Tuesday, November 24, 2009

My Appointed Rounds

Smokewriting on risk:

It’s important to understand that risks are not free-floating objects with which we simply collide. They are created through social relationships, and are impossible to understand outside these relationships, which are themselves inflected by inequalities of power. For example, I am a “financial innovator”, and so get to run a risk, if I choose to; whereas, you, as a homeowner, get to have one imposed on you when my flush is busted. Risks which are imposed are typically viewed as less acceptable than ones which are chosen – and the consequences of imposing risks can be individually and socially serious harms: creating social conflicts further down the line (splitting communities, breaking implicit links of trust and so on), and entrenching exploitative and oppressive relationships (testified to by the history of environmental racism and environmental justice more widely, and nicely summed up by William Freudenberg’s remark regarding how often technical planning criteria tend to be satisfied "on the poor side of town").
Brian Holmes on global finance:
Writing in 1986, Susan Strange described the extreme volatility of the financial sphere as “casino capitalism.” While investment bankers made fortunes, risk and instability arose to dominate everyday experience: “The great difference,” Strange writes, “between an ordinary casino which you can go into or stay away from, and the global casino of high finance, is that in the latter we are all involuntarily engaged in the day’s play.” By the mid-1980s, the continually rolling dice had disrupted the entire international system for the production and exchange of goods and services. The United States retained the central role in economic governance that it had won with WWII, but its hegemony was now founded on the management of chaos.
Acephalous on the hacked CRU e-mails:
The problem with nonspecialists reading the private correspondence of experts is that their ignorance transforms all the technical points into nefarious inkblots....

They are convincing themselves that those black blobs represent what they insist they represent, and when experts inform them that those are not Rorschach blots to be subjectively interpreted — that they are, in fact, statements written in a language that skeptics simply do not understand — the nonspecialists look over them again and declare that it could be a butterfly, or maybe a bat.
See also Newtongate.

RMJ on Psalm 109:
While some passages in Scripture may be "difficult" (Psalm 109 is hardly the only one), that difficulty is changed by a confessional approach to those same passages. It's an approach only available to, and only understood by, the members of a community, and meant to be communicated only to those members by other members, be they ordained or lay. Even then, it is usually poorly understood, or even misunderstood. As time goes by, however, I become more and more convinced that, especially if the scriptures are "holy," heilige, set apart to remain pure, they must be handled as such, and not bandied about in secular discussions or political arguments as if they had only one meaning, one interpretation, one understanding, and we all, believer and non-believer alike, agreed on it.
Southern Beale on Psalm 109:
We live in a secular culture, and in the internet age, free and easy access to Scripture is coupled with Biblical illiteracy to create a whole mess of problems. The result is everything from a botched bumper sticker slogan to people claiming there’s a Biblical justification for bigotry, war, oppression, and even “free market ideas.”
Thers on everything else.
I don't believe in American democracy. I don't think our system works. I think we've achieved a point of perfectly pointless hubristic stasis, and we're all going to die.
(Photo by Lori Nix.)

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