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Defeating the Evil Twins

Some of today’s most serious problems are Global warming and Global inequality.

The left likes to think these two problems can be solved by the developed nations. All we have to do is live more simply, use renewable energy and solve inequality by transferring wealth to underdeveloped countries. No politician would survive if he actually voted to do this and it wouldn’t work anyway. With all due respect to Bill Gates, even though 2.3 trillion dollars have been spent on foreign aid in the last sixty years most of it has gone to waste. Politicians of both parties won’t even approve of limiting tariffs and reducing domestic subsidies that inhibit free trade and foreign development. This is a selfish position for leftists who often question other people’s altruism. Economic development is the only proven means out of poverty for undeveloped nations.

On the other hand, economic development means increased energy usage because energy is used to produce things and wealthier people use more energy. Wealth means energy does work so people don’t have to. Of course you could use peasants, servants and slaves to do your work but I thought we were trying to do away from that sort of thing. “Power to the people” is the slogan of leftist egalitarian. Now leftist environmentalists have rediscovered a renewable source of power. People power!

Now the rich can heat their pools, air-condition their mansions and jet around the world attending conferences on global warming and poverty. They can travel to exotic destinations to participate in enviro-tourism or demonstrate against the World Trade Organization no matter where it meets, all without a trace of guilt. They can do all this as Al Gore does by purchasing carbon offsets. Numerous organizations such as “Climate Care “ have begun accepting contributions to initiate projects in developing countries in which carbon dioxide production is supposed to be reduced by giving the natives alternative means of doing work, such as using foot operated pumps to run their irrigation devices instead of diesel engines. To cancel out the CO2 of a return flight to India from Great Britain on a per person basis it would take one poor villager three years of pumping water by foot. So, is carbon offsetting the best way to ease your conscience? This kind of scheme is a step backward. What do environmentalists have in mind next? What about doing away with those polluting motorized taxicabs and go back to rickshaws powered by coolies?

The use of draft animals would obviate the moral objections to people as a source of mechanical energy. This puts us back to the nineteenth century. It is a myth that draft animals as a type of renewable energy is environmentally friendly. Evidence for this comes from data that the cattle industry worldwide is a major source of global warming gasses. It is estimated that 18% of these gasses are produced by cows. Since horses and elephants have the same type of digestive tracts, they would add to the problem. One reference I have says that as late as 1910 the United States used 27% of its farm land to grow food for horses. To this day most of the world runs off of fats and carbohydrates, in the form of human and animal power. Incidentally, data such as this has been used by vegans as an additional reason to quit eating meat, and it seems valid to at least cut down on meat consumption to reduce greenhouse gasses. We could have a meat tax in addition to a carbon tax.

To develop their nation’s poor countries should be encouraged to use more carbon based power, go to school and start businesses, not pump water. We Americans are the ones who should offset carbon by the use of peddle power. Think of the health benefits. For example a peddle powered generator is available which is capable of powering a seventy five watt bulb. (link).It could also power a small television set or an X-Box. According to some newspapers parents are now being driven crazy by criticism from their environmentally fanatical children who are being loaded up with propaganda in school about saving the planet by saving energy. (link) Meanwhile an epidemic of childhood obesity is sweeping the nation. Now parents can get sweet revenge and take a little lard off of Junior. Think of the expression on your smarty pants kid’s face when you unveil his new bicycle powered television set and X-Box and wheel the old stuff out to the recycling dump.

I apologize for the way the text lines up but I cut and paste from Microsoft Word and the lines have a mind of their own


Global warming: don’t worry, be happy

I was reading a paper for my Economics and Law class, and it cited this statistic from a 2000 paper by economist William Nordhaus:

Damages of a 2.5 C Degree Warming As a Percentage of GDP,

India 4.93

Africa 3.91

OECD Europe 2.83

High income OPEC 1.95

Eastern Europe 0.71

Japan 0.50

United States 0.45

China 0.22

Russia -0.65

In other words, India will be 5% worse off GDP-wise than it would be otherwise because of climate change.

The Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change presented a ballpark of 1.8C to 4.0C for average climate change difference by 2100, so 2.5C is a reasonable, maybe slightly low, estimate of climate change in this century.

I’ll consider some math for India. Estimate a 4.5 percent annual GDP growth in India for the next 93 years, fairly conservative given current 9% growth rates and 2.5% growth for developed non-welfare states like the US.

India’s current GDP is $3,800 per capita. 1.045 ^ 93 = 60.0, so, by 2100 India will have 60 times higher per capita GDP than it does now, that is $228,000. Knock five percent off and we’re down to a paltry $217,000.

Worrying about global warming, then, seems a bit like rearranging the deck chairs on the Queen Elizabeth II. In 2100, we’ll be on a luxury liner whatever the seating arrangements, given reasonable growth rates.

And if we do want to rearrange those chairs, there are a lot simpler, more difficult to screw up ways to do it than to fight global warming.

Math again: a 5 percent reduction of India’s 2100 GDP is equivalent to a 0.0555% decrease in her growth rate over the intervening time period (1.05 = 1.000555^93).

So, how do we boost India’s growth rate by .0555%?

India has a 14.4 percent average tariff rate, according to the 2007 Index of Economic Freedom. Berkeley economist Brad DeLong estimated the roughly 50 percent tariff on capital goods in the US after the Civil War reduced economic growth from 0.14% to 0.36% annually. Apply those figures to India today, and its 14.4% tariff, if continued over the next 93 years, would reduce growth by 0.0403% to 0.103%, so about the same as global warming.

Oddly though, eliminating Indian tariff barriers has not turned into the next cause celebre.

(The paper, with data, is “Climate Change Justice” by Eric Posner and Cass Sunstein (working paper), http://www.law.uchicago.edu/Lawecon/)


Acting White

To answer quickly and specifically, in the case that I mentioned, the people applying the social pressure were heavily armed and had already murdered one or more persons. This changes the math, by raising the stakes considerably.

Before answering more generally, I do not consider myself a rascist. The individual in question came from a failed community. Not all communities which contain black people fail, and not all failed communities fail quite this completely. Also, I Am Not A Social Anthroplogist.

Broadly, "Acting White" is more generally applicable. Academic achievement is, in theory, a virtue. The people who put pressure on me for achievement would first construct a premise; perhaps my achievement was interpreted as a slight, or perhaps some effort was put into balancing out my achievement in the context of my numerous faults and shortcomings. There is a form of emotional logic at work that has its own rules. Your achievement has made them feel small, has hurt them, and they will look for an excuse or context in which retaliation can be justified.

Acting white is different in two ways. First off, it interprets your achievement as a threat or insult to all black people. Within the context of emotional logic, it follows that every black person (who accepts that "acting white" is valid criticism) can feel insulted by the simple fact of your achievement, with no additional excuse or context necessary. You are literally construed as betraying your race.

The second difference has to do with the stakes. Of the various people I went to school with, the worst result of which I am aware is a man who now works at a gas station. He is gainfully employed, and has his hobies and distractions. Compared to a computer programmer, he has failed to take advantage of the education provided, but as failures go his is mild.

The difference between a computer programmer and the worst result in the failed community this individual came from is a great deal more stark. I don't have the citation handy, but there is a game theory involving a random distribution of money from the bank and a round (or two) of penalties, where players can bid some of their money to reduce the winnings of others. The study showed that the player allotted the most money used penalties the most, trying to preserve his relative wealth compared to the other players. The conclusion I drew was that individuals don't care as much about absolute wealth as with relative wealth. The sight of someone heading onward to a career that might earn ten or fifty times the income that you can expect to earn will be perceived as a much larger personal hurt. Emotional logic again, but the part of human nature that hates to see others succeed is most likely a great deal more engaged when the relative difference in success is larger. As it was in this case.


Conceptual Problems for Consequentialism

A Guest Post by John & Oskar

"Let us look more closely at the type of economy which is represented by the 'Robinson Crusoe' model, that is an economy of an isolated single person or otherwise organized under a single will. This economy is confronted with certain quantities of commodities and a number of wants which they may satisfy. The problem is to obtain a maximum satisfaction. This is . . . indeed an ordinary maximum problem, its difficulty depending apparently on the numher of variables and on the nature of the function to he maximized; but this is more of a practical difficulty than a theoretical one . . .

Consider now a participant a social exchange economy. His problem has, of course, many elements in common with a maximum problem. But it also contains some, very essential, elements of an entirely different nature. He too tries to obtain an optimum result. But in order to achieve this, he must enter into relations of exchange with others. If two or more persons exchange goods with each other, then the result for each one will depend in general not merely upon his own actions but on those of the others as well. Thus each participant attempts to maximize a function (his above-mentioned 'result') of which he does not control all variables. This is certainly no maximum problem, but a peculiar and disconcerting mixture of several conflicting maximum problems. Every participant is guided by another principle and neither determines all variables which affect his interest.

This kind of problem is nowhere dealt with in classical mathematics. We emphasize at the risk of being pedantic that this is no conditional maximum problem, no problem of the calculus of variation, of functional analysis, etc. It arises in full clarity, even in the most 'elementary' situatioins, e.g. when all variables can assume only a finite number of values.

A particularly striking expression of the popular misunderstanding about this pseudo-maximum problem is the famous statement according to which the purpose of social effort is the 'greatest possible good for the greatest possible number'. A guiding principle cannot be formulated by the requirement of maximizing two (or more) functions at once.

Such a principle, taken literally, is self-contradictory. (In general one function will have no maximum where the other function has one.) It is no better than saying, e.g., that a firm should obtain maximum prices at maximum turnover, or a maximum revenue at minimum outlay. If some order of importance of these principles or some weighted average is meant, this should be stated. However, in the situation of the participants in a social economy nothing of that sort is intended, but all maxima are desired at once—by various participants.

One would be mistaken to believe that it can be obviated, like the difficulty in the Crusoe case . . . by a mere recourse to the devices of the theory of probability. Every participant can determine the variables which describe his own actions but not those of the others. Nevertheless those 'alien' variables cannot, from his point of view, be described by statistical assumptions. This is because the others are guided, just as he himself, by rational principles—whatever that may mean—and no modus procedendi can be correct which does not attempt to understand those principles and the interactions of the conflicting interests of all participants.

Sometimes some of these interests run more or less parallel—then we are nearer to a simple maximum problem. But they can just as well be opposed. The general theory must cover all these possibilities, all intermediary stages, and all their combinations."

—John von Neumann & Oskar Morgenstern, The Theory of Games and Economic Behavior (p. 10-11)


Tobacco Vs Children


http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/7026454.stm

US President George W Bush has vetoed a bill to expand a children's healthcare insurance scheme, after it was passed with a large majority in the Senate. Mr Bush argues it takes the programme beyond its original purpose of insuring children from low-income families. The vetoed bill proposed higher tobacco taxes to provide an extra $35bn (£17bn) to insure some 10 million children.

A small tax on the evil tobacco smoker against poor children in need of medical care... can't possibly make it more emotional. This is probably a bad political move so I tend to think it is principled. For once, kudoz to Bush, it takes lot of balls to veto such a bill.


Arthur, you explain a puzzle

Arthur B writes:

Thus, they [socialists] would believe that a capitalist seastead cannot be tolerated as it produces poverty in the socialist seasteads. (And since poverty is relative to them, they'll even be right)

Arthur, you explain a puzzle.

I found myself puzzled by the time I reached the last paragraph of Mieville's article. Mieville writes:

It is a small schadenfreude to know that these dreams will never come true. There are dangerous enemies, and then there are jokes of history. The libertarian seasteaders are a joke. The pitiful, incoherent and cowardly utopia they pine for is a spoilt child’s autarky, an imperialism of outsourcing, a very petty fascism played as maritime farce: Pinochet of Penzance.

Which raises the obvious question, if "the libertarian seasteaders are a joke", if they are ineffectual, why did Mieville go to the trouble of writing about them? If you look at political writing, one of the unmistakable trends is that political writing is about stuff that scares the writer. Whatever his surface attitude, he is worried. Maybe he has intellectual contempt for his enemies, but he's worried because he sees they have met with some success and may meet with more. It's easy to come up with examples for myself. I'm worried that health care may be further socialized, and not liberalized. I'm somewhat worried that Marxists like Mieville will manage to live down or disassociate themselves from the catastrophic failure of Marxism's vision and get a chance to try again. And I see the same pattern everywhere: people write about what worries them.

Mieville brings up, pretty much out of the blue, Pinochet. Pinochet was many things but one thing he was, was a political disaster for the Marxists. Yes, he was a murderer and notable on that account, but we don't see Marxists endlessly bringing up every mass murderer in history (and there were much bigger ones than Pinochet even in very recent memory). They care about Pinochet because he killed their political dreams for Chile and, by extension, for Latin America and, by extension, the world. Of course he didn't really do all that by himself, but his overthrow of the Marxist Salvador Allende marks a turning point in the aspiration of Marxists, their desire to roll over the whole world. To most people, Pinochet was one mass murdering dictator among all too many, a footnote in history, but to Marxists he was much more than that. He was their Waterloo. This is why you see Marxists like Mieville repeatedly bring him up in totally unrelated contexts like the context of seasteading, of all things. The bizarrerie of bringing up the name of Pinochet here is thus explained. The Marxists, that superstitious lot, are still exorcising their demons. By bringing up Pinochet here of all places, by flashing back to that really bad experience shared by all Marxists, Mieville inadvertently reveals a discomfort.

So, I asked, why does he write about libertarian seasteaders if he thinks they are a joke? But the answer is staring me in the face. He's writing about them because he cares, and he cares because he actually does find them threatening for some reason he's buried. He's writing to comfort his ideological allies (he's certainly not writing to convince anyone else). You've mentioned one reason why they might threaten him.

China Mieville is fascinated by the idea of a floating polity. It captivates his imagination. The evidence is in the novel that he wrote about a floating city. The novel is The Scar. Admittedly, I didn't read it, it's still way back in my to-read list. I trust the descriptions. Amazon has one:

But her voyage to the colony of Nova Esperium is cut short when she is shanghaied and stranded on Armada, a legendary floating pirate city. Bellis becomes the reader's unbelieving eyes as she reluctantly learns to live on the gargantuan flotilla of stolen ships populated by a rabble of pirates, mercenaries, and press-ganged refugees.

It's not all that surprising that China Mieville, who is largely known for writing a handful of books, one of which is about a floating city, would feel threatened by competing visions of floating cities and seek to discredit them. There is probably more to it but this stands out.


LaborPains.Org Typo

Shouldn't that really be a $1,337 paycut instead?


Southwest switching to a more efficient seat allocation system

A friend reports that: "what's changed (implemented in San Antonio, "coming soon to your airport, too!") is that you get a number within the group A, B or C, based on when you checked in, and you board the aircraft in roughly that order (groups of 5) and still get to select what seat you want. So you no longer have to camp out in line if you want to get on first, it's all determined by check-in order. SW has a explanation done in Flash."

This is great, because they are getting a problem right that our society frequently seems to get wrong, at our loss. Specifically, our society seems to view queuing as a standard "solution" for allocation. The problem is that it is wasteful because you are paying via a loss instead of a transfer.

For example, say the city opens a free movie theater. They have to ration tickets somehow, so they use lines. Townspeople respond by standing in line to get tickets until the time spent in line is almost equal to the value of the ticket. Compare this to an auction. The price will still go up until it is almost at the value, so to the person paying, it looks the same. But there is a crucial difference: the payment is a transfer (I hand you pieces of paper), instead of a loss (I stand in line). Looking at the whole pie, the auction does not use up any wealth, whereas queuing uses up lots of people's time, thus reducing their happiness by denying them opportunities to do more fun things.

Systems which ration through loss (gameplayers can think of it as "a payment to the bank") are wasteful, yet we seem to like them. Perhaps it's related to some kind of jealousy or anti-business bias, where we are happiest if no one is gaining at our expense. Sadly, that kind of thinking makes us all poorer. Alternately, queuing rewards those with low value for their time, while auctions reward those with the most money, so perhaps it is a redistributive mechanism, although it's a terribly inefficient one.

And of course, it isn't like auctions are the only efficient mechanism - anything where people can't use up resources works. For example, Southwest seems to be using check-in order, which in this world of printable boarding passes and check-in kiosks should not lead to much wasteful competition.


America's liberal youth call for American theocracy

Apparently. Unless they don't know what the f- they're talking about.

Can we swap leaders with Iran? Please?

(reddit comment, modded up to the sky)

 


The Ausmus Effect

I can't remember who branded it, but there is an often observed inverse relationship between the actual offensive production and undeserved defensive reputation of batters in Major League Baseball, and it's called the Ausmus Effect in dishonor of Houston Astros catcher Brad Ausmus.

Ausmus had a few tolerable seasons at the plate early in his career but soon settled into sustained mediocrity. At the same time his defensive reputation rose, resulting in a few undeserved Gold Glove awards (given out to the best fielder at each position in both the American League and National League).

The same thing has happened to a player on my beloved Minnesota Twins. Advanced metrics like Baseball Prospectus' VORP* list Nick Punto as the worst hitter in Major League Baseball this season. As the season has gone on descriptions of solid and good defense have morphed into outstanding, unreal and unbelievable. Beat writers are suggesting he make money by selling instructional DVDs on how to play third base. The relationship probably looks something like this:

The Ausmus Effect
I've noticed a reactionary increase in the praise of Punto's defense in both the media and among Twins fans. My guess as to why it exists is that baseball writers, in the need to maintain access to players and team officials, have to be careful in how they criicize players. In trying to offset the deserved scorn that Punto has earned at the plate (and that which manager Ron Gardenire is owed for letting Punto collect 550 plate appearances this season), they lessen the blow by talking about the areas of the game in which Punto hasn't been a complete and utter failure at this season. Pointing out Punto's struggles at the plate has moved from the realm of being critical to being minimally observant. As it can't be avoided, the blow is repeatedly softened by praise for his defense. This repition builds his reputation and winds up distorting the truth.

This becomes detrimental to the team if the team then buys into the hype, which can happen, as in the case of Brad Ausmus. Hopefully the Twins don't fall victim to the same chain of cause and effect.

* Value Over Replacement Player - The number of runs a player is worth offensively over that of the kind of scrub, organizational filler that any team could call up from their minor league system as a replacement.


Cuban health statistics

Every so often, an enemy of liberty will point out that Cuba has fantastic health care, in fact it's overflowing with health care, it has so much great health care that it sends doctors to other countries to give them something to do because everybody is just so darned healthy in Cuba.

I don't know if it really amounts to anything but I did run across this paper (pdf) which critically examines the assumption that the Cuban health statistics are reliable. The author points out that

ideocratic states often use very authoritarian tactics--tactics that individual doctors and patients can subjectively experience very negatively--to create and maintain favorable health statistics. When issues of state power and social control are factored into the analysis, it becomes possible to see how Cuba’s health indicators are at least in some cases obtained by imposing significant costs on the Cuban population--costs that Cuban citizens are powerless to articulate or protest, and foreign researchers unable to empirically investigate.

The author highlights a telling anecdote that illustrates the atmosphere of intimidation and secrecy in Cuba:

One family doctor told me that she once led an instructional seminar for medical students at the University of Havana. During the seminar they reviewed several problematic cases, one of which involved a patient who had died due to mistakes made by a doctor. The case was included as a warning to the students to be careful in following established treatment protocols and surgical procedures. After the seminar, one of the medical students approached the doctor and told her that after reading the case file, she realized that the patient in the case study was actually a close relative of hers. She said that the doctors who treated him told her family he had died of natural causes, and she was very traumatized to find he had actually died from malpractice. The doctor running the seminar sympathized with the student’s grief and anger, but told her it would be better if she kept quiet and made no complaint against the hospital. To do so would be to risk being labeled a political dissident or a counterrevolutionary. The student reluctantly concurred.

 


Early Excerpt

Joe Carducci's Enter Naomi arrived in the mail today. One graph that grabbed me:

In late 1981 it was still a few months before "colonic irrigation" ads in the L.A. Weekly warned, "Death begins in the colon," and two years before the naming of the Aids virus and a final ending of what we refer to as The Sixties - begun with the election of young Kennedy, the introduction of the Pill, and the court-ordered removal of crucifixes from public schools. None of which were as advertised: Young tan handsome JFK had one foot in the grave even before our anti-hero avatar fired off the starter pistol on the hippie era; Nixon lived to be 81. In a 1957 article in Pageant magazine on the development of the Pill the zeitgeist itself was promising that "a new contraceptive pill seems to answer all the objections on physical, psychological and moral grounds." And all these years later the public school systems seem well without a prayer despite at least ten cycles of reform that accomplish little but teachers' union culpability evasion.

It's refreshing to read a rock critic/historian that could get along with Andrew Coulson.


The Riddle of the Mushroom

I was eating breakfast with my son after his Ju-Jitsu class at a local diner and had ordered a nice omelet with onions, bacon, spinach, cheddar cheese, and mushrooms. Seeing me eat a mushroom prompted a comment. He's been reading a book on surviving in the woods and he mentioned that if you are lost you should never attempt to eat a mushroom.

Firstly, because one needs calories and not protein to survived your escape from the woods, and secondly, because it's just to hard to tell a good one from a bad one. I told him that was probably true. He then mentioned that in different locales the types of poisonous mushrooms varied and that even if you got good in one area it might be a deadly mistake in another. Another good reason to avoid them.

This isn't to be fooled around with either. Mushroom poisoning is one of the most horrible deaths known to man and certainly not something you want to deal with when trying to get back to civilization. Eating the wrong one can result in vomiting, diarrhea, cramps, hallucination, and liver failure. So even if you are 99% sure you can make the correct identification then why take the chance.

Well this got me to thinking. What are the true risks involved. I thought of a another issue involved in eating mushrooms.  Humans have bad skills at estimating mathematical risk. I came up with this puzzle which actually has two levels at which natural human instincts on risk are likely to fail. One is known by statisticians but I’ve never heard the other expressed in a math puzzle. After someone has solved these I will point to a video by a statistician explaining the original problem.

Given:

You are lost in the wood on an alien planet. There are precisely two kinds of mushrooms here which look almost identical. One is edible and the other kills within seconds of even the smallest taste. Both kinds, unlike earthly mushrooms, provide plenty of carbohydrates to power your muscles for the long trip home.

Back at the lab on your spaceship at a different local with both kinds of mushrooms you had tested your ability to discriminate between mushroom types and have found yourself to have an accuracy rate of 99%. This is no matter how long you look at the same mushroom. You did so by comparing against a 100% accurate test that involves killing lots of mice, but let’s not let PETA in on this.

The forest floor is covered in millions of these mushrooms of both types. You are trying to decide whether to eat a mushroom. You want to know the exact risk of killing yourself if you eat a mushroom, vs. your estimated risk of starvation.

What is your risk of dying in the following independent scenarios? In each case you examine all picked mushrooms in detail to categorize them as “good” or “bad”. You only examine each mushroom once since your accuracy does not increase with time or repetition. The risk is always the risk of dying. The words bad and good refer to your estimation and not actuality.

1) You pick one mushroom. It looks good. What is your risk if you eat it?

2) You pick 10 mushrooms and they all look good to you.

a) If you eat a good one is your risk worse, better, or the same as case 1)

b) What is your risk if you eat just one?

c) What is your risk if you eat all ten?

3) You pick 1000. One looks good.

a) If you eat a good one is your risk worse, better, or the same as case 1)

b) If you eat it what is your risk?

4) You pick 200. You decide half are “good”.

a) If you eat one of good ones what is your risk?

b) If you eat all 100 good ones what is your risk?

5) You pick 10000. You decide that 100 are “good”.

a) If you eat one good mushroom what is your risk.

b) You’ve examined more mushrooms than in case 2) to come up with 100 mushrooms to eat. Are you safer or less safe eating all 100 in this scenario than in 2)?

c) What is your exact risk In b)?

6) You pick 10000 mushrooms. You decide that only one is bad. What is your risk if you eat the bad one?

I don’t know if I can come up with the exact answers in each case but I do know that some obvious answers are wrong.   I haven't been in a statistics class in around thirty years so I have an excuse.  No need to answer them all so try the easier ones.

My oldest son is doing a fair job of attempting to answer the questions. My younger son is calling me a fool for wasting all the mice which I should have brought with me to either eat directly or to use as a 100% accurate test.


Hipster Rags: A Ramble

I got an awesome surprise in my mailbox Thursday. There was a new issue of Arthur waiting for me. The California-based hippie magazine had folded a few months earlier, half-way through my current subscription. But the bi-monthly is now back, and they're honoring the remainder of our contract together.

I'm often conflicted when reading hipster rags like Arthur and Vice. I have to wade through lots of collectivism and new age nonsense in order to gain exposure to bands I wouldn't otherwise. And then, read through interviews from worthwhile bands espousing collectivism and new age nonsense.

From the current issue of Arthur :

Arthur: So many people think you're being ironic. Does that bother you?

Becky Stark: ...Every time anyone asks if I'm serious about celebrating peace on earth I have to say, "Are you seriously asking me that question?" For real. I'm the weirdo? For talking about peace? In the midst of a horrific insane war? What? What have things come to that people think it's a joke to play music that celebrates peace?

Putting aside in my mind that Stark went on to use the word terracide a few paragraphs later, whenever someone talks about "Peace" I'm reminded of an Ilkka Kokkarinen post, and his observation that, "in reality a 'pacifist' is simply someone who has outsourced his use of force to someone else."

Would Stark advocate that all opposition in Iraq immediately accept all terms of the Bush administration's occupation and cease all of their violence in the name of "Peace"? If not, I have to conclude that even Californian hippie artists think that violence can be justified, even if they won't cop to it while posturing in interviews.

Despite features like, "One Man Goofing Off: A visit with legendary Zen humorist Henry Jacobs" Arthur doesn't have much of a sense of humor. There are the usual conservatives-and-rich-people-are-bad satires that preach to the choir, but the magazine never pokes fun at its readership the way Vice does (I tend to like a lot of stoner bands, however, so I tend to find more music I like in Arthur).

Not liking New York City hipster bands as much as stoner rock, Vice makes amends to me with some really great, bizare content. This month's issue has an interview with Wim Delvoye, who has purchased a plot of land in China in order to legally continue his art (tattooing pigs). It produced the amazing quote that follows:

"I tattoo pigs because they grow fast and they are so much better to tattoo than fish."

Delvoye goes on to mention that he will try out tattoos on humans first, and if he likes them will then ink them on pigs. To really mess with their readership, Vice prints that Delvoye is a vegitarian.

I always find something worthwhile in every issue of Vice and Arthur sandwiched between denounciations of mercantilism (but only ever referred to as capitalism). In the current copy of Arthur there was a full page ad for Joe Carducci's new book Enter Naomi, which is about Carducci's time running the independent record label SST in Los Angeles in the 1980s (the title refers to a music photographer that Carducci worked with closely during his time with the label).

Carducci's first book, Rock and the Pop Narcotic is one of my favorites. It was published back in 1995 (although a second and third eddition have since been printed) and readers were told to look for future publications from Carducci. Finding out about his new book, a dozen years removed from his first, made the current issue of Arthur worthwhile by itself (not that there isn't other valuable content).

Carducci is one of the only right-of-center rock critics I've found (although that doesn't mean they aren't out there), and it speaks to the quality of his work that someone who doesn't despise the middle class and occasionally speaks favorably of Reagan gets his ads run in and is allowed to contribute to Arthur.

His ad in Arthur even went as far as to list the ISBN for his third book which is scheduled to be released on the 28th of this month. I was able to pre-order it at Barnes & Noble using the ISBN while it still won't come up as a search result by title or author. (And for all the griping Arthur does about big business, Barnes & Noble is taking pre-orders for Carducci's third book while Carducci's small independent publisher isn't yet at the date of this posting.)

Getting back to the folks that fill the pages of Vice and Arthur (both the authors and artists), I often wonder why there is such similarity of thought in rags that hold themselves up as free thinking and indepedent. It's probably along the lines of Jane Haddam's Why Intellectuals Love Marx.

Why am I now thinking about hippies doing something out of the ordinary and registering my blank stare as proof positive that my middle class mind can't handle how awesomely weird they are, when really I'm just unimpressed. To be fair, I do think the folks at Arthur realize that Ken Kesey's Merry Pranksters and their legacy have had precious little effect on the middle class. As a result the failure of The Sixities tends to generate resentment towards everyone that failed to jump on the psychedelic bandwagon.

For some musicians and other artists, that society doesn't immediately recognize their greatness and turn their hobby into a career is proof enough that the free market works against creativity (the knobs at YearlyKOS who proposed starting a bloggers union seem like the same type of folks).

I don't remember if it was on this site or back at Catallarchy, but a post about the free market offering a diversity of scenes where pretty much anyone could achieve some sort of status has stuck with me. Not everyone is as in to rock music as I am. I work with a woman that is nationally ranked in Scrabble as an example. I don't spend my time constantly expanding my vocabulary and she doesn't dig through coastal hipster rags looking for new music to check out. This works out great for both of us, but apparently not for some creative types.

What's wrong with some people viewing music as a background, and not a focal point? The fashion industry holds themselves up as tastemakers and producers of fine art while at the same time playing U2 and bad house music during their runway shows, and they're not wrong because of it.

For all the complaints of consumerism killing art, with just a little work I'm finding all sorts of good music being made in the here and now (and I've never gotten much of anything worthwhile without putting in some kind of investment).

And what is the alternative? How should support and exposure for artists be given out? Minnesota Public Radio has a rock station in addition to their flagship called The Current, and The Current blows goats. I attend a small music college in the Twin Cities, and in one of my classes an instructor of mine had the following to say of a local band's single he had just produced:

"I don't like the sound as much as their earlier stuff, but it'll work for them because The Current will play the shit out of it."

Even when you've got a public radio station playing what the general population would consider to be obscure stuff, and often self-confined to local artists, they still develop a sound and aren't really that diverse (and this in a state where the single largest employer is the state). They also produce some stupid commentary. I heard one of the DJs at The Current smugly say that he could get everything he needs from music locally.

While trying to praise the local music scene is a good thing, because I understand that consciously making an effort to support local bands means you'll have more good shows to attend in town, his comment was moronic. The musicians that make up the local scene have been influenced by other artists all over the country and world. That such a moronic claim can even be made is due to the massive exchange of artistic ideas across vast distances and cultures made possible by modern society. But it does fit in well with the nonsense of sustainability, which will score him points with his listeners.

It leaves me with the question, am I personally better off that Reason, Liberty and the Quarterly Jounral of Austrian Economics aren't doing features on Comets on Fire? Only a dogmatic Randite would consider exposure to different and opositional viewpoints a bad thing. At the end of the day, I can always point to kibbutzes in Israel and ask where in the USSR were people openly allowed to live in an alternate economic system (or even modern day France and possibly soon Wisconsin), right?

But if the hipster rags I read practice the opposite? I do have to concede that Arthur publishes Carducci. And at the end of the day even Rothbard said good things about Alexander Cockburn's writing, and CounterPunch has published Dave Zirin!


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