Archive for June, 2010

Virtual Capitalism 101: a series by Saul Rothbart


Presenting Part 3 of our new series (Part 1 and Part 2) of guest posts by Saul Rothbart, who is taking us on a “history tour” of capitalism — and speculating on how today’s technological advances might impact our tomorrows…


Real news is what happens to you.The “truth of experience” so to speak.

As a commercial entity, mass media news aims to leverage this notion to the broadest populations of shared truths of experience. And articulated with the right measure and mix of fluff, bang and stoke, can effectively influence (manipulate?) consumer markets in big matters like peace and war. Or small ones like chewing gum or not chewing gum.

The barriers of entry to own or control a media (any media) are steep and delivery costs are prohibitively high. Just turning on studio lights is normally cost-accounted at six figures given the incidentals that need to be taken into consideration. Same goes with setting up a newspaper, magazine or book run.

With traditional media, profitability comes from a business methodology that allows the producer to get dollars per consumer unit while incrementally reducing the delivery cost to pennies per unit through market scale. It’s a high risk business where if you get the content right and connect to a broad market, you can make a very rich profit.

But if you get it wrong (and wrong being not connecting to a broad market), the end product is no better than burnt toast.

More numbers, more dollars with fewer cost pennies are the capitalist cornerstones of mass production.

Virtual capitalism has a different dynamic.


Doctor Zero: as Utopian as those he critiques

A fine (if sometimes over-ripe) prose style is not always a symptom of wisdom.

Zero’s otherwise worthy essay on the unworkablity of collectivism suffers from his declaration the world is at last “awakening from the [socialist] dream.”

As one commenter puts it better than I can:

Similar things were written after the Berlin Wall fell and the Soviet Bloc dissolved, the Chinese allowed some capitalism, Hernando de Soto consulted with rulers of teeming cities, VP Gore was charged with cutting bureaucratic waste, country after country reformed their economy to encourage more entrepreneurship, Milton Friedman’s books got made into TV documentaries. Bill Clinton even said, “The age of big government is over.”

I thought, maybe people really have learned that. The dismal oppressive failure of socialism/fascism stood all around. There was no way to defend it. The entire 20th century was one experiment after another in top-down control – all shown in the end to be murderous, oppressive, corrupt systems.

But no. A new generation came up, a financial crisis happened, and everyone wants to throw that knowledge out the window. 

On a stylistic level, the “conservative” attraction to this style of pretentious, powdered-wig prose exasperates me.

It’s the written equivalent of four walls papered in pink country toile — from the Martha Stewart Collection.

I can only assume that reading it makes late-to-the-party auto-didacts feel “smart.”

Wasn’t one Eject!Eject!Eject! enough?


I’m pretty sure Kagan’s not on either ‘Team’


It’s come to this: Bored senators now bantering with Kagan about “Twilight”


Second greatest tv commercial ever?

No. Not even close to the original. But still:


Julie Burchill joins The Independent

I give it three months…

“It will be both a pleasure and a challenge to write for the Independent,” she said. “I don’t exactly agree with the editorial line of the paper on certain issues, but the differences between us are insignificant compared with what we hold dear – independence of mind, and the importance of free speech.”

Simon Kelner, editor-in-chief of the Independent, said he was a “long-time admirer” of Burchill’s writing, adding: “I very often don’t agree with what she says, but I always read it”.

“She’s a truly original thinker, and fearless in her opinions,” said Kelner. “She’ll enrage some of our readers, for sure, but she’ll engage all of them, and I think she is a hugely significant addition to our stable of columnists.”


‘You need to find a really good dry cleaner… who can crack a safe…’

Rush Limbaugh’s in-house parodist Paul Shanklin, as Al Gore and Clinton, as the former VP gets some sex-scandal advice from his old boss (free audio)

See what you’re missing when you don’t tune in?


Why can’t we all just get a long gun?

Talk radio host:

“90% of my listeners” support Supreme Court’s 2nd Amendment decision, says crazed white right-winger blowhard Christian GOP hack oh wait…

They’re tired of the violence and it’s very very interesting. I have had a few on both sides today, but yesterday was overwhelming, it was stunning to me.

I just told Attorney Lou Meyers, lady stopped me last night; I did the commencement address at Boys and Girls High. She said I listen to your show Reverend and I want you to know I’m saved sanctified by feel of the Holy Ghost, but if they come in my house I’m going to drop them right where they stand. So, and she looked like she was in her eighties.


Ski goggles? In June?

A black t-shirt is one thing. But dude…


‘It’s complicated being a law & order conservative’

Well, yes and no.

Here’s my response at the Western Standard:

Being an uneducated working class type, I actually am a stereotypical law & order (definitely lower case :-)), Archie Bunker, “life is life,” lock em up and throw away the key type.

And I make no claims for ideological consistency either. I don’t think that would be humanly possible, literally. You aren’t really “human” in one sense if you are so rigidly principled that you NEVER bend to circumstance and insist on filtering everything through whatever your favorite author/thinker once said.

However, I am law & order etc regarding real criminals who have been convicted of real crimes.

(If I saw those criminals getting just punishments instead of what they do get, I’d be more sympathetic about their “rights,” which sometimes seem to go too far.)

I share Peter’s frustration with people who are blindly motivated by party politics, which frankly bores me.

In this case, there is actually an undertone of city mouse/country mouse in the SDA critiques, too. When push comes to shove, many people react to these situations by going “tribal” (myself included.)

Certain Blogs have long history of “city folks are scum” thinking. Believe me, that is driving a lot of this animus even though they won’t admit it. Yes, people can be that shallow. Again, I include myself.

Oh well, nothing like a little tear gas to clear the air!

(Finally: as for Mill, I’ve also read Stephen’s Liberty, Equality and Fraternity, which offers pesky counterarguments to Mill. Just a mischievous suggestion :-) )

Just to add:

I celebrate Kent State Day and the Hard Hat Riots at my blog every year.


But I thought ‘not all Muslims are terrorists’ was the talking point


An Indian Muslim televangelist recently banned from Canada for his inflammatory statements about Jews, gays, and the West, will still headline a massive Islamic conference in Toronto this weekend, addressing upwards of 10,000 attendees via video satellite.

Dr. Naik, president of the Mumbai-based Islamic Research Foundation, has been denied a visa to enter Canada because of past comments such as “every Muslim should be a terrorist”


Michael Yon turns on milbloggers

OK, WHAT the **** did somebody put in the water this week?


None of us has called for any kind of boycott of Michael Yon. No one has suggested his dispatches be banned or suppressed. No one has tried to organize “grassroots” protests of opinions we disagree with. You won’t see that kind of nonsense coming from me nor (I suspect) any of my Milkook friends. It seems to me that Yon has just done precisely what he has repeatedly accused the military of – choke off and punish criticism.


‘Texas man’ who killed daughter for crying during World Cup Match…

was in fact — shocka!! — an illegal immigrant from Mexico.


‘If we don’t ban burqas…’

“we may need more veils.”


‘Bill Wilson’s Gospel’ and open source mutual aid

David Brooks writes about the “movement” “organization”  thingy sometimes jokingly refered to as “Anarchy (in) Action”:

As Koerner notes, A.A. has been the subject of thousands of studies.
Yet “no one has yet satisfactorily explained why some succeed in A.A. while others don’t, or even what percentage of alcoholics who try the steps will eventually become sober as a result.”

Each member of an A.A. group is distinct. Each group is distinct. Each moment is distinct. There is simply no way for social scientists to reduce this kind of complexity into equations and formula that can be replicated one place after another. (…)

In a world in which gurus try to carefully design and impose their ideas, Wilson surrendered control. He wrote down the famous steps and foundations, but A.A. allows each local group to form, adapt and innovate. There is less quality control. Some groups and leaders are great; some are terrible. But it also means that A.A. is decentralized, innovative and dynamic.


A.A. illustrates that even in an age of scientific advance, it is still ancient insights into human nature that work best. Wilson built a remarkable organization on a nighttime spiritual epiphany.


At a time when fraternal orders and churches with strict hierarchies dominated American social life, Wilson opted for something revolutionary: deliberate organizational chaos. He permitted each group to set its own rules, as long as they didn’t conflict with the traditions or the steps.

Charging a fee was forbidden, as was the use of the AA brand to endorse anything that might generate revenue.


Post – June 30, 2010 00:24:44