Tuesday, September 23, 2008


A democracy now show on the 700 billion banditry

From the transcript


Yeah, well, the point is, when Bush and McCain and Paulson, who was head of Goldman Sachs before he was head of the Treasury, say they don’t know how this happened, they designed this system. We had a regulatory regime in place ever since the Great Depression to prevent this kind of meltdown, and that said that stockbrokers, insurance companies, banks, investment banks, commercial banks, could not merge. And in 1999, they passed legislation, the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act. Gramm is the guy who McCain supported for president in ’96. He was co-chair of his campaign until he complained about the whiners out there, meaning the public. And that legislation is what caused this. It allowed the swaps and everything else.

And then, in 2000, hours before the Christmas break, Gramm introduced legislation. I’m holding it in my hand. This smoking gun is available on the internet; you can read it. And what it said is that the swaps is defined in the Financial Service Modernization Act, meaning that instead of going into a bank and somebody said, “OK, we’ll give you a loan, and we expect you to pay it over thirty years. We know your house has the equity. We know you have the means to pay it”—that was the traditional way—instead, they allowed these mergers, and as a result, they could buy insurance on it, they could do these swaps, they could do what they call hybrid instruments. And it is legislation that was never discussed, was—never had hearings or anything, says that all of this stuff is exempted from all previous regulation. The SEC cannot regulate it, the Commodity Futures Board cannot regulate it.

So they gave these institutions, of which Goldman Sachs was critical—so was Citigroup, where Robert Rubin, who was Clinton’s Treasury secretary, he had also come from Goldman Sachs. And, by the way, even though this is Republican-led, there were plenty of Democrats, in fact, a majority of Democrats, who voted for this. And Robert Rubin, who unfortunately is advising Barack Obama—I don’t know how this guy can wake up and—you know, and not be embarrassed and how he can appear on television—and Lawrence Summers, these are the two guys in the Clinton administration who teamed up with Phil Gramm to pass that atrocious legislation.

And now, you know, it seems to me, in terms of the bailout, why don’t they do what Hillary Clinton said during the primaries: just put a freeze on foreclosures? Start out with helping the homeowners and say, “OK, we’re not going to foreclose your house for the next year. We’re going to force the banks to work out reasonable payments. We’ll try to help you hold on to it.” That would have stopped the bleeding here much more effectively than throwing $700 billion at these bandits."

The Philosophy Lexicon

Witty. With an interesting origin story. A few of my favs.

chomsky, adj. Said of a theory that draws extravagant metaphysical implications from scientifically established facts. "Essentially, Hume's criticism of the Argument from Design is that it leads in all its forms to blatantly chomsky conclusions." "The conclusions drawn from Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle are not only on average chomskier than those drawn from Godel's theorem; most of them are downright merleau-ponty."

deleuzion, n. A false, persistent philosophical belief, unsubstantiated by evidence or argument. "He suffered from the deleuzion that Spinoza could be used to clarify Lacanian psychoanalysis."

derrida. A sequence of signs that fails to signify anything beyond itself. From a old French nonsense refrain: "Hey nonny derrida, nonny nonny derrida falala."

heidegger, n. A ponderous device for boring through thick layers of substance. "It's buried so deep we'll have to use a heidegger." Also useful for burying one's own past.

lakoff, v. To rub the deep structure of a sentence until it expresses its logical form. "Too much laking off can cause insanity."

locke, v. To mistake a contemporary philosopher with an earlier philosopher of the same name. "I'm afraid you have David and C. I. Lewis locked"; hence, to unlocke, to become otherwise (q.v.).

voltaire, n. A unit of enlightenment. Hence voltairage, as in the warning to would-be purveyors of superstition and tyranny: "Danger: high voltairage in this vicinity."

An Internetlexicon also exists

Monday, September 15, 2008

Dialectical Materialism and the Fate of Humanity

With predatory capitalism and its south sea bubbles failing i was reminded of CLR James's 1947 piece Dialectical Materialism and the Fate of Humanity. They dont make big brains like this anymore...

"He who would exhibit the Marxist method must grasp the full significance of that early uprising of the masses when Christianity proclaimed its message. We must watch not only the primitiveness and simplicity of its aims but their comprehensive scope. Then by slow degrees, through the centuries, we see one part of the aim becoming concrete for one section of the population, and then another part for another section. Ideas arise from concrete conditions to become partially embodied in social classes and give rise to further interrelations between the spiral of real and ideal, content and form. This is the dialectic to which Marx gave a firm materialistic basis in the developing process of production. As society develops, the possibilities for individual development of man become greater and greater, but the conflict of classes becomes sharper and sharper. We stand today at an extreme state of these interrelated phenomena of social development. When a modern worker demands the right of free speech, the right of free press, of free assembly, continuous employment, social insurance, the best medical attention, the best education, he demands in reality the “social republic”. Spinoza and Kant would stand aghast at what the average worker takes for granted today. But he does not demand them as an individual or in the primitive manner the early Christian did. In America, for instance, there are some thirteen million workers organised for nothing else but the preservation and extension of these values. These are the values of modern civilisation. They are embodied in the very web and texture of the lives of the masses of the people. Never were such precious values so resolutely held as necessary to complete living by so substantial and so powerful a section of society. Socialism means simply the complete expansion and fulfillment of these values in the life of the individual. This can only be attained by the most merciless struggle of the whole class against its capitalist masters. The realisation of this necessity is the final prelude to full self-consciousness."

This paragraph from toward the end is a pretty apt summary of the whole piece.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

une rencontre bien totale

"Imagine a poem that forces history, psychoanalysis, ethnography, and revolution to coexist. The Cahier stages the uneasy alliances between the monumental projections of empire and its abject underside: populations looted, cultures trampled, slaves reduced by terror and regulated by force. Alternately strident and elegiac, Césaire pits the ongoing myths of inferiority against the lure of “civilizing” language. The relics and scraps of bodies, the slaves who had been called “ebony wood,” “pieces of the Indies,” or “heads of cattle,” return as ancestor spirits, caught in the evil that created them.

What these metamorphoses have in common is a secret pact with the banal. Césaire plied his words as if they were ritual incantation, and he knew that the magic of ritual lay in its ordinariness, its way of reiterating the simplest, least gilded things. The sacred had to be concrete in order to transform, palpable, never abstract. The bond between colonizer and colonized, the mutual adaptability, as Hegel had it, of master and slave, gained substance through these meditations on mimicry, adaptation, and appropriation. Resistance for Césaire is not just political, but psychic. Repression is not only a history of mutilation and torture. It is also the buried and forgotten. The revolution must be “internal,” a complete overhauling of consciousness, what he called 'une rencontre bien totale.'"


Thursday, September 04, 2008

Culture Matters discussion on HTS

Some interesting debate over at Culture Matters about Steve Featherstone's piece on Human Terrain System (HTS) in the September issue of Harpers magazine.

Here's a extract by joneilortiz from a comment toward the end

"It doesn’t matter at what point in the “chain” these so-called anthropologists make their appearance when the whole chain itself is criminal. Likewise, the verdict does not change if it’s the doctor or some alleged terrorist that’s killed, or if someone other than the author of the HTS report calls the shots, or if any of many “inappropriate” actions are taken on its authority. The nitpicky debates over what HTS actions are considered “direct” are moot and disingenuous. Reading some of the comments, one gets the impression that should an HTS “anthropologist” get caught pulling the trigger, someone would pop up and argue that at least they didn’t load it."