Tuesday, September 29, 2009

AC Grayling on Polanski

""""It is easy for people to be swayed by considerations of personality in such cases as the Polanski arrest. In general the law does well if it addresses itself to individuals and their circumstances rather than imposing rigid blanket laws that contradict justice as often as they serve it, precisely because they ignore the special individual circumstances. But with the great crimes of rape, murder and genocide, prosecution and punishment are about society’s struggle to protect itself now and in the future against the worst aspects of its own members’ behaviour. There is room for a degree of compassion towards prisoners even if they have committed monstrous crimes, but there is no room for failing to punish the crime itself.

In line with these thoughts, and with the regret that comes from having to acknowledge yet set aside two things, namely the existence of human frailty and the contribution gifted individuals such as Roman Polanski make to society, I conclude that it is right that the United States authorities are seeking to extradite him to serve his sentence for rape. Neither fame nor wealth, neither time nor distance, should render anyone immune to laws protecting against serious crimes against other human beings.""""

Das stimmt! Grayling demonstrates once again the skeptic should not be confused with a nihilist. The hip hepcats defending Polanski forget that he committed a serious offense, pleaded guilty to it, and then fled the country (actually Polanski got off easy, since the evidence showed forcible sodomy and actual rape, not merely statutory rape). Even if there had been issues with the judge or DA, that does not excuse his fleeing the country (really only possible because of wealth and celebrity status--many perps go on the lam, yet they are caught. A millionaire director however has some pull). He should have served his time and appealed, like most ordinary inmates do. And it's not only the stat. rape: he broke the law by fleeing to France. What chi chi westside pieces of scheisse like Harvey Weinstein and his cronies think doesn't matter.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Ibn Rushd's Design Argument (aka Averroes)

From "On the Harmony of Religions and Philosophy." In Arabic, "Kitab fasl al-maqal":

For when a man sees the sun, the moon, and all the stars, which are the cause of the four seasons; of days and nights, of rain, water and winds, of the inhabitation of the parts of the earth, of the existence of man, and of the being of all the animals and the plants and of the earth being fit for the habitation of a man, and other animals living in it; and the water fit for the animals living in it; and the air fit for birds, and if there be anything amiss in this creation and edifice, the whole world would come to confusion and disorder, then he would come to know with certainty that it is not possible that this harmony in it for the different members of the universe -- man, animals, and plants -- be found by chance only.

He will know that there is one who determined it, and so one who made it by intention, and that is God, exalted and magnified may He be. He would know with certainty that the universe is a created thing, for he would necessarily think that it is not possible that in it should be found all this harmony, if it be not made by someone, and had come into existence by chance alone. This kind of argument, is quite definite and at the same time clear, and some have mentioned it here. It is based upon two principles which are acknowledged by all. One of them being, that the universe, with all its component parts, is found fit for the existence of man and things; secondly, that which is found suitable in all its parts, for a single purpose, leading to a single goal, is necessarily a created thing. So those two principles lead us naturally to admit that the universe is a created thing, and that there is a maker of it. Hence "the argument of analogy" leads to two things at one and the same time, and that is why it is the best argument for proving the existence of God. This kind of reasoning is also found in the Qur'an in many verses in which the creation of the universe is mentioned.

For instance, "Have We not made the earth a bed, and the mountains for shelter to fix the same? And have We not created you of two sexes; and appointed your sleep for rest and made the night a garment to cover you, and destined the day to a gaining of a livelihood; and built over you seven heavens, and placed therein a burning lamp? And do We not send down from the clouds pressing forth rain, water pouring down in abundance, that We may hereby produce corn and herbs, and gardens planted thick with trees" [Qur'an 77.3ff]. If we ponder over this verse it would be found that our attention has been called to the suitability of the different parts of the universe for the existence of man. In the very beginning we are informed of a fact well-known to all -- and that is that the earth has been created in a way which has made it suitable for our existence. Had it been unstable, or of any other shape, or in any other place, or not of the present proportion, it would not have been possible to be here, or at all created on it. All this is included in the words, "Have We not made the earth a bed for you"? for in a bed are collected together all the qualities of shape, tranquility, and peace, to which may be added those of smoothness and softness.

.... .....

Then He tells us of the advantage of the sun for those living on the earth and says, "And placed therein a burning lamp. " He calls it a lamp because in reality it is all darkness, and light covers the darkness of the night, and if there be no lamp, man can get no advantage out of his sense of sight at nighttime; and in the same way if there were no sun the animals can have no benefit of their sense of seeing. He calls our attention to this advantage of the suns ignoring others because it is the noblest of all the advantages and the most-apparent of all. Then He tells us of His kindness in sending down rain, for the sake of the plants and the animals. The coming down of rain in an appointed proportion, and at an appointed season, for the cultivated fields cannot be by chance alone, but is the result of divine solicitude for us all. So He says, "And do We not send down from the clouds pressing forth rain, water pouring down in abundance that We may hereby produce corn and herbs, and gardens planted thick with trees."

There are many verses of the Qur'an on this subject. For instance, He says, "Do you not see how God has created the seven heavens, one above another, and has placed the moon therein for a light, and has appointed the sun for a taper? God has also provided and caused you to bring forth wheat from the earth" [Qur'an 71.14-16]. If we were to count all such verses and comment upon them showing the kindness of the Creator for the created, it would take too many volumes. We do not intend to do it in this book. If God should grant us life and leisure we shall write a book to show the kindness of God to which He has called our attention.""""

eh shallah.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sunday muzak

Prokofiev once defeated Capablanca. Proko. also wrote the scores to Eisenstein's films, and was writing neo-classical music five years of so before Stravinsky. Stravinsky admired his music greatly--as did Ravel. He planned on writing film music in Ho-wood, but Uncle Joe did not permit it.
Alexander Hamilton on Hobbes

"There is so strong a similitude between your political principles and those maintained by Mr. Hobb[e]s, that, in judging from them, a person might very easily mistake you for a disciple of his. His opinion was, exactly, coincident with yours, relative to man in a state of nature. He held, as you do, that he was, then, perfectly free from all restraint of law and government. Moral obligation, according to him, is derived from the introduction of civil society; and there is no virtue, but what is purely artificial, the mere contrivance of politicians, for the maintenance of social intercourse. But the reason he run into this absurd and impious doctrine, was, that he disbelieved the existence of an intelligent superintending principle, who is the governor, and will be the final judge of the universe."

--Alexander Hamilton, The Farmer Refuted.

Hamilton didn't quite understand Hobbes' points on the state of nature. Lacking civil government based on the consent of the governed, human life would be "omnia bellum contra omnes"-- war of all against all. Humans in a state of lawless nature are not free from restraint as Hamilton suggested, but living in violent anarchy. Hobbesian constructivism often bothers believers, and that was probably the case with Hamilton, though the Federalist papers at times hint at a Hobbesian sovereign, arguably (--there is a wrong side to Hobbes). According to Hobbes, laws are not God-given--regardless of the Cecil B Demille drama of the Old Testament--but agreed upon, contracted, established by men acting in their own interest. That point also bothers the pious, who demand that people act out of duty to their Creator, not because it furthers their economic interests.

Unlike many religious people, or naive liberals for that matter, Hobbes had no illusions about human nature, and at times seemed to anticipate Darwinism--Dennett has suggested as much, calling Hobbes the first sociobiologist. Hobbes did possess a keen awareness of economic and even biological existence, but he was not a Dawkins or Dennett, at least ostensibly. While not exactly orthodox--he called into question miracles, and the supposed infallibility of scripture--Hobbes did offer some pragmatic reasons in favor of the church and religious institutions, though given the time he may have been required to do so. Executing heretics was still rather common in the 17th century.

Hobbes' discussion of the contracting process remains relevant as well. Hobbes did not, as does John Rawls in Theory of Justice, actually specify how humans determine what sort of society they want to live in. Hobbes offered pronouncements which he terms covenants, such as "seek the peace". Not bad, but some rogues might consider peace not to be in their best interest. Rawls at least advanced the contractual discussion slightly by means of the Veil of Ignorance and Difference Principle (wiki 'er), though even that level of abstraction tends to ruin the par-tay, whether that of the yacht club GOP, or Club Che Guevara.


Thursday, September 24, 2009

Ezranomics Re-run

"""The Puritans were Bible-crazy, but they did not bring the Hebrew Scriptures only. The culture of Adams and Jefferson is a Latin culture with a mixture of Greek. Otis wrote a Greek Grammar which he destroyed, or which was lost for the lack of a competent printer. During the prosperous colonial era the arts of silversmithing, furniture making, and architecture developed. The houses, although made of wood, were a Greek dream. Numbers of them burned down. From Germany came groups of religious sectarians. They brought with them the art of glassmaking, and organised, at least once a year, a Bach Festival. Monticello is full of refinement. The polygrapher longed for a complete civilization equal to that of an Italian Court, ceremonies omitted, of the Fourteenth Century. He got into debt.

Adams was frugal, and used the weather-boards of his attic study as a handy file for his correspondence. For at least a century New England took as an idea: “Low Living High Thinking”.

Usury spoiled the Republic. Usury has been defined as too high an interest on money. The word finance became fashionable in the bank-paper era. And it is to this that Jefferson alludes in the phrase: “No one has a natural right to be money-lender save him who has it to lend.” With the “financial” era the word usury disappeared from polite conversation.

There is no greater imbecility than to leave one’s own bank-account or one’s own sources of information in the hands of an enemy, or an irresponsible man.

The struggle between the people and the exploiters, in America, was waged around these forms of imbecility.

A handful of people, who lived on little and did not run into debit brought to, and preserved in America, a rather high, severe culture, and a civic sense nourished by the traditions of English legal liberty, that is, by a centuries-long conquest in which the traditions of North European tribes and Roman Law converge.""""

(Ezra Pound,
An Introduction to the Economic Nature of the United States).

What might the Darwinian materialist say of usury? A type of Madoff meme, perhaps, something to the effect of "take advantage of the plebes as often as you can, and don't get caught, and if caught, lie as needed". A naive or duplicitous atheist may be as pernicious a figure as the biblethumping yokel.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Götterdämmerung 101

Kah-lassssssss, turn to page 2.B7E151628AED2A6B in
your Crime Reader:

The criminal and what is related to him. The criminal type is the type of the strong human being under unfavorable circumstances: a strong human being made sick. He lacks the wilderness, a somehow freer and more dangerous environment and form of existence, where everything that is weapons and armor in the instinct of the strong human being has its rightful place. His virtues are ostracized by society; the most vivid drives with which he is endowed soon grow together with the depressing affects—with suspicion, fear, and dishonor. Yet this is almost the recipe for physiological degeneration. Whoever must do secretly, with long suspense, caution, and cunning, what he can do best and would like most to do, becomes anemic; and because he always harvests only danger, persecution, and calamity from his instincts, his attitude to these instincts is reversed too, and he comes to experience them fatalistically. It is society, our tame, mediocre, emasculated society, in which a natural human being, who comes from the mountains or from the adventures of the sea necessarily degenerates into a criminal. Or almost necessarily; for there are cases in which such a man proves stronger than society: the Corsican, Napoleon, is the most famous case.

Prince Peckinpah

The testimony of Dostoevski [2] is relevant to this problem—Dostoevski, the only psychologist, incidentally, from whom I had something to learn; he ranks among the most beautiful strokes of fortune in my life, even more than my discovery of Stendhal. This profound human being, who was ten times right in his low estimate of the superficial Germans, lived for a long time among the convicts in Siberia—hardened criminals for whom there was no way back to society—and found them very different from what he himself had expected: they were carved out of just about the best, hardest, and most valuable wood that grows anywhere on Russian soil. [3]
Let us generalize the case of the criminal: let us think of men so constituted that, for one reason or another, they lack public approval and know that they are not felt to be beneficent or useful—that Chandala feeling that one is not considered equal, but an outcast, unworthy, contaminating. [4] All men so constituted have a subterranean hue to their thoughts and actions; everything about them becomes paler than in those whose existence is touched by daylight. Yet almost all forms of existence which we consider distinguished today once lived in this half tomblike atmosphere: the scientific character, the artist, the genius, the free spirit, the actor, the merchant, the great discoverer. As long as the priest was considered the supreme type, every valuable kind of human being was devaluated. The time will come, I promise, when the priest will be considered the lowest type, our Chandala, the most mendacious, the most indecent kind of human being. [5]

I call attention to the fact that even now—under the mildest regimen of morals which has ever ruled on earth, or at least in Europe—every deviation, every long, all-too-long sojourn below, every unusual or opaque form of existence, brings one closer to that type which is perfected in the criminal. All innovators of the spirit must for a time bear the pallid and fatal mark of the Chandala on their foreheads—not because they are considered that way by others, but because they themselves feel the terrible cleavage which separates them from everything that is customary or reputable. Almost every genius knows, as one stage of his development, the "Catilinarian existence"—a feeling of hatred, revenge, and rebellion against everything which already is, which no longer becomes. Catiline—the form of pre-existence of every Caesar. [6]

Catiline as Everyman--that's pedagogy. Nietzsche's writing-- especially the later writing, such as Twilight of the Idols and Anti-Christ, mostly purged of the stoical and Zarathustra- bombast-- may still function as a corrective for bad thinking of left--and right. He's a conservative of sorts, though not the orthodox judeo-xtian sort, or osiris forbid an Aynnie Rand (though perhaps they share ancestry with Aristotle). Nietzsche's system might be read as a type of anomalous naturalism, perhaps, if one needs an 'ism" to classify it under. Xtians and various moralists (including hip, liberal or feminist moralists) reject Nietzsche's writing out of hand--he doesn't appear to believe or seems a bit militaristic, devoted to an ethos of power (strength is good); ergo, he's wrong, sinister, perverted--how calvinist-zionist or mormonic dreck thinks. Verstehen Sie, LDS schwein? Those few humans who still value the authentic aspects of the American Rev--say the wit and wisdom of Aaron Burr--could conceivably find something of value in Nietzsche. Or maybe not. (Ezra Pound may have out-Nietzsche'd Nietzsche).

Positivists--or pseudo-positivists--Darwinists, and assorted japs also tend to ignore or reject Nietzsche, because he's like too conceptual, if they have ever bothered to consider his work whatsoever. What is a Dostoyevsky, or Catiline to bottom-line guys, or to snark-hacks who consider Java code sort of a manifestation of truth itself. Even those who object to the anti-rationalist or hyper-individualist aspects of Nietzsche's writing might view it as a heuristic of sorts.


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Dimestore Dostoyevsky

Some hipsters out in Consumerland might remember The Getaway, that grimy masterpiece featuring Steve McQueen and Ali McGraw, directed by Sam Peckinpah. The hipsters most likely don't recall the name of Jim Thompson, the scribe who penned the novel. Big Jim produced intense, dark, realistic pulp fiction decades before TarentinoCo took off, and The Getaway rates as only one of a handful of Thompson classics. The movie version of The Getaway was not bad, though with only a tangential relation to the book. McQueen as Doc McCoy, and McGraw as Carol were believable, if somewhat well-scrubbed for Thompson's perps. In the novel, Carol bears little resemblance to an Ali McGraw-like malibu-babe: Carol's a cheap, adulteress-murderer--a gun moll, as they were formerly known. Doc McCoy, an aging convict, alcoholic, and bunko artiste, works out the details of a big heist, his retirement job--McQueen's a bit cleaned-up as well. Had Peckinpah, that drunken, ho-mongering, speed-tweaking megalomaniac, cast a Bruce Dern-like actor for Doc he would have stayed closer to Thompson's vision, though McQueen had the star power in the 70s, and was probably calling the shots (Dern played another great Jim Thompson character--Uncle Bud, a cop on the take-- in the film adaptation of Thompson's After Dark, My Sweet--).

After successfully pulling the heist, Doc and Carol head out on the great American highway. McQueen, .12 gauge in hand, does rock in the hotel shootout--one of Peckinpah's classic blood ballets (actually, the Getaway seems rather superior to Peckinpah's wannabe-spaghetti westerns ala the Wild Bunch. Sam was great, but no Sergio Leone). In the book, Doc comes off as a bit frail (as was that gloomy genius Raskalnikov), and the energy's different-- desperate, and one might say existential, instead of the road-romance of McQueen/McGraw (Alec Baldwin and Miss Basinger remade it as well, reportedly). Peckinpah also altered/deleted key scenes from the novel, such as Doc and Carol's hide-out with a crime family with an uncanny resemblance to the Barker gang-- Thompson may have partied with Ma and her boys at some point in his salad days. Doc and Carol's time spent on the lam in a pig sty become an afternoon at a dump in the movie--an evocative scene, but not the novel; the novel has a somewhat David Lynch aspect (though without the kookiness) which Peckinpah downplays. Finally, Doc and Carol make a desperate escape to Mexico, and to a strange pueblo run by the mysterioso El Rey--that's not in the flick, however: McQueen the Star reportedly objected to Thompson's dark-surreal ending, and replaced him with some unknown writer who gave it the Tinseltown "happy ending". Most read the Mexico scenes as Thompson's take on a real-life mobster's paradise in the hills above Acapulco. It's only a false paradise however: El Rey and his goons demand payments from old Doc and his mollie--financial, sexual, psychological. Those who read the last scenes of the novel will note a spooky, Dantean aspect: Doc and Carol may have pulled off their last great Heist, but they pay the price for their crimes in El Ray's hellish-compound. In the Ho-wood version, Doc and Carol head off into the sunset.

Keepin' it Real

Nietzsche praised the authentic criminal as a sort of precursor of his Uebermensch; McQueen's Doc McCoy seems a bit Uebermensch-like, a precursor to the Bruce Willis WASP knight. In Thompson's fictional crime world, there are no Uebermenschen, however, or great masterminds such as Sherlock Holmes' nemesis Moriarty. Desperation defines Thompson noir, really. Criminals, whether Al Caponays or two-bit losers like Doc may dream of freedom, of a gangster's paradise but they rarely if ever acheive it. The power of the law and the power of creditors, loan sharks, and pimps conditions them; they are prisoners whether inside the joint or out, even On the Road. Instead of downtown Chicago or Brooklyn, Thompson's crime dramas go down in the landscape of the western America-- though Thompson's no country sh*tkicker (some snobs have mistaken him as such). As with Hammett and Ray Chandler's books (say, Lady in the Lake)--and thank Osiris, no Tarentino-esque kitschmeister. Thompson may hint at the old west at times, but the West of saloons, sagebrush and small towns has been upgraded if not replaced with highways, cars, motels, diners, 'burbs. The mobster or perp, as the cops say now, replaces the outlaw; the mollie stands in for the salloon gal. The cops themselves are no longer Pat Garrett-like bounty hunters, but colder, ruthless, robotic, driving big sedans, backed up by technology--helicopters (at least in the flick), communication-- and firepower, and the liberal State, first-cousin to an Orwellian state (one senses Thompson had more respect for the Barker gang or Dillinger sorts than he did for J- Edgar, the G-men and the new American lawmen-). Booze and ho's, and one might say gear itself remain as solace for the perp. The criminals rely upon .12s, snub nose .38s or .45s, however, not colts or rifles, and instead of riding mustangs, they drive 'em.
(first part in a series....).

Monday, September 21, 2009

$5 million dollar Sicilian, Rossolimo variation

Robert James Fischer vs Boris Spassky, 1992

1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 g6 ......and they're off!

Spassky did not seem to be playing at grandmaster level (and Fischer playing a sort of risky, Russian style game as well--Kasparov said he was phoning it in). Black, assuming he knows the complexities of the sicilian defense, has a fighting game; the sicilian often seems like knife-dueling compared to the usual king or queen side games. Spassky may not have been up to par on the rossolimo-sicilian. Kramnik playing black usually slices up white with this opening, as he did with one of the Polgar sisters a decade or so ago.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


Saturday, September 19, 2009

Hammett still moves product:

In Sam Spade and the unnamed detective known as "the Continental Op," from "Red Harvest," Hammett gave us the first American antiheroes, and in doing so severed forever the traditional relationship between the mystery story and the crime story. Hammett never really cared much for writing mystery stories; the mystery as to who killed who in "The Maltese Falcon" and "The Thin Man" is pursued with no great urgency, and the murders that kick off the stories only seem to happen because the conventions of period detective fiction demanded them. The mystery story, by definition, must involve a clear delineation between good and evil: The criminal must be punished and the reader must have a clear sense that good has triumphed, or what would be the point of solving the mystery? In the crime story, solving a mystery can never entirely be the point; it's a genre far more unsettling than anything that could have been imagined in the world of Sherlock Holmes, because in the real world, as we all know, the responsibility for crime spreads so far into society that no one is ever entirely free of guilt. There is no neat ending to ever make us truly feel that good has triumphed over evil.

"Red Harvest" achieved something else, too. It plays off the conventions of the western and helped create a genre that was just emerging in 1929, when it was published: the gangster novel.

The plot is simplicity itself. A detective from a national agency is summoned to investigate a murder in a Western mining town named Personville, sardonically referred to by the locals as "Poisonville." Personville, or Poisonville, is "an ugly city of forty thousand people, set in an ugly notch between two ugly mountains that had been all dirtied up by mining. Spread over this was a grimy sky that looked as if it had come out of smelters' stacks." (In 1927, Hammett, who would become a committed Marxist, had been what biographer William F. Nolan called a "politically involved strike breaker" for the Pinkerton Detective Agency in Butte, Mont., so we can assume the novel was set there. In "Red Harvest" he would wreak fictional revenge on the anti-union goons.)"""""

Straight no chaser (though Dash was no PC lib-rawl role model). Maybe, if the KOS goobers (and gooberettes) read Hammett for a few months, that would transform that bureaucratic pathos and phony gonzo-lite writing into some dread noir realism........perish the thought

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Homie Oswald Spengler in da House, y'all

The essential, therefore, is to understand the time for which one is born. He who does not sense and understand its most secret forces, who does not feel in himself something cognate that drives him forward on a path neither hedged nor defined by concepts, who trusts to the surface--public opinion, large phrases and ideals of the day--he is not of the stature for its events. He is in their power, not they in his. Look not back to the past for measuring-rods! There are times, like our own present and the Grecchan age, in which there are two most deadly kinds of idealism, the reactionary and the democratic. The one believes in the reversibility of history, the other in a teleology of history. But it makes not difference to the inevitable failure with which both burden a nation over whose destiny they have power, whether it is to a memory or to a concept that they sacrifice it. The genuine statesman is incarnate history, its directedness expressed as individual will and its organic logic as character.

...The genuine statesman is distinguished from the "mere politician"--the player who plays for the pleasure of the game, the arriviste on the heights of history, the seeker after wealth and rank--as also from the schoolmaster of an idea, by the fact that he dares to demand sacrifices--and obtains them, because his feeling that he is necessary to the time and the nation is shared by thousands, transforms them to the core and renders them capable of deeds to which otherwise they cold never have risen.


....but in no other civilization has the will-to-power manifested itself in so inexorable a form as in this of ours...

Through money, democracy becomes its own destroyer, after money has destroyed intellect. But, just because the illusion that actuality can allow itself to be improved by the ideas of any Zeno or Marx has fled away; because men have learned that in the realm of reality one power-will can be overthrown only by another (for that is the great human experience of Contending States periods); there wakes at last a deep yearning for all old and worthy tradition that still lingers alive... And now dawns the time when the form-filled powers of the blood, which the rationalism of the Megolopolis has suppressed, reawaken in the depth. Everything in the order of dynastic tradition and old nobility that has saved itself up for the future, everything that there is of high money-disdaining ethic, everything that is intrinsically sound enough to be, in Frederick the Great's words, the servant--the hard-working, self-sacrificing, caring servant--of the State--all this becomes suddenly the focus of immense life-forces...

A bit edgy--the "form-filled powers of the blood" (not so far from Nietzsche's Raubtier, perhaps) might scare the usual sentimental Demopublican--yet Spengler understands democratic incompetence. While not sympathetic to usury finance capitalism, he has no great faith in the marxist counterforce either; though I wager Spengler if pressed upholds the imperfect Becoming of Hegelian thought (in a sense, the best of Aristotle, refined), even the bastard marxist form, rather than the bogus Being of Platonic-judeo-christianity. Jodl, or Zhukov: that be the question.

Process implies imperfection--and non-dogmatists of all sorts (including ones who follow Father Darwin) might recall that Catholics, Inc. still consider Hegel and his historical-dialectic anathema. For the orthodox Believer--catholic or calvinist-- Deus was, is, and will be perfection. Hegel does not explicitly reject that, though certainly suggests as much--Spengler does reject, I believe (and somewhat sympathetic to the NSDAP at times, Spengler did, however object to that psychotic austrian tweeker aka Corporal Hitler). The Hegelian-Spenglerian naturalism (and Hegel often sounds like a vedic pantheist in ways) however does not always square with Darwinian naturalism, at least in terms of human existence. Darwinian evolution works quite well as a description for the natural world, taken as a whole, even certain aspects of human society--but not for ALL aspects of specifically human existence. A symphony is not a meme.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Wesley on Hume (and Chesterfield).

Did that right honourable wretch...know the heart of man - he that so earnestly advised his own son "never to speak the truth, to lie or dissemble as often as he speaks, to wear a mask continually - that earnestly counselled him "not to debauch single women" - because some inconvenience might follow - "but always married women". Would one imagine this grovelling animal ever had a wife or married daughter of his own? O rare Lord Chesterfield! Did ever man so well deserve, though he was a peer of the realm, to die by the side of Newgate?
Did Mr David Hume, lower, if possible, than he, know the heart of man? No more than a worm or beetle does. After `playing so idly with the darts of death', do you now find it a laughing matter? What think you now of Charon? Has he ferried you over Styx? At length he has taught you to know a little of your own heart! At length you know, it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God!

And what shall you say to Charon....Wesley and Methodism intrigues me slightly. Compared to the usual churchman or theologian, Wesley seems fairly authentic (I am not thereby proclaiming Methodism or Christianity to be True, however). Wesley and his methodists devoted themselves to assisting the poor of England, to prisoners, and to ending slavery. His support of abolition was legitimate, unlike say Jefferson or Madison's few hypocritical words in favor of abolition. He visited Georgia in the 1730s, and seems to have been quite nauseated by the yankee slave trade (assisted by the Brits at that time).

Wesley's writing and sermonizing may be sentimental at times, yet he had read the classics, knew latin, and was acquainted with the "new sciences", Newton, Locke and the experimentalists. Lockean empiricism itself influenced Wesley's thought.
While not quite a Godwin or Shelley, Wesley did consistently protest Tory and royalist excesses (as evidenced in his remarks on Chesterfield and Hume). He stands for something nearly respectable --and rare--in the history of judeo-christianity. ST Coleridge admired Wesley to some extent. Reading one of Wesley's sermons, Coleridge uttered, "I venture to avow it as my conviction, that either Christian faith is what Wesley here describes, or there is no proper meaning in the word" .

Wesley also spoke against Calvin (and Calvinist orthodoxy) and preferred the theological school know as Arminianism (wiki 'er!). The two schools are not in principle significantly different--both hold to a version of predestination, as monotheism itself implies (perhaps absurdly). Jacobus Arminius however did not think Scripture supported orthodox calvinism, which in effect holds that since God knows all a priori by definition (doesn't He?), your spiritual fate was known before you were born--so much for freedom, accountability, even sin. Arminius argued that Calvinist determinism in effect makes God the author of evil-- (some precedent existed for Arminian views in the doctrine of "Pelagianism"--not well-received by that early catholic henchman, St Augustine). Arminius grants a certain freedom to human decision-making that Calvin does not, and he's not adamant on total Depravity as were the Calvinist moralists. Liberty still exists for the Arminian--though calvinists considered that a bit too close to catholicism--of some sort--and thereby beheaded a few Arminian Remonstrants.

Wesley's comments on Chesterfield could be read as expressing the Arminian code. Why shouldn't a determinist, even a christian one, follow Lord Chesterfield's advice to the young esquire to "Never to speak the truth, to lie or dissemble as often as he speaks, to wear a mask continually"? You are either saved and "Elect"
or not per Calvinist orthodoxy. Only by insisting on some type of duty (say, truth-telling) does the message of the New Testament seem justified. Arminianism indeed seems slightly related to Kant's thinking on ethics; the Categorical Imperative depends on a view of human liberty. We act and make decisions and are not merely automatons (whether programmed by God, or Nature). Acts thus should be considered in light of all the consequences (including possibly spiritual ones).

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Hey Kids! It's György Lukács Day.

Lukacs on Nietzscheanism

Nietzsche’s philosophy performed the ‘social task’ of ‘rescuing’ and ‘redeeming’ this type of bourgeois mind. It offered a road which avoided the need for any break, or indeed any serious conflict, with the bourgeoisie. It was a road whereby the pleasant moral feeling of being a rebel could be sustained and even intensified, whilst a ‘more thorough’, ‘cosmic biological’ revolution was enticingly projected in contrast to the ‘superficial’, ‘external’ social revolution. A ‘revolution’, that is, which would fully preserve the bourgeoisie’s privileges, and would passionately defend the privileged existence of the parasitical and imperialist intelligentsia first and foremost. A ‘revolution’ directed against the masses and lending an expression compounded of pathos and aggressiveness to the veiled egotistic fears of the economically and culturally privileged. The road indicated by Nietzsche never departed from the decadence proliferating in the intellectual and emotional life of this class. But the new-found self-knowledge placed it in a new light: it was precisely in decadence that the true progressive seeds of a genuine, thorough-going renewal of mankind were deemed to lie. This ‘social task’ found itself in pre-established harmony, as it were, with Nietzsche’s talents, his deepest intellectual inclinations and his learning. Like those sections of society at whom his work was aimed, Nietzsche himself was principally concerned with cultural problems, notably art and individual morality. Politics always appeared as though on an abstract, mythicized horizon, and Nietzsche’s ignorance of economics was as great as that of the average contemporary intellectual. Mehring was quite right to point out that his arguments against socialism never surpassed the level of Leo, Treitschke, etc.[2] But the very association of a coarsely humdrum anti-socialism with a refined, ingenious, sometimes even accurate critique of culture and art (for example the critiques of Wagner and Naturalism) was what made Nietzsche’s subject-matter and modes of exposition so seductive for the imperialist intelligentsia. We can see how great the temptation was right through the imperialist period. Beginning with Georg Brandes, Strindberg and Gerhart Hauptmann’s generation, its influence extended to Gide and Malraux. And it was by no means limited to the reactionary part of the intelligentsia. In the essence of their overall work, decidedly progressive writers like Heinrich and Thomas Mann or Bernard Shaw were equally prey to this influence. Indeed it was even capable of making a strong impression on some Marxist intellectuals. Even Mehring — for the time being — assessed it as follows: ‘The Nietzsche cult is still more useful to socialism in another respect. No doubt Nietzsche’s writings have their pitfalls for the few young people of literary talent who may still be growing up within the bourgeois classes, and are initially labouring under bourgeois class-prejudices. But for such people, Nietzsche is only a transitional stage on the way to socialism.’[3]

Lenin High, y'all

We have, however, explained only the class basis and the intensity of Nietzsche’s influence, and not its long duration. This rests on his undoubted philosophical abilities. From Julius Langbehn (author of Rembrandt als Erzieher) to Koestler and Burnham in our own day, the standard pamphleteers of the reactionary wing have never done more than satisfy, with more or less skilful demagogics, whatever happened to be the bourgeoisie’s tactical needs. But Nietzsche, as we shall see in more detail later, was able to enshrine and formulate in his works some of the most important lasting features of reactionary attitudes to the imperialist period, and to the age of world wars and revolutions. To perceive his standing in this field, one has only to compare him with his contemporary, Eduard von Hartmann. The latter epitomized as a philosopher the ordinary, reactionary-bourgeois prejudices of the age after 1870, the prejudices of the ‘healthy’ (i.e., sated) bourgeois. This is why he at first enjoyed a much greater success than Nietzsche, and also why he fell into complete oblivion in the imperialist period.

Certainly Nietzsche, as we have already noted, achieved everything in a mythicizing form. This alone enabled him to comprehend and define prevailing tendencies because, lacking any understanding of capitalist economics, he was solely capable of observing, describing and expressing the symptoms of the superstructure. But the myth-form also results from the fact that Nietzsche, the leading philosopher of the imperialist reaction, did not live to see imperialism. Exactly like Schopenhauer as the philosopher of the bourgeois reactionaries after 1848, he wrote in an age that was nurturing only the first shoots and buds of what was to come. For a thinker incapable of recognizing the real generative forces, these could only be portrayed in a utopian, mythical manner. True, his task was facilitated both by the expressive mode of myth and by its aphoristic form, whose characteristics we are about to discuss. This is because such myths and aphorisms, depending on the bourgeoisie’s immediate interests and their ideologues’ endeavours, could be arranged and interpreted in the most diverse, often diametrically opposed ways. But the constant harking back to Nietzsche — in each instance a ‘new’ Nietzsche — shows that there was a definite continuity beneath it all. It was the continuity of the basic problems of imperialism in its entirety from the standpoint of the reactionary bourgeoisie’s lasting interests, viewed and interpreted in the light of the permanent needs of the parasitical bourgeois intelligentsia.

(Ah bad news for Heroes--even liberal heroes who love sci-fi and give to charity. Instantiate Heinlein or L-Ron, a libertarian puto like Andrew Sullivan, or Aynnie Rand- scabs for Nietzsche, and Lukacs' critique still applies, mas o menos. For that matter, Lukacs had no Amor-ay for postModernist revisionism (including its noirish, Lacanian form): Get on the Train, the Love Train to Siberia, Herr Zizek. Stay tuned for further analysis)

Monday, September 14, 2009

¿Quién puede saber, exactamente, cómo hablaban aquellos orilleros muertos?*

Empieza por una suerte de revelación. Pero uso esa palabra de un modo modesto, no ambicioso. Es decir, de pronto sé que va a ocurrir algo y eso que va a ocurrir puede ser, en el caso de un cuento, el principio y el fin. En el caso de un poema, no: es una idea más general, y a veces ha sido la primera línea. Es decir, algo me es dado, y luego ya intervengo yo, y quizá se echa todo a perder. En el caso de un cuento, por ejemplo, bueno, yo conozco el principio, el punto de partida, conozco el fin, conozco la meta. Pero luego tengo que descubrir, mediante mis muy limitados medios, qué sucede entre el principio y el fin. Y luego hay otros problemas a resolver; por ejemplo, si conviene que el hecho sea contado en primera persona o en tercera persona. Luego, hay que buscar la época; ahora, en cuanto a mí eso es una solución personal mía, creo que para mí lo más cómodo viene a ser la última década del siglo XIX. Elijo si se trata de un cuento porteño, lugares de las orillas, digamos, de Palermo, digamos de Barracas, de Turdera. Y la fecha, digamos 1899, el año de mi nacimiento, por ejemplo. Porque ¿quién puede saber, exactamente, cómo hablaban aquellos orilleros muertos?: nadie. Es decir, que yo puedo proceder con comodidad. En cambio, si un escritor elige un tema contemporáneo, entonces ya el lector se convierte en un inspector y resuelve: "No, en tal barrio no se habla así, la gente de tal clase no usaría tal o cual expresión."
El escritor prevé todo esto y se siente trabado. En cambio, yo elijo una época un poco lejana, un lugar un poco lejano; y eso me da libertad, y ya puedo fantasear o falsificar, incluso. Puedo mentir sin que nadie se dé cuenta, y sobre todo, sin que yo mismo me dé cuenta, ya que es necesario que el escritor que escribe una fábula por fantástica que sea crea, por el momento, en la realidad de la fábula.

[*Who can know, exactly, how they spoke those dead street-dances (mas o menos, y no Googling).... Jorge Luis Borges, Cómo nace un texto (fragmento)].

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Characterem reprobationis in vultu gerens

Spinoza on the supposed argument from Design:

"""'Herefrom it follows, first, that men think themselves free [free will] inasmuch as they are conscious of their volitions and desires, and never even dream, in their ignorance, of the causes which have disposed them so to wish and desire. Secondly, that men do all things for an end, namely, for that which is useful to them, and which they seek. Thus it comes to pass that they only look for a knowledge of the final causes of events, and when these are learned, they are content, as having no cause for further doubt. If they cannot learn such causes from external sources, they are compelled to turn to considering themselves, and reflecting what end would have induced them personally to bring about the given event, and thus they necessarily judge other natures by their own.

Further, as they find in themselves and outside themselves many means which assist them not a little in their search for what is useful, for instance, eyes for seeing, teeth for chewing, herbs and animals for yielding food, the sun for giving light, the sea for breeding fish, etc., they come to look on the whole of nature as a means for obtaining such conveniences. Now as they are aware, that they found these conveniences and did not make them, they think they have cause for believing, that some other being has made them for their use. As they look upon things as means, they cannot believe them to be self-created; but, judging from the means which they are accustomed to prepare for themselves, they are bound to believe in some ruler or rulers of the universe endowed with human freedom, who have arranged and adapted everything for human use."""

Hegel dishes on Spinoza: """After having made a narrow escape from the dagger, [Spinoza] formally withdrew from the Jewish communion, without, however, going over to the Christian Church. He now applied himself particularly to the Latin language, and made a special study of the Cartesian philosophy. Later on he went to Rhynsburg, near Leyden, and from the year 1664 he lived in retirement, first at Voorburg, a village near the Hague, and then at the Hague itself, highly respected by numerous friends: he gained a livelihood for himself by grinding optical glasses. It was no arbitrary choice that led him to occupy himself with light, for it represents in the material sphere the absolute identity which forms the foundation of the Oriental view of things. Although he had rich friends and mighty protectors, among whom even generals were numbered, he lived in humble poverty, declining the handsome gifts offered to him time after time. Nor would he permit Simon von Vries to make him his heir; he only accepted from him an annual pension of three hundred florins; in the same way he gave up to his sisters his share of their father's estate. From the Elector Palatine, Carl Ludwig, a man of most noble character and raised above the prejudices of his time, he received the offer of a professor's chair at Heidelberg, with the assurance that he would have liberty to teach and to write, because "the Prince believed he would not put that liberty to a bad use by interfering with the religion publicly established." Spinoza (in his published letters) very wisely declined this offer, however, because "he did not know within what limits that philosophic liberty would have to be confined, in order that he might not appear to be interfering with the publicly established religion." He remained in Holland, a country highly interesting in the history of general culture, as it was the first in Europe to show the, example of universal toleration, and afforded to many a place of refuge where they might enjoy liberty of thought; for fierce as was the rage of the theologians there against Bekker, for example (Bruck. Hist. crit. phil. T. IV. P. 2, pp. 719, 720), and furious as were the attacks of Voetius on the Cartesian philosophy, these had not the consequences which they would have had in another land. Spinoza died on the 21st of February, 1677, in the forty-fourth year of his age. The cause of his death was consumption, from which he had long been a sufferer; this was in harmony with his system of philosophy, according to which all particularity and individuality pass away in the one substance. A Protestant divine, Colerus by name, who published a biography of Spinoza, inveighs strongly against him, it is true, but gives nevertheless a most minute and kindly description of his circumstances and surroundings - telling how he left only about two hundred thalers, what debts he had, and so on. A bill included in the inventory, in which the barber requests payment due him by M. Spinoza of blessed memory, scandalizes the parson very much, and regarding it he makes the observation: "Had the barber but known what sort of a creature Spinoza was, he certainly would not have spoken of his blessed memory." The German translator of this biography writes under the portrait of Spinoza: characterem reprobationis in vultu gerens, applying this description to a countenance which doubtless expresses the melancholy of a profound thinker, but is otherwise wild and benevolent. The reprobatio is certainly correct; but it is not a reprobation in the passive sense; it is an active disapprobation on Spinoza's part of the opinions, errors and thoughtless passions of mankind."""

Spinoza takes necessity seriously (paraphrasing Russell). Spinoza's determinism may be unsettling to the average 'Merican consumer (judeo-christian or not), but he does offer a rather simple and elegant solution to the supposed mind-body problem, and to dualisms of whatever sort

Sunday muzak: ChetBaker/AutumnLeaves

Friday, September 11, 2009

The American Hume

Radical reductionism, in one form or another, well antedates the verification theory of meaning explicitly so-called. Thus Locke and Hume held that every idea must either originate directly in sense experience or else be compounded of ideas thus originating; and taking a hint from Tooke we might rephrase this doctrine in semantical jargon by saying that a term, to be significant at all, must be either a name of a sense datum or a compound of such names or an abbreviation of such a compound. So stated, the doctrine remains ambiguous as between sense data as sensory events and sense data as sensory qualities; and it remains vague as to the admissible ways of compounding.
(WVO Quine)

The leading lights of the American Revolution were well acquainted with David Hume's writings, especially his History of England. Although the young Jefferson at one point praised Hume as an Enlightenment figure, he gradually grew to detest Hume, who he viewed as “the great apostle of Toryism”. Hume's writings certainly influenced the political views of the Federalists as well. While Jefferson may have been friendly with Madison (though probably not until after the ratification of the Constitution), he was not sympathetic to Madison's ally Hamilton nor in agreement with the Toryish sentiments of the Federalist papers, which often resembles quotes from Hume's "Essays" ("Essays, Moral, Political, and Literary"). Hamilton and Madison echo Hume's anti-democratic sentiments--if not classical arrogance--in their concern for the potential danger of democracy based on consent.

Jefferson the Lockean democrat (democratic in principle--TJ even outscores Locke on the Hypocrisy-meter) had nothing but contempt for monarchy and aristocracies. The Federalists however were not convinced that the ideas of Locke or Algernon Sydney should serve as the basis of the new Republic; indeed, the Federalists paid little attention to the English Civil war, or Locke and Sydney's battles against Charles II (Sydney delivered a rather eloquent speech before Chas II's men decapitated him). The Federalists instead focused on their favorite latin and greek classics. Hamilton seems fonder of historians--Thucydides, especially--than of philosophers, but the trusty Stagirite (Aristotle) does appear fairly frequently in the Federalist papers (and in the writings of all Tories for that matter). Aristotle, while perhaps not a thorough-going totalitarian, was not a democrat, and generally argues for a type of aristocratic-republican government led by a few. He's the granddaddy of the Tories and royalists, including Hume (not to say the Roman Empire and Catholics, Inc...and much later, Nietzsche (sort of Aristotle's stoicism, sans Deus), and....Miss Ayn Rand).

Some scholars have however argued that Hume did not consistently uphold Tory or royalist values, and at times supported the Whigs, at least in principle.

""The Whig principle of consent as the basis for just government was, from Hume’s viewpoint, not so much philosophically false as practically dangerous. If Hume’s purpose in writing his essays had been simply theoretical, then his sceptical philosophy would have provided him with far more reason to attack the Tory divine-right doctrine than the principle of consent.

Hume would have granted that in the past the divine-right doctrine had been used to justify political and religious oppression. By his time, however, there was no longer any likelihood that it would become a widely accepted and politically dangerous doctrine. Hume would appear to have foreseen an increasing acceptance and radicalization of Whig principles, and his attack was aimed more at the propaganda of intemperate Whig spokesmen than at the Lockean principle of consent."""**

Hume reportedly did not care for Locke (either his empirical-realism or politics), and that may be a bit far fetched. The American framers, whether Federalist, or Anti-federalist, were preoccupied with the problem of consent, however--as were the french encyclopedists, and later the jacobins, who took Rousseau for their political mentor (Rousseau knew Hume, and Hume actually lent him money, but they eventually had a falling out as well). While Hume may have been a "sober decent libertine," according to Adams, Hume considered Rousseau a madman. Rousseau of course supported democracy, if not a type of egalitarian socialism, opposed the divine right of Kings in any form--as did Locke (Rousseau respects though does not worship Locke's writing on the social contract).

In effect the battle for the ratification of the Constitution waged between the Federalists and Anti-Federalists (led by that well-spoken virginia anti-Federalist RH Lee, great uncle of Robert E [RH favored abolition, however]--as well as Clinton, Mason, Henry, etc) appears like a showdown between Humeans and Lockeans. Jefferson was employed as the US Ambassador in France, though evidence suggests he favored the anti-Federalists; though not all the anti-Federalists admired Jefferson, who was considered an ally of the wretched jacobins--a point Adams hammered on in the campaigns of 1799. Hume did not live to witness the rise of Robespierre and the jacobins, but one suspects he would have been sympathetic to the Condorcet faction (and probably later to Burke).

Jefferson probably disliked Hume's cynicism and misanthropy as well:

It may seem strange to the modern mind that Hume would have thought it necessary to discredit noble principles or to teach opinions which are not simply true. Interpreters in the tradition of Jefferson would no doubt say that such actions reveal Hume’s low opinion of human capacities, but Hume would undoubtedly reply that such critics show a lack of discrimination in failing to distinguish between philosophic men and ordinary citizens. Most citizens are guided by opinions, and what is philosophically true might be a very dangerous political opinion.

Thus Hume opposes the Enlightenment belief that all political problems can be solved by making true principles accessible to all men. In a letter to Turgot, Hume politely objects to the French economist’s “agreeable and laudable, if not too sanguine hope, that human society is capable of perpetual progress towards perfection, that the increase of knowledge will still prove favorable to good government, and that since the discovery of printing we need no longer dread the usual returns of barbarism and ignorance. Pray, do not the late events in this country appear a little contrary to your system?”14 Hume’s own view is akin to the classical belief that political society must rest on “noble lies.” Madison appears to agree to this when he refers in the forty-ninth Federalist to the proposition that “all governments rest on opinion.”

Whether one cares for Hume's character or not, Hume's republican concepts (including the electoral college, arguably) form part of the foundation of the US Constitution.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Russell on the Design hypothesis

"When you come to look into this Argument from Design, it is a most astonishing thing that people can believe that this world, with all the things that are in it, with all its defects, should be the best that omnipotence and omniscience have been able to produce in millions of years. I really cannot believe it. Do you think that, if you were granted omnipotence and omniscience and millions of years in which to perfect your world, you could produce nothing better than the Ku Klux Klan or the fascists? Moreover, if you accept the ordinary laws of science, you have to suppose that human life and life in general on this planet will die out in due course: it is a stage in the decay of the solar system; at a certain stage of decay you get the sort of conditions and temperature and so forth which are suitable to protoplasm, and there is life for a short time in the life of the whole solar system. You see in the moon the sort of thing to which the earth is tending -- something dead, cold, and lifeless."

Lord Russell understood the absurdity of the Teleological argument. Also see Pinker's contra-Design comments here.


Wednesday, September 09, 2009

La Jura

(Sotomayor & Roberts at Supreme Court)

"It cannot be supposed that they should intend, had they a power so to do, to give any one or more an absolute arbitrary power over their persons and estates, and put a force into the magistrate's hand to execute his unlimited will arbitrarily upon them; this were to put themselves into a worse condition than the state of Nature, wherein they had a liberty to defend their right against the injuries of others, and were upon equal terms of force to maintain it, whether invaded by a single man or many in combination. Whereas by supposing they have given up themselves to the absolute arbitrary power and will of a legislator, they have disarmed themselves, and armed him to make a prey of them when he pleases..." (Locke, 2nd TOCG)

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Sports Hysteria, Redux

""Football is a game for trained apes. That, in fact, is what most of the players are — retarded gorillas wearing helmets and uniforms. The only thing more debased is the surrounding mob of drunken monkeys howling the gorillas on.""
[Edward Abbey]

It’s Fall, and that means Football, sports fans. The Mafia-ball Baseball season has not yet completed its cycle, however--and basketball and hockey are just around the corner. In the spectator democracy of the USA, fans are provided with some form of “Ball” each and every season of the year. Of course, newpapers and media are promoting this season’s gridiron “prospects” as usual. Beer corporations move their product at gallons per second. Coaches, official 'Merican role models, bark their pep rally oratory. Cheerleaders, bimbo trophy wives-to-be (unless they get too skanky and fit only for....Vegass-land), work up fight songs for their gridiron heroes! And the local public high schools have new gangs of thugs ready to WIN. The private “Christian” high schools are contenders as well. Rah rah shish boom bah for Jee-sus, the greatest pro of ‘em all.

Coaches may sentimentally claim that “the important thing is that you do your best,” but what really counts to them is winning. That’s what sports at all levels, pro. or varsity, teaches: Victory at any cost--useful training for creating obedient, robotic soldiers as well as go-getter alpha capitalists. Celebrity athletes make the big bucks by being the baddest, most violent players on the field. It's rather questionable that's an attribute we should be instilling in our youth.

More respect should be given to the student who wins the science fair, or to the chess club champion, or the math or French honors student. Solving trigonometry problems--or mastering Fischer's variation of the Ruy Lopez--requires more skills and is more useful to both society--even dare we say the Military--and to the individual than being a great free throw shooter or running back. Reasonable humans should have much greater respect for an Anatoly Karpov or Bertrand Russell than for Mark MacGuire or Deion Sanders, or their coach-buffoons. Dick Buttkis, vaya a perdido.
Anti-eulogy, continued


"""What I cannot ever forgive or ever forget is Kennedy’s record on health care. He called it “the cause of my life.” Even a cursory glance at the senator’s record shows he was a colossal failure at the cause of his life. How is it that the American mainstream media and even some left-wing media get away with promoting Kennedy as successful reformer of health care when the country is facing a health care crisis of staggering proportions? Two statistics speak volumes: 50 million uninsured and at least 20,000 people die every year due to lack of access to health care. If Kennedy was so committed to the plight of the uninsured and making health care accessible to everyone in the 46 years he was in the senate, why the hell is the health care crisis killing so many, swelling the ranks of the uninsured every day, and threatening to crash the economy? Here’s why: decades ago Kennedy sold out to the blood sucking, profit-hungry, killer insurance corporations.

It’s hard to believe looking back now, but the Lion King started out with the right idea. In 1971, Kennedy, along with Representative Martha Griffiths (D-Mich.), supported the Health Security Act. It eliminated the role of the commercial insurers entirely and created a single-payer, government financed health care system. The Kennedy-Griffiths bill, as it came to be called, was a watershed in American politics and would have, if passed, made health care a human right and divorced health care from employment status for good. He had solid backing from the labor movement. Kennedy faced off against evil President Richard Nixon’s health care plan and charged that it “would provide the insurance industry with a windfall of billions of dollars annually.” Teddy was right.

Then between 1971 and 1974, Kennedy gave up, he completely abandoned single-payer, national health care and became the great compromiser. His next piece of health care legislation was the Mills-Kennedy Bill. It was the opposite of Kennedy-Griffiths. It maintained the link between employment and insurance, didn’t include the entire population and required those with coverage to shoulder much of the expense of basic medical care through high deductibles and co-pays. Labor refused to endorse the Mills-Kennedy bill and in a meeting with members of the Committee for National Health Insurance, Kennedy reportedly was furious and belligerent and said he resented the charge made against him that he was “selling out on the health issue.” Consumer advocate Ralph Nader and his organization Public Citizen Research Group also criticized Kennedy for selling out and caving to the insurance industry. But that’s exactly what Kennedy did and he never fought for single-payer health care again. """""

Teddy K--the Hero of the liberal-scabs.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Manichean mentality

A few libertarian eggheads, like Gordon, opposed Le Guerre BushCo, and went so far as to quote the dovey Greenwald (one of a few somewhat principled demo pundits).

""""Greenwald contends that the president and his advisors are gripped by a Manichean mentality. Like the ancient Manichees, Bush sees this world as a struggle between absolute good and evil:

"""The term Manichean refers in its most literal sense to a religion founded in the third century by the Persian prophet Manes … it central precept was that the entire world could be cleanly divided into two opposing spheres — God and Satan in the world of the eternal, and a corresponding battle of Good and Evil playing out on earth … the historical fate of the Manichees is of far less interest than is contemporary reliance on their religion's central moral tenets. In the overwhelming majority of President Bush's significant speeches and interviews throughout his political career — but particularly since the 9/11 attacks — he evinces a dualistic worldview lodged at the core of his belief system."" (p. 46)

Here it is important to avoid misunderstanding. Greenwald does not argue as a moral skeptic, denying that any distinction can be drawn between good and evil. Rather, what concerns him is the readiness with which the Bush administration views other countries as so dominated by evil that they cannot be expected to act rationally.[1]

Morituri te salutamus

Because Bush and his cohorts view themselves as engaged in a total struggle against absolute evil, they endeavor to increase their power to the greatest extent possible. If one faces a totally evil foe, must one not respond with maximum force?

Further, for the Manichean believer, the battle between Good and Evil is paramount. It subordinates all other considerations and never gives way to any conflicting or inconsistent goals. Measures intended to promote Good or undermine Evil are, by definition, necessary and just. (p. 48)

Greenwald points out that, despite the claims of various radio talk-show hosts, Bush is very far from being a conservative. Traditionally, American conservatism has stressed limited government, federalism, and balanced budgets. For our Leader, these are obstacles to the imperative demands of moralism:

President Bush has not only violated every claimed tenet of conservatism when it comes to restraints on federal spending, but he ranks among the most fiscally reckless presidents in modern times…. These massive spending increases are entirely independent of any 9/11 related or defense-based expenditures…. The Bush administration has also repeatedly asserted the prerogatives of federal power in areas traditionally reserved to the states. (pp. 42–3)""""""

Manichees........or Uncle Meat (Watch out! It's Missus Z, comin' for yr youtube collection)

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Hylomorphic Dan

A philosopher by the name of Edward Feser discusses Steely Dan:

""""Even the most casual listener will agree that the “Steely Dan sound” is quite unlike that of any other contemporary pop group. (For you music buffs, there is even such a thing as the “Steely Dan chord.”) Part of this has to do with the heavy jazz influence the band’s principals Walter Becker and Donald Fagen bring to their music. Part of it has to do with Fagen’s unique vocals: Anyone other than Fagen singing “Deacon Blues” (say) is pretty much just doing karaoke, so essential is his distinctive voice and style to the overall Steely Dan aesthetic. But there is also the perfectionistic “smoothness” and polish Becker and Fagan famously bring to every tune, an effect that requires intensive studio work. Indeed, playing live was from the beginning something Becker and Fagen did only extremely reluctantly. Steely Dan has always been essentially a studio band – not only in the sense of emphasizing recording over live performance, but in the sense of frequently using studio musicians in an ad hoc way rather than having (apart from Becker and Fagen themselves) a permanent roster of players, and in the sense of relying crucially on various studio mixing techniques to achieve certain effects that would have been otherwise impossible.

Especially after the mid-1970s, with each individual song on a given album, Becker and Fagen would seek out those session players whose strengths were most suited to it. Different players would often do multiple takes, followed by other players doing further takes on the same part, until exactly the sound Becker and Fagen had in mind was achieved. Often the finished song would combine the work of various musicians who hadn’t actually played together in any one session. Moreover, part of one solo might be combined with part of another. “To create absolute millisecond-perfect drum tracks,” Sweet tells us, “a drum machine, a computer, a live drummer or combination of all three” might be used (p. 121). And so forth. And yet the end result would be absolutely seamless. The way the “Steely Dan sound” was honed to perfection in the famous Aja sessions has been described at length not only in Sweet’s book, but in Don Breithaupt’s book Aja and in the DVD Classic Albums: Steely Dan – Aja. ....."

Professor Feser here responds to some negative commentary on pop-rock music (from Scruton). Though I generally do not agree with Feser's libertarian views--or his neo-Thomist religious views-- I am in agreement with Feser for the most part in regards to defending some rock and jazz music against the classical-only snobs, though Feser does take a somewhat clinical view of the Dan's sound. Along with the great musicians, modern studio technology itself contributed to that smooth Dan sound and mystique, as did Fagen's lyrics, which are not so smooth, but rather noirish (though at times maybe bittersweet, like kirschwasser from a shell).

That said, I am sympathetic to Scruton's slight-Ludditism in regards to real music. Rachmaninoff required no synthesizer or 24 tracks of whack, nor did Charlie Parker.
Steely Dan may need their plush downtown studios, but they don't depend on celebrity -spectacle, as do the usual rock/pop/rap stars. In terms of Scruton's definition of rock star as sort of bogus-priest, Steely Dan appears to be excluded. In terms of moving say Absolut vodka, however, the Dan certainly has some libertarian cred.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Your monthly Hegel Update

Vogelin to Strauss (Re Popper on GWF Hegel)

"""""Dear Mr. Strauss....The opportunity to speak a few deeply felt words about Karl Popper to a kindred soul is too golden to endure a long delay. This Popper has been for years, not exactly a stone against which one stumbles, but a troublesome pebble that I must continually nudge from the path, in that he is constantly pushed upon me by people who insist that his work on the “open society and its enemies” is one of the social science masterpieces of our times. This insistence persuaded me to read the work even though I would otherwise not have touched it. You are quite right to say that it is a vocational duty to make ourselves familiar with the ideas of such a work when they lie in our field; I would hold out against this duty the other vocational duty, not to write and to publish such a work. In that Popper violated this elementary vocational duty and stole several hours of my lifetime, which I devoted in fulfilling my vocational duty, I feel completely justified in saying without reservation that this book is impudent, dilettantish crap. Every single sentence is a scandal, but it is still possible to lift out a few main annoyances.

1. The expressions “closed [society]” and “open society” are taken from Bergson’s Deux Sources. Without explaining the difficulties that induced Bergson to create these concepts, Popper takes the terms because they sound good to him[he] comments in passing that in Bergson they had a “religious” meaning, but that he will use the concept of the open society closer to Graham Walas’s “great society” or that of Walter Lippmann. Perhaps I am oversensitive about such things, but I do not believe that respectable philosophers such as Bergson develop their concepts for the sole purpose that the coffeehouse scum might have something to botch. There also arises the relevant problem: if Bergson’s theory of open society is philosphically and historically tenable (which I in fact believe), then Popper’s idea of the open society is ideological rubbish . . .

2. The impertinent disregard for the achievements in his particular problem area, which makes itself evident with respect to Bergson, runs through the whole work. When one reads the deliberations on Plato or Hegel, one has the impression that Popper is quite unfamiliar with the literature on the subject–even though he occasionally cites an author. In some cases, as for example Hegel, I would believe that he has never seen a work like Rosenzweig’s Hegel and the State. In other cases, where he cites works without appearing to have perceived their contents, another factor is added:

3. Popper is philosophically so uncultured, so fully a primitive ideological brawler, that he is not able even approximately to reproduce correctly the contents of one page of Plato. Reading is of no use to him; he is too lacking in knowledge to understand what the author says. Through this emerge terrible things, as when he translates Hegel’s “Germanic world” as “German world” and draws conclusions from this mistranslation regarding Hegel’s German nationalist propaganda.

. . . Briefly and in sum: Popper’s book is a scandal without extenuating circumstances; in its intellectual attitude it is the typical product of a failed intellectual; spiritually one would have to use expressions like rascally, impertinent, loutish; in terms of technical competence, as a piece in the history of thought, it is dilettantish, and as a result is worthless.

It would not be suitable to show this letter to the unqualified. Where it concerns its factual contents, I would see it as a violation of the vocational duty you identified, to support this scandal through silence."""""""

Geschmeckt zu mir gut! Anything that scares 'Merican male nurses can't be all bad--and Hegel still frightens some in Uni-land (though they don't know Sein from ...Dasein).

Tuesday, September 01, 2009


Cockburn on Teddy Kennedy:

"""""The deadly attacks on the working class and on organized labor are Ted Kennedy’s true monument. But as much as his brothers Jack and Bobby he was adept at persuading the underdogs that he was on their side. If it hadn’t been for Kennedy, a lot more people would have health coverage . In 1971 Nixon, heading into his relection bid, put up the legislative ancestor of all recent Democratic proposals, but Kennedy shot it down, preferring to have this as his campaign plank sometime in the political future.

After reelection, Nixon did promote a health plan in his 1974 State of the Union speech, with a call for universal access to health insurance. He followed up with his Comprehensive Health Insurance Act on February 6, 1974. Nixon said his plan would build on existing employer-sponsored insurance plans and would provide government subsidies to the self-employed and small businesses to ensure universal access to health insurance. Kennedy went through the motions of cooperation, but in the end the AFL-CIO, with a covert nudge from Kennedy, killed the bill because Nixon was vanishing under the Watergate scandal and the Democrats did not want to hand the President and the Republicans one of their signature issues. Now the Republicans scream “socialism” at exactly what Nixon proposed and Kennedy killed off 38 years ago, in 1971.

To this day there are deluded souls who argue that Jack was going to pull US troops out of Vietnam and that is why he was killed; that Bobby, who worked for Roy Cohn and supervised a "Murder Inc" in the Caribbean, was really and truly on the side of the angels; that Ted was the mighty champion of the working people, even though he helped deliver them into the inferno of neoliberalism.""""""

Read it and weep, emo-crats (--and this isn't about blessing that POS Nixon, though some delusional KOS types have probably already said as much). Cockburn knows the score on the Kennedy crime family (like the documented fact that RFK worked for Roy Cohn, pal of J-Edgar and McCarthy), and has some faint memory of the real values of the 60s, which was not about blessing Tammany, Inc.
So much for ye olde public option:

""""By dropping his insistence on a public insurance option, President Obama angered some of his most loyal supporters but sharply improved the odds of passing a far-reaching healthcare overhaul. Moderate Democratic lawmakers are now more likely to back other parts of the evolving legislation, such as prohibiting insurers from denying coverage because of preexisting conditions or cutting off benefits to ill policy-holders, as well as making it easier for small businesses to cover workers.At the same time, the White House appeared to be making a calculation that liberals would go along with the legislation even if it lacked a provision they deemed indispensable.The White House expressed Obama's position in calibrated language, making clear that though he preferred to include a government-run healthcare plan in legislation, its absence would not be a deal-breaker.Speaking to reporters on Air Force One, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said there had been no change in White House policy with respect to a government-run plan. Obama wants an insurance market that does a better job of serving consumers, he said, and doesn't consider a public option the only means of accomplishing that."The goals are choice and competition," Gibbs said. "His preference is a public option. If there are other ideas, he's happy to look at them. I think this is true not only for the issue of healthcare, but for virtually every other issue that he'll ever deal with in public life."""""

Even Contingencies, no fan of whiny, irrational, soi-disant leftists liberal statism in principle, supports a public option--i.e. VA-like care for all working class citizens, OR something along the lines of EU. That's not an option now, says the Commander-in-chief, who instead emphasizes those laissez-faire conceptual-chestnuts of "choice and competition". Some Hillary supporters predicted as much when BO started quoting Reagan two years ago or so. Obama shows his Demopublican colors once again (probably following orders from his economic advisers, aka Goldman sachs).
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