Something to chew on
Well, first off, a little in memoriam:
RIP Russell Jones a/k/a "Ol' Dirty Bastard a/k/a "Osiris" a/k/a "Big Baby Jesus a/k/a Dirt McGirt. As you may have heard, the dirty passed away this weekend, dropping dead in a recording studio at the age of 35. While his death was obviously due to a breathtaking history of drug consumption, it is sad nonetheless. No one captured the kind of brainless senseless FEEL for Hip-Hop tha tall rappers need in order to bring something that isn't cliche and effete into their rapping style. ODB had the kind of unglued loopy energy that all great rappers (do you hear me Slug?) possess in some quantity, be it the irreverant wordplay of Jay-Z, the ludicrous political screeds of Nas or the sheer, well, ODB-like loopiness of early Eminem. Legend has it that Russell once ran out of a recording studio to help a 4 year old girl pinned under a car. May this good deed and others never witnessed weigh heavily enough against the much-publicized bad that Russell committed in his lifetime to ensure him a place on the 'good' list.
Another RIP follows: Ted Rall and Gary "Doonesbury" Trudeau have been removed from the Washington Post's stable of editorial cartoonists. Perhaps in the wake of another Bush win the lefties are being culled from major media outlets in an effort to "centralize" themselves politically and not jeopardize their access to those in power or alienate themselves and lose ad revenue. This would seem more true for Rall than Trudeau—I assume Doonesbury was dropped because it is probably expensive to carry and anyone can look at it free on the internet or in their local paper. Rall may very well have gotten the axe over his caricature of the Bush administration. I would argue that it is hardly even a caricature, but there you have it. RIP freedom of speech, inch by agonizing inch. We here at Hongpong use the Internet, as we are taking back what is rightfully ours. I hope you all do the same.
Next: This will not be a link-laden entry, with source material not included, or perhaps not even existing. I would link this next article, however, but it isn't available online anymore. Reading the New Yorker this morning on the bus, I ran into an article that explains an economic theory that I find both fascinating and staggeringly obvious, the kind of intellectual posit that is difficult to properly phrase but so obvious that it hardly needs explanation, the kind of bread-and-butter duh that keeps half of the faculty of American universities in the money.
The theory of the principal-agent problem is simple: in an era of increasing specificity in expertise, large corporations, government agencies and any institution of significant size undoubtly employs "agents," experts in a field, to negotiate for and advise on matters relating to institutional business. Insurance brokers, defense corporation lobbyists, and even buyers for department stores would all be considered agents. The problem, as outlined by economists, is that these agents oftentimes have a vested interest in the outcome the dessemination of their expertise has on the bottom line of their company, their future job prospects or their immediate financial gain.
For example, a real-estate agent looks for a quick turnaround on a home owned by a client, but will wait and get the highest possible price by using all the tools at his/her disposal to sell their own home. Likewise, a stock analyst for a major financial house like Bear Stearns or the like may give a more favorable analysis of a certain corporation's stock on the basis of that corporation's relationship to his house, as evidenced with Enron and their high ratings in major financial houses that had significant investments in the company.
This notion is an important even politically; military officials may be bullish on particular weapons systems because of hopes of employment in the manufacturing corporation upon retirement or because of its political expediency (i.e. Dick Cheney's reference to specific weapons systems that John Kerry voted against as being "instrumental in winning the Cold War") and their corresponding pull with politicians on The Hill.
Conflicts of interests are complicated, but when a middle man is involved, it could be for the very simple reason that the directness of said conflict is diffused when it is complicated. The loser, almost everytime, is the consumer, as the costs are almost always born by those consuming the product or being affected by the policy in question. I am filing this one under Military-Industrial Complex, but it really applied to any business.
All for now, stay cool.
UPDATE: Continuing on the matter of disappearing voices, William Safire will be stepping down as an opinion columnist at the NYTimes in January. I love Safire—not because I agree with him, but because I think he's a smart motherfucker. He will be missed. Perhaps the Times knew about this ahead of time, though, well ahead of time. It would seem Brooks is the replacement conservative voice. A poor replacement, says I, and a little douchebag, says Leroy. At least it's not Novak, I guess, or Will. I never really considerd Safire a true conservative, more of a Likud Libertarian. Ah well, he's preparing to write his memoirs, I would imagine. I'll buy it.