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Thursday, 31 July, 2003
Addendum to the Market of the Future

By the end of the day this whole thing appeared to have gone belly-up. It didn't seem to have struck any one from Paul Wolfowitz testifying to Senate Foreign Relations Committee to the Slashdot crew as being particularly well thought out. Some key points that shook out: this project, Future Map, was part of Adm. Poindexter's Office of [total] Information Awareness. Despite OIA's being defunded by congress, this project was slated to get $8 mil. before being outed by Senators Dorgan and Wyden. As some commentary on Slashdot pointed out the OIA may be opting to pretend to die only to reanimate in parts on the other side of the door. Someone else in the Slashdot thread linked to a New Yorker article from March on Information Markets. Salient points covered, are echoed in the comments on Darpa's page, plus they have that dartboard(?) graphic. Apparently these information or decision markets are being used increasing because they actually form a powerful predictive tool - the power of aggregating ignorance to sufficient numbers. Heck data-mining the weblogging world could have done that for them. Still these markets seem to out-perform a number of other tradition techniques. significantly that of expert opinion. The article - which refers to DARPA's future map also refers to numerous examples from current business use. It is perceived as being successful, whether that is the same as rigorous and controlled testing is another matter. Though the article reports the Iowa Electronics Market being more accurate than traditionally conducted opinion polls - one statistical method against another - 75% of the time.

All this is beside the point. One of the distinctions made in ethics classes (sometimes available as electives at many colleges and universities) is between decisions with and without a significant ethical component. A decision to lie cheat or steal has one. A decision to pour cheerios or wheaties into your cereal bowl probably does not. Despite what the Wheaties people have been telling you. A market on sorghum grain prices is a fine prospect for a futures market. So is an information market on which summer movie is going to be blockier and bustier than the rest. One that takes bets on men dying - being killed -- blown apart, is not. The idea of deliberate mortal violence, mass murder being commodisized for profit, by the Pentagon for their ancillary profit, to involve the US Government is hard to comprehend. I understand such markets already exist in the private sector: there is a future open currently on Admiral Poindexters continued employment by the DoD. Taking the unremovable issues of Schadenfreude, the real issues of, let me call it Heisenberg uncertainty - to mark the problems inherent in an open gaming system where the game keeper has announced the intention of using the information obtained to change the outcomes predicted. Add to these, the problems of keeping the market from being deliberately manipulated by interested parties when it is all governments can do to keep ordinary stock markets from imploding under the weight of their own insistent orientation to fraud. There is a fetid air of juvenal moral unseemliness to this Gee Whiz idea, which leaves the real question being: why couldn't they see this. Even Craig Kilborn is mocking this - and that should tell you something.
10:01:31 AM    comment [];

Tuesday, 29 July, 2003
the horror

I was absolutely convinced the first time I read this, that it had to be from the Onion or some other piece of e-satire. I didn't even think it was funny, I thought it was in poor taste, a defaming slap at the neocons they probably didn't deserve. No joke; this is our government, at its highest pitch and most sincere level. A Futures Market in death, destruction, assassination, insurrection , and war. brought to you by DARPA (Poindexter, the office of total awareness), and the Economist's Intelligence Unit. Ironically whose mouse pad I have next to me. Anyone can play. No word on whether the SEC will keep watch over this outfit. I see the possibility for official malfeasance: (an office - not unlike Dick Cheney's office - a man scans a report. "The duke of Grand Fenwick, 100 to 1 odds against untimely demise this week, well I think I can improve on that." Picks up phone...)

They must be very proud; this is a grand and ideologically pure nexus of market and security issues. It shows them their path. If I had any lingering doubts they are gone now. This current administration is anethical in its approach to power and governance, and morally bankrupt to an near absolute degree. All the same I will wait to see if this story can present another face, but for now - I don't think so.
10:53:32 AM    comment [];

Saturday, 26 July, 2003
Retrocession for DC

It was pointed out to me that one of my Brothers-in-Law had an Op-ed letter in last Sundays Outlook section of the Washington Post originating out of some pro bono work he does. It concerned a voting plan for getting the District of Columbia representation in Congress. Apparently there currently is a scheme about to allow a representative with full voting rights to come in with a new member from Utah. Such balanced ascension being the only way to swing this. Mr. Cacozza esq., father of my adored niece and nephew - Nicole and Lucas, offers a counter proposal which he believes to be less prejudicial to the ultimate goal of full statehood for the District. For those who have just rolled their eyes or allowed a stiff 'Hah'. to pass from them. I can only say that this set of rights and unity with the nation belong to the citizens of DC, regardless of how anyone feels about it. Al's counterproposal is that a congressional seat be created for Washington, but technically attached to the Maryland delegation. Similarly Washington residents would vote for Maryland's Senators. For the purposes of enfranchisement DC would be considered part of Maryland. For all other purposes DC would retain its status as a federal district. This plan is sound in that it mirrors and grounds what already occurs. First consideration in District matters nationally is already given to the regions representatives. This simply formalizes the portfolio, and allows the DCs residents to choose whose hand it is in. The Senatorial side of this equation is more problematic. It would stir up at least for a while the electoral strategies in Maryland. Politicians no less than businessmen and entrepreneurs desire to apportion and reduce risk and uncertainty. Maryland dynamics of farmers against Baltimore, mainland against eastern shore, and all against Washington's Suburbs would be thrown up in the air by this and it would take an elections cycle or two before anyone would know how things land. However involved, DC's population exceeds that of one state in the union and approaches that of several others; the legitimacy of the nations business must include its formal voice.
9:39:55 PM    comment [];

Thursday, 24 July, 2003
Big Rock Candy Mountain

Taking page from Dave Winer on how to contart up a weblog, use whatever you were doing a year or two ago (or three) on a particular date and write about it, I thought back to one of the things I was doing last July.

A some point around the fourth I found myself thinking of the Neil Young song Sugar Mountain. But then, there are always songs passing through my consciousness in serial fashion. Before this one left and went on its way, it left a lingering stray thought behind for a moment: didn't somebody write a book with a title like that? A few days later while reading an old paperback copy of Will Durant, I saw an advertisement in the back pages for the novel Big Rock Candy Mountain by Wallace Stegner. This must be that book, I thought, so I got hold of a copy and read it. The book in turn takes its name from the song by Harry McClintock. Only occasionally do I read a book that marks a divide and changes the way I feel about writing and what its all about. Generally it's not about (at least for me) whether some author has invented a new way of writing - often in association with a new truth they have discovered - which needs special expressing. There is a barrel quite bottomless, full of literary geek tricks for that crowd. For me it's about clarity, comprehensiveness, and stamina. A writer who is willing to take on full characterization of all his denotees not of just the principle and paint the others into the backdrop. A writer who understands what he or she is putting their characters through, who understands, and Stegner seemed particularly aware of this, that the land - the place is always a character in its own right in every story, one who lends identity to the others. Stegner wrote Big Rock Candy Mountain in the early 1940's (perhaps late 1930's) That and other early writings established him as a writer, for other writers. It wasn't until he left teaching in the 1970's and returned to novels that he established a larger public presence. I had never heard of him and took the book on as a forgotten mid-century novel. Its ambition: seeking to peer into aspects of the American psyche; Bo Mason and his restless destructive search for the good and easy life. I found it much harder to to understand why I had never heard of him after reading this book.
11:41:03 PM    comment [];

Tuesday, 22 July, 2003
Don't make me send in Rover

"What do you want?", the University asks of me.

"Information", I snarl in reply

The question betrays its sense of powerlessness, its inherant and ultimate weakness.While it mans the thin rail of bravado with finesse, the University knows it is ultimately doomed. Its way passing, an anachronism, an excersise in tired nostalgic chivilry.

"Whose side are you on?"

"That would be telling. "We want Information"

There is no escape, no way back. The University remains defiant and silent; nontheless. Secure for the moment. Confident in its own brooding incorporation, the still remaining ability to stand on its own feet and flex its own fingers. To make a fist and shake it at the world.

"Well, you won't get it."

Information the university certainly has. It bursts with, can hardly contain it. but it won't tell me. On principle it won't. There is nothing it feels I need to know. My motavations strike it as cryptic and confused - all together unsatisfactory. I cannot tell it the name of the factory I would sate.

"By hook, or by crook - I will."

The University smiles. A tight inward smile from the defendants box. A gallows smile. I ask for teaching, but cannot commit to the right, to the just, to get it. I have revealed completely that I do not know what I want, and in a very real sense cannot be told anything. I do not have means for telling what, if anything, I learn describes. For refracting it back on my acculmlated experience to make it knowldge. What experiance can I truly have - what opinions could I have formed from what has befallen me, or those around me. None. I am an empty vessel, and it is because of the holes.

The University cannot know this. It can only guess, and it does not care to. I have let it know one additional thing; I am number two. What does it care that I term it number six? I have let it know that I rank behind another, am not number one, and therefore am just another number. If I insist or become bothersome it will think of a suitable story to tell me. A rabbit I will chase down a path away.

The university turns, throws a curt nod over its shoulder, a sarcastic riposte of separation and departs
10:36:56 PM    comment [];

Sunday, 20 July, 2003
Garden Apartment (a poem)

Garden Apartment
the men in my neighborhood
come to their doors
at 4 a m Sunday
from Saturday appointments
a hard bang through heavy
glass lobby door
up or down one half flight
to stand (unsteadily)
before the entrance
a dull ring resounds
from linoleum floor - telling
of a single brass key fallen
a scrape (brushing fingers)
regains the allowance
fits key with muttered
spanish fading into occluding distance
steel sound echoes as,
hollow metal door
shuts on hallway
then ends

10:52:43 PM    comment [];

Saturday, 19 July, 2003
What about Seismics

I wish to share. Therefore I am providing a link to Ted Rall's cartoon of 10 July 03, which I read on thursday. It was the funniest thing I encountered all week. It was in fact one of the funniest thing I can recall since the Washington City paper stopped carrying the Angriest Dog in the World.

A tip of the hat to Mikaela's news blog which is where I instantly went to try to dig up a Ted Rall link. Google? Never heard of it.
8:56:44 PM    comment [];

Friday, 18 July, 2003

This was passed along to me by a friend, Rob B. 'Print n play' Hipster Bingo. I especially like the 'rules for playing' at the bottom.

I was trying to remember If there was a particular point when ironic affection for pop culture was born. I think Rob's position was, yes, there probably was a genesis moment. My feeling is: Abe Doubleday could just sit down and write out the rules for baseball, granted. Irony is a much more difficult and complex game - you have the double and treble gambits, and french spin to master. Ironic detachment is more likely to have had a more evolutionary incorporation. Could there have been a Simpsons without wait til your father gets home. Cry not for Punchatello 1 for he will go upside your head.

1. You search punch and Judy in Everything2, you find yourself looking at an Elliot Smith Song.
9:34:36 AM    comment [];

Mailer at high rpm

I note that the Norman Mailer link I have up from last week Is no longer his most recent observation on the subject. He has an featured column White Man Unburdened in a recent NYRB. I pass it along without further comment.
8:58:26 AM    comment [];

Saturday, 12 July, 2003
Weed: vitae victus victrix

It's raining again. It's rained a lot recently. Those among the tribe marked by fur or feather, ruffle themselves, and wait under the eaves. We with less of either than any wait as well. Those things green are inspired, and make their way forth in the manner they do so. Along the path which I ride to work for the days of the week in which I must, it has darkened and filled with forest green in several breaks since the first thin light yellow greens of the spring appeared. It is a path in the strictest sense - a bike path. Alongside it runs a creek generally quiet and behaved, but it these days of constant rain, noisey and rushed. A picture named creek_spr.jpg In a turn of effect when the water is fastest and highest it runs quietest of all. With a viscous rolling over the rocks and ledges of its bed down to the bottoming out in the broad sandy stretch below the Adelphi mill. It has a point, it reaches sometimes when it runs fast but not high, the water will break backwards on itself over these rocky obstructions in the manner of surf on a shore. Birds with the appearance of cardinals, but as if dusted with brown flour will flash with a fluid movement over it into the sunlight and back among the trees.

Out of all the rising and expanding nature of this wet season I found there were two plants that I remembered particularly. There was a tornado that came through this area about two years, it left a considerable destruction of trees behind after it was gone. A picture named tornado_tree.jpegThe year was heading into the fall when this happened so the full nature of its toll was not realized until the following spring. Then one could see in a wide path no green, and no life. By the end of that summer vines and seedlings crawled and came up into those spaces and man embarrassed by this low ranked initiative, took chainsaws to the broken and stripped pillars left behind and thought of things to build in their place. Here along a road I see on the days I take the bus there is a tree I have watched. Waiting for the day it would be left only a smooth cut stump with a small spillage of sawdust on the ground by it. But this spring, from its shorn off top, it put out a shoot and then another, looking for a matter of weeks like a telephone pole come to life. Gradually it settled into an appearance of a charmed palm tree. I do not think anyone will come to cut it down now.

By a sidewalk by where I work, a spot left dark by the larger shrubbery planted. In a corner to easily cut by foot traffic. A weed has come up. I do not know what kind of weed, My sister looking at a picture of it thinks it is a scottish thistle. I know it only by its insistent existence, forcing its way up through this dead trodden hard pan soil. A picture named weed_victrix.jpeg It looks like a tall angry dandelion, without even the bright yellow head, and cotton puff seedlings of a dandelion which endears it to children. This is long and lobed, irregular in all aspects and directions, its leaves, its stem, thick and leathery presenting spikes at every turn and surface. In a week it had put up three branching layers of such, arrayed against plant and animal alike, and towards the sun. All in attempt to fulfill its destiny to own that spot. Nature is its revealed aspects. what does this reveal? A certain aggression - even an attitude of aggression. This was still a corner of the human world. Physical plant/Groundskeeping came through and uprooted it. I admit to missing it, I admired it even as I feared it and what it represented: chaotic clawing cyclical nature. Everything we construct, we construct against this. That is our nature. At the same time everything our nature is or pretends to is dependent on what came before. The materiality we extract from nature and fashion into our objects and energy. It is all dependent on the high state of material order things on this earth exist at. No dust and gas of interstellar space here. Our chaos is a chaos of systems. Here we have the immeasurable example of life in a perfection of being in an ornery weed.
11:09:09 PM    comment [];

Well the mysterious Chilean sea blob turns out to be rotting dead whale. Its still worth reading the CNN article for the description of what happens to a whale when it dies in the open ocean.
._._. pb _._

welcoming our new sperm overlords. It's a Giant Sperm! Whale! The Chilean sea blob is revealed to be the carcass of a Moby Dick. [MetaFilter]
7:23:56 PM    comment [];

Thursday, 10 July, 2003
What we talk about when we talk about Democracy.

I had another paragraph left over from what I wrote about Paul Wolfowitz's reaction to the implict grandueur of Titus Livius' historical fishing expedition. I get an inkling of the mind set of these characters considering this: a romantic streak. One favoring historic spectacle, outside of the lives of actual people. One of the most puzzling aspects of the bush administrations post 11 September, 2001 policies was the apparent willingness with which they believed they were going to get transforming results out of a few paroxisms of destructive military action, and minimum of resources or true attention. Or at least their constant refrain was, that Iraq and Afghanistan would take a smaller investment in money and arms that anyone else suggested it might. But if your mode is grand gestures of the military and empire building variety then details are beside the point. Many of the Bush adminstrations top ranks have spent their careers in close association with the Defense Department and they view it as an institution capable of almost anything. I expect they believe that if the army ever took it upon themselves to get up on their tiptoes and dance; they could sell more tickets than the Bolshoi.

Chalk it up to the New Institutionalism.

The problem with figuring out what the neo-conservative believe is that their thinking isn't as cohesive as they themselves are (Drew, Neocons in power. NYRB). They seem to believe a lot of different things. Consider the recent review Robert Kagon gave Fareed Zarkia's book ( Why Democracy must remain America's goal abroad, the TNR 07Jul03 see also a review of the review in Slate). At first look it's hard to tell which of these two reflects a more proper Straussian outlook. Or which is more self aware.

They seem to believe most loudly, that things have fundamently changed since the attacks on New York and Washington. They believe we won the Cold War and exist in a de facto unilateral world. They believe that technological advances in weapons allow mass destruction to be visited on our interests without any state sovereign power obviously massing forces on a frontier. Further they believe that this destruction can be weilded by an assortment of non-state, sub-state, and trans-state interests. This set of affairs, the rapidity and invisibilty with which these rogue factions can bring the death of thousands perhaps hundreds of thousands, requires a preemptive national security strategey. More directly: we have aggragated to ourselves the right to wage war on any nation, anyone we believe or declare threatens us. The Roman's too, led their progression with a famously untenable, brittle sense of honor and security.

It is our Principles, Democracy, and Free Markets, the neo-conservatives mandate, that prevailed in the ideological battles of the last 150 years. We have a moral duty, they believe, to spread these values. Moreover, the dynamics of the single-superpower world require that we take a robust compelling leadership position. Free trade is a benefit to all - we will extend it, and our markets globally. Hostility toward the free trade market system must be corrected. Above all, it is envy of our wealth and freedom that is the cause of anarchistic, and outlaw state terrorism. The conclusions for action they draw from this don't just lead to a slippery slope of war mongering, but begins life half down this precipitous cliff face. The Neo-conservative contingent array themselvs on this slope varied by the strength of their convinctions and what all else they have brought to the game.

I suspect that neo-conservatism is at heart a brittle phenomenon. I fear that it may shatter in the heat of its revolutionary zeal and re-crystallize an intensely xenophobic and reactionary movement. Externally, in extranational affairs, its willingness to engage may reflect no more than an interest to co-opt and disrupt populist movements in the developing world. It may desire - or come to comfort with - the existence of chaos in regions deemed not suitable for market expansion. As well they may be preoccupied with the possible narrowness of the window of pre-eminence for the American nation. They may be seeking long term strategys designed to indefinitely prolong and extend it. Leveraging our solo superpower status at the expense of others. An undercurrent of pure unapologetic nationalism permeates this view, think of the first Athenian response to the complaints made against them in Sparta.

So it is with us. We have done nothing extraordinary, nothing contrary to human nature in accepting an empire when it was offered to us and then in refusing to give it up. Three very powerful motives prevent us from doing so - security, honor and self-interest. And we were not the first to act in this way (Thuc., I 76).
This last line of thinking comes to me partly from a short speech Norman Mailer gave in Los Angeles back in Febuary. Partly it centers on unresolved issues over education that go back to the heart of the cold war: the role of the university focus on maintaining American stewardship, ownership, of technology. It resonated with me and thoughts I already had at the time I read it. In December I had been assisting a transfer of low use material from the libraries at terrapin land, to permanent off site storage. At one turn this placed me in front of a collection of yellowing published documents assessing our capacity for technological development, production, training, and staffing - against that of our enemies. This from our engineering library. Hundreds of linear feet of such stretching 10 feet up and to either side. The grunt work of Industrial Policy. And across so many administrations I admired, how economically commanding of them.

Mailer suspects that the Neo-cons, have lost faith in American ability, perhaps because it does not reflect their idea of culture and right ordered society. Democracy correctly understood. The culture wars were lost, the American mind shut for the carnival. Two generations of conservatives mark the distance from the Great Society to today and wait to ravel and cut the twine and if not there - why stop there. Taft-Hartley left Wagner still on its feet; there is so much to be done. The other day at 15 years remove, I took up a professors recommendation to find and read an article he had written defending Allen Bloom (Butterworth. On misunderstanding Allen Bloom. Academic Questions 21 n.4 Fall89 56) I may come back to this another day. The point to make here, is that the problems conservatives have with modern society can run very deep. I had another teacher, once, who held that there was no more problematic state of the human mind than that of a disappointed romantic.
11:59:35 PM    comment [];

Wednesday, 9 July, 2003
Guardian UK to begin online charges

Fortunately it does not appear that this will apply to the Guardian unlimited site, from which their RSS feeds spring. I wish that everyone would just agree to pretend that the advertising model worked and allowed it to cover costs. Or at least news publications generally allowed for a loss leader web presence for some period. I read an article on this last week AJR - Searching for on-line Gold during a fire alarm that uprooted me from my workday, I wandered into the building next door and read a paper copy of The AJR.
._._. pb _._

Guardian to begin online charges. The newspaper plans to start charging for some of its online content from 30 July. [BBC News | Technology | UK Edition]
9:08:40 AM    comment [];

Monday, 7 July, 2003

NYT has an article on yet another post modern (or possibly just modern) disease. They call this one on-line compulsive disorder, though the people they talk to in the article prefer to call it psuedo-attention deficeit disorder. This allows them to pick up the connotation that inveterate multitaskers aren't particulary effective at the tasks they undertake. I resist the implication that this is tremendously new. I have an image compiled from old movies where an editor or business executive would be at a desk with five or so phones on it talking on two of them at once while someone held up a stock or teletype ticker for him to read. I have been a news junkie all my life I cannont walk by a newspaper (hey are you reading that Boston Globe? - actual history from the last time I was in a train station.) Apparently there are just too many gadgets that can be the Boston Globe for you all at, once and fit in your pocket. I don't have that problem, when I encounter someone who says "excuse me I'm getting beeped by my blueberry", I counter with "yeah well I'm getting a message from count chocula. ... Maybe the Straussians are right, maybe there is no mass Democracy, only mass culture.
._._. pb _._

The Lure of Data: Is It Addictive?. The ubiquity of technology in the lives of businesspeople and consumers has created a a brewing tension between productivity and freneticism. By Matt Richtel. [New York Times: Technology]
9:28:31 AM    comment [];

Friday, 4 July, 2003
Damn wobblies over at the ALA.

Libraries Planning a Meeting on Filters. Officials plan to meet with makers of Internet filtering software next month to voice concern over a law that requires libraries and schools to use Internet filters. By John Schwartz. [New York Times: Technology]
._._. pb _._
Working in a library I have been following links and reading up on this situation in hopes of trying to put it in some sort of perspective or frame. Something at the bottom of this article from hte Times caught my eye. The problematic aspect of using filtering software is you don't know what its filtering. The word lists, the algorithms are propritary to the software companies making these products. They don't share even when you buy. Some, well, most of these companies have a highly developed sense of what they consider objectionable. Testing and reverse engineering some of these, particular the first generaton ones, before they had an idea people were looking over their shoulders provided some real eye openers. Much of the contest here is over the matter of empowering this set of watchdogs. Folks over at the ALA, had a potenial solution to that one: "If we can't get what we want from the filtering companies, I say let's make our own," M[s]. Krug, director of the Office of Intellectual Freedom at the American Library Association, said.
4:11:21 PM    comment [];
That blob, it it it's - alive!

Its just to hard to pass a story with the words Giant Blob without pointing to it. Judging from the accompanying picture to this story it is a truly large blob. Well I'm hoping it turns out to be a giant killer jelly fish from outer inner space.
3:14:23 PM    comment [];
Boy about Town

Ah well they should have known better. BBC 2 Organized a debate on the future of the single, and they invited the occaisionally testy Paul Weller to take part. And he calls the head of EMI 'Scum'. It was unclear from the article whether they were discussing a particular physical format ie vinyl or rather the concept of a single song sold alone, in some digital format or however. For the latter I take Weller's point. One song by itself has a greater chance of living or dying on its merit alone - being a good song. Beyond that and you begin to move in to the realm of marketing. Which tends to be more packaged and artificial, and which can't be fixed by picking up your pen and guitar and writing a better song. Record Companies either perceive your b[r]and as co imminent with the public or not and you're out of their office. The pop manufacture syndrome is so strong in the music industry the marketers figure they're responsible for the worth of any act and discard anything they figure isn't just so out of the box.
._._. pb _._
Paul Weller hits out over singles chart. Media: Former Jam frontman brands record companies 'scum' as BBC poll shows pop single is in serious decline. [Guardian Unlimited]

Ah well they shou
2:59:02 PM    comment [];

Wednesday, 2 July, 2003
Mr. Kurtz, he dead.

With some misgivings I have a little more to share on the subject of Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz. The Hirsh Piece that appeared in Newsweek despite seeming superficially critical was clearly a puff piece. It had two quotes from the man's sister. I don't she would have given Newsweek the time of day if she hadn't thought it was all right. The reporter also let the strangely worded assertion that Wolfowitz is not actually a neo conservative go with out much comment. A master piece of vagueness, it's impossible to tell if it is a claim Wolfowitz makeson himself, others make of him, or the reporters own observation. It's beside the point. Perhaps Wolfowitz is the most thoughtful of the lot, and he sees the handwriting on the wall or Karl Rove sees it for him.

There was one passage in particular that caught my attention, a college friend relating Wolfowitz encountering Livy:

Later, at the University of Chicago grad school, a haven for right-wing thinkers, Wolfowitz was smitten with the grandeur of great empires, says Charles Fairbanks, a fellow Chicago grad and friend. Fairbanks remembers a long drive back from Chicago to New York with Wolfowitz. "He had just been reading Livy[base ']s history of Rome. He was obviously somehow in love with political greatness, I think in the same way as the young Lincoln was. He talked for hours at a time about the ancient Romans, about what kind of men they were and what they achieved."

I thought about my own reaction to reading Livy. Alone among the Roman historians, Livy tried to tell the entire history of Rome. It was deliberately cast in epic proportions, synthisized out of annals and collected traditions. Thucydides, whom i had read previously, kept a narrower focus for his similar ambition to reveal the hellenic heart. The story of Rome he was telling was about his present moment - the dawn of the new era. What laws and rulers they kept and which they discarded would tell them how they came to that moment, who they were as a people. He was aware that as he moved to the earliest periods he was relating fables more than fact. Livy shows the process by which real figures and situations are transformed slowly into archetypes. This will occur through the period of written annals as well as the indistinct periods prior. I thought of the reality that underlay Livy's history. The Republic as empire was in trouble almost from from the start. It's vast expansion from the Punic and greek wars, incorporation of Italy through the Social wars left it a divided polity with an unbalanced economic foundation. The unfulfilled Gracchi reforms were a real turning point for Romans. Following that the weight of conquest, honors, and exploitation as its own cause and reward, the gradual shift of campaign armies, into standing and private armies, led Rome inextricably to its end in bloody civil wars and fears of exparaxis . Only out of this was the imperium born.
9:12:45 AM    comment [];

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