Friday, January 28, 2011

I've signed up for a couple races.

Grandma's Marathon in Duluth on June 18th and the Afton 50K Trail Run on July 2nd. Grandma's will actually function as a training run for the latter.

Just so you know, a Marathon is about 42K; a 50K is an ultramarathon. I mean, sure, the big boys in ultramarathoning consider it a weenie race, but I kind of think it's a big deal. You should see the altitude profile of this thing: up, down, up, down, up, down, up, down, up, down... And that's just the 25K course! We get to start all over again! And it's a trail run, so it's all grass and dirt. Some of those things have you jumping over logs, scrambling over rocks and wading rivers. I don't think this one is like that, but I don't know. I'm going to have to do some training runs over there and scout the place out.

I also fully intend to run the Twin Cities Marathon again this year. I believe I'll be presenting a different image come the Holidays.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

I've started running again.

Yes, in the middle of the godawful cold of the coldest weeks of a godawfully cold winter. Ya bundle up. And don't try to set any records.

I've been running about every other day, averaging about four miles per run, since the 14th. Actually the every other day thing bounced me over the 24-below day, so I didn't have to decide whether to skip a run or not that day. The two 'abouts' a couple sentences ago I feel the need to explain: the first one is because I've actually run more than that - I ran back-to-back days twice, and the second one is because the route I've run most is 4.22 miles, according to MapMyRun. I did 2 shorter routes (3.05 and 3.88) and one slightly longer (4.29).

The longest route is the nicest, it goes the long way through a long park along Shingle Creek, but, when the temp's below 15 and there's any kind of wind, you don't want to go that way. There's no view when you've got your hood pulled tight around your face and your hat brim is blocking out everything beyond ten feet in front of you.

The passion's back, though. I was getting the urge to go out again late this afternoon. I suppressed it by sitting down to watch the Packer game. They held on to beat the Bears for the NFC Championship. They're going to the Superbowl!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Three paragraphs from Alice Miller

From her book Banished Knowledge. This comes from chapter 2, "Innocence of the Parents," page 34 of the paperback, after a quote from a book by Phil Donahue, in which he is his usual, "even-handed," "moderate" self:
Although Donahue's discussion ostensibly proceeds from the question of which parental behavior might exert a traumatizing and lasting effect on the child, and although it would appear to give priority to concerns for the child, the second paragraph shows that basically it is concerned only with liberating parents from justified guilt feelings. They are assured that their actions pose no danger: The child will suffer no harm if he knows that he is being tormented out of "love" and "for his own good." This kind of reassurance that relies on untruths is based on the statements of "experts" quoted here and, I need hardly say, corresponds to the wishes of all parents who are not prepared to question their own behavior.

But might not there be a different way, other than reassurances? Might not one explain to the parents, in all honesty and frankness, why they traumatize their children? Not all of them would stop tormenting their children, but some would. We can be certain, however, that they would not stop if they were told, as were their own parents thirty years earlier, that one slap more or less does no harm, provided they love the child. Although this phrase contains a contradiction, it can continue to be handed down because we are used to it. Love and cruelty are mutually exclusive. No one ever slaps a child out of love but rather because in similar situations, when one was defenseless, one was slapped and then compelled to interpret it as a sign of love. This inner confusion prevailed for thirty or forty years and is passed on to one's own child. That's all. To purvey this confusion to the child as truth leads to new confusions that, although examined in detail by experts, are still confusions. If, on the other hand, one can admit one's errors to the child and apologize for a lack of self-control, no confusions are created.

If a mother can make it clear to a child that at that particular moment when she slapped him her love for him deserted her and she was dominated by other feelings that had nothing to do with the child, the child can keep a clear head, feel respected, and not be disoriented in his relationship to his mother. While it is true that love for a child cannot be commanded, each of us is free to decide to refrain from hypocrisy. I don't know whether hypocrisy exists in the animal world; at least I have never heard of a young animal growing up with the idea that it has to be tormented almost to death so that one day it may become a "decent and disciplined animal." Kagan's well-meant but naive trust in the ability of the "human animal" to survive a traumatic childhood unscathed ignores completely the potent, destructive, and disastrous nature of the traumas inflicted on the child. Many comparisons between human and animal aggression also ignore the fact that, in light of humans' destructive atomic power and readiness to destroy (as documented by Hitler and Stalin), all the bared animal teeth in the world are bound to appear downright innocuous. Is it possible that Harvard professors don't know this? Absolutely. If they derived their trust in the harmless nature of childhood traumas from the convictions of the grandmothers, they will learn nothing from facts because this trust clearly remains unshaken throughout their lives. But in view of the great confusions they are causing, in view of the dangerous hypocrisy they support, this trust is anything but harmless, since it is precisely the consequences of those universally ignored childhood traumas that threaten the world today.
This is the conclusion of the chapter.  The preceding pages support the conclusion.  Her discussion of Hitler and Stalin is in her book, For Your Own Good: Hidden Cruelty in Child-Rearing and the Roots of Violence.  She produces much more evidence for her conclusions, including her own experiences, patient cases as a psycho-therapist and other studies.

I don't think that bringing up Hitler and Stalin is hyperbole.  That they existed in the real world, and similar people and their admirers exist now, is evidence that the problem she is fighting is not an imaginary one.  They are simply the most widely known and acknowledged exemplars of evil.  Miller's theory explains how they could do what they did and why people cooperated with them.  And how we can keep from repeating that history. Other theories do a suck-@$$ job of that.

And, when I say "we", I mean you and me; right here, right now.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Intro to Internal Family Systems Therapy



And make sure you see his video on grief.

Edit: I'm going to give a quick summary of IFS, for those who can't or won't watch the video: don't just accept every notion that pops into your head as the be-all and end-all of wisdom. Question them carefully to see if they coincide with what you really want to do (or say or think).

That inner critic is often the internalized voice of some know-it-all busy-body whom you'd tell to pound sand if they were a real person outside your head. Sadly, it doesn't work to do that to inner voices: you have to find out what they're trying to accomplish and make deals with them.

That's a very quick summary; if that's all you learn about it, you'll likely misunderstand it and/or take off on a bizarre tangent. I'm hoping you'll look more deeply into it.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Amazon Boobs, Ancient Gods and the End of Evil

Test blog 1: Top 5 Political Videos 2010

Test blog 1: Top 5 Political Videos 2010

This is Sheldon Richman's article

I'm putting it here because it's important enough that it needs to be available even to my readers who can't download Adobe Acrobat or don't want to take the time to read through back issues of FEE's magazine, The Freeman.

Oh, actually, here it is in plain text. Well, I'm still going to take the chance that somebody won't like me having the full text here.
Full Context
Peripatetics
BY SHELDON RICHMAN

In The Wealth of Nations Adam Smith famously
wrote, “People of the same trade seldom meet
together, even for merriment and diversion, but the
conversation ends in a conspiracy against the publick, or
in some contrivance to raise prices.” It may seem strange
that history’s best-known advocate of the free market
would cast such aspersions on business people. But there
is nothing strange about it. A defense of the market, and
of voluntarism in general, should never be mistaken for
a defense of particular business interests.

Opponents of the free market love that quote from
Smith. For obvious reasons they rarely add the sentences
that follow: “It is impossible indeed to prevent such
meetings, by any law which either could be executed, or
would be consistent with liberty and justice. But though
the law cannot hinder people of the same trade from
sometimes assembling together, it ought to do nothing to
facilitate such assemblies; much less to render them necessary”
(book I, chapter X, part II, paragraph 27; emphasis
added).

As Smith well knew, government often facilitates
such assemblies. Effective “conspiracy[ies] against the
publick” would be impossible without state support.
Absent political privilege,“contrivance[s] to raise prices”
would crumble under the pressure of free competition.
It takes a state to make a tariff, a price support, or a punitive
tax or regulation on one’s competitors.

Smith’s book was a brief against mercantilism, the
nationalistic system of business privilege. But we sometimes
forget that the economic system that succeeded
mercantilism was not free of all mercantilist features.
Especially in the second half of the nineteenth century
and at the hands of the Republican Party, mercantilism
(in the form of Henry Clay’s old American System) had
wide influence at the national level. (The states had their
own modest versions earlier in the century.) Its program
consisted of protective tariffs, taxpayer-financed infrastructure
projects (“internal improvements”), regulation
of private infrastructure, a national bank for credit
manipulation, and other forms of government intervention
intended to guide society’s development and in the
process benefit the well-connected business class.A good
deal of land was also parceled out to politically favored
interests, such as most of the major railroads. Dominant
business figures did not oppose this program; on the
contrary, they championed it because they stood to gain
from the above-market prices, lucrative government
contracts, and burdens on smaller competitors.

Later, the Progressive Era “reforms” were not only
supported, but were often proposed, by big business.
Meat inspection, railroad regulation, drug-safety monitoring,
and policing of competition were activities
favored by the major players in the relevant industries. It
is not widely appreciated how much big-business support
the New Deal had (or how the New Deal actually
began under Hoover). The industry codes enforced by
the National Recovery Administration were a godsend
to businessmen who for years had striven, unsuccessfully,
to create stable cartels to assure long-run profits.Government
economic planning during World War I had
given many businessmen (and bureaucrats) a taste of
what it was like to run an economy. They liked it
enough to return to Washington during Franklin Roosevelt’s
tenure in the White House.

What today is called rent-seeking, exploiting others
through political means,was as common in earlier times
as it is now. It was a rare business proprietor who favored
laissez faire.Why risk your money in the unpredictable
marketplace when you could have stable prices and
profits with government intervention? Even an income
tax might be a small price to pay for that safety. Most
business people were uninterested in moral philosophy,
economic theory, and ideology. The shortest route
between them and a nice return on investment usually
went through the statehouse or the Capitol.

No knowledgeable champion of free markets will be
surprised by any of this. The problem is that we too
often forget it in the heat of current controversies. By
dropping the historical context we weaken our case and
sound like defenders of the corporate state, the opposite
of laissez faire.

This has been pointed out before.Kevin Carson,who
calls himself a “free market anti-capitalist,” writes in
Studies in Mutualist Political Economy that many libertarians
“use the term ‘free market’ in an equivocal sense:
they seem to have trouble remembering, from one
moment to the next, whether they’re defending actually
existing capitalism or free market principles.”
For example, several months ago opportunistic members
of Congress proposed a windfall-profits tax on the
oil companies because gasoline prices had jumped during
the hurricane season and profits had risen dramatically.
In arguing against the tax, many libertarians (and
conservatives) explained why in a free market, prices and
profits would rise under the current circumstances.Thus
higher prices and profits warranted no government
intervention.

Fine. The economic theory and conclusion were
impeccable. But something was missing, and this gap
gave credibility to the free market’s adversaries. What
was missing? An acknowledgment of the contemporary
effects of the long period of pro-business interventionism,
what Carson calls “the subsidy of history.” For many
years oil companies have benefited from a system of federal
and state favoritism. Much U.S. foreign policy has
the effect of forcing the taxpayers to pick up the huge
tab for stabilizing the companies’ sources of crude oil.
All of this has distorted investment, prices, and, therefore,
consumer behavior, and it’s hard to know what the
oil industry—or indeed the entire economy—would
look like without the distortion. The rippling effects
have been pervasive and substantial.

In sum, the companies are not creations of the free
market. And if we defend them as though they are, we
will sound naïve at best and like apologists for the corporate
state at worst.That diminishes our efforts to win
the public to our position. Let us never be guilty of supporting,
even implicitly, the socialization of costs, for there
is no surer way to undercut the case for the privatization
of profits.

Labor Legislation

Another example: Free-market advocates frequently
criticize unions and their supporting laws. Any
government intervention deserves to be criticized, but
once again the context is often dropped. The context
includes the fact that the business elite historically supported
labor laws, even if in the end they objected to the
precise form of the National Labor Relations Act and
other enactments. Business-backed social-reform organizations,
such as the National Civic Federation and the
American Association for Labor Legislation, long had
proposed labor laws in the belief that they were the path
to labor peace and the end of wildcat strikes.
“Respectable” union leaders would be brought to the
corporate-state table as responsible junior partners who
would discipline their unruly elements. Moreover,
industrywide collective bargaining would have a
cartelizing effect on American industry, reducing the
“cutthroat competition” that was so unsettling and that
worked to the advantage of upstart rivals.

While we should hit at government intervention in
the labor market, as everywhere else, we must hold the
context and never fail to point out that such intervention
was integral to the system enacted largely at the
behest of the dominant business interests. It is reasonable
to believe that workers would have more bargaining
power if all corporate privilege were abolished and
competition were truly unfettered. If talk of the corporate
state and exploitation sounds left-wing, it’s only
because laissez fairists seldom talk about those things.
But we should.They are our issues.

Context-holding is not just of academic interest; it
has strategic implications. If we keep in mind that the
current threat to liberty is the centrist corporate state,
we will see that a top priority is the repeal of all corporate
subsidies, even the most subtle kinds.

25 APRIL 2006

F u l l C o n t e x t

Hey, I'm back.

Went to Mom's for Christmas. Actually, we mostly stayed at my sister's new house. Quite a lovely place. Forgot the camera, so no pictures.

All happy, cozy stuff. Didn't fight about anything, though I did have a medium-length conversation with my mother about my acceptance of the lack of evidence for gods. I don't know which of us was responsible for redirecting the conversation onto how the theory of evolution doesn't contradict the Bible, but the fact that we ended up there could be considered a misdirection ploy on my part.

By the way, we agree on that. That's not why the Bible is wrong. It's wrong because it asserts, without proof, that gods and supernatural beings exist. It's true that people who believed in such things existed and left artifacts, but there's no archeological evidence of anything miraculous.