Sunday, December 7, 2008

A Gentle Reminder to my Gentle Readers: Caveat Lector

Some of these entries, like the one that immediately follows this one, are notes to myself and will most likely not make any sense to anyone but me.  Yes, I'm probably disturbed, but not in the ways you might think from reading anything here. 

Caveat lector, etc.

Creative XPlosion 1

Notes to myself about writing projects. Move along, nothing to see here, move along...

"Something small falls out of your mouth, and we laugh..." -- The Cure, "One Hundred Years", Pornography

larger project: Skunked

Descente aux enfers, Une saison en enfer, The Fall with no redeption; ambiguous, indeterminate ending.

cf. De Quincey, Confessions of an English Opium Eater

Delacroix, Dante et Virgile aux Enfers:

one chapter: mock heroic: all night out in Vancouver with MS and Mark-with-a-K (MWAK or Mwak): from bar to after-hours to bathhouse (F212) to ... ? , finally back to D & J's as daylight breaks on cold, overcast morning. Skunk waddling down the sidewalk in front of building.

soundtrack: 1997-2004: (West Coast) Phil B, Neil Lewis, Bryan Pfeiffer, Mike Duretto, Joe King; (UK) Ministry of Sound: Judge Jules Classics, Boy George, The Annual II , III and Millenium, Annual Ibiza (Judge Jules & Boy George) , Galaxy Weekend (Boy George); (New York): Junior Vasquez, Peter Rauhofer, ... ?

Get quotes from old website.

Larger music projects on Pet Shop Boys, Talking Heads, Eno/Byrne, Roxy Music, Bowie, Psychedelic Furs, the Ministry of Sound label (start with the first line of the first song on the first disc of the first Ministry of Sound The Annual compilation: "GIT outahere with that little ... DICK!" from "(Don't Want No) Short Dick Man") "And we're off to a delightful start..."

Art/architecture projects: Pre-Raphaelites (Heliogabalus -- sp? suffocating under crush of rose petals), Bernini (Ecstasy of St. Teresa), Ulysses and the Sirens (Roxy Music, Siren)

the ecstasy of excess; the excess of ecstasy

Callas, "Mon Coeur s'ouvre à ta voix", "Pleurez, mes yeux"

Radeau de la Méduse

drugs, insanity, isolation:

Lady of Shallot (Waterhouse)

Millais, Ophelia

Joy Division, "Isolation", "She's Lost Control"

Proust, Bergotte's heart attack in front of Vermeer's View of Delft:

The irony of the deathbed revelation ("Proust, who would have known...")

Père Lachaise, tombs of Wilde, Proust; Callas in Colombarium; momento mori.

"Stories for Boys": U2, Winslow Homer, David Hockney, Flandrin:

Titles and works I like:

New York Dolls,"Personality Crisis", One Day It Will Please Us to Remember Even This
Legs Diamond, Please Kill Me
X, "You're Phone's Off the Hook, but You're Not"

So I wrote in my blog about starting this blog...

"Wow, that's so meta," one of my students remarked, à propos of something else entirely.

Well, lemme tellya what this isn't, sez I....

What am I doing writing a blog, fer chrissakes. As if I shouldn't be working on a hundred other things instead. Once I told my students, "If you're keeping a blog, that means I'm not giving you enough homework." Yes, as usual, all about me. Hmmm.

And you, Dear Reader? What's in this for you?

Let's assume that I'll never be writing this without a sense of guilt for all the work I should be doing instead. Let's further assume that I'll always be seeking your approval all the while protesting that I'm really just doing this for myself.

Or maybe I'm just trying to have a record for later. For the day when I'll read these words and no longer remember writing them. Could come sooner than we all think. Twice now in two weeks I've walked out of the bathroom leaving the faucet running. Not a good sign.

Okay, what this isn't: everything. Contrary to most of what's out here, I tend not to discuss my private life in public. Let's further assume that your higher-order inferencing skills will be up to discerning my foibles, predilections, distractions, affinities, etc. Perhaps you share them, too. Mmm, could be fun. Maybe. Maybe not.

I follow a lot of economics blogs. If you don't like economics, remember: this isn't for you.

I gave up on the mainstream media during the Nixon administration. If you want to know what's really going on, you've got to do some digging. Thanks to the miracle of teh Intertubes, the digging's just gotten a lot easier.

In the same way I fear that I'm losing my mind at a speed I do not realize, I also suspect that the U.S. is headed for ruin, or at least we're well advanced in the Decline and Fall phase of our national history. Never have so many been so disgusted.... So this may or may not be an interesting record of one man's decline and fall as he enters his second half-century.

"There's a lot going on in there..." my sainted therapist remarked to me recently. No shit, Sherlock. Which I just learned is translated in French as "Pour sûr, Arthur!" As always, it sounds better in French.

Yes, there's a lot going on in here. Maybe this will help me sort of that stuff out. Help me defuse that occasional thunderbolt I'm about to hurl at those within my reach (and those outside my reach as well).

Enough for now. I've already said too much.

In Memoriam: John Lennon 9 October 1940 – 8 December 1980

image © Yoko Ono

Walking on thin ice,
I’m paying the price
For throwing the dice in the air.
Why must we learn it the hard way
And play the game of life with your heart?

I gave you my knife,
You gave me my life
Like a gush of wind in my hair.
Why do we forget what’s been said
And play the game of life with our hearts?

I may cry some day,
But the tears will dry whichever way.
And when our hearts return to ashes,
It’ll be just a story,
It’ll be just a story.

Music and lyrics © John Lennon and Yoko Ono

I love L.A.

Especially at night. From the air.

credit: Astronomy Picture of the Day:

"Big Deal: The [U.S.] Government's Response to the Financial Crisis"

Working paper by
Steven M. Davidoff
University of Connecticut School of Law; Ohio State University - Michael E. Moritz College of Law
David T. Zaring
University of Pennsylvania - Legal Studies Department


How should we understand the federal government's response to the financial crisis? The government's team, largely staffed by investment bankers, pushed the limits of its statutory authority to authorize an ad hoc series of deals designed to mitigate that crisis. It then decided to seek comprehensive legislation that, as it turned out, paved the way for more deals. The result has not been particularly coherent, but it has married transactional practice to administrative law. In fact, we think that regulation by deal provides an organizing principle, albeit a loose one, to the government's response to the financial crisis. Dealmakers use contract to avoid some legal constraints, and often prefer to focus on arms-length negotiation, rather than regulatory authorization, as the source of legitimacy for their actions, though the law does provide a structure to their deals. They also do not always take the long view or place value on consistency, instead preferring to complete the latest deal at hand and move to the next transaction. In this paper, we offer a first look at the history of the financial crisis from the fall of Bear Stearns up to, and including, the initial implementation of the Economic Emergency Stability Act of 2008. We analyze in depth each deal the government concluded, and how it justified those deals within the constraints of the law, using its authority to sometimes stretch but never truly break that law. We consider what the government's response so far means for transactional and administrative law scholarship, as well as some of the broader implications of crisis governance by deal.

Download here:

The Deluder in Chief (New York Times, Dec. 7, 2008)

The Deluder in Chief

Published: December 7, 2008

We long ago gave up hope that President Bush would acknowledge his many mistakes, or show he had learned anything from them. Even then we were unprepared for the epic denial that Mr. Bush displayed in his interview with ABC News’s Charles Gibson the other day, which he presumably considered an important valedictory chat with the American public as well.

It was bad enough when Mr. Bush piously declared that he hopes Americans believe he is a guy who “didn’t sell his soul for politics.” (We suppose we should not bother remembering how his team drove Senator John McCain out of the 2000 primaries with racist attacks or falsified Senator John Kerry’s war record in 2004.)

It was skin crawling to hear him tell Mr. Gibson that the thing he will really miss when he leaves office is no longer going to see the families of slain soldiers, because they make him feel better about the war. But Mr. Bush’s comments about his decision to invade Iraq were a “mistakes were made” rewriting of history and a refusal to accept responsibility to rival that of Richard Nixon.

At one point, Mr. Bush was asked if he wanted any do-overs. “The biggest regret of the presidency has to have been the intelligence failure in Iraq,” he said. “A lot of people put their reputations on the line and said the weapons of mass destruction” were cause for war.

After everything the American public and the world have learned about how Mr. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney manipulated Congress, public opinion and anyone else they could bully or lie to, Mr. Bush is still acting as though he decided to invade Iraq after suddenly being handed life and death information on Saddam Hussein’s arsenal.

The truth is that Mr. Bush, Mr. Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had been chafing to attack Iraq before Sept. 11, 2001. They justified that unnecessary war using intelligence reports that they knew or should have known to be faulty. And it was pressure from the White House and a highly politicized Pentagon that compelled people like Secretary of State Colin Powell and George Tenet, the Central Intelligence director, to ignore the counter-evidence and squander their good names on hyped claims of weapons of mass destruction.

Despite it all, Mr. Bush said he will “leave the presidency with my head held high.” And, presumably, with his eyes closed to all the disasters he is dumping on the American people and his successor.

France abuzz over alcoholic 'cure'

By Hugh Schofield

An eminent French cardiologist has triggered an impassioned debate in the medical world over his claim to have discovered a cure for alcoholism.

Dr Olivier Ameisen, 55, one of France's top heart specialists, says he overcame his own addiction to alcohol by self-administering doses of a muscle-relaxant called baclofen.
He has now written a book about his experience - Le Dernier Verre (The Last Glass) - in which he calls for clinical trials to test his theory that baclofen suppresses the craving for drink.
Widespread media coverage of his book in France has led to a rush of demands from alcoholics for similar treatment, and some doctors have reported unexpected successes after prescribing it.
But many other specialists are sceptical, warning of the dangers of so-called miracle cures.
'Needed alcohol'
Dr Ameisen was associate professor of cardiology at New York's Cornell University, and in 1994 he opened a profitable private practice in Manhattan.
But, stricken by an overwhelming feeling of inadequacy - he says he felt like "an impostor waiting to be unmasked" - he found relief in large quantities of whisky and gin.
Encouraging people to think that there is a miracle molecule is to completely misunderstand the nature of alcoholism
Dr Michel Reynaud
"I detested the taste of alcohol. But I needed its effects to exist in society," he says in Le Dernier Verre, which comes out in English next month.
Dr Ameisen says he tried every known remedy to end his dependence. Between 1997 and 1999 he spent a total of nine months confined in clinics - but nothing worked.
Fearing for his own patients, he gave up his practice and returned to Paris. Then, in 2000, he read an article about an American man who was treated with baclofen for muscle spasms and found that it eased his addiction to cocaine.
Further investigation uncovered research showing that the drug worked on rats to cut addiction to alcohol or cocaine.
Glass of whisky
Some experts say curing alcoholism takes more than just a drug
But, strangely, Dr Ameisen found that baclofen was unknown to specialists on dependence.
In March 2002 he began treating himself with daily doses of five milligrams.
"The first effects were a magical muscular relaxation and baby-like sleep," he says. Almost immediately he also detected a lessening in his desire for drink.
Gradually, he increased the daily dosage to a maximum of 270mg, and found that he was "cured". Today he continues to take 30 to 50mg a day.
"Mine is the first case in which a course of medicine has completely suppressed alcohol addiction," he says.
"Now I can have a glass and it has no effect. Above all, I no longer have that irrepressible need to drink."
Not licensed
With its eye-catching message, Le Dernier Verre has been an autumn best-seller - prompting thousands of recovering alcoholics to ask to be prescribed with baclofen.
I have never had reactions like this before. We cannot ignore findings such as this
Dr Pascal Garche
Some doctors have decided to ignore the fact that the drug is not authorised for treating alcoholism, and report exciting results.
"I prescribed it to two alcoholics who were really at the end of the road. To be honest, it was pretty miraculous," says Dr Renaud de Beaurepaire of the Paul-Guiraud hospital at Villejuif near Paris.
In Geneva, Dr Pascal Garche put 12 patients on baclofen, of whom seven came through reporting marked improvements.
"I have never had reactions like this before. We cannot ignore findings such as this - the book is going to set the cat among the pigeons," he said.
However, many specialists fear that media excitement over Dr Ameisen's theory is obscuring the complex nature of alcoholism.
"Encouraging people to think that there is a miracle molecule is to completely misunderstand the nature of alcoholism, and is extremely irresponsible, " says Dr Michel Reynaud of Paul-Brousse hospital in Paris.
"We need comprehensive tests to determine how this drug acts, if it is effective and at what dosage, and if it is genuinely harmless in the longer term, " says Alain Rigaud, president of the National Association for the Prevention of Alcoholism and Addiction.
"But even if it turns out to work, that does not mean a drug alone is the solution."

BBC News: Europe