Saturday, June 27, 2009

SCOTUS declares Strip-search Unconstitutional

From the LA Times:

"""Justice David H. Souter, in what could be his final opinion before his retirement, said a strip-search is "categorically distinct" from other efforts to find drugs or weapons on campus because it is embarrassing and humiliating to the children who are targeted.

In the past, the court has said school officials can search purses, backpacks or lockers if they have reason to believe a student has drugs. And twice, justices have upheld mandatory drug testing of high schoolers, including athletes, even when there was no reason to think any of them was using drugs.

But requiring a student to remove her clothes goes too far, Souter said. He suggested such a search would be justified only if a school official had strong reason to believe a student was hiding a dangerous drug or a weapon in his or her underwear."""

The SCOTUS made the obviously correct decision in Safford. Of course, educational bureaucrats and local cops regularly conduct KGB-like search and seizures, and this decision is unlikely to stop them. Americans who value (and understand) the 4th might take a look at Clarence Thomas's rather cop-like dissent, however. Thomas claimed the local edu-crats have the right to make the judgement call, and suggests they shouldn't be overly concerned with the mere Constitution. Thank Osiris a few of the SCOTUS geniuses understood the real meaning of the 4th--to protect the accused (in the Safford case, a 13 yr old schoolgirl), regardless of the accused's age, race, socio-economic standing, or political affiliation (Due Process applies even to the non-Democrat--a concept many Sally Fields liberals can't quite grasp).

Anyone who has been shaken down by cops--or, better, had some city pig's Glock an inch away from one's temple--for "reasonable suspicion" of drugs or a firearm realizes the 4th is pretty much a joke, unless one's driving a Hummer or new Benz, and has a high-powered defense attorney riding shotgun (Donde esta Dr. Gonzo?). Read a few police reports and one soon discovers nearly all search and seizure methods currently in use for dope cases (and most firearms) are unconstitutional. They can search your car if they suspect something (even that arguably BS), but in theory the cops can't then go to your house and upturn everything, unless you're in the Gambino crime family, or they take the time to obtain a warrant. But those sort of warrantless Gestapo or KGB searches do go down every day. The judicial business of course depends on the cop-goons, and the black gown posse rarely questions the police power, even in regards to that supposedly sacred 4th. If it's your word vs. the boys in blue, you'll lose.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Obama’s War on Terror
"""No longer can the blame for the turmoil in Iraq and Afghanistan rest at the feet of George W. Bush alone. This is now Obama’s War on Terror, fully funded and operated by the Democratic Party.

The bill that passed the House on Monday, once approved by the Senate, will not be part of the regular defense budget as it’s off the books entirely. Following the attacks on September 11, 2001, Congress has passed similar emergency spending bills to finance US military ventures in the Middle East. The combined “supplementals” are fast approaching $1 trillion, with 30% going to fund the war in Afghanistan.

In addition to the latest increase in war funds, Obama is also asking for an additional $130 billion to be added on to the defense budget for the new fiscal year starting on October 1. The president is upholding his campaign promise to escalate the war in Afghanistan, which also means increasing the use of remote controlled drone planes in neighboring Pakistan that are to blame for hundreds of civilian deaths since Obama took office last January.

Despite Obama’s historic (albeit rhetoric filled) speech in Cairo, the new Commander in Chief is still not about to radically change, let alone reform, the US’s long-standing role in the Middle East. A master of his craft, Obama is simply candy coating the delivery of US imperialism in the region. Given the lack of opposition to Obama’s policies back home, it is becoming clear that he may well be more dangerous than his predecessor when it comes to the US’s motivations internationally."""""

Counterpunchers such as Frank (who has written some decent stuff on the California oil business) remind us that the authentic progressive should not be mistaken for a card-carrying, union-worshipping LBJ-democrat. Instead of napalm--invented by nazis, prohibited by Geneva conventions, yet approved by both LBJ, and Nixon-Kissinger--the Demopublican masters of war now wield Drones.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Vivan Las Moscas

PETA peoples in the house:

""""""The group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals wants the flyswatter in chief to try taking a more humane attitude the next time he's bedeviled by a fly in the White House.

PETA is sending President Barack Obama a Katcha Bug Humane Bug Catcher, a device that allows users to trap a house fly and then release it outside.

"We support compassion even for the most curious, smallest and least sympathetic animals," PETA spokesman Bruce Friedrich said Wednesday. "We believe that people, where they can be compassionate, should be, for all animals.""""""""

Obviously most out in Consumerland read this as another example of PETA's media politics of hysteria, but Friedrich does raise a slightly interesting point. We protest cats or monkeys used in lab experiments--rightly, in most cases. We might also object to mass-produced extermination of cattle, pork via slaughterhouse, or poultry in abattoirs, though that doesn't necessarily mean one thereby agrees to the premises of vegetarianism, or to Peter Singer-like sentimentality. The division of labor issue should be noted however. Mammals appear, prima facie, to be at least slightly sentient and not merely automatons (birds not quite as much).

Insects, however, do seem a bit less deserving of our respect than mammals. They aren't too attractive for one; instead of fur, or feathers, flies have chitin. They lack the interesting sensitive eyes that cats or cows possess. In comparison to cats or cows, they are very small. They bite, or swarm, or annoy greatly, and do not appear intelligent whatsoever but more like evolutionary mistakes. Waking up to find a massive column of fire-ants on the kitchen counters, most humans, even granola-munchers probably reach for the Raid and have no problem exterminating 10,000 or so in a few minutes. PETA reminds us that exterminating does have some spiritual consequence, however paltry it might seem. Ergo, utter a prayer, to whatever deity, or dharma may be responsible for the insect spirit world, and hopefully you don't meet some ant or fly-headed creature in the hereafter.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Eugenics code of Brighamius

Pop-science factoid of the day:

"""According to Duke University psychologist Mark Leary, the feeling of being disliked, ostracized or rejected was specially designed by evolution to be particularly painful; subjectively speaking, being evaluated negatively by others can feel even worse than physical trauma. The reason that others’ negative evaluations affect us so deeply, Leary believes, has to do with our primate past.

Unlike virtually every other species, the hominids could not rely on speed, flight, strength, arboreal clambering, burrowing or ferocity to evade predators. Many theorists in psychology, anthropology and biology have noted that human beings and their hominid ancestors survived and prospered as species only because they lived in cooperative groups. Given the importance of group living, natural selection favored individuals who not only sought the company of others but also behaved in ways that led others to accept, support and help them.

"""In other words, for a human being, only death itself ensures a speedier genetic demise than stigma and exclusion. To ensure that our ancestors were ever wary of their tenuous dependence on others, Leary proposes that they evolved a sort of subjective, psychological gauge that served to continually monitor their fluctuating “relational value,” an affective index of where the self stood in the eyes of other ingroup members. Generally speaking, the higher one’s relational value, the greater one’s reproductive opportunities and genetic fitness. Just as it continues to do today, this hypothetical “sociometer” generated emotional states that, collectively, were translated into what’s popularly known as our “self-esteem.” Assuming our sociometer isn’t broken or impaired, negative self-esteem is a kind of warning, then, that one is at serious risk of social (and therefore genetic) exclusion.""""

"It Takes a Village" pop-psychology, updated via some lightweight eco-anthropology. You want to be happy? Be fruitful and multiply, and be a happy, helpful contributor to the community! These pathetic insta-studies do not really merit refutation, but, one, self-esteem is not quantifiable. Choosing to be an outsider, or loner, or even a recluse does imply that one thereby feels sad, or lonely, or "suffers from low self esteem." Outsiderness may be--and often is--a conscious choice. The researchers beg the question of intentionality, anyway: given their own assumptions of genetic determinism it would seem that all human decisions--or apparent decisions-- were simply the result of bio-chemical processes anyway, beyond the individual's control.

For that matter, anthropologists have no business making assumptions about humans' evolutionary motivations, nor suggesting that some sullen outsider who chooses to "not join" suffers in some way: it's often the happy joiners--or their children----who suffer, when they succumb to peer pressure, oneupsmanship, endless competition of the mediocre suburbanite. Humans may not be Cartesian ghosts, but they aren't merely primates: they possess something like moral autonomy--the ability to choose, make decisions, envision future events. The Duke comrades in fact rely on the old social darwinist fallacy that what nature suggests as evolutionary "proper" for certain animals or primitive man must be right for contemporary humans: even Nietzsche objected to that sort of crypto-eugenics code.

Monday, June 15, 2009



""Iran and its citizens are considered by the Shiite theocracy to be the private property of the anointed mullahs. This totalitarian idea was originally based on a piece of religious quackery promulgated by the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and known as velayat-e faqui. Under the terms of this edict—which originally placed the clerics in charge of the lives and property of orphans, the indigent, and the insane—the entire population is now declared to be a childlike ward of the black-robed state. Thus any voting exercise is, by definition, over before it has begun, because the all-powerful Islamic Guardian Council determines well in advance who may or may not "run." Any newspaper referring to the subsequent proceedings as an election, sometimes complete with rallies, polls, counts, and all the rest of it, is the cause of helpless laughter among the ayatollahs. ("They fell for it? But it's too easy!") Shame on all those media outlets that have been complicit in this dirty lie all last week. And shame also on our pathetic secretary of state, who said that she hoped that "the genuine will and desire" of the people of Iran would be reflected in the outcome. Surely she knows that any such contingency was deliberately forestalled to begin with."""'

However irritating Hitchens may be on occasion, he may be correct, at least in this instance (though not when blessing Bushco, as he did in 2003). Objecting to muslim theocracy does not imply that one thereby supports Israel, however (not lacking in theocratic aspects, either). Dame Hillary's tame remarks on the Iranian vote did sound rather accomodating.

Political reality does not lend itself to truth functionality, to the facile dichotomies preferred by naive leftists (or rightists)--not dialectical, but poly-lectical.

Saturday, June 13, 2009


"....Bergson's original training was in mathematics. Bergson won the first prize in mathematics for the prestigious “Concours Général,” which led to the publication of his solution to a problem by Pascal in 1877. Bergson nevertheless chose to prepare for the École Normale in the letters and humanities section. His math teacher, disappointed, famously claimed, “you could have been a mathematician; you will be a mere philosopher”"".

""""Bergson's position is illustrated — and what is to be said in criticism may also be aptly illustrated — by Zeno's argument of the arrow. Zeno argues that, since the arrow at each moment simply is where it is, thereforethe arrow in its flight is always at rest. At first sight, this argument may not appear a very powerful one. Of course, it will be said, the arrow is where it is at one moment, but at another moment it is somewhere else, and this is just was constitutes motion. Certain difficulties, it is true, arise out of the continuity of motion, if we insist upon assuming that motion is also dis-continuous. These difficulties, thus obtained, have long been part of the stock-in-trade of philosophers. But if, with the
mathematicians, we avoid the assumption that motion is also discontinuous, we shall not fall into the philosopher's difficulties. A cinematograph in which there are an infinite number of films, and in which there is never a next film because
an infinite number come between any two, will perfectly represent a continuous motion. Wherein, then, lies the force of Zeno's argument ?

Zeno belonged to the Eleatic school, whose object was to prove that there could be no such thing as change. The natural view to take of the world is that there are things which change ; for example, there is an arrow which is now here, now there. By bisection of this view, philosophers have developed two paradoxes. The Eleatics said that there were things but no changes ; Heraclitus and Bergson said that there were changes but no things. The Eleatics said there was an arrow, but no flight ; Heraclitus and Bergson said there was a flight but no arrow. Each party conducted
its argument by refutation of the other party. How ridiculous to say there is no arrow ! say the " static " party. How ridiculous to say there is no flight ! say the " dynamic " party. The unfortunate man who stands in the middle and maintains that there is both the arrow and its flight is assumed by the disputants to deny both ; he is therefore pierced, like St. Sebastian, by the arrow from one side and by
its flight from the other. But we have still not discovered wherein lies the force of Zeno's argument.

Zeno assumes, tacitly, the essence of the Bergsonian theory of change. That is to say, he assumes that when a thing is in a process of continuous change, even if it is only change of position, there must be in the thing some internal
state of change. The thing must, at each instant, be in-trinsically different from what it would be if it were not changing. He then points out that at each instant the arrow simply is where it is, just as it would be if it were at rest.
Hence he concludes that there can be no such thing as a state of motion, and therefore, adhering to the view that a state of motion is essential to motion, he infers that there can be no motion and that the arrow is always at rest.

Zeno's argument, therefore, though it does not touch the mathematical account of change, does, prima facie, refute a view of change which is not unlike M. Bergson's.
How, then, does M. Bergson meet Zeno's argument ? He meets it by denying that the arrow is ever anywhere. After stating Zeno's argument, he replies : " Yes, if we suppose that the arrow can ever be in a point of its course. Yes again, if the arrow, which is moving, ever coincides with a position, which is motionless. But the arrow never is in any point of its course " (C. E., p. 325). This reply to Zeno,
or a closely similar one concerning Achilles and the Tortoise, occurs in all his three books. Bergson's view, plainly, is paradoxical ; whether it is possible, is a question which demands a discussion of his view of duration. His only argument in its favour is the statement that the mathematical view of change " implies the absurd proposition that movement is made of immobility " (C. E., p. 325). But the
apparent absurdity of this view is merely due to the verbal form in which he has stated it, and vanishes as soon as we realise that motion implies relations. A friendship, for example, is made out of people who are friends, but not out of
friendships ; a genealogy is made out of men, but not out of genealogies. So a motion is made out of what is moving, but not out of motions. It expresses the fact that a thing may be in different places at different times, and that the places
may still be different, however near together the times may be. Bergson's argument against the mathematical view of motion, therefore, reduces itself, in the last analysis, to a mere play upon words. And with this conclusion we may pass
on to a criticism of his theory of duration. """""

Russell on Bergson, though perhaps not quite getting it. The description of the event does not equal the perception of the event; the perception of event is not the Event itself. Change Zeno's arrow to a cannonball, however, and given a certain force of detonation, the trajectory may be mapped out, kill count estimated, whether one calls it motion or not.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Hitchens on Obama's Cairo speech.

".....Nothing prepared me for the way in which the authorities at the camp have allowed the most extreme religious cultists among the inmates to be the organizers of the prisoners' daily routine. Suppose that you were a secular or unfanatical person caught in the net by mistake; you would still find yourself being compelled to pray five times a day (the guards are not permitted to interrupt), to have a Quran in your cell, and to eat food prepared to halal (or Sharia) standards. I suppose you could ask to abstain, but, in such a case, I wouldn't much fancy your chances. The officers in charge were so pleased by this ability to show off their extreme broad-mindedness in respect of Islam that they looked almost hurt when I asked how they justified the use of taxpayers' money to create an institution dedicated to the fervent practice of the most extreme version of just one religion. To the huge list of reasons to close down Guantanamo, add this: It's a state-sponsored madrasah.

The same near-masochistic insistence on taking the extreme as the norm was also present in Obama's smoothly delivered speech in the Egyptian capital. Some of what he said was well-intentioned if ill-informed. The United States should not have overthrown the elected government of Iran in 1953, but when it did so, it used bribed mullahs and ayatollahs to whip up anti-Communist sentiment against a secular regime. The John Adams administration in the 1796 Treaty of Tripoli did indeed proclaim that the United States had no quarrel with Islam as such (and, even more important, that the United States itself was in no sense a Christian nation), but the treaty failed to stop the Barbary states from invoking the Quran as permission to kidnap and enslave travelers on the high seas, and thus Thomas Jefferson was later compelled to send a fleet and the Marines to put down the trade. One hopes that Obama does not prefer Adams to Jefferson in this regard......"

At least Hitchens has the secular spine to remind us that Islam carries no more authority than christianity or judaism (which is to say, in terms of logic and science, no authority). As CH also noted, the blogocrats refused to address Obama's oversimplifications and verbal gaffes (like hajib, when the word is hijab). Had Bushco muttered hajib instead of hijab, the Kossacks would have indulged in their gonzo-lite jokes for weeks.

(Ah I forgot: Hitchens is on the Oppressor list, according to some in Linkspartei. Perhaps. He oppresses with a modicum of taste, and avoids the stalinist gambit "we can exploit religious hysteria to our benefit.")

Monday, June 08, 2009

Berlin calling

The lovely and talented Mildred Gillars, aka Axis Sally.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Honderichian humanity

"""""Do you anticipate an adverse judgement on American hierarchic democracy, more than implied already? Are you, maybe, superior in advance to any such judgements? Do you remember some first year philosophy and say that maybe there is no standard of right and wrong, no moral truth, only subjectivity? Does the weakness of so much political philosophy come back to mind?

Do you remember the social contract theory of justice of John Rawls of Harvard and that it sticks in its liberalism at the beginning, in something called the Original Position, and so is dead certain to get it out at the end? Do you remember that the neo-conservative Robert Nozick, also of Harvard, chose not to notice that a liberty is not any freedom, say a freedom to rape, but a freedom with justification, which latter justification he did not provide for the freedoms of his just society, where the starving have no right to food?""""

In the space of two paragraphs Ted Honderich sums up 500+ pages of Rawls' Theory of Justice, and reduces the Rawlsian social contract to the embodiment of futile and/or hypocritical liberalism. That's rather conclusionary, as legalists say. Rawls's shortcomings should be considered no worse than any academic theorizing about social and/or economic justice--and superior to the usual American bumper-sticker pathos. Indeed, Rawls' contractualism seems rather pragmatic, and substantially less visionary and utopian than Kant's grand vision of the categorical imperative (act as if your every act was a maxim binding on all? A rational person would not drive to work per the CI)--or the usual theological rhetoric. Rawls' "original position" does preserve a bit of the Kantian autonomy, however: a concept unknown to bolsheviks or brownshirts of whatever type (even demopublican types). Similar to Hobbes's Leviathan, Rawls's TOJ ranges closer to economic theory--like Galbraith, or Adam Smith for that matter (who had read his Leviathan)--than to metaphysics. Hobbes assumed that reasonable people, or most of them, in his hypothetical scenario of Leviathan (Rawls also making use of a hypothetical situation for the VoI) would choose a certain egalitarian, peaceful society, in hopes of avoiding the unpleasantness of a state of nature (or life under Stalin, Hitler, Idi Amin etc).

Making use of a variation of the prisoner's dilemma, Rawls creates a situation where one's choices (political and economic choices at least) would most likely be in favor of egalitarianism, and also in favor of rights--reasonable people would presumably choose something like rights, and Due Process ( Rawls includes the Lockean/Nozickean minimal rights as well in his system). In fairly well-defined situationsa Rawlsian structure could apply-- such as citizens of a small village--Kropotkinville-- deciding on sharing certain responsibilities---. At a macro-level it might fly, but only with supremely ethical legislators working to put it into effect (so unlikely in Amerika), and some power of enforcement or coercion behind it.

The real objection to a Rawls comes not from the rather utopian Honderich, but, I would suggest, from a Blackbeard--one who has read some Hume, Malthus, Darwin, Nietzsche--the bad guys of Philosophia (include Marx too; no pal of liberal reformers, Rawlsian, or Honderichian). Blackbeard says, why should we choose to enter a Veil of Ignorance, or even bother being ethical or consistent whatsoever? Why not rob, rape, and pillage when you can get away wit' it (and the neo-Darwinists have no ready answer to that either): the Blackbeard meme, however obvious. Most humans, Blackbeards or not, would at the level of society (and not the ethicist's coffee house) likely choose to gamble, be pirates and select inegalitarianism, where they are counted among the aristos, and the majority are peasants and slaves. For that matter, the status quo--whether in terms of property relations, the free market, existing religious organizations, existing governments--may still favor many citizens, so by entering the VoI they would stand to lose (especially given a global context).So one may be forced to rely on a Kantian--or Dantean--argument ad infernalis.

With no govt. force or power to impose the system of ToJ (or H's principle of humanity)--say in terms of distribution of property, labor, and shekels--most humans will not bother with considering donning Rawls' hypothetical VoI, anymore than say many successful criminals--whether mobsters, vegas mafiosi, or chicago politicians--bother following the law; Exitus acta probat being the default "contract." Rawls does allude to this problem of the intelligent Rebel somewhere (re Nietzsche's "perfectionism")--as did Hobbes, rather more forcefully; Rawls, while he made a somewhat valiant effort, appears like an imbiber of wine-coolers compared to the rum-swilling Hobbesian secular hero. (Zizek doesn't care for Rawls either, but bases his objections on some lightweight Freudian "envy". And Zizek like most continentalists leftists would have all anglo-American thinkers who ever existed hanged). Like Marx, Hobbes indeed realized that many people (ie rebel knights, rogue nations, theocrats, pirates--piracy a real concern in Master Hobbes' day) will not likely submit to a social contract or commonwealth, except at the point of a gun (or gunship); Rawls doesn't seem to recognize the existence of guns.

Honderichthis idea of autonomy

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

All great literature

".....requires the rare and all but impossible combination of fiery emotion with an intellect capable of viewing it impersonally. Where the latter fails, you get mere Byron; where the former, mere preciosity. It is, I am quite sure, a mistake to suppose that without an intensity of feeling which would crush an ordinary mortal it is impossible to produce Shakespeare, Milton, or Carlyle. But when the feeling has been got, it is necessary to have the strength of a giant, so as to turn it into literature instead of mere lamentation.""""

[Bertrand Russell, reflecting on the work of his amigo Joseph Conrad]
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