so this morning in the tacoma cop-killer case, police were reported to have surrounded a house, and to be trying to remove the suspect using "loudspeakers," "explosions," and "occasional gunshots." now he's on the loose? so what the hell were they blowing up and shooting at?
rarely have i been as disappointed in an album as i am with julian casablancas's phrazes for the young. i loved the strokes, whose singer casablancas was. i loved the bashing garage-rock of the first couple of discs, which had a lot of good music bubbling beneath the smashed surface. and i really loved first impressions of earth, more or less the best rock album of the oughts, which took the sound much more toward some sort of craft (specifically, excellent songcraft), but retained a lot of rock urgency and straightforwardness. and casablanca's lyrics were interesting throughout. well, you know it's hard trying to keep young rock guy from going baroque. really, jc has lost everything that made his music interesting: now he's got synths and drum machines; like everyone else he's trying to sound like the cure, but he missed the revival by five years; the lyrics about alcohol are ok but only ok. etc. there's not a single cut i really like or don't actually find tedious.
that france bans the headscarf, or britain the burqa etc, shows they are secular societies, universal and tolerant societies that have overcome religious divisions. that switzerland bans the minaret is "the latest sign of a backlash against muslim immigrants." the fact that secularism and universal tolerance is indistinguishable on the ground from bigotry and intolerance might give one pause, if one paused. one thing that the forces of progress and the forces of reaction have massively in common: they assert that they themselves can legitimately tell people what to wear or how to build. that is, they are statists. that is, they are embroiled in massive impostures, delusions, fallacies, fantasies, and contradictions that they are incapable actually of seeing or thinking through, god bless their little hearts.
believe it or not, i been watchin the grey cup this evenin, and i do occasionally watch canadian football. i must say it has better pace and flow than the american game, along with many intriguing little differences. plus a very rough and ready blue rodeo rocked the half
speaking of tom friedman, this morning's column shows why you just shouldn't go there, how at the moment of the invasion of iraq (among others) he entirely discredited his own basic position. ok, so the false narrative absorbed by islamists is that the the west (u.s./us) is at war with islam. what true narrative should be put in its place? it's the tale of
two decades in which U.S. foreign policy has been largely dedicated to
rescuing Muslims or trying to help free them from tyranny — in Bosnia,
Darfur, Kuwait, Somalia, Lebanon, Kurdistan, post-earthquake Pakistan,
post-tsunami Indonesia, Iraq and Afghanistan.
truly? so that's what we were doing in iraq, at abu ghraib, bagram, guantanomo? the purely selfless act of rescuing and freeing muslims? try this: "most of the Muslims being killed today are being killed by jihadist
suicide bombers in Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan and Indonesia, [but] you’d
never know it from listening to their world." ok well. total up the casualties in iraq and afghanistan imposed by u.s. or "nato" forces and compare to the al qaeda death toll.
surely we can do better than explaining our situation in terms of a clash of two entirely self-serving fantasies? probably you need to ditch the "narrative" conceit and actually try to develop a sense of the complexities and contradictions of each of these situations. the instant explanation of everything is a friedman specialty and it gives you the sense that in 700 words you just came to understand the whole world. but as the term 'narrative' suggests, you just read a short work of fiction.
the european left wants to ban headscarves, while the right wants to ban minarets. this indicates that in the long run we may need to ban europe, given that a ban on vicious idiots would be difficult to enforce.
if the emails that were leaked were fabrications, then one might reasonably conclude that climate-change skeptics (no doubt funded by exxon-mobil etc) were engaged in a smear campaign. but since no one appears to be asserting that the emails aren't authentic, i'd say y'all smeared yourselves.
i don't doubt that the climate-emergency lobby is sincere. it's interesting how one discredits oneself in one's urgency; i think as disturbing as anything in the emails are the indications of active suppression of results in tension with the declaration of impending apocalypse, the assertion of control over peer-reviewed journals, etc. then of course the fact that there's no criticism in the journals is used to show that there is a consensus. the whole idea is to discredit your opponents,thus helping to save the world, but the effect is to discredit yourself. it might appear obvious that if you have the truth, you should impose it by totalitarian means: you have to enforce the truth, amply justified because it is the truth. what you create is a situation in which you are impossible to believe, even if you are in fact right.
john dewey and karl popper, among many others, connect science to democracy and freedom: only an hypothesis that is completely open to criticism can be taken as having been rationally supported. here we see one aspect of this: when you learn that disagreements were suppressed, you realize that you have no reason to suppose that the claims are true. in manufacturing unanimity to mobilize us into action, they leave behind anything that had anything to do actually with establishing the truth of their claims: they exempt them from testing of the sort that would show them to be plausible. and they undermine their credibility entirely: show themselves to be people for whom finding and saying the truth are not the primary motivations.
that doesn't show that what they're saying is false; it shows that they are false. and it certainly undermines the claim that what they are saying is supported by the evidence. we don't know whether it is, and essentially they no longer care whether it is, even as they chant it continually like a mantra. that's why al gore and tom friedman aren't scientists and that's why the scientists whose results they deploy are not scientists either.
i was down at my mom's in woodville, va for t-giving, when we came across this column by george will, pitting rational economics against the practice of gift-giving, my daughter jane (9) was moved to write her first letter to the editor, or in this case email to [email protected]
the basic argument, which will is getting from joel waldfogel (really? waldfogel?) goes like this: the value as measured in $$ of the gifts people receive is less, overall, than the price paid for them by the giver. this shows that gift-giving is an extremely inefficient use of resources, with the possible exception, will kindly tells us, of gift cards.
it would be rash to assume that will isn't giving any presents this year; he is drawing our atention to an interesting argument. and i'd like to address it in a bizarrely general way, a way that attacks what we might call the rational basis of economics. some day i'd like to take rational decision theory and game theory and just rip them to shreds; they are, i assert, delusory, or rather fundamentally non-empirical; they rest on a set of idealizing assumptions that entail that they have no purchase (so to speak) on the actual world. [the one stab i did have was on the decision-theoretic "proof" of the legitimacy of state power, by james buchanan (see the youtube version here), which if i do say so, i eviscerated in a couple of paragraphs.]
the idea that value can be measured in terms of what people would pay is wrong, of course, and one obvious way to understand this is the use of money or objects to enhance social cohesion, or to express love, to manifest or express qualities of character that are of immense value: generosity, for example, or the overcoming of greed etc. there are entire economies based on the gift. this is why the economics of capitalism or smithian rationality is just wrong, wrong, wrong. one way to state this is that economic activity is not a distinct sphere of activity; it is joined to every other: emotional, political, psychological, moral, aesthetic etc etc. there is no distinct sphere of economic value. but this is only one angle which shows the falsity at the heart.
gene robinson today: the leaked emails "do not prove that global warming is a fraud." well of course they don't. what they demonstrate, however, is that the climate research unit - like all other decent people, more or less - concluded long ago that climate change is real and disastrous and man-made etc, and then asked themselves how they could save the world by proving it. if you accept the methodologies and the conclusions produced in an atmosphere like that, you are a fool. it's the technique of theology, not science.
if you sit there and tell me that you think what al gore says about climate change can be separated from his political agenda (=extreme enthusiasm for regulating your behavior; happy anticipation of world regulatory regimes eventuating in a bureaucracy that provides earth with a second atmosphere), i say you are a chump. and if you think science can be conducted in an atmosphere wherein to disagree with a certain set of conclusions is to be a political monster - tantamount to sarah palin - then, etc.
i say that you and i, who i'm presuming are not scientists actually out reading tree rings, cannot in any way evaluate the data (which is polluted from the ground up) and come to a reasoned conclusion. really, i assert with the utmost seriousness not that global warming is a fraud but that we have no idea what is going on and that a rational conclusion is unavailable.
one thing to realize is that the "information" is developed in academic contexts. now you might think that this lends them epistemological legitimacy, and in some cases it does: professors and ph.d.s do actually know stuff. but a problem with academia is that it is the least politically critical or independent context in the world: it is absolutely unanimous. the politics ranges from al gore on the left to al gore on the right. the consensus is enforced with informal brutality: there is the sheer constant presumption that all decent people agree. a young professor who is a climate-change skeptic is untenurable in a philosophy or english or history department, not to speak of disciplines in which the question is really being addressed. in a case where the research is meant to drive policies, and where the policy agenda is left, there just is no sense in thinking that reasonable conclusions can be drawn. there is no one at all to say: wait. what? stop: only a stampede of people whose grad training left them all with identical lobotomy scars.
one puzzling aspect of the response is expressed by robinson like this: "He appears to be conceding skeptics' claim that over the past decade
there has been no observed warming. In truth, though, that wouldn't be
much of a concession. At issue is the long-term trend, and one would
expect anomalous blips from time to time." ok. so. the view is that warming has reached a disastrous pace since 1900. and the purely scientific conclusion is often put in terms such as these: if we don't, say, halve carbon emissions by a week from sunday, we will reach the tipping point at which life on earth with be extinguished by that wednesday. and you're telling me that on those timescales ten years is an insignificant blip? not according to...you. then i guess you won't mind if we don't do anything for ten years.
for some reason gayle king appears as a political panelist on "morning joe." as far as i can see, she has no purpose except that there's not enough oprah to go around, so they send oprah's personal assistant to give you oprah's take. i don't want oprah's take on anything. but if i did, i'd want to hear it from oprah. the next stage would be that gayle king becomes inaccessible, and we have to interview gayle king's hairstylist because that's as close as we can get to oprah.
at any rate, her absolute devotion to obama is lovely in its scary stupidity. so she's still saying "i want a president who takes the time to make the right decision," and she'd be saying the same if it took years to get to a policy on afghanistan. (i might just remark that if it takes you months, while people are dying etc, to come up with "split the difference," you are a worldclass ditherer.) anyway, then king comes up with this, just like she was born yesterday: "they're privy to information i don't have, so i trust them to make the decision." i guess the left was never suspicious of unilateral power at all: really all they want is someone who's vaguely in their camp making all the decisions for them secretly.
but on the other hand it was fun with the anarchists. i was inspired by the young activists, and it amazes me that there actually is an anarchist movement now, as there has not been, i think, in my liftime, essentially. now on the other hand if you call me 'comrade' i get the heebie jeebies, and it's well to remember that anarchism is sometimes the far far left and still hasn't gotten over class even a little, etc. also that, as steven hirsch who studies latin american anarchism informed me, that there isn't any anarchism before the first international (1864) and hence the figures i was talking about (see below) aren't anarchists at all.
in other words there's still a commie/individualist split! but i'm the only individualist. but i was hoping to find some philosophy profs (pathetic, i know), and i at least ran into nathan jun. but i also did see some cool stuff on, like anarchist archeology, or undocumented women and the "liberatory family."
and it wasn't in a tower on a plaza but at the charter oak cultural center, an old synagogue, active no doubt when my jewish forenbears were hanging out in hartford, before the neutron bomb of urban planning scrubbed it entirely clean of the infection of life.
the north american anarchist studies network thingummy was kind of bizarrely situated in hartford. i don't think i've ever found a city more depressing and disturbing. joni and i stayed at the marriott downtown, but also drove around: it is a concrete wasteland, like they just demolished their city and started again with a few basic principles: (a) stalinism = everything must be conceived as coherent and gigantic and be designed at once, dropped on reality like a hippo on an infant. (2) death: all living things must be expunged, except the human bodies, which must be rigidly channeled into the approved grooves. (c) security state: all must be bathed in screeching klieg light and monitored with cameras.
really there were many huge insurance complexes and bank towers, not a single one of them even interesting or odd or distinctive: the most banal modernist gigantism. each building, including the convention center/hotel where we were, is surrounded by a "plaza": just concrete platforms, barriers, and stairs. you see these things everywhere, but in this case it composes a whole downtown that has been cleansed of the human stain.
it was bizarre, and when you saw a few old houses or buildings, sad, because you realized there was a habitable human town on this location at some point.
there was a lego convention next door: thousands of 7-10-year-old boys. and it struck me that there is a solution, and if i was running hartford i would in all seriousness do exactly this: issue this army of boys sledge hammers, spraypaint, and the occasional grenade. come back in twelve hours. lather and repeat.
on the philly npr station this morning (on my way back from the anarchist studies network thing in hartford, of which more later) i heard a prof of demographics from penn telling us why the lower birth rate in the u.s. is to be regretted: "we need more taxpayers." so get to humpin like bunnies and droppin babies; it's your civic duty. this tells us all we need to know about our origin and destiny: the meaning of life. ask hegel, e.g.
so i'll be in hartford this weekend, giving a (brief) talk at the north american anarchist studies network inaugural conference at the charter oak cultural center, 3:15ish saturday afternoon. i'll give a version of my interpretation of american anarchism as emerging from radical protestantism and embodying an anti-capitalist individualism. here's a handout.
American Anarchism 1830-1850: Quotations
Our surrounding institutions, customs and public opinion call for conformity: they require us to act in masses like herds of cattle: they do not recognize the fact that we think and feel individually and ought to be at liberty to act individually. But this liberty cannot be enjoyed in combinations, masses and connections in which one cannot move without affecting another. Nothing is more common than such remarks as the following. "No two things are alike." "There can be no rules without exceptions" &c. Yet, we are constantly called upon to conform to rules that do not suit our case, to acquiesce in numerous different opinions all at the same moment, and no laws in the world preserve the liberty of the governed to make exceptions to the rules which they are required to obey. To give others the power to construe laws and make exceptions is equivalent to giving them the power to govern without laws. A little observation will disclose an individuality in persons, times, and circumstances which has suggested the idea that one of our most fatal errors has been the laying down rules, laws, and principles without preserving the liberty of each person to apply them according to the individuality of his views, and the circumstances of different cases. In other words, our error, like that of all the world that has gone before us has been, the violation of individual liberty. Josiah Warren, The Peaceful Revolutionist (1833)
[W]hoever feels unable or unwilling to forgive all manner of injuries, and the worst of enemies, has no right to rank himself among the followers of Christ; the attempt of men to govern themselves by external rules and physical penalties is and ever must be futile; and from the assumption, that man has the right to exercise oppression over his brother, has proceeded every form of injustice and oppression with which the earth has been afflicted. No one who professes to have the spirit of Christ, can consistently sue a man at law for redress of injuries, or thrust any evil-doer in prison, or fill any office in which he would come under obligation to execute penal enactments - or take any part in military service - or acknowledge allegiance to any human government. The governments of this world are all Anti-Christ; they cannot be maintained, except by military power; all their penal enactments being a dead letter without military power to carry them into effect, are virtually written in human blood. William Lloyd Garrison, Constitution of the New England Non-Resistance Society (1838)
Political action is of one spirit and intent with military. The weapons of both are violence, and the instrumentalities of both, bloodshed and murder. What is government, after which all political action is aiming, but an armed battery? What is its voice, but the report of cannon - its sanctions, but the bayonet and the halter? . . . It is immoral to strike a man a man, or threaten him, or to ask the sheriff to do it for you - or the militia officer, or the governor as such - or the penal law-maker - or the voter. Moral action is addressed to the moral qualities of a moral being - and does not act physically on the body and animal senses. There is nothing reformatory in animal action. A politician is but a man driver, a human teamster. His business is to control men by the whip and the goad. His occupation would be unlawful and inexpedient toward even the cattle. Nathaniel Peabody Rogers, "Politics," Herald of Freedom (1843)
Whilst I do what is fit for me, and abstain from what is unfit, my neighbor and I shall often agree in our means, and work together for a time to one end. But whenever I find my dominion over myself not sufficient for me, and undertake the direction of him also, I overstep the truth, and come into false relations to him. I may have so much more skill or strength than he, that he cannot express adequately his sense of wrong, but it is a lie, and hurts like a lie both him and me. Love and nature cannot maintain the assumption: it must be executed by a practical lie, namely, by force.... The tendencies of the times favor the idea of self-government, and leave the individual, for all code, to the rewards and penalties of his own constitution, which work with more energy than we believe, whilst we depend on artificial restraints.... A man has a right to be employed, to be trusted, to be loved, to be revered. The power of love, as the basis of a State, has never been tried. We must not imagine that all things are lapsing into confusion, if every tender protestant be not compelled to bear his part in certain social conventions: nor doubt that roads can be built, letters carried, and the fruit of labor secured, when the government of force is at an end. Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Politics" (1844)
Men are morally responsible for all constitutions, institutions, laws, processes and usages which they have pledged themselves to support, or in which they acquiesce without positive remonstrance and disfellowship. Thus if a political compact, a civil or military league, covenant or constitution, requires, authorizes, provides for or tolerates war, bloodshed, capital punishment, slavery, or any kind of absolute injury, the man who swears, affirms, or otherwise pledges himself to support it, is just as responsible for every act of injury done in conformity thereto, as if he himself personally committed it. The army is his army, the gallows his gallows, the whipping post his whipping post, the prison his prison, the slaveholding his slaveholding. When the constitutional majority declares war, it is his war. All the slaughter, rapine, ravages, robbery are his. There is no escape from this terrible moral responsibility but by a conscientious withdrawal from such government, and an uncompromising protest against its fundamental creed and law. Adin Ballou, Christian Non-Resistance (1846)
If, for instance, a man asserts the value of individual liberty over the merely political commonweal, his neighbor still tolerates him, that is he who is living near him, sometimes even sustains him, but never the State. Its officer, as a living man, may have human virtues and a thought in his brain, but as the tool of an institution, he is not a whit superior to his prison key or his staff. Herein is the tragedy; that men doing outrage to their proper natures, even those called wise and good, lend themselves to perform the offices of inferior and brutal ones. hence come war and slavery in; and what else may not come in by this opening? Henry David Thoreau, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers (1849)
How can man have the right to dictate law to his equal brother, and kill him if he disobeys? for all human government must fall back on death for execution. Death is personified in every legislature, judge and ruler; the government is but an embodiment of death. No man can be under obligation to do anything because human governments tell him to do it. If they require what is right, we are to do it; not because they require, but because it is right, and not because congress of parliament commands it. . . . As well say, that the only way to make men love us is to hate them, as to say that governments of violence ever did or ever can protect life. They exist by death, and they make of earth a charnel house. The history of all attempts of man to rule over man, to dictate to him a rule of life, and to punish him if he disobeys, demonstrates that an assumption of such power is opposed to nature and to nature's God. They have made earth a scene of blood and carnage. Henry Clarke Wright, Anthropology or the Science of Man in its Bearing on War and Slavery, by Henry C. Wright (1850)
gene robinson, making the good argument vs the krauthammer etc, somehow got all messed up this morning:
In the enemy's version of history, the West -- meaning the United
States, Israel, Britain and what used to be called Christendom -- has a
long history of exploiting the Muslim world. We occupy Muslim lands to
steal their resources. We install corrupt lackeys as their rulers. For
all our high and mighty talk about fairness and justice, we reserve
these luxuries for ourselves. In this warped worldview, we deserve any
atrocities that jihadist "warriors" might commit against us.
Protesting that all this is absurd and obscene does not make it go away. And our troops' military success actually helps to further the jihadist narrative about a "crusade" against Islam.
wait. is he saying that it's absurd and obscene to assert that the west has a long history of exploiting and occupying the muslim world? or that we never install corrupt lackeys, like we did this week in afghanistan? i guess the kind interpretation would be that what is absurd and obscene is the claim that these things justify atrocities (well, it is absurd to claim of anything that it justifies atrocities), but it certainly appears to say that it is absurd and obscene to assert what is obviously true.
i think now that the beatles are on every third television ad, they're finally getting their due. consider the following, heard on television at all times:
There's nothing you can do that can't be done. Nothing you can sing that can't be sung. Nothing you can say but you can learn how to play the game It's easy. There's nothing you can make that can't be made.
No one you can save that can't be saved.
Nothing you can do but you can learn how to be you in time - It's easy.
etc. in my best stab at interpretation of this goop, i would say that that it is a series of tautologies: that is, if you can do it, it can be done, which would be hard to quibble with. or to put it into first-order predicate calculus with modal operators, it is not the case that there exists a thing such that someone can do it and it is not possible to do it. or, simplifying: (x)(y)(Sxy -> ^Sxy) (where the little upside-down v is the possibility operator; should be a diamond): that is, for anything x and anything y, if x sings y then it is possible for x to sing y. or cutting to the chase, p -> ^p: if p then it is possible that p. or if p is actual then it is not impossible. love is good. but it's probably not all you need.
correction, 11.20: actually, i guess there is modality on both sides of the conditional, so maybe it just says ^p -> ~~^p: if it's possible, then it's not impossible. or ~(Ex)(Ey)( ^Dyx & ~^Dyx): there is nothing such that it's possible for someone to do it and it's not possible for someone to do it.
ok i worked pretty hard on palin back in the day. i'm a sucker for the common touch: palin's is not simulated, and you can't have it both ways: i.e. she's an ignorant fool and a super-clever manipulator. i like her life, which i think has a lot to do with america, more or less: her parenthood (she has babies along with her on her book tour; i'm ready to be ruled by mom); her faith (which offhand i say is more sincere than that of 90% of conservatives); even the hunting and guns. she's amazingly plain-spoken, all in all; there's a reason that the mccain campaign couldn't control her rhetoric.
whatever the racial and other content of this - which is a problem - i agree with teapartiers etc that we are losing (have lost) america, understood in terms of individualism, self-reliance, frontier can-do attitude, liberty, and so on. all we really want now is to be controlled and coddled by the infinitely-large state, by a horde of besuited bureaucrats who are indistinguishable from one another, who all say the same. sarah actually knows this.
she's no less intelligent or less truthful than joe biden, say, or than the average american politician, but her educational road was more of a struggle, and her rhetoric/syntx is not all that polished. it's charming, though, and effective.
she's a perfect foil to obama precisely in her extreme roughness and imperfection: superman vs. everywoman.
she's cute as a button.
i have many substantive policy disagreements. but her basic small-gov conservatism has plenty to recommend it at this point. don't worry: i'll roll hard left during sarah's presidency.
i sort of came to this conclusion a long time ago, but i'll repeat it: this gen-x gen-y generational trend thing is horseshit. it's bizarrely general and useless. so read that piece and then tell me: is it empirical? is it interesting? what does it mean? first off what, really, is the ground for the divisions? let's say that you did, specifically, show demographic trends within each group, or polling etc. ok why not 1969-1991 or whatever? you can declare a generation at any moment you feel like it, and get equally interesting and totally incompatible results. in other words the problem, as always, is that the results actually follow from the problematic initial taxonomy. but this case is basically worse because the taxonomy is so obviously arbitrary. really it all follows from the idea of the baby bom and the arbitrary declaration of its end etc.
as a lifelong redskins fan, i am kind of relieved about this, not to mention this. 'redskins' might kind of be a racial epithet, or maybe there's no 'kinda'; on the other hand, people name sports teams after things/people/beasts because they admire those things for their ferocity etc.
so let me "weigh in" on khalid sheik mohammed. now first of all the legal approach to these cases has been an insane tissue of contradictions. so: the opponents of a civilian trial say: 9.11 was an act of war, not a crime. well then, he is a prisoner of war or an alleged war criminal and must under treaty be treated as a prisoner of war or an alleged war criminal: treated according to the geneva conventions and tried in the hague, for example. but no: he's not a soldier, not a general: terror is not war (these same people say during a different three-minute slice): he's not in uniform; does not represent a state. now this combination of assertions (for short, p and not-p) is why we can do exactly anything we feel like to him at any time, for example, waterboard him hundreds of times over a period of months, or torture him continuously for years. that is, as any logician will tell you, anything follows from a contradiction.
now one of many reasons why you don't want to produce him in open court is because he can reveal highly sensitive national security info. after someone says that, see what they adduce. for example: he can reveal interrogation techniques that we use on (alleged) terrorists. now when someone makes that argument, be clear. they are saying that he will reveal the war crimes of the bush administration. that is, he possesses sensitive classified info because he was tortured, whatever his crimes may or may not be. and obviusly, you can't introduce evidence obtained under torture, for extremely good reasons.
but really when republicans make the classified info argument they are foreseeing the trials of their own (former) leaders on war crimes charges, or at least a series of investigations. that if nothing else is why the status and the facts and the reasoning have to be utterly obscured under layers of contradictory claptrap.
at any rate. yes, try him in court. try to restore some semblance of sanity, legality, and consistency. but a million problems are going to arise. that much is right.