on this matter of refugee children, many people of many sorts in all sorts of different localities are showing themselves to be actually evil.
i want to say that when you're walled in, tunneling out is rational or inevitable. but for offensive operations, single-file tunnels of the kind they've been displaying from gaza into israel are about the worst idea imaginable: you come out gettin picked off one at a time and retreat is chaos.
I have a new piece up on the Defeatists. It will surface eventually over at Veterans Today but this one doesn't have the musical pieces just linked but embedded. As well as John Oliver's piece last night on our version of the great leap forward, the Nuclear Program. Did you know our Nobel Peace Prize Laureate has been in charge while we decommissioned fewer nuclear missiles than were done under Bush? Either one? Amazing.
I'm fairly irate over a lot of things involving the various wars we're not fighting but are definitely invested in. What the hell? The one way to guarantee Sunni-Shiite peace is through blowing up Christian and Shiite shrines...this is obviously a proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia. The Saudis funded al Queida (just never stopped sending the checks they sent the Muhajadeen, I suppose) and are probably funding the current loonies. Malaki is the classic American puppet who really turns into a bad boy as soon as he can. Unfortunately, the bad guys were perfectly ready to smash his ass; so, blood bath.
And so it goes. Gaza is horrifying; both Jon Stewart and John Oliver have laid out how insane that mess is becoming. When you can arrange to give the moral high ground away for generations to a bunch of missile firing terrorists, you've done something pretty amazing. Ukarine is dumbfounding. We're cowering behind our fence wondering what to do about 50000 children fleeing terror, hatred, violence, oppression and slavery, and we're questioning whether or not they deserve asylum? They deserve fucking medals; give them 40 acres and a mule, and Mom and kids will make that desert bloom...
Except we're out of water....
one might consider how america would respond if it was wasp toddlers showing up at the border, their cute j. crew and tommy hilfiger outfits in tatters, with stories from the yacht club or golf course of terrible suffering at the hands of latino street gangs.
hey do y'all think comments should go oldest at the top to newest at the bottom or the other way round? can't figure it out. i wish i could display them with the entry on the front page, but that doesn't seem to be one of the options on typepad.
empathy varies inversely with power. i'd say that's something we all know by experience, though it's nice to have some evidence. perhaps you have actually dealt with high school principals, policepersons, judges, irs officials, very rich persons, or senators, for example. i'd explain it as follows: people who seek power are morally worse, on average, than those who do not (this is true more or less by definition, as though i said: people who try to accomplish evil are worse on average...), and sometimes people who seek power get it, while people who do not rarely do. and second, power makes you a worse person, which is actually the conclusion of the piece. now, if you do not draw anti-authoritarian, anti-hierarchical - indeed anarchist - conclusions from this, you should try. and what i would really recommend is that people stop lionizing the powerful, worshipping barack a la 2008 or clinton or gore or bill gates or whatever it may be. powerful people should be under continuous suspicion, should be regarded with continuous skepticism. the only real point has to be to hem them in, mitigate their disastrous effects, or tear them down. the human desire to be subordinated just puts us in the hands of the worst among us. that we want the exploitation, poverty, and rape that we receive from authorities, however, does not entail that the authorities aren't evil.
on the other hand, the piece does that silly brain thing, where they say that, though some people think that powerful people need others less and hence attend to their feelings less, the authors have a different hypothesis: 'we contend that when people experience power, their brains fundamentally change how sensitive they are to the actions of others.' now first of all, why aren't those alternative descriptions of the very same thing? and second, what the heck do you gain by retreating into the brain? it's just doing no work. 'my brain is making me less sensitive' or 'my brain is changing me': how much sense or content is there in claims like that? or maybe i am making my brain less sensitive. when my brain affects me (how surprising!), what is affecting what? this same let's say casual line of thought might identify my self with my brain, which would make it very strange indeed to say that my brain is changing me. is it supposed to be explanatory to say the x is the cause of x? but it does suggest that power and interactions with others in general can be reduced to internal brain states, which is just counter-productive. actual interactions of your brain and the rest of you with other people and the outside world are actually occuring. the problem is interpersonal, not intracranial. but if it were in your brain, power and its effects could possibly be treated with drugs or psycho-surgery, which would be good, and might keep us from having to open internment/re-education/labor camps for assistant principals after the revolution.
speaking of 'the internet of everything is changing everything', expedia's latest campaign goes: 'this is the summer. the summer of this'. seriously they paid someone to compose that. actual writers should be much richer than we are. i have a feeling that we've been replaced by interns or random phrase-generating algorithms. but it is definitely not working out.
how was i not paying any attention to this? meanwhile on the world stage we have never stopped congratulating ourselves for our freedom, contrasting the us in this respect to whomever we are ragging on at the moment. thanks, adam.
why might new york be the unhappiest city in america? well just speculating now, but there are way too many people there. homo sapiens has extreme sucking issues, which are hard to avoid in nyc. and of course the more people you have, the less each one counts. also the glorious human gazpacho of the world's greatest place entails way too much concrete and garbage, way too few trees. (i imagine nyc also has the country's least happy trees.) plus of course contemporary art and literature make people miserable, and there's a lot of that there.
also, clintonville is the scene of grotesque continual enactments of extreme inequality. now we're in this meritocratic phase, and the basic idea of that is people get what they deserve, and what they deserve is shown by their standardized test scores or those of their children, or what colleges they got into or graduated from. see, if we lived in a meritocracy, $$$ would be proportional to desert, which is definitely, for example, how the nypd approach the enforcement of the law. (in fact, probably there are more laws and more cops than in most places. you might reconsider your basic bloombergian view that that is itself a source of human happiness.) so when a rich person struts around new york, she conveys sort of by every movement that she deserves so so much more than you do, itself a beautiful refutation of the whole picture on which it's based. it's all very hilarious, and yet still some folks might find it somewhat irritating.
there's been a lot of criticism directed at obama for invariably attending fundraisers galore as the world dissolves. but i think that it is very important that he do so, in order to take direction from the people who are running the country. obviously, the pres needs to maintain close ties to the super-rich who govern us. barack and hillary and other members of the billionaires' staffs are going to devote the next few years to addressing economic inequality, by enjoying it immensely every day.
it surprises me that the government of the netherlands didn't send, say, a commando unit to secure the crash site in ukraine, but rather sat there watching the corpses being neglected or mistreated, the possessions of their citizens strolled off with, evidence about what happened to them contaminated. possibly the netherlands has no commando units? or maybe they thought like this: well, if we do that, we might have more dutch deaths. but it's hard for me to picture those separatists attacking a group of dutch soldiers on the ground, if they were made aware of who they were. and i'd say you should do that even if you took casualties. there needs to be some basic pride, some basic gesture of self-defense and outrage.
so i'd like to know whether hamas really has a systematic policy of using human shields. but the idea that anyone would believe israel about this, or that they would believe hamas, is very silly. really, people can look right into the eyes of someone with the world's most obvious motivations to lie, and actually apparently believe them, or just join right in. seriously, if you find yourself repeating the lines of either side, you've merely discredited yourself. any person with a shred of rationality or any commitment at all to speaking the truth could not possibly accept what either side is saying about something like that.
i was a sullen, withdrawn young man (ok ok i was pushing 40), and in a quasi-courageous attempt at life-affirmation i married a real-life manic pixie dream girl (ok she was pushing 40 too), indeed a person who for awhile was going to be played by zoe deschanel in the film of her memoir. i came out of the whole thing with a new appreciation for sullen and withdrawn, so it did have a life-affirming effect after all.
the american foreign policy establishment (represented by madeleine albright this morning on cnn, e.g.) is still saying 'there must be a two-state solution', that's the only hope etc. if that's the only hope, there is no hope. the idea that israel ever was going to or ever will permit a palestinian state to emerge is false, whatever they may say. anyway, why isn't that just a formula for more and worse war? so if you can't come up with any new ideas, we're going to recapitulate this thing ad infinitum.
really, defining states ethnically/religiously cannot not lead to violence. it's just a wee bit as though we defined the united states as a white nation, for example. i think the only possible solution would be a fully multi-ethnic full democracy. but israel will never permit that either, because then it would have destroyed its own purpose and definition. so i would see this situation persisting for the next, say, century, with periodic outbreaks of slaughter.
i am going to speculate that high-end physics/cosmology has gone very far off the deep end. so, for example, stephen hawking has concluded on the basis - i guess? - of mathematics that "the universe has every possible history", and we're way into multiverses, infinitely many different spaces, and stuff.
Dr. Tegmark, in his new book, “Our Mathematical Universe: My Quest for the Ultimate Nature of Reality,” turns the idea on its head: The reason mathematics serves as such a forceful tool is that the universe is a mathematical structure. Going beyond Pythagoras and Plato, he sets out to show how matter, energy, space and time might emerge from numbers.
now, i'm afraid i do not understand the claim that the universe is a mathematical structure. does that mean that physical objects are abstract objects? well, you'll need to grapple with the fact that that cannot possibly be the case, given that abstract and concrete objects have extremely different sorts of properties, and hence cannot be identical. where is the number 5, bro? inside that star?
now it may sound crass to say it, but isn't whether there are other universes - whatever that means - an empirical question? (if not, i wouldn't think it's a scientific question at all.) you can stipulate universes, or invent them - but you can't discover them except in the usual human way: by actual experience. i should have said it's quite like insisting that you know the number of planets before looking at all, maybe from a biblical passage, or just by thinking about it real hard. a few decadesago we called that "the dark ages".
the piece says that they're going beyond plato and pythagoras, but maybe they're just going back to the little stage where people were worshipping abstract objects and trying to view the physical universe either as an illusionistic scrim over the numbers and concepts, or as actually being made out of them. like i say, that's not just a puzzling formulation. if you tell me a wall is made of bricks, i understand what you're saying. if you tell me it's made out of 16 and 137, or emerges from them (causally?) it's going to take a lot to convince me that you mean anything at all.
maybe, just perhaps, this stuff isn't science whatsoever. it certainly isn't science that involves things like experiments and systematic observation. perhaps we're back to the wildest metaphysical speculation. there's a lot to be said for that, i think, but that is also not the way it's being presented. indeed, hawking, for example is (a) doing philosophy all the time, (b) doing it very very badly, (c) denying that he's doing it at all. but if you want to believe whatever he says, go right ahead, because even if everyone believed that the universe has every possible history or whatever it may be, that will have no effects at all on this one.
when juxtaposed, two stories from today beautifully illustrate the concept of squishy totalitarianism, as well as providing an example of a system of government extremely typical of the 20th century: the marxist kleptocracy. or they give you a perfect crystallization of the essence of the state: the collectivist, unifying rhetoric - the government is all of us together! - and the swiss bank accounts into which the people producing that rhetoric are depositing more or less the entire nation. people want more more more of this or see no alternative whatsoever, so i predict that they'll be getting heaping helpings of what they're begging for: to be told what to do by the people who are robbing them. it's the social contract.
more terrifying words have never been uttered than these: "produced by stephen spielberg and oprah winfrey". one thing such a collaboration is likely to achieve: a higher density of gaseous pseudo-wisdom and hyper-emotional cliches than was considered possible in such a small space. there's likely to be an explosion of banal proportions. i have no idea what the thing is about, but one thing i do know: it will teach each of us important moral lessons, touch us to the very depths of our superficial souls, and uplift us all for the umpteenth time into the very ether of Yacketysmackety.
the discourse around israel's invasion of gaza, for example by marco rubio, is remarkably childish. here's how it goes: they started it! (another pursuing this sophisticated line of argument is the krauthammer.) the slavishness of american politicians to the israeli propaganda line is pitiful. it's as if every single one of them is a ventriloquist's dummy, which come to think of it is quite possible. now maybe even rubio can understand this: ok, i am an assistant principal, strolling down the halls of my high school when is see the football team rodneykinging some sad little nerd. why? because that nerd poked the linebacker in the chest. he started it! so as assistant prinipal, it is your job to help kick in the nerd's ribs, and also to defend the football team against any criticism for their action.
it cannot be irrelevant to a moral assessment of this situation that you've got these people walled into a...camp, that they have no real power or resources while you have annihilating military force, or that you are killing hundreds of them while they are killing none of you.
who were the most important artists of the 20th century, and what were the most important art forms? oh you can advocate for, maybe, james joyce, or picasso, or pollock, or henry moore, or mies van der rohe, or something. here are my candidates: louis armstrong, muddy waters, hank williams, grandmaster flash, bill monroe, bob marley, fela kuti, thomas dorsey, eminem, aretha. popular music was the dominant art form of the century: the one with the biggest audiences and the actual effects. also, it was the source of century's greatest beauties and most pointed challenges to various conceptions of beauty. you can pretend that novels re-articulate lives, but i bet you and your friends could almost tell the story of your lives in songs. maybe it's hard to compare hank williams to schoenberg, much less picasso, but hank's music was so very much better, so very much more important to so many more people, so comparatively human, so democratic, so vastly more beautiful, moving, and challenging. so more true.
the idea, currently bruited by palin and hinted at by many others, that obama should be impeached for things like granting waivers to the aca, is just ridiculous. but i say again that nothing in the history of the republic has been as impeachable as nsa. the extreme abuse of power, the global violation of the constitution, the performance of billions of acts that would be criminal if not done by officials: those are the sort of abuses of citizens that impeachment was designed to redress. if not, as jefferson said, insurrection is the only possibility. that's going to be hard when they have all our communications, however.
often i think to myself, as i watch television ads: did y'all pay someone to write that? cisco systems' current slogan: "the internet of everything is changing everything", to be uttered in a highly emotive groan, on account of its profoundly profound profundity.
the government of japan has arrested an artist for distributing a template of her vagina for 3-d printing purposes. that really improves the art, i want to say, or makes megumi igarashi's point for her. and i'll say this about government officials: it's not their fault that they are uncomprehending idiots, imaginationless dolts, idiot fuckwads who think for no reason at all that they should tell you what to do with your vagina. it's neurological, or would be if they had a neurology. the best part about government officials is that they all die eventually, and we can all comfort ourselves with the knowledge that they all die meaningless. also, this will make igarashi an international art star, though i have to say that, as big a fan as i am of the vagina, i think it has been, as it were, thoroughly explored in the art of the last few decades, which often bears an uncanny resemblance to gynecology.
the last graph of the guardian piece is priceless:
Igarashi has said she is on a mission to “demystify” female genitalia in Japan, a country where thousands flock to an officially sanctioned annual penis festival in Kawasaki every April.
and who should set immigration policy? how about sheldon adelson, bill gates, and warren buffett.i do think the latter two set policy in the obama administration to a very great extent. even people who seem like they should be anti-capitalist or something regard them as having tremendous credibility (=$$$) and benevolence.
at the very same time as the dems are listening to the richest people in the world as to actual policy, they're squawking about inequality. now also, i would just mention to anyone who might be editing the opinion page of the new york times that you just published a horrendous parody of english prose cobbled together by three staffs.
here's a slice:
A “talented graduate” reform was included in a bill that the Senate approved last year by a 68-to-32 vote. It would remove the worldwide cap on the number of visas that could be awarded to legal immigrants who had earned a graduate degree in science, technology, engineering or mathematics from an accredited institution of higher education in the United States, provided they had an offer of employment.
another way to put this: send us your bourgeoisie. meanwhile we must crack down on, say, starving children, whom nobody wants whatsoever. one measures the value of human beings in cubicle productivity, which might also have a bit of a eugenic element: who do we want to add to the gene pool? probably we should have recruiters rolling around the world offering citizenship to people based on standardized test scores.
a hundred years on, and no one even yet has any idea what caused wwi. oops! oh dang. really, if it weren't for the millions dead, the thing would be pure entertainment: keystone cops run europe. it's more or less the inexorable illogic of statism, which in essence is: let's pick out a power-mad dolt and do whatever he says. rape me.
what is happening at the mexican border is that we have an influx of refugees, mostly women with children or children alone. it's not a crisis, like say the refugee situation in syria's neighbors. that americans respond to an influx of suffering children by snarling at them, blocking vehicles, demanding higher fences, devising new modes of detention and deportation, etc: who the fuck are we? because i don't think we are who we say we are.
the common core is an extremely good political issue, or an extremely good reason why atomic weaponry should be available to every consumer, every parent, every teacher, and every child. dirtier the better. now, the rhetoric around the damn thing is egalitarian. it was written by the bill and melinda gates foundation, or in other words the egalitarians are turning your child's head over to the very richest man in america. why are they doing that? because egalitarians such as arne duncan and barack obama measure merit in cash money. indeed, the other purpose, besides the 18 billionth disingenuous attempt to equalize us all, is to crank up our capitalism so's we can compete with china. the picture is 'meritocratic' where merit means 'filled in the right little bubbles, so can work for microsoft'. you probably think this is progress!