Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Are there rational grounds for religious belief? (various skeptical musings)

There's no point in arguing with those who assume that a religious perspective is justifiable by dogma--the mere presence of Scripture. Those who believe the dogma may be justified rationally (as the jesuits used to assert) must, on the other hand, overcome various Theology 101 chestnuts: the problem of evil, claims of immateriality (i.e. a Soul), status of other faiths, Scriptural fallibility (i.e. Scripture vs. Team Darwin) and the basic epistemological issue of why anyone should accept any religion as a true account of reality, rather than say a commnon-sense physico-logico account.

That may be unsubtle, and not very appealing to those who work for Christendom Inc., but many theists continually assume that those issues have been settled in their favor, when of course they haven't been.

Kant himself rejected the classical arguments for a deity (tho' his comments on the Design argument are interesting, and rather relevant, given the Dawkins hype), and there are I think far more philosophers and scientists arranged on the skeptic side (e..g, that there are no convincing, rational grounds for religious truth, or for an omniscient and just God) then there are rational theists. There does not seem to be a shortage of irrational theists however.

* * *

Is the existence of miracles used to confirm the truth of Scripture? If it is, then obviously other religions and cults claim miraculous events so the mere presence of claims that a miracle occurred doesn't really prove anything: that water was instantly converted to wine is about like saying the Buddha levitated. The catholic church routinely confirms miracles, yet as Chris Hitchens (yeah he's a callous mother-f-er on occasion) pointed out in a great essay on Mother Theresa's death, the confirmation is in no way scientific or objective: it's usually based on flimsy, anecdotal evidence (and an incredibly sentimental process as well). It may be thought such claims of miracles are amusing or charming, but as Hitchens points out, the belief in miracles acutally does great damage to rationality as a whole.

I shall let Mr. Hitchens speak for himself (and for rationality), since he does it much better than I:

"Those of us who are against miraculous claims for the more obvious reasons--that the laws of nature do not respond to petitions and that what can be asserted without proof can be dismissed without proof--have a tendency to forget that this vulgarity and hysteria also increases the sum of misery on Earth, without at all diminishing it in the false promise of the afterlife."

Additionally, most supposed miracles are rather trivial, when you think about it: campesinos don't need to see The Virgin of Guadalupe , they need dinero, trabajo,----panocha.........

* * *

Quote (from Christian blogger):

"in order to do that without actually investigating each miracle- or religious experience-claim, you'd need to give arguments for why we shouldn't believe in miracles or see religious experience as evidentially weighty"

In other words, prove to you that pigs don't fly. I have never seen a flying pig in person or photos. I don't know anyone who has, and never read any history indicating that pigs do fly. I did see a drawing of one with wings on a website. But it was not flying.

You are right, though to some degree: all the laws and rules of physical science could be overturned tomorrow and pigs might fly, just as Hume said tomorrow his billiard table might obey different physical laws--I would agree there is no logically necessary reason why physical laws could not be overturned. But I'd wager the probability of the pig flying (or billard balls flying backwards after the break of the table) is about the same as Jesus out strolling on the waves or the Virgin of Guadalupe making her annual appearance in the reflection of some campesino's windshield or whatever. Bayes theorem shows this too: each day a miracle has not been confirmed increases the unlikeliness of the original anomaly having occurred.

Mystical experiences are another thing. We here at Contingencies don't doubt many people have those experiences, but they in no way demonstrate or confirm theological concepts. Recently some experiments have shown that the mental state produced by monks and nuns meditating or praying can be electrically stimulated in various brain lobes. So what was thought to be a calm "oneness with god" or satori was in fact some biochemical process in the corpus callosum.

* * *
Ivan in Dostoyevsky’s Brother Karamazov doesn’t believe in God, or rather, if He does exist, He must be opposed. Ivan (who I think we can imagine has read some Voltaire [as had Jefferson] and other French or English skeptics and scientists) claims, if such a “God” existed, He allows wars, Napoleons, plagues, all sorts of injustices anyways: so He kills the innocent, while commanding us not to do it. And by definition God would both have commanded the deaths of innocents and known about it, programmed it in a sense. Ivan thus rejects “God” (Nietzsche also enjoyed reading some FD). I don’t think he suggests that everything is permissable, merely that theological concepts of justice are absurd. (Of course some nut like Kierkegaard chooses to believe anyways, as do most fundies and catholics: tsunami wipes 300,000 people off the earth {a disaster at least 10 times that of the Lisbon quake of Arouet's era), and the fundies march to Church and say it was a sign of Gott).

Monday, July 30, 2007

Fallacies and sophomoric irony (courtesy of a DU Emo-Crat)

"I am typical of those who get all of their information from the mainstream media, and news networks like CNN and FOX-News."

Who obtains all their info. from those sources, Ms. Athena of DU? Some evidence might be useful, or at least specific targets. That's a sweeping generalization, as well as straw man fallacy (create this imaginary "conservative," and then shoot him down. There are such creatures--so why not instead use a real conservative as a target? Like Al Gore, supporter of NRA, capitalist, anti-union, and abortion opponent (at least for a few years).

Sehr schoen slidin'

(Vinnie M., Ace)

I know that we must stay in Iraq until we win. I have never heard an explanation of exactly what winning is, but I was probably just out of the room the times it’s been explained.

I know that things are going well in Iraq because the president says so, and he’s in a position to know better than anyone

This does not quite reach the average high school junior's attempt at wit or satire. Perhaps she's describing someone she knows, her family or something. Not only another straw man fallacy (who is this person?), but inept. None of these wannabe-Voltaires have ever bothered even with the cliffsnotes to Candide. Not only that, begs the question of what the consequences of pulling out of Iraq will be. It's hardly a slam-dunk that pulling out will result in instant peace for those phunn-loving Iraqi shiietes and sunnis. So it's more unfounded ideology done via crude rhetorical manipulation, a sort of caricature of conservativism (it's debatable whether the "Redneck Conservative" from central casting who liberals love to attack really embodies true conservatism--. Giuliani ain't Fred Thompson, and vice versa. And however f-ed Giuliani may be, he's taken on organized crime to some extent. And he realizes the dangers of muslim hysteria. Maybe Rudy could RICO DU).

"I know that the oil companies have our best interests at heart, and will put their astoundingly high profits to good use for the betterment of all Americans. If that wasn’t the case, they wouldn’t waste all that money on commercials to tell us so."

This is a bit closer to something like political satire, but still broad and unspecified. Point at some real targets: Petroleum execs, Exxon, etc. Or STFU.

"""""I know that the president and vice president have often been accused of doing things they are not allowed to do. But in every case, they have assured the nation that they checked, and found that they are perfectly within their rights to do anything they want to.""""""

Get a badge. They may have done horrible things, or maybe not. They were voted into office (and 2004 vote fraud accusations from Dems were shown to be unfounded) Had the demos not stood in the way of some Naderian-like communication reforms for years, perhaps the BushCo boys would have been kept on a wire, and a lot of deceit would have been prevented. Come to think, keeping the Feinsteinian right on a wire may not be such a bad idea either.

""""I know that Alberto Gonzales is an honest, trustworthy man, because he wouldn’t have made it all the way to being the Attorney General if he wasn’t. I cannot explain why his testimony on any number of topics has been contradicted over and over – sometimes by others, sometimes by way of documents, and sometimes by his own words – but I am sure it is simply the result of his political enemies trying to make him look bad."""

See the above comment, and perhaps read up on the Wash. St. election of 2004, illegal immigration, and a bit on the Rothchilds........

""""I know that our elections are fair and honest, because if they weren’t, that big a news story would be all over the TV.""""

You got a point there. Like those suspicious elections in El Lay, when ex-communist Jefe Villagarosa mysteriously went to victory in many middle and upper-class caucasian neighborhoods. More obvious simplifications, guilt by insinuation. About like some 3rd rate Bolshevik hack of the 1920s ranting about the bourgeois.

"""""I know that all Muslims are potential terrorists and should be watched closely – even those who are American citizens. Just because they have lived here for generations does not place them above suspicion, unlike white Christians who are incapable of fanaticism in the name of religion.""""""

Whoa. Now you must be quoting your relatives out in the swamps of Louisiana or something. Straw man, continued. And of course more BS Emo-crat ideology (that muslims are not terrorists: hah. tell that to some New Yorkers living around the WTC---what used to be known as the WTC).

"""""I know that Barack Obama should never be elected president because his middle name is Hussein, which in and of itself indicates that he is not to be trusted."""""

Jefferson might agree with that, Daisy Mae.


"""""I know that no matter how bad things seem to be in our great nation, things are actually going just great because if they weren’t, TV news personalities wouldn’t be as perky and chipper as they always are.

But mostly I know that when someone tries to tell me that there are facts on the internet that don’t get covered by the mainstream media, they are just trying to confuse me – and I am never going to allow myself to be confused by the facts.""""""

That's rather amusing, since "liberals" (in name only, really) own and control most mainstream media, such as CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, PBS, most cable. Fox IS a joke; but then so is ABC. CBS is more or less part of Rothschilds, Inc. Either way, more ideology by suggestion: the totalitarian's method (as Orwell, no fan of agit-prop of links oder rechts, himself realized). Now try say Candide 10 times, a bit of Swift, Bierce, Twain, and Orwell, and start over.........................
O Jay-Bird Galbraith

Some bon-mots from a real progressive (rather than phony ass, biblethumper closet-case "liberal", who mistakes effective plagiarism for writing)

"Under capitalism, man exploits man. Under communism, it's just the opposite."

"The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness." (sounds like a description of the WebMcMeister of LSD Worlds)

"It is a well known and very important fact that America's founding fathers did not like taxation without representation. It is a lesser known and equally important fact that they did not much like taxation with representation."

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Righteous Indignation 101

Debra Bowen, ChairGal of the CA Election biz, hires some UC Davis geeks to benchmark, er, bench-hack her voting gear. But she makes it easy: she provides them with the source codes and manuals. They do succeed in cracking some e-vote machines. Wow. Even the hacker-hobbyist could more than likely alter or destroy the box, given the source code. Nonetheless Bowen's predictable PC rage against the Diebold SS earns front page coverage in the SF Cthulicle (googlestein it)

"""""Letting the hackers have the source codes, operating manuals and unlimited access to the voting machines "is like giving a burglar the keys to your house,'' said Steve Weir, clerk-recorder of Contra Costa County and head of the state Association of Clerks and Election Officials. """""

AS Weir realizes, Bowen's lightweight righteous indignation means little or nothing. Normal citizens do not have access to the source code. Even would-be hackers (unlikely that they are hanging out at the GOP country club) don't have access to the source code. Only some UC Davis state-funded hacker-lites had access to the source code (and the guys who wrote the code for the voting machines). Solution? Keep the Diebold and Sequoia, etc. programmers and admins on a wire each election.

I'm sure right-wing ideologues and devotees of monarchism everywhere will scoff....but this logically concludes the controversy over election fraud in 2000 and 2004.

IT doesn't "conclude" scheisse, Quack-Ron: a possibility, even a probability that some network was somewhat "hackable" (by some state-sanctioned geeks with user manuals) does not imply it WAS hacked, or that some rightwing idiots hacked it. DreckRon couldn't distinguish a valid argument from his vanilla-chronic, or Modus Ponens from his mama, nor does he realize that logical conclusions follow necessarily from true premises (or at least premises assumed to be true), not from conjectures--not that that ever stops scum of left and right from lying. (Given this person's incessant Scientology-like rants and irrationalism, he's probably doing some safe moderate attacks on rightist extremists on one site, and then on another chiming in with Romney supporters, and will probably wear his tie-dye to the booths when he votes for Mitt the Mormon Family Guy).

While some GOPers may have hacked the vote (unlikely), Dems may have as well. In CA there were a few accusations of vote tampering with Feinstein's victory (Bowen is a pal of DiFi as well, Demonius). Not only that, GOP registration was at least 5% more than Dems in Ohio 2004; official exit polls (ie CNN) had Bush ahead as predicted. The 2004 presidential votes closely correlated with party registration--and that's a more reliable indicator than pre-vote or exit polls (had there been a large discrepancy, the vote-conspiracy nuts might have had a case). A few unofficial exit tests (ie, conducted by the Peoples' Front of Toledo, uh Toledoian Peoples' Front)--showed Kerry ahead. Funny the DNC itself did not press the issue. (Maybe Quack-Ron, Hercules of DU, might gather all of his favorite SF Gate articles written by his favorite shrieking marxist hag, find some Fed shyster, and try to take his accusations of vote fraud to Court-Stein, and see how quickly his PC belches and guessing games hit the Dreck can).

Moreover, a significantly higher number of GOPers than Dems voted as well--that's a fact whether one likes it or not (some vote fraud in Florida may have occurred--Contingencies never claimed that BushCo were not corrupt---but the existing law prevented more than one official recount, and Gore got a recount, and still lost. The Court rejected additional recounts. And it was nearly all ballot voting, not e-votes).

Zogby himself and other liberal pollsters predicted a Bush win in Ohio 2004 with like 2% margin of error, and that's what it was, regardless of some conspiro-nut's infantile disorder fantasies. (amusing how most of the vote-fraud nuts also believe the 911 attacks were a conspiracy, which has been disproven numerous times. The NIST itself--continually updated by professional physicists, even non-conservative ones--debunked the 911 conspiro-claims).

You might be a totalitarian if you mistake your own subjective, emotion-based ideology for objective reason, notwithstanding your collection of Norma Rae videos.
The Politics of Sci-Fi


"""""The positions (Heinlein's characters) espouse are often justified by appeals to rationality (Heinlein is a rationalist supreme). Too often the radical freaks seem to lack rationality (perhaps they don’t understand it—too long a diet of non-sequiturs out of little red books maybe) and respond much more at the gut level, the level of feeling, a close attraction to the superficialities and surface gloss. I can find no other explanation for the vast popularity that Heinlein’s books enjoy among people who really should be burning and banning them. I’m not immune to it myself. I don’t know how many times I’ve read Starship Troopers. It swings. (It also sucks.) I hate and love the book at the same time (could that be the attraction of it?). I suspect that it may be the closest thing he has produced to a work of art. It seems to push so many buttons simultaneously in so many people that he must have stumbled on some universally applicable symbols to clothe his message in."""""

Yes, sir: "too long a diet of non-sequiturs"--that describes the usual American narcissist who takes the sci-fi of Heinlein as gospel, his Galaxiad. Some might question labelling RAH as "Rationalist," however. Starship Troopers was, at the very least, fascist-lite; and Dubois, assuming he is Heinlein speaking to some degree, offers endless Patton-like truisms--Nietzsche, RAH was not. But the writer overlooks the other problem with RAH-Speak: C'est tres sauvvage. It's not so much RAH's militaristic message (there are some interesting fascist writers, say Celine--), but his manner of presenting the message--. The diction rarely matches the sophistication of the prose of an average urban sportswriter. Mickey Spillane with a few derivatives: that's RAH. There may be a few interesting scientific allusions (not as many as some of the RAH-heads believe), but even then the science seems rather outdated and Newtonian. But yeah it's a free country, more or less. You're free to view Heinlein as the Lord Tennyson of space epics, or think J. P. Sousa to be the greatest musician who ever lived.

""""..... It was interestingly argued and a fun story, but opposition to the ideas was squashed by fiat—if Heinlein said it was true, then it was true. Full stop, no argument. That was unfair and infuriating, an underhand debating tactic. There were so many times that I wanted to take the hero’s History and Moral Philosophy teacher by the scruff of the neck and shake him that I often feared for my blood pressure when reading the book. Apoplexy rules. So I’d finish reading it and then immediately go and read Harry Harrison’s Bill, the Galactic Hero which is a wonderful satire on Starship Troopers and which never fails to make me laugh out loud. That always made me feel better.""""

We here at Contingencies agree: the clever comic strips of Harrison are themselves superior to Herr Heinlein's Nixonian schtick, his cyber-Caliban barks. AS are Vonnegut's day-glo montages (and Kurt, while not some visionary, never stumped for the hard-right), and many other "postmodernist" writers. But then a few decent histories of WWII--even Shirer's pulp masterpiece, the Rise and Fall of the Third Reich--reduce nearly all fiction, sci-fi or trad., to meaninglessness.

Friday, July 27, 2007

"Patriotism: the last refuge of a scoundrel" (Dr. Johnson)

You might be a closet-case, right-wing, American nationalist... ....if you consider RA Heinlein a great writer. Though a few confused Sergeant Stoners invoke Heinlein on occasion (when they need to whip up some cheap jingoistic emotion), they generally overlook the fact--or maybe they don't mind---that Heinlein was a pal of L-Ron Hubbard, a hawk on Vietnam, and pro-Reagan (review RAH's fairly rabid Annapolis speech from '72-'73, for some of the real-life RAH, rather than his fictional alter-egos). His writing, while occasionally entertaining (Job offered a few yuks), hardly ranks with the best sci-fi writing, such as PK Dick (Heinlein never could have written "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep", or Osiris forbid, A Scanner Darkly, VALIS, etc.), or the subtle surreal sci-fi of JG Ballard, or the dizzying, entropic visions of a Pynchon, or the cyberpunks such as Gibson and Sterling. Kurt Vonnegut produced quite a bit more inventive writing--and more politically relevant writing-- than did the odd Mr. RAH. That said, fiction--traditional, sci-fi, or otherwise--however eloquently written (tho' Heinlein was hardly eloquent), is not true: Bertrand Russell was fond of reminding the literary set of that fact (imagine a Russellian who demands that any would-be fictioneer first define what a sentence is {or subject/predicate} before beginning into his Magnum Hopeless--and then offer his reasons for writing in modern Anglo-saxon instead of Deutsch or Latin, or mandarin.........).

RAH's claims to scientific knowledge are themselves debatable: RAH was a navy man for a while and attended a semester or two of mathematics at UCLA. Einstein or Hilbert or Oppenheimer he was not: really he's sort of a leaner, meaner L-Ron (and mostly a charlatan, like L-Ron)), if not Ayn Rand for dyslexic John Birchers-on-drugs. Precious Bodily fluids! (Herr RAH was also a pal of ex-nazi and NASA rocket man, Werner Von Braun). Not even so "libertarian" (whatever that term actually defines), but more Nixonian secularist (and rather crass social Darwinist, like L-Ron)--if not to the right of Nixon. His prose rarely rises above the level of 3rd rate screenwriters (Time Enough for Love sort of 3rd rate Nietzsche), and really Starship Troopers (itself nearly a fascist anthem) was only partially redeemed when adapted to a film.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Racially-motivated Gonzales bashing.

AG Gonzales may be a corrupt, underhanded lackey of the Bush Administration, or he may not be. Without any acquaintance with the real facts of the case, most Americans out in the Blog-stadium are not at all qualified to offer an assessment of his guilt or innocence (and the Krip-o-crat generally overlooks the fact that her sacred Due Process rights (you're gonna see Due Process, soon Crip-Ron) apply even to the dreaded GOP foes). At any rate, AG Gonzales had the power to terminate attorneys, as Janet Reno did. Gonzo claims the terminations were performance-based, and in at least one case---the Washington St. DOJ boy, McCay--he may have been correct. McCay was presented with evidence of vote tampering---on the part of Democrats! shocking (there was evidence of vote fraud on the part of Demos in El Lay as well when Jefe Villaigarosa went to victory)---in the 2004 Washington St. election, which went to recount. McCay let it go, over the protests of many, including some non-republicans, and Christine Gregoire, DNC-o-Crat Senator went to Washington town (with about 100 votes, after 3 recounts).

Many democrats seem to be obsessed with a shallow sort of marxist-lite (if not a sort of liberal Calvinism) view of politics, where Good is identified with the "proletariat" (modern leftist-proles now include a whole lot of academics (or corporate professionals); Marx, however phucked-up, on the other hand, considered academics and educators bourgeois), and Evil with ye olde bourgeois (Keynes thought Marxist "class struggle" to be one of the pernicious intellectual errors ever---): US vs. Them.

OF course the modern classes of "Us" and "Them" are provisional, and never really defined (and ripped off from a silly, old stoner anthem that some of the pre-psychotic Fraud-o-crats take for real music). Par-tay regs (read, Kossack rant regulars) toss anyone who objects slightly to a Demo guru into the Them can. Someone who reminds Kossack-lemmings that Hillary and Pelosi signed off on the War and Pat. Act, or that Dianne Feinstein is as fond of police-state politics as most dixie conservatives are, or who objects to some Demo pundit who routinely bends the truth to suit his purposes, like Sy the Liar Hersh, ends up in the Them can. Noam Chomsky, hardly some moderate (and confused on many issues), has even been termed Them, as has an old red like Alex Cockburn (he and his pals at Counterpunch offer a few libertarian-left thoughts once in a while), who simply points out the idiocies and poor research of Gore and the 911 conspiracy 'bots.

Similarly, anyone who questions the hysteria of the anti-Gonzales crowd earns a "Them" stamp. How do you know he did anything wrong asks some skeptic. He lied, shriek the DNC-o-crats. Of course all their info. comes from Democratic media pundits as well (notoriously anti-hispanic, and anti-catholic) like the hacks of WaPo. Most of the KossBots seem to think that their favorite Marat of the moment had a wire tap in the AG's office itself. Or they just follow Sy Hersh's lead and make shit up. Either way, had DNC-o-Crats listened to some intelligent 3rd party types years, if not decades ago (say Nader, however buffoonish), they might have implemented some political-communication reforms (ala the FOIAperhaps), and kept the Dem-publicans (and the Black Robe posse--funny how attention has shifted from Scalia's gang to Gonzo--Scalia's a far more sinister figure)) on a wire 24/7, and thus have prevented a great deal of guesswork and the endless Clue game.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Muslim support for Obama

Muslims are rallying for B.O. (Boy Obama):

"""As Salaam Alaikum, (The Peace of God Be Upon You) and welcome to Muslim Americans for Obama '08.

Also prominently featured on the site is an endorsement from Muslim Congressman Keith Ellison, who recently drew a comparison between Hitler and Bush (BushCo may be corrupt, but there's hardly been any Kristallnacht), and who took his oath of office on a Quran. (Hitchens penned an amusing essay on Ellison's bizarre, and possibly seditionist oath)

Keith Ellison endorsed the 2008 presidential campaign of Sen. Obama saying, "He speaks with a unifying spirit."

You have problems with fundamentalists and Mormons, consider the clowns, like Ellison, and at least by implication Obomba (who accepted the endorsement from Ellison) who view the Koran as some profound statement of political ideology---(and as even Carl Sagan realized, the muslim tradition is chock-full of irrationality). And any crack-smoking, white-trash do-gooders who support the likes of Obama will be _________________.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

(nearly authentic, unlike you)
Mitt the MormBot

The mysteries associated with the Book of Mormon and the history of the Church of LDS itself should, it seems fairly safe to bark, irritate anyone who values the secular principles of Founding Crackers. (Which is to say, if they don't, then you don't value those said principles. Jefferson himself had penned articles criticizing the near-madness of religious "enthusiasts" such as Joe Smith). Not only are there the very odd circumstances of Smith's supposed revelation (including the plates, and supernatural "creatures" that delivered the plates), there is the text itself, which most objective humans will soon realize is the Old Testament plagiarized, with some name changes, and made even stranger and more irrational than the original, as Twain realized (the brutal and rather absurd history of Mormonism in the Western USA reads not like Twain's polite cynicism, but akin to the bad trip sections of a Pynchon novel). One LDS doctrine suggests that the pious Mormon Big Daddy (and even some Democratic xtian Big Daddies--readers of OS Card's pulp-- like Mormons too!) earns a planet or something apres-mort, and he then sort of populates it with his holy Mormal concubines, until his next incarnation. Brigham Young in Space. Yay.

Mitt Bucks

Mitt Romney, America's favorite MormMan, is not only a Mormon however: he's a Scientologist! He admires L-Ron, the hippest crypto-nazi guru since like Crowley. As a good Mormon-Scientologist Prez Mitt will hopefully reveal the Secrets of the Sacred Plates, and the Truth of the HOLY NEWTS OF Fiery FLAME, that er carried the plates from God and Jeee-suss to Joe Smith one afternoon in Ohio or whereever, AND maybe share some secrets of those whacky Appliantologists (could Mitt's pending election be.............related to the arrival of BOB?). Then, once we have eliminated the pagan hordes, each Man shall have his own tribe, and then his own planet populated by his own personal harem of obedient Mormon-Maids/Seed-receptacles. Praise Moroni!

Mitt's not your ordinary republican MormMan, however---he's rather fond of wearing some rouge and mascara, for one.


Isn't that verboten per the Book of Mormon, if not Screeepture? Thou shalt not at any time cross-dress, or something.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Gospel musick

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Al Cockburn on Al Gore's flim-flam environmentalism

"""""".....There is still zero empirical evidence that anthropogenic production of CO2 is making any measurable contribution to the world's present warming trend. The greenhouse fearmongers rely entirely on unverified, crudely oversimplified computer models to finger mankind's sinful contribution. Devoid of any sustaining scientific basis, carbon trafficking is powered by guilt, credulity, cynicism and greed, just like the old indulgences, though at least the latter produced beautiful monuments. By the sixteenth century, long after the world had sailed safely through the end of the first millennium, Pope Leo X financed the reconstruction of St. Peter's Basilica by offering a "plenary" indulgence, guaranteed to release a soul from purgatory."""""

Hah. Even an old-school marxist journalist such as Cockburn (with a few scientist-stringers, of course) outdoes the Gorean faithful when he puts his noggin to it. Comrade Cockburn's rants are an acquired taste, and he IS rather misguided on many things, but better some fairly honest, data-driven leftism--- even if misguided on occasion--- than suburban, PC liberal- emotivists.

EL Pollo Gore-Do may not be the worst person in American politics (compared to say a MittBot Romney, or Bushco, or even Hillarity, Gore's pretty benign), but Chairman Al does seem rather fond of alarming people with all sorts of bogus research (however in fairness to the greenhousers, there are some who dispute Cockburn's dismissals). Moreover, as Cockburn realizes, the greenhousers' scare tactics are often a type of deception: politics is not only defined by the "climate crisis" (perhaps some greens might recall the record profits posted by Exxon and other petroleum giants over the last few years: that's a crisis as well, as is, well, theocracy, whether xtian, muslims, or jew). At the very least, claims regarding human-caused global warming should be not be accepted as fact (or, Osiris forbid, dogma of the Church of Gore) until all the facts are in (and the IPCC has itself not reached a consensus--a point which Cockburn addresses in a more recent essay). Either way, we here at Contingencies doubt that Gore-do, a half-assed journalist before joining the American political carnival, knows photosynthesis (which, btw, accounts for most CO2 emissions, hepcats) from his favorite tofu-fajitas recipe.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Orwell on the motivations of pacifists

"The majority of pacifists either belong to obscure religious sects or are simply humanitarians who object to taking life and prefer not to follow their thoughts beyond that point. But there is a minority of intellectual pacifists, whose real though unacknowledged motive appears to be hatred of western democracy and admiration for totalitarianism. Pacifist propaganda usually boils down to saying that one side is as bad as the other, but if one looks closely at the writing of the younger intellectual pacifists, one finds that they do not by any means express impartial disapproval but are directed almost entirely against Britain and the United States …"

(from Orwell's Notes on Nationalism).

Das Stimmt, Mr. Orwell. The Pacifist may overtly claim to be opposing war in general, but he's all-too-often assisting the other side by his kvetching and resistance, or possibly (as Orwell suggests) he wishes to implement--re-implement, as it were--the great Marxist state (and of course obtain for himself a Par-tay membership). In regards to the current police action against the Islamofascists, most of the granola-muncher leftists realize that anything which lessens the power of the US military (like supporting Hillari or Obomba) increases the likelihood of the success of the pacifist's real statist agenda (and rest assured that there are few if no Islamic pacifists). That said, it's a fairly safe bet that Orwell, while objecting to the current variety of statist Emo-crats, would have felt little love for the theocratic and corporate-oriented US conservatives (which is to say, Orwell would not mince words with some bag of shit like Larry Ellison).

Mr. Orwell, similar to Nietzsche in some regards, was one of those UnAffiliated semi-geniuses whose ideas don't fit neatly into current political categories; those sentimental DNC-o-crats who enjoy trading on his name, or plagiarizing his ideas, generally don't know Winston Smith from Smith & Wesson, or Catalonia from Catatonia: “Ignorance is Strength!”(given his experience in the Spanish civil war, Orwell was well aware of rats, whether links oder recht). Thankfully, Orwell (or shall we say Eric Blair) recognized his literary betters as well, such as Jonathan Swift: " It is “your Natives” (i.e. Gulliver’s fellow-countrymen) whom the King of Brobdingnag considers to be “the most pernicious Race of little odious vermin that Nature ever suffered to crawl upon the surface of the Earth”, and the long passage at the end, denouncing colonization and foreign conquest, is plainly aimed at England, although the contrary is elaborately stated." Orwell--not to say Dean Swift-- would, most likely, sadly shake his head were he alive and watching the muslimification of England, or shall we say, the Yahoo-ification of political life. Of course most yankee yahoos have, unlike Mr. Blair, rarely bothered even with the savageries of SwiftSpeak, tho' some may have caught the tamed-down, "user-friendly" NBC version a few seasons ago. Orwell/Gulliver'sTravels

There are, to be sure, various Orwellian factions: Christopher Hitchens,who published a book on Orwell's writings, claims to be an ideological descendant of Orwell and Trotsky (and we here at Contingencies believe that he is, mostly--tho' HitchensSpeak generally a bit more posh than the somewhat wooden--but effective-- prose of G.O.)--on the other hand, mystery man Thomas Pynchon, who recently penned a pretty dread introduction to 1984, also reveals some Orwellian aspects on occasion (see Vineland for starters, an entertaining if mad, labyrinthine, and gloomy tale (TP hisself might have done well to attend Conrad 101); Contingencies grants that Pynchonology may situate itself nearer to Trotskyism than Hitchens' writings doth-- or Orwell's, for that matter--read the phreak and find out, fan-boy). Those who have perused a few of Hitchens' diatribes soon realize, however, that his real master is not Leonovitch T., or even Eric Blair (sort of the stoner's Conrad), but none other than David Hume.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Bach prelude 2, WTC

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Marx's Labor Theory of Value for Kicks

Labor-time does not equal value in terms of wages or production price, according to Marx; he asserts that prices-–under capitalism, of course–-including wages, do not match the actual value of the labor required to produce the item/good/commodity. Mark-up, profits, and the supply-demand factors (monopoly, gluts, scarcity, consumption as a whole, etc.) compound the problem. Additionally Marx himself admits (reviewing some of the material--count me as one who thinks Capital needed like some severe editing) that he has no rough and ready conversion tables, or exchange rules, for the labor-commodity, which seems a bit strange, since he insists workers are always shorted by management/owners; he seems to rely on some objective labor-value, without being able to specify what that is, or how it is precisely measured. Thus, he seems to undermine his own argument: however, there's evidence showing that executive salaries have soared over the last few decades, while the average worker's wage has not kept pace (so is that a matter strictly of economics, or efficiency, or some putative labor-management equilibrium, Doktor Marx? or perhaps something like distributive ethics (tho' distributive ethics has nothing to do with the crypto-monarchism of some pathetic sentimental eco-phuck like Al Gore...........).

There are other problems with the LTV. Gold has a great exchange value, but that is not the end of the story, and its value is hardly measurable in labor hours (i.e Jed stumbles upon a nugget out in the hills–no real work required). That is perhaps obvious as well, but gold’s value (historically as well) really is not simply a matter of it being difficult and costly in labor hours to mine, but has something to do with status, prestige, Power…………….



Use/exchange value

Marx usually avoids "normativity": he does not prescribe; he describes. And like other economists, he has a problem defining, or quantifying, shall we say, utility, and its relation to consumption, or even supply and demand. Water and food–pure use value, right– could be far more valuable than diamonds in many “real world” situations (a drought, or war, riot, etc). Yet in a stable market, obviously the diamond’s exchange value far exceeds that of necessaries such as water.

By commodification he generally means mass production of goods (which have use value, and sometimes exchange value as well–as with precious metals), does he not; or commodification as sort of a phenomena of free-market, industrial capitalism. So commodification, supported by capital (and by labor) may result in various market imbalances –gluts, scarcity, over-under pricing, etc.–sometimes to the benefit of the owners, but not always.

An essential aspect of Marxism, then, concerns how items/goods/resources which have high use value–foods, fuels, textiles, lumber, etc.–become commodities, along with the items which have only exchange value–jewels, and really money itself, and what that mass production depends upon, or requires in terms of labor–the exploitation “factor” then somewhat provisional (tho' orthodox marxists might take issue with that). He is still somewhat mercantilist–even contracturalist— in the sense of suggesting that a society based on the exchange of “use value” items–items produced/grown/manufactured by the laborer/owner himself–would be preferable to that of the mass production/industry of capitalism. But instead of the pastoral dreams of a Jeffersonian contracturalist (even one who might agree to the elimination of finance/banking), Marx would have the State manage those contracts, and that’s where any self-respecting anarchist should reach for his revolver………….

Marxism and the State

From Marx’s notes to English workers:

“….leaving aside the so-called “rights” of property, I assert that the economical development of society, the increase and concentration of people, the very circumstances that compel the capitalist farmer to apply to agriculture collective and organised labour, and to have recourse to machinery and similar contrivances, will more and more render the nationalisation of land a “Social Necessity”, against which no amount of talk about the rights of property can be of any avail. The imperative wants of society will and must be satisfied, changes dictated by social necessity will work their own way, and sooner or later adapt legislation to their interests.”"”


Lenin develops this idea in State and Revolution, making numerous references to M & E. I am not saying it’s prima facie incorrect, but at least call a spade a spade. Marx’s somewhat “agrarian” aspects are among the more cogent sections of his theories, if somewhat utopian.

A few sentences later:

“”National centralisation of the means of production will become the national basis of a society composed of associations of free and equal producers, carrying on the social business on a common and rational plan.”"

Centralization seems fairly close to what one might call statism–or maybe not. Marx offers his lengthy diagnosis of capitalism (from a historical and economic perspective), and then offers a cure. Neither diagnosis (the labor theory of value, really—which is not some immutable law) nor cure should be accepted as dogma, though I believe he was a better diagnostician than healer. Class struggle as dialectic itself presents all sorts of problems. And looking at value as defined strictly by the cost of production (iddn’t that orthodox marxism?) presents problems. Ditchdiggers work a lot harder than do civil engineers, yet most humans would say the guy working out the load bearing equations etc. does perform work, and really does something more valuable–even in “social” terms–than the guys collecting the stone (or refining it into steel, etc.) . How does one quantify the value of different types of work, whether intellectual or laboring? I’m not really sure, but making some assumption of the equality of all work (or workers) is not merely utopian, but naivete of the highest sort (I think Keynes thought that as well). Yes, take down the barons, the financiers, the aristocrats (or wannabe-aristocrat scum like George Martini), the theocratic frauds, executives, etc. but even in New Harmony, doctors should earn more than nurses; teachers more than custodians.

The quoted essay (and others) indicates that Marx was advocating the nationalization of the means of production, in regards to property, agriculture, manufacturing. I don’t think he’s thinking of stalinist 5 year plans, but it’s still a type of statism.

I’m not sure we are now chatting about diagnosis, or cure, however. A nasty statist bureaucracy co-exists with the corporate and financial powers in many parts of America, doesn’t it. Imagine a kinder, gentler Maoism where the Peoples work the fields for part of the day, and then a bit of factory or technical work, and later something like piano practice, etc… Of course that happens (if it happens at all) after churches have been burnt down, the great financiers, industrialists, technological barons are all arrested, etc. (tho’ not killed, but like given meds and sentenced to some pleasant re-education camps) and “marriage” has been made illegal, and womenfolk work alongside the menfolk. Si Se Puede! VIL himself wrote some interesting things on womens’ lib., and a requirement that females enter the workforce.


Labor as Cost of Production

Marx does not offer any magic formula for quantifying the cost of production, for converting various sorts of the labor-commodity into “real” value. So invoking Capital as authoritative misses the point: few “real” economists take the a labor theory of value seriously , at least as specified by Marx. 8 hours of making sofas = how many bags of potatoes, or apples, oats, or fuel, lumber, etc? What about 8 hours of writing java code, or writing in French? Who decides on the various exchanges (or wages, prices, bartering-rules), even in a socialist economy? Utility creeps in, at all stages. The labor theory of value in many cases seems correctly applied, but it is not a precisely defined equation or formula, nor is exploitation. At some point economic problems, problems of distribution, property, division of labor relate to something like “ethics.”

Socialists often seem to think that if workers merely take in higher wages (so that the mysterious labor-value equals what they are “supposed” to be paid–whatever that is—instead of the market wage/price), and are made owners (at least in part), then everything is cool, and the technostructure remains intact. The problem of defining “socially necessary” labor remains mostly untouched, nor is there any real substantive critique of corporations, finance, management, urbanity. A socialized or publicly-owned petroleum “business” might be better for the refinery workers than capitalist petroleum business, but it’s still a racket, destructive to the environment, requiring all sorts of skilled labor, technology etc. It seems a bit naive and reductionist to think that simply making the workers owners, or conversely, requiring management to do some labor, “fixes” things (and the marxist “fix” again usually begs certain ethical questions, however much some some comrades fancy those crypto-Hegelian abstractions of value, commodity, etc.). Perhaps others might experience certain Humean doubts as well while reading econometrics, whether traditional econ. or marxista—as in who the F. cares, even about some supposed equilibrium or efficiency. For some of us, just having a few bright progressives in the CA Assembly (or House, etc.) arguing for higher capital gains and property taxes would be a big step in the right direction; the worker’s paradise can wait.

Deutsch Uebung:

""""Erstens: da im folgenden Satz die „äußeren Mittel zur Befriedigung seiner Bedürfnisse“ oder „äußeren Güter“ sich verwandeln in „Dinge der Außenwelt“, so erhält dadurch das erste eingeschachtelte Verhältnis folgende Gestalt: der Mensch steht im Verhältnis zu Dingen der Außenwelt als Mittel zur Befriedigung seiner Bedürfnisse.

"""First, in the next sentence, the outer things that satisfy his needs, or outer goods, that transform into things in the outer-world, and obtains thereby the first ----??--- relation in the following form: men remain in relation to the things of the outer-world as a means of satisfying their needs...............""""" (phuck)

Aber die Menschen beginnen keineswegs damit, „in diesem theoretischen Verhältnis zu Dingen der Außenwelt zu stehen“. Sie fangen, wie jedes Tier, damit an, zu essen, zu trinken etc., also nicht in einem Verhältnis zu „stehen“, sondern sich aktiv zu verhalten, sich gewisser Dinge der Außenwelt zu bemächtigen durch die Tat, und so ihr Bedürfnis zu befriedigen. (Sie beginnen also mit der Produktion.) Durch die Wiederholung dieses Prozesses prägt sich die Eigenschaft dieser Dinge, ihre „Bedürfnisse zu befriedigen“, ihrem Hirn ein, die Menschen wie Tiere lernen auch „theoretisch“ die äußern Dinge, die zur Befriedigung ihrer Bedürfnisse dienen, vor allen andern unterscheiden. Auf gewissem Grad der Fortentwicklung, nachdem unterdes auch ihre Bedürfnisse und die Tätigkeiten, wodurch sie befriedigt werden, sich vermehrt und weiterentwickelt haben, werden sie auch bei der ganzen Klasse diese erfahrungsmäßig von der übrigen Außenwelt unterschiednen Dinge sprachlich taufen. Dies tritt notwendig ein, da sie im Produktionsprozeß—i.e. Aneignungsprozeß dieser Dinge—fortdauernd in einem werktätigen Umgang unter sich und mit diesen Dingen stehn und bald auch im Kampf mit andern um diese Dinge zu ringen haben. Aber diese sprachliche Bezeichnung drückt durchaus nur aus als Vorstellung, was wiederholte Bestätigung zur Erfahrung gemacht hat, nämlich daß den in einem gewissen gesellschaftlichen Zusammenhang bereits lebenden Menschen (dies der Sprache wegen notwendige Voraussetzung) gewisse äußere Dinge zur Befriedigung ihrer Bedürfnisse dienen. Die Menschen legen diesen Dingen nur einen besondern (generic) Namen bei, weil sie bereits wissen, daß dieselben zur Befriedigung ihrer Bedürfnisse dienen, weil sie ihrer durch mehr oder minder oft wiederholte Tätigkeit habhaft zu werden und sie daher auch in ihrem Besitz zu erhalten suchen; sie nennen sie vielleicht „Gut“ oder sonst etwas, was ausdrückt, daß sie praktisch diese Dinge gebrauchen, daß diese Dinge ihnen nützlich, und geben dem Ding diesen Nützlichkeitscharakter als von ihm besessen, obgleich es einem Schaf schwerlich als eine seiner „nützlichen“ Eigenschaften vorkäme, daß es vom Menschen eßbar ist."""""

(gut gluck)

Perhaps there are other independent thinkers in blog land who sense that KM over-complicated things, rather egregiously: the endless discussion of exchange/use value, the commodity, pricing, labor, production etc. often seems to overlook distribution. Hobbes, 200 years BC (Before Capital) more or less posits equitable distribution–of goods, property, work— as one of his givens—really quite a socialist assumption. That may have been sort of a token offering, but one could, it seems, work from various distributive sorts of assumptions, and produce a rather sophisticated, and even quantitative critique of capitalism–without lapsing into some Proudhon-like utopianism. Much of anti-capitalist but non-marxist writing (such as Galbraith, and even Keynes to an extent) relates more to distribution—than to the problems of production and value. For physicalists–and Hobbes himself obviously physicalist—any values, even relating to work, exchange, wages, property etc. would be negotiated, with an eye to “just” distribution. And ultimately exploitation, whatever form it takes, relates to unequal distribution, more than to problems of exchange or utility. Not real fancy ( Marx’s Hegelian roots should always be held suspect anyways. Looking at those byzantine discussions on Die Waren again I detect Hegel’s ghost).

The labor theory of value could be, arguably, the “essence” of Marx: and not the worst concept to proceed from, even with the above-mentioned flaws. The LTV should be read as a type of empiricism–even British Empiricism—in essence. Marx is responding of course to Smith and Ricardo, offering his update of Ricardo’s LTV (even Locke had discussed a form of the LTV as well). So a real issue remains regarding whether say Ricardo’s version of the LTV (or other more “traditional” economists) is a more accurate model than that of Marx (or other radicals). I don’t always understand the distinction—-Ricardo DOES seem sort of correct that the price of labor would relate to the cost of production; it becomes a matter of which side you are looking at. Management tends to see labor as a liability (which is of course often wrong, exploitative, etc), while the worker feels he is being ripped off—though many workers will do well without working for a company as a wage slave, or they operate as an independent contractor etc. Which is to say, if plumbers, electricians, computer programmers, etc. (proletariat, right) are doing well (and in many places they are), then reforms have worked; Marxism does seems a bit antiquated in some regards to skilled/technical labor: though may be somewhat relevant to unskilled/peasants (say the people who assemble Apple computers in Brazil for a few bucks a day, on NIke shoes in the phillipines, or clothes in the LA garment district for that matter).

Friday, July 13, 2007

Grün, mit viel des Goldes:

Dave Rothschild, Eco-Baron

I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. Already they have raised up a monied aristocracy that has set the government at defiance. The issuing power should be taken from the banks and restored to the people to whom it properly belongs.

I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial by strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country.

Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Ayers on "Ethical" statements (for idiots, links oder rechts)

""""""It is impossible to find a criterion for determining the validity of ethical judgements. Not because they have an 'absolute' value mysteriously independent of sense-experience, but because they have no objective validity whatsoever. If a sentence makes no statement, there is no sense in asking whether it is true or false. Pure expressions of feeling do not come under the category of truth or falsehood.

The orthodox subjectivist holds that ethical propositions are about the speaker's feelings. If this is so, they could be true or false depending on whether the speaker had the relevant feelings. I can say "I am bored" by tone or gesture without speaking at all, or may be lying about my feelings. We say that ethical statements are excitants of feeling which do not necessarily involve any assertions.

We hold that it is impossible to dispute about questions of value, and that no-one really ever does so. This may seem paradoxical, but when someone disagrees with us about moral value we do not attempt to show that he has wrong ethical feelings. We attempt to show that he is mistaken about the facts of the case, or we employ general arguments about which actions produce what effect.

Yikes...Watch out for the Leopard, Billy!

But if our opponent has had different moral conditioning from ourselves so that, even when he acknowledges all the facts he still disagrees, we say that it is impossible to argue with him because he has a distorted moral sense. Our judgement that it is so is itself a moral judgement, and so outside the scope of argument. We finally resort to mere abuse. We praise or condemn in the light of our own feelings.

If anyone doubts this, let him try to construct an argument about values which does not reduce itself to an argument about logic or empirical fact. All that one may legitimately enquire is, What are the moral habits of a given person or group, and what causes them to have these? This is a job for the Social Sciences.""""

You disagree? Prove him wrong.

Monday, July 09, 2007

USA Patriot Act of 2001: Triumph of the Snitch

Though some blog-o-crats refer to the Patriot Act as evidence of Bush's corruption, nearly ALL the major democrats in the House and Senate signed off on the Pat. Act (which authorized various J. Edgar-like policies, such as warrantless eavesdropping, and Net snooping), as they did on the War Effort act. Queen Feinstone, leading dem. chickenhawk, also signed off on Bush's tax cuts for the American monarchy. This has been noted routinely--even ad nauseum--by various independents, even somewhat leftist ones, to little or no avail.

Yes, BushCo HAS done a great deal of damage to the Constitution, and to Due Process (and the Pat. Act does seems to contradict the 14th Amendment, not that many have noted that): the Bush rightists were, however, aided and abetted in nearly every case by the Democrats. The Hypocrisy-o-Meter reading for a DiFi, or Hillary, or Kerry's a bit higher than for most GOPers, since the Demos Par-tay leaders have in many instances turned around and attacked BushCo for the very policies that they supported. But those sort of FACTS regarding the demos' inconsistencies and weak compromises generally don't hinder the usual Kossack lapdog or DU'ster when he's got a buzz on and his PC dart board set up online.


Sunday, July 08, 2007

Live Earth, Inc.

Bubblegum porn-pop for Mama Earth--with Chairman Gore-do, the corporate "liberal" Guru of the moment, in command. Pass the tri-tip and Jim Beam, and put some Stan Kenton on the CD, Esmeraldissima. The old freak Thoreau hisself--no sentimentalist or leftist-populist-- would have most likely broken with the Sap-o-crats. (And another juicy cadenza from Sarah Brightwoman, and Stan would probably have his piano launched from a catapult, and then join the sunni muslims---or the Wehrmacht) Even Chris Cornell, the RHCP (Macy Gray's band outrocks RHCP, or those pathetic phucks known as the Police), or the great Spinal Tap doing Stonehenge can't redeem it; er, maybe if Chris did a Soundgarden medley......never mind.

And sponsored by Chevvvy!: now alll PC. Yes Chevvy Yukon, with about 9 mpg. Nothin' but Green.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Gonzo ala Hitchens

"Hitchens admits to drinking heavily; in 2003 he wrote that his daily intake of alcohol was enough "to kill or stun the average mule." He noted that many great writers "did some of their finest work when blotto, smashed, polluted, shitfaced, squiffy, whiffled, and three sheets to the wind." According to The Guardian, George Galloway remarked to Hitchens outside the US Senate, "You're a drink-soaked former Trotskyist popinjay [...] Your hands are shaking. You badly need another drink"."

Right the F. on.
Freedom of Info. Act: a good idea in principle

""""We ultimately got our wish in the Freedom of Information Act, signed by a reluctant President Johnson on Independence Day 1966, and first implemented 40 years ago today. FOIA is essentially democracy's x-ray. It's the only way that the American people can look into the black-box of government policy making and make sure the government is doing what it says it's doing or should be doing."""

Like the ACLU itself, the FOIA seems rather significant, at least in principle, but it obviously has not done much in terms of preventing political skullduggery--whether that of links oder rechts. And the "scope" of the FOIA remains a slightly unclear (though most likely 1000s of pages of legalese outline the specifics of the Act): does it apply across the board to all politicians working for the federal government (and the Peoples, supposedly)-- Or only the intelligence-related--CIA, FBI, etc.? Perhaps the FOIA could be enforced in other countries as well--implementing a FOIA in Russia or China, or islamic states as well seems like an ethical course of action, if slightly utopian. (anyone who has read a bit of bio. on Bertrand Russell will recall that the aged Russell initiated a Tribunal which would putatively enforce FOIA-like policies across the globe--an intellectual's World Court if you will---during the height of 'Nam. Chomsky, then still quite a sharp-witted gent, was in agreement)

Additionally, it seems reasonable that the FOIA would require monitoring of communications of elected and/or public officials, at all levels (even State--county? local?). Proposition 59, in California, was supposed to allow the public access to political communications of elected official, but does not seem to be having much effect either. Keeping King Arnold on a wire 24/7--i.e., monitoring ALL of his communications, whether spoken, e-mailed, phoned, or written--- is not such a bad idea (and keep Feds, State and County officials on a wire, as well as Pelosicrats, or the wannabe-Bukharins who control most of Blogland, for that matter).

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Reds: the non-Hollywood version

""""Censorship was quickly imposed (by the Bolsheviks), and it was up to the Cheka to confiscate the literature of dissident workers: "[O]n 17 November the Central Executive Committee passed a decree giving the bolsheviks control over all newsprint and wide powers of closing down newspapers critical of the regime..." (Leonard Shapiro, The Communist Party of the Soviet Union). Workers were re-forming independent soviets; the Cheka broke them up. Independent newspapers criticized Lenin's government; the Cheka closed them down, until the Bolshevik-controlled Pravda and Izvestia had a monopoly on the supply of news. Shapiro asserts that "The refusal to come to terms with the socialists and the dispersal of the Constituent Assembly led to the logical result that revolutionary terror would now be directed not only against traditional enemies, such as the bourgeoisie or right-wing opponents, but against anyone, be he socialist, worker or peasant, who opposed Bolshevik rule."[19]"""""

Perp (VI Lenin's mug shot)

As was the case with the nazis and many other totalitarian regimes, one of the Bolsheviks' first acts was to control the flow of information and communication: not so different from how many blog-police now monitor discussion, debate, and dissent via moderation, censorship, deletion--as with one of the most moderated and controlled bogus leftist sites online, the Huffington Post. (Soviet communists are scary; Brentwood communists ala Arianna and Comrade Warren and Co, scarier). Of course most American cafe leftists--'Burbs apparatchiks--- don't know phuck about orthodox marxism (socially necessary labor anyone? Guess that puts Ho-wood out of work--or StarClucks), the history of the October revolution, or what really went down: the Bolsheviks more or less destroyed any possibility of democratic socialism when they ended parliamentary voting, imprisoned their enemies, and began to seize large tracts of property (how many Californian "leftists" would care to have the State "appropriate" their little slice of paradise out in Putaville---). The control of the press coincided with the creation of the Cheka--purges (and many socialists and non-communist leftists were killed) started not with Stalin as is commonly thought by many leftist dupes, but with Lenin's direct orders to kill thousands following the attempt on his life. The cafe-istas have apparently never bothered to read Bertrand Russell's comments on the Bolsheviks, or the writings of Kropotkin, Dewey (who went from supporter to foe of the soviets), Orwell, etc. etc. Like Che Guevara, VI Lenin's now jus' another hepcat at Cafe a Gauche.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Science: Real (EO Wilson), and Bogus (Al Gore)

"With sociobiology prospering, Wilson has carried his research into the full arena of human knowledge, publishing the hugely ambitious Consilience in 1998, in which he developed his ideas about gene-culture co-evolution further and resurrected CP Snow's efforts to conjoin the "two cultures". In fact, Wilson's arguments are more fundamental and persuasive than Snow's; works on evolution, like Sociobiology and Dawkins's The Selfish Gene, have been absorbed into western cultural life as neatly as any neo-Darwinist could have predicted.

"He is," says Ian McEwan, "a scientific materialist who warmly embraces the diversity of human achievement - including religion and art, which he sees in evolutionary terms. One of his tasks has been to further the Enlightenment project of absorbing the social sciences into science proper; another has been to find a sound ethical basis for ecological thinking. He is fundamentally a rational optimist who shows us the beauty of the narrative of life on earth. He is living proof that materialism need not be a bleak world view.""


I read Wilson’s Consilience a few years ago and was somewhat impressed, though he may over-simplify a few issues (in regards to ethics and the biological evidence for species-altruism, for one). While he offers quite a bit of support for his socio-biological ideas, he, like his colleague Dawkins (tho' Doc Dawkins a bit more strident in tone than EO), tends to a sort of reductionism which might irritate some political or ethically-oriented writers--(and few liberal hacks shrieking 24/7 about what they take to be "ethics" have troubled with Hume on the fact-value distinction, or Bentham 101, or the cliffsnotes to Plato's Republic for that matter). Most philosophical types who I am acquainted with who bothered to read Consilience objected to it, but they are rarely able to formulate their objections. Many philosophers tend to be sort of Kantian, if not theists, more often than they are materialists; thus, Darwin, if not biology as a whole, is taken to be wrong-- or at least questionable--owing to its materialist, deterministic grounds. Or they are Humean sorts of skeptics and subjectivists, and while generally supportive of the methods and ends of the physical sciences, they often point out the contingent and provisional nature of much inductive research, even that of biology and medicine.

We here at Contingencies, however, contend there are no good grounds for upholding Kantian idealism (or theology for that matter), nor for immaterial conceptions of mind, nor for the more extreme forms of Humean skepticism (--tho' in many situations, doubts about causality or any absolute inductive knowledge ARE more than warranted, as in the "social sciences"). And obviously Darwinian accounts of evolution and natural selection as well as Mendelian genetics and many other modern biological concepts have been established. Thus the burden rests on idealists to disprove Darwin, if not materialism, which they have failed to do; the Intelligent Design argument, however subtle and complex, being the latest theological fiasco--tho' the IDT people (who are NOT the same as the fundies or biblethumpers who have made use of IDT) raised one valid point-- Darwinism still has not provided a complete account of evolution: Father Darwin was no biochemist, for one. Yet there is a sort of naive Darwinian leftist, nearly as pernicious as the fundamentalist or dogmatic xtian (or muslim, jew etc.), who quotes Darwin and then some marxist-multiculturalist BS --or, Osiris forbid, Al Gore--as if they were equivalent. Hah. Darwinism does not offer any comforting assurances or utopian ideology for the liberal--or conservative--do-gooder.

and now for something completely different from Big Al:

"The climate crisis offers us the chance to experience what few generations in history have had the privilege of experiencing: a generational mission; a compelling moral purpose; a shared cause; and the thrill of being forced by circumstances to put aside the pettiness and conflict of politics and to embrace a genuine moral and spiritual challenge."

SO much for unbiased research, data-gathering, and the sound biological science that Wilson practices. By what means were the problems associated with biodiversity, justifying altruism, sustainability, global warming (and the big issue of proving "anthropic" cause---some evidence suggests global warming and ozone depletion are natural phenomena) converted into a "generational mission," a "moral purpose" or "spiritual challenge"? Maybe they became so in Gore's mystical vision of the protestant-buddhist Verde. Big Al unlikely knows nitrogen oxide from nirvana, but that doesn't stop the Gore-Bot liberal nurseys from worshipping him. Cactus Ed Abbey would hisself have had a effective solution for the pathetic phucks who take Gore to be some scientist---or philosopher: pocka pocka pocka.
Tom Jefferson, enemy of the State

"Man [is] a rational animal, endowed by nature with rights and with an innate sense of justice."

Rather optimistic generalization, TJ: and in need of bare-bones quantification (men [and women] are animals, yet only some men are rational animals, etc.). Regardless, few are the contemporary American politicians who possess the spine to offer even interesting and somewhat eloquent platitudes. TJ: neither mormon, muslim, mafioso (whether links oder rechts) or baptist biblethumper---or Marx-thumper for that matter.
The magick-tones of MERZHANOV. Pops Merz is great: and those who have ears to hear know that the mysterious Maestro Scriabin--of the church of the Solar flare-- was about the wiggiest ivory-tickler evah.
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