the situation facing Obama (and us)

October 9, 2008 § Leave a comment

The core as I see it,of what is happening,is that we have debt, and the question is, who will pay it? the bankers want to shift debt (theirs) to taxes (ours). What looks like minor issues, but are profound, are details in play like getting communities to lower real estate taxes so people have money to pay mortgages, and home prices can rise, making those mortgages inflate (again) in value. But then sales taxes will replace property taxes and these market place taxes are regressive.

This struggle is likely to be the key struggle of the Obama presidency,which means progresives pushing against big money in a perhaps losing battle, with Obama trying to mediate. A collapse of course would be terrible, but a debt prison would also be terrible. Is it possible to get beyond this struggle to deal with the other large systemic issues?

I am inclined to be pessimistic. After all, the rich can hire half the poor to protect themselves from the other half of the poor. Where would you and I be in such a struggle? As has been pointed out, the tactical situation will be different by inauguration. Imagine a bankers revolt saying to Obama, protect the financial system (and its 28 % of all business activity in the US economy in 2007), or we will form a coup against you in the name of the public necessity and good of the people. Will he rich pay the debt, or the rest of us?

FDR could play off the bankers against the rest of the economy, mostly agriculture and manufacturing. Now the bankers have much more power and there is little force that can stand up with a confrontation. We can hope, but what would it be? And,is not Obama’s course of action, centrist and “to protect the financial system because we need it” going to be the course?


de Botton, Stephen Johnson, Vladimir Paperny

November 18, 2006 § Leave a comment

Three fascinating younger writers.

de Botton On the Architecture of Happiness writes about the pleasure and uneasiness with architecture, home and environment. it is a long and intelligent poem, reflection in the best sense, the kind we should all do.

de Botton has an elegant website at 

Johnsn, author of the new book on Cohleraa,

as the NYT says

Steven Johnson is the author of five books on the intersection of science, technology and personal life, including “Everything Bad Is Good For You” and his latest, “The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World.” He also writes for Wired, Discover and The New York Times Magazine. He lives in Brooklyn, and blogs at

seems fully at home in history and language, and is as topically present as Jarrad Diamond was in Guns, Germs and Steel. In this case Johnson is dealing with population density and the fate of mankind.

Vladiir is also extraordinarily well prepared.

vladimir paperny (los angeles)

Vladimir Paperny, writer, designer and cultural historian, graduated from Stroganov Art School in Moscow and received his PhD in Cultural Studies from the Russian State University for the Humanities. His PhD thesis “Architecture in the age of Stalin. Culture Two” was published in Russian (Moscow, 1996, 2006) and in English (Cambridge, 2003). He works at his design studio in Los Angeles, alternating between design and research (visiting professor at USC, UCLA, and Bristol University, UK).

He has written an article on the relation of architecture, modernism and destruction. He is tentative, broad ranging. Especially he draws on soviet avante gardism and the themes of modernism and authoritarian structure.

He is the only one I know of to make much of the fact that Yamasaki, designer of the twin towers, had a building project blown up because it failed – in St. Louis in 1972. Tom Wolfe does make the connection – before the fact, in his Bauhaus book.

 He writes

My point of departure is three pairs of photographs. The first pair juxtaposes the unfinished frame of Frank Gehry’s Disney Hall in Los Angeles (photo 1) and the destroyed carcass of Minoru Yamasaki’s Twin Towers in New York (photo 2). We are conditioned to expect a building frame to consist of (or at least contain some) rectangular elements. Gehry’s frame has none. We might see it as a “normal” rectangular frame twisted and distorted by the creative will of a modernist. The modernist vocabulary, as Anthony Vidler observed, has always included “displacement and fracture, torquing and twisting, pressure and release.”1 Some, on the other hand, would see Gehry’s frame as precisely the opposite, as a postmodern or anti-modern attack on the rigidity of modernist thinking.

The other photo shows Yamasaki’s rectangular frame deformed by a terrorist act. This violent deformation, as we will see, is also open to different interpretations.

The second pair is, again, Yamasaki’s Twin Towers (photo 2) and his housing project Pruitt-Igoe in St. Louis (photo 3) being blown up by authorities in 1972 after it had been repeatedly vandalized by its residents, and attempts to revitalize it had failed.

The third pair shows the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in the center of Moscow in 1931 in the process of demolition (photo 4) to leave room for the proposed (but unrealised) Palace of the Soviets and the unfinished frame of this Palace before its demolition (photo 5).



Better world

April 26, 2006 § Leave a comment

NASA, China To Discuss Cooperating On Space Missions…


a more interested and alive president would create as many programs like this as possible: cooperative programs in urban design, energy, cars, planes, education at all leves, sewage, all professional and aristic activities.

Following from the last

April 11, 2006 § Leave a comment

Dailykos has

Attention! All you Christianists who want to embed the Bible in the Constitution! Embed Leviticus 19:33-34 in there while you’re at it:

” ‘When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.

Seder from Isreal to South Africa, and our homes.

April 11, 2006 § Leave a comment

From Tony Karon, A very elegant and painful refection on the meaning of the seder and who are the slaves.

1. Passover is About Liberation; Not Simply About Jews

In that hungry eternity of singing and praying in an alien tongue that spanned from your first taste of haroset on matzoh to the arrival of the matzoh ball soup, you could sometimes get to thinking about the meanings of the passover in universal context rather than in terms of the fetishistic rituals that have in many cases have replaced those meanings. (Does the Jewish God really care if there are a few breadcrumbs nestling undetected at the bottom of your toaster in a week when you’re supposed to constipate yourself on matzoh?) And growing up Jewish in apartheid South Africa, it wasn’t hard to see that the annual pesach seder was an elaborate exercise in missing the point. This from a little memoir thingie I’m working on:

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France and new workers. Good langauage

April 10, 2006 § Leave a comment

I find the following fasciating, new sensitivity thrughnew lanaguage, new in the US.sometimes an off the wall piece can have langauge that really helps. This might be such. Note especially

“The struggle of French precarious and cognitive workers could mark the beginning of a new political and cultural cycle in Europe. Fully aware of being at once students, cognitive labourers, and precarious workers in the fluid cycle of recombinative capital, they started occupying the schools.”

the article

This is a novelty: hitherto, such awareness had not been so manifest in student struggles.”



—–Original Message—–

From: [] On Behalf Of

Sent: Saturday, April 08, 2006 2:55 PM


Subject: <nettime> Bifo – The insurgence of European precariat

The insurgence of European precariat

Franco Berardi “Bifo”


Translated by Alex Diceanu and Arianna Bove. The original Italian text is published on the Rekombinant mailing list ( The French translation by Serge Quadruppani is available at


A new European cycle

The struggle of French precarious and cognitive workers could mark the beginning of a new political and cultural cycle in Europe. Fully aware of being at once students, cognitive labourers, and precarious workers in the fluid cycle of recombinative capital, they started occupying the schools.

This is a novelty: hitherto, such awareness had not been so manifest in student struggles.

Let this be clear: the question raised by French precarious and cognitive workers is directly European, although, as Villepin says, the CPE is much better than the slave rulings adopted by other countries, Italy above all.

Biagi’s law and the Treu “package” are a hundred times worse than the CPE French students are fighting against.

Hence if they win, the same question will be immediately raised in every European country.

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Informed Comment

February 9, 2006 § Leave a comment

From Juan Cole’s Informed Comment
Muslim touchiness about Western insults to the prophet Mohammed must be understood in historical context. Most Muslim societies have spent the past two centuries either under European rule or heavy European influence, and most colonial masters and their helpmeets among the missionaries were not shy about letting local people know exactly how barbaric they thought the Muslim faith was. The colonized still smart from the notorious signs outside European clubs in the colonial era, such as the one in Calcutta that said, “Dogs and Indians not allowed.”

Indeed, the same themes of Aryan superiority and Semitic backwardness in the European “scientific racism” of the 19th and early 20th centuries that led to the Holocaust against the Jews also often colored the language of colonial administrators in places like Algeria about their subjects. A caricature of a Semitic prophet like Mohammed with a bomb in his turban replicates these racist themes of a century and a half ago, wherein Semites were depicted as violent and irrational and therefore as needing a firm white colonial master for their own good.

Understanding how religious imagery, history and future hopes and fears play into the way each person uses their mind is an approach that ought to be at the center of politics as management of the world toward peace and justice, and the fuller development of each person. the move against psychological understanding in the face of an expanding tech of electronic games, computers and the speed of social pressures is one of the main stories that needs to be told, and will. the world is real. Society is real, and so is the mind. To neglect any one is to be out of touch with the needs of governance.

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