Monday, December 19, 2011

The New Pledge of Allegiance

Those with even a rudimentary grasp of national issues know that the free speech guaranteed by the first amendment to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights isn't limited to personal verbalization. The concept has morphed into "freedom of expression", which might include art works. Nude dancing, flag burning and campaign contributions as well as pornography have been considered as examples of free expression.
Non-verbal expression can and does include activity that is somewhat less apparent at first glance. The pledge of allegiance, at one time a staple primary school morning ritual, has fallen into disuse. An adult American rarely recites these words, even in a public setting, probably never to himself. Yet, there is a pledge of allegiance that millions of Americans voicelessly utter each day. They buckle their seatbelts. By doing so, drivers not only buy in to the theory that government knows best, they demonstrate that they're a legitimate part of the program, that they're giving the state's coercion a thumbs-up. Certainly many drivers give this endorsement reluctantly, but that doesn't matter to the state. They have agents that can make your life miserable if you care to exercise what you mistakenly believe to be your freedom. If you simply forget to click, they're on the look-out for that, too. Carelessness is to be punished just like defiance.

The state may not be able to read your mind (yet) or mandate your clothing but they can require you to display an easily seen and enforceable expression of subservience. Always buckle your seat belt.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Twin City Light Rail Update

At 6:45 AM the other day I pedaled my bike the two miles down University Ave. in St. Paul from Lexington Ave. to Rice St. This would definitely be "rush hour" time, peak fares on the bus and I-94 a few blocks away packed with traffic. Yet on this route, which will see the construction of a new billion dollar light rail project, there were a total of THREE people waiting for a bus. Edinburgh, Scotland has a similar project under development.

UPDATE of the UPDATE: Thursday, January 12, 2011, 1:30 PM, Bus 16A, from St. Paul city limits eastbound to downtown St. Paul, 7.1 miles, 49 passengers got on the bus.

Sunday, December 11, 2011


"...the Occident's attitude toward work, so far from being natural and normal, is strange and unprecedented. It was the relatively recent emergence of this attitude which, as much as anything else, gave modern Western civilization its unique character and marked it off from all its predecessors.
In practically all civilizations we know of, and in the Occident too for many centuries, work was viewed as a curse, a mark of bondage, or, at best, a necessary evil. That free men should be willing to work day after day, even after their vital needs are satisfied, and that work should be seen as a mark of uprightness and manly worth, is not only unparalleled in history but remains more or less incomprehensible to many people outside the Occident."

This passage is from Eric Hoffer's tour de force, "The Ordeal of Change". Although the work is filled with nuggets of insight, this particular observation is important because it applies so directly to the aims of the welfare state. The concept of "working" and having a "job" is not a universal one, even in the Occident. There are many westerners that are quite satisfied to live at lower level of consumption if they can do so with a minimum of effort. Who is to say that they are wrong? And, at the same time, who is to say that the rest of society should subsidize their values? "Progressives" maintain that the "poor", whoever they might be, are victims in some Darwinian contest for economic supremacy, losers, through no fault of their own, in the game of life. The reality is that they're not playing the game and that the game's rules shouldn't apply to them.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Cinema/Literary Notes

The 2000 Israeli cops and robbers flick "The Investigation Must Go On" is the enraging story of a psychopathic Tel Aviv police lieutenant whose efforts to wring a confession out of a happy-go-lucky night club singer for a crime he didn't commit destroys the lives of a number of innocent people. A very popular film at festivals around the world and in Israel itself, it contains some odd vignettes. At one point, Micha, the deranged cop, is attempting to get in the apartment of the arrested Shalom Shalom to interrogate his wife. He tries to bribe her with the gift of a copy of New York novelist Paul Auster's book, "The Music of Chance", which had been made into a film in 1993. Amazingly, she says, perhaps truthfully, that she's already read the book and refuses to admit him. One can only wonder why this reference made it into the show.

W.G. Sebald died in a car crash in England at age 57 in 2001. In that same year his last novel, "Austerlitz" was published. Born in Bavaria, he spent most of his adult life in Britain as a lecturer at the now infamous University of East Anglia and as a writer. "Austerlitz" is a recounting of the title character's experiences through the words of the narrator. The first paragraph is 117 pages long. This book, like others by Sebald, is a curious amalgam of perhaps factual history, architecture, nature study, art and eccentric personal observations, with Europe and the British Isles as the focus. Black and white photos scattered through the text illustrate the author's assertions. An unusual and captivating read. Other novels he wrote were, "Vertigo", "The Emigrants" and "The Rings of Saturn".

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Calculated Risk: How Large is the Outstanding Value of Sovereign Bo...

Calculated Risk: How Large is the Outstanding Value of Sovereign Bo...: CR Note: Reader "some investor guy" has put together some data on sovereign default risk. This is the first in a series of posts. Debt iss...

Thursday, December 1, 2011


A look at Lauren Tamayo, superstar rider in the American lady's cycling peloton.

The Heat is On - Ep 3 "Racing with The Devil" from Jim Fryer/BrakeThrough Media on Vimeo.