Thursday, February 23, 2017

In the End, No Word

Shit obsessed James Joyce tried valiantly to thing the Word. No-one could have noticed were there not other bodily functions there to raise our deadened minders against us. T.S. Elliot in his Wasteland was also occupied with shit and piss, but were you to raise that up in class, you would be dismissed.

In our past and present are Irish and black slaves, and no wonder we curse out loud in public, to our phones or just to ourselves, no matter the sensibilities of older more prim people passing by. Is it fear or nonchalance which keeps us civil? In our present we are all reduced to living in our cars.

The word of course was thinged already in the Bible. How very strange that we remain so attached to the earthly, when we'd already established the immortal soul, to be released by torture if  necessary, according to the plans of those young men in charge.

I would reclaim the glories of those things we fight so valiantly against, the oil sucked out from Mother's teat, we leave her wrinkled and foul and near death. The automobiles which once did make us free. The baboon at the pulpit now, uttering nonsense in halitosis smarm, sidekick no longer Jesus, but some oily preacher who recites words which can raise only the deadened to enthusiasms and they hold their shekels closely.

It would be nice would it not if we could find some place where what we might get for money, including food and warmth and shelter now which is on offer no other way, was never insecure. Tax the mechanical slaves, so they might liberate the rest of us to amuse ourselves to death. There is apparently no end to insecurity, not even plating your toilet seat gold can keep you from the obvious in the end.

Solid would be a lift too heavy, no matter, your soul is incorruptible also, were it not that you'd sold it already on the open market.

It is time to look ahead and beyond, to where written words dissolve in the sun as clouds sometimes do, to where the human stands up unassisted again by patriarchs so desperate to keep us down. Look beyond the local contests debating this or that mean solution. Leave that shit behind, the flow to break all dams, the warrens of huddling sleeping masses.

There is a brighter day than you or I can stand and bring it on, we no longer have a choice. Look homeward. Recite with me now.

Oh shit, we're screwed.


It is the only thing on offer worth a damn anymore.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

So Sorry, Ivanka

Well, I'm not apologizing to you, Ivanka, since you won't have gotten wind of my diss. I'm apologizing to everyone out there accused - as I did you - of being subject to the misguided desires of their father. I am sure it was you and not your Dad who begged that you be altered into better beauty. I'm sure this was an expression of appropriate fatherly love, and that it makes each of you happy in the same way and for the same reason.

Your father stands accused of many things, many publicly known and ugly. Your step-mom, Melania seems bizarrely trapped in modelling pouts, and all these things feel wrapped up in wanting and needing the world's envy. And many apparently do envy the Trump brand, and want to be associated with it and claim the association with the sort of adamancy normally reserved for hatred.

There is apparently some continuum for memory which might be described according to the way that memory is affiliated with emotion. We remember best those events which had some emotional importance to us. We remember least the passing landscapes when our thoughts are directed elsewhere; speaking on the phone while driving, say.

I may be alone in this, but I do wonder what is the cosmic significance of this process. Because I do suppose emotion to be a part of our cosmic substrate, and not associated alone with humanity, say, evolved at the end of a long chain of events.

I suppose that the cosmic pull toward life as opposed to that barren aloneness of the cosmic desert, is emotional, by which I definitionally mean that it is devoid of physical forces. Emotion is defined in the cosmos I inhabit by motions toward or away which are not mediated by the exchange of particles, which is one definition for physical force at the level of subatomics.

Emotion is therefore a function of mind or conceptual reality and not of perceptual or physical reality, but - I continue to maintain - it is not therefore less real.

In this system of beliefs, which forms the bedrock for my living, I am almost precisely as alone as some street-corner barker of crazy certainty which passers by can't be bothered to understand, since it does not relate to anything else which composes their motivations for the day. Ordinary healthy folks keep cosmic thoughts to themselves unless and until they can make sense within some community of discourse, generally as sanctioned by the prestige system of globally sanctioned educational institutions.

I have to apologize to Yale as well, dissed in the same bit of screed up here in the invisiland of interneted exchange. I know that Yale is an important institution, attractor to the best minds from around the globe, who by their concentration can advance the sum of human understanding. (I do still wish they would stop trying to decide who belongs there as students by such a similar process to the one by means of which they select their faculty and researchers).

Prestige and beauty sanction our thoughts and feelings. Beauty is no longer available to me, except perhaps in admiration of my own daughters. My thinking powers recede as well, as I find myself in a kind of long-term battle trench, where God is finally revealed to so many. God the center of the beauty of natural surroundings, the organizer of a life to which mankind is connected rather than apart.

In that I can and do transfer my attention from any one particular face or body, and certainly don't require a face for God, nor gender, nor internalizable mental referent. Not even a name. God without words or name or gender is never hard to conjur.

Most of the mental props to keep God present have lost their utility, constructs as they are of fear and therefore patriarchy. Prisonhouses rather than the liberation wanted for us by the God I know. The woman without her makeup and before the plastic surgery looks ordinary. Once inside, so does Yale, I imagine still, with a few too many callow rich boys, worldy in their peculiarly sheltered ways and therefore destined for power and able to purchase their grades, once purchased for them by leverage from their names.

Cosmically then we are each centers for memory, strange attractors to form a self with name and surrounded by familiars, destined to be remembered for the ages if only we can get to some remarkable conception first. Sometimes it is enough to get to some remarkable place, so long as one is first.

These are functions of memory and truing against a world composed of the memories of others, trued against facts which must leave physical traces to be real.  Our memories now are scattered by so much txt each day, no time to be present in the physical world and so no wonder a fellow so central to the textual in-formation of our days need hardly bother with truth. He creates it whole with each tweet. He exists in the shadow where God once lived, and it is naturally our difficulty letting go of that secure structure which gives power to the space, even if occupied by a cartoonish simulacrum of a human. So composed in himself, so utterly narcissistic that he must suppose himself to be God.  It is natural that we want to believe in and by words which tweak the structures of our minds in ways reminiscent of wanted certainty.

I am composed of those things I remember, those people, those events, those realizations and sometimes conceptual excitements. I am not so in touch with those that I have loved and who have loved me, and maybe my excuse is that they will always remain present for me. I lie to myself that it is a kindness on my part to keep my face from them, composed as it must be to happiness in the face of raw terror. To Mom, I might as well have been there yesterday, so brief is her memory tracing. I lie to myself that way. It is a comfort only to me.

And those things I do remember are in-formed by the cosmic attractor of love. This is how memory works, this is how our history is shaped, this is how our narratives are formed and collectively rendered up to form our communities and our nations. We the people share a story composed of hopes and dreams and instances from our past when things felt as they should feel, and it is natural to want to share this, and to expand it and to keep out the massing hoards whose shared memories differ and who therefore feel like threats to our future return.

To the victor goes the narrative of victory, and we the people of these United States are surely guilty of putting the face of Donald Trump to the world, because we the people are that narcissistically connected to our own false history for ourselves.

It is hard for me to understand how believers in the actual Jesus can align themselves with patriarchy, with an ingroup fighting out groups, with capitalists winners deployed against anyone having any heart. And so I do pray to the actual Jesus to come back into their hearts, to true them, and to turn their gaze away from barking charlatans and toward that which is the best in each of us, in-formed by love, to stop giving voice to that other motivator of hatred and destruction.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Yes, but what am I to do? (Calhoun College)

You thought I was writing about Trump? These things don't matter any more, and to dwell endlessly on reports from the press is a distraction from what must be done. In this I seem to agree with the Man himself.

I was notified, more or less personally, about the re-naming of Calhoun College some time ago, and as an alumnus I was invited to give my feedback. Between then and now, with family in New Haven, I've had the occasion to drive or stroll around the campus, fascinated to watch the new residential colleges still under construction.

I am dismayed. The College is now building itself for the ages, transcending mortal leadership, timidly putting into place not post-modern structures but Disneyland simulations of Yale's image. Post-post-modern by any other name? These new colleges will be exciting for the students to attend, and I even believe there will be a commercial street in imitation of everywhere else in the world. Perhaps even a sop to the beleaguered and underfunded city of New Haven. I could be wrong. Just an impression.

I don't really mind, nor was I terribly surprised to learn just prior to my most recent visit that Calhoun College will lose its name, but that I, if I wish, might keep it for my own declarations of affiliation. It was the first case for the newly created policy on renaming, a retreat from responsibility on perfect par with the design for the new residential colleges, which some say were also named in consultation with the development office.

How could I disagree? How indeed could I be other than relieved to hear, in the same long email, that the name "Yale" is different from that of John C. Calhoun, even though shrouded in not entirely unrelated ignominy for the practices of the man. I wasn't disappointed either that aficionados of Twitter had already learned before I could get to my insider delivery. These folks must pay closer attention to the antics of our nation's president than I do also.

I suffer the lag of the news aggregators, owned by the tech companies, and profiting in some mysterious way off my profile. They know my habits much better than I do, and let them have it, my profile is wrinkled. My details hardly matter to me anymore. I don't mind. I will pay less and less attention, for my world is already ended. A bit player at best, whose narrative can only provide some minor caricature for someone else's singular story. Tortured wording is the best that I have got.

What has ended will be good to lose. For as I did read John C. Calhoun's address to congress, generously provided by Yale for my edification back when my feedback was solicited, I found an intelligent man following the logic of a poor assumption; that somehow blacks are an inferior "race," and that it is a kindness that slaveholders protect them from the ravages of competition among the free.

I don't see how Yale has distinguished itself from the man whose name they will leave behind, though not efface from what the Italian stone-masons carved over the Calhoun College entrance. Yale still supposes that some are born superior to others and that these few are fairly granted privilege, denied to the unlucky. I don't see much virtue in the Bush family, perhaps marginally more in the Kerrys, members of the same club addicted to power and privilege. The Clintons. Obama is ivy covered proof that race is a false category all around. Easily replaced by socioeconomic stigma. Put a number on it and make it a score.

If Yale were to admit students by lottery, I would be happier. At the same time I would make literal lottery illegal again, because it is no moral crime to steal from those who winnings are only won. Belief in lot exposes such strangeness in us. Students denied admission to Yale, by Yale's own reckoning are not therefore deficient. And yet Yale will endure for the ages, it collectively supposes, by perpetuating the fiction that the winners deserve to win and to rule and to rise to the top.

I would end gerrymandering by lottery, nevermind commissions on redistricting, and I would end renaming by committee too. Just draw straws and if the College ends up named Trump (as though that were a name), so be it. What, after all, is in a name?

I just finished watching The Young Pope on HBO, and that writers committee brought tears streaming down my face. Relieved that they did grant conclusion to a brief addiction. I am that relieved that Yale has concluded also, persisting in name alone. We will remember her fondly as something nice about culture and civilization when once we did think we had some.

Clearly, straws drawn from among some random set of names would have gotten us a better president for the nation. What will we do about it now, Chauncey Gardner? What will we do to ensure that our children have a reason to smile? Isn't this our moment in the sun, we the people? Will we rise to the occasion, or will we continue to amuse and horrify ourselves to death?

Will we only continue to buy lottery tickets, projecting ourselves onto the swindling honorless wealthy who use bankruptcy as strategy to defraud the rest of us? Whose children are plastically effaced in post-post-modern fashion? Have we no shame?

Call me Ahab, Ishmael, for I must be the destroyer of worlds. What a mess. Mother Yale, absolve me of my deficiencies for I am not worthy of thy Name. Then please, fuck off and die. There are better pursuits than to honor false gods.

Let us pray, as there is nothing better to do.

As it was in the beginning,


Quite simply, there should be no prizes so grandiose.  Buy a ticket to Disneyland and thrill for the day, but there is nothing I lack in my little apartment that can be gotten at Mar-al-Lago. What are we thinking? That we can ascend to heaven in this world, here on earth? That our technologies can reconfigure death? That we will be remembered for the eternity we leave behind?

I am simply not OK with private entry to anything. No walls, no admission requirements, no intellectual property barriers, no price for admission to the human race. I will simply pay no mind to the assholes in charge, which ironically enough, is to do exactly as I'm being told by my fearless leader whose worst fear is precisely true. He is a fool. And he is naked in public. And nobody cares.

I would try to love you Mr. President, and I am not concerned that you might have raped your daughter. With you, there are no secrets to be revealed. You paid to have your daughter defaced to please you, and some day she may awaken to the pain of that. Never to have been loved for who she is.

This pain will run in your family forever, and it does sadden me. I don't care about your other secrets. There is vacancy about you. A vanity in more than name. There is nothing to adore in a made up face, in a made up name, in the simulation of honor and decency powdered over by agent orange. You are the lie that you would expose, and I'd even take Skull and Bones rictus in your place if it came to that. But it won't, since we the people won't stand for it. You have denuded yourself of anything alive. You are already done, forevermore. Remembered by none, except as generic jest.

Boola Boola!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

An Appreciation of Four Futures; Life After Capitalism, by Peter Frase

I am the beneficiary of multiple grants this morning: First, by painful lack of sleep I am granted early morning time apart from work. Next, despite my cruel refusal to participate in gift exchanges, I was granted a physical copy of this book, which, subgrant, is compact enough to have read in a single sleepless morning (though that is likely longer than your workday, and the book still not compact enough to have with me on the road).

Watching the near-full moon descend toward morning, I am of course sadly reminded of lost loves. Sadder still, I watched two truckers yesterday parked in wait with motor running despite ordinances against it, since it was bitterly cold, but none of that is what made me sad. It was sad to see the two truckers each staring at their smartphones, passing idling time, not apparently knowing one another very well.

Now I am reminded of my days delivering beer-kegs with Mitch. Even without unions, there were prudential safety rules stipulating two in a truck for kegs, and even still I lost a tooth to the game. Mitch and I would invent ribald operas and sing them at the top of our lungs between deposits, at each of which we would down a generous draft, starting even before opening time at 7 AM sometimes, where former steel workers in still only recently shuttered Lackawanna plants would robotically arrive as ghosts of shift's end.  Then there were practice dances at the strip club, where sometimes lunch would be granted as well. Ah, those were the days. Some audience is better than none, though our uniforms were second-hand and tattered, keg drivers the lowest of the low.

Saddened then when I saw Mitch down the road from the house I would inhabit with my new bride and the new job teaching Chinese already posted from the News in the bars where we delivered. I'd betrayed the closest human contact I've ever made. Mitch was in uniform, having learned to repair the still newish ATMs, and I was happy for him in a way. But our paths diverged, and I do still retain my close friendship with our shared boss, owner of the beer distrubutorship, not really my friend in that job, temporarily, but he was my first in infancy, and you know loyalty runs pretty deep, discursively.

I enter books combatively it seems, a chip on Buffalo shoulders lest I prove myself more an idiot than I already know myself to be. I would make love, but then I have never learned the pleasures of sucking up to Peters, so it must be battle on, then. Crossing swords. I hate myself for it. Habit.

I never did have the robotic skill and precision of the scholar, the academic, and now I slide hopelessly toward early senility, likely helped along by sleep habits, regretting mildly that I have only been an academic hanger-on, and that just barely.  I don't remember authors well, who wrote what, who I have read, even which stories did once thrill me. I do remember basic things, like predilection for the taste of distaff, and not the stalk. It seems there is no thing I can do about that, although truth be told I never bothered to try much. I was always glad to be liked.

I face a day of chaotic labor, and I can only fall behind. But still I refuse to trespass on my own time in that way (I trespass in plenty of other ways, and no need to mention them all here since they involve the shame of indolence and idle entertainments and smartphone indulgences, and I would like to retain some small semblance of pride this particular morning). I have students to admit at last minute, curricular revisions to log at last minute, and I only a contract worker, without skin in the game anymore, but due diligence is all I know and so I delimit myself artificially. It must be a class thing.

Only 16650 or so characters left and little enough time before I must shower. Note to self, you will be with College President later today, so dress appropriately. Mostly my thoughts are occupied with fitting out my lifeboat, my escape capsule, my strategy to stay alive where renting space anywhere I would care to live will soon exceed the income I might care to make. Sure it is a choice. Occupying the asphalt is mostly untaxed. An adventure. Star Trek for the masses.

I have been the head of institutions, and it has felt sometimes worse than prison. I have enjoyed adulation as a high priest of mysterious network technologies, but it mostly served to accustom me to crawling under desks, and partially because I was always privy to the secrets of those in charge, to internalize a kind of cringing subservience. I did work for the Man, for the Catholic Church, whose secrets finally I did flee. No, not those secrets, I'm only talking about dispositions with money and I thought I wanted to help the poor by cataloging them. Silly me. I would still be doing it but for the cloud, infernal progress. It has destroyed all accountability, all chains of ownership, damnation. I understand the pleasures of scratching itches which feel like torture, poor Richard. There is no truth anymore.

So this is a helpful book. Of course I want to destroy the fellow for the privilege of New York City and the fine institution there which may yet grant his Ph.D. before Trumpism inevitably shutters its irrelevance for being underpriced. The book was published just on the cusp, and who knows what torments its author suffers now, or might it be optimism that all the questions have been called?

Cornel West is the only good read on Obama. Just sayin' And I poured out my overly optimistic soul for him, and my loss was permanent, his but a graying though I was grateful for a human in the Whitehouse.

There is not guidance in this book. Only cautions. Mild reminders that we have choices to make, which I take as an order, yes sir, never to click on bait even though it seems to agree with me. Never to trust the trivial nostrums of so-called democracy, where most voters can't even devote as much honor as I muster for the warlike act of understanding. There is hardly any pleasure in it anymore, and it wasn't for class solidarity that I did not accept the free ski pass on offer by the College. It simply hurts too much. I'm the wrong class anyhow, although social capital combined with rugged individualism is no comfort at all. Inwardly, I'm quite panicked.

It was the children of the one percent who took a pass on education, mistaking it for a credential on their individualistic quest for power. There is panic in their eyes now, as they occupy the Big House, knowing that even some of their own have turned against them, in the simple name of love, in the name of simple love, whose wages are enslavement, robotic abstinence from creativity of the sort which might be appreciated, because it feels that there is so little time left.

And so I must leave even this book behind as I embark on the road to do battle against smart weaponry deployed by everyone else who can therefore be safer than me. Some behind S.W.A.T. black tanks and Humvees repatriated from Iraq to use against our own sand-whatchamacallits. Some who would relinquish the pleasure of control to robots, and of responsibility. I hope I am proof against trivial citations. I cannot survive restrictions too close, and nearly 14,000 characters to spare.

There is not a moment left to lose, thank you very much.

But before we start, let me describe a fifth future, one off the quadrant, outside the box so preferred by earth-bound academics of the masculinist variety. I'm looking for a circular array of perhaps seven, but toward the fifth, let's imagine Walter and McKenzie, say, for the sake of a kind of symmetry, two Marxist technologists, the unlikeliest species on the planet. Let's imagine them in a bar, discussing the evidence that pretty much 99 44/100 % of man's behavior can be reduced to neat models provided by Big Data Analytics, and that most of that is accounted for by the greed factor, measurable by responsiveness to money, and the sex factor, which is just an animal model on steroids. Quite predictable in the aggregate.

So here's the setup: Walter: What about the people off the grid, how can we model their behavior. McKenzie: well they just don't count. Walter: yeah but what if they always do it for love, what if the ratio of love to the stuff we can control is just way off the charts once you're off the grid, what then?

Here's the punchline: Love is the answer. Get it? Oh, it's not meant to be funny. Sorry. Well, it kinda is, since, you know, politics ain't exactly working to resolve the lowest common denominator to the top. Bam!

Sunday, January 8, 2017

On Memory

Like many of us, perhaps, I remember near-panicked fears of ending up like Christopher Reeves, a mind without a body, the claustrophobia of being stuck inside with sight-sound sensory feeds and no way to get them out, no way to end it, no way to convey what it feels like from the inside.

How many of us have the force of mind of Stephen Hawking, the force of spirit of biplane wingwalkers, of fuck-it-all singers, making book on what the rest of us won't do? Not me, that's for sure.

I'm caught in that reverse chicken-egg question where I don't know if it was my giving-fucking-up which has caused the arthritic-feeling constriction in a painful sleepless body or the pain which caused the giving up. I don't have a clue if it's physical or psychic. None.

So tantalized across my life with near-term opportunities to network connections only I can make, except that my reach so reliably out-spans my grasp. What is this if not that paralysis we all fear so much as children. And so, what? We recess further?

Politicians cannot be trusted and so the best that we can come up with is someone so utterly transparent that he can be trusted without fail to care only for his own mug? This is that eventuality I feared most as I lent my admittedly tentative voice to protest marches, to anti-nuke, to stop the hate the global warming, while Al Gore leaves his wife and fattens up for the killing he must make on our downfall.

China now speaks of the US as a shooting star, dominant for a moment up against their five-thousand years of continuity. As though they really can lay claim to that legacy. They own a cartoon version, just as we have out-Trudeaued our own, Gary or Justin, take your pick. This hurts.

My Mom is the happiest she's been in her life, I think. Sure as the prototype of Narcissist Mom (not the same as what we elected) she frets over her aging appearance, her sudden paunch, her strangely bobbed new hair (at least she won't let it turn blue). But from her constricting entanglement with her children she has at last been loosed. She has no memory of that rapist narcissistic former son-in-law, and she's happy in her certainty that I finally do have that wished-for life of  professor of Chinese. As if!

As a nation too, we enter into early senility, and the question is why we all do so collectively recess? Are we that afraid of the truth of our other side, that quest for empire, that ugly self which has always presented ourselves to the world as Trump now does to us internally?

We are not like an old forgetter, we are more like that toddler meme me me me which lords inside the Donald. We never developed a memory to forget. We never even tried to know ourselves. We cannot be bothered to open a book. We only know our wants, and so this week (or was it last?) at CES we still put forward technological happy faces in place of any soul at all. Toying with tech titans for president, as though Bezos-grade reach for pennies on each dollar qualifies cleverness for sagacity.

To my read, Marx still provides the greatest explanatory clarity to what is going on. That doesn't make me any kind of Marxist since, in practice, any and all sorts of dialectical materialism leaves spirit out, and reduces the human to that which can be modelled by marketing algorithms. Big Data. Fake News. Same fucking thing.

It can be fun some times to just say "fuck you" in place of "thank you," and put a British accent on it. For the life of me - and obviously I'm a Netflix fan since they seem to have no governor and even publish Ollie Stone - I don't get the love lost on the Crown, on old Imperialist Winston Churchill, on icons from any past we can be bothered to remember. Fuck you very much. I do so love each time we get together.

My own largest and most fatal flaw is that I never would just go for the beauty who might have wanted me. It ended badly once in marriage, and neither of us seem disposed to try it ever again. Reticence or shyness or simple tendencies to see the consequences before embarking on a path whose shorthand might as well be "bad idea." Bad impulse, and even Marx seems to define consciousness by placing initiation inside the mind of humans. So much for his repudiation of idealism.

In my own happy face memory there was a God and initiation started there. Not a known, but rather a felt God, that impulse toward love which is the only simultaneity in an otherwise drear cosmos, whose fractal interest holds no candle to the people I have known. Traces on pages mostly, but there's the rub.

How indeed shall we learn to put forth the best of us, while keeping still our memory? How to smile face-forward without erasing all that we once did know? Damned if I know, but it does seem worth a try.

Otherwise, we are but a shooting star, soundless fury, hurtling through someone else's night.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Hillbilly Elegy

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in CrisisHillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

So here's the scene: My Yale Law grad daughter and her new Yale Law grad husband gave me this book for Christmas - hardcover, even though they know I'm moving down the social scale and plan to boondock in the flyover states and won't have weight margins for bookshelves, nevermind hardcover. I think maybe it's like bear-bating, that I'll offer back an incisive complaint about some aspect that bugs me. They know me well. And they'll get it back to read, along with a handy readers guide.

I'm in a state, sure, staying safe in Canada in the family's deteriorating one-time summer home which I put in shape some eons ago when my parents were more vital, and perhaps younger than I am now. I feel out of place here, since the whole business of summer places is way above my pay grade, and I'm annoyed that nature is taking her course with something whose value is between me and retirement one step above trailer trash. I want to wash my hands of the whole dirty business, though the family was never wealthy. Hard-working lawyers, scientists, engineers and only a few ne'er do wells on any side.

I got myself ready for my read - mostly beneath consciousness - by resolving not to provision the house which should have been shuttered by now. Pipes should be drained and antifreeze applied, but what with global warming and my cheapness it's been kept open at least partly on my behalf; Too cheap to come "home" otherwise, and no other family home with beds not spoken for or boundaries of intimacy I'd be willing cross. We are not hillbillys, alas, at least not anymore.

Somehow eggs remain in the fridge, of utterly indeterminate age, a few hot dog buns, some processed cheese in shrink-wrap of some sort, and miraculously a bag of plain oatmeal. At least regarding the latter, I feel secure. The rest of it proves to be a collective miracle of food preservation chemistry, since as far as I can tell it all tastes the same as it would on day one. God knows how I survived the eggs - I know them to be naturally durable like hillbillys are, tatum! I confess some self-conscious complicity in my unplanned diet as I get into the book.

See, this guy, J.D., is pulling himself up by bootstraps, and I'm dragging myself down, maybe by WASP-guilt, I don't know. But I have more legitimate study of the the sociology he glancingly references than he does, and I've chosen away from personal success, and I see in processed cheese which was - I'm not making this up - invented on the very street where I now write - some glowing metaphor of evil. Ditto Peter Thiel, who he lists as a reader.

So, is he trying to maintain some pride in his accomplishment when he exposes social flaws in the thinking of his peers? Their laziness, their self-destruction. He doesn't quite mention their annoyance with identity politics, because I don't quite get the feeling that this author is informed about real class politics, and Marx's money as a life-force. I don't sense close awareness of history's sweep, and the larger significance of this moment in it.

But I'm not in a great position to be critical. And I have to say that the book is much more than the viral title - good timing with Trump - which I was pretty sure composed the sum total of its best-seller status.

I just didn't learn all that much here. I've lived among Hillbillys of the Western New York variety, and I have a branch of my own nuclear family which was kidnapped by arriviste Hillbillys of a lower and more fallen sort than described here - which is a stunning claim if you read the book - and I have therefore some acquaintance with the dangerous undertow about which Vance writes.

What I quibble with is what he lays out implicitly as constituting success. A bit too much Christianity as though its undoubted social good negates the need for truth value. A bit too much American Dream writ real-estate, but still I take his point.

My neighbor in the hills was a teaparty founder, plenty intelligent, Airforce captian, full of his certainties which sure weren't mine. I still can't just shrug off earnest bearded do-gooder wannabes who maybe swallow conspiracy theory whole too much, the way that Vance does, when the whole power structure plays out to some dimensions of caricature beyond even conspiracy delusions. I mean Trump is going to be our next president, so buy this particular book to understand it?? I guess you could do worse.

I think the better buy might be to document sociologically the insular quality of those who come to their Yale law pedigree by birthright, and then take that to the Council on Foreign Relations and then decide the fate of the hapless Hillbilly masses, not just within our borders, but across the globe, and glibly assume that our current arrangements, including arms sales and deployments to defend our military-industrial-might cannot be tampered with. The emoluments on the inside must be pretty darned nice. Even co-conspirator Hillary got addicted to those drugs. On balance, is heroin worse?

Anyhow, I'm proud that my variously blue and alien-red blooded familiars work for human rights and international legal reform away from the nativism gripping the globe. I think I might know China better than Amy Chua does - not sure - but I hear echos of Tiger Mom mentality here. I am so utterly done with rugged individualistic identity politics as a disguise for blatant lottery arrangements for who gets the prizes, in or out of school, not to mention the costs of membership. I'll take a bit more wealth redistribution and social infrastructure investment, thank you very much. It just doesn't look to me as though grit can get a person all that far, and academic grinds just don't seem all that well-trained in helping the world to a better place.

How about let's redistribute productivity gains to the workers who earned them, and not only to the intellectual property privateers who rake the piles high behind club barriers where the bar for entry is a certain kind of trustworthiness regarding the arrangements. Where supermanager salaries represent the cost of our soul to the rest of us, which just makes them trailer trash too, viz Donald, less the hillbilly honor, of course.

I will eagerly await Vance's next book, after he grows a bit more, and after some closer encounters with those of us headed in the other direction. I think he may not be acquainted with the value of public sanctuary that is not owed - the thing he got from his grandma, and the thing which we withhold from so many and to such an extent that we hardly deserve to be called a nation in any meaningful sense of that word. We sure are powerful though, for the moment.

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I feel bad about this one, since the fellow is so nice and honest in his writing. I think he just simply doesn't notice how fully he's been co-opted by the structure which allowed him, grace SAT perhaps, into the elite circle. He hasn't the discernment, yet, to tell the difference between and among kind professors and gatekeepers. He hasn't quite become the sociologist for the "other" that he has for his own background, though one can forgive him his seduction, forgive the plays made for his sweet soul even, and forgive his repudiation of his native ground. We all commit those same sins all the time. We are all abstractable from our selves, and I don't even believe in a self, abstracted or otherwise.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

An Utterly Pragmatic Platform for the New Era

No ideology here, although I presently write from Canada, so my thoughts may be suspect. In no particular order then, here is a list of non-partisan, utterly practical positions to take, cutting through the messy and moribund political processes:

  • No more arms sales, period. Build whatever we need for our national defense, and gradually return its use to within our own borders, and never against our own citizens.
  • Stop being concerned about rifle and handgun sales, but be very concerned about open or concealed carry in congested places. Gradually remove guns from police on the beat and in patrol cars, and gradually reduce the size, number and armaments of SWAT teams, who can be deployed as needed.
  • End the theatrics of border crossings, and require registration in advance.
  • Require true identity for all Internet publishing (this also resolves border crossing issues) and institute micropayments for re-publication of one's own free expression, 
  • Assert privacy and ownership of all data at its origin, allowing government to request decryption of public security monitoring devices only with subpoena. The government cannot require the decryption of private data. Ever.
  • End not-for-profit and religious tax-deductability. This allows end run destruction of church/state separation, and allows for self-brand aggrandizement for political or other purposes beyond the reach of regulation. Most particularly, it allows for wealthy-elite clubs like the Ivy League and so forth to be enriched at ordinary people's expense. 
  • Stop subsidizing College study at the individual level, but instead subsidize institutions, perhaps according to the socioeconomic makeup of their student bodies. Even better, tie subsidies inversely to median SAT scores, combined with retention to graduation, and perhaps inversely on expenditures on marketing and real-estate. Encourage difference, and not competition for pre-proven success stories.
  • Always counter arms-race style vicious cycles of any and all sorts which encourage Pareto peaks of elite winners against the masses. 
  • Deconstruct definitions for genius and even intelligence, which legitimate a skewed reward system by the internalization of deficiencies and surpluses far in excess of reality's spread. If you read and write and speak intelligibly, you get to be counted as fully human.
  • Robots can't be human, as they are by definition slaves.
  • Deconstruct mythology surrounding meritocracy, mostly by requiring equality of legal expense burden for prosecution and defense.
  • Allow and require only public funding for all elections at all levels.
  • Re-instate distinctions between commercial banking and savings and loan. Revert savings and loan to a model based on the former Spanish caja, where the bank is owned by its depositors.
  • Tax non-productive financial gains at the highest rate (let's say never over 50%), prove productivity by per-worker compensation in relation to productivity.
  • Gradually remove tax-deductability of mortgage payments. 
  • Remove state boundaries for all health insurance.
  • Make health-care providers accountable for coverage at point of admission, instead of consumers who cannot understand the fine print. 
  • Require true and level pricing for all health-care (remove from insurance companies the ability to negotiate discounts).
  • Abolish law suits to recover healthcare payments except in cases of fraud.
  • Establish national healthcare insurance for catastrophic accident or illness at some percentage of income and wealth holdings to define catastrophe, and legislated agreement about the difference between required and elective.
  • Calculate the external (socially born) costs for energy and mineral extraction and for manufacturing effluent, strictly according to an econometric environmental model, which includes all related healthcare, cleanup, and barrier costs.
  • Repeal zoning laws.
  • Dissassemble interstate highways.
  • Require all new structures to demonstrate structural durability in excess of the cost to demolish and rebuild.
  • Nationally allow nomadic existence, without distinction regarding citizenship, healthcare, and create public sanctuary in all municipal jurisdictions.
  • Allow all citizens to vote, regardless of criminal record, and expunge criminal record upon release from prison or payment of penalty.
  • Permanently outlaw any payments for use of courts, prisons, emergency rescue, or other forms of economic discrimination against the poor.
  • Nationally require that 10% of architectural expenses be devoted to public art installations, accepted as such by citizen boards accountable to elected officials.
  • Revise patent and copyright law toward open-source software and hardware (true identity can also dis-assemble distribution agencies as profit skimming aggregators). 
  • Dis-allow the purchase or re-assignment of patent rights.
  • Devise Internet search as a public utility, and disallow keyword auctioning by taxing it directly at a rate to approach 100% over a relatively short period of time. 
  • Allow Internet commercial postings in designated virtual "real-estate", removing such signage from the landscape as has been the case in Vermont for a long time.
  • Disallow all *push* advertisement.
  • Disallow individualized tracking of search and internet perusal.
  • Publish the true carbon-content for all foods.
  • Tax oil according to the model for cigarettes, where true external costs, including future value, are incorporated into the price. 
  • Establish public ownership for all land below some certain depth and all air above some certain height.
  • Allow contracting of extraction and cleanup on a cost-plus basis.
  • Institute some combination of term-limits against higher pay and better protection for civil servants in politically responsive office. 
  • Require voting, and make it trivially simple by declaring election day a holiday.
  • Create population districts by some silly algorithm relating to alphabetic order or a random number generator (once people learn to game naming). This will end geographic gerrymandering, and indeed all sorts of geographic boundaries which are without administrative meaning.
  •  Level school funding at whatever administrative regional level (up to state level) incorporates the full range of socio-economic distinction, with additional social services funded according to socio-economic need.
Well, I suppose that's enough - it just goes crazy from here, but maybe some principle emerges. I mean if Trump can get elected, surely I can dream, right? The absurdity quotient is in my favor, I think.

Anyhow, the goal is subtly to reconstrue the economics of our lives so that the incentive structure no longer encourages us to screw our fellow man according to the internals of our corporate team, and where the real incentive is something other than greed at the top. I wouldn't mind a rule limiting executive compensation, but I'd rather that come through more organically. 

After all, I would like to contribute to the preservation of the good life, and I don't mind a bit of elite if it can guide us. Just stay away, please, from the crass of the various military industrial complexes and the inbreeding of power. 

Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year!