Wednesday, January 23, 2013 102 Comments

How Bitcoin dies

TL:DR - Bitcoin dies in two very simple steps.

1: A DOJ indictment is unsealed which names everyone on Planet Three who operates, or has ever operated, or perhaps who has ever even breathed on, a BTC/USD exchange, as a criminal defendant.

The charge: money laundering.  The evidence: the defendants knew that BTC were used for organized criminal activity.  Therefore, they knew they were transferring money for criminals.  This is quite simply the definition of "money laundering."

(Obviously, prosecution under our modern "rule of law" proceeds according to these broad definitions, without regard to any specific technicalities.  For instance, Aaron Swartz downloaded many more papers from JSTOR than JSTOR wanted him to.  Therefore, he used JSTOR's computers in a way that JSTOR didn't want them to be used.  Therefore, he could be prosecuted for "computer hacking." Indeed he seemed to sense this when he put his bike helmet over his face and ran from the police.  The details?  They might have mattered, at the trial.  But of course there was no trial.)

2: The BTC/USD price falls to 0 and remains there.  BTC are permanently worthless.  Everyone who was involved in the Bitcoin market and was holding BTC when the indictments were unsealed feels burned.  Everyone who got out feels lucky.  Many who escape prosecution, in fact, feel lucky.  And BTC is remembered as an epic bubble.

This is a very strong prediction.  Am I right?  Am I this confident?  I never get hate mail.  Really - never.  But won't I get hate mail for this?

Obviously, I have no inside information at all and am just speculating - as a devout student of the fascinating organism that is USG.  However, my guess is that this event will happen soon - ie, probably in 2013.  Why?  Because of the ECB report on Bitcoin, which quoth:
All these issues raise serious concerns regarding the legal status and security of the system, as well as the finality and irrevocability of the transactions, in a system which is not subject to any kind of public oversight. In June 2011 two US senators, Charles Schumer and Joe Manchin, wrote to the Attorney General and to the Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration expressing their worries about Bitcoin and its use for illegal purposes. Mr Andresen was also asked to give a presentation to the CIA about this virtual currency scheme.
Further action from other authorities can reasonably be expected in the near future.
Neighbor, if you're at all involved with BTC, I'd advise you to heed this remarkably direct warning. You'll note that (a) the people who wrote this report do have inside information (since the ECB and our own dear "other authorities" operate, of course, in practice as a single global institution), and (b) these are people with actual power, and people with actual power tend to do what they say they're going to do - regardless of how Reddit might feel about the matter.

Obviously, I am no fan of USG, DOJ, or JSTOR.  My ideal outcome for the Aaron Swartz case would have involved Aaron getting away with it, and putting the JSTOR archive online.  Indeed this would have been a remarkable and wonderful outcome.  I can only hope the next person who tries the same thing comes has the same talents as Aaron Swartz, but brings his A game and comes armed for bear.  But certainly, don't take on the Man if you have any suspicion that the Man might take you instead.

And when it comes to USG, and USD - creating a successful distributed digital currency is what I call "coup-complete."  Ie, as a difficult problem, it is fundamentally equivalent to the well-known difficult problem of regime change.  Are coups impossible?  No, of course not.  What's impossible, however, is pulling a coup when you don't know you're even trying to pull a coup.

Government control (excuse me, "public oversight") of all major monetary transactions is one of the basic attributes of sovereignty in the modern world.  If you can get away with "money laundering," ie, circumventing this control, you can get away with anything.  If you can systematically disable it, perhaps you yourself are the new regime.  You're certainly on the way.

Indeed, if we all traded in our dollars and dollar assets, and fully restandardized the global monetary system on BTC (technically a far superior design), it's quite possible that Satoshi Nakamoto himself would simply emerge as our new global overlord.  I suspect he'd be richer than the Rockefellers.   How do you indict that?

My guess, solely from the broad public hint above, is that the collective bureaucratic decision to unleash the full right arm of USG on BTC was almost certainly made in 2012 or even 2011.  An easy decision - since it makes a lot of work for all the deciding agencies.   Meanwhile, the Bitcoin economy is buzzing merrily along, as if there was nothing wrong at all with Bitcoin.  Technically and economically, there is nothing wrong.  It's a remarkably beautiful architecture - in fact, I would say, a genuine work of art in the field of system software.  Its problems are entirely political.

Well, okay, that's not entirely true.  Bitcoin's engineering is impeccable and its economic design is entirely sound.  But most Bitcoin users - and, more important, supporters - seem to be laboring under a dangerous delusion as to the economic cause and effect behind Bitcoin's success.

To me, and I hope to other UR readers, the logical leap from step 1 (BTC exchangers are indicted) to step 2 (BTC price goes to 0) is obvious.  But here at UR, we are operating under our own special theory of money, which I have modestly dubbed MoMT (Moldbug Monetary Theory).  If you know and believe MoMT, the leap is obvious.  In the conventional wisdom, it's not obvious at all.  In fact, it's unclear why BTC wouldn't just preserve its value as is - without any gateway to USD.

Basically, MoMT tells us that money has anomalous value only because economic agents rationally speculate in it, whereas conventional thought (whether Austrian or orthodox) holds that money's price is explained primarily by its use in trade.  We are right, because we can explain ourselves clearly and they can't.

Here is an example of the conventional wisdom (the author is a professional quant trader):
[BTC] is not an asset, it is a currency. Asset values do well when investors buy-and-hold for the long-term. Currencies die that way - they increase in value when they are traded, i.e. transacted in. A high ratio of buy-and-hold investors to merchant activity in a currency is a sign of speculative build-up. Paradoxically, the attractiveness of a currency to trade in is partially a function of how well it holds value - price level volatility bodes badly for that cause.
A currency's value isn't a function of how much of it is outstanding but how much is transacted in it. If "most bitcoins are held by...people" holding on speculation, they contribute to holding its value down (don't think of stocks with dividends, think of fx).
I tremble for teh markets when I reflect that God is just.  And not just the BTC markets.

My general sense is that most Bitcoin boosters think this way.  If you hold BTC and you think this way, please let me take a moment to change your mind, so you can get out of East Gomorrah before DOJ turns you into a pillar of salt.

Of course, BTC is a distributed currency, so nothing USG can do can really stop the Internets from trading goods for BTC.  Well, they can do one thing to stop the Internets from trading goods for BTC.  They can make the price go to zero.  Then, no one will care.  But how do they do that?

Let's engage in some very simple causal thinking about the price of BTC.  BTC, like every other economic good, is an asset.  BTC, like every other asset, does not have a "value" - nothing has a value.  BTC, like every other asset, has a price - an exchange rate with USD.  (It has prices in all currencies, but all reflect the same variable.)  And, like all market prices, this exchange rate is set by supply and demand.

On any given day, smoothing out intraday volatility, the USD/BTC exchange rate is set such that the quantity of USD that BTC holders want to buy with BTC, and the quantity of BTC that USD holders want to buy with USD, is equal.  Again the same is true for any price, ie, exchange rate.

Let me try a different word than "holders" - "speculators."  It has a wonderful 20C retro ring.  The connotations of "speculators" are so negative that I always want to say, "speculators and Jews."  Suffice it to say that there are many people who think they believe in free-market economics, but don't.  You can hear it when they use "speculators" to mean "holders" - or "privilege" to mean "property."  Mr. Orwell was definitely on to something.

What is the direct effect of a BTC-for-goods exchange on this price?  Obviously, zero.  The size of the BTC economy, or the velocity of BTC in that economy, or for that matter the size of the USD economy and its own velocity, have no direct impact on the USD/BTC exchange rate.

Speculation is conserved.  Everyone who holds a currency, or an security denominated in said currency, is a "speculator."  First and foremost, they are speculating that the currency will not, relative to some other currency, decrease in its exchange price so as to make their investment a loser, relative to some other currency etc.  If your bond portfolio returned 6% last year, but gold went up 9%, you have speculated incorrectly; if you could go back in time and speculate again, you would speculate instead in gold.  (It's hard out there for a Jew.)

Of course, as always in MoMT, all these speculators are solving a joint coordination problem with multiple Nash equilibria and need to find a Schelling point.  There is always at least one overvalued commodity, asset or security, whose monetary premium usually explains most of its price.  In BTC, the monetary premium explains the entire price.  A better thought experiment could not be designed.

One could argue that BTC/goods trading volume has a psychological effect on the set of actors who do, or could, speculate in BTC.  Sure.  I didn't say "no impact," I said "no direct impact."  In a sense, monetary standardization is a situation in which, when enough people believe in fairies, the fairies become real.  For the shrewd speculator, however, it is essential to always know the truth - even when participating vicariously, even profitably, in a collective lie.  Sunspots would do as well.

But wait, you say.  Surely, BTC-for-goods exchange has some direct impact on the BTC price, because people need to buy BTC - with USD - so they can buy their weed on Silk Road.

While this is true enough, the effect of this round-trip transaction on the BTC price is negligible, because it quickly reverses itself - unless your weed connection is also a BTC speculator.  Let's think about this for a minute.

Imagine that the BTC/USD market is perfectly liquid with no exchange overhead.  Imagine also that there are two types of BTC users: Jews, who speculate (holding BTC long-term with the expectation that it will appreciate against USD); and Aryans, who only trade (and sweep all BTC balances into USD at the end of every day).  These are simplifications, of course - but edifying ones.

You'll see instantly that, since all overnight holders of BTC are Jews, if there are no Jews the overnight price of BTC in USD is 0.  The Aryans have no one to sell to at the end of the day.  Ergo, their BTC is worthless - and remains worthless in the morning.  If no one wants to speculate in a currency, if the currency is held only temporarily by traders for frictional reasons, the velocity of money goes to infinity and the price to zero.  (Of course, friction ensures that once the price is zero, the velocity goes back to zero as well.)

So DOJ, to crush Bitcoin utterly, doesn't need to do anything about the Aryans.  It doesn't need to be able to stop people from securely exchanging Bitcoin for goods.  They will stop on their own, when the BTC price goes to 0 - after DOJ crushes the Jews.

How does this work?  Well, suppose you're a Jew and hold 1000 worth of BTC.  (In your own private wallet, of course - not on some fool's server.)  At 8:59 tomorrow morning, you have something.  The price of a pretty decent Harley, in fact.

But at 9:00, the hypothetical indictments are unsealed (again, I have no inside knowledge at all).  Google Now tells you right away.  Your impulse?  Your impulse is to go to your favorite BTC exchange and sell.  All of a sudden, you'd really really really rather have that Harley.

But... your favorite exchange isn't open.  In fact, the domain name seems to have been seized.  Same with the next three you try.  Finally, you get down to #12 on your list.  It's 9:30.  The URL is being frantically passed around.  It's in Russia.

Fine, it's in Russia!  Give me rubles!  I don't care!  Anything!  But alas.  You cannot even get rubles for your BTC.  Everyone wants to sell.  No one wants to buy.  A classic market panic, with no mitigating factors whatsoever.  What could stop it?  The price goes all the way down to zero.
And I don't mean epsilon - I mean 0.  At the very beginning, the BTC price was epsilon because almost no one believed in fairies.  But some people did - because these people could, collectively, see the future.  BTC did not have a present, but it had a future.  Which turned out, for the lucky, to be a much larger number than epsilon.  And these people - successful speculators - indeed made bank.  The best of them will keep this bank, by selling high.

After the crackdown I expect (but, of course, hope won't happen - these are, after all, government agencies, so hope really can spring eternal) there will be neither present nor future for BTC, just a past.    Even today's lame Bitcoin competitors (for obvious reasons, if you understand monetary standardization) have a market cap of epsilon.  Why epsilon?  Because they have a small fragment of a future.  A possible future.  The Bitcoin network could screw up its crypto somehow, or something.  It won't.  But fine, maybe it's worth a try.

Whereas after any such crackdown, it will be plain as day that Bitcoin and anything like it have no future at all.  Those who speculated and stayed in speculated unwisely, because they chose a monetary standard that had all the qualities of a successful currency except one: resistance to government attack.  You'll note that our fine USG securities, while substandard on many indicators of monetary quality, have the world's only perfect score in this department.

If I have one lesson to impart, here at UR, it is this: USG is what it is.  It is not what you want it to be.  It is not what you hope it will become.  It is certainly not what it claims to be.  No - it is what it is.  Respect that reality, and you will neither run afoul of Leviathan, nor live "free" as his spiritual servant.  In short: think for yourself and obey the strong.

(Also, you should note that gold, while by no means perfectly resistant to USG attack, is at least somewhat resistant to USG attack - especially since we don't have anything like the badass USG of 1933.  While Au scores very poorly on some monetary standardization metrics, such as investment return, it does very well on others, including some where USD really doesn't sparkle.  Especially with reserve-accumulating central banks participating more and more openly in the monetary-standardization game (ie, "China buying on the dips"), the remonetization of gold can go much further than it already has, and strikes me as unlikely to reverse its course without some kind of major restructuring in the global economy, eg, a disastrous outbreak of democracy in China.)

Saturday, January 19, 2013 37 Comments

Christians have right to vandalize abortion clinics, Duke law professor claims

Yes, really.  My italics:
“On the second question, I think the proper level of punishment in this case would be based primarily on the principle of what lawyers call “special deterrence.” In plain English, here’s the key question: What punishment was the minimum necessary to deter Swartz from continuing to try to use unlawful means to achieve his reform goals? I don’t think I know the answer to that question, but that’s the question I would answer to determine the proper level of punishment.” He argues that Aaron’s announced ideals would lead him to violate the law again and that therefore the prosecutor would be right to ask for a sentence sufficient to stop that hypothetical continued criminal conduct.

Now maybe this is right. But I think it is a lot more revolutionary than Orin gives it credit for and a lot more contentious than his post suggests. I return to the Martin Luther King or Rosa Parks examples. (Or if you prefer, the anti-abortion activist who trespasses on Planned Parenthood in order to spray paint his slogan.)
Legislatures had enacted segregation laws. If Dr. King trespasses and violates state rules mandating segregation, and announces that he considers these laws wrong and that he will encourage others to do the same in the future, do we really believe that the prosecutor should ramp up the penalty until it would amount to special deterrence? What would that take? Death? Life imprisonment? Is that then “not disproportionate”? I would have thought that one of the reasons we treat the protester who acts out of conviction (even conviction we disagree with) more leniently, is that we recognize that this is not mere profit seeking, not mere personal interest, and that in the past, such protesters have eventually changed our minds about the rightness of the actions the law prohibits. There are limits to leniency, surely. But there seem few limits on Orin’s special deterrence.
There are, of course, no limits on absolute sovereignty.

I'm quite confident that Professor Boyle doesn't really believe Christians have the right to vandalize abortion clinics.  As he makes quite clear by his use of Movement dog-whistles such as "reform" and "change," what he really means is: the Party has the right to change the law, by displaying its own power to protect, even glorify, those who break it.  The kulaks? Neighbor, don't be ridiculous.   The kulak exists to be beaten.  This is why "kulak" means "fist."

"Special deterrence" is just one of the many 20th-century euphemisms which we use to cover the fact that we know perfectly well that might makes right.  That is: Christians do not in fact have the right to vandalize abortion clinics (and get away with it, as Professor Boyle and I agree in wishing Aaron Swartz had gotten away with his JSTOR hack.)

Why don't Christians have the right to vandalize abortion clinics?  Because they do not have the might to do so (and get away with it).  If they did, Christians would be on top and progressives would be on the bottom.  We would live in a different country - one in which, as in most legal codes in human history around the globe, abortion was considered a serious crime.  And there would be, of course, no such thing as an "abortion clinic."

My advice to every sort of activist is: whatever the law is, wherever you are, follow it at all times.  Don't even ask whether you have the power to break it and get away with it.  If you have to ask - you don't.  If you don't have to ask, why are you asking me?

As a power structure the American political system is a real work of art.  For instance, one of the most basic ways to show power over someone is to take away something he has and wants to keep.  It doesn't have to be anything valuable, either to you or to him.  Though it can be.  Ideally, though, it's of no real value to you, but considerable value (perhaps only sentimental or irrational value) to him.  That way, it's clear to everyone what the exercise is about: as Lenin put it, who beats whom.

I actually think it's really wonderful that President Obama, even before the second term of his historic presidency, has jumped out so hard on the good old reliable beat-the-kulaks campaign trail.  It's always fun to be an overdog.  But never forget to actually play the part.  If you stop beating people, they might forget that you're in charge.

Moreover, that creates a situation of great potential entertainment for our most important branch of the entertainment industry.  It has two sides: those who want A to beat B, and those who want B not to be beaten.  These are extreme positions, of course.  The moderate center believes that B should certainly be beaten, but not too badly - a sane position that almost always prevails.  It is actually rumored that a long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, it was actually B who beat and A who was beaten.  But no one can actually believe it.

As for the poor kulak?  Well, it used to be well-known that the poor need poverty.  (Then it was forgotten - and had to be proven.)  Similarly, chumbolones need to be beaten.  For what other stimulus could possibly rescue them from their eternal chumpitude?  And if nothing can so rescue them, don't they deserve to be beaten, beaten and beaten again?  I salute the President for his bold stand on gun control and other controversial "social" issues.  Go for the throat, Mr. President!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013 108 Comments

Noam Chomsky killed Aaron Swartz

To be quite honest, I never liked the late Aaron Swartz - not that I ever met him.   In fact, to be extremely honest (and I genuinely regret this), I was happy when I heard of his legal problems.  Why?  Is this just because I'm a bad person?

Maybe.  For one thing, failed child prodigies always have it in for non-failed child prodigies.  For another, deplorable Ashkenazi ghetto inbreeding produced a world in which a picture of me at any age is easily mistaken for Aaron Swartz at the same age - which is just creepy.  And at whatever age, reliable reports have it that the deceased equaled or even exceeded my own record as a supremely obnoxious little twerp.

But finally, there was Aaron's (isn't it a sad comment on our age that the only address which seems appropriate for a dead 26-year-old man is his first name, as if he was still a teenager?  But aren't we all still teenagers these days?) soul-devouring Chomskyism.  While Aaron was alive, this was easy to resent.  Since he is dead, what remains can only be regret.  So, let's regret.

Y'all can blame who you like for Aaron's suicide.  I blame Noam Chomsky, whose supercharged blue pills have devastated kilotons of innocent young brains as a regrettable side effect of winning Professor Chomsky enormous fame and wealth.  The typical teenage victim knows, with every bone in his naturally rebellious body, that he's grown up in Plato's cave.  Our Professor, renowned the world over but especially in Venezuela, agrees!  And helpfully guides his innocent charge to an oddly well-lit shaft in the back of the cave which leads down to... an even deeper cave.  Coach Sandusky had nothin' on him.

How does this work?  Aaron, born one of humanity's natural nobles, grows up in a century cleansed by military force of its own cultural heritage, in which all surviving noble ideals are leftist ideals.  No one ever had a chance to tell him that his only honorable option was to live in the past.  And in any case, that option was probably too antisocial even for Aaron Swartz.  He must be noble, he cannot retreat to mere selfish bourgeois money-grubbing and family-rearing.  So he must be an activist.

So he takes the blue pill.  He starts with a blue joint or two and gradually works his way up to the blue heroin.  He believes in his century's narrative as it is - except more so.  Why not more so?  For even without marinating his brain in Chomsky, what bright young person can miss all the trouble our polity has in living up to its own comm - I mean, "progressive" - ideals? 

The Nazis are beaten, supposedly.  But somehow the seeds of autocracy are everywhere.  Wherever you see a corporation, you see a little Third Reich with its own pompous CEO-fuehrer.  Wherever you see property, especially inherited property (have you noticed the increasingly universal meme of saying "privilege" when you mean "property?"), you see a little king of a little kingdom, whose answer to "why do you own this" is no more than "because I do."

As an Aaron Swartz bred on Horace instead of John Dewey might have remarked, tamen usque recurret.  Of course the utopia is unachievable.  As a geek world which had not Chomsky but Mosca on its dogeared hackerspace bookshelves would know in its bones, autocracy is universal and cannot be repealed, only concealed.  Always and everywhere, strong minorities rule weak majorities. 

You cannot drive out nature with a pitchfork.  You can drive out great oaks with an axe.  But you already did that.  What did you get?  Weeds - giant, pitchfork-proof weeds.  Autocratic and unaccountable power in the modern democracy has been dispersed, but not in any way dissolved.  Sovereignty remains conserved.

Indeed by any metric there is far more woody biomass than ever before.  The US Attorney's office has also its little kings, no more accountable than Henry VII.  Who took orders only from God, just like any "apolitical" "civil servant."  But at least there was only one Henry VII.

Broadly speaking, decision-making authority (ie, power) in a modern democracy is divided between two kinds of people: lobbyists and activists.  Lobbyists are only interested in money.  Activists are only interested in power.  Sometimes a great nexus of corruption thrusts forth a figure of genius, such as Al Gore, who dazzles us with a talent for both.

And then of course, we have the poor passionate true believers.  I love the Obama administration because it is so easy to tell the Aaron Swartzes, the Glenn Greenwalds, the Chomskyites who actually believe in Chomsky (which may, or may not, include the master himself - who ever knows?), from the rest of the Morgul-army.  I'm quite convinced that Glenn Greenwald really has no idea at all why liberal public opinion stopped giving a damn about torture in 2008.

Here's how Chomsky kills: first, he sets you to the pitchfork.  In the Plato's cave of Chomsky it is not nature, of course, that you are driving out with a pitchfork.  It is black, unnatural, fascist conspiracy.  Which is naturally everywhere - and yet, everywhere in embryo.  Giant terrifying kings and dictators are nowhere to be hacked and sawn.  It was your ancestors who had this privilege.  Today, in a diminished age, the enemy is no more than the seeds and sprouts of advancing black reaction, whose every great stump is crowned with dangerous suckers.

And while these seedlings are everywhere, each is small and weak.  Individually, they yield quite handily to the hoe, giving the stalwart farmer a sense of progress and victory.  If only a local sense.  For the activist who is only really interested in power, this is quite enough.  He just wants to be part of something that's fighting something else.  It's a normal human drive.  And of course, his team is the winning team, which he likes quite well.

You can be this farmer, and live a happy, successful and fulfilling life.  But be sure to focus on the seedlings.  Or the old dead stumps.  Notice, however, that the vines which slew those old trees have grown so great and woody that they almost resemble trees themselves... and you are in for a different experience.  At the very least, you'll need to come back with something sharper than a pitchfork.

The truth is that the weapons of "activism" are not weapons which the weak can use against the strong.  They are weapons the strong can use against the weak.  When the weak try to use them against the strong, the outcome is... well... suicidal.

Who was stronger - Dr. King, or Bull Connor?  Well, we have a pretty good test for who was stronger.  Who won?  In the real story, overdogs win.  Who had the full force of the world's strongest government on his side?  Who had a small-town police force staffed with backward hicks?  In the real story, overdogs win.

"Civil disobedience" is no more than a way for the overdog to say to the underdog: I am so strong that you cannot enforce your "laws" upon me.  I am strong and might makes right - I give you the law, not you me.  Don't think the losing party in this conflict didn't try its own "civil disobedience." And even its own "active measures."  Which availed them - what?  Quod licet Jovi, non licet bovi

In the real world in which we live, the weak had better know their own weakness.  If they would gather their strength, do it!  But without fighting, even "civil disobedience."  To break a law is to fight.  Those who fight had better be strong.  Those who are not strong, had better not fight.

And this is how Chomskyism killed Aaron Swartz and may yet get its hands on a similar figure, Julian Assange.  You know, when I read that Assange had his hands on a huge dump of DoD and State documents, I figured we would never see those cables.  Sure enough, the first thing he released was some DoD material

Why?  Well, obviously, Assange knew the score.  He knew that Arlington is weak and Georgetown is strong.  He knew that he could tweak Arlington's nose all day long and party on it, making big friends in high society, and no one would even think about reaching out and touching him.   Or so I thought.

In fact, my cynicism was unjustified.  In fact, Assange turned out to be a true believer, not a canny schemer.  He was not content to wield his sword against the usual devils of the Chomsky narrative.  Oh no, the poor fscker believed that he was actually there to take on the actual powers that be.  Who are actually, of course, unlike the cartoon villains... strong.  If he didn't know that... he knows it now!

Better to be a live dog than a dead hero.  But had Aaron Swartz plugged his laptop into the Exxon internal network and downloaded everything Beelzebub knows about fracking, he would be a live hero to this day.  Why?  Because no ambitious Federal prosecutor in the 21st century would see a route to career success through hounding some activist at Exxon's behest.  Your prosecutor would have to actually believe he was living in the Chomsky world.  Which he can't, because that narrative is completely inconsistent with the real world he goes to work in every day.

But when you take on a genuinely respected institution - whether State or MIT - your "civil disobedience" has all the prospects of George Wallace in the schoolhouse door.  Listen to Swartz:
There is no justice in following unjust laws. It’s time to come into the light and, in the grand tradition of civil disobedience, declare our opposition to this private theft of public culture.
We need to take information, wherever it is stored, make our copies and share them with the world. We need to take stuff that's out of copyright and add it to the archive. We need to buy secret databases and put them on the Web. We need to download scientific journals and upload them to file sharing networks. We need to fight for Guerilla Open Access.
You'll note the tone of this manifesto, which is the typical vaunting, bullying tone of the powerful addressing the powerless.  Your so-called laws are worthless, it says, because law means nothing without power.  It is we who have the power, we who make the real laws.

Yes, indeed!  Today, it is really the progressive activist who is closest to the essential truth of all political endeavor - the fact that Might makes Right.  (What pathetic scraps of the American peasant right remain will probably figure this out shortly before my cat discovers the Higgs boson.  And I don't even have a cat.  Culture drives politics!  Tell it to the Albigensians.  If culture drove politics, Nazi Germany would still be Nazi.)
Of course the man of the left cannot admit that he has discovered this forbidden secret of history.  Indeed with every breath he must shout its converse.  But he knows it in every bone of his body, and if he is a prudent leftist his actions bear it out.  
If he is not a prudent leftist?  Then he takes his beliefs seriously, and speaks actual truth to actual power.   Well, ya know, power doesn't like that much.

Saturday, January 5, 2013 25 Comments

Are we big in France?

Tom Waits, of course, is big in Japan.  I haven't looked at the numbers.  I am pretty confident that UR is not big in Japan. (Which is not actually a foreign country, but an alien planet.  To paraphrase Wittgenstein: if a Japanese could speak, we would not understand him.  This is the highest praise I can imagine for a nation which has actually retained some few scraps of its cultural integrity.)

Big?  Big?  Are we big anywhere?  Alas, neighbors, UR or anything like it is a marginal product - peddled openly only among a small and unstable fringe of neo-Victorian extremists.  Reactionary steampunk politics will never, ever be big.  It will certainly never sell out to Hollywood!

That said, here is a (bad) picture of me in French.  Wonderfully if predictably, in French, which I don't know, I am a liberal:

One could perhaps simplify this by noting, with props to René Rémond, that the correct French translation of "formalism" is no more than legitimisme.  I also think anyone unfortunate enough to be trapped in the wreck of a nation that once was France could improve their understanding of 20th-century history through the memoirs of Paul Baudouin and Sisley Huddleston.

Comments in French only, please.  If you don't have anything to talk about in French, why not talk about Taine's Origines?  Any educated Frenchman will have at least read Taine, n'est ce pas?  Dear gods, Planet Three has really gone to the dogs...