Sunday, December 28, 2014

o3 wave art

This entry is reposted from 5/31/14 due to formatting issues.
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When I was at Uchicago - obtaining an MSFM - my friend asked me about the nature of the o3 art image (i.e. the sinusoidal bluewave).  Here is my informal answer.
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Applied Math & o3


Nothing has done more to render modern economic theory a sterile and irrelevant exercise in autoeroticism than its practitioners’ obsession with mathematical, general-equilibrium models.
          Robert Higgs
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Math has transformed modern life.  It is the most pure science.  But sometimes pure science somehow fails us.  Here is a crude example: the Green Revolution.  It follows a common theme in modern (post-1500) world where humanity applies powerful science-based measures (hybridized seeds, fertilizers, and pesticides) to address a real problem (food scarcity), produces incredible results, and simultaneously creates new problems (pollution).  That is how I see science today.  It is beautiful and yet we repeatedly fail to address it’s tendency to blowback.

The why a third option? page* on the o3 website addresses this idea a bit more.  I put it best there: “Our decision methodologies have somehow not developed in step with our scientific and political innovations."  I would add that our moral and intuitive capacities have not grown with our scientific and political innovations. 

That’s all changing today.  We hope.  We are slowly re-embracing elder knowledge, group knowledge, Indigenous knowledge, consensus-building etc.  That is what the blue wave is about.  It’s about both acknowledging the beauty of our scientific achievements while also preparing ourselves to become more responsible about those achievements - it's an ebb and flow.
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Science and the Information Age


It’s an age that has enormous promise, and it’s an age that is also very, very scary, because we literally don’t understand it.  This is like the invention of fire, or the beginning of time. It’s vastly more powerful than fire.  It’s vastly more powerful than nuclear energy.  It’s embedded in every single piece of equipment that we touch - and we literally don’t understand it.
          Robert David Steele Vivas, 2012

I fear the day technology will surpass our human interaction.  The world will have a generation of idiots.

          Einstein
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I’m not sure if Vivas is exactly correct.  I’m still trying to determine my understanding of him but he seems like an unusual thinker.  On the amazing_works page of on the o3 website, you find a great link to him in 2012.**  (There is another one from 2011 and it’s part of why I blog: look at what he says about outing people even from the past.  Speaking truth is a force in the world.)

The Information Age presents amazing opportunities but it will require looking inward in ways that science has not required in the last 500 years - at least not of most scientists.  The best scientists have understood all of these ideas but they also likely felt the need to produce results and help people as best they could.  Now we need to do both - produce results and exercise wisdom.

(Perhaps I will revisit this subject; the use of science is a serious issue that deserve more attention.  I wanted to say a few more things about how 1) differential calculus is the underpinning of marginal analysis in economics and 2) the state of complex systems as an academic field and it’s ability to yield meaningful solutions to life’s practical questions.)

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* The why a third option? essay was moved to the blog.

** Update (7-30-15):  The amazing_works page was taken down.   You can find Vivas's amazing Q and A sessions on Youtube.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Ferguson

Before I begin, I wish to share a few thoughts.  One, I do not currently see a premeditated conspiratorial-ity in the Ferguson events; 'the narrative', something I will address soon, was obviously in play.  Two, I have little to say about the incident that started this set of events other than that I am sorry for Michael Brown, in a separate Missouri incident, Kajieme Powell, and anyone else who may have passed on due to police violence this summer.*  I am also sympathetic to the police, the poor, the African American community, the press - in short all parties involved.

Ferguson touches on two major subjects I have been thinking about in 2014 - totalitarianism and the question of slavery.**

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Just Us


You go down there looking for justice, that's what you find: just us.
          Richard Pryor, 'the early 1970's'

The first man who, having fenced in a piece of land, said 'This is mine' and found people naïve enough to believe him, that man was the true founder of civil society. From how many crimes, wars, and murders, from how many horrors and misfortunes might not any one have saved mankind, by pulling up the stakes, or filling up the ditch, and crying to his fellows: Beware of listening to this impostor; you are undone if you once forget that the fruits of the earth belong to us all, and the earth itself to nobody.
          Rousseau, 1754 ***
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On the one hand, the Richard Pryor quote is a simple insinuation of the obvious: police brutality and procedural injustice are real problems for African Americans and others.   Think: crack vs powder, stop and frisk, etc.  (Here is the full joke - listen near 1:11.)


But on the other hand, Pryor perhaps points very deep into the European notion of the rule of law and reveals how tenuous the rule of law really is (even in an esteemed, modern nation such as ours).  Pryor hints at a profound truth: justice is only as good as the people involved - be they you, me, the streets, or the police.


If one of us fails to conduct ourselves with righteousness, awareness, positivity, and integrity, then justice will not prevail.  Even (and especially) when we include the police in the term us, it's just us; justice is up to just us.  Good cops, bad cops, good criminals, bad criminals - we are all in this together.  We are the sole progenitors of human justice in the physical world.  For many of us, that is a hard pill to swallow and difficult truth to understand that no one will save us but ourselves.


We face these issues in the context of a 'nascent totalitarianism' in the states - a term I offered here.

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More Signs of Police Heavy-Handedness


The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppose.
          Frederick Douglass, 1957
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By and large, I do not trust American presidents - especially after Eisenhower and Kennedy. (We had plenty of other problematic presidents prior to Ike. I digress.)  Obama recently ordered a review of police use of military equipment.  I doubt he is sincere on this issue.****  It's a major question that all Americans face.  As diverse groups as the ACLU and the Cato Institute have voiced concern over this issue.  It's a truly odd phenomena and just seems to slowly get worse.


In the 90's, I remember reading very small circulation, Left-leaning and conspiratorial journals and magazines in book stores in the SF Bay Area.  They reported on the rise of police exercises that relied on military equipment and planning.  Today, we watch Youtube for this type of info. But we also now see the very same images on CNN.com and other mainstream outlets.  (Other stories only make it all seem more strange by the day; check out this one on mercenaries in Ferguson.)


Adding insult (and more injury) to injury, we seem to see a rise in totally inappropriate police behavior around the press.  I sympathize with police and the difficulties they face but it is un-American to mistreat the press.  And by un-American, I mean illegal in many cases. It's bad enough that the press censors itself, which I can understand (sort of).  But I increasingly see and read stories of blatant, aggressive, and seemingly unconstitutional police and state conduct.  (If challenged in the next month, I'll provide a reading list on the subject.)  It is a tremendously serious problem for a democracy and for a modern administrative state.

We are watching a corruption of our freedoms.  Not only is it embarrassing, it is bad for business and an assault on our livelihood and rights - both of which are birthrights in this country. And it transcends Bush and Obama.  However, it is not the center of gravity in Ferguson discussion.
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Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome

P.T.S.S. is a theory that explains the etiology of many of the adaptive survival behaviors in African American communities throughout the United States and the Diaspora.  It is a condition that exists as a consequence of multigenerational oppression of Africans and their descendants resulting from centuries of chattel slavery.  A form of slavery which was predicated on the belief that African Americans were inherently/genetically inferior to whites.  This was then followed by institutionalized racism which continues to perpetuate injury.
          Dr. Joy Degruy, joydegruy.com (in August 2014)
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Let there be no confusion.  PTSS is a big idea.  It requires time, thought, and effort.  It is also a book published in 2005 (with the subtitle "America's Legacy of Enduring Injury and Healing" - which is IMO a very meaningful set of terms).  I like Dr. DeGruy's assessment of this subject - even if I am still considering it's components and implications.  Indeed, I understood the core of this thesis long before I read her book.  To me, so much of the Black experience in America is tied to American slavery.  Only an asshole or a buffoon could see otherwise.  1619 wasn't that along ago; and a lot of ugliness has persisted all the way up to 1965 and even now.


Ferguson is about the unresolved issues of chattel slavery and the economic war directed at Blacks in America.  It is very complicated but I feel 'trauma' is truly the most important term involved both in terms of the nature of the problem and the pathology of a partial solution. Does that mean reparations are in order?  I do not address that question here.  (And, yes, I am aware of The Atlantic Monthly piece.)   I will say this - as I have felt it for at least one decade: I support truth and reconciliation proceedings at the federal, state, county, or even at the local community level regarding the experience that Native Americans and Black Americans had from 1492 to approximately 1970 and perhaps even to this very moment.  (I also separate the Native American treaty issue from truth and conciliation - one is a legal issue IMO and the other is something else.)


Truth and reconciliation is the real bread and butter move on race in America.  It is not necessarily a transfer of wealth and yet it could produce (or at least initiate) an enormous and healthy shift in American life.  Truth and reconciliation is IMO low lying fruit in the world of public policy and race in America.  But...


...in the end, any real discussion of race, economics, justice, and individual responsibility will almost certainly prove tremendously humiliating and humbling for every single person involved regardless of his or her race.  Egos will get bruised; pride will suffer on all sides.

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* And I re-iterate what I say in another blog entry: "I am NOT an enemy of federal, state, and local law enforcement officials; for more info on that point see the second footnote here."  Indeed, I recently announced the first option3 program that will provide a service to, among others, the police. A lot of guys would just say "Fuck the police" or "They're not one of us".  And in a sense that is also a truth.  But in the end, few people today want to confront the police in a sustained, multi-year effort.  And I am certainly not suggesting you should even if I was sympathetic to what I believe are and were the aims of the protests in Ferguson.


** I have not published anything on American slavery although it has come up in my thinking on street violence for a while.


*** I quote Rousseau somewhat satirically.


**** ### Update (5-31-15): In some limited defense of Obama, according to CNN, he did restrict the sales of some military gear to local police departments.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Totalitarianism (2/3): Sadism Today


I'm uncomfortable writing about this subject.  I am NOT an enemy of federal, state, and local law enforcement officials; for more info on that point see the second footnote here.  Overall, this subject is old-hat: some members of the American law enforcement community are wonderful, positive, committed, dutiful, and helpful.  

However, some, I hypothesize, constitute a quiet, raging sadism in line with Marcuse's 'quantum of aggressiveness', the subject of part 1.  I choose the word sadism from an intuitive perspective and to emphasize the pathological component of this question. 

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American Sadism


Police brutality is now a formality.

They're kicking our ass; and we're paying their salary.
          Brad 'Scarface' Jordan, City Under Siege, 1990
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About 5,000 Americans have died at the hands of the police since 9/11 - 400 to 500 per year.*  Some law enforcement agencies understand this perception and have asked Google to remove related footage from Youtube.  Apparently Americans are 9 times more likely to die at hands of an American nonmilitary law enforcementofficer than a global terrorist.  And that's based on a conservative 2011 estimate of 155 police killings.  


Some police officers seem truly motivated to serve the public.  Others clearly want adventure and prestige, which is fine with me.  And still others seem to want the power - consciously or not - which presents some issues.  Regardless I don't blame the police alone for American sadism.  We nearly all have a role in this matter and it all ultimately finds its home in some of the darkest components of European culture.  It has become an almost spiritual illness** - which fear and propaganda*** further complicate.  


State sadism has deep meaning today.  Abu Ghraib, Gitmo, the March 20th invasion, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, the bombing of Cambodia, and more all reflect a state-condoned sadism and a spiritual-emotional-psychological method of power construction and power maintenance.  (I am curious to locate research into this matter.  The testimony of Ursuline nun Dianna Ortiz tells is but one account of intimate state involvement in her own torture.)  


I have no evidence to suggest this sadism is explicit state policy but I suspect TPTB (who are not omnipotent) understand the method in play and simply let it unfold once it arises.  I'm also not saying state sadism is not without benefit although I question whether is exhibits a net benefit.  


My point: illegitimate police violence in the US is not state policy.**** Illegitimate police violence is, however, almost certainly, related to the spiritual-emotional-psychological method of power construction and maintenance.  Police brutality is, among other things, our own internalization of aggressive foreign policy and our failure to own the ugliness of the colonial era and to heal those ills.   

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Petite Sadisme


The enduring attraction of war is this: Even with its destruction and carnage it can give us what we long for in life.  It can give us purpose, meaning, a reason for living.

          Chris Hedges, War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning*****
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Not only do we like a good fight, state brutality and violence affirms our sense of and desire for order.  I call this the petite sadisme.  We respond positively to the images and video footage of the regimentation of life at Guantanamo Bay prisoners, prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib, police violence at the 1968 Democratic National Convention, water hosing during the Civil Right Era, the Viet Nam War bombing of Cambodia, and even the beating of Rodney King.  It's not that we like it, condone it, or could participate in it.  It's that it satisfies something in many (though not all) of us.  


We respond to it in such a way as to enable it and allow it; and generally we do not take active steps to attenuate it.  More examples from entertainment abound.******


Just as our propaganda-driven fears leads us to give the state more power, a slowly brewing sadism finds satisfaction in watching the state implement violence.  Out of this mass of fear and sadism, Americans are themselves helping to construct a totalitarian future.  The whole tragedy - with its psychoanalytic, economic, political, and policy implications - feeds on itself. 


This arrangement often requires that a minority of people become the target of the state aggressiveness or that people either enjoy being mistreated or simply acquiesce.  The target of illegitimate external control has generally been classic minority groups: activists, the poor, racial minorities, the mentally ill, or misfits.  But that is changing for some reason.


In the last 20 years, a more diverse population of people is beginning to feel this pressure - particularly 2nd Amendment activists.  Alex Jones has been quite vocal on this subject for many years.  Former Navy Seal and activist Ben Smith has explicitly said that he believes the federal government wants to provoke veterans 'to do something' and justify a state response.


One the one hand, we have the global power conspiracies.  But on the other we have a growing emptiness in people - and simultaneously emerging depth in people, which is where I conclude this piece in part 3.   

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* I learned of this estimate from RT News and came across it in a short film titled RELEASE US.  I was not able to locate the original figure as of December 2013.  To fully evaluate the meaning of that figure we also need to know the pre-9/11 figures.  I have not found definitive evidence so far but many believe police brutality is on the rise.

** I could be wrong but events such as the My Lai massacre seem much less coordinated and yet still reflect American sadism and the large spiritual crises we have in front of us.  As does the recent story about the 'death squad' of American servicemen in Iraq.  My point is that these are not simply questions of state policy but also something deep and something cultural.


*** Again this blog series on totalitarianism all originates from ideas I was considering in December 2013 in relation to the NSA series, which has an entry on synthetic terror and Managing the American Mind where I discuss fear and propaganda more carefully.  Fear and propaganda are as old as culture.  This episode of fear and propaganda I connect back to the Second Industrial Revolution and the birth of modern communication...which has everything to do with the Information Age...


**** To the extent that a shadow state (i.e. shadow gov't) exists, illegitimate police violence is almost certainly the policy of the shadow state.  But I have no evidence of this highly likely reality other than common sense.  These are all very important distinctions to make when you start to determine cause and to attribute responsibility.


***** 
It's not a great quote because it addresses war.  But it's completely related in that violence does unify groups.  And that's the point.  People often don't get involved politically in the police brutality issues, I suspect, because it's someone else's problem and the victim 'probably deserved it' and it keep people under control.  I think that thought is more powerful than people know.

****** Cops is a show where you can watch the poor get chased and captured.  Border Wars is slightly more sophisticated except you're watching illegal immigrants.  The Hunger Games and The Running Man clearly reflect these themes.  In the song Superstar, Lupe Fiasco explicitly talks about the crowd's anticipation to 'see the lights get dim'.


Friday, May 23, 2014

Totalitarianism (1/3): Quantum of Aggressiveness


My extended NSA blog series has an entry that got me thinking about totalitarianism.  (Check out the quotes in that entry from the following: Binney, Schell, Moglen, Alexander, and Hunt.  They are enlightening.)  Also, in another entry in that same series, under the heading Disciplining and Punishing the American People, I touch on the issue of illegitimate external control and provide examples.  Here I address the dynamics that I see in play and not so much the examples.*
  
Cases of state brutality abound.  People on the Right such as at the Cato Institute cover police misconduct; meanwhile, people you'd more traditionally associate with the Left cover police brutality.  It is an issue wide in scope and audience.
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Intro

I secretly think reality exists so we can speculate about it.
          Slavoj Zizek, contemporary philosopher, 2008
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Americans need to speculate much more on this subject - especially in light of 20th century Asian and European totalitarian legacies, not to mention whatever is exactly going on in Russia right now.  

Even though totalitarian states killed nearly 130 million people in the prior century, the subject seems distant, absurd, or just boring.  It is the obsession of the academic, the conspiracist, and the intellectual.  That is true at least until it's too late per the 'Then-they-came-for-me'-adage.  Perhaps we are all too aware that confronting power is dangerous work and, or worse, that possessing it is even more horrifying.

Whereas we may have survived the Orwellian vision of totalitarianism (heavy-handed, propagandistic, external, and traditional), we are perhaps slipping into the Huxleyan vision of it (subtle, doctrinal, pharmacological, and technological).  Whereas Winston drinks gin, Lenina takes 'soma'; it has no hangover - making it all the more insidious.  For Orwell, the self still existed despite the state's impositions.  For Huxley, the state and the self had become a single nightmare.  (I'm not the first to make this observation.)
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'A Quantum of Aggressiveness'


[Anna Freud] and Bernays provided the ideas that were used by the US government, big business, and the CIA to develop techniques to manage and control the minds of the American people.  But this was not a cynical exercise in manipulation.  Those in power believed that the only way to make democracy work and create a stable society was to repress the savage barbarism that the psychoanalysts told them lurked just under the surface of normal American life.
          Adam Curtis, filmmaker, 2002


This prosperity...consciously or unconsciously leads to a kinda of schizophrenic existence...In this society an incredible quantum of aggressiveness and destructiveness is accumulated precisely because of the empty prosperity, which then simply erupts.
          Herbert Marcuse, 1967 (near 53:00emphasis added)
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Although conspiracy plays a role**, I suspect the ultimate origins of totalitarianism lie in the public mind and the efforts to manage it.  Anna Freud, Sigmund's daughter, and Bernays felt that people in a democratic society required external control - precisely to avoid the political implosions that had created totalitarian states in Europe.  The irony of course is that that external control precisely tends toward totalitarianism of one sort, as Marcuse suggests.  He felt that that very control and its attendant 'empty prosperity' inhibits healthy growth and even creates in people 'an incredible quantum of aggressiveness and destructiveness', which itself could manifest in totalitarianism of yet another sort.***  (A proper discussion of this subject could fill a book.)

We don't see much hard physical evidence for this aggressiveness in society at large; crime has fallen in recent years.  But we see this aggressiveness in another place: among the police and other law enforcement officials, the subject of part 2
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* As of 2007, USA Today reported increased police brutality.  I have not found recent definitive evidence so far but many believe police brutality is on the rise today.   

** American totalitarianism, if it emerges, will not simply be the fruit of our own mass irrationality; conspiracy will have played a role.  But nature of that 
conspiracy is potentially quite subtle.  Nevertheless, I am certain average people face a conspiratorial class who, in effect, manages the maelstrom of history.  More on that here soon.  

Bernays, Anna Freud, Paul Mazur, and all the purveyors and beneficiaries of corporate propaganda are not real conspirators on the level of which I speak.  They participated in an ordinary (and deceitful) sort of class warfare and partisanship for the sake of their vision of stability and personal gain.

*** Marcuse's words: "By virtue of the way it has organized its technological base, contemporary industrial society tends to be totalitarian.  For 'totalitarian' is not only a terroristic political coordination of society, but also a non-terroristic economic-technical coordination which operates through the manipulations of needs by vested interests. Not only a specific form of government or party rule makes for totalitarianism, but also a specific system of production and distribution which may well be compatible with a 'pluralism' of parties, newspapers, 'countervailing powers,' etc."

Friday, March 7, 2014

House of Cards [s2, ep 13]

SPOILER ALERT.  The first entry reviews episodes 1 to 3.  The next entry reviews 4 to 6; the next entry reviews for 7 to 9; the next covers 10 to 12.  The final review is here.

Thank you to the creators of such a great and meaningful show.
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I don't write letters anymore.
          Bush 41
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Chapter 26 - 'It's the final score that counts.'
So my question persists and I direct it to @BeauWillimon: why did Frank bury the ring?  As I said prior, I believe he was asking his ancestors for help.  And they clearly came through in spades...and the ring came back.  You see a clear fulfillment of this idea in his successful letter to the President - written on an Underwood typewriter.  See 23:45.  (If you want to share the answer privately, I'll tell no one: option3project@gmail.com.)

Claire has a conscience.  As predicted, she did not protect Hennessey at all.  She actually ruined her.  It is an unintended mental crucifixion.  And yet Claire now suffers too.  Finally!  (Why is Tricia still talking to Claire? Why do people trust their abusers?)

The real world Raymond Tusk would have chosen to work with Frank under the opera house.  Walker was clearly in a rough spot.  Admittedly I am writing this after having watched the full season.  Still it is rare that a $40B man lets himself get pinched - especially in the states.  Nevertheless, something had to happen; as Woody Allen once put it, "let's face it, I wanna sell some books here."  I imagine that Frank may see a benefit in bailing him out with a pardon.*

The real world President Garret would have hung Frank.  Right?  Also Chiefs of Staff don't generally do a second show.  I thought Panetta may have but I don't think it has ever happened.

The deep web character proved deeply meaningful.  Rachel Maddow just yesterday spoke these words about CIA spying on Congress: "This is kind of death of the Republic kind of stuff."  As I intend on arguing in my penultimate entry in my NSA series, as I quoted Scott McNeally in that first entry, and intimated with the Assange quote in the same entry, privacy is gone for all but the most skilled.**

Money vs power.  As I wrote, Remy is about money - not power.  "Power is better than money as long as it lasts.  But it never lasts."  I really have no idea what lasts more between the two.  I suspect real power and real money sit in the same seat.  By real I mean one if not two orders of magnitude beyond the common millionaire.  Remy is the person I'd have aspired to if I had continued in the policy field.

Rachel is the global under class and Remy is the American middle class.  Under the right pressure, they're actions in each case are illustrative.  My biggest sub-plot curiosity is what goes on with them next season.  The most important idea IMO of season 2 is that Frank never explicitly intended to replace Garrett but only to unravel him and see what opportunities might surface.  This method is the rule.  I'm excited for season 3.  And yes: I do take this show way too seriously.  =)
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* I am ignorant of the story of Madame Butterfly.  Tosca seems a more natural choice.  If someone has an insight on this choice, do tell.  I didn't put a lot of time into the question.

** Purists can argue that we should not give in to such a pessimism but in  practical terms it's the only reasonable view.  Innovations, alternative Internets, (perhaps) closed Internets will certainly create new options.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

House of Cards [s2, eps 10, 11, 12]

SPOILER ALERT. The first entry reviews episodes 1 to 3. The next entry reviews 4 to 6; the next entry reviews for 7 to 9; the next covers 10 to 12. The final review is here.
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You can fool some of the people all the time, and those are the ones you want to concentrate on.
          Bush 43, 2001
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Chapter 23 - 'You can't have it both ways.'

Sharpe: "I killed a lot of people." Danton's incredulous response: "what?" IMO he just realized she hasn't figured out how to process the killings she committed. It's both a world he knows not and choice he would not have made. Her inability to process the killing is in part a function of the insanity and misplacement of that war.

Danton: "I'm a bitch to a lot of top dogs. I'm fully aware and willing. But you're worse. You're Frank's bitch and refuse to believe it." In this scenario, he's right. He kept the professional side separate from the personal. Her expecting otherwise is silly.

Danton and Sharpe: how will they make their moves as the season closes? They represent the average political player. They don't kill people but hey do assassinate characters. Who will error on the side of integrity and what price will he or she pay for that choice? My guess is Danton pays a heavier price because he actually cares for her - especially as Tusk is asking him to undermine Sharpe.

Meechum had another little moment - catching Frank watching porn. Where is this heading? Later in the episode when Meechum drinks Frank's beer, he's more or less saying that I not only would die for you professionally but I worship you personally.

Chapter 24 - 'If we fail, we'll die in a cage.'

Shit just got real. Meechum, as I suspected in an earlier blog, sided with the world he protects, which obviously makes sense. But, getting to the point, he allowed himself to also get seduced by it. His professional career is now over and perhaps his physical life. You can't sleep the Vice-President and his wife and not pay a price; if he was a friend and not Special Services agent you might have a chance to walk away. The cut from the glass is prologue to his end. (And why bourbon and not whiskey? It's a southern thing: slaves, sex, and alcohol - dark shit.)

8:00. LOL. That was a l-o-n-g, embarrassing no answer shot of Frank after the investigator asks him about Doug in Kansas city.

The scene between Lanagan and Danton riding in the car talking about whether Lanagan will testify is the picture of the middle class, the underclass, and people of color in America...people speaking in honest terms about being squeezed by the powers that be.

The subject of the ring returns...why did he bury it? That is the key symbolic question of season 2.

When Danton threatens Sharp, I was left my continued feeling that Danton held up his end of the bargain - that the personal relationship was separate. But now he breaks the rule that she actually established in reaching out to Frank. When Frank asked Remy if the offer of truce has to do with Jackie, it was the first moment when Remy had no idea what to say.

The President sliding down the wall and taking the pill is his ending. For all the drinking that has gone on since episode seven, we see a revealing sub-text regarding pharmacology, booze, and the management of the professional political mind.

Chapter 25 - 'Just shy.'

02:17 is the face of ruination. The president finally woke up - we always do when it's too late. All the Floyd Mayweather references in the world can't save him. At the end of the episode, Sharpe says to Frank: "What you're asking me is just shy of treason." His response: "Just shy". At least he's not killing anyone.

The bedroom conversation between the President and his wife is awful. Watching the most powerful man in the HOC universe say that he will protect his family as he power is fading is a moving scene. Herein lies one of the greatest ideas in all of the HOC series: our leaders can no longer be human; they must be an image. In many ways, we as citizens, with our judgements and prejudices, have forced our leaders into becoming caricatures - not real men and women who face challenges. In this environment, people who can front well like Frank and Clair will wield power. It's a very old story. But maybe we are at a point in history where the individual will create his and her own confidence without the need of a great leader. And in doing so, the leaders will have the freedom to speak honestly about how they really conduct their lives.

Is this the episode where Tusk grows a beard? He needed it a while ago.

The scene with Remy, Tusk, and Seth is a fav. Once more, characters reveal themselves to each other and acknowledge the complex concentric circles that influence them. Remy makes a great point to Tusk: "You could have let him [i.e. Frank] have the upper hand. What would that have really cost you other than your pride?" In the real world, most billionaires would not have made many decisions the way he did. Remy is again right. But you could be dead right but you're still dead. In his case, it's a social death and likely only temporary. Seth is a truly empty soul.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

House of Cards [s2, eps 7, 8, 9]

SPOILER ALERT. The first entry reviews episodes 1 to 3. The next entry reviews 4 to 6; the next entry reviews for 7 to 9; the next covers 10 to 12. The final review is here.
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Men make history and not the other way around.  In periods where there is no leadership, society stands still.  Progress occurs when courageous, skillful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better.
        Truman
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Chapter 20 - 'Let's see if we feel anything.'

President Walker (aka Garrett) says to Frank let's pretend we're Truman, having just dropped the bomb, and see if we feel anything. Drinks in hand, they feel nothing. 100,000's of people very quickly died in Hiroshima and Nagasaki; and all they come up with a cynical laugh as though it's a silly parlor trick.

I'm not a bleeding heart Liberal. I believe in violence as a sacred and clarifying force in life both now and throughout history. But when I see characters bereft of feeling and thought in such a context, all I can do it pity them. I have long felt that half the problem is that our leaders - despite their cunning and sharp instincts - are ultimately asleep.*

Seth Grayson in Frank’s parlor. I love scenes where people remove layers of deception between each other; it illustrates just how many selves live in an individual and makes you wonder which self will rule the others. Grayson admits he is working for Danton but offers himself successfully to Frank. A star is born.

Freddy's exchange with the first and second couple just goes to show you how vastly different average, decent people are compared to the height of the establishment. Freddy's character is almost a caricature but it still works. He is the only one in the room who isn't more or less consumed by presentation and appearances and as a result he can still manage to have a content. I want to know more about Freddy.

What is Sharpe thinking by hanging up as she first calls Danton? If a well-dressed, successful, good looking Black guy with mad composure and talent tells you he wants to have a slightly more serious relationship, that call gets made the first time. If he was White, the sexes were reversed, or if they were of the same sex, that call still gets made the first time.

The stone cold manipulation of the first couple is truly disgusting. The bourbon, the mind games, and the food - it's all such a refined, slow, long hustle of a two seemingly innocent people. In the real world, Presidents do not trust Vice President; and why should they. When Garrett tells Frank to call him Garrett, he's lost his position.

"Your version of nothing was light years ahead of where I started." That's Dan Lanigan to Frank. #realtalk

Chapter 21 - 'She lost but she played to win.'

This episode had the best lines of any this season. Very powerful ideas in play. And not without major symbols as well.

When Linda Vasquez (the ex-Chief of Staff character) said she had a gift for Frank, I pressed pause: what will it be? As a woman of color with some degree of power, she has a specific ability to convey ideas to Frank that few others can. My guess is that it will not inspire Frank but rather remind him of a debt. But to who? So I press play...it's to the President. She gives him the first Medal of Honor given to a 'Hispanic' American. (Corporal Joseph H. De Castro did in fact live and earn the honor.) She reminds Frank more or less to look out for the President and the remember the significance of the office. She shakes his hand and says goodbye. Vasquez is all class - a rarity on the show; she is perhaps the most charactered political figure on the whole show.

Another powerful quote: "at 200 bucks a pound fuck tradition" - speaking of some rare cut of meat and the question of prayer before eating. I must sound like a judgey asshole myself but that's no way to talk about prayer. It's just plain wrong. Dan Lanigan can be a baller but he doesn't need to be tasteless.

A third quote: 'I never expected much from the world. It's not a fair place.' Need I say more. (That line was said by Rachel's house guest.)

So now Claire is succeeding in getting the first couple into therapy. Such manipulation is grotesque. Therapy is fine and productive for many people but the way she involves herself in the 1st Lady's thinking is unbelievable. Frank and Claire are like two velociraptors upending the psychological lives to two seeming adults - to make matter worse: it's not that inconceivable.

I've been resisting the urge to write about Remy Danton - for many reasons, for most being that he is a character that has evolved slowly this season. Remy is, in short, awesome but unfortunately he is on the wrong side at least in terms of the narrative itself. HOC is coming back for season 3. Tusk will almost certainly have to lose in a new and special way. What will happen to Remy? He'll probably just get another gig. Why I like him... he is so direct, so clear, so measured, and so honest in a game that generally exhibits none of these things. Remy Danton as a serial monogamist is also great; it enriches his character yet more.

Seth Grayson is another great character. That he would refuse 1/2 payment for a job 1/2 done is poetic common sense. Remy and Seth are bagmen - one for money, the other for power. It'll very interested to see if Remy has sided with the right cause in season 3. My guess is that he will prevail in the long, long run.

Claire meant it when she hugged Megan Hennessey. When she tells Megan "you're not letting me down", it is the first moment Claire expresses true compassion on HOC.

You know when a wealthy White woman - Tusk's wife - says 'fuck it', she means it. What has Raymond Tusk got on Frank? I was hoping for something bigger than Claire's infidelity. They can weather that. Most people don't really care about who the politicians and wives sleep with as long as you look like you're in control.

The President is being played hard. If people find out he's in therapy even for something small, he'll never recover. It didn't make the rules; I just study them.

Chapter 22 - 'It needs to look messier.'

For all of Seth Grayson's work as a deception artist, he's a truth magnet - with Doug, with Remy, and with Frank he uses truth to connive and re-assure. Generally, the endgame for a guy like that is failure or a colossal life of deception - both would prove entertaining.

Adam Galloway just had his ass handed to him. "You and I are just pawns Mr. Galloway." Remy has the courtesy to (as always) speak a truth and call him Mr.

22:59. Is Raymond Tusk about to kill someone? False alarm: he's just threatening her life.

When Frank enter Freddy's apartment I sense something horrifying was about to happen. 33:51. And it was horrifying. All the talking aside, Frank ended that friendship because his station required it lest he wish to lose that station. Freddy should definitely take the money or at least admit that it is pride stopping - which is respectable IMO. In the end Frank can't acknowledge his hypocrisy and disavow regret. He's not that cold. He might think he is but he is not. Claire might be.

The sacrifice of Freddy is sad but he did kill two people and he failed to equip his son with knowledge and skills to move forward in life. Freddy is among my favorite characters. He's a character I identify with (for now) and wish I didn't.

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* After completing this series, I went back and read it. I wish I had written that "I suspect violence is a sacred and and clarifying force in life".

Saturday, March 1, 2014

420 Legalization: Getting Real (2/3)


Getting to the root of drug distributor violence in Mexico, you must go back to the first principle: demand.  For now and for me, it's a question of marijuana demand.  Maybe someday we will all likely address all drugs.  It is a brave new world, indeed. 
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Culpability and a Real Solution to Mexican Violence


[W]e accept our share of the responsibility...

We know that the demand for drugs drives much of this illicit trade.
        Hilary Clinton, former Secretary of State, 2010*
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Legalizing pot here will allow growing here and reducing demand in MX (not to mention it will spur industry here).  Reducing demand in MX will reduce i) drug business operations, ii) funds for arms and for paying corrupt police and other officials, and iii) ultimately the power of drug distributors.  In the short run, violence might rise as groups fought for a smaller market but overall their position in society will weaken.

Americans are fundamentally responsible for many who have died in Mexico since 2006 and prior.  In the context of drug consumption and demand, this idea is obvious.  In the context of NAFTA, it's a more complicated.  Dr. Peter Watt of Department of Hispanic Studies at The University of Sheffield explains it well.

"[T]the neo-liberal policies brought in during the 1980s basically drove millions of Mexicans into poverty, and so provided a cheap labour force for the drugs cartels.  In the run-up to NAFTA in 1994, the people pushing for it were the big multinationals and big Mexican companies who were funding the PRI.  The process meant a new subordination of the Mexican economy to the US economy.  For example, subsidies were lifted on production of Mexican corn, and then Mexico was flooded with imported corn from the US, where government subsidies were still in place.  This meant that in the first six years of NAFTA some two million small farmers in Mexico left the land. This migration from the land to the cities, to the maquiladoras on the border, and to the US itself has helped produce a flexible labour pool for criminal organizations to employ, a massively cheap labour force."**

Clinton obviously does not accept responsibility in the sense that Watt explains it.  (For the record, I am not anti-'free-market'.  That's a whole other enormous discussion for another day soon.)

Legalizing marijuana in the states and building our domestic industry is the real answer to reducing distributor violence in Mexico and preventing it from transforming our own society; coordinating legalization between nations is even better.  In 2009 (!), The Wall Street Journal did an excellent job outlining some of this thinking. ***  (As Noam Chomsky said many years ago, you can always rely on the financial news writers to assess issues in the clearest terms.)

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Distributors, Vigilantes, and Civil Society


They are all the same.
        lime grower in Michoacan re vigilantes and criminals, 2014

We respect El Chapo more than any elected official.
        printed sign at a February event in Culiacan, Sinaloa, 2014
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Overall, the situation in Mexico is exceedingly complicated.  Here's an article on how some Mexican citizens are scared of the vigilantes potential future intentions.  And here's an article on how some Mexican citizens support 'Chapo' Guzman's leadership.

The Knights Templar organization - a group that originated in 2011 out of the collapse of La Familia Michoacana - is another interesting story.  According to this interview piece, the head of Knights Templar, Servando 'La Tuta' Gomez, is a former school teacher who points out astutely that the distributors are a 'necessary evil'.  It has taken me a long time hold that view.  I hold it now.  In preparation for Pope Benedict XVI's 2012 visit to Guanajuato, this same group put up 14 banners reading "The Knights Templar Cartel will not partake in any warlike acts, we are not killers, welcome Pope."  Supposedly even Los Zetas have begun to reach out people to build a 'social base'.

Obviously, we view this all with deep cynicism but it reveals much about these distributors that many people don't understand.

The distributors in Mexico are a real power source; to the extent that people support them (even if under complicated terms) and to the extent that they have a monopoly on violence, they exhibit some limited aspects of authority and legitimacy.  That is something most establishment politicians in the States will not understand.

To complicate matters further and as an illustrative example, some evidence suggests that Chevron killed people in Nigeria.  Here's my point: I imagine (maybe) drug distributors kill many, many more innocent people than than oil and gas producers (maybe not).  But the fact remains that big economically productive organizations tend to kill people in the process of their operations.  I'm not making excuses; I'm looking for real solutions to violence as it really occurs.

Also, recall that the DEA has worked with the Sinaloa cartel for some time.  And severals financial institutions - such as BofA, Western Union, and JP Morgan - have dipped into the drug game; not to forget HSBC.  All the money is dirty.  Many institutions are involved.  It is the real world of war, money, and power.****  None of these organizations are all that different.*****

Personally I think the distributors, the vigilantes, and civil society organizations in Mexico need to exchange ideas (covertly or not) on how to create functioning, profitable, and safe (albeit illegal) drug markets and transportation and cultivation operations so people can buy drugs safely, learn about rehabilitation, and seek out out public health services.

The distributors may also want to understand two things.  First, they won the war but they haven't yet won the peace.  Winning the peace is generally much, much harder.  Americans have failed to win the peace in every major war we have fought since Korea.  Second, legalization is coming; and if they want to win the peace, they will have to transform their organizations to meet the needs of the Mexican people and to account for legalization.  I can already see a new war and more lawlessness as vigilante groups begin to take shape.  The predicable outcome is that the vigilantes go into cultivation and distribution to fund their efforts - whether it's to maintain order or build their own power.  It would better for everyone to work together now, share the proceeds, and move forward with life.  You can always find time to fight an enemy.  He might win.  You might win.  But there's also always a third option.   It's usually risky but the benefits are also often large.

As a communication of goodwill, the distributors may want to consider devoting monies to orphanages, mental health facilities, and institutions that protect and support Mexican woman.  (Will those organizations accept the money...questions abound.)

For part 3...

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* The full quote covers more issues that I do not want to address now.

** Adding insult to absurdity, Watt outlines the nature of President Calderon's failure: "Prohibition of substances has been going on in some form or other for almost 100 years, and has always been a failure.  But the Calderón militarization of this has been an unmitigated disaster.  Look at four measures of this - based on the government's own statistics.  First, the overall violent crime rate had been falling in Mexico before this new initiative.  In the past six years though it has increased by more than 200%.  Similarly with the homicide rate: it had been falling, but has now more than doubled.   Thirdly, it has not reduced addiction rates within Mexico itself.  These have always been low compared to other countries, but if anything, they have now gone up half a per cent, and so the 'public health' argument to support the drugs war doesn't make sense.  And finally, the number of human rights abuses committed by the military during their attempts to control the drugs cartels – illegal detentions, torture, deaths, have shown a six-fold increase."

*** Recall that Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Cesar Gaviria, Ernesto Zedillo, and Ricardo Lagos - the former presidents of Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, and Chile - all support a marijuana liberalization bill in Mexico City; Vicente Fox, another former Mexican president supports similar thinking.

**** The preeminence of war, money, and power is not a function of a physical law or law of social dynamics.  Especially now, I believe humanity can re-imagine itself in ways not possible in the past.

***** In an upcoming interview regarding the NSA, my guest Marcy Wheeler makers a very somewhat similar point regarding JP Morgan.  I was so shocked when she made the point I laughed and spit up my coffee.  The idea itself wasn't shocking but rather that she would say it so bluntly.  Here's a preview.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

420 Legalization: A Perspective (1/3)


You can find many reasons to support marijuana legalization; the medical applications are quite provocative.  As long as alcohol is legal, I cannot find a single rational reason to not support legalization even for the most conservative thinking of people.  It simply makes no sense.  In a booze legal world, criminalizing and not legalizing marijuana is irrational.

For me, the kicker is violence in Mexico - in particular violence against innocent people, poor people, Brown people, journalists, and activists.  In simple terms, this blog advocates for some form of marijuana legalization on both sides of the border as a way of reducing violence in Mexico and keeping it from spilling over further into the US.  The sub-texts of this blog is the crucification of people under globalization and the question of femicide in the Americas.*
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I started this blog in May 2012; I left some of that earlier voice below.  When I wrote it then I was certain that whenever published I'd find new stories of mass graves.   The old links are included with the new.
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Blood and Death


We have a generation of individuals that are willing to take some body's life for 50 dollars...100 dollars.
        Former undercover DEA agent, Celerino Castillo III, 2012
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Last week - in early May 2012 - I read an article about on how Mexican authorities had found 15 dismembered bodies in Jalisco.  I debated whether or not the subject was 'timely'.  Then Sunday - again in early May 2012 - I read of an even larger discovery involving 49 torsos in Nuevo Leon.

More recently...here is a new story from February 6 in Michoacan, another with 64 people found in Jalisco from December, yet another involving 17 people in Jalisco from February 22, and yet new story I found with 500 sets of remain scattered across 11 municipalities in Coahuila.  I truly believe some people probably could care less about these deaths.  I care.

Either way Americans eventually are going to figure out this issue is an American issue. The two of the three biggest graves above are close to the US border.  Furthermore, to quote 'Senor X', a Chicago drug trafficker, regarding the Sinaloa organization's influence in Chicago, "It's very strong and it's getting worse.  There's people in Chicago who have a relationship with gang members.  The cartel is, the cartels are, have direct contact now with the gang members...  The cartels, for example, Sinaloa cartel recruit the gang members and now they have direct contact with the gang members in the United States.  And the worst part of it is that they're armed.  It's only a, it's a time bomb."

The body count of the Mexican drug war now exceeds the Human Rights Watch estimate of more than 60,000 people since late 2006. I've seen more recently the figure of 80,000. Some place the death toll far higher at 150,000. Wikipedia indicates 90,000 to 106,000 deaths and 1.6 million people displaced from 2005 to 2012.  Not to forget: 26,000 disappeared.

As you likely know, many, many violent act sit on sites such as Liveleak.  Some have the death edited out.  Some do not.  I've watch one.  I felt it was necessarily to complete this blog with authenticity.**
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The Life of Marisela Escobedo Ortiz


This struggle is not only for my daughter.

Let's not allow one more young woman to be killed in this city.

        Ortiz, 2010 (referring to Juarez)
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However, with the death of Marisela Escobedo Ortiz, much is different.  First, it's on Youtube.  Second, she did not die in a field on her knees giving up names and addresses after having gotten caught up in the game.  She died an activist demanding the truth and justice for her own blood and daughter Rubi Marisol Frayre.  When I watched her get shot in Plaza Hidalgo in Chihuahua city, I felt an immediate clarification in my thinking about marijuana in America - and probably drugs more generally.  In my opinion, people who care about human rights, Christian values, human values, reducing violence, and a 100 other issues have an obligation to re-evaluate marijuana legalization very seriously.***


Ortiz had a deep insight into the nature of modern protest.  My understanding is that in one protest she walked from Juarez to Mexico City partially naked.  In protesting naked, I believe she communicated at least two deep truths to us.  First, average people will ultimately have to face the darkness of our times with the truth and the truth alone; the street is devolving into madness; and, as I've argued, the modern administrative state is failing.  Second, the murderousness of her daughter's death exhibited a vulgarity that nakedness in one way or another helps to communicate.

She was a warrior.   Such people will go into history among the mothers of global renewal.   As with woman globally, women in the Americas - especially women of indigenous descent - carry an enormous burden on behalf of our societies.  My belief is that this debt will not go unpaid.

If I offend the family of Marisela Escobedo Ortiz in recalling her story or activists south of the border in any way, I apologize.  I do not mean to politicize her death.  I believe it was political before I learned of it.  I speak from the heart and this was my experience when I saw what happened.
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Pathological Killings


They would show a new recruit how to kill.

They would give them a machete.  If not, they'd give them a sledge hammer and they'd tell them to kill the people they had tied up.
        Wenceslao Tovar, sicario in Tamauliplas, 2012
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Killing has become a practical and commonplace exercise in parts of Mexico.  Killing is something that distributors practice and refine.   It is not a crime of impulse, revenge, or war.  Killing has become an exercise of business and has for some I suspect become an addiction.  For some not all, killing has become pathological in Mexico.  It is in the nature of pathology that you cannot confront it with ordinary incremental measures that address symptoms.  You must go to the root and remove what created the pathology - namely demand.  You could try to stop distributors at the physical level such as with a drug war but is impossible in practical terms and ridiculous in moral terms.
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Ending the Mexican Drug War


In drug trafficking, as long as there is demand, there will be a supply.  It's like energy.  You can't create or destroy it.  It only transforms.

        Javier Valdez, journalist and co-founder of Riodoce, 2014****

See, if you look at the drug war from a purely economic point of view, the role of the government is to protect the drug cartel.  That's literally true.
        Milton Friedman, Nobel economist, 1991*****
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Regarding the practical, unless people lose interest in drugs - which will take at least two centuries - you will never stop the drug trade; it is a fool's errand.  The distributors have won and have done so decisively.  They will continue to win.  The drug trade is effectively a protected industry with highly inelastic demand; it doesn't require sophisticated technology as with Apple and IBM or deep physical capitalization as with Exxon and BP.  And the drug trade is illegal so you don't have to report the income.

The money, the soldiers, and the arms required to fight it out are phenomenal.  The entire Mexican military budget for 2014 is possibly $12B and in 2012 was $7B.  The Columbian and Mexican institutions of drug distribution make $18B to $39B from American consumers each year.  You do the math.

People in the drug trade will always win as long as drugs are illegal because people in the so-called straight world (i.e. the non-black market realm) will always ultimately condone the the drug trade so they can dip into the drug world for cash.  (Both presidents Bush, 41, and Clinton have likely done just that.  I am referring to the Iran-Contra Affair and the Mena Cover-up where each president in one way or another dip into the drug world for cash to fund personal or political endeavors.)


Even if no one in the straight world condoned the drug trade, the drug consumer would still always keep distributors awash in money and arms.  Demand will always keep the distributors ahead of the regulators.******  Even if you somehow by a miracle beat the the distributors in one generation, you have no assurance that the same saga will not re-emerge in the next generation or in a neighboring country.  When Nixon declared the American War on Drugs in 1971 perhaps we did not have all this experience.  But we have it now.

Ending the drug war in Mexico or here in the states is simple; we just have to let go of it.  To paraphrase Will Rogers, if you're in a hole, stop digging...

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* I neither support nor abhor globalization.  It has begun.  It's on us to understand it and direct it as gracefully as possible.  Globalization presents opportunities and risks that deserve attention.

** Viewing them is at some level a form of participation.  Growing up I remember knowing about the Faces of Death series.  I never watched.   Killing has become a part of the music and consciousness of Mexico and the US.  For instance, Breaking Bad - among the greatest American TV shows - showcased a narcocorrido in 2009 called Negro Y Azul: The Ballad of Heisenberg by Los Quates deSinaloa.  These are all scary trends.

*** I had earlier named this blog "Legalization and the Life of Marisela Escobedo Ortiz". I changed it out of respect.

**** I love this quote. It harkens back to conversations I had at policy school regarding immigration. A few of my friends and I agreed on how American policy-makers simply do not understand the biological and economic drivers of immigration between Mexico and the US. Despite the periodic slowdowns as during the Great Recession, nothing will stop immigration between these countries. No wall is big enough. No penalty stiff enough.

Free market thinkers always talk about 'free trade' and the free movement of capital but they almost universally fail to regard the free movement of labor in discussions of globalization. I do not support global consolidations such as with the so-called North American Union but culturally the US and MX are intertwined as no other nations in the Western hemisphere.

***** Great related quote from US District Judge James C. Paine in 1991: "Alcohol didn't cause the high crime rates of the '20s and '30s. Prohibition did. And drugs do not cause today's alarming crime rates but drug prohibition does." "Trying to wage war on 23 million Americans who are obviously very committed to certain recreational activities is not going to be any more successful than Prohibition was."

****** Even if a single distributor in MX falter under some sort of failure of leadership, which people are saying might happen because of the recent arrest of Joaquin 'Chapo' Guzman, the power of drug distributors - even on a downward trajectory - will continue for at least decade or two.  And I don't buy even that argument.

To quote David Shirk of the Justice in Mexico Project, "As long as these other structures remain in place, all things being equal, Sinaloa will be able to continue to operate if not as normal, at least as the most powerful criminal organization in Mexico.”  After the Colombian National Police killed Pablo Escobar, his organization fell apart but the drug trade in Colombia moved forward.  In fact, Mexican distributors are in a perfect situation to continue to rise in power as an intra-competitive oligarchy.