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  • James Gleick « Liam McHugh-Russell
    trying to capture how policy makers and the state imagine capital including in my recent rambling thoughts on the subject I wrestle a lot with a similar set of transformations that occurred in the birth of finance as a discrete field I just took a three day seminar on the history of financial crises and no one but seemed to think it much mattered that finance didn t exist as a coherent object of reference until the 20th century and lacked much of its current valence until the 1970s Finance was a word that meant the means or capacity to pay one s debts and by the late 19th century also came to refer to careful thinking about income and expenses There was banking and banking failures money and currency crises public finance and power and territory reordered in the service of paying off royal debts But when the word gets used today it can t be disentangled from images of the Wolves of Wall Street can t help but act as mediator between the interest rates set by the Fed and the dividends paid out by Apple on which see JW Mason s solid analysis can t escape from a seemingly natural home in the markets For those in the know the constitution of finance inevitably depends in some inchoate way on the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision for those who don t the Basel Committee is just one part of an arcane object or one location in a country lying beyond the economic frontier necessary but dangerous complicated and obscure wild but tamable for those who have the right kind of knowledge But that obscurity results partially from a gradual expansion of referents over the last 200 years from a term with a narrow meaning little differentiable from bookkeeping to a bloated pastiche that includes practices which used to be derided as immoral speculation sold as insurance offered as opportunities for investment or understood as depositing money in a bank But it occurred to me today that the transformation of the world hand in hand with the transformation of the word is not always a process that s driven by the search for ordered scientific clarity Consider for example that for the generation born after 1998 there will never be a world without a like button In the interaction with facebook like as verb takes on an active social sense slightly askew from its prior usages When I was 15 years old liking Radiohead meant I possessed a preference that was stationary inert and internal ready to be dragooned into action only once I was forced to choose between alternatives a thing I might take out to to show a potential friend or choose to keep to myself a feeling that related me as much to myself as to a network of my teenage classmates To like something in the facebook era by contrast not only to have something but is in the stronger sense to act It

    Original URL path: http://Mchugh-Russell.ca/tag/james-gleick/ (2016-05-01)
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  • science and technology studies « Liam McHugh-Russell
    trying to capture how policy makers and the state imagine capital including in my recent rambling thoughts on the subject I wrestle a lot with a similar set of transformations that occurred in the birth of finance as a discrete field I just took a three day seminar on the history of financial crises and no one but seemed to think it much mattered that finance didn t exist as a coherent object of reference until the 20th century and lacked much of its current valence until the 1970s Finance was a word that meant the means or capacity to pay one s debts and by the late 19th century also came to refer to careful thinking about income and expenses There was banking and banking failures money and currency crises public finance and power and territory reordered in the service of paying off royal debts But when the word gets used today it can t be disentangled from images of the Wolves of Wall Street can t help but act as mediator between the interest rates set by the Fed and the dividends paid out by Apple on which see JW Mason s solid analysis can t escape from a seemingly natural home in the markets For those in the know the constitution of finance inevitably depends in some inchoate way on the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision for those who don t the Basel Committee is just one part of an arcane object or one location in a country lying beyond the economic frontier necessary but dangerous complicated and obscure wild but tamable for those who have the right kind of knowledge But that obscurity results partially from a gradual expansion of referents over the last 200 years from a term with a narrow meaning little differentiable from bookkeeping to a bloated pastiche that includes practices which used to be derided as immoral speculation sold as insurance offered as opportunities for investment or understood as depositing money in a bank But it occurred to me today that the transformation of the world hand in hand with the transformation of the word is not always a process that s driven by the search for ordered scientific clarity Consider for example that for the generation born after 1998 there will never be a world without a like button In the interaction with facebook like as verb takes on an active social sense slightly askew from its prior usages When I was 15 years old liking Radiohead meant I possessed a preference that was stationary inert and internal ready to be dragooned into action only once I was forced to choose between alternatives a thing I might take out to to show a potential friend or choose to keep to myself a feeling that related me as much to myself as to a network of my teenage classmates To like something in the facebook era by contrast not only to have something but is in the stronger sense to act It

    Original URL path: http://Mchugh-Russell.ca/tag/science-and-technology-studies/ (2016-05-01)
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  • Cogs « Liam McHugh-Russell
    reformed or scrapped because it s quite possible that what comes after it will be much worse 3 Or maybe the EU is a politically conflicted conceptually contradictory political project Its institutional logics improve the lives of some and worsen the lives of others they empower some democratic wills while suppressing others A The ethical and political valence of the EU project are determined only by the players at the top the Council and maybe sometimes to some degree the ECJ EC bureaucrats only ever have one choice to quit their jobs or to put into practice the logics of the machine determined at the top B Same as A except EC bureaucrats have a third choice which is to be obstructionist and slow moving in the implementation of logics they find distasteful 4 Or same as 3 politically conflicted conceptually contradictory but the institutional logics aren t fully determined at the top Instead the contents of those logics or normative structures are so open so indeterminate that there are opportunities to choose or at least exercise some judgment all the way down 5 Same situation as 4 politically conflicted logics real opportunities for judgment but the institutional culture is so bland the daily practices so thoughtless that no one who both cares about how the world is organized and who is capable of discerning the existence of ethical and or political choices in the implementation of the Commission s multiple logics actually sticks around long enough to have moments to exercise that judgment 6 Or say the EU s multiple institutional logics are actually associated with different parts of the EC as an institution To the degree that you are politically committed to one of those logics say gender equality at work being part of the EC bureaucracy can provide an opportunity to work in a setting driven by a political logic that you care about but nonetheless provides few opportunities for judgment or ethical action Of course by supporting this work one also lends legitimacy and institutional power to the Commission and to the EU project as a whole A And furthermore it might be that this is true but that working in that setting nonetheless provides few opportunities for judgment or ethical action At best one is paradoxically a cog in a machine that one feels contributes to justice at worst a cog in a machine that contributes to someone else s idea of justice but not yours B Or in a slightly different scenario there are opportunities for judgement and ethical action but they only come to people with patience political savvy the intellectual chops for academia and the charm for sales Part of my point when it comes to choosing a job is that I don t know which one of these situations corresponds to the real world of the Commission This is just a off the top of my head typology of the unknowns one faces when thinking about what it means to work

    Original URL path: http://Mchugh-Russell.ca/2015/03/01/cogs/ (2016-05-01)
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  • Make Work « Liam McHugh-Russell
    strength of a thousand suns My response to him boils down a lot of my thoughts on the issue You will do well wherever you go so long as you refuse to give up your inquisitive mind and critical perspective The Commission could benefit from people who haven t bought in to the European project hook line and sinker and who know especially that they have alternatives if they end up feeling like they aren t contributing to anything that matters It couldn t hurt for the purposes of bringing some value to the democratic accountability of the place either that you haven t yet transposed your modalities into the arcane vocabularies of Brussels English In all seriousness though so much of what matters in your work isn t what s your job but how do you do your work how do you relate to your work how do you as someone with an identity and personality that is separate from that work relate to this job this thing you do Also you aren t choosing a career now Find something to do for the moment but never stop thinking of it as an awesome 7 year post doc that will have something come after In other words the question when it comes to work that involves judgment creativity and thought isn t what will your work be but what will you make of your work Not will you win the prize but what will you do with it when you do Postlethwait s speech here at the end of Brassed Off provides a good tie in for three caveats first these thoughts are a bit partial and much of what I have to say was it turns out largely foreshadowed in questions raised by Duncan Kennedy in the early 1980s In Rebels from Principle pdf a piece he wrote for the Harvard Law School Bulletin he wrote the locus of conflict between oppression and liberation can t be conceptualized as always outside us It is inside us as well inside any liberal or left organization and also inside the apparently monolithic opposing organizations like corporate law firms I think it follows that there are no strategies for social transformation that are privileged a priori either in the sense that they designate the right place to struggle because struggling in that place will lead most certainly to the overthrow of illegitimate hierarchy and alienation or even in the much more limited sense that some struggles have an absolute moral priority over others Second I am troubled by the fact that this advice can be given to lawyers and certain other professionals but seems a much poorer fit for say the heroes of all of those British style social dramas I suppose that the capacity to have some power some say in what your work means or how it s organized is one of the reasons for the success of the labour movement Third none of this means that we should

    Original URL path: http://mchugh-russell.ca/2015/02/26/make-work/ (2016-05-01)
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  • Teach the Controversy « Liam McHugh-Russell
    result is that those whose exposure to economic concepts is limited to undergrad teaching come away with an attitude to the heterodoxy equivalent to the grade schooler belief that there s no such thing as negative numbers Until you teach them how to manipulate unfamiliar ideas questions that depend on those concepts will seem nonsensical So what s the alternative The failure of neoclassical models to predict or prevent the financial crisis and its complicity in unavoidable perpetuation of inequalities under thirty years of neoliberalism could be used as an argument for simply replacing the dominant paradigm with another The push for a more historical approach to economics provides a different and likely more fruitful answer teach the controversy It s not clear why undergrads shouldn t be exposed to the incompatible models of the Keynesians and the monetarists marginalists and institutionalists Marx and Hayek Friedman and Coase For that matter why shouldn t they spend more time engaging with hard questions about the relationship between economic variables and real world social practice à la David Graeber or Thomas Piketty Of course undergrads exposed to a variety of models with often conflicting opinions about how policy will effect outcomes and to theoretical texts that raise questions about the true nature of economic practice may end up somewhat confused about how the real world works But this is exactly as it should be if the last ten years have taught us anything it s that the world needs fewer not more people convinced that they know how to organize an economy August 20th 2014 Category Uncategorized Leave a Reply Cancel reply Name required Email will not be published required Website You can use these HTML tags a href title abbr title acronym title b blockquote cite cite code del datetime em

    Original URL path: http://Mchugh-Russell.ca/2014/08/20/teach-the-controversy/ (2016-05-01)
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  • Uncategorized « Liam McHugh-Russell
    hills and hard lives of the Ozarks Brilliant noir meets western sensibilities in a morality play about how norms rules and power play out in the shadow of the law Like the Coen brothers without any of Tarantino s glib distance from what s happening How dark are you willing to go Snowtown or for North Americans unlikely to pick up the box of what sounds like a ski weekend comedy The Snowtown Murders is a kind of horror movie sans both the genre s exhausting titillation and its sense of the Gothic Rather a depressing window on the conditions under which criminality gets normalized In that way like Breaking Bad except it doesn t try to win points by having protagonists you care about Very violent with some scenes of torture made all the more nauseating when you know the movie is based on real case history A lighter option because it is about terror rather than horror is Animal Kingdom By making a movie about bank robbers without any bank robberies the writers are able to create the perfect setting for a portrayal of the fear of living with people who you know are not only capable of profound violence but also under constant threat of becoming its victims That set up is executed perfectly by having the camera rather than the dialogue do most of the heavy lifting Had my adrenaline running to the point I actually had to pause it at points even though there are no explosions no quick cuts no firefights and only one very subdued chase scene Another great movie that lets the camera do most of the psychologizing is Martha Marcy Mae Marlene Also some unsettling violence but here most of it is implied rather than played out save one startling scene that thankfully ends quickly Provides an insider s view of what it might feel like to join a cult and in particular of the way in which transgression is used to maintain group coherence and what that means for members if and when they leave A cute off kilter take on cults though one that provides less insight into what we are like as social beings is The Sound of My Voice I dare you to watch the first 12 minutes which you can online and not feel like you have to see the end game Replaces the sociology of Martha Mae with the soft focus metaphysics of a freshman dorm room Is she or isn t she The narrative provides just enough misdirection to make you feel at the end that the answer can only be both If dark and disturbing are not really your style I guess I would ask a question how do you feel about Wes Anderson He made Rushmore and The Royal Tennenbaums If you are into his style and there is really no mistaking it then rush to see Moonrise Kingdom It provides all the twee odd strangely paced artifice and nostalgia painted in pastels and tartans over the surface of every one of his films though with less of the pathos that marked say Tennenbaums Some people find his focus on art design rather than art frustrating and can t connect to films without the veneer of Hollywood realism if you are not that person then you will probably find more than a few things to like in this particular take on his one man genre a particular interation that dips more directly into the style of kids adventures books than anything else in his oeuvre in some sense even more so than The Fantastic Mr Fox Though this one has nothing on par with the latter s amazing wolf on the hill scene An older movie that also borrows from the school of valorizing presentation over representation and flair over fervour is Rian Johnson s Brick In its essence it s like a film school project on genre mixing bringing together film noir s mystery caricature hard knocks and careless violence with the lightness nostalgia and dramatis personae of a cheesy high school romantic comedy Except for a few moments where Johnson allows the awkwardness and doubt of actual teenagers to poke through the script s surface the mastery of the film lies precisely in how well these two elements are balanced giving what is obviously pastiche the patina of reality Speaking of bank robberies and of old movies have you seen Inside Man A Spike Lee joint that seems the most significant departure from his usual efforts to capture the lived realities of America s black communities the film proves that his skills go much deeper than just a commitment to faithful storytelling By letting the narrative unfold both forward and backward toward the heist s punchline Lee is not only able to make a movie about the thrill of constructing and executing the job a la Ocean s Eleven but also provides a mystery or really two mysteries one of which is as political as you would expect from one of his picture Except for the spent payoff of knowing how the hell they pulled off the job the whole thing held up under a recent second viewing as well A movie that really lets the camera do a lot of the work and some might say too much is Meek s Cutoff For those who played it the idea that this is the best movie never made about the Oregon Trail video game is sure to catch a few laughs the movie on the other hand is unlikely to catch any About the madness of heading of West in the early years it seems to star the scenery more than any of the actors portraying plains so flat and desolate that they allude to an unspoken intent to kill Probably falls into the too subtle category but only if you think there is supposed to be some point beyond simply portraying what it was like to be there for the people crazy enough to start the journey Very Slow The movie I am most excited for the release of this year is Upstream Color not because I know next to anything about it because it was made by Shane Carruth and that he made Primer Primer is like Rian Johnson s most recent movie Looper in that it s about time travel except that it was made on less than 1 of the budget is much smarter and actually takes that subject matter seriously Too often science fiction gets caught up in chasing the possibilities of what if in a way that ignores that all fiction works on exactly the same premise Rather than chasing aesthetics of the future that almost always reveal more about present neuroses than presenting any real thought about how technological change social change and design might interact the film simply takes the what if seriously letting particular characters in a particular place respond to the disruption of a new technology You could say that Carruth is also too subtle here in the sense that catching the drift of the narrative probably requires a second or a third viewing but that is a feature of a film that is unafraid to work with the real consequences moral metaphysical psychological of messing with one of the fundamental building blocks of our experience February 4th 2013 Tags movies Shane Carruth Category Uncategorized Leave a comment Ding Dongs Rob Ford has been removed from office or as many of my friends have written on facebook ROB FORD HAS BEEN REMOVED FROM OFFICE Let me tell you that makes a somma people angry Say and this may surprise you Christie Blatchford I haven t been able to read past the fold but that s more than enough Here s her headline Christie Blatchford 383 501 Torontonians voted for Rob Ford not one voted for the men behind his ouster Let s be clear about what happened in this decision In fact let s let Ivor Tossell do it because he gives the clearest breakdown of the actual run of events I ve seen to date Rob Ford runs a football foundation He tirelessly fundraises for it from people he meets including developers and lobbyists and lately he did it with city resources This is against the rules The city s integrity commissioner entreated him over and over to follow these rules another person telling him he can t do this can t to that but to no avail And after years of breaking rules that merely put him on the hook for financial penalties Ford finally broke the rule that cost him his job He got up in council and argued that he shouldn t have to pay just such a penalty Then he voted against parting with the money That s a conflict of interest and some of the finest lawyers in town weren t able to convince the judge otherwise Given this context the only way of reading Blatchford s argument I guess is that politicians shouldn t be be removed from office for breaking conflict of interest rules because it s undemocratic This is weird but common People have this vision of a democratic system where you elect a supreme ruler for 5 years and dude gets to do whatever the hell he wants That s not how it works nor how it should Politicians especially municipal politicians are elected to do a job Breaking certain rules are going to get you fired though apparently gross incompetence and not showing up to work won t It seems totally reasonable to me that where the employer has clear rules about not getting involved in decisions that impact your own finances losing your job should be a possible consequence Lots of people who are happy to see Ford go have nonetheless hedged their glee with the caveat that this isn t the way that they want to see him go Some of the hand wringing seems to side with the it s anti democratic side Me I have no qualms about politicians who break the rules getting kicked out of office before their term is up Others however are worried about the potential political fall out from the decision No matter the reasons of those whose renditions of Ding Dong the Witch is Dead are sung in slightly hushed tones their argument is on the one that the law s the law and so the judge had little choice but on the other hand thanks again Ivor The law is too crude an implement and deserves to be revisited Again I am not so sure As easy as is to attack the lack of discretion the legislation gives the judge it required him once he found a breach which did not result from inadvertence to declare the seat vacant I am not sure that people have really thought through the alternatives Many I suppose would like to see a law that gave the judge a wider set of penalties to draw from based on the severity of the offence The problem of course is that people very seldom violate a law like this so egregiously so blatantly so audaciously Which means that unlike in criminal law there is very little precedent for a judge to rely on If the law had provided room for discretion the judge would essentially have to decide himself what the penalty should be for Ford s misconduct Should it have been less because the amount in issue was only 3500 Should it have been more because the violation was so brazen as in cases where punitive damages are applied Should it have been less because it was done so clearly out in the open and not hidden or does that mean it was brazen and contemptuous of the rules and everyone else s compliance with them and should be punished more Should it have been more or less because he got involved in a decision on not paying money he owed rather than on say awarding a contract to himself These all seem like difficult questions to me and were the judge had discretion the answer provided would be fraught with even more political overtones Can you imagine that anyone would have been happy with this decision if the judge had found Ford guilty and say only fined him 10000 Or if he had let Ford stay in office but banned him from running in the next election What decision could the judge have made in such a situation which would have seemed non political The judge himself the full text of the decision is here apparently would have liked more wiggle room The mandatory removal from office for contravening s 5 1 of the MCIA is a very blunt instrument and has attracted justified criticism and calls for legislative reform I am not so sure Once you accept that courts can remove politicians from office for fraud it seems to me that a zero tolerance approach is the only way to prevent the decision making process from taking on terrible political proportions The law is good enough as is To be clear I do wish that Rob Ford had not been removed from office in this way Thanks to people like Christie Blatchford this case will be used to attack the legal system and to boost the idea that the left somehow does not play fair It may also paradoxically increase Ford s chance of staying in office But I also wish that Toronto s mayor was not such a blustering arrogant buffoon that he would break fundraising rules for city councillors violate conflict of interest rules ignore legal advice and assume that the rules did not apply to him It is the fact that he is and that he did which ultimately provides the fodder for Blatchford s thoughtless incoherent tirade Not the judge Not the conflict of interest law Not the complainants in the case Once more Tossell nails it Rob Ford got himself fired As for the meat of the decision the only defences Ford had to rely on was that the rules weren t actually the rules that he broke them accidentally or that the amount at issue was insignificant Ford has said he will appeal The judges rulings on the first two issues seem watertight Which means given that they have to rule under the existing law they could keep Ford in office by deciding that the amount is insignificant But let us be clear this would be a court saying that when a city official owes the city 3500 there are no consequences for him voting on whether he has to pay it or not I imagine that many taxpayers wish they had the same luxury But back to Blatchford s analysis Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has been given the boot from office because an opportunistic citizen hired a smart and politically savvy lawyer who found a club of an arcane statute with which to tie the hands of a judge who was willing to play ball That s the short and dirty version of the bombshell that has dropped She seems to be saying i the people who wrote a law allowing city councillors who brazenly purposefully violate conflict of interest laws were wrong to do so ii the people who brought this case to the courts to see if the law had been broken were wrong to do so iii the court system was wrong for hearing the case despite having absolutely no discretion over what cases to hear Each of these propositions seems wrong to me I cannot read any further November 27th 2012 Tags Christie Blatchford discretion law municipal politics Rob Ford Toronto Category Uncategorized Leave a comment Thinking Art Brain Dump Saturday in catches and glimpses unordered learning by doing designing by making art as its own language art as its own different way of interpreting the world or each artform as a unique way of interpreting the world Nancy Adler strategic planning by design rather than by analysis or designing an option worth choosing not choosing an option or focusing on a positive vision rather than a negative criticism Tim McDonald the difference between making buildings and making buildings on paper weight balance and tension don t try to design an experience art is not a meatgrinder to push people through but also I don t design buildings I design communities Marx and Hayek emergent and planned top down and bottom up edge versus centre drawing as a conversation with what comes to the surface thinking with your hands Richard Serra as an artist of weight have you ever seen a Rothko depiction versus representation Paul Klee do not paint the thing but what brought it into being Phil Ochs Ah but in such an ugly time the true protest is beauty art as a tool the need for beauty in the mess of today s world cactus music the sun and planets and the music of the spheres 250 cardboard boxes abecedarians clowning works by going to the essence that is why it works without words thinking so essentially all the time would be exhausting the birth of the modern public problem solving through dance art as a tool found phrases and found sounds the gap between sound and music do you smell me thank you for sharing your privilege music and brain science I wish I could be friends with all of these people dancing around a conflict point stone and water circle full circle creation as an act of humility How Should a Person Be and the value of recognizing ugliness really quite accomplished pieces eight dimensions of the actor s work having the patience and humility to let the ideas come to you thinking with and without concepts the role of language in thought writing dead and alive you can just tell when writing is a

    Original URL path: http://Mchugh-Russell.ca/category/uncategorized/page/2/ (2016-05-01)
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  • What we think they should want « Liam McHugh-Russell
    it not be easier In that case for the government To dissolve the people And elect another Also awful however is how much pleasure I take in this quote Not because I agree with it at all no Rather one of the virtues if it can be called a virtue that I have cultivated as I gradually come to identify myself as an academic is this affection for pieces of evidence that provide the perfect example of some process or dynamic or force even if that process is the name of what is going wrong with the world Such pristine self contained cases It is hard not to be drawn in by the sense of the universal in the particular especially when as here it is about universalizing one kind of particular and annihilating another October 16th 2015 Tags Arthur Laing Bertohld Brecht Canada cultural genocide Category culture politics Leave a Reply Cancel reply Name required Email will not be published required Website You can use these HTML tags a href title abbr title acronym title b blockquote cite cite code del datetime em i q cite s strike strong Find Read This apophenia Epicurean Dealmaker Freddie de Boer interfluidity

    Original URL path: http://mchugh-russell.ca/2015/10/16/what-we-think-they-should-want/ (2016-05-01)
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  • Annihilation « Liam McHugh-Russell
    or of anything at all but simply exist as universal ambient calculating devices receiving and sending inputs and outputs without requiring any actual interface with the consuming accumulating subject We cannot learn anything about our wants which have no where we can learn only about how to feed them anywhere and only through the market which is everywhere Now this is almost but not quite hyperbole it is not per se that e g the work of economic geographers is irrelevant There is lip service in the probabilistic characterization of futures in terms of states of the world that will determine the payouts from those assets to the fact that these states will actually come to occur in a world But the value of the state is in its realized income not in the world You can want to watch a Tahitian sunset but the existence of Tahiti is irrelevant reproducible peripheral The bodies actions performance work interpretations decisions all these from within the perspective of the system are obscene And what is place but a gathering of bodies and actions a complex of work and implementation a site of interpretation and decision an entangled jumble doubly obscene An abomination of unpriced value If you are a Volkswagen executive the question is not what planet you will live on The question is how the risk weighted discounted future cost of getting caught impacts on the firm s share value and how the risk weighted discounted future impact on share value of doing it anyway impacts on your present net worth You must think against the planet as place There is no planet all states after all have their dollar price When there is no more earth we will simply plant gold October 15th 2015 Tags finance Friederich Hayek Gary Becker

    Original URL path: http://mchugh-russell.ca/2015/10/15/annihilation/ (2016-05-01)
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