Some Thoughts On Mail, Comments, Links

I  want to clarify one more time how I deal with reader comments and letters.

1.  I  no longer put an email contact on my blog, because email addresses out there tend to attract huge amounts of spam and become impossible to clean up. They also attract malicious people, who hack and access personal information.

2. If you comment on this blog and I recognize you as a regular reader, I can send you a personal email address to a contact you provide. However, I only tend to do this for regular readers and contributors. Sorry, but there are lots of people who make up email addresses and pose as readers simply to get information.

3. Encryption is a good idea when commenting on this blog or writing to me, because I cannot guarantee that your IP address might not be visible to a hacker or spammer. I don’t track my readers, but someone else might. However, if you actually relish my NSFW writing, you are tough enough and smart enough to take care of any attendant problems.

4. I do reply to emails in my inbox, sometimes long after the fact, I am afraid. But that is the result of having multiples email addresses, a blog that gets attacked, and a day job. If you don’t get a fast enough reply to an email, just post a comment on the blog and tell me not to publish it. I won’t.

5. Please let me know if links are broken on this site or to another site to which I have linked. If you have the time, I would much appreciate any links that you can can get redirected to the new URL of this site, http://lilarajiva.com.

So far, people I have contacted have been very helpful.

There is a wordpress plugin that could help with it: search-and-replace.

6. Pay no attention to contradictory personal information about me on the web. I  rarely sign up anywhere with accurate information and when Google rehashes the public records, the result is quite inaccurate.

7. Whatever I have stated on this blog about my personal experiences with flaming and stalking is hundred-percent accurate. I might not be able to say everything I want, but I am not in this business to mislead.

“Guerilla blogging,” as I call it, or defensive blogging, is meant to protect me from law-suits, not cover up anything.  I am exactly what I say I am: an ordinary citizen, a former academic and teacher, with no connections to intelligence, except in so far as some of my editors might have those ties.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mailbag

Unless I know you, I’m a little wary about replying to mail personally. Instead, I will usually answer on the blog.

So –

To D.D. who wrote to thank me for the information on this blog, thank you for reading. As to meeting you in person, I cannot do it, one of the reasons being that I do not live where you think I do.

To “Commander” who asks me to do a piece on Obama’s Jewish roots (he put it more crudely than that), I generally don’t do pieces about information that is already fairly widely known, but thanks for reading and writing.

Jeff Rense Link

Jeff Rense, the conspiracy site (which also retails “aliens” and other sci-fi stuff) has linked my piece on Merkel’s Ashkenazy and communist affiliations. I thank him heartily, but warily, since when one gets attention from bigger sites, it often ends up in the services of other agendas, some hostile.

Is November slated for some big-time shake-up (ala the Million Mask March in London) that the powers-that-be have planned and every little dissident voice must be roped in….or not?

No idea. But I see the same link showing up on some fairly racialist/racist sites, below which Indian immigrants are characterized as “shit-skins,” among other epithets.

I suppose it’s all the anti-migrant feeling being fanned by the NWO-orchestrated migrant/refugee incursion into Europe.

To be expected.

Meanwhile, I’m watching that one piece get more hits in one morning than my whole blog sometimes gets in a couple of weeks.month.

Roots, Not Symptoms, Mr. Raspail

Michael Hoffman, whose  other views I don’t necessarily endorse, sees through Jean Raspail’s race-war propaganda classic, “The Camp of the Saints”:

How strange – not one word from Jean Raspail about who is really at fault for the invasion of France–the French themselves! Who were (and are) too hedonistic and selfish to average three or more French children per couple. Into this vacuum quite naturally (i.e. by the iron law of biology) rush those people who have enough sense to reproduce themselves (the Muslims) and who need lebensraum. Raspail deals, as do so many others, with symptoms and scapegoating: “those politicians” and that “sepulchral media” who vex “the still healthy body of the French nation.”

I assure Monsieur Raspail that the French people are desperately sick, not healthy, and that the “sepulchre” was built by the French themselves and the bones one finds there are of the aborted children who would have obstructed the multiple vacations, the second house, the third car. This sepulchre is also peopled by the spectre of millions of French children who were never conceived, for the same reasons.

Those white nations which do not have sufficient spark of life to reproduce themselves are indeed doomed, but this is no “conspiracy.” These are the inevitable wages of the Masonic, “secular Republic” that is France. The same is true for Italy, where the Catholic Church has auto-destructed and Germany, Spain, Sweden...all secular, all playboys and playgirls.

One cannot merely pay lip service to Christianity, tossing a bone to a mere nostalgia. The French, or for that matter the American intellectuals, even on the Right, dare not look to see what culture and religion prevailed when Charles Martel marched to Poitiers in 732, when Isabella reconquered Granada in 1492, when Pius V was victorious at Lepanto in 1571 and Nicholas, Graf von Salm in Vienna in 1529 and John Sobieski in that same city in 1683.

The West today, ruled ideologically by the spirits of Jean Jacques Rousseau, Charles Darwin, Albert Pike, Sigmund Freud and Menachem Mendel Schneerson cannot conquer, except from the cockpit of a glorified airborne video game attached to missiles.

Who is to blame for the demise of Europe– the healthy, fertile Muslims or the anemic, self-extinguishing denizens of the House of Usher? If lebensraum was a virtue for the Germans is it a vice for the Muslims? The most primitive pagan in the jungle knows what the “advanced” Europeans do not know, that sex without children is death!

And the current “Crusade”? It was only forty years ago that Jacqueline Kennedy wore a black veil at the funeral of her assassinated husband, and Christian women throughout Europe and America–sophisticated women of the middle and upper classes–wore head coverings in church. Now crusader George W. Bush is on a campaign to “free Muslim women” from standards of propriety and modesty not so different–at least in spirit– from what prevailed universally in the West as recently as four decades ago.

France has banned girls from wearing head scarves in its public schools, lest the girls appear too modest, and this in a France where rectums and genitals are on display on every street-corner kiosk, yet there is a morbid fear of the least display of chastity.

The Muslims rightly despise us because we have lost all self-respect; because we are not the people of the West any longer, but the people of the alchemical crucible of constant, ruinous transvaluation.

The West cannot turn its back on God and retain any territory anywhere, and when I say God I am not speaking of the god of the rabbis.

Roots, not symptoms, Monsieur Raspail.”

“Mobs” Ist Edition was 2007, not 2009

I just saw this on Amazon, in a Google search of
“Mobs, Messiahs, and Markets” (Bonner & Rajiva, Wiley, 2007)

Product Details

The 2007 publication date is what ought to be in the catalog, because that is when the first edition, the hardcover, came out.

There are six English language editions, besides foreign-language versions:

1. Hard-cover,  1st edition, August 31,  2007

2. Unknown binding, 2007 (Not sure what this is)

3.  Audible book, October 30, 2007

4. Pre–loaded digital audio, Sept. 1 2008

5.  Kindle,  May 18, 2009

6. Paper-back,  September 8, 2009

By 2009, there  were already five editions.

Yet the sixth version of “Mobs” is listed as the first edition.

And then this first edition is dated at 2009, not 2007.

Technical glitch? Careless mistake?

Or does someone want to revise the date of publication?

Inquiring minds want to know…..

 

 

Parasite Planet: Eastern Lubber Grasshoppers

Writing about parasites on the body-politic reminds me of an on-going infestation closer home. In fact, in my home. In my garden, to be precise.

I’m talking about the eastern lubber grasshopper, which, as grasshoppers go, is a rather fine looking specimen: Yellow, with black and red markings, he grows to a plump three inches, which is about three inches more than I care to see.

I didn’t know the name until recently, but the face is familiar from a couple of months back, when I saw a whiskered gold-and-black snout peering out from behind a window-bar. Being generally well-disposed to all God’s creatures outside the human world, except cockroaches and  slimy things- that-go-squish, I let him hop along without interfering.

Too bad. It turns out that the eastern lubber is a nasty pest that defies the birds around here because he gives off an evil-tasting  juice when he’s crushed.  That explains why he can hop along without flying. He knows no one wants to eat him.  The books say he hisses when he’s cornered, but so far I haven’t seen any sign of it, and if  he does, I hiss pretty well myself.

What I’ve caught the lubber doing so far is bad enough, hiss or not.  He and his mates turned a stately crinum – a purple Queen Emma, at that –  into a moth-eaten wreck, with broken leaves and chewed-up buds.  Some tender bromeliads now look like half-eaten salad and even the Black Magic Ti’s in the corner of the yard are pitted and pock-marked.

All while I was researching politics and not paying attention.

It turns out that there’s not much that can be done to eastern lubbers, once full-grown. The time to have caught the suckers was in the spring, when they were newly-hatched.

Too bad that then they were cute little bugs that just begged for Jain treatment.

 

Summers in a lush, semi-tropical yard take the Jain out of you and put in a Japanese killer.

Look out! Samurai lawn-woman!

https://encrypted-tbn0.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcTSv5Gihgz028vEX4Z7v1t5ishob61-BPH0Q1OAWWoS5zcJFEvE

Oh-oh-oh..

If you’re old enough to remember John Belushi, you know what I”m talking about.

Seriously, though, in gardening, blood-lust is the way to go.

Chemicals kill too many things that need to live and organic baits aren’t fast enough, although I’m told something called Nolo bait works slowly to cut back the lubber population.

I took the cave-woman route and prowled around in the afternoon, bathed in sweat in 90-plus humidity, brick in one hand, a long bamboo stick in the other, nudging and prodding leaves to uncover my prey.

Lubbers, fortunately, are not just show-boats who stick out with their gaudy ensemble, they’re cocky, stupid show-boats, who don’t even think to hide.

Prodded with a stick, they slide, swing under a stem, and hop, sometimes quick enough to get away for a few seconds, but downright lethargic next to your average, in-shape cockroach.

Unlike cockroaches, lubbers die easily. A sharp prod disembowels them. One hit of a brick, and their head and chest cave in.

Filled with loathing and rage on behalf of my violated crinum, I rubbed the edge of the brick vindictively back and forth through my victim’s entrails to make sure that there would be no last-minute heroics.

He didn’t die alone.

Over the past couple of days,  a reign of terror has been unleashed on the lubber population here. Fully a dozen have met a gruesome fate at my hands, with little remorse shown.

I intend to smash and eviscerate every single future lubber I see, with no quarter given for age or sex.

Somewhere in all this, I’m sure, there’s a lesson about karma, human-life, and the powers-that-be, to whom we’re not much more than garden pests and useless feeders to be exterminated.

But, right now, I’m not in the mood to hear it.

I’ve got me some lubbers to hunt.

Conservatives cozy with the establishment

The infiltration of conservative and paleo- libertarian circles by progressives continues apace, writes the paleo-libertarian blogger at MoreRight.net:

Why does a self-admitted liberal have a regular column at a website called The American Conservative, founded by Pat Buchanan, and his column is passed off as a conservative voice?”

It should make anyone wonder about several conservative pundits. Some of them seem to be more interested in their media presence than in supporting traditionalist positions.

Whether they are simply naive or actively working to undermine social conservatism is the question.

MoreRight.net continues:

” If you dig into the archives of this magazine, you see the same refrain again and again:

And what issue is more important than life? As a practical matter, conservatives would probably do better with voters by becoming less rigid on social issues where Americans are becoming more liberal. But they also stand to gain by doubling down on the issue that should matter most.

Translation: we ought to give up on social conservatism because no one will vote for it, let’s just focus on stopping abortion and forget the rest.”

The blogger gets a part of the picture right, although I think there are other reasons for someone to focus on abortion, as recently I have begun to.

He then points out evidence of conservative pandering:

“What else? Articles written by the left-libertarians from the Cato Institute, fawning over Jim Morrison (who was found dead in a bathtub from a heroin overdose), bizarre apologetics for Communist folk musician Pete Seeger, and other one-off oddball articles.”

Lila Rajiva:

I can point out even greater pandering and compromise on paleo-libertarian sites:

  • Using the same scatological and vulgar personal attacks that the left favors
  • Constantly mocking conservatives, right-wingers, and  Republicans (admittedly these aren’t all the same thing), without anywhere near equal time for their opposite numbers, thus doing the left’s work for it
  • Promoting  disinformation sources, such as  Robert Morrow and John Loftus.

MoreRight than traces some  direct links between traditionalists and neo-reactionaries with progressives.

Last year, I  came to the conclusion that Neo-reaction (also called the Dark Enlightenment)  was some kind of leftist/government ploy, but given the anti-Catholic slant of the term “Cathedral,” I also have to wonder why this blogger uses it.

Deep waters indeed….

Imagine the reaction if one were to term the establishment the “Synagogue” or the “Temple”?

Of course, it shouldn’t be fear of reprisal that stops someone from using either of those terms.  It should be the clear evidence that the establishment uses all sides of the debate against each other, Catholic and Jewish among them.

The people who are supposed to be standing up for traditionalists in the “new media” sphere are not-so-subtly stabbing them in the back, not just in their associations, but in their heartfelt beliefs.

In the DC/NYC new media milieu, credibility emanates directly from the center of the Cathedral, that is, The New York Times. Everyone is angling for a spot at the trough, including so-called “traditionalist” conservatives.

Lila:  I was cited by the New York Times a couple of times, a while back. I daresay could have cultivated that route had I the stomach for dissimulation needed for it. Frankly, I don’t.

[Josh] Barro is part of the “media/liberal thought elite,” which includes other mediocrities and Cathedral mouthpieces such as Ta-Nehisi Coates, Anil Dash, Dave Weigel, Matt Yglesias, David Brooks, Paul Krugman, and so on.

What of the connection with “paleo”-conservatives? Jonathan Coppage, associate editor of The American Conservative, is friendly with Barro. They’re both connected to Forbes writer and former Business Insider analyst Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry, who acts clueless about the decline, calls himself a “former reactionary who now embraces the Enlightenment,” and tells us about how great economic and social equality are. They’re connected to Michael B. Dougherty, another “surf the decline” conservative who openly mocks reactionary politics and argues in favor of “pragmatic” policies such as embracing immigration amnesty.

All these guys are very friendly with left-libertarians like Jason Kuznicki, Cathy Reisenwitz, and Josiah Neeley, who are doing their best to turn movement libertarianism into a subdivision of Frankfurt School progressivism. They’re in turn connected to witch hunters for liberal purity such as Julian Sanchez, also at Cato, and open borders enthusiasts such as Bryan Caplan (Cato), Eli Dourado (Mercatus), and Dylan Matthews (Vox). The relationship between so-called “paleoconservatives” and these left-libertarians and progressives is far too close for comfort.”

 

Web design thoughts…

I spent the last couple of days fiddling with the design of my blog, tweaking some things, adding a few features I’d disabled before.

Mainly, I just consolidated the tabs and changed my theme to WordPress.org’s free Serenity.

I like the color and the header image, although I might replace them in the future. Also, the widgets seem to line up with my previous theme.

I tested about fifty themes and wasn’t happy with any of them entirely.

What I’m looking for is something with a lot of customizability – something that allows you to tweak the color, font size, page template, and commenting, and much more.

But I want the flexibility along with simplicity of use. If I have to get into the code to change things, that’s not good. I also don’t need gizmos right now. I just want a sleek, minimalist, but attractive site.

Serenity is not perfect on several counts, but it’s better than my previous theme, which had glaring red fonts that I couldn’t change.

If any one has any recommendations for WordPress themes good for the tech-deficient, I’d welcome them.

Remember, I’m looking for flexibility, lots of widgets, and customizable colors, font-sizes, and page-templates.

Among the ones I tried, Thematic seemed to have the most options. I also tried Twenty Twelve, Writr, Clutterless, Icy, Mantra, Khakhi Traveler and dozens of others. It was quite tedious and eventually I went back to my first choice.

I tend to like gray, cream, tan, blue-gray, gray-green, and black. Neutrals with a cool, quiet look and low glare.
No fluffy colors or images. I don’t mind script in the header, but generally I want something plainer and simpler in the main design. Nothing ultra-modern. I prefer images of nature to abstract designs. Also, I don’t like large headers at all, but the page shouldn’t be so small it’s unreadable. I don’t need grid designs, as I don’t run multiple images or columns.

“Language Of Empire” Influences Lankan Human Rights Debate

Lankan minister and eminent writer/teacher Rajiva Wijesinha gave a  thumbs-up to “Language of Empire” in March on Lanka Web.

I couldn’t be more pleased. The minister, a part of the Rajapaksha government, was sent the book by someone who wanted to inform him about the depth of propaganda in the Western media.

Wijesinha, like many others, had been wondering about the manipulation of the international “human rights” agenda (the game of who gets to call what a genocide).

This manipulation has been termed Human Rights Imperialism by Jean Bricmont.

In this case,  the manipulators are the Tamil Tigers and Eelam separatists and their new-found supporters in the West, including Ron Paul’s legal advisor, one Bruce Fein.

The evident purpose of the manipulation is the continuance and augmentation of a covert war on the island….and on India….in an area of great strategic importance to Western interests

….that is not too far from Tamil Nadu with its huge concentration of foreign and domestic corporate interests and its nuclear reactors – one at Chennai and the other at Kudankulam, bordering the ocean, just opposite Sri Lanka. Kudankulam has been the site of intense anti-nuclear activism, which seems to have a covert political agenda and is apparently financed from abroad.

Of-course, India’s nuclear policy itself  seems to have come with foreign strings attached, so there is nothing to choose between the two sides.

Rajiv Malhotra’s “Breaking India” describes this long-term policy and its role in creating, sustaining, and manipulating Dravidian identity politics in Tamil Nadu as part of the creation of a larger Afro-Dravidian identity that has global consequences that play into Western geopolitical goals.

The manipulation of Nicholas Berg’s killing makes for interesting reading from this angle and throws a good deal of light on, among other things, the images of the alleged torture and assassination of Tiger leader Prabhakaran’s son, Balachandra, which became a cause celebre in the strange, seemingly “fanned” anti-Lanka rioting in Tamil Nadu, in March-April.

Wijesinha writes (“Dealing With Allegations of War Crimes,” March 10, 2013, LankaWeb):

“Some weeks back I was sent, by a friend in England, a book entitled The Language of Empire: Abu Ghraib and the American Media. It was by someone called Lila Rajiva, but doubtless that was not the only reason to assume it would interest me.

I took some time to start on the book but, once I did so, it had to be finished. Published in 2005, it is a graphic and convincing account of the manner in which the Americans ignored all moral restraint in the war against terrorism they were engaged in.


Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq

That part was convincing, and simply fleshed out what one knows anyway, that countries in pursuing their own interests will stop at nothing. What was more startling was the suggestion that the wholesale prevalence of this absolutist mindset also represented a takeover of the ruling political dispensation by a culture of chicanery that strikes at the heart of supposedly predominant American values.

At the core of this transformation is the corporate supremacy represented most obviously by Rumsfeld and Cheney, and the takeover of much supposedly military activity by private contractors and special agents, who move with seamless dexterity from one world to another. Exemplifying this, and indicative of what C S Lewis would have described as a Hideous Strength which finds its own partisans dispensable, is the strange story of Nicholas Berg, the shadowy contractor whose beheading served to deflect the story of torture at Abu Ghraib, and in some minds excuse the institutionalized torture that was taking place there.

Weapons of mass destruction

The book should be essential reading for those concerned not just with human rights, but with human civilization….”

Read the rest at Lanka Web.

BREAKING NEWS: Google CEO Charged With Criminal Conspiracy

Breaking News:

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in India has announced that following on secret multi-year wire-tapping of American-born CEOs with companies operating in India, Larry Page has been charged with multiple felonies, including criminal conspiracy, conspiracy to defraud, racketeering, invasion of privacy, espionage, theft of intellectual property, and copyright violations. Mr. Page has surrendered at his house to Interpol..

A spokesman for Google said that the charges were related solely to Mr. Page and had nothing to do with the company, which is cooperating with the Indian government.

Mr, Page was alleged to have used subordinates to alter and delete posts, engineer google results, and other wise harass bloggers, such as Daniel Brandt,  critical of the power elite.  Unfortunately for him, the bloggers kept a file on him worthy of the CIA itself, and he is now looking at a class-action suit in the millions.

I guess he should have followed his own advice – don’t be evil….

[This is satire intended to mock the “justice” administered to Rajat Gupta by the  kapos of the ruling mafia.  On the other hand, it’s perfectly true that Google does engineer its results,  has harassed and shut down Mr. Brandt’s “Scroogle” site,  has invaded the privacy of millions of people through Google Streetview, and many of its other applications, has been credibly alleged to be involved in espionage for the state,  and does violate copyright continuously.  We urge Mr. Page to reform his company and think a bit about how he and his family would like it if the kind of  harassment his Frankenstein monster enables were turned on him, just for a moment.] 

Honor

Honor
by Ada Cambridge
(hat-tip to Ajit Vadakayil)

Me let the world disparage and despise —
As one unfettered with its gilded chains,
As one untempted by its sordid gains,
Its pleasant vice, its profitable lies;
Let Justice, blind and halt and maimed, chastise
The rebel spirit surging in my veins,
Let the law deal me penalties and pains
And make me hideous in my neighbours’ eyes.

But let me fall not in mine own esteem,
By poor deceit or selfish greed debased.
Let me be clean from secret stain and shame,
Know myself true, though false as hell I seem —
Know myself worthy, howsoe’er disgraced —
Know myself right, though every tongue should blame

Wash-Po’s “Objective” Reporter On Conservatism Outed As Conservative-Hater

Reporter David Weigel’s feverish imaginings about the group he pretends to cover objectively have surfaced in emails sent to the liberal listserv, Journolist, according to Fishbowl DC (hat-tip to LRC blog).

Why am I not surprised?

Global-warming “scientists” turn out to be political hacks grinding over-sized axes; “educators” preaching “tolerance” and “love” turn out to be sexual Bolsheviks; green “activists” turn out to be shills for billionaire speculators….. Continue reading

Dean Of Libertarian Writers, Jim Bovard, Stiffed By Bob Barr

Jim Bovard’s blog has an interesting story on it about how the Barr campaign hasn’t paid him for a book he ghosted for it.

Bovard:

Bob Barr has once again made history. His is the only U.S. presidential campaign to ever be sued by its ghostwriter.

In June 2008, after Bob Barr captured the Libertarian Party nomination for presidential candidate, his campaign manager, Russ Verney, requested that I ghostwrite a campaign book. We came to terms, I wrote a book, and the campaign released Bob Barr’s Lessons in Liberty. Continue reading

Robert Bolt On Reputation Versus Reality

At times I regret the loss of privacy and the vulnerability to slander that anyone who writes publicly has to face. It seems that no good deed goes unpunished by the mob that sees only upto the horizons of its own vulgar perspective.

Being a thief itself, it sees thieves in honest people. Being a liar itself, it calls what is patently truthful a lie. Motivated solely by venality and malice, it can see no other motivation in people who obviously struggle  to hew to their conscience, even when it endangers themselves.

How to escape slander without losing privacy to the envious, the malevolent, the pathological? You cannot. But you can consider your real audience, as Sir Thomas More suggests, in Robert Bolt’s fine play “A Man for All Seasons” (1960). More’s counsel addresses Richard Rich, an academic who despairs that the virtues of a great teacher can never be known beyond a small circle, but it’s advice that applies as well to anyone who has ever suffered from slander directed at them, when their actions were not only not dishonorable, they were more than ordinarily brave and honorable.

“MORE:  Why not be a teacher? You’d be a fine teacher.

Perhaps even a great one.

RICH: And if I was, who would know it?

MORE: You, your pupils, your friends, God. Not a bad public, that . . . Oh, and a quiet life.”

How the Scofield Bible Came to America

An excerpt from “Zionism’s un-Christian Bible” by Maidhc A Cathail at Online Journal explains how one of the defining political doctrines of our time was fostered by the selective promotion of one heretical interpretation of the Bible.

Note: My comments are at the end under the heading, “My Comment”; the article is in light gray text; the quotes from the Bible have been underlined; the Bible commentary by Scofield and Hagee that the article cites are in italics, as are titles of books and reports; the quotes from all other authors, including Sizer, Adelman, and various newspapers, as well as subheadings, are bolded] :

Central to Christian Zionist belief is Scofield’s commentary on Genesis 12:3. For the sake of clarity, Scofield’s notes have been italicized in the following passage:

‘I will bless them that bless thee.’ [Bible]

In fulfilment closely related to the next clause [Scofield]

‘And curse him that curseth thee” [Bible]

Wonderfully fulfilled in the history of the dispersion. It has invariably fared ill with the people who have persecuted the Jew — well with those who have protected him. The future will still more remarkably prove this principle.” [Scofield]

Drawing on Scofield’s speculative interpretation, John Hagee claims,

“The man or nation that lifts a voice or hand against Israel invites the wrath of God.”[Hagee]

However, as Stephen Sizer points out, in his definitive critique, Christian Zionism: Road-map to Armageddon?”,

The promise, when referring to Abraham’s descendants speaks of God blessing them, not of entire nations ‘blessing’ the Hebrew nation, still less the contemporary and secular State of Israel.” [Sizer]

Apparently unaware of this more orthodox reading, The New Scofield Study Bible, published by Oxford University Press in 1984, enhanced Scofield’s interpretation, by adding,

“For a nation to commit the sin of anti-Semitism brings inevitable judgment.”[Bible]

Reading such tendentious comments, a bible-believing Christian could easily assume, for example, that God will punish the 114 countries which endorsed the Goldstone Report.

Stephen Sizer writes,

“Sustained by a dubious exegesis of selective biblical texts, Christian Zionism’s particular reading of history and contemporary events . . . sets Israel and the Jewish people apart from other peoples in the Middle East . . . it justifies the endemic racism intrinsic to Zionism, exacerbates tensions between Jews and Palestinians and undermines attempts to find a peaceful resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, all because ‘the Bible tells them so.’” [Sizer]

[Lila: I am not sure if I agree entirely with the statement that “racism is inherent to Zionism.” I have made a similar argument in “The Language of Empire,” (2005) but would like to qualify it, because of the special circumstances of the Jewish people in relation to European Christianity, as well as their relatively small numbers compared to the ethnic populations around them. However, those small numbers must be balanced against the enormous power wielded by Israel and its support by the US and UK government, as well as the corporate economic structure.

In sum, without demonizing Israel, it’s necessary to ask if its exceptionalist religious narrative – in which Zionism is inextricably intertwined – isn’t ripe for modification, the same modification that state Christianity underwent during the enlightenment (and thereafter), and that Islamicism is, rightfully,  being asked to undergo today].

The incredible Scofield

In his 2008 book, The Rise of Israel: A History of a Revolutionary State, Jonathan R. Adelman describes the crucial support Israel receives from Christian fundamentalists as “totally fortuitous.” The incredible career of the man who wrote “the Bible of Fundamentalism,” however, casts considerable doubt on that assertion.

Two years after Scofield’s reported conversion to Christianity in 1879, the Atchison Patriot was less than impressed. Describing the former Atchison resident as the “late lawyer, politician and shyster generally,” the article went on to recount a few of Scofield’s “many malicious acts.” These included a series of forgeries in St. Louis, for which he was sentenced to six months in jail.

Being a “born again” preacher, however, did not preclude Scofield from becoming a member of an exclusive New York men’s club in 1901. In his devastating biography, “The Incredible Scofield and His Book,” Joseph M. Canfield comments,

“The admission of Scofield to the Lotos Club, which could not have been sought by Scofield, strengthens the suspicion that has cropped up before, that someone was directing the career of C. I. Scofield.” [Canfield]

That someone, Canfield suspects, was associated with one of the club’s committee members, the Wall Street lawyer Samuel Untermeyer. As Canfield intimates, Scofield’s theology was

“most helpful in getting Fundamentalist Christians to back the international interest in one of Untermeyer’s pet projects – the Zionist Movement.” [Canfield]

Others, however, have been more explicit about the nature of Scofield’s service to the Zionist agenda. In “Unjust War Theory: Christian Zionism and the Road to Jerusalem,” Prof. David W. Lutz claims,

“Untermeyer used Scofield, a Kansas city lawyer with no formal training in theology, to inject Zionist ideas into American Protestantism. Untermeyer and other wealthy and influential Zionists whom he introduced to Scofield promoted and funded the latter’s career, including travel in Europe.”[Lutz]

Absent such powerful connections, it is hard to imagine “this peer among scalawags” ever getting a contract with Oxford University Press to publish his bible. Nevertheless, it remains a mystery why OUP chose to endorse such a sectarian work.

Atonement

If there had been no Scofield Bible, American presidents influenced by Christian Zionism, such as Truman, Johnson, Reagan and George W. Bush, would most likely have been less sympathetic to Israeli demands, and consequently more attentive to U.S. interests. Moreover, the American people might have been spared the well-publicized pro-Israeli rants of John Hagee, Pat Robertson and the late Jerry Falwell, not to mention the lucrative End Times “prophecy” peddled by Hal Lindsey and Tim LaHaye.

But it is the people of the Middle East who have suffered most at the hands of an expansionist Israel, emboldened by the unswerving allegiance of America’s Christian Zionists, who were led to believe that Scofield’s words were God’s will.

Although much needless suffering has already been caused by the Scofield Bible, perhaps it’s not too late for Oxford University Press to publicly disavow its harmful book. Among its many victims are 3.5 million Palestinian refugees whose right to return is fervently opposed by Christian Zionists, who believe that the land belongs exclusively to “God’s chosen people.” At the very least, OUP could demonstrate remorse for its role in promoting ethnic cleansing by compensating those refugees with the considerable profits accrued over the past century from sales of its Zionist bible.”

My Comment

Not many people know about the role of the Scofield Bible in fostering one relatively marginal interpretation of the Scriptures, the dispensationalist views of John Darby, a 19th century minister of the Plymouth Brethren.

Dispensationalism went onto become so influential among American Protestants that it changed the political dynamics of the country. However, while the article cited above demonstrates how financial interests actively promoted the Scofield Bible, it wouldn’t have become so influential if the culture into which it was introduced wasn’t already receptive to it at many levels.

This is the argument I make in “Language of Empire” (MR Press, 2005), in which I analyzed the influence of Christian Zionism on the practice of torture as well as on the rhetoric that justified the war on terror.

You can find the core of the argument in “Christian Zionism: An Ideological Tower of Babel” (Counterpunch, January 15, 16, 2005), finished a year before the book actually came out.  The main point I make is that while Christian Zionism is important to the justification of American empire and of Israel’s role in it, it isn’t the only source of justification. There are broader streams in American religious and intellectual history with which Christian Zionism coincides. Those streams are identified below in the Counterpunch piece, which forms a concluding chapter in the book. Note, I’ve defined them below each part of the excerpt):

Both secular and religious exceptionalists also share a unique relationship to the law that suggests that law and legal institutions are themselves implicated in the policies of Abu Ghraib and clarifies why it may not be possible to look to them alone for salvation.

[Legalism – the tendency to turn every moral/political/social debate into a courtroom drama over technical legality]

Both groups share the heritage of covenant theology which reads holy scripture as the record of legal contracts between God and man, a heritage which both privileges the law while simultaneously also promoting a sense of not being subject to it. The written contract binds us, but the interpretation of that contract remains with the state whose favored status has been granted by the law.”

[Voluntarism – the belief that the essence of divinity is not rationality, but will, and that God’s acts are beyond or even contradictory to reason]

“Dispensationalists read the final book of the Bible, Revelations, as a literal account of a post-war progression to a world-consuming conflagration, Armageddon. In doing so, they discount the importance of reason, learning, or social consensus in their interpretations in favor of what they see as a literal reading of the Biblical text. Parallel to this is their reading of the unfolding of human history as also a literal record where that text transparently reveals itself.”

[Dispensationalism – the belief that Biblical prophesies can be seen unfolding in history today and that God’s promises in the Bible relate to the political state of Israel]

“Just as fundamentalism disdains mediation, an anti-intellectual culture might find an oral tradition based on a continuing interpretative dialogue between past and present actually less attractive than the fixed guidelines of a written contract, whether made between one nation and another or between nations and God.”

[Literalism, Anti-intellectualism – the acceptance of the literal meaning of texts, the devaluation of interpretation, and a dislike for intellectual theories and intellectuals]

“From Biblical righteousness, the Promethean sense of the state as virtue incarnate; from Christian dominionism, the impetus to expand; from apocalyptic ruminations, the Promethean obsession with terror. And through all of these runs an unexamined sense of supreme moral satisfaction, a Puritan certainty about the nature and precise physical location of evil in the other that is translated not simply in the messianic language of Americanism but even in the shibboleths of liberalism. Evil is outside, out there in the world, radically disordered, deserving of eradication.”

[Dominionism, Puritanism, Apocalyptic Millenarianism —  the belief that society should be ordered by the Christian religion working through the state; the belief in the essential depravity of human beings and the need for salvation by grace that is unearned and not universal; a belief in the return of Christ as prophesied in Revelations, accompanied by a world-wide confrontation with the forces of evil, followed by a golden age of a 1000 years]

How these beliefs impact policy-making in the west can be seen most clearly and stunningly in the  Declaration of the first  Jerusalem Summit (October 12-14, 2003) which reads in part thus:

“ISRAEL AS THE KEY TO THE HARMONY OF CIVILIZATIONS

Billions of people believe that Jerusalem’s spiritual and historical importance endows it with a special authority to become a center of world’s unity.

Israel’s unique geographic and historic position at the crossroads of civilizations enables it to reconcile their conflicts. Israel’s unique spiritual experience enables it to find a golden mean between the fault lines dividing civilizations: between tradition and modernity, religion and science, authority and democracy.

We call upon all nations to choose Jerusalem, the eternal and indivisible capital of Israel, as a center for this evolving new unity. We believe that one of the objectives of Israel’s divinely-inspired rebirth is to make it the center of the new unity of the nations, which will lead to an era of peace and prosperity, foretold by the Prophets.”

Note: Many religions and nations have exceptionalist narrratives.

The unique problem at work here is in the lack of self-awareness of this innate chauvinism and the role it plays in the political positions taken by the US, UK, and Israel (the Anglo-sphere), as well as by their allied and client states.

This unique problem becomes a global one when the chauvinists, disguised as universalists, possess extraordinary nuclear arsenals and corporate power, and when the “deep capture” of the media and of legal and academic institutions has reached the point when there is no internal check whatever to its pretensions. The threat posed then is no longer simply to immediate victims of specific policies (say, Iraq) but to the entire world (the global financial crisis), and, indeed, the future of humanity (control of the gene pool, food and water and the dangers posed by bio-weapons and nuclear contamination).

The Demonic Style: Valentine On Military Historians, Avatars, and the CIA

Insight into why the revisionist media never ‘gets’ it:

“The extent to which this practice existed was revealed in 1975, when William Colby informed a congressional committee that more than 500 CIA officers were operating under cover as corporate executives and that 40 CIA officers were posing as journalists.

“When it comes to the CIA and the press, one hand washes the other. In order to have access to informed officials, reporters frequently suppress or distort stories. In return, officials leak stories to reporters to whom they owe favors. Continue reading

Libertarian Living: Expat Belonging

My first year as an expat. Come New Year and I will have done the necessary time outside the country.

I must say it´s a relief. At the best of times I never quite fit into America, although I think I fit in better there than I would ever have fit into India…but I´ll never know, since I left India as a student.

Honestly, I think I wouldn´t really fit into any country, except as an observer of sorts. A kind of partial citizen. That´s me. I spend a lot of my time alone, because people tire me out. Yet I like them around me anonymously…. preferably talking a language I don´t understand.

Loren Eisely, the anthropologist, once wrote somewhere in some essay of his that he liked spending time by himself in dark theaters (or was it bars?). I´m like that.

I like a seat in the corner of a crowded restaurant or lobby where I can watch people. The current of voices, as long as it doesn´t impinge too much on my thoughts, soothes me. A  dark hum of water whirring around me. A kind of return to the womb.

Airport lounges…small coffee shops, one-star hotels with wooden cupboards that tilt precariously when you open them late at night…unfamiliar streets that open up suddenly as you turn a corner ..a grey sea… I feel at home around  them.  Anonymity seems to make my own self clearer to me. In a group of friends, on the other hand, I lose a sense of who I am.

People yearn to belong somewhere. I spend my time elaborating ways of not belonging. And when I begin to feel at home, it´s always a warning sign that soon, very soon, I will want to leave.

SFO Magazine Picks Mobs as Top Ten Trading Books of 2009

Stocks, Futures, and Options Magazine will be out with an article in December on its top ten trading books for 2009 – the list includes Mobs.

This really tickles me, because at heart, I’m a trader, albeit an amateur. Nothing like watching the charts – the heart-beat of the great capital markets. There’s a real romance to it. Had I been born some place else, I think I’d have run away from school and gone to work in one of the exchanges.

I also just saw that Mobs was on the list of top ten best-selling finance books on Amazon for 2008. That’s great news, but a bit of a surprise, because there were so many books published on the economy that year, I thought it would get edged out. Hopefully, the book will sell well this year too, because it really does have a lot of good information for anyone who trades/invests.

I’d advise you to especially read Chapter 16, which is a mini-manual that’s as insightful a look as you’ll find anywhere about what it takes to make good decisions on trades (It’s my co-author’s work, so you know that’s an honest opinion, unbiased by my problems with the book’s promotion, about which I’ve written at length before).

My contributions – such as they are – to “trading psychology” are Chapters 10 and 11 of Mobs, where I deal with “herd mentality” and how it affects and eludes quantification in economics. It’s more of the macro view. I think parts of that can be found on the web in articles I wrote for Endervidualism..

The rest of Mobs is more historical and less immediately relevant to trading per se. although the history of the housing and credit bubble will help give you the background you need to understand what’s going on now.

Flight AND Fight..

My latest piece at Lew Rockwell, answers some questions readers had asked me about leaving the US:

“My last piece, “Time to Run,” provoked a lot of reaction, almost all of it positive, but some negative.

The readers who liked it wanted advice on where to run. That’s a tall order and I’ll come back to them in another piece.

Those who didn’t like it brandished a few arguments that ought to have a stake driven right through them immediately.

Here goes, point by point.

1. Running away doesn’t help

1. Actually, running away is often the best response to a bad situation.

Speaking practically, when a dump truck turns into your drive, mows down your rhododendrons and heads toward you, do you stand your ground yelling Sicilian imprecations at the driver until he rolls over you too? Or do you leap aside nimbly, take a photo, and call a lawyer? You have as much chance getting through to the poisonous shills in DC with constitutional arguments, as you have charming a rabid pit bull with Shakespeare.

Speaking theoretically, your body and brain are hardwired to either put up or shut up, a “fight or flight” response built into the structure of the autonomic nervous system. That is the physiological term for what you think of as your “lizard brain.” Fight or flight is the either/or response that helped your ancestors survive. It’s not the best way to tackle complex problems, but when it gets down to basic survival, it’s a handy guide.

And how do you know when your survival is at stake?

Check your gut response…..”

Read the rest at Lew Rockwell.

[I will be posting reader email on my blog  and will respond there, since my email is often compromised]

Blogging Projects..

Apologies for not having blogged for a while on Madoff and the “kleptocrat” angle of the financial story.

The reason is the web harassment I’ve talked about before. I’m not intimidated by it, but I think it’s a good idea for me to get my cyberhouse in order before I embark on more research on that. It looks like parts of that story might intersect with another story that’s been troubling me, which I can’t get into here.

When highly credentialed journalists start telling you to buy a revolver, you begin to wonder if you shouldn’t stop being bo-peep and try mata hari for real.

I also have some restructuring of my life going on that takes up most of my time and energy – so my posts have become a bit erratic.

My dream of becoming a professional wanderer, a vagabond of the net, is within a year (or so) of realization. Once I complete the structures I need to set up, this blog will become professional.

It will turn into a magazine and an online community, which is my dream.

Google Searches

Never google yourself. You’ll be in for unpleasant surprises.

Here are a few:

Some blog post refers to me as a CIA2/Mossad operative.

On the strength of what, I wonder? Shouldn’t a Mossad operative at least know some Hebrew?

Maybe it was that post on Tikkun Olam I did around Easter?

You’d think the chump editor who runs this blog would realize that someone who taught comparative religion and mythology for several years could be expected to know something about the symbols and doctrines of various religious traditions, especially the one they came from.

Or, perhaps it’s a spoof of some kind that I missed. I didn’t read the post through and don’t intend to. It didn’t look like much.

What’s funny is I get articles turned down all the time for being too critical of  Zionist figures in the government (for eg. Chertoff) or for criticizing the banking cartel (this is supposed to be code language for anti-Semitism).

What’s also funny is that recently, I’ve been linked by Christian blogs, some of my leftist friends have suspected me of Christian theocratic tendencies (on the strength of having some pieces published at Lew Rockwell) , whereas, last year, a Christian blog classified me as “demonic,” presumably for my interest in so-called occult studies.

So I am Mossad and anti-Semite, Christian theocrat and demonic

Jihadi and Hasbara

Far-right wing-nut and Knee-jerk leftist

You’d think the geniuses would ask why a Mossad double-agent would go to such career-busting trouble to point out the Zionist component of the two biggest stories of the last five years (torture and the financial heist. But, for some people, any one who doesn’t fall into an easy left-right, religious-secular, statist-libertarian box is someone who must have ulterior motives…..

Top Ten Christian Libertarian Blogs

Greg at The Holy Cause lists the top 10 Christian libertarian blogs , with Lew Rockwell and the popular Pro Libertate making the cut among the blogs I follow.

Now Greg want to make another list of Christian libertarian blogs and invites nominees and suggestions. This sounds like an interesting way to get to know more bloggers out there. Here are Greg’s criteria:

(1) The blogger(s) openly professes Christianity, and includes biblical content at least occasionally in blog postings . This is a “big tent” as far as the definition of “Christian” is concerned.
(2) The blog has libertarian content as one of its main thrusts. This libertarian content may include activism, advocacy, commentary, debate, economics, education, persuasion, politics, research, etc. This too is a “big tent” but will of necessity be judged somewhat subjectively. An example – Father Hollywood easily qualifies, despite the fact that he has significant other content. It helps that his other content has a Christian thrust.
(3) The blog must have some longevity, being a minimum of 2 months old.
(4) The blog must show consistent and recent postings. “Consistent” means averaging at least one posting per week. “Recent” means at least two postings in the last month

Speaking Blogistani….

Thanks to all readers who write in to correct my frequent typos.
You will have to forgive me for speaking blogistani.

For years, I taught spelling, grammar, punctuation, and the rest. I corrected fine distinctions of meaning. I forced captive student to rewrite words.

But it turned out that I was more captive than they were.

Blogistani
is now my native language and I speak it like any transplant, picking up the rules as I go along.

One rule of blogs is that corrections should appear as corrections.

But for minor matters of grammar and spelling, that would create a fine mess and be more confusing than useful most of the time. So I simply rewrite mistakes as I spot them. And the same goes for changes in style, or additions of non-essential detail (although I’ll make note of an update and time, if the information is more critical).

Of course, for any important details, or for citations or quotes where other people are affected, or for breaking news, I cross out and insert an apology as well.

There are also some physical reasons.

The charm of blogistani is that you can speak it as you go along and so I rarely reread my posts before posting. I like the feeling of writing on the run. That has its upside – I catch all those fleeting thoughts. But it also has its down side – typos.

Another thing. I rarely wear my glasses and sometimes don’t see errors until I (or you) reread a post.
This isn’t vanity (since I lead a reclusive life). It’s my fixation with the thesis that crutches make muscles weaker. And glasses are crutches. I got that notion into my head as a child when I read a copy of the “Bates’ Method,” which is a system of natural corrective exercises for myopia. Whether they work or not, I don’t know. But after a lifetime of squinting at piano scores, exam papers, manuscripts, and pixels, in all sorts of light, without my glasses, my eyesight hasn’t got any worse than the original prescription. I see this as something of a vindication of a pet crank of mine, and naturally I hang on to it by going without my glasses.

The third reason for my blindness is my way of reading. I either read at lightning speed, absorbing big chunks of reading matter at a glance….or I take forever to get through a paragraph.

Both styles of reading suit me and have their uses.

I use the slow method for philosophy and fiction.

I use the fast method for getting through the news on the net.

Fast reading is also partly a bad habit left over from exams in India, where we had to extract the salient facts from reams of overwritten material. My eye sometimes doesn’t actually see the individual phrases but gets the information out of the writing holistically. People who sight-read music a lot use the same technique. They can get through and synthesize a lot of information this way very fast. But it also means they need to proof their writing more than most people.

I’ll post more on this subject, because I’ve thought about it a lot over the years – how we absorb information, how we remember it and reuse it, how we process our sensory input.

And I come at this not from the point of view of a specialist in cognitive research (although I’m familiar with some of it), but from the point of view of pedagogical theory….

A Depression Ditty

Alan G, the banker’s man
Cut the rate and away he ran
The books were cooked,
The thieves have booked,
Now Ben Bernanke’s
On the hook…

I’ve decided that treating this whole business as a tragedy/calamity doesn’t do it justice. Ridicule, taunting, and scorn are the proper responses.

And some of that needs to be directed at our own selves.

We’ve lived comfortably in a society where “branding” and “image” are everything – substance is nothing.

We’ve lived comfortably with a two-tier education where brilliant people are routinely overlooked in favor of empty suits with friends in high places.

We were comfortable with millions of people all over the world subsidizing “free markets”..

We were comfortable with the morals and manners of the gangsters who are our elites, as long as the pendulum was swinging our way.

Now that it’s stopped and hit us, we’ve changed our tune.

Mind-Body Politic Makes It To Top 100 Libertarian Blogs

Just saw this incoming link from American Conservative Daily.

I’m at 67.

(Do not ask me why I’m up at4:53 AM looking at my blog)

1. The Official Website of the Libertarian Party (U.S.)

2. The Official Blog of the Libertarian Party (U.S.)

3. The Cato Institute

4. Cato at Liberty (The Cato blog)

5. The Ludwig von Mises Institute

6. The Mises Economics Blog

7. The Acton Institute

8. The Acton Institute PowerBlog

9. Reason Magazine

10. Hit & Run – The Reason Magazine blog

11. The Foundation for Economic Education

12. The Free Man Online

13. The Institute For Humane Studies

14. Liberty Guide

15. The Adam Smith Institute

16. The Adam Smith Institute Blog

17. The Competitive Enterprise Institute

18. OpenMarket.org The CEI Blog

19. The Independent Institute

20. The Beacon (The Independent Institute Blog)

21. The Heritage Foundation

22. The Foundry (Heritage Foundation’s Blog)

23. National Center for Policy Analysis

24. The Ayn Rand Institute (with apologies to Ayn Rand)

25. The Institute For Justice

26. Library of Economics and Liberty

27. Bureaucrash

28. The Free State Project

29. The Prometheus Institute

30. Capitalism Magazine

31. RonPaul.org

32. Ron Paul’s Perpetual Campaign for Liberty

33. Young Americans For Liberty

34. Liberty PAC

35. Cafe Hayek

36. The Libertarian Alliance Blog

37. The Austrian Economists

38. Marginal Revolution

39. Will Wilkinson

40. Samizdata

41. Libertarian Christians

42. Advocates For Self-Government

43. The Fraser Institute

44. Libertarianism.com

45. The Coyote Blog

46. RonPaul.com

47. The Freedom Factory

48. GetLiberty.org – Americans for Limited Government

49. International Society for Individual Liberty

50. ReTeaParty.com

51. Schiff2010.com

52. Rand2010.com

53. JudgeNapolitano.com

54. Libertarians for Life

55. Liberty Maven

56. Libertarian Rock

57. GOP for Liberty

58. The Entrepreneurial Mind

59. Libertarian Party of England

60. Megan McArdle

61. The Liberty Papers

62. Libertarian Republican

63. The John Locke Foundation

64. QandO

65. The Big Picture

66. Austro-Libertarian.com

67. MindBodyPolitic

68. Acre of Independence (recommended by NYU Law Libertarian)

69. LewRockwell.com

70. The Agitator

71. The Freedom Association

72. Chris Moody

73. The Freedom Revolution

74. Freedom Politics

75. TennZen

76. Liberty Watch

77. JasonPye.com (recommended by SWGA Politics)

78. Libertarian Papers

79. Foundation For Individual Rights in Education

80. Libertarian Meetup Groups

81. Chris For Liberty

82. Libertarian Leanings

83. Thoughts on Freedom

84. Reform the LP

85. Kole Hard Facts of Life

86. The Volokh Conspiracy

87. Local Liberty Online

88. Liberty vs. Leviathan

89. The Classic Liberal

90. The Holy Cause

91. Skyler Collins

92. MainManX

93. Strike The Root

94. David Friedman

95. Ron Paul Blog

96. The Atlasphere Meta-Blog

97. Positive Liberty

98. Light of Liberty

99. Henry North London

100. The Humble Libertarian
Contributor’s website: http://www.libertarianleanings.com

My Comment:

Wow. I know there are a few people who read this blog ‘cos I know stuff I say gets picked up by all sorts of people (without attribution often – naughty, naughty). But since there are all these ideological purity tests that make them forget (ahem) to give me back any link-love, I’m a wee bit surprised I made this list.

Actually, I didn’t even know this list existed.

Maybe that’s the secret.

Ignorance.

Until the end of last year I was nearly always holed up in an Internet cafe in some foreign country, trying to figure out Google in Arabic, German, French, or Spanish…..or living out of a suitcase, tripping over statues of the Nataraja….while trying to decipher/negotiate hideous legal clauses without bankrupting myself on some 400 buck-an-hour suit.Ergo, this blog was dead…or rather, comatose.

On top of that, I am a never-wazzer on all technical matters.

On the other hand, freed from any ability to measure what works or doesn’t, what to say or not, and whom to please or not, I finally got around to just saying what I think.

That’s turning out not to be so bad.

Moral of the story: Flying  blind sometimes help.

Update:  Greg at The Holy Cause (also on this list) turns out to be my guardian angel.  A big thanks and blogroll link coming up.

And Humble Libertarian gets a link too


MindBody: The Yoga Of Inaction

                The Yoga of Inaction

                         i

I write in praise of non-doing, in a country full of doers and deeds doing.

Winter’s the best time to practice my yoga of inaction, America

Come, twist yourself into a lotus and hum the sacred mantra, zzzzz.

At least, you will be doing no harm.

                        ii

Out there in Washington, the doers are armed and dangerous with verbs of mass action:

They  tell us they will

lower…

raise…

save…

fix…

create…

fight….

bail-out….

pump up…

shut-down…

flood…

redeem…

destroy…..

 

And they won’t even rest on the seventh day.

 

                                 iii

 

In the grammar of our nation, the mood is imperative,

the voice active.

The tense is future.

(And our future is tense).

The American in me cheers.

Wrongs will be righted, the good fight will be fought.

The Indian in me sighs and longs for the passive.

He remembers the past. 

                                  iv

 

Rights can go wrong and good fights go bad, warns the devious old fakir in the corner.

Eli’s Comin’, hisses the 60’s child, shaking her long hair out of her eyes.

It’s Barack, I say, not Eli.

It’s all the same, she says.

The cards say….a broken heart…

                               v

Reality’s a rope trick.

You think you see a snake, it’s only an old rope.

Just long enough

and fat enough

to swing fools on the end of it.

                           vi

This is a time for hibernating, for dreaming vegetative dreams in the dark.

We’ve had too many revolutions, too many slogans

Time now for cryptic words, opaque silences.

For darkness and recession.

The cycle must fall.

 

Lila Rajiva

Copyright February, 2009

Media-Trix: Publishing Perils

At the head of developments that threaten freedom of speech is the stranglehold that media conglomerates exert on publishing.

True, the Internet has prevented media giants from entirely dominating the landscape. But the Internet environment itself isn’t free from the perils of the big boyz,  from Google to Amazon.

Here are some of the ways writers get ripped off:

1. Editors sit on timely manuscripts until their timeliness is undermined. Then they pass on the author’s original insights or work to other writers in their stable, or undercut them for politically or economically expedient reasons. End result, they steal credit from the writer who deserves it.

2. Editors cut manuscript for political reasons and then claim they did it for editorial reasons, so you can’t argue with them.

3. Editors subject manuscripts to unauthorized and substantial changes and then when you have to spend time to get the writing back into its original form, they try to bill you for the cost overrun.

4. Publishers not only don’t promote their authors, they can be involved in efforts to sabotage them, if they think their other book deals might warrant it.

5. Publishers call up radio/TV stations and present misleading information on copyright and contractual issues so as to derail the author’s credibility and ability to promote his/her work.  They do this fully aware that the average author cannot easily prove what’s happening in court.

6. Publishers routinely hide or misrepresent sales to defraud authors of royalties.

7. Publishers collude with other writers in their stable to defraud authors.

8. Publishers pay net profits to authors – giving them something like 5-10 cents on each dollar made….or less. But when it comes to liability, all of it is on the author, even though authors rarely if ever carry media coverage and though all publishers carry it.

9. Publishers routinely ruin books by second-rate production and promotion and then try to stick authors with the bill for corrections or returns.

10. Publishers no longer vet manuscripts with lawyers or even check them in any serious way. They don’t even do it at the author’s request, even though the authors might be forced to make multimillion dollar payments in liability settlements (and could even pay big bucks for frivolous law suits).

(more to come)

Washington: Where Principles Die

“Obama’s order to close Guantanamo Prison means very little. Essentially, Obama’s order is a public relations event. The tribunal process had already been shut down by US courts and by military lawyers, who refused to prosecute the fabricated cases. The vast majority of the prisoners were hapless individuals captured by Afghan warlords and sold for money to the stupid Americans as “terrorists.” Most of the prisoners, people the Bush regime told us were “the most dangerous people alive,” have already been released.

Obama’s order said nothing about closing the CIA’s secret prisons or halting the illegal practice of rendition in which the CIA kidnaps people and sends them to third world countries, such as Egypt, to be tortured.

Obama would have to take risks that opportunistic politicians never take in order for the US to become a nation of law instead of a nation in which the agendas of special interests override the law.

Truth cannot be spoken in America. It cannot be spoken in universities. It cannot be spoken in the media. It cannot be spoken in courts, which is why defendants and defense attorneys have given up on trials and cop pleas to lesser offenses that never occurred.

Truth is never spoken by government. As Jonathan Turley said recently, Washington “is where principles go to die.”

Paul Craig Roberts in Counterpunch

Fiat Laws and Fiat Currencies (Excerpt from “Mobs, Messiahs and Markets”)

Fiat Laws and Fiat Currencies – Vico’s barbarism of reflection and gold – Lila Rajiva

(Included in “Mobs, Messiahs and Markets”)
(originally published, December, 2006) [see also  The Age of Lint by B. Bonner, 2009]*

*Link broken and repaired on January 22, 2009

(See my post entitled Email. Update: the post is now private. )


Statutory laws, the laws that get passed with pomp and circumstance in legislatures, are not the laws that really govern society. They only look like they do. But if they really did, why is it that the crimes committed by Soviet commissars or by the Nazi Gestapo. . . or by the CIA  . . were all committed with the law books bulging at the seams? It’s not how many laws you have that matters, but how well those laws are obeyed. 
Which is a matter of culture and history, of what people expect…. and what they’re prepared to accept.
And to know that takes the study of history and manners; it needs a knowledge of morals and religion. The usual smoke and mirrors sideshow supplied by the political class won’t do. You need to turn to the accumulated wisdom of case law and precedent, of customary law and conventions.
The free market arises whereever there were laws and systems like that — whether in Europe or Africa or Asia.  One way to think about this difference would be to see it as the difference between a  fiat money, like paper, and a real store of value, like gold. You can print all the money you want, but if there’s nothing to back it up, then you’re in a bit of trouble. Your creditors are unlikely to put much store in you as a credit risk, just as the world’s wringing its hands today over the dollar. Pretty soon, they come calling for their loans with cudgels and pitchforks.

Gold does not have the same problem, because there’s a limited supply of it. It has to occur in nature. It has to be found somewhere underground and then mined and refined. It’s an expensive business — that takes risk, time, and money. There are costs attached to it that some one has to pay. Paper money, on the other hand, can be printed any time you want. Just ask Ben Bernanke. He’s dropping it by the helicopter load from the clouds.

You can pass all the laws you want on the statute books, you can employ stables full of well-groomed and pedigreed lawyers. But if there’s nothing to back the laws, you’re in trouble. Businesses aren’t going to want to do business with you. Investors are going to want their investments back.

The problem arises because you can pass statutory laws as you like, even if they have little relation to how the masses of people actually think and act. That means you can have a country where theft and looting are the norm that might, nonetheless, have very intricate laws on the books against theft and looting. The statutes wouldn’t do a thing to change it.

Customary law, on the other hand, can’t be manufactured out of nothing. It grows organically from the soil in which it lives. It reflects the way people really think and act. It doesn’t run so far ahead of its times that it provokes either resistance or indifference from people. Customary law, like gold, reflects real value. And because it does, it’s also likely to be accepted by people more often. Ultimately, customary law works because it’s a more sensitive and complex measure of a society.

It contains more information from the past — from the history and traditions of the people. Like the pricing mechanism, it’s a communication system that allows people to signal their desires and expectations faster and better than they could otherwise.

Customary law doesn’t just communicate with living members of the group, as pricing does. It also reflects the desires of generations past, where statutory law reflects only the demands of one generation, the living. In that sense statutory law really isn’t democratic at all. Or, at least, not democratic enough. It only consults living citizens. It forgets the dead ones.

It’s to be expected… since statutory law is a product of pure reason.

And pure reason, Cartesian reason, is very good at technical and physical problems, but it’s not nearly as good when it’s turned on itself or on human life. Human brains aren’t made that way. We’re more likely to understand who and what we are by looking at things we’ve done in the past — which is what we call history — or things we’ve made — which is what we call culture, than by logic.

Man is, first of all, Homo faber (man the creator), and we understand him best by looking at his creations.

Customary laws work, in other words, because they come out of the history and culture of a society. They constitute verum factum (truth as an act), as the Italian philosopher Giambattista Vico wrote in 1710. 

“The criterion and rule of the true is to have made it. Accordingly, our clear and distinct idea of the mind cannot be a criterion of the mind itself, still less of other truths. For while the mind perceives itself, it does not make itself,” said Vico.

As more and more of our world is no longer made by us, we understand it less and less. We’re forced to fall back on theory and speculation, on isolated reasoning.

But thinking, as Vico pointed out, is hopeless when it remains isolated reason. It has to include practical wisdom and rhetoric. The Cartesian cogito ergo sum (I think therefore I am) is just not enough.

Vico liked to argue that the rise of pure rationality in history was one signal of a declining phase of human culture. He called it the barbarie della reflessione (the barbarism of reflection) and said that it characterized what he called The Age of Man.

This was the last phase of his cycle of civilizations. In the Age of Man, popular democracy would run amok and lead to tyranny and empires, which would end in chaos. Then the whole cycle would begin again, with the age of the gods. And so it goes on from eon to eon, said Vico. It makes you wonder. Does anyone ever learn?

Lila Rajiva

Excerpted from Minding the Crowd, Dissident Voice

 http://www.dissidentvoice.org/Dec06/Rajiva30.htm

Copyright, December 2006,  All Rights Reserved

Mobs: Male Consumption Patterns Related to Reproductive Strategy

And more research vindicating the premise of “Mobs, Messiahs, and Markets,” from the Journal of Evolutionary Psychology

“Darwin was initially puzzled by costly traits such as peacock tails that could not be

accounted for by survival advantage; he later concluded that these were features that led to

reproductive advantage (1871). For humans, male displays of wealth may literally be a

costly signal analogue to the peacock’s tail (Miller and Todd, 1998). Displays of

prestigious consumer goods could be an honest signal of male mate value, as they would

indicate available resources as well as skills at acquiring wealth (Colarelli and Dettman,

2003). Veblen (1899/1953) remarked on the relationship between prestige and the

consumption of consumer goods and even suggested that inherited psychological

mechanisms were responsible for this relationship. Colarelli and Dettman (2003) note that

advertisers are well aware of the importance of prestige when marketing products, and will

try to associate a product with prestige even when there is no functional relationship. An

ethnographic study of Amazonian foragers and slash-and-burn farmers found that those

who had greater monetary resources allocated a greater portion of expenditures towards

luxury goods, and this tendency was stronger in men than in women (Godoy et al., 2007).

Male displays of wealth and social status may facilitate mating competition. During

ancestral times, men with greater resource control married younger women, married more

women, and produced offspring earlier (Low, 1998). Males who did not have substantial

resources or status may have been unable to establish long-term relationships. Across a

wide variety of societies, male reproductive success is a function of social and economic

status (Hopcroft, 2006). Even in current foraging societies that are relatively egalitarian,

men with higher status have more mating opportunities (Chagnon, 1992; Hill and Hurtado,

1996).

Several laboratory studies have demonstrated that situational primes making mating

effort salient can induce male intentions to increase economic power as well as allocate

financial resources to conspicuous products. Roney (2003) found that men reported

stronger ambition and desire to earn money when in the presence of attractive women. This

effect was even seen when the men simply viewed photographs of attractive women. In

another study, men who were shown photographs of attractive women had intentions to

allocate more money to conspicuous products, but not inconspicuous products

(Griskevicius et al., 2007). Neither men who viewed photographs of unattractive women,

nor women who viewed photographs of attractive or unattractive men exhibited this

pattern. In a third study, men who viewed photographs of attractive women discounted the

future more so when choosing between small monetary rewards than men who viewed

unattractive women or women who viewed pictures of men (Wilson and Daly, 2004)….”

Comment:

Marketers target our basic drives, where we tend to act with the crowd. For example,  some middle class Americans try to buy the “lifestyles of the rich and famous” in response to aggressive marketing by realtors and bankers.

But once the rise in price begins, even those who’ve adopted a more individual and rational approach are compelled to buy or rish being priced out of the market. In the Indian farming crisis, as well, farmers were lured to buy expensive seeds by very aggressive marketing that played on religious sentiment and dazzled them with the prospect of extraordinary gains. (Link to follow).

One of the things I want to explore is to whether and how libertarian language (about “free choice” and “free speech”) needs to take into account these complexities.

The Paulson Put(sch): Questions for Hank Paulson

The Paulson Put(sch)

Questions for the new CEO of US Government Inc.

[Last Wednesday, Hank Paulson was installed as CEO of US Government Incorporated, replacing the now defunct United States of America].

Charles Krauthammer wrapped up an astounding week in American history with a hosanna to Ben Bernanke and Hank Paulson. The best possible team to have on your side in a financial crisis bigger than any since the 1930s, says he. Bernanke, because he is an economic historian specializing in the Great Depression. And Paulson because he knows everyone in the banking industry and is the perfect person for arm-twisting and deal-making. Financiers aren’t all bad, sniffs Krauthammer. There were all those greedy realtors and home-owners too.

Yes, Charles, we do see that greed is a many-splendored thing, visiting the poor and rich alike. But on a mundane level, the yearning of the cleaning lady who gets herself in over her head with a home loan she can’t pay is not the same sort of public hazard as the cosmic larceny of financiers who’ve skipped out with hundreds of millions from companies they’ve skinned like pole cats…

Read the rest of my latest piece on Paulson’s power grab at Lew Rockwell. You can find other articles of mine on the old archive of Dissident Voice. I will (eventually) get my pieces onto this site in a more approachable way, but being bloggitudinally challenged, that may take a while.

 

The Meisterhucksters of Marketing

This is an age when huckstering is considered a fine art.
A successful hypester is now a Wagner of marketing, a Van Gogh of persuasion.

This might be vanity or it might be deep-rooted insecurity, it’s hard to tell. It is certainly an inaccurate use of language.

But these days, counting yourself an artist is not a matter of precise definition. It is a kind of self-anointing, the kind typical of the mob mind? We live in an age where there are no priesthoods we can believe in. What could be more democratic than an order into which anyone can be inducted, with a clever turn of phrase, a dab of paint….or a long form sales letter?

You might say, so what? What if salesmen think they are painting the Sistine Chapel? What’s wrong with it?

So many things, it would be hard to know where to start.

In the first place, it reeks of envy…..

Terrific salesmen are not Michelangelos or Leonardos. It would be flattery to call them even hacks.

A salesman does a very necessary and important task. He might do it superbly. That does not make him an artist, let alone an artistic genius.

There may be novelists for whom writing is a business and salesmen for whom selling is a pleasure, but in general there is a difference between activities that have their own reasons for being (the sciences and arts) and activities that are means to those things (selling).

A great artist is not an easy thing to come by. A number of things have to get together – talent so extraordinary as to occur only once in generations… the necessary training…the proper socio-economic soil… enough physical and intellectual vitality…drive…luck…

So many things, in fact, that it isn’t really in anyone’s hands to “decide” to be an artist of that stature. If it is given to you, it will be. If it is not, it will not. Talent does what it can. Genius does what it must, as someone said.

Great art and hype are things that no person of sense, especially a sense of proportion, would confuse or think of comparing. It isn’t just arrogance but arrogant foolishness to think that selling anything, however well, is equivalent to composing the Goldberg Variations.

In fact, a sensible person would laugh at the comparison, if it were not also profoundly sad. It betrays a temperament so shallow it cannot grasp that there are limits to how we shape ourselves. Limits not set by ourselves at all, but by that formless form and ever-changing changelessness that a less self-conscious period in the West called God and the East still calls the Self.

Women Business Leaders in India: Some Notes

Here are some notes I made recently that turned into a full-fledged article. I thought people interested in the Indian business scene might find it interesting:

Women Business Leaders in India – Are Things Any Better Today?

Women in India do better in business today than they did about 35-40 years ago, but it’s fair to say there’s still a lot more they could do. In the professions and at lower levels things might have gotten better, but at the higher levels, you still don’t see the number of women you’d expect, given the available labor pool (in 2001 women were 48% percent of the population).

There are lots of reasons why Indian women at the top still have problems:

How women do is influenced strongly by how well educated they are. So, the more women have access to schooling, the better they perform economically. That’s why there’s been progress, especially at lower levels. But at the upper level, the situation is different. In the 1970s, you could say the main difficulties were the absence of role models and the shortage of financing and opportunities, which to some extent, still persist. But the overwhelming problem today in upper management remains culture: notions of what women should and should not do in the work place.

Traditional gender roles make female bosses unacceptable to a lot of Indian men. Tradition also places the bulk of family responsibilities on the shoulders of women. (This is strictly a generalization, and in particular cases, just the opposite can be true). Culture demands that women stay at home. That make it harder for them to develop networks and mentoring of the kind that men use to launch business careers.

Then there are problems of perception. Women are often seen as needing more time to balance work and family commitments, even when this isn’t really the case. Many male colleagues see them as opting for (and better at) the “soft-focus” areas of a business rather than its hard core. Women tend to get shunted into roles that provide support, communication, and coordination rather than profit and loss evaluation, or expansion and acquisition. That means that while women account for a good part of the ordinary work-force and mid-level positions, they aren’t so visible in the very highest positions. Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, CEO of Biocon, says there’s a credibility hurdle that women face when they go out to get financing. People see them as less willing to take risks and less capable of solving problems and trouble- shooting.

Not much research so far:

Another difficulty is that there isn’t much research on the subject available. What there is supports what I’ve observed. Studies in the last 2 years show that Indian women make up 16 percent at junior levels of work but at the highest level (CEOs), that tapers off to only 1 percent. There are only 2 -3 women in administrative and managerial positions for every 100 economically active people. That’s far behind the rest of the world. And while the rest of the world has spent time researching the matter (for example, Breaking through the Glass Ceiling, ILO, 2004), Indian examples haven’t usually figured in the research.

Of course, some of the problems in India are common to other countries too , problems like sexual harassment, patriarchal attitudes and some gender bias in hiring and employment practices. Just as in other countries, these are likely to get better with targeted effort.

Culture can help women too:

Surprisingly, culture can be a positive too. The statistics for top- level managers and leaders in the US may be better. But there are other areas where Indian culture, counter-intuitively, provides a a friendlier environment.

*Studies show that women in Asia tend to draw more of their income from business than women elsewhere. That’s proof of a solid tradition of female business acumen, even if it’s a tradition that’s largely been centered around the family. (Powerful Indian business women usually came out of powerful Indian business families: Simone Tata, from the Tata family (Trent Ltd); Vidya Chabria (Jumbo Group) and Priya Padamjee (Thermax) all owe their positions to family connections).

But even that might be changing now. Now you can also find a Kiran Mazumdar Shaw. Shaw started the biotech giant Biocon, from her garage, after being turned down for a job as a master brewer. And there is a whole crop of managerial divas – from Naina Kidwai (CEO of HSBC) to Microsoft India’s Neelam Dhawan.

Technology spurs womenomics

*There’s another angle to this. It shows how “culture” as an explanation can cut both ways. In India, engineering had been (and still is) a field for men. One side effect was that the “alternative” discipline of computer science was left wide open for women. So, when the Internet revolution brought the outsourcing industry to India, Indian urban women with computer skills got a good chunk of the financial benefits.

*Technology has helped. Contrary to Luddite rhetoric, globalization and the Info-tech revolution have helped womenomics in India. Take transportation. In the past, it’s been a major barrier for would-be business women in India. Now women can set up shop whenever they turn on their computers. Not only do computers let house-bound women become entrepreneurs, they also open up a whole new market of home-shoppers to whom other businesses can sell. Computers also make networking and mentoring easier and cheaper. An example of a bottom-up network enabled by the computer is the popular Indian work-at-home site, sitagita.com

Some people even credit computer technology with the renaissance of Indian female entrepreneurship. That might not be completely true. But what’s true is that female home businesses are a success story overlooked by activists who focus only on the negatives, like the impact of multinationals on female agricultural workers.

Other cultural factors that help

*Despite the traditionalism shown in gender roles, Indian women leaders, at the highest levels, seem to be judged more fairly. A comparison of national politics in the US and in India bears this out. In the US, female candidates have to suffer far more remarks about their appearance than Indian candidates do. And Indian female business leaders are called upon in the media as much as, or more than, American female business leaders.

I believe that one reason for this is a streak of misogyny hidden under the surface of a lot of popular culture in the US. Being able to command the respect of her peers and subordinates is perhaps the most crucial element in a woman getting to the top. But public culture in the US is permeated by demeaning imagery and language. Violently misogynistic rap lyrics and pornography and sexualized epithets for women do not help the perception of them as workers. Asian cultures tend to be less permissive about this.

* Another positive for Indian women in business is that although women are only a tiny part of top management, the women who are at the top are very powerful and in crucial sectors where they make an enormous impact.

How demographics can help women in India

*Demographics also helps in India. India (like China) suffers…and will continue to suffer…a shortage of skilled personnel. This seems incredible given the population figures. But first-class education there really does not reach down as deep as it does in the west. In a number of disciplines, including computer programming and management, there simply aren’t enough people for all the start-ups, expansion and relocation going on. That’s going to be good for women. Human resources departments will have to go after them more actively and groom them for higher positions.

*There are other positives. About a third of India consists of young people below the age of 15. That means that the pool of experienced labor is relatively small and HR departments will be forced to turn to an overlooked resource: women who’re done with rearing their children and want to reenter the job market. Since women live longer than men by several years, there’s no reason why women couldn’t outlast them to reach the top in managerial positions.

*Companies looking to hire Indians who live abroad and relocate them to India are running into obstacles. The Indian- origin employees want pay and benefits equal to other employees. Also, they’re often not in touch with what’s happening in their home country, unless they revisit frequently (as I do). Local employees resent the “foreign-returned” Indians. There are only a few areas where this isn’t so, and two of them are computers and finance. Not surprisingly, some of the most powerful women entrepreneurs and managers are in those areas.

The most important Indian business women

* Who are the most important Indian business women?

It’s difficult for an outsider to judge but it’s possible to pick a dozen of the most visible.

  • The capital markets are important as India opens up to foreign direct investment. And Naina Lal Kidwai, who was the first Indian woman to graduate from Harvard Business School and runs the Indian operations of HSBC, has been named repeatedly on lists of the most prominent Indian business women.

    Lalita Gupte and Kalpana Morparia, the joint managing directors of ICICI Bank, India’s second largest bank are important figures as well.

    So is Manisha Girotra, who chairs the India operation of Swiss banking giant UBS.

  • In Information technology and computers, one of the most visible managers is Neelam Dhawan, head of Microsoft’s Indian operations.

  • In Biotech, the biggest name is Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, who heads Biocon.

  • The automotive industry has also been pretty important in recent developments, with a number of large auto manufacturers opening branches in India (including Ford, Toyota, and Hyundai) and with large-scale investment in highway projects and in other infrastructure.Sulajja Firodia Motwani, joint MD of Kinetic Motor, which manufactures two-wheelers, scooters and motorcycles and various auto components, as well as elevators, escalators and auto parking systems, is a noteworthy figure here. Her company has attracted investment from the likes of Citigroup and is likely to do well as the transportation business profits from the real estate boom in India.

  • Priya Paul, the chairwoman (chairperson is an awful word – I prefer chairman or chairwoman) of Apeejay Surendra Park Hotels is a business woman in a field which has a pivotal role to play now – travel and tourism. Commercial real estate and the hotel business is slated to be very profitable in Asia and Paul is the president of the Hotel Association of India and leads the Indian team at the World Travel and Tourism Council.
  • Health and medicine is an area where India offers extremely competitive rates for world class services and I expect that private medical groups like the Apollo Hospital will do very well, especially as medical tourism grows. Since Apollo caters to that demand, the heads of Apollo, Preetha and Sangita Reddy are positioned at the center of the development.
  • In alternative medicine, Shahnaz Hussain, CEO of Shahnaz Herbals which has hundreds of world wide franchises, was one of the earliest to realize the business potential of Ayurveda and alternative medicine.

  • In the food and beverage industry, Indra Nooyi, PepsiCo’s CEO (and one-time president and CFO) is one of the most noted managers and has been listed among Forbes top 10 women CEOs. She’s also on the board of the Federal Reserve Bank of N York, one of the most important banks in the US.
  • Shobana Bhartia (of the famous Birla family) is a news maker in the area of media. She’s is the Vice President of Hindustan Times and was appointed to the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of parliament.
  • Vidya Chabria (a non-resident Indian based in Dubai) who took over Jumbo Group (which includes one of the largest distributors of consumer electronics, IT and Telecom in the Middle East as well as several breweries and other companies in India) from her husband,

And you can’t leave out Jyoti Naik, President of Lijjat Papad (pappads are fried lentil crisps very popular in Indian households), the first cooperative business by housewives with no experience to make it big.

My Writing on Women:

My interest in India and Indian women stems from writing about the complexity of language, and about how small groups and businesses (and a contextual approach) do better at catering to the the needs of communities than big businesses.

I am not a gender feminist, although I’ve used the language when it’s useful. I’ve blogged on men’s rights and done some very anti-feminist pieces where I think it’s been warranted.

I would say I’m interested in marrying methodological individualism (from the right) with psycho-social awareness (from the left). Applied complexity theory might be another way of saying it.

Some writing that’s related:

  • Witches and Bastards,” 2005, Counterpunch, is a complex piece about Indira Gandhi and what it means to be a powerful woman in India. It argues that India is in many ways a very female-centered culture, where even village women are more powerful than many give them credit for being. It also suggests that Gandhian political economy has more sense than it’s been given credit for and might be the basis of a small group approach to politics and the economy. (This is a theme I take up in my book “Mobs, Messiahs and Markets,” 2007)
  • Missing Women,” 2004 The Gowanus Review – is a piece I did about female foeticide in India that explores cultural and economic explanations and suggests remedies. I make the point about technology and female entrepreneurship for the first time there.

Psychic Injuries and Double Standards,” – a chapter contributed to One of the Guys(Seal Press, 2007).

It argues that female soldiers should be held to be as accountable as the male soldiers.

  • The Globalized Village,Alternet, 2003 (included in the book, The Third World: Alternative Views, 2006)demonstrates how ambiguous language has obscured the negative impact of free market policies on small-scale community efforts. The piece was widely reprinted. I make special note of the impact on village women’s access to water.
  • How About Your Back Yard?” 2004, Himal South Asian, argues that “north-south” language doesn’t help explain the problem of waste disposal in India, and that turning to multinationals doesn’t help. It actually disrupts the successful efforts of local small groups.
  • *I did an extended research paper on images of India in the American media as part of my graduate studies and also did graduate work in theories of representation focusing on how speech and imagery affect political discourse, with special reference to pornography.
  • This was continued in a series of popular articles in the alternative press, “Iraqi Women and Torture” questioning the media emphasis on the torture of men during the Iraq war. This led to a book on the subject, “The Language of Empire” (MR Press, 2005), which was well-regarded and influenced the work of many establishment journalists.
  • I am contributing an article on torture and performance theory to the Routledge Key Concepts Series, 2009. I make an extended argument to show that depictions of women in violent pornography can be torturous, given the cultural context.

Solzhenitsyn on the Cancer of Conformity

Alexandr Solzhenitsyn died today. For most of his life, he was the conscience of the Soviet Empire. Some of the most forceful passages in his writing were directed against the intelligentsia who allowed themselves to be puppets for their rulers:

“A man sprouts a tumor and dies — how then can a country live that has sprouted camps and exile?” he asked questioning the complicity of ordinary Russians in the crimes of Stalin’s era.”

More at MSN

The Unbearable Lightness of the Buck – Bonner & Rajiva on the Declining Dollar on 7/20/2007 (reprinted)

THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF THE BUCK
by Bill Bonner and Lila Rajiva

It was the Chinese who invented paper “money” around the beginning of the ninth century A.D. Because it was so light it would blow out of their hands, they called it “flying money.”

The ancient Chinese were right about the lack of substance of paper currency. The greenback seems to have less substance every day. But we do not wonder why the greenback seems to be dying. We wonder why it isn’t dead already.

In search of an answer, we look back, to a case brought by the First National Bank of Montgomery, Minnesota, against one Jerome Daly in 1969.

The bank had lent Mr. Daly $14,000 in a mortgage loan. Then it tried to get its money back by foreclosing on Daly’s house. Daly took to the courts with a defense so ingenious even a Chinese banker might wish to emulate it.

You can’t enforce a mortgage contract, said he, when there was no contractual obligation. And there was no valid obligation because no “consideration” had been given by the bank. Having gotten nothing from the bank, he had nothing give back.

In support of his testimony, Mr. Daly, a lawyer, called the bank president to the stand and demanded to know if the bank had actually handed him a wad of $20 bills.

“Isn’t it true,” he began, or words to that effect, “that the bank did not actually give me a stack of $20 bills? In fact, the bank didn’t give me any bills of any sort, right?”

“Well, yes…but…” the bank president must have replied.

“Nor did the bank convey any property to me…or give me gold coins…or any other valuable, tangible thing…right?”

“Well, yes…but…” came the next reply, also cut off by Mr. Daly’s next question.

“And isn’t it true that the bank did not go out and borrow extra money so it could lend it to me…nor did it draw down its depositors’ accounts in order to give me money?”

“Yes, that is correct.”

“In fact, the so-called mortgage loan was, from your point of view, just a bookkeeping entry. Is that not right? And is it not true that the ‘money’ never existed at all…at least not in the sense that most people think of money…and that this ‘money’ was actually ‘created out of thin air’ as the economist John Maynard Keynes once described it?”

“Well, yes…but…”

By this time, both judge and jury were nodding their heads, sure that they had a combination of Charles Ponzi, John Law and Kenneth Lay on the witness stand.

“Fraud!” concluded Justice Mahoney and went on to rule that the bank had given Daly no lawful consideration, had created $14,000 out of nothing, and had done so without the backing of any U.S. law or statute.

Therefore, it followed, the bank was obliged to let Mr. Daly keep his house. And, thus it was that Mr. Daly kept his house.

Whether the reasoning behind this case was right or wrong is not at issue here. Our questions are more numerous but much simpler.

We want to know why there are not more Dalys demanding to keep their houses today. And why there are not more Mahoneys around to let them.

Why did one small court adopt this argument while it left no mark otherwise on American jurisprudence? Despite Justice Mahoney, U.S. courts have rejected every other attempt to argue that the U.S. dollar is not the lawful, valuable money everyone thinks it is. But just how valuable the U.S. dollar is, is a question not for the courts, but for the markets.

The euro, the pound, the Canadian dollar, oil and gold have been pronouncing a judgment of their own this week – all soared against the dollar. And yet not a whimper is to be heard from the great American masses. The dollar may be in trouble abroad, but at home its reputation is still spotless. Gas may cost more, heating bills may be higher, but so far milk, eggs, and beer have not soared beyond the budget of the masses. The people may have mortgaged their futures for the roof over their heads and sold their souls for a mess of credit, but with home prices still holding up and stocks pushing at all time highs, the devil has not come around for repayment yet.

Helping to postpone the day he does, the government also quietly stopped reporting M3 money in March 2006. M3 is the broadest measure of the “money supply” in the U.S. economy. As the supply of money increases, typically, consumer prices go up. Independent analysts who keep an eye on these things tell us that the green stuff is being pumped in at one of the highest rates ever – 12% per year, or four times the rate of GDP growth.

“Then why has it not gone to swell the prices of groceries yet?” you might ask.

The answer is that the people with the most money are spreading it around in places far distant from the local Superfresh. The ersatz money is circulating these days in art houses and auctions, in exotic vacation houses and rental properties, in retirement funds and pensions. Securitized and derivatized, packaged and repackaged, it is lent from one end of the globe to the other, forcing central bankers all over the world to work their own printing presses night and day to keep up with it. The resulting global “liquidity” is the bilge upon which asset prices float and make this boom so great for asset owners.

But this liquidity is no different from the non-existent “consideration” that Mr. Daly received from the First National Bank of Montgomery. It was this shaky credit that was packaged into new debt instruments like CDOs that are so intricate that teams of mathematicians cannot fathom all the ramifications and complications thereof. In a miracle rivaling any by the Galilean, these same oily pretzels of debt were twisted into Triple A rated bonds and sold to pension funds and institutional investors. Now the buyers are finding that the grease has turned rancid: Last week, the three leading rating agencies downgraded debt linked to the shakiest part of the housing market – the subprime loans. And following swiftly, one hedge fund at Bear Stearns took ill and passed away altogether while a third gave up 91% of its returns.

Ben Bernanke would like to boost rates to support the dollar and help American tourists, but faced with a liquidity crisis in the $500 trillion derivatives market, he’ll have to think thrice before doing so. But rates are going up with or without him. Lenders are finally growing wary.

Afraid of the poisonous debt packages, buyers are passing up another helping. “All but one of the 15 ABX indexes fell to a record low,” says Bloomberg news. Offers for CDOs are said to be going “no bid.” And several major debt offerings had to be withdrawn or rescheduled as promoters were afraid that they, too, would go “no bid.”

We don’t know if the First National Bank of Montgomery still exists. But if it does, we wouldn’t be surprised to learn that it is growing more cautious about lending. And dollar holders all over the world are tightening their grip, fearing that their flying money might fly away.

Bill Bonner and Lila Rajiva

From The Daily Reckoning

Part I The Daily Reckoning Won’t Cry for Evita – Bustling Buenos Draws Outsource Workers….

Here’s the first of a short series of notes I did at the Daily Reckoning that got used – one way or other – in “Mobs, Messiahs and Markets.” This one from May 12 2006 showshow outsourcing might attract global info tech workers to Buenos Ayres. I’ve moved the note to the front of the newsletter from its original place to make it easier to read.
Fri, May 12, 2006 07:04:06 PM

From: The Daily Reckoning

Today’s Daily Reckoning

Don’t Cry For Evita

The Daily Reckoning

London, England

Friday, May 12, 2006

———————

*** We hate to brag – but we saw this bull market coming from a mile
away…people are losing faith in paper…

*** Unreliable contrarians…debt has a mind of her own…

*** Prices are becoming a barrier to homebuyers…laying low in things
settle down in the United States…and more!

———————
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Should you wish to *** please follow the
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——————————————————
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More views from Bill Bonner…*** Ameriquest, one of the nation’s leading mortgage lenders closed 229
branches and laid off 3800 employees. Households are paying more in
mortgage interest than they have for the last quarter century – 15.8%. It
appears that they have reached a limit. Mortgage applications are
declining. Unsold inventories of houses are increasing. The bubble in
America’s property market is over. At last, it looks as if prices are
becoming a barrier to buyers.

But what will those who need a roof over their heads do now?

Where they will go?

*** Colleague Lila Rajiva, down south, offers a possibility:

“Buenos Aires is bustling. Not just with tourists or casual visitors
either. It seems a lot of foreigners are here to take advantage of the
relatively cheap price of real estate. The real bargains, of course, were
snapped up during the slump a few years ago, but there are still good
deals to be had – especially for refugees from the inflated prices of the
American and British housing market.

“It seems that housing is only one reason people are coming down here. On
the subte (underground rail) downtown, I ran into two visitors who must be
a sign of things to come. The weather is summery right now, though it’s
the beginning of fall in the Southern hemisphere, and both of them were in
the usual get-up of the European at large – khakhi shorts, tennis shoes,
and baggy tee-shirts. So, at first I thought they were students
backpacking for a semester, but Ross, the younger one, was an English
teacher who had taken off a year or two to “lie low” until things settled
down in the United States.

“‘What things?’ I asked.

“‘The economy, politics…everything,’ he shrugged.

“‘Things’ were too turbulent in the United States just now for his taste.
When they settled down, he’d have a better idea whether he even wanted to
return or not, he claimed. Meanwhile, South America was inexpensive and
warm. He’d spent a week lying on the sand in Uruguay and was now on his
way north to the Iguazu falls. When he got back, he’d look for a job. He’d
heard that a lot of businesses were looking for native speakers to teach
English as a foreign language in Buenos Aires.

“‘Just like all those Dell call-centers in Bangalore,’ he pointed out.

“Neil, the older man, was English and a trifle paunchy. He had been in and
out of Argentina for six months. As he chatted, he balanced a laptop on
his knees into which he was busy punching figures.

“‘Checking my portfolio,’ he explained.

“It was a healthy one, from the looks of it.

“‘Telecoms are good investments still,’ he confided. ‘I bought some shares
in a company at home a while back and doubled my money in just two months.
You should try them. Of course, I was working for a telecom at the time
and got them pretty cheap.’

“I wanted to know how he got to take off six months from his job.

“‘Actually, I don’t have one,’ he admitted. Though he was not yet forty,
he was retired. How come?

“‘Sold my house in Nottingham, that’s how,’ he chuckled. ‘The price had
gone through the roof and I knew it was time to get out. I invested the
money and now I travel. I still do a bit of software consulting, but only
over the net. The main thing is to go where it’s warm and cheap to live.’
He looked over at me hopefully.

“‘I was actually thinking of India…’ Continue reading

Part II Riding the Gold Bull at the Daily Reckoning – or How She Missed Conquering the Rock 5/17/2006 (reprinted)

Here’s me in Buenos Ayres rushing around checking out house prices in 2006 while trying to jump on and off the gold bull (scroll down for the note):

Wed, May 17, 2006 12:41:28 PM

From:

The Daily Reckoning

Subject:

Today’s Daily Reckoning

The Conquest of the Rock

The Daily Reckoning

St. Michael’s, Maryland

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

———————

*** Having the courage to grab the bull by the horns…how do you know
when it’s time to get in, and time to jump off?

*** GM lays off thousands of Americans – and hires in India…an economic
“Code Red”…

*** The perfect ingredients for a plunging dollar…it’s all about
timing…and more!

———————

The only thing more frustrating than a long bear market is a long bull
market. Riding a great bull market is like riding a real bull. You are
always in danger of getting thrown off. And once on the ground, it is hard
to get back on.

(See colleague Lila Rajiva’s attempts to get into gold, below…)
*** Lila Rajiva, trying to climb onto the bull’s back:

“Bill: As a faithful believer in the doomsday scenario for the dollar and
the final revenge of gold, I admit I am not having an easy ride. In fact,
I think I have had a bit of a mauling. With some nervous selling across
the board in the metals, and options expiration at the end of the week,
the ride gets stormier.

“Of course, I’m still a dollar bear. What’s not to hate?

“Massive trade deficits, staggering debt at all levels, a tumescent real
estate market hissing into an inevitable slump, saber rattling in the
Middle East, a war of words with China, oil bubbling steadily around $70,
and inflation simmering under the cooked-up numbers the government spews
as it sees fit…it’s all a recipe for a plunging dollar.

“And way back in 2004, it seemed the dollar was taking that ride in a
straight line down as it fell nine percent against the Euro. Some of us
opened Everbank accounts and got ourselves a basket of mixed foreign
currencies or other exotic goodies. Buffet was betting against the damn
thing – how could we be wrong?

“But in 2005, Buffet and the rest of us sinners, had to dine on crow. The
dollar strengthened, if it did not actually flex its pecs, erasing half
its losses against the backdrop of continuing tight money policy and
higher interest rates in the United States versus the euro area and Japan.
The dumping of the European Union’s Constitutional Treaty in France and
the Netherlands, also stiffened a few rickety vertebrae in the greenback’s
spine. Of course, it was merely a touching coincidence that corporations
got to repatriate earnings in stronger dollars, courtesy of a convenient
window created by Congress.

“Even the trusty little GLD ETF, which was supposed to cushion my dive
into the big bad speculative world of metals, stayed down the whole year.

“Naturally, as a newbie I’d bought it just when it came out in November
2004. And naturally, after being heralded like the Second Coming, it sank
almost immediately. On sundry Web sites, reports surfaced hinting darkly
at dire manipulations, the lack of verification of its holdings, and all
manner of sinister machinations calculated to strike terror in the heart
of someone’s whose last encounter with the metal was buying an ankle
bracelet at a souk in Dubai. Equity bulls of our acquaintance cast a
derisive eye at us. Gold? Had we forgotten that stash of 850 buck ingots
from the eighties still moldering in our basement? I was ready to cave in
and sell for what I’d bought it.

“But then as the year ended, the metals minuet ended and the action on the
floor became hot and fast.

“Sleeping Beauty leapt out of her coffin and darted ahead almost 25% in a
matter of weeks. Too much too fast? It seemed that way to me. I wasn’t
going to wait around to see that thing fall back just as fast as it had
shot up. A profit is only paper, until you book it, right? I booked it.

“Yeah! Wait for the correction and ride it right back up again like a
Ferris wheel. But market timing is never as easy as it sounds, which is
why some gold bulls, like Doug Casey, of the International Speculator,
will tell you that this isn’t a market you can trade – the moves have been
too fast. You drop out when it drops and you’re liable to be left
standing. You miss the big profits.

“And that’s how it’s been. The first correction came in February as
expected, but the next leg up was so fast and furious that by April we
were hitting multi-decade highs with hardly a pause along the way

“Too bad I wasn’t on board. I was still figuring out the right moment to
buy… and clearing the dust out of my eyes.”
Continue reading

Part III A Scoop at the Daily Reckoning – the IMF Gold Fix 6/8/2006 (reprinted)

And here’s a note I did for the Daily Reckoning on gold price manipulation at the IMF (scroll down for the note)

Thu, June 08, 2006 01:29:50 PM

From:

The Daily Reckoning

Subject:

Today’s Daily Reckoning
Black Sheep in the Marketplace

The Daily Reckoning

London, England

Thursday, June 08, 2006

———————

*** The worldwide sell-off…Bernanke talks the talk, but he’ll never walk
Volcker’s walk – not even with lifts…

*** GATA is looking saner everyday…being a central bank means never
having to say you’re short…

*** Always helps to have friends in high places…unwinding in Japan…and
more!

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And more thoughts:

*** Daily Reckoning correspondent, Lila Rajiva, finds a scoop…in India:

“After years of being called crackpots in tin – or gold – foil hats, GATA
(the U.S.-based Gold Anti-Trust Action Committee) seems to look saner by
the day, next to the thorough-going loopiness of the financial
establishment. The latest evidence is an IMF report that shows how IMF
rules wink – if they do not actually blow kisses – at central banks that
double-count the gold reserves they’ve lent out for sale in the open
market. Apparently, being a central bank means never having to say you’re
short.

“Aha, says GATA, which has charged all along that the IMF along with the
U.S. Federal Reserve and other central banks have tried to hold down gold
prices. The shady rules suggest that when they lent gold out for cash, the
banks actually got to double their reserves by counting the leased gold as
an asset on their books, as well as the cash. That was pretty sweet both
for the lenders – the central banks, who got a small return for their gold
– and for the borrowers, the bullion banks who got to sell and reinvest
the proceeds for a higher return in what’s called a ‘carry trade.’

“Even the IMF report admits, delicately, that IMF rules have encouraged
‘overstating reserve assets because both the funds received from the gold
swap and the gold are included in reserve assets.’ But except for a lone
article yesterday in The Financial Express in India, (Sangita Shah, Double
counting of gold may have aided the price suppression, June 7, 2006), the
mainstream media has ignored the story.”
Continue reading

IV An India Hand at the Daily Reckoning: What the Yonghy Bonghy Bo Didn’t Know 11/13/2006 (reprinted)

From the Daily Reckoning archives — my first encounter with globalisation in India (we used this in the book). My note is down in the middle of the newsletter.
Mon, November 13, 2006 02:24:26 PM

From:

The Daily Reckoning

Subject:

Today’s Daily Reckoning:

Worthless Dollars in a Drafty Shack

The Daily Reckoning

Baltimore, Maryland

Monday, November 13, 2006

———————

*** What’s that? Greenspan isn’t always right?! We are shocked!

*** Toll Brothers CEO worries that there is no recovery in sight for the
U.S. housing market…

*** A special report from India…cars are now competing with people for
the same agricultural commodity…and more!

———————

*** Lila Rajiva sends us this note from Tamil Nadu, India: “Not only are the happenings here varied across industries, they are also
geographically diverse. Chennai prices and infrastructure are looking more
and more attractive next to the skyrocketing real estate and moribund
roads in Bangalore. But far-sighted companies are already looking past
Chennai to smaller towns. There is a lot of potential here, since the
growth that has taken place so far seems concentrated in the larger
cities. Foreigners writing about the country sometimes forget that there
are over a billion people here, and that most of them live in the
countryside and in villages and small towns.

“Small, of course, is a very relative term. A small town in India can have
a couple of hundred thousand people. And it can have wayward dirt roads
and power shortages at the same time as it has cutting-edge technology.

“That’s the case with Vellore. A dusty town ringed around by desolate,
rain-worn hills; and until recently known mainly for its Christian mission
hospital and college. Today, it’s a bustling overcrowded educational hub,
sprouting engineering colleges, the latest electronic gadgets, and a
supermarket. World Bank money has poured in to refurbish the old fort from
which the rebel Hindu prince Shivaji once fought the mighty Mughal Empire.
The Vellore Institute of Technology, which gets 7000 applicants, has been
featured in the Washington Post, and computer support and technical help
abounds. Getting on the net was a cinch. It only took a quick call to a
computer center that charged me a hundred rupees (less than three dollars)
for the cable and the house call.

Continue reading

Amazon Blog: Government of PR flacks, by PR flacks, for PR flacks

Where you get your words from doesn’t matter. That was the verdict of pundits and newsmen last week on the charges of plagiarism flung back and forth between the candidates.

Maybe.

But. in a time when words are increasingly going astray, a man or woman who makes his living with them can’t afford to fool around. He’d better stick with the ones he picks. And they’d better be his.

Four years ago, the country went to war for words later proved false. Word provided by politicians, pundits and newsmen… who should have known better. Who had a duty to their words – to keep them honest, unadulterated, and organic.

Because we swallow what they tell us.
We live or die by their words.

When words don’t anchor themselves in reality, then they’re only slogans…memes. The stuff of PR. We are dying by PR in this country.

It’s a major theme of Mobs, Messiahs and Markets.
The slogans that drive the mob crazy and pollute the conversation in our country.

If the point of words is to get what you want, then you can pitch them anyway you want. That’s the bottom -line.

But bottom-line thinking isn’t really what a conversation among citizens is about.
That’s what corporations do.

If our country is a business – even a not-for-profit business – run to achieve a social goal, however noble, or meet a production quota, however magnificent, then it doesn’t really matter whether anyone plagiarizes. It doesn’t matter how words are treated. It only matters that they do what we want them to do and take us where we want to go.

But if your country is not a corporation but an association of individuals, then words have to mean something more than slogans to move your listeners this way or that. They have to be more than tools to get your way.
You have to treat them with respect, like the people who speak them With care.

Like fine cutlery at a dinner. You don’t bend them or break them and you don’t pinch them, even from friends.

Real words are an exploration of the changing truths of the heart. They express what we are. They take us to places we did not know existed and let us become what we never dreamed to be.

They make up a conversation between individuals.
Not a script crafted by PR flacks.

Kuala Lumpur in color….

Continuing my impressions of Kuala Lumpur. It’s rained on and off nearly every day, so my chakkars have been limited to the Bukit Bintang area and Chinatown (below). But that’s a lot just there, this being the heart of the city.

chinese-tea-house-and-restaurant-at-kuala-lumpurs-china-towns.jpg

Food. There are restaurants everywhere you turn – Indonesian, Indian, Thai, Italian, Chinese. And so far, they’ve been very good.

The architecture is fascinating, a mixture of tiled Malay buildings and Chinese shop fronts, terraced housing (this is the most common residential style since land is limited in the city), glass and chromium high-rises, with every so often the domes and minarets of the city’s spectacular mosques.

The Indian restaurant below is where a group of us, some backpackers, others professionals traveling on business, meet to compare notes every night.
K, a Muslim cook from London, of mixed Berber and Libyan heritage looks like Bob Marley and identifies with Africa. He divides his time between anti-Arab and anti-European invective that sounds good-natured to me but seems to rub the Swedish student the wrong way. The Swede is quiet mostly, but throws in a question now and again. The questions become quite pointed after K arrives chattily at his conclusion — which is that the quotas against non-Malays in Malaysia make sense. The Malays (the Bhumiputra) ought to be protected in their own home.

The Malay girl, who runs a guest house on the side and deals with travelers from around the world, agrees. Fortunately, the Saudis are too dumb to take advantage of the Malays, she says. But the Chinese? Why do they need help? After all, they’re from some place else….and the Indians too. Malaysia should belong to the Malaysians.

The Swede’s head turns evenly between the two, who are unaware that their views won’t fly in Europe, at least not under current European law. K’s anger against the Arabs for effacing Berber culture is deep-seated. It’s why he insists on calling himself African. They wiped out our culture, he says. They want to pretend we don’t have thousands of years behind us. How dare they call us barbarians?

What he said reminded me almost comically of the complaints of an Arab friend in DC, who often says – just as bitterly – that the Iraq war was a war waged by a modern culture envious of the ancient history of Iraq that was bent on wiping it out and replacing it with McDonalds and Starbucks.

(Actually, I believe Ann Coulter, the right-wing’s human daisy-cutter, did say something like that about ancient Mesopotamian culture:  AC: “Now the biggest mishap liberals can seize on is that some figurines from an Iraqi museum were broken ? a relief to college students everywhere who have ever been forced to gaze upon Mesopotamian pottery.” )

If I had a daughter, says K, I would never let her marry one of those Arabs. If they spoke to me I would ignore them. I wouldn’t let them get away with their injustice. I wouldn’t let them forget it.

So, says the Swede, do you think because you were oppressed by them it would be fine for you to oppress them now? Are you waiting for that?

The Swede asks it levelly but there’s an edge to his voice. K feels it and squirms. But he decides to stand his ground, anyway. Yes, why not? If they did it first?

But don’t you see, the Swede persists, then you become like them.

K looks at me helplessly. I accept the challenge.

Well, yes….and no. Of course, you have bitterness over the injustice. The bitterness is an appropriate feeling. It’s deserved. There’s nothing wrong with the anger at all. But practically, where does it get you? If you stew in it and let it poison you then you’ve added your own self-injury – a laceration – to the original harm.

In Europe, we believe there should be no discrimination under the law, says the Swede firmly. All races should be the same. He pets his chubby Malay girl friend who’s paying no attention at all but chatting over wifi about why the US won’t let her into the country as a tourist because of her religion. Most Malays are Muslim.

But there’s plenty of discrimination in Europe, insists K excitedly. Plenty. They hate immigrants there.

Still, the law says they should be treated equally, says the Swede.

K is upset now.

So what? Why does the law matter? It’s all hypocrisy.

It was interesting to hear arguments about race and quotas on the other side of the world no longer defined in terms of European and African, or European and Hispanic, First World and Third World.

My Malay acquaintances openly call the Tamils and Bangladeshis here “stupid” and “retarded.” So does the Swede, though much more gently and without the visceral feeling. Some of the Tamil workers I’ve seen here (and my experience is extremely limited) do indeed act and sound unfocused, even disoriented. But having worked with retarded and disturbed children, slow learners (as well as with the gifted) and seen a somewhat similar deportment among children who don’t make the cut in the regular classroom but aren’t really intellectually inferior in any serious way, I wonder if the problem isn’t mainly cultural. The Tamil workers, being dark-skinned and culturally quite different from the westernized Chinese and Malays, could be retreating into a kind of passive indifference. It doesn’t look like stupidity so much as the aftermath of cultural shock and anxiety. Many workers here are the descendants of indentured labor sent to Malaysia by the British from India. They have the disoriented air of people who aren’t conscious of having their own will… who wait for something to be done to them…or for them. And yes, there may also be a genetic component to differentials in intellectual performance.

But the harsh rhetoric from the Malays, themselves brown-skinned, was unsettling. Especially since foreigners in this country have always had to pay for their own education, whereas even under the British, the Malays had it for free……and were still out performed (as libertarian economist, Thomas Sowell has noted).

This is not the First or Second or Third World. And the whites (here they are the Chinese) and the browns (the Malays) and the blacks (the Indians, the darkest- skinned) may be all Asian – but they come from different races.

Europeans and most Middle Easterners (and a large number of Indians), on the other hand, are not racially different, but different in color only. They are Caucasians, only of different colors.

Back to Blogging

Back to the blog after quite a hiatus.

What have I learned from it, dear reader, that would be of any use to me and you this new year?

Two for you, first:

1. Resting from work that you love is stressful and boring. Working at what you love is restful.

2. Talking to like-minded strangers (readers on the web) is usually more civilized and productive than talking to flesh- and- blood colleagues who are out of step with you.

Two for me:

1. My old posts still get hits even when I don’t update the blog. I get as many hits now from not blogging as I got from blogging when I first began. That’s a big improvement. It means what I write has some value beyond the moment.
2. I am now a confirmed bloggerette (a female married to her website). Living without blogging seems pale. The life unblogged doesn’t seem quite worth it. What’s an experience unless you can get a post out of it?

Bottom Line:

Those four points add up to one. The virtual world is as “true” and human as the real world. Maybe more.

Actionable Item:

The Internet is a mental and emotional world first, a physical one only second. On the other hand, the real world out there works in reverse of that. On the net, ideas move people. In the physical world, people move ideas.

Just a thought.

Kuala Lumpur impressions…

Here in Kuala Lumpur my thoughts about liberty are turning in a different direction….

But first, my impressions of the city so far:

KL airport is huge — but you don’t feel it. Everthing feels leisurely and spacious, no where as full as it really is. But that’s only because it’s laid out intelligently. KLIA is said to be rapidly overtaking Singapore as the best airport round here and a major hub for Asia.

The girls at the desk…sorry, young women…are dressed in a charming Muslim way – heads covered, long skirts and blouses — not in depressing black, but in pastel colors and soft textures. I can see potential for a Islamic high style — fitted, with graceful lines, not bulky and shapeless ..more definition. With droves of rich Saudis moving here, I imagine there will be a market. A Malay shop girl laughed scornfully and told me they were dumb and easy to fleece, and then returned to pouring contempt on the Chinese for taking advantage of the Bumiputra.

The train into town is first class (I wanted to say first world, but I don’t like the term. It says more than I want to say – turning economic development into a high school report, complete with A, B and C students). The landscape is green with palms, lots of thick green foliage, well-paved roads wetted down with a faint drizzle. The roads are narrower than I remember in Buenos Aires, but there’s a faint resemblance to the Argentine city because of the vegetation and the tiled roofs of the houses. In both cities even the modern houses have a charm entirely missing from one of those prefab McHouses that blight the suburbs in the US.

A light drizzle on and off, but the air is muggy and hot. It’s December and it feels like a late summer day in Baltimore. According to the papers, we didn’t go above 30 C, but to me it feels much higher. We’re near the equator after all. Maybe the number and size of the buildings contributes. The Petronas Towers, which is close to where I am staying in Bukit Bintang, are the world’s tallest twin towers.

I’m living above an Indian restaurant and round the corner from restaurants from every Asian country. There’s also that ubiquitous sign of expats – Starbucks (who would want Starbucks in Asia, home to the most interesting concoctions of tea and coffee around?) and a McDonalds. But what really got me was the hotel that I used as a landmark to find my way round to my place — Agora. Quite odd to see a Greek name that’s also the name of the company of my co-author Bill Bonner, who by the way, is in India right now, working on opening an office there. He’s very India positive, unlike investors like Jim Rogers. More on that at another time.

A blogging break…

I’m off the blog for a couple of days. Be back at the end of the week, from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

I’m looking at houses with an eye to buy for myself but also to take the pulse of the ASEAN market and see if it might survive a possible global recession. I’m betting yes.

And just as a tip — do you think that costs a fortune? No. My RT fare came to 1150….

Not chump change but no more than many middle class families spend on a weekend trip to some banal beach resort.

National Post (Canada) review of “Mobs”

A strong print review by Araminta Wordsworth from The National Post.

MOBS, MESSIAHS AND MARKETS: SURVIVING THE PUBLIC SPECTACLE IN FINANCE AND POLITICS

William Bonner and Lila Rajiva, John Wiley 424 pages, $33.99

It has been more than 25 years since gold hit the kind of highs we have been seeing recently and widows and orphans lined up round the block to get their hands on an ingot. Now, the yellow metal is building for another run-up and gold bugs, who’ve been holding on for just such a day, are saying, “I told you so.”

But canny investors with money burning a hole in their pockets are looking elsewhere — to ethanol stocks, say, or farmland in Argentina. Or, if they insist on having a piece of this action, gold mining stocks, even though Mark Twain described a gold mine as “a hole in the ground owned by a liar.”

Yet gold will still find buyers at these prices, though logic and commonsense should quickly show the foolhardiness of the “investment.”

Why does this happen again and again, with those least able to bear the losses throwing away their money?

William Bonner and Lila Rajiva provide the answers in this exhilarating — if somewhat depressing — book. Although their insights will often make readers laugh out loud, they will also find themselves wriggling uncomfortably at the manifold idiocies of human behaviour.

The authors’ hope is that some of their advice will stick, enabling us to stand aside as the herd thunders by — and prosper.

Which is tough, as they admit humans are engineered to want to be part of a group. We are more comfortable when “everybody else” seems to be thinking along the same lines, whether it is investors stampeding into a sure-fire money earner or mobs of 17th-century New Englanders being convinced that harmless old ladies who lived by themselves were witches. Or Americans believing the world is being made safe against terror by invading Iraq.

As the Japanese proverb notes, “The nail that sticks up gets hammered down.”

Take real estate. In the past decade, as housing prices have risen like a cake baking in the oven, pushing many properties into the unreal category, buyers have been encouraged to purchase ever-larger and more expensive houses, taking out equally large mortgages. The belief is that you can always sell a house for more than you paid for it.

But as the subprime mess south of the border is showing in spades, this is just not true. Although Canadians have been protected to a large extent by tougher lending rules here — insistence on a down-payment in almost all cases, for example — we should not imagine we are insulated from any aftershocks.

It is clearly a global concern. For the first time in several years, house prices in England have stopped their meteoric rise. Many British house owners will be vulnerable to any fall in value as they have been able to borrow 100% of the purchase price. Canadian banks are also among those caught up in the disaster, thanks to their purchase of mortgage-backed securities, sliced and diced portfolios of mortgages often of doubtful quality. Massive write downs are already the order of the day south of the border.

 

As historians, the authors also provide some valuable alternatives to accepted accounts of past events. Among many examples is the first invasion of Kabul in 1842. This is usually portrayed in British history books as a valiant expedition that ended in unforeseen tragedy. In their hands it becomes a study in bungling ineptitude, with the tragedy being all too easily predictable.

Government types are also high on the Bonner/Rajiya list of betes noires. These range from the usual suspects, such as Hitler and Mao, to less obvious targets like the World Bank and Alan Greenspan, the former Federal Reserve chairman. New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman also attracts their ire for suggesting that U.S. gasoline consumption would be cut by giving the owners of hybrid vehicles free parking.

Read this book and laugh. But I guarantee it will also provide much food for thought.

Business Wire runs “Mobs” promo….

 

November 15, 2007 12:00 PM Eastern Time

DUBLIN, Ireland–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Research and Markets (http://www.researchandmarkets.com/reports/c74288) has announced the addition of “Mobs, Messiahs, and Markets: Surviving the Public Spectacle in Finance and Politics” to their offering.

Business Pundit: thumbs up for “Mobs,” but with a warning label…

Rob May at the hugely popular business blog, Business Pundit, wrote this great review of “Mobs, Messiahs, and Markets” that I just came across:

“Where do I begin with a book that takes a shot at pretty much anybody and everybody, including the authors themselves? To say that this book is skeptical or contrarian is like saying Warren Buffett has money. This book could set the standard for skeptical writing. That said, it’s part of the reason I enjoyed the book so much.”

But in the end, however, he doesn’t really recommend it to everyone:

“Francis Scott wrote that “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.” I do not think most people have this capacity, but if you do, I highly recommend this book. For everyone else, it will just be offensive.”

(sigh). Read the rest of the review here.

This is one of the nicest reviews we got. My other favorites include one by Daniel Ryan at the libertarian site, Enter Stage Right.

Here’s an excerpt:

“If you’re the alpha type, you’ll undergo something rarely experienced in this day and age, despite the number of Mencken imitators currently around: you’ll actually feel the same way that a good, worthy, successful U.S. burgher felt in the 1920s when reading one of Mencken’s works when it was hot off the presses. The two authors are that good at being intellectually detached from all parts of the popularity-and-leadership game.

Some may find it roundly offensive, but it would be tragic if the reader, through umbrage, expels him- or herself from the Bonner/Rajiva School for Creative Cynics. After reading this book, you will re-evaluate some of your more cherished ideas. Some will find grist for self-reflection in its material.”

And Dr. Jonathan Dolhenty of the popular philosophy site, Radical Academy also gave us a big thumbs up. Here’s a part:

Mobs, Messiahs, and Markets by William Bonner and Lila Rajiva is a fascinating work which considers how people think and behave, privately and collectively, and the effects these different modes have within the public sphere. I haven’t quite decided which specific literary genre this book falls into; maybe that is inconsequential anyway. There’s a lot of history, much economics and politics and, well, almost every other recognized social science comes into play….Fortunately for the casual reader, this book is not the least bit “dry” or dull, as all too many book dealing with this or similar topics seem to be. In fact, there are many times in this work where the authors relate or allude to something that is downright hilarious. Be that as it may, this is a serious look at an important phenomenon in the human condition.”

Then there was this review by Mark Lamendola, which smacked us for lurching into lala land at the end with our gold recommendation (well, it was right so far, wasn’t it?), but was still pretty favorable :

“Mobs, Messiahs, and Markets provides insights that run counter to the propaganda spewed by the mainstream media. Thought-provoking and myth-challenging, it will delight those who value liberty. People who believe the government is “here to help you” or that the tooth fairy really does leave coins under your pillow won’t like Mobs, Messiahs, and Markets. That’s their problem.

Mobs, Messiahs, and Markets looks at how and why people do stupid things en masse. Understanding how mass manipulation works can help you avoid trotting off the cliff in a herd of lemmings, so this stuff is good to know. One of the tools of mass manipulation is the really big lie. Quite adroitly, Mobs, Messiahs, and Markets looks at specific lies and gives them a sound thrashing.”

Read the rest at the Mind Connection

So, let’s see. That’s

1. An electrical engineer/systems designer/business prof and major blogger (Business Pundit)

2. A widely- published philosopher of the natural law tradition (Radical Academy)

3. A time management/business self-help expert who’s written 6000 articles (Mind Connection).

Systems analysis, philosophy, and business management.

That was roughly where we hoped to be. I think if we had eliminated the antiwar stuff and toned down most of the language, we might have been mentioned in more mainstream reviews in print newspapers. But since one of the main targets of the book is the mainstream news business, I guess that would be missing the point….

But underground fav isn’t too bad…..

“Mobs, Messiahs and Markets”: Interview with the Hindu Business Line

My interview with D. Murali and Goutam Ghosh, editors of the Business section of The Hindu, is now available.
I’m posting it below. It should go into the print edition shortly. The Hindu is one of India’s largest and most influential news outlets.

I thought the questions they asked about the book were the most insightful and penetrating that I’ve so far encountered.

Of course, they also exercized their editorial judgment (sigh) and removed my plug for Ron Paul, my take- down of Naomi Klein’s “Shock Doctrine” – which is simply not up to the standard of her admirable antiwar journalism. She’s a great reporter — but a dishonest theorist.

And they also – I really didn’t expect them NOT to – took out my slam of Rubin and Co. – shockers-in-chief.

Ah well. I tried. That’s all anyone can do.

Still, it was very fair- minded of the editors to let me make the controversial connection between financialization and propaganda – though adding the torture part would have made it stronger. I am actually amazed how open-minded business journalists – who have some professional vulnerability in the matter – are about politics, compared to the close-mindedness of many political journalists about business and economics. Maybe, it’s because they’re dealing with the real world. Politics, although capable of overturning the real world, is founded mostly on delusion and humbug.
This is yet another important business journal where Austrian economics has gone mainstream. With the The Economic Times, the Hindu Business section is the most widely- read and prestigious business outlet in India.

So many thanks to both editors. I’m honored.
Steer clear of ‘mass market investing’

D. Murali and Goutam Ghosh

Chennai: Though there is nothing inherently antisocial about genuinely free markets, you should look at the language of politics and the markets with suspicion and examine things for yourself, cautions Lila Rajiva, co-author of ‘Mobs, Messiahs, and Markets’ (Wiley, 2007).

“If ethical and productive individuals produce ethical and productive societies, then we all have much more power than we think,” she adds, on a reassuring note, during the course of a recent e-mail interaction with Business Line.

Excerpts from the interview.

Your book seems to show a more than healthy disrespect for conventional wisdom.

I don’t think the book says anything terribly revolutionary. If it sounds as if it does, it’s only because the public debate is so restricted. Even differences between the right and left are sometimes no more than variations on the same one-note samba. Most popular experts have backgrounds and training that are very similar, and they tend to feed us the same warmed-over ideas.

So, although I support free markets and individualism, I realise that labels can be deceptive and conventional wisdom often plain wrong.

What we really have in the US, for instance, isn’t so much a capitalist as a managed economy, in which the managerial class controls the creation and dissemination of money and also the creation and dissemination of public opinion.

Money and opinion?

The financialisation of the economy and information control go hand in hand. That was actually the gist of my first book, a study of mass thinking in the Abu Ghraib prison scandal.

In ‘Mob’, the new book, I look at the same issue from a different angle and in a very different vein, in collaboration with contrarian financial writer, Bill Bonner, who has behind him a lifetime of observing mob behaviour in the money business.

Is there an overdose of politics in ‘Mobs’?

Some people have suggested that we should have steered clear of politics. I disagree. The financial and business world actually has a pretty serious civic duty, since it has a ringside view of politics.

And while writers should consider reviewers’ sensibilities, they should consider their own integrity even more. The need for aesthetic distance doesn’t excuse them from ethical action in the real world. To be a libertarian always presupposes ethics. Otherwise, what you end up with is licence and criminality.

Recommending fiscal prudence, limited government, and humility to the political class – a revolutionary proposition?

But so it is. Today, even major economics departments endorse extensive state intervention and cultural Marxism and call that the free market and liberalism. Naturally, when you bring up the real thing, people act as if they’d found a hand grenade in their lunch bag.

Look, academics can cultivate whatever school of thought they want, but the more limited the information they work with, the more out of touch with reality they become, and the more inaccurate their reading of the world. That’s the problem with the intellectual caste system that presumes that unless economic theories come out of the Ivy League, they have nothing to offer.

The book might sound outrageous, also, because our positions weren’t partisan. Of course we wrote it – with important reservations – from an Austrian perspective on economics. But we criticised Republicans as well as Democrats. We poked fun at communists and imperialists.

Government programs are styled like off-the-rack maternity dresses — big enough to cover any act of nature, with room to expand. Political debate is a Mafia hit job. Its goal is not to open conversation but to terminate opponents. You simply bludgeon them to death with whatever comes to hand.

Do you see parallels between wartime messages and market cant?

A great deal. In-group bonding requires self-deception. The obvious example is wartime propaganda, but there’s also the way we manipulate memory in our personal recollections and collective histories.

It’s the manipulation of memory that allows propaganda to work and messianic leaders to hustle their way into office, whether through democratic elections or the barrel of a gun. And it’s what blows up hot-air balloons in the market that we take for genuine booms.

We’re not, obviously, equating the president of a constitutional republic, like Bush, with a despot like Mao. We’re simply showing how delusion surrounds statesmen of all types, even those spouting the highest sounding motives. Once you strip them of the rhetoric, they’re all neck-deep in bamboozles and blunders that bring nothing but disaster for ordinary people.

The Iraq war might have been about strategic and oil interests, but the propaganda about it was all about thwarting tyranny. That was what the public believed. And it’s public opinion that makes people go to war, buy houses they can’t afford, invest in mortgage-backed securities they know nothing about, and jump into the market because a stock tout on TV tells them to.

People who sell you a war are using the same methods of manipulation as the people who urge you to buy tech stocks at the top of a market or sell them at the bottom.

And the investment advice we offer is geared to make you understand this and steer clear of what my co-author likes to call mass market investing. Our varied excursions into politics, history, economics, socio-biology and finance are all meant to reinforce that piece of common sense.

How would your suggestions and findings serve those who prefer to be active in the investment market?

We’re not suggesting that Rip Van Winkle is our ideal for a portfolio manager. In fact, we argue that relatively passive investments like mutual funds are rarely as safe as they’re advertised to be, since high fees can offset any expertise you get from the managers.

Beyond that, we differ in our approaches. Bill advises the classic strategy of pursuing assets with grossly undervalued fundamentals and holding them for the long-term. My research into market history over the last few decades convinces me otherwise.

Long-term investing now often poses risks as great as or greater then mid-term trading because the investment world has become several orders of magnitude more volatile and fragile.

Sell and buy orders that go off at pre-programmed levels in stampedes, ever more complex derivatives, risk and reward so intricately repackaged that buyers no longer know what they are playing with, a global flood of credit, massive leveraging and trans-national financial flows have made the market a kaleidoscope.

One shake, and a stable pattern breaks up, slides all over the place and reshapes itself into something stunningly unexpected, all in no time at all.

So, being able to rethink your strategy in a heartbeat is far more vital to your financial health than holding onto things until rigor mortis sets in.

Briefly, we recommend the following: study your investments close up; tune out most of the “white noise” of day-to-day market commentary; get a plan and stick with it. And know yourself – why you invest, what your goals are, and what risks you can tolerate.

Your views on some of the recent developments in Indian finance world: such as the race for mergers, the Sensex leaping, rupee appreciation, bulging forex reserves, and the participatory note issue.

The race for mergers in India seems to follow a general trend in the market. In the past few years, the major banks have been more and more involved in M& A activity – and have made quite a high proportion of their profits from it.

Rupee appreciation is only to be expected, as the dollar is relatively overvalued against Asian currencies. The next major leg down in the dollar index should be against them, since the other major currencies have already made sizable gains.

The Sensex? The general feeling is that there is less of a bubble here than in the Chinese market, although here too valuations are probably full. But since the Indian market is probably not as intertwined with US consumption as the Chinese seems to be, it might have more strength long-term. On the negative side, however, social unrest, mass migration of labour, environmental damage, infrastructure failure, and security risks could all become serious obstacles.

As for the participatory note issue, I think it is an excellent thing to keep out big speculative players like hedge funds, as they are largely unregulated. The quick in and outflow of speculative capital is what caused the series of financial collapses around the world in the nineties.

Now it looks like those might have been only preliminary shocks at the periphery and that tremors might have worked their way to the epicentre of the financial system in the US. When even institutional investors like pension funds and university endowments are tied up in risky securities that no one wants to touch, emerging markets should be extremely wary.

On the trigger for the book. Also, how you went about writing it.

When Bill got the idea for the book, he was looking for someone with a background in mass psychology and globalisation, who could also write humorously. Although I was worried that we wouldn’t agree on enough for the writing to work, he was more sanguine. He was right.

We managed to write the book long-distance, without a mishap, in little under a year, while we were both mostly on opposite sides of the globe, en route to some other place. That’s entirely to his credit, I’m sure.

On the other hand, I take the blame for all our crimes. I confess to parts of chapters 3, 9, and 17, most of the material on propaganda and panics (4-5), on globalisation (10-11), as well as on Friedman’s methodology, the CIA, and the British Empire in India. And, of course, any errors in research are mine.

I point this out not only because of the controversial nature of our positions in those sections, but because putting our writing together in a viable form was a challenge, intellectually and stylistically. I had to preserve — and for long stretches imitate — the colourful style of Bill’s very popular daily column, in such a way as to reach out to a general readership without alienating his financial audience.

Would we be wrong to say that the nearly 400-page book could have been condensed to 150 pages and still retained the essence of your prescriptions?

If the book really could be cut in half and stay the same, we will have failed, since one of our central points is that humans must understood themselves through felt experience, not through theory and abstraction.

We wanted the book to read like a novel, not an investment manual. Pared down, it seemed to lose its flavour, so I left some meat on the bones. I may be biased, though, since I grew up on sprawling nineteenth century novelists like Hardy, Bennett, and Sholokhov. If it’s any consolation, the original thing was a thousand pages.

Take one cut we mulled over – the section on the abortive British raid on Kabul in 1842. For one thing, it’s hilarious and for another, how do you write about the atrocities of communism and pretend that imperialism hasn’t any? If you cared the slightest bit for the integrity of your argument, you couldn’t. Besides, the Kabul story parallels what’s happened in Iraq in some ways.

Similar parallels crop up throughout. There are several images of rivers, for instance: The bloody river of history, the River Liffey in Ireland, the rising Nile of credit under Greenspan, and many others. The images occurred spontaneously as we wrote, but they also prefigure our concluding discussion about the tides of history.

Another example. In Chapter 7, we talk about Calpurnia’s warning dream before the Ides of March in Julius Caesar. A few pages later, when a comet shoots over Bill’s castle in Ouzilly, a guest wonders what it could foreshadow. Later on, we use the crash of the space-shuttle to describe the collapse of a hedge fund, and the explosion of the Hindenburg as an omen of World War II.

What meaning you want to read into all that is entirely up to you, of course, but the images form a subtext – sometimes unconscious, sometimes deliberate – to our discussions of ‘chance’ and ‘randomness.’ So our arguments might fly off in many directions, but they’re held together by the narrative texture.

We agree with David Hume’s premise on the Black Swan. (The same idea was captured beautifully in a book by V. S. Ramachandran and Sandra Blakeslee “The Phantoms in the Brain”). What has that got to do with the gravitational pull (or the centripetal force) of arguments in your book?

Hume’s bird illustrates the limitations of naive empiricism. Any number of observations of white swans is itself not enough to rule out the existence of black swans. But observing just one black swan is sufficient to prove the opposite.

What that amounts to is that humans consistently overrate their rationality. We may assume we’re naive scientists dissecting the world with the finesse of brain surgeons, but there’s more butcher than brain surgeon in most of us. We’re far more beholden to biology than we think. And to language; to rusty concepts and clumsy logic that drag us along from demented premises to disastrous conclusions.

A lot of logic, in fact, is no more than bad theory, and a lot of empirical observation simply wishful thinking smothered with emotion.

I do have strong interests in mind-body research of the sort pursued by neuroscientists like Ramachandran. But raw observation alone will tell you something similar.

Investors who are long a certain stock may think they’re impartially observing the fluctuations in its price, but they’re usually far more hopeful of its prospects than they would be if they didn’t hold it.

The existence of black swans also means we need to give more significance to risks that might seem remote statistically. In fact, I’d say that using mathematical assessments of risk to get a handle on it in the real world is probably about as smart as practising on a rocking-horse for a rodeo.

The universe isn’t plodding along in a narrow rut waiting for you to saddle up and ride it. It’s a far more intractable thing. Its complex patterns may appear chaotic to the naive eye, but they follow laws of their own that are liable to kick you in the shin if you ignore them.

“Events that experts rate as impossible or near impossible happen as often as 15 percent of the time, and certainties or near-certainties fail to happen 27 percent of the time,” you write, citing Philip Tetlock’s ‘Expert Political Judgment’. Does that imply you are suggesting the Golden Mean?

No. That would be too clumsy a model. The things that are rated impossible and the things that are rated certainties are specific kinds of things that can’t be directly compared, let alone averaged, most of the time.

It’s one of our central arguments in the chapter called “The Number Game” that we need to pay more attention to the specificity of different things.

The colour and texture of our world has been washed out because we rely far too much on generalising and abstracting from spurious statistical data, data that the governments in most countries, including the US, heavily massage.

It makes no sense, most of the time, to talk about an average man. He’s a statistical fiction. We have to account for the real actions of real human beings.

Type 2 error is stated to be when a guilty person is let free (Jan Kmenta, “Econometrics”). What is the import of this to markets?

In “Mobs” we suggest that inaction is often as underrated a course of action in politics as it is in connubial relations. We even offer – tongue in cheek – a Hippocratic oath for social engineers and regulators: first, do no harm.

Our argument is that for any action to be worthwhile the costs imposed by crimes and errors would have to be more than the costs of detecting, rectifying, and punishing them. How often would that be the case? And how would you guarantee that the regulators themselves wouldn’t add to the crimes and errors? History shows that regulators often end up colluding with the people they’re meant to regulate.

There’s another angle to this. For example, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) can let something bad happen (by approving a harmful product), and they can also prevent something good from happening (by not approving a helpful product). The public suffers both times, but the regulators only get attacked by the media and public in the first case, since the second is a non-event. Then the attacks lead to more defensive regulation that holds up even more useful products.

This is a shibboleth of anti-regulatory rhetoric, but our book suggests that things aren’t so simple. If there is asymmetry between public responses to Type I and Type II errors, there is also asymmetry between what it takes to prove that something might have use and what it takes to prove it might do harm.

And who is doing the testing? The same companies who profit from selling the product and who often influence the regulators. There’s simply too much complexity involved to take sweeping positions about the effects of regulation in all cases.

Take the Glass-Steagall Act, which kept apart the commercial and investment banks in the US. That probably prevented the development of some complex financial strategies that might have helped some sectors of the economy. But was repealing the Act in 1999 a good idea? Banking consolidation simply accelerated the financialising of the economy with the fallout on the credit market that is now shaking the US.

That said, a few simple, well-understood laws that are strictly enforced across the board are probably more effective than a swarm of “gotcha” rules that no one follows and that only serve to increase lawlessness. Problems of culture can’t be addressed simply by regulation.

Do you think women have enriched economic thinking sufficiently? What are some of the obstacles in their way?

Women have so far constituted less than 10 per cent of all tenured full professors in economics at PhD-granting departments in the US. In this respect, economics is more like mathematics than other social sciences.

Libertarian women economists like Sudha Shenoy are an even smaller group. And attitudes say as much as numbers. Everyone knows Jagdish Bhagwati’s name, for example, but how many know the name of his wife, the equally distinguished economist, Padma Desai?

 

I remember seeing Desai, who advocated a gradualist approach, debating Jeffrey Sachs about the shock therapy he proposed for Russia. I was struck even then by the excessive deference journalists showed Sachs and their dismissive attitude toward Desai, although she was proved right, ultimately.

It seems that being influential in public takes a level of combativeness (cockiness, even) that many women are uncomfortable with. I suppose that’s why opinion pages tend to be dominated by men.

There also aren’t as many networks for women in economics as there are for men. That means the field is likely to be socially uncomfortable for many of them. First, they’re patronised. Then – when their skills become threatening – they meet with denigration and overt hostility.

But is all this peculiar to women? I don’t know. With some qualifications, it’s probably what happens any time less powerful outsiders deal with powerful insiders. Anyway, looking at economics departments only gives you a part of the picture, since many women probably make a considered choice to go into business or into financial journalism rather than into academics. And many of them also make useful contributions to economics through their work in other disciplines, like history and sociology, where women are better represented.

Ultimately, as a libertarian, I don’t have expectations about how much women should be represented in any particular field. I’m more concerned that when women – or men – choose to enter a field they’re treated fairly as individuals.

What next? Your current research…

My next book deals with consumerism and its impact on the middle class in America in the last two decades. It will include my most recent investigative work on the banks’ culpability for the credit crisis. I also look at what used to be called the republican (small R) virtues – self-reliance, honesty, foresight, industry, and thrift as essential components of the free markets. I don’t like to say any more than that for now.

**

Bio:

“I grew up in South India and completed my education there. Although I live primarily in the Washington, DC, area now, I still spend several months every other year visiting my family in India,” says Rajiva. “Over the last decade, I’ve had a chance to observe the huge changes there first-hand and have commented on subjects as far apart as water and waste problems in Chennai and investment in the transportation sector. From next year on, I will be based nearer, somewhere in South Asia.”

Rajiva holds an MA in English (Bangalore University) and an MA in politics (Johns Hopkins University) and has contributed over a hundred articles to web magazines (such as Dissident Voice, Counterpunch and Lew Rockwell), print publications like Himal South Asian and Forbes, and academic journals. She is the author of “The Language of Empire,” (Monthly Review Press, 2005), a groundbreaking study of public opinion in the Abu Ghraib prison scandal. She has worked as a musician, college lecturer, and journalist, and blogs at www.mindbodypolitic.com.

**

http://InterviewsInsights.blogspot.com

And here’s what got cut out:

” Political debate is a Mafia hit job. Its goal is not to open conversation but to terminate opponents. You simply bludgeon them to death with whatever comes to hand. Take Naomi Klein, in that very provocative but disingenuous new book of hers, Shock Doctrine. Klein argues that free market economics are invariably linked with terror and torture. Well, two years ago, when I pointed out how the presence of financial incentives in the intelligence services exacerbated the torture of prisoners, I diagnosed the problem more accurately as a symptom not of the free market per se, but of the pursuit of total power. You can, after all, pursue power under all sorts of regimes, capitalist or communist, authoritarian or democratic. And as Klein should know, many CIA techniques were developed in response to the Cold War techniques of the Russians and the North Koreans – neither notable for their free markets. Going back in history, Indians, too, have had torture under both Muslims and Hindus, the Moghuls as well as the Guptas. And both, I’m sure, were quite unfamiliar with the Chicago boys.

So Klein’s thesis is spurious. Especially since she omits the fact that the privatization of intelligence (and the financialization of the economy that helped it) actually began under President Clinton. And that it was his Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, along with Larry Summers and Jeffrey Sachs, not Milton Friedman, who administered economic “shock” therapy to Russia. If bias of this sort is not only accepted but applauded, it shouldn’t be a surprise if genuinely non-partisan writing makes people unsettled.”

AND

“I hope, most of all, it introduces people, especially in Asia, to the ideas behind the presidential campaign of Dr. Ron Paul. Laboring steadfastly and mostly in obscurity, Dr. Paul, a doctor in private life and a genuine free market conservative, has for many years been taking on the manipulation of the financial markets, interventionist foreign policies, and the erosion of civil liberties in the US. His public service is so honest he’s even turned down his government pension. That’s the kind of personal integrity needed for real freedom and individualism to survive. If this book draws even a little attention to his candidacy and to the ideas he stands for, it will have done something. “