Atomized Mk ii

Still dedicated to the smallest particles of meaning on the web

Cactii FS 36270

Moon is a common scene around my town, here where everyone is painted brown. And if we feel thats not the way. Let's go and paint everybody gray. Yeah grey, yeah.
Arthur Lee / Love , "Maybe the People or between Clark and Hilldale."

In the long past year the topic of race relations in the United States came to mind, couple of times. In a current events driven way, as we used to say in my school days. I found myself thinking did race relations really improve in the US, or is this white nationalist reaction, seen in the streets, in the voting booth, in high office, denying the plain meaning that "Black Lives Matters", the real mood of this society at present. I also noted that is the fortieth year since I spent a winter at Recruit Training Command, Naval Training Center Great Lakes Illinois. One of my points of thought came from that time in boot camp.

Also at some point in the fall I read something on twitter recalling the riot -- race riot really -- on the USS Kitty Hawk in 1972. My years in a very different Navy started just six years later.

Over Winter break I took home from the library (where I work as a copy cataloger) a book Troubled water : race, mutiny, and bravery on the USS Kitty Hawk by Gregory Freeman on the Kitty Hawk riot of November 1972. 1972 was a very troubled time for the US military. The main phase of the Vietnam war was nearly eight years in, lost and given up on by our political leaders. Yet soldiers and sailors were still fighting and dying. Fleet Aircraft Carriers like the Kitty Hawk integral to the Navy's warfighting were being kept on on overseas deployment -- away from home port and families -- for nine months or more. Deliberate sabotage to the engine of the USS Ranger caused just such an extension to the Kitty Hawk's Westpac. Soon after, crew stress began to to take over. At that time many Navy vessels even large important ones were almost entirely segregated in sailors living quarters and assigned duties. This latter was especially critical as many black sailors came into the Navy with too low a score on the vocational test to obtain a rating (job category) and so were simply assigned to deck duty and mess deck serving duty. In work rest and recreation these worlds, white and black, were apart. In mid October in a port call in Subic Bay Naval base in the Philippines and later in Olongapo the adjoining city. Incidents occurred over two nights. Black sailors took to the stage at the EM club to make pronouncements of Black power and others later repeated this at other bars in town (at the time generally segregated). The Kitty Hawk then returned to sea and Yankee Station with a divided crew stewing on grievances. The African-American portion of the Kitty Hawks crew was 295 out of around 5000 only around six percent (Freeman, xiv) There were minor incidents and fights involving Black sailors transiting to the mess deck and in the mess line.

On the Night of 12 October, some assorted group or groups of black sailors decided they had had enough of second class treatment and decided to to take the fight to those they perceived as disrespecting them. Hours of marauding sailors, random beatings and confrontations with the Marine detachment in the hanger bay and by the sick bay where the injured where taken followed. The CO Captain Marland Townsend and XO Commander Benjamin Cloud inexplicably left their normal stations on the bridge and went down below deck to personally investigate and attempt intervention. This only led to them losing contact with each other and with the ships command structure, adding to the confusion of an already disastrous evening. Cdr. Cloud was African -American and part Native American and by all accounts gave a barn burner speech before the rioting sailors that likely kept the situation from getting much worse. Unfortunately getting separated from from his commanding officer and in the process getting off message with him caused Capt. Townsend to lose confidence with him during these critical hours which he only gained back in the considerable fulness of time. Both men are long retired but still alive.

One thing that stuck me in all this was the strange familiarity of the background particulars of the incident. The same ships Kitty Hawk and Ranger. the same waters, the South China Sea. Same ports and towns Subic and Olongapo. Even the Squadron I was later attached to, RVAH-7, was part of the air-wing deployed on the Kitty Hawk for that cruise. For my WestPac in 1979 we were on the USS Ranger. The cold war all volunteer period; though, was one where the military definitely faded from the public eye probably more similar to mid to late 1950's than to any point in the mid 1960's or early 1970's

I also felt reading the accounts of Cdr. Cloud echoes of President Obama as a black man trying to address race relation. Perhaps it's hard not to hear now.

The upshot of this for the principles is that Captain Townsend did not become an Admiral, and CDR Cloud never achieved the Navy's ambitions for him of becoming the first black Captain of a major American warship. Almost immediately Navy public relations damage control had the men identified as guiding the riot transferred off the ship to preclude court maritals and further press coverage. The Westpac ended and the Kitty Hawk returned to its home port San Diego.

Within a few weeks Congress decided this and other incidents were worth hearings. These were the Hearings on Navy discipline 92nd congress held between 20November-18December 1972 Hearings before the Special Subcommittee on Disciplinary Problems in the U.S. Navy of the Committee on Armed Services, House of Representatives, Ninety-second Congress, second session ... . Congress and the Navy were more concerned with a sit-down strike by another Aircraft Carrier the USS Constellation in the same period which delayed a deployment and was seen as a more direct challenge to military authority.

Congress attitudes concerning the Kitty Hawk revolved around general laxness of discipline tolerated by Commander Cloud and Captain Townsend. Noting only in passing the facts of black sailors stuck in unrated jobs and self segregated living quarters.

Here they largely identified and blamed something called Project 100,000 a Johnson/McNamara endeavor which was actually part of the War on Poverty Project 100,000. It aimed to increase the number of minority members in the Military by 100,000 a year by relaxing standards in recruiting such as waiving misdemeanors, lack of high school diploma and lowered scores on the Armed forces qualifications test (AFQT). The Navy in particular though this burdened them with too many untrainable, unprofitable and therefore frustrated sailors. I'll add more on that further on. The draft was phased out in this same this time period. The last call-up was in December 1972 . Defense Secretary Laird cancelled a call-up for those born in 1953 early the next year. Going forward it was an all-volunteer Navy


I want to mention my own experience in boot camp particularly here. RTC/NTC Great Lakes in the dead of winter of 1977/78. Specifically an incident I recall as ASMO DAY IN THE LAUNDRY ROOM. Though in fact the day revolved around a meeting table on the opposite side of the bunk bay from the laundry room. A room heated up to 90 degrees where clothes and coats were hung to dry. We were under orders to stay out of the Laundry room. It was too warm and pleasant and was forbidden. ASMO is an acronym I never heard again after book camp it stands for Assignment Memorandum. It is an administrative non-judical, non-formal way of setting an individual or company back in training. My phrase is a play on the title of Joyce's short story "Ivy day in the committee rooms."

After only a week or so of training in book camp our Company Commanders issued a stop work training order due to pattern of non cooperation between the white and black recruits in our company. Threatening to have the entire company set back (or ASMO'd), they requested (ordered) us to organize a committee to hammer out the emerging differences. Briefly, these were: first, no leadership roles for the black recruits. The existing leadership roles were recruit company commander and assistant recruit company commander. Both roles went to white recruits (even though our company that winter was was nearly split even) individuals who had some military school back ground. Second, name calling. All the usual words. Finally, Shaving Chits. This a request by one older recruit (mid 20's was old then) for an indulgence not to have to shave close) I was on this committee, which took up an entire day.

The resolutions at the end of that day were oddly fairly straightforward: (1) we created a position of Cadence Caller an individual who was responsible for setting the marching rhythm and the impromptu rhyming and storytelling-time-calling song that is part of that. There is a great deal of random marching around to boot camp, marching on the Grinders was competitive between the companies. This became a successful and popular position. So much so that there were white guys who wanted a turn at it. This was set to the discretion of the Cadence Caller. (2) The name calling solution proceeded with a few simple rules - learn a persons name then call him an asshole or a fuck-up whatever as is your want, but don't call him whi-- or ni--. The toughest nut to crack there was about one of the people I was friendly with, one of the five of us who had flown in from Boston. He was very dark complexioned and called spook by the other blacks. I knew he was hurt by this, though he tried not to show it at first. All the knuckle-head white crackers took the position that if the blacks could name call amongst themselves why should they give it up. That was a long difficult and unpleasant portion of the day, with an odd amount of feelings and introspection by all sides by the end. The outcome was a reiteration of the no name-calling rule. No, just no, no. (3) The shaving chit situation was resolved by walking the white guys on the committee through the reality that some black men do not like to shave close because they get ingrown hairs and very uncomfortable facial bumps and acne. Once that was explained the issue was settled no further objection. What stuck with me all these years was not the fairly obvious and easy resolutions but the process, and the Navy's commitment to immediately dealing with racial tension.

Soon after this I was made company clerk replacing the previous one, largely due to my ability to pass all the classroom tests of recruit training without setting foot in any of the classes or training. I spent most of the rest of boot camp, collecting intra-base mail, typing up reports, and chasing down ASMO laundry. I never marched another step.

Out of boot camp into the fleet through I still remained pretty naive about racial tensions. My first Duty unit was at Naval Air Station Key West. I was assigned as an aerial photo-interpreter to a reconnaissance squadron that would deploy with fleet air-wings. Much of the squadron, RVAH-7, was composed of southerners and had a higher percentage of African-Americans than the national average and certainly more than the part of Massachusetts I came from. But with only three planes we were a small and reasonably tight knit community. I recall a lunch in the mess hall with two black Senior Chiefs who sat down with me -- a 5'2" 100 pound seamen apprentice -- and started a half hour conversation with me in deep Alabama home accents. I could follow none of it, which they knew, and I was aware they were trying to get me rattled. It started off a little mean, but going along with the game as best I could it ended fine.

On the ship later going through the mess lines we were advised with no additional commentary to keep our eyes on our own trays and to take what we were given with no back talk to the servers. A few years later working the dining halls at the University of Maryland I was amazed at how much back talk you would get when that rule didn't exist. It never occurred to me what a powder keg a mess line might be. On one occasion some black sailors came into the line with one of them having an enormous boom box perched on his shoulder at full volume (this was a thing in those days). I had the sense that they were trying hard to aggravate people. It didn't work, as it turned out that there was nobody there who did not like the song "Flash Light"

One thing that came back to me as I read the "Troubled Waters" book was Dap greetings elaborate black power black solidarity handshakes Giving dap. It still existed, but as a lower key event. that didn't seem to spark much tension. Its still seen today, apparently in football, and basketball pre-games, though often un-televised. In those years I also became acquainted with the concept of Afro-packing which involved cutting off the foot of a pair of nylons and pulling over your hair at night for a nice squared-away look the next morning and the picking it back out for liberty hours after work.

Squadron life in Key West and on the ship gave me one impression of Navy but perhaps not every part of it beyond. My next duty station, after Heavy 7 decommissioned, was in the Pentagon. The squadron had been southern unit full of people of all colors. The Pentagon was not such a place. It was uncannily white and more than a little over-wound. Knowing only those two environments left me with an incomplete idea of what the whole Navy was like at the time. Going up to NAS Jacksonville for Aircraft Team firefighting school seemed a very different place than NAS Key West.

One of the people out of the 1979 Ranger CVIC organized a reunion a few years ago. At the time he was an ISSN like me, but had retired as a Chief Petty Officer and had recently organized a reunion for another ships CVIC. We talked over the phone briefly and through email about the event and who else to contact. This exercise led to an odd non-acknowledgement we even had black shipmates. We had three (Tobler Goings Granger), he professed not to remember any of them or DM2 Castro

[Castro's drawing of OZ leadership for FleetEx knee-book]
Line drawing of Chief Tennyson, others by DM2 Castro
. He suggested my memory was faulty. I still got that WestPac's cruise book though.


After finishing the book Troubled Waters I wanted to learn more. In the aftermath of the incidents of 1972 and congressional hearings the some in the Navy determined they were taking on too many sailors who, they felt, were unqualified, untrainable and therefore un-advanceable. The question I had were how much of that was true, and what if anything changed. between 1972 and 1978-79 when I entered the Navy. Did the Navy as we were told then provide a model for integration, acceptance and genuine career advancement in the late 70's/80's through to today? There was another book on the shelf in McKeldin Library I wanted to read Black sailor, white Navy : racial unrest in the fleet during the Vietnam War era written a few year earlier by John Sherwood (also available as an ebook through Project Muse) an historian with the Navy Historical Center that not only covered the Kitty Hawk riot, but takes a deeper and more comprehensive look at the Navy in the civil rights era. Giving more background and covering the many other incidents. Such as the Constellation's (another aircraft carrier) sit down strike which concerned the Navy far more at the time. The Kitty Hawk incident did not even interrupt operations -- planes were flying the next morning. Additionally Sherwood's book concludes a few closing chapters on the Navy's efforts to deal with this situation and move forward. Culminating by the end of the decade (right at the time I came into the Navy) with the Navy's pitch that it nominally free of systemic bias and home to good jobs even careers for everyone.

There were plenty of black noncoms in various ratings that provided solid wages for raising a family if one chose to. And the possibility for significant advancement. An aside here; I recall last year Slate Political editor, Jamelle Bouies, mentioning that both his parents were career Navy, Chief Petty Officer and Warrant Officer, if memory holds. I take this a partial confirmation that the Navy's claims may be true

Under the direction of Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Admiral Zumwalt a number of bias elimination programs were initiated. Key among these was a racial awareness seminar series to be taught by dedicated billets called UPWARDS (an acronym). Within a year or so these phase one programs aimed at changing attitudes and raising awareness through challenge talk encounters were deemed ineffective and by the mid 1970's were being gradually eliminated.

Replacing them were efforts to eliminate cultural bias in the initial vocational test taken during the recruiting phase. The ASVAB Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test became standard in 1976 replacing the AFQT. The aim here was not to have low scores on this test preclude entry into rate training schools (A schools) and having large numbers of recruits enter the fleet as non-rated, often not even strikers, those apprenticed to a rating. Rate training technical schools are anywhere between a month to half a year or more depending on the rating. Technically all sailors are strikers until they make e-4.

When Admiral Holloway became CNO in 1974 Phase two of the bias elimination programs were under way. UPWARD billet holders were retrained as Equal Opportunity Program Specialists (EOPS) whose task was to collect and analyze Equal Opportunity Quality Indicators within their units. These include promotion rates, retention rates, and outcomes of nonjudicial punishments (Captain's Mast and such). In addition during this period the Navy was also running regular Cultural Expression workshops. Moving into the second half of the 1970'a Holloway initiated the Navy Affirmative Action Plan. The overriding goal of this was to move minority Sailors -- and officers up into leadership positions within the Navy. To accomplish this the Navy moved to innovative recruitment, and objective goals. the former basic test battery and ASVAB scores were relaxed to promote entry into technical ratings. Strikers those e in particular entering the fleet without a rating (a job speciality) or being routed through an A school, entering the fleet in-fleet training and commanders waiver to send to A schools. In addition the Navy strengthened this initiative with job-oriented basic skills program and remedial education programs. Holloway by 1978 rolled all these disparate programs into the Navy Affirmative Action Plan and gave it wide visibility throughout the fleet.

All information related from this section, of course, comes from my reading of Sherwood. I had hoped to find or evidence of minority sailors moving up the noncom ranks --Chief Petty officers, and into technical ratings over the years by poking and prodding the internet with google or duck duck go. I did find a site DoD Personnel, Workforce Reports & Publications - DMDC which has some Navy numbers across time, but without minority breakdown as far as I can tell. I suspect this organization does has such data, but possibly only within mostly government internal reports and publications.

Sherwood's book does have some data from the period he covers. He notes: "By 1974, only 36 percent of black sailors entering the Navy attended “A” school, compared with 60 percent of whites." and that "Overall, minorities represented 7.4 percent of the Navy in June 1974, far short of the goal of 11.9 percent (the same as the percentage of blacks in the American population)" (p.242). In the next chapter: "By 1976, blacks represented nearly 8 percent of the enlisted Navy but only 1.6 percent of the officer corps" (p.252). The Navy set specific goals for recruitment and retention in those years and sought to meet them: "In the area of enlisted recruitment, the Navy came close to achieving proportional representation in 1977—nearly 11 percent of new recruits were black, and African Americans represented 8.5 percent of the total enlisted force" (p.256). In the Appendix (p.271-274) there is a good snapshot of black presence on Navy Technical ratings in 1970. My rating, Photographic Intelligenceman (PT) [changed to Intelligence Specialist (IS) around the time I joined] was 0.35%. That is one third of one percent.

I also want say a few words based on a chapter in the book Scraping the Barrel : the Military Use of Substandard Manpower, 1860-1960. A series of case studies in military subpar manpower -- Sticht Thomas. "Project 100,000 in the Vietnam War and Afterward" 254-269. Also available from Project Muse: Scraping the Barrel The Military Use of Sub-Standard Manpower - ch.11. The general historical view of Project 100k is very critical. Counter-criticism of this conventional view are two fold. It was foremost a political program -- part of the war on poverty and therefore ought to be evaluated in part on that ground. Studies done to examine its efficacy used in congressional hearing used approximations, being that no formal tracked cohort was part of the program. The author of this chapter looked at other studies believed to be a better fit for a longitudinal study and found more favorable results both in military service and later in civilian life. (Sticht, p.264 with original reference)

The data presented above, concerning the employment and income status of Project 100,000 personnel after they left the military, confirms that the War on Poverty goal was reached for the large majority of Project 100,000 veterans. Before their service, 46 percent were unemployed, and, on average, the Project 100,000 personnel were earning below- poverty wages for an individual. Years after their service, more than 80 percent were employed, and they were earning well above the poverty level for a family of four...These data challenge the validity of those who claimed that military service did not provide a “leg up” for the veterans over lower aptitude nonveterans.53 (Laurence et al., Effects of Military) Experience, 92.

What lessons given the apparent success within Navy should we take from this What in particular did the Navy do to achieve its goals? After the experiments with with talking/discussion groups the Navy moved to proactive measures to train people who were falling short of broadly set standards and not comprehensive campaigns to raise consciousnesses and change racial attitudes. Primarily these were (1) reach for results to make the organization look like (the best version of) the society it came from and serves. (2) training programs, education and the money it takes to run them. The Navy abandoned or rather de-emphasized approaches based on negating or over-turning accumulated attitudes and prejudices. Replacing these with a policy of creating leaders and people in-place trained and accomplishing the work. A self evident counterfactual to prejudice. It was a policy based on the belief that in a greater good, a greater justice. Done stringently, in good faith, and with backing up the chain of command over time -- this works.

Several decades arguing the merits of affirmative action within the larger culture has only revealed the following. A society un-attended of genuine equal opportunity has never really existed. The level playing field has not been achieved. This is not a color blind nation and the law ought not pretend that it is. The problem is far deeper more entrenched more tragically part of the warp and weft of the nation than previously imagined, or admitted. That any acknowledgment or redress of racial disparity itself constitutes bias which no vision of a larger societal goal can ever contend with is not a sustainable view. Viewed from the current moment it was never more than a bad faith argument then or now. Even in 1979 when I was directly observing it and looking over the years to today I feel the Navy got something right that the nation as a whole did not.

Sunday, 04 March 2018 21:00 EDT #

Cactii Christmas 2017 - the Big Crack

Time again for my one annual tradition; making a postage-stamp sized pixel drawing of Santa Claus's Christmas eve. In this years installment Santa takes the sleigh up high to get a better view, a birds eye view of the world and its sufferance. Here he sees that the world, the US at least, has a giant crack right down the middle. Like an egg.

Santa encounters the Big Crack
Santa sees the big crack

There are other things going on, of course, there are hurricanes lurking about in the mid Atlantic (which has seized a Christmas tree from somewhere and is whirling it around and one just off wronged Puerto Rico -- waiting for an inopportune moment to pounce again. Elsewhere an F-18 is busy chasing a mysterious UFO away from the SoCal Op area. Still the crack, a massive rending of the world, is likely the most notable matter.

The crack can only visible from a certain altitude - a certain perspective. Up close it cannot be seen, it mostly disappears. A miasma hides it from those near it. Although the rift can be sensed in all its heat and latent violence. It is a wide and terrible tear with roiling lava flowing within. Possibly its related to the super volcano supposedly located somewhere in the west. This much in unclear.

From this calamity, the future recedes. This refers to From Nils Gilman's essay on the concept of the Official Future The Official Future Is Dead! Long Live the Official Future! - The American Interest. The Official Future is the near future that can be imagined as an extension of the present adjusting from experience of the near past. It is the world that people plan to live it and have organized their present for. It is critical psychologically that it can be imagined. But occasionally the world and our leaders fail to establish the narrative of what we are moving towards. The "range of potential "outcomes"" and possibilities available to us. Then the common view vanishes. It cannot be discerned what things of value can be worked for or attained; for oneself or ones family. Competition and resentment of fellow citizens (increasingly denying them even that) fill the void.
[A note: I have not read this piece beyond deck and lead. The American Interest comports itself behind a pay wall and then embargoes its articles for nine months - even from Ebsco host!]

Against this backdrop there is only civil de-evolvement, a thinning cohesiveness of the social fabric.

Now it happens that Santa is a big fan of the TV show This Old House and already has some ideas involving clamps and glues that he can come back with after boxing day to repair things. You see that he has left one wood clamp already as an emergency measure. Until he can get hold of Norm Abram and Tom Silva, or perhaps Richard Trethewey. At the same time Santa is aware it *may* take a little more.

I personally am not a Kumbaya guy by nature. Not given to placing too much weight on the hopey changey aspect of things. We can get along, but people even within a single country, society and culture will never see exactly eye to eye. Factions and difference will come into being where none truly exist. It is how we process our world and affairs.

I have a nominal belief in government. I emphasize a belief in one composed of the people it governs. It is simply a system of organized agreement. I see libertarians, anarchists,your occasional anarcho-syndicalist, and others all disparage government: utterly. It being so obvious to them that some automatic magic will replace it. I see authoritarians, and plutocrats happily establishing a rudimentary government well below their level of command. More than content to sow distrust among the people.

Governance and Laws culled and extracted from reasoned and disinterested theory and from experience formed within a balanced society a second nature of behavior which over time (much time) as we live within it will merge with our first, our "human nature", and form a third inclusive nature, Suitable to reach to a further millennium.

Saturday, 23 December 2017 11:30 EST #

Cactii Arkham House

After the election like many other people I thought things will yet be alright: this is a vibrant and healthy democracy we are a nation not of low men but of laws and the institutions they are embedded in. Following that; though, I decided I ought to check on this. Too quickly I learned that in general norms and institutions are a thin shield against authoritarian intent. In an hierarchical society, hierarchy is everything. If not immediately then soon. I set this piece of writing aside to spend some time reading, and listening. A year later I'm completing this, really just that I can go on and think about other things. The post title Arkham house was originally just a working title, I have no heart to change it now.Some of the links will be a little old, but then some of the first articles after the election were some of the best. I had a hard writing this because nothing in my experience prepared me for this level of historic difference seen in politics today. There are undercurrents of real change in the water and I did not understand them.

There is a line of thought that the current administration is only aspirationaly authoritarian and so not a present danger, even not a danger at all. Though there areconstant transgressions; deliberate but incompetent. The executive branch and their congressional allies imagine they are akin to silicon valley disruptors: "Go fast and break things." Daily there is pushing, testing - seemingly random, but pushing resources & power towards a common point. It may be only a matter of time and finding the right levers for them to achieve radical success.

The end vision of this modern republican party, here I make a slight differentiation between the operating class and the rank-and-file, is what is called Kleptocracy. A ruling regime that conducts governance essentially in support of only themselves. A soaking up of the wealth of a nation in a manner not ordinarily distinguishable from raw theft. But under the protection of laws and processes they enact. It is the governance of corrupt nations, self-dealing and rent-seeking. It is described well in such dis-utopiac novels as William Gibson's "the Peripheral", where I first encountered the term. The term has existed for years often used by libertarians to describe all government. Gibson's near-future novels emphasize the special disdain for the common individual that is inherent in such systems.

What made this post go off the rails from the the start was looking for information on norms and institutions. I found a suitable foundational definition in a old sociology text book I had lying around, which I reproduce here:

"Over time members of each society create patterns of thought and action that provide a appropriate solution for these recurrent challenges. These patterns of behavior are what sociologists calls institutions. An institution is a stable cluster values norms status roles and groups that developed around a basic social need. [see fig 4.4] Family : Education : Religion : Science : Political system : Economic system : medical system : Legal system : Military : Sport.] One important characteristic of institutions is that they are conservative (i.e. reinforced by custom and tradition to the point where they accepted almost without question). A second characteristic is that they are closely linked within the social structure. A third characteristic is that when they do change they rarely do so in isolation." Robertson, Ian. Sociology. 2ND Ed. New York, N.Y.: Worth Publishers, 1981.

The Wikipedia entry on norms says much the same thing in its initial paragraphs

"Institutions are "stable, valued, recurring patterns of behavior".[1:Huntington 1965, p. 394.] As structures or mechanisms of social order, they govern the behavior of a set of individuals within a given community. Institutions are identified with a social purpose, transcending individuals and intentions by mediating the rules that govern living behavior.[2:"Social Institutions". Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved 30 January 2015.]". Institution - Wikipedia

To Robertson's list Wikipedia adds as institutions: "Research Community, Police Forces, Mass Media, Industry-business-corporations, Civil Society (NGOs), also Art & Culture, Language." In both cases these lists are of institution functional types.

In addition to this varieties of institutions they can also be considered by their relation to norms {definition]. and by their nature as Formal: grounded in law and in particular agencies and organizations of government. Somewhat more dependent and fragile for that. Or informal grounded in custom (no less determinant on behavior for that), uncontrolled in diffuse organizations, groups, and practices.

After the election people weighed in with various particular advices across the media. Among the best were those with practical experience in in contending with and understanding authoritarian governance such as Masha Gessen -- Autocracy: Rules for Survival | by Masha Gessen | NYR Daily | The New York Review of Books: Her rules are (deceptively) simple 1. Believe the autocrat 2. Don't be fooled by "normality" signs 3. Institutions won't save you 4. Be outraged 5. Don't compromise 6. Remember the future. {something needs to be said here or at end of this section about no. 3}. I'll add Ms Gessen, who grew up in Russia gave a talk where I work, the University of Maryland's McKeldin Library, a few years ago (on 20 April 2015).

Zeynep Tufekci, professor of sociology at UNC, was quick off the marks as well tweeting @zeynep 4h4 hours ago) Hold on to institutions with an ethos of truth in spite of their failings which we must work to fix or watch nihilism consume them, and us.. Originally from Turkey She has also has first hand experience with the ways and means of authoritarian figures and governments. She was teaching at UMBC in the University of Maryland system when I first began reading her old web log Technosociology .

Jamelle Bouie, Slate's political editor, started a Newsletter for more informal and positional writing in mid November in addition to his lively twitter feed. He suggested several organizations embodying institutional practice with were worthy of support in these days. He also pointed to Jesse Jackson campaign presidential as example. Post identity (politics) is not the problem as much as understanding there are shared concerns across identities "the experience of class is inextricably bound up with identity." Explicitly he is saying Jackson's message is more adept and nuanced that Sanders'. At lot more has been written by many people on this since.

Ezra Klein had a video on institutional temperance up on Vox immediately after the election. quaintly optimistic now. It was embedded in various VOX pages at the time, and can be found on their You Tube Channel now It’s now on America’s institutions – and Republicans – to check Donald Trump

The Washington Post had a article on Hannah Arendt: How Hannah Arendt’s classic work on totalitarianism illuminates today’s America - The Washington Post: two quotes from that will illustrate its points:

The lesson: Freedom is fragile, and when demagogues speak, and others start following them, it is wise to pay attention. A subtheme of “Origins” is that by the 1930s, there was throughout Europe a generalized crisis of legitimacy. Large numbers of people felt dispossessed, disenfranchised, disconnected from dominant social institutions.

The Lawfare weblog had a post Will the Bureaucracy Save Us from the President? - Lawfare on the potentially grounding nature of the bureaucracy and another, focused on serving in a Government's bureaucracy under Authoritarianism How to Serve in a Trump Administration - Lawfare. The high viscosity of the Federal Bureaucracy alone will make it hard to use as a tool of opportunistic aggrandizment. Moreover the Executive Branch bureaucracy (i.e. national security apparatus) can be a partner, a first line defense, but not sole constraint on a executive without respect for norms of office. Largely by the gravity of the work and the scrupulous nature of those who make careers in it. They can write legal analysis and justifications, and include redlines (which the National Security Bureaucracy is traditional loathe to do), have the author/ lawyers sign them have supervisors sign off, and publish them. Push informal norms towards the formal.

Perhaps the critical factor to confront in the coming years is the new populism or rather the racial essentialism of the 2016 election and this administration. Not every Trump voter may have been a racist, but racism was not a deal breaker for any of them. The White Working Class as it's conjectured defected to GOP years ago The 3 different things we talk about when we talk about “Trump voters” - Vox:. Obama's inroads into educated middle class whites made Democrats think with centrist status-quo candidates they could peel off large segment of white voters against a non-traditional Republican candidate. It was not the case. Contending with a resurgent white supremacy that will tell you quite plainly it has no interest in sharing power, will be topic number one for some time to come.

Another populism of sorts is seen in the return of the age of empires and spheres of influence Donald Trump Is Declaring Bankruptcy on the Post-War World Order | Foreign Policy:. Putinism and revanchist novo Russia. A variant of the Beijing consensus. The behavior of relentless controlling nations -- a quasi-romantic fixation on powerful "big" men can set a low tone for all nations. There is also within the US the curious populism of billionaires. An entire curious cabinet of them. It is a administration extracted directly from the plutocracy. As well with any position even vaguely associated with national security handed over to Generals, retired or active duty regardless. The whole affair is an Oligarch's fantasy. At the time watching it being assembled I was reminded of the Anatoly Dneprov short story Crabs take over the Island if anyone remembers that.

The pushback against the dissolution of norms as it developed was at end around constructions of reality. The principle question is there an objective truth (in the political realm) beyond affinity tribalism & emotion? Everything became a matter of facts versus feeling. The hierarchical organization offered to a head of state combined with unrestrained authoritarianism can (easily) allow a given subjective view to be the reality observed within a dependent society. It can be as simple (Zeynep Tufecki) as offering a simple narrative in place of a complicated muddled, or simply unrewarding one.

This push back such as it exists will not include much of the media. Most if not all institutions of the media (I'll say Journalism plus social media platforms) will accommodate themselves fast enough. Many in the elite media will shown themselves to actively favor plutocracy authoritarianism. A significant portion of the plan from the administration and their partners on the right revolves around a profound rolling back of voting rights for minorities and successfully casting groups like Black Lives Matter as outsiders and enemies of the people.

There are the massive conflicts of interest, the warping of policy by active business dealings and insistence on exemption of the examination of it. The waving off of strictures of the Emoluments clause and the coming crisis that this represents. The moral bankruptcy of the republicans that refuse to see any problem with it Why Conservatives Missed Why Republicans Like Trump: This is the pointed hypocrisy of a republican caucus who will accept all degradation in return for a legislative program no conventional politician could have campaigned on or pushed through . This will equal the eradication of mid and lower middle class into working class the bulk of which will be de-franchised on explicitly racial grounds, and the liberation of the wealthy -- capital holding class (1%) -- from legal or moral constraints of the state. An article from 2014 which I read in October or November last year Nils Gilman's The Twin Insurgency - The American Interest: The postmodern state is under siege from plutocrats and criminals who unknowingly compound each other’s insidiousness has been circulating on twitter much recently as is well worth reading.

Which institutions which norms will resist attacks on our open society? What part Government? The answer to that is likely to be different institutions at different times. First looking at the Formal and inside the hierarchy -- the Layers of government and sources of authority. Here I mean the particular layers (institutions) of government i.e. The Executive Office, Federal Bureaucracy, Legislature, Judiciary, Supreme Court, Governorships State legislatures, municipalities. All offer varying stops to the pressure of the executive itself. There are numerous less formal more independent nexuses of normative authority, organized religious bodies being the foremost. In addition to these there are external and international organizations (NGOs) operating in bureaucratic fashion authority with state imprinter. Any body where tradition and organization are intertwined is really a source of societal norms. Emphasizing the third characteristic from Robertson's book mentioned in the first section when norms embedded in institutions change they tend to change in chain. Our rule of Law and separation of powers is, at end. no more than a polite fiction a delicate artifact waiting to be broken. A hard attack by an unconcerned individual or group would collapse it quickly leaving only the revealed totality of power (This was the essential point from my previous post, now from last year).

The more detailed and structured a norm is the more fragile and likely it is to dissolve. Between formal and informal institutions. I would put more trust in informal because of their disconnected and distributed nature. Formal institutions especially institutions that are of or related to the state are too connected to the conventional wisdom, and power networks of the moment. They absorb regime dominance. Their hierarchical nature means it is easy to break from the top any resisting nodes. No regime truly has a separation of powers when interests align. Informal institutions, ones that are removed from the formal mechanisms of the state are more likely to hold on their values, particularly when in some fashion those institutions embody certain value norms intrinsic to functioning balanced society: One suggestion I kept seeing over and over agin was to hold on the the norm of basic fairness. To focus on justice the legitimacy of an honest deal Forget What Is Normal, Champion What Is Just - The Atlantic:. Integrity of individual people and reputations, their lifelong reservoir of values. Likewise Institutional effectiveness seems to depend on the quality of the individual institution and their group norms. As the band the Dream Syndicate once sang "there's never been a man who's been more than bones in a sack and it doesn't take much to hold the possibilities back."

I've never spent much time in the athlete world, being short and light narrows the the field somewhat (I once sprained a shoulder playing the CIC of the USS Long Beach in a game of touch football -- couldn't raise my arm for the entire at sea period) But I've thought a lot about sport this last year. Its (1) rule based and (2) fair play is its very beginning and end. The object is a successful outcome within a system of play. A game is not war or anarchy. (3) The notion of sporting contains condemnation of rule breakers, it is (4) a celebration of human excellence. Lastly (5) there is contained within it an acknowledgement that sport/games represent an aspiration notion of ideal human interaction. To me then, sport and athletic games form an accessible ground-norm that everyone can understand. Liars, cheaters and the churlish will end outside the game. People without quality do not deserve an audience.

Thursday, 21 December 2017 11:00 EST #

Cactii Christmas 2016

It is time once again for a Christmas Eve pixel picture. Accepting the advice of some on these little "art" works that I firmly set and describe the scene rather than rely on the lines alone, I offer this.

A tranquil midnight respite
Santa's Break

Here we have Santa on Christmas eve as always. Now; however, Santa has been doing this trans-world present delivery for a number of years now, and he's got it knocked. He can take a break after a certain point of the night. Hey I get two fifteen breaks per day working for McKeldin Library at the University of Maryland. So Santa stops off to have a beer at a convenient bar (that's what this is) He is having a Dogfish Head -- Olde School -- I think, its a little hard to tell. The Reindeer have come in also, they're all having highballs of some sort. Rudolph around the corner is nursing a margarita. Its a tough gig, they all deserve it. Santa, that guy is the real deal.

The bar has a set of large ceiling height windows giving a nice view of the clear Christmas eve night sky. It seems to be one of those tourist oriented lounges in a tropical of sub-tropical setting. I'm thinking it might be the Top of the La Concha bar in Key West. Wait is that place even still around? [Internet interlude] No sadly it is not, it appears to have closed on April 14th 2014. The La Concha is now called the La Concha Hotel & Spa. Well, If Santa can fit down chimneys he can make this bar appear again for one night.

It would be remiss of me not to say, as 2016 draws to a crumbling close, that the tableau for this year is not unrelated to beer being rarely far from my mind these days. In the year that comes I will look more to the resilience of ordinary people, not to so-called leaders, systems, or governments; for the way forward. Never to the self declared extraordinary. To borrow Thoreau: "The rich man - not to make any invidious comparison - is always sold to the institution which makes him rich (Civil Disobedience)".

Wednesday, 21 December 2016 23:30 EST #

Cactii Safe as Houses

Early last Spring I took some pictures from the ravine section of the N.W. Branch bike trail; which are you see here. It was evening: low light. A setting or just set sun showing only the houses, windows balanced at the point of receiving and emanating light. My original motivation had been to test out the camera in my new iPhone and play around with the square format and the black & white settings. The best camera is always the one you have with you. This is much more than a truism. Smart phones have allowed the human race to chase the scourge of alien UFOs from our skies. Something the camera on my first generation iPod Touch could never have done.

[Three Houses, just up and across from Adlephi Mill /pb]

The 5s iPhone is more a usable camera, than a minimal afterthought. It offers a whole drawer full of filters for monochrome shots alone. Further there is something approximating aperture adjustment plus focus and aperture lock. It all has to be done on the glass screen, of course. Holding the device, composing the picture and waving your thumbs about to tp the glass at various points. It seemed it took two hands and some concentration to take a standard horizontal shot (vertical 16:9 is an abomination, particularly for video). This was one reason I was trying out square format. And, of course, I lay any over indulgence of my photographic interests at the feet of Slate's Jamelle Bouie whom I've been reading and following on twitter all year.

[Across the half dry creek /pb]

The time of day and year were somewhat incidental. It was my regular commute home from work at around 7:00 pm, and as soon after the winter solstice when I could ride along the unlit bike-trail at that time of day. The sun as it sets, drops over south-west side of the ravine which is somewhat deep in this portion of the trail, setting the houses that line the rim in relief against the sky. These two things came together to produce this set of photographs.

[By the new(ish) footbridge leading to Quebec st. /pb ]

The time of the year particularly the condition of light at that hour contributed to the the abstract quality of the photographs. The trees were still bare stark and black. The houses outlines only, no yards no objects only backs and sides; silhouettes a shaped mass. But it worked I thought, because this illustrated all I know about them. The darkness of the land against the edge of the transitioning sky.

[Six houses in a row, maybe seven /pb]

There I knew lay families, middle class lives, distinct and unique. Yet inside each something the same. This individual focus stayed on my mind as a rode along. Reflecting on watching my friends and siblings nieces and nephews grow up and move out of houses not different. There is an aspiration that each generation succeeds -- does better than the previous. Out to better jobs, lives and houses. Does this still hold, I thought. What might it mean if that doesn't hold.

[Scene from the back of a Cul-de-Sac /pb]

The appearance that these houses in the photographs) are isolated and unitary, as you proceed down the path they appear in clumps and present different edges and angles to the viewer. This is because they are built against the park in courts and loops giving the houses a nonlinear aspect. Surmising this structure you can then see them as the close and connected neighborhoods they are.

[Apartment building above New Hampshire ave and Piney Branch rd. /pb ]

The houses seemed to hang on the edge of the sky, a Siege Periless, caught between merging with the black ground and vanishing into the fading light. Between the present and the rolling earth. For all the lives and dreams within these dwelling poised in this liminal darkness seeming to exemplify the fragility of the future.

[Lone House in color - I took a B+W of this also but liked the color one better /pb]

The toiling world resists the idea of evening quietude of any real degree; too much at any hour is going on. But perhaps there is a twilight pause when the world balances between harmony and chaos, then plunges on.

Friday, 09 December 2016 19:30 EDT #

Cactii 2016 Rehoboth Film Festival

As we have for the past several years my sister and I have taken portions of the Rehoboth Beach Film festival, a presentation independent films by the Rehoboth Beach Film Society. This is located in southern coastal Delaware. The festival was spread out over two weeks this year (from Friday November 4th to Sunday November 13th) as the society contends with a schedule of dozens of films and a limited number of available screens. At least this year one of the screens is their own at their new CAT center.

I saw six films (and a set of shorts) over four days, out of around forty-five films of the nine day festival Festival Program_pdf.

  • The first was an Argentinan film "My Friend from the Park" My Friend from the Park (2015) A story about a young women taking care of a young baby while her husband who seems to be a science documetary filmmaker is off on the edge of some ice bound volcano somewhere. She socalizes with some similarly situatd young women at a neighborhood park. They like her are all of a yuppie hipster cast, but she bonds particularly with another women who is somewhat different. I see in the imdb description that it is Director Ana Katz who plays the friend "Rosa".
  • The next film was "A Stray" A Stray Movie Review & Film Summary (2016) | Roger Ebert A young Somali immigrant man living in Minneapolis has hit bottom: thrown out by his mother, dumped by his girlfriend and hanging out with low life friends he ends up homeless. Whereupon the Inman from the neighborhood Mosque tells him he will find a true friend who will give his life direction. Soon afterwards while working a new job as a resturaunt delivery driver he nearly runs down a small stray dog who he then finds difficult to get rid of.
  • The next fim Harmonium Harmonium (film) - Wikipedia) Harmonium (2016) - IMDb was a difficult film. A Japanese production and winner of the Jury award for x and Cannes this year it was well made and well acted. A story of an average family - the title refers to a organ-like keyboard instrument their 9 or 10 year old daughter plays, as well as a metaphoric nod to the concept of harmony. The story does go through several changes in tone along the way.
  • It was a little harder to come up with information for the next film I saw Dolores, but I eventually came across this review: Dolores (movie) | Francois Schuiten & Benoit Peeters: was based on a graphic novel by a Beligian writer and artist team. Benoît Peeters - Wikipedia the writer and François Schuiten - Wikipedia the artist. There is a little more on the latter here: Francois Schuiten. In the story a expert model maker is hired to make a rich actress's modern architectoral style house as she leaves for Hollywood. From there the story moves toward Felisburto Hernadez (the Daisy Dolls) levels of flight. The graphic novel came out originaly in 1991 and was the original idea of Anne Balthus. It was published in German Dolores Baltus, Anne., et al. Dolores. Doornik: Casterman, 1991. and 2 years latter in French, but not in English or a US edition.
  • Command and Control Command and Control (2016) - IMDb is a taut documetary based on a 1980 incident in Damascus Arkansas when a Titan II liquid fueled intercontinental ballistic Missile with an active nuclear war head in the nose cone exploded in its silo after a maintenance accident. The documentary is largely drawn from a book of the same name Command and control : nuclear weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the illusion of safety Schlosser, Eric. Command and Control : Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety. New York: The Penguiess, 2013. which covered this incident along with many more. The thing that really gets to me about this incident is that I was a sailor, an IS2, stationed in the Pentagon (CNO-IP) when this occured and have no particular memory of the incident. I don't think the gravity of the situation was bandied about much at the time.
  • Youth in Oregon Youth in Oregon (2016) - IMDb: is a film involving an elderly man, A physician as it happens who facing a second round of open chest surgery decides against the wishes of his family to investigated assisted suicide and insists on a road trip to Oregon for this purpose. Frank Langella who plays the main character has also played Richard Nixon and Warren Burger. Billy Crudup, and Christina Applegate play the son-in-law and daughter.
  • The festival wrapped up with a series of short films which was this years Sundance shorts program 2016 Sundance Short Film Tour: official trailer on Vimeo These were: Affections -- Bacon and God's wrath -- Edmond -- Her Friend Adam -- Jungle -- Grandfather Drum -- the Procedure -- Thunder Road. The last was probably my favorite , although I will never be able to listen to Thunder Road the same way again. As they say everyone mourns in their own way.

One aspect of the whole affair I would like to touch on is what I call the Festivality of it all. This is a word I made up out of Festival and Conviviality. A word for the social aspect: the big tent which was a marker and symbol of the festival for years. Its worth noting that the manual paper system (where many shoe-boxes of index-card tickets were set up everyday, when the cards in a box were gone it was understood that film was sold-out) was the original primary reason for the tent. Updating the ticketing system from to a modern "e" ticket system obviated the particular need for that. The Festival still seems to see the need or desire for a centrally located "social-center" towards this end they have partnered the last two years with a fine new establishment; the Crooked Hammock. The Crooked Hammock is well situated and hospitable, but is also a competitor on amenities; drinks and food. These formerly were provided for by numerous local businesses, and seemed to be a good opportunity for public relations. Largely empty and un-attended this year and last, these sponsors are less visible and less appreciated.

The other big move by the society which is bring change with it is its permanent new home the Cinema Art Theater (CAT) located off route one behind the WAWA filling station (17701 Dartmouth dr. Dartmouth plaza). Functioning both as office, box office, and screen with its roughly 110 seat theater the society has largely solved the 4k digital screen problem. This reduces the need for the big show. It allows them to conduct routine scheduled screenings throughout the year and become more of a regular Film Society. This in turn allows for the downgrading or at least down-sizing ofthe festival itself. For all I know this may be the direction they want to go in. There is the fundraising aspect, something entirely of there own affair, but of which the outlines are clear. The Film Society currently is dependent on regional and out-of-State base and attendance. One whose outlook is more routine would look more towards local and in-towners (Rehoboth, Lewes, Milton). This would inevitably reset the society as a smaller and less ambitious affair. This lack of a strong social dimension loses the "Fun" aspect of a festival; the conversations and sharing with strangers, the attendant reflection and excitement.

Friday, 25 November 2016 14:00 EDT #

Cactii Bretton World

I've been writing this piece since early July most of it conceived in advance of the conventions, when I hoped to have this finished. The connection I see between Britain's EU referendum, which was taking place at the time, and this election reflects that. By the time of the conventions; however, a tidal wave of Trump takes, four or five a day trying to penetrate the miasma surrounding his candidacy arrived. I felt I needed to read every one, and they just kept coming. Most falling short of any true insight to his central persona, only suggesting by this that perhaps he had none. By mid to late September the morphing of the campaign into something utterly without precedent, bereft of democratic sensibility left me feeling that I simply did not understand what was going on. For a tail-end boomer who has paid attention (by degree) to twelve election cycles and voted in nine this was not a comfortable feeling. There was Trump's non-campaign and possible ulterior motivations -- recasting the Trump brand wholly within the media spectrum. Partnering with his boy Bannon (Briebart) with advice and personnel from Ailes -- to monetize the white nationalist movement with a "news" network. Add to this Wikileak's egregious entry into politics with targeted partisan releases of private information. To say nothing of the Russian State's role in the opposition content provision; for their general purposes of kompromat and inducing pessimism in democratic systems.

The over-arching danger is the end of the post war progressive era, the beginning of a Balkanized retrenched one. The Bretton World is ending. By Bretton World, I mean the set of affairs put in place by the Bretton Woods agreement in 1944. The transfers of money, currency exchange rates international banking, and the International Monetary Fund. The structure of trade and payment around which the post war world was to be organized. The ordering principle of the participating world. Freedom, Democracy and Settling Markets. There is always a world order, I suppose. The rise and fall of Bretton World, the US led world order, is particular for me it is the world I have spent my entire life in, and it seemed reasonably well organized and prosperous compared to any other I'd knew of.

This world; though, was always a thing of parts even in its integrating and non integrating divides and now seems on the brink of disintegration, an institutional breakdown Globalization RIP? by Project Syndicate - Project Syndicate. These institutions being the standing organizations of administrative or moral authority, apparatuses of governmental or intergovernmental process in enumerated and unenumerated form. These back the structure of our world and behind these there is nothing but the belief of people of the good they obtain. The West no longer speaks coherently on the world order. There is no narrative to its events. There is no agreement on intractable problems, even to their identity let alone solution. There is no sense that the order is working for the benefit of the world's many people, an increasing doubt that it is simply a smaller structure raised for the benefit of the few The Anti-Globalization Brexplosion by Yoon Young-kwan - Project Syndicate. A world where most live under the choice of others. With the impending quixotic parting of the United Kingdom from the european union (a project of two postwar generations). Brexit in an apt turn of phrase, you have the new balkanization, the flip side of not just empire but inroads of cultural transparency. Chasing some forgone freedom in an act of atomization. This years Republican platform and its candidate are doing their best to match the European mood How Brexit and the Rise of Donald Trump Reflect the Changing Lines Between Left and Right on Both Sides of the Atlantic - The Atlantic.

What of globalization and its discontents? Globalization and its New Discontents by Joseph E. Stiglitz - Project Syndicate: What is globalization? A short answer is that it is the realization of what the Bretton Woods architects had in mind. A seamless, lossless flow of capital and goods across the world. At times it is difficult to figure out who is for globalization and who against. It delivers its benefits and costs unevenly. Made in the USA and "look for the Union label." campaigns have been around since I was was young. Still I don't think it was until Seattle that I understood there to be a permanent anti-globalization ideology (a partnership of leftists and unionists). These days galvanized by Trump's anxious rust and dust belters. The question of who benefits from globalization is simple; circling the world chasing hunger and poverty for a low wage (but educated and quiescent) work force, return of investment in automation in higher income localities, Capital benefits from globalization. The importation of low priced consumer goods does not offset the tranche of medium wage jobs lost in this process. There is a world in between these poles; though. Proximity of raw materials, cultural wellsprings of original concepts, and skill sets will always ensure that some things will be built in one place and traded to others, and that there will always be an economic rational for this. But every region if not nation needs a mix of an industrial and service economy and the range of work they provide.

Even more is the quiet benefit of what doesn't happen. By this I mean what flows from this gainful employment being distributed toward the manufacture or agricultural production of local or trade goods evenly throughout the world and the peaceful livelihoods in quiet regions that follow from that.


Turning to the zeitgeist, so to speak, of America today. The question is of the overtness of it all. The broken (Overton) windows. The racism, anti-semitism, bigotry, and fascism. The fascism may be more of the early Italian model of D'Abrunzzio and Mussolini, but reading through Umberto Ecco's Fascism essay from 1994 there is much to recognize. Donald Trump and his Greek chorus of urgers do seem to using some portion of this as portfolio. David Duke ex Klan dragon now running for the Senate from Louisiana has voiced hope that Trumps ascendency will rehabilitate Hitlers image David Duke suggests Trump comparisons could rehabilitate Hitler's image | TheHill.

Since this campaign started I have viewed Trump as merely pompous (a view built up over previous decades) a buffoon, a scoundrel, but now, frankly, a Diabolic of some kind. Something along the lines of Maupassont's Horla. A thing of unnatural psychological state. To play the racist sexist anti-semitic buffoon as strategy, pretending to no personal animosity, but casually allow the trouble that falls to people because of this, incitement of violence and opprobrium, because at end, you truly do not consider these people matter -- is to be racist. Trumpism is a reactionary movement and a political Rorschach. As such it marks the collapse of the conservative attempt to cast conservatism as a revolutionary force in the model of 60's radicalism/liberalism.

For Trump there is nothing, no thing no moment, that is not to be consumed for his own aggrandizement The question of what Donald Trump “really believes” has no answer - Vox. This might not seem altogether different from normal political egotism. Politicians; though, exist as a "public" man or women. Their charge in office can never be thought to represent a private interest civic-minded and service oriented is the creed. Trump is not civic minded or a public servant in outlook or temperament. He is marked rather by ignorance self-absorption and contempt for the rule of law. Yet still Trump represents an American type: a self parodying Babbit embedded in in a passion play of America's original sin The dark history of Donald Trump's rightwing revolt | Timothy Shenk | News | The Guardian. In practice his campaign has collapsed to a near absolute reduction of appeal to white fear.

How much of a unique rupture of norms is this? Donald Trump and the Seven Broken Guardrails of Democracy - The Atlantic Have we arrived at a point that heralds the return of open racism and active defense of racism to American politics? Or is it a passing moment -- the embers of a resentment that has few clear lines of continuance? If the unspoken agreements of discourse have kept stark racism out of American politics are gone, it may take a generation or more to repair these fundamentals Donald Trump's legacy threatens to be return of race politics to the mainstream | US news | The Guardian:. Even then there is now a rear guard within the mainstream that will never go back (albeit too much has changed and the so-called alt-right is not the force the Klan or John Birchers were formerly). Norms more than laws are what hold a culture together. They are the unspoken agreements on what rules are founded on what values, What is beyond the pale, and what isn't. They merge somewhat with formal laws in what are called grund-norms. Which either are written meta laws like a national constitution or those critical norms which obtain universal acceptance and articulation within a culture and are embedded in written laws.

The reality is that the Republican party has spent A generation racing towards the brick wall that is Donald Trump The Republicans waged a 3-decade war on government. They got Trump. - Vox. There is no other candidate that the party today was ever going to nominate The Party of Donald Trump? - The Atlantic. All this is the inevitable endgame of the "Southern Strategy". Where they became home for all non-accommodating southern whites; segregationists, anti-federalists, lost causers.

This campaign has also see the merging of Trump and the two GOPs. The two GOPs are the sedate rational one, the established party which has always maintained they are focused on conservative principles rugged individualism fiscal discipline and small government, and the party of the rank and file as they really exist. Which increasingly seems in no small part privileged anxious white nationalism. His followers and apologists are singularly not inclined toward a democracy not exclusively useful to them. A particular "tell" here is the great efforts in the name of fraudulent voting they cannot specifically point to or identify which in practical effect only amounts to vote suppression.

Over the late summer (and now into the post-labor day fall) some have wondered "Why is a "damaged" republican party led by chaos itself still even with the democratic party in this race? The answer is that the Democratic party is also damaged, not simply presenting a weak candidate. A strong party makes a strong candidate. a weak party a weak one. Like justice institutional breakdown tends to be blind.

This election cycle marks a collapse of party institutions particularly for republicans. Congressional leadership, always comprising a certain ballast to the system, has lost its ability to quietly arrange the budget through earmarks and add-ons to rein for their own horses. The new insurgents within in their party do not care for careers in government and obtain their force and funds from below. For the party as a whole illustrating the perils of the populism they have wedded themselves to.

A prime cause of weakened institutions of politics is money the party's don't control. Political Action Committees have the ability now to funnel money without public disclosure in the millions and hundreds of millions into campaigns. A generation of facile billionaires newly surface as "players" in politics & journalism. Politics is rapidly becoming so un-transparent that its getting harder to apply the prescriptive qui bono -- who benefits analysis to a given statement or situation.


Part of the problem with a political figure like Donald Trump (A political figure rather than a politician) is that he is not only a present demagogue in bloom, but that he represents future demagoguery to this point held at bay. He is an American Caudillo. The version 2.0 which will now inevitably follow, can't be more of a low-life but will be smarter. Chaos has surrounded Donald Trump all his life. He is the chaos candidate. He does not possess an ability to make this nation or anything else truly great. He can only bring what is his nature, chaos, to what he touches. Tomorrow's populist will tread lighter, aim straighter

There was a resistance of the press to acknowledge the nature of the campaign. A disinclination to accept anything was out of the ordinary. Largely the press's pre-disposition is to view and treat each side as being the equal and balance of the other. Even as spokesmen for overt white supremacists Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan voiced enthusiastic support for Trumps candidacy The press maintain their view from nowhere and nothingness. As Professor Jay Rosen points out here Donald Trump is crashing the system. Journalists need to build a new one. - The Washington Post meaningful analysis of the election collapsed.

After the practical lessons of Marius & Sulla (both holding dictatorships around 100bce) the Roman republic was never able to put things back in their box. Administrative rules changes that made the new Roman armies responsive to men rather than the state, and men became the state. The power of unshared rule shone too brightly. The ability to strike out at enemies a-judiciously too useful.

This election has unleashed an resurgent history on the United States. The legacy of issues left not fully dealt with and left half buried in the past. It has unleashed unapologetic forthright racism. The new ways, reek of old ways. Privilege is desired to obtain the license of liberty.

It is here that I see the failure of Bretton World. The failure of the market democracy of an open society. This is not to say that 2016 this is an express turning point or special year like like some remember 1968. A year of breached taboos customs and propriety. Rather a culmination of disintegration and change like the hidden hull of an unkempt ship. We've been patting ourselves hard on the back for too many years on how successful its all been.

There does seem to be a general sense of dissatisfaction within the west. That government is too close to us, and not attuned enough The West on the Brink by Joschka Fischer - Project Syndicate. Francis Fukuyama's End of History (which I finally got around to reading last spring) ends with the borrowed concept of the Last man. A populace with desire for more that pluralistic representational government committed to equality can offer. A desire for domination and outsized ego-honour -- thymos. Market economies do not work well enough, consistently enough, or evenly enough to end history. Fukuyama's concept of history and progress here contains the idea of contradictions. This is what determines stasis or continuance. History is considered over when a society arrives at a set system. Unless internal contradictions within its governance reopen it by revealing breaches within the harmony of the system that leave people desiring radical change.

There is the idea that in all societies that government is power tending towards absolute power: tyranny. That our tri-part governance and separation of powers into neat obedient categories in the US, is only an arrangement that masks this from us. If the Judicial system becomes political it collapses into the executive, and legislative. If there is hesitation, disinclination or intransigence in the legislature it will be subsumed by executive power.

In this striving for effectiveness, this desiring of action, a society will allow this consolidation, and more to happen. With little examination. To get things done. In the name of a disrupting economic process. Despotic progressiveness, and conservative all at once. This is a foundational American message. But beyond all this good lies the terror.

Sunday, 30 October 2016 23:45 EDT #

Cactii Millington Sisters

I like the internet for being still, sometimes, a cabinet of curiosities. For having the quality called serendipitous. Things lie within myriad quixotically labeled drawers waiting to be discovered and push their impressions upon you. The way roads and rabbit holes have a way of leading you on to places you didn't know you needed to go.

I like the circuitous manner of discovery. To light on a thing with ordinary interest, pull its loose threads to see what it will become. I put more stock in things I learn in such ways.

This brings us today to the Millington Sisters and their improbably great band you never heard of -- but by way of Brie Howard. On a Saturday a couple of months ago with only the narrow availibiliy confines of broadcast tv I came across the movie Android (1982) - IMDb. It didn't seem to have much to recommend it, but it starred Klaus Kinski who I will watch in just about anything. I would watch him assemble Ikea furniture; because he is Aguirre the Wrath of God. Brie Howard was the second billed playing a character named Maggie. She wasn't a tremendous actress, but had an undeniable screen (or stage) presence. And she was quite pretty.

This led me to hit up the internets while I watched, to find out more about her; this is the great perfection of old movie watching in modern times. I saw that she was a musician of sorts, a drummer. Her imdb page indicated she had been recruited to be in a film called American Girls a Vanity 6-esque movie project. I think they actually wanted Vanity to be in it, but she declined or was unavailable. The band assembled for this never made the movie, but in a unlikely turn of events proceeded on as a real band and toured as an opening act for a couple of years in the late eighties American Girls (band) - Wikipedia. She did a number of other things: she was in three other movies notably "the Running Kind" in 1989.

She did session work as a drummer and has played on a number of well known records. Through all this she was variously known as Brie Berry, Brie Brandt, Brie Howard, and Brie Darling. She has a daughter who has her own degree of notoriety

What caught my eye; though, scanning her biographies was her recurring association with another band. One of Brie's earliest, high school, bands in Sacramento was drumming with the Sveltes, with Jean and June Millington, and she was drummer in a latter version of Fanny, the now nearly forgotten all women rock band from the early seventies Fanny (band) - Wikipedia. Brie shares with Jean and June also being Philippine-American.

Fanny at most junctures would've been no more than an echo of a memory to, but a few months prior, last November, I read an article on June Millington from the NPR music blog which stayed like a tickler file in the back of my mind You've Got A Home: June Millington's Lifelong Journey In Rock : The Record : NPR.

June and Jean were born in the Philippines, raised in an upper middle class family with a Filipina mother and US Navy officer father. The family moved to Sacramento in 60's. Faced with a life as ordinary American teenagers it seems they began acting out a little; trading the ukuleles they had played as children for electric guitars. After their first band the Sveltes ended. The sisters joined Wild Honey a band formed by Svelte's former 2nd drummer (Brie was the first) and moved to LA. It was this band that morphed into Fanny

Fanny put out four albums over their career; {Fanny, Charity Ball, Fanny Hill, (Fanny Live) Mother's Pride]. Five If you count the live album. Six, if you count the late period lp Rock and Roll survivors. At any rate June the guitarist, along with the drummer Alice de Buhr leaves band after Charity Ball. At that point Brie Howard joins band at drums with Patti Quatro (sister of Suzi Quatro) on guitar. She leaves after the Rock and Roll Survivor LP.

At some point in the late 1970's Jean marries guitarist Earl Slick. The band ceased activity gradually around 1977, but the sisters often resurrect versions of it and put it in the studio or on the road often with Brie over the years. Once going by the name the LA All Stars, one of a large number of bands that have used this name.

Fanny was not just an abstraction to me though. As a college radio dj (WMUC-FM) I had actually played Fanny. My strongest recollections associated with them today revolves around the wonders of the record library there. A small enough room towards the back of the station's space ("high atop the South Campus Dining Hall") double-height, with a metal cage second floor and spiral stair-case. And records, thousands and thousands of records. Twenty thousand maybe more. certainly impression making to a guy whose record collection barely pushed a couple dozen. A Fanny record had been in the reshelve bin pulled out for someones previous show. Reshevling was my initial collateral duty there - I set it aside in my own pile and picked out the others. Thats how I prepared for shows in those days.

Going back and listening to thei lps now on youTube (and a lot of their material is on YouTube "Charity Ball" "You're the one" "Butter Boy"). I was struck by their cover of Cream's Badge. This has always been one of my favorite songs, a well formed throw-away with a devastating bridge. There is a slightly muddy black and white video of a live performance of this on French TV in 1972 [Fanny - Badge. The band in its prime incarnation was a four piece with June and Jean on guitar and bass, Alice de Buhr on drums, and Nicole Barkley on 1970's keyboards. This version of the band was tight and by turns within a song surprisingly hard rocking. The early 70's were an apex for rock and roll as a social phenomenon. Fanny exemplified as much as any band of that time.

Today Jean Lives in Georgia and is an herbalist and Resonant Sound Therapist (everyone has their own frequency - you just need to find it). June lives in Goshen Massachusetts with Ann Hackler. Over the years she has worked as producer and founding figure in Women's Music Movement scene of the late 70s and 80s. She also runs the IMA (Institute for Musical Arts Girl Guitar Camp.

The NPR article last November (link above) was occasioned by June's memoir Land of a thousand bridges : island girl in a rock & roll world -- which Mckeldin library, where I work, still has not bought. Most of the information I possess of the Millington Sisters today comes from reading that article. The only caveat I have with the NPR article is the lengths it goes to understand the band as nineties or aughts Riot Grrrl style indie rockers. This may help as a hook for todays readers (even fits well in a way with their pre-Fanny bands), but also serves to make a little harder to understand them in their own time. It is a minor quibble really. I was struck particularly by June's comment that the band kept getting better as they went on which gave them the moral equivalent of "fuck you" money against would-be detractors. That and being able to set up a stage for a show, and back a truck up to a loading dock themselves. One of the best parts of that article is the short embedded video at the end which was the teaser for their 2011 Rock like a Girl album and also a look at the Rock and Roll girls camp.

For the shows they did backing that release they played with a young musician, Lee Madeloni, In a photograph over on their website June and Jean Millington Lee wrote the caption "Me mom and Auntie June." Here I note that Frank Madeloni was David Bowie guitarist Earl Slick's real name.

It is a little harder to tell what Brie Howard (Darling) is up these days. Her Wikipedia page is sparse on recent details Brie Howard - Wikipedia. The IMBd page fills in her movie rolls. She seems to be living in Southern California. Her current band, the Boxing Ghandis which at one point included her husband David Darling, has put out four records over the years, the first of which had considerable success and an ep that came out just a year or so ago. As a tail-end baby boomer I've always regarded the early boomer cohort as living the most realized quintessential American lives possible.

Well, that's the end of this little tale. It is often when you are not looking for anything in particular that you find the most interesting stories, when you see the connections and interrelations among things. It's always best to hold few fixed ideas about what is to be discovered.

Thu, 30 June 2016 19:00 EDT #

Cactii Information Wars

Over the last month or two (three) I've been following the pas de deus between Apple Corporation and the Federal Bureau of Investigation over the San Bernardino Shooters iPhone. I wasn't initially going to write about it here on Atomized because the issue is complex technical and seemed to be well in hand by many others What’s Really at Stake in the Apple Encryption Debate - ProPublica:.

But after several weeks reading and listening to an overly credulous press NPR Search : NPR: I changed my mind.

It is not likely that this is as the Government insists just about one case terrorism and one iPhone. It is about many iPhones in criminal cases and iPhones in general - something they don't hide well was there a link for this point. It is about a door, a back door. A private permanent port into Apple's device world for American law enforcement and everyone they choose to share it with going forward. It is about the concept of privacy of the individual at all. It is a re-fighting of the crypto-wars and yet still a battle of public opinion Apple versus the-FBI understanding iPhone encryption the risks for Apple and encryption. Law enforcement and the various intelligence agencies simply do not want public to have encryption. The modern world; though. which is no longer digitally the same as the '90's world will not work without door lock of digital economy. Even then it wouldn't seem so bad if whether national or internal security those simply critical of the government were not targeted.

A smart phone is not just a telephone, it is the primary computer, comunicator, and document keep of the modern person's life. It is their home their castle their private realm.

To some degree this assault on privacy is just another effect of small wars rebounding. The result of processes developed against populations overseas regarded as having no civil rights, no written out rights, gradually being imported back home to use against domestic "others". Once in play this only naturally expands and moves to the homeland.

The preferred result for many in the security services is complete containment of the citizenry, i.e. the subjects, of their critical attention. The government in all its loosely attached facets would have there be no privacy, no personal information, no personal identity without their leave. A Smart Phone is not just a fetishist telephone, as the President seems to see it, it is the primary computer communicator document keep of a persons' life. It is their home their castle. A door barred without a warrant, used in the breach as they see fit and after they lose control of such door, forever without. Little is less secure than a security) secret. For individual autonomy the lesson is Pwned is owned.

Under pressure from both security state apparatus and private enterprise personal information is becoming the final mass commodity of the Capital system.


Sometime after this Apple/FBI situation had developed I saw a tweet that referenced the phrase "Surveillance Capitalism". It may have been this tweet -- I made no particular note at the time. The tweet indicated the deleterious effects of surveillance capitalism fall mostly on less wealthy segments of society.

About a week after that I saw a tweet linking to an article in the FAZ (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung) a piece on "Surveillance Capitalism" Shoshana Zuboff: Secrets of Surveillance Capitalism:. This likely was the ur document of the Jacob realm tweet I saw earlier. I'm not sure when I first read this, my browser history tells me 06 March. I know I had formed some idea on this by 24 February because I remember discussing it with a guy on the U. Maryland shuttle bus that week. Significantly; though, writer William Gibson retweeted a link to this and a biography of its author link on 09 March from there within a few days I think a quarter of my twitter timeline had retweeted this article.

My first impression of the piece was how solid it was. I've been reading too many Open Democracy dot net pieces that are often poorly written and sorely reasoned. In the bio of this one I saw that the author is a retired Harvard business school professor Wikipedia. She sees behavioral information about people as being the primary commodity of the markets going forward in the new century. The driver and battleground of the economy.

Late Stage Capitalism Late capitalism - Wikipedia, the setting that many suppose that Surveillance Capitalism takes place in, is a phrase that comes out of Marxist (or neo-marxist) criticism. It seems to have two largely related meanings (1) Simply a synonym for the industrial age economy. (2) more specifically for resurgent post-war consumer capitalism especially toward the end of the 20th century when it became a de-facto world-system. Economist Ernest Mandel conceived of this arriving post-industrial society as a more completely -- generalized universal -- industrial society. One marked by multinational corporations, globalized markets and capital flows. A period of increasing commodification and industrialization. He conceived of it as well as being potentially stable if at end transitional.

A couple of quotes from the Zuboff article that give an idea of it:

(1) The goal of everything we do is to change people’s actual behavior at scale. When people use our app, we can capture their behaviors, identify good and bad behaviors, and develop ways to reward the good and punish the bad. We can test how actionable our cues are for them and how profitable for us”. (A chief Data Scientist of a SV company to her)
(2)The assault on behavioral data is so sweeping that it can no longer be circumscribed by the concept of privacy and its contests. This is a different kind of challenge now, one that threatens the existential and political canon of the modern liberal order defined by principles of self-determination that have been centuries, even millennia, in the making."

The question is is information a commodity now? A commodity by standard definition is any item of a market that varies little or not at all between suppliers. Rice, nails, for instance, or your internet fascinations, medical histories. Has information as a commodity replaced the material commodities of the consumer society -- taken a controlling position among them, necessarily temporarily? Has this changed our, private citizens, relationship with private enterprise.

Fortunately Ms Zuboff has a book coming out later this year or early next year for which this article was a precis. About the wholesale trade in information I can offer only some anecdotes from where I stand. Many web sites, Journalistic entities, have recently become insistent about ad blockers. They don't like them and require you turn them off to view their content. Wired is one of the most insistent. I don't run an ad blocker but rather NoScript, a JavaScript blocker (and set to whitelist any page's top-level domain), and EFF's Privacy Badger. It quickly becomes apparent that Wired and fellow companies are really talking tracking cookies (multiple dozens per page) when they talk ads and ad blocking. their non dancing ads are getting through. Similarly I read that print book publishers giving away e-readers preloaded with advance publication works for survey purposes; the desire to gain the same information Amazon gets from the feedback its e-readers send home on how its books are read.

The US, much of the world really, is in the grip of an authoritarian impulse at the moment. The reasons differ but within the West it is about fears of lessened status for privileged groups, conceived of large and small. A disenfranchised working class (a white working class who aren't really disenfranchised, and not really a working class but in their fragility equate parity with abandonment) Trumpism to give it one name, but the current electoral exercise does show us its intensity and the focus point it comes to.

Democracy and Rule-of-Law are not, never been the cherished values we have told ourselves they are. Privilege and patrimony always lay just beneath the surface. Politicians facing the public are eager to applaud liberties virtues. Self-pleased bureaucrats; though, assume ownership of the individuals thought and conscience as an ordinary matter of state.

The FBI eventually dropped its case to force Apple to formally write a work around to iPhone 5 and 6 encryption The Apple-FBI Battle Is Over, But the New Crypto Wars Have Just Begun | WIRED. Because they had "another way" (which later turned out to consist of handing over one-and-one-half million dollars to a hacker for a zero-day) in more likely the FBI saw they did not have enough of a margin in the court of public opinion to make the whole effort worthwhile. [They've dropped a couple of other lesser cases since: With its retreat in New York, the FBI has lost the encryption fight | The Verge:] But they're not inclined to give up and this should be understood as just beginning The FBI may have dropped one case against Apple, but the battle is far from over | Trevor Timm | Opinion | The Guardian:.

Governmental degradation of privacy is not limited to national security matters, but is swiftly diffused to criminals and communities of ill-regard and uncooperativeness Surprise! NSA data will soon routinely be used for domestic policing that has nothing to do with terrorism - The Washington Post:. Opposition to favored projects of elites (pipelines), favor for opposed projects (Black lives matter). And through all this the trade in information. National Security concerns pass it to law enforcement, even as they bargain with the private sector for it. Any information useful for identification or prediction is drawn in as state and private entities play tag team on methods of acquisition offering beads and trinkets - security from low measure risk some unasked for consumer convenience to push the frontier of what intrusions the public won't revolt against. Arrayed together in a unity of interests.

What is the relationship between market entity treatment of; desire for information and the governmental one, and the simultaneous appearance of other market entities to sell privacy as a product? The ability in the digital era to accomplish individual level rather than demographic level information collection is what has fundamentally aligned national security and commercial interests. This coupled vector of individual behavioral management is increasingly also an trans state alignment. One of international mercantile and security bureaucracies. Anti-"terrorism" mechanics and information increasing is lent to ordinary law enforcement with the understanding that they will undertake double tracking investigation -- where they will create a a parallel investigation using the information they have been given essentially for the purpose of obfuscating or plausibly denying it.

In all this in government and economic spheres we have those who appoint themselves our protectors our controllers, managers, overseers and in disagreement adversaries. The balancing of rights held in rooms beyond our admittance. It is fair to ask does the public have a champion? And who would it be; politicians, non-governmental institutions, the press, some collective of anarchists? It is at the very least a redefinition of public to a body mute, not in process, not in dialogue with the exercise of political power. A public that things are decided for. A moment that may mark the beginning of a very long period of authoritarian style rule.

Sunday, 15 May 2016 19:00 EDT #

Cactii the Best Tweets (and classy)

I have some notes for use upon the occasion when twitter finally flips people's natural timelines to algorithmic ones.

That inevitable moment has arrived. The moment of opt out, not opt in. Apparently this was sometime last week. From The Next Web:

The feed’s documentation was also quietly updated on March 7... [The] company started turning it on it across the service as early as March 15...Some users received a notification on mobile advising them of the change, while others we talked to claimed they hadn’t seen anything Twitter's new algorithm is now on for everyone.
I haven't seen a lot of commentary on this so far, Gizmodo: Twitter's New Timeline Is Now the Default—Here's How to Opt-Out and The Verge: Twitter’s algorithmic timeline is now on by default weighed in on this as well. Perhaps twitter users already knew how they felt about this change and their reaction was muted. Perhaps twitter trying to sneak this past us as quietly as possible contributed as well.

I was viewing twitter through a list at work this last week, and on Twitter for Mac (ie tweetie Maverick edition) at home and didn't see this. I had not known it happened at all. Knowing; I hit up that opt out radio button with due speed. In Twitter's browser application, within settings there is a new line "Show me the Best tweets first". My list that I was on "mf", Which stands I assure you for monday through friday, is my existing solution for twitters occasional resemblance to a firehose of nonsense. I have a feed and two lists, each 5/8ths of the next larger. Friends, family, and sensible smart people populate all three. Chris Cillizza, @TheFix of the Washington Post, for instance, is only on two of them. Simply put lists are good, I even find quality tweets by folks left off a list percolate in as RTs from people who made a list. I will say one additional thing I don't see Twitters ads/promoted tweets when view on a list (I don't on twitter-for-Mac either, nor gifs vines videos also -- its wonderful). It leaves me thinking I'm not playing fair, but on the other hand that really is their problem not mine.

I will admit on browser twitter some things seem improved recently. Clicking on timeline objects (images gifs videos embeds) work better now, pop-ups rather than timeline resetting page-outs. Of course using Firefox with both NoScript and Privacy Badger running. Sometimes do not know how people's pages are actually supposed to look and act. Further it is true that for a casual user a "best tweets" algorithm may not seem like such a bad thing. Even for me, overwhelmed by the product of even only some 200+ follows every time I step away. I almost dread "Big Nights" for the lot I follow, this is journalists and various manner of political events for me. I always come back to lists; though, an occam's razor of potentiality. Used adroitly they solve many of twitters outstanding problems. I wish twitter would work as hard to 1) make them easier to create populate and manage 2) mix people (accounts) and keyword tags in lists as they do machine blending timelines hoping some sugary froth will rise to the top. An algorithm might be profitably put to work on event markers such as hash-tagged sports or other television events, for instance, where raw tweets will come far in excess of one hundred per minute.

But. Twitter's management, Jack Dorsey etc, seem not to realize how dependent the whole edifice or ecosystem is on it's core users and a real time feed. These core users utterly rely on real time and directional time-flow for their understanding of events and statements -- and the conversations that unfold about them. This is the content that the casual users feed on that gives the whole its value and substance. While it is true the average or casual user is not that sensitive to strict time order, the creation of the content they value is. These new users will quickly understand this, see they are getting a degraded product and leave in greater droves than they arrived. Twitter must always allow the preference for a real time unmediated feed, and not depreciate it and try to gradually disappear it.

A lot of technological hubris even arrogance was on display the other month when this was announced. "Best tweets" they claim, but they disregard adjacency and look only at your past. What makes a tweet, what gives it its particular value is the tweets it is among. A tweet you may have chanced to view at some point prior however related or unrelated gives or denies another what significance it may ever have. The world unfolds only in the way it does.

Friday, 18 March 2016 09:15 EST #

Cactii In the Gretch Hungry Dark

A late start to a 2015 music listening list. But since my lists are only things I heard that were new to me in 2015, it doesn't make that much difference. There is no Spotify, Pandora or the like involved here, just radio listening, mostly radio over the internet -- my primary concession to modernity.

The necessary condition is a dj, the sufficient condition freeform. Pick the music, play the music, talk about the music. Towards this end a favorite radio show the second half of this year is Mayuko Fujino's on one of WFMU's subsidiary streams; Doug Schulkinds "Give the Drummer some". Her show airs 5:00 to 7:00 pm on Mondays WFMU: Play Vertigo with Mayuko: Playlists and Archives. She is paper cutout artist by day and there are occasional examples of this on her playlist page. In the best tradition of WFMU and what it aspires to, her show is utterly unique in practice and spirit. A thing about free form radio is often under-considered is that it requires several times more djs than regular radio and therefore is often dependent on a cohort of well-behaved volunteers.

A List

  1. Professor Elemental. "Enter the convention" the Giddy Limit (2014). Had this record out in late 2014 , but now has a new record out "Apehquest, the search for Geoffrey." Which is about his missing monkey butler, and pairs with a co-release comic book. Professor Elemental - Wikipedia
  2. Aphrodite's Child. "Four Horsemen". Greek prog. band from the late 60's early 70's. I knew about this band and had even heard some songs previously, but it took til now to put it all together. A musical retelling of the apocalypse. This is the band that Vangelis came from. Aphrodite's Child - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  3. Dengue Fever. "Rom say sak" the Deepest Lake (2015). They've been around for a few years now and are still as consistently good as ever. 60's and Cambodian flavored Psychedelic Pop Rock.
  4. Melt Banana. "Trintenda de Luna". Japanese experimental rock band from Tokyo. Active from the mid 1990's on. Melt-Banana - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  5. Sir Lord Baltimore. "Master of dreams". Proto stoner-metal band from Brooklyn and the 1960's. Sir Lord Baltimore - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  6. Girl Band. "Paul" / "Eating pears for lunch" Holding Hands with Jamie (2015). Possibly my favorite band this year (and it is a release from this year. A noise rock combo from Dublin whose keen videos on partially part the veil of their songs. I admit I heard about Girl Band first off NPR's All Songs Considered twitter feed. First Watch: Girl Band, 'Paul' : NPR
  7. Zombies. "Care of Cell 44". The Zombies reformed this year to undertake a tour where they played the "Odyssey and Oracle" album through. I saw them on Colbert, but they didn't play this song.
  8. Wimple Winch. "Save my Soul". Mid Sixties British band, British version of a band like the Sonics or the Count Five. Garage rock here in the states but in England a nation apparently without garages it seems to attract the label "freakbeat". Wimple Winch - Save My Soul - YouTube:
  9. Chasity Belt. "Joke" Time to go Home (2015) Very strong song by a fairly new all female band from Seattle Chastity Belt - "Joke" [OFFICIAL VIDEO] - YouTube
  10. Grimble Grumble. "Only point of entry". A '90s alt band from Chicago still around I believe. This song is a lovely slow burn of pulse beat psychedelia. Grimble Grumble - Biography & History - AllMusic
  11. Francoiz Breut. "la Certitude" Une Saison Volee. She has been releasing records in France for I think ten years now without my being aware of it. Francoiz Breut - Françoiz Breut | Songs, Reviews, Credits | AllMusic.
  12. Krocodil. "Odyssey / Dabble in om". Heard this one on Matt's Wednesday show on WZBC. Not a lot of information on this band -- as much as you'll find you'll find here virshla rock blog: Krokodil - The Psychedelic Tapes [1970 - 1972].

Notes on the passing of David Bowie:
I was never the biggest Bowie fan growing up. I always thought of him as coming from glam, and of glam in general as a bit before my time. Though he and it really weren't. Glam was a very particular thing of a narrow particular time in the history of rock and roll. More so than punk I feel. Although punk for that matter was in many ways just so much distressed glitter. As I've gone over his catalog and listened to the various radio tributes I've found I knew more songs that I figured, without know all of them by a long shot.

People I knew in college, working at WMUC the University of Maryland radio station, who were big Bowie fans, the ones with intimate knowledge of every song on Ziggy Stardust; however, were generally younger than me, but often turned out to have brothers or sisters older than me. I was aware of Bowie as an early teen or tween (that concept didn't really exist back then), I didn't really pay attention to him until a latter teen by which time what he was doing didn't interest me that much. All this was true except for the hits which I knew but couldn't have placed in any order. I was unaware of his first four records. My understanding of Bowie was largely centered on the song Rebel Rebel and Changes. Low (or Low Profile I read now the album jacket designer was signifying) came out my senior year. I recall talking with friends that this record formed a significant and notable departure of some kind even if we had no context in which to place it. Heroes came out within a year and the title song from that remained my favorite Bowie song from then on, validating the attention others placed on him.

I've spent the last several weeks devoting Friday afternoons at work to listening through Bowie's recordings. In the process of which I learned likely why there is a drawing of the Cane Institution on the American cover of "the Man who Saved the World). After Lodger I bounced out to the the Talking Heads' "Remain in Light" as a point of departure. This is not quite right; though, It should have been out to "Fear of Music", "My life in the Bush of Ghosts, then to Remain in Light. The effect of all that Eno, Fripp, and Adrian Belew, in these 1979-1980 recordings.

The other week I caught the Bowie documentary Five Years which was playing on Maryland Public TV (rather late on a Friday for some reason) which made the point that Bowie was not more than a cult act (as they used denote the lesser mainstream back in those days) until he achieved mass appeal with the stadium tours of the early eighties -- which is also when he became one of music's very wealthiest performers. Something that was an unlikely read out from the days when he was writing songs like the Bewlay Brothers. There are only a handful of popular music figures in which it's worthwhile to undertake a close reading (listening) of their work in relation to the popular culture of their world. David Bowie was one of those people.

Monday, 29 February 2016 19:21 EST #

CactiiNewly Exceptional

The temperament of public dialogue in United States the past few months is sour, toxic, and flirting openly with fascism. At the same time as this corrosive dialogue is washing over the early political campaign for President a certain minor rigidity is settling over academic student culture.

I would like to pretend to surprise at the former, but I have always been aware that the chest thumpings of liberty and freedom often mask a desire for authoritarianism -- along with the unshakable belief among those complaining over the state of things that they would be giving direction in the new order.

What all this is about I can't fully encompass. I harbor the suspicion that the securities desired by students and the reactionary nativism of some conservatives represent, that is are symptoms of a single phenomenon. A breakdown of civic culture.

These would stem from (among whatever other misunderstandings exist) from basic perceptions of un-fairness in society. A multiplicity of anxieties. feelings of relative deprivations that announce themselves in the expectation of certain entitled freedoms and securities. Freedoms familiar to the American story: life liberty happiness, and as much freedom of expression.

In addition to these freedoms (or securities) of the individuals body, well being, and belongings -- property. Increasingly it seems to involve freedom from discomfort, particularly from merely being disagreed with.

Within academia, the student world, it has become popular to identify a series of assaults on their sensibilities, and to work then to insulate themselves from them. Here we have triggers warnings, safe zones, micro aggressions, white privilege incorporating white fragility, and cultural appropriations of various kinds. It isn't as though these things aren't real or speak to real things, but that there is something inherently self defeating in seeking to avoid dialogue, ordinary confrontation, and possibility of encountering offense Universities 'are killing free speech', says group of leading academics | News | Student | The Independent.

None of this secures in the pantheon the supposed palliative effects of free speech. "Dialogues" that serve to perpetuate an existing illegitimate status quo are not by themselves better than no dialogue at all. They are likely worse. Free speech as a overarching principle is no panacea if in the end its tendency is to provide a platform for dominate voices. For those underneath it is "Decolonize or die".

Against these charges of systemic disparagement is leveled the cry of politically correct. A term of disparagement by those who believe in incorrectness, a point of pride in their courageous iconoclasm. Yet it functions as politics of resentment and victimization The Political Incorrectness Racket - Bloomberg View.

In some ways this desire to control the conversation represents a mis-reading of free speech. Freedom of viewpoint is not freedom from response or return, a point almost universally lost in practice. It is also I think a mis-reading of human society the limits of government. In most instance we are on our own with the force of our own ideas, in loose alliance with those holding similar ideas in the opinion spectrum. There is little universally agreed on to construct a leviathan with. I hesitate to mention, but I occasionally encountered a strange paternalism in the middle class collegiate left (when I was in college in the 1980's). Conversations that would end in "if I were president I would order that...I would have the army come in and... they are wrong, therefore their opinions do not matter... I generally subsume this as the "there oughta be a law" school of political science, and regard it merely a classic American gripe.

From the hothouse of the academy to the angry general public -- the noisy side of the street --there is a glowering ugly mood tangled in yet unresolved racial issues that more than any other issue define what it means to be an American Are Trump supporters driven by economic anxiety or racial resentment? Yes. - Vox. It can only be called a new Jim Crow. A desire for some plan, de jure or de facto, to halt the inexorable move towards equality and integration. Towards towards stalling a unified American of universal dignity. A program to allow and reinforce a poverty barrier that creates prejudicial distinction.

This new mood is more a new fascism. Scapegoat populations are identified and tied to an ostensible broken America that needs to be reborn. By some leader of necessary vision. The talk is of "us" and "them" the "others" Hate speech is going mainstream - The Washington Post:. I have little use for the view of some writers that no figure or movement is fascist unless someone involved has a little mustache or a tall fez. If you meet the preponderance of Umberto Eco's fourteen marks of a fascist you're probably a fascist. It is what makes its home in the territory of reactionary authoritarianism. For the politician it is a well spring of resentment, for their disaffected followers political cover to discriminate. Behind the banner of politically incorrect is merely racist speech and the desire not to face disagreement. There is also the desire to move what is publicly acceptable. I can recall in Holliston, the small Massachusetts town I grew up in in the 1970's and a few years latter in the Navy, people trying to draw myself and others into a type of conversation. It would always begin with simple almost ambiguous statements -- a searching look shot round the rooms faces. Without immediate push back it would quickly escalate into stark and open racism. I was always aware of the expectation, the anticipation of these people for political or celebrity cover to stifle and bully oppositions into silence. This is a known practice and goes a number of names and explications: Hallin's spheres - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: to describe the realms of consensus controversy and deviance the Overton Window referring to libertarian opportunism. Both are descriptions of the mechanics of what is normative, and what isn't.

That an aging white minority might press against democracy for continued privilege I scarcely imagined until the past few years The Election and the Death of White Male Power -- The Cut:. Not just older white males either, I recall seeing a description of a poll indicating a comparative willingness of younger Americans -- for the sake of stability and security -- to allow degradation of Rule of Law (relative importance democratic principle and security) in return for the accustomed (material) well being Are Americans losing faith in democracy? - Vox.

In this atmosphere of inflated fear of terrorism, fear of the faith of a billion people, of the idea of migrating populations, but never the idea of climate change. Fortunes and our privacy are sacrificed to the least likely. There is in this a strong and strange rejection of empirical risk assessment, and at end of empirical science in general.

Against the imagined gathered terror, we transfer a pathology we have grown in long and far-flung little wars back to home.

With such a heightened level of discussion it might seem silly to talk of a vanishing public space, but this country may come out of this election cycle more divided than ever. I would say that is exactly what we are seeing. Specifically we see the failing of the institutions that bound the public space and the norms that inform them.

One odd form of cynicism, an example of this failure, is the tendency among journalists to champion the low life scrum of some current politicians. This betrays a belief that politics in the end does not matter, not that much. That something else, a thing sometimes called the deep state or some other undecipherable paternalism, some castle on a hill, actually runs things. That politics is or its best use is that of low entertainment. That that is all it ought to or can matter to the people.

Most of what transpires in a large scale western democracy is guided by its institutions. Formal, like the structures of government and its laws, religious and academic organizations. Informal like social conventions and practices. Some of this lies simply in the way we approach history. For instance the Great Men historical consensus, the presidential synthesis Historical Commemoration and the Age of Marble - The Atlantic. This is an idea that Great Men of the past, especially Presidents were more dedicated to American values -- equality among the classes and races -- than perhaps they really were Should We Honor Racists? by Peter Singer - Project Syndicate:. But just the idea of thinking of them embodying these ideal creates a venerated past like some marble-scribed ideal for the present and future.

Stripped of stabilizing concepts across the whole of American culture arguments proceed widening out from one realm, geographic and cultual, to another; relative support for the engaged sides shifting from one side to the other as it does so.

The conversations are never better, stronger, more authentic, healthier for lack of a better term than trust and belief in these institutions. An appeal to populism has given us opportunistic, morally unmoored and ideologically vacant, authoritarian tending campaigning. A churlishness and violence in danger of being taken for the real American Exceptionalism. That is to say an idea of ourselves that is too easily understood in our not having to struggle to find balance and moderation to be better, but just be. That justice and right can be found in emotional extremity and un-examined passion. This is American Exceptionalism the idea that we are unique, but in what way, in that the institutions don't matter. That we are good, by magic or some assumed.

The Habermasian public space, public sphere, is a mediated one -- through these social institutions. What both share right and left is the rejection of any possible legitimacy of "others" opposite, and therefore right to apply coercion. For their leaders to lead past, or through, the opposition.

The demand of the day is for a politician who will "lead past" all those you disagree with. Those opposed will either magically fall into line or not have forfeited their share of the compact and cease to have rights. Current thinking about what can be accomplished with political revolutions right and left progressive or regressive reactionary has much in common with the thinking that accompanies rapture eschatology.

This is the thinking that accompanies the breakdown of the civil process. The desire for a leader who will command the opposition is really a desire not to engage constructively in the conversation yourself. It leads people to considerations on the attractiveness of coercion -- those that choose not to see wisdom will be made to. Eventually everywhere you turn you see nothing but mounting apologies for the descent to governing by fiat.

Sunday, 31 Jan 2016 18:59 EST #

Cactii Santa of Ames Road

It is time again for my minor key annual event the 2015 Christmas pixel picture. Where I, who cannot draw pin up a postage stamp picture created at pixel size where very little can go wrong.


My first idea had been a Santa con (convention) like event that I had witnessed in DC a few years ago. Before I was aware of such tomfoolery and seeing it threw me for a loop at first. So I conceived of a picture of many Santas in random downtown DC lobbyist canyon landscape. I considered tying that to a more elaborate many Santas theory and further thought of bringing in a reference to the great hover-board debacle of 2015 by having one Santa rolling in flames while another chases him with a fire extinguisher. I dropped this idea. It was SNL goofing on hover-boards on the 19th that was the final nail.

Santa of Ames Road /pb
Santa of Ames Road

I came up with the current idea by noting my long held tendency to come late to the full sentimentality of the Christmas holiday season. Usually I am ready for Christmas about five or six days after New Years when the clock is striking twelve on the twelfth day, and the prospect of three months of winter stretch out like a long weary road before me. Note the full moon I included, this is fairly rare. It happen last in 1977, and won't happen agian until 2034. Also no snow -- there is no snow in DC this year, nor any up through the artic circle along the East Coast. It's nearly beach weather.

This year, last tuesday as it happened, a small event gave me a nudge into the season. The Prince Georges, or more likely Montgomery county fire department (the boundary runs between my building and those across the street) pulled into the neighborhood. Festooned with lights and blaring music. It offloaded a Santa and a crowd soon formed. Parents got their children out of bed (many children in pajamas with a jacket thrown on) held by the hand or in their mothers arms even though it was 9pm and on a school night. The crowd in my neighborhood is entirely Hispanic it is an immigrant neighborhood, so the small talk of the children and explanations of the parents was beyond me. Two of the children stood out in my memory after it was over. One small child was so exited and seeking to have her picture taken at every aspect the fire truck provided, that while she was attempting to skip around the truck, beside it, on it, in front of it. She was actually accomplishing something of a hybrid between a skip and a hop as if there were a trampoline under her feet where ever she went. She simply bounced. Another older girl perhaps ten or eleven, just stood quietly making no sound or movement evenly expressioned until the end when the truck pulled away, when she spun around and broke in the the biggest grin of the evening. A true believer in this particular type of magic.


This was a glimpse at the special and enduring joy of Christmas. Which, yes, does escape from adults. This joy isn't complex, it doesn't require special understandings, it is a swarming of the senses, the promise of a special moment. Nothing needs to be explicitly known of the expectations of, and failures of mankind, the need for a Messiah. Only of the perennial return of a comfortably rotund jolly elf Saint and a spirit of generosity.

Thursday, 24 December 2015 13:15 EST #

Cactii Rehoboth Beach Film Festival 2015

I attended the Rehoboth Beach Independent Film Festival again back at the beginning of last month. Through the first weekend (November 6-8) at least. The beach isn't only for summer. This year with far fewer screens the festival ran to a second weekend, with some screenings running midweek. The current set-up has films running at the Cape Henlopen High School (CHHS) available only on the weekend, and the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC). A permanent main site is bought, but is still a work in progress while the building "Dartmouth Plaza" or "Behind the WAWA is renovated towards its new purpose.This years "home tent" hosted at the new restaurant brewpub, the Crooked Hammock, on the Kings highway spur between Rt. 1 and alt 9

Most of the films I did see in that brief span were what you can call small budget indie movies, that is the the point of the festival after all. These are the economy car of motion pictures their special charm: not trying to be all things to all people. Some sublimely don't even try.


  • In the first film. A Rising Tide A Rising Tide (2015) - IMDb which I have consistently remembered only as the "Atlantic City restaurant Movie" a young man returns home to his families seaside restaurant in Atlantic City after his high-end New York eatery fails. Hurricane Sandy washes that place out and attempts to rebuild it meet difficulties. Fortunately it appears that hope floats -- which could also have been the title of this movie.
  • Next was Dough Dough (2015) - IMDb. Veteran actor Jonathan Pryce is the lead in this movie; playing an elderly Jewish baker in London, proprietor of a gently failing store-front business. He takes in the son of his immigrant African cleaning women to be his assistant only later discovering the family is Muslim. The improbability of the movies plot is not the point - its a message comedy. The only enemy is unconcern.
  • Richard Gere was the lead of the Benefactor The Benefactor (2015) - IMDb although Theo James (Divergent) does well by this also. A doctor his wife and a wealthy friend are making plans to start-up a children's hospital when they are all in a car accident and the doctor and is wife are killed. Four or five years later Gere (the benefactor) worms his way into their orphaned daughters life now married to young internist Luke (James) showering money influence and obsessive compulsive attention on them. Forget Gin and Tonics Morphine and Diet Soda is your man
  • The last Diamond The Last Diamond (2014) - IMDb is a straight forward caper movie. Well, as straight forward as those kinds of things get. Its full of naifs, sympathetic louses, double-crosses, and diamonds. Which are, after all, forever. All the characters are played by French people. Mainly Yves Attal, born in Tel Aviv, and Berenice Bejo, born in Buenos Aires. Prior to the ascendency of the Front National the French were an inclusive people.
  • The last film the Adderall Diaries The Adderall Diaries (2015) - IMDb was the film I most wanted to see of the ones I selected going in. Afterwards I wondered why. Not that it was a bad movie -- it wasn't it was a tough movie to be sure, but the performances were all solid. I don't think I've ever liked Ed Harris in a movie better. It was just that it was a film about distinctly unpleasant people. The author of the book the film is taken from, Stephen Elliott (whom James Franco is playing), writing in the gritty chemical-fueled style that is sometimes taken for realism or humanism does not seem to be overly concerned to be consistently taken for a human being. I did like his character's obsession with pour-over preparation coffee.

None of the movies grabbed me as much as ones in previous years. I didn't see any documentaries which is one thing I look for in any film festival. However I only saw first weekend (it had a 2nd weekend and a midweek this year) if I were local or had the week to give it I likely would also have tried to see a few other films. A short list of those might have included Marshland Set in Spain just after the end of the Franco era. A small town in Spain's outlands, some missing girls the search and police investigation. Rams (Hrutar): two estranged brothers and their sheep flocks. Set in Iceland was the theme country of this years festival. And the documentary Crocodile Gennadiy concerning an Ex Soviet soldier turned preacher to the down and out. Also a short about life in North Korea called Pebbles at your door.


General Observations about the Festival. It was too spread out geographical and temporally. This was an unavoidable repercussion of the severing of ties with the main (only) Rehoboth movie theatre complex. the Atlantic theaters. This hopefully will be ameliorated by the new site which its built in theatre and screening rooms, and continued relations with the Cape Henlopen High School. The local newspaper, the Cape Gazette, did a read out of the festival afterwards Rehoboth film festival is still about the movies - By Chris Flood - The RBFF will be keeping the nine day format (which was a function of fewer screens) for next year though it will end on Saturday of the second week. They found that people go home on Sunday. Despite attendance seeming down, things went smoothly enough that they expect attendance will recover in the future. They may introduce smart phone ticket purchase next year as well. People thought the Crooked Hammock was a nice setting for the "big tent" but people missed the sociableness lent by walking proximity to the films. The RBFF say they will devote further thought to that.

Gathering room at Cape Henlpen High School during the festival, taken with a $3.99 wide angle iPhone attchmt/pb
Cape Henlopen High School

It's that none of this helps with their real problem. The Festival's demographics are unsustainable and the film selection may not helping. It isn't the appeal the Festival has to the LBGT crowd, it is that the whole proceedings are too old and too white. I was one of the younger people there I'm 56. It was well over 99 percent white. Six movies, 3 days I saw two Asian people (three if I count an Indian person) and one black women. The ratio of men to women was fairly even though. My nephew looked over the schedule and thought there might be a few films he'd like to see, but not enough to miss pre-season wrestling practice.

On the other hand, or at least put in perspective, Coastal Sussex county (the Rehoboth Beach area) is predominantly a retirement community. One would probably see this dynamic in any retirement community. Sun City Arizona or places similar. The Film Festival does draw a lot of locals retirees. Others coming from the main land presumably are empty nesters. My younger sister points out any one who still has school-aged kids in the household can't make it out to events like this. But a younger millennial flavored crowd does come out to lower slower Delaware. You can find these people in numbers every weekend touring the Dogfish Head brewery in Milton. People like that are needed and films that appeal to this demographic, and not just a few, need to be shown (like Searching for SugarMan from a few years ago). Dog Fish Head I note is a major sponsor of the festival. The Rehoboth Beach Film Society has got to start making changes in their program -- for the annual festival --- and over the course of the year. The grey base may seem comfortable and familiar. But its not enough to keep this operation going.

Satuday, 12 December 2015 20:45 EST #

Cactii Migrancy

In the Mediterranean there is a sense of crisis. In the sea and adjacent lands -- An impinging reality northern and western nations try to ignore, but that is quite real for nations on their periphery. People are moving and in vast numbers. It has been occurring and increasing for years. A product of ongoing wars and ignored injustices deemed far off enough and too inconsequential to trouble with. Now with this past summer we see the number of displaced persons refugees and migrating populations reach levels not see in the world since the cataclysm of World War Two The refugee crisis: 9 questions you were too embarrassed to ask - Vox. All this is made ever worse by the fact as the season turns to late Fall and winter the flow of refugees shows no signs of abateing.

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees is one of the international body tasked with tracking such matters.'s explainers have used various graphics of theirs but helpfully they've collected them all here Refugees/Migrants Emergency Response - Mediterranean - Regional Overview This year alone some 180,000 refugees had attempted a transit of the Mediterranean sea to Europe. This just from January to June, over the summer months it was that number again at least. And this nothing about those moving out of various strife in Africa through Libya and parts of littoral West Africa bringing another 50,000 refugees this year alone.

After World War Two the Displaced Persons Act - Wikipedia of 1948 was designed to provide 200.000 VISAs for refugees in just the first two years of the bill. This was to deal with the 11 to 22 million people estimated to be displaced at the end of the war. Many of these, I imagine, would have like the orphan boy (played by Dean Stockwell) in the 1949 movie the Boy with Green Hair. for anyone who has seen that movie.

The primary movement this year has been from Syria and its multifaceted civil war with subsidiary movements from Iraq and Afghanistan, and their wars.

As these wars were tolerated even encouraged by other nations as though they solved other problems the out flow of people who wanted no part of it became untenable.

It is a crisis in that tremendous numbers of human lives are being lost in this unnecessarily perilous transit. They die singularly and in unfathomable groups 800 dead in a un-seaworthy wreck of a boat, packed into a box truck and left abandoned along a highway swept forward by the currents of the criminal human smuggling trade, the conscienceless traffickers. Washed ashore with the Greek island tides.

Early in the season it was seen as merely a matter of the funding from the EU to their Navies and Coast Guards in the Mediterranean. In particular Operation Mare Nostrum "Our Sea" marked the Italian Governments decision to plunge in and try to restore order to the chaos. Using an historically freighted term echoing Italian Nationalism in doing so.

The European nations have set up the agency Frontex to administrate the oversee the borders of the broader Schengen area within which there are no interior passport or visa checks. At the world level in addition to the High Commission for Refugees (not migrants, much of the debate turns on making much of that distinction. There is also an International Organization for Migration (a European originating organization that grew out of the dislocations of World War two). This agency is dedicated to tracking and attempting an orderly movement of migrants in the wake of natural and man-made disasters MIGRATION FLOWS - EUROPE. The type of population movements no state generally desires to deal with or even acknowledge.

Refugee camps in Iraq, Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt -- which have absorbed these populations for years. Five years for some. These camps are over capacity. There is no work no livelihoods there, and they are no longer safe havens or places where any kind of new life can be started.

Further Lebanon is no longer allowing UNHCR to register refugees lebanon, Turkey is restricting day work opportunities outside the camps Turkey. Both of these events are indications that the idea of temporary solutions and any near-term return to a stabilized Syria is over. See particularly 3rd graphic here "Syrian IDP - European commision" Europe's refugee crisis, explained - Vox.

I've tried coming up with a short list of dichotomies which I hope would span the issue here and give some boundary to it.

  • Migrant vs. Refugee
  • Open Borders vs fences, tall and barbed
  • Legal vs. moral regimes of reasoning
  • Economic determinism vs. political regulation
  • State vs. trans-national governance- Rational Choice vs. criminality

These largely break down into two broad groups: motivations on the personal and societal level

To those who can only see this vast movement as crazy, illegal, illegitimate, or un-reasoned I would say is that it rather represents rational choice. Further I believe there is a natural human right to mobility. There is no law that chains us to where we were born.

At some point in the late spring and early summer I began seeing pieces advocating radically open borders The case for open borders | openDemocracy. I was surprised by this, perhaps too much in touch with the perspective of the radically closed U S Borders. That people are going to move and relocate by sources of available work and safe living, I understand. That this ought to be a process left largely uncontrolled I did not. By the Fall these pieces The only real solution to Europe's migrant crisis is to let everyone in - Vox were no longer confined to the progressive margins The Case for Getting Rid of Borders - The Atlantic

Europe, an integral part of the Eurasian land mass, already had a receptive arrangement for population movements -- guest worker programs, programs to settle refugee and asylum seekers. For the latter the Dublin Regulation which required individuals to stop and seek adjudication of their status in the first European country they enter rather than traversing them with some final destination in mind. This seems sensible until one looks at the burden it places on the often poorer peripheral states and the insulation it offers to the prosperous northern European states. It is untenable for the former, and not what the migrants desire, this system is breaking down Dublin is over: the rise of Europe's new migrant prisons | openDemocracy. On the 24th of September 2015 representatives of the European Union met to agree to Quota to resettle 120.000 refugees across the the entire Union. The vote not unanimous and almost immediately political figures within individual countries were making public statements that they would not abide by or comply with this agreement.

The nation state has responsibilities. The leaders are the guardians and guarantors of any set of laws/rights that those who formed and adhere to that social compact (citizens) believe they possess. An essential hallmark of a nation is control of its borders. Its ability to tell its citizens that the set of rights and benefits created within belong to them alone. That to be outside the group or leave the group is to lose them. A government is tasked by its people to protect its purported values wealth and way of life.

An emptying middle east 'Syria is emptying' - The Washington Post creates outsiders of its own people. These leaders in weakened legitimacy hope to simplify their task by reducing their care to only their own tribe or coreligionists.

The underlying drivers of population movements are not so much the practical authority of the state as much as the moral authority of the state. And this against moral authority of human dignity and basic human right. I was reading Francis Fukayama's "End of History" Over the summer and his concerns towards the state and its presumptions of identity with the people. The "Coldest of all cold monsters" a phrase of Frederich Nitchze's from Thus Spake Zarathrusta is his take

A state, is called the coldest of all cold monsters. Coldly lieth it also; and this lie creepeth from its mouth: "I, the state, am the people." It is a lie! Creators were they who created peoples, and hung a faith and a love over them: thus they served life. Destroyers, are they who lay snares for many, and call it the state: they hang a sword and a hundred cravings over them. Where there is still a people, there the state is not understood, but hated as the evil eye, and as sin against laws and customs. -ch. 11 the New Idol

The voice of the state is never entirely concomitant with its people, the cultural collection they represent. It always is less, it falls short, missing the fullness of spirit of a people. The state's voice is of section, of faction, of an interest laden overgroup. It is an irony that the leaders of our nations and international markets laud globalism as our transcendent achievement. A boarder-less tariff-less conveyance of goods material and money, but not people.

Moreover when the specific topic is jobs and economic success, it is not encouraged to talk about any nation's economy using an initial disparity to engineer a regional hegemony where wealth and opportunity across a wide geographic range is captured and held within national boundaries. Where thereafter the ever increasing inequality is put to work enforcing a status quo of rich and poor, winners and losers. But it does happens that states lock wealth and power up to organize interstate relations for own benefit. Then use this in quiet propaganda of some supposed innate superiority of their subject-citizens.

The idea that the individual rights bequeathed by the state ought only apply to those belonging is an odd assertion in ways. Implicitly they are recognized as universal rights. Asserting them as a members-only state good is a chauvinism that marks nationalism. The state as a closed system of culture (The expanded sense of culture the Germans like to call Kultur).

There is a deep sense of insecurity Europe's Migration Paralysis by Joschka Fischer - Project Syndicate in Europe in many western nations as well. The great lifting tide of the post-war generations culminating in the seeming victory over communism -- as exemplified in the eastern bloc nations. The homogeneity, the material driven economy has achieved a certain stasis and in now turned to a fear of change. A fear of demographic change, One that would upset balances and over turn privilege.

Against this I am hesitant to point out the assumption of open border adherents that certain common progressive ideals prevail among migrating populations of the world. An acknowledgment of equality, legality, freedom and the democratic principle. This may be true, it may not be true. History does not demand it.

For all that; to a person looking for a better life, borders mean nothing and never have or will. For anyone at any point in history. All pertinent moral authority dignity, and agency rests with the the individual.

The distinction between migrant against refugee, useful for policy makers and politicians alike is in reality one phenomenon on a a sliding scale. A population self defined or otherwise defined believing itself cut off from a fair share in a given society may become critical and opposed to the ruling class and in turn oppressed by the dominant majority (or minority). The difference between looking for a better life and be driven away to it is never that great. A policy built on this distinction will never be fully rational and will never survive practical experience.

The world is not a static place with its peoples locked to land and leaders. This is the case between the European Union and adjacent Africa and Middle East, between United States Central America, and the Caribbean, between the south by south east Asian states and the Rohingya people. And in my lifetime's memory Vietnamese boat people that I saw first hand in 1979 while serving on a aircraft carrier in the South China Sea.

Of course from an American perspective nothing can show this in as sharp a relief as to re-focus the migration question to North America of the 1500 1600's. To those population seeking to leave their situations in Europe. Then at once law is understood to be firmly and unassailably on the side of natural movements and rights of property rested on improvements on improvidently held land; a natural law.

Against all evidence and theory migrants and refugees are seen as a threat The big myth about refugees - The Washington Post:. The threat itself is mutable, it is whatever serves the prevailing prejudice. This play against the promise of populations. The late economist Julian Simeon and those that adhere to his thinking have long been utterly convinced that there is little danger and no need overly preparing for the dangers of overpopulation, environmental degradation, or global warming -- to the extent they admit the latter exists at all. Human ingenuity focused through free market forces would solve all problems in real time: But also, to a startling degree, the decision about whether the overall effect of a child or migrant is positive or negative depends on the values of whoever is making the judgment - Ultimate Resource 1981 Julian Simon - Wikipedia

For the right populations; Social Darwinism's slight return. But things change. Climates change already North America has had a foretaste of what may come Worried About Refugees? Just Wait Until We Dust-Bowlify Mexico And Central America | ThinkProgress . In the last instance while the inclination to bar others from from the door may seem justified no continent is permanent to any people. There is no law natural or un-natural that protects man from change.

Thursday, 26 November 2015 01:30 EST #

Cactii twitter Annoyances

They are plenty of things about twitter that annoy me. But there is a subset of these, especially, which I think of as Twitter Annoyances because they seem deliberate, even official. Designed to nudge me one way or another. This is accounting already for the differences between web browser twitter, IoS twitter and Twitter for Mac (which used to be, what, Tweetie?). The latter I like because they seem to have forgotten about it, It has few of their recent "innovations" and is just very basic. I don't have a problem with their various UI's. All the clickables are well sized and don't shift around. But then I've always been a "its a hammer learn how to swing it" kind of guy. It is that everything you do in browser Twitter seems to set your timeline back to the top. Clicking on a picture, clicking on the notification or profile "tab". Clicking on an embedded tweet (embedded tweets the second round of twitters war on RT). All these actions will reset you to the current moment, often hours and hundreds of tweets away from where you were before curiosity struck.

One of their past innovations the red-lined conversation threads that don't always (or frankly, often) locate all of a conversation are useless with still on going conversations leave me doubtful of Twitters ability to to take their basic unwinding of the world in real time and spin it around into easily digestible chunks Again this is a swimming-against-the-stream issue that crops up under the surface of many twitter annoyances.

Another thing that Twitter is loathe to let you do is walk away from it and expect you can pick up where you left off. There is an ever shrinking back-end to your time-line. It seems to be around four hours or 300 tweets which ever comes first. During the recent GOP debate it was well under one hour. With Twitter the past is a forgotten country; you either have keep up or break with your chosen timeline.

In mobile Twitter clicking on the interstitial spaces to load the next erg of one hundred tweets or so leaves you on the wrong side of them. Generally this is scarcely an hour. Forcing you to scroll down a dozen or more screens trying to remember the tweet you were looking at when you clicked. Twitter is designed in reverse chronological order. The present is always at the top. They would rather you consumed itthat way, and not deeply. I can only imagine that many people like myself typically scroll upwards surfacing towards that present moment. The "new tweets" notice in iOS mobile is another red flag that twitter desperately wants you to abandon any close reading of those you follow, and only think about that last newest shiny tweet. The "While you were out" feature, a sop to any guilt you might have.

This, Whether they or I are misguided here, is obnoxious behavior for a (pseudo) service product. And I say that because I don't doubt that it's intentional. I've heard others reference it, Its not a technical glitch hung on a platform. The question is what does it mean? They want you to stay at the shallow end of the pool. They don't really want you to view twitter from wherever you left off to the present. If they ever did, they've lost faith in it now. They don't really believe you actually follow all those people you say you follow.

The reasons for this are manifold. Promoted items and advertisements appear at the top, They are invested in you refreshing the page as often as possible, not scrolling. This is why you have Jack Dorsey making comments about "value at the top" Twitter Q2 earnings: How Jack Dorsey is reinventing the company.. But it betrays their not really conceiving twitter as a fully fledged social media communication media or news aggregator (despite much bad faith commentary to that end).

Rather what they believe they have is something that feeds you a short sharp shock a high voltage buzz. They think of it as some kind of drug, to alleviate boredom to be dipped into until sated. They will try (and claim) to arrange for the top of the feed to be a place that will do all that you think twitter does: Connect you to the news, timely events, your friends, celebrities.

What they will do for you. They will write an algorithm. Your own personnel echo chamber. Your previous: (1) politics (2) products (3) places. The danger of algorithms or downside for the techno optimists among you; They are a process of gradualism, shaping slowly into place a reflection of prior predilections biased towards eudemonic feelings and comfort zones The Web of Relationships We Have to Save - The Message - Medium. They are hard, if not impossible to shake if your needs change (your interests are no longer your concern). You are not even aware of events you might react too - if you knew of them. Utterly confirmed, the outside world becomes a mere buzzing in the distance.

Among the names this goes by is the Filter Bubble popularized in that form by Eli Parser Eli Pariser: Beware online "filter bubbles" | TED Talk | In the consumption of information it is a matter of challenge vs comfort amidst multiple frames of relevancy and immediacy (gratification).

Some feel that if technology is a problem let technology be the fix. One article describes a proposed algorithm which would parse your algorithm and deploy an anti algorithm to inject the opposite into your cocoon of information How to Burst the "Filter Bubble" that Protects Us from Opposing Views | MIT Technology Review:

Much of the problem with this algorithmic approach is that it is not just a computation rule-set delivering up an obvious answer. It is agency and the question is: whose benefit it is working towards. Zeynep Tufecki author of the above Medium piece has an academic and deeper dive on that here Tufekci-final.pdf. It is a matter of transparency and control, and whether allowing challenges to ones existing views is to be valued, or even tolerated.

Everyone seems to agree that Twitter has problems. Most - if there is any consensus on this -- seem to feel that Twitter has not achieved the necessary critical mass of a true social network. Growing the user-base is the mission and the problem is its perceived difficulty of use, the learning curve, Twitter is seen to have. All this despite the modest success of the current low key advertising model Twitter Revenue Up 61%, but User Growth Lags - The New York Times:.

No one doubts the level of engagement of the core users, they just doubt the fortune a service in sync with these users will make. This keeps Twitters management trying to imagine a different twitter than what is.

Pressure from shareholders is driving much of this. And by shareholders I mean Wall Street in general -- the class and mindset of people who would inform a shareholder what they ought to be valuing.

In turn this pressure has forced leadership changes as they attempt to be whatever business wisdom wants them to be. Jack Dorsey, board member and one of Twitters four creator and launchers only gave the read out of the 2nd quarter earnings statement because Dick Costello CEO since 2010, had stepped down in June because Wall Street no longer had confidence in him.

Wall Street's conception goes little further than Ideas when wrung hard ought to puddle money. Twitters users are not idiots, though. There is a core of highly engaged users, content providers that they can't afford to jettison to keep a larger but less engaged gathering happy. "Be Facebook", they plead. But Facebook already exists. Twitter cannot chase Facebook and expect to catch them, make Facebooks money, or make Facebook disappear by trying to be them. Wall street's barking is repetitive and predictable quantity, though. Is it possible that the desire to massively cash out with a big ill conceived IPO is inconsistent with stable management free of impatient and uncomprehending interference?

Most of the changes in the pipeline point to a retrograde motion from a sharp but tricky instrument to a comfortable but dull one. The more astute have pointed out the real problem is that Twitter is boring Making Twitter relevant : without bullshit. The primary content movement is peer to peer among the masses. It is not a broadcast model People are on their "A' game only as often as Anthony Rendon. Who is very good, but at best only 3 out of every 10 at-bats. There are many people, at that, who don't even have an 'A' game. Twitter is CB radio with 300 million 10-forty-4s for you good buddy.

Twitter's management seem poised on the brink of whole-sale changes of unknown consequence This Is Twitter's Top Secret Project Lightning - BuzzFeed News, where smaller iterated changes might tweak them to where they want to be. Time is what they feel is at a premium.

There is little need to reinvent the wheel here, though. Existing tools, lists primarily, are good for nearly everything Twitter would do for you. Topics, High importance follows, catch up reading. Lists can do this. I would like lists to do even more -- respond to commands like block mute button. List that would populate a Direct Message group -- currently these have to be populated each time, or simply kept open like a text message convo. Hash tags are nice if one exists and people are using it, but a fuzzy keyword approach that could be impelled into being, made permanent or used temporarily would be better.

Expanding on the idea of hashtag like function might be auto event streams. Twitter is testing out a breaking news tab in its mobile apps | The Verge:. Even with existing hashtag follows extra tools to fine tune or winnow the out flow would be useful. Following the America's cup races last fall was OK. Trying to follow World cup soccer games was a miserable experience. When a hash will pour sixty to one hundred tweets per minute onto your it serves no realistic purpose. Better conversation handling ought to be a Twitter priority as well. currently there is no platform where twitter is able to present a conversation unfolding in a natural way. Part of this is that cannot decide which way they want people to read Twitter (or let them decide for themselves), but they also fail by whatever method they're using to capture all of the voices and comments in a conversation.

I've always though tweet length ought be raised from 140 to 250 characters. The size of a compound complex sentence. or two simple sentences. It would get twitter past the struggle to communicate a thought. 140 can communicate an dull affinity (or dissaffinity), but little more. It regularly fails to establish the parameters of an idea for further discussion.

Ideally there could be two parallel twitters: an original twitter RVO (Reverse Chronological Order), manual RT's MTs and all that; and a follower-loaded algorithmic-button-hamburger-menu twitter able to follow events and create list-like objects on the fly. An easy to use twitter for mass appeal.

There is a glimpse of this perhaps in the new browser log-in page. I think they would like to have users to have a landing page of cards and columns that users would come to read with little scrolling and refresh for new content. This also shades towards Facebook envy and underscores twitters identity crisis. Will Facebook envy wreck Twitter? | Computerworld:. Part of the pressure to change twitter & the reason for public resistance is the need to find a way to rake out the dross. Auto play video and embedded tweets won't help that. A certain minimalism! was always twitter's key attribute.

Friday, 04 September 2015 08:45 EDT #

Cactii the Fallen Giant

Along my daily bicycle ride to and from work. The particular portion where I transition from the Northwest Branch bike and hiking trail, I ride on a brief section that parallels a major power-line.

The Northwest Branch trail is one part of the Anacostia river tributary park and trail system, this also includes neighboring Sligo creek. Rock Creek one minor water shed to the a few miles to the west like the Anacostia is a direct tributary of the Potomac river.

This is an area of abundant vegetation, verdant and full through most of the year, and the path along the deep cut of the creek through the numerous small hills, forming small wooded canyons along the line the creek has carved out for a thousand years. Which scarcely changes when one gets out onto the road. Here in this corner of mid-Atlantic east coast the land has not yet made up its mind and is always going either up or down.

This is the point along the seaboard where the bedrock of the continent gives way to the sandy gradual slope of the coastline. The point varying between ten and one hundred miles inland where there are always drops to all the streams and rivers -- waterfalls -- and generations of small and large industry formed to capture that energy. Such as the Adelphi Mill scarcely a quarter mile behind.

As the land bottoms out past the fall line the path opens out to a great field of tall grass. At times I will startle deer even a fox at this point. Here the path divides and I habitually turn left to head towards Cool Spring road; though I could continue on and get where I am head just the same. It is a false meadow it is kept as a grass land for the sake of the high tension line that runs through here. Still along the power-lines broad right-of-way there are clear vistas in either direction, which otherwise the landscape does not provide. There is; however nothing notable to see. To the south down the line low scattered roof-lines of an unremarkable assortment of buildings along University boulevard. None of them seen in completion through the trees. To the north the land sweeps upward to and over Cool Spring road. The is a fine older house to the west of the line here. Brick, easily a hundred years old. Further on, though I cannot see it, as the rise rounds over the short horizon I know lies Adelphi road and beyond that Metzerott road. At other times I have encountered this same line by turns along these roads

the powerline towers between Mettzerot rd. and University Blvd photo:pb
The Towers

What one sees are the Power-line's pylons outlined starkly against white clouds and blue sky. This line actually consists of dual set of towers in parallel about one hundred feet apart.

Until last year the older one was strung on a tower of open angle-iron girders likely dated back fifty or sixty years. Last summer Fall and into the Winter whatever electric authority responsible came through and and replaced them with a octagonal column masts to match the other line. The one pole that went up along the stretch of my brief transit took weeks of preparatory work. Pile-driving and drilling: vertical drilling, slant drilling all using different rigs. Concrete pouring to create the base. Before that the road - Cool Spring road - leading to this portion of the line was rebuilt and repaved in sections to bear the weight of the heavy equipment brought in to accomplish this work. The distance between these new masts is quite large - a thousand feet or more on average. Even at this location one can only see the next two masts in line before the line is obscured.

I do not know the origin point of this line, on maps it seems to go far away off into West Virginia after crossing the Potomac River. Southward the line finally goes to ground just shy of the District of Columbia borderline at a place called the Takoma Substation.

Vanquished the fallen giant lies on its side photo:pb
Fallen Giant

In the end the new mast pole went up very quickly, in a day. I was surprised. I missed it too due to inclement weather which led me to take the bus to work that day. The old tower lay on the ground on its side for a few weeks like a distressed crumpled giant before workers came through and cut it up with acetylene torches.

On certain days some combination of the color of the grass, brush, trees, in the presence of a counterbalancing mass of clouds folded white and grey, the blue of the sky -- when darker especially, I think, more so than shades of green (as it seems to occur in association with the yellow green of early spring as much as the deep green of midsummer). It is when the sky moves from the cornflower blue of a hazy day to a true register of blue. Then I find the scene reminding me of an illustration I once saw in a magazine. A landscape of bicyclers riding by a vaguely similar power-line -- a scene so prosaic I wondered what effect the photographer and graphic designer had been going for. I decided the affection was for an ideal sort of day. Sunny, perfect and without care in appearance, at the same time a common and returning occurence. At once I am struck by the sense of an unchanging ideal day.

Knowing that the sun has come up and lit this scene in the same exact manner for tens of thousand of years. That from certain angles where one allows trees to fully hide the buildings the feeling that among those years here for the last forty years at least, if not forty hundred. There has been rather less change than more.

All this combines to create a sense that removes -- or rather loses one from time. An odd brief but profound sense of dislocation. It often takes the form of an indelible feeling that I have been removed to a previous point in time -- some decades ago the mid sixties or seventies that I lived through but long before I came to or set eyes in this area.

As I gain Cool Spring road I find myself instinctively glancing at the make and model of the parked suburban cars to reassure myself of their recent vintage. That I continue to transit in the correct moment of time.

Of course time has directionality and particularity. All our experience exists in and is locked in the moment with only the imperfection of memory providing recognition of the changed world of the next moment. The idea of directionality to time not only describes it but exhaustively defines it.

This directionality makes itself know to our reason in two ways observing the natural world. By causality -- the observation that change has antecedent, and by thermodynamic entropy -- the notion that systems move over time from higher levels of organization and energy to lower ones.

The British astrophysicist and philosopher Arthur Eddington coined the phrase the Arrow of time" to describe this phenomenon of directionality. About it he said: "[if] more of the random element in the state of the world, then the arrow is pointing towards the future; if the random element decreases the arrow points toward the past." This perception of randomness does not take place in the individual moment as experienced, but in the comparison of one moment with the previous in memory. Eddington's observation was that "time was vividly recognized by the consciousness." This in his 1929 book The nature of the physical world

Arthur Stanley Eddington photo:Wikipedia
Arthur Eddington

Eddington's main contributions to knowledge lay in his work to explain and popularize Einsteins General Relativity. His equations demonstrating that the pressure of radiation balanced by gravity kept stars -- our sun -- in their tight contained ball-like shape, his chase after very large numbers to explain everything. And I reflect as I change gears for Cool Spring Road's long climb up to Adlephi Road the Eddington Number: a medium sized number to relate ones bicycle dominance a number n designating the maximum number of miles ridden for the same number of days that milage has been attained. Mine would be six. This seems unreasonable. I have ridden longer: ten but not ten times, eight but not eight times. The six miles I ride though -- my daily commute -- I have accomplished nearly four thousand times since starting work at the universities library.

Thoughts on the passage of time inevitably turn to the quality of living through a day, now or twenty thousand years ago. The possibility of human evolution. Will urban living and mass structured societies change the equation of human living? In a way that changes or evolves human nature? In all the years we can account for our tribal sensibilities seem scarcely diminished.

We have named the epoch of our emergence - from the end of the last ice age when man had already started our spread across the planet: the Holocene and are toying with a further term The Anthropocene to denote the age of ascendence, the era of dominant altering effect. A period variously envisioned as encompassing the nuclear age, industrial age, introduction of agricultural monocultures or our found ability to bring land into food production through schemes of irrigation.

Through all this human nature has seemed the same: the desire to be conforming, to adapt and live harmoniously in a social group. The desire to be extra ordinary, to to live outside the norms of the community, in spite of them. From whatever energy societies are built they are kept together by institutions of control, of passions and ambition. These are like the parallel rails of a train track -- seeming to, destined to merge at some point near the horizon. But what is the time frame for that?

The idea of progress, whatever that might mean, has so thoroughly captured the imagination of the west (at least) that it is commonly taken as an integral function of time. Living in the midst of this rushing stream I have my doubts. They are largely private doubts. Optimists and and pessimists alike share the view that we are all caught in the terrible jaws of a thing called progress.

Some time back in the late winter I picked up an old discarded copy of Francis Fukuyama's book the The End of History and the Last Man - Wikipedia and started to read it. Largely because I could not think why I never had before. I was taken by his concept that human progress -- material and economic progress -- is tied to technological progress -- a slow process but an inevitable one. It is tied to human nature our instinct to reduce the effort of any given task, and will continue always if delayed. And restart if interrupted. This provides a directionality to human affairs and complexity to human societies. He refers to this as the Mechanism. It provides the basis of a universal history. Fukuyama is smart enough to realize this is all that can be said as a first step.

It is Fukayama's particular assertion in this book that a market based consumer economy in a democratic political structure was the stable and final form of human society, free of internal contradiction. These are things that might cause the historical process to continue, to produce further change. His theses seems to admit that adoption of democracy and market economies will spread slowly and be subject to ebbs and flows locally. It is simply that he can't conceive of anything that supplies happiness and autonomy to the individual more than this.

All this is material well-being. It is not and should not be mistaken for moral progress whatever that might mean. Fukuyama is well aware of this addressing it in the introduction (on page six). Returning to it occasionally such as the ending to ch. 11 admitting that moral progress may not track with historical process in an discernible fashion at all. There is an assertion elsewhere that our philosophies will change when our biologically driven psychological knowledge advances Our nature is not fixed our behavior evolves under the environmental pressure of reasoned self awareness. He is less sanguine about the effects of techne in change our essential biology and nature.

Fukuyama's Heglian, through Alexandre Kojeve, take on human nature is that it revolves around the desire to be recognized -- to compel recognition. To feel more deserving for having risked lot and life, and making status demands on this account. A warrior ethos. This alone has saddled the human race with untold generations of parasitic aristocracy, scarcely credible in the first generation nonsensical for the rest. All this is wrapped up in a larger concept he uses the word thymos for. The need, the desire for this recognition, the instinctive indignation for not getting it. The feeling akin to shame for not achieving it.

The End of History written a generation ago. It is becoming increasingly clear that consumer economies are not that stable. There is an incoherence between consumer and wage earner identities as citizens. There is a tendency towards income inequality precluding viable democracy. It has been put forward that the enormous intoxicant use in the US, alcohol and the legal as well as illegal drug trade -- the latter perhaps more destabilizing to production than end-use countries -- point toward submerged contradictions. It was Fukuyama's position on contradiction that problems alone do not necessarily equal contradictions. As long as the solution can be found within the system, history is quiescent.

Francis Fukuyama has amended facets of his thinking over the last 28 years. Democracy is losing its argument to Market Authoritarianism. The right desires (demands) further dismantlement of the regulatory state and unfettered capitalism, the left has nothing to offer beyond the now old new deal and increasingly unaffordable great society ideas. Technology has masked inequality and as its rewards tend to accrue to educated elites it even exacerbates inequality The Future of History | Foreign Affairs. This is perhaps what Jacques Ellul means in part by his term technological tyranny. For every problem solved; new problems. That have to be solved in turn for the human race to survive.

Nature, I suppose, includes everything or at least functions as a synonym for the world: physical and biological nature. This includes human nature, at least partly. Nature, growing and uncontrolled or unimproved which we seek to replace with our built environment the expression of our technological capacity to live on our terms.

In a nod to our long held habit of concentricism - of enclosing the world in various levels of spheres like the entirely modern term Biosphere: the global ecological system of all living beings and their relationships - I would call this world of man the Ratiosphere. The sphere of human thought, and deliberate action.The human condition. I realize this is similar to the concept called the NooSphere and some may doubt the necessity of a new term. But the Noosphere "is the sphere of human thought." and often seems to function in its descriptions as an all encompassing collective conscious, like Al Farabi's active intellect. I see what I have as the sphere of Racination; the willingness to understand the world through deliberate (process of) reason alone, and place it just inside the Noosphere.

The Epic of Gilgamesh is one of the earliest long form pieces of writing human-kind has. I've always found it striking that one of its key parts - the friendship between Gilgamish the king of Uruk and Enkidu the wild man of the plains modeling the dichotomy between civilized and natural order. Antipathy for the wilderness, hubris for the gates and walls of our cities, but also regret for our break from the nature Fueled by speculation of what that was. A theme in place now for more than four thousand years. It seems that man is always rehearsing this divide. Cutting the grass along the the powerlines right of way done for purely pragmatic reasons creates the appearance of a broad meadow, and this is how it is received by both the people and animals that frequent it. The half-mastered spring Cool Spring Road is named after used to roll on charmingly alongside the road. Nothing special was done for its sake (nothing at all really).

Up the ramp at Shoppers World photo:Framingham Views, a weblog
Shoppers World
But when the trucks came to build the pylons, parts of it had to be channeled and moved underground.

All built environments suffer from decay. Some age ungracefully like University blvd. In the flats where power-line crosses it. Like Framingham in the 1970s, The big downtown near the town I grew up in, in Massachusetts suffering from an irresolute sprawl . Milford, to the other side, possesed a compact downtown, which; however, seemed unable to fully leave the 1930's. This happens within cycles of relative renewal and decay. Some built quickly and un-thoroughly thought-out fade quickly once the energy of their newness is dissipated. Others; though, as time passes grow on towards the incomplete ideal of their construction.

Thursday, 30 July 2015 23:10 EST #

Prolegemma to any future FAQ.

Who are you again?
paul bushmiller
what is it exactly that you do?
at the least, this.
What is this?
it's a weblog.
How long have you been doing it?
some ten years in various forms
Ever been overseas?
Know any foreign languages?
Favorite song?
Victoria - the Kinks
RockandRoll? Favorite American song then.
Omaha - Moby Grape
Favorite Movie?
Billy in the Lowlands
Favorite book?
any book I can read in a clean well lighted place
Is this one of those websites with lots of contentious, dogmatic and brittle opinions?
What do you expect to accomplish with this?


A book list in WorldCat

Reader Responses


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Atomized mk ii Archives

There are only a few posts on 2013 as Atomized Jr was still working until September of that year, although its archive function failed in April leaving 5 or 6 posts stranded on its broken front page (a few of which I moved to the MKII 2013 page). I may eventually rebrand all of 2013 as Atomized mkii. The 2010 post are similarly from a period a few years earlier when Ajr would not update for a month or so

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