Friday, May 02, 2008

Different rules for different tools

Atrios reports a scam in which Bank of America has bought Countrywide and rigged it in such a manner that it can keep the good assets and form a fake company to declare bankruptcy on the bad.

That is the kind of textbook example of why most companies don't want to do business in third world countries. There simply is no meaningful rule of law.

You know that I am sometimes mildly critical of Atrios, like when he tells other writers to shut up or like the other day when he told me and everybody else that we had to move to Manhattan, but I really give him credit for his relentless reporting on the housing mess.

As far as I know, he doesn't get anywhere near the credit he deserves for persistently reporting that story, which in a sane, first world country would be leading the news just about every minute of just about every day. And truthfully, as far as I really know, he has never gotten any credit whatsoever. I've never actually seen anybody give him any. If I'm the first and only, that's sad. It's very good work.

Someone asked me what the photo is and why I used it to illustrate this little essay. So FYI, it is a a prominent New York bank that is in danger of imminent collapse. I thought it might kinda symbolize the entire mess.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

White supremacy

More images here.

You know, when I write about photography I babble a lot about rules of composition -- the golden ration, rule of thirds, etc. -- and although I am generally aware of them when working, I have a few rules of my own.

After all, the actual subject of the photograph is important and when we speak of rules of composition, the inference is that they apply to the subject.

In my work, the subject has historically been the shadows. I simply look at the shadows in any particular scene and compose it in such a way that they for an interesting pattern. There might be a naked woman, a kid on a bycicle, the Brooklyn Bridge, pretty much anything, in the picture but the real subject is most often the shadows they cast and how those shadows relate to other dark areas in the composition.

Until recently that is. Now I am more likely to compose based on the white areas of the composition. Previously, I had never given them much thought, but then I started to perceive how they glow. I still have a lot of respect for the shadows, and you can say many good things about them, but they do not glow.

And all those colors? The reds, greens, blues -- cyans, magentas and yellows? The colors of spring, summer and fall? They are only useful for separated the light and shadow. By themselves, they are simply annoyances. Or in a technical sense, a perversion of light caused by the imperfections of objects.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

All they are saying

Ev'rybody's talking about
Bagism, Shagism, Dragism, Madism, Ragism, Tagism
This-ism, that-ism
Ministers, Sinisters, Banisters and canisters,
Bishops and Fishops and Rabbis and Pop eyes,
Revolution, Evolution, Mastication, Masturbation, Flagellation, Regulations,
Integrations, Meditations, United Nations, Congratulations,
George Bush, Bill Clinton, Obama-rama, Bob Dylan,
Bill O'Reilly, Norman Mailer, Oshima, Mishima, and don't forget Hare Krishna.

All they are saying, is give war a chance (and another, and another, and another, ad inifitum...)

Putting out fire (with gasoline)

I can't fail to note that some of the most extreme right wing Republicans -- Bush, McCain and Hillary -- want to suspend the gas tax in order to bring down the price of gas.

Translated, this means they want to print more money to curb inflation.

Yea, that'll work.

And if you, like just about everybody else, got a crappy raise this year, all you have to do is get another credit card and spend, spend, spend. Money is free and terms like interest and debt don't really mean much of anything. Go for it.

Nostradamus, i ain't

As regular readers know, I confidently predicted that Hillary would be the Democratic nominee back when all the conventional wisdom said that Obama had a it all wrapped up. Were I not so lazy about writing, I could have seemed even more prescient since I realized that Obama was doomed by his own abilities the first time I actually listened to one of his speeches. Of course Bill Clinton gave a giant clue to the nature of his inevitable destruction when he indicated that he and wifey would go racist on Obama's ass after South Carolina, but the seeds of that destruction came straight out of Barak's own mouth.

But Nostradamus I ain't. And you don't have to be Sherlock Holmes either. I made a simple string of deductions based on a solid foundation of facts. The process was all quite logical.

I started with the premise that the United States is not a functioning democracy, that it is in fact a one party state in which the Democrats are to the Republicans what the Washington Generals are to the Harlem Globetrotters: Well compensated professional losers. Of course it's more complicated than that. There is no grand conspiracy with a central committee that pulls all the strings. But nevertheless and although it is not particularly homogenous, there is effectively only one party. The business party.

Once you come to terms with that sad fact, predictions are easy. You simply have to look at the bottom line. Who is getting the money. What has to happen to keep it flowing? And of course huge profits are not enough. There must be constant growth, preferably exponential.

So the first clue is that the "defense" establishment rakes in a truly ridiculous share of the profits. Military-industrial complex is a much better description, though that has come to sound like commie talk, even though it was coined by a conservative Republican president and WWII hero.

The rest of the money goes to a wide variety of businesses. The lobbyists, not only for the military-industrial complex but for all the Enron's Exxon's, Con Ed's and anyone else who can scrape up the money to buy and pay for a congressperson or president, are the key to understanding the system. That and the fact that they own the media. Literally. They literally own the media. So the media will act accordingly.

The real party is simply not to be fucked with. That is the fact from which all predictions must spring.

So when I heard Obama speak seriously about gutting the military industrial complex and cutting out the lobbyists in order to actually represent regular people and saw that his communication, organizational, and fund raising skills were such that he might actually be able to pull it off, I realized that the blowback was coming and that it would be like none we have seen before. He was doomed, I told you. It was obvious.

Because, you see, if Obama were allowed to win and govern in a democratic manner, that would mean that the United States is a functional democracy and not a one party state. But since we're not, he won't. Simple as pie.

And I'll stick by my prediction that both Hillary and John McCain will choose Joe Leiberman as their vice-presidential candidate. I've already read speculation that he will be the keynote speaker at the Republican convention.

Now I'll go further and publicly predict that Hillary will not only win the Democratic nomination, but stomp McCain in the general election. That may seem unlikely now, but as the summer wears on I'm confident you'll look back at that and say, no shit Sherlock. Hillary is a much better representative of the party. Although he's tried real hard to scrub himself clean of any last vestige of honor and ethics, he has yet to fully come around to the ways of the party. Hillary, on the other hand, has no honor or ethics whatsoever.

The rule of thumb for these intra-party contests is that the sleaziest, most corrupt racist ultra-nationalist war monger will always win. That would be Hillary, in a mudslide.

What about Obama? I'd like to see him run as an independent and take down Hillary, but I don't think he'll do it and am not sure John McCain wouldn't become the new Ned Lamont even if he did.

So I'll stick with my sound advice that he do what's best for the country and go into exile in France. I believe that's truly his only chance of having a positive impact on the system. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow. But someday and for the rest of our lives. Not really, but one can always hope.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The rain in spain

As I mention below, I rarely watch or read political news these days, at least not in the mainstream media, at least not much beyond the headlines.

But for whatever reason,I did read an article about the current media bogey man, Jeremiah Wright. The Guardian reports that Wright did not disown his most controversial soundbite - that the US bore some of the blame for the attacks on 9/11. Like its U.S. media counterparts, the Guardian fails to enlighten us as to why such a mind-numbingly obvious fact is controversial.

Do people really think that Al Quaeda attacked the World Trade Center for no reason? Or because they hate our freedom?

Yes, I guess they do since that is what the tv tells them. But the reality is that we currently have more than 700 military bases overseas in about 130 countries and have another 6,000 bases in the United States and that our military budget is larger than the rest of the world combined and that we have a long history of supporting brutal dictatorships and state sponsored terrorism and generally deterring democracy, often in an ultra-violent manner, wherever it suits our "national security interests."

Of course plenty of very smart people, including pretty much everyone in the government and defense establishment since WW II, believe that it is necessary for us to support violence and repression abroad so that we can enjoy our freedoms here at home. And perhaps that's true, I'm not prepared to argue it either way in this brief essay, but wherever a person comes down in that particular argument, he or she would have to be a total idiot not to acknowledge the possibility of blowback. An eye for an eye. Is that really such a difficult concept? That was the point a lot of Arabs made after 9/11. Now you see how it feels, they said.

Well, that was wishful thinking, obviously. We are not about to acknowledge how anyone else in the world may feel. We can't even acknowledge how other people in the world may think. Thus we get these idiotic "controversies" when someone like Wright comments on the obvious. For the common people, and presidential candidates alike, notions of truth, peace, love and understanding are borderline treason. Only the (undemocratically) elect are capable of understanding the situation and making the hard choices. The rest of us should worry about flag pins if we worry at all. Better not to worry even about that. Better to stay away from politics and public policy altogether. Let the adults handle it. If you must worry and you feel the need to vote, worry about American Idol and vote for your favorite contestant. That's the ticket. That's the straight talk. Now make like a journalist and get on the bus.

Nothing stinks like success

Our American media gets a lot of criticism for its coverage of the presidential campaign and politics in general. Like most people, I have just about completely tuned it out. I don't watch television at all and rarely read past the headlines in the newspapers. I frankly don't give a fuck about flag pins or Jeremiah Wright and just seeing Hillary Clinton open her mouth, or any of the major media talking heads, is enough to send my poor, tired, remote finger into action.

In the old days people would think that the broadcast media defined success by bringing in the largest possible audience so that they could sell ads. A lot of people still think that their strategy is to get as large as ratings as possible. They rationalize that the media bigwigs are not stupid so they must be giving the people what they want. Those of us who care about the government or quality journalism are simply victims of the free market. The great majority of people, however, reap its beneficence. Fox News is what they want. Chris Matthews and Tim Russert? The Market provides.

That kind of reasoning made sense in the old days when the media were self-owned. As an individual entity, a CBS or an ABC actually had market incentive to get the highest ratings and the best way to do that was to provide the best news coverage. Journalists like Walter Cronkite, Harry Reasoner, Howard K. Smith, and Roger Mudd had a degree of objectivity and respect for the truth that is just not permitted on television today. Back then, just about everybody watched the nightly news. Today, only the most feeble minded nitwits and a few hardy souls can bear it.

That's because all of the news networks are a small division of a major corporation. Their function is much more that of a propaganda arm than a news provider. Large corporations benefit from having an ignorant populace mired in irrelevant scandals. When it comes to a presidential race, the media serves as a judge and jury out of the dark ages. They throw the candidate into the media cesspool. If he or she has enough integrity to float above the slime, then he or she is guilty and must be banished. If the candidate sinks in the slime and becomes one with it, then he or she is found safe and is deemed qualified to carry on the status quo, to ensure ever more windfalls for the corporations that sponsor them.

So when we turn off Fox or MSNBC in disgust, that is not an old fashioned textbook example of the marketplace in action. General Electric profits so much more from its "defense" contracts than from its cable news division. I don't know if that's a new fangled text book example either,depending on which corporation has cornered the textbook market, but it should be.

In what's come to be known as a free market, which is mostly free from oversight or competition, accurate reporting about important issues such as the government or the economy is counter-productive.

Every time you change the channel, it's a victory for the shareholders. It's the defecating smell of success.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Field trip to old brooklyn

Here are some images from the Wykoff house and Flatlands Dutch Reform Church, a couple of the oldest buildings in Brooklyn. I took these as part of an assignment. Unfortunately, the light was not good, but I did what I could. Anyway, history buffs might find it interesting. I'll try to get back out there when the light's better.