Sunday, February 28, 2010

e-sunday school

John Wesley should be considered as one of a few authentic anglo Christian evangelicals, even by secularists, or non-believers who don't approve of modern Christendom. Wesley rightly protested Calvinist predestination and affirmed Arminian concepts--(supporting Arminius when the Reformer and his gang were reforming Europe cost many an Arminian--and papist, for that matter--his head). Arminius and his followers only slightly altered calvinist dogma on sola fide and the "Elect" (sort of the gated community of church-goers, supposedly determined by G*d, like eons ago), but Arminius does allow for a modicum of freedom, and suggested something like merit (ie good works, rather than zealous faith) might be important in regards to salvation.... Wesley sided with the Arminians, and regularly denounced calvinism (ie presbyterians, and the underlying credo of many mainstream evangelicals...tho' the "free will" protestants have their own might say, Calvinists aren't christians. Then, according to Catholic tradition, PROTESTANTS, taken as a whole, ARE NOT CHRISTIANs, as a matter of definition. That said, Justice is not a matter of how many brunches at La Misa's you've eaten, either.... ).

Wesley's sermons do not lack for intellectual power though his language's a bit quaint, and not the sort of chi chi literary rhetoric preferred by most liberals (even judeo-christian ones). In the quoted sermon, he refers to Locke, Hobbes, quotes in latin, and greek: not exactly Billy Bob chanting from the Book of Revelation at the local baptick warehouse. Coleridge admired Wesley, as did other thinkers of the day. Wesley has a certain zealous preacherly aspect as well, but Wesley and his methodists zealously attacked slavery, and aristocratic privilege of all sorts (including the judiciary). Wesley also detested Hume (not without some reason. Hume, a regular at Baron d'Holbach's soirees, generally backed the Torys, and was a neo-con of the day, who made racist remarks......). .

As with Locke, Wesley generally praises reason, and does not care for "enthusiasm"-- he opposed the David Koreshes and John Hagees of the day, and...masonic nuts as well (also noted in Locke's American sons, Jefferson & Co. tho' masonry did migrate to the colonies). Contrary to some allegations, Wesley attempted to reconcile religion and science, and accepted Newtonian principles for the most part, though he did at times object to deists and empirical mechanists, ala Hobbes; Wesley's criticism of empiricism seems slightly rationalist (he quoted Leibniz at times...). Though one hesitates to call Wesley a liberal, he, like Locke, generally opposed the monarchy and aristocracy....but, well, read the Wiki. Or don't.

From John Wesley's Sermons-- The Case Of Reason Impartially Considered

"""""1. And, First, reason cannot produce faith. Although it is always consistent with reason, yet reason cannot produce faith, in the scriptural sense of the word. Faith, according to Scripture, is "an evidence," or conviction, "of things not seen." It is a divine evidence, bringing a full conviction of an invisible eternal world. It is true, there was a kind of shadowy persuasion of this, even among the wiser Heathens; probably from tradition, or from some gleams of light reflected from the Israelites. Hence many hundred years before our Lord was born, the Greek Poet uttered that great truth, --

Millions of spiritual creatures walk the earth
Unseen, whether we wake, or if we sleep.

But this was little more than faint conjecture: It was far from a firm conviction; which reason, in its highest state of improvement, could never produce in any child of man.

2. Many years ago I found the truth of this by sad experience. After carefully heaping up the strongest arguments which I could find, either in ancient or modern authors, for the very being of a God, and (which is nearly connected with it) the existence of an invisible world, I have wandered up and down, musing with myself: "What, if all these things which I see around me, this earth and heaven, this universal frame, has existed from eternity? What, if that melancholy supposition of the old Poet be the real case, --

oih per jullvn geneh, toih de kai andrvn;

What, if 'the generation of men be exactly parallel with the generation of leaves?' if the earth drops its successive inhabitants, just as the tree drops its leaves? What, if that saying of a great man be really true, --

Post mortem nihil est; ipsaque mors nihil?

Death is nothing, and nothing is after death?

How am I sure that this is not the case; that I have not followed cunningly devised fables?" -- And I have pursued the thought, till there was no spirit in me, and I was ready to choose strangling rather than life.

3. But in a point of so unspeakable importance, do not depend upon the word of another; but retire for awhile from the busy world, and make the experiment yourself. Try whether your reason will give you a clear satisfactory evidence of the invisible world. After the prejudices of education are laid aside, produce your strong reasons for the existence of this. Set them all in array; silence all objections; and put all your doubts to flight. Alas! You cannot, with all your understanding. You may repress them for a season. But how quickly will they rally again, and attack you with redoubled violence! And what can poor reason do for your deliverance? The more vehemently you struggle, the more deeply you are entangled in the toils; and you find no way to escape.

4. How was the case with that great admirer of reason, the author of the maxim above cited? I mean the famous Mr. Hobbes. None will deny that he had a strong understanding. But did it produce in him a full and satisfactory conviction of an invisible world? Did it open the eyes of his understanding, to see beyond the bounds of this diurnal sphere? O no! far from it! His dying words ought never to be forgotten. "Where are you going, Sir?" said one of his friends. He answered, "I am taking a leap in the dark!" and died. Just such an evidence of the invisible world can bare reason give to the wisest of men!

5. Secondly. Reason alone cannot produce hope in any child of man: I mean scriptural hope, whereby we "rejoice in hope of the glory of God:" That hope which St. Paul in one place terms, "tasting the powers of the world to come;" in another, the "sitting in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:" That which enables us to say, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath begotten us again unto a lively hope; -- to an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away; which is reserved in heaven for us." This hope can only spring from Christian faith: Therefore, where there is not faith, there is not hope. Consequently, reason, being unable to produce faith, must be equally unable to produce hope. Experience confirms this likewise. How often have I laboured, and that with my might, to beget this hope in myself! But it was lost labour: I could no more acquire this hope of heaven, than I could touch heaven with my hand. And whoever of you makes the same attempt will find it attended with the same success. I do not deny, that a self-deceiving enthusiast may work in himself a kind of hope: He may work himself up into a lively imagination; into a sort of pleasing dream: He may "compass himself about," as the Prophet speaks, "with sparks of his own kindling:" But this cannot be of long continuance; in a little while the bubble will surely break. And what will follow? "This shall ye have at my hand, saith the Lord, ye shall lie down in sorrow."

6. If reason could have produced a hope full of immortality in any child of man, it might have produced it in that great man whom Justin Martyr scruples not to call " a Christian before Christ." For who that was not favoured with the written word of God, ever excelled, yea, or equalled, Socrates? In what other Heathen can we find so strong an understanding, joined with so consummate virtue? But had he really this hope? Let him answer for himself. What is the conclusion of that noble apology which he made before his unrighteous judges? "And now, O judges! ye are going hence to live; and I am going hence to die: Which of these is best, the gods know; but, I suppose, no man does." No man knows! How far is this from the language of the little Benjamite: "I desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better!" And how many thousands are there at this day, even in our own nation, young men and maidens, old men and children, who are able to witness the same good confession!

7. But who is able to do this, by the force of his reason, be it ever so highly improved? One of the most sensible and most amiable Heathens that have lived since our Lord died, even though he governed the greatest empire in the world, was the Emperor Adrian. It is his well-known saying, "A prince ought to resemble the sun: He ought to shine on every part of his dominion, and to diffuse his salutary rays in every place where he comes." And his life was a comment upon his word: Wherever he went, he was executing justice, and showing mercy. Was not he then, at the close of a long life, full of immortal hope? We are able to answer this from unquestionable authority, -- from his own dying words. How inimitably pathetic!



Animula, vagula, blandula,
Hospes, comesque corporis,
Quae nunc abibis in loca,
Pallidula, rigida, nudula,
Nec, ut soles, dabis jocos!

Which to the English reader may see translated into our own language, with all the spirit of the original: --

Poor, little, pretty, fluttering thing,
Must we no longer live together?
And dost thou prune thy trembling wing,
To take they flight, thou know'st not whither?

Thy pleasing vein, they humorous folly,
Lies all neglected, all forgot!
And pensive, wavering, melancholy,
Thou hop'st, and fear'st, thou know'st not what.

8. Thirdly. Reason, however cultivated and improved, cannot produce the love of God; which is plain from hence: It cannot produce either faith or hope; from which alone this love can flow. It is then only, when we "behold" by faith "what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us," in giving his only Son, that we might not perish, but have everlasting life, that "the love of God is shed abroad in our heart by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us." It is only then, when we "rejoice in hope of the glory of God," that "we love Him because he first loved us." But what can cold reason do in this matter? It may present us with fair ideas; it can draw a fine picture of love: But this is only a painted fire. And farther than this reason cannot go. I made the trial for many years. I collected the finest hymns, prayers, and meditations which I could find in any language; and I said, sung, or read them over and over, with all possible seriousness and attention. But still I was like the bones in Ezekiel's vision: "The skin covered them above; but there was no breath in them.""""""

That's more faith hope and charity than the usual merican preacher--or priest--will expend in a decade.

Saturday, February 27, 2010


CD Friedrich-land, a place the USS Dawkins will never visit...........

Die transzendentale Ästhetik (Kant)
""Auf welche Art und durch welche Mittel sich auch immer eine Erkenntnis auf Gegenstände beziehen mag, es ist doch diejenige, wodurch sie sich auf dieselbe unmittelbar bezieht, und worauf alles Denken als Mittel abzweckt, die Anschauung. Diese findet aber nur statt, sofern uns der Gegenstand gegeben wird; dieses aber ist wiederum nur dadurch möglich, daß er das Gemüt auf gewisse Weise affiziere. Die Fähigkeit (Rezeptivität), Vorstellungen durch die Art, wie wir von Gegenständen affiziert werden, zu bekommen, heißt Sinnlichkeit. Vermittelst der Sinnlichkeit also werden uns Gegenstände gegeben, und sie allein liefert uns Anschauungen; durch den Verstand aber werden sie gedacht, und von ihm entspringen Begriffe. Alles Denken aber muß sich, es sei geradezu (direkte) oder im Umschweife (indirekte), zuletzt auf Anschauungen, mithin, bei uns, auf Sinnlichkeit beziehen, weil uns auf andere Weise kein Gegenstand gegeben werden kann.""

die Anschauung= conception, idea, form, literally "in-sighting" (per Vorstellung, performance, or "displaying": etc.) in a priori forms of spacetime--(whether read cognitively....or otherwise). Mistranslated into anglo-ish as "intuition", resulting in the usual hackosophy student mistaking the inward-seeing of Anschauung for ..feee-lings.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Le Mort de Haig

Hitchens/Slate"........the bulk of Haig's awful political career was an example of banana-republic principles and the related phenomenon of an overambitious man in uniform who mastered the essential art of licking the derrières of those above him while simultaneously (see above) bullying and menacing those below. This was the method he perfected between 1969 and '74, serving Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon and helping to superimpose an impression of "order" on a White House that was full of dysfunction, crookery, and coverup. Without any further battlefield experience, except for propaganda trips to Vietnam to support a war that his bosses had artificially prolonged, he moved up the ladder from colonel to four-star general—not bad even for a man who had gotten started by marrying his commanding general's daughter.

Haig had few illusions about the sort of people for whom he was working, and liked to gratify both sides of a riven White House. According to Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein in The Final Days, to Kissinger and others he liked to joke after hours that "Nixon and Bebe Rebozo had a homosexual relationship, imitating what he called the President's limp-wrist manner." When it came time to fold the whole dirty game, he was the first to go to Vice President Gerald Ford and suggest the low stratagem of a pardon that would put the lawbreaker in chief (and by extension some of his underlings) above the law itself."""""

Hitchens may have made some tactical blunders--as the Sally Fields-left reminds us, ad nauseum--but he has enough spine to take on the GOP old guard, unlike most of the Kossack sorts of fraudocrats. The recording of Haig barking --The Helm is right Here!--a few minutes after Reagan was shot (by that insane punk Hinckley) indicates the General's maniacal mindset fairly clearly; or, as HS Thompson might have said, Res Ipsa Loquitur.

That said, and putting aside the bourgeois morality for a few nanoseconds, Gen. Haig served his country. We might hate the politician, but salute the soldier.
(Fritz Nietzsche allows for that, unlike anglo liberals and assorted cows). As a Colonel in 'Nam, he was In country as the grunts say.

Most evangelical midgets don't understand Death, of course, whether of grunts, or a general. And Death's a problem for the Hitchenistas non-believers as well (not to bless the papacy either). Alas HST isn't around to scribble some whisskey and meth-fueled obit-curse for Haig (and perhaps offer at least a few off-handed macho high-fives), and we have to be content-- or not-- with the hot toddy gonzo of Hitch.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Filibusters, continued

Harkin calls for End to Filibuster

Filibuster the Vrijbuiter?

"I think, if anything, this health care debate is showing the dangers of unlimited filibuster," Harkin told reporters on Thursday. "I think there's a reason for slowing things down ... and getting the public aware of what's happening and maybe even to change public sentiment, but not to just absolutely stop something."

The plan he announced with Lieberman 14 years ago would have slowly scaled down the cloture threshold for legislation that had been filibustered. The first vote would require 60. If it failed to reach 60, debate would continue until a new vote, which would require 57, and so on until a simple majority could determine whether the measure lived or died.

"You could hold something up for maybe a month, but then, finally you'd come down to 51 votes and a majority would be able to pass," Harkin said. "I may revive that. I pushed it very hard at one time and then things kind of got a little better."

Changing the Senate rules--particularly the filibuster--would be a Herculean feat. But simply the fact that it's being discussed openly by high-ranking Senators indicates just how frustrated some of them are with the level of obstruction they face. """

+++++++++++ +++++++++++
Harkin's plan sounds reasonable, though it's not likely to appeal to the whores of Big Oil and defense GOP good ol' goys in the Senate or Lieberdems and Pelosicrats for that matter. They depend on procedural glitches--and filibusters are really no more than House-of-Lords style procedural hijacking and obstruction (the word filibuster comes from the Dutch vrijbuiter, from vrijbuit, free-plunder. Filibustero/flibustier used in spanish and french for "pirate")-- to keep the Casino-Senate running.

With respect to the historical Shutterbug, Congress allowed informal filibusters at times but eliminated them in 1842, when a time limit for debate was established. The Senate did not use them, until 1850 or so. The word does not appear in the Federalist papers (there were rules for "time of sessions" in Congress, but not really hammered out). Southern senators managed to get a filibuster rule in the Senate rules prior to the Civil War, most likely in hopes of preserving ...slavery. Cloture, a supposed anti-filibuster rule came about under Woodrow Wilson, but rarely works. Most progressive policies would pass via a simple majority vote, but cannot make the cloture 2/3s rule, and the Demos generally don't have the spine to take it to a filibuste
r stage.

A few political types have suggested that Rawlsian concepts might break the impasse of the filibuster. Obviously whatever party has the majority would probably OPPOSE the filibuster. Currently most demos and progressives favor ending the filibuster. A few years ago, the GOP did. At present the GOP desperately needs the Filibuster (especially with a few Demopublicans like Scotty Brown onboard). Merely obstructing a proposed policy or law by endless debate or demagoguery does not seem reasonable, though of course if the majority were attempting to implement some injust policy--say eliminating taxation--then a filibuster might be the right choice. So it's only an instrumental good. Rawlsian ideas could possibly be of some assistance were some progs able to get his ideas on the floor of Senate; the Theory of Justice does not seem so alien to Federalism of a sort (more John Jay, than Hamilton or Madison, perhaps)--progressive Federalism, for those who enjoy "isms."

Rawls demands that principles of justice be chosen behind a “veil of ignorance” (like Lady Justice's blindfold itself). That is, as Stephanopoulos says, "people should select ethical rules as if they didn’t know how wealthy they would be, what talents they might have, or what gender, race, or religion they would belong to. Only such policies would be untainted by self-interest and, therefore, fair."

A Rawlsian approach, or something like it, would also provide a justification for govt. sponsored health-care (as some political philosophers have argued), and for narrowing the gap between haves and have nots. Of course, Thanatos remains an issue: many humans, including politicians, celebrity-aesthetes, or judges, prefer dystopia, and prefer keeping a great disparity between rich and not-rich, and with retaining whatever sort of pseudo-aristocratic powers they can get away with, so any sort of progressive concerns (who da phuck is that?) are BS. So, you don't want Rawls-like progressives, prepare for Hugo Chavezes.

(also see Here and Here)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Billionaire bailout society (Updated!)


"""The statistics are harsh: Since the mid-1970s the average real wage of non-supervisory production worker has actually declined by 18 percent, while the top earners saw enormous gains. The net result is this: the compensation of the top 100 CEOs compared to the average workers was 45 to 1 in 1970. By 2008 it was 1,081 to one. In 1960, the financial sector accounted for 15 percent of all corporate profits. By 2008 it was 35 percent.""""

now with Nam june Paiklink

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Crumb/coitus interruptus/Cockburn


"""When his British publisher, Jonathan Cape, announced a year ago that R. Crumb was preparing an illustrated Genesis that would be a "scandalous satire" presenting “a complex, even subversive, narrative that calls for a significant re-examination of both the Bible's content and its role in our culture", I thought this would be the coup de grâce, the final revenge of the antinomian ’60s on decency and faith and the bloodthirsty Creator.

If a conclusive disrespecting of Genesis was required, wouldn’t you think R. Crumb was the man for the job? It would be as seditious as hiring the Marquis de Sade to write the history of the British royal family. The patriarchs of the second half of Genesis would be crushed beneath the vast breasts and bottoms, hairy thighs and savage élan of Eve and her daughters.

Crumb encourages such hopes in the bit of his Book of Genesis Illustrated, published late last year, that I happened to read first: the notes in which he pays homage to Savina Teubal’s Sarah the Priestess (1984), which argued that Genesis is in part a sequence of clues about the suppression of a powerful matriarchal order in Mesopotamia and Egypt. In Genesis, Crumb writes, “the struggles and assertions of the female characters are all about this.”

Why did Crumb really embark on this task? Maybe the clue is in three inviting words on the cover: “Nothing left out!” , along with the tempting advisory, also on the cover: “Adult Supervision Recommended for Minors.” It would have been great to have had his frames for all fifty chapters of Genesis back in the ’50s, when we schoolboys had only our imaginations to work with, as Lot’s daughters get their father drunk and lie with him, or when Sara tells Abraham to go in unto Hagar. There was Onan too, now frame-frozen by Crumb amid coitus interruptus.....""""

Cockburn's mostly correct that Crumb sort of waffled between phunky satire and nearly serious, respectful treatment of the myths of genesis (hopefully the paranoid publishing types--or Crumbius's attorneys-- aren't watching for scanned images, or many a freak's in for some trouble). Crumb himself claims he does not believe the Old Testament myth to be literally true (modern evolutionary theory obviously makes those orthodox views rather implausible), yet still felt the need to honor the book.

Americans indoctrinated in sunday schools don't realize that the Old Testament myths are little different than say Bulfinch's treatment of the Greek myths (or hindus, egyptian, nordic, etc.) but have via centuries of reinforcement been held up as the greatest tale, like, ever told. Some cursory reading of the issues related to the formation of the Septuagint might serve as a correctio to the dogmatist--whether jewish, or christian, or muslim (--all people of the book--al Kitab--even according to islamic tradition) We don't deny that some ancient semitic patriarch Abraham/Ibrahim may have existed. Is he any different than say Achilles? Very difficult to determine. The Septuagint it should be remembered was sanctioned by the Alexandrian greeks, as the common greek names (ie Pentateuch, Genesis, exodus, etc) indicate.

The scribes of the "70" (LXX-> Septuagint) assembled various semitic myths, accepting some common stories, ie, most of Genesis, though omitting other stories. Not all of the semitic stories were hebrew, which appears to have been only one of the ancient dialects--not even a formal language in 250 BC, as greek and latin or sanskrit were. (Other dialects included punic, and aramaic--which looks much like an early version of arabic). The so-called Masoretic text has even less historical support (most of the the Dead Sea Scrolls appeared to confirm the ...LXX (any lurkers care to correct??....).

Even accepting the traditional dates of the mosaic authorship (approx. 1300 BC), the stories of the Torah do not appear exceptionally ancient, compared to Babylonian (ie the epic of Gilgamesh) or Old kingdom Egyptian history; proto-Greek itself possibly dates to before 2000 BC (as does sanskrit...Schopenhauer insisted the indo-european syntax, and really language as we know it came from north India via the Rig Veda....). Yet the OT is still taken to be the central creation story... Alas, Crumb's illustrations of Genesis, while perhaps amusing and sublime in some sense (at least to those unaware of Moebius, Crepax, Windsor McKay, etc.), serves to reify the power of the OT.

Monday, February 22, 2010


Abridged Bakhtin for kix:
"""Carnival festivities and the comic spectacles and ritual connected with them had an important place in the life of medieval man. Besides carnivals proper, with their long and complex pageants and processions, there was the 'feast of fools' (festa stultorum) and the 'feast of the ass'; there was a special free 'Easter laughter' (risus paschalis), consecrated by tradition. Moreover, nearly every Church feast had its comic folk aspect, which was also traditionally recognized. Such, for instance, were the parish feasts, usually marked by fairs and varied open-air amusements, with the participation of giants, dwarfs, monsters, and trained animals. A carnival atmosphere reigned on days when mysteries and soties were produced. This atmosphere also pervaded such agricultural feasts as the harvesting of grapes (vendange) which was celebrated also in the city. Civil and social ceremonies and rituals took on a comic aspect as clowns and fools, constant participants in these festivals, mimicked serious rituals such as the tribute rendered to the victors at tournaments, the transfer of feudal rights, or the initiation of a knight. Minor occasions were also marked by comic protocol, as for instance the election of a king and queen to preside at a banquet 'for laughter's sake' (roi pour rire)" ""

"The suspension of all hierarchical precedence during carnival time was of particular significance. Rank was especially evident during official feasts; everyone was expected to appear in the full regalia of his calling... and to take the place corresponding to his position. It was a consecration of inequality. On the contrary, all were considered equal during carnival. Here, in the town square, a special form of free and familiar contact reigned among people who were usually divided by the barriers of caste, property, profession, and age. The hierarchical background and the extreme corporative and caste divisions of the medieval social order were exceptionally strong. Therefore such free, familiar contacts were deeply felt and formed an essential element of the carnival spirit. People were, so to speak, reborn for new, purely human relations. These truly human relations were not only a fruit of imagination or abstract thought; they were experienced. The utopian ideal and the realistic merged in this carnival experience, unique of its kind""" (10).

"""Carnival imagery was used by Erasmus, Shakespeare, Lope de Vega, Guevara, and Quevedo, by the German 'literature of fools'. "Without an understanding of it, therefore, a full appreciation of Renaissance and grotesque literature is impossible. Not only belles lettres but the utopias of the Renaissance and its conception of the universe itself were deeply penetrated by the carnival spirit and often adopted its forms and symbols""".

Carne-vale, or flesh -farewell. That held for western europe until the fool-killers arrived-- i.e., calvinists, islamists, shekelsists, polack and teutonic muscle men (ie most evangelical areas banned the celebration of carnival and Lent; Mardi Gras ). What was once sacred ritual now functions as spectacle for touristas; hey bubba google up topless ho's, nawlins.

Carnival and mardi gras were not primarily ...erotic--though the erotic elements...went back to the Saturnalia, if not hellenic bacchanals (...there seems to be a puritan meme that all pagans approved of decadence and depravity,yet that's not the case. Heraclitus, for one, denounced "the shameful phallic hymns" (tho' the catholic carnival nothing like pre-christian equinotical feasts)). The carnival affirms Satire (ala satyr...); the jester wears the king's crown, the plebes becomes pope. The grotesque becomes reality, though Bakhtin may have overlooked the sordid aspects of Carnival--. Revellers often engaged in sadistic excess at the expense of workers and the poor (in Shakespeare's 12th Night, Malvolio--the attendant commoner who objects to the revellers-- has a certain stoical dignity, and Feste doesn't lack a slightly demonic aspect (and one should not confuse the play with the flicks, including Branaugh's fluff). Poe's splendid tale (however misused by lit-hacks) Cask of Amontillado also hints at some of the darker currents of Carnival...

Authori-tay was, at least for a few weeks a year, overturned, whether of state or church (and the par-tay was, in theory, sort of multicultural, at least in old europe, though probably not in the colonial nightmare zones, until much later). Bakhtin most likely had stalinist bureaucracy as one of his targets as well along with western capitalism, and his point does not lack slightly anarchistic implications...

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Island of the Hypothetical

"""Imagine an island with a hundred inhabitants. A demon comes and offers them the choice of each suffering one day of agonizing explosive diarrhoea, or one of them, little Billy, suffering a hundred days of equally bad runs. Consequentalism is silent, whereas contractualism accords with our intuition that it is more fair to suffer one day of the trots each, as little Billy could very reasonably reject the idea of him having a burning ring of fire for over three months to save what would be, for each individual, a relatively short-lived disturbance to his movements. What if, however, the demon demanded either 80 days of loose stools from all but little Billy or 90 days from little Billy and none from the rest? Contractualism, with its fierce rejection of aggregation, still takes little Billy’s side. Nobody could reasonably justify to little Billy the idea that he should take 90 days of Montezuma’s revenge rather than them suffering 80 days. The fact that there are 99 others who also stand to suffer the same fate should not factor in: total harm is unimportant, what matters is respecting each individual as a person, and no individual stands to suffer a worse case of the shits than little Billy, so he could always reasonably reject the idea of him taking one for the team, although it would of course be admirable if he would supererogate and save the rest of them from the Aztec two-step.

This emphasis on processes over outcomes on ethics is a result of contractualism’s founding idea of ethics as an essentially interpersonal matter, and an insistence that the objects of an action must be unable to reasonably reject it for this action to be right. As stated, this is descended from Kant’s ideas of respect for the individual as an end, rather than a means to the greater good. I believe this is a worthy offspring of the Kantian tradition, fulfilling the potential power of these ideas in a readily applicable framework that makes concrete predictions for the real world in a way that accounts for the value of persons. However, the value of persons, ethics as an interpersonal affair, and the idea of justifiability as the arbiter of right and wrong are by no means the only key ideas in ethics. Other ethical theories place commensurate importance on other basic ideas, and it is important that contractualism be able to address these ideas.""""


What does this summary of Contractualism really imply? Something like, "those who uphold the so-called Divine Right of Kings should be counted as heretics, and will be merely fertilizer in the hereafter...."" That said, being supportive of something like a fair distribution of goods and resources (one might even say a just division of labor) does not mean one approves of maoism. Doctors outrank nurses; teachers are entitled to more than are custodians (and their compensation should reflect that). Those wealthy doctors or engineers or professors on Prosperity Lane usually live next door to wealthy shysterslawyers, brokers, insurance or real estate sharks, salesmen, and panderers and bureaucrats of various sorts. That's sharkocracy, not to be confused with democracy.

Regardless of what some paranoid-right Randian sorts may claim, Kant's kingdom of ends (or Rawls' rationalist update of Kant) does not equal communism. An egalitarian, contractualist model might not jibe with statism, hegelian, marxist or otherwise. Rights still apply under contractual models--at least to rational citizens-- but they are not the complete liberty dreamt of by libertarian whack-jobs and bad Lockeans. Yet...the market economy itself does bear some relation to the above island analogy: in the lotto game of modern capitalism, many humans are little Billy's--burdered with menial labor and drudgery, while a few reap the benefits of that labor and dirty work. That a few benefit from the lotto game does not make the game fair: just say no to MegWhitmanism.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Karen Armstrong vs. the Dawkinsistas


"""So-called new atheists such as Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens have denounced religious belief as not only retrograde but evil; they regard themselves as the vanguard of a campaign to expunge it from human consciousness. Religion, they claim, creates divisions, strife, and warfare; it imprisons women and brainwashes children; its doctrines are primitive, unscientific, and irrational, essentially the preserve of the unsophisticated and gullible.

These writers are wrong -- not only about religion, but also about politics -- because they are wrong about human nature. Homo sapiens is also Homo religiosus. As soon as we became recognizably human, men and women started to create religions. We are meaning-seeking creatures. While dogs, as far as we know, do not worry about the canine condition or agonize about their mortality, humans fall very easily into despair if we don’t find some significance in our lives. Theological ideas come and go, but the quest for meaning continues. So God isn’t going anywhere. And when we treat religion as something to be derided, dismissed, or destroyed, we risk amplifying its worst faults. Whether we like it or not, God is here to stay, and it’s time we found a way to live with him in a balanced, compassionate manner."""

Armstrong may not pay sufficient attention to the type of hysteria which some neo-atheists rightly object to, yet she raises an important point re the neo-atheist's cold, reductionist view of human nature. A Dawkins reduces religion merely to a search for proof. We can't see an ancient, bearded gent in the skies, or in our telescopes, or microscopes; therefore, He doesn't bloody exist, claim the Dawkinistas.

A rational agnostic should protest most of Dawkins' naive empiricist tactics. A religious Being, or realm might not be an object, as say a person, or planet is an object. Is our concept of Justice identifiable via a microscope? Yet many if not most humans would agree they have such a concept. We imagine a Stalin, Hitler, or Idi Amin stuffed in hell, along with small-town perps and panderers, or corrupt judges, politicians, or newspaper editors who fabricate a person's guilt to appeal to some yokels (yokels are multicultural these days). Modern science routinely operates on the assumption that objects (like subatomic particles) exist which cannot be detected by human sight, but merely inferred. At least, the question is not strictly inductive, as in we can't verify God (as in point to him, like one might point to a black swan), but whether religious inferences might be allowed, or plausible in a sense.

That's not to say that one should assume that religion equals traditional monotheism, i.e. an Abrahamic religion--, though the Bible itself remains a source of wisdom, at least when read by rational people. (thankfully, Dawkins, unlike the wackier Harris, does not approve of the mystical occult BS characteristic of many of the neo-atheist gang)--however most eastern religions do uphold some form of mystical/supernatural beliefs (ie, reincarnation, or the various deities of hinduism). Dawkins' insistence on empirical confirmation applies to Hinduism, as much as it would to baptists.

Armstrong's point regarding humans' quest for meaning also should be considered. An afterlife, however implausible to a bottlewasher, makes sense to some people, not only the usual sort of biblethumping WASP. A catholic mother who prays for her sons and daughters serving in the military in a distant country engages in an significant act; she's not merely reiterating some superstitious ritual (tho' admittedly some believers rely too heavily on prayer--and alleged miracles). The Dawkins-esque bottlewasher waves his hand or scoffs, but a mother's prayer means something in a religious realm--a heartfelt prayer has significance (that doesn't mean that one necessarily blesses the priests or preachers who require it...). A prayer of any sort means little or nothing in a naturalist, Darwinist world.

Friday, February 19, 2010

40 years to Death

The execution of Raymond Jennings, continued

"""An Iraqi war veteran was sentenced Thursday to 40 years to life in state prison for the murder of an 18-year-old college coed nearly a decade ago in a Palmdale park-and-ride lot where he worked as a security guard.

Lancaster Superior Court Judge Lisa M. Chung imposed the term on Raymond Lee Jennings, who was convicted Dec. 18 of second-degree murder for the Feb. 22, 2000, slaying of Antelope Valley College student Michelle O'Keefe.

The Lancaster jury that found Jennings guilty was the third panel to hear the case against the 35-year-old defendant, who had served in the Iraq war during a stint with the National Guard.

The first two juries deadlocked -- with the first split 9-3 in April 2008 in favor of guilt and the second panel split 11-1 in February 2009, with the majority voting in favor of convicting him. Both of those trials were held in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom.""""

Though they had little or no evidence, no reasonable motive, and no witnesses, the LA legal machine got the right vigilantes in place and reached a verdict: guilty-by-reason of superior shekels. Now they have sentenced Sgt. Jennings to death. One of the O'Keefes said something cute, like, don't you feel remorse for this crime? (the usual evangelical-bonehead assumes that a courtroom always produces Truth and Justice--at least when the conviction is in their favor).
Jennings stated that said he felt no remorse, since he did not kill her, "and that's a sin I shall not be judged for"--thus revealing more religious sensibility in one sentence than 200 pages of the prosecutor's pompous rhetoric and jury-manipulation.

Given that many of the vigilantes have resorted to the bible quotes, perhaps they might recall that both the Old and New Testaments specifically criticize perjury: "Thou shalt not bear false witness." The church fathers up to and including Aquinas denounced "Mendacio", even when it might please some (like the residents of ...Benthamville!); and Jennings, whatever one thinks of his "character" (so he may not be the sharpest tool in the shed) was not proven to be guilty beyond a reasonable doubt--he's innocent beyond a reasonable doubt. We might also recall the Founding fathers warnings against wrongful conviction. Jefferson claimed "Better one hundred guilty men go free than one innocent man be condemned."

Jennings may have a slight shot at an appeal, that is, assuming the aerospace-bots/evangelicals supporting the O'Keefes and their pals in ParrisCo haven't already arranged things with the Black Robe posse on some SoCal fairway. The CA appeal rejection rate averages about 90% denial.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Brautigan High

Billy Collins re Richard Brautigan/NPR

""Mr. BILLY COLLINS (Author, Poet Laureate): Thank you. It's good to be with you.

CORNISH: So in your introduction you talk about traveling in the same circles as Richard Brautigan back in San Francisco. Tell us about him. What was he like?

Mr. COLLINS: Well, I never met him personally. There were various spottings of him. He was very easy to spot, and I describe him in the introduction as being a very tall fellow who combined hippie dress, colorful shirts and beads with 19 century pioneer clothes, including a waistcoat and boots, all topped by an enormous beat-up Western hat. He looked like a man who had just stepped out of the same pre-industrial America, whose passing he lamented in his fiction -post beatnik and pre-hippie.

He was thought of as a rather mysterious figure; a man that didnt say much but was doing something very peculiar in his writing.

CORNISH: He's been described as a little bit Beat generation, a little bit hippie generation, or a sort of bridge writer. And I'm wondering if you can give us a sense of what that meant?

Mr. COLLINS: I think he just fell between the generations. And I know from reading a book by his daughter, Ianthe, that he really didnt want to be identified with either. But he did give off a sense of being a guy from another time and I think in "Trout Fishing in America," one of the under songs in the book is a kind of lament for the passing of a 19 century, or even earlier pastoral America and its replacement by an industrial America.

CORNISH: Can you read that passage from the book?

Mr. COLLINS: Yeah. One of the features of the book is very peculiar metaphors. And in this little chapter in the beginning is basically a long comparison of trout to the American steel industry. I'll just read a paragraph here.

As a child, when did I first hear about trout fishing in America? From whom? I guess it was a stepfather of mine. Summer of 1942. The old drunk told me about trout fishing. When he could talk, he had a way of describing trout as if they were a precious and intelligent metal. Silver is not a good adjective to describe what I felt when he told me about trout fishing. I'd like to get it right. Maybe trout steel. Steel made from trout. The clear snow-filled river acting as foundry and heat. Imagine Pittsburgh. A steel that comes from trout, used to make buildings, trains and tunnels. The Andrew Carnegie of Trout! Explanation point."""""

Now, kah-lass, be sure to turn in your book report on the Andrew Carnegie of Trout on Stunday.... Of course Brautigan's mad, bad literary trip would be far too much for most 'Merican edu-crats. The US education biz has little to do with fostering real creativity, whether in terms of writing, research, or even the sciences. Edu-crats essentially want their students (and teachers) to obey. Schools prepare the modern student for the corporate world, or for bureaucracy of various types (including the public education bureaucracy). "Creatives" of any type are suspect (as are foreign languages, excepting spanglish, perhaps); Jr. works on his algebra or maybe he works on his free throws. Or his parents or schoolmasters order him to read his Good Book (the anglo-calvinist version, anyway)

Most educational administrators crave reductionism, and don't care for conceptual thinking. Jr. solves problems, and learns to follows routines, but he's not asked to ...reflect on issues or problems or important events. The edu-ocracy does not want too much Reflection--whether on the events of World War Two, or a novel. Modern students need math/science skills, of course--and, let's agree they probably don't need On the Road in high school-- but they also probably don't need the usual public school's bootcamp pedagogy, or the endless jock aggression (besides, great generals learn more from trig, history, or even chess playing, than from Babe Ruth). Students often have decent math skills, can point and click their way across the Net, or hit home runs, but they know little or nothing about History. They don't know Sein from Zeit, or Ishmael from Ahab

Monday, February 15, 2010

T. for Texass Textbooks

NYTimes/Russell Shorto

Following the appeals from the public, the members of what is the most influential state board of education in the country, and one of the most politically conservative, submitted their own proposed changes to the new social-studies curriculum guidelines, whose adoption was the subject of all the attention — guidelines that will affect students around the country, from kindergarten to 12th grade, for the next 10 years. Gail Lowe — who publishes a twice-a-week newspaper when she is not grappling with divisive education issues — is the official chairwoman, but the meeting was dominated by another member. Don McLeroy, a small, vigorous man with a shiny pate and bristling mustache, proposed amendment after amendment on social issues to the document that teams of professional educators had drawn up over 12 months, in what would have to be described as a single-handed display of archconservative political strong-arming.

McLeroy moved that Margaret Sanger, the birth-control pioneer, be included because she “and her followers promoted eugenics,” that language be inserted about Ronald Reagan’s “leadership in restoring national confidence” following Jimmy Carter’s presidency and that students be instructed to “describe the causes and key organizations and individuals of the conservative resurgence of the 1980s and 1990s, including Phyllis Schlafly, the Contract With America, the Heritage Foundation, the Moral Majority and the National Rifle Association.” The injection of partisan politics into education went so far that at one point another Republican board member burst out in seemingly embarrassed exasperation, “Guys, you’re rewriting history now!” Nevertheless, most of McLeroy’s proposed amendments passed by a show of hands.

Finally, the board considered an amendment to require students to evaluate the contributions of significant Americans. The names proposed included Thurgood Marshall, Billy Graham, Newt Gingrich, William F. Buckley Jr., Hillary Rodham Clinton and Edward Kennedy. All passed muster except Kennedy, who was voted down.

This is how history is made — or rather, how the hue and cry of the present and near past gets lodged into the long-term cultural memory or else is allowed to quietly fade into an inaudible whisper. Public education has always been a battleground between cultural forces; one reason that Texas’ school-board members find themselves at the very center of the battlefield is, not surprisingly, money. The state’s $22 billion education fund is among the largest educational endowments in the country. Texas uses some of that money to buy or distribute a staggering 48 million textbooks annually — which rather strongly inclines educational publishers to tailor their products to fit the standards dictated by the Lone Star State. California is the largest textbook market, but besides being bankrupt, it tends to be so specific about what kinds of information its students should learn that few other states follow its lead. Texas, on the other hand, was one of the first states to adopt statewide curriculum guidelines, back in 1998, and the guidelines it came up with (which are referred to as TEKS — pronounced “teaks” — for Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills) were clear, broad and inclusive enough that many other states used them as a model in devising their own. And while technology is changing things, textbooks — printed or online —are still the backbone of education.

The Gospel According to Ronald Reagan. Jeee-zuss spoke...American! A men.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

How mutilated, see, is Mahomet

"""A cask by losing centre-piece or cant
Was never shattered so, as I saw one
Rent from the chin to where one breaketh wind.

Between his legs were hanging down his entrails;
His heart was visible, and the dismal sack
That maketh excrement of what is eaten.

While I was all absorbed in seeing him,
He looked at me, and opened with his hands
His bosom, saying: "See now how I rend me;

How mutilated, see, is Mahomet;
In front of me doth Ali weeping go,
Cleft in the face from forelock unto chin;

And all the others whom thou here beholdest,
Disseminators of scandal and of schism
While living were, and therefore are cleft thus.

A devil is behind here, who doth cleave us
Thus cruelly, unto the falchion's edge
Putting again each one of all this ream,

When we have gone around the doleful road;
By reason that our wounds are closed again
Ere any one in front of him repass."""

- Dante's Inferno, Canto 28

[Mohammed, Dali]

Dante may have placed Mohammed, ""seminator di scandalo e di scisma,""
in a fairly nasty section of Hell (though only two doors away from crafty Ulysses and his muscle-man assistant Diomedes...masters of fraud), yet, interestingly enough, Dante envisions Avicenna (Ibn Sina) and Averroes (Ibn Rushd) in merely the first circle of the inferno (aka Limbo, though also interpreted as something like Elysium). Thus the great muslim clerics, like Aristotle ["the Philosopher" in medieval times], still may perceive the light of Reason, and while they have not joined the blessed in Los Cielos, they have it fairly easy, in terms of the afterlife, compared to the Prophet, Ulysses, or, Osiris Forbid, Caiaphas, or the rebels in Lucifer's gaping mouth.

However spooky or supernatural Dante's visions seem, the circles of Hell ("giros", or for Yeats, gyres, usually depicted as a vortex) do not lack a certain rational structure. Humans distinguish between levels of crime, for an obvious instance. A pickpocket or prostitute is not a Pol pot (..bapticks or Kalvinicks say otherwise). When some university philosophaster alludes to supervenience, or set theory, think...gyres; though the ancients (at least the more platonic sorts--) considered Justice an abstract entity, along with mathematical and logical entities. Pi, or a perfect circle, or pythagorean theorem do not grow on trees, then neither does the categorical imperative---those who scoff, and prefer to chant naturalism via the whole sick crew--e.g. Darwin, or Marx, Nietzsche, Willard Quine, etc.--- may toss the speculative metaphysics on the bonfire at their own risk (that said, we agree with Bertrand Russell that Aristotle's system, while perhaps useful to natural sciences, mostly befuddled the supreme clarity of the platonic Idea. Dante was more neo-platonist that Ari). .....

Dante probably follows Aquinas in his moderate treatment of the muslim clerics. Averroes, for one, was a scholar, and early scientist and translated Aristotle's logic and other words into Arabic. Avicenna also was influenced by the greek philosophers. Aquinas and other catholic figures of his era attempted to convert muslims (who he refers to as gentiles) to Christianity--(protestantism of course does not appear until 1500 or so). In this post-Darwinian, post-Freudian age, most modern humans probably consider Dante's Inferno an old wives' tale, or merely stale metaphor--if they consider it at all-- yet there was a method to the madness of the scribes. Hell might be a "possible world" (especially given all the talk of separate dimensions, quantum parallelism, etc).

Aquinas on Mohammedism (from the Summa contra Gentiles): """On the other hand, those who founded sects committed to erroneous doctrines proceeded in a way that is opposite to this, The point is clear in the case of Muhammad. He seduced the people by promises of carnal pleasure to which the concupiscence of the flesh goads us. His teaching also contained precepts that were in conformity with his promises, and he gave free rein to carnal pleasure. In all this, as is not unexpected, he was obeyed by carnal men. As for proofs of the truth of his doctrine, he brought forward only such as could be grasped by the natural ability of anyone with a very modest wisdom. Indeed, the truths that he taught he mingled with many fables and with doctrines of the greatest falsity. He did not bring forth any signs produced in a supernatural way, which alone fittingly gives witness to divine inspiration; for a visible action that can be only divine reveals an invisibly inspired teacher of truth. On the contrary, Muhammad said that he was sent in the power of his arms—which are signs not lacking even to robbers and tyrants. What is more, no wise men, men trained in things divine and human, believed in him from the beginning, Those who believed in him were brutal men and desert wanderers, utterly ignorant of all divine teaching, through whose numbers Muhammad forced others to become his followers by the violence of his arms. Nor do divine pronouncements on the part of preceding prophets offer him any witness. On the contrary, he perverts almost all the testimonies of the Old and New Testaments by making them into fabrications of his own, as can be. seen by anyone who examines his law. It was, therefore, a shrewd decision on his part to forbid his followers to read the Old and New Testaments, lest these books convict him of falsity. It is thus clear that those who place any faith in his words believe foolishly."""


Saturday, February 13, 2010


[Harvey Wasserman]

"God made the idiot for practice, and then He made the school board."--Mark Twain

""""Tomorrow's New York Times Sunday Magazine highlights yet another mob of extremists using the Texas School Board to baptize our children's textbooks.

This endless, ever-angry escalating assault on our Constitution by crusading theocrats could be obliterated with the effective incantation of two names: Benjamin Franklin, and Deganawidah.

But first, let's do some history:

1) Actual Founder-Presidents #2 through #6 -- John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe and John Quincy Adams -- were all freethinking Deists and Unitarians; what Christian precepts they embraced were moderate, tolerant and open-minded.

2) Actual Founder-President #1, George Washington, became an Anglican as required for original military service under the British, and occasionally quoted scripture. But he vehemently opposed any church-state union. In a 1790 letter to the Jews of Truro, he wrote: The "Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistances, requires only that they who live under its protection, should demean themselves as good citizens." A 1796 treaty he signed says "the government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion." Washington rarely went to church and by some accounts refused last religious rites.

3) Washington was also the nation's leading brewer, and since most Americans drank much beer (water could be lethal in the cities) they regularly trembled before the keg, not the altar. Like Washington, Jefferson and Madison, virtually all American farmers raised hemp and its variations.

4) Jefferson produced a personal Bible from which he edited out all reference to the "miraculous" from the life of Jesus, whom he considered both an activist and a mortal.

5) Tom Paine's COMMON SENSE sparked the Revolution with nary a mention of Jesus or Christianity. His Deist Creator established the laws of Nature, endowed humans with Free Will, then left.

6) The Constitution never mentions the words "Christian" or "Jesus" or "Christ."


7) Revolutionary America was filled with Christians whose commitment to toleration and diversity was completely adverse to the violent, racist, misogynist, anti-sex theocratic Puritans whose "City on the Hill" meant a totalitarian state. Inspirational preachers like Rhode Island's Roger Williams and religious groups like the Quakers envisioned a nation built on tolerance and love for all.

8) The US was founded less on Judeo-Christian beliefs than on the Greco-Roman love for dialog and reason. There are no contemporary portraits of any Founder wearing a crucifix or church garb. But Washington was famously painted half-naked in the buff toga of the Roman Republic, which continues to inspire much of our official architecture.

9) The great guerilla fighter (and furniture maker) Ethan Allen was an aggressive atheist; his beliefs were common among the farmers, sailors and artisans who were the backbone of Revolutionary America.

10) America's most influential statesman, thinker, writer, agitator, publisher, citizen-scientist and proud liberal libertine was -- and remains -- Benjamin Franklin. He was at the heart of the Declaration, Constitution and Treaty of Paris ending the Revolution. The ultimate Enlightenment icon, Franklin's Deism embraced a pragmatic love of diversity. As early America's dominant publisher he, Paine and Jefferson printed the intellectual soul of the new nation.

11) Franklin deeply admired the Ho-de-no-sau-nee (Iroquois) Confederacy of what's now upstate New York. Inspired by the legendary peacemaker Deganawidah, this democratic congress of five tribes had worked "better than the British Parliament" for more than two centuries. It gave us the model for our federal structure and the images of freedom and equality that inspired both the French and American Revolutions.

It's no accident today's fundamentalist crusaders and media bloviators (Rev. Limbaugh, St. Beck) seek to purge our children's texts of all native images except as they are being forceably converted or killed.

Today's fundamentalists would have DESPISED the actual Founders. Franklin's joyous, amply reciprocated love of women would evoke their limitless rage. Jefferson's paternities with his slave mistress Sally Hemings, Paine's attacks on the priesthood, Hamilton's bastardly philandering, the grassroots scorn for organized religion -- all would draw howls of righteous right-wing rage.

Which may be why theocratic fundamentalists are so desperate to sanitize and fictionalize what's real about our history.

God forbid our children should know of American Christians who embraced the Sermon on the Mount and renounced the Book of Revelations...or natives who established democracy on American soil long before they saw the first European...or actual Founders who got drunk, high and laid on their way to writing the Constitution.

Faith-based tyranny is anti-American. So are dishonest textbooks. It's time to fight them both.""""

Old news to some; never-understood news to others. Sedate a monotheist for...Jee-zuss

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Politics of Temperature

Temps nearly flat since late 90s

"""Solomon et al. begin their article stating “Over the past century, global average surface temperatures have warmed by about 0.75°C. Much of the warming occurred in the last half century, over which the average decadal rate of change was about 0.13°C, largely due to anthropogenic increases in well-mixed greenhouse gases. However, the trend in global surface temperatures has been nearly flat since the late 1990s despite continuing increases in the forcing due to the sum of the well-mixed greenhouse gases (CO2, CH4, halocarbons, and N2O), raising questions regarding the understanding of forced climate change, its drivers, the parameters that define natural internal variability, and how fully these terms are represented in climate models.”

Admitting that the trend in global temperatures has been flat over the past decade will not win any awards for this team, so we once again applaud their honesty. The team suggests that part of the reason for the flatness deals with the amount of water high-up in the upper troposphere, the tropopause, and the lower stratosphere. They clearly state “Water vapor is a highly variable gas. Tropospheric water vapor increases in close association with warming and this represents a major climate feedback that is well simulated in global climate models. In sharp contrast, current global models are limited in their representations of key processes that control the distribution and variability of water within the stratosphere”. Furthermore they note “Current global climate models simulate lower stratospheric temperature trends poorly and even up-to-date stratospheric chemistry-climate models do not consistently reproduce tropical tropopause minimum temperatures or recently observed changes in stratospheric water vapor.”

Those who have some doubts about the IPCC/Gore AGW models do not thereby necessarily affirm FoxCo-style climate "denialism". While temperatures did rise slightly over 80s and 90s, the last decade, 2000-2010, reveals a cooling trend. (Dr. Solomon, for one, is rather more qualified to speak on AGW than is Doc Rachel Maddow).

Climate modellers and most AGW researchers are not actual atmospheric physicists. They model certain scenarios, given certain assumptions --e.g. increases in man-made CO2 results in higher temps. The CO2 to warming assumption has little or no empirical/lab support. Some evidence suggests AGW; some doesn't (check online for Dr. Hug's studies). Timelags and "thresholds" complicate the problem, as do other GHGs and water vapor (solar activity another possible factor).

The AGW claim has not been adequately verified. GIGO, however trite, would apply. Researchers have forced large quantities of CO2 (such as 10+ times present conditions) into a simulated earth atmosphere, and have not produced significant increase in temps (any lurkers have a study refuting Hug, and other real chemists? link, or cite, etc.). It's not merely wrong, but obscene to proceed on the basis of a few simulations to spend millions (if not more) to prevent a crisis that may not even exist, or is not nearly as severe as imagined. Besides, worst case scenarios, oceans rise a few feet, and merely wash Malibu condos and chateaus out to sea.

More on the villain water vapor

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Police state, American style

P.C. Roberts
"""As our Founding Fathers and a long list of scholars warned, once civil liberties are breached, they are breached for all. Soon U.S. citizens were being held indefinitely in violation of their habeas corpus rights. Dr. Aafia Siddiqui an American citizen of Pakistani origin might have been the first.

Dr. Siddiqui, a scientist educated at MIT and Brandeis University, was seized in Pakistan for no known reason, sent to Afghanistan, and was held secretly for five years in the U.S. military’s notorious Bagram prison in Afghanistan. Her three young children were with her at the time she was abducted, one an eight-month old baby. She has no idea what has become of her two youngest children. Her oldest child, 7 years old, was also incarcerated in Bagram and subjected to similar abuse and horrors.

Siddiqui has never been charged with any terrorism-related offense. A British journalist, hearing her piercing screams as she was being tortured, disclosed her presence. An embarrassed U.S. government responded to the disclosure by sending Siddiqui to the U.S. for trial on the trumped-up charge that while a captive, she grabbed a U.S. soldier’s rifle and fired two shots attempting to shoot him. The charge apparently originated as a U.S. soldier’s excuse for shooting Dr. Siddiqui twice in the stomach resulting in her near death.

On February 4, Dr. Siddiqui was convicted by a New York jury for attempted murder. The only evidence presented against her was the charge itself and an unsubstantiated claim that she had once taken a pistol-firing course at an American firing range. No evidence was presented of her fingerprints on the rifle that this frail and broken 100-pound woman had allegedly seized from an American soldier. No evidence was presented that a weapon was fired, no bullets, no shell casings, no bullet holes. Just an accusation."""

Might as well trust mafia dons as trust the ...Black Robe posse (in fact, hardly indistinguishable most of the time)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A Psychosis Darkly

(PKD continued):

from "Neuropsychology and Psychosis in 'A Scanner Darkly'":
"""For its insight into altered states, Philip K. Dick's writing is especially noteworthy however; he was highly knowledgeable about mental illness, not only from his own experience - he regularly saw a psychiatrist for most of his life - but also through his acquaintance with key texts in psychology and psychiatry (Carrère, 2004). Consequently, it would be easy to read A Scanner Darkly as a rehash of radical theories of mental illness, particularly those of R.D. Laing and Aaron Esterson (Laing and Esterson, 1964), who viewed madness as an attempt to reconcile roles that have become irreconcilable in modern life. However, Dick was not content with simply repeating the fashionable anti-establishment views of the time and attempted an explanation based on an understanding of neuropsychology."""

The Mindhack most likely errors in his hasty dismissal of the influence of RD Laing and other anti-psychology/psychiatry writers of the 60s. I am not sure whether Dick had read RD Laing or Esterson, but A Scanner Darkly does not exactly bless the psychology business. In the novel the cops subject Arctor/Fred to routine psychological examinations/observations. Doesn't PK Dick thereby suggest the psychology business has become synonymous with the police business (or, police state)?

It's easy enough to read PKD books as explorations of altered consciousness, or drug-related adventures (though, granted, Substance D does sound a great deal like meth), yet many PKD readers tend to psychedelic-ize psychologize when they should ...politicize, or perhaps, politicize the institution of psychology. Given the phenomena of Walmarts, Wall Streets, fundamentalist idiots, and ICBMs, psychosis of various degrees may in some sense be a reasonable choice--if not a result of the Pathocracy, however trite that sounds to the cognoscenti; the Noumenal, even a somewhat crazy, neuro-psychological Noumenal often may be preferable to the Phenomenal (especially for those living in poverty, or war-zones, including those of SoCal).

Like PK Dick, Laing did not approve of a cop-state, whether run by rightist-behaviorists or hip, Lacan-quoting psychoanalysts: both send troublemakers--whether perps or the non-PC--to the Dept's of Behavior Therapy--be good, or....we'll make you good, via dope or a bit of reinforcement--. Laing may have gone a bit too far in his detestation of clinical psych. --certainly some people, including functioning, apparently "normal", are mentally ill, and behavior modification may be successful at times, administered correctly (Skinner was not the most sinister of human beings, regardless of what Laing, Chomsky or other leftists insisted). Regardless, Laing's been relegated to the dustbin of the counterculture, but his criticisms of the mental health bureaucracy still seem relevant to Dick's works, and however cliche, society at large (to be continued).

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

PK Dick scans SoCal

Scott Timberg of the LA Times reflects on PK Dick's last days in O.C.:

“In Southern California,” he wrote in the novel “A Scanner Darkly,” “it didn’t make any difference anyhow where you went; there was always the same McDonaldburger place over and over, like a circular strip that turned past you as you pretended to go somewhere.”
Cool, though I am not sure I agree with Mr. Timberg's assessment of Dick's later writing, which he considers continuous with Dick's earlier work. A Scanner Darkly flows from a weirder and darker place than, say, Man in the High Castle, UBIK, or "Do Androids dream..." (the novel which led to Blade Runner). Scanner's a bad trip, man, where cops, perps and druggies engage entropically in the bland dystopia of the SoCal 'burbs, the Disneyland of the mind, home to JOHN WAYNE AIRPORT. No space opera heroes nor Deckard like anti-heroes populate ASD. ASD does not seem quite as Kantian--or quantum-mystico--as some PKD, though Dickian characters often deal with a basic metaphysical problem: the relation of the perception of reality to...Reality itself, and really in philo-speak, the conditions of those perceptions, ie experiential knowledge, such as time and space (That said, PKD was not a postmodernist type. Subjective idealism does not imply, at least necessarily, that reason and science are merely fictions. )

Along with the philosophizing or, perhaps....anti-philosophizing, A Scanner Darkly reveals a hint of Hammett like detective pulp--a good thing, except to academics or east coast snobs. (Detectives often deal with a sort of primitive metaphysics, really, related to determining the facts... or chain of events) The OC hive revolves in a microdotted kaleidoscope, post-Nixon, Mao, and 'Nam. Stoners and gangsters turn narc (with the best eavesdropping snitch gear available), Jane Doe's become Ho's, and even cops turn out to be correct at times. Really, "Scanner" verges on madness at the end, like some metal-band jam gone awry, random, pathological as a friday night on the I-5.

More PKD

Monday, February 08, 2010



The relevant passages:

""""So take right now, for example, there is a right-wing populist uprising. It's very common, even on the left, to just ridicule them, but that's not the right reaction. If you look at those people and listen to them on talk radio, these are people with real grievances. I listen to talk radio a lot and it's kind of interesting. If you can sort of suspend your knowledge of the world and just enter into the world of the people who are calling in, you can understand them. I've never seen a study, but my sense is that these are people who feel really aggrieved. These people think, "I've done everything right all my life, I'm a god-fearing Christian, I'm white, I'm male, I've worked hard, and I carry a gun. I do everything I'm supposed to do. And I'm getting shafted." And in fact they are getting shafted. For 30 years their wages have stagnated or declined, the social conditions have worsened, the children are going crazy, there are no schools, there's nothing, so somebody must be doing something to them, and they want to know who it is. Well Rush Limbaugh has answered - it's the rich liberals who own the banks and run the government, and of course run the media, and they don't care about you—-they just want to give everything away to illegal immigrants and gays and communists and so on.

Well, you know, the reaction we should be having to them is not ridicule, but rather self-criticism. Why aren't we organizing them? I mean, we are the ones that ought to be organizing them, not Rush Limbaugh. There are historical analogs, which are not exact, of course, but are close enough to be worrisome. This is a whiff of early Nazi Germany. Hitler was appealing to groups with similar grievances, and giving them crazy answers, but at least they were answers; these groups weren't getting them anywhere else. It was the Jews and the Bolsheviks [that were the problem].

Sal Dali and his pet Ocelot

I mean, the liberal democrats aren't going to tell the average American, "Yeah, you're being shafted because of the policies that we've established over the years that we're maintaining now." That's not going to be an answer. And they're not getting answers from the left. So, there's an internal coherence and logic to what they get from Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and the rest of these guys. And they sound very convincing, they're very self-confident, and they have an answer to everything—a crazy answer, but it's an answer. And it's our fault if that goes on. So one thing to be done is don't ridicule these people, join them, and talk about their real grievances and give them a sensible answer, like, "Take over your factories."""""

Prof. Chomsky may be a bit too optimistic, but there's another reason his analyses tend to bother the frat boy or sorority gal liberal democrats, or the postmodernist left (not to say Ditto-heads, and Glenn Beck-Fox bots): he discusses the ......L-word, aka Labor. The frat-boy vichyliberal democrat generally has little or no interest in, nor understanding of labor, or work-related issues, or the plight of the working class--including the caucasian working class. Problems related to the division of labor--a common theme in political and economic discussions of the 19th century--don't generally concern cyber-crats (or the academic leftist). The typical liberal Demo. no longer punches the clock in factory or field. She works for management, in office jobs, or belongs to the schoolmarmies or cop union. Unionists may still be found in the urban areas (not that trade unions are always correct), but the college-educated suburbanites and "professionals" outnumber them.

Burbs-o-crats don't know what the IWW was (is that some horrid Dylan tune or Steinbeck story or something?....dreadful). They have not read Bakunin, or even Bertie Russell; perhaps a few burbs-o-crats read Orwell, or even Pynchon, but the political implications of TP novels have been barely addressed in Lit-land. Allude to any marxist jargon to burbs-o-crats and they think Stalin (or Hitler, or worldwide zionist conspiracy, gays, Rosie O, whatever)--or reach for their revolvers, or favorite Aynnie Rand Twatboiler. Chomsky's sort of quasi-Bakunin abstractions--and rationality--are too much for them. The teabaggers listening to ReichMommy Palin, or FoxCo, the neo-cons AND the leftists who hate them agree on one common machiavellian principle, however: just win, bay-be.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Stupor Bowl

Top 10 Reasons to Hate the Super Bowl

This year's SB Halftime show features the...Who! Meet the new corporate boss, same as the old corporate boss...

Mo' on GridironCo

Thursday, February 04, 2010

The Rise of Capitalism

Your semi-annual e-Barthelme update:

""The first thing I did was make a mistake. I thought I had understood capitalism, but what I had done was assume an attitude -- melancholy sadness -- toward it. This attitude is not correct. Fortunately your letter came, at that instant. "Dear Rupert, I love you every day. You are the world, which is life. I love you I adore you I am crazy about you. Love, Marta." Reading between the lines, I understood your critique of my attitude toward capitalism. Always mindful that the critic must "studiare da un punto di vista formalistico e semiologico il rapporto fra lingua di un testo e codificazione di un -- " But here a big thumb smudges the text -- the thumb of capitalism, which we are all under. Darkness falls. My neighbor continues to commit suicide, once a fortnight. I have this suicides geared into my schedule because my role is to save him; once I was late and he spent two days unconscious on the floor. But now that I have understood that I have not understood capitalism, perhaps a less equivocal position toward it can be "hammered out." My daughter demands more Mr. Bubble for her bath. The shrimp boats lower their nets. A book called Humorists of the 18th Century is published."""

Bark like the petite-bourgeois hyena you izz.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010


More tales from the Apple MacSweatshop--

"""The 'genius' of Jobs is to take other people's work, brand it Apple then market the crap out of it to the mainstream (read: those oblivious of the Industry) as a new creation. This clearly works for them (8.7Million iphones last quarter) and shows the mainstream are made of really dumb people.

- The name 'iPad' is a trademark of Fujitsu Global, so look out for that war in the coming weeks. (Apple has absolutely no respect for other people's Intellectual property... remember the Cisco iPhone battle and the Creative iPod design battle to name a few?)

- The iBooks platform is Amazon's work.... RIP Amazon Kindle

- The device looks like a mixture of the Hanvon slate and the Crunchpad/JooJoo but not as good as either.

- Arm processor, no multitasking, no camera, 9.7-inch LED backlit display and only 10-hours max?

- Non-user changeable battery

- For USD800+ you get a non-multitasking sub-netbook (I never thought there would be such a category) with a capacitive touch screen, an arm processor and no keyboard, car kit, desk stand, case, dock etc as standard and included with only 64GB SSD and and unknown amount of RAM (512MB~1GB I suspect)...

- No Flash support (even though HTML5 is the future... more sites use Flash than HTML5, so shouldn't a web tablet support the 'more sites'?)

- No Camera

- No Built-in card readers (I mean it's 2010... why should I have to pay extra for a card reader)

- Unlocked 3G radio but uses Micro Sim card so you still don't have the freedom to choose your carrier

IMHO, anyone who needs a device in this genre and plunks good cash down for this iTampon over the x86 based JooJoo or other arm based tablets is a fool!

The battery is built in and in a device this size, there is plenty of room for more cells since there is no 'cartridge' system for a removable battery... apple seems to have opted for this as a way to keep production costs down, rather than a way to allow more battery life. I predict 3~5 hours of battery life with wifi on and couch surfing (which should be 10hours given how much space there is in a device this size with LED backlighting for more cells given it's a foil-packed built-in battery), and 2~3 hours with 3G on and mobile surfing.

Additionally, if you thought the glass screen on the ipod touch or iphone broke easily... drop, twist or squeeze the ipad once and see your money burn (more)... this is not Gorilla Glass that you'd find in well built consumer electronics, but cheaper regular glass (fitting of an over-hyped, poor quality, sweatshop manufactured Apple product)... again, that keeps the manufacturing costs down.

This Apple product is the furthest Apple has gone as far robbing the consumer blind is concerned... so it begs the question: Where does Apple draw the the line between good business and a complete lack of ethics?""""""

At least in terms of battery life, Kindle outperforms the iRag: like a week, compared to like 3 or 4 hours on the iRag. And Kindles, while still a scam (do reasonable people need an e-reader to enjoy Phoebe-Zeit-Geist, or their favorite B-Traven potboiler? Hell no), cost about half or less than the MacHeist--tho' the iPad does at least have net/wifi hook-up, unlike the Kindle (tho' they are light, and portable). With a Crapple, that means you get like 386 speed for only a grand or so. Then why not a laptop, anyway, since the iPad's are about as heavy.

However corrupt and venal Microsoft may be, the gear's cheap and it works, and GatesCo does kick down millions of shekels to charity (and poor 3rd world nations).

Tuesday, February 02, 2010



""Neither bankers specifically nor corporations generally are popular right now. On Tuesday voters in Oregon , in the Pacific Northwest, voted to raise taxes on corporations and the rich. The measures romped through 54 percent to 46 percent, hiking taxes on households with taxable income above $250,000, and setting higher minimum taxes on corporations, with increased tax rates on upper-level profits. In Oregon, there hasn’t been this kind of popularly–sanctioned tax bite out of the backsides of the rich since the 1930s.

This sets the political stage for the November mid-term elections, and every politician sniffs the popular mood. Hence Obama’s belated dash to head the populist jacquerie. But there’s virtually no chance of any serious financial reform transpiring. Already, in dead of night, Wall Street lobbyists in December -- as reported by Andrew Cockburn here on this site -- crushed legislative language in a financial reform bill to ban Wall Street’s “dark markets” trading in over-the-counter derivatives such as credit default swaps. These were what impelled the financial crisis in 2008.

The bankers will resign themselves to a glancing blow like Obama’s proposed $30 billion levy. But they will surely fight off Paul Volcker, for months languishing in obscurity as head of Obama’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board, until mustered last week to the president’s side to preside over the White House’s Great Leap Sideways into economic populism. He’s been assigned the task of promoting legislation that will haul the banks back into the Glass-Steagall era when the paltry sums in one’s checking account weren’t immediately securitized and packaged into a CDO squared. Already the Los Angeles Times – normally in Obama’s corner – has editorially savaged Volcker’s plan, as have the Washington Post and, needless to say, the Wall Street Journal."""

Peruse historical data on US tax rates: Bill Clinton slightly adjusted Reagan's slashes (back to like 40% or so), yet Clinton did not hike the rates on upper brackets back to even Nixon's level of 60+%.
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