Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Honeybee Democracy

Honeybee Democracy by Thomas D. Seeley
Princeton, NJ:  Princeton Univ Press, 2010
ISBN 978-0-691-14721-5

(5)  So the mother queen is not the workers' boss.  Indeed, there is no all-knowing central planner supervising the thousands and thousands of worker bees in a colony.  The work of a hive is instead governed collectively by the workers themselves, each one an alert individual making tours of inspection looking for things to do and acting on her own to serve the community.

(11)  The duration of the waggle run - made conspicuous despite the darkness by the dancer audibly buzzing her wings while waggling her body - is directly proportional to the length of the outward journey.  On average, one second of the combined body-waggling/wing-buzzing represents some 1,000 meters (six-tenths of a mile) of flight.  And the angle of the waggle run, relative to straight up on the vertical comb, represents the angle of the outward journey relative to the direction of the sun.  

(35)  In the mid-1970s, for three years I followed the fates of several dozen feral honeybee colonies living in trees and houses around Ithaca, and I found that less than 25 percent of the "founder" colonies (ones newly started by swarms) would be alive the following spring.  In contrast, almost 80 percent of the "established" colonies (ones already in residence for at least a year) would survive winter, no doubt because they hadn't had to start from scratch the previous summer.  Beekeepers describe the time and energy crunch faced by swarms in a rather grim, three-line rhyme:  "A swarm of bees in May is worth a load of hay, a swarm of bees in June is worth a silver spoon, a swarm in July isn't worth a fly."

(54)  The bees had revealed to me that they prefer a nest entrance that is rather small, faces south, is high off the ground, and opens into the bottom of the nest cavity.

(75)  But it is always a "friendly" competition;  the scout bees agree on what makes an ideal homesite, they are united in the goal of choosing the best available site, they share their information with full honesty, and ultimately they reach a complete agreement about their new residence.  One valuable lesson that we can learn from the bees is that holding an open and fair competition of ideas is a smart solution to the problem of making a decision based on a pool of information dispersed across a group of individuals.

(86)  This is a different sort of collective choice, for whereas a homeless swarm makes a "consensus decision" about which _single options_ (candidate nest site) it will choose, a foraging colony makes a "combined decision" about how to allocate its foragers among _multiple options_ (candidate food sources).

(91)  Main features of bees' decision-making process:
First, they showed that the bees' debates tend to start slowly with an information accumulation phase during which scout bees put a sizable number of widely scattered alternatives "on the table" for discussion. 

(92)  Second, the plots of the dance records showed that the shout bees' debates end with all or nearly all of the dancing bees advocating just one site, that is, showing a consensus....

Third, our analysis showed that the bees' decision-making process is a highly distributed and thus a democratic one, involving dozens or hundreds of individuals.

(95)  These findings support the idea that scouts come largely, if not entirely, form the ranks of a colony's foragers.  Both scouts and foragers make long-distance excursions from a central location (swarm or hive) and then must find their way home, so it is easy to imagine that bees with foraging experience make the best scouts.

(98)  I find it extremely suggestive that Lindauer started seeing some of his labeled foragers exploring his nest sites, not exploiting his feeder, a few days after he started noticing most of his previously active foragers sitting around idly, either in some quiet spot outside the hive or in the "beard" of bees hanging outside the entrance.  Anecdotal observations like these are the perfect springboard for an experimental investigation designed to test conclusively whether it is a persistently full stomach per se, or something else associated with forced indolence, that informs foragers to become scouts.

(101)  Given that humans and other animals usually make decisions by drawing on a toolbox of heuristics, it is remarkable that a honeybee swarm does not use these shortcut methods of decision making and instead selects its new living quarters by taking a broad and deep look at the bee housing market.  As we have seen in chapter 4, a swarm makes its decision only after its scout bees have discovered numerous alternative nest sites and have performed a multifaceted inspection of each size...  And as we have seen in chapter 3, each candidate site is evaluated with respect to at least six attributes (e.g., cavity volume, entrance height, and entrance size).  Thus a honeybee swarm pursues an unusually sophisticated strategy of decision making, one that involves nearly all of the information relevant to the problem of choosing the best place to build its new nest...  A swarm is able to be so thorough in choosing its home because its democratic organization enables it to harness the power of many individuals working together to perform collectively the two fundamental parts of the decision-making process:  acquiring information about the alternatives and processing this information to make a choice.  We will now look at the evidence that honeybee democracy does indeed achieve nearly optimal decision making.

(123)  In short, the richer the nectar source, the stronger the waggle dance.  We had also figured out how a dancing bee adjusts the number of dance circuits that she produces in relation to nectar-source richness.  She does so by adjusting two aspects of her dancing:  the _rate_ of dance circuit production (R, in dance circuits per second) and the _duration_ of dance circuit produced (C, in dance circuits) in a dancing bee's advertisement is the product of the rate and duration of her dancing (C=R x D).  So, richer nectar sources elicit livelier (higher R) and longer-lasting (greater D) dances than do poorer nectar sources.  

(140-142)  One strong possibility is that the bees were driven to retire from advertising the losing sites by an internal, neurophysiological process that causes every scout to gradually and automatically lose her motivation to dance for a site, even one that is high in quality.  Such a process would foster consensus building among the scouts, for automatic fading of each bee's dancing would prevent the decision making from coming to a standstill with groups of unyielding dancers deadlocked over two or more sites.  It might also help the dancers reach unanimity more quickly than they would otherwise, for endowing each bee with an automatic tendency to lose interest in any given site would make each bee a highly flexible participant in the decision-making process.

(143)  The drop in dance strength per trip (about 15 dance circuits) appears to be a constant, regardless of series length.
NB:  Town meeting rules by which one member can't speak a second time on an issue until everyone else who wishes to be heard has a chance to speak.

(144)  Both bees and humans need a group's members to avoid stubbornly supporting their first view, but whereas we humans will usually (and sensibly) give up on a position only after we have learned of a better one, the bees will stop supporting a position automatically.

(165)  "Ritualization" is the name biologists have given to the process whereby some incidental action of an animal becomes modified over evolutionary time into an intentional signal.

(166)  If the hypothesis of scout bees as mobile temperature sensors, information integrators, and group activators proves correct, then the mechanisms mediating the initiation of takeoffs by honeybee swarms present us with an intriguing system of behavioral control within a large group.  It is one in which a small minority of individuals actively poll the group to collect information about its global state and then, when the group reaches a critical state, these individuals produce a signal that triggers an appropriate action by the whole group.  

(199)  Instead, in both swarms and brains, the decision-making process is broadly diffused among an ensemble of relatively simple information-processing units, each of which possesses only a tiny fraction of the total pool of information used to make a collective judgment.  We will see that natural selection has organized honeybee swarms and primate brains in intriguingly similar ways to build a first-rate decision-making group from a collection of rather poorly informed and cognitively limited individuals.  These similarities point to general principles for building a sophisticated cognitive unit out of far simpler parts.

(203)  First, a sensory transformation converts the information about the external world that has been registered by the animal's sensory organs into a "sensory representation," which makes the information available for further processing within the animal's brain.  This is what the MY neurons do in the monkey's motion-detection task.  Second, a decision transformation converts the sensory representation into a set of probabilities for adopting the alternative courses of action.  In the monkey's brain, this transformation is implemented by the LIP neurons, as they convert the sensory representation of visual motion into a set of "evidence accumulations," specifically the set of firing rates of the integrators representing different motion directions.  The level of firing in a particular integrator population determines the animal's relative probability of choosing the alternative represented by this population.  Third, an "action transformation" converts this set of probabilities into a specific behavioral act.  This final process of action implementation is performed in the monkey's brains by motor neurons in the FEF and SC regions when they are activated by the population of LIP neurons whose firing rates have reached a threshold level.

(210)  Indeed, another shared design feature of the integrators in monkey brains and honeybee swarms is that they are leaky.  In other words, in both systems, the accumulation of evidence in any given integrator declines unless additional evidence flows into it.
NB:  In bees and synapses "zombie lies" die out

(214)  This design [in brains and swarms] has five critical elements:
1.  A population of sensory units (S) that provides input about the alternatives.  Each sensor reports (noisily) on just one alternative, and each sensor's strength is proportional to the quality of its alternative.
2.  A population of integrator units (I) that integrate the sensory information over time and over sensory units.  Each integrator accumulates evidence in support of just one alternative.
3.  Mutual inhibition among the integrators, so the growth in evidence in one suppresses with increasing strength the growth of evidence in the others.
4.  Leakage of the integrators, so the growth of evidence in an integrator requires sustained input of sensory evidence supporting its alternative.
5.  Threshold sensing by the integrators, such that the decision falls to the alternative whose integrator first accumulates a threshold level of evidence.

(220)  Lesson 1:  Compose the decision-making group of individuals with shared interests and mutual respect

(221)  Lesson 2:  Minimize the leader's influence on the group's thinking

(224)  Lesson 3:  Seek diverse solutions to the problem

(226)  Lesson 4:  Aggregate the group's knowledge through debate

(227)  No scout bee, not even one that has encountered a wildly exuberant dancer, will blindly follow another scout's opinion by dancing for a site she has not inspected.

(228)  How can humans use what the bees have demonstrated about aggregating the knowledge and opinions of a group's members to make good choices for the group as a whole?  I suggest three things.  First, we use the power of an open and fair competition of ideas, in the form of a frank debate, to integrate the information that is dispersed among the group/s members.  Second, we foster good communication within the debating group, recognizing that this is how valuable information that is uncovered by one member will quickly reach the other members.  And third, we recognize that while it is important for a group's members to listen to what everyone else is saying, it is essential that they listen critically, form their own opinions about the options being discussed, and register their views independently.

(230)  Lesson 5:  Use quorum responses for cohesion, accuracy, and speed

(231)  E pluribus unum through quorum responses?  Yes, but do so carefully, using a quorum that is sufficiently large to ensure accurate decision making by the community.

(234)  Thus, the house-hunting bees remind us that the leader in a democratic group serves mainly to shape the process, not the product, of the group's deliberations.  The bees also demonstrate that a democratic group can function perfectly well without a leader if the group's members agree on the problems they face and on the protocol they will use to make their decisions.

(236)  The election's outcome is biased strongly in favor of the best site because this site's supporters will produce the strongest dance advertisements and so will gain converts the most rapidly, and because the best site's supporters will revert to neutral-voter status the most slowly.  Ultimately, the bees supporting one of the sites - usually the best one - dominate the competition so completely that every scout bee supports just one site....

Some have said that honeybees are messengers sent by the gods to show us how we ought to live:  in sweetness and in beauty and in peacefulness.

(262)  Frank Bryan, professor of political science at the University of Vermont and world authority on New England town meetings, has taught me much about his specialty and introduced me to Larry Coffin, long-standing moderator of the annual town meeting in Bradford, Vermont...  Michael Mauboussin, chief investment strategist at Legg Mason Capital Management, has showed me the connections between the search comittees of bees and the investment committees of humans and kindly allowed me to borrow from one of his Consilient Observer essays the title for my final chapter, "Swarm Smarts."

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Dust Tracks on a Road

Dust Tracks on a Road by Zora Neale Hurston
NY:  HarperCollins, 1942
ISBN 0-06-096567-3

(8)  Didn’t own pots to pee in, nor beds to push ‘em under.  Didn’t have no more pride than to let themselves be hired by poor-white trash.

(32)  He was supposed to be so tough, it was said that once he was struck by lightning and was not even knocked off his feet, but that lightning went off through the woods limping.

(63)  The Master-Maker in His making had made Old Death.  Made him with big, soft feet and square toes.  Made him with a face that reflects the face of all things, but neither changes itself, nor is mirrored anywhere.  Made the body of Death out of infinite hunger.  Made a weapon for his hand to satisfy his needs.  This was the morning of the day of the beginning of things.

(67)  The one who makes the idols never worships them, however tenderly he might have molded the clay.  You cannot have knowledge and worship at the same time.  Mystery is the essence of divinity.  Gods must keep their distances from men.

(68)  I just had to talk back at established authority and that established authority hated backtalk worse than barbed-wire pie.

(83)  So my second vision picture came to be.  I had seen myself homeless and uncared for.  There was a chill about that picture which used to wake me up shivering.  I had always thought I would be in some lone, arctic wasteland with no one under the sound of my voice.  I found the cold, the desolate solitude, and earless silences, but I discovered that all that geography was within me.  It only needed time to reveal it.

(145)  Lack of power and opportunity passes off too often for virtue.

(159)  “Race Solidarity” looked like something solid in my childhood, but like all other mirages, it faded as I came close enough to look.  As soon as I could think, I saw that there is no such thing as Race Solidarity in America with any group.  It is freely admitted that it does not exist among Negroes.  Our so-called Race Leaders cry over it.  Others accept it as a natural thing that Negroes should not remain an unmelting black knot in the body politic.  Our interests are too varied.  Personal benefits run counter to race lines too often for it to hold.  If it did, we could never fit into the national pattern.  Since the race line has never held any group in America, why expect it to be effective with us?  The upper-class Negroes admit it in their own phrases.  The lower-class Negroes say it with a tale.

(182)  Somebody had turned a hose on the sun.  What I had taken for eternity turned out to be a moment walking in its sleep.

(191)  Each moment has its own task and capacity;  doesn’t melt down like snow and form again.  It keeps its character forever.

(202)  It seems to me that organized creeds are collections of words around a wish.

(206)  Being an idealist, I too wish that the world was better than I am.  Like all the rest of my fellow men, I dont want to live around people with no more principles than I have.

(208)  What all my work shall be, I don’t know that either, every hour being a stranger to you until you live it.  I want a busy life, a just mind and a timely death.

(218)  If you still have doubts, study the man and watch his ways.  See if all of him fits into today.  If he has no memory of yesterday, nor no concept of tomorrow, then he is My People.  There is no tomorrow in the man.

(238)  All clumps of people turn out to be individuals on close inspection.

(244)  The world is not just going to stand still looking like a fool at a funeral if I can help it.  Let’s bring up right now and lay a hearing on it.

(248)  Democracy, like religion, never was designed to make our profits less.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

King of Infinite Space: Donald Coxeter, the Man Who Saved Geometry

King of Infinite Space:  Donald Coxeter, the Man Who Saved Geometry by Siobhan Roberts
London:  Profile Books, 2006, 2007
ISBN 978-1-84668-007-6

(4)  Coxeter’s definition of his discipline, often recited, was this:  “Geometry is the study of figures and figures.  Figues as in shapes” - triangles, cubes, dodecahedrons - “and figures as in numbers.”

(8)  The spearmint molecule and caraway molecule are chiral twins - one molecule is the mirror reflection of the other, and with that minor difference the molecules have considerably different effects on our taste buds.

(10)  Analogous figures exist in higher dimensions - the fourth dimension, for example, contains the simplex (the 4-D analog to the tetrahedron), and the hypercube (the 4-D analog to the cube). And in higher dimensions still, polytopes morph into more and more complex cousins of the originals, some continuing to infinity.

(20)  Later that evening, relaxing in the hotel lobby, Coxeter met with another fan, Texan Glenn Smith, a self-described “geometry groupie,” who makes a successful living in the sesame business.

(25) Euclid (365-25 BC) proved there are only five Platonic solids.  And given the above-mentioned restrictions, only three regular polygons (the equilateral triangle, square, and pentagon) can be used in the construction of the Platonic solids.  This is because the sum of polygon angles that meet at a vertex must be less than 360º in order to form a convex solid.

(65)  [HT] Flather’s models:  The series included more than fifty stellations of the icosahedron.  Littlewood accepted Flather’s models as a gift to Trinity and Coxeter agreed to write an accompanying enumeration and description, which became The 59 Icosahedron.

(69)  In four dimensions the six regular polytopes include:  the simplex or 5-cell, each cell being a tetrahedron, and three tetrahedron meeting any an edge; the 8-cell, or tesseract, made of eight cubes, three cubes meeting at every edge;  the 16-cell made of sixteen tetrahedra;  the 24-cell made of octahedra;  the 120-cell made of dodecahedra;  and the 600-cell made of tetrahedra.

Schäfli proved that in higher dimensions regular polytopes become a rarer breed.  Only three regular polytopes exist in five or more dimensions, continuing to infinite dimensions:  these are the simplex (the generalized tetrahedron), the hypercube or “measure polytope” (the generalized cube), and the orthoplex or cross polytope (the generalized octahedron).

(74)  In the 1880s, [Alice] Boole Stott rediscovered the six polytopes in four dimensions and then, using a ruler and compass, cardboard and paint, she produced complete model sets of their central sections.

(92)  Icosahedra and dodecahedra do not exist in dimensions higher than four, which suited Coxeter fine.  “Four is my favorite dimension,” he once said.  “The things that happen in four dimensions are extra special and agreeable.”

(99)  For every symmetry in the laws of physics, there must exist a conservation law (if there is symmetry, something is conserved.)

(112)  [JL] Synge [nephew of JM Synge] also wrote a fantastical mathematical novel, Kandelman’s Krim.  Coxeter loved it and plundered its pages, excerpting twelve passages in his book _Introduction to Geometry_…

(161)  “In Italy today, Emma Castelnuovo has popularized and developed a [new approach to Euclidean geometry], he said.  “Her book, La Geomatria Intuitiva, describes the teaching of geometry with apparatus resembling Meccano.  The book, beautifully illustrated, shows how geometrical shapes are used in the architecture of Italy.”

(163)  After his Pittsburgh talk [1967], he traveled to Minneapolis where he was coming to the end of a long-running pet project, working for four years with a group of mathematicians on educational geometry films, "Dihedral Kaleidoscopes" and "Symmetries of the Cube" (two in a series of five films).

(178)  But in Coxeter’s eyes, one of Fuller’s downfalls was his use of preexisting material without acknowledgement.

(191)  By contrast, Coxeter and Greitzer’s book Geometry Revisited, which has 153 pages of text, has roughly 160 separate diagrams - an average of over one per page!…

(195)  He [Claude Shannon] posited that the design of such a communication system was analogous to the sphere-packing problem of the geometer - sphere packing was a strategy for efficiently storing and encoding data to eliminate errors.

(202)  Geometer’s Sketchpad, now in its fourth edition, has met with enthusastic response.

(203)  He [Walter Whiteley] tries to detemine whether a protein’s regoins will be rigid or flexible, because this is the property that dictates how a protein interacts.  Working in the York Math Lab, Whiteley and his students devise computer algorithms that shorten the biochemist’s  search, tinkering with the geometric models, adjusting their struts and nodes, trying to discover how many rigid and flexible vertices each sample protein structure might have.

(212)  He really felt that mathematics was part of the humanities as well as science.

(216)  Crystals, in fact, are classified by seventeen planar symmetry groups (planar meaning 2-D;  in 3-D there are 230 crystallographic space groups), the collection of all motions - translations, rotations, reflections, glide-reflections, screw motions, and rotary reflections - that, when they act on the crystal structure, leave the structure invariant.

(222)  If mathematics is “the queen of the sciences” what is the king?  To which Coxeter responded:  “Maybe the King of the Sciences is Ecology."

(223)  [English sculptor John] Robinson had sent Coxeter a book of his most recent sculptures - Symbolic Sculpture, The Universe Series.  Coxeter appreciated what he saw:  exquisite executions in bronze, wood, and wool tapestry, of many geometrical concepts;  the golden rule, the Archimedean spirals, golden spirals, cones, knots, pyramids, triangles, ovoids, Möbius bands, circles, and tangents.

(230) … John Conway;   Marc Pelletier, a geometric model-maker from Boulder, CO;  and geometry lover Glenn Smith from Texas….

(233)  Jeff Weeks, a freelance geometer from Canton, New York and the recipient of a 1999 MacArthur fellowship.  Weeks is also the author of The Shape of Space, a book exploring the possible shapes of the universe.

(246)  …he [Gyorgy Darvas] edits Symmetry:  Culture and Science, published by the Symmetry Society…

(251)  He [Coxeter] reconsidered his offer [to leave his house to the University of Toronto], however, when he perceived a change in the university’s pedagogical approach - shifting from “learning for its own sake” to “learning for opportunity.”

……There [Stockholm] he spoke on another of his signature subjects, the “Rhombic Triacontehedron,” and he planned to use a new type of model invented by his friend, geometer and geophysicist Michael Longuet-Higgins, at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UCSD.  Called RHOMBO, the model’s component parts are six-faced solid blocks that click together by a patented system of magnets. 

(265)  Morley’s Trisector Theorem;  The three points of intersection of the adjacent trisectors of the angles of any triangle form an equilateral triangle.

(267) NB:  7 triangles around central equilateral triangle.  Any triangle will always have an equilateral triangle at the center of the trisection of its vertices.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Memoranda During the War

I read this book in 2008 and published my notes to my friends back then.  I revisited it today remembering the nodding acquaintance between Whitman and Lincoln but came across this extremely timely quote which may be a counter to all those pundits now excoriating, while subtly encouraging, "tribalism" and division in the USA:  " ...(a new virtue, unknown to other lands, and hardly yet really known here, but the foundation and tie of all, as the future will grandly develop,) Unionism, in its truest and amplest sense, form'd the hard-pan of his [Lincoln's] character."

It would be good if there were more people examining the idea of Unionism these days.


I came upon Walt Whitman's _Memoranda During the War_ while browsing through Harvard Bookstore, a great independent bookstore at  It was a remaindered paperback and a book I'd never read.  So I picked it up, bought it, and read it.  Nothing beats the primary sources.

Whitman left his home in New York to find his brother, reported missing in the battle of Fredricksburg, in 1862 and spent the rest of the Civil War visiting the wounded in the hospitals around Washington DC.  He would bring them paper, envelopes, and stamps, wrote letters home for them, changed their bandages, distributed candies and fruit and tobacco, and just sat with them.

His book is sweet and sad and very human.  It reminds us of the cost of war, the wounds that every war leaves, the wounds that never heal.  He was an eyewitness to his times and relates it well, as we would expect from Whitman.  On the streets of Washington DC, he saw Lincoln so many times that they would nod to each other although they never seemed to have talked.  Can you imagine that?  They had a nodding acquaintance.

Memoranda During the War by Walt Whitman
NY:  Oxford University Press, 2004
ISBN-13:  978-0-19-530718-4

(5)  ... and looking over all, in my remembrance, the tall form of President Lincoln, with his face of deep-cut lines, with the large, kind, canny eyes, the compexion of dark brown, and the tinge of weird melancholy saturating all.

(37-39)  August 8, 1863
To-night, as I was trying to keep cool, sitting by a wounded soldier in Armory Square, I was attracted by some pleasant singing in an adjoining Ward.  As my soldier was asleep, I left him, and entering the Ward where the music was, I walk'd half way down and took a seat by the cot of a young Brooklyn friend, S. R., badly wounded in the hand at Chancellorsville, and who has suffer'd much, but who at that moment in the evening was wide awake and comparatively easy.  He had turn'd over on his left side to get a better view of the singers, but the plentiful drapery of the musquito curtains of the adjoining cots obstructed the sight.  I stept round and loop'd them all up, so that he had a clear show, and then sat down again by him, and look'd and listened.  The principal singer was a young lady nurse of one of the Wards, accompanying on a melodeon, and join'd by the lady nurses of other Wards.  They sat there, making a charming group, with their handsome, healthy faces;  and standing up a little behind them were some ten or fifteen of the convalescent soldiers, young men, nurses, &c., with books in their hands, taking part in the singing.  Of course it was not such a performance as the great soloists at the New York Opera House take a hand in;  but I am not sure but I receiv'd as much pleasure, under the circumstances, sitting there, as I have had from the best Italian compositions, express'd by world-famous performers....  The scene was, indeed, an impressive one.  The men lying up and down the hospital, in their cots, (some badly wounded - some never to rise thence,) the cots themselves, with their drapery of white curtains, and the shadows down the lower and upper parts of the Ward;  then the silence of the men, and the attitudes they took - the whole was a sight to look around upon again and again.  And there, sweetly rose those female voices up to the high, whitewash'd wooden roof, and pleasantly the roof sent it all back again.  They sang very well;  mostly quaint old songs and declamatory hymns, to fitting tunes.  Here, for instance, is on of the songs they sang:
Shining Shores
My days are swiftly gliding by, and I a Pilgrim stranger,
Would not detain them as they fly, those hours of toil and danger;
For O we stand on Jordan's strand, our friends are passing over,
And just before, the shining shores we may almost discover.
We'll gird our loins my brethren dear, our distant home discerning,
Our absent Lord has left us word, let every lamp be burning,
For O we stand on Jordan's strand, our friends are passing over,
And just before, the shining shores we may almost discover.

As the strains reverberated through the great edifice of boards, (an excellent place for musical performers,) it was plain to see how it all sooth'd and was grateful to the men.  I saw one near me turn over, and bury his face partially in his pillow;  he was probably ashamed to be seen with wet eyes.

Lincoln comes to NYC, February 18 or 19, 1861, on the steps of the Astor House [hotel] on Broadway, near Canal Street:
(40)   The figure, the look, the gait, are distinctly impress'd upon me yet;  the unusual and uncouth height, the dress of complete black, the stovepipe hat push'd back on the head, the dark-brown complexion, the seam'd and wrinkled yet canny-looking face, the black, bushy head of hair, the disproportionately long neck, and the hands held behind as he stood observing the people.  All was comparative and ominous silence.  The new comer look'd with curiosity upon that immense sea of faces, and the sea of faces return'd the look with similar curiosity.  In both there was a day of something almost comical.  Yet there was much anxiety in certain quarters.  Cautious persons had fear'd that there would be some outbreak, some mark'd indignity or insult to the president elect on his passage through the city, for he possess'd no personal popularity in New York, and not much political.  No such outbreak or insult, however, occurr'd.  Only the silence of the crowd was very significant to those who were accustom'd to the usual demonstrations of New York in wild, tumultuous hurrahs - the deafening tumults of welcome, and the thunder-shouts of pack'd myriads along the whole line of Broadway, receiving Hungarian Kossuth or Filibuster Walker.

A description of Union deserters:
(61)  These deserters are far more numerous than would be thought.  Almost every day I see squads of them, sometimes two or three at a time, with a small guard;  sometimes ten or twelve, under a larger one.  (I hear that desertions from the army now in the field have often averaged 10,000 a month.  One of the commonest sights in Washington is a squad of deserters....)

The summary execution of "Secesh" prisoners:
(63-64)  The next morning the two officers were taken in the town, separate places, put in the centre of the street, and shot.The seventeen men were taken to an open ground, a little to one side.  They were placed in a hollow square, encompass'd by two of our cavalry regiments, one of which regiments had three days before found the bloody corpses of three of their men hamstrung and hung up by the heels to limbs of trees by Moseby's guerillas, and the other had not long before had twelve men, after surrendering, shot and then hung by the neck to limbs of trees, and jeering inscriptions pinn'd to the breast of one of the corpses, who had been a sergeant.  Those three, and those twelve, had been found, I say, by these environing regiments.  Now, with revolvers, they form'd the grim cordon of their seventeen prisoners.  The latter were placed in the midst of the hollow square, were unfasten'd, and the ironical remark made to them that they were now to be given "a chance for themselves."  A few ran for it.  But what use?  From every side the deadly pills came.  In a few minutes the seventeen corpses strew'd the hollow square....  I was curious to know whether some of the Union soldiers, some few, (some one or two at least of the youngsters,) did not abstain from shooting on the helpless men.  Not one. There was no exultation, very little said;  almost nothing, yet every man there contributed his shot.

(Multiply the above by scores, aye hundreds - varify it in all the forms that different circumstances, individuals, places, &c., could afford - light it with every lurid passion, the wolf's, the lion's lapping thirst for blood, the passionate, boiling volcanoes of human revenge for comrades, brothers slain - with the light of burning farms, and heaps of smutting, smouldering black embers - and in the human heart everywhere black, worse embers - and you have an inkling of this War.)

(76)  The Inauguration, March 4
The President very quietly rode down to the Capitol in his own carriage, by himself, on a sharp trot, about noon, either because he wish'd to be on hand to sign bills, &c., or to get rid of marching in line with the absurd procession, the muslin Temple of Liberty, and pasteboard Monitor.  I saw him on his return, at three o'clock, after the performance was over.  He was in his plain two-horse barouche, and look'd very much worn and tired;  the lines, indeed, of vast responsibilities, intricate questions, and demands of life and death, cut deeper than ever upon his dark brown face;  yet all the old goodness, tenderness, sadness and canny shrewdness, underneath the furrows.  (I never see that man without feeling that he is one to become personally attach'd to, for his combination of purest, heartiest tenderness, and native Western even rudest forms of manliness.)  By his side sat his little boy, of ten years.  There were no soldiers, only a lot of civilians on horseback, with huge yellow scarfs over their shoulders, riding around the carriage.  (At the Inauguration four years ago, he rode down and back again, surrounded by a dense mass of arm'd calvalrymen eight deep, with draw sabres;  and there were sharp-shooters station'd at every corner on the route.)

(88)  ...(a new virtue, unknown to other lands, and hardly yet really known here, but the foundation and tie of all, as the future will grandly develop,) Unionism, in its truest and amplest sense, form'd the hard-pan of his [Lincoln's] character.

What Whitman calls Unionism may be an essential feature of what it means to be American.

(91-92)  The death of Frank N. Irwin, Co E, 93rd Pennsylvania - Died May 1, 1865 - My letter to his mother
... yet there is a text, "God doeth all things well," - the meaning of which, after due time, appears to the soul.
I thought perhaps a few words, though from a stranger, about your son, from one who was with him at the last, might be worth while, for I loved the young man, though I but saw him immediately to lose him.  I am merely a friend visiting the Hospitals occasionally to cheer the wounded and sick.

Soon after finishing the book, I came across a small notice of a performance of John Adams' "The Wound Dresser", a musical setting of Whitman's Civil War poem.   Adams would be there and discuss the work afterwards.  I went and listened, finding echoes of Gil Evans and Miles Davis in the trumpet calls.  In my stacks, I have a book of Whitman's writings on New York City.  Maybe I'll read that soon.

Another book I bought that day was a collection of Carl Sandburg's poetry.  I'd never read him before and was pleasantly surprised.  It occurred to me that there is a clear line from Whitman to Sandburg to Allen Ginsberg, something that had never occurred to me before.

The full text of Whitman's Memoranda During the War is available online at

Monday, February 26, 2018

Rogue Economics: Capitalism's New Reality

Rogue Economics:  Capitalism's New Reality by Loretta Napoleonia (NY:  Seven Stories Press, 2008  ISBN 978-1-58322-824-1)

(page 2)  Shockingly, in modern times, democracy and slavery coexist in what economists see as a strong direct correlation.  In other words, the two phenomena show identical trends and one conditions the other.  The 1990s confirmed a surreal trend that had already become apparent in the 1950s, during the process of decolonization.  As former colonies gained independence from foreign powers and embraced freedom, the number of slaves soared and their cost plummeted.  Today the average price of a slave is less than one-tenth of its value during the Roman Empire, a time in history when democracy may well have been at its lowest ebb.

(11)  Eva, a former prostitute:  "I heard so many stories of Ukrainian women who'd been lured by Russian criminals into prostitution, but I thought, these people are from Chechnya...  I was bought and sold several times at the Arizona Market [in Northwestern Serbia] by many traders:  Russian, European and even Arab.  I became merchandise;  yes, this is what we are, products for the global village."

(16)  "Hamburg and Berlin are controlled by the Lebanese Mafia," explains Michael.  "There's nothing you can do about it.  You have to pay for their protection.  Those Arabs show up at your bar and ask for the money.  If you say 'no,' they nudge their mobile phone in front of you and tell you that a whole bunch of fellas armed with Uzi submachine guns will come within half an hour.  So, what do you do?  You pay them;  that's all I can say.  In Cologne it's a different matter, the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party) controls the business.  Again, they are not directly involved in prostitution, but brothels and sex bars must pay them for protection."

(28)  Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations:  Commerce and manufactures can seldom flourish long in any state which does not enjoy a regular administration of justice, in which the people do not feel themselves secure in the possession of their property, in which the faith of contracts is not supported by law, and in which the authority of the state is not supposed to be regularly employed in enforcing the payment of debts from all those who are able to pay.  Commerce and manufactures, in short, can seldom flourish in any state in which there is not a certain degree of confidence in the justice of government.

(33)  The absence of a global social contract, of a solid legislation that regulated minimum wages and workers' benefits internationally, greatly reduced the bargaining power of Western labor.

(49)  As pointed out by Veblen, what matters to the leisure class is not the ownership of the means of production, as Karl Marx argued, but the ownership of the means of consumption.

(53)  Ironically, 9/11 encouraged global billionaires to relocate in London.  "The tough financial legislation introduced in the United States after the attack ended up penalising Caribbean offshore facilities.  To this, one should add, the US monetary authorities' global monitoring of dollar transactions.  The pound and the euro, therefore, suddenly became very attractive as investment currencies.  That explains why they became the favorite currencies for hedge funds," adds Woods.

(64)  Until 9/11, the bulk of the $1.5 trillion generated by the illegal, criminal, and terror economies was laundered in the United States and in US dollars.

(65)  The Patriot Act succeeded in blocking the entry of dirty and terror money into the United States, but, because it applied exclusively to the United States and only to US dollar transactions, it did not curb terrorist financing, criminal activity, and money laundering abroad.

(66-67)  The n'drangheta [Calabrian mafia] offered the drug barons a full service inside Europe:  from drug smuggling to money laundering to legitimate investments in euros, something that nobody had been able to provide before.

(71)  In 1979, following the Soviet military involvement in Afghanistan, the KGB had predicted that within the next decade, the Communist system would collapse.  "The nomenklatura had ten years to restructure itself and to take advantage of the inevitable transition toward capitalism.  In 1982, members of the Bulgarian ruling elite began developing joint ventures with Bulgarian state enterprises and fictitious foreign firm[s] located offshore.  To fund these partnerships, they borrowed money from Bulgarian state banks, funds that moved offshore," reveals a former member of the Bulgarian Mafia.  "This process accelerated toward the end of Communism.  Between 1987 and 1988, these fictitious joint ventrues swallowed about $10 billion of Bulgarian state finances.  By 1989, when the Berlin Wall came down, the nomenklatura had transferred and secured the bulk of Bulgarian monetary wealth to offshore accounts."

(73)  Unemployed and without marketable professions, but with a high degree of cohesion, these athletes were easy prey for the emerging local Mafias, which used them to construct a vital, cohesive, and loyal support network.

In Bulgaria, members of the Mafia offered former champions money, fast cars, women, and new social status.  Their post-Communist roles now meant intimidating the population and making sure people understood who ruled the country.  "In Sofia you could spot them easily:  they were huge, mostly ugly men, often dressed in black, wearing sunglasses," says Zoya Dimitrova, a Bulgarian investigative journalist.  Known
as the Mutras, or "ugly faces," these athletes recruited to be Mafia strongmen did not prove unique to Bulgaria.  a similar phenomenon took place in Russia, where the local Mafia enrolled, along with athletes, veterans of the anti-Soviet jihad, the so-called Afghanzy, who in addition to physical strength possessed an in-depth knowledge of arms.
NB:  Judo clubs in Russia and Putin

(75)  By the time the United Nations imposed the embargo in the Balkans, the so-called Yugo embargo (1992 to 1995), to isolate war-torn areas, the Bulgarian Mafia controlled most of the smuggling routes to the West from the Balkans and was ready to profit from the embargo.  "The Yugo embargo on oil and arms trafficking in the region was a crucial source of profit for the Bulgarian Mafia.  It was during the embargo that the Mafia consolidated its financial power."  

(83)  While Western philosophy strives to adapt reality to the ideal, conceptualized model, in Chinese culture, such a model does not exist.  Reality emerges as the product of circumstances, and as such, it changes constantly.  Thus, the fog at Austerlitz becomes the point from which to construct victory, not the exceptional event that leads to defeat.  It follows that nothing in Chinese culture is permanent, from the buildings that are erected with perishable materials and are in constant need of rebuilding, as was the case of the Forbidden City, to business contracts.  "For a Westerner a contract is a contract, but in China it is a snapshot of a set of arrangements that happen to exist at one time," writes Tim Clissold in Mr. China, a book recounting his failure to do business in China.

(90-91)  On a breezy morning in December 2005, thousands of Chinese security forces surrounded the hamlet of Dongshou, a fishing village near Hong Kong.  They tear-gassed terrified residents who had gathered in the main square to protest.  At about eight o'clock in the evening, live ammunition replaced the gas, scattering the soil with corpses.  The incident in Dongshou was the latest in a series of protests that had engulfed the surrounding countryside, particularly in the heavily industrialized eastern provinces of Guangdong, Zhejiang, and Jiansu.  Residents wanted to peacefully protest the forced and uncompensated expropriation of their land to build a coal-fired power plant;  they also voiced concern about the additional pollution that the complex would generate.  This expression of public dissent met with brutal repression not only from legitimate forces but also from criminal gangs....

In line with the role of the market-state, the Chinese government sees itself exclusively as a source of opportunity for individuals, not a protector of citizens:  thus, the forced expropriation and the lack of concern about the increased pollution.

(97)  Moreover, poverty lies at the root of Chinese cheap labor practices and exploitation;  the Chinese people remain less concerned about exploitation than with acquiring the means to feed their families.  As put by Pierre Haski, the deputy editor of France's "Liberation", "Behind the industrialized, glitzy coastline, there are rows and rows of poor Chinese peasants waiting for their turn to join globalization.  They will work for what may look like a few cents, for what we regard 'exploitation salaries,' but for them is the beginning of the road to riches plotted by Deng."

(106)  Ironically, the aggressive marketing strategies of Western corporations benefit the counterfeit industry.  Luxury brands' high prices lie at the root of the strong demand for fake designer goods.

(109)  One can draw a parallel with the twentieth-century technological revolution, when Fascism and Nazism channeled innovation into ways to sustain expansionary conflicts instead of improving people's lives.  The Italian-born Futurist movement even described this phenomenon as the aesthetics of war.

(114)  Often, biopiracy goes unnoticed because it takes place through the complex system of patents.  Corporations can patent anything anywhere, and from that moment onward they own the trademark, regardless of the origin of the patented material.  In 2004, the Dutch company Soil and Crop Improvements patented teff, a cereal from Ethiopia, and all the derivatives of its flower. Teff is the main staple grain of 80 million Ethiopians.
NB:  Who owns your DNA?

(115)  Yet patent holders across the world, such as the owner of the gene for Hepatitis C, continue to receive millions from research labs around the world.

(121)  In Nigeria, 8 out of 10 pills are fake, admits an employee of the WHO.

(122)  According to Eli Lilly, the producer of Prozac, for every $1,000 invested in criminal organizations, counterfeit currencies generate $3,300, heroin sales $20,000, cigarette smuggling $43,000, pirated software $40 to $100,000, and medications such as Viagra and Cialis $500,000.

(124)  If for a few seconds we could freeze the hectic trade that constitutes the heartbeat of the global market and take a snapshot of what goes on inside the market matrix, we would see the collective responsibilities of those involved in creating and believing in a world of commercial fantasies.

(125)  At the same time, many companies define counterfeit too broadly to protect their own products from competition from legal and generic products.  "Industry reports [show] that many fakes are instead low-priced, high volume, less conspicuous generic drugs."  Therefore, the system of patents is used to block the entry of legitimate manufacturers from the developing world. The oligopolistic, price-fixing nature of the global pharmaceutical industry keeps prices artificially high, as does the perfume cartel discussed in the previous chapter.  This strategy creates the profit incentives that drive the counterfeit industry.  According to a document released in 2007 by Buko Pharma, a German health-promoting group, price cuts and public health intervention could drastically reduce the size of the counterfeit problem.

(129)  Almost every product we consume has a hidden dark history, from slave labor to piracy, from counterfeit to fraud, from theft to money laundering.  We know very little about these economic secrets because modern consumers live inside the market matrix.

(130)  According the United Nations, slavery is growing at an unprecedented rate.  Figures put global slavery at 27 million persons, a generation of modern slaves that, according to the International Labor Organization, produces yearly profits of around $31 billion.  Population explosion and great migrations coupled with globalization have boosted the slave trade.  "The increase in slavery is linked to globalization," concurs Kevin Bales, author of Ending Slavery:  How We Will Free Today's Slaves.  "But this is not about sweat-shop workers existing on misery wages.  Slaves are under the complete, violent control of another person;  they are economically exploited and get only enough food and shelter to stay alive.  For millions of victims, their experience differs little in hardship from that of slaves hundreds of years ago."

(134)  London pr agent:  "No matter how big the warning 'Smoking Kills,' people will continue to smoke."  Today, one in every two long-term smokers will die of lung cancer, heart disease, or other tobacco-related illnesses.  The percentage of street-drug users who die from an overdose is much lower, yet tobacco is legal, and street drugs are forbidden.

(138)  Dr. James J. Kenney: "This is the American model:  you get people sick with food they love to eat, and then you treat them with drugs and eventually surgery.  All of that is very good for the Gross National Product, because a lot of companies are making money."

(160)  Chinese entrepreneurs I met in Second Life confirm that China understands virtual businesses and economies better than any other country.  Some estimate that more than half a million Chinese make their livings in virtual economies, ranging from video games to synthetic worlds.

(162)  The task of the government, writes Philip Bobbitt in The Shield of Achilles, which brilliantly describes the transition from nation-state to market-state, "is to clear a space for individuals or groups to do their own negotiating, to secure the best deal or the best value for money in pursuing what they want."

To satisfy the needs of the individual, the market-state will stop at nothing.  "[It] will [...] deregulate the reproduction of our species [...] by permitting new reproductive technologies like in vitro fertilization."

(163)  It seems that at the core of the market-state the individual has replaced society.
NB: No such thing as society, only families and individuals - Thatcher

(165)  One third of all fish consumed in the United Kingdom is poached from the Baltic and North Seas, a rogue business that is set to expand in the future.  At the beginning of 2007, the Norwegian coast guard warned that in those waters illegal fishing will grow at a rate of 30% per year.  Soon the majority of fish consumed in the United KIngdom will be "black fish."  From fish-and-chips shops to sophisticated London restaurants, from organic markets to the frozen-food section of supermarkets, consumers will eat primarily stolen sea stock.

(176-177)  Over the past decade, sea piracy has risen by 168%, and attacks have become more violent, warned the British House of Commons transport committee in July 2006.  Ironically, the report on piracy came in the wake of two successful assaults on vessels carrying tsunami relief supplies to Indonesia.  

Twenty-first-century pirates now look predominantly Asian, and they sail globally.  They mainly operate in the Arabian Sea, Southern China, West Africa, and in the Straits of Malacca, a 500-mile corridor separating Indonesia and Malaysia, which alone every year suffer 42% of global pirate attacks.  Modern Pirates have the latest technology and use hideouts in the South China Sea.  "One pirate ship captured [in 1999] in Indonesia was outfitted with bogus immigration stamps, tools to forge ship documents and sophisticated radar, communications and satellite-tracking equipment."

Above all, modern pirates are businessmen engaged in the global trade of stolen goods, a trade that nets an estimated yearly $16 billion.

(181)  Workers at a London morgue confirm that the decomposition of bodies has slowed down because of the high percentage of food preservatives in their bodies.

(191)  Celebrities belong to the establishment because they own their stardom and wealth to the obsessive marketization of their image.  Their loyalty to the market is unshakable since their existence and continues success depend upon it.

(193)  What turns a developing into a developed nation is not the amount of foreign aid it attracts, "but how the money is spent," as Carlo Cibo, an Italian diplomat who lived for decades in Africa, reminds us.  What really matters is how the African political elite disposes of foreign aid.  Most of the half-trillion dollars received by Africa since the 1960s had funded military coups and civil wars, not economic development.  Dring the 1980s alone, at least ninety-two attempted military takeovers took place in sub-Saharan AFrica, affecting twenty-nine countries.  Between 1982 and 1985, Zimbabwe spent $1.3 out of $1.5 billion of foreign assistance on arms and ammunitions.

(194)  Between 1982 and 1985, Ethiopia received $1.8 billion in foreign aid, including the Live Aid contribution.  Far from feeding the starving population, the bulk of the money, a total of $1.6 billion, went to purchase military equipment.

(195)  Even the World Bank remains adamant that abolishing the debt and increasing aid would further impoverish Africa.  Ending agricultural tariffs and the $300-million subsidies that rich countries distribute among their farmers would help much more.  Such a strategy could increase African agricultural profits by $100 billion, i.e. $20 billion more than the $80 billion that industrialized countries sent to Africa in aid in 2006.  Ending subsidies and tariffs in the developed world would allow AFrican products to freely compete with Western products and generate an inflow of $500 billion, enough to lift 150 million Africans from poverty by 2015.

(201)  Data show that the risk of dying in an international terrorist attack in Western Europe and North America was higher in the 1980s than ever before or since.  While 287 people lost their lives in the 1970s, 990 perished in the 1980s.  The death toll declined to 367 in the 1990s, and with the exception of 9/11, only 330 people have been killed by international terrorism in the current decade.

(212)  In 1986, Berlusconi bought AC Milan, one of two A teams in Milan, and led it to several domestic and European titles.  In 1994, when he entered the political arena, he used Milan fans, forever grateful to him for all those victories, as the basis of his electorate.  He named his party Forza Italia, "Go Italy," a well-known football slogan;  he converted football clubs into local party headquarters and members of Forza Italia were referred to as "Azzurri," the nickname for the Italian national football team.  Berlusconi's rhetoric swam in football slang, his style was colloquial and direct as if he were talking to fans, not voters, and Italians found this formula refreshing and fell in love with it and him.
NB:  The chariot racing teams of the Byzantine Empire, Blues vs Greens, were also political factions

(215)  In the global village, a pattern seems to emerge:  tribalism, clans, clusters of ethnic and religious groups, i.e. modern tribes, have become the socio-economic vehicles to cope with and to prosper from rogue economics and globalization.

(222-223)  A Brookings Institution study, From Poverty, Opportunity, published in 2006, shows that being poor in America costs more than being middle class.  Every year, low-income households end up paying thousands of dollars more than high-income ones for everyday necessities, simply because they are poor and live in poor areas.

Banks and building societies often blacklist these neighborhoods, contributing to the lack of social capital and severing links to the "outer" world.  In Los Angeles, high-income areas like Manhattan Beach have roughly one bank for every 4,000 residents;  Compton, a poor Los Angeles neighborhood, has one for every 25,000.  "Instead, it has hundreds of alternative financial services, mostly absent from wealthy areas of Los Angeles, that charge jaw-dropping fees.  Cashing checks, for instance, costs 3% or more of the check's value."  And "in poor areas, cashing a $500 check in storefront check-cashing services can ranged from $5 to $50 more than it would cost in a bank.  Customers who take out a short-term loan can be hit with an annual percentage rate of 400 percent or more, a rate estimated to be more than 35 times higher than the average credit card rate in California."

(226)  Across the world, gang life redraws social rules from scratch.  New sexual codes and a fascination with death are innovative components, absent in preglobalization gang culture.  "The best thing about this life is that you live it to the extreme," explains Necio, who has a tombstone tattoo on his chest with the names of all the friends who have died.  "This is the life of the gangster, la vida loca.  You stay with your gang and you are protected.  But, at the same time, you know that you cannot think about the future, you have no future, there is only the present."  The daily interaction with death brings gang members to life day-to-day, in and for the moment.  Western political modeling remains foreign to then;  they look at life in a fashion similar to Chinese culture: nothing is permanent and everything is immediate, the present is the only existential dimension of the individual.

(229)  The cosmopolitan or globalized world is a "world where there are many others;  but also where there are no others," writes [Anthony] Giddens.

(236)  Modern tribalism seems to be able to emerge from whatever brings people together, from music to sport, from religion to crime.  The requisite accessories are rogue economics, globalization, and strong myths around which to embroider the identity of the tribe.  Although modern tribalism draws from old myths, which are comforting tales for those who are intimidated by globalization, modern tribalism is defensive and apolitical.  But it doesn't have to be that way.  On the contrary:  it can constitute the platform of a challenging and creative response to rogue economics.  The construction of Islamic finance around sharia law illustrates an outstanding example of economic tribalism.  To date, this experiment remains the sole real challenge to rogue economics, and as such, it could become the blueprint for the postglobalization economic system.

(237-238)  Unlike market economics, Islamic finance centers on the religious tenets of Islam and operates in a way to keep Muslims compliant with sharia, the religious law that comes directly from the Koran.  Islamic activists, intellectuals, writers and religious leaders have always upheld the prohibition of riba, the interest charged by moneylenders, and denounced gharar, which refers to any type of speculation.  Under this belief, money must not become a commodity in itself to create more money.  Islamic finance thus shuns hedge funds and private equities, because they simply multiply cash by stripping assets.  Money serves as a means or instrument of productivity as originally envisioned by Adam Smith and David Ricardo.  This principle is embodied in the sukuks, Islamic bonds.  Sukuks always link to real investments - for example, to pay for the construction of a toll highway - and never for speculative purposes.  This principle springs from the sharia's ban on gambling as well as on the prohibition of any forms of debt and activities that trade risk.

(240-241)  Partnership is the heartbeat of Islamic economics.  "Underlying the system is the philosophy of _risk sharing_:  the lender must share the borrower's risk, making the two in effect partners, injecting a strong social component into the financial system.  This concept separates Islamic Finance from Western Finance, which seeks to maximize profits and minimize loss through diversification and risk transfer."  Also, money must be put to work.  Because Islamic finance prohibits interest, it seeks revenues form rents royalties, business profits, or commodity trading;  a mortgage, for example, represents a "rent to buy" arrangement.  Thus, conceptually, Islamic economics is the opposite of Western finance, which revolves around the individual's self-interest.

Above all, Islamic finance represents the sole global economic force that conceptually challenges rogue economics.  It does not allow investment in pornography, prostitution, narcotics, tobacco, or gambling.  As discussed above, since the fall of the Berlin Wall, all these areas have blossomed thanks to globalization outlaws under the indifferent eyes of the market-state.

(245)  Spurning intervention from the IMF and the World Bank, icons of Western finance, [Dr Mohammed] Mahathir turned to his fellow Muslims to sustain the Malaysian economy.  Muslim investors and the Islamic Development Bank put together an alternative rescue package with loans and investments.  Unexpectedly, Muslim solidarity rebuffed the standard of Western finance, challenging Western capitalism's traditional rescue packages.

(247)  By putting the interests of the Muslim community and the wellbeing of the Umma above the principles of market economics, Mahathir reminded Muslim investors that the strength of Islamic economics is partnership.  

(249)  According to Moody's, the international rating agency, as of 2004, $41bn in Islamic bonds had been issued globally, and of that total $30bn or 75% in Malaysia and only $11bn in the Gulf.

Sharia-compliant products became key accessories of transnational economic tribalism, and its roots are intertwined with the religious pride of being Muslim.  To be sold, a sharia-compliant product requires a fatwa, or religious edict, from a recognized Islamic scholar.  This gives Islamic finance a greater degree of flexibility than traditional Western finance, while at the same time it offers investors a degree of security unknown to Westerners.  The ethical issue, central to modern finance, does not arise in Islamic finance because the fatwa clears investment from any notion of wrongdoing.

Paradoxically, Islamic finance blossomed under the dark shadow of the neoconservative's "clash of civilizations."  In the midst of the War on Terror, which many Muslims perceived as a witchhunt against them, Muslim investors greatly reduced their Western portfolios and turned to Islamic finance

(250)  Until the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in 1923, the gold-dinar standard represented a means of exchange for thirteen centuries.  It lasted much longer than has our current monetary system, (the dollar standard was born only in 1971, after the collapse of the Bretton Woods agreement, signed in the aftermath of World War II.)  In the collective imagination, the gold dinar "holds historical, cultural and theological appeal for many Muslims.  Many Islamic economists advocate a rejection of paper money - since it can be created out of thin air - and a return to gold," writes Ann Berg, a former commodities trader turned artist.  Politicians, intellectuals, religious scholars, and even terrorists - Osama bin Laden is reportedly among the strongest supporters of the gold dinar - share this view.
NB:  Return of the Caliphate - bin Laden and the Khalifat agitation of the 1920s

(253)  Saif al Adl, Al Qaeda:  "Islamists will promote the idea of using gold as the international medium of exchange, leading to the collapse of the dollar.  Then an Islamic Caliphate can be declared, inaugurating the fifth stage of al Qaeda's grand plan, which will last until 2016."

(256)  Mussolini's definition of Fascism:  "The Fascist State organizes the nation, but leaves a sufficient margin of liberty to the individual;  the latter is deprived of all useless and possibly harmful freedom, but retains what is essential:  the deciding power in this question cannot be individual, but the state alone."

(263)  In this state [of nature], an individual's action is bound only by his or her conscience, as life takes place outside the rule of positive law.  Rogue economics resembles such a state of nature - chaotic, anarchic, and lawless.  Inside it, globalization outlaws act to their exclusive personal advantage.

(264-265)  Modern tribalism has emerged as the natural response of the residents of the global village to rogue economics.

Modern tribalism seems to be the winning formula for coping with the economic strains of globalization and providing the socioeconomic structure to prosper inside the anarchy of rogue economics.  The economic miracle of China and the exceptional success of Islamic finance stand as testimony to this new type of socioeconomic tribalism.  As this formula spreads across the vast impoverished Chinese and Muslim populations, its economic benefits are likely to trickle down, and with economic growth, people will enjoy prosperity and feel entitled to social order and stability. At that point, they will want to negotiate a new social contract.  It will not look like Jean-Jacques Rousseau's version to end the state of nature described by Thomas Hobbes in the Leviathan, because the new social contract will be drafted in China and the Middle East.

(266)  Islamic finance, with its encoded value system, will reduce and eventually crush the power of the outlaws.  The rogue nature of the economy will be trimmed by sharia economics.  The outlaws will be shunned through a code of ethics that prohibits such businesses as gambling, prostitution, pornography, and trade in illegal drugs.  Hedge funds and private equities will be regulated by a financial system that rejects the concept that money can create money.

Patents and trademarks will disappear, reducing capitalism's ancient privileges, giving impetus to hard-working individuals, who will flourish thanks to this form of liberalization.  History will lose its shine and be recycled to fit the needs of the moment.  The quality of fake goods will improve until it becomes all but impossible to distinguish the original from its replica.  Western brands' commercial edge will vanish.  This simple fact will trigger a massive redistribution of wealth at global levels.

(275)  The essence of the nation-state rests on a few postulates:  "Government is trustworthy or legitimate because it promises to a particular coherent nation - both a piece of territory and a fairly homogeneous community - effective defense against outside attack and a high degree of internal stability.  The internal stability [is] based on a firm directive hand in the economy and a safety net of public welfare provision.  The job of those who ran the state [is] seen as guaranteeing the general good of the community;  and its success in managing this [is] the obvious foundation of its claim to be obeyed."  Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, "The Richard Dimbleby lecture," _Guardian (London), December 12, 2002

(278)  "For 27 years we Futurists have rebelled against the branding of war as antiaesthetic... Accordingly we state"  ... War is beautiful because it establishes man's dominion over the subjugated machinery by means of gas masks, terrifying megaphones, flame throwers, and small tanks.  War is beautiful because it initiates the dreamt-of metallization of the human body.  War is beautiful because it enriches a flowering meadow with the fiery orchids of machine guns.  War is beautiful because it combines gunfire, the cannonades, the cease-fire, the scents, and the stench of putrefaction into a symphony.  War is beautiful because it creates new architecture, like that of the big tanks, the geometrical formation flights, the smoke spirals from burning villages, and many others...  Poets and artists of Futurism!... remember these principles of an aesthetics of war so that your struggle for a new literature and a new graphic art... may be illumined by them!"  FT Marinetti, _The Futurist Manifesto_,

(286)  The lesson to be learned from this fiasco [TSA misuse of security funds] can be summarized as follows:  "If terrorists force us to redirect resources away from sensible programs and future growth, in order  to pursue unachievable but politically popular levels of domestic security, then they have won an important victory that mortgages our future."  David L. Banks, "Statistics for Homeland Defense,"  Chance 15, no.1 (2002), 10

(289)  4.5 million low-income drivers (households earning less than $30,000 a year) paid on overage 2 percentage points more for their car loans than did middle-calss buyers.  Home insurance can be $300 per year higher than in wealthy neighborhoods, and auto insurance in urban areas can cost him $50 to $1,000 more in poor than wealthy areas.  In 2006, car insurance in low-income neighborhoods in New York, Hartford, and Baltimore was $400 per year higher than in middle-class neighborhoods.  Interest rates on car loans can be up to 25% greater than in high-income areas. Poor people also shop in "rent to own" stores, where interest rates are exceptionally high and absorb up to 60% of their earnings per year.  A $200 television set can end up costing $700.

Khalid Howladar, "Sahri'ah and Sukuk:  A Moody's Primer," March 31, 2006.

(290)  Ann Berg, "Want to buy a sukuk?  Islamic financing is growing rapidly and Western institutions are jumping in.  What does this mean for the power of the US dollar?"  _Antiwar_,

The first Islamic bank was the Faisal Islamic Bank of Egypt, established in 1976.  The bank was the first to have a formal sharia board, consisting of selected ulama from Egypt.  This tradition continued with the establishment of the Jordan Islamic Bank (1978), the Sudanese Faisal Islamic Bank (1978), and the Kuwaiti House of Finance (1979), and it went on, with other Islamic banks throughout the Arab countries, Turkey, Bangladesh, and more recently, the private sectors in Pakistan, Albania, and Bosnia. 

(292)  Benito Mussolini, "What Is Fascism, 1932"

from Internet Modern History Sourcebook