Suprise! I’m Frank Herbert

28. January 2007
I am:
Frank Herbert

His style is often stilted, but he created what some consider the greatest SF novel of all time.

Which science fiction writer are you?

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More from Lara

28. January 2007

Here’s another YouTube clip from CNN, wherein our intrepid Lara Logan quite ably defends her reportage from Iraq and explains plainly why “we don’t see any of the good stuff that’s happening.”

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And now you know…

27. January 2007

The blogosphere is abuzz over a CBS news report from Iraq filed on Jan. 17 by Lara Logan, which was aired on the CBS website but not included in their on-air broadcast. The report is about the war raging between Iraq security forces and Sunni militia on Haifa Street, just a few blocks from the secure “Green Zone” where U.S. FedGov forces are headquartered.

The link on the CBS site is here. It requires the Real player, but if you don’t have that it’s also up on YouTube, via this link.

It’s not by any means the most grizzly news report I’ve seen from that sad place, but it paints a gruesome picture of the violent chaos which has enveloped Baghdad and much of that country.

Logan is unhappy her report was not broadcast on the air and is asking for people to write to CBS News and protest the exclusion. CBS has already responded to the effect that they already had a lot of Iraq reporting that day and didn’t have time to include Logan’s report.

Subsequently, on Jan 24, CBS did air a story which contained a few selected images from Logan’s 1/17 report but did not include the dead bodies, the complaints from Haifa Street residents about the chaos and the failure of the U.S. here. This and several other tidbits are offered in the Daily Kos report on this matter. (Yes, the Daily Kos. Did you expect to see this on Free Republic?)

Anyway, Logan has asked bloggers to post a notice about the situation, and I’m now doing my part. I have to say that I know nothing about Logan other than what I’ve seen here, and we may have very different views about a lot of things, but I have enormous respect for her for not only braving the dangers of living and reporting in Iraq, but of bucking her corporate honchos at CBS. You go girl!!!

Kategorie anarchy, Free speech, Posts | 3 Kommentare »

iSmug

18. January 2007

Here’s an article from The Missoulian, forwarded on one of my libertarian lists, that just cracked me up:

http://www.missoulian.com/articles/2007/01/18/entertainer/twaddle/twaddle.prt

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Hillary and BigFoot

18. January 2007

The other day my wife picked up a copy of that most under-appreciated humor magazine, Weekly World News. The “world” here of course being Earth, not Mars, but out here we’re used to the hubristic imperialist assumptions of the Terran media.

But all that aside, WWN brings lots of chuckles. The headline story shows Hillary Clinton teaming up with Bigfoot — the composited photo shows a happy Hillary standing next to a large, hairy man-ape thing.

We laughed because we know that whoever Hillary winds up actually chosing to run with her is going to be known as “Bigfoot,” at least around these parts.

More hilarity:

* In the latest threat to the environment, trees take up smoking! (apparently picking up discarded cigarette and cigars, like hobos do)

* “Hockey heroes” lead a team of zambonis to restore the melting arctic ice-cap.

* Anthropologists discover ancient gymnasiums used by the Neanderthals, where they worked out to reduce stress.

* Astronomer rebuked and threatened with dismissal for excessive star-gazing.

* New development: Bandages for alien abduction scars! (Not clear whether the bandages are for the aliens or the abductees.)

But the real surprise was that WWN has a comics section. And not just measly little 3-4 panels strips, either, but double-decked, 6-8 panel strips! Including one strip, “Spy Cat,” drawn by Ernie Colon. Colon is perhaps, or perhaps not, more famous as the artist who drew the “Official 9/11 Commission Whitewash” graphic novel. Hey, there’s some gravitas for you. Ernie fucking Colon draws for Weekly World News. (Wait, that didn’t sound right.)

But getting back to the headline story, the scariest part is a photograph showing an electronic voting-both screen, listing as presidential candidates Hillary Clinton with Bigfoot, and John McCain with Dan Quayle. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!

Kategorie comics, Free speech, Posts | 3 Kommentare »

Five Pounds of Flax!

11. January 2007

Robert Anton Wilson, co-author of the Illuminatus trilogy, and author of The Cosmic Trigger and other very strange and wonderful books, died this morning after an extended illness. Jesse Walker has a short but apt obituary on his blog.

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Armageddon ouda here

11. January 2007

I grew up in the 1960s and ’70s, when our bright and shiny lives were lived under the dark cloud of the Cold War possibly becoming a Hot War, which would amount to a fiery and poisonous global nuclear holocaust destroying perhaps 90 percent of all life on Earth. We didn’t dwell on these things constantly but this threat was always in the background, leering at us from behind the bouganvillias.

But when Russia de-Sovietized and the Eastern Bloc fell apart that threat seemed to recede almost out of consciousness, still potentially there but remote enough to be no longer alarming.

I think for Westerners this relaxation left a void in our consciousness — that lurking dread of global armageddon had become so familiar as to establish a place for itself in our shared model of the world, and its absence left a disquieting emptyness.

I considered this as I had the Science Channel playing on the background TV, while I went through my morning routines, which presented first a documentary about how near-Earth asteroids and comets might one day smack into us, creating a fiery and poisonous global holocaust destroying perhaps 90 percent of all life on Earth. We’ve got people now scouring the heavens looking for these buggers, but we’ve no real plan what to do if we find one. And it’s just possible something could come in fast out of deep space and whack us before we can spot it.

This was followed up by another hour-long exploration of the recently-discovered “super-volcano” underneath Yellowstone National Park, and how its eruption might cause a fiery and poisonous global holocaust destroying perhaps 90 percent of all life on Earth. And this particular super-volcano has exploded 1.8 million years ago, 1.2 million years ago, 600,000 years ago — you see a pattern?

See? Even if we don’t do in ourselves and most of life on Earth, then the Earth, or the Solar System, might well do it for us. Balance of horror restored, problem solved.

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That blinkin blink

6. January 2007

I have a fairly standard home-DSL connection to the internet, with a router connecting my home network to the DSL modem, and the light for my workstation keeps going blink, blink, blink, once each second.

I have AVG Anti-Virus (and am looking for a replacement free anti-virus app since AVG announced that in a month their product will no longer be free), and have re-installed the latest Spybot Search & Destroy, slashing and burning every “problem” Spybot identified, even if I thought I might need some of them to run stuff.

I still get that blinkin’ blink. I can exit out of my IM apps, close up everything except Windows itself, and I still see that blink, blink, blink.

What the heck is this thing?

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Gift Economy

4. January 2007

Well, having resolved to post more frequently to this blog in 2007, I’m off to a shaky start, aren’t I? Okay, here’s something to chew on.

There is a Yahoo! Groups list called “left-libertarian” which was started by the late Samuel Edward Konkin III, and continues under the management of his friend and business partner Kent Hastings. The group is popoulated by the usual assortment you’ll find on libertarian lists: white male professionals. But I try not to hold that against them, for after all, they didn’t ask to be born white male professionals.

Ideologically, the list includes a contingent of “geo-libertarians” — followers of Henry George, who believed that land, and only land, is rightfully owned in common by all mankind and thereby the only thing that can rightfully be taxed; a larger contingent of “agorists” — market anarchists who eschew conventional political activism in favor of consciousness-raising combined with building alternative institutions that either work around government or make it obsolete, so people can ignore it (Konkin was the founder of agorism in this sense); and an assortment of other libertarians who generally favor anarchism (but not always) and are as distrustful and disdainful of corporations (themselves being a creation of the state) as they are of the state itself.

Into this mess has wandered a Marxoid anarchist named Robin, who apparently is attempting missionary work among the heathens. Robin and some of his friends advocate what they call “the gift economy,” and his polemics have been fairly entertaining, and occasionally enlightening.

The gift economy rests on these notions: 1) The “problems of production” have been solved and we now know how to create enough material wealth to provide a comfortable life for everyone; 2) human nature is malleable, and the right social order can induce people to put “society’s interests,” whatever they may be, ahead of their own; and the information aspect of market prices can be replaced with a semi-automated and self-regulating distribution system which replaces store stocks as they are depleted.

In a gift economy, people would work at such tasks as pleases them, and make a “gift” of their products to the general stock. They would likewise be able to take as much as they like from the stock. And what would induce people to work if there is no material reward connected? “Prestige,” is the answer. People want to be liked by their fellows, and they can earn popularity by doing socially useful work and being good at it. And what would prevent someone from grabbing far more than his fair share from the common stock? Such behavior would earn scorn from one’s fellows and this would suffice to dissuade such behavior.

Okay, take a minute or two to stop laughing. If you want a further elucidation of Robin’s fun ideas, check out his website, www.worldincommon.org.

I have to credit Robin with having some stones, wading into a group of market anarchists and standing his ground the way he has. And the arguments themselves have been interesting — particuarly the wrangling over the definition of “market.”

Robin insists that a “market” involves quid-pro-quo exchanges, value for value. And this is bad, because someone may need or desperately want something but have nothing to trade for it, and this causes unhappiness, a state we’re trying to eliminate with our social engineering. Or something like that.

Anyway, Kent tries to point out that, firstly, in an academic sense at least, “market transactions” involve more than quid-pro-quo exchanges. The term can include any sort of exchange, provided that exchange is voluntary for all parties. A donation can be a market transaction — Smith gives Jones a pound of flax, and Jones accepts the flax. Jones receives the satisfaction of having the flax, and Smith receives, at least, the satisfaction of having made Jones’ life a bit better. And he may also receive the satisfaction of having gotten rid of that extra flax he doesn’t need so he can store something he values more in its place.

Secondly, the “gift transactions” in Robin’s model are also “quid pro quo” in a sense. And that is, people are generally expected to contribute to the common stock as well as take from it. Those who don’t contribute are scorned; those who take too much are also scorned. This is also, ultimately, a quid-pro-quo arrangement, albeit between each individual member and his entire community, rather than between and among individuals.

Many of the listmembers, having studied “Austrian” economics to varying degrees, have objected that the market price system, in addition to providing an incentive to work and produce, also carries vital information about the relative demand and availability of different goods, services, and production factors. Ludwig Von Mises proved back in the 1920s that without at least a relatively free price system, rational economic calculation is impossible. This thesis was apparently validated in the 1980s with the collapse of Soviet Socialism in Russia and the Chinese abandonment of Marxist economics in favor of market economics.

But Robin is undeterred, and points out that the Russian and Chinese systems were never really “communist,” in the sense of being societies with no bosses, no state, and abundant goods for everyone. Rather, they were “state capitalist” societies in which the state is the monopoly capitalist and everyone else are its exploited workers. As it happens, of course, market anarchists understand this distinction. We just hold that the system Robin supports is impossible and unsustainable.

Nevertheless, Robin also presents a critique of Von Mises’ proof, which is available here. In summary, Robin’s notion is that a system with four interdependent features: 1) Calculation in kind; 2) a self-regulating system of stock control; 3) the law of the minimum; and 4) A broad heirarchy of production goals/priorities, can solve all those knotty calculation problems, and assure that there will be as many bibycles or electric mixers as people want available, and no oversupply of paintings. To the idea that prices transmit the condition of consumer demand, he responds that “consumer demand” measured this way is limited to what people can afford to pay, not what they really want, and therefore this information transmitted by prices is beside the point.

All snark aside, many of us seeking some kind of working alliance among anarchists of all stripes suggest that in our future free society, there would be various communities organized along different lines. There would be market-based communities, and there could also be “gift-economy” based communities, and other communities based on whatever principles people come up with. What makes them “anarchist” is that people are free to move from one community to the other, seeking out whatever arrangement is most suitable.

Robin supposes that his “gift economy” community will easily out-compete the market-based communities, because after all, who would turn down free stuff and all that community-feeling-warm-fuzziness that goes along with it? The rest of us predict that Robin’s community will soon be overrun with freeloaders, enough that their system will break down, and we’ll soon have a host of ex-Marxists seeking to join our thriving market-communities.

Kategorie anarchy, Posts | 5 Kommentare »

Saturnalia

1. January 2007

My creatie partner L. Neil Smith mused recently on what the holiday season means, touching a bit on pre-Chirstian celebrations that look suspiciously like Christmas.

Now, Jesse walker has a more extended discourse on “Saturnalia,” the Roman pagan holiday that was coopted by the Christians, on his blog.

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