Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Using utilisation

One symptom of encroaching totalitarianism is the deterioration of language. Orwell spoke about this in his essay of 1940, Inside the Whale. He related the decline of literature to the decline of freedom of thought, and the death of the individual.

But if you talk to someone who has been employed in the public sector for a while (and this applies especially to women) you notice that they have a strange way of talking. It's not just the words themselves (although it is certainly that), but the way they say them - and as we all know that's the main part of communication anyway.

They tend to have a somewhat humourless monotonous delivery, as though it's a mimicry of what is considered authoritative language. They will not use their hands to express or emote. Their tone will not go up and down, but remain steady. And make your eyes glaze over.

As for the words themselves, naturally political correctness has gutted the range of available vocabulary such that the speakers become almost parodies of themselves. Anything that may offend is off-limits, such that they end up butchering the language itself (which I find extremely offensive).

Then there's the Orwell test for plain English, which they fail. They will say "utilise" instead of "use". They will say in fifty words what could have been said in five.

I also can't help but think that those tired corporate clich├ęs, such as "blue sky thinking", "thinking outside the box", are just that - a sign of corporatism, not of a free market. That is, it's a mimicry again, of how they think a real business would communicate with itself. If it weren't for the fact that the game is rigged and only MBAs, accountants and the credentialised lot can get ahead in these environments, then each business would have it's own character, it's own language, instead of the meaningless, homogeneous drivel you get in most workplaces today.

This struck me just after watching a contestant on some game show. I think it was The Weakest Link, which I generally despise but can't always avoid. And here was this woman, on a gameshow of all places, talking like a robot. She worked in some government department or another, seemed quite pleased with herself for it, and was clearly unable to step outside of that little cubicle she was ushered into long ago.

But we see it everywhere. The problem is, this language is insidiously creeping into everyday talk, such that we only have doubletalk and chavtalk, with little in between. As in 1984, it's the Party or the Proles. You can see this in the City, where the chat veers between the language of the trading floor, fuck this and fuck that, and the automatons of HR and Compliance. You see it on terrestrial TV, which veers between BBC drone and Channel 4 vulgarity - both equally shit. It's Question Time or Jeremy Kyle, choose your sides now.


Tuesday, 23 February 2010

U.S. Economy Grinds To Halt As Nation Realizes Money Just A Symbolic, Mutually Shared Illusion

Continued genius from The Onion:

WASHINGTON—The U.S. economy ceased to function this week after unexpected existential remarks by Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke shocked Americans into realizing that money is, in fact, just a meaningless and intangible social construct.

Calling it "basically no more than five rectangular strips of paper," Fed chairman Ben Bernanke illustrates how much "$200" is actually worth.

What began as a routine report before the Senate Finance Committee Tuesday ended with Bernanke passionately disavowing the entire concept of currency, and negating in an instant the very foundation of the world's largest economy.

"Though raising interest rates is unlikely at the moment, the Fed will of course act appropriately if we…if we…" said Bernanke, who then paused for a moment, looked down at his prepared statement, and shook his head in utter disbelief. "You know what? It doesn't matter. None of this—this so-called 'money'—really matters at all."

"It's just an illusion," a wide-eyed Bernanke added as he removed bills from his wallet and slowly spread them out before him. "Just look at it: Meaningless pieces of paper with numbers printed on them. Worthless."

Monday, 22 February 2010

Gold Man Sacks

If you want to know exactly how Goldman Sachs et al have ripped us off (other than the blatancy of the bailout itself), Matt Taibbi's done an excellent job of telling us.

Let the good times roll

It's worth pointing out that although dark times are ahead, in terms of economics, politics and war, actually it's the correct times, the real times, the good times. As Schiff has pointed out, it's not the decade from hell that's ahead of us. It's the decade of sin behind us, and the decade of re-adjustment ahead. And as Celente points out, there's going to be good times in many ways. There will be an accent on quality, just as in the last depression there was some of the happiest, freest music ever made. And the 70s were pretty funky, too.
We've had a long period of having our creative and productive capacities eroded by the sloth of not needing to, of relying on credit, of listening to corporate-government propaganda on how to live our lives. All that's due for a change, and a corresponding exponential increase in happiness, even if, on paper, we're not as wealthy as we were in the "good times."

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

The golden rule: whoever has the gold, rules

Just responded to a query by Obo:
I don't have any particular reason to disagree with John Redwood when it comes to rigged exchange mechanisms, but I found part of this curious:

History shows that rigged exchange rates do not work. The Gold Standard…bankrupted many businesses and created mass unemployment.The snake in the 1970s failed to keep the pound at a constant value against the Continental currencies. The Exchange Rate Mechanism caused a bad recession, and then collapsed.

Since there is a wing of the LPUK that wants us to go back to a gold-based currency, I wondered if they would comment on this and point out why he might be right or wrong. Or if I'm just misunderstanding what he's saying.

Yeah he probably just means that we were in at the wrong rate, as we were in the ERM.

The only "real" gold standard is the use of gold itself as currency, or private storage and receipts representing it.

Any state-created "gold standard" will be essentially fake, because they have always, without exception, sought to manipulate and debase the currency for their own ends (mostly to finance war, but also to extort for themselves). They may say, for example, that they will bring out a note which is redeemable for a certain amount of gold. And perhaps at first this works - this would nearly be a real gold standard. But it is inevitable as gravity that eventually they will impose restrictions on the exchange of notes into gold, through fees and taxes and increased red tape, forms to fill out, etc. These will pile up until the redeemability is all but gone - and they will then do away with it entirely. And keep the gold. As they have done. Bastards.

Sunday, 14 February 2010


Maths - boring? Or killed by the education system? Maybe this will make it clearer:
All this fussing and primping about which “topics” should be taught in what order, or the use of this notation instead of that notation, or which make and model of calculator to use, for god’s sake— it’s like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic! Mathematics is the music of reason. To do mathematics is to engage in an act of discovery and conjecture, intuition and inspiration; to be in a state of confusion— not because it makes no sense to you, but because you gave it sense and you still don’t understand what your creation is up to; to have a breakthrough idea; to be frustrated as an artist; to be awed and overwhelmed by an almost painful beauty; to be alive, damn it. Remove this from mathematics and you can have all the conferences you like; it won’t matter. Operate all you want, doctors: your patient is already dead.
A mathematician's lament - Paul Lockhart (2002)

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

A nation of racist dwarves

From Christopher Hitchens at Slate:
The whole idea of communism is dead in North Korea, and its most recent "Constitution," "ratified" last April, has dropped all mention of the word. The analogies to Confucianism are glib, and such parallels with it as can be drawn are intended by the regime only for the consumption of outsiders. Myers makes a persuasive case that we should instead regard the Kim Jong-il system as a phenomenon of the very extreme and pathological right. It is based on totalitarian "military first" mobilization, is maintained by slave labor, and instills an ideology of the most unapologetic racism and xenophobia.
Yes - you could also say it's fascism taken to its most extreme, and you may say most successful. After all, it's been extant for a long time now.
Here are the two most shattering facts about North Korea. First, when viewed by satellite photography at night, it is an area of unrelieved darkness. Barely a scintilla of light is visible even in the capital city. (See this famous photograph.) Second, a North Korean is on average six inches shorter than a South Korean. You may care to imagine how much surplus value has been wrung out of such a slave, and for how long, in order to feed and sustain the militarized crime family that completely owns both the country and its people.
Unlike previous racist dictatorships, the North Korean one has actually succeeded in producing a sort of new species. Starving and stunted dwarves, living in the dark, kept in perpetual ignorance and fear, brainwashed into the hatred of others, regimented and coerced and inculcated with a death cult: This horror show is in our future, and is so ghastly that our own darling leaders dare not face it and can only peep through their fingers at what is coming.
Pretty much what I alluded to here. But he's right - it's not socialism, and perhaps never was. It's what we have, and the yanks have - the merger of corporate and political powers, fascism. We can all go this way, in fact the whole world is headed this way. Alarm bells are ringing.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Tuesday, 2 February 2010