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A poverty of smartness

Post #1305 • March 2, 2009, 11:46 AM • 139 Comments

Another CAA conference came and went this past weekend. While this usually affords me the opportunity to call the organization out on its myriad failings, I had actually planned to leave them alone this year. I have continued to receive mass e-mails from the CAA despite my letting my membership lapse in 2007. One of them solicited my feedback as a lapsed member and asked what might make me consider re-joining. It serves their selfish interests to do so, but even that level of responsiveness represented an increase. Later, they indicated that they were finally going to make some basic concessions to human comfort for the poor saps venturing into the conference in search of a job. The candidate center was to offer free Wi-Fi and some comfortable places to sit. Again, this sounds basic, but for the CAA it's unprecedented.

I didn't attend. I went in 2007, for the second time in ten years, and couldn't muster the will to subject myself to the malignant neglect that characterizes the CAA conference's career services. So they've recently improved them a wee bit? I'll buy in when the improvements go from 1.0 to 1.1. (In the interest of disclosure, a conversation I had at the 2007 conference resulted in my teaching job in California for the 2007-2008 academic year, although not the one for which they were soliciting applications at the time. I don't want to discuss the details out of courtesy to my former employer, but in retrospect, that informal conversation didn't establish circumstances at the college that would have contributed to the longevity of my position. I don't blame the CAA for this, but I repeat my earlier assertion that trolling the CAA for job opportunities is likely to turn out badly. Let the colleges establish a formal hiring effort and arrange an interview with you in advance of the conference if they want to speak with you. There are good reasons for the formalities.)

However, I did check in on the conference blog. Academic postmodernists tend to be a little humor-challenged, but oy gevalt.

Mary Kelly has been abducted by a rebel faction of Greenbergian formalists, and is currently MIA. An unmarked black sedan intercepted her while on her way to her office at UCLA, just after being dropped off by her husband early this morning, witnesses say. "Yes, I'm sure it was her... I saw the hair" one student said, still in shock after hearing that her Lacan seminar had been cancelled for the day. Previous reports suspected that conference proceedings may be interrupted by such traditionalists, but authorities had expected the disruption to occur at the Convention Center. The incident at the Broad Center has artists and art historians alike in a tizzy.

There's a time and a place, for Pete's sake. Micol Hebron, author of the above passage, teaches the genre of New Genres at Chapman University, works in video and installation, and is comfortably ensconced in the L.A. art scene as well as academia. I didn't save my reply to the survey mentioned above, but I responded in part by saying that I have always viewed the CAA as ideologically opposed to non-postmodernist approaches. This manifests explicitly in its publications, The Art Bulletin and Art Journal. When sentiments like the above appear on the official conference blog, it sends a message to everyone who doesn't conform to their aesthetic preferences. Imagine an abstract painter going through the trouble to attend CAA in search of teaching work, a decision that benefits the CAA monetarily, and reading the above joke at his expense on the conference blog. Thank you, Professor Hebron on behalf of the CAA, we get the message that we're not welcome.

As is typical of persons who claim to value diversity and dialogue, the CAA realized that they had made an avenue for dissent available and quickly moved to crush it.

There may be numerous ways to employ technology to make our time together more valuable and to extend the session conversations beyond the sessions themselves. The conversation about how best to this might have taken place here on this blog, unfortunately at some point (and we just found this out), the comment function was intentionally disabled. This means that the format of this blog mirrors the principle format of the sessions themselves – something rather one-way, when it seems to us the point of us being is together is rather different.

Perhaps someone took exception to the blog's various infelicities of styling. (Did you mean "embarassment of riches," dear?) I guess we'll never know. However, I have a friend who attended the conference and IMed me to say that it caps-locked SUCKED. I'll call him for details. In the meantime, I think we're being invited to interrupt next year's conference procedings in Chicago. Any suggestions?'s previous remarks on the CAA here and here. Here's a direct link to the 2006 CAA blog parody. Since CAA's battalion of anonymous apologists tends to show up here en masse when I go out of my way to criticize them, let me say in advance that the CAA's unwillingness to discuss its problems openly, honestly, and using real names proves that if anything, I'm probably going too easy on them.



Chris Rywalt

March 2, 2009, 12:23 PM

"Caps-locked SUCKED". I love it. I plan to use that out loud as soon as possible.



March 2, 2009, 12:40 PM

Lay off Hebron, Franklin. He be cool. Or at least he thinks he is, which is no doubt good enough for him. These people are really sad, all the more so because they're convinced they're the shit.


Chris Rywalt

March 2, 2009, 1:03 PM

Re-reading the "Greenbergian formalists" bit, though, I think you're being a bit harsh and humor-challenged yourself, there, Franklin. It may not be the most inspired riff, but it shows that Micol at least realizes the CAA is biased, and is willing to poke fun about it. I can see how, from the angle of a persecuted minority, it might seem to be insensitive, but come on -- Greenbergian formalists aren't exactly descended from slaves or anything. Lighten up.



March 2, 2009, 1:08 PM

Hebron is a she, BTW.



March 2, 2009, 1:12 PM

Obviously the main crime here is failing to be funny. But that's an extraordinarily generous reading of her comment, Chris.


Chris Rywalt

March 2, 2009, 1:19 PM

I don't think so. She's saying, ha ha, formalists think we don't like them, they're anti-Lacan -- imagine a world where they've organized into an anti-po-mo terrorist organization!

Sure, not the funniest thing I've seen recently (which would be Liz and Kenneth getting off the Zorgonian Avenue stop on the X line in the most recent 30 Rock) but it at least shows some self-knowledge and a desire to be amusing.

Read a little more Mark Cameron Boyd and then come back and that'll look like Dave Barry, I guarantee it. Recent quote from him: "Comprehension of much contemporary art is distinctly fragile because of the hermeneutics of critique and it becomes particularly difficult when essayists overlook previous critical views." I dare you to laugh!



March 2, 2009, 1:28 PM

As somebody said on this blog a long time ago, I'm going to paste that into a Word document so I can have the pleasure of deleting it.


Chris Rywalt

March 2, 2009, 1:33 PM

I laughed out loud, yes I did.

You're right, Modernists do have the best sense of humor.



March 2, 2009, 1:38 PM

Chris, let's compromise: Hebron's "riff" is not offensive; it's merely lame.

And by the way, Franklin, is Micol an actual Jewish female name, or the new, trendier LA version of Nicole?



March 2, 2009, 1:41 PM

The former.


Chris Rywalt

March 2, 2009, 1:51 PM

My sister knew a Micole when she was younger. Maybe 25 years ago. Back then it was a new urban African-American version of Nicole.



March 2, 2009, 1:53 PM

Well, Franklin, thank goodness for small favors.



March 2, 2009, 4:24 PM

There were not as many positions in the studio arts this year. Enrollment is down big time. It appears most parents aren't buying into the MFA = MBA argument and putting their foot down. The expansions of art departments over the last decade has reversed itself and I would expect most will be required to trim 20% from their budgets at a minimum.



March 2, 2009, 5:11 PM

Shirley, I heard that enrollment at state schools has risen. Did you notice an uptick there, at least?



March 2, 2009, 5:42 PM

Franklin, Not in the regular art departments, at least from what I heard.


Chris Rywalt

March 2, 2009, 6:12 PM

Dawn's school seems to be doing very well, but then they don't have an art department.



March 2, 2009, 6:45 PM

Our department is going to look at about 7% cut. We can manage it, but I m sure it will not get better, not with what is coming out of Washington right now.

I think College Art is nothing more or less than another willing participant in the total lunacy that is infecting much of the country right now, like a flu virus.

Tha Madness of Crowds.



March 2, 2009, 6:48 PM

Speaking of lame attempts at humor, this whole making fun of people with unusual names things is fairly juvenile.


Chris Rywalt

March 2, 2009, 7:07 PM

Were we making fun of people's names?



March 2, 2009, 7:22 PM

Jack was.


Chris Rywalt

March 2, 2009, 8:13 PM

I thought he was just clearing up his ignorance in a mildly humorous manner.



March 2, 2009, 9:25 PM

Take something mildly humorous (this is a bit generous), repeat it, watch it become inane.



March 2, 2009, 9:27 PM

opie said (#17): "The Madness of Crowds," an idea that is often associated with stock market participants.

Robert Prechter and Wayne Parker recently wrote "When certainty about personal valuation applies, people maximize utility and markets seek equilibrium. When uncertainty about others' valuations applies, people herd and markets are dynamic."

What this means is that products that have easily understood usefulness, such as gasoline, will vary in price but not that much, because all the users have a personal understanding of how they are useful and most others share that understanding. On the other hand, stocks are not intrinsically useful, so their value largely depends upon what others are willing to pay, about which we can never be certain because there is no easily defined basis for "using" them.

Prechter and Parker went on to state that in the first case - useful products - when the price rises demand falls until there is equilibrium between price and demand, a process that limits price movements. But in the case of stocks, which depend upon the opinion of others for their value, if the price rises, demand rises. And if the price falls, demand falls. Because there is no strong force to create balance between price and demand, the volatility of price fluctuation is great, as many as 15 sigmas.

It seems like art, which is even more useless than stock certificates, falls into the second category. As the price goes up, more and more people want it, which drives the price even higher, and a virtuous cycle is created (virtuous for those making and selling the art, anyway). The objective value of the work, which I maintain is "there", nonetheless is not measurable or otherwise demonstrable, hence the value appears to be set by "others" over which the participants have no control. Except, perhaps, to seek the safety of the herd and go with its evaluation.

Prechter and Parker go on to observe that markets of the second type are "self-reversing". Because there is no mechanism for maintaining a balance between price and demand, price goes to vehement extremes. Then, like a school of fish in which each member simultaneously changes direction so that the leader becomes the follower and vice versa, the same stocks everyone wanted in October of 07 no one will touch today.

I think this last observation applies to the art world too. The artists Jack loves to hate but that are loved and loved by the art world in an almost ephemeral upward spiral of higher and higher prices will, suddenly, without much warning, someday reverse, never to return. But it will not be in the form of an immediate crash. Crashes are very rare, and occur only when a market is already deeply oversold, as was the stock market last October. Instead, the prices (and attention paid to these objects) will slowly evaporate, like a piece of dry ice.

When I think this over carefully, it is not the "madness of crowds" that causes this behavior. Rather it is the logical result of letting others determine what things are worth. That applies to both the stock market and the art market.



March 2, 2009, 9:44 PM

Arthur, your discomfiture is unfortunate (for you, at any rate), but if you want an apology, I'm afraid you're out of luck. As it happens, I'd never encountered the name Micol before, and it sounds like Nicole, and the woman is in LA (I only surmised it might be a Jewish name from the surname, Hebron). Even more ridiculous practices than "creative" or "hip-cool" names are only too common in that environment. However, I wouldn't want to bore you further with an explanation, especially when you don't deserve one. If you want better comedy, try Seinfeld reruns.


Chris Rywalt

March 2, 2009, 10:09 PM

John, just to nitpick for when you publish this comment in your collection of essays: dry ice doesn't evaporate, it sublimates. I wouldn't mention it except I think the word evokes a better metaphor in this case, because art isn't liquid.

Otherwise, sounds like you've got a good handle on things.


Chris Rywalt

March 2, 2009, 10:10 PM

Damn, Jack, you never miss a chance to tell someone to fuck off, do you?

I'm not saying that's a bad thing, by the way.



March 2, 2009, 10:33 PM

Why, Kriis, whatever do you mean? I'm only availing myself of an opportunity, however puny, to improve my writing skills. Surely you have nothing against self-improvement, now do you? I mean, a teacher's husband should know better.

Of course, I must confess a wee bit aversion to someone I don't know from Bernie Madoff's accountant, and to whom I don't owe a damn thing, humor-wise or otherwise, taking me to task for not being a professional comedian.

I'm just funny that way.



March 2, 2009, 10:34 PM

" is not the "madness of crowds" that causes this behavior. Rather it is the logical result of letting others determine what things are worth"

Which is the madness of crowds.

Thanks, John. Good info.

Chris, "sublimate", as a term in chemistry, means to go from solid to gas without becoming a liquid, like Iodine does. But "evaporate" does not entail becoming a liquid before becoming a vapor. So both are correct.



March 2, 2009, 10:42 PM


No, I don't need an apology or expect one -- just wanted to express my mild irritation regarding your boorishness. Please, by all means, continue to act like you're above it all. (But maybe stop acting like this a one off deal.)



March 2, 2009, 11:08 PM

Arthur, wait, you're calling me boorish? Me, who would never have come after you for being less than hilarious or much, much less than witty, the way you came after me without my even knowing you existed? Is this even about me or my supposedly offending comment, or rather more plausibly about your defensiveness regarding anti-status quo talk? Not that it really matters either way, but please, look in the mirror sometime. Or do you know this Micol person? Sheesh.



March 3, 2009, 7:09 AM

I make no claims as a satirist; therefor my lack of humor or wit are beside the point.



March 3, 2009, 7:10 AM




March 3, 2009, 7:11 AM

And with that, let's move on, shall we?



March 3, 2009, 7:13 AM

Fine, fine.


Chris Rywalt

March 3, 2009, 7:44 AM

Opie, what subject do you teach again? Evaporation is the phase change from liquid to gas. By definition. Sublimation is the change from solid to gas without becoming liquid in between. Again, by definition.

Can you take freshman chemistry for free? Maybe you should go back for a refresher.



March 3, 2009, 9:37 AM

An irrelevant aside, but Micol (or Micòl) is the name of one of the main characters in Giorgio Bassani's The Garden of the Finzi-Continis, the lovely prologue to which can be found here. What a fine novel.



March 3, 2009, 10:08 AM

So Arthur, are you somehow connected to CAA? And why does your url link go nowhere? If you have a website, I'm sure everyone would be interested in checking it out.



March 3, 2009, 10:08 AM

Chris: I teach painting, art history and writing. I also have a specialized seminar for verbally challenged students called "look it up", which explains the steps needed to find a word in a dictionary.

One of the texts is the OED:

evaporate, v.
1. trans. To convert or turn into vapour; to convert from a solid or liquid into a gaseous state; to drive off in the form of vapour. Said both of natural and personal agents. to evaporate in or into: to change by evaporation into.

The purpose of my comment was, of course, not to go into the fine points of the differences between specialized definitions of "evaporate" and "sublimate" but to indicate that Franklin's usage was not incorrect.

Tread lightly when you challenge the OP on verbal matters.



March 3, 2009, 10:12 AM

Arthur Whitman is an art critic and blogger in Ithaca. Again, can we be done with this, please?



March 3, 2009, 10:31 AM

Yes, Franklin, I suppose you're right, though your #33 already aborted a rather nasty (and eminently deserved) response to #31. Remember who started this admittedly tiresome bickering and who is the boorish interloper.

Moving on to something far more worthwhile, here's my discovery of the day (go here):

Be sure to click first on the color image at upper right for an enlargement.



March 3, 2009, 10:44 AM

That's a discovery Jack. The fabric on outfit Christophe Gabriel Allegrain is wearing in the portrait is beautifully rendered - reminds me of Velasquez.

Another reminder of how much there is out there that beats the hell out of 99% of anything in our galleries and museums.



March 3, 2009, 11:13 AM

Yes, OP, I was also struck by how beautifully the fabric is rendered, but the portrait as a whole is remarkably fine. Duplessis was very well regarded in his time, enough to be commissioned to paint an official state portrait of Louis XVI, but now he's rather obscure--along with, as you note, a great many artists that beat the hell out of 99% of what's out there today.



March 3, 2009, 11:31 AM

More Duplessis:

A portrait of Gluck, the opera composer:

The Benjamin Franklin portrait at the Met:

A self-portrait (poorly preserved) in his old age:



March 3, 2009, 12:13 PM

Tread lightly when you challenge the OP on verbal matters.

And yes Chris, you never want to "play" Scrabble with opie, especially if you are betting on yourself.



March 3, 2009, 1:33 PM

Actually, OP, the handling of the fabric is more like Ingres, though Duplessis was from an earlier generation. Ingres, however, who was born in 1780, would most likely have known his work.



March 3, 2009, 1:44 PM

Jack, I'd relate Duplessis' handling of fabrics more to Chardin than to Ingres. His treatment of light is particularly rewarding, as is Chardin's.

I'm betting Duplessis is not as remembered today because his style is more, perhaps, prosaic, less individualistic, less idiosyncratic than, for example, Van Dyck, Velazquez, Goya, even G. Stuart.



March 3, 2009, 1:55 PM

Yes, Tim, Chardin comes into it, but I think Duplessis is more sensuous, even though not as luxuriantly so as Ingres. Especially in the portrait of the sculptor, the fabric almost steals the show; Chardin would have made it more subordinate to the whole. But I agree about the lovely lighting.


Bunny Smedley

March 3, 2009, 3:01 PM

The fabric doesn't quite steal the show, though, does it?

The composition seems to me to be as ruthlessly effective as it can be, without the ruthlessness itself becoming a distraction - the folds in the fabric of the coat lead up to the sculptor's cloth and hand (very brave foreshortening, btw), thence up to sculpture's trailing clothes and chunky thighs, until that beautiful halo of light brings everything round again, so we circle that face infinitely, trying to read that rather enigmatic expression.

And as much as I love the fabric, I also love the overall scruffiness, the relative informality of the image. Perhaps one of the reasons Duplessis fails to achieve household-name status is that the values of scruffiness, informality and intimacy don't really accord with at least the more clunkingly teleological accounts of the ancien regime?

In any event, thanks, Jack, for giving me a new research hobby for the evening - and also to JL, by the way, not only for explaining why it was that Micol seemed to me a naturally feminine name, but also for reminding me that it's been far too long since I read one of the most beautiful and heartbreaking books to come out of Italy in the last century - which is, obviously, saying quite a lot.


Chris Rywalt

March 3, 2009, 3:05 PM

Just because the OED has chosen this instance to be descriptive rather than prescriptive doesn't mean we need to give in to this imprecise use of a technical term.

And, John, I'm pretty darn good at Scrabble. If OP is willing to join Facebook, we could play long distance. I'd be willing to play for paintings.


Chris Rywalt

March 3, 2009, 3:11 PM

I guess what I'm saying is, I am not afflicted with a poverty of smartness.



March 3, 2009, 3:18 PM

It is a quality of soft richness of color, especially dull, unsaturated color like the clothes, the background and the work table.

I see it in Velasquez and Winslow Homer (outdoor scenes in oil), Murillo too, and sometimes in Chardin, especially when he is painting fur. Ingres seems more hard-boiled, like the amazing blue sheen of that tafetta dress on Princesse de Broglie, in the Met.



March 3, 2009, 3:33 PM

Bunny, the sculptor's portrait was the painter's diploma piece, as it were, upon being received into the Academy. As you note, the portrait is nothing if not effective, yet it is also relaxed and intimate; it breathes, and it conveys a real person, not a cardboard figure. The handling of the marble is also quite fine, if subtler and more subdued than that of Alma-Tadema. It's a wonderful picture.

I agree with you that, at least in part, Duplessis has faded from notice because he doesn't fit the stereotype as well as, say, Nattier, who was clearly a lesser painter but remains fairly well known.

I've found a couple of exceedingly lovely, very sensitive female portraits by Duplessis online, but unfortunately the reproductions are rather suboptimal.



March 3, 2009, 3:36 PM

I begin to wonder, Chris, because you are still missing the point.

The OED is universally considered the authority. They are not "choosing this instance" to do anything but give the accepted definition of the term. If the OED says that evaporation can occur from a solid to a vapor it's good enough for me and just about any literate person. This means that Franklin was not incorrect, which was my one and only point.

Furthermore, if he had chosen to use "sublimate", in some fit of chemicalogical correctness, he would have puzzled at least half the visitors to even so elevated a blog as this one. This would have been terminologically precise, perhaps, but definitely an error of communication.

I find Scrabble frustrating. Trying to argue that QUAKX is a word, or that Hawaiian words with 7 vowels are legitimate - that kind of thing.



March 3, 2009, 3:40 PM

Yes, bunny, the staging of the sculptor painting, contrived as it is, seems natural enough. Cleverness for the right reasons.



March 3, 2009, 3:42 PM

Bunny, try these:


Bunny Smedley

March 3, 2009, 3:50 PM

There's a delightful portrait by Duplessis of the princess de Lamballe - complete with a degree of that softness that's there in the sculptor's coat and knee-breeches - which crops up reasonably often in the lesser sorts of accounts of the Revolution. The reason for its popularity is that the princess - condemned by public opinion as a monster of inhuman depravity, for no particular reason other than that she was a friend to poor Marie Antoinette - is shown in the midst of a sort of Janet Jackson moment, one nipple very much on view.

This, I think, is closer to what is expected from the ancien regime - un soupcon of slyly enjoyable moral turpitude, before History delivers its charmless but apparently inevitable and thus obscurely satisfying punchline. Unfortunately, though, I can't find a decent version of the work in question anywhere online, as opposed to print.



March 3, 2009, 3:51 PM

Jack, the first on of those is particularly engaging. But both are lightweight, and I haven't put my finger on why. They're too accessable, I think, too familiar.


Chris Rywalt

March 3, 2009, 3:53 PM

Come on, Opie. You know where dictionaries are concerned there's no authority, only arguments. The big war is over whether a dictionary should be prescriptive or descriptive. The OED is usually prescriptive but I think in this case it's being descriptive -- defining the word as it currently used, correctly or incorrectly, and not how it should be used. A cursory search on the Web shows no one using evaporation to include sublimation except for one Wikipedia entry on the water cycle which claims sublimation is a type of evaporation.

I tend to think, whenever there's a word which already means what you intend, and a word which could possibly mean what you intend, you should stick to the former. Sublimation definitely means what Franklin intends. Evaporation not so much.

I'd like to see what the OED cites for its definitions in this case.

(Incidentally, if the air temperature is over 88 degrees F, dry ice certainly doesn't evaporate, because carbon dioxide isn't a vapor above that. Fun with Wikipedia!)


Chris Rywalt

March 3, 2009, 3:55 PM

Oh, right, Franklin didn't say "evaporate like dry ice," John did.


Bunny Smedley

March 3, 2009, 3:56 PM

Those are worthwhile links, Jack - thanks.

I very much like the way Duplessis' sitters always [i.e. in these few instances we have before us!] seem to be just about to say something, to laugh at something, and are only just holding it back.

So, what's so funny, then? But we'll never know, even two centuries later. That's actually rather magical.


Chris Rywalt

March 3, 2009, 4:05 PM

I think Ben Franklin is about to laugh at OP for buying into the OED's reputation.



March 3, 2009, 4:17 PM

Bunny, here's Lamballe, but to borrow OP's pharse, she's a bit hard-boiled, relatively speaking:

I also found this horrifying passage:

A long time friend to Marie-Antoinette, Lamballe faithfully stuck by her until forcefully removed from the Queen's company in 1792. Confronted by an improvised court on trumped up charges which she denied, she was then asked to swear an oath of loyalty to Liberty and Equality and one of hatred to the King, Queen and Monarchy, she accepted the first but refused the latter. A door was opened off the interrogation room, where she saw men waiting with axes and pikes. Pushed into an alley she was hacked to death in minutes. Her clothes were stripped from her body, and her head was struck off and stuck on a pike. Some accounts attest to the crowd cutting off her breasts and mutilating her genitals. What is certain is that her head was carried in triumph through Paris

So much for revolutionary virtue.



March 3, 2009, 4:24 PM

Yes, it was John. I've been defending the wrong person

No matter

Dammit, Chris, if an authority such as the OED says it, it may be arguable but it does not make a person using it the way the OED says it can be used INCORRECT.

"Sublimate", with the sense of "making sublime", has been around for centuries. The meaning of "turning to vapor" is relatively recent. It may be a matter of contention whether it means "from liquid" or "from solid", but as long as it is a matter of contention it is not incorrect to use it either way. OK?



March 3, 2009, 4:29 PM

Sorry, the second paragraph makes no sense. I meant to say that until the word "evaporation" ONLY means vaporizing from a liquid that either usage is permissable.



March 3, 2009, 6:13 PM

To bring hopefully some closure to this, it was I who talked about dry ice evaporating, not Franklin.


Chris Rywalt

March 3, 2009, 6:15 PM

I'm not allowed to argue to OED is incorrect?

Okay, you're right, that's a bit much. But I can argue it for fun, can't I?

The last game of online Scrabble I was playing I ended up the game a few points short of my opponent with a rack of -- I'm not kidding here -- AEIOU. I really needed a short Hawaiian word right there.


Chris Rywalt

March 3, 2009, 6:16 PM

Along with that painting of Lamballe, is there one somewhere showing Antoinette getting out of a carriage while not wearing knickers?

What is this, some 17th century TMZ?



March 3, 2009, 6:21 PM

Uh, mon cher Christophe, try 18th.



March 3, 2009, 6:27 PM

Now, Jack. For shame. Try to be tolerant.


Chris Rywalt

March 3, 2009, 6:34 PM

Right right right. Pardon me. My brain's in vocabulary class, not history, just now.


Chris Rywalt

March 3, 2009, 6:40 PM

You know, my NJ driver's license has me as CHRISTOPHE. Because -- count the letters. 10. Someone programmed the state DMV computers with 10 spaces for the first name field. That's a red flag right there: That means the programmer arbitrarily decided the length of the field, because there's no computer-related limit that would be in base 10. The rule for programmers is, if you have to make up an arbitrary limit, make it a power of 2 (16, 64) so it at least looks like a real limit of some kind.

"Christopher" hovers somewhere just around the top ten American male first names. The right way to write the program would be to say, what's the longest first name it's likely to need to fit? If this were India it might be insanely long, but this here's America. What's the longest common first name? How many characters?

But no. Whatever idiot did the programming just said, duh, ten's enough. Without doing any research at all. The result?

To the State of New Jersey, I am Christophe!



March 3, 2009, 6:51 PM

Now, OP, you know I am tolerance incarnate, and besides, I did it nicely and in French. It's not my fault that tolerance is so frequently unjustified by reason.


Christophe Rywalté

March 3, 2009, 7:04 PM

I think Jacques has been very tolerant. Most people by now he'd have told to fuque off.



March 3, 2009, 7:11 PM

Chris you will be happy to know that there are a million and a half Christophers in this country, that it is the 11th most popular (matching the number of letters in the nme) and the longest in the top 300. There are very few at 9 and not a lot at 8.

This is the kind of idiotic trivia always at hand for the word freak.


Christophe Rywalté

March 3, 2009, 7:14 PM

I was going to say it was number 11, but then I wasn't sure if I was conflating the number of letters with popularity. But I guess I remembered right. My brain's not a hundred percent lately, which would be fine, I guess, except mostly I keep acting like it is, which is bad. I'm seeing a neurologist next week.

Anyway, that's the kind of research the DMV programmers should have done but didn't. I would have.



March 3, 2009, 7:28 PM


Has a nice ring to it. Especially if you're a drag queen. I think Ru Paul should consider it. But I forget myself. It's boorish to go on like this about names, after all.


Chris Rywalt

March 3, 2009, 7:45 PM

Excellent. Now I've got my critic name and my drag queen name. All I need now is my NASCAR driver name and I'm set.



March 3, 2009, 7:47 PM

Well, that's easy. Chris Rydewall.


Jack Rydewall

March 3, 2009, 9:40 PM

"Chris" is too soft and puffy a name for a NASCAR driver. I need a name like...Jack.

The last name's good, though.



March 3, 2009, 10:10 PM

Rick would be good. Rick Ridewell.

Billy Bob would be going to far.


Rick Rydewall

March 3, 2009, 10:34 PM

Rick's even better than Jack, you're right.

I'm set for life now.



March 3, 2009, 11:03 PM

Yes. Rick Rydewall is perfect. I can smell the engine fumes.


Rick Rydewall

March 3, 2009, 11:06 PM

My dad actually used to race cars. Those fumes are in my blood.



March 3, 2009, 11:19 PM

Chris, Rick wouldn't fly in the South, too sissy. Try this: Dick Ryde



March 3, 2009, 11:36 PM

Dick Ryde, hmm... maybe a little too "male dancer." I'll work on it.


Chris Rywalt

March 4, 2009, 8:12 AM

Dick Ryder could be my gay porn name. Not that I'd ever need such a thing. I'm pretty enough to cross-dress but nowhere near enough to do gay porn.



March 4, 2009, 9:14 AM

Rick Rydewall is fine for NASCAR. What you don't want is something like Oliver. Of course, if you want to be totally safe, make it Billy Rydewall.



March 4, 2009, 9:15 AM

And of course, don't even go near Nigel. Kiss of death.



March 4, 2009, 9:20 AM

Howbout Brick?



March 4, 2009, 9:59 AM

Howabout Boot-Leg



March 4, 2009, 10:20 AM

No, not Brick. Too Tennessee Williams. Not the right kind of vibe. Brick had, uh, issues.



March 4, 2009, 10:59 AM

Rocky Ryde is good.



March 4, 2009, 11:04 AM

No, OP. Rocky's like, Italian. Too ethnic.



March 4, 2009, 11:07 AM

And Chris, if the Monty Python guys could cross-dress, anybody can cross-dress.



March 4, 2009, 11:09 AM

Clyde Ryder Clyde Rydewall



March 4, 2009, 1:18 PM

Regarding the general "Poverty of Smartness": It alarms me that the government is giving the NEA an extra $50 million to "restore" its budget to previous levels. Obviously, just a drop in the great bucket of stimulation, something like 10 cents per citizen.

The argument that favors the boost because that is such a small amount of money to support such an important thing as art is, on the face of it, a good one. An even better one would be that the "trickle out" effect of the $50 million will multiply its economic effect several times over, the bang for the buck argument. Most art organizations, even those favored by the NEA, spend everything they get their hands on.

Nor would I say that the money is too little to be effective. On the contrary, it is very effective and that's what's wrong with it. If it funds what NEA money has been funding for decades, it will do real damage to our visual culture. More Pope.L type projects and other absolutely bad art will "rise to the top" of the system via funded exhibitions and the like, only to reinforce the status quo in which the herd values most the art that is least worthy.

Frankly, art on the whole would be better off if the NEA were abolished. And I'm no right winger. This election, I voted for Obama and do not regret it. (I did not expect perfection.) The poverty of smartness that infects the CAA is almost perfectly mirrored in the NEA. They share much common dna. The main difference is the CAA is a nominally private organization.

Put the money into technology, education, and other useful endeavors - and make sure the results stay within our borders.



March 4, 2009, 1:29 PM

The problem with the NEA is that, by its nature, it's politicized, embracing the "Democratization of the Arts" goofiness. This cannot be reversed. End of story.



March 4, 2009, 1:36 PM

"art on the whole would be better off if the NEA were abolished. And I'm no right winger."

That's what they all say. Like your shit don't stink, and you always know what's best.

I take it you don't like anything the NEA does, not just a few specific art shows that get your panties in a bunch. Grow up, the world doesn't revolve around you



March 4, 2009, 1:49 PM

Tom, are you saying that a government would do better with that money than a market? How? Do you have any examples to point to? Ever, in the history of the world?



March 4, 2009, 2:39 PM

Tim, if you look at the history of the NEA, you will find that it did a lot of good in its first decade or so, then began a gradual, but definitive decline.

1967 recipients included:

Ronald Bladen
Dan Flavin
Gene Davis
Mark di Suvero
Sam Gilliam
Robert Goodnough
Donald Judd
Dale Eldred
Charles Pollock
Billy Al Bengston
Robert Mangold
Agnes Martin
Robert Morris
Richard Pousette-Dart
Kenneth Price
Ed Ruscha
Leon Polk Smith
Tony Smith
Theodore Stamos
George Sugarman
Jack Youngerman
H. C. Westermann

So its later problems don't appear to be "intrinsic" to the fact it was government sponsored. Thus I supposed its problems could be reversed, but I agree with you that such is unlikely.

Tim and Tom: The 1967 list is a good list of artists who were and would continue making a positive contribution. It is not the same list I would have made, but it was much better than the last lists the NEA concocted, before they finally blew it with Karen Finley, et. al. You may remember Finley: she was the one who used art to mount a moral protest against the treatment of women with a performance piece involving her unclothed body, chocolate, and bean sprouts. Then after finally losing her case in the Supreme Court, she promptly posed for PLAYBOY, also using her unclothed body and chocolate but no bean sprouts. For PLAYBOY it was all about the first amendment, not the treatment of women, except that she made herself out like a typical PLAYBOY bimbo, not a raped black woman. And the great Pope.L got his grant to dress in a dollar bill skirt while attached at the wrist with a chain of sausage to the door of a bank, protesting I don't really know what. Or the guy who pissed on a picture of Jesus Christ on stage. Or this or that. Until now the NEA can't fund individual artists anymore.

Tom, read Lynne Munson's EXHIBITIONISM if you want to educate yourself about the facts. On the other hand, if all you want to do is rant inanely, keep up like #98.



March 4, 2009, 2:57 PM

All very well, Tom. But I don't see how that responds to my question.



March 4, 2009, 3:05 PM

Geeziz 1967, boy is the world passing you by. The NEA doesn't give out artists grants any more so that list is meaningless. They do provide funding for a lot of other arts organizations, especially those working at the grass roots levels in the smaller cities.



March 4, 2009, 3:15 PM

Tim, your "end of story" statement to me was that the nature of the NEA makes it a problem that can't be reversed. I showed that whatever its problems today might be, they are not caused by its intrinsic nature, because at one time, it did a pretty good job of supporting visual art. I made it a point to use quite specific examples.

Tom, rant on.



March 4, 2009, 3:26 PM

Tom, you lost me with the 1967 comment. I'm sure you know that you don't have to respond to my question if you don't want to.

John, even when they were making decisions that we might've agreed with, that just means that the politics then were cutting our way.


Chris Rywalt

March 4, 2009, 3:49 PM

I don't think the NEA is such a bad place to put money. So what if it goes to arts organizations we don't like? Or even bad ones? Imagine the policy was reversed and they could give grants to individual artists. Say we like them, or don't, or they're bad, or whatever. I fail to see how this hurts anyone. It's a waste of money? Yeah, it is. So are a lot of things. If we're going to get upset about ways in which our tax dollars are wasted, we should start a lot higher on the list.

John is right with his examples: There's nothing intrinsically better or worse about the government supporting the arts versus the market doing it. The market is as wildly wrong as the government just about as often. Specific examples: the Great Depression, 1982, the Savings & Loan bailouts, the current Not-Quite-Great-Yet Depression. It's time the extreme capitalists woke up and realized: The government today is part of the market. Not just in the sense of regulation of the market, but also in the sense that you can make your money by selling to private firms or the government; and also, the government is just the free market by other means (you can succeed on Wall Street and make a mint or you can succeed in Washington and do the same).

This is the extreme laissez faire capitalist dream, folks. Ain't it pretty?

Anyway, what I'm trying to say is, Coca-Cola can throw money at arts foundations -- where does Coca-Cola get its money by the way? Oh, right, from you and me, just like the government -- or the NEA can throw the money, or Charles Saatchi can do the throwing. It's all pretty much the same thing.



March 4, 2009, 4:00 PM

Well Tim, not really. they were making decisions about artists that 15 years later were to prove themselves. Take a look at the list from 1995, 14 years ago:

Dennis Adams
Joe Carvalho
Maureen Connor
Lewis deSoto
Toni Dove
Douglas Hall
Kathryn High
Ulysses Jenkins
Joel Katz
Frank Macmurtrie
Inigo Manglano-Ovalle
Dan Martinez
Joey Morgan
Michael O'Reilly
William Pope.L
Dan reeves
Margaret Strntton
Peter Walsh
Malinda Beeman
Meg Belichick
Don Camp
Judy Chan
Cecelia Conduit
Dewey Crumpler
Lisa Davis
Robert Dente
Lawrence Gipe
Julie Heffernan
Adele henderson
Jenny Lavin
Matt Lawrence
Margaret Lazzari
Phyliss McGibbon
Dan Tisdale
Annie West
Hongtu Zhang
Phil Zimmerman
William Alan
Matt Antezzo
Ken Aptekar
Jack Balas
Nancy Chunn
Chuck Forsman
Rebecca Howland
David Humphrey
Bryon Kim
Jerry Kwan
Mel Leipzig
Zhi Lin
Megan Bronwen
Bernard Martin
Manuel Jonas
Kay Rosen
Ben Sakoguchi
Ted Savinar
Amy Sillman
Linda Stark
Mark Wethli

I include the whole list for 95 because it is so empty of people who have made a difference c. 15 years later, compared to the 1967 list, which I shortened to include those that clearly kept on with their work. Interestingly, the 1967 NEA was relatively less well funded than the 95 version, too. I can't account for why such a difference, but clearly, it is not "politics". LBJ was president in 67, Clinton in 95, both democrats with presumably democratically approved appointments in the NEA. This is not to deny that there has been a relationship between art and politics in the past. Just that it does not explain the stark difference between these lists.



March 4, 2009, 4:08 PM

Chris, the problem with the government's money is several fold: 1), it is debt, not money; 2), it is debt that must be shouldered by taxpayers, people the government is supposed to serve, not fleece; and 3), it is more likely to do more harm to art than good, given the recent record. #3 is my main concern. I admit that the "future" is easy to manipulate in a discussion because there are not facts that delimit it that might refute my assertion, which is really just an educated guess.

You ought to read Munson's book too. She does not reach my conclusion - to eliminate the NEA. She thinks it is redeemable.



March 4, 2009, 4:11 PM

The difference between Coca Cola and a government is that Coca Cola gives me something I want more efficiently and less expensively than any government, by its nature ever possibly could or ever did. The marketplace doesn't limit or eliminate my choices. Governments do. The marketplace is competitive, thus motivated to accommodate me. Governments aren't.

The Enumerated Powers clause was not placed in the US Constitution on a whim.


Chris Rywalt

March 4, 2009, 4:33 PM

You can seriously claim the market is competitive? Really? It's like a race where the first guy to cross the finish line gets a rifle to shoot the rest of the field. Forever.

Coca-Cola gives you something you want, but its price is jacked up to support many things you may not want supported, like military juntas in banana republics and reality shows on MTV. Government is quite similar, actually: It provides for the common defense, but the price of that is jacked up to support many things you may not want supported, like Dick Cheney's friends' companies.

Theoretically both Coca-Cola and the American government are beholden to the citizens of this fine country, but in reality neither are all that affected by you and me. Coca-Cola is probably more responsive than the federal government; on the other hand, I have better chance of getting elected (to the House, certainly) than I have of running anything larger than a stapler at Coca-Cola Inc.


Chris Rywalt

March 4, 2009, 4:34 PM

I understand your concerns, John. I just think that if 1 and 2 are serious, we need to start higher up the food chain than the NEA; and 3 is overstated. It may do more harm than good, but most likely it'll have a net effect of zero. Fund a few idiots, fund a few good people, mostly pour the money down the drain.



March 4, 2009, 5:16 PM

Yes, I can seriously say the marketplace is competitive. What is competitive if the marketplace isn't? I didn't say it was fair? If you want fair, what are you doing in this life? You don't want to mangle my meaning by filtering it through lowbrow popular cynicism, do you?

Coca Cola's price is "jacked up" to what the market will bear. What it does with its profits is none of my affair. I'm not jealous of those profits because I know that most of them are reinvested. That indirectly contributes to a standard of living that no government could come close to matching, and that I value, though the contributor may not be my idea of perfect.

Coca Cola "probably more responsive than the Federal government"? Ridiculous.

Cheney cynicism: Ho hum, revealingly selective.



March 4, 2009, 5:26 PM

"The marketplace is competitive."

That's why we have the art we have, quit complaining already.


Chris Rywalt

March 4, 2009, 5:34 PM

The marketplace isn't competitive at all. It's amusing that you think it is. The logical endpoint of capitalism is monopoly: No competition.

What Coca-Cola (or any other company) does with its profits may seem to be none of your affair, but when those profits are spent in a way that affects your life, that's important, isn't it? You're complaining that the government doesn't spend its money wisely on the arts, but how wisely does Coke?

What it all comes down to, in the end, is resource allocation. How do we, as human beings, want to allocate our resources? Free marketers take it on faith that the market allocates resources most efficiently, but anyone who really sees the effects of markets knows that's crap. The market is just as manipulable as the government -- more so, because there's less accountability.

Capitalists are suffering from a failure of the imagination; they can't envision any worthwhile group undertaking that isn't market-driven.



March 4, 2009, 5:35 PM

We have the art that we have because of the character of the consumer. The market provides what is desired, for better or worse. Who's complaining? Just observing.



March 4, 2009, 6:20 PM

Monopolies aren't that common, and they don't last. Part of the dynamics of a free market. The point of capitalism is profit.

The way anybody or any company spends its profits is nothing to me unless it is destructively affecting the workings of the marketplace, is illegal, etc. As I mentioned, most, if not all, profits are reinvested.

My "complaint" (observation) about gubment spending on the arts was that it is politicized. I wouldn't argue one way or the other whether Coca Cola or the gubment spends money wisely on the arts. That's all subjective.

Free marketers don't deal in allocation of resource questions that I know of. They deal in providing goods and services. Ineffiency leads to failure. Yes, the market is as manipulable as the gubment. Caveat emptor.

Capitalists "can't envision any worthwhile group undertaking that isn't market-driven." It's not that their imaginations fail them. It's that their capitalist enterprises operate outside of an arena like that. They don't suffer from any failure; you're assigning tasks to capitalists which don't apply. Capitalism does not = everything.



March 4, 2009, 6:23 PM

inefficiency, excuse me.



March 4, 2009, 7:05 PM

Chris, your knowledge and understanding of free markets is obviously very limited and skewed. it is less a matter of resource allocation than resource generation, among other things. These are just facts. Read some history. Some balanced, nonpartisan factual history.

John, in light of your obvuious comomonsense attitude toward governments and money and competence, how can you possibly not regret voting for Obama? Do you think what they are doing is good for the country? I am quite sure you will regret it before long

I keep a fairly close eye on the art business and I knew only 2 names from the 1995 list, and one of them was someone I know personally..



March 4, 2009, 7:05 PM

Chris, your knowledge and understanding of free markets is obviously very limited and skewed. it is less a matter of resource allocation than resource generation, among other things. These are just facts. Read some history. Some balanced, nonpartisan factual history.

John, in light of your obvuious comomonsense attitude toward governments and money and competence, how can you possibly not regret voting for Obama? Do you think what they are doing is good for the country? I am quite sure you will regret it before long

I keep a fairly close eye on the art business and I knew only 2 names from the 1995 list, and one of them was someone I know personally..



March 4, 2009, 7:49 PM

McCain would have done everything Obama is trying to do for the economy, with less understanding, less finesse, and less transparency.

I agree with Chris that there are much bigger fish to fry. But we would undoubtedly be looking at a much different art world if the government got out of the business of supporting art programs, supporting art exhibitions, supporting universities that maintain art departments, and lending students money to attend those departments. I tend to think that such an art world would be a better one in many respects. Voluntary markets have proven in every case to be better allocators of resources than central planning. The government basically needs to be there to punish people for defrauding and harming each other and remedying aggrieved parties.

Obama - and Bush - should have let the banks fail, bailed out the depositors, and decreed that anyone whose mortgage got lost in the shuffle would be given the title to their house. That would have destroyed the maximum amount of toxic financial properties with a minimum of moral hazard and harm to individuals not directly connected to the financial sector.



March 4, 2009, 8:49 PM

I thought the last election was rather unusual in that both parties had very good candidates, at the top of their tickets, anyway.

I regard Obama and McCain as both politicians, good ones, but the kind that win elections in our country. McCain, for instance, quit campaigning and rushed to DC to "lead" the first big bailout. Then after his defeat, he opposed phase II of that same bailout. Obama cast Bush as the worst president we ever had during the campaign, but now is acting in many ways like the Bush of the past year, particularly with respect to the economy. He's also looking more like Bush on Iraq than he did during the campaign - to his credit, I think.

I agree with Franklin that McCain would probably have done everything Obama is doing for the economy. Not so sure about the finesse thing, McCain is a politically skilled guy too, and probably would have handled the House of Representatives more adroitly than Obama. I can't understand why he let them construct the latest stimulus without exerting leadership (and limits). I have heard the talk about transparency but have not seen much of it. The press is a much better source of sunshine than the government. I would be happy if the gov just gets the job done but I don't expect that to happen suddenly and don't think McCain would have been any quicker.

But to answer opie directly, NO, I don't think everything the government is doing is good for the country, especially its actions on the economy, which can be traced back a couple of decades, not just to Bush and Obama. The government never does it that way. It is just something we must live with and really, so far, there is no other country I would rather live in.

Instead of punishing people for harming each other, I wish the government would prevent more of that stuff, especially when it is done with a fountain pen, not a gun.

As far as art goes, it can do without the NEA, which has suffered from "a poverty of smartness" for long enough to be eliminated. It is like a football coach who hasn't had a winning season in 15 years.



March 4, 2009, 8:56 PM

Franklin, when I finally paid off my house, the company that was then receiving my payments could not find the mortgage to give back to me. Instead I had to accept a letter that said I have paid the debt in full.

I wonder what would happen legally if those in foreclosure demanded that their persecutors produce the original note that they signed? And it could not be found.



March 4, 2009, 9:46 PM

This is being tried here and there.



March 4, 2009, 10:41 PM

Allow me to pull rank, as a person who sold everything in October 2007 and has been telling everyone I know to sell, despite their losses, even now. The market is telling us that what is being done is a disaster.

It was obvious to me 6 months ago, when the shit hit the fan, that they should immediately launch one massive spending initiative: give banks money that they are obliged to lend, period. They did not. I understand that at last they re thinking about this after throwing away trillions of our dollars. It may be too late.

It is only a matter of how quickly the Anerican people realize it so that the polls tell the politicians their jobs are in jeopardy.

It is preposterous to think McCain would do what Obama is doing. He may well have screwed up, but he would screw up some other way. If you are aware of what Obama is doing and what a Republican agenda would be you would simply not think this. This is not a pro-McCain statement, is is simply a recognition of political reality.

In the meantime sell what you've got left, if anything. What to buy? the logical answer is gold, which tempts me, but I think we are in a deflation, and until inflation hits us in a couple years cash is probably better.

I think it is quite possible that this government may start actually talking money away from those who have it. Certainly that "rich person" tax will move to lower levels. It's a rough time, folks.

I promised myself I would'tt write something like this but ....



March 4, 2009, 10:44 PM

BTW, where's good ol' George? He promised us a bull market a while back.

Are you still out there George?



March 5, 2009, 12:03 AM

Opie! What's this stuff about "pulling rank"? I got out of stocks entirely in 1997. Giving stocks the max benefit of the doubt and taking as their measuring point October 07, my investments over those ten years outperformed stocks by approximately 75%, and at much less risk. Not only that, I bought put options after the thing began to tank. Does that entitle me to "pull rank" on you?

I don't really think so because we were talking about something entirely different than investment strategies. I cannot believe the same McCain who led the charge to bail out AIG when he was a candidate would abandon AIG one month into holding office, had he been elected. Obama has followed that same path.

McCain, the candidate, was not in tune with the "Republican agenda" and voted against them and with the Democrats in passing the first bailout. While we are speculating about what might have been, he was on the Democratic side (as was Bush) before the election and had he wound up in office, would likely have continued with that program. But now that he is back into position as a senator from a very conservative state, he has resumed representing that state's views.

We've always had a graduated income tax and the very wealthy have always managed to hang onto their wealth despite it. I don't look for that to change in any meaningful way. What I do think will change is their hold on power. Obama is taking a portion of that taken away from them and some of them are crying like babies when they get their candy taken away. They deserve it too and I have no sympathy for them. They simply blew it big time when they created the biggest financial mess for all of us that the world has ever known. Many more deserve jail than are actually going.


that guy

March 5, 2009, 12:49 AM

I hope we can keep things cordial around these parts. Divisiveness will not be welcome in the coming epoch.(There will be more than enough to go around) This blog is important to me and as long as people converse about the topic at hand, I do not see that changing. So whatever may come in the future, lets keep the important things in life front and center, friends, family and loved ones. Let bygones be bygones. This country has got a tough road to hoe and the best thing now, as Franklin requests is to 'Assume Community'. The older I get the more that particular guidelines resonates within me.



March 5, 2009, 7:23 AM

Since Republicans, for the most part, spent the last eight years indulging in the most servile partisanship imaginable, it is probable that they would have fallen in lockstep behind McCain's platform, which was to continue this bailout in largely the form that it was initiated by Bush with some minor variation of details. McCain had a hard time formulating an economic policy, and when he finally did, it consisted primarily of making the Bush tax cuts permanent, another attempt to pass Bush's effort to partially privatize social security, and absolutely unabated spending abroad. In contrast, Ron Paul wanted to abolish the Federal Reserve, end all foreign military actions, end foriegn aid, abolish the IRS, abolish Fannie and Freddie, and otherwise do things that might have actually benefitted the economy and reduced the size of government. Republicans complained about the extra $50 million to the NEA in the bailout package, but we spend more than that on Iraq every three hours. Excepting Paul and a few others, this current display of Republican fiscal responsibility is theater.

I bought a nice amount of gold a few months ago when it was $742. That has turned out pretty well.

George left some astoundingly personal comments about my work and my age in the process of making unrelated points on Edward Winkleman's blog and I sent him an e-mail returning the favor. I don't expect to hear from him and rather hope we don't.



March 5, 2009, 8:02 AM

John, yes, I think it does indeed allow you to pull rank on me. As you know I often ask your advice on these matters for precisely that reason.

Franklin, I am not a party animal. As I said, I have no confidence that McCain would have done much better in this mess (although I think he would probably be far less dangerous for the country). That does not preclude me from listening to my instincts - and the facts - about what Obama and his ilk are doing to us.

As for gold, I noticed that you bought at a good time, and I hope it continues to turn out well. I am simply cautious about it right now.

That guy, I don't think a political discussion has to be uncivil. I don't think this one is.



March 5, 2009, 8:13 AM

Well, I'm a Paul guy, so my party affiliation is accidental. I also think that what Obama is trying to do for the economy isn't going to work, but the economy is going to recover anyway, because it's in the nature of free markets to correct themselves.



March 5, 2009, 9:44 AM

I agree. Or I hope I agree. There is such a thing as doing it right and speeding up the process, however.

I was heartened this AM when I heard on the radio that Obama is putting the primary emphsis in health care reform on cost control for his "health summit". This has always been in the background, and it is the single most important issue, or at least the one that must be attacked first.

My sentiments are libertarian also, but I can't agree with all their ideas either. Now, if we each had a million votes we might be able to do something. Alas, this is not the case.



March 5, 2009, 9:45 AM

Meanwhile, my money is in Canadian banks, which are doing just fine, thank you very much, so I guess I'll pull rank, too.

Kucinich/Paul '12 FTW!



March 5, 2009, 10:43 AM

MC: what bank? How much interest? How much insurance? Ihave never considered putting money in a Canadian bank. It might be a good idea.



March 5, 2009, 11:25 AM

Re the last part of 127, Franklin, it's not as if you should have been at all surprised. He'd done essentially the same thing here, if somewhat less obnoxiously, given that he was not on friendly or congenial turf (though rather friendlier than he deserved). It almost makes me want to visit the Winkletoes blog, to see the fur fly, but I already have digestive issues. As for disparaging you based on age, that's like Roy Cohn behaving homophobically, but again, nothing new there. Generally speaking, we're talking attempted overcompensation. Good riddance.



March 5, 2009, 12:14 PM

Franklin, You bought your gold at the right time, assuming you bought it recently. The best time to sell it has probably passed, although its price is volatile enough that it could go back up. On the other hand, if you are holding it as a hedge against total US currency collapse (like Iceland has experienced) then it doesn't matter what it is worth in terms of today's dollar. It will do its job if and when the time comes.

What is almost unique about this mess is that every asset class wants to jump off the cliff together. Bonds are holding up so far (at the top of their range), and gold is trading at the upper end of its 25 year range, but both seem unstable to me (I always wonder about any asset that is at a top - God does not permit trees to grow to heaven sort of thing). Why I say "almost unique" is what happened in the Great Depression. The only "asset class" that held its value then was beauty supplies for women. ("Almost unique" borders on the same kind of error of English that "very unique" constitutes.)

I don't know the situation in Canadian banks at all. What I would look out for, though, is not their involvement in sub prime real estate (assuming they have none), but rather how they make money in general. An old fashioned bank that takes in deposits from the local community and makes carefully considered loans back to that community and services the loans themselves is more likely to remain solvent than a bank that is involved with exotic financial instruments as a significant source of revenue (Credit Swaps, securitized mortgages, credit cards, etc.) That Guy just sent me a URL to a story on the Iceland banking system that made my hair quiver, right on top of the skin that was crawling underneath them. It showed how easy it was to delve into this quicksand, and how quick the collapse can come. But Canada likely has more regulation of banks than Iceland does or did.

But this is investment strategy, not speculation about politicians. I agree with Franklin that Ron Paul was the only candidate this year who promised something really different than the others. My only significant disagreement with him was the promise to pull out of Iraq immediately. While I totally felt we should have never gone there in the first place, we did and we broke that country in the process, so we can't leave it until we have fixed the damage we did.



March 5, 2009, 12:21 PM

Here is Time's November 10, 08 comment on Canadian Banks. Underscores MC's assessment.



March 5, 2009, 12:22 PM

"Almost unique" is OK, John. Something extremely rare can be said to be almost unique.

The Iceland story is horrific. Fortunately it is a small, very iceolated (sic) place. If that happened here... I don't even want to think about it.



March 5, 2009, 12:31 PM

Yeah, the gold is mostly a diversification. I'll think about cashing out if it goes to $1400.

I agreed with Paul on Iraq because we're attempting to bring democracy to a nation using a military effort that has never had sufficient numbers, and it self-evidently can't work. Weighing the lives of US soldiers against the prospect of Iraqi democracy, I say we bail. Now.

I think Paul blew it on the border fence. I understand that we have to preserve our borders on principle, but building a Great Wall of Mexico is just going to cause slightly more people to die in the act of crossing them. I also disagree with his position on abortion, but I was comforted somewhat by the fact that his opposition to it is Constitutional and medical rather than theological.

There's a lot to like about Kucinich too. I decided that his belief in UFOs was not stranger than W's communications with Jesus.



March 5, 2009, 3:01 PM

Franklin, there are responsibilities that come with invading a sovereign country and destroying its organization. It's not about attempting to create democracy (though that is often said by our government), it is about what we owe the citizens once we put ourselves as the only barrier between them and anarchy.

The reason it can't work, if it can't, is the tri-part nature of Iraq itself. It may be that only a strongman like Saddam can hold a beast like that together. Or that the country needs to become three countries.



March 9, 2009, 9:21 AM

There's absolutely nothing controversial about Kucinich's UFO claim... there are objects that appear to fly that have not been identified. This is pretty well established fact. Lots of people have seen such things. Even US presidents. I mean, it's not like Kucinich said he met aliens, he just saw a thing in the sky and he didn't know what it was... Strange, yeah, sure, but certainly not crazy.

The US does have a responsibility to make reparations to the Iraqi people, and to hold government figures responsible for the invasion accountable, which of course should include criminal prosecution of people like George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld (and Jay Bybee, and John Yoo, etc., etc.). Anarchy was created as soon as the bombing began, and continues every second there are "foreign fighters" (AKA US soldiers) on the ground in that far off part of the world.



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