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Political pettiness

08.23.2003

(Politics, responsibility, free will, Deconstructionism, Prison reform, Dreams)

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Nowadays, Islamic societies in the Middle East are relatively conservative and not at the forefront of technology. But medieval Islam in the same region was technologically advanced and open to innovation. It achieved far higher literacy rates than contemporary Europe; it assimilated the legacy of classical Greek civilization to such a degree that many classical Greek books are now known to us only through Arabic copies; it invented or elaborated windmills, tidal mills, trigonometry, and lateen sails; it made major advances in metallurgy, mechanical and chemical engineering, and irrigation methods; and it adopted paper and gun powder from China and transmitted them to Europe. In the Middle Ages the flow of technology was overwhelmingly from Islam to Europe, rather that from Europe to Islam as it is today. Only after around A.D. 1500 did the net direction of flow begin to reverse.

-Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs, and Steel

I do hate this stuff. How can people post about politics every day and not go out of their minds? I have a lot of respect for people that do, but I worry about them. After a while it will overwhelm you. It's more rage and depression. You can expect it from those in the middle of the conflict. But folks like Misha are "a pathetic disgrace."

Wading through some of that I came to a link to this essay. Without a single citation it attacks faceless, nameless foes. It engages in a host of logical fallacies and yet is drooled over shamelessly. The main point is quite reasonable, but the road is riddled with logical potholes. Shall we [dance]?

The left hates us. We are harder to attack than the racist, homophobic, misogynists that they formerly could comfortably lambaste as right-wingers. (And they deserved to be lambasted, by the way – and I'm not even sure what lambasting is, but it does sound nasty and severe.) [The left hates a challenge? What should be scolded shall be scolded. You are not hated for it by "the left." Get over yourself.]

The point is this: labels don't really work. As one of my readers brilliantly pointed out in my comments section, it's not like the vast sensible middle of the nation is divided into Red and Blue camps, Republicans vs. Democrats, Liberals vs. Conservatives, Left vs. Right. Today's politics are more like a Rubik's cube, where someone you may stand shoulder-to-shoulder with on one subject, can become, with a simple twist of the issues, a bitter opponent in some other fight. ["Today's politics?" Try always. An individual's capacity for varied political preferences has not changed.]

I contend that there is a single litmus that does indeed separate the nation and the world into two opposing camps, and that when you examine where people will fall on the countless issues that affect our society, this alone is the indicator that will tell you how they will respond.

The indicator is Responsibility. [I contend this is an oversimplification fallacy and that dividing "world into two opposing camps" is a bifurcation fallacy.]

Political Correctness, Deconstructionism, Trans-National Progressivism, Liability mania, Crime and Punishment, Terrorism, Welfare, Gun Control, Media Bias, Affirmative Action, Abortion, Education Reform, Social Engineering – all of it – will divide people according to their idea of Responsibility. [Nice laundry list! Affirmative action is a matter of making society responsible for years of slavery and continued racism. It is the only known counter to the affirmative action of the wealthy, especially in college.
Abortion is not solely about responsibility. Religion and science are mixed in it. I see life as a continuous process that started billions of years ago. I don't like the idea of abortion, but if a fetus can't survive outside of the body, then it's a part of that body and therefore under the control of the woman. Whether science can raise a fetus outside of this is beside the point. Anyway, I just want to point out a few problems with this list.]

I suspect that there are really only two schools of political thought, and these are based on competing theories of how the human creature is constructed. [false dilemma fallacy]

Again, a caveat about the ever-changing quicksand about labels. But with that said, it appears that people we generally group as 'the left' are convinced that society is responsible for pretty much everything that happens in our lives, that group responsibility trumps individual responsibility because they see the forces of the group – culture, history, economic background – as overwhelming determinants to individual outcome. [And so begins the great straw man construction project.]

Those on the other side see individual responsibility as the final arbiter of human behavior. The United States of America is, without question, the most individual-centric nation in the history of the world....[Without question? Get out much? You really think every nation outside of the US is filled with sheep? It's in doubt now, let alone over the course of all world history.]

B.F. Skinner is perhaps the most famous of the Behavioralists. He did brilliant and groundbreaking work showing how much of behavior is based on conditioning. These experiments were highly predictive – when applied to rats. Somewhat less so, although still very compelling, when applied to monkeys. Erich Fromm makes a convincing argument that much of human behavior is based on avoidance of responsibility in his classic Escape from Freedom. [It makes sense that he brings up Skinner the reductionist. Though he avoids the inevitable digression to follow his forth sentence, that when applied to humans it's much less compelling. He brings up Fromm who was influenced by Freud and Marx. Either way what we get is an appeal to authority.]

But to understand whether or not these experiments – and this theory of humanity –accurately reflects how we are built, we have to get to one of the thorniest philosophical issues since the dawn of human history: namely, is there indeed such a thing as free will?[You can see how screwed this essay is in a little bit.]

It has been our long, bloody and noble history to rise to this idea of individual responsibility; because if it is indeed correct, then it – alone – is the liberator of ourselves as a species. Individual responsibility frees us from our past, from the fate of our birth, from the millennia of class and caste and of failed ideas that have kept so many in bondage for so long. If we indeed do have the ability to control our own selves, then we can free our own minds from the river of history and experience. [BEHOLD the power of positive thinking!]

Those on one side see individuals as rafts on that river of culture, swept along inexorably downstream, perhaps capable of a weak paddling, displacing our paths a few feet from side to side. I on the other hand, and others like me, see human potential as a powerboat, a nuclear-powered hydrofoil, one capable of cruising side to side at will, as easily able to race against the current as with it. I don't believe people are rafts adrift in the destiny of their culture. I think all people have propellers, whether they use them or not, and rudders too. And rather than commiserating with people about the rapids that they endure and the battering that is their lot in life, we should be teaching them how to start those engines, take the wheel of their own futures, and steer themselves wherever they damn well please. [I see myself in a ultra-light flying above this bifurcation.]

This issue of free will has been debated since we've had language. It's not going to be resolved on the pages of this humble weblog.[I told you how screwed up this essay was! But hey, he goes on. What a trooper!]

So which view to adhere to: individual responsibility, or the predominance of culture? I say there are vast sets of evidence to prove that both are correct. So here's what I believe. I agree with the left on this: I do think we are indeed the products of the doctrines that have been fed us since birth. How else to explain the wild differences in human culture from a single species with no detectable biological propensities for intelligence, cunning, hard work or success? [Well, if you read Guns, Germs, and Steel you would find that the answer cannot be reduced in such a manner as you have done.]

How much damage has been done, so far? Consider this passage from Prairie Justice, by Will Bittle: [Go read it. Funny shit! "We are movin' ta France, God-damnit!" Yeah! WOOT!]

And even more importantly, Frontier Justice did not punish the victim. It was crystal clear and steely-eyed in this one essential element, the only one that really matters: it understood who was responsible. [Yes that was sarcasm I used back there. Since we are using FICTION to make historical points about frontier justice I will now invoke Bill Hicks:

I'm so sick of arming the world and then sending troops over to destroy the fucking arms, you know what I mean? We keep arming these little countries then we go and blow the shit out of em. We're like the bullies of the world, you know. We're like Jack Palance in the movie Shane... Throwing the pistol at the sheep herder's feet:

"Pick it up."

"I don't wanna pick it up mister, you'll shoot me."

"Pick up the gun".

"Mister, I don't want no trouble huh. I just came down town here to get some hard rock candy for my kids, some gingham for my wife. I don't even know what gingham is, but she goes through about 10 rolls a week of that stuff. I ain't looking for no trouble mister."

"Pick up the gun."

Boom boom

"You all saw him. He had a gun."

Yeah, frontier justice understood all the way!]

Now if Freedom is the credit card, and Responsibility is the monthly payment, it should not come as a surprise to us to realize that human nature says we want the spending spree, but not put in the overtime to pay for it. And if this were just happening on a one-on-one basis, there would not be too much to worry about. [I skipped mentioning this analogy when he first brought it up. It's not a false analogy, but it avoids entering in the usurious interest rate that society tacks on. OOPS!]

And so we have group identity advocates. Because if you can convince someone that they are not responsible for their failures and shortcomings, and that someone else is – not a hard sell if you think about it – then they will be willing to subsume their responsibility into that of the group – and with their responsibility goes their political power. Then all the responsibility of the group – and all their power – is concentrated in the hands of the very few who have led them to this position.

People like Jesse Jackson. Or Pat Robertson. Take your pick. [All I have to say is that sometimes Jesse is right in the case of race. Not always, but the situation has occured.]

Who controls a nation of free individuals? No one. That is deeply unsettling to people who crave political control the way a heroin addict needs his fix. What would Bill Clinton have been without politics? A wildly successful, Little Rock car dealer – that's what I think. And his wife? What of her? Who would have heard of this obscure partner in some backwater law firm? [I think he would have been a sax player and Hillary would have been running a village somewhere.]

What do you think drives such people? Power. Control. [I'm thinking that applied respectively for the Clinton's, "power" would be a word proceeding "penis" and "control" would have "pussy" in front of it. I'm sure Prince could write in a sax for it.]

[Note: large portions remain left without comment. This essay meanders off the point a lot. It repeats itself a lot. I know all about that. To do is to know.]

I read recently of a woman who sued a car dealership. It seems her son had stolen a car from said dealership, gone on a joy ride – drunk, of course – and gotten himself killed. The woman claimed that if the dealership had maintained adequate security, her son would not have been able to steal the car and he'd be alive today.

This is madness. [It's stupid. It's greedy. There has been plenty of that to go around. Yes, we need judicial reform. I'd like to know where this example came from and how the case was concluded. Could it be that it was dismissed? Frivolous lawsuits like the one against Al Franken pop up all the time and it's a matter of the competence of individual judges to throw them out. Because this essay fails to cite any of the claims it makes, I don't feel like I have to pull up the judicial statistics on how often stupid lawsuits like this actually succeed. His point was never proven to begin with.]

To be Politically Correct these days, you must accept the collectivist belief that words are like weapons, endowed with their own internal, innate power, and this power, like that of a chambered bullet, cannot be trusted to be used responsibly and so must be outlawed and banished from the community. [Collectivist belief? Words, in the respect that they carry certain thoughts that, can be dangerous to some institutions. Of course, the straw man construction project wants to say that PC folks are those that wish to criminalize free speech when if fact they merely want to discourage hateful speech by lambasting. I don't give much thought to the PC movement these days. It's so 1990, but you'd think by the way he goes on that it's a major force. It's openly mocked all the time! Bill Maher deserves some credit for this.]

If you have not read 1984 by George Orwell, you have deprived yourself of an entire education right there. There lies the eternal dictatorship, the ultimate all-pervasive Superstate. And how did such a monstrosity come into being? By controlling language. Not only controlling what could be said, but by so simplifying and infantilizing language that entire concepts become literally unthinkable because there were no words for them. Here we sit talking about Freedom, Liberty, Responsibility and all the rest. What if the act of speaking one's mind was described only as "ungood." What if the only adjectives applied to a life of subjection and servility were "double plus good," the very words subjection, slavery, servility, submission banished generations ago? [This is right in the middle of his PC rant, but when the government and the millitary put the spin on things it's propaganda. "Collateral Damage" and its buddies are not about protecting people from hate speech, but from the ugly truth of "civilian casualties," etc.]

To those who want to limit speech they see as hateful, I can only utter these simple words of protest: Go straight to fucking hell you miserable authoritarian cocksuckers!

Forgive me, I know that offended some of you. But remember this: words are words. They are encapsulated ideas, and the only harm they can do us is the harm we ourselves allow them to do us. [OK, so if you believe the words, "Go straight to fucking hell..." and wish to help them along with your trusty rifle, then you can't blame the speaker. Just like you can't blame Alec for asking people to stone Henry Hyde. What about if he said, "Shoot the president!" ?]

And how does responsibility weigh on the issue of Media Bias?

Way back in ancient times -- before, say, 1974 -- the goal of a reporter was not to single-handedly bring down the government and become an international celebrity, but rather to report the facts as fairly and evenly as possible and provide the essential information that we use to direct ourselves as a republic. They had enough respect for the intelligence and decency of the American Public to allow them to make their own decisions.

They also knew that in times of war some things would have to go unreported for a while, so that the country and the free press could survive to read about it later. [Once again we are required to take his version of history as true. No evidence is brought in to support any statement presented here.]

As a single [uncited] example, CNN purposely withheld a number of Saddam's examples of bestial behavior, torture and repression, ostensibly to maintain "access." In fact, the elite determining what passes for news at CNN was opposed to the war, and decided on their own and without disclosing this monumental decision to present the war in the worst possible light. But if the price of "access" is the rote delivery of policy statements dictated by a mass-murderer – as claimed by a few CNN reporters struggling to hold on to some shreds of integrity – then what point is there to such "access" if all they do is mouth the party line of a dictatorship at odds with a nation of 290 million free people? We expect that from puppets like Comical Ali – from an American news source, it is a disgraceful and shocking indictment of how elitist, arrogant and egomaniacal the news media has largely become. It is the willful destruction of the main pillar that supports our Republic. Such an act is a basic violation of a sacred trust, and I think such willing distortion ought to be legally actionable, tantamount nearly to treason or sedition. It is profoundly, poisonously anti-democratic. [Of course, I know that CNN did this, but you get the point. Also bear in mind that if the press is willing to leave things out to maintain access in Iraq, what is to stop them from doing the same thing with our government? Lying by omission, in any case.]

What we decidedly do not need is some arrogant man or woman deciding, consciously or unconsciously, that they will present information in such a way as to influence people according to their own inner ideologies. Sorry, but this is not acceptable...

Note to Dan, Peter, Tom, Wolff and Aaron: trust us. We can handle it.

That's not a plea, by the way. That is a threat.

Trust us, or we will find someone who will. [HAHAHAH! Oh yeah, Glen has no agenda! SURE!]

Deconstructionism. If ever there was an intellectual movement specifically tailored for a certain type of mental illness, this must surely be it.

Deconstructionists believe in collective responsibility and the dominance of culture over individuality to such a degree that they maintain that one of the most striking examples of free will – the ability to write down what one thinks about something – is so colored by culture that the author himself has no real idea what he is saying. [So begins a very personal vendetta against a technique of criticism. The fallacy du jour here is the failure to eluciate.]

Who, then, can truly know what Lincoln, or Shakespeare, or Hemingway was trying to say? Well, you can't simply read what they say and take it at face value. Any common idiot can do that, apparently. What the hell fun is it being better than everyone else if everyone else can get the same information that you can?

No, to understand the true meaning, you have to take several college courses where some obscure and petty failed writer – a man with a bust of Salieri on his mantelpiece – will deconstruct the cultural and environmental factors and tell you what a real author was actually saying.

This level of arrogance is beyond my ability to parody, frankly. [The author seems to have had a professor he didn't like on a topic he didn't fully grasp. After all, decontructionists are not about the"true meaning." He must have failed the class and now goes forth with personal attacks on deconstructionists.]

This is not coercion of responsibility; this is highway robbery. The idea that a band of nitwits with too much free time on their angry and sweaty little hands, can sit in a small sub-basement classroom at Mediocrity U. and tell Shakespeare what he was really trying to say is simply the most vile and reprehensible hijacking of responsibility and authority it has ever been my unpleasant experience to see.

That is why, when I deconstruct Deconstructionism, all I see is a group of pathetic, talent-free, self-hating fourth-raters secretly sending out a message for someone with some common sense to ride into town and hang them all. [Jacques Derrida is seen as one of the major forces behind deconstruction. Since the author of this essay is so biased, I'll try and expand on the definition as found in my Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory (forth edition) published by Penguin. It included a quote by Barbara Johnson from The Critical Difference, which says:

Deconstruction is not synonymous with 'destruction', however. It is in fact much closer to the original meaning of the word 'analysis' itself, which etymologically means 'to undo' - a virtual synonym for 'to de-construct'. The deconstruction of a text does not proceed by random doubt or arbitrary subversion, but by careful teasing out of warring forces of signification within the text itself [{Penguin book editor's} italics]. If anything is destroyed in a deconstructive reading, it is not the text, but the claim to unequivocal domination of one mode of signifying over another. A deconstructive reading is a reading which analyses the specificity of a text's critical difference from itself.

The rest of the entry goes on to say that "A deconstructive criticism of a text reveals that there is nothing except the text." Therefore, you must disregard anything outside of the text and that the language of the text can be read as its own language. This is a regression of meaning and therefore "a text may possess so many different meanings that it cannot have A MEANING." Thus, it picks at the stability of literary criticism just as moral relativism picks at the core of ethics. This really bothers some people. People that want to know objective truth are especially uneasy with this. Uneasy enough to call for them to be hung it appears.]

[The next venting is welfare. He fails to cite anything to support his claims once again.]

I can truthfully state that I do not know the numbers, or proportions, of people on welfare who have no business being there, but they certainly appear to be significant. [OK, we just have to trust you then?]

If we are to speak frankly and intelligently about this issue, we must recognize that there are two sides of this coin of responsibility. [Silly me! I thought it would help to have some facts on the current state of welfare. Let's just fast forward to the next logical fallacy.]

Let's take a relative compassion test, shall we? Who is more compassionate: those that want to extend a helping hand in order to allow someone to get back on their feet, gain an education, recover their self-esteem, manifest their self-worth, and lift themselves from the crippling depths of poverty, or someone who wants to hand them an endless supply of meager checks, just enough to destroy their self-respect, hobble their motivation, and sentence them, and their children, and their grandchildren, and their children, to squalid and wasted lives? [Hello False dilemma!]

I oppose the creation and maintenance of a class of people perpetually on the dole because we simply can not afford it. And I'm not talking financially – we have the money to do that until the end of time. [Who doesn't and how have you proven that we are creating this burdensome class of people?] We cannot afford the human cost. We cannot afford to squander entire generations of Einsteins and Sagans and Mozarts and DaVincis by condemning them to a life that consists solely of pushing a lever and getting a food pellet. [Right! Fund education! Raise minimum wage! Now you are talking!]

We have thrown a lot of money at this problem, for nearly half a century now, with no noticeable improvement. Maybe the answer is not to throw just money, but to throw attitudes. It seems worth a try. I don't see how we could do much worse. [Funny. You don't notice an improvement in a situation you barely cover. Not one example exists in this section of the essay. Yet you speak which such certainly. Asshole who?]

I got started thinking along these lines over the huffing and puffing done by the Perpetually Outraged regarding the death of Uday and Qusay Hussein. We were told they had been "assassinated," that the US had "murdered Saddam's children." We, of course, were the ones to blame. We were the criminals. We were responsible. [Not one soul cited. Fucking brilliant! Why didn't I think of this? I can rant away about bad, stupid people without pointing to anyone and still have a comment section loaded with sycophants blowing smoke up my ass. ]

So let's gather up our wits and screw our courage to the sticking post, and delve into the depths of the only true quagmire to result from the War in Iraq – that being the quagmire of insanity and arrogance and willful ignorance expressed in the mindset of the far left. [or right—right? Or is partisan intolerance of ignorance the name of the game with you? Here's a "leftist" take on what happened. Sounds thoughtful to me even though I disagree with it.]

First of all, a brief review of the facts will show that an offer was made for them to surrender – multiple times. I do not recall Lee Harvey Oswald shouting down to the Kennedy motorcade advising the President to get out of the limousine before someone got hurt, nor does history record anything of John Wilkes Booth slipping a note to Lincoln warning him that if he came back for the second act then grave consequences would result. [This goes on for another twelve sanctimonious paragraphs. Who is this for? Who is he ranting about? WHO! WHO!?!?! Rather than quote that I will go back to what Bill Hicks had to say about the Kennedy assassination.

I love talking about Kennedy. I was just down in Dallas, Texas. You know you can go down there and, er, to Dealey Plaza where Kennedy was assassinated. And you can actually go to the sixth floor of the Schoolbook Depository. It's a museum called... 'The Assassination Museum'. I think they named that after the assassination. I can't be too sure of the chronology here but... Anyway they have the window set up to look exactly like it did on that day. And it's really accurate, you know, cos Oswald's not in it.

"Yeah, yeah so wow that's cool." Painstaking accuracy, you know. It's true, it's called the 'Sniper's Nest'. It's glassed in, it's got he boxes sitting there. You can't actually get to the window as such but the reason they did that of course, they didn't want thousands of American tourists getting there each year going [Mimes looking out of window]

"No fucking way!

I can't even see the road.

Shit they're lying to us.

Fuck!

Where are they?

There's no fucking way.

Not unless Oswald was hanging by his toes, upside down from the ledge. Either that or some pigeons grabbed onto him, flew him over the motorcade... Surely someone would have seen that. You know there was rumours of anti-Castro pigeons seen drinking in bars... Someone overhead them saying 'coup, coup'

Coo.

Unbelievable. And you know what's wild, people's, er, attitudes in the States about it. Talking about Kennedy, people come up to me:

"Bill, quit talking about Kennedy, man. Let it go. It's a long time ago - just forget about it."

And I'm like alright, then don't bring up Jesus to me.

As long as we're talking shelf life here.

"Bill, you know Jesus died for you."

Yeah, well it was a long time ago. Forget about it!

OK, I had to bring in Jesus too.]

Justice.

That those who did these evil things, that laughed while lives were destroyed by their own hand, face the fucking responsibility for their actions. Not to live life comfortably after the massacre of hundreds of thousands, like that cannibal monstrosity Idi Amin, who lived like a sultan for thirty years after his abominations, courtesy of our good friends the Saudis. [Did I say only twelve paragraphs? I suppose I should be aligned against justice now too. Geesh. No really, I'm for justice. The kind that sees Rumsfeld tried for treason for his deals with Iraq well before the war. Cite proof? Hahahah!]

If we accept responsibility for our own actions, we are indeed worthy of our freedom. [You're too kind!]

This idea of individual responsibility is a new one. [New to you maybe.] It works. [For whom?] It needs to be defended. If only a small portion of the mass of humanity can see clearly that this is the key to escape the bondage of history, class, race, sex and economic status, then that is simply a message we need to preach to anyone who will listen. [without all your faulty logic, hopefully.]

I promised I would tell you who is responsible for the mess we find ourselves in.

Proceed into your bathroom and take a long, hard look in the mirror.

I also promised to tell you who can get us out of this fix. Well, keep looking. While you're looking, make a decision.

That's right. This is really the blog of Michael Jackson.

I have to admit that this didn't end up being a total refutation of the essay. I just thought that it was interesting how flawed it was compared to how much the readers of the site drooled over the thing. I know not all of them did, but my point is that when he says, "As for me, I don't give a flying damn about being in the side with the most adherents. I want to be on the side that is correct," I should feel damn proud to be so damn correct without hardly a comment. As I've quoted Aylett before and will paraphrase here: The great thing about being ignored is that you can speak the truth with impunity.

If you want a great debate, go here. If you want to read my current thoughts on free will go here. If you want to read one scary thread, go here. This is the part that gets to me.

Isn't it true that employers will check for a criminal record? Many ex-cons lack basic skills such as literacy and if they are denied entry into even the most menial of jobs, what other realistic option is there except crime?

Absolutely. I was a probation officer for a while (less than a year, as I got too fed up with the privatization of probation going on in Oregon), and it amazed me how off-base my ideas about "recidivism" were before-hand. Most (I'm speaking antecdotally, but an overwhelming majority of my clients fit this) people who go back to prison don't go because they repeat their previous crime. Their re-offense is almost always a probation violation which would not normally be a crime, like drinking alcohol, missing an appointment with someone, or having had smoked weed (even if they were originally in for domestic violence or something else not directly related to drugs).

My googling is not so productive right now, but I recall seeing a list of different private-sector prisons a year ago. Wackenhut is the biggest player on the admin. side, and Intel is the biggest corporate "customer" of slave prison labor. This message is being brought to you by prison=labor microprocessors. This is nasty, IMHO, but nowhere near as screwed-up as privatizing probation (which is basically a social service program).

In very simple terms:
In a privatized probation program, the offender is required to pay a weekly fee (between $100 and $300) for his "services." This is not waived if they don't have a job, and they are forbidden from the undocumented day-labor jobs on which ex-cons often depend. The only clients I had who payed regularly with no problems were the clients who were originally setenced for selling drugs (hmm...). I quit the day that I sent my 20th person to prison for not paying my company hundreds of dollars. This, combined with my employer's plan (now in effect, I believe) to actually use a commission-based model for paying case managers, killed any sense that I was helping people to sort out their lives or helping society to re-accept past offenders. The only thing more disheartening than that was the fact that these programs are spreading to all 50 states.

It's an easy sell to taxpayers, as the cost to the city is zilch. It's easy to set up a sweetheart deal with a client-referring judge who wants to avoid all those pesky questions that "real" POs ask.

My apologies for the long post, and the falsely co-opted "air of authority." I hope that someone out there has a compelling social argument in support of private-sector law enforcement (aside from the fact that it is cheaper to pay untrained assholes like to me to administer probation-service delivery than it is to properly train union law-enforcement officials).


posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 1:12 PM PST on August 18

When you take that and the story of Seth Ferranti, it's enough to ruin whatever confidence you had in justice. I'm so glad we are exporting to the people of Iraq what we barely seem to manage here.


I had a dream a few nights ago. This is what I wrote that morning:

I was in my car heading down city streets in a rush. I came behind a funeral procession. It was on foot and took up the whole street. I began to get frustrated. I had to get somewhere and I was going to be late if I stayed behind the procession.

At the next intersection I turned left. There were some police officers that bellowed after me, "Have some respect. Do not leave the procession. Stay with the one you were following." And just as those last words came to me I had reached the end of the block and noticed another funeral procession going in the same direction on the next street. I thought, all streets are like this.

I was at a dead stop. I heard a shot. In my rear view mirror I saw a man lying on the street. There was a lot of blood. His left leg was severed at the thigh. A crowd gathered and several men helped him up and began carrying him the opposite way down the street I had originally been on. I assumed it was to a hospital, but the man died after a short while.

By then I had turned around and I was following this new funeral procession.

Comments?

Self-Righteous Redux

08.18.2003

(belief, tact)

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It's true that if you look under "passive-aggressive personality disorder" (PAPD) in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (the older editions--more about that below), you find the syndrome solemnly described as a "pervasive pattern of passive resistance to demands for adequate social and occupational performance." But once you delve into the history of the term, you realize that--at least in the eyes of its critics--it's mostly useful as a high-flown way to call someone a pain in the ass.

-The Straight Dope

I cannot say that I have fully divested myself from flagrant displays of "I'm right, you're wrong," but I can say that I've gained a bit more self-control since the last time. I tried to fix it instead of getting fixated on some aspect of it. In the end, the posts are still up and if I ever figure out how to recover old posts from the forum after I screwed it up, then the whole story will be intact. That is one of the big differences in the blogbate that started here.

As a result of that post (though she claims it was something she was going to do anyway-aren't we all?) Lindsay of Drama Girl takes her weblog down. Only a fraction of her original post can be found here. Typically, this kind of thing sends signals down the web strands and that's where Elaine comes into sight. Elaine decides to email Shelley and she drones on like I tend to do except she sticks to quoting other webloggers instead of deceased satirists.

There's plenty there to poke at. Overall, Chris did not seem that harsh to warrant the condemnation from Elaine. If one comment and one post is enough to drive Lindsay away, then it was only a matter of time for this to happen and the fact that it was done in such an entertaining fashion should be seen as a kind of compliment. The irony is that she might have to "work on herself" a bit more before she comes back to weblogging and it's precisely this kind of cold observation that made Chris respond to her post. From what little I could read it was not as Elaine claims, "an authentic reflection of one young woman's struggle to voice her journey, to begin to find her own way to deal with the complexities of life on all fronts," but a rant asking "what's wrong with all these people wanting love to ease their loneliness? Why can't they get a hobby, etc.?" I guess I'll just have to wonder what more was there or take from Chris's post that it was filled with New Age drivel.

I'm not in agreement with Shelly that "he also attacked her beliefs in addition to her writing, and I can't defend that." First off, the writing part is this: "btw, I wonder if "the man [you] adore" noticed that you started that sentence as a subjunctive "could" construction, but ended it with a declarative: "...we can no longer be together." (Dude, what's your woman trying to tell you here?)" That's all I could find. Second, what is wrong with getting someone out of a bad belief system? Maybe a little criticism could wake someone up and save them from wasting money on crystals and aluminum underwear?

If you care about your beliefs, then you should be able to defend them and rejoice at the chance. I had a chance a while back to challenge someone on their beliefs and I backed off. It's not the easiest thing to do and it can seem damn callous.

This person had managed to get quite a collection of New Age thinking stuck in her brain and the most hideous was the thoughts of John Edwards. See John is a detestable human being any way you slice him. If he's not a psychic, then he's a fraud. If he is a psychic, then he thinks it's better to cater to the families of those that have died of disease or old age, than of those that died of murder. He refuses to help police catch serial killers or find justice of any kind. Why? Because he believes we cannot judge anyone. He therefore believes that we should abolish prisons. There's a whole bunch of twisted logic that reinforces this and I can't recall all of it, nor do I have to. When I heard her go on about it, I had just read this recently and had this part running in my head:

"I BELIEVED, AND WAS HAPPY IN IT; YOU HAVE TAKEN MY BELIEF AWAY, AND MY COMFORT. NOW I HAVE NOTHING LEFT, AND I DIE MISERABLE; FOR THE THINGS WHICH YOU HAVE TOLD ME DO NOT TAKE THE PLACE OF THAT WHICH I HAVE LOST."

I had a chat with Matthew afterwards. Of such a fragile belief he said, "If your happiness is so fragile that anything someone can say can ruin it, what kind of happiness was it, built so on sand? Find consolation in truth or be a fool." Of John Edwards he told me what I should tell her.

Tell her this:
Karma does not demand that we remain passive
Rather, we are its instruments and its harbingers
We are required by it to act
It is in acting that we help determine the balance between positive and negative
As the Bardol Thodol says, "A man is the mirror of God"
We are not required to passively accept evil.
And there is evil. He who deprives another of the blessings of life is evil.
We can oppose this without creating karmic imbalance in ourselves. Indeed, by not opposing it, we create such an imbalance.
Edwards is literally shirking his due
If he has this ability, his use of it sows more instability than any direct attempt to prevent suffering and bring about Nirvana. He is an agent of Dukkha.
And then tell her I said he sucks ass.

I haven't talked to her since. I doubt I ever will.

I don't reject metaphysics entirely. I just don't think you have to sever yourself from logic and reason. Could Chris have proceeded in a more tactful manner? Sure. Is what he did like what I railed against before? It sure seems that way except Chris's post was a lot more funny and had fewer invectives. It's possible that I'm less concerned about this because I don't really know any of the people involved as opposed to the previous situation. Finally, what do I really think about what Drama Girl posted?

"The real drawback to marriage is that it makes one unselfish. And unselfish people are colourless. They lack individuality. Still, there are certain temperaments that marriage makes more complex. They retain their egotism, and add to it many other egos. They are forced to have more then one life. They become more highly organized, and to be highly organized is, I should fancy, the object of man's existence. Besides, every experience is of value, and, whatever one may say against marriage, it is certainly an experience.

- Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

So why worry about your own ego so much when you can have company? And what about how having someone helps you help yourself? What's so wrong about being lonely and wanting to be with someone? As a straight male, it's the best I can do anyway.

"From men's obsession with swollen breasts to our constant search for a pseudoparental God, everything about the human species is infantile," Bromhall said in a lecture.

"Like baby chimps, we have soft, downy bodies, flat faces and large, rounded heads. Like them, we too want to be kissed, cuddled and stroked; we remain playful, compliant and comparatively mild-mannered for the whole of our lives," he added.

Bromhall claims that infantilism is rejected by straight people as they age -- and that by remaining in same-sex relationships, gay men and women are actually displaying superiority over their peers.

"We've known for years that homosexuality is linked to a playful, creative character," he said.

"Homosexuals excel as artists, thespians and other playful, mimetic professions. Being playful is at the heart of being human. It's something that should be celebrated. You could say that homosexuals are at the pinnacle of human evolution."

- from the article Scientist calls gay people 'pinnacle of evolution'

Maybe the reason Eric Brooks, Chris Locke, I, and a cast of billions act in such a manner is that "we are all - but men especially - such big babies[!]" Clive says, "Love is all about transforming our promiscuous ancestors into devoted husbands."

Clive's book is called The Eternal Child. I guess after all these years of trying to get in touch with the inner child we would have to expect this was coming. It makes Elaine's comment, "Grow up. (And I'm sure they've heard that one before.)", more meaningful to me. Not only have we heard it before, we will always hear it!

Thoughts of playful, creative thespians making mountains of money for playing pretend and then writing pretentious books about how you can do it too is an irritation we share. I also share this feeling of frustration over not having that degree yet and fuck getting my head around all these techno-acronym-agonies and fuck getting sidetracked by all these fruitless forays into web flamefests. I really don't know what impact I'm going to have on "human destiny" or that I should care. Maybe it's enough to love, laugh, and hope that by the end of the day I've a funny story to tell and that I have someone I care about to tell it to.

I am not an actor, but if I had my druthers, I'd be the Master Thespian!

Comments?

Ourobouros¹

08.17.2003

(footnote, beer)

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Footnote. Like running downstairs to answer the doorbell during the first night of marriage. John Barrymore
—Tedious information set aside where it can be easily skipped.²

-Leonard Louis Levinson, The Left Handed Dictionary

  1. The last post referred to (in jest) a comment by Dwight Meridith. In an email, Dwight claims to have stole the line from Tom Waits's "Nighthawks at the Diner." I decided to consult with the oracle @ Mountain View. It appears that it was not only used by Tom, but by Randy Hanzlick in "I'd Rather Have A Bottle In Front Of Me".

    But I'd rather have a bottle in front of me,
    Than have to have a frontal lobotomy.
    I might be drunk, but at least I'm not insane.

    Another (highly questionable) version comes from this thread, "I'd rather have a free bottle in front of me than a pre-frontal lobotomy."

    Insobriety or insanity? The first search lead me here and supplied the argument for beer.

    Norm of Cheers on beer

    SAM: What's new, Normie? NORM: Terrorists, Sam. They've taken over my stomach and they're demanding beer.

    SAM: What'd you like, Normie? NORM: A reason to live. Give me another beer.

    SAM: What'll you have Normie? NORM: Well, I'm in a gambling mood, Sammy. I'll take a glass of whatever comes out of that tap. SAM: Looks like beer, Norm. NORM: Call me Mister Lucky.

    WOODY: What's the story, Mr. Peterson? NORM: The Bobbsey twins go to the brewery. Let's cut to the happy ending.

    WOODY: Hey, Mr. Peterson, there's a cold one waiting for you. NORM: I know. If she calls, I'm not here.

    WOODY: How's it going, Mr. Peterson? NORM: Poor. WOODY: I'm sorry to hear that. NORM: No, I mean pour.

    WOODY: Pour you a beer, Mr. Peterson? NORM: All right, but stop me at one. Make that one-thirty.

    WOODY: What's going on, Mr. Peterson? NORM: The question is what's going in Mr. Peterson? A beer please, Woody.

    WOODY: How would a beer feel, Mr. Peterson? NORM: Pretty nervous if I was in the room.

    WOODY: Hey, Mr. Peterson, what's up? NORM: The warranty on my liver.

    SAM: What do you say, Norm? NORM: Any cheap, tawdry thing that'll get me a beer.

    COACH: What would you say to a beer, Normie? NORM: Daddy wuvs you.

    SAM: What do you know there, Norm? NORM: How to sit. How to drink. Want to quiz me?

    COACH: Can I draw you a beer, Norm? NORM: No, I know what they look like. Just pour me one.

    CLIFF: Hey, Norm, What's up? NORM: My blood-alcohol level.

    It's those moments that make up for the many bad movies fellow Chicagoan George has been in.

    And what about the case for a frontal lobotomy?

    The "refined" version of Moniz' procedure came to be known as frontal lobotomy. The procedure basically involves severing the frontal lobes from the rest of the brain … sometimes simply by sticking a spatela up there and swishing it around (nice thought eh?).

    Well, we might not know who first uttered the phrase, but its truth is clear. So bring forth the beer!

  2. The first use of the word as meaning a note of comment added at the foot of the text was in 1841, according to the Shorter English Dictionary, although such notes were certainly a typographical practice before then. The author has a copy of the New York edition of The Great Metropolis (meaning London), published in 1837, which has such explanatory addenda on a number of pages. He also has a book printed in 1749 containing footnotes in the best modern style; it is L'Art de conserver sa santé a French rendering in verse of the medical maxims of Salerne, in which clarifications of certain Latin words are so placed at the feet of the pages. The French have a word for this, but naturally it is not "footnote." At this period in England, however, footnotes seem to have been placed at the sides of the pages (as, e.g., in The Biographia Britannica, 1774, another book the author has). It would be too much to expect sidenotes to be called footnotes, and indeed, during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the word "marginal" was in use to mean a note in the margin; it did not acquire its financial connotation until 1887, sometime between the unveiling of the Statue of Liberty and the Great Blizzard. It is believed by some that the French custom of placing added information at the bottom of the page rather than at the side attracted the interest of Benjamin Franklin³ when he was abroad and was by him introduced to the colonies, from whence it was picked up by English printers. This is supposition, however. It would appear from an examination of Franklin's writings in their earlier editions that the footnote was at first an editor's privilege, and that an author was expected to say all he had to say in the text and then shut up. In the nineteenth century American writers rebelled at this practice and began to anticipate and disarm their future editors by making their own footnotes as they went along, signing them "Author." This forced further emendators to identify themselves by "ed.," or "Joe," or whatever their name was; the more dignified would use initials, as "Q.E.D." Nowadays pedants find it so difficult to keep pace with what they are writing about that the custom has arisen of dating the footnotes, thus giving a picture in rather slow motion of the unfolding of the author's mind. As to when the designation of "footnote" was adopted, there seems no record except the date of 1841 given above. A happier term would have been "footlight," but that term was pre-empted in 1836 by the theatre to designate the lights placed at the front of the stage to keep the actors from seeing where the vegetables were coming from. P.S.: This was a footnote.

    -Leonard Louis Levinson, The Left Handed Dictionary

  3. Benjamin Franklin once said that, "Beer is living proof that God loves us and wants to see us happy," proving Franklin drank a lot of beer in his day.

Ourobouros

08.16.2003

(Introspection, Lists, Politics, Religion, Movies)

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Do I have an orginal thought in my head? My bald head? Maybe if I were happier, my hair wouldn't be falling out. Life is short. I need to make the most of it. Today is the first day of the rest of my life... I'm a walking cliche. I really need to go to a doctor and have my leg checked. There's something wrong. A bump. The dentist called again. I'm way overdue. If I stop putting things off, I would be happier. All I do is sit on my fat ass. If my ass wasn't fat, I'd be happier. I wouldn't have to wear shirts with the tails out all the time. Like that's fooling anyone. Fat-ass! I should start jogging again. Five miles a day. Really do it this time. Maybe rock climbing. I need to turn my life around. What do I need to do? I need to fall in love. I need a girlfriend. I need to read more, improve myself. What if I learn Russian or something? Or took up an instrument? I could speak Chinese. I would be the screenwriter who speaks Chinese...and plays the oboe. That would be coo! l. I should get my hair cut short. Stop trying to fool myself and everyone else into thinking I have a full head of hair. How pathetic is that? Just be real. Confident. Isn't that what women are attracted to? Men don't have to be attractive. But that's not true, especially these days. Almost as much pressure on men as these is on women these days. Why should I be made to feel I have to apologize for my existence? Maybe it's my brain chemistry. Maybe that's what's wrong with me -- bad chemistrty. All my problems and anxiety can be reduced to a chemical imbalance or some kind of misfiring synapses. I need to get help for that. But I'll still be ugly, though. Nothing's gonna change that.

-Charlie Kaufman, from the film Adaptation

As if online insecurity wasn't already rife, as if we really needed another lame contest (Sexiest female Blogger), as if it does anything other than drive up hits, as if that's a big deal anyway, as if anyone involved cares what I think anyway, as if I wasn't fairly sick of weblogging anyway, it get's sillier.

"The only way I would attend such a conference is with 'a bottle in front of me or a frontal lobotomy'," wrote Dwight Meridith.

Blogger's are stealing lame jokes from T-bone's Existential Blues. I thought it was bad enough when people started using the term "blogosphere" without irony. The contests are lame enough, but seeing people fall right into it is sad. Ideally, the proper counterstrike is to not give attention to the thing, but it's hard to condemn something trying to get attention and not bring more attention to it or reveal even more of your own hypocrisy.

The main point here is that trying to hurt a business or a person because you disagree with what they say is simply unacceptable in America. And that message has been sent by FOX. There's a principle in play. Vigorous debate is embraced by us, but smear campaigns will be confronted. It is simply a joke for The New York Times to editorialize that fabricated personal attacks are acceptable under the banner of satire.

I guess it was "fair and balanced" of Bill O'Reilly to use The Talking Points Memo when it's already in use by someone else. But Bill is serious, very serious.

This kind of thing is designed to demean, part of the collapsing national discourse that we mentioned in the Talking Points memo.

Ridiculous? Surely. And it's assault to boot.

Who knew that The Three Stooges were part of the conspiracy to collapse national discourse. If a pie in the face is assault, we have become a country of overlawyered pansies. I ask you...When will the hurting stop?

I have no clue. Certainly, it's not going to be lessened by determining who's hot or not. There are better ways for handling blogger's block. Yeah, talk celebrity gossip. It's good for you. Or not!

Can scientists make it stop?

Whale fart.

No. Damn. Perhaps, some solace from the government? Yeah, that old top ten list, the decalogue, is still an issue. Of course, it's because Chief Justice Roy Moore thinks state's rights overrule the Constitutional ruling separating Church and State. It's a disturbing lack of reason and is probably related to malfunctioning logic involved in those that support blatantly anti-atheist faith-based initiatives. The government fails to make it stop.

Reading this doesn't help. I agree with Hildago's take. I might as well included this "worst" list too. What is with all this list making?

And that's the problem with all the lists. Most have little reliability or validity. The people make up the lists not for the "public's right to know," but for their own perverse sense of narcissistic values, believing they have the ability and power to try to tell the masses what's important -- and in which order.

Even more distressing, Americans who believe these lists probably accept most of what government and corporate institutions tell us.

-Walt Brasch, Media Obsession With End-of-Year Lists

There's that word again, "narcissism." These lists don't actually mean anything, unless they are ranking quantitative data. So outside of that it's a way to control as well as devour ourselves for position. We become like the Ourobouros. We appeal to authority as we try to snag some for ourselves.

Kaufman: There are no rules, Donald, and anybody who says there are, is just--
Donald: Oh, wait. Not rules. Principles. McKee writes that a rule says you must do it this way. A principle say this works and has through all remembered time.
Kaufamn: The script I'm starting, it's about flowers.
Donald: Ohh!
Kaufman: Nobody's ever done a movie about flowers before. So there are no guidlines.
Donald: What about Flowers for Algeron?
Kaufman: Well no, that's not about flowers.
Donald: Oh, oh, okay.
Kaufman: And it's not a movie.
Donald: I'm sorry I never saw it. Okay, keep going.
Kaufman: Look my point is that those teachers are dangerous if your goal is to try to do something new. And a writer should always have that goal. Writing is a journey into the unknown. It's not...building one of your model airplanes!
Donald: Mckee is a former Fulbright scholar, Charles. Are you a former Fulbright scholar?

-from the film Adaptation

A mentor or teacher is assumed to have knowledge. Yet what can we ever know with confidence?

Much of what you've done entail characters defining their own world and experience. Perception is everything You've got Puff, who's raised by a man who thinks he's an ape (so he might as well be), and in Adaptation, Donald has a speech about owning his love, which is what defines him. He is what he loves. As a theme or concept-the idea of perception as reality-is that something you find yourself conscious of working with?

Charlie: I guess, in the sense that I'm aware that I'm in my own head and that's the only thing that I know. Everything else is kind of speculation. I guess, in that sense, then perception is reality...and also your prison. So, yes.

-Q & A with Charlie Kaufman & Spike Jonze by Rold Feld

Adaptation is not a movie for everyone and the Blockbuster employee actually tried to talk me out of renting it. Charlie Kaufman writes himself writing himself writing the adaptation of a movie based off a book, The Orchid Hunter. In many ways, his style reminds me my how I write here. It sometimes feels like I'm writing about what I'm writing about and what I want to write or what I'm thinking about in general. It's a recursive stream, especially when I link back to previous posts.

I well remember that as I read his first draft I was shocked. Beneath the witty wildness, I found a telling, indeed a confession, of nearly shameful intimacy. And by that I don't mean the masturbation scenes. Jerking off in movies in no more embarrassing than smoking. In L.A. nowadays if you really want to suffer chagrin, put a cigarette in your mouth. No, I mean that his pages read like a filmic stream of consciousness, an allegory starring the contentious facets of Kaufman's psyche. He'd given eac h faction a characterization taken from so-called reality, then declared war on himself. I thought, "This man's been through analysis and it hasn't worked, so now he's dissecting his neuroses in public. He's either got a death wish or the guts of a cat buglar."

Creative conflicts aside, Kaufman is not, apparently, a big fan of kaufman.So, echoing Malkovich, he cast Susan Orlean to portray his self-loafing as she gives a heartbreaking voice to his hunger to transform. And I'm sure that like us all, Kaufman, in his life-long pursuit of inner peace, has tried on one role after another without success. John Laroche, therefor, became the perfect player for that foible, as he constantly reinvents himself, animating each incarnation with magnificant ethusiasm followed by disaster.

Finally, there's McKee. It's no secret that Kaufman hates authority. Who doesn't? But for him is goes a little deeper than most. In his hands I, too, became just a symbol, an icon for that huge, terrifying authority that haunts Kaufman night and day--his Super-ego, his nagging conscience.

-Critial Commentary by Robert McKee

The super-ego looms and makes its own lists. Lately, these lists appear to be getting either revised or tossed outright to start fresh or forget the whole process of list-making. I'm taking ownership of myself again. It's very easy to divide the blame and yet you can't really live without making choices. They inevitably include how you feel.

Laroche:This isn't a pissing contest. The point is, what's so wonderful is that every one of these flowers has a specific relationship with the insect that pollinates it. There's a certain orchid looks exactly like a certain insect, so the...insect is drawn to this flower. Its double. Its soul mate. And wants nothing more than to make love to it.

After the insect flies off, it spots another soul mate flower and makes love to it, thus pollinating it. And neither the flower or the insect will ever understand the significance of their lovemaking. I mean, how could they know that because of their little dance the world lives? But it does. By simply doing what they're designed to do, something large and magnificent happens. In this sense, they show us how to live. How the only barometer you have is your heart. How when you spot your flower, you can't let anything get in your way.

-Adaptation

But we are not insects, we can decide. We can deny our feelings. We can close ourselves off from the world. We can ignore and we can rationalize our concerns to the pragmatic posture. And in the end will it matter either way?

McKee: I'll tell you a secret. The last act makes the film. Wow them in the end and you got a hit. You can have flaws, problems, but wow them in the end and you got a hit. Find an ending. But don't cheat. And don't you dare bring in a deus ex machina. Your characters must change. And the change must come from them. Do that and you'll be fine.

-Adaptation

Maybe that was one of the flaws of Donnie Darko, the use of the deus ex machina. It's the god copout. If I may continue to sample Erasmus when he says, "To speak briefly, all Christian religion seems to have a kind of alliance with folly and in no respect to have any accord with wisdom....there are no sort of fools seem more out of the way than are these whom the zeal of Christian religion has once swallowed up; so that they waste their estates, neglect injuries, suffer themselves to be cheated, put no difference between friends and enemies, abhor pleasure, are crammed with poverty, watchings, tears, labors, reproaches, loathe life, and wish death above all things; in short, they seem senseless to common understanding, as if their minds lived elsewhere and not in their own bodies; which, what else is it than to be mad?" If it were for madness alone to keep me distant from the Church it is their odd methods of translation, a.k.a twisting the words for their own purpose.

For when the last point of danger was at hand, at which time retainers and dependents are wont in a more special manner to attend their protectors, to examine what strength they have, and prepare for the encounter, Christ, intending to take out of his disciples' minds all trust and confidence in such like defense, demands of them whether they wanted anything when he sent them forth so unprovided for a journey that they had neither shoes to defend their feet from the injuries of stones and briars nor the provision of a scrip to preserve them from hunger. And when they had denied that they wanted anything, he adds, "But now, he that hath a bag, let him take it, and likewise a scrip; and he that hath none, let him sell his coat and buy a sword." And now when the sum of all that Christ taught pressed only meekness, suffering, and contempt of life, who does not clearly perceive what he means in this place? to wit, that he might the more disarm his ministers, that neglecting not only shoes and scrip but throwing away their very coat, they might, being in a manner naked, the more readily and with less hindrance take in hand the work of the Gospel, and provide themselves of nothing but a sword, not such as thieves and murderers go up and down with, but the sword of the spirit that pierces the most inward parts, and so cuts off as it were at one blow all earthly affections, that they mind nothing but their duty to God. But see, I pray, whither this famous theologian wrests it. By the sword he interprets defense against persecution, and by the bag sufficient provision to carry it on. As if Christ having altered his mind, in that he sent out his disciples not so royally attended as he should have done, repented himself of his former instructions: or as forgetting that he had said, "Blessed are ye when ye are evil spoken of, despised, and persecuted, etc.," and forbade them to resist evil; for that the meek in spirit, not the proud, are blessed: or, lest remembering, I say, that he had compared them to sparrows and lilies, thereby minding them what small care they should take for the things of this life, was so far now from having them go forth without a sword that he commanded them to get one, though with the sale of their coat, and had rather they should go naked than want a brawling-iron by their sides. And to this, as under the word "sword" he conceives to be comprehended whatever appertains to the repelling of injuries, so under that of "scrip" he takes in whatever is necessary to the support of life. And so does this deep interpreter of the divine meaning bring forth the apostles to preach the doctrine of a crucified Christ, but furnished at all points with lances, slings, quarterstaffs, and bombards; lading them also with bag and baggage, lest perhaps it might not be lawful for them to leave their inn unless they were empty and fasting. Nor does he take the least notice of this, that he so willed the sword to be bought, reprehends it a little after and commands it to be sheathed; and that it was never heard that the apostles ever used or swords or bucklers against the Gentiles, though 'tis likely they had done it, if Christ had ever intended, as this doctor interprets.

-Erasmus, In Praise of Folly (The passage Erasmus first refers to is from Luke 22:35-38.)

I have changed a lot in the past year. I have changed even more in the past few months. I had help and motivation, but it came down to me deciding to let go of certain things and embrace others. I have no better advice than to say we all have the ability to choose.

Man does not exist first in order to be free subsequently; there is no difference between the being of man and his being-free.

The essential consequence of our earlier remarks is that man being condemned to be free carries the weight of the whole world on his shoulders; he is responsible for the world and himself as a way of being.

-Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness

The choices we make are what we are and that changes with each choice. We control the flow of identity. It's both terrifying and wonderful.

Kaufman: ...I spent my whole life paralyzed, worrying about what people think of me, and you, you're just oblivious.
Donald: I'm not oblivious.
Kaufman: No, you don't understand. I mean that as a compliment. There was this time in high school. I was watching you out the library window and you were talking to Sarah Marsh.
Donald: Oh, God, I was so in love with her.
Kaufman: I know. And, you were flirting with her and she was being really sweet to you.
Donald: I remember that.
Kaufman: And when you walked away she started making fun of you with Kim Canetti. And it was like they were, they were laughing at me. I mean...you didn't know at all. You seemed so happy.
Donald: I knew. I heard them.
Kaufman: Well, how come you were so happy?
Donald: I loved Sarah, Charles. It was mine, that love. I owned it. Even Sarah didn't have the right to take it away. I can love whoever I want.
Kaufman: But she thought you were pathetic.
Donald: That was her business, not mine. You are what you love, not what loves you. That's what I decided a long time ago.

-Adaptation

Comments?

You Spin me Round, Round Baby!

08.12.2003

(Politics)

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Secularism is not blasphemy. I am a Muslim. I am devoted to my religion. I want to get it back from the state and that is why I want a secular state. ... When young people come to religion, not because the state orders them to but because they feel it themselves in their hearts, it actually increases religious devotion. ... The problem of the Middle East cannot be solved unless all the states in the area become secular. ... I call for opening the door for Ijtihad [reinterpretation of the Quran in light of changing circumstances]. The Quran is a book to be interpreted [by] each age. Each epoch should not be tied to interpretations from 1,000 years ago. We should be open to interpretations based on new and changing times.

Sayyid Iyad Jamaleddine, Iraqi Shiite cleric

I have given much thought in the past about the possibility that violent force is our only means to change Middle-Eastern countries from religious despotism. A lack of foresight on the cost of war and rebuilding is seen as an opportunity to put the spin on how cutting wasteful government programs will take care of the problem.

How much of public opinion is being manipulated or misrepresented in the polls? It has happened in the past when Nixon's administration pressuring Harris to change their results. Work is underway to understand how an increasingly digital citizenry can work with policy makers, but using more technology comes with its own caveat's. Reliability of sources is a constant source of concern. It would be nice if everyone's agenda was laid out on the table. It would be nice to see it in our government too.

The most important thing is for us to find Osama bin Laden. It is our Number one priority and we will not rest until we find him!" - George W. Bush, September 13, 2001

I don't know where he is. . . I just don't spend that much time on him really, to be honest with you. . . I truly am not that concerned about him. - George W. Bush, March 13, 2002

-As seen on The Progressive Review

I find it unsettling to see the reasons for the last two wars change when it is convenient for the administration. Our military is great for taking over countries, but we seem to need help in rebuilding them into something we don't have to invade again.

If these two wars represented merely isolated cases or aberrations from the mainstream of military and political developments in the U.S., then the study of this problem would be of primarily academic interest. That is not the case. The entire thrust of the current program of military transformation of the U.S. armed forces, on the contrary, aims at the implementation and perfection of this sort of target-set mentality. Unless the direction and nature of military transformation change dramatically, the American public should expect to see in the future many more wars in which U.S. armed forces triumph but the American political vision fails...
As historians of revolutionary wars know well, it is much easier to destroy a sitting regime than to establish a legitimate and stable new one. Cycles of violence in Latin America and Africa, the Soviet failure in Afghanistan, Napoleon's defeat in Spain all show how readily even a relatively stable and secure government can be overthrown from within or without — and how difficult it can be to bring an end to the chaos and violence that normally follow. The true center of gravity in a war of regime change lies not in the destruction of the old system, but in the creation of the new one.

-Frederick W. Kagan, War and Aftermath

I mentioned a discussion in my last post and it was mostly with my grandfather. He likes to watch the "Fair and Balanced" Fox News and the popular O'Reilly Factor for his "No Spin Zone." You can imagine our conversation was rather lively and unfortunately I had little evidence to support my views about O'Reilly's hypocrisy since I don't watch the show. Apparently, Fox believes they are the only ones worthy of being "fair and balanced."

Fox News Channel has sued Al Franken and his publishing house to stop them from using the expression "fair and balanced" in the title of his upcoming book.

"Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right" is due out next month from Dutton, a unit of Penguin Group.
[and]
The suit also takes issue with the preliminary cover of Franken's book, which, the attorneys charge, resembles the cover of an O'Reilly book called "The O'Reilly Factor: The Good, the Bad, and the Completely Ridiculous in American Life."

The use of "fair and balanced" in the title and the resemblance of the cover to the O'Reilly book is "likely to cause confusion among the public about whether Fox News has authorized or endorsed the book and about whether Franken is affiliated with FNC." They are referring, of course, to the large segment of the population that still counts with its toes.

This is interesting and all, but the article explains that Fox News Channel calls Bill O'Reilly "a national celebrity" in the lawsuit. I find that amusing. Of course, I could be offended by him suggesting that I'm insane by this, "...is there a person in his or her right mind who wanted any more "insight" into the relationship of Jolie and Thornton?" I don't care at all about Billy, but Angelina...I also don't really mind talking about relationships, "We all know people who can't stop talking about their "relationships." Do you want to go camping with those folks?" Well, sure. It beats talking about politics.

Critical mass is reached quite quickly with this kind of stuff. I believe Ms. Lopez and Mr. Affleck have severely worn their welcome.

Their in-your-face love affair has become obnoxious. They, themselves, have become tabloid cartoons and have lost credibility among those who are not really interested in salacious gossip.

I find salacious gossip to be the only kind worth hearing. What credibility has to do with this is lost on me. What is he talking about? Could it be that he is right that, "Dignity is what is admired by Americans as the recent reaction to the death of Bob Hope proves." What about Bob? This dignity is what kept anyone from seeing movies like South Park, Jackass, and anything by the Farrelly brothers. Those daytime talk shows are all about dignity. But most of all, The Fox network is all about dignity. After all, we don't watch American Idol to see some pompous British prick humiliate people. It's like how gay marriages are more damaging to the institution than Temptation Island and Who wants to Marry a Millionaire?. I don't know how I missed this. Truly, Bill O'Reilly knows what the American people want.

Comments?

Education is the sock drawer of my life

08.10.2003

(Education, Self-Help, Writing)

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Education. One of the few things a person is willing to pay for and not get. William Lowe Bryan
—The concealment of ignorance. Anon.
—The development of the memory at the expense of the imagination. Owen Johnson
—What's left over after you've forgotten the facts. Memphis Transit News
—Reeling and writhing and different branches of arithmetic-ambition, distraction, uglification, and derision. Lewis Carroll

-Leonard Levinson, The Left Handed Dictionary (I love this book)

What I know about computers and technology never came from a classroom. My parents bought a Commodore Vic-20 for the family when I was ten. I never got into the programming aspect of it until much later. Even then, I never obtained expert status in any language except for Superscape's SCL, which is obsolete. I've tried several times to get into Java and while I have a decent grasp of the syntax, I struggle to create much working code. Motivation is a key problem.

Working with SCL was fun because of the Virtual Reality aspect of it. Outside of that a programming job at a game company was the next best thing. Of course, the competition within that field is stiff and when it came down to it I was better equipped to take part in the design side. But it seemed everyone had a killer idea for a game and yet only safe sequels and licenses ever seemed to get into development. It was easy to write off the industry.

So I changed my focus to writing and tried technical writing first. After almost a year of pursuing this, I realize that at least with game design I would enjoy it. I could always write on the side. Writing seems specially suited for that position. Plus, writing jobs lately seem more a matter of opportunity than talent. Here's an example.

This "article" shows that MSN cares little about separating the content from the advertising. It links right to their matching service. The advice here is insipid tripe and the paragraphs that proceed it rival the worst of the penis pill spams I've seen.

  1. Call when you say you will
    Common courtesy! What a novel concept! Maybe this is for those that leave off the postmeridian indicator that initiates a 12-hour waiting period. Of course, you could be in a long distance relationship so it's best to indicate what time zone too.
  2. Remember what she says
    Most advice mongers like to tout the importance of listening. Remembering the stuff takes relationship advice to a whole new plateau.
  3. Share something of yourself with her
    Apparently, listening is not enough. No sir. You actually have to share too! But this advice seems dangerous because if you have to tell someone this, that probably means they are way stupid. So Mr. Stupidhead might think sharing his case of mono would be the thing to do.
  4. Listen when she's talking
    What did I say about the importance of listening? The problem is Mr. Stupidhead doesn't know when to listen, but now we know that it's when she's talking. I'm sure you've never heard the one about how "men are problem solvers" and "women are problem sharers." Randy is truly doing the world a service with such insightful advice.
  5. Notice her
    If you must be told this...I fear for humanity.

So shilling articles for inline matching services is not something I aspire to. I don't care to participate in foolish flash mobs either. Learning the XML lingo is painful too. But what really tests my resolve towards writing another thing on the web are the endless weblog ethics discussions. It's because I've gone on and on about them too. You all need to chill out! You don't want to see me angry again.

OK, I've regained my composure. I am now ready to give you my final take on weblog ethics.

Ethics are only considered by the concerned. Weblogs only contain what their authors are concerned with. Therefore, weblog ethics are personal ethics. So it follows that no one can define or control weblog ethics outside of one's personal weblog.

For completeness sake, here's my final take on what weblogs are.

A weblog is whatever you want it to be. No one cares what you call it anyway. If they like it, they'll come back. There are no rules. If it pleases you, make some up. Having a weblog means being part of an exclusive club that requires access to a computer with an internet connection. With such stringent demands on its members you can see why I've been thinking about Groucho's statement that, "I wouldn't join any club that would have me as a member!"

'Nuff said.

Anything goes, and everyone's a critic. Some critics get paid, and get maximum exposure, for whatever reason. Others are hidden behind what they say, or even their entire rants may go unnoticed. Yet from what we can see, the voice of the formerly unseen is getting louder. Nowadays, it's much more probable that you'll have read a film review not from Mr. Ebert but rather from some nobody on the IMDb or on Amazon or related sites, or on their personal web sites. Unpaid, but available, the availability of utterances making it increasingly unimportant what Mr. Ebert says, how many thumbs he may be holding up or down. The decision to watch a movie or not may more and more be dictated or guided by the ominous number of stars attributed by hundreds of voters and averaged to give the IMDb visitor a balanced account; truly democratic: One voice, one vote, regardless what background or salary may be lurking in the anonymity of the voter.

- Phil John, Consuming and Reflecting in the Wired Age. Dealing with Art

It would seem it's only one vote unless you count the fact that little stands in the way of providing more than one opinion. Dynamic IPs and access to free email accounts makes this statement wishful thinking. Yes, I'm a critic of a meta-critic, but I agree about the dilution of the professional critic. The "web of trust" is still being built and it's not going to be housed solely within the confines of Epinions or IMDB. Its likely that the Semantic Web could offer a lay version of Rotten Tomatoes for anything people offer opinions on.

Recently the rats have been getting testy and I have been eyeing a few for completion. Time allocation is key, of course, especially in the light of my current wants and needs (not discussed here).

I did have a discussion yesterday on many things. Some I'll cover in another post. It may not come as too surprising that I test as a INTP and...

Enneagram

These things are dead on about me. I do get distracted by "many different fascinating subjects, games, and pastimes." Then there's this last point about how, "Fives tend to find it difficult to trust people, to open up to them emotionally, or to make themselves accessible in various ways," that made me think how much I have struggled to get to where I am now emotionally. It's much easier for me to write post after post on impersonal topics. Maybe it's good that I don't get too personal all the time here. That kind of stuff gets tedious to read on a regular basis and there are few people online that can do it without being irritating.

A lot of what I've been struggling with over the past few years has been related to how I talked to myself. I doubted all that was good about me. It was a bunch of bullshit. It was a self-indulgent regression into an avoidable depression and it only exacerbated the difficulty in learning what I needed in order to get back into a good job. I drew examples from all around me as reinforcements and justifications for feeling sorry for myself.

Sometimes I just need some space and sometimes I need someone to call me on it. I don't have to read the entire book in order to get it.

Is self-criticism a good thing?

"Self-criticism implies a rather heavy dose, albeit in a subtle form, of self-importance. People make the fatal mistake of believing that they are somehow powerless to change their own behaviour, or else just too good to have to endure the embarrassment of taking ownership of such behaviour. Consequently, instead of taking ownership of their behaviour, and acknowledging the value inherent within their shortcomings, such people indulge in self-criticism by believing that this will in some way solve their problem."

-Theun Mares, The Mists of Dragon Lore

I find it humorous how pop-psychology books reappropriate ancient wisdom as if they've come across something novel approach to life. But as to the question of self-criticism there is some desire to verbally flagellate oneself as if good would ever come of it.

And first every man allows this proverb, "That where a man wants matter, he may best frame some." And to this purpose is that verse which we teach children, "'Tis the greatest wisdom to know when and where to counterfeit the fool."

-Erasmus, The Praise of Folly (LXI)

So perhaps I pretend the fool to myself and in truth want for a kind word not from others, but myself. To first speak it, is to first start to believe it and that shall lead to action or inaction as the case may be. If I am not pleased with the results, I should change what I say in order to change what I tend to believe. And all these "I" statements are pledges and while I can allow some humorous leeway in my utterances, I won't seriously speak ill of me and not suffer for it.

Though I am continuously ravaged by feelings for others and of the world, I have made the choice to feel for them. If you can decide to hate, you can decide to love. You can decide it doesn't affect you at all. People can not take that power away from you unless you let them. Is it bad to love? Why? Is it bad to hate? Why? Does it depend on some subjective stream of conditions? What is the life of a stranger worth...of a friend...of a lover? What is your own life worth? Is it worth 10 strangers? 100? 10,000? Should I care about the starving when it is likely there will always be starving people? And what concern should I have for the poor and the sick? Does it make you a bad person to not care about what you cannot solve? Does it make you a bad person to want to be happy despite others? What limits shall I place on my circle of concern?

Why is it that the noblest people are the ones most troubled by conscience? I don't know...

-Alan Moore, Superman: Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?

They don't teach you how much you should care.
They never show you how much you should share.
They never tell you it's enough to be there.
And when you do what feels right they laugh and they stare.
We're under pressure.

It's the terror of knowing
What this world is about
Watching some good friends
Screaming 'Let me out'
Pray tomorrow - gets me higher high high
Pressure on people - people on streets
Turned away from it all like a blind man
Sat on a fence but it don't work
Keep coming up with love
but it's so slashed and torn
Why - why - why ?
Love love love love love
Insanity laughs under pressure we're cracking
Can't we give ourselves one more chance
Why can't we give love that one more chance
Why can't we give love give love give love give love
give love give love give love give love give love
'Cause love's such an old fashioned word
And love dares you to care for
The people on the edge of the night
And loves dares you to change our way of
Caring about ourselves
This is our last dance
This is our last dance
This is ourselves
Under pressure
Under pressure
Pressure

Comments?

Oh, we got a taste for our ancestor's waste

08.07.2003

(Poetry, Spam, Politics, Marriage, Writing, Parody)

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As for postmedieval petroleum distillation, 19th-century chemists the middle distillate fraction useful fuel for oil lamps. The chemists discarded the most volatile fraction (gasoline) as an unfortunate waste product—until it was found to be an ideal fuel for internal-combustion engines. Who today remembers that gasoline, the fuel of modern civilization, originated as yet another invention in search of a use?

-Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs, and Steel (page 247—only halfway through this beast)

The artist, a shell picked away by mammon and its subsidiaries, sailed on wings of empyreal electron particles cast amongst a sea of divergent agents.
They had scarce a chance to recognize SHim and/or/as themselves in the cacophony of layered, synchronous sifting and searching.
Drawn as all moths dreaming of Icarus—a flailing, burning hydra—hidden in their own octopus ink expressed first in quantities and then birthed as digital progeny—hybrid humanity.
Without rain, snow, chill, warmth, weight, or wind we wander where we wish—one whimsy—for shores silicon, for stuff synthetic.
Once vying for buying, now sighing for trying. Casting blame for lying. Fasting lame and dying. Bitter boys and riot grrls crying.
Crusted, rusted trust did leave and what was left to believe—in stan chi ate very bull demon strait in tan jilt bull.
The hegemony edge made money sonny. Adapt, the Ledge or make funny. Survival takes will as much as skill down real let tee ton nil.
You got the frequency pair a dime shift set off a bet. ONLINE:Yigra, Verash, Ganesha, Daikoku, Bishamon. Check.
Avatars of archetypes, prototyped prophets, pixel-perfect shadow puppets on Socrates' cavern wall all at my beck and call.
When kin dumb come late no excuse for crumbs on your plate. And transubstantiate. Transubstantiate.
When the sky opens do the birds fly higher?

My sense of silly has peeked.

I bet you Bush's campaign cheer will be "Four More Wars!"

It's only with a sense of strong mucho macho masculinity that I confess Felber is pretty. Hundreds of freeps can't be wrong! After all, the majority must be right—fabulously right that is.

Why beat around the bush? There's no sense in pussyfooting about the good use of "free time." There's more to life than sucking down information of the internet.

I get about 10-30 emails per day that are spam because I plaster my email everywhere here and in comments elsewhere. That seems a reasonable amount and as long as I check it, the hotmail account I forward it to doesn't shutdown. Sometimes something just makes me want to respond.

It might have been being asked if I wanted to " Turbo-Boost your Sex Drive" and all I thought of was Judas Priest. The Virility Max pill somehow does more than Viagra ever claimed and all cooked up by the elusive "Internet Laboratories" in Emerson, NJ. Hell, they are all over the place. I would think that no one would fall for these things, but they do.

The thing that got me was that some 19-year-old HS dropout is probably making more money off this than those that bothered to go to college or has he?

Bournival refused repeated requests for interviews about his business. When approached for comment at a chess tournament in Merrimack, New Hampshire, last month, Bournival, who is a national-master-caliber player, ran away from a Wired News reporter.

It is possible that the wired reporter could have been rather attractive and if there's anything to know about Braden Bournival, it's that he gets his kicks above the waistline, sunshine.

It's a shame because Braden could have fallen in love and we missed out on an interview. Who knows? They could have even got married! At some point his penis pills might come in handy. These marriage things are tricky after all. I imagine Clinton had a Right/Left brain debate in his head too, it's not just a way spruce up your piss poor article!

Some people look for love in the wrong places. Maybe to Braden, it's a Chess Tournament. To other's it could be a bar or quickie-mart. It seems that to some prisons are preferred. Sure, she's a felon, but she's at least pro-active about her career. OK, obviously she's not that good at it since she got caught, but there's room for growth here.

When people find each other should it matter where or how?


This got me thinking. The ads seem more trouble than benefit. Paypal donations seem the least intrusive method of compensation. I don't even like the Amazon affiliate program, because I rather you buy from your vender of choice.

As far as publishing goes, I'd like to have an editor go over my work. It would probably be good for me. Writing like this can make you lazy and the old poet excuse will not always work. I could go the one-man zine route. I'd even design fake ads to fit my readers if I had more skill with photoshop. I'm trying to be more aware of advertising and logos these days. A writer needs to get the word out. Posthumous success sucks. So I am going to try and be less shy and hope that helps. Of course, it helps to have friends too.


Because I read stuff like this is how Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da by The Beatles becomes:

Oh Mah di O bei di

Colin says, "check that barrel in the marketplace"
Collenzy named tanker not out of hand
Georgey says to Collenzy, "girl they must be some place!"
and Ari says this as he takes up the press stand

(chorus)
oh Mah di O bei di where's those bombs?
ba ha ha how the strife goes on
oh Mah di O bei di lets get bombed ba
ba ha ha how the strife goes on

Colin takes air force one to the Jewish State
And Tries to go and fix everything
Takes bad news back to Bush, "got to just trust fate."
And as he gives it to him Ashcroft begins to sing

chorus

In a couple of years if they haven't built
a new Iraqi home
there'll be a couple coups blowing by petard
from Saddam and Osama

Crappy means for war such a disgrace
That even old Colin did lend a hand
Bush vacations more than Cali Gov'ners race
And in the evening he sleeps while GIs die in the sand

chorus

(repeat last two verses)

and if the word is mum- take oh Mah di O bei di

Comments?


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