CONTRA EL PINGALISMO CASTRISTA/ "Se que no existe el consuelo que no existe la anhelada tierrra de mis suenos ni la desgarrada vision de nuestros heroes. Pero te seguimos buscando, patria,..." - Reinaldo Arenas

martes, febrero 26, 2013

Monkey Trap Nation

cluborlov
Lukas Brezek
Dmitry Orlov
A few weeks ago I flew back to Boston from St. Petersburg. Nine time zones is a lot to fly through in a day, especially when flying west. It all adds up to a single very long day that just won't end. When I had left Boston, I set up the boat to stay above freezing using a minimum amount of electric heat, so I expected to find a cold boat, but not a frozen one, in spite of the freezing cold and the snow, which was coming down quite heavily when I landed. But it turned out that while I was away the shore power cable's connection to its socket aboard the boat started arcing and burned, leaving the boat without power. (I was lucky; the boat could have burned down.) I spent an interesting couple of hours finding tools and supplies by flashlight, then stripping and splicing cables to restore power. As I finally went to sleep that night, wrapped in an electric blanket aboard a slowly defrosting boat, I thought to myself: “What have I done?” Sure, I flew to Boston because that's where my boat is, but there has got to be a better reason than that!

The next day I wandered out toward the center of town, and on the way saw an apartment building which had burned down, it turned out, the day before. The building had been heated badly, and the fire was caused by an electric space heater. Windows had plywood nailed over them, there were blooms of soot over many of them, and the doors were boarded up and posted “Danger, keep out!” The whole structure seemed to be sagging and caving in on itself. The displaced residents stood around wondering what to do. Ironically, this building happens to be across the street from the local fire station, but you see, the fire station doesn't happen to have any windows on the side that faced it, and so the firemen were quite unaware of the blaze right next door and slow to stir to action. I later found out that the fire got so out of hand that they had to call in help from the neighboring town.

Heat, house fires... see, living in Russia, I almost forgot about these things. In St. Petersburg, apartment buildings are heated using waste heat from power plants. Steam is distributed throughout the city using a network of buried pipelines which provide both heat and hot water. Their cost is just the cost of distribution (which is, at this point, mostly a matter of upkeep) since the energy would otherwise be wasted. The buildings are so warm that nobody wears sweaters indoors, and it is usually warm enough to lounge around in lingerie. On day one of a cold spell it can get a bit chilly indoors, but then somebody somewhere gives a giant steam valve a quarter turn, and things are again toasty. On the first day of a warm spell it can get positively sweltering indoors, and people start cracking windows open even though it's still below freezing outside, until somebody somewhere gives that valve a quarter-turn in the opposite direction. If you find this arrangement inefficient, then you must be sketchy on the concept of waste heat. Power plants are heat engines, subject to thermodynamic limits which cause 2/3 to ½ of the energy consumed to be released as waste heat. Now, there is enough heat wasted by all the power plants in the US to heat every single inhabited structure in the entire country, but instead that heat is vented to the atmosphere or used to heat the rivers and the ocean, and then quite a bit of the electricity they generate is wasted using electric space heaters. In turn, these space heaters cause a lot of house fires.

During my stay in St. Petersburg I did not see a single fire or fire engine, or hear a single fire engine siren. Buildings in St. Petersburg do not have fire exits or fire escapes; they don't need them. The place does not burn. The Emergencies Ministry publishes weekly statistics for things such as fires, and they bear out my casual observation. The reason for this is that houses in St. Petersburg are made of nonflammable materials: masonry and, more recently, reinforced concrete, insulated with hard plaster. If you proposed building something out of flammable materials, such as wood or vinyl siding, your project would not be approved. The walls tend to be thick—5 courses of brick or more—to provide both insulation and the thermal mass to hold in heat. Doors are made with a core of steel plate. Thus, the worst that can happen there is an isolated apartment fire.

Here in Boston, however, houses are made of flammable sticks covered in flammable plastic, the walls are kept thin to waste as much heat as possible, and the windows... you see, windows are like doors in that they need to both open and to close tightly to avoid leaking heat, with the additional requirement of letting through light. And so, Russian windows are basically doors with glass panes in them, that swing open on hinges. But not in the US, all because of some loon of an Englishman who—back in that country's dim and miserable past when the English were so poor that they couldn't even heat their houses and just sat shivering around a fireplace—decided that windows should consist of two empty glass picture frames (square ones) that slide up and down and rattle around in loose-fitting slots, letting through as much air as possible even when shut. The English then started calling normal windows “French windows,” to signal that such continental tendencies would not be tolerated. This curse of an invention then spread to all the other English-speaking countries, including the US.

And so the Russians heat with waste heat from power plants, build well-insulated houses out of nonflammable materials and sit around in their lingerie even as mercury freezes solid and snow-dunes drift slowly past, while the Americans heat their flammable, badly insulated stick-built houses with oil, gas and electricity, do their best to battle hypothermia and are often forced to choose between turning up the heat and being able to pay for food. Does this mean that the Russians are smart and the Americans stupid? I don't think so. People are people. But there is a cultural difference that's worth pointing out, and it comes down to just one thing: short-term thinking. Historically, the Russians seem to have been less susceptible to the short-termism that afflicts so many Americans. This may be less true now, with the recent hectic pace of development in Russia, but still there is plenty of social inertia causing people to continue to ask and re-ask the same inconvenient question over and over again: “And then what?” (“Ну а потом что?”)

Wouldn't it be nice if short-term decisions had short-term consequences and long-term decisions had long-term consequences? Well, too bad; it's the other way around. Short-term decisions have long-term consequences because they tend to lock you into an arrangement that is beneficial in the short term but detrimental in the long-term. Long-term decisions have short-term consequences because planning for the long term incurs short-term expenses. For example: in the short term, it is cheaper to nail houses together out of sticks and put them up in places far removed from the power plants that could heat them for free, but in the long term the heating bills, the house fires and the expense of keeping up a temporary structure tend to get out of hand. On the other hand, in the long-term, it is cheaper to build houses next to steam mains supplied free of charge by a power plant, out of solid masonry, and with steel plate doors and insulated double-windows (saving on fire alarms, fire escapes and fire departments) but in the short term this is more expensive.

What's worse, the consequences of short-term decision-making are cumulative over time: the long-term consequences of short-term decisions just keep piling up. But people are loathe to admit the errors of their ways, and can rarely be made to accept the consequences of their decisions. Instead, the tendency is to regard these consequences as new, entirely unexpected short-term problems to be solved with more short-term thinking. The result is a tendency to double down on every bad bet, and beyond a certain point the consequences magnify and feed on each other until they add up to an intractable, systemic crisis where no more short-term solutions can be found.

* * *

The monkey trap is, as the name suggests, a device for trapping monkeys. It is ingenuous in its simplicity, and also in the fact that it does not actually trap the monkey at all: it is the monkey that does the trapping. The trap consists of a hollowed-out gourd tied to a tree using a vine. The gourd has an opening just big enough to admit a monkey's paw when it isn't clenched into a fist. Inside is a banana. The monkey reaches inside, grabs the banana, but cannot withdraw it. Even as the hunter approaches to collect it, it cannot bring itself to unclench its fist, let go of the banana and escape. What traps the monkey is the monkey's own internal cost/benefit analysis, which is slanted toward the short term, coupled with its inability to consider the long-term effect of its short-term decisions. It is a perfect metaphor for what has caused the US to go off the rails.

Let us take another look at Russia. St. Petersburg now has a standard of living that compares favorably to many places in the US, including some of its more prosperous cities. Salaries are still considerably lower, but then so are the costs. In Russia, many consumer products, such as clothes, electronics, furniture and all of the other things that can cost almost arbitrary amounts of money, are quite expensive, and few people can afford to own closets full of clothes they hardly ever wear. On the other hand, necessities are quite reasonably priced: housing, education, heath care, communications, transportation and all the other basics are far more affordable. The US is the polar opposite. Here, all sorts of consumer items can be had for next to nothing, but when it comes to the necessities (housing, education, health care, communications and transportation) the norm seems to be to bleed people dry.

With housing, the major issue is that incomes have been falling for decades, but housing prices have only gone up. Housing is a cost, not an investment, because a residence is not a productive asset but a place to eat, sleep and recreate. The obvious long-term solution is to crash the real estate market, bulldoze unpromising suburban subdivisions and revert them to farmland, then build non-flammable apartment buildings next to power plants to provide affordable housing. Next thing you know, everybody suddenly has plenty of disposable income and the economy takes off. But that's long-term thinking, you see; short-term thinking is to prop up ridiculous real estate valuations by buying up defaulted mortgages at face value and hiding them inside the Federal Reserve. And so that's what's being done.

With education, the monkey trap was assembled in stages. First, the value of a college education was inflated to the point where only college graduates could get the remaining good jobs. Next, college education was pronounced a birthright, and financial aid was extended to make it universally accessible, on terms that amount to a lifetime of indentured servitude. Next, the price of higher education was inflated out of all proportion to its value, to cash in on the bonanza of free government-guaranteed money. And so now we have a ridiculously overpriced higher education system that is considered mandatory even though for most people earning a degree no longer guarantees an income sufficient to repay the loans. The obvious solution is to do away with the now meaningless college degrees and fall back on certificates, licenses, apprenticeships and other ways of getting people directly into the workplace. But that's long-term thinking, you see; short-term thinking is to make higher education even more mandatory, but somewhat more affordable, by automating it: instead of an actual lecture hall, students are now treated to a virtual experience of listening to a talking head robo-prof over the Internet from the comfort of their parents' basement. The only two subjects that can be taught using this method are test-taking and masturbation.

I could make a similar argument with respect to health care, communications and transportation. Perhaps I will do so next week. Or perhaps you've caught on already. I hope that this will be enough to make you allergic to short-termism.

* * *

But who, you might ask, are the monkeys? Well, that's the funny bit (at least to me). The real monkeys are the people running the system: the people who think they have it made. You see, they can't let go of the banana inside the gourd, because holding onto it gives them power. They are all the people who benefit outlandishly from the current system of bleeding the system dry: the college administrators, the health care administrators, the various managers who make six figures and beyond, and who are all lavishly rewarded for bringing in good quarterly and year-end results, a.k.a. short-term thinking. They think that holding onto that banana inside the gourd for another round will make them even better off. But I believe they are wrong.

Their prize “banana,” expressed in financial terms, consists of stocks (propped up by endless quantitative easing), bonds (issued by a bankrupt government drowning in debt), real estate (which will have to be protected by a private army as the land lapses into chaos), and cash (fiat currency, subject to sudden bouts of hyperinflation). Where are they going to escape to with all this loot? Costa Gringa? El Gringador? The fabled kingdom of Abu Gringadabi? Once the abovementioned pieces of paper all turn out to be worthless, they may not get too far beyond “¡Sus papeles, por favor!” You destroyed your own country; what do you plan to do with ours? Or are they going to construct a luxury artificial island anchored on some shoal in the middle of the ocean and live there? If so, whose navy is going to protect them from the pirates who will show up and say: “What nice island you have! You want something bad to happen to it?” (They only watched the dubbed version of that movie, and something got lost in translation.)

You see, their short-term thinking is... short-termist, enough said, while their long-term thinking is mostly a work of fantasy. You don't want to be like them, do you? In that case, stop thinking for the short term! Oh, and if you do get stuck in a monkey trap: let go the banana, withdraw your paw, hold the gourd hole-down and shake out the banana, grab the banana, run up a tree and eat the banana while, optionally, making eye contact with the hunter. Got that?

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"Hablame"

"EN TIEMPOS DIFÍCILES" - Heberto Padilla

A aquel hombre le pidieron su tiempo

para que lo juntara al tiempo de la Historia.

Le pidieron las manos,

porque para una época difícil

nada hay mejor que un par de buenas manos.

Le pidieron los ojos

que alguna vez tuvieron lágrimas

para que contemplara el lado claro

(especialmente el lado claro de la vida)

porque para el horror basta un ojo de asombro.

Le pidieron sus labios

resecos y cuarteados para afirmar,

para erigir, con cada afirmación, un sueño

(el-alto-sueño);

le pidieron las piernas

duras y nudosas

(sus viejas piernas andariegas),

porque en tiempos difíciles

¿algo hay mejor que un par de piernas

para la construcción o la trinchera?

Le pidieron el bosque que lo nutrió de niño,

con su árbol obediente.

Le pidieron el pecho, el corazón, los hombros.

Le dijeron

que eso era estrictamente necesario.

Le explicaron después

que toda esta donación resultaria inútil.

sin entregar la lengua,

porque en tiempos difíciles

nada es tan útil para atajar el odio o la mentira.

Y finalmente le rogaron

que, por favor, echase a andar,

porque en tiempos difíciles

esta es, sin duda, la prueba decisiva.

Los Aldeanos: "El Socialismo en Tiempos del Colera: Toda Una Nación"

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La columna de Cubanalisis

NEOCASTRISMO [Hacer click en la imagen]

NEOCASTRISMO [Hacer click en la imagen]
¨Saturno jugando con sus hijos¨/ Pedro Pablo Oliva

Seguidores

Carta desde la carcel de Fidel Castro Ruz

“…después de todo, para mí la cárcel es un buen descanso, que sólo tiene de malo el que es obligatorio. Leo mucho y estudio mucho. Parece increíble, las horas pasan como si fuesen minutos y yo, que soy de temperamento intranquilo, me paso el día leyendo, apenas sin moverme para nada. La correspondencia llega normalmente…”

“…Como soy cocinero, de vez en cuando me entretengo preparando algún pisto. Hace poco me mandó mi hermana desde Oriente un pequeño jamón y preparé un bisté con jalea de guayaba. También preparo spaghettis de vez en cuando, de distintas formas, inventadas todas por mí; o bien tortilla de queso. ¡Ah! ¡Qué bien me quedan! por supuesto, que el repertorio no se queda ahí. Cuelo también café que me queda muy sabroso”.
“…En cuanto a fumar, en estos días pasados he estado rico: una caja de tabacos H. Upman del doctor Miró Cardona, dos cajas muy buenas de mi hermano Ramón….”.
“Me voy a cenar: spaghettis con calamares, bombones italianos de postre, café acabadito de colar y después un H. Upman #4. ¿No me envidias?”.
“…Me cuidan, me cuidan un poquito entre todos. No le hacen caso a uno, siempre estoy peleando para que no me manden nada. Cuando cojo el sol por la mañana en shorts y siento el aire de mar, me parece que estoy en una playa… ¡Me van a hacer creer que estoy de vacaciones! ¿Qué diría Carlos Marx de semejantes revolucionarios?”.
¨La patria es dicha de todos, y dolor de todos, y cielo para todos, y no feudo ni capellaní­a de nadie¨ - Marti

"No temas ni a la prision, ni a la pobreza, ni a la muerte. Teme al miedo"
-
Giacomo Leopardi

¨Por eso es muy importante, Vicky, hijo mío, que recuerdes siempre para qué sirve la cabeza: para atravesar paredes¨Halvar de Flake [El vikingo]

"Como no me he preocupado de nacer, no me preocupo de morir" - Lorca

"Al final, no os preguntarán qué habéis sabido, sino qué habéis hecho" - Jean de Gerson

"Si queremos que todo siga como está, es necesario que todo cambie" - Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa

"Todo hombre paga su grandeza con muchas pequeñeces, su victoria con muchas derrotas, su riqueza con múltiples quiebras" - Giovanni Papini


"Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans" - John Lennon

"Habla bajo, lleva siempre un gran palo y llegarás lejos" - Proverbio Africano

"No hay medicina para el miedo" - Proverbio escoces

"El supremo arte de la guerra es doblegar al enemigo sin luchar"
- Sun Tzu

"You do not really understand something unless you can explain it to your grandmother" - Albert Einstein

"It is inaccurate to say I hate everything. I am strongly in favor of common sense, common honesty, and common decency. This makes me forever ineligible for public office" - H. L. Menken

"I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented" - Elie Wiesel

"Stay hungry, stay foolish" -
Steve Jobs

"If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert , in five years ther'ed be a shortage of sand" - Milton Friedman

"The tragedy of modern man is not that he knows less and less about the meaning of his own life, but that it bothers him less and less" - Vaclav Havel

"No se puede controlar el resultado, pero si lo que uno haga para alcanzarlo" -
Vitor Belfort [MMA Fighter]

Liborio

Liborio
A la puerta de la gloria está San Pedro sentado y ve llegar a su lado a un hombre de cierta historia. No consigue hacer memoria y le pregunta con celo: ¿Quién eras allá en el suelo? Era Liborio mi nombre. Has sufrido mucho, hombre, entra, te has ganado el cielo.

Para Raul Castro

Cuba ocupa el penultimo lugar en el mundo en libertad economica solo superada por Corea del Norte.

Cuba ocupa el lugar 147 entre 153 paises evaluados en "Democracia, Mercado y Transparencia 2007"

Cuando vinieron

Cuando vinieron a buscar a los comunistas, Callé: yo no soy comunista.
Cuando vinieron a buscar a los sindicalistas, Callé: yo no soy sindicalista.
Cuando vinieron a buscar a los judíos, Callé: yo no soy judío. Cuando vinieron a buscar a los católicos, Callé: yo no soy “tan católico”.
Cuando vinieron a buscarme a mí, Callé: no había quien me escuchara.

Reverendo Martin Niemöller

Martha Colmenares

Martha Colmenares
Un sitio donde los hechos y sus huellas nos conmueven o cautivan

CUBA LLORA Y EL MUNDO Y NOSOTROS NO ESCUCHAMOS

Donde esta el Mundo, donde los Democratas, donde los Liberales? El pueblo de Cuba llora y nadie escucha.
Donde estan los Green, los Socialdemocratas, los Ricos y los Pobres, los Con Voz y Sin Voz? Cuba llora y nadie escucha.
Donde estan el Jet Set, los Reyes y Principes, Patricios y Plebeyos? Cuba desesperada clama por solidaridad.
Donde Bob Dylan, donde Martin Luther King, donde Hollywood y sus estrellas? Donde la Middle Class democrata y conservadora, o acaso tambien liberal a ratos? Y Gandhi? Y el Dios de Todos?
Donde los Santos y Virgenes; los Dioses de Cristianos, Protestantes, Musulmanes, Budistas, Testigos de Jehova y Adventistas del Septimo Dia. Donde estan Ochun y todas las deidades del Panteon Yoruba que no acuden a nuestro llanto? Donde Juan Pablo II que no exige mas que Cuba se abra al Mundo y que el Mundo se abra a Cuba?
Que hacen ahora mismo Alberto de Monaco y el Principe Felipe que no los escuchamos? Donde Madonna, donde Angelina Jolie y sus adoptados around de world; o nos hara falta un Brando erguido en un Oscar por Cuba? Donde Sean Penn?
Donde esta la Aristocracia Obrera y los Obreros menos Aristocraticos, donde los Working Class que no estan junto a un pueblo que lanquidece, sufre y llora por la ignominia?
Que hacen ahora mismo Zapatero y Rajoy que no los escuchamos, y Harper y Dion, e Hillary y Obama; donde McCain que no los escuchamos? Y los muertos? Y los que estan muriendo? Y los que van a morir? Y los que se lanzan desesperados al mar?
Donde estan el minero cantabrico o el pescador de percebes gijonese? Los Canarios donde estan? A los africanos no los oimos, y a los australianos con su acento de hombres duros tampoco. Y aquellos chinos milenarios de Canton que fundaron raices eternas en la Isla? Y que de la Queen Elizabeth y los Lords y Gentlemen? Que hace ahora mismo el combativo Principe Harry que no lo escuchamos?
Donde los Rockefellers? Donde los Duponts? Donde Kate Moss? Donde el Presidente de la ONU? Y Solana donde esta? Y los Generales y Doctores? Y los Lam y los Fabelo, y los Sivio y los Fito Paez?
Y que de Canseco y Miñoso? Y de los veteranos de Bahia de Cochinos y de los balseros y de los recien llegados? Y Carlos Otero y Susana Perez? Y el Bola, y Pancho Cespedes? Y YO y TU?
Y todos nosotros que estamos aqui y alla rumiando frustaciones y resquemores, envidias y sinsabores; autoelogios y nostalgias, en tanto Louis Michel comulga con Perez Roque mientras Biscet y una NACION lanquidecen?
Donde Maceo, donde Marti; donde aquel Villena con su carga para matar bribones?
Cuba llora y clama y el Mundo NO ESCUCHA!!!

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