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Showing posts from July, 2014

technical maturity miscellany

(c) Alberto Magnelli (c. 1909)

I am often guilty of comparing down in socioeconomic matters - that is, when questions of UK social justice come up, my first thoughts are things like, “Yeah, but the British minimum wage is in the top 15% of global incomes”. I assess the British working class by reference to the global working class. This comparison is true and important, but for some purposes it is also stupid, since it distracts from ratios that would justify domestic intervention (ratios like the change in real wage over the past four years, or the change in capital’s share in national income in the past thirty).

When discussing British policy*, unless giant public transfers to GiveDirectly are in fact a politically viable option, it does not serve justice to paint the locally poor as globally rich. The point is that some people are grossly inefficiently rich on any reading, and it’s these that policy should hunt.**

However, remember that the converse – comparing up, to a better a…


"a world where no such road will run
From you to me
To watch that world come up like a cold sun,
Rewarding others, is my liberty."
           - Larkin
Who can’t see autumn coming?
Come cloudburst, who falls in?
Whose victories are numbing?
What was; where have I been?

What is, I don’t get out much:
am unemployed on call
since the sky hitched up its moving-parts
and bolted through the wall.

I who can’t hear for my own hum,
the undone product less than sum,
the dolt in longing for The Femme
what reason could there be?

Charges: blind to dimming ardour,
Trying badly, missing harder
Last resort hint chance discarder –
I would not blame you me.

What was was shock superfluity.
What was is repossessed.
None own their shares in earthly beauty.
Make do. Lie; “s’for the best”.


wandering in extremis of your
rambling curtilage, I stumble over
miles, miles of dull ramparts. Not yours;
this is your siege, an élite ignored
critique, a cottage industry of line-toers
dressing a dead man down. Or,
no not dead but petrefacted: a door
closed but leaking light & snores
enough for one interpretation more.

Been reading, Q2 2014

(c) "Bücherwaage" (1991) by Quint Buchholtz

We feel an affinity with a certain thinker because we agree with him; or because he shows us what we were already thinking; or because he shows us in a more articulate form what we were already thinking; or because he shows us what we were on the point of thinking; or what we would have thought much later if we hadn't read it now; or what we would have been likely to think but never would have thought if we hadn't read it now; or what we would have liked to think but never would have thought if we hadn't read it now. – Lydia Davis, jks

I lay under the mosquito net and thought white people were boobs. Africa has nothing to do with us and never will have... We are fools; we believe in words, not the reality which the words are supposed to describe. What has politics to do with real daily life, as real people live it? – Martha Gellhorn (1949)

Why write down what you've been reading?

Well, there's the happy, cr…

On ‘On Western Terrorism’ (2013) by Chomsky and Vltchek

(c) James Bridle (2013), "A Quiet Disposition"

On Western Terrorism: From Hiroshima to Drone Warfare
by Noam Chomsky and André Vltchek.
(Pluto, 2013)

Rally round and settle in, once again, to hear the West’s most popular critic on his specialist subject: the barely recognised crimes of rich democracies. (Note, however, that this isn't really a book: it's a transcript of Chomsky in discussion with someone with even less ideological care than he. Also, the title is cool but misleading, since they don't actually go in to the plausible claim that the West's foreign policy has been terroristic, and since I don't think drones come up at all.) It is selective as history and nearly worthless as economics, but I do not begrudge Chomsky continuing his fifty-year marathon of talking about covert realpolitik: these sorts of manipulations are almost unreported at the time, go wholly unpunished, and are rapidly forgotten, but for him and his.

Like what? Well, begin wi…