30 November 2012


It's been a very busy week since the Turkey Awards. Earlier this week, I did a 24-hour trip to LA... driving. And today, I feel a bit like Victor Frankenstein: "It's aliiiiiiiiiiiiiiiive!" The other side ain't gonna be happy on Monday when the reanimated monster shambles into the courtroom...

  • It's impossible to read any news source at the moment — even overseas sources — without seeing mention of the forthcoming "fiscal cliff." Leaving aside that it's a really, really stupid metaphor (after all, Congress can later in the year reset tax rates with effect on 01 Jan 2013; it wouldn't be the first time!), one must ask a simple question:

    Are the Heffalumps so eager to run off the cliff, following after Grover Norquist and others who have never in their lives had to make a tough budgetary choice, that they're merely lemmings? That's not entirely a rhetorical question, either; it's vitally important to bringing American politics back out of the echo chambers into which both major parties, and for that matter conglomerate-owned media, have retreated for the last thirty-odd years.

  • Along those lines, a conservative scholar who helped give us Laffer, the J-curve, and Reaganomics recounts his journey into the reality-based community and transformation into a center-leftist primarily as a result of his betrayal by powermongers in George III's administration through their epistemic closure.

    On the plus side, I think I had a very clear understanding of the economic crisis from day one. I even wrote another op-ed for the New York Times in December 2008 advocating a Keynesian cure that holds up very well in light of history. Annoyingly, however, I found myself joined at the hip to Paul Krugman, whose analysis was identical to my own. I had previously viewed Krugman as an intellectual enemy and attacked him rather colorfully in an old column that he still remembers.

    For the record, no one has been more correct in his analysis and prescriptions for the economy’s problems than Paul Krugman. The blind hatred for him on the right simply pushed me further away from my old allies and comrades.

    The final line for me to cross in complete alienation from the right was my recognition that Obama is not a leftist. In fact, he’s barely a liberal—and only because the political spectrum has moved so far to the right that moderate Republicans from the past are now considered hardcore leftists by right-wing standards today. Viewed in historical context, I see Obama as actually being on the center-right.

    At this point, I lost every last friend I had on the right. Some have been known to pass me in silence at the supermarket or even to cross the street when they see me coming. People who were as close to me as brothers and sisters have disowned me.

    I think they believe they are just disciplining me, hoping I will admit error and ask for forgiveness. They clearly don’t know me very well. My attitude is that anyone who puts politics above friendship is not someone I care to have in my life.

    (paragraphing in original; internal hyperlinks omitted) Those of us who have studied Stalin in detail — or the insanity coming out of Tehran and Beijing and Damascus and Yangon in the last forty years — or read (and paid attention to) George Orwell's underrated Homage to Catalonia will hear more than a few echoes in here. In short, this echoes antirepresentative tyranny, not tax protestors throwing tea that they didn't own into Boston harbor.

  • As even deeper neepery, Professor Risch discusses the "two cultures" problem with establishing dialogue on software patents. In my experience, there's a parallel problem throughout the arts — it's not just in software, it's in recorded music and in film and in publishing. (It probably exists in at least some form in sport and dance, too, but I simply don't have large-enough data sets to even conjecture... and the kinds of people who've sought my advice over the years are outliers among the outliers.)

    Ultimately, I think the problem arises from unitary theories of creativity — that is, that there is one-and-only-one causality for the advancement of the Sciences and Useful Arts. Stallman (et al.) presume that the creative impulse is both entirely independent of economics and personal financial circumstances, and that noneconomic/financial creativity is sufficient (in both economic and abstract senses) to drive "enough" such advancement. Conversely, the Exploiter Party presumes that all creativity is driven by economic and personal financial interests, and that therefore every aspect of advancement is directly caused (both proximately and conceptually) by economic/financial incentives. The Exploiter Party will sometimes admit that a later potential innovator's speculation on personal financial advantage may cause some innovation, but still traces everything back to finance.

    To say the least, both extremes are wrong, and there's so much historical (and even contemporaneous) data so demonstrating that it's difficult to credit the very existence of the argument. Consider, for example, the development of so-called "World Music" as a distinct marketplace niche. Compare, for example, the respective contributions to the art and practice of storytelling as it is actually done by writers of Richard Wright and Richard Yates, or of Norman Mailer and Thomas Wolfe, or of Mario Vargas Llosa and Art Spiegelman. The less said about auteurs, the better. Instead, there is a complex interplay; economic and financial incentives vary incredibly to individuals. The argument itself both presumes the existance of Maxwell's Daemon and denies variance from the ideal gas law.