Saturday, February 09, 2002

Whiny Lefty Fesses Up...

I'm amused to join here the Republocrat debate, while unsung over at the Wealth Bondage blog, the problem of voice has been resolved onct an' fer-all.

The problem with the last decade's crop of left-liberals is that none of them have been worth a damn. The media tools have been co-opted entirely by the right. The right denies this and propagates the big lie that anything going wrong is because of the liberals and their hand-maidens in the press. Meanwhile, the left fears the L word enough to betray its constituency and seek a middle ground that Hoover would have found comfortable. And public education goes to hell because the right convinces people not to pay taxes for public works. And public libraries close their doors for the same reason. And the largest new public investment on the state and local level is in correctional institutions... which is a liberal word for penitentiaries, only the liberals really weren't seeking to correct as many as two out of every hundred people.

Anyway, I'm a whiny lefty and proud of it. The whine is just a dopplering out of the scream of rage that I leave behind here and carry forward to the struggle with the Rummy/Rice/Wolfowitz axis of evil. Follow me! Let's put an end to the evil doers once and for all!
We need to give John D a little grace. Even good journalists have bad articles. From the megasite perspective, blog's are nothing more than the evolution of the vanity page. There is no conversation unless it is being held by them. I remember the early days of web design programs and I would read of a great review in a ZD mag and run out and buy it only to find out that it was terrible, had no practical features, and wasn't even throughally reviewed. The idea of a review by the people was just a novelty. In ZD world, the journalists are the voice, not the people.


Schoolyards and Gonzo

Whoa, Kevin! If we're "such a bunch of whiny lefties," unable to tolerate anarchy and chaos, why are we all in here either beating the Gonzo drum or resonating with such pleasure and hope to its beat?

Maybe in Nozick's day wordsmiths were the darlings of the system. In my own experience, wordsmiths were usually denizens of the hallways, not the teacher's lounge. Just conjecturing, but I wouldn't be surprised if our group here is composed of considerably more schoolyard scrappers than teachers' lap dogs.

Class consciousness, blogging and school swots

I was reading the Speccy, and saw Alasdair Palmer's article on Nozick, which I think is relevant to the 'class consciousness' debate.
I did a bit of googling, and found this article by Nozick, which explains why bloggers are such a bunch of whiny lefties.

This bit has a cluetrain ring to it:
The (future) wordsmith intellectuals are successful within the formal, official social system of the schools, wherein the relevant rewards are distributed by the central authority of the teacher. The schools contain another informal social system within classrooms, hallways, and schoolyards, wherein rewards are distributed not by central direction but spontaneously at the pleasure and whim of schoolmates. Here the intellectuals do less well.

It is not surprising, therefore, that distribution of goods and rewards via a centrally organized distributional mechanism later strikes intellectuals as more appropriate than the "anarchy and chaos" of the marketplace. For distribution in a centrally planned socialist society stands to distribution in a capitalist society as distribution by the teacher stands to distribution by the schoolyard and hallway.

The marketing types Gonzo is pitched against fit this model very well - highly rewarded and contemptous of market standards of value, they believe they can manipulate the little people, like Plato with his ruling philosphers and their rigged reproductive lotteries.

Thursday, February 07, 2002

Abdication of Principle vs.Television
OK, I'll give Denver his point that abdication of political principle may be more of a culprit than TV in the disappearence of public dialogue about class inequities. However, he's left out half the equation. I would add that the liberals are equally guilty partners in this abdication. This may be difficult for Denver to acknowledge because it appears to me (apologies if I'm wrong) that he may well think that liberalism-run-rampant is what's wrong with the country today. Similarly, it's hard for me to accept the notion that conservatives have "abdicated" when, from my perspective at least, they've driven the candy-ass liberals practically into hiding over the last twenty years.

Conservatives--phony or real--from the President on down, proudly proclaim their conservatism. But I doubt if there are any more than 4 or 5 congressional districts in the entire nation where a candidate for public office dare whisper the fact that s/he just might be a liberal. It's now commonly referred to as the "L" word--the word you try to stick to your opponent--whether or not it happens to be true

So, I say that these gutless liberals, whimpering in the corners of our political life with their tails between their legs, are just as culpable as Denver's abdicating conservatives for any lack of meaningful political debate in this country.
Tom, I wouldn't blame TV. I think the advent of TV probably has a malign affect but is overstated in severity.

I'd argue that the abdication of the conservatives of any principle worthy of the name has more to do with it. The Democrats and the Republicans no longer disagree about whether or not they should abridge your property rights so they can give your money to people who didn't earn it, or bomb people who likewise are pretty much innocent. They only now disagree over the proper reasons for doing these things, and they each accuse the other of having improper reasons, but they basically both approve of the methods of big government interfering more and more in everyones lives in pursuit of social engineering fantasies that Americans once repudiated as belonging to the fallacious philosphy of the "divine right of kings."

This loss of distinction between them is the reason why it no longer matters which one you belong to.

The cause of this loss is their recognition that Americans (as in all of the west, not being specifically anti-American here) are simply too comfortable and apathetic to resist their (de)predations.

The revolution was forged in the fires of dire necessity and barbaric cruelty. It cannot be reborn in sybaritic hedonism.

Wednesday, February 06, 2002

Groping towards Gonzo

3 in a row from me - are the rest of you all asleep, or just off reading dot com novels?
This piece caught my eye, as he's trying to get companies to treat people better by letting employees communicate. Not a deep insight or anything, but maybe a cluetrain ripple.

Opportunities like this usually get overlooked. They are interdepartmental and therefore unmanaged. It's no one's job to look for them; nobody makes it easy to seize them; and the person who sees an opportunity probably doesn't share in the rewards it produces. A salesman hears customers ask for a new feature, but doesn't know whom to call in new-product development, doesn't bother to call because he gets paid only for what he sells this quarter, or refuses to call because the new-product people are snotty.

Turing Tests again

While fumbling for the right link for Silicon Follies, I found this Scoville period piece on Turing Tests, which fits right in with what I was saying about customer service people failing them the other day. Was that here, on the cluetrain list or to someone else at lunch?

Voice is all.

Silicon Follies

Well, I read the first chapter, but it felt more than a little heavy-handed, compared to the subtle parodies of Terry Pratchett

Or if you want a Silly valley theme, try Thomas Scoville's Silicon follies (also available online at Salon)

Tuesday, February 05, 2002

Gonzo in Action - Secrets Of The Wholly Grill

I just got a great e-mail from an author thanking me for reader-reviewing his book on Amazon, and since he was kind enough to send the e-mail - and check out my blog to boot, where I dup'd the review - I figured I'd plug his book here as well. The good news is, Mr. Towsend has written a clever and ironic send-up of the software industry, so I think this crew will appreciate it. If so, do chime in: Secrets of the Wholly Grill, by Larry Townsend. (If nothing else, read the first chapter, which is available here; the layers of humor he manages to pack in are Impressive.)

John C.

So, it's the Mac ad that's ironic? Duh, I get it. At least he had to acknowledge there's some shockingly good writing out there, and that's just got to be making his nights seem longer ... I have to agree with him about the cat pictures, although his sense of security there is, as Jeneane was quick to point out, probably a false one. :->

Ah, Yes, the Dvorak Piece

What irks me the most about that piece -- outside of its obvious shallowness -- is that he makes a point of mentioning that he gets paid to write. Meaning, although he didn't intend this to be the message, he gets pad to write utter crap.

I hate these people who have reasonably well-known names and reputations, and so people read them, but they write shallow shit that isn't even written well. If you're going to be shallow, at least make an attempt at being good.


A really stupid article about blogging

in zdnet today. It's vapid, worthless, and completely misses the point. And to add insult to injury, in a kind of "holy shit" Irony: look at the ad on the page. If anyone writes to the guy to tell him he's a dolt, let me know. -j.
For me, notions of class in America have heavy regional nuances. For instance, in the highly segregated northeast (oh, we were taught the south is segregated--wait a minute...) class distinctions are very tied to race, ethnicity, and even religion above money. Western New York, anyway, and most of Upstate New York has tight boundaries of where people can and should live, work, shop, speak, worship, and be. It's not a mandate of any sort, and most would deny the existence of such class/race/religious boundaries, but that doesn't mean you don't trip over them every day. What's "he" doing in this neighborhood?

I am not as steeped in southern notions of class, because I now live in Altanta, which is itself an anomoly. Here class is absolutely tied to money. And we all know it. We tailor our lives around it. There is a stringent link between the work you do, the money you earn, the place you live, and your self-worth. Or at least the pressure to link those things is strong. Self dubbed "The City Too Busy to Hate," (and a city proud of this motto), Atlanta's class distinctions are based on color--the color green. Renters are a different class than home owners. CEOs and Chairmans of large corporations live almost exclusively in a single neighborhood (Buckhead). Or a nearby suburb (Dunwoody). It doesn't matter their ethnicity or religion (although you are in the Bible Belt, son), it's all about the dime. Because Atlanta enjoys a popluation that is still African American in majority, it is not as susceptible as many other cities to definitions of class based on Race. Rich assholes of all colors prevail. Ain't life grand?

Having traveled a good bit by car--which means convenience stores, motels, moms and pops--through all of Georgia, Alabama, and Florida, I have had the "uncitified" view of class distinctions in the south as well. I've been through the tiny little towns you read about or see a documentary on. [Glimpse Carol O'Connor in his sheriffs jacket.] There, they stay away from the big cities. They like knowing their neighbors. In many rural towns of the south a mono-class society exists--people are linked together by the commonality of poverty and lack of education. And they are overwhelmingly friendly and welcoming, aside from the few rednecks who give as much flavor as bad rap to the south.

I could go on and on, but I'll stop now. All of what I wrote could be summarized in: I think the subject of class inequity is ignored because the message doesn't tailor well to a micro level. On the net--assuming you have the economic and educational means to BE on the net--I think it's intellect and ideas that replace the class distinction of the offline world. Ideas, the new currency and all that.

Shit, this post got out of hand and I have to go interview an important executive just now, so throw stones at me and we'll pick it up later... -j.

Vanishing point

Kevin, I suspect if there were an accepted definition that answered your question, we would also have an answer to mine...Anyone can think of numerous ways of defining class, but the very numerosity suggests that none of them has any controlling interest in the market of general discourse in the U.S. I.e., if one analyzes how the word is used, the implicit definitions in various contexts, no single understanding will emerge. This could be tentatively termed the Furball Theory of American Social Insight - we actually have none whatsoever. When Tom Brokaw addresses the "audience" of his evening news, the class of all those watching is not a class, but a highly nuanced demographic segment reflected in the eye of the Peacock. The fractal zipcoding of marketeers offers shifting psychologistic criteria that say nothing about economic cause or structure. What you point to - the binding of "class" to legacy or social origin - is diffused and displaced in the U.S. in ways that probably should not be mistaken for some triumph of capitalism. But this gives us no purchase on how to sensibly talk about class here. In some way that is difficult to pinpoint, I suspect Americans experience class differentiation, but through a filter of such an elaborate system of lies as to not realize that this is what they are experiencing. I'm afraid this isn't much help.

Everyone knows Americans have no class...

How do you define class in America? As an expatriate Englishman, the notion of 'class' has a different flavour to me. In popular terms it is perfectly possible to be poor but upper-class in the UK (there is a charity called 'the Society for Distressed Gentlefolk') or rich but 'working-class' like professional footballers. The British Civil service has an elaborate definition of class based on the kind of employment (Civil servents of couse being in the top class). This is not to say that you can't move between classes, but that there are strong cultural elements to each calsses self-definition.
How is this defined in the US? Here the notion seems to be far more closely allied to the amount of money earned, so statistics like you quote may well be self-fulfilling prophecies.

Monday, February 04, 2002

I'm back in . . .

Posting problem solved, at least for now. After being unsuccessful yet again in trying to get to the posting page, I decided to try getting to it from BloggerPro, even though I'm not on that plan yet Then I took the link from there back to Blogger Home and, presto! I got this access for posting. Let's hope it's a permanent solution.

Since I"m in the middle of creating my blog, I probably should go ahead and sign up for Pro. I don't need all the bells and whistles at this point but, let's face it, Blogger is such a great service I"d probably pay $35 just to be able to read the great stuff you guys put out. So, bully, Janeane, for making the leap and providing some instructions.

Thoughts on Class
Interesting post from Tom M.-- and depressing. He asks a great question--one rarely if ever posed outside of academia: why and how it is that any view of class inequity remains mostly obliterated on the American radar.

One possible insight comes from the historian, Doris Kearns Goodwin, who cites the decline of the influence of political parties. People may be Democrats or Republicans in terms of voting patterns, but they don't identify with the parties as organizations or as coherent philosophies for the country.

When I was growing up--which was a hell of a long time ago, I'm afraid--people tended to be Republicans and Democrats in much the same way they were Catholics or Protestants. It was who you were. Each party invoked the pride of its own tradition and principles--which were well-defined--and they went at each other more as My Party vs.Your Party rather than as Candidate A vs Candidate B--which is the modality today. Witness the rise of the independent voter which now stands at a solid third of the electorate.

So what the hell does this have to do with the absence of dialogue about class inequity? Each party used to be the avowed and unapologetic champion of its class interests and class identity. Class inequities were openly argued. When times were good, as in the 20's and 50's, the business party gained ascendancy. Nowadays, it's just personality contests and who can play the better game of "gotcha." When was the last time you heard an argument about class in a campaign?

Parties have become nearly irrelevant, except as fund-raising mechanisms. We may vote Republican or Democratic but we are no longer Republicans or Democrats in the old sense of the identification. I have no doubt that the rise of television is what made the change. Is this good or bad? I have no idea, but one thing is certain: the growing divergence between the rich and the rest of us just seems unstopppable (witness the latest tax cuts for the richest 1%). Thanks, loads, Tom, for bringing it to our attention.

No class at all

According to a recent Congressional Budget Office study, income for middle-class families, adjusted for inflation, rose from $41,400 in 1979 to $45,100 in 1997, or just 9%. In other words, the average American is only slightly better off now than he was then, despite unprecedented economic growth during this period.

Even so, one might understand the general reluctance to play the class card if all Americans were in the same boat. But they aren't. While the average American's income increased by 9%, that of the wealthiest 1% rose 140% during the same period. Put another way, the wealthiest now have 23 times more than the annual income of the average American, up from 10 times more in 1979.
~ Neil Gabler.

I thought Gabler's article from the other day might be an interesting read in view of Mike's earlier point :

''Since the emergence of information technologies wielding immense economic clout, have we seen a slowdown in the growth of disparity? No, it has speeded inequity. At a macro level, I see little evidence that the consumer who fouls the planet even wants to effect positive changes to business practices, the laws governing them, and the type of person they wish to see reflecting their new sense of community.''

I would welcome any insights anyone has into why and how it is that any view of class inequity remains mostly obliterated on the American radar.

Count of Monty Crisco

That's my title. Who am I ? A slippery game show host by the sound of it. Just fooling around here with a test title post... Nothing to be alarmed about, that's "test title." A "test tickle" would occur somewhere around the bottom of the foot or perhaps a quick poke in the rib cage. You get my drift...

Sunday, February 03, 2002

Can you post?

Tom S. has been having problem's posting since the upgrade. Can you guys post okay? I guess I'll know if no one chimes in by noon tomorrow? Will investigate then. Have a good superbowl Sunday from a diehard Bills fan (yes, still) who doesn't care which team wins. -j.

I think I got it...

Well, if that is a title up above this little line of text, then I figured it out. Just type your title (if you want to use one) into the title bar. No bolding needed, I put it in the template. See what you all think. -j.