pools are always half empty, swimming pool wallpaper, free markets can be a way of avoiding responsibility

I started off the week reading about pools in this essay on pools in popular culture, You Say the Swimming Pool’s Half Empty, I Say the Swimming Pool’s Half Full

A few of us walked gingerly around the three solid sides of the pool and said we were terrified, and we began to devise the opening of a movie. There’s a girl and a guy in the pool, maybe two girls, maybe a guy and two girls, and they’re naked and whooping it up, and suddenly there’s a deep rumbling sound, but the kids in the pool don’t hear it, and a moment later the whole hillside shifts and slides, the walls of the infinity pool crack, then split wide open. Boys, girls, water, concrete, now really do go tumbling into space and crash down the hillside. The pool, the deck, the midcentury house, the Hollywood Hills are all left in ruins.

We poolsiders liked the sound of that. And why wouldn’t we? A swimming pool sends all kinds of messages about money, success, leisure, good times, good bodies. But you also know it’s too good to be true, you know something bad has to happen. A cracked pool, an abandoned pool, a ruined pool, that’s what we’re looking for. When the pool gets ruined the people get ruined too. And don’t we essentially reckon they deserved it?

Even when not meant to be, pools are ostentatious status symbols, especially in the West. In the east there was always some plausible claim of rejuvenation and spirituality. Thin, but plausible. It just happened that warlords, potentates and princes were the only ones that had pools. Pools are part of the package of material achievements that say one has arrived. Yet personal pools are frequently occupied by people who are either not particularly happy or people who try very hard to convince themselves they are. Writers tend to get pools – in the metaphorical sense. Fitzgerald had Gatsby die on the pool – not in it exactly. In Sunset Boulevard, Joe Gillis(William Holden) is shot and falls dying into a Hollywood swimming pool – Joe Gillis: [narration of his own death] The poor dope – he always wanted a pool. Well, in the end, he got himself a pool. Age tends to change perspective. When I was in my teens a friend and I went pool hopping. This was in a coastal town with lots of hotels near the beach. It had become a kind of urban legend that some friends had once went from hotel pool to hotel pool one summer. It was a great way – so we thought at the time anyway – to unleash some of that teen restlessness in a way that was rebellious – pools were for guests only, yet didn’t involve drugs, guns or liquor. The stares and stigma of getting kicked out of the third pool dampened our enthusiasm for the project and we ended up going to the beach. Beaches are egalitarian, pools are restricted, message received. The same essay also mentions John Cheever’s 1964 short story “The Swimmer”. Neddy Merrill is the god of pool hoppers. One day he decides he will swim his way home via the pools of local residents. At some point it is unclear how much time has passed and even whether what Neddy is experiencing is real or a dream. Neddy is something of a Don Draper, but imagine an older Pete. A Pete who has been trapped in what he at least considers the suffocating lifestyle of the suburbs and marriage. In Mad Men’s season finale Pete’s life shows him a picture of him lounging beside the poll she would like to have installed. In that context of Pete’s suburban nightmare he sees the pool as another tether to a life about which he has perpetual doubts. Yet when he was with Beth, one last time before her electroshock treatment – he envisions Beth and himself  poolside in California ( his Don envy showing) in his fantasy of what freedom would be like.I like pools even in their failed promises of fun, in their potentially terrifying metaphors and their loneliness. It is not their fault,  it is not as though they were people with conscious intentions.

summer pool wallpaper

Catherine Crier observes As ‘War on Terror’ dials down, is a ‘War on Furniture’ looming?

According to the Council on Foreign Relations, the number of U.S. citizens harmed by terrorist attacks since 2010 is comparable to the number of Americans who are crushed to death by their televisions and furniture each year.

I do not have to look it up. We do not spend as much on furniture regulation  as we do on terrorism.

Vouchers Unspoken, Romney Hails School Choice

“I will expand parental choice in an unprecedented way,” Mr. Romney said, adding that families’ freedom to vote with their feet “will hold schools responsible for results.”

His proposals are the clearest sign yet that Republicans have executed an about-face from the education policies of President George W. Bush, whose signature domestic initiative, the No Child Left Behind law of 2002, required uniform state testing and imposed penalties on schools that failed to progress.

Now Mr. Romney is taking his party back to its ideological roots by emphasizing a lesser role for Washington, replacing top-down mandates with a belief in market mechanisms.

This should all work out perfectly. Market solutions for everything. Let us leave off the fact that Romney has never – beyond sending the maid to the local supermarket – particpated in the free market. Using leverage to raid corporations, stripe them down, lay off workers, make a profit regardless – without investing any of his own money - is a morally bankrupt Game of Thrones played by the elite. It is not part of the free market mechanisms where people create goods and services of value to others that helps create and maintain a middle-class. Romney s idea of applying free market solutions to public institutions has already been tried with prisons. Thus we have prisons, prisoners and a law enforcement and corporate prison complex, but not more justice. Justice was gutted by the economic incentive to warehouse people. Most street crime – white-collar crime rarely results in prison and when it does seldom results in jail time. Street crime ,which gets everyone upset, justifiably to a degree – is still mostly crime of those in low-income families. Education and living wage jobs are the proven answer to that. The conscious decision was made by society to invest in incarceration rather than education – in some cases that would mean – some extra effort – tutoring for example or better experiential training. I have nothing against private schools, but it is a grave mistake to see them as the magic cure-all of education problems, The More You Pay to Send your Children to School, the Fewer Days they Will Actually Be Educated

A friend with children in two uber-elite private schools in Washington, DC reports that her situation is worse than in Baltimore. The schools routinely tag on extra days to Federal holidays (“Where are you vacationing for the extended Arbor Day weekend,” I can imagine well-heeled parents saying).

Like farmers who are paid not to grow soybeans, we pay exorbitantly for our children not to go to school.

The informal calendar reinforces the rule. Tuition-charging schools are notoriously trigger-happy with the snow days, and they spend a great deal of time ramping up and down, at the beginning and the end of the year. They ease in to the already-tardy school year, so that the reappearance of schoolwork doesn’t shock the system. Then they ease down, weeks before the school year officially ends.

There are private school indoctrination centers masquerading as education – the ones that set off alarms with moderate voters. Yet there are also private schools that are, dare we say, liberal oases, where they teach the kids how to be creative. They encourage kids to pursue their interests and do not over emphasize testing. So if we have Romney’s education delusions come to life it will hardly be the far Right conservative paradise come to pass. We will move even further towards – yes it is possible to more further towards a nation with islands of ideology with each island hating each other. Which might well be Conservative Nirvana.

Annie Lennox – Waiting in Vain

the eternal promise of our ideals, maluku islands, government by and for gambling addicts

On this day in 1776 Virginia’s colonial legislature becomes 1st to adopt a Bill of Rights. If it seems familiar, much of the same language made itself into the U.S. Constitution. This may sound familiar, “the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety”.  Than it obviously meant that some people; African-Americans, some Native Americans, women, poor people of any ethnicity could be kept as slaves or in near slavery, their full rights deprived because they were thought of as property and made the owners ‘happy’. Section 13 flies in the face of modern views on a standing military which takes up about 20% of current federal spending: “That a well-regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe defense of a free state; that standing armies, in time of peace, should be avoided as dangerous to liberty; and that in all cases the military should be under strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil power.” Considering that in 1776 a cannon ball fired from North Korea could not reach the U.S. some reasonable concessions to changing technology and threats is not completely out-of-bounds. It is a little disconcerting that the public trusts the military to the degree that they blur civilian control of the military. Why should government be instituted at all and to what should it concern itself: Section 3. That government is, or ought to be, instituted for the common benefit, protection, and security of the people, nation, or community; of all the various modes and forms of government, that is best which is capable of producing the greatest degree of happiness and safety and is most effectually secured against the danger of maladministration. “Common benefit”? Sounds pretty radical, even statist, Marxist , a kind of anti-Ayn Rand passage written into some founding documents. Even at the time many people lived according to personal rules. If they could justify some behavior as being moral – some handy quotes or passages from an authoritative text helping with the justification of course, than proceed. A Religious Justification Used for Slavery

“As for your male and female slaves whom you may have – you may acquire male and female slaves from pagan nations that are around you. Then, too, it is out of the sons of sojourners who live as aliens among you that you may gain acquisition, and out of their families who are with you, whom they will have produced in your land; they also may become your possession. You may even bequeath them to your sons after you, to receive as a possession; you can use them as permanent slaves. But in respect to your countrymen, the sons of Israel, you shall not rule with severity over one another.” –Leviticus 25:44-46

 

1670 depiction of the Maluku Islands. The Maluku Islands are present day Indonesia.

 

The English historian and priest Charles Kingsley once wrote, “We have used the Bible as if it were a mere special constable’s hand book, an opium dose for keeping beasts of burden patient while they were being overloaded, a mere book to keep the poor in order.” We have come to find that opiates and religion are not the only thing on which humans get high. The Biology of Bubble and Crash

Normally, the body of a risk-taker purrs along efficiently — after all, our bodies have been crafted for the quick reactions and gut feelings we need to survive in a brutal world. But not always. Under circumstances of outrageous success or terrifying failure, our biology can overreact; and when this happens to traders and investors, they suffer an irrational exuberance or pessimism that can destabilize financial markets and wreak havoc on the wider economy.

To get an inkling of how this physiology works, consider the following scenario, in which a trader grapples with a rumor that the Fed may raise rates later that afternoon:

As 2:15 — the time of the announcement — approaches, trading on the screens dwindles. The floor goes quiet. The trader feels intellectually prepared. But the challenge he faces requires more than cognitive skill. He needs fast reactions, and energy for the hours ahead.

Consequently, his metabolism speeds up, ready to break down energy stores in liver, muscle and fat cells. Breathing accelerates, drawing in more oxygen, and his heart rate speeds up. Cells of the immune system take up position at vulnerable points of the body, ready to deal with injury and infection. And his nervous system, extending from the brain down into the abdomen, redistributes blood — constricting flow to the gut, giving him butterflies, and to the reproductive organs, since this is no time for sex — shunting it to major muscle groups in the arms and thighs as well as to the lungs, heart and brain.

The announcement will bring volatility, and a chance to make money. The trader feels a surge of energy as steroid hormones are synthesized by their respective glands and injected into his bloodstream. Steroids are powerful, dangerous chemicals — they change almost every detail of body and brain: his growth rate, lean-muscle mass, mood, even the memories he recalls — and for that reason their use is tightly regulated by the International Olympic Committee and the hypothalamus, the brain’s drug enforcement agency.

It is not as though the people here or in banks around the world will be using the biology made me do it defense. Only a few of the very worse offenders have suffered any legal consequences. A systematic failure that has lost trillions of income, thus home and health in many cases, has brought misery to many, but those that caused it are pouring money into elections to get less regulation, more tax cuts, more elected officials that look out for the happiness and good of the few at the expense of the many. Let’s not defer to people who owned slaves and thought the idea of women voting a ridiculous idea. Though with the historic struggle for liberty and equality in mind, one might ponder the benefits of de facto rule by gambling addicts. Addicts by definition will do or say whatever they need to in order to get their fix.

Nancy Sinatra – You Only Live Twice