Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Appropriating cultural appropriation appropriation-wise

OK.  So let me see if I've got this straight:  If I choose to wear dreadlocks as this (remarkably pathetic looking) white man at SFSU was accosted for, then I am committing "cultural appropriation" of an 'African' hair style. Yet according to archaeologists, the first dreadlocks were worn by Egyptians.  So all people except those of Egyptian descent who wear the 'locks are in fact cultural appropriating. And while we're at it:  trousers (pants if you're a girl) were invented by horseback riding pastoralists on the edge of China.  So Big Boy pants are Chinese.  So everyone drop 'em right now, you racist, cultural appropriators, you. And of course the concept of cultural appropriation comes from the western European philosophical tradition of existentialism, post modernism and literary deconstruction. So even using the concept much less the term of cultural appropriation is culturally appropriating my culture.  So back off man! You're oppressing me.

Saturday, March 26, 2016



It's such a little word. 
Just five letters, two vowels.

Yet it travels farther than any other.
Reaching across canyons that divide us.

Where we sit alone, aloof, waiting to be rescued.
By the brave ones, the ones that dare risk the jump.

We watch and wait for them, in readiness to catch -
the life preserver that saves us from ourselves.

I'm grateful for all the brave souls.
Souls who reached out to me.

Souls like yours.
Bearing a word:


Wednesday, March 16, 2016

And so it begins

Lee Kwan Yew demonstrated that you can run a successful authoritarian regime. So long as your economy is far from the innovation/productivity boundary so that it is easy to generate outsize returns. And so long as you govern a small, homogenous polity. It also helps if you have Anglo Saxon constitutionalism with its common law tradition to constrain your henchmen's impunity. And critically:  you must be brilliantly competent.

Not so a 3.7 million square mile (vs 256) 320 million (vs 4.5) person empire spread over 7 time (vs 1) and 11 climactic (vs 1) zones that is at the innovation/productivity boundary. The wrenching changes required of economies at the boundary to keep growth moving forward attract rent seekers eager to profit from or retard the changes. Decisions made far away by unfireable apparatchiks in a ramshackle bureaucracy appear  illegitimate and oppressive (because they often are). The law which once was grounded in a tradition of constraining the state is now the seen as the state's tool of oppression in service to the richest,  most lavish of the rent seekers who infest the visibly richer, plutocratic capital city that is so very far away.

It is a system that is so huge, so complex that success can only be achieved at times of unusual international and domestic stability (Clinton 1) or during the emergence of a strong national consensus (Reagan) managed by highly skilled leaders able to expertly surf the waves of change. Yet I doubt if either RWR or WJC could handle today's challenges because the state's rule is so very much more invasive and manipulative than even back then. The unfireables have so much more power in large swathes of our society with only a modest and fading democratic audit of their activities. And Barack Obama is not a competent man. Neither will Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump be up to the task. The curse of brittle centralized authoritarian empires is a string of weak rulers and we have had such a string. And there is little doubt it will continue.

And the increasingly cynical left authoritarianism of the current occupant of the Eagle throne has engendered an equally troubling backlash. Both sides have concluded that the state is far too powerful to safely entrust to their political enemies for 4 or 8 years. Both sides calculate that they cannot afford to lose and so the political violence has begun.  Verbal violence has begat street violence has begat open talk of political murder which I fear will lead to real political murders on a scale never seen before.

Only then will the arrogance and cruelty of the centralizers become clear. But then it will be too late to amicably reorder our relations into the looser, less centralized, prescriptive and bureaucratic polity that our wiser forefathers built for us. I fear the poison will have sunk so deep into our hearts that both sides will calculate that the only way to ensure their survival is victory.

And then the real killing begins. Both here and around a world shorn of its stabilizing hegemon. And the people will cry out: My God My God why have you forsaken us? And the Gods of the Copy Book Headings will reply  "We did not forsake you. In your greed and arrogance you have forsaken us".

Monday, March 14, 2016

This chick is nuts.

I'm waiting for a friend at this topless damn you smartphone spellchecker! I mean tapas bar. I'm sorry but I've been having knock down drag out fights with lady in my phone and I think the cyborg you know what is resorting to sabotage. She's extremely territorial and gets jealous at the slightest provocation. I decided to use the rental car's GPS lady rather than her (she's been deliberately routing me onto giant traffic jams because I turn her off at night but I have to, she won't stop beeping) and she threw a cyborg hissy fit. I'm searching for a nice boring Midwestern man avatar. This chick is nuts.

The Chain

He couldn't make the Wise One understand.

The chain was biting into his ankle.  The unbreakable chain that bound all the continental children.  Up until now, it had been loose but some of the others had tipped over the edge into the abyss and now it was getting tight.

"Well of course there are problems" the Wise One said in an exasperated tone as he bit into a ripe peach he had just plucked from the tree. "Look at these peaches!".
"Yes, but the chain."
He looked down at the links around The Boy's ankle and their taughtness that stretched off into the distance connected to their friends and their friend's friends and others who were already gone. He looked at his own, which was as loose or looser than than The Boy's had been and shrugged.
"You worry too much."
"But it hurts!" The Boy said, straining against the chain. His shoes skipped a fraction of an inch as he pulled.
"You must be exaggerating because I don't see Cal or Jurgen squawking....." tossing the now exposed pit aside. "Things are just like they've always been, have a peach" proffering the ripe, beautiful fruit to The Boy who had both hands around the chain and his feet jammed and scrabbling the ground.

Off in the distance they could hear Cal and Jurgen laughing and calling back and forth to each other.  They were lying on the ground and their respective chains were dragging them slowly, ever so slowly but they didn't seem cut into their ankles the way it did The Boy's and anyway, they didn't seem to mind.

And the Wise One was right:  things were beautiful.  The trees were filled with fruit, the sky was a sparkling blue and there was a babbling brook darting and dancing all the way down to the abyss. The roar of the water as it fell in almost drowned out the cries and moans of those inside. The Slavic kids scrabbling at the steep sides, trying to stop their slide, the Asians, almost all boys, grim jaws set, climbing over the bodies of others clamped to the wall and the Bantu wails from all the little ones at the bottom - too young and weak to even begin to escape the dark, cold water.

A number of the children walked over to talk to The Boy and The Wise One - the ones without chains.  "Why do you have a chain?" they asked.
"Because we are Continentals!" The Wise One answered proudly.
"But you'll end up in the Abyss"
"No we won't" The Wise One said a little too defiantly as one of the littlest fell screaming down the side.
"Why don't you just unlock your lock? Take the chain off?"
The Boy winced but not from the pain of the chain in his skin but from the mention of the treason he planned.
"There is no key", The Wise One said.  "Well, to use a key wouldn't work", he finally admitted "because all of those other kids further down - the ones that don't realize what is happening to them - would fall in all the faster" he said with an intensity that belied his feigned nonchalance. "There is no choice, we must remain linked no matter what".
"Do you think you're your brother's keeper?" said the Free Leader incredulously.
"Yes, of course, we're the responsible ones"
"Then why are you letting the chain drag you all down to the abyss?  Do you like coldness and darkness?"
"No, of course not. But this is what we've always done"
"That's a lie" shouted, The Boy - "There never used to be these tight chains, we all stayed together in the meadow and played but it's only been a little while since we were all chained together, ever since the abyss opened in the middle."
The Wise One rounded on him "for your own good, so you wouldn't stray. Please be quiet, you're making things worse" as The Boy's straining legs and shoes skipped again.

By the by The Wise One wandered off to debate with the Free Ones, he had so much slack in his chains he could walk the entire meadow.  The Boy, exhausted from his fight looked around furtively and digging in his pocket retrieved the golden key that they all had before they accepted the lock and the chain.  But many of the children had been careless or improvident and had lost or sold theirs.  Not The Boy. He looked at the key's gleam - it read in finely etched letters:  "Liberty".  All of a sudden a wail went up among some of the other tightly dragging children who jealously pointed at The Boy, chanting "key, key, key".  He frantically began trying to fit the key in the lock and release it but his hands were tired and bloody from the fight with his chain and he kept dropping it.

The Wise One looked up from his reverie, and called out the alarm to his still loosely chained friends.  As The Boy finally recovered the key one of them kicked it out of his hand and it flew far away....out of reach for the tightly chained Boy.
"Please, he begged, please give me my key back".
"No, you're not allowed to flee, you're nothing but a coward."
"For God sakes! I'm going to be dragged into the abyss, don't  you understand?  Please, please give me my key! It's mine! I saved it."
The Free Children came over, looking pensive.
"Well surely you'll help me, please just go get my key - it's right over there.  There's nothing they can do to you".
But they just stood there, staring.
"Why won't you help me?" The Boy cried out.
"We can't" Said the Largest of their group "Every child has to choose to be tied to a chain or to become truly free of their own accord.  We can't do anything except encourage.  It's every child for themselves".
The Boy sobbed as his shoes finally broke their friction connection with the ground and he landed unceremoniously on his back - moving a full half a foot Abyss-ward in the process.  He lay there softly crying as the chain dragged him towards his end.  After a while he began humming and laughing, talking to himself and smiling.

The Wise One turned to the Free Ones "See, I told you he wanted to stay chained" and walked away with his steadily shortening chain in tow.

Monday, March 07, 2016

Someone Great

You say you want someone great, is that too much to ask?
But asking is easy. Getting and becoming are the task.
For great men are made by women and great women by men.
That battled for each other in a fight to the end.

You say you want someone great well so do I.
Someone with the love and faith to fly.
So we can ride on angels' wings
And remember our forgotten dreams.

It's easy to not be great, choosing just to survive.
But living that way it's sometimes hard to tell we're alive.
But to win someone's heart to hold her and keep
Is the task of a lifetime, greatness to achieve.

You say you want someone great well so do I.
Someone with the love and faith to fly.
So we can ride on angels' wings
And remember our forgotten dreams.

And in the end it would be enough, enough to say
We loved each other every day.

Sunday, March 06, 2016

Where fools and knaves tread on us - the Presidential election and the fall of the Roman Republic

I'm fascinated with the ancient Roman Republic, particularly the events around its decline and transformation into a centralized empire.  It's the story of a supremely powerful and fabulously wealthy Republic that was torn apart when ambitious men realized that the State had become so powerful that they literally could not afford to lose to their rivals.  We're getting that type of rhetoric and intensity in this year's election for the Presidency, or as I like to call it:  The Eagle Throne.

So let's review the candidates from a Roman perspective. As of today there are four likely candidates for President of the United states.  They are in descending order of age:

A septuagenarian socialist gadfly supported by overpaid government employees with lifetime employment, academics in state subsidized garden spots like Berkeley, Boulder and Ann Arbor and a certain type of white liberal who live in areas of the country little touched by the 'diversity' that they promote for everyone but themselves. He's the Gracchus brothers who to get power promised to loot the state on behalf of their supporters. And to be stopped they had to be killed.

Two elderly centimillionaires who have lived privileged lives of comfort and legal immunity ever since they left Yale Law.  Notoriously, the first time they entered the White House they claimed to be a co-presidency.  This time around it's quite apparent that they must be co-Presidents because the female member of the team is clearly suffering from mental exhaustion and possibly dementia.  Her appearances are described as 'wooden', 'going through the motions' interspersed with 'deranged'. This lack of mental acuity explains why she used a clearly illegal mail server and when questioned argued (after she had to have been carefully briefed by her handlers to the contrary) that the server was 'secure' because the closet she had it in was protected by the Secret Service.  Her Husband, who clearly intends to be the power behind the Eagle Throne in what is increasingly looking like a reprise of late Woodrow Wilson (all they need is a milquetoast Veep to play ball) will enter office having sold upwards of $250 to $500 million of indulgences to the world's most powerful and ugly people. The Clintons enter this phase of the contest knowing they must win because 1. Their investors will not tolerate their failure.  2. They need the politico-legal immunity that being President or likely to be President has bought them what with Hillary's national security crimes and Bill's dalliances on convicted underage sex criminal Jeffery Epstein's Lolita Express. There are simply too many bodies half buried and no one will buy the Chelsea for President gambit.  Their age and long separation from real world accountability will make them a modern day Marius in his dotage: entitled, self indulgent, corrupt and a word: dangerous.

Another rich entitled, elderly charlatan and long time associate and frequent donor to the Clintons whose crude language and anti-immigrant rhetoric obscure his otherwise impeccable Clinton-Crony political credentials. Like the Clintons he's a notorious if much less artful (or perhaps just not protected by a complaisant press) liar, he's done many, many unethical things with many half buried bodies that stink to high heaven.  The Clintons figure that if they can't get in they definitely want their Good Friend Donald to win because they can hold each other hostage with the debris from their decades of immoral and criminal activities. If he gets in he'll play Sulla the thuggish dictator to their dementia and perversion overwhelmed Marius.

A brilliant forty something of Latino heritage who doesn't pander to "La Raza". He has no bodies buried, no scandals and leads an exemplary family life. He is promoting a traditional Reaganite foreign and domestic policy agenda.  He is hated and feared above all the others by the power elite in Washington DC because they know he means it.  He's the spitting image of the self righteous and inflexible Cato the Younger whose highly principled, self righteous and ham handed political machinations led to Julius Caesar's coup and the collapse of the Republic.

All of these candidates are fighting to replace the man who has presided over the longest period of stagnation in American history. His vigorous leadership has achieved the most precipitous declines in liberty, economic competitiveness, labor force participation and now for the first time: life expectancy ever recorded. Author of a string of notoriously corrupt initiatives in healthcare, 'clean' energy, banking and IRS intimidation, he is proudly promoting the results of a 'recovery' that has increased the poverty rate.  This child of privileged African elites and white radicals who got into office by claiming the mantle of African American victimhood is held in contempt by most foreign leaders who recognize that his foreign policy of rewarding our enemies, punishing our friends and otherwise standing paralyzed is the product of his uncomprehending and delusional radical worldview. Who is he in our Roman story? He is the combination of every shallow, vain, incompetent, impotent Consul to sit as magistrate over the Republic in the years of its collapse.

Now if you'll recall your history of the late Roman Republic you'll note that starting with Marius there were repeated bouts of political violence and civil war until some 50 years later an exhausted Rome fell into the arms of Octavian who would become Rome's first Emperor: Caesar Augustus. I get the real feeling that we are in the early stages of a modern version of this tragedy.  Except our weapons can kill by the millions.

This is why I think it rather irrational to support and sustain an immense, continental scale centralized state ruled in effect by a single executive through unfireable lifetime apparatchiks that are largley unconstrained by a squabbling legislature and cowed judiciary.  I am much more comfortable with most power being devolved to the states or the people.  They might do stupid or cruel things but not all at once.  The problem with strong men and women is that they're strong even when they're pandering, demented, corrupt or self righteous.  The Federal Statists have gotten the form of government they've always wanted.  I give them the joy of it.

Now.  For God's sake, will someone please stop them before it's too late.