I really like that.
“’We hoped for this but didn’t expect it,’ said one, Roman Dakus. Mr. Dakus had been in Kiev at Independence Square, or Madian as it is known here, off and on for three months, he said. ‘It was very, very difficult to stay on the square in the cold at night. But we warmed one another with our hearts and our souls. People really changed their mind-set because of these events,’ Mr Dakus added. ‘Before people thought, “Nothing really depends on me.” They preferred to say that and to think like that. But after this situation, they think differently. They believe in their struggle when they are all together.’” (NYT Sun Feb, 23, 2014 pg. 11)
I really like that.
Yes, a letter, though it was an email of course. Somehow "email" seems too lightweight, unable to carry enough substance to connote meaning. The letter is to Phil Rosenthal, copying Gail MarksJarvis, two longtime journalists at the Tribune. It is an attempt at responsive virtuosity regarding their February 5, 2014 columns that jointly appeared under the headline, "Shivers on Wall Street". I have written each before, have heard back from Gail, but as yet, not from Phil. You can read Phil's column here and Gail's here. You know how you can tell when folks are good people from what they say, do, write?...you can feel it. Both Phil and Gail are good people and I wish them the best.
February 5, 2014
Enjoyed your column today (Shivers on Wall St, Trib Bus. 2/5/14)—especially appreciated that you stated flatly, “The market is a barometer of corporate health, not the fiscal health of the population as a whole.” Indeed, since 10% of the population own somewhere in excess of 80% of all stocks, bonds and mutual funds (EPI, State of Working America 2011), this is surely a topic crying out for more discussion. This question of representation has important, and reverberating consequences.
Of course you repeat the shibboleth about long-term investing, which is in some sense true, until it’s not. As Keynes said, “In the long run we’re all dead.”
Which I think is a process that is hastening, your citing of University of Chicago professor Eugene Fama’s Nobel Prize winning work is a tell. Fama is a neoliberal economist—his work captured the central principal of that specious secular religion by “advancing the theory”, as you say, that “markets take into account all available information at all times.” Fortunately you limit the reach of this assertion with your barometer comment above, and by quoting Tyson, the investing author who says “there is a disconnect” between the market recovery and the well-being of folks generally. These empirical and generally empathic responses to theory are yours and Tyson’s. Neoliberals do in fact believe that the market is the sum total of all information—not just about the market, but about everything, literally. There is no disconnect.
A group of colleagues and I recently watched a lecture given by Phillip Mirowski, a philosopher of economics at Notre Dame University in which he sketched out the difference between neoclassical and neoliberal economics and how we have moved from the former to the latter and the frightening ramifications of that movement. Here’s my blog post, which includes the lecture, introducing the talk on DePaul’s Institute for Nation and Culture online journal: http://environmentalcritique.wordpress.com/2013/12/10/is-the-market-a-hyperobject/ I encourage you to take the time to watch the lecture; Mirowski is a prolific author and highly regarded. It’s not a comforting picture, especially when you take into account the power of these true believers whose conviction rivals that of true believers anywhere.
By way of comment, perhaps prematurely, any substantive reflection upon this “true belief” reveals that it is utter nonsense and must be a product of either hubris or idiocy, or perhaps both. (Or perhaps some very particular motivation/proclivity, which I think, would likely include measures of the aforementioned). Economics is about as self-referential as anything we do—it can only stand for itself, its precepts. In all cases representation is always just that: a singular, even myopic picture of something; and there are as many pictures as there are picture-takers. Unless, of course, a singular picture becomes everything. That, succinctly, is what seems to be happening.
In the opening pages of his Simulations (1981) Baudrillard observes,
“It is a generation by models of a real without origin or reality: a hyperreal. The territory no longer precedes the map, nor does it survive it…[I]t is with this same imperialism that present-day simulators attempt to make the real, all of the real, coincide with their models of simulation. But is it no longer a question of either maps or territories. Something has disappeared: the sovereign difference, between the one and the other, that constituted the charm of the abstraction. Because it is difference that constitutes the poetry of the map and the charm of the territory, the magic of the concept and the charm of the real.”  (Emphasis mine)
For neoliberals markets are the real—Fama "proved it"--the entire exercise a practical tautology since it is self-referential--and won the Nobel Prize. Metaphysics, epistemology and ontology, the problems of philosophy all solved. The mapmakers make the map and the real “does not survive it...”. Yet disregarded all along is that everything takes place in a context; everything relies on assumptions taken. Thus neoliberals go round and round in a dance of self-referential surety.
This fits well with an earlier note to you in which I encouraged you to explore privacy and data collection more deeply, citing the work of UPenn professor Joseph Turow and reporting done by NYT writers Charles Duhigg and Natasha Singer.  The collection, processing and returning of data to the public in the form of tangibles and intangibles is the manufacturing process of a simulacrum—and that process is becoming ever more efficient—driven by the true believers in that specious secular religion, who again, are sure they can count (represent) everything. After all, what is a market, as it has come to be defined, but data? The mapmakers make the map. Flesh and blood people, who not only have the “charm of the real”, but its suffering as well, are not accounted for in the models. But you feel them Phil; so does Tyson, and so do most of us, however bewitched by neoliberalism we are—and we are bewitched. Yet reality, in some form, has a way of upsetting abstractions.
The headline for Gail MarksJarvis’ companion piece asks, “Tough year ahead or necessary correction?” My guess is both.
Best to you (and to you Gail),
 Jean Baudrillard, Simulations (1981) PDF. For more on Baudrialld see Jean Baudrillard, Selected Writings, Edited and Introduced by Mark Poster (University of California Irvine professor of History, Film and Media Studies)
 Articles are posted under the rubric Divide, Shape and Profit, about halfway down the page.
repost from Ecology Without Nature...
My Talk to the Rice Faculty in mid-Feb
Posted: 08 Feb 2014 10:20 AM PST
The Humanities in the Age of Ecological Emergency
Humans created the Anthropocene, with its global warming. Not jellyfish. Not fungi. Not coral reefs.
The Humanities know a thing or two about humans.
It is imperative therefore that the Humanities be in the mix of thinking that addresses the Anthropocene. Not as a decorative adjunct to science, but alongside it, fueling it, thinking it, analyzing and critiquing it.
This talk is about that.
And, I would add, the Humanities need to be ante-capital, as in before, so we can get a clear fix on what we are actually doing.
Tim Morton is professor of English at Rice University, author of Hyperobjects (2013), Realistic Magic (2013) and The Ecological Thought (2010) and more. A wiki bio here. My favorite quote (thus far) is, "Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear." (Hyperobjects)
(Chicago’s) Motorola Mobility to be bought by China's Lenovo
by Kathy Bergen
Chicago Tribune, January 30, 2014 Pg. 1
"’We acquired it to grow it, and make it bigger and stronger,’" said Lenovo’s chief technology officer.
Why grow it? Why make it bigger and stronger? Is anything ever enough?
-See Are You a Capitalist?
"’We are buying this business, we are buying this team because we believe they are a treasure,’ Yang Yuanqing, Lenovo's chairman and CEO, said in a conference call.”
Don't you have a treasure? Why don't you share it rather than buy another?
“’Such foreign direct investment ‘means more money coming into the city,’ said Ivo Daalder…president of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.”
Really? Isn't money “coming into the city” as an excavator moves into a mining site? Capital is an absentee slumlord.
"Motorola's rich history was part of the appeal for Lenovo."
I thought China had a history.
Consciousness without attention has brought us to the precipice of certain disaster. As a singular idea of progress became hegemonic, a lethal compound was created: the ignorance of certainty and epidemic insatiety. Perhaps literary critic and philosopher Tim Morton would call this toxic brew a hyperobject, an object within which we live that is so massive we find it difficult to see its length, breadth and depth--or, indeed, any way out. As you do work that is not yours, pursue superfluous achievement and mindless accumulation, you unknowingly serve the few who profit from this lethal compound: the pleonexic psychopaths. Trapped in their toxic epistemology we live inauthentic lives, bereft of meaning. Thus many of us are now, and most will soon be, as impoverished as all those we have long ignored. We have been captured by a spell, a sorcery , or perhaps colonized by a virus, or poisoned by a toxic compound--your choice, the result is the same: in many ways we are already dead. Living by the exponential consumption of others we will soon die ourselves.
Yet, at the heart of consciousness is sadness—a deep and abiding melancholia found through close attention. Stopping. It is strangely peaceful there, in this heart, a stillness that is its own reward; aware of our own suffering and the suffering of others, it is a paradoxical prize. It is from here that we can see more clearly, though in pain—indeed it is the pain that brings some clarity. What becomes clear is this: the world is more unknowable than we ever imagined, and so, we must act frugally, with restraint and always with “care and concern” for alterity.  This is what it means to live a life of meaning. Shattering the toxic epistemology, it is the only antidote for the lethal compound. Ironic that what we humans have always avoided—pain and suffering—are actually keys to understanding. Though the idolatry of algorithms got us here, awareness may yet save us still.
Alexander Nazaryan has written a fine review of Tim Morton’s new book, Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World for Newsweek magazine. Morton is a leading thinker in the emergent school of philosophy known variously as Speculative Realism, or Object Oriented Ontology, though he himself might demur from that role. The movement seeks to relocate humans in a posthuman world: when we pay close attention we see that we are not the center of all there is. It is a Copernican revolution seeking to undo the damage wrought by the certainties and consequent hubris of the Enlightenment, and its progeny, industrial modernism and postmodernism.
Nazaryan is to be commended for bringing Morton’s work to a broad audience—a major development—and for doing it so well. Heretofore Morton and others (Harman, Bryant, Bennett) have worked among their peers in academia, searching for a way out of our certain condition. The movement itself exemplifies a certain grassrooted-ness: almost wildly interdisciplinary, this emerging school is being built by philosophers, artists, literary critics, poets, game theorists, political scientists, and more, all of whom seem to be running towards each other in a desperate attempt to re-understand the world in time. Common to all is the realization that no single discipline is up to the task alone. That’s exactly right. Academic silos mirror the reductionism of science and economics. What’s needed is a complete revolution—a leveling to reach the perspicacity of humility. It is a monumental task. Yet as Nazaryan says, “Morton’s ideas tap into a rising collective unease,”  so perhaps the ground is increasingly fertile. The review is below. Here’s hoping it inspires you to read Morton’s book and to join in the new-world making, from down here, where it hurts.
Sad to say, nothing less will do.
My heart is moved by all I cannot save:
So much has been destroyed
I have cast my lot with those
who, age after age, perversely,
with no extraordinary power,
reconstitute the world.
--Adrienne Rich 
 Pignarre, Philippe and Stengers, Isabelle. Capitalist Sorcery: Breaking the Spell. Palgrave Macmillan 2011
Morton, Tim. The Ecological Thought (Harvard 2010)
 Nazaryan, Alexander. Newsweek Magazine January 3, 2014
 Quoted from Blessed Unrest, Paul Hawken Penguin Books 2007, from Adrienne Rich, “Natural Resources”, The Dream of a Common Language: Poems 1974-1977 (New York: W.W. Norton, 1993), p. 60.
See Tim Morton's blog, Ecology Without Nature here
Re-post: Uploaded on Sep 1, 2009
Sir Nicholas Winton who organised the rescue and passage to Britain of about 669 mostly Jewish Czechoslovakian children destined for the Nazi death camps before World War II in an operation known as the Czech Kindertransport. This video is the BBC Programme "That's Life" aired in 1988. The most touching video ever.
I’m just getting around to reading the Chicago Tribune’s review of Suicide Narcissus, the recently closed art installation at The Renaissance Society in Hyde Park. I don’t know much about art at all, and so don’t usually read these reviews, but the headline drew me in: “Self absorbed world marches to precipice”, resonating as it does with my work. The subtitle, “Suicide Narcissus refuses to sugarcoat message of vanity that could usher in doom for mankind,” made certain that I’d read the review, bewitched as I am by most things doom and gloom. Don’t ask me why I’m like this. I don’t know.
The show, says Tribune’s reviewer Claudine Ise, is “an extended meditation on humanity’s inexorable slide toward extinction. But unlike countless other group shows that have dealt with similarly apocalyptic and/or environmental themes, this one doesn’t temper its essentially bleak outlook with the suggestion that art, or the artists who make it, have the power to change our course. ” Wow, whoa, why? Though an art neophyte, I was just beginning to think these right brain folks might be our best hope, if we could have any of that at all. That, in fact, was one of the themes of the Society for Literature, Science and the Arts Postnatural Conference that I and other DePaul Institute for Nature and Culture folks attended last month at Notre Dame University .
Well, maybe not. Reading Ise’s review reminds me how difficult our situation is—that we are epistemologically handicapped, severely, still believing we are the highest and best owners of knowledge, and this of a certain type: a western positivism that comes with its own guarantee. That is: Narcissus imagines himself as the center of the universe. The very act of his looking at his own reflection in the pond just proves it all beyond the shadow of a doubt. We act with certainty because we know what we're doing--and we're sure we can fix any mistakes we make along the way. This is the promise of progress: technology will save us. The show implies that art isn’t going to pry loose that certainty because it is made in this box too. Thus off we go—damn the precipice, full speed ahead.
Ovid (43 BCE-CE 17) added Echo to the story of Narcissus who was so self-absorbed and in love with himself that he rejected sexuality--perhaps an apt metaphor for denying our relationality with nature.
Which got me to thinking about another article in which I read about the accelerating acidification of the world’s oceans because of climate change (spoiler alert: it’s worse than we thought). The simple observation that we humans had shuffled the nature deck in a geologic eye-blink by transferring billions of tons of carbon from beneath the earth’s surface to the rest of the ecosphere, has always been my best argument for anthropogenic climate change. I would explain to naysayers that this switch-about is tantamount to tearing the carpet off your floor and putting it on the ceiling and claiming the room is no different. Well, this usually gets them to think, but I’m unaware that such a cogent analogy has spawned any new climate activists.
Why? I found a possible clue in the Seattle Times article, Sea Change: The Pacific’s Perilous Turn. Two scientists at James Cook University in Australia conducted an experiment with those cute little clown fish you may have seen on any number of sea-based nature shows darting here and there, in and out of reef flora. They’re naturally shy little critters, inclined to hide from predators, and this helps keep them alive.
In order to examine the effects of a more carbonized ocean, these two scientists increased the amount of carbon in a tank and watched for any change in these darling little creatures’ behavior. And boy did they find a big one. These normally reclusive cuties became disoriented, and swam about fearlessly, even insouciantly, and right at predators, as if they had smoked a joint in a fox hole and headed out to a battlefield shouting, “Dude, what’s up?” (True story, from my neighbor, from Viet Nam, ca 1969: stuck by the beauty of reconnaissance flares while on guard duty in a perimeter foxhole, he stood up to get a better look and got shot in the buttocks. Purple Heart and home.).
"Clownfish swim through an anemone near Dobu Island, Papua New Guinea. CO2 can alter how clownfish see, hear and smell, which increases the chance of death."
So I thought: Might we all be in a tank with excess carbon—stoned as it were, on CO2? We have been breathing and living in the odorless, colorless and tasteless gas for some time now—how could we know? As the saying goes, you can’t ask a fish about water. Maybe carbon just anesthetizes us—or maybe it anesthetizes us and makes us want more carbon. Ever since the industrial revolution we can’t seem to get enough of the stuff—we need and want more and more. Hmmm…If we are marching headlong to a precipice, then maybe it’s because this carbon has gone to our heads. It’s a positive feedback loop! Most of our consumption relies on carbon, either directly, or imbedded in products that we buy constantly and dispose of, constantly, to buy some more. Perhaps it’s not “just” a psychological addiction, but physical as well. What a neat way of explaining the exponential growth of our consumer lives!
And now I’m thinking of Jevon’s Paradox—figured out! William Stanley Jevon was a 19th Century British economist who examined coal demand/production showing that efficiency gains always incented new growth and consumption of coal. There was no stopping it. Efficiency didn’t reduce demand, it increased demand. Why? Well, smart folks usually point to the fact that surplus energy (in other words wealth) is captured by the few, who need to reinvest that energy to grow—because what the hell else are they going to do with it…give it away? Be satisfied? Nooo…the reigning epistemology of the 19th century demanded growth and that hegemony is even greater today. Thus when we graph growth and carbon both graphs look like hockey sticks. Well, like an addiction, if some CO2 feels good, then more is better. Thus an idea of progress literally becomes the air we breathe and that air keeps us insouciant or ignorant or ever more convinced that our reflection is the only reality. Far out eh?
So in the same way we can’t ask a fish about water, we can’t ask Narcissus about his brother, sister, the fish in the pond, the birds in the trees and so on. We certainly can’t ask him what’s on the other side of the pond—or about tomorrow. He’s stoned—not a little. Like totally, man. He’s glued to the program and takes no notice. Pass the Doritos—bags of which have also gotten ever larger. He’ll do the hokey-pokey and the chicken-dance all around the foxhole if needs be, just as long as he can keep watching himself, the star of the program. 
Even a cursory review of the science seems to indicate this hypothesis is more than plausible. At high levels CO2 is ultimately an asphyxiant, but symptoms of poisoning include increased respiratory rates, cardiac arrhythmia and impaired consciousness, a sort of excited inebriation. CO2 acidifies the blood, just like the oceans, a condition called acidosis that “usually causes rapid breathing [and] confusion or lethargy may also occur. Severe metabolic acidosis can lead to shock or death. In some situations [it] can be a mild chronic condition.” And circulatory shock is serious business—it is essentially the body shutting itself down. And get this: “One of the key dangers of shock is that it progresses by a positive feedback mechanism. Once shock begins, it tends to make itself worse, so immediate treatment of shock is critical to the survival of the sufferer.”
Holy tomatoes I think we’re on to something. Doesn’t everyone feel like their heart is racing a bit, our breathing more rapid as we try to make our way nowadays? And aren’t most of us in a mild state of shock, unable to come to grips with war, poverty, joblessness, ecological demise and/or any number of other stresses that we come in contact with everyday?
So calling all western positivists scientists everywhere: Have a go at figuring this out.  I know it’s tough, but there must be something you can do. Are we so carbon poisoned that we can’t see what we’re doing? Are we now in a stew-pot of our own making such that we can’t reason, feel, or sense sensibly and so we swim like anesthetized clown fish towards our own demise? Could this be why the issues of climate change and ecological collapse can’t gain any real traction (not to mention a whole slew of other issues)? Are we so drunk on carbon that we will follow the pleonexic psychopaths anywhere?
And hurry please. These positive feedback loops are a bitch. Carbon--the exhaust from wealth creation--may be the wind beneath our Icarus wings.
 Okay. I have tried every search I can imagine and cannot find a link to this article. This even as I sit staring at the copy delivered to my steps every morning. Chicago Tribune, Arts+Entertainment, Sec. 4 Thursday October 24, 2013. Suicide Narcissus ran through December 15 at The Renaissance Society, 5811 S. Ellis, Chicago—closing well before Christmas leaving visitors plenty of time to recover to enjoy the Holidays; shopping, no doubt, included.
 Thanks Randy…
 Foster, Clark and York. Capitalism and the Curse of Energy Efficiency: The Return of the Jevons Paradox. http://monthlyreview.org/2010/11/01/capitalism-and-the-curse-of-energy-efficiency
 (I’m really being unfair to marijuana smokers here—some of whom are my friends—and for the record, they stay away from most chemistry projects by Frito Lay and as many other synthesized compound-makers that they are aware of. And they don’t watch much TV. Their herb-use often enables a certain perspicacity not frequently found in common culture. And, well, that’s the point, man. So here I offer a second hypothesis: add to the litany of medical marijuana uses that it may well be an antidote to CO2. No. I wasn’t stoned when I wrote this. But what is time anyway?)
 National Center for Biotechnology Information, part of NIH; emphasis mine. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16499405
 Medline Plus, Nat Library of Medicine, NIH. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000335.htm Emphasis mine.
 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypoperfusion Emphasis mine.
 Randy, again for this idea that sparked the rest.
 Thanks to Bill Jordan for the phrase, “anesthetized clown fish.” Very funny.
 pleonexic psychopaths: the insatiable single-minded growth-folks we often call bankers and economists; and possibly the demographic most susceptible to the soon-to-be discovered devastating effects carbon.
"Former Deerfield resident Palma DiPietro kept up her decade-plus Black Friday tradition by hitting the stores at 5 a.m. with her daughter, son, daughter-in-law and four grandchildren in tow."
-Chicago Tribune Nov. 30, 2013
We need something to change their mind...
Talking Heads live at Wembley Arena 1982
“We abandon everything we thought we knew about progress. We completely re-imagine industry, nutrition, communication, transportation, housing and money. Humanity, and the world we depend on, are sustained.”
— Kalle Lasn, Meme Wars: The Creative Destruction of Neoclassical Economics
When Gauguin asked the question, "Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?," he was asking what should we believe about ourselves and the world. Epistemology is a choice, nothing more.
What we believe, comes to pass.