Log

Name that thingy.
What is it?

This page has been archived. The current log and the log archives are available.

Laugh it up traitor!

10.17.2003

(Humor, Politics)

permalink
To all the other 49 states — with the exception of Minnesota, whose election of a mountebank transcends even ours — the coronation of Ahnuld seems phantasmagoric. But not to us. We've done it at least twice before: George Murphy to the Senate, and Reagan to the White House. So, been there, seen that, done that. I thought, early on, that it was a great slate with Gary Coleman and Schwarzenegger both running: remember in MAD MAX: BEYOND THUNDERDOME, the behemoth called "Master Blaster" — this seven-foot-tall brain-damaged, muscle-bound giant, with the midget strapped to his shoulders? Wow, what a terrific Governor we'd have if we just cranked Gary Coleman down onto Ahnuld's shoulders!! As long as nobody blew a high-pitched dog whistle, we'd be in sweet milk an' honey. So what do I actually think about all this foofaraw? To quote Thomas Jefferson, who was rewording le Comte de Maistre: "People get pretty much the kind of government they deserve."

-Harlan Ellison (found here)

Just when the great insanity that has gripped a good portion of the population feels like it's seeping into your cerebrum and you feel increasingly like a lost pilgrim wandering the streets of Bedlam, it hits you like brilliant beams of sunlight pouring between the clouds after a long cloudy winter. It's not love—though it has been opening me up like a Matreshka—that has hit me today and renewed my sense of hope, but humor, that universe defeating force that renders all foes feeble.

See I could scream and rage over the utter stupidity of this, but even as Kindall's remark is thoroughly trashed I have hope that they will be increasingly laughed at.

This is a world where its two major religions can't seem to curtail their members from killing or molesting children. Yet, if we strip away religion we only open the way for them to adopt sports as their new focus of worship. We already have a world-wide epidemic of fanatics.

Soccer fans are the worst.

Of course, not everyone is wishing death upon someone for catching a ball that is coming right at him. That anyone would even consider it only confirms my decision to completely ignore the whole Cubs hoopla, which will have to wait for next year. It went so far that one morning I woke to overhear a conversation between my Dad and brother that sounded like they were planning an intervention. Not for drug use, but for lack of concern over the Cubbies! I lost faith in commercial sports ever since rioting after wining started. When it comes to baseball though, all I really have to say is that it's time to establish a rule that foul balls are not to be chased after for the safety of the fans.

But isn't there more important things to fight like...telemarketers?

What about Marriage? I find it interesting how the term feminism used abused by folks like SpaceCadet in much the same manner liberalism is. Once again it is a matter of lumping.

In the quest for alternative energy we would have all the power we need if we could convert the left/right flame sessions into actual heat. In such a world, the rantings of Michael Moore, Bill O'Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, Ted Rall, and Dennis Prager could each power entire countries. We could explore space with an Ann Coulter powered spacecraft. More specifically, certain websites could easily power portions of the USA.

What I'm about to link to is a thread containing the magna opus of opinion on Metafilter's political leanings. I know this is something that you probably care as much for as whether or not Jessica Simpson would kiss Madonna and if there would be tongue involved. I enter it to show that I still occasionally plunge into that textual abyss to scrape up a few golden link-nuggets, but almost always get sidetracked by the sheer volume of Meta-metafilter commentary. I post this because it starts out semi-interesting and then sprouts out like the hydra of Hercules and soon the challenge is to finish reading it before your mind melts like those one of those guys at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark or you simply decide to leave the internet for good. Over the course of reading it you may wonder whether or not it matters that 2 bloggers dislike Metafilter and if in fact this chart has any real statistical value or that the very existence of the question has any merit whatsoever when no conservative viewpoint has ever been silenced, only argued against and/or flamed. I have no idea if such a silencing occurs on A Small Victory since I have trouble viewing her site except through google cache, but Lileks tosses out insults from his commentless corner of the internet. I have talked about them both before and before I get into that part, here's the link, which I've already linked to partly.

Now I know I have been harsh toward both Michele and James in the past, but dictating the shelf life of how one should feel about something like the attacks on 9 / 11 / 2001 is low. I'm glad Ed decided to take his ball and go home. Does anyone want to hear someone tell them that they should be over the death of family and friends already?

When dishing out dirt one must go for humor or go home. Really! Say they have a strange fixation on girls with guns going after geese or that they have some strange sexual fettish. But most of all we all need to take a step back and stop the bile. Stop the bickering. Stop the endless pointing out the worst in those you disagree with for a while.

OK? Whew. Now who should I eviscerate?

I can take that the guy doesn't like Tarantino movies, I can dismiss his age-old ranting against actors, I can shrug off the Hollywood is glorifying violence bitching, but I have to admit I am in awe that he takes it further:

Set aside what it says about Hollywood that today even Disney thinks what the public needs is ever-more-graphic depictions of killing the innocent as cool amusement. Disney's CEO, Michael Eisner, is Jewish; the chief of Miramax, Harvey Weinstein, is Jewish. Yes, there are plenty of Christian and other Hollywood executives who worship money above all else, promoting for profit the adulation of violence. Does that make it right for Jewish executives to worship money above all else, by promoting for profit the adulation of violence? Recent European history alone ought to cause Jewish executives to experience second thoughts about glorifying the killing of the helpless as a fun lifestyle choice. But history is hardly the only concern. Films made in Hollywood are now shown all over the world, to audiences that may not understand the dialogue or even look at the subtitles, but can't possibly miss the message--now Disney's message--that hearing the screams of the innocent is a really fun way to express yourself.

-Easterblogg

I'm sure there's a connection here somewhere. Better not call on the folks from Fox News to investigate though.

Really, I'm so sorry for pointing out that thread and maybe half of the links leading up to it, but eventually it did break out into comedy or at least a link to comedy. So what excuse do I have for venturing into these dark waters? Unlike Spalding Gray I had someone test these waters first. I have to link this because it's really strange to post your thesis in an online forum and then pretty funny when it's taken apart. It seems like a bunch of mental masturbation to me. The first amendment was written clear enough. It seems obvious to me that the State should have no hand in religion and that giving money to any religion is fundamentally bad when atheism is an equally valid viewpoint.

Putting aside the fact that it muddies the waters of religious freedom, it is plain dangerous to establish a religious foundation to anything in the State. Even if all the founding fathers were religious, they were not of one religion and that is why they wrote the First in such a way. I find the whole federalist argument a tiresome one. If any state tried to establish a religion, it would fundamentally break itself off from the rest. It would turn into a living fossil of dogma, which is the ultimate argument for the separation in the first place. It is readily apparent when looking at the Islamic states in the Middle East.

The same reasoning that aligns ethical philosophy with science can also inform the study of religion. Religions are analogous to superorganisms. They have a life cycle. They are born, they grow, they compete, they reproduce, and, in the fullness of time, most die. In each of these phases religions reflect the human organisms that nourish them. They express a primary rule of human existence, that whatever is necessary to sustain life is also ultimately biological.

-Edward O. Wilson, Consilience (page 280)

It's hard to see whether or not Islam is growing in a healthy manner or if it's like the Akira's Tetsuo, corrupted and out of control. The Dawa party is likely to gain control there once foreign influence wanes. This is something warned against and completely ignored by the hubris of Rumsfeld and Perle who didn't give the post-war situation any thought at all.

In fact, the most damning evidence comes from Frontline's recent Truth, War, and Consequences. You can watch the whole show (90 minutes) online from that link. The website has the full interviews and I want to point out the very end of the interview with Ahmad Chalabi. Ahmad is the founder of the Iraqi National Congress. A Jordanian court found him guilty of embezzlement in 1992. He has close ties in the Pentagon and is a member of the Iraqi governing council. Here is the part:

Many people [in the U.S.] who supported the war no longer do.

Yes.

They feel that they were suckered.

Yes, probably.

They say so.

Okay, I mean, I don't--

Well, I mean, you know, half the people now feel that the war wasn't justified on the grounds that it was argued for.

Okay.

Do you feel any discomfort with that?

No. We are in Baghdad now.

Yeah. He got what he wanted. Rumsfeld got his victory over the *cough* great Iraqi army and Muqtada al-Sader has his chance to turn Iraq into a Muslim state.

Then there's the Richard Perle interview that shows he's just another arrogant asshole.

Conversely, one criticism made of these efforts is that if you look for something, you will find it, simply because you are looking. The nature of intelligence is very often vague, and things can be interpreted one way or another.

Of course. There's no absolute truth to this. There's no absolute truth. But what Chris Carney and Mike Maloof and Dave Wurmser were doing, is going over previously collected intelligence with a fresh eye -- something that ought naturally to be done.

The whinging, the complaints from the intelligence establishment who had overlooked this material, [is] really quite pathetic. They have tried to suggest that there was somehow a politicization of intelligence, because people who didn't subscribe to their blinkered view of the world took a fresh look at old intelligence. I think it's absurd.

Wait a second here. First, he admits that there's no absolute truth and agrees that if you look for something, you will find it and then he accuses those that have looked before of being pathetic whiners? Of course, he can't even back up his statement with evidence, like Ahmad's fabled documents. So in what I assume is for 'security' reasons he cannot back up his words and then goes on to attack to the CIA.

Critics have said that this is a prosecutorial approach to intelligence -- that one is culling, being selective, and finding what one wants to find.

I'm sorry. The culling was done by people who ignored whole areas because it wasn't consistent with their theory. Let me be blunt about this. The level of competence on past performance of the Central Intelligence Agency, in this area, is appalling. They are defensive -- and I think quite destructive -- in suggesting that anybody who didn't stand up and salute and accept that the CIA was the source of all wisdom on this is somehow engaged in nefarious activity. [That's] really outrageous. …

But is the scandal that our intelligence agencies are woefully inadequate to do the job that they need to do? Or that people were cherry picking intelligence inappropriately and presenting only half the case?

I think that our intelligence agencies have been woefully inadequate, first. Second, the charge of cherry picking implies that information that was not representative of what was known to us, was somehow accentuated to a degree that would lead one to a misleading conclusion. I haven't seen a shred of evidence to suggest that. It's an accusation by an intelligence community that is defensive about its own appalling performance. What exactly are they talking about when they talk about cherry picking?

His opinion of the CIA lends credence to the rumor he did the leaking. Clearly, he's got beef. So we end up with a speech that is laughable. It makes me think that the "special" part of the Office of Special Plans is akin to the Special Olympics. This idea is consistent with how Perle doesn't understand the difference between a bank and investing in the stock market.

In your description of Ahmad Chalabi , to be fair -- and I'll ask Ahmad about these things -- he has a checkered past as a banker. He was convicted.

He was convicted in a military tribunal on a banking charge. It was absolutely a political prosecution. When was the last time a military tribunal heard a banking case?

…There were people in Iraq that had deposits in Petra Bank and some of the other institutions who lost money.

Yes, of course. But that I've lost money in the stock market. That doesn't mean I was the victim of fraud or wrongdoing, just poor judgment.

Another case for Perle's "special" status is that he doesn't get the reasoning behind Wilson opting to not read the Niger report.

Why didn't you request the document?

It wasn't necessary.

But if you're going to go investigate the charges that are made in the document, wouldn't it have been useful to show the document to officials?

There were no charges made in the document. The document was a purported memorandum of agreement between two governments. It was not necessary for the purposes of inquiring whether in the context of the uranium business or in the context of Niger government bureaucracy procedures, decision-making procedures, whether such a decision could have happened, whether such a sale could have taken place.

But isn't it evidence? It's evidence.

It's evidence. It might be useful if you're a prosecutor. It might be useful if you're a private investigator. It wasn't necessary for the purposes of going out and looking at how the uranium business does business, how they do it. It wasn't necessary in terms of going out and generally speaking, talking to the whole question of how a government makes these decisions. Clearly if they had had the memorandum of agreement itself and the signatures on it, then that might have been helpful. But they did not have the memorandum itself. There was just a report of this purported memorandum of agreement.

So you understood that the CIA didn't even have these documents?

That's correct.

They had heard about them from another intelligence service?

They had a report from their intelligence service, from their field operative, based upon either a viewing of these documents or a third party's having shared with them information relating to the document.

I see. So it's in some ways hearsay, or "We've seen something, but we want to investigate."

That's right. …

What did you find [when you went to Niger to investigate]?

What I found was that the structure of the consortium of the uranium business, as it's constituted in Niger, was such that it would have been impossible for any quantity of uranium to have gotten out without a sort of broad agreement on the part of the consortium members -- all of whom were respected members of the international community; all of whom were members of the International Atomic Energy Association; none of whom would likely have found it in their interest to aid and abet a conspiracy to sell yellow cake to a country that was barred from having it. That was the one side of it.

The other side was, through Niger government procedures, I learned that for such a decision to sell uranium to be made, it would have to be decided upon by the Council of Ministers. Any document purporting to be a memorandum of agreement would have to contain the signatures of, at a minimum, the supervisory ministry, the ministry of mines, the foreign minister, because it concerned the sale between two sovereign governments, and the prime minister as the head of government.

So there would have been decisions that would have had to have been taken, which would have been in the Federal Register. Even if they had been secret and therefore exempt from publication in the Federal Registrar, they would have had to have been signed off on by very senior officials of the government, up to and perhaps including the president. If those documents did not contain those signatures, then those documents could not be authentic.

Did you see any evidence that they, the Iraqis, had sought to purchase uranium from Niger?

No. The only thing that was explained to me in one conversation was of course there was this Nigerien delegation who came through in 1999 that had preliminary discussions related to the resumption of diplomatic relations between the two countries. Uranium was not discussed. There was another request for a meeting on the margins of an Islamic conference meeting that was turned down. …

The rest of Wilson's interview is largely about whether we did the right thing by going to war with Iraq. I have a hard time arguing for not doing anything about Saddam, but I don't think it had to happen in the way that it did. Especially when it comes to deceiving the public about why and vacillating to other causes once the ones trumpeted so loudly were revealed to be erroneous. Of course, it's hard to make the moral case for war in a world filled with horrible dictatorships. Where do you start and when do you stop? Not only that, but how can you be sure that toppling one regime does not lead to one almost as bad replacing it? That seems to be the case in Iraq and is likely the reason Clinton never invaded. This is something Perle doesn't understand.

And you said, "Why the hell not?

The plan was sufficiently modest, so that it wasn't a high-risk enterprise. The Clinton administration was totally risk-averse on this. They allowed Saddam over eight years to grow in strength. He was far stronger at the end of Clinton's tenure than at the beginning. The inspectors were out; he had openly defied us in the United Nations -- all those resolutions, to which there was no serious response. There had been one act of terror after another by Al Qaeda.

That's the situation this administration inherited. One of the reasons why it went from bad to worse is that the Clinton administration was not prepared to take any risks to protect us against the rising terrorist threat, or against Saddam's increasing victory over us. The sanctions were falling apart. The coalition that had been organized to deal with Saddam in the first place was falling apart.

That was the situation when President Bush took office.

The case that the Bush Administration ignored all evidence that did not support its agenda is very strong. The difficulty of post-war Iraq that required lots of time to plan ran completely counter to the "imminent threat" atmosphere they had crafted. They knew they had to act quickly not because of the threat of an attack, but of a growing lack of support. The interview with Robert M. Perito, a member of the Defense Policy Board, illustrates this.

Well, it's not exactly -- I mean, we were welcomed as liberators, in some sense, were we not?

We were welcomed as liberators, but the welcome was different than the welcome we expected. There was no assumption made that there would be widespread civil disorder.

But you had said so.

Right. There was no thought given in the planning, obviously, to the possibility that as soon as U.S. troops arrived in Baghdad, that the people in Baghdad would go on a systematic campaign to loot the city. This is just ignoring the lessons of history.

The same thing happened in Panama during Operation Just Cause. As soon as the fighting ended, mobs went into the streets of Panama City and destroyed Panama City, looted the city, did more damage to the Panamanian economy than the conflict did.

It happened in other places as well?

It happened in Sarajevo. After the conflict, there was an agreement which was part of the Dayton Accords that the suburbs of Sarajevo would be handed over from the Serbs which controlled them to the Bosnians, in order to take the military pressure off the city. What happened there was widespread civil disorder in which the Serbs, as they were departing, systematically burned, looted and destroyed what were basically a series of towns surrounding Sarajevo.

It happened in other places as well. In all of these cases, U.S. military forces that were there, on scene, stood by and watched. Why? Because they had no instructions to intervene, and because there is this feeling -- and has been on the part of the U.S. military, consistently -- that the U.S. military doesn't do police. It doesn't do policing functions.

So the same thing happened in Haiti. On the third day of the U.S. intervention in Haiti, U.S. soldiers in full battle gear stood by and watched as Haitian police beat to death demonstrators that were demonstrating, welcoming the American presence in Haiti.

You can just go time after time after time. It's the same situation that's occurred over and over again. That lesson was there, that lesson is in the writing that we did, the things that we said and other people said in Washington, that knew the history of these kinds of operations; and those lessons were ignored.

It's remarkable. You take these recommendations, you take this history, you lay it before the Defense Policy Board. They take an interest in this, but yet--

I think there's a disconnect between the people who were listening and the people who actually had the responsibilities for planning.

Richard Perle is a very influential architect of the war plan.

He's a very influential adviser. But we have really no idea -- or at least I don't have any idea -- what kind of influence he had on the policy process. But we do know that there was a disconnect between the people who were listening and talking to people who were giving advice from outside, the people who were on Garner's staff, who were making very similar kinds of recommendations based on their professional experience.

So what we have is a tragic comedy of errors. On one side we have Richard Perle accusing the CIA of "[ignoring] whole areas because it wasn't consistent with their theory." And, let me be blunt about this. Went and did the exact same thing and displayed an appalling level of competence in looking at the ample evidence available on post-war problems, which would only be more dramatic in a country the size of Iraq. Reading that interview clarifies this. It also clarifies how we have been lazy in hiding or at least to avoid the appearance of a completely different set of priorities in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The oil ministry in Baghdad was protected by U.S. Marines. The oil ministry in Baghdad was the only institution that survived intact. ...

I think the lesson that the Iraqis drew from that is, what was the United States' real goal here? Was it to get our oil? It wasn't to protect the National Museum, which was destroyed and looted. It wasn't to protect the National Library, where priceless manuscripts were lost. It wasn't to protect the hospitals which were looted, et cetera, et cetera. It was to protect the petroleum ministry. So given the directive to do it, we demonstrated in that case that we could....

The looting was disastrous. There's no other word for it. Here you had a situation in which you had an economy which was sort of right on the edge, because Saddam and his regime had run the infrastructure of Iraq down to where it was barely operating. So the infrastructure was very fragile, and we knew this.

We also knew that we had to utilize that infrastructure in the reconstruction process. That's why the bombing campaign was carried out in the way it was, so that the essential elements of the infrastructure were spared. We didn't knock down the bridges. We didn't destroy the civilian ministries. The bombing campaign was conducted in a very intelligent way, so that the institutions that were required for reconstruction were spared.

When the looting took place, the looting was not just one day. It went on for weeks and weeks and weeks and weeks. It was a very systematic process in which the first couple of days, it was people getting in to get what they could grab.

But after that, there was a very systematic program carried out, I believe by the former Iraqi security forces, to do several things. One, to make the mechanisms of government inoperable, so they wouldn't be available to the United States. Two, to destroy the records. There was a lot of systematic burning of files, particularly those files that would have been incriminating. Three, there was a systematic effort to destroy sites where weapons of mass destruction could have been produced.

The role of the security services in the Saddam regime was to protect the weapons of mass destruction program. Those security services were never defeated. They were never destroyed. Presumably, when the coast was clear, those guys came back out and took care to clean up the mess. We had no way of protecting those sites. There was no plan to protect them, and those sites were looted for weeks before anybody got to them. The same with the nuclear sites. There was no plan to protect those sites. Those sites were open to anybody who wanted to walk in them for days, if not weeks.

By the time the United States got there, there was no hope of determining whether those sites were operative or not.

-Robert M. Perito

If there is something to be angry at, it's how we've gone from having the sympathy of the world after 9/11 to lying and bumbling in order to push out an agenda that seems to have only put more Americans in jeopardy. I don't consider it any better that more of those Americans happen to be in our military. More energy has been spent at home in political bickering then taking a big picture approach to the larger question of terrorism and governments that need changing. I don't see how anyone could argue that the US could accomplish its goals without the support of the UN and that alienating our allies is the proper approach to international diplomacy.

Bush's catering to the religious right worries me. His "crusade" comment that supposedly slipped out seems to have real backing with folks like Lt. Gen. William "Jerry" Boykin and Pat Robertson. Maybe the seeming need for this religious war is like the longing of two old and sick warriors wanting to die in battle rather than be worn away by their growing irrelevancy and inability to change.

It's really hard to draw comedy from this. Somehow something that everyone is against, terrorism, got politicized into a confused mess. The right way to handle the war on terrorism became something not only debatable, but a way to separate people in a destructive "you are either with us or against us" manner. This is illustrated by the creation of the anti-idiotarians and brights. If you don't agree, you are stupid and maybe a traitor!

It makes for lively debate. This is probably why we have a rash of shows like Crossfire, Tough Crowd, and Real Time. They generate a lot of noise, but little actual consensus. They are like a pseudo-intellectual American Gladiators. The best ones at least try to be funny sometimes. Without humor politics gets dry fast, which means a good number of people stopped reading this somewhere within the Frontline quotes.

That takes the pressure off me. I certainly don't want to be held to such high standards of comedy as Margeret Cho or similar standards of political satire as Harry Shearer. As someone with a leftward lean I am under more pressure than conservative comedians to be funny and have sex.

Sex is an oft-returned-to topic. "Libertarians are Republicans with an unhealthy preoccupation with sex," she jokes, and "the Democrats are against the missile shield because they're so busy having sex they won't notice that the bombs are dropping." She defines liberal ideology as "give me liberty or give me tyranny, as long as you give me sex."

I'm ROFLMAO over that bit of comedic insight. I have to agree that sex is one of the most important things in life and I'm fresh out of abstinence stories. But if I had to offer any advice, I would not write it from a 3rd person perspective.

[Leave a comment]

Applying for the science lobbyist position

10.11.2003

(Consilience, Politics)

permalink
Scientist. A man who would rather count that guess.

-Leonard Louis Levinson, The Left Handed Dictionary

The principle task of the social sciences is the explanation of social phenomena, not the behavior of single individuals. In isolated cases the social phenomenon may derive directly, through summation, from the behavior of individuals, but more often this is not so. Consequently, the focus must be on the social system whose behavior is to be explained. This may be as small as a dyad or as large as a society or even a world system, but the essential requirement is that the explanatory focus be on the system as a unit, not on the individuals or other components which make it up.

-James S. Coleman (1990)

This view of treating people as black boxes in the social sciences is a major barrier to consilience, which as you probably know is the title of the book I'm reading. The view is taken to perhaps prevent theorists from becoming entangled in biology, psychology, etc. and keeps them from really gaining much ground since their theories have a fairly thin foundation. Wilson expresses his position towards this kind of thinking as follows:

ENOUGH! A century of misunderstanding, the drawn-out Verdun and Somme of Western intellectual history, has run its exhausting course, and the culture wars are an old game turned stale. It is time to call a truce and forge an alliance. Within the broad middle ground between the strong versions of the Standard Science Model and genetic determinism, the social sciences are intrinsically compatible with the natural sciences. The two great branches of learning will benefit to the extent that their modes of casual explanation are made consistent.

The first step in the approach to consilience is to recognize that while the social sciences are truly science, when pursued descriptively and analytically, social theory is not yet true theory...[the social sciences] have discovered unsuspected patterns of communal behavior that successfully traced interactions of history and cultural evolution. But they have not yet crafted a web of casual explanation that successfully cuts down through the levels of organization from society to mind and brain.

-Edward O. Wilson, Consilience (page 205)

As an outsider from the scientific community I cannot say how widely accept the idea of consilience is since the book was published in 1998, but with about one hundred pages to go Wilson has already convinced me. Of course, I've been leaning towards that view before I even picked up his book. Reading synthesis orientated authors like Jared Diamond has already put me on that path. Reasons why some resist are likely territorial and egotistical, which is something all too common among supposedly smart people.

Politics and religion still stymie scientific research and understanding. In the case of condom use, The Catholic Church is deliberately lying to people at risk in contracting AIDS because of their outdated opposition to contraception. The truth about condoms does not matter in the same way the truth about homosexual marriage, that it in no way affects the already crippled (50% divorce rate) institution, has no bearing on those opposed to it.While more and more cities and some people in other countries are eager to embrace the gay community, the religious right intend to buck that trend.

Q: But I thought homosexuals couldn't help it? This seems intolerant.

A: Then nature itself is intolerant. Marriage has not been "imposed" upon culture by some religious institution or government power from which it needs to be "set free." It was established by God, is enforced by the nature which God bestowed upon mankind, and we tamper with it at our own peril.

Here's what is intolerant. Same-sex "marriage" is being forced upon us by a small, but elite, group of individuals dressed in black robes—judges—who say that thousands of years of human history have simply been wrong. That is a very arrogant notion that will bring great harm to our culture.

-Glenn T. Stanton's FAQ

By the same notion, it was very arrogant of us to outlaw slavery. How could thousands of years of human history have simply been wrong? Glenn pulls out a slippery slope argument as well as various other logical fallacies throughout his FAQ. The crux of the argument is that "anything that departs from specific instruction in the Scriptures is a bad idea, inevitably."

This same logic is where opposition to evolution comes from. It's opposition based on a basic ignorance of evolution coupled with a fear of losing faith. Hell, sometimes they are just nuts.

On the issue of evolution, the verdict is still out on how God created the Earth.

-George W. Bush, blogger

Indeed!

As in the case of the new governor of California people are turning towards those they perceive to be strong leaders regardless of their demonstrated ability in that area. Such seemingly illogical actions are motivated by a desperate need for leadership in times of perceived crisis. Impatience with complex answers to social and economic problems favor sound byte treatments to policy, which gives way to naming some policies almost the exact opposite of what they actually do (i.e. a patriot act that undermines the Bill of Rights and a Clean Air Act which relaxes toxic emission restrictions). So in this way the environment drives voter behavior as set by human nature.

The 'implication' that seems to worry people most of all is so-called 'genetic determinism'. It's the notion that, if human nature was shaped by evolution, then it's fixed and so we're simply stuck with it — there's nothing we can do about it. We can never change the world to be the way we want, we can never institute fairer societies; policy-making and politics are pointless.

Now, that's a complete misunderstanding. It doesn't distinguish between human nature — our evolved psychology — and the behavior that results from it. Certainly, human nature is fixed. It's universal and unchanging — common to every baby that's born, down through the history of our species. But human behavior — which is generated by that nature — is endlessly variable and diverse. After all, fixed rules can give rise to an inexhaustible range of outcomes. Natural selection equipped us with the fixed rules — the rules that constitute our human nature. And it designed those rules to generate behavior that's sensitive to the environment. So, the answer to 'genetic determinism' is simple. If you want to change behavior, just change the environment. And, of course, to know which changes would be appropriate and effective, you have to know those Darwinian rules. You need only to understand human nature, not to change it.

Margo Wilson's and Martin Daly's classic work on homicide illustrates this very clearly. Homicide rates vary enormously across different societies. When the rate in Chicago was 900 murders per million of the population per annum (for same-sex, non-kin killings) — this was in the 1970s and 80s — the rate in England and Wales was 30; and in Iceland there were hardly any murders at all. Now, there's no difference in the genes, no difference in human nature, in these places. And that shows up very dramatically when you look at the patterns of the murders. Although the rates are vastly different, the patterns are exactly the same. If you shrink the axes of the Chicago graph of the age and sex of the murderers and lay it over the England/Wales graph, the curves are an exact fit. It's overwhelmingly young men killing young men — starting, peaking and trailing off at exactly the same ages. What makes the difference to the rates is the different environments. And that's crucial for policy. We understand what it is about our evolved minds that leads to such different rates in different environments — the universal propensity of males to be highly competitive, which under extreme conditions can end up in homicide. And that tells us what conditions we'd need to create to lower the murder rates. Indeed, far from being 'genetic determinism', we can see why the Darwinian approach has even been called — with only a touch of irony — 'an environmentalist discipline'.

-Helena Cronin, Getting Human Nature Right

In the right environment an entire country can shift politically. What factors prevent the US from teetering over the extreme right and what factors will push it there? Recently, someone pointed out just how extreme the Texas Republican Party Platform has become. As someone pointed out in the comments, it is designed to create an atmosphere of insecurity from threats from abroad, financial concerns and social strife. But to really get a taste for what is going on we need to see a more updated Platform. What causes people to adopt such an assemblage of positions? At some level it appears that people drift politically as a direct reaction to exposure to extreme viewpoints. This was the case when Dennis Miller crossed over to conservatism after his friend called the major of NYC a nazi. Some say simply getting rich is another way, yet it's obviously not a rule.

There's also a curious fact — it's one that's been uncovered by evolutionary biology — about the shapes of the distribution curves for most male-female differences. Darwin remarked on it and it holds robustly across other species, too. It's that males are far more variable than females — they are over-represented both at the top of the heap and at the bottom of the barrel. For some characteristics, people might not care. But what about this implication? Fewer women are likely to be dunces but also fewer will be geniuses. When I mentioned this in a seminar in the States, I was sharply corrected by a group of feminists: "There's no such thing as genius". I later discovered that this had become a fairly standard 'feminist studies' line. I couldn't help wondering whether 'genius' had been airbrushed out because there weren't many women in the picture.

-Helena Cronin, Getting Human Nature Right

It seems to me that there is a 'poisoning of the well' effect in politics. Once you become exposed to extremists of any political stripe it's often hard to get that bad taste out of your mouth and understand that they do not represent the majority or at least you hope so. The polemists proliferate and push people into more polarized positions. When conflict breaks out, the wagons get circled, the nuances and details are lost, and those that have not taken a side stand back. So the debates become useless sessions that measure the charisma of the candidates rather than their qualifications or intentions. Since nothing really was said, those sideliners are left with nothing to go on and usually decline to vote. They don't have the time to research the individual candidates. It becomes a popularity contest. The strength of political action groups is magnified. This has been tremendously successful with the Church, which has been traditionally successful through a basic tenet of human nature. And that's what's working here. Since not everyone is a political science major and has all the time to review each candidate, people use a heuristic approach that could be described as satisficing.

Once we develop a clearer picture of human nature and relate it to politics and economics we can create policies that actually work. As fond as anyone is for the current social/economic policies we should all be able to agree that they are far from perfect. Consilience points to a far more robust model of human behavior than the outdated rational choice theory. Even if a near perfect policy is in place, it will be maintained by imperfect people. It will never be without dissent for it is doubtful that anything shall ever satisfy the limitless variety of humanity, but we should not settle nor turn back. I'm not talking about A Brave New World, but one in which policy reflects human nature as it is without becoming totalitarian. This is no easy task.

The magnitude of the technical problems facing the social theorists in particular is, I readily concede, extremely daunting. Some philosophers of science have thrown up their hands, declaring that the borderlands between the natural and social sciences are too complex to be mastered by contemporary imagination and may lie forever beyond reach. Questioning the very idea of consilience from biology to culture, they point to the nonlinearity of the viable equations, to second- and third-order interactions of factors, to stochasticity, and to all the other monsters that dwelleth in the Great Maelstrom Sea, and they sigh, No hope, no hope. But that is what philosophers are supposed to do. Their task is to define and explain the limits of science in the larger scheme of things, where the full dimensions of rational process are better left to—well, philosophers. For them to concede that science has no intellectual limits would be unseemly; it would be unprofessional. Their misgivings lend strength to that dwindling number of social theorists who wish to keep the borders of their dominions sealed and the study of culture unroiled by the dreams of biology.

-Edward O Wilson, Consilience (page 227)

The most vexing problem to me is simply getting beyond partisan politics in the pursuit of such policy. It is clear that the existence of scientific fact does not equate consensus. Scientists don't have lobbyists or many evangelists. I wouldn't claim that I could be one at my current level of understanding, but it would be a worthy goal.

[Leave a comment]

Present the Future

10.07.2003

(Future, Evolution)

permalink
Future. The best thing about it is that it only can come one day at a time.
Anon. Old lady

-Leonard Louis Levinson, The Left Handed Dictionary

Some say the end is near.
Some say we'll see armageddon soon.
I certainly hope we will.
I sure could use a vacation from this
Bullshit three ring circus sideshow of freaks
Here in this hopeless fucking hole we call LA
The only way to fix it is to flush it all away.
Any fucking time. Any fucking day.
Learn to swim, I'll see you down in Arizona bay.

Fret for your figure and
Fret for your latte and
Fret for your hairpiece and
Fret for your lawsuit and
Fret for your prozac and
Fret for your pilot and
Fret for your contract and
Fret for your car.

Some say a comet will fall from the sky.
Followed by meteor showers and tidal waves.
Followed by faultlines that cannot sit still.
Followed by millions of dumbfounded dipshits.

Some say the end is near.
Some say we'll see armageddon soon.
I certainly hope we will cuz
I sure could use a vacation from this
Silly shit, stupid shit...

One great big festering neon distraction,
I've a suggestion to keep you all occupied.

Mom's gonna fix it all soon.
Mom's comin' round to put it back the way it ought to be.

Learn to swim.

Fuck L Ron Hubbard and
Fuck all his clones.
Fuck all those gun-toting
Hip gangster wannabes.

Learn to swim.

Fuck retro anything.
Fuck your tattoos.
Fuck all you junkies and
Fuck your short memory.

Learn to swim...................
(portions of tool's ænima)
To me there is something thrilling and exalting in the thought that we are drifting forward into a splendid mystery—into something that mortal eye hath yet seen, and no intelligence has yet declared.

-Edwin Hubbell Chapin (1814-80)

I am filled with much optimistic feeling for the future even though it seems we've been using up resources like some never-ending party. Our treatment of the solution has as much sense as raising up dinosaurs in Crichton fashion only to slaughter them wholesale, bury them in some landfill and hope they turn into oil someday. Our western lifestyle of excess may have to be given up within my lifetime if scientists are not given enough resources to come to a reasonable solution.

The bottleneck is what I believe humanity's in right now. We all, most all, realize that humanity has pushed its population growth pretty close to the limit. We really are at risk of using up natural resources and developing shortages in them that will be extremely difficult to overcome, and yet we have this bright prospect down the line that humanity is not gonna keep on growing much more in population, that it is likely if we can use the United Nation's projections at this stage, to top out at perhaps nine to ten billion, fifty percent more people than exist today, and then begin to decline.

-Edward o. Wilson, in an interview

We hang in a delicate balance between population size and the affluence of the population that is threatened by finite resources. Some argue that we have infinite resources available to us and even if we were to exhaust something like coal, for instance, we would discover a replacement. The arguments suggested by Julian Simon for the cornucopian world and substitutability have definite problems including a sidestepping of entropy.

Although the words "entropy" or "second law of thermodynamics" remarkably do not occur once in a 400-page book on The Ultimate Resource, the concept is occasionally touched upon. There is a comment made in passing that marble and copper can be recycled, whereas energy cannot. This raises hopes that Simon may not be ignorant of the entropy law. These hopes are soon dashed when he softens the statement to "energy cannot be easily recycled." Later he tells us that "man's activities tend to increase the order and decrease the homogeneity of nature. Man tends to bring like elements together, to concentrate them."

That is the only part of the picture that Simon knows about. But the entropy law tells us there is another part—that to increase order in one part of the system requires the increase of disorder elsewhere, and that in net terms for the system as a whole the movement is toward disorder. In other words, more order and more matter and energy devoted to human bodies and artifacts mean less matter and energy and less order for the rest of the system, which includes all the other species on whose life-support services we and our economy depend. Simon is quite prepared to ruin the habitats of all other species by letting them (and future generations) bear the entropic costs of disorders that our own continuing growth entails. For Simon, however, this problem cannot exist because he believes resources and absorption capacities are infinite. But after he has once mastered the paradox of Achilles and the tortoise concerning infinity, his next homework assignment should be to find out about entropy. Until he has done these two things he should stop trying to write books for grownups about resources and population.

-Herman Daly's review of Julian Simon's The Ultimate Resource

When looking to spread democracy and peace all over the world and have everyone living to American standards, we should not be crying for four more years of Bush, but four more Earths to sustain us.

I'm in favor of pushing technology for all its worth, but the fact remains that with existing technology, you can show fairly reliably the figures have not been seriously challenged to my knowledge that in order for the whole world, the whole world population to live in American standard, but you know, living would require four more planet earths. In other words uh, we're coming up against something here.

-Edward o. Wilson, in an interview

Indeed! I also share Wilson's cautious optimism and his belief that "There are more ways to achieve spiritual peace than by looking forward to passage to another world." I see my brief stint on this speck in space ceaselessly saturated with a sense of wonder about the world. For life is amazing in it's ability to survive and thrive in the most extreme of settings as exemplified in extremophiles. I have no special knowledge or insight into the mystery of existence. While I seriously doubt the authenticity of recent research I do not count out the immaterial altogether.

Currently I am learning about the theory of gene-culture coevolution from Edward O. Wilson's excellent book, Consilience. It triggered a memory of a brief encounter when I was at the Chicago Blues Fest this summer. A happy hippie gal asked if I was interested in a magazine published at her commune, the Zendik farm. It was only a few bucks, so I bought it. It was an amusing read. Wulf Zendik developed the ideas of creavolution and ecolibrium. Unfortunately, what is printed in the magazine is a vaguely coherent mess that might sound a lot better after a few joints. I did chuckle over his colorful language about our deathculture and suiciety. I simply failed to see anything new offered from the now stereotypical sayings of the New Age aficionados.

Yes, I seek truth, but I don't understand the TruthWay.

Why? Why is all of this True? Because all of it follows the TruthWay. The TruthWay where the slightest tolerance for the false kills all Life of the Moment and so the Moment is Death. When once you've Seen this, knowing that to lie is to Die, then Truth becomes your philosophic God and you know the Truth: that it is all balance, that giving and taking are the same...

-Wulf Zendik

So is this where "if I'm lying, I'm dying" came from?

Getting back to the idea of gene-culture coevolution, there comes first the question as to what is culture. Wilson included what Alfred Kroeber and Clyde Kluckholn came up with in 1952: "Culture is a product; is historical; includes ideas, patterns, and values; is selective; is learned; is based upon symbols; and is an abstraction from behavior and the products of behavior." Wilson goes on to then explain...

In the extreme nurturist view, which has prevailed in social theory for most of the twentieth century, culture has departed from genes and become a thing unto itself. Possessing a life of its own, growing like wildfire ignited by the strike of the match, it has acquired emergent properties no longer connected to the genetic and psychological processes that initiated it. Hence, omnis cultura ex cultura. All culture comes from culture.

Whether that metaphor is accepted or not, the undeniable truth is that each society creates culture and is created by it. Through constant grooming, decorating, exchange of gifts, sharing of food and fermented beverage, music, and storytelling, the symbolic communal life of the mind takes form, unifying the group into a dreamworld that masters the external reality into which the group has been thrust, whether in forest, grassland, desert, ice field, or city, spinning from it the webs of moral consensus and ritual that bind each tribal member to the common fate.

-Edward O. Wilson, Consilience (page 142).

Finally, it can be argued that the worst thing invented in our culture is war and yet according to Wilson we are not even its most avid practitioners, but they are the hundred trillion ants that walk at our feet. War has achieved a high place in an American society that seems to be fighting Culture, Drug, and Terrorism wars at the same time. The political norm for problem solving is to declare war on the problem. Perhaps that is a result of American mythos.

It makes no difference what men think of war, said the judge. War endures. As well ask men what they think of stone. War was always here. Before man was, war waited for him. The ultimate trade waiting its ultimate practitioner. That is the way it was and will be. That way and not some other way.

He turned to Brown, from whom he'd heard some whispered slur or demurrer. Ah Davy, he said. It's your own trade we honor here. Why not rather take a small bow. Let each acknowledge each.

My trade?

Certainly.

What is my trade?

War. War is your trade. Is it not?

And it aint yours?

Mine too. Very much so.

What about all them notebooks and bones and stuff?

All other trades are contained in that of war.

Is that why war endures?

No. It endures because young men love it and old men love it in them. Those that fought, those that did not.

-Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian from The Only God in the God of War

I don't believe that war will endure. I have hope that in time we will advance beyond such activities. I don't really know if I have the optimism of Kurzweil on the singularity, but I feel that such a thing seems certain to extinguish the reason for war whenever it does happen. I also don't agree with his timetable on "spiritual machines," but that's more a matter of my doubts on the development of Artificial Emotion. Machines may out calculate us in the idiot savant manner of logic and fact dissemination machines, but intelligence is inseparable from emotion.

However, that is the stuff of future posts.

[Leave a comment]

Emote this

10.02.2003

(Emotion, Politics)

permalink
As the scenarios of consciousness fly by, driven by stimuli and drawing upon memories of prior scenarios, they are weighted and modified by emotion. What is emotion? It is the modification of neural activity that animates and focuses mental activity. It is created by physiological activity that selects certain streams of information over others, shifting the body and mind to higher or lower degrees of activity, agitating the circuits that create scenarios, and selecting ones that end in certain ways. The winning scenarios are those that match goals preprogrammed by instinct and the satisfactions of prior experience. Current experience and memory continually perturb the states of mind and body. By thought and action the states are then moved backward to the original condition or forward to conditions conceived in new scenarios. The dynamism of the process provokes labeling by words that denote the basic categories of emotion—anger, disgust, fear, pleasure, surprise. It breaks the categories into many degrees and joins them to create myriad subtle compounds. Thus we experience feelings that are variously weak, strong, mixed, and new.

Without the stimulus and guidance of emotion, rational thought slows and disintegrates. The rational mind does not float above the irrational; it cannot free itself to engage in pure reason. There are pure theorems in mathematics but no pure thoughts that discover them. In the brain-in-the-vat fantasy of neurobiological theory and science fiction, the organ in its nutrient bath has been detached from the impediments of the body and liberated to explore the inner universe of the mind. But that is not what would ensue in reality. All the evidence from the brain science points in the opposite direction, to a waiting coffin-bound hell of the wakened dead, where the remembered and imagined world decays until chaos mercifully grants oblivion.

-Edward O. Wilson, Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge (page 123)

The ego, according to Freud, is constantly attempting "to mediate between the id and reality" and to measure up to the ideal set by the super-ego, so as to dethrone "the pleasure-principle, which exerts undisputed sway over the processes in the id, and substitute for it the reality principle, which promises greater security and greater success." But sometimes it fails in this task. Sometimes, when no socially acceptable channels of behavior are available for expressing emotional drives in action, the ego, supported by the super-ego, represses the emotional or instinctual impulses, that is, prevents them from expressing themselves overtly.

Freud's great insight is that emotions repressed do not atrophy and disappear. On the contrary, their dammed-up energies accumulate and, like a sore, the fester inwardly. Together with related ideas, memories, and wishes, the repressed emotions form what Freud calls a "complex," which is not only the active nucleus of emotional disorder, but also the cause of neurotic symptoms and behavior—phobias and anxieties, obsessions or compulsions, and the various physical manifestations of hysteria, such as a blindness or a paralysis that has no organic basis.

The line between the neurotic and the normal is shadowy, for repressed emotional complexes are, according to Freud, also responsible for the hidden or latent psychological significance of slips of speech, forgetting, the content of dreams, occupational or martial choices, and a wide variety of other phenomena usually regarded as accidental or as rationally determined. In fact, Freud sometimes goes to the extreme of insisting that all apparently rational processes—both of thought and decision—are themselves emotionally determined; and that most, or all, reasoning is nothing but the rationalization of emotionally fixed prejudices or beliefs. "The ego," he writes, "is after all only a part of the id, a part purposively modified by its proximity to the dangers of reality."

-Mortimer J. Adler, The Great Ideas: A Syntopicon of Great Books of the Western World, (chapter: Emotion pages 418-9

So it would seem that Freud was not so extreme in comparison to the current understanding of emotion according to Wilson, who strikes me as a reliable authority on the contemporary scientific view. He at least appears genuine in his honest approach as evidenced from his take on the components of mental activity and the reason for his stance.

What we call meaning is the linkage among the neural networks created by the spreading excitation that enlarges the imagery and engages emotion. The competitive selection among scenarios is what we call decision making. The outcome, in terms of the match of the winning scenario to instinctive or learned favorable states, sets the kind and intensity of subsequent emotion. The persistent form of intensity of emotions is called mood. The ability of the brain to generate novel scenarios and settle on the most effective among them is called creativity. The persistent production of scenarios lacking reality and survival value is called insanity.

The explicit material constructions I have put upon mental life will be disputed by some brain scientists, and reckoned inadequate by others. That is the unavoidable fate of synthesis. In choosing certain hypotheses over others, I have tried to serve as an honest broker searching for the gravitational center of opinion, where by large the supporting data are the most persuasive and mutually consistent. To include all models and hypotheses deserving respect in this tumultuous discipline, and then to clarify the distinctions among them, would require a full-dress textbook. Undoubtedly events will prove that in places I chose badly. For that eventuality I apologize now to the slighted scientists, a concession I comfortably make, knowing that the recognition they deserve and will inevitably receive cannot be blunted by premature omission on the part of any one observer.

-Edward O. Wilson, Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge (pages 125-6)

After defining emotion there comes the problem of further classification, which was arranged in a mathematic orientation—certainly, the most unusual of marriages—by Spinoza according to Yesselman.

°EMOTION is a change in one's °Perpetuation.
Its intensity is proportional to the change.
If the change is negative, it is °SORROW.
If the change is zero, it is BOREDOM.
If the change is positive, it is °Joy.
Emotion, to Hobbes (who was in love with geometry) is seen as moving away from or towards some object of which according to William James can be divided in degrees of "coarse" or "subtle." Spinoza made a bifurcation between pleasure as "the transition of a man from a less to a greater perfection" and pain as "the transition of a man from a greater to a less perfection." Aquinas divides all passions—to use the word of his day—in accordance with acquiring good and avoiding evil so that the "concupiscible" are those that see good or evil simply (like love and hate) and the "irascible" that see good and evil as something more difficult to deal with (like hope and despair). Neurologist Antonio R. Damasio makes a division of emotion into categories of primary emotion (instinctive; activated by the limbic system) and secondary emotion (falling in love, being betrayed, etc.) that economically uses the limbic system only after "consulting" with the cerebral cortex.

If our reason is inevitably tainted by emotion, then we must strive against situations where a "conflict of interest" would occur. Because emotions can be controlled it creates problems in regards to medicine and morals. If you fail morally, at what point can or should medicine be used for a condition that may or may not be partially to blame?

It is hard to deny the role of emotion regarding political perspectives. As it applies to our current foreign policy is it better to instill fear or inspire love? To the domestic is it better to be mean or liberal? Machiavelli famously had this to say of the latter:

And there is nothing wastes so rapidly as liberality, for even whilst you exercise it you lose the power to do so, and so become either poor or despised, or else, in avoiding poverty, rapacious and hatred. And a prince should guard himself, above all things, against being despised and hated; and liberality leads you to both. There fore is it wiser to have a reputation for meanness which brings reproach without hatred, than to be compelled through seeking a reputation for liberality to incur a name for rapacity which begets reproach with hatred.

- Machiavelli, The Prince (chapter XVI)

And to the former:

Upon this a question arises: whether it be better to be loved than feared or feared than loved? It may be answered that one should wish to be both, but, because it is difficult to unite them in one person, it is much safer to be feared than loved, when, of the two either must be dispensed with...Nevertheless a prince ought to inspire fear in such a way that, if he does not win love, he avoids hatred...

- Machiavelli, The Prince (chapter XVII)

Of course, Machiavelli did not intend such advice for a republic. Hobbes had a break bleak view too. He felt that in the nature of Man there were three causes for quarrel: competition, distrust, and glory. These put all men in a constant state of war unless they were all in awe of some greater power. He believed that the things that drove men to peace were the fear of death, desire of a comfortable life, and the hope they can work to achieve it. This encouraged them to agree to what he called laws of nature and that "the mutual transferring of right is that which men call contract." It's like we'd all be out killing each other right now unless there was a government to stop us and we wouldn't feel guilty about it unless there were priests poking around. I'd be inclined to other things but, as George Bush says, "There ought to be limits to freedom."

I consider myself a moderate in the sense that I don't believe that political opinions are indicative of psychological complexes or indicate a degree of evilness. I do see that those with extreme views are often unable to allow reason to curtail their actions. I am less sure about how this applies to someone like Gavin McInnes, but considering his appearances here and here, I would have to agree with the Muse in that being an asshole is not a legitimate source of humor and he is abusing of irony (shouldn't it be funny to more than Gavin and his buds?), but he's not fat.

The tatoo doesn't just say "destruction" it says "destruction creates." That's writted across a massive jellyfish that is holding two people in its tentacles: Chiang Kai Shek and Fidel Castro. Those were two immigrants that came into a country, wiped out the previous cultures and started new, prosperous ones. I also have a machine gun on my arm that says "arm your desires" in Arabic. The days of the West are numbered and I will be the impetus that destroys it. I am turning America inside out from the outside in. Soon George Bush will be in the tentacles hands and a new creed will take over. DESTRUCTION CREATES!

-Gavin McInnes

I'm as much in favor of revisionist history for entertainment purposes as the next Orwell disciple, but can we can the corruption of cool and hip by those that are neither? Oh wait, I forgot that I don't care.

After all, who cares about some crappy magazine that can't compete with the likes of Cliff Yablonski and is less shocking than some site on the internet? How edgy can the trailer-park chic be when you got Bailey's TV commercials promoting the idea of getting drunk on your driveway? It's a desperate plea for attention by someone yelling, "My political views make me an asshole by default so I don't give a flying fuck from Frankfurt about what you think of me. Buy my stuff!"

Then there's this flagrant display of hate. It reminds me of the hate that derailed this essay in many ways, but most surely in the sense of Deconstructionism. You can be opposed to the technique without suggesting mental illness towards its practitioners.

Postmodernism is expressed more explicitly still in deconstruction, a technique of literary criticism. Each author's meaning is unique to himself, goes the underlying premise; nothing of his true intention or anything else connected to objective reality can be reliably assigned to it. His text is therefore open to fresh analysis and commentary issuing from the equally solipsistic world in the head of the reviewer. But then the reviewer is in turn subject to deconstruction, as well as the reviewer of the reviewer, and so on in infinite regress. That is what Jacques Derrida, the creator of deconstruction, meant when he stated the formula Il n'y a pas de hors-texte (there is nothing outside the text). At least, that is what I think he meant, after reading him, his defenders, and his critics with some care. If the radical postmodernist premise is correct, we can never be sure that is what he meant. Conversely, if that is what he meant, it is not certain we are obliged to consider his arguments further. This puzzle, which I am inclined to set aside as the "Derrida paradox," is similar to the "Cretan paradox" (a Cretan says "all Cretans are liar"). It awaits solution, though one need not feel any great sense of urgency in the matter.

It is tempting to relegate postmodernism to history's curiosity cabinet alongside theosophy and transcendental idealism, but it has seeped by now into the mainstream of the social sciences and humanities. It is viewed there as a technique of metatheory (theory about theories), by which scholars analyze not so much the subject matter of the scientific discipline as the cultural and psychological reasons particular scientists think the way they do...

And to others concerned about the growing dissolution and irrelevance of the intelligentsia, which is indeed alarming, I suggest there have always been two kinds of orginal thinkers, those who upon viewing disorder try to create order, and those who upon encountering order protest it by creating disorder. The tension between the two is what drives learning forward...

Nevertheless, here is a salute to the postmodernists. As today's celebrants of corybantic Romanticism, they enrich culture. They say to the rest of us: Maybe, just maybe, you are wrong.

-Edward O. Wilson, Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge (pages 44-7)

So while you can't completely divest yourself from emotion, it can cloud your judgement and affect your sense of proportion and your sense of humor. I have a pretty dark sense of humor. I found Death to Smoochy and Cable Guy to be a lot more funny than most, but I don't see the point in the deliberate use of racist humor. I also don't see the point in accusing your political rivals of insanity. I'd have to wonder about those that are brought to your side by such things.

More intense emotions charge political debate in recent years and it's plainly shown in online forums on certain sites. Even in the more humble domain of weblogs people freak out over trivial matters while others are more than happy to push sensitive (though not necessarily innocent) folks into extreme rages just to entertain themselves.

Why do some people seem to enjoy being assholes? Even after he was forced to resign he had to comment that "All this has become the tempest that it is because I must have been right about something. If I wasn't right, there wouldn't be this cacophony of outrage that has sprung up in the sports writer community." So perhaps in Rush's case he is merely such an egoist that everything from his opinion to his race must be right and superior. Maybe he's just delusional from drug use. The whole thing feels like deja vu.

Anyway, that's some of my musing on emotions for now.

Lovely little dot

09.23.2003

permalink
We succeeded in taking that picture [from deep space], and, if you look at it, you see a dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever lived, lived out their lives. The aggregate of all our joys and sufferings, thousands of confident religions, ideologies and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilizations, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every hopeful child, every mother and father, every inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every superstar, every supreme leader, every saint and sinner in the history of our species, lived there on a mote of dust, suspended in a sunbeam.

The earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and in triumph they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of the dot on scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner of the dot. How frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe, are challenged by this point of pale light.

Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity -- in all this vastness -- there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. It is up to us. It's been said that astronomy is a humbling, and I might add, a character-building experience. To my mind, there is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly and compassionately with one another and to preserve and cherish that pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known.

-Carl Sagan (found here")

Sometimes the world seems too big or maybe it's just that distance can be a PITA. There's also that matter of time or more precisely, timing. Of this I am grateful to have had the time due to a rather lax employment schedule to make the trip that I did last week. The timing applies to an event months ago where two people found they were of the same mind as far as relationships were concerned in the sense that they were not looking for such a thing. They would share another somewhat similar situation of transition while living with a parent and a similar future career goal in writing. These and many other things would be discussed over many phone conversations that bridged distance aurally while leaving a very real 1046 mile gap.

It's amazing how much you can get to know someone over the phone, email, and countless AIM chats that when you get over that initial surreal moment of finally meeting that you can answer that chemistry question with an confident "yes!"

I'm sipping on lemonade just like I did before and I still marvel at how much she can make me laugh and I wonder how I'm going to get out of my 5 to 1 hole.

That's an inside thing. We have a lot of those.

I could go on and on...to put it simply, she is the best thing that's ever happened to me. I feel luckier than any lottery winner. Having plenty of money would make it easier to be with her right now, but she is providing amble motivation to work at it. It's why I have a 2004 Writer's Market on my desk and why I got on a Greyhound for 18 hours just to see her last week.

A few weeks before David Letterman went on an extended vacation (the one he returns from Monday night, as a matter of fact), he conducted an interview on "Late Show" with a young man by the name of Aron Ralston.

Ralston is an extreme mountaineer (unlike Dave) and Indiana native (like Dave), who - with the aid of a pocketknife - severed his lower right arm, which had been pinned beneath an 800-pound boulder in a remote Utah canyon for five days. After rappelling down, he walked three hours, was spotted by a helicopter and three months later was on national TV explaining all of this to a profoundly moved TV host.

With the interview wrapping up, Letterman wondered, "Could everybody have done this?" Ralston, 27, replied, "If you had a choice to go through an hour of pain to live another 60 years, you'd do the same thing."

Letterman didn't even bother to respond with a quip, the usual antidote to an interview that's suddenly veered into uncertain terrain. He instead leaned on his elbow, settled himself into his chair, peered at Ralston through those primly professorial spectacles and asked, sotto voce: "Is that what you know about life that I don't know necessarily?"

-Verne Gay, "Lights Out for 'Late Show'?"

A bus ride is not that painful, but I know I would go through what Indiana Dave did. I know that there's a lot of work and maybe some pain ahead, but it is worth it.

It seems like a big world while you are standing on it. It seems like a cruel world while walking parts of it. But if you are lucky, you can be on any part of this big, cruel world and see in someone's eyes that you are always home.

It's history folks

09.01.2003

(History, Politics, Goodbye)

permalink
The greatest high in this graveyard nation is to have an effect.

-Steve Aylett, Atom

...as of 40,000 years ago, Native Australian societies enjoyed a big head start over societies of Europe and the other continents. Native Australians developed some of the earliest known stone tools with ground edges, the earliest hafted stone tools (that is, stone ax heads mounted on handles), and by far the earliest watercraft, in the world. Some of the oldest known painting on rock surfaces comes from Australia. Anatomically modern humans may have settled Australia before they settled western Europe. Why, despite that head start, did Europeans end up conquering Australia, rather than vice versa?

- Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs, and Steel (Chapter 15 Yali's People, page 297)

The societies of Australia and New Guinea developed in isolation from the rest of the world and to a lesser degree each other. A major factor was the nature of the land. Australia is one of the least fertile continents on earth. This is due to little volcanic activity and the lack of mountains and glaciers. New Guinea, in contrast, is extremely rugged and in most places it gets over 100 inches of rain annually where Australia averages less than 20. Volcanic activity has left New Guinea with fertile soil that supports a dense rain forest. The aboriginal Australian populations were kept low due to the lack of land suitable for food production. Whereas the people of New Guinea had to contend with uneven terrain that made only the highlands suitable for food production. Those living in the lowlands had to contend with "steep terrain, persistent cloud cover, malaria, and risk of drought" (p304.) Highland agriculture was limited to elevations above 4,000 feet. Another limiting factor was that only domesticable animal in Australia was the dog (sometimes used as living blankets and gave way to the expression, "five-dog night"—p308) and while New Guinea had (non-native) pigs and chickens they were never produced in great numbers.

Such was the difficultly in traveling in New Guinea that most highlanders never got more than 10 miles from home and this combined with low population (1,000,000) gave New Guinea 1,000 of the world's 6,000 languages. Some only had as many as 500 speakers and others had 100,000.

Australia not only has the driest climate with one of the most infertile soils, but it has unpredictable weather patterns called the El Niño Southern Oscillation. Even if crops were found that could survive such conditions, the lack of domesticable animals to work the fields works against the aborigines.

These and other factors limited the development of Australian and New Guinean societies. Most importantly, race was not a factor. In fact, that's a central idea of the book: many things determine the relative success of human societies, but race is not among them. The book clearly argues the case for geographic determinism.

I caught wind of a debate on the history of the clash between the Tasmania natives and the European settlers. The vague public record on the deaths has become politicized. One blogger accuses" a side of lysenkoism and seems smugly amused (of which I'll explore a little later) by the whole debate. He highlights one aspect of a poorly argued challenge of this article.

The challenger seems to have not read the article all the way through. Otherwise how could he claim that, "The main point of his article seems to be that the numbers of Aborigines killed in frontier conditions cannot be known.", when it is clear what portion that point encompasses here:

In order to demonstrate the falsity of Fabrication, let me consider what contributors to Whitewash show about just one of Windschuttle's most famous claims, namely that in Tasmania only 118 Aborigines were deliberately killed.

Now, it's quite possible that the natives of Tasmania could have been quite hostile to settlers since they have had the least amount of dealings with strangers than any of the people from the region. Either way, if the Valentine's Day Massacre can be called a "massacre," then, certainly, 118 deaths can be considered one too. It seems the people of that region never go much of a break ever. I have not done my homework as much as some but this is what I've learned about the history of Tasmania.

In the Pleistocene Ice Ages the level of the oceans was dramatically lower due to that fact it was locked up as ice, hence the term. During this time New Guinea, Australia, and Tasmania were one contiguous landmass. So people were able to spread out until about 12,000-8,000 years ago when the ice began to melt, cutting of the 3 bodies of land. Tasmania, being the most "down and under" place became the most isolated.

When finally encountered by Europeans in A.D. 1642, the Tasmanians had the simplest material culture of any people in the modern world. Like mainland Aborigines, they were hunter-gatherers without metal tools. But they also lacked many technologies and artifacts widespread on the mainland, including barbed spears, bone tools of any type, boomerangs, ground of polished stone tools, hafted stone tools, hooks, nets, pronged spears, traps, and the practices of catching and eating fish, sewing, and starting a fire...On at least three smaller islands (Flinders, Kangaroo, and King) that were isolated from Australia or Tasmania by rising levels around 10,000 years ago, human populations that would initially have numbered around 200 to 400 died out completely.

- Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs, and Steel (Chapter 15 Yali's People, page 313)

I have much more to learn about the inhabitants of Tasmania before I can render a better opinion on the debate.

In the course of looking things up, I noticed this review. He seems to want it both ways, Diamond certainly seems to answer his criticism and yet he still balks at Jared's "mile-high view" of culture as "simply inadequate." I found his argument about the advantage derived from the environment is quite a persuasive. I agree that history has been a story of us "reducing our dependence on the physical environment," but once a society reaches a certain level (statehood usually) there is an autocatalytic process that occurs to widen the gap. The process obviously is not one-way. Many societies like the Romans have crumbled after reaching this point. To address amount of variables present in a modern seems a daunting task for a book that starts 13,000 years in the past, but to this reviewer it's still "a bit limited."

I found a seemingly more balanced criticism here. Here's another that I haven't had a chance to read yet.

I do agree with the critics that biogeographic influences are less important the more advanced a society becomes, but I am not sure just how much Jared is overstating his case.

What started my on the trail was Graham's post that linked to this presumptuous post over this person's decision to keep her child. Wow! Stanley is quite the arrogant bastard.

Speaking of arrogant bastards...

"Somebody calls you a liar to your face, you don't just laugh that off," O'Reilly said afterward on his radio show. "In the Old West that would have got you shot."

According to someone close to the situation, Fox executives were not at all in favor of suing, correctly anticipating a P.R. debacle. They told O'Reilly as much in a series of meetings, but he continued to lobby aggressively for bringing a suit, pressing his case with Roger Ailes, the Fox News chairman, and others. And so Fox enlisted its lawyers to cobble together a complaint.

So what's rootin tootin O'Reilly up to lately?

KAREN STERNHEIMER, PH.D., USC PROFESSOR: Well, I have to let you know I agree that a lot of what we see on MTV is very shocking and it is somewhat offensive to the eye and sometimes to the ear as well.

But I think we have a problem when we presume that offensive content is going to lead to offensive behavior. And let me just give you the example of the thing I think a lot of parents fear the most with the sexual content of music videos.

I think a lot of parents, obviously, are afraid that kids are going to see this and become very sexual themselves, and I would say, if we look at the overall trends, if we look at, for instance, CDC data, which tell us that, for instance, teens today are less likely to be sexually active than 10 years ago…

O'REILLY: Yes, but that's misleading. That stat is misleading because it's...

STERNHEIMER: Well, let me just finish the one thought.

O'REILLY: Whoa, whoa, whoa, Doctor. But I can't let you because this is the no-spin zone. The stat is misleading because it doesn't take into account the socioeconomic basis of who you're talking about. The lower echelons of society -- with the 70 percent out of wedlock in the black community -- has really been affected by the increasing acceptance of permissiveness and decadence driven by MTV and other media outlets.

STERNHEIMER: Well, I think it is important to look at context here, and let me add that particularly for African-American girls, teen pregnancy rates have steadily declined. So that's something that we really need to keep in mind.

O'REILLY: Wait a minute. Wait a minute. They're at 80 percent between...

STERNHEIMER: They have been declining.

O'REILLY: Wait. Look, you can decline from anything, but black girls between 15 and 24 who give birth -- 80 percent of them are out of wedlock. So, if you're going to make that case, you're going to be laughed off the dais.

According to O'Reilly "the lower echelons of society" that is the out of wedlock black community have been urged to have sex by MTV. Of course, he does not mention that MTV has specials about safe sex and that that awareness about contraceptives and things like AIDS are thought to be major factors in lower teen pregnancy rates. But hey, check out the stats yourself.

One thing to take into account when considering O'Reilly's no-spin-spin is that we are supposed to be talking about the "affect on children" and he lumps 15 year olds with everyone up to 24. Does O' Reilly consider Black people children until they reach the age of 25? A racist liar is as a racist liar does.


I decided to move Quickies off the main page and I changed the format to something less quick. Other's changes may include a total lack of regular log updates. I sort of feel like these activists and this comic and yet at the same time I feel rather ambivalent about it.

This site no longer interests me that much. Spouting off opinions about things doesn't seem like a worthy enterprise when bills go unpaid. I want to explore things in greater depth, but I can't afford to put forth the effort without some compensation. As little as writers do make, it's at least something. Weblogging has not matured to the point where it can support more than a few "a-list" writers and most of them seem to be stuck on politics. UGH!

I'm not saying that I expect to be paid to write here. I just can't afford to spend so much time writing here when I could be writing for money somewhere else. Hell, I don't even feel like wordsmithing the text of this post.

So is this weblog dead? No. It's mostly dead though, which means it's probably dead. I plan on revamping the Temple of Pong portion of the site as something completely different from what it had been. I will be trying out various bit of java, XML, etc. The Quickies and Dump should continue to see the same level of attention. I may even renew the EgoTrip.

I think I had a great run. I might change my mind at some point in the future, but for some reason I kind of doubt it. I do have a large file of notes for future posts, but it could very easily be converted into notes for future articles to sell. So the link worthy weblog will die so the author may have a life and yet link worthy as a site will live on. I want to get more creative and this time I'm going to do something other than express a wish.

Thanks for dropping by. Check the main page for updates to the pages mentioned above. I might ping weblogs.com when I update them.

Take care,
John Namest

And looking out, he found there was a stranger on stage wearing this huge black coat and playing a giant flute. And as he played, something began to inflate from the end of the instrument. It was a human head, resembling exactly that of the musician, its lips attached to this end of the flute and facing its twin. Then the body began to tumble from beneath the head like a birthing calf. The feet hit the stage and the form filled out, swaying slow in the ventilation. Then the arms quickly inflated, quivering up into position, and the real guy, the first one, detached and floated out above the audience. The new man, coat and all, had taken over the flute, and his music bobbed and drifted like the airborne figure. The floating man, uplit and shadow-freaked was screaming as though terrified, and so was everyone else. The clientele began to fire at the ceiling, at each other, at the musician on stage. A Barrett 82 whooped off, detaching one of the rubber chandeliers, and by the time it thumped to the deck, everyone had drawn.

The musician reacted weirdly. As the volleys flew, he telescoped the flute and drew his coat all around like Bela Lugosi, sinking behind it and turning his back. It looked like the ammo was disappearing into that coat like pledges into a manifesto. Then when a shell burst the floating man, next thing the whole joint was being showered with confetti, all these louts looking up like it was Christmas, and the stage guy was nowhere.

Every single flake of confetti bore a miniature likeness of the stranger's face.

-Steve Aylett, Atom

The Dude Abides

08.27.2003

(Movies, Religion, Sexuality, Politics, Economics, NASA, Race, Nuclear Arms, More?)

permalink
Smokey, this is not Nam, this is bowling. There are rules.

-Walter Sobchak, The Big Lebowski

There will be things in the post that will scare the normal, gentle folk that wander about our malls, take communion at Church, and wonder about the sexuality of cartoon characters. I will not go for the cheap and ultimately pointless route of cybersex advice in this somewhat blatant attempt at garnering some response, some validation, something that tells me I'm only a few hundred guns, about several dozen women, and a few guitar lessons away from being the next messiah.

Jesus: are you ready to be fucked man?, (...) Liam and me we gonna fuck you up.
The dude: Yeah, well thats just like your opinion man.
Jesus: Let me tell you something bendaho, you pull any crazy shit with us, you pull your piece out on the lane, i'll take it away from you and stick up your ass and pull the fucking trigger til it goes 'click.'
The dude: Jesus!
Jesus: You say it man, no one fucks with the Jesus.
Walter: Eight year-olds, Dude.

The Big Lebowski

You have to understand that I have my doubts and fears that this will not work. God has not been returning my calls concerning financial advise. I'm trying to be patient. The love calculator says we have a 76% chance of things working out. I have only a 46% chance of working things out with Satan, but Dr. Love advises:

The chance of a relationship working out between John Namest and Satan is not very big, but a relationship is very well possible, if the two of you really want it to, and are prepared to make some sacrifices for it. You'll have to spend a lot of quality time together. You must be aware of the fact that this relationship might not work out at all, no matter how much time you invest in it.

I'm not prepared to make any sacrifices and forget about filming it. But I do want to sing, "We're gonna rock, rock, rock/Rock with the ROCK!" Yes, I missed my calling. I have never been a part of the music business.

The dude: I was, uh, one of the authors of the Port Huron Statement. The original Port Huron Statement.
Maude: Uh-huh..
The dude: Not the compromised second draft. Ever hear of the Seattle Seven?
Maude: Mmmm..
The dude: That was me..and,uh, six other guys. Uhh..the music business briefly.
Maude: Oh?
The dude: Yeah, roadie for Metallica.
Maude: Ohh...
The dude: Speed of Sound tour.
Maude: Mmm-hmmm..
The dude: Buncha assholes..you know, a little'a this a little'a that.
Maude: What do you do for..recreation?
The dude: Oh, the usual..bowl, drive around, the occasional acid flashback..

I'm not sure if I can handle the makeup or the lawsuits that it takes to be an American Idol. Besides, I just don't have the hair.

Shut your fucking mouth for two seconds and let me come up with a plan that dosen't involve mass suicide.

-The Dude, The Big Lebowski

I wasn't going to go that far, really. I like that David Blaine is going to make a big deal out of what many of the world's homeless do regularly. It's either a major publicity stunt or a desperate attempt to lose weight. Dude, just eat less.

Maude: Do you like sex, Mr. Lebowski?
The dude: Excuse me?
Maude: Sex. The physical act of love. Coitus. Do you like it?
The dude: I was talking about my rug.
Maude: You're not interested in sex?
The dude: You mean coitus?
Maude: I like it too. It's a male myth about feminists that we hate sex. It can be a natural, zesty enterprise. But unfortunately there are some people--it is called satyriasis in men, nymphomania in women--who engage in it compulsively and without joy.
The dude: Oh, no.

-The Big Lebowski

Cheers for the cheers, "We're Girl, We're Boy, We're not your Barbie Toy. We're Gay, We're Straight, Let's all just masturbate!" I am proud that Chicago is a premier home of radical cheerleading. Lickity Split are sex positive and yet anti-Bush. Why? It could be that Bush doesn't want to educate people about it. So we have to seek it out wherever we can find it.

The Dude: It's like what Lenin said... you look for the person who will benefit, and, uh, uh...
Donny: I am the walrus.
The Dude: You know what I'm trying to say...
Walter: That fucking bitch...
Donny: I am the walrus.
Walter: shut the fuck up, Donny! V.I. Lenin. Vladimir Illanich Uleninov!

-The Big Lebowski

John Ashcroft.

What kind of America does the current administration want? I like to be safe, but we don't have to be abstinent from our rights or sex or whatever. Maybe Bush is really for sex and gets it confused like he does with "peace."

"We need peace." But there needs to be a focused coalition effort in the region against peace -- I mean, against terror, for peace.

-GWB

So as the post-war deaths (140) exceed the deaths since Bush declared the war was over in May (138) and as the cost skyrockets for Iraq it seems we might need as much as $1.8 billion a year for Afghanistan. A projected $480 billion budget deficit in 2004 puts a huge burden on the American taxpayers. It's enough to push a few of them to extremes.

For people like me, that have had their foolish dreams shattered long ago, selling out is less a matter a choice and more a mattter of necessity.

Fifth, and last, physiologist and ecologist Jared Diamond, who wrote the book Guns, Germs, and Steel which both Bill Clinton and Bill Gates adored, predicts in a recent interview in Skeptic Magazines that, if we leave our current use of resources unchecked, we will have destroyed the earth in 50 years. Maxed it out. No more. Earth goes to Earth heaven.

- Paul Ford

So I guess I want my piece of the pie, but what about my children and their children? Is Jared full of shit? What about what he says about fanaticism and war?

The latter willingness is one so strongly programmed into us citizens of modern states, by our schools and churches and governments, that we forget what a radical break it marks with previous human history. Every state has its slogan urging its citizens to be prepared to die if necessary for the state: Britain's "For King and Country," Spain's "Por Dios y España," and so on. Similar sentiments motivated 16th-century Aztec warriors: "There is nothing like death in war, nothing like the flowery death so precious to Him [the Aztec national god Huitzilopochtli] who gives life: far off I see it, my heart yearns for it!"

Such sentiments are unthinkable in bands and tribes. In all accounts that my New Guinea friends have given me of their former tribal wars, there has been not a single hint of tribal patriotism, of a suicidal charge, or of any other military conduct carrying an accepted risk of being killed. Instead, raids are inniated by ambush or by superior force, so as to minimize at all costs the risk that one might die for one's village. But that attitude severely limits the military options of tribes, compared with state societies. Naturally, what makes patriotic and religious fanatics such dangerous opponents is not the deaths of the fanatics themselves, but their willingness to accept the deaths of a fraction of their number in order to annihilate or crush their infidel enemy. Fanaticism in war, of the type that drive Christian and Islamic conquests, was probably unknown on Earth until cheifdoms and especially states emerged within the last 6,000 years.

-Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs, and Steel (Chapter 14: From egalitarianism to Kleptocracy, page 281-2)

If it's not scary enough that people are so willing to die, then there's always the part about those willing to kill.

Well they finally did it, they killed my fucking car!

-The Dude, The Big Lebowski

Maybe it's this Martian influence that's making the natives restless. Certainly, the management at NASA has nothing to do with it. I'm amazed that it takes another critical failure to get them to address the safety issue. These problems go back to the Challenger.

You don't want to fire people and send them out in the street when you're done with a big project, so the problem is, what to do?

You have to convince Congress that there exists a project that only NASA can do. In order to do so, is is necessary—at least it was apparently necessary in this case—to exaggerate: to exaggerate how often it could fly, to exaggerate how safe it would be, to exaggerate the big scientific facts that would be discovered. "The shuttle can make so-and-so many flights and it'll cost such-and-such; we went to the moon, so we can do it!"

Meanwhile, I would guess, the engineers at the bottom are saying, "No!, no! We can't make that many flights. If we had to make that many flights, it would mean such-and-such!" And, "No, we can't do it for that amount of money, because that would mean we'd have to do thus-and-so!"

Well, the guys who are trying to get Congress to okay their projects don't want to hear such talk. It's better if they don't hear, so they can be more "honest"—they don't want to be in the position of lying to Congress! So pretty soon the attitudes begin to change: information from the bottom which is disagreeable—"We're having a problem with the seals; we should fix it before we fly again"—is suppressed by big cheeses and middle managers who say, "If you tell me about the seals problems, we'll have to ground the shuttle and fix it." Or, "No, no, keep on flying, because otherwise, it'll look bad," or "Don't tell me; I don't want to hear about it."

Maybe they don;t say explicitly "Don't tell me," but they discourage communication, which amounts to the same thing. It's not a question of what has been written down, or who should tell what to whom; it's a question of whether, when you do tell somebody about some problem, they're delighted to hear about it and they say "Tell me more" and "Have you tried such-and-such?" or they say "Well, see what you can do about it"—which is a completely different atmosphere. If you try once of twice to communicate and get pushed back, pretty soon you decide, "To hell with it."

-Richard Feynman, What Do You Care What Other People Think? (Afterthoughts p 214-5)

It's a strange set of differences that exist in how the private sector and government work. When companies like Industrial Light & Magic and Pixar have a big movie project and hire tons of animators they end up letting most of them go. Those hired on don't expect to be employed past the project. Why is the thinking in those institutions of government different?

If to think differently is something, what about being different?

The Dude: This Chinaman who peed on my rug, I can't go give him a bill so what the fuck are you talking about?
Walter: What the fuck are you talking about?! This Chinaman is not the issue! I'm talking about drawing a line in the sand, Dude. Across this line you do not, uh--and also, Dude, Chinaman is not the preferred, uh. . . Asian-American. Please.
The Dude: Walter, this is not a guy who built the rail-roads, here, this is a guy who peed on my--
Walter: What the fuck_ are you--
The Dude: Walter, he peed on my rug--
Donny: He peed on the Dude's rug--
Walter: YOU'RE OUT OF YOUR ELEMENT! This Chinaman is not the issue, Dude.

-The Big Lebowski

Hispanics or Latinos?

Hispanics derive from the mostly white Iberian peninsula that includes Spain and Portugal, while Latinos are descended from the brown indigenous Indians of the Americas south of the United States and in the Caribbean, conquered by Spain centuries ago.

But, it's not quite that simple and to find a name and identity is something peculiar to Americans it seems. We are almost always from some other place. I understand the desire to get past the history of being conquered and enslaved.

I vividly remember seeing a dozen black men and women chained to one another, once, and lying in a group on the pavement, awaiting shipment to the Southern slave market. Those were the saddest faces I have ever seen.

-Mark Twain, Autobiography, (posthumous)

I'd like to think that our perspective has changed and that we value human life a little more, but sometimes I wonder. The concept of "usable nuclear weapons" is unsettling to say the least. If we can't afford to send more troops, are we going to just nuke them? There has to be a better way.

New shit has come to light man...and shit...Well you haven't been privied to all the new shit...and you know, thats what you hired me for...

-The Dude, The Big Lebowski

This rank cannot stand! 4,027,706!? And what's up with that review? I never sold a computer to anyone and made them wait 6 months. There is information here—somewhere. What lies! I don't know what to do or if I should do anything. What keeps me from true web fame? Okay, I think I know why...but WHY!? Why is Doug Powers "read by millions of Internet denizens?" WTF?

I'm okay, really. Sometimes I just don't grok how certain people can get published. WorldNetDaily has a "Holy Standards" policy. The fun part comes when their authors create false dilemmas like:

The choice is simple: The world of standards and morality, of marriage, order, the rule of law, and accountability to God? Or the world of anything-goes, aberrant sexual behavior, doing-your-own-thing lifestyles, and moral codes that change with the speed of the latest public-opinion poll?

Oh, what should I choose? How will I ever "break the hammerlock of statism and the notion that morally relativistic secular humanism holds the answers to controlling men's passions and behavior?"

What can I say for myself? I have to admit that I like sex. I even like the idea of writing lurid articles like this one. Allyson Smith writes with smug abandonment about Representative Susan Davis of California attending the North American Conference on Bisexuality. Notice the way she slips in the smear, "The Bi Youth institute was convened by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network and Advocates for Youth, an organization that is under investigation by the Centers for Disease Control for suspected misuse of public funds." There's the use of the verbs in, "Pamphlets from Advocates for Youth littered information tables at the event," and "As his two young sons – whom his male partner conceived with his sister – romped in the back of the room."

I have to stop ragging on why other people get published and write something. I think that I could write something about sex. Mmmmmm Mmmmm.

The Dude: Fuck sympathy! I don't need your fucking sympathy, man, I need my fucking johnson!
Donny: What do you need that for, Dude?

-The Big Lebowski

Comments?

Too subtle to be considered a parody

08.25.2003

(Politics, Aliens, and the people who hate them)

permalink
Conservative: A man who will not look at the new moon out of respect for that ancient institution, the old one.— Douglas Jerrold
Liberal: A man who has just changed his mind. — Morton Thompson

-Leonard Levinson, The Left Handed Dictionary

The Symposium
Dennis Prager
Dennis Prager: On Liberals
University of California, Berkeley
University of California, Berkeley: On Conservatives
Greblu 'Urklu, Alien
Greblu 'Urklu, Alien: On humans
David Jacobs, Temple University professor
David Jacobs, Temple University professor: On Aliens
Motivation? Liberals are all about "feelings" and "compassion" and do things to feel good about themselves. Conservatives want to fight their fear of evil people by being certain about how who they are and what the world is about. Humans wish only to procreate, eat, and shoot each other. We don't really know that quite yet.
Why do they think that way? There are many reasons, but the two greatest may be naivete and narcissism. At the heart of liberalism is the naive belief that people are basically good. A second naive liberal belief is that because people are basically good, talking with people who do evil is always better than fighting, let alone killing, them. They believe in an idealized past where people knew their place. They avoid ambiguity as the handmaiden of change and change as what has distanced us from the past. We not being judgmental, but conservatives are less "integratively complex" and yet not simple-minded. They have inferior minds. We control their thoughts easily. I don't like what I see. I wish I didn't see this. I wish I hadn't uncovered this. I despair of it. It's thrown me into a tremendous sense of concern about the future and unease. I just don't like it very much. I wish I did. I don't want to be this way.
What/who do they blame? They blame economics, parents, capitalism, racism, and anything else that can let the individual off the hook. Evil, ambiguity, minority rights, gay rights, liberal professors, video games, movies, drugs, music, dancing, adultery, fashion, Clinton's penis, brights, Canada and France. Greblu cares not. They don't want us to know what they're doing. They don't want us to interfere. This is a consciously-arrived-at and successful secrecy program to prevent us from knowing. So anyway, I've become depressed about the whole thing.
How do they feel about abortion? A good example of liberal narcissism is the liberal position on abortion. For the liberal, the worth of a human fetus, whether it is allowed to live or to be extinguished, is entirely based on the feelings of the mother. If the mother wants to give birth, the fetus is of incomparable worth; if the mother doesn't, the fetus has the value of a decayed tooth. They are against it and there is correlational evidence linking authoritarianism to the conservative view on abortion as well as the aversion to having ambiguity about when life begins. Humans create humans. Humans kill humans. Greblu cares not why, but humans will not kill hybrids. We really don't know that yet because it might be a very different scenario. But I'm certainly going to stick by my guns and say that this is an integration program. However it's worked out, they will be integrating into this society and that's what this is leading to. But it's disconcerting. You want them to ask questions about Clinton, you know, and things like that. Something where you can see they really are learning about society, but in fact, if they integrate into this society, there's going to be an overlay of their society. And ours isn't going to matter a whole lot. That's my interpretation.
What can be done about them? There are not many antidotes to this lethal combination of naivete and narcissism. Both are very comfortable states compared to growing up and confronting evil, and compared to making one's feelings subservient to a higher standard. And comfortable people don't like to be made uncomfortable. Political conservatism is a motivated social cognition. Psychological factors contribute to the adoption of conservative ideological contents. They need therapy. Integration inevitable. Resistance is futile. Enjoy your day. I will refer to Leo who suggests that we learn all the vibrations of the universe and use them to suspend the spirits of the aliens.

It probably could have been better, but I'm not in the best of moods.

Here's some debates of note and relevancy.

Organiser of this weekend's festival Bill Heckle, from Cavern City Tours, told the Daily Post: "Portuguese-speaking immigration officials asked them simple questions about the Beatles, such as how many of them are still alive and what songs could they name?"

A spokesman for the Home Office told BBC News Online that six Brazilians were refused entry to the country on Thursday.

-BBC NEWS, 'Tourists' fail Beatles quiz

I would like to thank the UK for making the US seem like a saner place. Of course, once the bugs decide to really mess with the weather and the Hanford wasps decide the time for world domination is at hand, no amount of Velostat telepathic sheilding will protect us from the hordes of killer bugs. I prefer to be an optimist like Marion Berry who said of his city, "If you take out the killings, Washington actually has a very very low crime rate." But lately I feel like getting into my car and getting lost! I suppose I could go to hell. The City of Dis, probably.

I have questions. Utopia, are you english? When can I start downloading all the Faulty Towers episodes? Why can't I get my head around the idea of social software? When everyone has a weblog will we stop talking about them? What the hell was I thinking!?! Why is this table more funny than mine? What can't you buy in a vending machine? Why did he have to kill the pig?

I'm not going to give in to it—this diaspora of reason. While wrestling with the monster and it's clones for years now it has become clear to me that technology has made it easier for people to be rude. Maybe email is a dead form of communication. Maybe I'm just not looking in the right places. I wish I had a better idea.

I crave productivity.

Comments?


This site: