Sunday, January 31, 2010


Supremely Swindled


"""The Supreme Court took a big step this week in extending corporate power in the electoral arena. In a 5-4 decision, the court struck down limits on interest groups wishing to directly fund campaign ads in the run-up to national elections. Previous rules – including the 2002 bi-partisan campaign reform act – prohibited corporations from directly funding campaign ads in Congressional races, either in favor of, or against individual candidates. Those rules have been struck down in this new decision. Previously, rules regulating spending merely required that corporate interests channel their money through formal mediums; corporations were required to filter spending through political action committees (PACs), and were still able to spend unlimited amounts on “issue ads,” although not on ads attacking specific candidates. In this sense, the Supreme Court’s ruling should not be seen as a milestone so much as one of many recent rulings seeking to strengthen corporate power. Buckley v. Valeo (1976) represents one of the earlier efforts to expand the voice of corporations, as the Supreme Court ruled that spending money on campaign contributions was a constitutionally protected form of free speech. The Supreme Court also struck down a portion of the 2002 bi-partisan campaign reform act in 2007, which prohibited corporations and unions from financing political ads during the two months before general elections and the month before primaries.

The rationale for easing campaign finance laws was provided in a majority opinion written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, proclaiming that “speech is an essential mechanism of democracy, for it is the means to hold officials accountable to the people…Political speech must prevail against laws that would suppress it, whether by design or inadvertently.” Undergirding the court’s rationale is the assumption that money does not pervert the electoral process, but is in fact vital to it. Philosophically, campaign spending is seen as nothing more than a form of political expression – to be wielded by any group or individual who wishes to lobby for or against candidates running for office.

There are good reasons to reject the notion that campaign money is a form of free speech that nurtures democracy. One particular danger from the Supreme Court’s actions is the increased probability that businesses will stifle progressive change. Officials who enthusiastically support corporate power may be rewarded by massive increases in spending on issue and candidate ads that benefit them during re-election, while candidates who support progressive reform will be the subject of an organized business onslaught that is without financial restrictions.""""

* * * * *
Pops Kennedy, scholar of the classics and top-ranking judicial mind in the USA, has a profound insight to share with the plebes of the USA: "money talks." Alas, Kennedy, one of the current papist majority on SCOTUS, didn't quite master the finer points of Aristotle's Politics. The Stagirite opposed despotism, at least in principle, including the financial sort. As does catholic tradition--at least in principle, though Padres might make exceptions when a powerful papist judge has a few million pesos to donate to his favorite catholic charity--yo, Nuestra Señora de Usura Perpetua...

This decision may seem trivial, meaningless, or boring as a Beatles medley at a Ramada on I-80. When the CA gubernational battle heats up, it may not seem so meaningless. Maybe they should post campaign financing bids on e-bay.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Courtier's Credibility


"""What's most disturbing here is the increasing trend of right-wing Justices inserting themselves ever more aggressively into overtly political disputes in a way that seriously undermines their claims of apolitical objectivity. Antonin Scalia goes hunting with Dick Cheney, dubiously refuses to recuse himself from a lawsuit challenging the legality of Cheney's actions, and then rules in Cheney's favor. Scalia has an increasing tendency to make highly politicized comments about purely political conflicts, most recently defending torture in an interview with 60 Minutes. As part of Clarence Thomas' promotional efforts to sell his book, he spent substantial time building his conservative icon status with the furthest right-wing media elements -- even parading himself around on Rush Limbaugh's radio program -- and turned himself into the food fight of the week between Democrats and Republicans."""
Greenwald's name does not rank too high on our list of linkable e-pundits, but Greenwald raises an important point on the politicizing of the Supreme Court. Nearly all of the current crop of conservative judges have made blatantly political statements. Il Duce Scalia's probably the worst, as with his proclamation a year or so ago that Bush/Gore Florida 2000 was a done deal and Americans didn't need to worry their pretty heads about it anymore since the Big Daddies of SCOTUS had taken care of it, and declared the Truth of the matter, notwithstanding the numerous independent researchers and newspapers (including the WSJ) who concluded that tampering had occurred. Scalia, reputedly a conservative catholic, seems fairly unaware of St. Augustine's thoughts De Mendacio (not to say Old and New Testaments):

Greenwald covers the problems fairly well, but he doesn't really discuss judicial review itself, and the related issue of judicial and prosecutorial immunity. That would like require a bit of reflection if not ...analysis, however dull it might seem to the Snarkosphere. Really, the issue revolves around the old regress of the law which the Founders discussed at length. However un-hip, un-PC, or un-read Jefferson may be, he seems to have understood the potential for a Scalia-like quasi-monarchist court:

"[How] to check these unconstitutional invasions of... rights by the Federal judiciary? Not by impeachment in the first instance, but by a strong protestation of both houses of Congress that such and such doctrines advanced by the Supreme Court are contrary to the Constitution; and if afterwards they relapse into the same heresies, impeach and set the whole adrift. For what was the government divided into three branches, but that each should watch over the others and oppose their usurpations?" --Thomas Jefferson to Nathaniel Macon, 1821.

Dull dreary legalese---but a fairly serious issue, Rube. Is the state safer with a judiciary beholden to no one except itself, or by having the court subject to the Congress and Senate? (many Mericans don't realize that SCOTUS was not part of the original Constitution). Jefferson knew enough about British and French ancien regime history to realize that liberty was NOT to be entrusted to a panel of magistrates (as Locke had asserted as well); most of the anti-federalists were in agreement on this issue, but Adams and his judge-henchman John Marshall prevailed. The jacobins of 1792, of course, had other, somewhat extreme solutions for magistrates, part of "le deuxieme état".

Thursday, January 28, 2010


Hitchens/JG Ballard--

"...Ballard is arguably best-known to a wide audience because of his relatively “straight” novel, Empire of the Sun, and the resulting movie by Steven Spielberg. Some of his devotees were depressed by the literalness of the subject matter, which is a quasi-autobiographical account of being 13 years old and an inmate in a Japanese internment camp in Shanghai. It’s not possible to read that book, however, and fail to see the germinal effect that experience had on Ballard the man. To see a once-thriving city reduced to beggary and emptiness, to live one day at a time in point of food and medicine, to see an old European order brutally and efficiently overturned, to notice the utterly casual way in which human life can be snuffed out, and to see war machines wheeling and diving in the overcast sky: such an education! Don’t forget, either, that young Ballard was ecstatic at the news of the atomic obliteration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, an emotion that makes him practically unique among postwar literati. Included in this collection is a very strong 1977 story, “The Dead Time,” a sort of curtain-raiser to Empire—Ballard’s own preferred name for his book—in which a young man released from Japanese captivity drives a truckload of cadavers across a stricken landscape and ends up feeding a scrap of his own torn flesh to a ravenous child.

Readers of Ballard’s memoir, Miracles of Life (a book with a slightly but not entirely misleading title) will soon enough discern that he built on his wartime Shanghai traumas in three related ways. As a teenager in post-war England he came across first Freud, and second the surrealists. He describes the two encounters as devastating in that they taught him what he already knew: religion is abject nonsense, human beings positively enjoy inflicting cruelty, and our species is prone to, and can coexist with, the most grotesque absurdities. What could have been more natural, then, than that Ballard the student should devote himself to classes in anatomy, spending quality time with corpses, some of whom, in life, had been dedicated professors in the department. An astonishing number of his shorter works follow the inspiration of Crash, also filmed, this time by David Cronenberg, in morbid and almost loving accounts of “wound profiles,” gashes, fractures, and other inflictions on the flesh and bones. Fascinated by the possibility of death in traffic, and rather riveted by the murder of John Kennedy, Ballard produced a themed series titled The Atrocity Exhibition, here partially collected, where collisions and ejaculations and celebrities are brought together in a vigorously stirred mix of Eros and Thanatos. His antic use of this never-failing formula got him briefly disowned by his American publisher and was claimed by Ballard as “pornographic science fiction,” but if you can read “The Assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy Considered As a Downhill Motor Race” or “Why I Want to Fuck Ronald Reagan” in search of sexual gratification, you must be jaded by disorders undreamed-of by this reviewer. Both stories, however, succeed in being deadpan funny."""

When Hitchens is not waving his flag for one cause or another, he's a fairly entertaining scribe, tho' not quite the eloquent connoisseur of chaos that was Master Ballard--as with Crash, a wild ride into auto-dystopia, tho' perhaps a bit British for most 'Mericans (at least the book worked. The movie was not bad. Or, shall we say, Rosanna A--topless, or in casts and bandages...pain-tastic! Jimmy Spader apparently didn't quite it make through Stanislavski 101, alas).

Class, today we will be covering “The Assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy Considered As a Downhill Motor Race”, and please be so good as as to turn to page 187 in your Ballard Reader. Be sure to make a note for next week's sed-joo-wull: Vermillion Sands, mescaline, and aria-singing Orchids.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


(May-day Maiden, Evergreen Review, 1967)

HuffPo commentary on Obama's Bank-Tax

“”"That bank-tax reported yesterday looks like it will be
broader and tougher than initially reported.

The Huffington Post quotes a senior administration official saying that Obama will institute a tax not only to recoup taxpayer losses on the bailouts but also to penalize too-big-to-fail institutions and get back some of the taxpayer subsidy inherent in guaranteeing these firms’ survival.

That tax, if it’s steep enough, will incentivize banks to get smaller. It will be interesting to see how it’s structured—at what size the levy kicks in.

And this is also important and new: It appears the administration, even if it’s not going to call for the reinstatement of a Glass-Steagall split between trading and banking, is going to slap penalties on casino-like activities”

The neo-liberals (and of course the neo-Nixonian GOP-nutbags) don't seem too enthralled about this move, but it appears to be a fairly sound regulatory policy--though probably a bad sign for scabs and shysters, whether Stevie Jobs, or Stevie Forbes, or McJobs-Forbes-wannabes, like Byronia and the mormon-subluxation biz.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Communication 101: Prof. Hammett

Say it ain't so, sunshine: Dash H. dared to diss the paupers and panderers of Parnassus, aka the poetry profession.

Poetry and the P.I., it would seem, are as incompatible as a chili dog and a just-pressed shirt. Exhibit A: Red Harvest from 1929, in which the Continental Op is hired to clean up Personville, a town so corrupt that most people know it as Poisonville. Seems that Personville's original gangsta—Old Elihu Willsson, who owns the bank, newspapers, a senator and the governor—is losing ground in his old age. The Op is reluctant to stick around and do the dirty work, so Old Elihu appeals to the Op's manhood. "I'll talk you your sense," he says. "I want a man to clean this pig-sty of a
Poisonville for me, to smoke out the rats, little and big. Its a man's job. Are
you a man?"

But the Op retorts:

What's the use of getting poetic about it? If you've got a fairly honest piece of work to be done in my line, and you want to pay a decent price, maybe I'll take it on. But a lot of
foolishness about smoking rats and pig-pens doesn't mean anything to me.

In the Op's calculus, the values of money and honesty overlap with clear
speaking; foolishness, rats, and pig-pens, on the other hand, line up with
poetry. """

Any real detective (private, or ...puerco...:) ) knows when to cut out the small talk and the stale metaphors and face the facts, as far as they may be ascertained...Though, admittedly, most sane men hearing the real story of Butte city (aka Poisonville) might prefer dreams, poetic, papaverian, pudenda-riffic or otherwise...

Sunday, January 24, 2010


Frege distinguishes between the following meanings of 'is':

(1) the 'is' of identity (e.g., Phosphorus is Hesperus; a=b),

(2) the 'is' of predication, i.e., the copula (e.g., 'Plato is blond'; P(a)) ( Haaparanta may have errored: that would be B(p). If not a definite description--"the philosopher known as Plato"". Not your pet ferret named "Plato")

(3) the 'is' of existence,

(i) expressed by means of the existential quantifier and the symbol for identity (e.g., 'God is'; (∃ x) (G=x)) (also "G*d" even treatable as an object?? unlikely),


(ii) expressed by means of the existential quantifier and the symbol for predication (e.g., 'There are human beings' / 'There is at least one human being'; (∃ x) H (x)),


(4) the 'is' of class-inclusion, i.e., generic implication (e.g., 'A horse is a four-legged animal'; (x) (P(x) → Q(x)))."

(From: Leila Haaparanta - Frege's doctrine of Being - Helsinki, Acta Philosophica Fennica, vol. 39, 1985 pp. 13-14).

So, start over.


Frege's point, however obvious it might seem (at least to those who can remove their ideological spectacles for a few nano-seconds), has broad applications --not only to academics pondering the Klassix in their tax-payer funded ivory towers, but to writers of any type. Poor writers continually conflate the universal with the particular. And perhaps recall the poetical who yawped, "No ideas but in things"?? In a way a call for the particular, instead of the universal (or, bogus universal--integrals might be universals, not sure about egos...).

Another issue with predication (#2) and inclusion (#4): they often seem about the same. Blondness seems quite different than, say, mammal-ness, or triangle-ness, but in many cases the logical form would be the same, that is, if you grant adjectives, or "adjectival classes" exist... "The bike for sale is a Harley" (falls in class of motorcycles aka Harleys) seems quite different than predication: "Harleys are best" (and f**K the rest). Primary/secondary qualities? Metaphysical realism? Or eliminate modifiers from the language.....

Mistaking the particular for the universal may be merely a fallacy of generalization, but it's often sort of a formal error as well: mixing up the universal of class inclusion with the existential gen . A naive leftist might claim (with some justification), that "All Republicans are Oppressors," or, say, "All Mormons are Chesters", and like many, thereby unwittingly offer a quantified universal claim in the Modus Ponens form (ie (x) (M(x)->Ch(x)). But certainly there are some, at least a few mormons, who are ~Chesters (which also shows that premise construction, at least with any observable object/situation/event (apart from the tautologies of logic and mathematics), depends on......verification of some sort, and alas Herr Doktor Frege must deal with Mr. Carnap--er, or really physics and natural science as a whole). So the proper symbolization would be (∃ x) (M(x) & Ch(x)), i.e. "There are Mormon Chesters," which could be confirmed. Of course the class of Chesterness also includes many non-mormons.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Politics, Black Robe Posse-style


"""Today Justice Kennedy wrote for a court majority of the five conservative justices. He effectively wiped out a key provision of Congress' 2002 campaign finance reform. He also did indeed strike down Austin and parts of McConnell. To Justice Kennedy, any limits on the independent spending of money in elections smack of government censorship. The limits Congress enacted in 2002 remind him of old English laws requiring licensing for speech. He talked about the byzantine sets of federal laws and regulations involved—genuinely confusing, it's true—and said that none of it was permissible under the First Amendment. He talked of the rise of the Internet and blogs and how the government could soon come in and start regulating political blogging if the court did not step in.

Though the decision deals with federal elections, expect state and local corporate and union spending limits to be challenged, and to fall, throughout the country. There are many responses to Justice Kennedy's reasoning. He wrongly assumes that corporations or unions can throw money at public officials without corrupting them. Could a candidate for judicial office, for example, be swayed to rule in favor of a contributor who donated $3 million to an independent campaign to get the candidate elected to the state supreme court? Justice Kennedy himself thought so in last year's Caperton case. And yet he runs away from that decision in today's ruling. Justice Kennedy acknowledges that with the "soft money" limits on political parties still in place, third-party groups (which tend to run more negative and irresponsible ads) will increase in strength relative to political parties. And that possibility raises the real chance Congress will repeal the "soft money" limits, thereby increasing the risks of quid pro quo corruption.""""



Wow---NEW NARC WORLDs marches on, with BushCo supporter Andy Sullivan. Racist frat boys of the Log-cabin think alike. With some Meg Whitman campaigning coming up soon! Ahyeah.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


Alex Cockburn on the No on Coakley

""""Coakley, a former prosecutor and attorney general of Massachusetts, ran a dumb, complacent campaign, allowing Brown, a state senator, to charge that she seemed to believe she had an inherent right to the seat. Coakley ladled out platitudes; Brown, pelting about the Commonwealth in a manly GMC truck, made the Democrats' health reform bill his prime issue, which was scarcely rocket science, since people of moderate income accurately believe that "reform" is going to cost them money, with zero improvement in overall service.

A year after his inauguration Obama has disappointed so many constituencies that a rebuke by the voters was inevitable. Yesterday it came in Massachusetts, often categorized as the most liberal in the union. This is entirely untrue. It's a disgusting sinkhole of racism and vulgar prejudice, as five minutes in any taxi in the state, listening to Talk Radio or reading the local newspaper, will attest.

Brown's achievement is not novel. His type of Republican has been elected governor in Massachusetts three or four times in the last 18 years by the real "majority party" --which is the "unenrolled" independents who are 1 and 1/2 times the size of Democrats in number among registered voters and tower over the Republicans of whom less than 12 per cent are registered as such.

CounterPuncher Steve Early, a labor organizer in the state wrote to us on Monday that Brown is in the mould of two recent Republican governors of Massachusetts, William Weld , and Paul Celluci, the latter two actually being backed by later Change to Win local affiliates like HERE Local 26 and the Teamsters. These were genial, likeable, clean-cut jocks, presenting themselves to independent voters as a much needed public rebuke to "an increasingly corrupt, arrogant or personally screwed up Beacon Hill clique of Democrats (see recent spate of House and Senate member/leader indictments, jailings, and/or resignations pending trial). A lot of folks, at the moment, are again just plain pissed about the self-serving political class of Democratic Donkeys who run our one-party state, including the now unpopular Obama pre-cursor, Deval Patrick."


"""A final note on Coakley. She rose to political prominence by peculiarly vicious grandstanding as a prosecutor, winning a conviction of 19-year old child minder Louise Woodward for shaking a baby to death. An outraged judge later freed Woodward, reducing her sentence to less than a year of time served. Then Coakley went after headlines in child abuse cases. Innocent people are still rotting in prison as a consequence of Coakley's misuse of her office. For this alone, regardless of the setback the Democrats richly deserved, I rejoice in her humiliation.""""

Heh heh. Most of the spineless cretins out in Demo-land (retards there are who consider chi-chi libertarian-flat taxer crybaby Andy Sullivan, fan of Cheney until like a month ago or so, a ...real leftist) don't quite grasp Cockburn's wit, so a few seconds of explication are in order. The victory of Brown--another GOP pretty boy- Mitt Romney twit (tho' just WASP, and not WASM) promising to slash taxes--should not be viewed as a positive, but it is an indicator of sorts. The Democrats have not come through, notwithstanding majorities in the House and Senate. Obama turned out to be a moderate (as some predicted), though the Mass. GOP-bots probably feel they are sending some important message to BHO and the Demos (hardly any more profound than the message of the latest Clint Eastwood, angry white-moron flick).

Coakley may not deserve humiliation, but given her luke-warm campaigning and her occasional faux-pas (i.e. claiming catholics have no business working in hospitals, insinuating that Brown was a misogynist, nazi, oppressor, etc), she may have deserved to lose. So who to blame? Start with like Locke, who sold the American rebels on the idea of the popular vote.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Nihilism....Industrial Strength

Dr. LF Destouches' Anti-semitism/NYTROB

"""Louis-Ferdinand Destouches met Cillie Pam in Paris, at the Café de la Paix, in September 1932. Destouches was a physician who worked at a public clinic in Clichy treating poor and working-class patients; Pam was a twenty-seven-year-old Viennese gymnastics instructor eleven years his junior on a visit to the city. Destouches suggested a stroll in the Bois de Boulogne, took Pam to dinner later that night, and afterward took her home. Two weeks together began, after which Pam returned to her work and life in Vienna. Over the next seven years, they saw each other infrequently but corresponded regularly. Pam, who was Jewish, married and had a son. Destouches, who wrote in his free time, became famous shortly after their brief affair, his first novel, Voyage au bout de la nuit, published at the end of 1932 under the pseudonym "Céline" (his maternal grandmother's first name), proving an enormous success. In February 1939, Destouches received word that Pam had lost her husband: he had been seized, sent to Dachau, and killed. On February 21, Destouches wrote to Pam, who had fled abroad:

Dear Cillie,
What awful news! At least you're far away, on the other side of the world. Were you able to take a little money with you? Obviously, you're going to start a new life over there. How will you work? Where will Europe be by the time you receive this letter? We're living over a volcano.
On my side, my little dramas are nothing compared to yours (for the moment), but tragedy looms nonetheless....
Because of my anti-Semitic stance I've lost all my jobs (Clichy, etc.) and I'm going to court on March 8. You see, Jews can persecute too.""""

Guar-annn-teed to have an Andy Sullivan-Demopublican quiverin' like a bowl of warm jello (at least those who can read the NYT). Actually, Contingencies, while granting Celine's greatness as black humorist and skill at charting the madness of the 20th century (as with Mort a Credit), agrees with Mr. Mason's assessment (or implied assessment) of Celine's pamphlets as pathological, deviant, even criminal in a sense. Celine did par-tay with some of the boys of the Waffen SS, during WWII and afterwards (the French govt. were after him immediately, and he barely escaped execution). Perhaps some jewish people would have grounds for calling him a war criminal though he was not technically a nazi or german citizen, and did not participate in the putsches, or in any military actions of the nazis/Wehrmacht, or with the nightmares of the camps.

Yikes, Yappimoto!

Prior to WWII Dr. Destouches (aka Celine) did apparently denounce Hitler (actually, he seemed to imply Der Fuhrer was himself...perhaps misschling.) Yet Mr. Mason tends to read Celine with the usual....bourgeois-moralist spectacles on. Mason merely reacts; he does not even make an attempt to understand Celine, either as man or Nietzsche predicted--accurately, really--that the 20th century would be the time of the assassins. Celine is a creature of the the time of the assassins.

Monday, January 18, 2010

MLK on Socrates, the First Amendment, the Old Testament, and civil disobedience:

"""There are some instances when a law is just on its face and unjust in its application. For instance, I was arrested Friday on a charge of parading without a permit. Now, there is nothing wrong with an ordinance which requires a permit for a parade, but when the ordinance is used to preserve segregation and to deny citizens the First Amendment privilege of peaceful assembly and peaceful protest, then it becomes unjust.

Of course, there is nothing new about this kind of civil disobedience. It was seen sublimely in the refusal of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to obey the laws of Nebuchadnezzar because a higher moral law was involved. It was practiced superbly by the early Christians, who were willing to face hungry lions and the excruciating pain of chopping blocks before submitting to certain unjust laws of the Roman Empire. To a degree, academic freedom is a reality today because Socrates practiced civil disobedience.""""

How Booj-wah (from Letter from the Birm. Jail)


DONNY OSMONDIUS???? Holy Sacred Subluxation of the Nephites, Batman. DonnyRon's here to....rock, old-school Yummy in the Tummy style.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

CalvinCo (continued)

To some out in Consumerland this is old news, perhaps bor-reeng. To countless others, indoctrinated with sunday schoolism it's mandatory reading (and Californians should realize, apres-Prop 8, that fundamentalists and mormons still retain a great deal of power over Golden state politics, especially in towns and cities away from the phunn zones of LA and SF, or silicon valley).

""""Jefferson consistently denounced the "blasphemous absurdity of the five points of Calvin." Three years before his death he wrote the following to John Adams:

"His [Calvin's] religion was demonism. If ever man worshiped a false God, he did. The being described in his five points is ... a demon of malignant spirit. It would be more pardonable to believe in no God at all, than to blaspheme him by the atrocious attributes of Calvin" (Works, Vol. iv., p. 363).

"It is hard to say observes Bancroft, "which surpassed the other in boiling hatred of Calvinism, Jefferson or John Adams."

To Dr. Cooper, November 2, 1822, Jefferson writes:

"I had no idea, however, that in Pennsylvania, the cradle of toleration and freedom of religion, it [fanaticism] could have arisen to the height you describe. This must be owing to the growth of Presbyterianism. The blasphemy of the five points of Calvin, and the impossibility of defending them, render their advocates impatient of reasoning, irritable, and prone to denunciation" (Works, Vol. iv, p. 358).

In the same letter, after mentioning the fact that in Virginia where he resides, the Christians being divided into different sects, including the Presbyterian, are more tolerant, he continues:

"It is not so in the districts where Presbyterianism prevails undividedly. Their ambition and tyranny would tolerate no rival if they had power. Systematical in grasping at an ascendancy over all other sects, they aim, like the Jesuits, at engrossing the education of the country, are hostile to every institution they do not direct, and jealous at seeing others begin to attend at all to that object."

In the following significant passage we have Jefferson's opinion of the Christian religion as a whole:

"I have recently been examining all the known superstitions of the world, and do not find in our particular superstition [Christianity] one redeeming feature. They are all alike, founded upon fables and mythologies" (Letter to Dr. Woods).

Could a more emphatic declaration of disbelief in Christianity be framed than this?

In his "Notes on Virginia," the following caustic allusion to Christianity occurs:

"Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, and imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch toward uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one-half the world fools and the other half hypocrites."

In his letter to Dr. Cooper, prayer meetings and revivals receive this cruel thrust from his pen:

"In our Richmond there is much fanaticism, but chiefly among the women. They have their night meetings and praying parties, where, attended by their priests, and sometimes by a henpecked husband, they pour forth the effusions of their love to Jesus in terms as amatory and carnal as their modesty would permit to a merely earthly lover" (Works, Vol. iv., p. 358).

A short time before his death, Jefferson, in a letter to John Adams, after commending the morals of Jesus, wrote as follows concerning his philosophical belief:

"It is not to be understood that I am with him [Jesus] in all his doctrines. I am a Materialist."

In support of his Materialistic creed, he argues as follows:

"On the basis of sensation we may erect the fabric of all the certainties we can have or need. ....... When once we quit the basis of sensation, all is in the wind. To talk of immaterial existences, is to talk of nothings. To say that the human soul, angels, God, are immaterial, is to say they are nothings, or that there is no God, no angels, no soul. I cannot reason otherwise. But I believe that I am supported in my creed of Materialism by the Lockes, the Tracys, and the Stewarts."

Friday, January 15, 2010

Brown Act Excitement


"""""Q: If 3 out of 5 school board members meet at a restaurant with a teacher or administrator for a few minutes until they noticed that I was also at the restaurant with my wife, have they violated Brown’s Act?

A: Depending on exactly what transpired, the episode you describe could be a violation the Brown Act. The Brown Act “serves to facilitate public participation in all phases of local government decision-making and to curb misuse of the democratic process by secret legislation of public bodies.” Epstein v. Hollywood Entertainment Dist. II Business Improvement Dist., 87 Cal.App.4th 862, 868 (2001).

The main purpose of the Brown Act is therefore to require the local governing bodies to conduct their deliberations and make their decisions in public, as well as give the public notice of any such meetings. Cal. Gov’t Code section 54950, 54954.2(a). The Act covers “legislative bodies,” which include commissions, committees, boards or other bodies of a local agency, “whether permanent or temporary, decision-making or advisory, created by charter, ordinance, resolution, or formal action of a legislative body.” Gov’t Code section 54952(b). Public school boards are covered by the Brown Act, so the question is whether there has been any gathering of the members of the school board that constitutes a “meeting” that is subject to the Brown Act.

Under the Brown Act, a “meeting” includes any congregation of a majority of the members of a legislative body at the same time and place to hear, discuss or deliberate upon any item that is within the subject matter jurisdiction of the legislative body or the local agency to which it pertains. Gov’t Code section 54952.2(a). Therefore, if a majority of school board members met (at a restaurant or elsewhere) to discuss school business, and did not properly notice the meeting (72 hours in advance of a regular meeting, 24 hours in advance of a “special” meeting, Gov’t Code section 54954.2(a), 54956), then that meeting was held in violation of the Brown Act. On the other hand, there is nothing that would prevent school board members from meeting at a restaurant to simply have a nice meal together, so long as no school board business is discussed......."

However mundane or bureaucratic the Brown Act, Prop 59, and similar open government regs may appear to some in Consumerland, the Brown Act upholds transparency at an institutional level and thereby affirms rational democracy, even of a progressive or Rawlsian sort. Enforcing the BA however remains an issue. Brown Act violations go down every day around El Lay--not only at the level of elected politicians, but at school districts, court chambers, police stations. What a Judge or DA or sheriff says in chambers about someone you know being charged with a serious crime should also be on record. Were it applied correctly and consistently, the B.A. could conceivably prevent misdoings and shady deals closed by the proverbial "secret handshake"--no wonder it's hated by Demopublican insiders, whether those of the GOP-Nixonian rat sort, or PC-Demo unionist appaRatchik.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Art Clokey, RIP

'Gumby' creator and Los Osos resident Art Clokey dies

""""Art Clokey, whose iconic Gumby entertained generations of children, died Friday morning.

Gumby – the slender, green clay character partly modeled after Clokey’s father – was a fixture on television through the decades, starting with an appearance on the “Howdy Doody” show in 1956. Through the years, the stop motion star made several comebacks, including a new show in the 80s, after a “Saturday Night Live” skit with actor Eddie Murphy made the character popular again. Throughout Gumby’s long run, Gumby toys – most notably, the bendable – have been a staple of toy stores everywhere."""""

Ave Atque Vale


An opportune time to review the Evidential Problem of Evil.
Let's not forget that any monotheist (i.e. one who belongs to an Abrahamic faith--christianity, islam, or judaism--) would be obliged to agree that an omnipotent G*d controls all natural phenomena, and physical laws--including tectonic plates and faults. Ergo, according to the theist's own definition, G*d allows/creates earthquakes. Yet monotheists also claim their G*d is Just (Bubba certainly would not attend sunday school with his phamily to worship an amoral, or malevolent Being, would he).

So, Houston, we have a problem, the Problem of Eevil--a classic of literature, and philosophy, and religious thinking (as the Book of Job shows--or Voltaire's Candide, or Dostoyevsky's The Brothers Karamazov), just in terms of the natural world, even without resorting to the POE as it applies to human events (ie wars, poverty, crime, etc), and the issue of free will so-called. Modern writers might avoid the normative implications of Eevil, and term it the problem of unmerited suffering (though any Being who would permit untold thousands to die during natural disasters or plagues would seem to be Evil). Either way, there does not appear to be a simple way for the orthodox believer to resolve the problem except by altering the traditional definitions of G*d: perhaps He's not omnipotent? Yet that suggests...imperfection, if not paganism (polydeism?? manicheanism??). Or, conversely, He's not Just (which suggests something even more..unsavory--gnosticism, perhaps). Or, rather, He doesn't exist.

Now, enough of the phony indignation, and back to the Mail Order Fraud, Bubba

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Ihre tägliche Weltanschauung

W. Kaufmann on Popper's misreading of Hegel, cont.:

"""When Hegel speaks of “the State” he does not mean every state encountered in experience. Immediately after first offering his epigram about the rational and actual, he himself continued:

What matters is this: to recognize in the semblance of the temporal and transient the substance which is immanent and the eternal which is present in it. For the rational (which is synonymous with the Idea), in its actuality, also embeds itself in external existence and thus manifests itself in an infinite wealth of forms, appearances, and figures, shrouding its core in a multi-colored rind. Our consciousness first dwells on this rind, and only after that does philosophic thinking penetrate it to detect the inward pulse and to perceive its beat even in the external forms. The infinitely varied relations, however, which take shape in this externality ... this infinite material and its organization are not the subject matter of philosophy.

Thus Hegel would distinguish between the Idea of the State, which he means when he speaks of “the State,” and the many states around us. But the Idea, he claims, does not reside in a Platonic heaven, but is present, more or less distorted, in these states. The philosopher should neither immerse himself in the description and detailed analysis of various historical states, nor turn his back on history to behold some inner vision: he should disentangle the rational core from the web of history.

Hegel is not driven to “juridical positivism” and the approbation of every state with which he is confronted, as Popper supposes (p. 252 ): he can pass judgment. Hegel makes a sharp distinction between such philosophic judgment and the arbitrary criticisms that reflect personal idiosyncrasies and prejudices. This would not involve any difficulty if he were willing to restrict himself to internal criticism, pointing out the multifarious inconsistencies that are so striking in the utterances of most statesmen, in the platforms of most parties, and in the basic convictions of most people. Hegel, however, goes further.

He believes in a rational world order and in his ability to understand it. For him, life is not “a tale told by an idiot”; and history, not merely, although also, a succession of tragedies. There is an ultimate purpose — freedom — and this furnishes a standard of judgment.

A few quotations from the Philosophy of Right may illustrate this. “One may be able to show how a law is completely founded in, and consistent with, both circumstances and existing legal institutions, and yet is truly illegitimate and irrational” (§3). Hegel also speaks of “unalienable” rights and condemns, without qualification,
slavery, serfdom, the disqualification from holding property or the prevention of its use or the like, and the deprivation of intelligent rationality, of morality, ethics, and religion, which is encountered in superstition and the concession to others of the authority and full power to determine and prescribe for me what actions I am to perform ... or what duties my conscience is to demand from me, or what is to be religious truth for me [§66].

According to the addition of Gans, the editor, Hegel remarked in his lectures in this connection that “the slave has an absolute right to liberate himself” (cf. also §77).

Hegel is not inconsistent when he writes: “the State cannot recognize conscience [Gewissen] in its peculiar form, i.e., as subjective knowledge [Wissen], just as in science, too, subjective opinion, assurance, and the appeal to subjective opinion have no validity” (§137). Conscience is fallible; and, while no government or church has the right to dictate to our conscience, no government can afford to recognize conscience as a legal standard. As several of his interpreters have pointed out, Hegel, when he wrote the Philosophy of Right, was concerned about the recent assassination of the poet Kotzebue by a student who was convinced that the poet was a Russian spy and deserved death.

We are bound to misunderstand Hegel when we apply his remarks about conscience within the framework of the Nazi state. It would be more pertinent if we thought of the German Republic before 1933 and of the conscience of Hitler. For by “the State” Hegel means one in which freedom is realized and “a human being counts because he is a human being, not because he is a Jew, Catholic, Protestant, German, Italian, or the like” — and this “is of infinite importance” (§209; cf. §270 n.). Hegel would consider rational the conscience of an opponent of Hitler who recognized his own absolute right to make himself free and to realize his unalienable rights — but not the conscience of a fanatic impelled by personal motives or perhaps by an equally objectionable ideology.

It is no wonder that the Nazis found small comfort in a book that is based on the conviction that “the hatred of law, of right made determinate by law, is the shibboleth which reveals, and permits us to recognize infallibly, fanaticism, feeble-mindedness, and the hypocrisy of good intentions, however they may disguise themselves” (§258 n.). In his Preface, too, Hegel called the law “the best shibboleth to distinguish the false brothers and friends of the so-called people.” One may agree with Herbert Marcuse when he says in Reason and Revolution: Hegel and the Rise of Social Theory: “There is no concept less compatible with Fascist ideology than that which founds the state on a universal and rational law that safeguards the interests of every individual, whatever the contingencies of his natural and social status” (pp. 180 f.).

In sum: Popper is mistaken when he says, like many another critic, that, according to Hegel, “the only possible standard of judgment upon the state is the world historical success of its actions” (p. 260 ). Success is not the standard invoked in the Philosophy of Right when Hegel speaks of “bad states.” “The State” does not refer to one of “the things in flux,” but to an Idea and a standard of judgment, to what states would be like if they lived up fully to their raison d'être. This reason is to be found partly “in a higher sphere” (§270) for which Hegel himself refers the reader to his system as outlined in his Encyclopaedia. The whole realm of Objective Spirit and human institutions that culminates in the State is but the foundation of a higher realm of Absolute Spirit that comprises art, religion, and philosophy.

A perplexing Plurality of Nows

The discussion of “the State” in the Philosophy of Right opens with the pronouncement: “The State is the actuality of the ethical idea.” If he were a Platonist, he would mean justice; but Hegel means freedom: not that freedom from all restraints which, at its worst, culminates in anarchy, license, and bestiality, but, rather, man’s freedom to develop his humanity and to cultivate art, religion, and philosophy. He considers the State supreme among human institutions because he would subordinate all such institutions to the highest spiritual pursuits and because he believes that these are possible only in “the State.” He himself says: “To be sure, all great human beings have formed themselves in solitude — but only by assimilating what had already been created in the State."[1] One might nevertheless insist, as Hegel does not, that conformity should be discouraged beyond the necessary minimum, and one might dwell, as Nietzsche did half a century later, on the dangers of the State.

It would be absurd to represent Hegel as a radical individualist; but it is equally absurd to claim, as Popper does (p. 258 ), that Hegel’s State is “totalitarian, that is to say, its might must permeate and control the whole life of the people in all its functions: ‘The State is therefore the basis and center of all the concrete elements in the life of a people: of Art, Law, Morals, Religion, and Science.'” Popper’s claim simply ignores Hegel’s emphatic insistence on the sphere of “subjective freedom,” which he himself considered a decisive advance over Plato. The quotation from Hegel, of course, does not at all prove the preceding contention: it means — and the context in the lectures on the Philosophy of History (Preface) makes this quite clear — that the State alone makes possible the development of art, law, morals, religion, and science. And Hegel’s formulation here shows less the influence of Plato, whom Popper represents as a terrible totalitarian, than the impact of Pericles, whom Popper admires. The sentence Popper quotes could almost come from Thucydides’ version of Pericles’ most famous speech.

Hegel’s philosophy is open to many objections, but to confound it with totalitarianism means to misunderstand it. Ernst Cassirer puts the matter very clearly in The Myth of the State (1946), a book dealing with much the same material as Popper’s, but in a much more scholarly manner. His Hegel chapter ends: “Hegel could extol and glorify the state, he could even apotheosize it. There is, however, a clear and unmistakable difference between his idealization of the power of the state and that sort of idolization that is the characteristic of our modern totalitarian systems.”""""

To reiterate: "But the Idea, he claims, does not reside in a Platonic heaven, but is present, more or less distorted, in these states. The philosopher should neither immerse himself in the description and detailed analysis of various historical states, nor turn his back on history to behold some inner vision: he should disentangle the rational core from the web of history."

Das stimmt. The Hegelian Idea: Guar-ann-teed to spook a baptick-mason, altar boy, monarchist (let's not forget Hegel supported the American AND French Revo., in principle) or sundry mystics and boodhistas. Yet hegelian dialectic should not be mistaken for a type of dogma, a replacement for...religion; it's a conceptual model,as Marxy Marx himself realized (though many of his followers didn't), and as a history-based model, it may have certain advantages to say, Darwinism, though tan romantico for most bottlewashers (or sunday schoolers, for that matter). Contingencies fans should also note Kaufmann's rather astute observation that Hegel is not merely a will-to-power type, as many a naive liberal has been taught: ""Popper is mistaken when he says, like many another critic, that, according to Hegel, “the only possible standard of judgment upon the state is the world historical success of its actions”"".

Bertrand Russell most likely echoed Popper's error as well--assuming the Hegelian system was merely a type of Caesarism, and a template for the Third Reich (tho' his anti-Hegel rant in History of West.Phil perhaps not uncalled for, given that the V-2s were flying and concentration camps rolling). Not exactly, Uncle Bertie: Hegel promoted a kinder, gentler Caesarism, though the Philosophy of Right or Phil of History will not offer much comfort to the usual liberal narcissist or anglo-progressive. Alas Caesars, ethical or not, are in short supply (apart from perhaps...Berscaloni)

Monday, January 11, 2010

Exit, France Telecom style.


""Although [France Telecom] went private long ago, telephone workers are considered government employees. Two-thirds of them have civil-service status and cannot be fired. Nonetheless, the monopoly cut 22,000 jobs between 2006 and 2008 and reassigned many more workers to menial jobs with longer hours. ''Engineers who spent 20 years doing repairs to phone lines are being reassigned to work in call centers, and some of them struggle with the change,'' France Telecom physician Monique Fraysse-Guigline told London’s The Times last September 14.

On September 28, for example, a 51-year-old France Telecom employee left a note complaining that he could not bear his new assignment to a call center and jumped off a highway bridge into rush-hour traffic. In July, a telephone worker in Marseille left a suicide note stating, "Overwork, stress, absence of training and total disorganization in the company. I'm a wreck, it's better to end it all."

The dead worker's sister told The Guardian newspaper on September 18: "There was this pressure from the top to slim down operations by destabilizing workers; people were undermined to the point that they got ill. He told me he was regularly sent messages from managers suggesting he find work elsewhere. Once they suggested he open a rural guesthouse. He accepted a far too heavy workload out of fear of losing his senior job. He had no other problems, no money worries, no family concerns."

A healthy middle-aged man - he ran in marathons as a hobby - with no money problems could not bear the thought of losing an overpaid sinecure at the phone company. For the fretful French, The Guardian wrote, his "suicide note has become the defining message from the grave".

There you go, Bubba the Mormon Subluxanator! Jump. A solution, 'fore the Feds close the sweatshop.

"""Suicide is a fundamental human right. This does not mean that it is morally desirable. It only means that society does not have the moral right to interfere”""

Saturday, January 09, 2010

O sesquipedalian........

..."El jardín de senderos que se bifurcan"

(en pinche anglo, lo siento)

It is venturesome to think that a coordination of words (philosophies are nothing more than that) can resemble the universe very much. It is also venturesome to think that of all these illustrious coordinations, one of them -- at least in an infinitesimal way -- does not resemble the universe a bit more than the others.
-- Essay: "The Avatars of the Tortoise"

A book is more than a verbal structure or series of verbal structures; it is the dialogue it establishes with its reader and the intonation it imposes upon his voice and the changing and durable images it leaves in his memory. A book is not an isolated being: it is a relationship, an axis of innumerable relationships.
-- Essay: "A Note on (toward) Bernard Shaw"

A man sets out to draw the world. As the years go by, he peoples a space with images of provinces, kingdoms, mountains, bays, ships, islands, fishes, rooms, instruments, stars, horses, and individuals. A short time before he dies, he discovers that the patient labyrinth of lines traces the lineaments of his own face.
-- Afterword to El hacedor, 1960

Of course, like all young men, I tried to be as unhappy as I could -- a kind of Hamlet and Raskolnikov rolled into one.
-- Autobiographical essay 1970

I found America the friendliest, most forgiving, and most generous nation I had ever visited. We South Americans tend to think of things in terms of convenience, whereas people in the United States approach things ethically. This -- amateur Protestant that I am -- I admired above all. It even helped me overlook skyscrapers, paper bags, television, plastics, and the unholy jungle of gadgets.
-- Autobiographical essay 1970

Any time something is written against me, I not only share the sentiment but feel I could do the job far better myself. Perhaps I should advise would-be enemies to send me their grievances beforehand, with full assurance that they will receive my every aid and support. I have even secretly longed to write, under a pen name, a merciless tirade against myself.
-- Autobiographical essay 1970

Truly fine poetry must be read aloud. A good poem does not allow itself to be read in a low voice or silently. If we can read it silently, it is not a valid poem: a poem demands pronunciation. Poetry always remembers that it was an oral art before it was a written art. It remembers that it was first song.
-- Lecture entitled "The Divine Comedy," 1977

Films are even stranger [than theater], for what we are seeing are not disguised people but photographs of disguised people, and yet we believe them while the film is being shown.
-- Lecture entitled "The Divine Comedy," 1977

The aesthetic event is something as evident, as immediate, as indefinable as love, the taste of fruit, of water. We feel poetry as we feel the closeness of a woman, or as we feel a mountain or a bay. If we feel it immediately, why dilute it with other words, which no doubt will be weaker than our feelings?
-- Lecture entitled "Poetry," 1977

There are people who barely feel poetry, and they are generally dedicated to teaching it.
-- Lecture entitled "Poetry," 1977

A writer -- and, I believe, generally all persons -- must think that whatever happens to him or her is a resource. All things have been given to us for a purpose, and an artist must feel this more intensely. All that happens to us, including our humiliations, our misfortunes, our embarrassments, all is given to us as raw material, as clay, so that we may shape our art.
--From "Twenty Conversations with Borges, Including a Selection of Poems: Interviews by Roberto Alifano, 1981-1983."

To reiterate....." the unholy jungle of gadgets." Heh. One true sentence penned by an authentic scribe puts the average 500-page pot-boiler in....el excusado.

Friday, January 08, 2010

E.J. Sullivan

This is one of Sullivan's remarkable illustrations for Fitzgerald's translation of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. Sullivan's work was known by some of the artists and illustrators of the Haight-Ash-buried scene including Mouse, and other underground graphix people. That rather familiar looking Grateful Dead skull? From the pen of Eddie Sullivan, rube.


Thursday, January 07, 2010


Chiropractor scams

"Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public."

H. L. Mencken

Chiropractics, one of the favorite hustles of mormons, scientologists, and other pious frauds, has long been suspected of being, in technical terms, Bogus with a capital B (capiche, Bubba Bellami?). The state of CA itself now features a whistleblower site aimed at preventing false advertising related to the chiropractor business (AG Moonbeam may be flakey, but Jerry's an ethical flake, on occasion). Shysters who market cheap, chiropractor-related goods, such as "ergonomic" keypads, "subluxated" pens--"Drop off a bundle at your community’s welcome wagon,goldangit!"--and other gimcrackery devices also meet the whistle-blowing criteria. No evidence exists which proves that such devices have any effect on spinal injuries; indeed, the evidence suggests that such devices often worsen a patient's condition.

from the Wiki on Chiro-quacks:

"""Opinions differ as to the efficacy of chiropractic treatment.[65] Many controlled clinical studies of spinal manipulation (SM) are available, but their results disagree,[91] and they are typically of low quality.[92] Health claims made by chiropractors about using manipulation for pediatric health conditions are supported by only low levels of scientific evidence.[93] A 2008 critical review found that with the possible exception of back pain, chiropractic SM has not been shown to be effective for any medical condition, and suggested that many guidelines recommend chiropractic care for low back pain because no therapy has been shown to make a real difference....""

"""Chiropractic is a dangerous scam.

While spinal manipulation MAY help SOME low back pain, manipulation can easily be performed by other health professionals that are MUCH safer for patients, such as physical therapists.

The main danger of chiropractic is that most chiropractors are not trained in proper diagnosis and may delay referring you to a real doctor, even for life-threatening conditions.

Another danger is that chiropractors have a pseudo scientific belief system and often recommend dangerous, expensive, or bizarre treatments that are completely worthless.

Chiropractic is also dangerous for potential students. Chiropractors have the highest student loan default rates of any health profession. Many private insurers will not pay for chiropractic, so new graduates increasingly must try to sell patients expensive and unnecessary "pre-paid care plans" or risk defaulting on their student loans."""

Dr. Barrett on chiro-quacks: "biotheistic nonsense".

""Chiropractic theory is rooted in the notions of Daniel David Palmer, a grocer and "magnetic healer" who postulated that the basic cause of disease was interference with the body's nerve supply. Approximately a hundred years ago, he concluded that "A subluxated vertebrae . . . is the cause of 95 percent of all diseases. . . . The other five percent is caused by displaced joints other than those of the vertebral column." [1] He proclaimed that subluxations interfered with the body's expression of "Innate Intelligence"—the "Soul, Spirit, or Spark of Life" that controlled the healing process. He proposed to remedy the gamut of disease by manipulating or "adjusting" the problem areas.

Over the years, chiropractors have gone beyond Palmer's theories, although some still cling to them for dear life. Some describe subluxations as "bones out of place" and/or "pinched nerves"; some think in terms of "fixations" and/or loss of joint mobility; some occupy a middle ground that includes any or all of these concepts; and a small percentage renounce Palmer's notions as biotheistic nonsense—which they were.""

For more on Palmer's chiropractic snake-oil, see here.

For more phunn regarding MormonCo,click here.

Back to El Torito's, Bubba.........

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Eliminate the senate/Counterpunch


"""The filibuster is merely one of a thousand ways a small number of senators, even just one, can clog the system. Unlike the House of Representatives, the Senate was never intended to operate by majority rule; it was designed to operate by “unanimous consent.” That means, as we observed during the endless non-debate of the health care bill, that one senator can demand that the entire text of any bill or amendment must be read aloud – word by audible word – if one member simply utters the words “I object” at the appropriate moment. It also means that nominations, even bills, can be held up for days, weeks, even months before a majority leader tries to start what passes for debate in the Senate these days. And, it means any and all committee hearings must be shut down any time the Senate is in session – and a senator objects. The Senate rules are an almost endless opportunity for mischief, or worse, for any member or faction wanting to play the role – just like the racist Southern Democrats did in the 1960s when they stood, insistently and almost endlessly, in the way of civil rights bills.

The way the Senate operates also means that any senator with the brains and guts to hamstring George W. Bush’s blustering the country into war in October, 2002 could have done so. (But alas, there was no such senator.) It is a system designed, for good or ill, to permit a minority – sometimes tiny – to interpose itself, as obnoxiously or as honorably as they may choose.

Eliminate all that, and what do you get? You get the House of Representatives. If you want to fix the gridlock problem in Congress and fix it good, the best thing to do is to eliminate the Senate. ....."

To reiterate: the Senate was not intended to operate by majority rule--an important point. Had a few DINOcrats bothered with the Federalist papers they might have realized that Madison & Co. made allowances for Liebermans; the US Senate's set up to allow a few powerful senators to block the will of the people when necessary (though admittedly that may not be always a bad thing, as DeToqueville realized)



New McWorlds goes GOP-Libertarian, and now approves of that loud, pro-war, semi-orthodox altar boy Andy Sullivan (Sullivan praised Bush/Cheney and GOP until about 2005, and still favors a flat tax, privatization of about everything, and opposes govt. funded health care. Nothin' but Barry Goldwater-style anti-govt. greed and huckstering. Then, note the routine references on NWs to RA Heinlein, a hawk on 'Nam, pal of L-Ron, hater of big govt. etc.))

Monday, January 04, 2010

your monthly Ibn Sina update....

Avicenna, who allegedly anticipated the Cartesian ‘Cogito ergo sum’)

""""""In Metaphysics the doctrine of Ibn Sina is most individual, and is also illuminated by his personal antecedents. On the other hand, his thought was fashioned by three teachers, of whom, however, he knew only two by name: Aristotle and al-Farabi, who introduced several of the great concepts subsequently developed by Ibn Sina. The third was Plotinus, who came down to him under the name of Aristotle, in the so-called ‘Theology of Aristotle’ [see aristutalis], which was composed of extracts from Plotinus's Enneads, and presented as the culmination of Aristotle's Metaphysics. This error of attribution dogs the whole of Avicenna's work. As a born metaphysician he earned the title of ‘Philosopher of being’ but as a realist he wished to understand essences in their actualized state, so that he is just as much the ‘Philosopher of essence’. The whole of his metaphysics is ordered round the double problem of the origin of being and its transmission to essence, but to individually actualized essence (cf. Goichon, La distinction de l'essence et de l'existence d'apres Ibn Sina, Paris 1937).

It is at this point that a free interpretation of Aristotle and Plotinus gives him his theory of the creation of forms by emanation. This is linked with a cosmogony taken from the apocryphal Theology, but is also inspired by hylemorphism and Aristotelian data on the soul. The extensive place occupied in his thought by the intelligence prompts him to this startling view: the gift of being is linked with the light of the intelligence. Moreover, Ibn Sina is a believer; in accordance with Islam he believes in God as the Creator. None of the philosophies handed down from pagan antiquity takes account of this. He attempts to integrate dogma with his philosophical formulation. In fact, he does not succeed very well, but he continually works in this direction.

The first certitude apprehended by the human mind, he says, is that of being, which is apprehended by means of sense-perceptions. The idea of being, however, is so deep-rooted in man that it could be perceived outside of the sensible. This prefiguration of the Cartesian ‘Cogito ergo sum’ appears to have two causes: intuition (Hads) is so powerful in Ibn Sina (see in the Physics of the Danishnama the part that it played for him) that he bases himself here on a metaphysical apprehension of being; in addition, since the human soul, according to him, is a separate intelligence, which leads its own spiritual existence while being united with the body, it is capable of apprehending itself directly........."""""

Guar-ann-teed to scare the sh**t out of Bubbas across the I-HOPs of the USA.

Sunday, January 03, 2010


"""Y fue a esa edad... Llegó la poesía
a buscarme. No sé, no sé de dónde
salió, de invierno o río.
No sé cómo ni cuándo,
no, no eran voces, no eran
palabras, ni silencio,
pero desde una calle me llamaba,
desde las ramas de la noche,
de pronto entre los otros,
entre fuegos violentos
o regresando solo,
allí estaba sin rostro
y me tocaba.

Yo no sabía qué decir, mi boca
no sabía
mis ojos eran ciegos,
y algo golpeaba en mi alma,
fiebre o alas perdidas,
y me fui haciendo solo,
aquella quemadura,
y escribí la primera línea vaga,
vaga, sin cuerpo, pura
pura sabiduría
del que no sabe nada,
y vi de pronto
el cielo
y abierto,
plantaciones palpitantes,
la sombra perforada,
por flechas, fuego y flores,
la noche arrolladora, el universo.

Y yo, mínimo ser,
ebrio del gran vacío
a semejanza, a imagen
del misterio,
me sentí parte pura
del abismo,
rodé con las estrellas,
mi corazón se desató en el viento."""""

(Pablo Neruda)

Friday, January 01, 2010

Noble lies

(Richard Holton/Enquiry)

""""Most of us, certainly most of us working in universities, like to think that the spread of knowledge will be beneficial. Diffuse knowledge, goes this pleasingly democratic line, and people will be better off. But there is another strain of thought, going back at least to Plato, that takes the contrary course, arguing that widespread knowledge of the truth will be damaging, and so insisting on the need for the Noble Lie. Some recent work in social psychology has lent support to this latter approach, apparently showing that getting subjects to reject the existence of Phree will or to believe in the truth of determinism makes them less likely to behave morally. In a pair of studies Vohs and Schooler found that getting subjects to read some passages arguing that free
will is an illusion subsequently made them more likely to cheat in a test.2 In further studies, Baumeister, Masicampo and DeWall found that reading passages propounding determinism increased subjects’ tendency to behave aggressively towards others (serving hot salsa to those who had said they hated it), and decreased their tendency to say that would behave helpfully in various situations.3
Assuming that these results are real, how are we to explain them? One obvious
explanation will occur to philosophers: if the subjects believe that free will is necessary for moral responsibility, then, given minimal rationality, undermining their belief in free will should be enough to undermine their belief that they are morally responsible. And if they no longer think that they are morally responsible, immoral behaviour will follow. Supporters of this interpretation might then point to a set of recent studies that seem to show that most people do think that moral responsibility is absent in a deterministic world, at least so long as they think sufficiently abstractly.4 If determinism is in fact true, the conclusion is a rather depressing one: we should either cultivate a belief in free will as
a necessary illusion for moral behaviour; or else we need to embark on a probably
fruitless attempt to convince the masses of the truth of compatibilism.
I want to suggest an alternative interpretation. Although it is true that some studies do suggest that most people believe that there is no moral responsibility in a deterministic world, it appears that this finding is highly sensitive to how the
deterministic world in described. A recent study by Eddy Nahmias and colleagues has found that what subjects really find inimical to moral responsibility is mechanism: the idea that we are being pushed along by happenings at the molecular level. 5 And this finding is even more marked when they are asked, not about moral responsibility, but about freedom. This opens the door to the possibility that the apparent commitment to incompatibilism stems from a misunderstanding of the true nature of determinism, one that sees it as more mechanistic than it need be. And on the basis of this we might try for an alternative explanation of the Vohs and Baumeister results: perhaps the deterministic texts are encouraging a mechanistic view of the way the world works, and the moral demotivation stems from the subject’s belief that that is incompatible with moral responsibility.""""

In other words, YOU can't handle the Twooth; ergo, substance dualism holds.....

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