Friday, March 29, 2013


Nomos is a word from ancient Greek which means both law and custom. I've been asked what I use it to denote. We use this, as in eco-NOM-ics and astro-NOM-y. Which is why internet trolls should learn etymology.

To understand human behavior one must start from the doctrine of incorporation: mental activities are carried out by a physical body. While the locus of that activity is the nerves of the brain, it is not limited to those nerves.

Morality, as we understand it, stems from a few sections of the brain that parse what is normally done, and applying that to the inner decision making. The inner patter is morality, however the outer patterns are the fractal result of these inner patterns. The clash between the intent of morality - to fit in - and the results, which often lead to anger, insult, and tragedy, have occupied writers, and dramatists, for centuries.

What the human mind has not evolved, is a sense of how to understand the bigger picture in the same direct way. We learn language and morality because that is the way our brains generally grow. We learn literature and ethics, only by a higher order processing and projection into other than simple step by step understanding.

Every society grows out of the morals of its members, but the connection between the morals that people learn and the ethics that it creates is in direct.

A nomos is the connection between desired ethical results and the morals that make them up, a sphere of connected individuals who learn what is moral by observing each other, and forming a stable attractor.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Contours of Production: Generations of Composition

In the last part Aaron Kozbelt's data set of 202 composers was used to look at how we view production in the past. It is not as good an indicator of prolific composers in their own context. The author notes several important problems: the unreliability of available scores from the Baroque, plus the effort required. Kozbelt notes:

In the future, estimates for individual composers can be refined as more obscure pieces are recorded (or otherwise documented) and as some works previously thought lost are rediscovered, as happened with Vivaldi’s opera Montezuma in 2002. As additional information becomes available, the sample could also be extended to include other productive, eminent composers such as Marc-Antoine Charpentier, Cherubini, Gounod, Honegger, Hummel, Lully, Meyerbeer, Milhaud, Palestrina, Alessandro Scarlatti and Telemann, reputedly the most prolific composer of all.
On the other end, his sample stops with second generation modernism, and also several composers whose work was pushed into obscurity by totalitarianism. The data set should probably be doubled. However, its selection does tell us about what is valued today: super-prolific recent composers are at a disadvantage: Elliot Carter, Alan Hovhaness, Bohuslav Martinů – all examples of prolific composers whose important output was post-1940. Another blindspot are composers who went on to be film composers, or who had Jazz in their output. Sullivan, but not Frederick Loewe, Leonard Bernstein's West Side Story counted as part of his output but not Richard Rodgers or Stephen Sondheim? No Gershwin? But more on this in a moment.

But there are some insights yet to be gleaned from the data as it stands. Consider lifespan versus date of birth, giving a look at generational moments, a subject, since the Body Boomers are the generational generation, which receives attention. When do demographics come in to play most strongly?

There is the graph of date of birth against productivity, at the bottom for readability.

What can we see?

First, it demolishes the notion that complexity is the driver of production drop. Instead production rolls off the table past the early Romantic – and the beginning of the "low out put important composer" shows up in the wave of composers who would be important in the second half of the 19th century. This would indicate that economics, and life spans, are important. As it became possible to be a low output composer, and as the size of repertory grew, the pressure was on distinct work, and having some expectation of time to make it. Also visible are clusters of births, indicating that there is more than some investigation worth while into whether certain moments favored settling down to be a composer for some long term source of patronage. Again, the roll off the table effect is not based on style, the Bel Canto opera composers and supposedly early Romantics are the last of the hyper-prolific. The next note is that there is a clear gap in the 1848-1855 period, indicating, again, that outside factors come into play.

Finally the boundaries of the sample show up, with the end of the sample being essentially 1920, that is almost a century ago.

The way to remedy this defect is one of method: by using Spotify lists, calculation of a composer's complete output becomes easier to do, and crowd sourceable. Kozbelt's heroic effort in compiling this set, before the availability of playlists, must have consumed far more time than one would like to think about. I did a survey of String Quartet and Piano Trio times, averaging recordings, and then found I could use Petrucci, Sibelius 7, and iTunes to rapidly compile performance times of a vast range of composers using a simple Python script that would curl files, rip them to Sibelius and scan them, then electronically play them.

So the next wave of this project is to make it distributed and insertable, thus allowing a wide range of hands to contribute.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Contours of Production: A Centenary of the Avant-Garde in Music Essay

2013, it can be argued, and will be I am sure, the Centenary of the coming of age of Avant-Gardism in concert music. A century of the avant-garde is not a cause for celebration, either among the opponents, who fear its longevity, or its proponents, whose epistemology, ontology, and deontology rest on its being the wave of the present, rather than a form of music. There are "21st century" music ensembles and centers that spend their time promoting music whose creators did not live one minute in the 21st Century. There are still writers trying to convince the world that the avant-garde isn't music. Which if it isn't, why is their an audience for it? Is it some new form of perception?

Instead of refighting the "Style Wars," this essay is going to look at some data, and draw conclusions about the place of composers in their environment. It is important to stack some qualifiers here. Composers are outliers, and composers that we remember are outliers among outliers, there is massive selection bias: what is remembered, what is published. Looked at in the fine grain, artificial precision is abundantly apparent. Works are revised, dragged out by publishers, extended. They have versions and places.

So any data set is going to be three selection factors deep: what the composer wrote and published for their own view of what a composer should be, their own time thought should be published and played, and then what we select out of the floatsam and jetsam. Thus this is not a way of getting at some truth of creativity or art, but a way of looking at one input to the process of making music culture, and the struggle between forces in that creation. This is an important question, because it touches on the problem of the present: relevance. The people in this dataset, by definition, achieved relevance, if not to their own moment, though almost always they did, at least to some future moments, and to some varying degree to our own. This then looks at what composers were striving for in terms of output.

I am working with Aaron Kozbelt's 2008 data set, not because it is perfect, because by selecting through a modern eye, it gives a sign of present relevance to one part of contemporary aesthetic judgment. It was compiled to answer some of his questions, and hence it is lacking – it is missing, for example Luciano Berio, Krzysztof Penderecki, Elliot Carter, Phillip Glass, Steve Reich, John Adams, i.e. the last wave of high moderism and all of minimalism, as well as a section of related movements. It is also missing some of the important late English eccentrics – Brian, Simpson - as well as movements related to this, e.g. LaMonte Young, Hovhaness. It is missing a larger swathe of the baroque than it should be, as composers from that era are coming back into use. A generation ago Vivaldi would have been a much more peripheral figure, for example. It also has the usual quibbles with using obsolete period divisions, but this will be addressed to some extent here. However absence is in some cases as important as presence.

Kozbelt's data set was compiled in the course of his research on the psychology of production, the original version of the paper is here. Since the point isn't to engage an entire era's search for its relevance, but to search for patterns of relevance in the past, further quibbles are best left to people who quibble professionally.

The first chart takes the mid point of composer's lives, and plots it against Kozbelt's estimates, for they have to be estimates, of production and production per year. Many of the datapoints, as Kozbelt admits, are based on averages and genre norms, however even from this relatively large error banded set some conclusions are immediately visible.

The blue triangles are Kozbelt's estimate of minutes per year of music, calculated by date of first work and date of last work in the output, itself a selected figure, and is read from the right scale, the orange diamonds are total minutes of music, as estimated from recordings, again a selected figure.

There are some features that are discernable, one is that there is no relationship between our conventional stylistic designations, and periods of music, and no general relationship between stylistic schools and production. For some exmples: the two most productive total outputs are Handel, a member in good standing of what we call the Baroque, and Haydn, who for most of his career was either in transition as a post-Baroque composer, or as a founding member of the Classical style. Similarly "transitional" figures are often lost in the haze, they do not look very much different from the preceding era. For example the last two "hyper-productive" composers are Bellini and Schubert, generally classified as "Romantic."

Instead there is a period of hyper-productivity that runs from the early 18th century through the early 19th century, crossing the middle Baroque (Vivaldi) the high Baroque (JS Bach, Handel), the post-Baroque and early classical (Gluck, the sons of Bach, young Haydn), through the high period of Viennese classicism (Mozart, Schubert) and bel canto opera (Donizetti, Rossini, and Bellini). One should note that Rossini's virtual retirement depresses his average output, because he did compose some music late, padding the denominator of his average. Then there is an output collapse, a compression not just of hyper-productive composers, but of the less productive wrote fewer minutes. I hope it is not necessary to point out that this is not to equate volume with quality, the point is to look at what composers were doing in relation to their environment, where volume is one parameter of output.

This deals a mortal blow to the old arguments about how "difficult" it was for Beethoven to compose. He's in fact a very productive composer: ranking 13th of 202 with ~4100 minutes, and an annual average of ~110 minutes per year putting him 16th out of the sample. He's just in an era of hyper-productivity, being measured against Haydn, Schubert, Mozart, Bellini, and after the Baroque. The entire square of the super-productive is virtually between composers at the middle of their lives in 1725, and 1825. Not one since then. It isn't that there haven't been hyper-productive individuals since then. The aforementioned Hovhaness (1911-2000) wrote 70 symphonies and 500 works of music. Nor was he a maverick, but a student of Roger Sessions, and learning piano in a line that reached Beethoven. Thus the early modern romantic lionization of Beethoven is guilty, at least, of lack of historical perspective. Beethoven's output curve looks similar to Schumann, and Mendelssohn, as examples.

On the other side, it is clear that there was an output collapse starting with composers whose mid-point was just after 1875. This is well before the avant-garde in any form, and generally before any modern movement. What this should tell us is that composers such as Anton von Wevern, Alban Berg, and Arnold Schoenberg, where part of general period where composers produced less music, both in total and per year. Ravel's output was small, as were Falla, d'Indy.

This means that in three important transitions - Baroque to Classical, Classical to Romantic, and to the Modern, output of composers resembles some population of their peers, with early Avant-Garde composers (Bartok, Stravinski, Scheonberg) not being outliers in the earlier population of time produced.

The last point from this graph is that one can see that there was a sharp divide between populations of composers in the 20th century, with a prolific cohort, and a low output cohort. Here there is a better correlation between reception and perception: the low output composers were often the more self-consciously new. (The lack of Henze and other "prolific" modernists is telling, Sessions is missing.) Is this innate or our selection? That the numbers of this data set cannot tell us, but there the arms of a lobster claw are, asking the question, whether prolific is conservative, or does it normalize itself? Is avant-garde slow? Or to composers seeking an avant-garde effect stand in the line of super-craftsman, which goes back before the avant-garde, including composers such as Satie, depending on how you count his most famous musical joke.

This graph helps answer some of the questions, it is simple the midpoint of the composer's lives against their total life span. We can see here an rather loud notch. Here there is less speculation need: in the 18th century composers were often able to be away from cities, and two forces converges: pre-public health urbanization, and the end of church and aristocratic patronage, meant that composers had to urbanize to support themselves, and thus were subject to the ills of their time. Haydn spent most of his life out in rural areas, Well known surveys of life expectancy show that urbanized individuals, especially poorer ones, died younger. Syphilis is also a present factor.

The the notch is accompanied by the rise in lower bound mortality,  which rises at the same pace. Thus the long lived live longer, and those that die young, do not tend to die as young, and then with the 20th century, the lines rise. The absence of several composers killed in death camps pulls up this average, again selective bias at work (no Pavel Haas, for example, in the data set.) The fall off at the end is also selective, the composers who lived longer had not died yet.

The coming of the Romantic, then, can be seen most clearly related not to production as a goal of a composer, or at least as the mark of a composer who was relevant, but by earlier death., the coming of the second half of the 19th century – of what should be called Musical Realism and Musical Symbolism, Romanticism being an ideological construct – is just as visible in the data. Here, again, is an empirical argument that the end of classicism is to some degree misdated, and that "Romanticism" is unduly bloated out at the end.

Lastly the "Lobster claw" is also visible: some of the lobster claw of output is explicable by lifespan of composers, though a closer look shows the match is not particularly statistically strong.

So what conclusions can we draw?

What this look at the data does is ask more questions than answer them: it lays to rest a few canards, such as the already debunked notions about productivity and Beethoven, it also indicates that there were distinct periods of valuing prolific composers – note Czerny isn't there, even though he is at least as good as JC Bach – and that super-production was no longer an important trait after the early Romantic. It also shows that the avant-garde's production curve was part of a population of composers who kept very tight rein on output, not because of style, but the composer's own response to creative, social, and personal, forces, but that the possibility of such a career only appeared around, at earliest, 1875.

So in honour of an arguable anniversary, an argument that we have accretion to wash away, and there needs to be a larger data set that includes the post-modern wave in this data.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The New Program Update

My New composing program is simple: 3 minutes of music a day on average, no dogs, no beached whales. That is nothing truly awful, and no projects that go nowhere. The last three weeks have been the ragged edge of disaster.

Wind Quintet #1, in C - I Prayers Ascending 07:25 Opus 46
Wind Quintet #1, in C - II Painted Faces 03:07 Opus 46
Wind Quintet #1, in C - III Fantasia (Spirit) 05:09 Opus 46
Sextet for Piano & Winds #1, in D - I Allegro 04:58 Opus 47
Sextet for Piano & Winds #1, in D - II Among the Heather 04:19 Opus 47
Sextet for Piano & Winds #1, in D - III Pictures for the lowlands 06:06 Opus 47
Sextet for Piano & Winds #1, in D - IV Goodnight my love 04:06 Opus 47
Prelude for Brass & Winds Sextet 02:21 Opus 48
Organ Prelude in C 03:50 Opus 49
Sextet for Piano & Winds #2, in F# - I Prelude 02:27 Opus 50
Sextet for Piano & Winds #2, in F# - II Carol 03:21 Opus 50
Sextet for Piano & Winds #2, in F# - III Andente IV Trance 05:16 Opus 50
Sextet for Piano & Winds #2, in F# - V Nuages 03:44 Opus 50
Duo for Flute and Clarinet #1, in F - I March of the Chipmunks and Chickadees 02:20 Opus 51
Duo for Flute and Clarinet #1, in F - II Soft white wingfalls 01:37 Opus 51
Duo for Flute and Clarinet #1, in F - III Ballet of the Pinecones and Icicles 02:30 Opus 51
Duo for Flute and Clarinet #1, in F - IV High clouds 01:09 Opus 51
Piano Sonata #4, in Eb - I Allegro Brilliante 08:25 Opus 52
Piano Sonata #4, in Eb - II Lullabye 04:14 Opus 52
piano sonata #4, in Eb - III Scherzo 7 03:15 Opus 52
Piano Sonata #4, in Eb - IV Lyric 7 03:15 Opus 52
duo for marimba and clarinet in D 04:00 Opus 53
Kicking Around I 02:19 Opus 54
Kicking Around II 03:12 Opus 54
Kicking Around III 02:25 Opus 54
Tocatta and Fugue in E 06:01 Opus 55
Ayre for Wind Quintet (arr StQ #2 2nd) 06:46 Opus 56
Duo for Flute and Clarinet #2, in C - I Journeyman's Breeze 02:08 Opus 57
Duo for Flute and Clarinet #2, in C - II Saltwater Sunrise 03:03 Opus 57
Duo for Flute and Clarinet #2, in C - III Sparrows mobbing crows 02:48 Opus 57
Duo for Flute and Clarinet #2, in C - IV - crests 2 3 02:49 Opus 57
Duo for Flute and Clarinet #3, in Eb - I Related 01:47 Opus 58
Duo for Flute and Clarinet #3, in Eb - II Major 03:45 Opus 58
Duo for Flute and Clarinet #3, in Eb - III Minor 02:18 Opus 58
Piano Sonata #5, in Bb - I Allegro Impetuoso 08:27 Opus 61
Piano Sonata #5, in Bb - II Pastoral 07:00 Opus 61
Fossils 07:03 Opus 62

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Bush's fairly well addressed

[From 2002]

(All good things come to an end. Even though Bush was selected by 55.5% of the votes that mattered - 5-4 in 2000, and by an even larger 66.7% in 2004 by virtue of Bush v Everyone, where the supreme court declared that the constitutional requirement that every state have a republican form of government was supposed to have a capital "R" - his second term ended, and he decided he wanted to retire to being Commissioner of Baseball. In this, his last misspeech as Resident of the United States, Bush looked back at all his Regime had accomplished, and looked forward with nostalgia.)

My fallow Americans -

Together we found a government of action (1), and we left it a government of reaction. Together we found a government where all citizens were equal before the law, and now some are much more equal than others. (2)

Together we found a nation that was mired in the malaise of propserity, and we have created the longest peacetime contraction since 1929. (3)

Together we found a country which was tired of the lies and scandals of the previous President, and by aggressively sweeping under the rug all of my adimistrations activities, made scandals disappear from the news.

We did this as a community of characters. One nation, under occupation, where everyone has as much liberty and justice as they can afford. (4)

All along I said that I was an untier not a decider. (5) And now at the end of my service as Precedent, it seems fitting to look back at all we have accomplished. Some people think of this as an ending, the end of an error - I prefer to think it is not the end, nor even the beginning of the end, but as the bend of the big inning (6). I want to be remembered for my amonclishments (7), so that no one will say that I deliberately tasted two whole worms. (8)

I want to be remembered as the man who put the Con back in the Constitution, who applied the principles of strict deconstructionism (9) to the document upon which this country has foundered. It is a sublime document, and I did its best to sublimate it. For this, I hope to have earned the adimeration of all.

I want to be remembered as the man who prevented the dilution of the votes of military people, and ended forever the system by which they were required to vote only once. They serve the country, so the country should serve them.

I want to be remembered for establishing a hereditary aristocracy in this country, abolishing a tax system which rewarded people for living, and was a tremendous disincentive to trophy wives and children of the rich everywhere. After all, picking ones parents is the most important decision a person makes, and we want to reward those who chose their parents correctly. (10)

I want to be remembered as the Precedent who stood firm against people's right to vote, instead, placing this country on the same firm footing of corporate governance - the Board of Directors selects the CEO, and the CEO selects the Board of Directors. It is this system that created this great country. A place where all corporate citizens can be free. (11)

I want to be remembered as the man who would make sure that each and every child would get his USDA awolance (12) of important numerals such as Arsenic and breath fresh Methane and Carbon Dioxide. (13)

I want to be remembered as a buy partisan leader, who found five or six people on the Democratic side of the aisle who could be lined up to vote for my programs, giving me enough votes to ignore everyone else.

I want to be remembered as the man who wiped the stain off the words "uni-literalism" and "iso-latte-ism". As the man who worked with our fiends over seas when they could be bullied into doing what we wanted to do all along.

I want to be dismembered as the man who remade the English Language in his own image - to be recalled for all time as the ecudation President, who pushed forward deforming the system, so no child will be left with a behind. (14) In fact, where there isn't a Left at all.

I want to be remembered as the man who passed a patient's bill of rights, enshrining the right to die, the right to pay and the right to profligat in the laws of this land.

I want to be remembered for that proud day, where we passed an ademdment to the constitution that declared forever, that the right to life begins at conception, and ends at birth. (15)

I want to be remembered as the man who intitsuited a simple, fair flat tax - where most Americans simply send their payroll checks flat out to Washington, and get back convenience checks to get cash advances on their next year's income tax rebate. By charging a market rat of 15% on these convenience checks, we encourage personal reponservility and gratitude. (16)

But all these accomplishments of my first term pale in comparison to the passage of the ten commandments to the constitution, forever assuring our place as a Christian Nation, and by the Great Compromise of 2005(17), where by "one acre - one vote" was established as the principle for electing the House of Representatives, and "one dollar - one vote" the interest for electing the Senate.

By this compromise, worked out over many long nights by the members of the Forbes 400, we found a way to bring together those who have great wealth because of resource raping of the land, and those who have great wealth because of squeezing the working class for food, gasoline, cigarettes and plastic gadgets for their kitchens. I think it is fair to say that we secured the blessings of representative plutocracy (18) for ourselves and our posteriors.

With this change in place, we were able to repeal the laws against extortion and bribery - allowing everyone to participlate - as politicians in Washington long had - in the soft money economy, and to take advantage of the sacred principle of quid pro quo. We all know that money talks louder than words, and now the law reflects that. (19)

With this change in place, we were able to repeal the Sherman Anti-Trust act, since no one trusted big corpsorations anyway. (20)

With this change in place, we were able to roll back a series of activist decisions by former supreme courts. We restored the corporate immunity to criminal liblility, stripped away by a liberal supreme court in 1909. (21) We restored a porksoration's due process right under the 14th amendment to make any profit the market would bear, taken away by a liberal supreme courts who turned their back on lazy's fair constitutionalism.

Now, if you according to pollsters, if you add up those who agree with the government's policies, plus those who slightly disagree, and those who only somewhat disagree - you will find that only 55% of the most partisan Americans disagree completely with them, leaving a healthly plurality that have moved on. That is what we are - movement conservatives. (22) And we are flush with our victories.

These accomplishments did not come easily, or cheaply.
Thanks to round the around the crock support from the patriotic billionaires who own the press we were able to prevail.

Thanks to Kathleen Harris who held us to the absurd of Law (23) - we were able to prevail.
Thanks to a supreme court that declared, in the fine contradiction of Dredd Scott v Stanford, (24) that the citizens of the United States have no constitutional right to vote in presidential elections - we were able to prevail. (25)

Thanks to networks that ran our press feeds without fact checking them - we were able to prevail.
That is why I am going be remembered as the Great Prevailicator. (26)

I want to remind all Americans, to avoid foreign entertainments, and to recall that the government that governs least, governs best (27) - so we should work for the day where there will be no government at all.

I want to remind all Americans that domeration in offense of liberty is no virtue, exteamism in pursuit of inanity is advice. (28)

God Bless America, for no one else seems to have a good word to say.

(1) FDR in his first inaugural stated "The nation calls for action".
(2) George Orwell - Animal Farm. On a wall are painted "The Seven Principles of Animalism" which is supposed to govern a farm of animals. One of these is "all animals are equal". Through the book principles are modified or dropped by the ruling pigs, to justify their actions. By the end, only one principle is left: "All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others."
(3) President Clinton presided over the longest expansion in US history. Expansions because of war - were the government spends heavily - are usually thought of as different from peace time expansions, since the latter is directly reflected in living standards.
(4) From the "Pledge of Allegiance", a small patriotic catechism that was popularised around the turn of the 20th century. Parodied in after Bush v Gore by some anonymous wit:
I pledge of allegiance, to the slag left by the screwnited dates of a murderer. And to the Republic for which it once stood One nation, under occupation, with as much liberty and justice you can afford.
(5) From Bush's own speech "I am a uniter, not a divider." Obviously referring to his father's Willie Horton ad.
(6)Winston Churchill - "This is not the end, nor the beginning of the end, but perhaps, it is the end of the beginning"
(7) In French, "manque" means "empty".
(8) This is one of the most famous Spoonerisms, Reverend Spooner's metastasis affliction was different from Dubya's, he switched sounds between words, and generally first letters. Thus a "spoonerism" is a witticism which swaps first letters, whether it was inteded as witty or not. The whole runs "You have deliberately tasted two whole worms, you were caught fighting a liar in the quad - I suggest you leave by the next town drain." In England a "Down Train" is a train going towards London.
(9) Deconstructionism is the name that Derrida gave to finding the "subtexts" of power that every text rested on. His idea was that the act of writing and disseminating was an imposition of power, and therefore all texts rested on some substructure of power.
(10) The economic principle of rewarding choices is, of course, fundamental to market economics. However, it does seem that choosing ones parents correctly is the single most important economic decision a person makes. I think I can congratulate the readers of this piece for wisely choosing not to be born in Ethiopa during the famine, or to an inhabitant of Penom Penh just before Pol Pot declared "year zero".
(11) The roll of corporations as fictional people has been a contentious one in Constitutional history, from the early decisions about where a corporate citizen was "located" for the purposes of where they could be sued, to the question of whether corporations had the immunities of several states, to the long battle over whether states could regulate corporations.
(12) AWOL of course.
(13) The "greenhouse" gases. These are gasses which allow light through, but absorb heat reflected back. Methane, in particular, is an aggressive greenhouse gas, however it breaks down far more quickly than CO2. The Kyoto protocol focuses on CO2 emissions.
(14) John Breux and Zell Miller particularly have proven that they are Democrats in Name only. Which is important for committee chairmanships and control of the majority, but hardly the kind of almost lock step unity the Republicans have shown.
(15) The "Right to Life" Amendment declares that life begins at conception, thus would outlaw most forms of birth control, since they can, by design or by accident, prevent a zygote from impanting.
(16) The Federal government is having to sell farm more bonds to cover the cost of the "rebate" checks. More bonds, mean they sell at lower prices. The lower the price the bond sells at, the higher the interest rate - since the interest rate is determined by the difference between the face value, what the government pays, and the price the buyer baid for the bond in the first place. Rubin's floating of the debt early on was one of the crucial steps in the economic recovery plan which knocked off billions in interest paid each year.
(17) The "Great Compromise" of the Constitution was merging the New Jersey and Virginia plans for how the Congress was to be formed. The New Jersey plan had ne vote for each state, where Virginia would have two houses, both apportioned by population of each state. The compromise was to have two houses, the senior of which would give 2 votes for each state, appointed by the legislatures, and the more frequently elected apportioned by population.
(18) From my own "The Revolution Itself" 1994
(19) Buckley v Valeo 1976 was a complex decision, which never the less stated the principle that you have a right to as much speech as you can afford. This was extended in First National Bank of Boston v Belloti where Powell, writing for a 5-4 majority overturned state laws regulating campaign financing.
(20) The Sherman Anti-Trust act was signed by Gorver Clevland, the only Democrat elected to the presidency who was allowed to serve in the late 19th century.
(21) New York Central & Hudson River Railroad v United States (1909) The common law rule is that corporations cannot be criminally liable.
(22) No joke, Jack Kemp and others have declared themselves "movement" conservatives - who believe in conservative thought as a "movement".
(24) In 1857 the supreme court issued a decision which stated that the Federal government could not bar slavery from its territories, and stated that anyone who - overturning the Missouri compromise of 1820, which barred slavery from territories north of Oklahoma, so long as Missouri could be admitted as a slave state.
(25) The individual citizen has no federal constitutional right to vote for electors for the President of the United States unless and until the state legislature chooses a statewide election as the means to implement its power to appoint members of the Electoral College. U.S. Const., Art. II, §1. This is the source for the statement in McPherson v. Blacker, 146 U.S. 1 , 35 (1892), that the State legislature's power to select the manner for appointing electors is plenary; it may, if it so chooses, select the electors itself, which indeed was the manner used by State legislatures in several States for many years after the Framing of our Constitution. Id., at 28-33. History has now favored the voter, and in each of the several States the citizens themselves vote for Presidential electors.
Bush v Gore - anonymous - 2000
Welcome to the Freeple's Republic.
(26) Reagan was called "The Great Communicator", for reasons which should be obvious - the media communications companies made a conscious decision to boost ratings by lionising him.
(27) "Word of Law" is a term of art in extreme fundamentalist circles. It refers to the idea that "the word made flesh" means that the bible is literally part of the godhead - "In the beginning there was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God." Kathleen Harris received flowers and telegrams of support for returning the nation to "The Word of Law" for her obstruction of recounts on the excuse that she was upholding the literal wording of the law. Subsequent investigations found that many of the other words of Florida Election law seemed to be a great deal more fluid in their meaning from Harris' viewpoint.
(28) Thomas Jefferson "That which governs best, governs least." Not one of his more logically sound propositions.

(29) Barry Goldwater's nomination speech to the Republican convention 1964.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Aaron Swartz' Blood for Oil

A man died on Friday. He should have lived. His death was entirely preventable.

Aaron Swartz was a victim of overreaching malicious prosecution. He hung himself, leaving behind a gaping hole in the public sphere, and among his friends and family. Over 25,000 people signed a Whitehouse gov petition to remove the head of the US Attorney's Office overseeing the prosecution.

Thousands die every day, and their deaths of entirely preventable poverty. By one estimate, 21,000 of them are children.

These facts are not unrelated, even if exactly how eludes people. Timothy Burke, a history professor at Swathmore writing, for Inside Higher Ed writes a j'accuse:
Faculty who tell me passionately about their commitment to social justice either are indifferent to these concerns or are sometimes supportive of the old order. They defend the ghastly proposition that universities (and governments) should continue to subsidize the production of scholarship that is then donated to for-profit publishers who then charge high prices to loan that work back to the institutions that subsidized its creation, and the corollary, demanded by those publishers, that the circulation of such work should be limited to those who pay those prices.
"Academe Is Complicit" January 15, 2013
His central argument is that now legal arrangements are being used to substitute the protection that print used to offer: a physical barrier to information, in order to limit access.

In itself, this is not entirely a new realization. The fear that machines would put people out of work, and into poverty led to movements we call "Luddite," from an anti-textile movement that flowered in 1811, and culminated in smashing textile machines.
By the 1940's speculative fiction was confronting the new reality of mass production: the ability to rapidly and cheaply produce almost anything as undermining value systems is the main topic of the Venus Equilateral series by George O. Smith. The answer to the question of mass production attracted the economic intelligence of John Maynard Keynes, who concluded, in line with an idea by Malthus and expanded on by Veblen, that once subsistence was met, leisure would become the goal of economic activity.

In the post-war era, one can define the "post-modern" problem as the point where production of information undermines information monopolies, this includes money, religion, and academia. This leads, in Marxist and Marxian thought to the continental movement now labelled "post-structuralism," the work of Derrida, Lacan, and others. On the right it leads to fundamentalist movements and traditionalism. Both left and right assert what I will label the "neo thesis." The neo-thesis states that the early 20th century was a disruption, that it is impossible to return to the time before it directly, but, largely agreeing with Hayek, that the disruption can be returned to by re-asserting a social control. What Derrida calls "the game itself," is the means to return to a Pre-World War II normalcy. Hence, a neo- world, where movements assert a three fold argument: the present is corrupt, the solution is to return to some imagined better moment, and the means is by having some particular ideology as the primary one which rules over others. Thus fights, even over small disagreements, become brutal, because the are a fight over the very most basic rules of social participation, the "other" is alien, not merely in disagreement.

However this ideological framework is not dominant for randomly or because of its intrinsic aesthetic appeal. It grew up because the reality is that control of a few key pieces of capital, knowledge, and resource, dominate over all the others. It was Derrida who quipped that two things would never be viritual: oil and Jerusalem, everyone wants the real thing. In this he encapsulated the problem: control over the keys to the mechanized economy and control over the brand equity of the "game itself" are the basis of all power, and since power is needed to maintain the benefits of the present, the basis of present society.

Oil was called by Yergin "The Prize" and it exhibits a unique power because of its property of both creating fungible labor, and portability. If Adam Smith lived in the "labor theory of value," that is the value of anything is the cost of labor to make or obtain it, and Marshall in the marginal theory of value: the cost of everything is the cost of the last one that can be made and break even, the our value is the value of the last barrel of oil that can be made. However, it is a mistake to oversimplify to oil alone, but to understand that it is the ability of oil to substitute for other rents. What Smith observed as the trade off between pay a land rent, and pay in time. Oil, enough of it, allows that trade off to be institutionalized. It means that people can turn non-tradeable value, such as land, into tradable value, that is oil and the capital which uses oil.  Rather than paying your peer competitor a higher rent, and then face him using the money you just paid him to bid up the very things you want to buy, or paying an employee to afford a house near your business, which may well have been located near where the owner of the business lives, buy oil, and give money to people who do not bid up the price of the land you live on, the cars you buy, or the food you buy.

To unpack this: oil's power is that it allows people to avoid paying money to people they compete with. It is a trade off of rents.

When the West had to start importing oil – the US reached peak oil production in 1972 – this created a problem, very quickly the oil producers formed a cartel, and raised the price of oil. While the revenues from oil are small compared to the revenues from the revenues of capital, their advantage is that a small core of people can produce most of the value, and thus there are few stakeholders. The enormity of the costs of social control as a percentage of revenues is seen by the large sums of money spent on defense, and on religious rationing: using religion as a means of convincing people they do not want to buy Western entertainment filled with "sex, drugs, and blasphemy."

This allowed enormous concentration of liquidity in few hands, and this wealth was invested, largely, in the United States. This created a cycle: the United States had use of the oil, and the physical prosperity, at the cost of losing control of the capital base.

The answer to this, in the west, was the Red Queen's Race: fight the concentration of wealth in the resource regions, by allowing concentration of wealth here. Thus wealth inequality became a goal of political economy: cuts in "capital gains" taxes, cuts in income taxes, ending restrictions on consolidation, deregulation and privatization to allow turning public functions into profit making businesseses, change from saving to "retirement accounts," all have the effect of creating larger streams of private revenues at a profit, those profits become stock value – the value of stock is, after all, the market estimation of the value of its future earnings available for dividends and stock buy backs.

Temporize, and bet that technology and capital would eventually overwhelm rents. It had the additional virtue of creating a plutocratic upper class, and an entrenched and privileged suburban class, as well as funding the security industrial complex, creating a society which was meaner, as being too "soft" was seen as the cause of the crime and chaos of the late 1960's. The Dirty Harry myth became social policy. 

Because oil's distribution was fixed a priori, it is a rent. In the end to temporize meant that everything in the West had to be turned into a rent, and that stream of rents had to match against the rents of oil. To make up the difference between what we sell, and what we buy – and that gap is oil, and oil in drag in the form of cheap exports, we must sell capital and "services," which includes education, and finance.

Enter Intellectual Property, and the role of academia. The West had two important rents: one is the path dependency of finance, which the very nature of the oilarchies could not easily duplicate, and the other was the path dependency of knowledge creation, which the oilarchies did not want to duplicate.

Thus part of the drive to create streams of income, was to propertize information, at the same time, cut the oil cost of its storage and transmission. These two goals are in fundamental contradiction: knowledge, the more it is digitized, and internetworked, acts less and less like property, and more and more like heat. It diffuses.

This is what bothered people who dealt with this system. Viewed in terms of the marginal, that is capital, cost, a copy costs almost nothing, and enough copies, and the value is enormous. At the same time that information became more important, the value of creation dropped to almost zero. The value of a song writer is less than zero: most musicians spend more on the tools to make music, than they earn. Rent has a value, thus a brand name musician, who is easy to find, is worth a million hits for nothing.

Academia is part of the path dependent rental advantage of the US, and as such, its price rose through the roof, going up by far more than inflation for the last 30 years.

It is this connection: the need to create rents to say ahead of the ability of low stake holder resource billionaires, that made IP and Academia behave like rents. The problem is that while academia does, indeed use rents all the time, for example, naming mathematical theorums after the creator, scientific laws after the discoverer, footnoting and textual apparatus, these rents are difficult to impossible to monetize directly. Academic rent created the drive to larger and larger administrative systems, and more and more power being given to people who controlled the money flow. With every passing year, there was the need to squeeze larger rents.

Consider academic publishing: it takes work done as the goal of being an academic, that is work that would have been done for free, pays nothing for peer review, and turns this into a rent: it reinforces the value of US acamdemic institutions, gather the best and  the brightest, and forcing them to go through an extended period of indentured servitude. That is what is being defended, a rent.

On the other side of this coin is the social utility of the people who are privileged in this system. Wealth inequality makes the very rich, very much richer. Mansions, massive yachts, buying islands, flying by helicopter, access to special health care, all of these things are positive luxuries largely unavailable to similar levels of wealth 40 years ago. There is also the matter of control: power for those who want it, is worth more than money.

The collision course is that the enforcement culture needed to turn everything into property, and to incarcerate those who disturbed the system, is more than a marginal utilitarian decision, it is a social choice, and creates a class of people whose role it is to torture, threaten, bully, kill, and torment others. As anyone who has worked with lab animals knows, there are many people, who get perverse pleasure out of causing pain. Couple this with rewards for being "a crusading US attorney" and the ability to enter into the upper class by running a private prison, and there is an environment ripe, quite distant in people's minds, from its ultimate purpose. The Carmen Ortiz was thinking about higher office, not about the need to protect rents as part of an means of political economy. What was a policy regime was turned into laws: the anti-circumvention aspects of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and the extensions to the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

That these laws, and other IP laws, are matters of public policy, rather than public morality, is seen by the extreme differences between harm done and potential penalty, compared with similar commercial violations. Swartz was facing a potential maximum of over 50 years in prison, and the government was going to seek 7 years at trial. The plea bargain offered required a guilty plea to 13 felony counts, and years of prison time. Ted Rall points out that this is less time than the average rapist.

This has been contrasted with the absolute lack of sentences for crimes committed as part of the massive housing bubble collapse, with the picayune sentence for killing people with untested medical devices, to the complete absence of prosecution of a pharmaceutical company which created a fungal meningitis outbreak that has killed 44 people, and destroyed the lives of many more. Economically necessary activity cannot be punished as harshly, for the same reason that robbing a store at gunpoint can bring someone the death penalty, where as killing someone in a drunk driving accident can lead to almost no charges. We sell liquor, we need people to drive. Mortgages underpinned the US financial advantage: they were the paper we sold for oil, the Red Queen's race requires creating paper to sell. Swartz was treated so much more harshly than an banker, because a banker was upholding the order, and Swartz threatening it.


What this case shows is that people have completely lost sight of why the system was created, the are alienated from their own political economy. It also shows that the morality of toughness and property created to run the political economy, is now on a collision course with the society that it is part of, and with itself. Aaron Swartz created value, that in turn became paper. Without the bright, inquisitive, inventive, personable individuals like Aaron, there is no value to turn into paper, no paper, no red queen's race. The very suburbanite world that the Reagan coalition was created to foster, is aimed at producing a bright child who does well in the world.

This means that the thousands who die from preventable poverty, because it is better to extract quinoa, or diamonds, or coffee, or even sex trafficked children, from them, are not part of the consciousness of ordinary members of the developed world. It is not worth the oil to keep them alive. However, that same system has metastasized into the very heart of the developed world. Viewed from the outside, a child being beaten and sold into servitude to make rugs, is no worse that driving someone to suicide, however,  in the second case, the suicide was of one of the people that the society was designed to protect. The same disease kills both the civilians bombed in a geopolitical war, and the young man whose sin was to want to make public knowledge public.

The dominant narrative is that this case represents and abuse. It is not, it is a necessity. Aaron was not the first hacker driven to take his life by the Massachusetts US District Attorney's office. He is far from the first questionable prosecution for computer crimes. Draconian sentences, such as a $675,000 fine for sharing 21 songs, are routine. Aaron Swartz' death was not an abuse of the system, it is the system. His death merely underlines that the profits and benefits of the system are going to fewer and fewer, while the costs to those who do not receive them, are getting higher and higher. It underlines that the kind of people who can run the Red Queen's Race, are increasing divorced from the people the rule over.

This points to a coming moment, where the next wave of people will reach the de Tocqueville Limit:
Ce n'est pas toujours en allant de mal en pis que l'on tombe en révolution. Il arrive le plus souvent qu'un peuple qui avait supporté sans se plaindre, et comme s'il ne les sentait pas, les lois les plus accablantes, les rejette violemment dès que le poids s'en allège. Le régime qu'une révolution détruit vaut presque toujours mieux que celui qui l'avait immédiatement précédé, et l'expérience apprend que le moment le plus dangereux pour un mauvais gouvernement est d'ordinaire celui où il commence à se réformer. Il n'y a qu'un grand génie qui puisse sauver un prince qui entreprend de soulager ses sujets après une oppression longue. Le Mal qu'on souffrait patiemment comme inévitable semble insupportable dès qu'on conçoit l'idée de s'y soustraire.
Or if you prefer the English translation:
It is not always going from bad to worse that a government falls to a revolution. It often happens that people who bear without complaining, and as if they did not feel the laws most damning, violently rejects the weight when it is alleviated. A regime destroyed by Revolution is almost always better than the one that had immediately preceded, and experience teaches that the most dangerous moment for a bad government is usually when it begins to reform. It takes a great genius who can save a prince who undertakes to relieve his subjects after long oppression. Evil patiently endured as inevitable suffering seems unbearable if when one conceives the idea of escape.

In other places he details the softening of feeling toward the public in the late regime, and how this lead to a belief that change was at hand. He was writing this under the Second Empire, and to a great extent was warning the then current government that the prosperity it was producing would not save it from Revolution in due course. 

The de Tocqueville limit, is that point when the people in power no longer see the necessity of the harsh measures required for the order that the run. The very success of an era creates a break between what is done, and why it is done.

The contradiction: Marcy Wheeler patient lays out that creating intellectual rents requires intellectuals, and intellectuals live and breath freedom to read, speak and know. But the government is now dedicated to secrecy. This is exactly correct as far as it goes: the people who are the knowledge workers, who can make value with out buy oil, threaten what is being sold. This contradiction creates intolerable cognitive dissonance. 

Wheeler summarizes it this way: 
The government, when it explains why it will neither prosecute banks for both foreclosure and LIBOR fraud on a massive scale nor for helping drug cartels and terrorists finance their crimes, points to their systemic importance.

The explanation is from the above, we sell information as a rent, but to reduce the cost, we remove the protections of physicality that make it a rent. The post-modern problem was how to do this, the answer is power. What happens when the two arms of that power are in conflict?

While that wealth inequality creates the inability of bright people to access what they need to be intellectuals, that the system of thuggery required to maintain the property system of those rents kills the very people who do the work of creating value. But free exchange, is in opposition to rent. The people who must do the work, now will realize that they are not hindered by bureaucracy, but hunted by technocracy. The game requires that people believe in it, and as dozens of essays show, even people who accept the premise that the work of academics that is not paid for, can be give to another to collect a rent, for example Larry Lessig, cannot stomach the means needed to enforce it. What is policy required, that is ethical under the current system, is no longer morally commensurable.

This was not one prosecutor, it was not an exception, the draconian laws are to protect with overwhelming force that which physics makes difficult.

The next wave is not revolution, but "reform" designed to ease the consciences of those who must run the system, find ways of making the right exceptions, but these cannot be made without creating more corruption: an exception is, by definition, inconsistent, and the same cognitive dissonance will simply alight at the new boundary.

Aaron Swartz died of the system of paper for oil, by challenging the rent that generates paper, and privilege, for those that run that system. But without Aaron, and people like him, that have a boundless faith in meritocracy, the people left behind come to understand that the State, the Society, are intrinsically inimical to the very lives they lead. Reform will weaken the very architecture that enforces the creation of intellectual rents, and path dependent rents of finance and capital creation, but without it, the very people who create the original value which is turned in to product, will be dead, swinging from a cord in their room, to be found by a friend or family member, and mourned by the people who knew them.


Monday, January 14, 2013

Nice to See Krugman nail something (if late)


This meant that the simple textbook description of how an open-market operation increases the money supply — a bank lends out 1-r of its new reserves (with r the reserve ratio), which return to the banking system, leading to another round of lending, and eventually the money supply rises by 1/r times the injection — is deeply misleading. What actually limits the growth in the money supply is the fact that a substantial part of each round of lending leaks out of the banking system, getting added to hoards of green paper bearing the faces of dead presidents.

This is the point about strategic money that I made back in 2002: the limiting factor is not specie (as it was a long time ago), nor assets (as it was under the "standard model" that Krugman alludes to) but the strategic balance of the monetary authority against those with the ability to hoard, not merely paper currency but other forms of liquidity. i.e. the people with the ability to execute a "walk on the bank."

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Aaron Swartz died for your freedom

He was a hero, in an age that worships celebrity. He was rewarded for his talent, and punished for his genius. That the best are snuffed out, is not an accident.

Fugue for Aaron is here.

There is a petition to fire the US District Attorney.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Completed very short duo for clarinet and Marimba in D

At 2' it is the merest of bagatelles.

Labeling it Opus 53, as moving the Piano Sonata #4 around in the catalog has gotten old, so Opus 52 it stays.

New program exactly on track at 72 minutes since 15-Dec-2012, or 6.67% of the planned program of 1080 minutes of music in a year, or 18 hours.

If you want to grind on something, lay siege to it, and set a simple chart towards the goal. Spreadsheets are free these days.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Results of the New Program to Date

Results of the New Program to date

Opus 46
Wind Quintet #1, in C
15' 40"
I Prayers Ascending
II Painted Faces
III Fantasia (Spirit)

Opus 47
Sextet for Piano & Winds #1, in D
19' 29"
I Allegro
II Among the Heather
III Pictures for the lowlands
IV Goodnight my love

Opus 48
Prelude for Brass & Winds Sextet
2' 21"

Opus 49
Organ prelude in C
3' 50"

Opus 50
Sextet for Piano & Winds #2, in F#
12' 48"
I Prelude
II Carol
III Andente
IV Trance
V Nuages

Opus 51
Duo for Flute and Clarinet in F
"A Winter Suite"
7' 34"
I  March of the Chipmunks and Chickadees
II Soft white wing falls
III Ballet of the Pinecones and Icicles
IV High Clouds a'Sail the Sky

Presently working on complete Piano Sonata #4, in Eb, which will be Opus 52, unless I chase after some shiny. This represents the first 5% of the new program's scope.

"A winter suite" Duo for Flute and Clarinet Opus 51

Approximate 7' 34" for flute and clarinet

A you tube video is here.

 I March of the Chipmunks and Chickadees 2' 20"

In a nearly forgotten pine forest, after a snowfall has gilded all with crystal powder, out come the small birds, that hop on the surface, landing as often on roots or leaves that protect them from the cold, and out come the small denizens of the trees to find such new morsels as can be found.

 II Soft white wing falls 1' 37"

A perched a low branch is a fluffed owl, staring down at a reluctant squirrel, neither quite hungry enough to swoop down, but not quite full enough to ignore the intermittent motion and cracking of the rodent's stop and start search for food.

III Ballet of the Pinecones and Icicles 2'30"

As the sun clears the clouds, and bleaches everything white, the droplets of water form from the slow light driven melt, and the wind jangles the pine cones, as the cones grown beards made of ice.

IV High Clouds a'Sail the Sky. 1' 09"

The blue dome of heaven is like a bay to the coming night, and on it loft the wisps of cirrus clouds, that follow the streams in the upper air, and slowly tack towards a port unknown.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013