Sunday Reading

by zunguzungu

 BART police line up to clear the Civic Center BART station during a protest against the BART Police:

Krystof from No Justice, No Bart speaks to Bart Board (via sui sin far):

This fox is having a very nice time:

Duncan Usher, who snapped the photo, says he saw two kits using the conveyor belt as a makeshift slide. “One ran back to the top of the conveyor belt and then started to walk back down it, stopped and sat down,” Usher is quoted as saying. “After a few seconds it started to slide down the conveyor belt using its front paws to drag it forwards…I have not seen this type of behaviour amongst free living wild animals and I was really surprised and pleased to witness and capture this unusual event.”

A propos of nothing, Louis CK drove across the country a bunch of times with his dog a few years ago, and kept photo-blogs of three of those trips: trip onetrip twotrip three. Their sort of just regular guy-and-his-dog-driving-around kind of photoblogs, but he has an excellent TV show, so now you‘re aware of them.


Most economists claim that money was invented to replace the barter system. David Graeber on what really happened:

The story goes back at least to Adam Smith and in its own way it’s the founding myth of economics. Now, I’m an anthropologist and we anthropologists have long known this is a myth simply because if there were places where everyday transactions took the form of: “I’ll give you twenty chickens for that cow,” we’d have found one or two by now. After all people have been looking since 1776, when the Wealth of Nations first came out. But if you think about it for just a second, it’s hardly surprising that we haven’t found anything.

Think about what they’re saying here – basically: that a bunch of Neolithic farmers in a village somewhere, or Native Americans or whatever, will be engaging in transactions only through the spot trade. So, if your neighbor doesn’t have what you want right now, no big deal. Obviously what would really happen, and this is what anthropologists observe when neighbors do engage in something like exchange with each other, if you want your neighbor’s cow, you’d say, “wow, nice cow” and he’d say “you like it? Take it!” – and now you owe him one. Quite often people don’t even engage in exchange at all – if they were real Iroquois or other Native Americans, for example, all such things would probably be allocated by women’s councils.

So the real question is not how does barter generate some sort of medium of exchange, that then becomes money, but rather, how does that broad sense of ‘I owe you one’ turn into a precise system of measurement – that is: money as a unit of account?

By the time the curtain goes up on the historical record in ancient Mesopotamia, around 3200 BC, it’s already happened. There’s an elaborate system of money of account and complex credit systems. (Money as medium of exchange or as a standardized circulating units of gold, silver, bronze or whatever, only comes much later.)

So really, rather than the standard story – first there’s barter, then money, then finally credit comes out of that – if anything its precisely the other way around. Credit and debt comes first, then coinage emerges thousands of years later and then, when you do find “I’ll give you twenty chickens for that cow” type of barter systems, it’s usually when there used to be cash markets, but for some reason – as in Russia, for example, in 1998 – the currency collapses or disappears.

Chile’s Commander Camila, the student who can shut down a city

Camila Vallejo:

Adam Roberts has a theory about the Smurfs movie:

Some of the we-might-as-well-call-it comedy here is of the pratfalling, mistaking-a-portaloo-for-an-alchemical-laboratory, pissing-in-a-wine-cooler sort. But one running gag … one corpulent 52-year-old man jogging gag … is the replacement of random words with neologisms formed formed by adding prefixes and suffixes to the word ‘smurf’. ‘Smurftastic’, and so on. Now, some of these clearly stand in for the word ‘fuck’. You may have seen the trailer, in which Smurfella, of Smurfette, or Smarymagdelene or whatever the female Smurf is called (voiced by Katie Perry) announces ‘you picked the wrong girl to Smurf with.’ This, unambiguously, is one of those situations where a like-sounding euphemism, like ‘freak’ or ‘feck’, stands-in for the word we all know is actually being invoked. Once I twigged this, I understood. This movie is actually called ‘The Fucks’; and all the dialogue has been lifted from Scarface (‘Where the Smurf are we?’)  I trust there will be a version on the Director’s Cut DVD in which every ‘smurf’ is replaced with the word ‘fuck’.  I’d prefer that.

Clarence Thomas: an emerging intellectual leader of the Supreme Court.

Thomas is probably the most conservative Justice to serve on the Court since the nineteen-thirties. More than virtually any of his colleagues, he has a fully wrought judicial philosophy that, if realized, would transform much of American government and society. Thomas’s views both reflect and inspire the Tea Party movement, which his wife has helped lead almost since its inception.

Mae M. Ngai argues for a deportation deadline:

We used to have one policy that is worth revisiting: a time limit — a statute of limitations — on prosecuting unauthorized presence. Before 1891 there were no provisions in our immigration laws to deport an immigrant who entered without permission. (Indeed, hardly any requirements for admission existed.) Thereafter, Congress enacted statutes of limitations of one to five years for deportable offenses. This policy recognized an important reality about illegal immigrants: They settle, raise families and acquire property — in other words, they become part of the nation’s economic and social fabric. In the first decades of the 20th century, it was considered unconscionable to expel such people. Judge Learned Hand of New York said that deportation, especially when it tore people from their homes and families, was “barbarous and cruel.”

After World War I a conservative Congress imposed both quantitative (numerical ceilings) and qualitative (national origin and racial) restrictions on immigration, ending the storied era of open immigration from Europe. And in a fit of hyper-nationalist vengeance it also eliminated the statute of limitations on unlawful entry. We have long since repudiated the national origins quota system as a racist policy. But we have remained committed to numerical restrictions and to expelling undocumented immigrants, regardless of their length of stay, the contributions they make and the social ties that they establish. The few reforms that were made over the years, which allowed for suspending deportation in hardship cases or according to a balance of equities, were virtually eliminated by Congress in 1996.

My most re-tweeted tweet ever:

“The way we compulsively track and follow individual storms on TV is a perfect mirror image of our vast societal myopia on global warming.”

Justice at Hersheys.


this chocolate-ain’t-sweet angle will grow stale in days, they’ll be out of the headlines long before the State Department deports them and slaps the wrist of the contractor who provided them.

Then we can all go back to pretending that this isn’t the norm for millions of “guest workers” and college students in the U.S. Don’t get me wrong: the Hershey’s arrangement stinks to high heaven, but it’s not the glaring exception to the way the U.S. treats its 50 million working poorof any description, guest workers and college students alike; it’s pretty much the rule.

Nor for that matter is it the biggest scandal in chocolate production. Far from it: Hershey’s andother major manufacturers are routinely complicit in sourcing cocoa from plantations that employ very young children, including victims of human trafficking. In fact, Hershey is currentlythe particular target of the International Labor Rights Forum campaign for fair trade in cocoa.

How “normal” is the Hershey deal? It seems to fall within the pretty shabby standard range for international students on J-1 visas (just one of the many visas through which the U.S. provides cheap guest workers to American employers). There are many global labor contractors vying to supply guest workers to U.S. employers on the various visas. In almost all cases, the often enormous fees paid to the contractor are borne entirely by the worker, not the employer—meaning they “pay to work” in violation of U.S. labor law (but that’s like pointing out that fighting is explicitly forbidden by the National Hockey League).

via BEG

Brad DeLong on the Obama administration‘s convergence on hippie punching:

It is difficult to read this in any way but as a group of people inside a bunker who (1) have been wrong about the situation, (2) are scared to use the powers they have to try to make things better, and (3) really do not like being reminded that they were wrong about the situation.

That seems to me to mean that the Obama administration right now has one and only one macroeconomic policy idea: hope that the country gets lucky.

Libya and the left:

It’s worth bearing in mind that what is criminal about US foreign policy is our responsibility, primarily. Libya is an example where a popular rebellion seeking to remove a dictator solicited international assistance to down the dictator’s air force and other heavy military infrastructure. In the current geopolitical context, “international assistance” effectively means NATO, and NATO means the US. US interests are not Libyan interests. But none of this is the Libyans’ fault, anymore than it was necessarily their fault that they needed assistance in the first place.

It’s remarkable to me that portions of the US left get this backwards — that because the rebellion required assistance, the rebels are compromised for having received the only available kind. Why weren’t other kinds available? Why does the only kind available look so grim? We might look at ourselves — at our relationship with our own government — and not the people facing the tanks.

From “‘The Joy Of Sex’: The Original Hairy, Musky Edition

Context-Free Excerpts That Demonstrate What Is Wrong With The Joy of Sex

  • “All of us who are not disabled or dumb are able to dance and sing — after a fashion.”
  • “A woman who can make love with love and variety needn’t fear commercial competition.”
  • “Don’t get yourself raped — i.e. don’t deliberately excite a man you don’t know well, unless you mean to follow through.”
  • “In women the mouth of the urethra is nearly as sensitive as the clitoris, but it is a bad idea to put tapers or hairpins into it by way of masturbation — doctors often have to remove these from the bladder.”
  • “Vibrators are no substitute for a penis.”
  • “Serbian intercourse is mock rape — you throw her down, seize one ankle in each hand and raise them over her head, then enter her with your full weight (do this on something soft — the traditional bare earth is beyond a game).”
  • “The domestication of this experience, which veterans will recognize as the Japanese-massage-special-treatment routine, may be the one good thing America gets out of the Vietnam war — the only bar to making it at home, like sukiyaki, is if you’re a big girl.”

Context-Free Excerpts That Demonstrate What Is Righteous About The Joy of Sex

  • “Odd that the main moral woe-criers on abortion are also the people who have done most to block proper birth control and starve research and education about it of funds.”
  • “The marketers of intimate deodorants and flavored vaginal douches show evidence only of sexual inexperience — nobody wants peach sauce on, say, scampi.”
  • “On no account fool around with home-built electronics or the line supply.”
  • “People who communicate sexually have to find their own fidelities. All we can suggest is that you discuss them and at least know where each of you stands.” (Awww.)

A propos of nothing in particular, don’t mess with a state security committee with a crest like this:

The Hollywood Guide to speaking Chinese:

via Ninjasquared.

In Japan, by the way, people can fly (via):

Also Wyoming:

Once more about the London Riots:

It is now almost two weeks since the English riots ended, and the state has been reasserting itself with a vigor that is disconcerting. As the courts openly distribute punitive sentences, the county’s prison population has reached record levels. There is much discussion of throwing families out of their houses if they have a connection to suspected rioters, of deterrent sentences like six months in prison for stealing bottled water, of tougher schools and zero tolerance. New prisons must be built, new powers given to a police force that has already been empowered by a decade of new laws on terrorism, stop-and-search, and “managing” protests. It is difficult to see from abroad just how much hatred for the Metropolitan Police exists in parts of London. There is little mention of it in the press, but then the disconnect between press and public opinion, especially among the poor, is most pronounced during periods of unrest. This week saw yet another death of a police suspect, as a 25-year-old man was arrested using pepper spray. He died less than two hours after his arrest.

The frenzy of the courts after the riots has revealed, somewhat unwittingly, the paltriness of so many of the acts that made up these riots. Two young men, aged 20 and 22, had set up Facebook pages encouraging riots that did not happen. They were each jailed for four years. An 18-year-old got two-and-a-half years for taking three shoes, which were not in pairs, and would have been impossible to either wear or sell. Another is due to be jailed this week for stealing two scoops of ice cream, which he gave to someone else because he didn’t like the flavor. Another was jailed for sixteen months for stealing a box of Krispy Kreme doughnuts after leaving an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. (“He was hungry,” explains the news article, “having spent all his money on tobacco.”) Another got twenty four months for stealing skin moisturizer. It’s difficult to keep up with the sentences which are cascading through the justice system, many of them only reported in local newspapers, but two of Britain’s most significant legal figures—Lord MacDonald and Lord Carlile—have said that we are seeing a “collective loss of proportion” as courts pass jail terms that lack “humanity or justice.”

a brief history of rioting“: