robin hoods

What is the difference between a generous outlaw (or groups of them) who does not proclaim any political or ideological position but nevertheless cares for the community of which he is a part and an subversive political group which does more or less the same thing for its community but also claims that its actions are informed by an ideology and political agenda? I raise this point after reading a New Yorker article on the Mexican La Familia gang. It's layered by the bloody hunt for the Jamaican Christopher Coke, whose name is amazingly apropos (he makes his money on cocaine, it seems) and who generously contributes to his utterly impoverished community, Kingston. But there is no shortage of such examples, and indeed, it's characteristic of Mafia-style gangs to generously spread the ill-gotten wealth. We see it in Afghanistan, Columbia (the Medellín cartel was famously generous, and for aught I know it still is), and so on. But with rare exception, most of these outlaw groups are apolitical and are not really interested in joining the structure of official political power. And this raises a rather interesting question: How do we evaluate the political moment of these pre/post political entities?

From my perspective, it comes down to legitimacy. We evaluate modern government upon standards of legitimation independent of their specific violence and which enables others to freely view, join, quit, participate, modify. And if these sound like a version of the freedoms which Foss grants, there is no coincidence at all.


Cyclists Find New Way to Use Old Doping Tool - NYTimes.com

Cyclists Find New Way to Use Old Doping Tool - NYTimes.com

I used to be an amateur bike racer (road) in the Bay Area and have long disputed the anxiety surrounding the moral hazard of doping, though not the physical. I'd be more supportive of efforts to control doping if it were focused on the physical harm incurred. But so many seem convinced that sports offers a new Eden of the body and soul tainted thus by the self-interest of the athlete. And that's nonsense, as the history of modern athletics (or even ancient) more than amply demonstrates. Image is not reality.



What do you listen to when you work? If anything? For me, it depends so much on what I’m doing. If I must think step by syllogistic step I cannot listen to anything outside my thoughts. But if I am reading a text whose argument is easily apprehensible or that I think is, and this includes the daily news, the regular articles, the quotidian grounding that Thoreau hated (and rightly) so much, then I can easily listen to news programs, in English or French, the latter in some ways being better, as the language can quickly become part of the humdrum sounds and never intrude.

But sometimes music is required for some thought, for thinking things through in language that must be clear. In that case, I find myself reverting, again, and again to the simplicity of piano, violin or cello Bach or Mozart; Brahms is too complex, demands too much attention, and the more complex pieces, concerti, for instance, are almost impossible to reduce to background.

Over the weekend, we went to hear Perlman at the TSO. Our seats were one row removed from the stage and not 2 metres from him; my wife could hear him breathe. The first chord of Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E Minor, Op. 64 (Oundjian conducting and wearing a really silly shirt), were transformative. How to put it? I closed my eyes not simply to hear better--that had no appreciable effect--but to eliminate, to invert the logistic of foreground/background, so that there was only the presence of the violin. I don’t see images when thus focused; I quite lose myself: there is only the pure, perfect sound, its excitement, its presence. I thought, at some point: Is his personality inflecting the music, ought I to see his expression, does it affect my interpretation? All of which are an of course, but also an irrelevance. The immediate presence of the music occluded all other points.


I’ll never have children, and that’s a good thing, I have no doubt. I cannot imagine speaking child-talk to a child, cannot envision a mentality that is not impatient to be adult and that does not already conceive of itself as adult. But I can observe. I guess I’m deeply offended by the Western modality of child-rearing. It is based on giving unlimited and unstinting attention to the child, the way you would to a spoiled puppy. The effects on the puppy are clear: it grows spoiled, it grows infinitely demanding, it grows into a major pain. And this is neither desirable nor particularly useful behaviour for a dog, let alone for human. But for children, here in the West, it is seen as precisely that: normal and desirable. It is seen, or at least it must be, for so many parents seem to want this, that young children are demanding of attention, self-seeking and selfish, and placated only by treats.

But go elsewhere, to traditional environments, where families are extended, where villages raise the child, where he and she has companions and multiple parents. You seldom see there bad, spoiled behaviour, you seldom will see crying, whining, demanding annoyances. You will likely see well-behaved and polite children who make happy and nondestructive sounds. And when you do see spoiled behaviour, it’s likely due to nuclear parents raising their children amid violence and ill-temper as they themselves accommodate to Western modalities of familial atomization.

Mind, this is not an attack on small children or a commentary on the families possessed of small children that seemingly surround us here in Toronto and which interrupt the simplest thoughts. It is rather an observation: That I consider now, as I always have, that the Western child is spoiled and that the parents’ institutional insistence on producing a child with demands that must be satisfied is wrong.


Quebec Family Dies as Home Disappears Into Crater - NYTimes.com

Quebec Family Dies as Home Disappears Into Crater - NYTimes.com

Quite bizarre; and the thing is, I've known many Quebecois from this area and never heard a word of this before. I presume the inland sea referenced is the emptied Lake Agassiz.... whose repeated emptying probably brought on the Younger Dryas stadial 13K BCE, and the last, 8.4K BCE quite plausibly the persistent advent of middle-eastern farming technology, and a lot more, like a wealth of myth. And now this: sudden sinking into infernal holes of poor Quebecois.

Down The Memory Hole - Paul Krugman Blog - NYTimes.com

Down The Memory Hole - Paul Krugman Blog - NYTimes.com

Who doesn't read Krugman now? But this column is particularly to the point, as it highlights the counterfactual, counter-historical claims made by libertarians and the unthinking. I encounter this mindset all the time in Foss, where advocates elide the unpleasant facts of government support (via education, say, to start with) and more or less blindly trumpet a radical free market notion of free and open source software collaboration. Think again.


This Amazing Video Is Why TV Is Bigger Than The Internet

This Amazing Video Is Why TV Is Bigger Than The Internet

I have to agree. And reiterate my oft-repeated point, that the early Web (if not Internet, which includes other dislocated communication and informatic services) and its continuing consumer aspect, as found in, say, early iThings and among a lot of extant browsers, is just TV manqué, merged with rather inefficient magazines, all larded by the quite a lot more useful slide functionality that makes it much easier to flick through pics fast.

And it's all the more reason why I embrace the development of a more sophisticated production Web, which has been called Web 2.0 (sigh....) but which really comes down to an evolution from consumption to production, without losing the consumption element.


Wikipedia, porn, and the FBI: how sexual images are handled

Wikipedia, porn, and the FBI: how sexual images are handled

The problem of standards, of radical democracy, and of benevolent dictatorship. In the absence of clearly stipulated rules that one may agree or disagree with, there is custom or dictatorship: tacit, implicit authority or explicit, enforced authority.


Challenge Raised To Constitutionality Of Brazilian Pipeline Patents

Challenge Raised To Constitutionality Of Brazilian Pipeline Patents

Challenge Raised To Constitutionality Of Brazilian Pipeline Patents


MOVE 25 years later | Philadelphia Inquirer

MOVE 25 years later | Philadelphia Inquirer

It was actually 13 May. I remember this quite clearly and was outraged then, as now, that the city government could actually drop a bomb on a house--a row house, in a crowded city: Philadelphia. But this was during the Reagan Regime, which not only effectively legitimized cowboy disregard for the rule of law in the popular consciousness (I noted this when Eddie Murphy's *Beverly Hills Cop* series came out: crime is insoluble as long as cops follow laws; and is the egregious if rollicking series *24* that different?), but also put such a disregard into effect, most famously in the Iran-Contra Affair, which illegally funded the US's war against the Nicaragua Contras.

(The consequences of this, and the related Salvadorean Civil War, which killed, according to Wikipedia, 75,000, are still being felt and in some cases have magnified. I am thinking of the development of the Mara Salvatrucha gang, formed in Los Angeles by displaced Salvadoreans, evidently initially as a defensive tactic. Again, for an impartial account, I point to Wikipedia's entry. On a side note, I'd be interested in researching the broader issue: the effects in the 20th century of local wars like this on the displacement of populations and the establishment of more or less permanent subversive classes. It's one thing to refer to Kleist or Deleuze and Guattari, but quite another to look at, say, Sudan, Senegal, Ugunda, Rwanda, Angola .... and so many other places where local war, whether proxy or not, has forced the creation of by and large destructive blocs. And I guess one can further point to Afghanistan, as a brilliant case in point.)


GNU Project launches accessibility initiative [LWN.net]

GNU Project launches accessibility initiative [LWN.net]

Quite cool. In a telephone call last year (or this?) I mentioned to Peter Brown of FSF (executive dir.) the work being done with the OpenDocument Format, FluidProject, and others on accessibility, and my strong desire that the Foss community, writ large, could (and should) participate in creating sustainable inclusive design software. My notion is that freedom (as both the positive and negative quality) exists when all can access, use, and enjoy the practical and legally enabled qualities of software. Software should thus be designed with the inclusion of all in mind. (I conducted a class on this subject at University of Toronto not too long ago.)


The FSF & OpenOffice.org Extensions

No doubt many following the living history of free and open source software have already come across the Free Software Foundation's bulletin (communiqué?) on OpenOffice.org's Extensions Repository and what they mean to do about it. I've appended the link to it below, along with the response from the OOo Community Council, of which I am a part (and the Chair). My colleague in the CC, Charles-H. Schulz, of Ars Aperta, issued the response on behalf of us all in the CC and on behalf of the OpenOffice.org Community.

I've long been an advocate and promoter of extensions for OOo. The monolithic code demands them. And I've also long believed that free or non-free as a choice unjustly simplifies--to the point of absurdity--immensely complex positions regarding modes of production and consumption. I suppose I favor nudging the user or consumer, not enforcing a position and expect that the producer (who might be also the user) will respect the choices made in the market. I don't naively believe that what the market says is always right; hardly. But then, not all markets are the same.

FSF launches free software extension listing for OpenOffice.org — Free Software Foundation

OpenOffice.org Community Council Position on Extensions


Fukuyama's review of Young on Nietzsche

I have seldom found Fukuyama persuasive, but was intrigued enough by the juxtaposition to bother scanning his short review of the new philosophical biography of Nietzsche by Julian Young. The part that struck me and that resounded both as a quasi-libertarian position and also one that really has little to do with the matter of Nietzsche, despite Fukuyama's assertion:

"But understanding Nietzsche’s project as a cultural rather than a political one should not blind us to its terrible implications. For while one might be able to create a small-scale community based on common and voluntary commitment to art, as Wagner sought to do in Bayreuth, scaling up such a project to society as a whole, with all its de facto diversity, would require dictatorial political power. The mystical origins of Nietzsche’s Dionysian community are an open invitation to the unleashing of irrational passion that is perfectly happy to squander the life of any individual standing in its way. Ayatollah Khamenei is indeed a much better model of Nietzsche’s future leader than the power less Dalai Lama."

.... which utterly misses the point of the contradictory braids of fin-de-siècle liberalism (or any period's) and the pragmatics of a libertarian community.

For the full review, see: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/09/books/review/Fukuyama-t.html?hpw