Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Kossacks tackle the existence of G*d and other matters

from terry2wa :

""I find Dawkins' works to be solidly scientific and logical, but
like so many of his intellectual mentors from the Post-War era, there is a
profound sense of existential despair lying just below the surface. He is excellent with explanations of process and hypotheses of causality, but he is simply mute on the wonder of it all. His work is intellectually compelling, but spiritually sterile and flat. He's like Camus in a lab coat.

Hitchens is, in my opinion, simply a contrarian who, if he does not actually actively
despise any human interaction which could be deemed altruistic or noble or self-abnegating, is so skeptical of motive as to be little more than a misanthrope. If his aim is to win converts to atheism, then I am fairly certain eventually Evangelicals like Rick Warren will pass out copies of God Is Not Great along with their religious tracts, because after reading Hitchens the usual reaction is, after taking one long and very hot shower and scrubbing off most one's epidermis, to pray devoutly for the existence of a God who can lock Hitchens safely away for eternity in Hell with the other demons who roam the world seeking the ruin of souls.

That said, I find Daniel Dennett's upbeat and almost lyrical atheist credo, as outlined in Breaking The Spell, to be the most compelling and accessible. His personal philosophy has accomplished the almost miraculous feat of combining a rigorous scientifically-grounded agnosticism with the best elements of Humanist thought. Like EO Wilson, his science flows from his curiosity, awe and wonder at the natural world, and he is able to acknowledge that Beauty, Truth and Goodness are the cornerstones of a fulfilling human existence, the foundation of human ethics, and the lynchpins of civilization. One comes away from Dennett's books with the impression that he has enjoyed life, in spite of being godless, and that you are the better for
having made his acquaintance.

Of course, all I've said here should be tempered by the admission that I remain, in spite of everything, a believer. The Apostle's Creed has long since fallen into disuse and disrepair in this jaded soul, but I continue to judge the affairs of Mankind by the standards of the rebel Jesus. And while I no longer cling to the conviction that anything awaits me after death except recycling, my soul refuses to accept the proposition that life, even individual life, is without purpose or meaning. It may be Freud's "illusion", but I'm too damned old now to care.

That said, I have a great deal of respect for an honest disbeliever. Like Paul Tillich, I believe that no faith exists without doubt, and I join many of you in stating my firm conviction that organized religion is the fountainhead of a large portion of this world's temporal suffering.

Still, as I get older and closer to whatever eternity is, I am absolutely certain that the hunger and thirst for justice which those old Dominican nuns drilled into my dense and feral little head all those years back was a good thing, and I am grateful for the part of me which yearns to see every human given his due and holds all people accountable for the gifts received, in the measure they have received them."""

Rather eloquent for a Kossack.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


(from GWFH's Phil of History)

""""“Eh bien,” said Napoleon, “we shall go to mass again, and my good fellows will say: ‘That is the word of command!’” This is the leading feature in the character of these nations – the separation of the religious from the secular interest, i.e., from the special interest of individuality; and the ground of this separation lies in their inmost soul, which has lost its independent entireness of being, its profoundest unity. Catholicism does not claim the essential direction of the Secular; religion remains an indifferent matter on the one side, while the other side of life is dissociated from it, and occupies a sphere exclusively its own. Cultivated Frenchmen therefore feel an antipathy to Protestantism because it seems to them something pedantic, dull, minutely captious in its morality; since it requires that Spirit and Thought should be directly engaged in religion: in attending mass and other ceremonies, on the contrary, no exertion of thought is required, but an imposing sensuous spectacle is presented to the eye, which does not make such a demand on one’s attention as entirely to exclude a little chat, while yet the duties of the occasion are not neglected.""""

O Schweigen KristallNacht. Yo BubbaBot: that's sort of like you, blasting bombastically away on a trumpet. GWFH tho' plays Beethoven (or maybe Wagner), and you, alas, play like "Lil Light of Mine." And GWF knows 4 or 5 languages fluently (Deutsch, Latin, greek, romance tongues, probably a bit of sanskrit, chinese, even arabic--and you can barely manage Anglo-preacher speak), has mastered most of the sciences of the time (quite adept with derivatives and integrals), and knows world history, greek and roman thinkers (Caesar one of his faves) up and down. BubbaRon x 10.

Saturday, December 20, 2008


4:17 Shall mortal man be more just than God? shall a man be more pure than his maker? 4:18 Behold, he put no trust in his servants; and his angels he charged with folly: 4:19 How much less in them that dwell in houses of clay, whose foundation is in the dust, which are crushed before the moth? 4:20 They are destroyed from morning to evening: they perish for ever without any regarding it. (from the Book of Job)

The LPOE has been known for centuries. The Book of Job presents the issue in some form; greek and roman scribes alluded to it. Voltaire, pal of Franklin and Hume had some awareness of the issue , as that great surreal graphic novel Candide reveals. (Jefferson kept a bust of Voltaire, Marquis de Arouet in his Monticello study his entire life). Dr. Pangloss, V's parody of that brilliant mystic-windbag Leibniz, insists this is the best of all possible worlds, even in the face of wars, earthquakes and tidal waves killing untold thousands.

Most modern theologians--Dr. Panglosses are still around--would probably uphold Leibniz's rather optimistic view, and claim that, even apres-Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot, and the Bush Administration, their God chose the best of possible worlds (how do they know, without knowing of other worlds??), and at the same time grant that God does allow evil (another problematic normative concept). He does not intervene to stop the suffering of the innocent, say, when by definition He could; and obviously history affords a monumental amount of evidence showing the suffering of innocent (or mostly innocent), via pain, poverty, natural disasters, disease, collateral damage in wars, etc. ("Free will" does not offer the theologian an escape in the above cases).

In short, God's putative Justice, Perfection and Omnipotence are not consistent, or evident or provable in any normal sense of proof, i.e. via axiom, or observation (here is a brief synopsis of the logical problem of evil). The inconsistency of the premises suggests that JHVH (assuming He exists for sake of irritating the pious) is either Omnipotent, but not Just (or "perfect" really), OR he is not Omnipotent (and then not really God), or simply does not exist.

So, God either won't prevent undue suffering, though He could--which seems to suggest an amoral KingGod, sort of a Tamerlane on high---or He can't (which denies his omnipotence, or perhaps suggest a manicheanism, or polydeism, or other oddities), OR since that all seems rather preposterous, we can safely claim He does not exist. However ancient and obscure manicheanism seems, a battle between opposing forces seems a rather more plausible religious model (even somewhat evolutionary) when considering the absurd implications of a monotheist Being. Given a century of brutal wars, genocide, political oppression of all sorts, the conclusion of the LPOE seems rather a fortiori (as do Voltaire's points).

There are other anti-theological tactics of course--such as the Darwinian tactic. Darwin and Lyell did not merely advance biological science: they established the fallibility of the dogma of Old Testament (and all theological texts purporting to account for natural history). Radiocarbon dating disproved the rabbinical and xtian accounts of creation (ie 4000 bc, etc.), and confirmed Darwinian accounts of a very old world, and of common descent with modifications (problems there are with naive Darwinism--McDarwinism--as evidenced by TH Huxley's simplifications. For that matter Darwin himself waffled on the religious question, and at times appears to have agreed with the 'teleological' argument).

The LPOE does something quite different than Darwinism does: the LPOE shows the inconsistencies of the theologians' own assumptions via a fairly obvious set of premises. The correct conclusions drawn from LPOE will not likely phase many biblethumpers, or koranthumpers, most of whom have no problem upholding the code of Credo que Absurdum:theists are generally great romantics. That our elected officials also uphold the Credo q.A. (ie asking fundies to offer invocations and benedictions), however, should concern all Non-Churchians.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Dr. Chu

Dolores May, commenting on Obama's appointment of Dr. Chu to Sec. of Energy(HuffPo):

Progressives should be aware that Dr. Chu's energy research is entirely funded by British Petroleum, through a controversial $500 million dollar contract with UC Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley Labs (as well as the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign). The emphasis at the BP-created initiative is mainly on biofuels. The deal has come under heavy criticism for potentially ensuring that a major oil company will be setting much of the agenda for energy research in the coming century (not to mention setting the agenda for the public universities involved). Not an entirely evil enterprise, perhaps, but hardly free of distortion by economic interests. And Dr. Chu was a major force creating the deal. So not to rain on anyone's parade, but just to add a little perspective. This appointment is very much in the mold of other Obama appointments: Super-smart, super-qualified guy - but no progressive.

Meet the new Energy Czar, same as the old Energy czar. Chu also supports nuclear energy. That said, Chu's scientific credentials appear impressive, and Contingencies does not automatically dismiss the potential viability of nuclear power. (Emo-crats usually do, however--except when Chairman BO assures them it's ok). Obama also has selected former Clintonite EPA boss Carol Browner (Miss Browner's the actual E-Czar--Czarina?) for an eco-bureaucrat position, along with Nancy Sutley, an assistant to Browner: all Clintonites. Hope and Change.

The nerdier DailyKOS sorts approve of Chu for the most part, believing that a real "geek" has taken over the reins of Energy. Chu, however, like most high-powered laboratory scientists, has ties to oil corporations such as BP, as did his predecessors in Bush admin. (BP has in fact greatly profited from the Iraqi war--). The implication seems to be that a pro-nuclear Asian scientist with ties to Big Oil is to be preferred to the pro-nuclear American scientist with ties to Big Oil.

One Counterpuncher, Karl Grossman doesn't seem overly thrilled with the appointment of Dr. Chu: “He’s really big on efficiency and renewables,” says Michael Mariotte, executive director of the Nuclear Information and Resource Service, of Chu. But he is “looking at nuclear as well. He and President-elect Obama are not anti-nuclear, and not perhaps as versed on it as they should be.” Mariotte has a major concern that “they will accede to demands to fund nuclear power made by Congress”—awash in contributions from the nuclear power industry and with many members loyal to the national nuclear laboratories in their districts.""

One of the Dept. of Energy's founding members, Admiral Rickover--hardly some tofu-munching, birkenstock'd Greenpeacer--ultimately took a stance against nuclear power, and suggested banning nuclear reactors.


Cockburn on Politix, Chicago-style. When he keeps his VI Lenin fetish under control, Alex Cockburn actually can scribble a bit. Blogging Blago:

""""Top storyline has been the impact of Blagojevich’s indictment on Obama. At the very moment the president-elect proclaims an era of uplift and constitutional propriety, the slimy tentacles of old-style Chicago corruption snake towards his ankles. The chortles of outgoing President George Bush Jr., himself harassed by US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald in the Scooter Libby affair, must be rich and prolonged.

Blagojevich did Obama the enormous favor of denouncing him on the government’s tapes. “F--- him,” bellowed the governor during a call with top aides and Patti, covertly recorded by the FBI on November 10th, “For nothing? F--- him.” The governor was peeved that Obama’s representatives weren’t offering him any material incentives to nominate Obama’s political associate and Chicago powerhouse, Valerie Jarrett, for the senate seat vacated by Obama. The president elect can thank his stars for the expletive, but potential embarrassments still loom.....""

We suspect Kid Obama's closer--much closer--to this than most of the Emo-crats realize. So BO goes with Emanuel--and thus ratted out his one-time ally Blago. Blago then puts BO's Senatorial position on the block. F--- him, indeed. Alas, facts, historical facts interfere with that gleaming Progressive futurity.

Just as Darwin discovered the law of development of organic nature, so Marx discovered the law of development of human history: the simple fact, hitherto concealed by an overgrowth of ideology, that mankind must first of all eat, drink, have shelter and clothing, before it can pursue politics, science, art, religion, etc.; that therefore the production of the immediate material means, and consequently the degree of economic development attained by a given people or during a given epoch, form the foundation upon which the state institutions, the legal conceptions, art, and even the ideas on religion, of the people concerned have been evolved, and in the light of which they must, therefore, be explained, instead of vice versa, as had hitherto been the case.

Engels, Speech at the Grave of Karl Marx

Darwin. Marx. Darwin and/or Marx.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

One Susan Jacoby on American Unreason:

"""The debasement of the nation's speech is evident in virtually everything, on every subject, broadcast and podcast on radio, television, and the Internet. In this true, all-encompassing public square, homogenized language and homogenized thought reinforce each other in circular fashion. As George Orwell noted in 1946, “A man may take to drink because he feels himself a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks. It is rather the same thing that is happening to the English language. It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts” In this continuous blurring of clarity and intellectual discrimination, political speech is always ahead of the curve—especially because today’s media possess the power to amplify and spread error with an efficiency that might have astonished even Orwell. Consider the near-universal substitution, by the media and politicians, of “troop” and “troops” for “soldier” and “soldiers.” As every dictionary makes plain, the word “troop” is always a collective noun; the “s” is added when referring to a particularly large military force. Yet each night on the television news, correspondents report that “X troops were killed in Iraq today.” This is more than a grammatical error; turning a soldier—an individual with whom one may identify—into an anonymous-sounding troop encourages the public to think about war and its casualties in a more abstract way. Who lays a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Troop? It is difficult to determine exactly how, why, or when this locution began to enter the common language. Soldiers were almost never described as troops during the Second World War, except when a large military operation (like the Allied landing on D-Day) was being discussed, and the term remained extremely uncommon throughout the Vietnam era. My guess is that some dimwits in the military and the media (perhaps the military media) decided, at some point in the 1980s, that the word “soldier” implied the masculine gender and that all soldiers, out of respect for the growing presence of women in the military, must henceforth be called troops. Like unremitting appeals to folks, the victory of troops over soldiers offers an impressive illustration of the relationship between fuzzy thinking and the debasement of everyday speech."""


Friday, December 05, 2008

Meet the new Madame Hillary; same as the old Madame Hillary

Josh Frank on Madame Hillary:

"""It’s official.

Barack Obama has chosen Hillary Clinton to be Secretary of State; a choice that confirms US foreign policy is not about to change significantly under the forthcoming Democratic administration. The US will continue to pander to Israel and the War on Terror will still be the rallying cry for our foreign interventions.

In a letter to her constituents in November 2005, Clinton expressed her belief that the war in Iraq shouldn’t be “open-ended,” but was clear that she would never “pull out of Iraq immediately.” She wrote that she wouldn’t accept any timetable for withdrawal and won’t even embrace a “redeployment” of US troops along the lines of Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.).""""

Those nasty Demopublicans. The choice of Miss Clinton for the rather crucial position of ReceptionistSecretary of State should not shock. That the "liberal" blogging horde did not raise their voice at Obama's selection of Hillary does not shock either (and GOPers already have said they will confirm): that's how the contemporary political process works at this stage, with American politicians shifting from a phony puritanical pacifism (i.e. Obama a year ago), to hard-boiled RealPolitik in a matter of weeks.

One year ago, Obamaites portrayed Hillary as a neo-con, ally of Lieberman, if not the equivalent of Dick Cheney in terms of foreign policy. The hack satirists of DailyKOS and similar sites had Hillary outfitted in the She-Wolf of the SS gear. Team Obama removed her jackboots, and she's now an experienced asset, carrying on the noble tradition of Condi Rice. That said, Miss Hillary, does possess some spine, and really more of a Truman-style Dem. than most of Obama's cronies. Perhaps she'll send a message of Love across the earth, like along with the aircraft carriers: the USS Jeee-zuss

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Congressman Kevin "Kern Guy" McCarthy,

brought to you by

Chevron, Exxon, JP Morgan-Chase, New York Life, Occidental, RJ Reynolds, Walmart, & Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America Inc.


Monday, November 24, 2008

De Toke-ville on De-mocracy

Tocqueville: "I have previously stated that the principle of the sovereignty of the people hovers over the whole political system of the Anglo-Americans. Every page of this book will reflect certain fresh instances of this doctrine. In nations where it exists, every individual takes an equal share in sovereign power and participates equally in the government of the state. Thus he is considered as enlightened, virtuous, strong as any of his fellow men."

Tocqueville understands the faulty premise of Jeffersonian democracy (as did TJ, in his gloomier moments). Democracy presupposes that any person is as competent, intelligent and "virtuous" as any other. That is demonstrably false: people vary widely in intelligence and virtue, as a comparison of education scores, or incarceration ratios would show. So "democracy rests on a lie" (Colin McGinn's phrase). D-T also seems to suggest as much: x is "considered" as enlightened as any, but not proven to be. That does not imply, however, the superiority of Pax Regina, except to dolts (a large and controlling tribe, paraphrasing Bierce).

In more formal terms, D-T questions the presumption of agency. That citizens all have the right to vote at 18 does not mean they possess the knowledge to make informed vote-choices; being a citizen in a Democratic society does not mean one is Thomas Jefferson. Criteria does exist for various social roles, employment, for establishing "competent agency," in effect--say driving a car or obtaining an MD--but not for others, such as voting, or running for political office (nor for blogging). It does not seem prima facie unreasonable to require a voting license program similar to a driver's license (or requiring a hs diploma, etc). That might not appeal to the romantic leftist (usually a crypto-rightist anyway) representin' for the Peoples, but would most likely lend a bit more intelligence to the political process.

Miss Rand, America's Phirst Lady of Philosophy

Academics rarely offer some cogent definition of agency for that matter-- anymore than they establish the "Rational Man" standard of Smithian economics (20th century history reads more like the work of Irrational man--). Granting that humans do make choices (even if they are coerced by physiological factors of various sorts--voluntary determinism, aka compatibilism of a sort), some choices are measurably better than others, and in many situations one person is a more competent "chooser" than another. There is a definite tendency among many people, rather Nietzschean and elitist (also seen in Aynnie Rand's pop-Nietzschean ideas) to think that the smarter, competent, more virtuous person has more of a entitlement claim, and greater "rights" of some type than an uneducated or mentally ill, homeless person does (Nietzsche's "chandala"). That's not necessarily mistaken: obviously some people are smarter and more competent than others, and that can be established via various methods, by standardized tests, degrees, credentials, etc. Mistaken however is the usual protestant assumption (or monotheistic, really) that being a good Churchie and believing in Jee-zuss confers some special right..

Indeed, meritocracy (as opposed to naive democracy), given our technological age, would seem to require specified agency criteria. That needn't imply elitism of the Nietzschean sort: rational-agent Meritocracy could be to the advantage of intelligent progressive politics, and a means to dismantling oligarchies of various sorts (say "natural fortune" in Rawlsian terms). Meritocracy based on carefully defined agency-criteria could create a more even, and fairer playing field. Rawls also requires that humans who make disinterested decisions regarding society via his "veil of ignorance" be rational, though he does not hash that out too much (what would be sufficient to establish rationality, and a sort of political-participation right? a HS diploma, or an MD). Meritocracy could in principle avoid the problems of populism, of economic disparity--like that between rich pimps n ho's and starving Einsteins and Jeffersons--and ameliorate mob rule in general (whether that's a mob of biblethumpers for Sarah Palin, or a mob of sans cullottes bent on smashing the state)---don't hold your breath.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Bricmont, representin'

"...Here is where modern science and British empiricism (which can be characterized as the working philosophy of most scientists) enter. Science explains the visible world, let’s say the structure of matter, by appealing to the invisible one, the properties of atoms. So, why can’t science postulate an invisible Intelligent Design to account for the origin of the Universe or its unexplained properties? The difference is that we do not use merely the word "atom" in our explanations, but also their many quantitative and testable properties. On the other hand, the Design of the ID movement is just a word -- nobody has ever proposed that it possesses any given properties, nor how, if such properties were proposed, one could test them. The postulated Design has just whichever properties were needed to make the world as it is and not otherwise. But then why was the ID not intelligent enough to create a world without birth defects, tsunamis or American imperialism ? The only thing that the defenders of ID are able to establish is that there are certain things we don’t know -- and with that, of course, all scientists agree.

Because of the specificity and testability of its explanations, modern science has introduced a new factor into the spiritualism/materialism debate that was absent among the classical materialist philosophers. The latter had their hearts in the right place but, because of lack of experiments, their physics was fanciful and open to the objection that it was not any more credible than religious stories. Since then, modern science has turned the tables decisively in favor of materialism.

More to the point, this postulated Design has nothing whatsoever to do with the Gods of the traditional religions. Theologians constantly try to present such "arguments" as ID in favor of a deity as if they supported their favorite belief systems. But those belief systems are all based on some kind of revelations and "sacred" scriptures. Even if the ID arguments were valid, they would tell us nothing about particular revelations. The God of ID is a philosopher’s God, like the one whose existence St Thomas Aquinas or Descartes thought to have proven. But the God of the traditional religions is entirely different. It is a being that defines what is good and evil, answers our prayers, and punishes us in the afterlife. Those belief systems are even more radically undermined by modern science than ID. Indeed, whenever one looks at the facts in an undogmatic way, the sacred books turn out to be essentially wrong. Not only about evolution but about almost everything. There is no independent evidence for the story told in the Gospels, the Bible is mythological, and even the Jewish people is, as Shlomo Sand puts it, "an invention" .

Given that, there are two routes open to the believer. There is that of Sarah Palin, clinging literally to the belief system, in spite of all evidence to the contrary. That school of Christians enter into direct conflict with science. Or one can choose the metaphorical route, which most liberal and European Christians (including even the Pope, at times) follow -- declare that, whenever the Scriptures conflict with science, they have to be "interpreted" in a non-literal way. That leads to total defeat for religious belief, because, if the parts of the Scriptures that can be checked with the facts are not to be taken seriously, why pay any attention to the parts that cannot be checked (notably concerning Heaven and Hell or God himself )? The whole of liberal Christianity is the result of a double standard: follow the Scriptures whenever they are "metaphysical" or ethical and cannot be checked independently, and discard them when they can. Since God is not good enough to tell us what he really meant in his "revelations", and which parts have to be taken seriously and which parts not, we are left with total arbitrariness.

People who call themselves agnostics are often confused about these two notions of God. What they claim to be agnostic about is the philosopher’s god not, say, the Gods of Homer. With respect to the latter, they are atheist, just as all religious people are atheist with respect to all gods except their own.

It is also a pity that some secular leftists, like Stephen Jay Gould, support liberal Christianity with the idea of non-overlapping magisteria (NOMA): science deals with facts, religion deals with values. But if you really remove all statements of facts from religion, including those about the existence of God or of Heaven and Hell, then why should one care about what religion says about values ? (That is why the NOMA argument adds to the confusion on the secular side, but is rarely accepted by the religious one).""""

A point worth re-iterating: "since then, modern science has turned the tables decisively in favor of materialism." Many in Consumerland (even in the universities of Consumerland) can't quite realize that point, and instead insist that quantum mechanics and the latest findings of physics (or what they take to be physics) provides support for their own brand of mysticism (be it monotheistic, or otherwise). Bricmont reminds us that materialism has not been overthrown, but updated and revised (as Einstein, not a mystic or immaterialist, asserted as well). Or in the words of one Professor Beiser--not quite a Bricmont, but not lacking a materialist sensibility, when you're dead, you're dead.

Bricmont, however, like many scientific materialists, does not quite realize all the entailments of his ontology (at least in this essay, and others I have read): assuming his physicalism (and no transcendent soul/ego), AND, at the same time assuming that thinking exists/occurs (like Bricmont thinking through the ideas for this essay) , bio-chemical matter then itself must think (a rather odd point that some material minded idealists, like Schopenhauer, understood--and perhaps Hegel and Marx in some sense). The Idea realizes itself in the human brain...........

(continued). Bricmont thus might be classified (by those who specialize in such things, like Dennett) as a greedy reductionist. While scientific materialism may be the most plausible ontological account of "reality" for lack of a better term, that doesn't mean that much. Humans still think and make decisions, even if a Bricmont (or Searle, or Skinner, etc.) insists all decisions are determined by biological- genetic, and/or environmental factors (tracing those causal determining factors still out of reach as well); and they are to be held accountable for those decisions, just as someone making a wrong answer on a test, or a bad move in chess is held accountable--not only by say losing the game, but by subsequent analysis showing what went wrong.

It seems quite evident (considering a game of skill like chess, or Dreyfus' example of learning to drive, or a person deciding to commit a crime) that in many situations, a person does have a definite decision which results in different outcomes, and that one choice (or move) was better or more successful than another--he could have done differently (chess opening analysis seems to suggest this as well---had Karpov moved this way instead of that, he would have beaten Kasparov, etc). The beginner who brings out his queen early will probably lose: with more skill, he no longer does that. The ability to plan, and envision future scenario also poses a problem for deterministic views--how does bio-chemical matter (ala a brain) envision future events, even a few moves ahead on a chess board? Rather difficult to explain via the Bricmontian clock-physics.

However quaint or macabre Marx might seem to some, he addressed some of the implications of a Bricmontian materialism (ie psychological implications) over 100 years ago: humans may be determined to some degree (in Hegelian terms, that determinism, or conditioning is mediated--), but they are not merely animals responding to stimuli, or following some primitive algorithms. Marx's criticism of the older materialism of Feuerbach thus still seems pertinent, given the prevalence of Feuerbach-like Bricmonts (though Jean's a rather high-powered Feuerbach):
“The chief defect of all previous materialism — including Feuerbach’s—is that the object, reality, sensibility, is conceived only in the form of the object or as conception, but not as human sensory activity..." .

It's difficult to think of a Beethoven symphony--or the invention of integrals for that matter-- as causally determined in the Bricmontian, mechanistic sense; there does seem to be a human sensory activity implied (or dare we say conceptualization of some sort, without affirming any metaphysical ghosts). Brains aren't machines, or CPU's; brains may have some CPU-like characteristics (or, rather CPUs have brain-like characteristics), but there's more to it, a lot more to it; at the same time, objecting to strict determinism ala Bricmont does not thereby necessitate belief in a soul-ghost.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

A linguistic heretic takes on Pope Chomsky

"""When I first started working with the Pirahã, I realized that I needed more linguistics if I was going to understand their language. When I began to tell them the stories from the Bible, they didn't have much of an impact. I wondered, was I telling the story incorrectly? Finally one Pirahã asked me one day, well, what color is Jesus? How tall is he? When did he tell you these things? And I said, well, you know, I've never seen him, I don't know what color he was, I don't know how tall he was. Well, if you have never seen him, why are you telling us this?

I started thinking about what I had been doing all along, which was, give myself a social environment in which I could say things that I really didn't have any evidence for—assertions about religion and beliefs that I had in the Bible. And because I had this social environment that supported my being able to say these things, I never really got around to asking whether I knew what I was talking about. Whether there was any real empirical evidence for these claims.

The Pirahã, who in some ways are the ultimate empiricists—they need evidence for every claim you make—helped me realize that I hadn't been thinking very scientifically about my own beliefs. At the same time, I had started a Ph.D. program in linguistics at the University of Campinas in southern Brazil, and I was now in the middle of a group of very intelligent Brazilian intellectuals, who were always astounded that someone at a university doing a Ph.D. in linguistics could believe in the things I claimed to believe in at the time. So it was a big mixture of things involving the Pirahã, and at some point I realized that not only do I not have any evidence for these beliefs, but they have absolutely no applicability to these people, and my explanation of the universe.

I sat with a Pirahã once and he said, what does your god do? What does he do? And I said, well, he made the stars, and he made the Earth. And I asked, what do you say? He said, well, you know, nobody made these things, they just always were here. They have no concept of God. They have individual spirits, but they believe that they have seen these spirits, and they believe they see them regularly. In fact, when you look into it, these aren't sort of half-invisible spirits that they're seeing, they just take on the shape of things in the environment. They'll call a jaguar a spirit, or a tree a spirit, depending on the kinds of properties that it has. "Spirit" doesn't really mean for them what it means for us, and everything they say they have to evaluate empirically. This is what I hadn't been doing, and this challenged the faith that I thought I had, to the extent that I realized that it wasn't honest for me to continue to claim to believe these things when I realized how little investigation I had done into the nature of the things I claimed to believe.""""

Maestro Chomsky's a formidable intellectual force: at the same time, he's arguably become a sort of guru for many (both in terms of his linguistic theory and political views). More than a few psychologists, linguists, and philosophers have criticized Chomsky's theory of Universal Grammar as somewhat idealist and "Cartesian", though doing so requires some skill in terms of empirical psychology, and philosophical debate (skills generally absent in many hysteria cases of left and right). One recent criticism of UG relates to Chomsky's insistence on infinite recursion as an aspect of UG (Recursiveness is the ability--presumed to be universal by Chomskyites-- to embed endless phrases in any syntax).

Dan Everett has for years studied a native language, Piraha, which apparently falsifies the UG claim of recursiveness. A Piraha native might say "Moe's house" (in his language of course), and he can say "Moe's brother", but if he wants to say "Moe's brother's house", he must say "Moe has a brother. This brother has a house". The Piraha don't embed, but say that in separate sentences. (We suspect that recursion's characteristic of most languages, but not all, especially those without writing (while realizing the political-ethical problems implied by saying one language or culture is more advanced than another)). Recursion as used in programming involves a bit more complexity than the linguist's, but related: in both programming and linguistics recursion involves an equation that relates later terms in the sequence to earlier terms (iterations, and loops also make use of recursion in various ways).

Everett has in effect offered an empirical rebuttal of the recursion claims of UG. Old empirical savages like Skinner (and his logician pal WVO Quine) had of course brought up similar points a few decades ago, before Pope Noam's excommunication of behaviorism. Finiteness, empiricism, human language use as conditioned by environment, dare we say synthetic a posteriori: all of that was more or less proclaimed anathema by the Chomsky-Cartesian school, which demanded, instead of Watson/Skinner's experimental methods, an a priori account of language acquisition (indeed, the Noamster has no problem citing Platonic metaphysics as support for UG). Everett's research suggests that the experimentalists were not completely mistaken (or Sapir-Whorf, perhaps?), though Everett's not the first scholar to point out key differences in primitive languages compared to modern and/or indo-european languages. This might not be a refutation of Chomsky's UG, yet an interesting development, and of course Dr. Everett's already been dismissed as a fascist, hick, imperialist lackey, etc.


Searle approves of Dan Everett's work: "Dan Everett has written an excellent book. .....his data and his conclusions about the language of the Piraha run dead counter to the prevailing orthodoxy in linguistics. If he is right, he will permanently change our conception of human language.' That in itself could be anathema.

Speaking of Searle, he's written a somewhat interesting book on "free will" and determinism (not unrelated to the Everett/Chomsky debate). He recently paid a visit to Google:

(that was Zeno's paradox, Doc--actually a rather more challenging problem than the language specialist Searle realizes)

Friday, November 14, 2008

Reason ala Bierce

REASON, v.i. To weight probabilities in the scales of desire.

REASON, n. Propensitate of prejudice.

REASONABLE, adj. Accessible to the infection of our own opinions. Hospitable to persuasion, dissuasion and evasion.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Jimmy Carl Black RIP

""Jimmy Carl Black, the original drummer in Frank Zappa's Mothers of Invention, a band that helped define the sub-genre of art rock, died of cancer Saturday. He was 70.

He died in Siegsdorf, Germany, according to Roddie Gilliard, who performed with Black in recent years as part of the Muffin Men, a British group that specialized in performing Zappa's music live."""

UPDATE: another great rock drummer, Mitch Mitchell, found dead. Mitch. was the equivalent of a Elvin Jones or Buddy Rich of rock. RIP.

International Con Man Barack Obama Leaves U.S. With $85 Million

"To my tender little pawns, the all-too-trusting people of America," said FBI lead investigator Ray Hilland, quoting the letter at a press conference Wednesday. "If you are reading this, then I have already left your silly country in my private jet, and am right now sipping fine champagne with my lovely associate, a woman you have come to know as 'Michelle.'"

"I assure you, this was the most pleasurable and fulfilling con I have ever pulled off," the note continued. "Not since the Moroccan elections in 1984 have I taken so much joy in raising, and then crushing, the hopes and dreams of so many pathetic, disenfranchised, and downtrodden people."

"It's been an absolute delight doing business with you. Rest assured, your generous contributions will be well spent," the note concluded. "Fondly yours, Ψ."

Heh heh. The Onion posse understands dissent to some degree, unlike most of the soy-milk swilling PC vermin who make up the suburban DNCocrats.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

The Myth of the Great Leader

Carlos Fierro:

"""""We don’t need another Lincoln, or an Obama; what we need is more Fredrick Douglasses and Harriet Beecher Stowes. We need more Martin Luther Kings, Big Bill Haywoods, and Helen Kellers. We don’t need more FDRs, we need more Eugene Debs. We don’t need more JFKs, we need more Philip Berrigans. We don’t need to look to great men to lead us to the promised land, we need to recognize the power that we, the nameless and “the powerless,” possess when we assert our power rather than make assertions of faith directed at the great leader myths.

There are two reasons why these myths are particularly dangerous. First, they are simply false. The legislature, the executive, and the judiciary have not pushed this nation forward. They have gone along with popular movements kicking and screaming. It was not any of the three branches of government that led to the advances in voting rights, labor rights, or the end of slavery, it was mass popular movements. It was not Cleveland, Harrison, McKinley, Teddy Roosevelt, Taft, Wilson, or even FDR that had anything to do with advances in labor rights or suffrage. It wasn't Brandeis, Berger, Brennan, Holmes or Marshall that led to the advancement of this nation as a more equitable state. It wasn't JFK, Robert Kennedy or Johnson in the White House, or Mansfield and Dirksen in the Senate that lead to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It was people on the street marching and fighting for a more equitable nation. It was many of those same people that brought about the end to the Vietnam War, not the mainstream media or any of those mentioned above. It is this very misperception, the creation of dubious hero leaders that leads to the second danger: disempowerment. We are left to petition our overseers and vote for leaders and wish a wish based on the most unfounded faith that they will make things better."""""

One could quibble with a few points here (MLK for one drew from Thoreau as much as he did from a Douglass), but Fierro hits fairly close to the mark. Politicians rarely advance the cause of authentic progressive politics: that's the responsibility of informed citizens (that doesn't necessarily mean proletarian heroes). Also to be noted are Fierro's rips of the three branches of the USA political system. Those siding with the winning party of an election typically praise Democracy and the popular vote--the People have spoken!--at least as long as the party remains in power; those with the losing party usually object, until gaining power again (unless they are outlawed, as the nazis or communists outlawed opposition parties).

At the same time, however cold, ugly, and oppressive Prospero seems (the Kingdom of Prospero), Caliban (the Peoples Republic of Caliban!) does not offer much of an alternative. Eugene Debs, or MLK are not exactly Calibans, perhaps--tho' the knave's counted in their ranks. Which is to say, Menschliches, Allzumenschliches. FN cared little for King Prospero or his outlaw subordinate Caliban, really; and for that matter NietzscheSpeak provides an effective antidote to anarchist dreams (so may Shakespeare, or whoever penned that interesting dystopia, The Tempest).

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The General Fantasia

Dennis Perrin:

""...I'll give Obama this much -- his campaign has been one of the most brilliantly conceived and cynically executed appeals I've ever seen. His propaganda team has ably exploited people's desire for HOPE and CHANGE, offering them empty platitudes which they can fill with any fantasy they choose. Even when Obama baldly states whose interests he actually serves, his followers either don't care or pretend not to hear. Besides, they bleat when pushed, Obama will be pressured to do the right thing should he stray too far from liberal concerns. The fact that he already has done this shows that claim to be as empty as Obama's speeches. The idea that libs are going to shift from genuflection to lighting fires under Obama's feet is preposterous, but fully in line with the general fantasia.

President Obama will be vigorously defended by liberals, who'll devote more energy to attacking and mocking right wingers than clogging the machine until Obama moves "left," or wherever he's supposed to go. I've repeatedly asked those few libs who bother to debate the issues what they will do when Obama sells them out, further strengthening the authoritarian legacy of Bush/Cheney. Will they demonstrate? Commit civil disobedience? Call for impeachment and criminal indictments? I've yet to get any firm answers to these questions, but the answers are already known. Besides, we gotta get Obama re-elected in '12, or it's President Palin/Romney/Monster Yet To Emerge. But once he snags that second term . . ."""

Word. Now, time for some Hope, Change, and enforcing FISA...

Monday, November 03, 2008

When Actors Attempt Economics...

John Cusack, master thespian, with some deep thoughts on the lending crisis:

Many believe economies must serve humanity and not the other way around. Economies must make a moral connection to the republic. Brace yourselves free marketers: the quality of economic and human transactions will have to take priority over money. Faith and hope have to manifest in the social transactions we make.

A new social contract could be coming based on a real currency my friend Kevin McCabe calls the currency of grace. It is a currency of economic fairness and institutionalizing concepts of shared responsibility; a currency based on the gold standard that every human has value and should be awarded respect and opportunity, the dignity that comes from human beings protecting each other from the values and ideals of a Darwinist world. Its spirit is in Keynesian economics, a mixed economy with regulated markets and social spending. In the new era, we must remove fundamentalist right wing economists as the high priests and kings. Their ideology will stay dead only if we remain vigilant and call things what they are. It's a battle for the idea of America and it's just beginning if Senator Obama becomes president.

An interesting rant, but Signore Cusack does not recall that JM Keynes claimed that he wanted to save capitalism, not bury it. Many GOP econ. and finance people are Keynesians; for that matter, Bill Clinton and his staff (including Robert "NAFTA" Rubin, now working with Obama) promoted Keynesian ideas, including privatization. The status of Keynesian macroeconomics itself remains an issue as well. While Keynes had an interest in poverty and unemployment, he was mostly unaware of other contemporary problems (related to poverty, really), such as depleted energy sources, Big Oil (a commodity), monopolies, mobs, strife of various sorts (including religious).

Econ. guys--whether micro or macro--talk a good game; they're usually the wits and wags around the kegger at the frat boy FAC. In reality economists (whether pro or not-so-pro) should be considered more like sociologists than physicists. They do not offer reliable predictions of, say, how changes in interest rates affect demand (i.e. consumer purchases): economic theories, claims, and "laws"--even as basic as supply-demand--are a type of inductive reasoning-- i.e contingent and probabilistic, not "necessary" as a logic wank might say.

The macro indicators like GDP are grand abstractions; not completely meaningless--at least to economists--but anecdotal. Keynes did rightly emphasize the non-rational elements in economic behavior; and he's against the moralizing aspects of most liberal politics. Like most real economists, he's more interested in describing, not prescribing; it's the accuracy of his descriptions that are in question. Keynesian ideas influenced Galbraith, yet Galbraith understood the limitations of the macro. model, especially aggregation. Galbraith also took issue with the businessmen and managers, who, greatly influenced by macroeconomics, placed "aggregate growth at the heart of modern economic organization and economic theory."

Cusack also made mention of James Madison (Dr. Johnson comes to mind--"patriotism, the last refuge of a scoundrel....."). Madison did modify his views, as Cusack pointed out, from federalism to a slightly more Jeffersonian view. Both JM and TJ opposed monarchy, and were more mercantilist than capitalist. Was JM Keynes opposed to monarchy? I am not completely sure, but his statist-capitalism does seem amenable to Tories, whether they be of royal lineage, or perhaps hollywood or silicon valley lineage. We are not avid fans of Marx, but Cusack does argue for his own "class interests," more or less; compared to the authentic leftists of say Counterpunch, not to say someone like Zizek, the reformer liberalism of Cusack (and Klein) seems fairly tame--Democracy ala Chair-Dame Pelosi and DiDi Feinstein.

Bill Clinton himself ENDED the most critical New Deal regs (google Glass-Steagal act, Signore Cusack), when he signed off on Gramm/Gingrich's de reg plans. Obama, the Change candidate, sided with Paulson, Bush and Pelosi on the corporate welfare planbailout. That doesn't stop liberals, especially the celebrity sorts (not to be mistaken for real progressives) from routinely overlooking the bipartisan nature of the USA dystopia, or the bipartisan-supported Iraqi war. (That said, Cusack in The Grifters: bravissimo).

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Apostasy club

AC Grayling representin,' contra-Prophet:

""""The conference was supported by the National Secular Society and the British Humanist Association, so that the dozens of ex-Muslims present had the support of over 200 others who believe in the right of individuals to think for themselves and who treat people as human individuals, not merely as bearers of overriding identity labels stuck to their foreheads by tradition and religion. A friend who is a crown court judge once told me that he is always pleased when a member of a jury affirms rather than swears the oath on the Bible, because it indicates independence and maturity of mind. Indeed: that was what was on display last Friday at Conway Hall.

One of those speaking at the conference, my friend Ibn Warraq, recently edited a book on apostasy in Islam, which combines a scholarly overview of doctrines on apostasy in the various schools of Islamic law, with a collection of powerful personal testimonies by those who came to leave Islam either for another faith or none. It was interesting to compare the accounts there given with those in Louise Anthony's book Philosophers Without Gods, which collects similar accounts by ex-Christians and ex-Jews. The personal cost in family and community terms of rejecting the doctrines of any of these religions is very similar; only in Islam does the danger of being murdered for doing so remain.

But, horribly, it is a genuine danger. That is why some of the speeches made during this conference, and some of the remarks from the floor, were filled with a passion and concern that were as real as they were moving. Not least among the matters that surfaced several times in different contexts was the question of the position of women in Islam. To take just one issue: in sharia law a woman is worth half a man, and thus among many other things receives half the inheritance that a man does. Like other provisions of sharia law, this is a stark example of contrast with the laws of England and Wales and with Scottish law, in both of which principles of justice do not countenance systematic discrimination on the basis of sex. By the oppressive requirements of conformity with community practices, many women in Muslim communities in Britain are obliged to observe the practices that the community prefers, across the whole range from whom they marry to what they wear.""""

To reiterate: "The personal cost in family and community terms of rejecting the doctrines of any of these religions is very similar; only in Islam does the danger of being murdered for doing so remain." Americans may choose to be secularists, or atheists, by law (that doesn't mean they aren't discriminated against). Humans living in muslim countries under sharia, however, often receive a death sentence for doing so. Apostasy: it's a right, not a privilege (let's hope Chairman BO keeps that in mind, assuming the Demos out vote-tamper the GOPers).

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Obama has said nothing about Bush's "dismantling of the Bill of Rights"

Nat Hentoff:

"The present Democratic Congressional leadership—Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi—has shown no interest at all in bringing back the Constitution. Would President Barack Obama take charge and lead the way back to what James Madison and Thomas Jefferson gave us? As the 1787 Constitutional Convention was ending, Benjamin Franklin was asked by a new citizen what it had created: "A republic," said Franklin. "If you can keep it."

Throughout this campaign, Obama has said nothing about CIA secret prisons and rendition, Bush's wiretapping and e-mail scrutiny of us (which Obama voted to support), or other dismantling of the Bill of Rights.

When Obama chose Joe Biden as his running mate, I had great hopes that the Delaware senator would indeed awaken the citizenry. Throughout his failed campaign for the presidency, Biden continually riffed on his 2007 bill—the National Security and Justice Act—that would "Prohibit CIA 'extraordinary renditions,' close 'black sites' . . . [and] prohibit torture and mistreatment of detainees in U.S. custody." Bush, Biden emphasized, "has undermined the basic civil liberties of American citizens. The terrorists win when we abandon our civil liberties."

But as of this writing, the putative vice president has become silent on all of this, fulfilling his assignment as an attack dog tracking McCain and Sarah Palin."

However obvious his writing may be at times, Hentoff has an understanding of the secular principles of the US Constitution, and an understanding of the bipartisan police state (remember it's your right: Don't F-ing Vote (DFV)).

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Dem Speechwriter abandons Team Obama

Wendy Button:

"Not only has this party [the Democrats] belittled working people in this campaign, it has also been part of tearing down two female candidates."

Important point. While we don’t love HRC, the Obamamites dissed HRC continually; blogger leftists abused HRC constantly since she declared her intention to run. The same process has occurred with Ms. Palin. The attacks on Palin, the slashing satire, the daily insults have little to do with politics, and everything to do with sexism: who needs political discussion when some network spinmeisters may outfit an actress in overalls and have her speak like Sarah the yokel, more or less (where’s the satire of say Obama chatting with some of his palestinian pals or saudi chieftains at an east african goat grab? a bit too steep for Ms Lorne Michaels and Co.)

Wendy Button did this for Ms. Palin, hopefully (Palin has less blood on her hands than McCaint does, of course). She could have done worse. No love have we for McCain and Palin, and grant they are opportunists, rightists, biblethumpers. BO-Biden, on the other hand, are east coast bureaucrats, insiders, big govt. liberals. LBJocrats. The liberal media doesn’t show the real demos--BO's people-- on prime time: urban slum dwellers, welfare recipients, union goons, with some naive eco-crats out in the ‘burbs. Button’s article, however trivial it might seem to hipster leftists, points out the problem to some extent–-that said, she would have done better going with 3rd party/Barr, or, given the choice between rightist outlaws, and big-govt. apparatchiks, simply refusing the ticket.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Alex Cockburn: "Obama, the first-rate Republican."

Cockburn, regardless of what one thinks of his politics (Alex waxes a bit bolshevik at times, unfortunately), describes Obama the Equivicator pretty effectively, though Cockburn's no-frills writing might hurt the feelings of the typical latte-swilling vichy-crat:

As a political organiser of his own advancement, Obama is a wonder. But I have yet to identify a single uplifting intention to which he has remained constant if it has presented any risk to his progress. We could say that he has not yet had occasion to adjust his relatively decent stances on immigration and labour-law reform. And what of public funding of his campaign? Another commitment made becomes a commitment betrayed. His campaign treasury is a vast hogswallow that, if it had been amassed by a Republican, would be the topic of thunderous liberal complaint.

Obama's run has been the negation of almost every decent progressive principle, with scarcely a bleat of protest from the progressives seeking to hold him to account. The Michael Moores stay silent. Obama has crooked the knee to bankers and Wall Street, to the oil companies, the coal companies, the nuclear lobby, the big agricultural combines. He is more popular with Pentagon contractors than McCain, and has been the most popular of the candidates with Washington lobbyists. He has been fearless in offending progressives, constant in appeasing the powerful.

Unlike the usual liberal narcissists, most of the Counterpunchers haven't forgotten that a Democratic Senate passed the Iraq War Resoloution, a Democratic Congress passed the PatAct and FISA bills (with Obama voting for it), and the Democratic Congress passed the Bailout package. Billy Bob Clinton signed off on the Gramm-Gingrich de-reg'ed casino plans, 10 years ago. The American dystopia has always been bipartisan, politically, and arguably, culturally.

Monday, October 27, 2008

False Choices

from The Obamanations of Barack, by NIRANJAN RAMAKRISHNAN:

"We are often told that we have no choice but to vote for Obama because McCain would be a third term of Bush. Let us concede that McCain is demonstrably unfit. But McCain and Obama are not the only two candidates on offer. Ralph Nader is a man who has already done more for average Americans by his activism then either McCain or Obama can hope to achieve. Bob Barr has been consistent in standing up against violations of our rights and liberties.

Besides, before romancing the Democrats, it is wise to remember that it was a Democratic Senate that passed the Iraq War Resoloution; it was a Democratic Congress that passed the FISA bill (with Obama voting for it), and it was the same Democratic Congress which passed the Bailout package (with all its pork). To paraphrase Shakespeare, “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our Presidents, But in ourselves...”. So long as we remain consumers, not citizens (see Silence of the Lambs), our politics are sure to play false."

To reiterate: "Bob Barr (Libertarian candidate) has been consistent in standing up against violations of our rights and liberties." Yes, Sahib: unlike most of the Dems, who have consistently supported the right-wing "security" measures. Obama now supports FISA as well. (Robert Rubin, one of the architects of NAFTA and de-reg, now one of BO's economic advisers). Like McCain, Obama continually pushed for coal as well. Go with DFV, or support a third-party freak: Barr. (Nader has integrity, and not completely wrong on energy policies, and preferable to demopublicans, but overexposed, and mostly a buffoon, or perceived as uch).

Friday, October 24, 2008

John Adams and TJ waxin' skeptical

""""We think ourselves possessed, or, at least, we boast that we are so, of liberty of conscience on all subjects, and of the right of free inquiry and private judgment in all cases, and yet how far are we from these exalted privileges in fact! There exists, I believe, throughout the whole Christian world, a law which makes it blasphemy to deny or doubt the divine inspiration of all the books of the Old and New Testaments, from Genesis to Revelations. In most countries of Europe it is punished by fire at the stake, or the rack, or the wheel. In England itself it is punished by boring through the tongue with a red-hot poker. In America it is not better; even in our own Massachusetts, which I believe, upon the whole, is as temperate and moderate in religious zeal as most of the States, a law was made in the latter end of the last century, repealing the cruel punishments of the former laws, but substituting fine and imprisonment upon all those blasphemers upon any book of the Old Testament or New. Now, what free inquiry, when a writer must surely encounter the risk of fine or imprisonment for adducing any argument for investigating into the divine authority of those books? Who would run the risk of translating Dupuis? But I cannot enlarge upon this subject, though I have it much at heart. I think such laws a great embarrassment, great obstructions to the improvement of the human mind. Books that cannot bear examination, certainly ought not to be established as divine inspiration by penal laws. It is true, few persons appear desirous to put such laws in execution, and it is also true that some few persons are hardy enough to venture to depart from them. But as long as they continue in force as laws, the human mind must make an awkward and clumsy progress in its investigations. I wish they were repealed. The substance and essence of Christianity, as I understand it, is eternal and unchangeable, and will bear examination forever, but it has been mixed with extraneous ingredients, which I think will not bear examination, and they ought to be separated. Adieu."""""

-- John Adams, one of his last letters to Thomas Jefferson, January 23, 1825.

One particularly interesting bon mot: "Books that cannot bear examination, certainly ought not to be established as divine inspiration by penal laws." Which is to say, the law should be considered secular with no foundation in theological principles. Sounds good to us (and Thomas Hobbes, author of that secular masterpiece Leviathan--well-known to the Founders--agreed as well). Thus, the baptists (and other monotheistic clowns) barking for "yes on 8" because that's what "God's law" requires, or some biblical passage (most likely misunderstood) in effect stand in opposition to Adams, Jefferson, and nearly all the Founding Fathers.

Adams was also an early opponent to masonry (to his credit): which is to say, the authentic secularist does not advocate secret societies, or some ersatz mysticism as a replacement for Christianity or catholicism, or any religion. His son John Quincy also battled protestant zealots--especially the dixie, slaveholding sort, ala Jackson. Southern aristos such as TJ or even RE Lee are one thing; the lizardy prezbyterian Andy Jackson quite another. Many Americans might think of the Adamses as yankee-conservatives, but they were at least not biblethumpers or crypto-monarchist, and in political terms, came as close as any American politicians did to upholding the ideals of, say, Condorcet (who JQA met at one time). Ezra Pound, for one, admired JQ Adams' oratory--tho' not always agreeing to the content.

Contingencies recommends DFV on 8, as does the CA Liberty Caucus, which has recently shown some libertarian spine: "According to the RLC California Board, “We believe, in the spirit of free enterprise and freedom of religion, that private institutions have the right to maintain policies with which some of us might disagree and find discriminatory, while in the spirit of equal treatment under the law, public institutions should never be allowed to discriminate against any members of society.” Not bad. NRA (got that Bam Bam?? NRA, as in like twelve gauge), legalized drugs (for the intelligent at least), tasteful bordelloes, no taxes (at least until first million), and upholding civil liberties. Yay. Libertarianism may have certain shortcomings (i.e. laissez-faire econ. models); compared to theocracy or marxist-statism, those shortcomings should be considered mostly negligible.

Thursday, October 23, 2008


"The concept of ‘truth’… has inculcated the necessary element of humility [into politics]. When this check upon pride is removed, a further step is taken on the road towards a certain kind of madness - the intoxication of power."

Bertrand Russell

There are wiseguys--or wannabe wiseguys--in politics (whether at local or national level) who, rejecting truth, veracity, honesty, etc. attempt their machiavellian gambits via quasi-democratic means: thus, they support an Obama, for instance, because they assume that will advance their cause most effectively, just as the Five Points gang or Al Capone-ay at one time funnelled cash to democratic leaders in Chicago and New York (still done to some extent via gambling, alcohol, porn lobbies).

A majority intoxicated with power may vote in an Al Capone, and mobster-politicians remain a political force--(in italian or russian politics, or chi-town for that matter). Unlikely Kid Obama will help mobsters out too much (at least in CA), unless they already have an inside connection, like a Colin Powell, or Mayor Villaigarosa. Fuggetaboutit.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

"To a teacher of languages there comes a time when the world is but a place of many words and man appears a mere talking animal not much more wonderful than a parrot."

Joseph Conrad


Ninety Days...from today

Like when the Feds inaugurate the anti-business, corporate socialist BO as Chair-homie? Small-time xtian business-pikers like you, Bubbanius, ought to be searching for some union racket that will let you do some manual labor---and work on your espanol as well. You're no DNC insider, putonius.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Melanie Phillips on the rise of Obama:

"""You have to pinch yourself – a Marxisant radical who all his life has been mentored by, sat at the feet of, worshipped with, befriended, endorsed the philosophy of, funded and been in turn funded, politically promoted and supported by a nexus comprising black power anti-white racists, Jew-haters, revolutionary Marxists, unrepentant former terrorists and Chicago mobsters, is on the verge of becoming President of the United States. And apparently it’s considered impolite to say so.""""

Not merely impolite, Mel--un-PC, and not hip. As with advertising, American political discourse tends to rely upon bandwagon sorts of appeals (are you on the bus, or not on the bus, ese? (not)). The ObamaCraze seems especially bandwagon-like and a type of "ad populus": the basic pseudo-argument something like "all the regulars at DailyLiberalBS are supporting Obama, so why aren't you"? Yes, the right does this as well: Limbaughites and Foxnews should be held as responsible as anyone for backlash of the left. The right, however, has no monopoly on "populism"; for one, that Obama has strong union support would seem to imply that he wears a Populist label as well (that's a traditional view: the Right generally with the King, regardless if "republican" in American usage has little relation to european
(ie IRA)).

(Hey Bubbanius: choosing to join the Mob does not make one Logical, you sick piece of scheisse. Since you don't know a premise or conclusion from your crack-pipe or Frege from yr finance cliffsnotes, who cares what you belch about "logic". Spock's little aphorism--"live long and prosper"--not logic either, but sort of a Roddenberry-like hypocrite imperative. Anyway, Barry Obama's pals Rezko or Blagojevich or Colin Powell don't exactly believe in "Live long and prosper", do they. ObamaCo version of Spock: " Live long and prosper, homie (unless you a republican, cracker, jew, or libertarian, etc ")).

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Fact checking the Fact-checkers

What do Illinois people (at least those not livin' in the 'jects) think of Obamanomics? Not much.

"During his career in the Illinois Senate, Barack Obama never saw a tax increase that he didn't like. CBS News Jan 17, 2007 - 'Obama occasionally supported higher taxes, joining other Democrats in pushing to raise more than 300 taxes and fees on businesses in 2004 to help solve a budget deficit. The increases passed the Senate 30-28.' Fox News Feb. 27, 2008 - 'A new report says he supported more than 300 tax hikes during his eight years in the Illinois State Senate'.

Yet, these reports do not even begin to demonstrate the fiscal irresponsibility practiced by Obama. Facing a budget deficit in 2003, the newly anointed Illinois Governor, with the full support of Senator Obama who voted for his budget, increased the annual budget by more than $2 billion, as opposed to seeking spending limits or cuts. On April 9th, 2003, Blagojevich introduced his budget by stating, "WE WILL NOT BALANCE THE BUDGET BY SACRIFICING OUR VALUES. INSTEAD, WE WILL BALANCE THE BUDGET BY ENDING BUSINESS AS USUAL." Sound Familiar?

Over the course of the next two years Senator Obama would vote after tax increase after tax increase...."

Contingencies supports a healthy increase of taxes on capital gains and windfall profits for the wealthy (like Obama's pals Soros, Buffett, Gates, the Kennedys, etc.), and regulations on high-powered finance rackets. Obama, however, has had no problem implementing many taxes aimed at destroying small and medium sized businesses (and businessmen). The profit taxes mentioned in the article should especially trouble anyone forced by the f-ed up pirate-capitalist economy necessity to depend on commissions for a livelihood. Commission taxes may result in little or no damage to millionaires: instead, they destroy the middle class (and even working class); and that's what BO, corporate-socialist and Boston boy, specializes in. Ted Kennedy, ramped up: das ist Obama.

Another factoid: "...."{the facts do} back up McCain’s statements that Obama is spending more than $40 million on negative advertising, but it also shows that he’s spending nearly $30 million on positive advertising. According to this release, McCain is spending more than $27 million on negative ads and only $5 million on positive ads."""

So, Obama still outperforms McCain on the Negativity Metric, regardless if the neg-ads are a smaller proportion of ObamaCo's total advertising budget than McCain's neg-ads--BO's treasure chest greatly exceeds McCainCo's, and that's the most relevant factor. Too bad the reason-challenged dolts who operate most liberal blogs did not perceive that the "context" indicates that their guy BO has the corporate backing, the media power, the celebrity vibe. But to the typical dyslexicrat this seems to suggest that McCain's "more negative" when in fact it proves that Obama leads in negative ads, and has a great lead in total advertising shekels.

Paraphrasing Matt Stone from a few years ago, I might hate conservatives, but I really f-ing hate liberals. Best to stick with ~vote.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Bakunin for kix


""""Between these two tendencies there exist the same conflicting conceptions and the same abyss that separate the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. Is it surprising, therefore, that these irreconcilable adversaries clashed in the International, that the struggle between them, in all forms and on all possible occasions, is still going on? The Alliance, true to the program of the International, disdainfully rejected all collaboration with bourgeois politics, in however radical and socialist a disguise. They advised the proletariat that the only real emancipation, the only policy truly beneficial for them, is the exclusively negative policy of demolishing political institutions, political power, government in general, and the State, and that to do this it is necessary to unify the scattered forces of the proletariat into an International organization, a revolutionary power directed against the entrenched ]power of the bourgeoisie."""""

Your daddy

""""The German Social Democrats advocated a completely opposite policy. They told these workers, who unfortunately heeded them, that the first and most pressing task of their organization must be to win political rights by legal agitation. They thus subordinated the movement for economic emancipation to an exclusively political movement, and by this obvious reversal of the whole program of the International they filled in at a single stroke the abyss that the International had opened between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. They have done more. They have tied the proletariat to the bourgeois towline. For it is evident that this whole political movement so enthusiastically extolled by the German Socialists, since it must precede the economic revolution, can only be directed by the bourgeoisie, or what is still worse, by workers transformed into bourgeois by their vanity and ambition. And, in fact, this movement, like all its predecessors, will once more supersede the proletariat and condemn them to be the blind instruments, the victims. to be used and then sacrificed in the struggle between the rival bourgeois parties for the power and right to dominate and exploit the masses. To anyone who doubts this we have only to show what is happening now in Germany, where the organs of social democracy sing hymns of joy on seeing a congress of professors of bourgeois political economy entrusting the proletariat to the paternal protection of states, and it has occurred in parts of Switzerland where the Marxian program prevails – at Geneva, Zurich, Basel, where the International has declined to the point of being only an electoral ballot box for the profit of the radical bourgeois. These incontestable facts seem to me to be more eloquent than any words.

These facts are real and they are a natural effect of the triumph of Marxian propaganda. And it is for this reason that we fight the Marxian theories to the death, convinced that if they should triumph throughout the International, they would at the least kill its spirit, as they have already in great part done in the places I have referred to.""""

To reiterate: "it has occurred in parts of Switzerland where the Marxian program.... has declined to the point of being only an electoral ballot box for the profit of the radical bourgeois." MB could have been speaking about the American democrats, those delusional consumers who take Al Gore to be a "radical".

More MB: "We fight the Marxian theories to the death." Whoa. What's that entail in contemporary terms? Authentic anarchists--a rather sparse crowd, to be sure, tho' Chomsky admired MB, supposedly, as did Edward Abbey--support neither statist-welfare socialism and bureaucracy ala ObamaCo, nor the theocrats and monarchical-capitalism of the right (as Obama's support of the Bushco-Paulson-Pelosia sponsored Bailout indicates, Obama has no problem--in traditional marxist-hypocrite style--working alongside the rightists and financiers when needed).

It might also be recalled that during the spanish civil war, the republicanos drew inspiration from Bakunin, and opposed the soviet apparatchiks as well as the royalists and "phalange" nationalists; when stalinist atrocities mounted, many a republicano abandoned leftist ideology altogether (some going as far as joining the phalange...). In historical and Dialectical terms ala GWF Hegel, the battles between Being of the right (mind/human thinking), and Not-Being of left (nature, if you will), reveal themselves in Becomingness, in process, in temporality. The intelligent anarchist, aware that he's both a Dr. Jekyll AND Mr. Hyde, eros and thanatos (as are ALL humans), thrives in that Becomingness.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

A race of convicts...

[Dr. Johnson] disliked the rebel colonists for their hatred of authority, their unseemly scramble for money, and especially their dependence on slaves. "I am willing to love all mankind, except an American," he wrote. "They are a race of convicts, and ought to be thankful for anything we allow them short of hanging."

What means a consensus--a popular election--among a race of convicts (assuming for argument that Johnson's definition of Americans holds)? Hint: nada

Friday, October 10, 2008


Cockburn on Baracknomics:

""""Obama helped arm-twist recalcitrant Democrats, particularly in the Congressional Black Caucus, to vote for the Paulson bailout, in the national interest, the line urged on House members by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Barney Frank.

In fact it wasn’t in the national interest , nor in the interest of the Democrats in Congress. Until Republicans in the House rebelled and , with the help of 95 Democratic mutineers, voted the Paulson bill down on September 29, polls showed that the prospects for the Democrats wining a substantial number of new seats in the House were good. Not any more. Voters really hate the Bailout and think well of those who tried to beat it back. The Republicans are now within striking distance of recapturing the House, or so some polls show.""""

St. Barack backs Heinrich Paulson, and approves the Bushco-led bailout (corporate welfare as it was formerly known). Another reason for ~vote.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Tyranny of the majority (sic semper tyrannis)

Mencken on the absurdity of American democracy--"the domination of unreflective and timorous men, moved in vast herds by mob emotions":

"....when a candidate for public office faces the voters he does not face men of sense; he faces a mob of men whose chief distinguishing mark is the fact that they are quite incapable of weighing ideas, or even of comprehending any save the most elemental—men whose whole thinking is done in terms of emotion, and whose dominant emotion is dread of what they cannot understand. So confronted, the candidate must either bark with the pack, or count himself lost...""

""""The larger the mob, the harder the test. In small areas, before small electorates, a first-rate man occasionally fights his way through, carrying even the mob with him by the force of his personality. But when the field is nationwide, and the fight must be waged chiefly at second and third hand, and the force of personality cannot so readily make itself felt, then all the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically, the most devious and mediocre—the man who can most adeptly disperse the notion that his mind is a virtual vacuum.

The Presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men. As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.""""

What's that entail? NO on BO, the peoples' choice--that the peoples want BO does not imply he deserves to be wanted. Menckenian invective may illustrate the problem of the tyranny of the majority, but it's sort of a chestnut of political and philosophical thinking. As JS Mill-- Liberal par excellence--and other thinkers realized years ago, approval of a candidate (or policy) via majority decision does not imply that the most qualified person is selected (rather obvious, except maybe to ACORNocrats). What the Peoples decide upon has no necessary relation to the proper course of action, politically, economically or otherwise. During the early days of French Revolution, the extreme left of the Montagnards (mostly jacobins) had more voting power than did the moderate Girondists, yet were hardly doing the right thing--deposing the monarchy is one thing (agreed to by Girondists), killing them, and thousands of others (including girondists, like Condorcet), Nyet.

Majorities voted in Bush (at least popular vote in 2004). They voted in Feinstein (supposedly). Hitler and Mussolini were elected by majorities, initially (before ending voting). Even in small-scale situations a consensus often has no relationship to truth. Asking for a show of hands at Denny's to a supply curve problem will not generally produce the right answer. A consensus of baptists, millions of 'em, regarding the authenticity of the Book of Revelation does not magically make the bizarre visions of the Book true.

Similarly, if a person is a downright moron, his vote means nothing (and really might be viewed as a mistake). Obvious, except to like liberals on crack. Were society comprised of Menckens and Thomas Jeffersons and/or Jeffersonettes, yes, a popular vote would be meaningful. It's not. Society's comprised of downright morons (and moronettes), for the most part, many of whom, especially in Californication, who are HS dropouts, can't read write or solve pie graph problems (the peoples the DNCocrats bank on). Holy Pie Graph Problem at the Election Booth Batman.

The Founding Fathers concerned themselves with this issue; even the more "liberal" such as Jefferson realized the potential danger of democracy via mob rule. Madison (Publius) in the Federalist papers writes at length about the danger posed by "factions" (Hamilton, old-school Hobbesian I suspect, also favored more centralized control and less power to legislature) Fears of mob rule arguably resulted in the electoral college, and executive and judicial controls on the legislature. Problems may also arise with a Federalist model as well of course (exemplified by Il Duce scalia's theocratic control of the SCOTUS).

All rather obvious, except to the anti-rationalists and quasi-psychotic cyber-leftists spewing their bubblegum -marxism ad nauseum (Marx himself was profoundly anti-democratic, and thus opposed to the vote, for better or worse).

(BO seems too corporate to be a real communist, tho' he did pal around with some reds, as the Ayers connection shows. His record does show him to be Fed-statist, not afraid of denying civil liberties (ie pro FISA, PatAct, etc.) and pro-union at any cost, i.e. owned by Chevvy. Connect the dots. this message approved by Anarchists Not for Obama)

Saturday, October 04, 2008


""By the term "Caesarism" I mean that kind of government which, irrespective of any constitutional formulation that it may have, is in its inward self a return to thorough formlessness. It does not matter that Augustus in Rome, and Huang Ti in China, Amasis in Egypt and Alp Arslan in Baghdad disguised their position under antique forms. the spirit of these forms was dead, and so all institutions, however carefully maintained, were thenceforth destitute of all meaning and weight. Real importance centred in the wholly personal power exercised by the Caesar...
{281]With the formed state having finished its course, high history also lays itself down weary to sleep. Man becomes a plant again adhering to the soil, dumb and enduring. The timeless village and the "eternal" peasant reappear, begetting children and burying seed in Mother Earth.. Men live from hand to mouth, with petty thrifts and petty fortunes and endure...""

Friday, October 03, 2008

Morgan, as in JP Morgan

Holy credit default swaps batman:

"""They're called "Off-Site Weekends"—rituals of the high-finance world in which teams of bankers gather someplace sunny to blow off steam and celebrate their successes as Masters of the Universe. Think yacht parties, bikini models, $1,000 bottles of Cristal. One 1994 trip by a group of JPMorgan bankers to the tony Boca Raton Resort & Club in Florida has become the stuff of Wall Street legend—though not for the raucous partying (although there was plenty of that, too). Holed up for most of the weekend in a conference room at the pink, Spanish-style resort, the JPMorgan bankers were trying to get their heads around a question as old as banking itself: how do you mitigate your risk when you loan money to someone? By the mid-'90s, JPMorgan's books were loaded with tens of billions of dollars in loans to corporations and foreign governments, and by federal law it had to keep huge amounts of capital in reserve in case any of them went bad. But what if JPMorgan could create a device that would protect it if those loans defaulted, and free up that capital?

What the bankers hit on was a sort of insurance policy: a third party would assume the risk of the debt going sour, and in exchange would receive regular payments from the bank, similar to insurance premiums. JPMorgan would then get to remove the risk from its books and free up the reserves. The scheme was called a "credit default swap," and it was a twist on something bankers had been doing for a while to hedge against fluctuations in interest rates and commodity prices. While the concept had been floating around the markets for a couple of years, JPMorgan was the first bank to make a big bet on credit default swaps. It built up a "swaps" desk in the mid-'90s and hired young math and science grads from schools like MIT and Cambridge to create a market for the complex instruments. Within a few years, the credit default swap (CDS) became the hot financial instrument, the safest way to parse out risk while maintaining a steady return. "I've known people who worked on the Manhattan Project," says Mark Brickell, who at the time was a 40-year-old managing director at JPMorgan. "And for those of us on that trip, there was the same kind of feeling of being present at the creation of something incredibly important.....""""""

Verstehen zee das? Gut.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Alex Cockburn on the fall of Neo-liberalism

Alex Cockburn lays the blame for the lending/finance crisis on the bipartisan-backed move to de-regulation, and on Phil Gramm (as I have suggested for the last week or so). Bill Clinton, however, signed off on ALL of it. Cockburn can be fairly offensive and hotheaded on occasion, but he wields a fairly wicked Maratian plume:

"....And if you want to identify symbolic figures in the legislated career of deregulation, there are no more resplendent culprits than the man at McCain’s elbow, Phil Gramm, and the man standing at Obama’s elbow at his press conference, Robert Rubin.

Take Gramm first.

In 1999 John McCain’s friend and now his closest economic counselor, then a senator from Texas, was the prime Republican force pushing through the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act. It repealed the old Glass-Steagall Act, passed in the Great Depression, which prohibited a commercial bank from being in the investment and insurance business. President Bill Clinton cheerfully signed it into law.

A year later Gramm, chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, attached a 262-page amendment to an omnibus appropriations bill, voted on by Congress right before a recess. The amendment received no scrutiny and duly became the Commodity Futures Modernization Act which okayed deregulation of investment banks, exempting most over the counter derivatives, credit derivatives, credit defaults, and swaps from regulatory scrutiny. Thus were born the scams that produced the debacle of Enron, a company on whose board sat Gramm’s wife Wendy. She had served on the Commodity Futures Trading Commission from 1983 to 1993 and devised many of the rules coded into law by her husband in 2000.

Somewhat stained by the Enron debacle Gramm quit the senate in 2002 and began to enjoy the fruits of his own deregulatory efforts. He became a vice chairman of the giant Swiss bank UBS’ new investment arm in the US, lobbying Congress, the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department about banking and mortgage issues in 2005 and 2006, urging Congress to roll back strong state rules trying to crimp the predatory tactics of the subprime mortgage industry. UBS took a bath of about $20 billion in write offs from bad real estate loans this year.""

Gramm's the real Richard III of the lending/finance/GSE scam, though Clinton may be just as responsible, given his rubber-stamping of the GOP/Gramm schemes. At the same time, the loan sharks and underwriters themselves (whether corp., or cowtown) should also be held accountable, certainly from a business standpoint. A Gramm or Dodd or Barney Mac did not sign the notes: JP Morgan/AIG/G-Sach/Wachovia does.


Trials and Tribulations (Obama on Bailout).

Obama shows his Demopublican colors (the link to Obama's words via a Fox article implies neither support for GOP or McCaint-- or Fox-- except to DyslexiCrats):

“Democrats and Republicans, step up to the plate. Get it done,” Obama said, addressing his remarks to lawmakers in Washington. “And understand even as you get it done to stabilize the markets, we have more work to do to make sure that Main Street is getting the same kind of help that Wall Street is getting.”

Obama was 40 minutes late taking the stage, telling the crowd he’d been talking with Treasury Secretary Paulson and Speaker Pelosi following the bill’s defeat. “They are still trying to work through this rescue package. And obviously this is a very difficult thing to do. It’s difficult because we shouldn’t have gotten here in the first place,” he said.

“Democratic and Republican leaders have agreed, but members have not yet agreed. And there are going to be some bumps and trials and tribulations and ups and downs before we get this rescue package done,” Obama said. “It’s important for the American public and for the markets to stay calm because things are never smooth in Congress, and to understand that it will get done.”

Obama the insider, like his mentor Bill Clinton, apparently has no problem affirming the Bush-led bailout (McCaint also approves) and working alongside America's financial elite, though, yes, he does anticipate "trials and tribulations". (nothin' like a quote from the Book of Revelation to inspire the masses. Brutha be representin', y'all).

Obamaites often repeat the Accountability mantra of the PC left, not without some reason: BushCo should be held accountable, at least for IWE. Accountability would, presumably, also apply to economics and financial dealings. The New Deal legislation addressed to banking and speculation--the Glass Steagall Act, FHA, Fannie Mae, FDIC, etc.-- upheld the principle of Accountability as well, arguably. The GOP worked for years to overturn that legislation; it was Nixon who signed into effect FHLMC aka Freddie Mac, which privatized the older FanMae.

With De-regocrat Bill Clinton at the helm, the Gramm/Gingrich led GOP finally managed to overturn the New Deal regs completely, thereby allowing the JP Morgans, AIGs and G-Sachs to convert Americans' mortgage and retirement savings into a fat stack of chips to be used at the speculator’s poker table. Given his support of Bush/Paulsen's corporate welfare plan, Mr. Obama has himself, at least implicitly, pulled up a chair at the speculator's table. (DFV).

While Mike Whitney doesn't quite match Prez-elect BO in terms of biblical invocation (or Comrade Cockburn's invective) Whitney believes the US "is headed into its worst recession in 60 years":

"Indeed, the $700 billion is just part of a massive "pump and dump" scheme engineered with the tacit approval of the US Treasury and the Federal Reserve. Once the banksters have offloaded their fraudulent securities and crappy paper on Uncle Sam, they will do whatever they need to do pad the bottom line and drive their stocks up. That means they will shovel capital into hard assets, foreign currencies, gold, interest rate swaps, carry trade swindles, and Swiss bank accounts. The notion that they will recapitalize so they can provide loans to US consumers and businesses in a slumping economy is a pipedream.

The US is headed into its worst recession in 60 years. The housing market is crashing, securitization is kaput, and the broader economy is drifting towards the reef. The banks are not going to waste their time trying to revive a moribund US market where consumers and businesses are already tapped out. No way; it's on to greener pastures. They'll move their capital wherever they think they can maximize their profits. In fact, a sizable portion of the $700 billion will likely be invested in commodities, which means that we'll see another round of hyperbolic speculation in food and energy futures pushing food and fuel prices into the stratosphere. Ironically, the taxpayers’ largesse will be used against them, making a bad situation even worse."

Yikes. Paranoia as Praxis. Whitney makes one important point: investment and speculation has some relation to the "real economy" of jobs and production (Samuelson's words), usually a negative relation for middle and lower class citizens (the great depression itself evidence of that relation). In effect the provisions of the bailout allow for a few dozen boxcars' worth of chips (700 billion dollars worth) to be doled out to the state-sponsored gamblers at the commodity casino, and Whitney believes that "means that we'll see another round of hyperbolic speculation in food and energy futures pushing food and fuel prices into the stratosphere." Es posible.
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