Archive for July, 2010

Rawlsian Philosophy

Posted in Uncategorized on July 22, 2010 by braincoffey
The IP was taken by surprise by the words chosen in a recent article in the NYT about Pakistan’s tax structure:

But in Pakistan, the lack of a workable tax system feeds something more menacing: a festering inequality in Pakistani society, where the wealth of its most powerful members is never redistributed or put to use for public good. That is creating conditions that have helped spread an insurgency that is tormenting the country and complicating American policy in the region.

When he read the word “redistributed,”  all The IP could think of is the time Obama told Joe The Plumber that it would be good for everybody to “spread the wealth around.”  Well, the Tea Baggers went berserk. Even for those Tea Baggers that could benefit from some revamping of our tax structure, just the thought of “redistributing wealth” was enough for them and their radio blowhard leaders to make even tighter the “socialist” mantle they had already secured around Obama.But when you think about it, the state of taxes in Pakistan is just an extreme example of what ails the U.S. When he read in that NYT article about how “much of Pakistan’s capital city looks like a rich Los Angeles suburb” and how “shiny sport utility vehicles purr down gated driveways” and how “elegant multistory homes are tended by servants,” he could only think of our own gated communities where asstards like Kenny Lay and Jeff Skilling (used to?) live; never mind the corporations themselves, who, like Lay and Skilling, are now “people” too, Thanks to the recent 5-4 Supreme Court ruling.
It all brought to The IP’s mind the work of one of his favorite philosophers, John Rawls. 
Rawls actually applied reason and logic in his quest to suggest a “fair” way to structure a Western-style economy. Of course, “fairness” is not a favorite term of Tea Baggers. For them, fairness means “socialism.” Thing is, all you have to do is look at Pakistan (and many other developing countries) and see what happens when there is no distribution of wealth at all. As one honest Pakistani in the article said regarding the U.S. bailouts for his country and his leaders’ refusal to tax their citizens:
“The Americans should say: ‘Enough. Sort it out yourselves. Get your house in order first’…But you are cowards. You are afraid to take that chance.”
That Guy knows that whatever billions of dollars we give to his country, none of it will trickle down his way.
Coincidentally, there was another Rawls who, while making most of his career as a soul singer, had majored in philosophy in college.  The IP is refering to Lou Rawls, known for his mellow voice and lovely lyrics.
The tension between Lou Rawls’ future career as a soul singer and his love of philosophy is evident in a letter he sent to his high school sweetheart during his junior year of college:

Dear Bertha.

School is going well, but my philosophy class is really hard. Today my professor discussed how the Lockean conception of property rights as natural rights are closely tied to human liberty. But not everybody owns property, that’s why I think love is the real issue. And love fluctuates as much as the tax rate. For every little kiss there’s a little teardrop, for every single thrill there’s another heartache. The road is rough. The going gets tough.

But baby, our love does not correspond very well to the realities of our economic lives. We do not create wealth from our own labor in a social vacuum. That said, love IS a hurtin’ thing; oh, love is a hurtin’ thing. In fact, it hurts almost as much as economic inequality hurts our society!

Oh baby, I have a philosophy. To understand my philosophy is to know that, when you’re in my arms I’m a king on a throne. But when we’re apart I walk the streets alone, which gives me a lot of time to think about how our society could be more fair, fair in the sense that social institutions won’t advantage any particular kind of person at the expense of others.

But it’s hard to think about that kind of stuff when you’re in love. One day happiness, the next day, loneliness. And there’s always that age-old question that no philosopher, including myself, could ever answer: When love brings so much joy why must it bring such pain? Guess it’s a mystery that nobody can explain.

Maybe I’m a fool to keep on loving you, and maybe I’m a fool to believe that America could take an approach to property rights that allows for taxing the well off in order to provide things like education, health care and a social safety net for others;

‘Cause there may come a time you’ll break my heart in two, and then I won’t be able to continue the work on my Lou Rawlsian Philosophy. But I want you so. In fact, I want you though I know that Love is a hurtin’ thing, and the hurtin’ is compounded when I think about how nearly all of our productive activity is carried out in the context of a complex fabric of social interrelations buoyed by a substantial technological infrastructure.

Oh, love and social injustice is a hurtin’ thing, baby.

LOVE, Lou.




Posted in Uncategorized on July 17, 2010 by braincoffey
While Japan, America, and much of the European Union are trying to make sense of the economic virus that is coursing through their countries, India today boldly announced their new, government-approved symbol for their official currency, the rupee:
The talking heads say it will be a while before you see it on keyboards, but it may start showing up in financial reports and economic analyses. It might look good on a T-shirt too.


Hipster Music

Posted in Uncategorized on July 14, 2010 by braincoffey
The IP has to give it up to the millenial hipsters. They’re just doing what every other generation has done; they go back in time and listen to the old shit, which used to be other people’s new shit, but they take it and make it their own. And so it goes in cycles.
The IP heard this band just by chance on a hipster show on the local college station, WRAS. It was on in the background, but he had to turn it up. WTF? It’s an amalgam of electronic sounds and electronica dance beats that is made from the past, but sounds contemporary.
The band, Crystal Castles, had their first CD in 2008, but they just dropped a new one.  Check out this track:


And here’s one of their 2008 releases. It’s a well-done BBC session that entertains, even if you don’t like the music: 


Well, you hipsters are having your day, but that crazy vocal sound originated with Nashville’s Pete Drake and his invention of the “Talk Box,” and it was later was used by Peter Frampton, not to mention the awesome 1970s Scots band Nazareth: