Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
A police-state uses the law as a mechanism to control any challenges to its power by the citizenry, rather than as a mechanism to insure a civil society among the individuals. The state decides the laws, is the sole arbiter of the law, and can selectively (and capriciously) decide to enforce the law to the benefit or detriment of one individual or group or another.
Friday, June 18, 2010
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Once the accident happened, BP controlled the information it released concerning the disaster. BP unilaterally decided not to inform the general public, or allow independent scientists to see the raw data or take independent measurements. In the initial stages of the disaster—before it had become a political maelstorm—the decisions and course of action in dealing with the oil spill were determined solely by BP, while the general public and the U.S. government were pretty much left in the dark. This is akin to someone whose apartment has caught fire, but who decides to put out the fire himself with his own garden-hose, and refuses to either inform the other tenants of the building of the extent of the fire, or allow the authorities to provide assistance or supervision.
Parenthetically, regarding BP’s share price:
Between April 20, the date of the disaster, and May 12, the release of the video feed of the broken pipe which we all know so well, the price of BP shares (NYSE) slid in a very slow, very controlled manner, from 60 to 48.5—that is, just shy of 20% in three weeks. The volume of shares spiked to 157 million on May 3 (share price 50), following a run-up in volume on the previous three trading days; before that, volume had fluctuated between 5 and 10 million shares a day. Then, after the release of the live video feed on May 12, which only happened after severe congressional pressure, the stock plummeted to 29 by June 9—an additional 40% in four weeks, on volume roughly averaging 25 million shares per day, with spikes recently as high as 200 million shares.
In London’s FTSE, the initial spike in share volume was slightly earlier—April 30, there were 165 million shares traded at 576 pc. To compare, on April 21, the share price was 651 pc, on volume of 23 million shares; before the disaster, volume was between 15 and 30 million shares daily.
Without question, senior BP execs and the mutual funds with large BP positions would have known the true extent of the disaster almost immediately after the Deepwater Horizon went down. Presumably, while the true extent of the disaster was withheld from the general public, these corporate players would have had time to get out of BP stock. This is a reasonable inference—or else why keep the video feed under wraps for close to a month? Why prohibit independent scientists from measuring the flow-rate of the leak?
Sunday, June 13, 2010
Saturday, June 12, 2010
But then, out of the blue, the Chinese leader—in a carefully choreographed official speech—declares our country part of an “axis of evil”. And with no provocation on our part—indeed, after we have helped the Chinese conquer Canada—they vow to wipe us out at the slightest provocation, presumably with nuclear weapons.
I have no doubt few people—if any—will read this blog. That's actually a bit of the point. There'll be no effort on my part to advertise this blog, or broaden its readership. The idea is to be both public yet obscure.
I'm most interested in developing ideas that help explain the world. I figure that's the purpose of the public intellectual: To create an intellectual framework that helps us all understand the world we are living in. A framework that will hopefully allow us to make a better world.
Today, however, the public intellectual is forced by the marketplace to say the popular thing, instead of the true thing.
The society we live in—the Industrialized West—purports to be free, but it's really not. You're free to say anything—but only if it fits with the prevailing ideas. And if it breaks with the prevailing ideas, then it can only do so if it is "charmingly" controversial—controversial without teeth.
If his ideas don't fit the prevailing beliefs, and if his ideas are aggressively controversial, then the marketplace will shout down the public intellectual. The pundits parroting the prevailing orthodoxy are more numerous, and they are louder. What's more, the public intellectual who voices heterodoxy will find himself with no means of subsistence—no one will want to listen to him. None of the networks will pay him to come on the air and "comment of the day's events". No one will pay to read his latest book—so no-one will publish him.
So what does the public intellectual do? He trims his sails. He might toy with heterodox ideas—he might even go right up to the edge of heterodoxy. But he is careful never to step over that edge—because to step over it is financial and social suicide.
Thus is the public intellectual neutered.
I think that that's part of the reason our society is in such turmoil—the public intellectuals are too fearful of pissing off the mob or pissing off the oligarchs to say what has to be said. They're too afraid of losing their perks or positions.
Since I'm no one in academia, and since I don't depend on the mob for my living—since no oligarch hires me to sell their point of view, and since I'm an expert in nothing—I have the opportunity to say what I really think.
This is a gift beyond price. If I'm shouted down, it won't matter—I don't expect to be heard anyway. If people don't want to pay me, it won't matter—no one's paying me anyway.
I am truly free. And I fully intend to use that freedom.
So then: To business.