the worst thing about terrorism is that it turns people into idjits. pity his poor bleeding heart of a city. and while you're at it, pity his prose style. one thing you realize quickly: though they are wrong to kill anyone about it, they're sure right to hate mumbai:
Mumbai is all about dhandha, or transaction. From the street food vendor squatting on a sidewalk, fiercely guarding his little business, to the tycoons and their dreams of acquiring Hollywood, this city understands money and has no guilt about the getting and spending of it. I once asked a Muslim man living in a shack without indoor plumbing what kept him in the city. “Mumbai is a golden songbird,” he said.
there's no one in american public life or msm whose solution to the meltdown isn't: more trillions. this is what we call a bubble, an irrational unanimous stampede of one-upmanship, irrational exhuberance, etc and we should try to remember their names when we have been busted down to the underlying dirt.
one thing i like is every politician's basic line on the bailout: i hate it, but i have no choice. (i heard the pretty kickass florida democrat debbie wasserman-schultz on this tip this morning. but it's even obama's line; it was also mccain's.) this is supposed to give you all of the furious, transformative action without any of the responsibility, a politician's dream.
a few selections from today's headlines in the washpost and nytimes:
Model Predicts Halt to Africa's AIDS Epidemic
Tibetan Beauty Contestants Face Ire of Elders, China
In this modest but enthusiastic addition to the Pig Lit canon, John Barlow recounts a year spent in Spain trying to eat every possible part of the pig.
in spain! now if he was eating pig dick in tuscany or provence, he'd have a best-seller.
*my year as a tuscan crack ho*
*a provencal buggery*
*as mindless and annoying in provence as she was right here*
malcolm gladwell's agent, please call.
on msnbc this morning they were estimating the cost of the bailout at *$7.5 trillion* (so far!). (i always imagine that kind of figure in the voice of doctor evil.) actually, i'm getting into it. it's amazing! it's inspiring! we have *so much* money! what the hell, double it up every day for the next x! plus it's all free! freedom *is* free. a course we could just send every man, woman and child in the country 25k, like in my family (two parents and five kids) 175k. i promise to buy a washing machine! in fact i feel like a kid again. quadrillions! decillions! secdecillions! vigintillions! mommy, what's the biggest number of all? we are the greatest nation in the history of the world, and there's no limit to our amazing aspirations! i have a dream! let us enter into a future of hope, bright with literally infinite promise! yes we can! i promise you, america, we will get there! let's pretend!
many have blamed the current meltdown on the securitization of debt. but now the gov intends to step in and encourage the further securitization of debt to the tune of (what?) 200 or 800 billion bucks. does this make sense? (obviously, however, $800,000,000,000 is literally just another day's expenditure for these folks.
A Treasury news release noted that in 2007, about $240 billion in car,
student and other consumer loans had been packaged by the companies
that issued them into larger securities and sold to investors, who then
benefit from the flow of payments from borrowers. That system of
packaging and reselling loans keeps money flowing to banks and other
lenders, allowing them to make even more money available to consumers.
However it all but stopped over the past two months, leading to
rising interest rates, a downturn in lending -- and a risk that
economic growth could be dragged down even further.
the never-ending bailout will either be the victory or end of postmodernism. the question is: is the economy entirely a system of signs? is money a symbol of something, or is it a sign without originals or reference? is there reality in, like, the value of the stockmarket, or just symbolic action in the collective imaginary, nothing but "psychology" etc?
i see the history like this: we moved from various previous models, in which emotional distress was accounted for by demon possession or whatever it might be, to the concept of mental illness. this was a useful metaphor, or extension of the concept of illness, and nothing prevents a metaphor from becoming literal: after everyone calls things like schizophrenia an illness for a hundred years, it is an illness; it falls within the proper extension of the predicate. you could have two parallel but entirely distinct kinds of illnesses, of the body and of the mind. but the dualism behind that made everyone uncomfortable, and was of course thrown into question by the intimacy of the relation: damage someone's brain and, as it were, you hurt their feelings. so the research program moved to a model in which mental illnesses were supposed literally to be physical illnesses. here is where the terrain gets all scumbled up, where you suddenly realize you don't have a very good grasp on concepts like "disease" at all, where dormitive-virtue fallacies proliferate like fungi, etc. that's the conceptual mess we're researching inside now, and the most urgent task would be a clear set of definitions, acceptable standards of reasoning, and so on.
one of the most embarrassing moments in the history of american publishing is surely provided by malcolm gladwell, when he adduces the life and family of his *agent* as the apotheosis of success. if that doesn't make you cringe, you have transcended this earthly plane. it's at once self-congratulatory (the bill gates/einstein-level success of malcolm gladwell's agent no doubt has something to do with the fact that he's *malcolm gladwell's agent*) and self-serving (gladwell's fawn will, one expects, redouble gladwell's advance for his next book: *jive*).
one interesting supposed result of keynesian economics was the idea that timely government action could have prevented the depression of the 1930s. as these people flounder around, throwing infinite imaginary resources at this thing as it continues to disintegrate, there'll be a nice realization that that's not true.
and then the question of whether addiction is a disease is far more complex even than the bipolar case. first, it would support the externalist notions: you can't be an addict just in virtue of brain states: you've got to ingest external substances. which you ingest and how are relevant to the brain chemistry, of course. here we have a huge family of behaviors and stuffs, on a continuum: i've known addicts who didn't last more than a year or two: just did what they did all the time until death or recovery. and i've known addicts who could probably go on to a normal life span, having, say, a few drinks every day, more or less. (let's hold in abeyance addictions to food, pornography, love, sex: good christ.) that it's a coherently-describable brain syndrome seems ridiculous. on the other hand, the disease model(s) gives you important truths about the phenomenology: it doesn't seem to be fully under your conscious control, it seems to have a genetic piece, and so on. and believing that it is a disease turns out to be pragmatically effective to some extent: it means you are not yourself completely to blame, or the people around you, and if you feel completely responsible, that's a collapsing burden of guilt that will keep you using unto death. but again, what is of use to believe and what is true are radically distinct questions. at any rate, i think it's extremely unlikely that you'll find the one wrong gene, or screwed-up synapse. keep trying, though, please.
a few notes: i'm more or less a materialist, and i accept some version of a token-token identity thesis: that is, for example, there might not be an interesting identity between, let's say, anger, and a discernible family of material brain states, but in any given case of anger, there is some material state that corresponds to or is that event. my only qualification would be that the state is not necessarily exclusively a brain state, but could encompass a state of the nervous system, the organism as a whole, and the external world (i am a "content externalist").
also, on the concept of disease: we usually think of disease as the operation of an external agent on an organism, like a virus, e.g. but this is a difficult question, and some ways that the organism might degenerate or be deranged could count as diseases, as in some caused by malnutrition or vitamin definciencies etc: the notion of disease is not well-defined in common use. alzheimer's is an interesting case, for example.
but i don't think that bipolar is likely to be well-described in either of these senses. rather, there might be a family of characteristic brain conditions correlated to some extent with a constellation of symptoms. but that's the very best you will get, moving from an extraordinarily rough symptomatic constellation, generalized as a disease. since every brain-state resembles every other brain-state in indefinitely many respects (indeed, every thing resembles every other thing in indefinitely many respetcs) it's definitely not surprising if we could roughly identify some resemblances between the token brain states correlated with bipolar mental/emotional states. and notice, there might also be correlations to environmental factors and so on that are probably more or less exactly as good.
then direction of explanation introduces a whole host of further complications, not seriously present even in a case like alzheimer's: you're not liable to be able to temporally arrange the relevant brain states as prior to the emotional symptoms and so on.
and then you have to ask: what do you get out of believing that bipolar is a disease? who's making the money and devising the models? etc. i don't do all this to fuck up your treatment, but what one wants or needs to believe to get better is not the same as what is true; indeed, that you want or need to believe it or benefit from believing it is a good reason to be sceptical of it.
i want briefly to consider henry's view that bipolar disorder is a brain disease, treatable with drugs. i do not reject it out of hand, and also i am not really acquainted with the research, so this will be at a pretty high or useless level of generality. now first of all of course the illness is not defined in terms of brain states, but in terms of symptoms: you're down, then you're manic. do that intensely enough, and you're bipolar, whatever your brain states. furthermore, i will stipulate that any particular (token) emotion, thought, etc is identical to some sequence of physical events, (some of them) in the brain. but it's not like we have a bacteria or virus which we can identify as the cause of the symptoms, which is what gives heft to the physiological concept of disease. now what we want to do is see whether, in people that report such symptoms, there are underlying similarities of neural structures or events, pharmaceutically alterable. i am betting that there are such similarities among many, though not all, cases, if we withdraw to a suitable level of generality. but once you give any very precise characterization of these similarities, i'm also betting that there are people with bipolar symptoms who don't display them, and people who don't have bipolar disorder who do. also i'm betting that to encompass as many cases as possible, the characterization of brain states has to become more and more amorphous and impressionistic, taking in as many varied individual states as possible: the characterization of the brain states is from the get-go an attempt to account for as many symptomatically-similar mental states as possible: the reasoning is from symptom to state rather than vice versa. in such a strategy, you will always be able to generate a rough set of symptom-correlated brain states. furthermore, though there are good reasons to think that people who display the symptoms of bubonic plague are all caused to do so by a certain germ, in the bipolar case the relation, to whatever extent it does intend to identify an organic cause, is far, far more elusive, ranging over constructed families of similar brain events. and of course, the matter is correlation rather than causation: the bacteria causes plague, more or less demonstrably. but the brain states, described at a certain level of generality, sort of correlate with the emotional states; either might be the cause of the other or, plausibly, the causal relations are extremely complex.
to just say it's a brain disease is, hence, simplistic. to the extent that this helps us diagnose and treat - to the extent that it makes people less miserable (for one thing by eliminating the disturbing idea that one is responsible in some way for one's emotional disaster) it is useful, though for all that...metaphorical. the "disease model of addiction" is surely exactly like this, and it's embroiled in a whole ethics of responsibility and a whole strategy for treatment. the question of whether it's true or not, no matter how many recovering addicts believe it with total commitment, is a hard question. yes and no. it depends on what you mean, etc.
here's my review of malcolm gladwell's new book, "outliers," in today's philly inquirer. i'm not alone in my misgivings; michiko kakutani in the nytimes took a pretty similar approach. and speaking of "no science without philosophy" it is astonishing to me that in a wide-ranging, sort-of-intellectual book about success, there is no attempt at all to grapple with the meaning of 'success,' a notoriously difficult term. there are pop songs that are more reflective than 'outliers' on the basic concepts involved. doctors, lawyers, and accountants are successful, also rich entrepreneurs and sports stars: gladwell just accepts the common wisdom without a moment of reflection.
i think people's tendency to promote other people to the status of little gods is always problematic. this controls, for example, the way we experience the history of the arts and the intellect in an inordinate way. the masterpiece gets promoted to a status beyond the human, and once you've soaked in the trans-human reputation of plato, or a milton, or a michelangelo, or an einstein, there can be no context in which they emerged, no atmosphere of thought or making in which they operated: they become, among other things, inexplicable, incomprehensible. the right response to reading plato or seeing michelangelos, it seems to me, is disappointment: despite all the ecstatic mystical gobbledygook that surrounds them like an odoriferous gas, they turn out to be human after all. the stuff is, as the babygod nietzsche would say, all-too-human. the music of the beatles, experienced in the context of the insane bloat of their reception, is absurd in its mediocrity. now all this becomes actually physically dangerous when the tendency to worship is turned on political authorities, people who operate the machinery of war and repression and welfare. john kennedy as god is hilarious, but he's also starting up wars etc. oy the charisma, bathing us all in its mystical sexy god-juice. the american left, as it's demonstating in its obama ecstasy, is as much an authoritarian cult as that constructed around mussolini, though with a different aesthetic. so i would, er, be careful. at any rate, we can guarantee that there will be a larger and more intrusive state at the end of his administration than there was before, hedged around with cultic apparatus..
in the team of rivals vein, obama might want to grab hugo chavez as sec of commerce, or ahmadinejad as ambassador to israel, thus at once availing himself of a variety of points of view, and co-opting his rivals.
just back into the breach for a second: "wait. is that a metaphor?" or "to what extent is our conceptuality embroiled in dormitive-virtue fallacies?" are not questions you can answer with, say, mri studies or something. these are questions that lie well outside of the sciences that they are about, and - evidently - outside the skill-sets of the scientists doing the studies. insofar as there are experts on questions like that, they're, like, literary critics or critical-thinking teachers. but obviously they go right to the heart, straight at the foundation, of what these scientists are doing. the discussion cannot be internal to the scientific community. you can't have any science, and you definitely can't have good science, without moving to external questions about taxonomies, methodologies, genealogies. to take the last: ok, say we're doing mri studies on adhd or opposional defiant disorder. when did this concept emerge, and from what, and by whom? how is it deployed in institutions? who benefits? and what then happens to the diagnosees? how else might we conceptualize this terrain? how have we before and how might we later? etc etc. if you've got no take on that, and just keep giving people pills and watching their brains light up, you don't even have any idea what you're doing or why.
i think one implication of the sort of observations i make below is that there just cannot be science without philosophy. the taxonomies and basic methodological assumptions on which a set of scientific results rest cannot be the results of the very inquiries they make possible: that is, science cannot rest on science, or on actual observation and experiment. so for example you can have a couple of centuries of science resting on the concept of race, but the initial taxonomy of races and the initial development of the concept of race are not themselves scientific results; they are assumptions. nor do they yield or dissolve at last under scientific scrutiny, because the observations made under their auspices always confirm them. (in ths case, they yielded to political pressure.) the disease model of emotional difficulties is similar. once you start identifying or enumerating the illnesses under the auspices of the model, all data confirm it, necessarily. and it's not within the purview of science per se to say, hmmm: is that a metaphor? or what? if such things are illnesses, then of course they must be categorized and so on, even if this activity lands you in extreme dormitive-virtue-type fallacies. if there are logical fallacies at the basis of a science (or if, as in the kiddie-dsm case, there is nothing at the bottom besides such a fallacy) that science cannot of course identify them: you need some sort of logician.
putting this in a more practical manner: these "scientists" are so inside questions like whether the proper diagnosis is severe mood dysregulation or oppositional defiant disorder or adhd, and so funded up to their eyeballs inside the whole idea that such questions are significant, and so basically non-conceptual in their approach, that they're just not going to go: what the hell are we doing over here? how do these terms secure reference? etc. they don't have sufficient externality to their own questions to evaluate the basic conceptions on which they rest, and on which their research cannot, by definition, bear.
Many doctors, influenced by the work of Dr. Joseph Biederman at Harvard Medical School (whose ties to industry were detailed in The Times in June), say these symptoms are signs of mania, and call these children bipolar. Others label them with “extreme A.D.H.D.” or Oppositional Defiant Disorder or “severe mood dysregulation,” a diagnosis that’s been proposed by Dr. Ellen Leibenluft, chief of the section on Bipolar Spectrum Disorders in the Mood and Anxiety Disorders Program at the National Institute of Mental Health.
For the past five years, Dr. Leibenluft has been tracking 100 children she believes have severe mood dysregulation, studying the course of their illness and the outcome of their treatment.
psychiatry of this ilk is literally conceptually empty, as though these people can't think at all (i mean the docs, not the patients). the identification and taxonomy of these disorders is entirely, obviously non-explanatory. with a touch of mumbo-jumbo, the diagnoses simply rename the symptoms. it's as if a harvard researcher spent twenty years studying people who sneeze, and then emerged with the grand pronouncement that the patients had the sneezies. then, strolling forth from a twenty million dollar grant, a rival researcher from princeton declares that she strongly disagrees, that her research shows that they have the sneezles. i'm saying, in all seriousness, that that is exactly how good this material is. the diagnoses are mere redundancies, are entirely empty and useless, just a translation of the initial problem into a mindless jargon. no wonder the treatments are so slapdash, interchangeable, amorphous, ineffective. calling severe mood dysregulation or oppositional defiant disorder illnesses is just a sort of joke, i suppose, but it's a joke on which a whole science and industry is grounded, a pitiful obvious fallacy, underlying a whole realm of "scientific inquiry" and a whole gulag of treatment "resources."
it's pretty cool that they're bringing back the mammoth. but i'm more interested in cloning historical figures. let's bring back marilyn monroe, jimi hendrix, kurt cobain, so they can kill themselves again. that was so excellent. today's popes are boring. revive alex vi and bring back the chestnut parties. i wonder whether we can find the tomb of alaric the visigoth. i know barack's looking for a secretary of state. come to think of it, hillary will do just fine.
hard not to root for the pirates, when the victims are, like, saudi sheiks or multinational oil companies. always the hawking teds will point out that these guys ain't johnny depp. maybe they're not quite that cute, but they're surely no worse or less cool as human beings. i told jane (8) about the real pirates and she's all like "that's so awesome"!
i think as we paw through what has been a dark age for american liberty, there is going to be a lot more stuff like this. it's hardly an original observation, but often, as in the mccarthy era, the justification for dictatorial abrogations of freedom is...the defense of freedom.
listening to barney frank this morning, saying that they'll give the car companies $25 billion, and demand that the car cos submit a plan in a few months, perhaps agreeing to manufacture cars that emit enough particulate pollution to cool the earth. if barney doesn't like the plan, then he won't give them any more money, and demand that the money be repaid. um. so the money will be spent, and gm will be in bankruptcy. collection will an absurd proposition. at that point, if barney and co. have any commitment to recovering any money, they will have to give the companies whatever else they want, under any conditions whatever.
speaking of the great joan jett, below is a one-disc download list. she's a magnificent neo-primitive; it's all straight-ahead ultradirect rock 'n roll. joan emerged from the unbelievably drug and sex addled la punk scene, after a teenage gig with the manufactured teen girltrash band the runaways. if you want the scoop on this scene, try lexicon devil, the extraordinarily disturbing biography of the extraordinarily disturbed lead "vocalist" of the germs (their album was produced by jett), or more generally we got the neutron bomb. the original guitarist for the blackhearts was eric "roscoe" ambel, king of roots rock. i saw joan a number of times in the 80s and 90s, in a theater in takoma park, at hammerjack's in baltimore, somewhere in atlanta with the lovely judith bradford. a completely dynamite, utterly straightahead rock show, as good as could be imagined. she's an all-day lesbian, breaking the hearts of het guys everywhere. what would joan jett do? became a slogan, for some reason, and it has a pretty simple answer: joan jett would rock.
(1) i hate myself for loving you
(2) bad reputation
(4) do you wanna touch me
(5) crimson and clover
(6) louie louie
(7) you don't own me
(8) cherry bomb
(9) bits and pieces
(11) make believe
(12) love hurts
(13) hanky panky
(17) this means war
(18) talkin bout my baby