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The Epiphany Peddler

Fri, 04/13/2018 - 15:20

That’s me, the epiphany peddler. I haven’t no barrow filled high with turnips or taters. I offer only the finest of intangibles I do, like the Emperors new clothes.

Its like magic or fairy dust. I sprinkle a little here and dab a little there and Bob’s your uncle, there you are –  suddenly you have a bright shiny new epiphany. And then there be a hootin and a hollerin and the whole world suddenly makes a good bit o sense

Epiphanies are scare on the ground, of course. You can’t mine them or chop them down, though some argue hen they had a pint too many that procuring an epiphany is mostly like fly fishing, or piping for rats. Have to tease them epiphanies out, you do, and there’s just no telling if, or when, or never. And of course most having never had one, they don’t believe in them. Can’t blame them much. Epiphanies will never be like turnips or taters, don’t you know.

Like with doctors, sniffing them out for others says nothing about making do for yourself, and at present I am sitting in an old Syracusan tub, and the water has gone very cold….

Categories: Commentary

At Least the Cat Loves Me

Fri, 04/13/2018 - 14:53

Maggie is a fourteen pound Maine-Coon of uncertain pedigree. She is a killing machine finely honed to a specific  and most deadly purpose over millennia of tedious trial and error. But I often think of Maggie much as I think of Shelley’s Prometheus, having a sensitivity and sensibility that is a far cry from her breeding. You see, Maggie likes nothing so much as climbing up on my shoulder and purring until I can no longer keep my eyes open and Maggie is a prodigious hunter but only loves her prey to death.

I am reminded of Krishna and Arjuna. I am a problem solver, but I will never solve all the problems. I will fail, and I will only succeed in failing. It is a tautology that may well be as close to a cosmic understanding as I may ever get, but it is nevertheless unrewarding. I am Sisyphus.

I will let everyone down. And I feel like Shylock, left to twist in the wind; pricked and bleeding.

But at least the cat loves me.

Detail of Colossal Krater from Altamura, about 350 B.C., Greek, made in Apulia, South Italy. Terracotta, 63 in. high x 35 7/16 in. diam. National Archaeological Museum of Naples, 81666. By permission of the Italian Ministry of Heritage and Culture and Tourism. National Archaeological Museum of Naples – Conservation and Restoration Laboratory

Categories: Commentary

Economic Bloviation

Tue, 04/03/2018 - 10:27

Look, do us all a favor and quit using words that no longer really mean anything. If it has not occurred to you yet, let me clue you in:  Capitalism is one of those words. I am not the first person to opine about this. Fred Foldvary has a nice little piece about about abuse of the term and its cognates.

The term is often applied to a system of economics that incorporates private ownership of goods and reliance on markets. But, of course, private ownership of personalty and use of markets for the trading of same have existed since the advent of of the first surplusage Homo sapiens stumbled into. Capitalism in this sense isn’t new, it isn’t recent, it isn’t the reason the “West is best”, and it certainly is no reason for Harvard dons to get excited (unless they are celebrating over the size of their checks thanks to the Scaifs).

The combination of these two elements, instability and inequity, with mankind’s natural proclivity for violence as population increases, result in a a variety of systems that have been invariably disastrous. And these two problems have only been modestly ameliorated through the advent of the “state” or other less comprehensive paradigms for making distribution equitable.

Some argue that the globe is richer for “capitalism”.  But the essence of what people mean when they talk about “capitalism” boils down to thievery. It is almost laughable that libertarians talk about taxes as thievery when the very essence of the concept of property is the idea that one has the “right” by virtue of some supreme dictate, to seize that which is not yours. Imagine the Libertarian at the Bar: “Your Honor, I only took that bike because it was not being used and I therefore had to right to make the bike mine in order to make use of it….”  Indeed.

The financial madness we are being swallowed by today is the result of the attenuation of relations among the parties to transactions, and to the abstraction of what is actually being traded. “Moral Sentiment” has been left to twist in the wind, and one is regularly confronted with a litmus test that still seeks to shame those who refuse to be identified as “capitalists”, whatever that might mean.

And, of course, there are those, having amassed billions by drawing the life force from others (the real vampyres of our age), who use the latest advances of Social Psychology to convince the droolers and knuckledraggers that if we dispose of any attempt to shackle this juggernaut that everyone will be rich.

It is high time to either take back ownership of the term from the Geckos, or to abandon it completely as just more of the wreckage left by our march to oblivion.

Photograph by blickwinkel/Alamy Stock Photo https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/01/160106-tokay-geckos-indonesia-traditional-medicines-wildlife-trade-traffic/#/01_tokay-gecko.jpg

Categories: Commentary

Eternal Externalities

Fri, 03/30/2018 - 13:50

I recently was reading a comment that went something like, “If you have a *choice* between being a boss or being the member of a co-op, it makes sense to go with being a boss.” This (“boss” vs co-op) is an artificial choice that so many “libertarians” promote (by way of example, a union is simply an aggregate of workers taking advantage of their economic power, so libertarian opposition to unions is based largely on the interest in undermining that economic power, not on any ideals of “liberty”).

The argument goes on along these lines, “Political arguments that rely on people’s altruism are always a losing strategy.” But enterprises like co-operatives are not “altruistic”; in point of fact a very convincing argument can be made that co-operatives and the like are simply more adept at comprehensively addressing the complexity of positive and negative externalities that confront them. Let’s face it, the “real” downside of the laissez-faire capitalism that is the subject of so much concern today is the proclivity such corporation have for eschewing responsibility for externalities. And this practice is the crux of our willingness to privatize gain, and socialize loss.

While it may seem that an increasing number of people are espousing “Lotto Liberalism” (the peddled concept of striking it rich through hard work)it must become just as obvious that these people are frankly delusional. There is no point in trying to confront them with their delusion as it is well known that such praxis merely deepens the psychosis.

In Anchorage we have two electric utilities, one owned by the municipality which serves the urban core, and another, a co-operative serving everything else. The current Mayor proposed a sale of the municipal utility to the cooperative. This is a GREAT idea, but the outpouring of vitriolic rage based on the wholesale ignorance of the nature of these enterprises was dumbfounding. And of course none of the whingers knew anything about the Green Bay Packers or how the Golden Gate Bridge Construction was financed.

We have been conditioned to assume that all corporate bodies are evil, even when we are the corporate body, and that the only sentiment that we can trust is our own greed. And believe it or not, poor Adam Smith gets the blame for that crap, lol.

The manner in which too many of us talk about capitalism falls apart when labor owns the means and production, and there is nothing specifically anti-capitalist about such a practice. The problems lie in both the methods employed to keep labor from such ownership, and in the real underlying aspects of today’s capitalism, the abstraction and attenuation of financial products.

While it might be helpful to rage about capitalism, I don’t know that such rage can ever be converted to adequate regulation so long at those invested in escaping regulation have the power. On the other hand, I think the ouroboros offers a significant alternative; use the system to consume itself. Explain how to move people from complaining about Bank of America and WellsFargo, to using credit unions, and you are well on your way to changing the face of the USA. When we learn how to fund, protect, and employ pension funds as a tool in and of themselves to promotes the future pensioners, we will be on to something.

Categories: Commentary

UPDATE ON ANCHORAGE SCHOOL DISTRICT’S LOOK AT SCHOOL START TIMES

Fri, 03/30/2018 - 13:35

High School student Matthew Park started a petition to ASD in July 2017 to push high school start times to 8:30. https://www.change.org/p/anchorage-school-district-push-start-times-in-asd-high-schools-to-8-30-am

In August of 2017 the Superintendent (Dr. Deena Bishop) and the Board President (Tam Agosti-Gisler) indicated that they wanted to look at changing school start times.  https://www.adn.com/alaska-news/education/2017/08/09/should-the-anchorage-school-district-change-its-school-start-times/

By November the Superintendent had used her discretionary budget to hire Western Demographics to look at the issue in what some have called an “efficiency study”.  http://www.ktva.com/story/36909860/local-teens-welcome-new-school-start-times

Since then the Superintendent has published a web page on school start times on the ASD website. The Page never identified who actually authored the content. https://www.asdk12.org/Page/10284  The web page originally contained names and dates of authors whose work purportedly supported the claims made in the document, but no bibliography was ever included. When complaints were made about ASD needing to provide a full bibliography, the material identifying dates and authors was deleted. https://www.facebook.com/groups/AkEducators/permalink/10156543167479267/  A  bibliography that included all but one of the sources apparently mentioned by ASD (one did not appear to exist) as well as quite a bit of additional literature addressing questions raised by AEA members was prepared and shared with ASD (see https://www.zotero.org/groups/2153649/school_start_times. ASD has never shared that bibliography.

Shannon Bingham, President of Western Demographics, presented to AEA building representations on March 28th. Mr. Bingham apologized for not having published his presentation online, and for not having a bibliography available. AEA Representatives presented quite a few unanswered questions, including the impact on Elementary students, and interventions that ameliorate the sleep disorders relied upon by much of the research to suggest changes in start times (see Alaska Educators Facebook Group https://www.facebook.com/groups/AkEducators/permalink/10156543167479267/ ). ASD still has not published any additional material from Mr. Bingham.

The material presented by Mr. Bingham was somewhat inconsistent with the material presented on the ASD web page, apparently as a result of ongoing examination of the question by Western Demographics, but as noted, the most current material has not been published to the ASD website.

A short bulleted version of this is available at http://bit.ly/ASDBULLETS

Anchorage skyline and pan ice at Point Woronzof on Wednesday, March 22, 2017. (Bill Roth / Alaska Dispatch News)

 

Categories: Commentary

This communication was paid for by Marc Grober, 5610 Radcliff Dr. Anchorage, AK 99504