate, including reforming the rules around cloture and filibusters. That the most static of the status quo Democratic Senators (that's you, Diane Feinstein and Chris Dodd) are amongst the most vocal opponents of rules reform is telling. If memory serves me, there are a number of Senators -- Democrats and Republicans -- who in fact support reasonable rules reform in both chambers.
2. Cat Scratch Fever exists, and is extremely unpleasant. In fact, it may be more unpleasant than even the horrible Ted Nugent song. The inflammation on my wrist, combined with one particularly swollen lymph node, fever, and headache are making my life extremely unpleasant right now.
31 July 2010
Into a swarm of biting flies and mosquitoes.
It's my fault for forgetting to put on Cutter's before I go outside. We have the handy wipes at the door. It's just that I grew up neither plagued by or worried about mosquitoes. Oregon had few of them, SF and LA fewer still, and in Kenya, I lived above the malaria line (though I often traveled into malaria territory). Now, we have confirmed reports of West Nile Virus, Dengue fever, and allegedly malaria in the Washington area. (Or perhaps I should use the au courant DMV appellation. )
While I have the memories of a very lovely afternoon and evening spent on U Street, I also have a significant number of mosquito bites on my arms and neck. Keeping this in perspective, this is better than Manhattan's current plague of bedbugs.
18 July 2010
14 July 2010
2. Streamline the House and Senate rules. No more supermajorities! No "blind holds". Transparency and accountability now.
3. Draft a Constitutional amendment to clarify the relationship of "corporations" to "citizens" and exclude corporate entities from being political actors.
4. See my previous blog posts here, here, here, and here.
5. Keep calm and carry on.
That is all.
26 June 2010
Our house was broken into in April, and stuff was stolen. It sucked. We're still picking up pieces from that incident.
My mother had knee replacement surgery for the third time at the end of May, and it was successful. At 87, that makes her both a clinical trial and a tough old bird. I'm proud of both, and that I could help her. Thanks to all for your support, friendship, prayers, and sacrifices of farm animals.
I saw the best pop/rock concert of my life (LCD Soundsystem) while in Portland helping my mother. I also ate three incredibly memorable meals, two at the Silver Grille in Silverton, and one at Le Pigeon.
Oregon is Tuscany, Provence, and Catalonia all rolled into one. Why we don't live there is an open question in the Gunn-Cory residence. Oh, the economy thing. Ooops.
Our house was broken into again in June, and more stuff was stolen. This with an alarm system. It sucked even worse than the first time we were robbed.
I guess that makes the Oregon question even more painful than ever.
That is all.
23 May 2010
One of them is pre-surgical bathing with a strong disinfectant. By bathing, the practice means careful cleaning of the surgical site, plus areas where the various tubes and attachments penetrate the surgical patient -- that is, pretty much anywhere on the skin, and the other orifices where things pass in and out of the body.
Now, let's look at the facts:
- My mother is 86 -- almost 87 -- years old. She's competent, but she's also in great pain, and isn't the most flexible person in the world. She's not able to get to all the places on her body that she needs to bathe and clean.
- My mother was a professor of nursing. She knows one or two things about bathing patients. Including getting to those orifices.
- I'm cheap labor, and could with some instruction, bathe my mother properly. My mother could probably instruct me, and I've already researched how to bathe patients for pre-surgical staphlococcal prophylaxis.
I've made sure that one of the nursing assistants will bathe my mother, and show her how to clean the appropriate bits tomorrow morning. In this simple way, I'm really, really hoping to avoid both classical tragedy and modern tragedy.
30 April 2010
24 April 2010
This pretty much sums up why I think "too big to fail" is wrong. If the Chicago School had ever considered economic models analogous to ecology (in particular, population modeling) they would have seen that there are limits to growth -- rather spectacular ones, in fact. It seems to me that there was a whole lot of productive investment in the 1980's when Glass-Stegall was intact and a whole lot of investment banks did just that -- invest capital in business, and get a reasonable return. Alas, the profits just weren't big enough for some, hence the mania for mergers and acquisition, outsourcing, and when that dried up, the development of exotic financial instruments -- also know as "three card monte for the economic elite".
The resources required to support massive consolidation and centralization of capital, as demanded by the Chicago School and their "efficient model" simulations are always greater than the resources demanded by multiple small concentrations of capital, just as massive monoculture in agriculture is unsustainable for the same reasons. The inputs always exceed the outputs; but you get a concentration of resources in one location for a period of time. However, at the end of the model, when the input resources fail, the entire system collapses.
That's the end game of the Chicago School, and the direction we've been headed as a country for the last 30 years.
We're still headed in that direction, and frankly, it's probably too late to change.
But this is a great illustration, and fantastic satire.
03 April 2010
Really? Did the Pope's PR folks think that would work to make us sympathetic? About the organization that brought us the Crusades, the Inquisition, and witch-hunts?
Don't get me wrong -- I love the ritual of Mass, and what individual clergy and Catholic communities --including the Catholic laity -- have done over the millenia include wonders and miracles. But the Church as a corporate body, at this moment in its history, is corrupt and festering beyond redemption. End it now.
20 March 2010
07 March 2010
18 February 2010
Pull the band-aid off.
The wounds that our polity has suffered aren't getting any better by covering and coddling them. The treatment -- open air, some astringent medicine, and possibly cutting away some of the rotten bits -- aren't pleasant, aren't easy, and aren't expensive. This is simple political medicine. Do something. Hold politicians and bureaucrats accountable. Change directions if necessary.
But the consequences for not doing anything are severe: the patient -- our republican government -- will continue to suffer, decline, and rot.
Just pull the band aid off.
08 February 2010
1. Bon Jeu, Saints!
2. Hate on the Who all you want (and do so at your risk in my presence), but both Townshend and Daltry have the good sense to wear long sleves, something which cannot be said for other aging rockers (Jagger and Springsteen come to mind).
3. Was that the Edge on stage playing fill guitar? And when did Simon Townshend ever play with his brother?
29 January 2010
I couldn't watch (I would have had to take a day off to find John Boehner and Eric Cantor and beat them to a pulp, which most likely would have cost me my job). Have to say it was somewhat better than I expected. And it certainly got him the NYT headlines that he was hoping for after a week of "Democrats in Disarray" "Obama in Trouble" and the rest. The press is so maddeningly predictable.
More public flogging of Congress, the press and the high court, please. Sad little Sammy Alito whining silently that he's not responsible for killing democracy. What a worm.
At home with a miserable cold that started last night. SOTU was infuriating to me -- we watched five minutes, and I went to bed. G2 correctly noted that the SOTU has become a Catholic Mass or an opera, with the Congress and invited guests jumping up and down like a well trained parishioners or claque. The only saving grace is Obama can deliver a speech better than any President in recent memory, including, in my opinion, St. Ronnie. Take that, la Noonan!
As for the color commentary, it's more appalling than the speech itself. Nothing good can come of having Skeletor (James Carville) and Mrs. Skeletor (Mary Matalin) provide commentary and berate each other. The myth of Tracy and Hepburn is just that -- a myth. It was scripted, people. And just having to look at the Skeletors is appalling, let alone having to hear their flatulent bleating.
As for the Supremes, the military in their full gear, and the other assorted guests, all I can say is: kabuki theatre.
On the other hand, G2 is mightily amused at the level of dudgeon I can summon when provoked on 1. lowering rates of marginal taxation and 2. the "success" of the conservative movement and the "free market". I verbally disemboweled our cab driver when he started in on how California should just lower taxes more and they'd be successful. As I said, "You didn't emigrate from Ethiopia so you could watch your adopted country become a third world country, did you?"
23 January 2010
For a number of years -- ten in fact, starting in 2000 -- I've regularly expounded on the coming death of the Republic, how this and that has finally lead to some interpretation of the Constitution so loathsome and repugnant that the Founding Fathers would, if they could, climb out of their graves and rebuke us all.
The combined events of this week -- the failure of the House and Senate to create a package of health care reform that doesn't have odious benefits for corporate interests, the election of Scott Brown to the Senate in the seat formerly held by Teddy Kennedy, and the Supreme Court's decision on campaign finance freeing corporations and unions from any restriction greater than than on individuals -- have put me in a foul mood. It doesn't help that my mother is in failing health and that I can't effectively assist her. And our cat is in failing health, and we can't help him. Oh, and that G2 has twice too much work to do -- and no relief in sight.
How, exactly, is all this better than what we had in 1979?
04 January 2010
In any case, the article alludes to the value that public broadcasting brings to the U.K. Government spending does create positive, tangible benefits that then create additional benefits, sometimes multiplicative, to local, regional, and national economies. Ronnie and Maggie, and their tame economists were wrong. Can we finally acknowledge that and move on, please?