watcha watchin, crispy? well, tackled guy ("god i suck") ritchie's revolver (2005) last night, 'cause jason statham rocks. it is certainly the worst movie ever made by anyone up until sherlock holmes, which is a film made by idiots for inanimate objects. at any rate, revolver is unbelievably portentous clap-trap, really the last thing you want to see in an action movie, and though it is formulaic, it is incomprehensible: a very tough thing to pull off. what i don't get is how you make "lock, stock, and two smoking barrels" and "snatch" and then this butterball. it's the kind of film tarantino would make - indeed it's filled to the brim with his mannerisms - after the lobotomy.
the phrase of the moment seems to be "do due diligence." geez, really? like white house people didn't do due diligence before hopping on shirley sherrod. surely not: if the phrase has any application, it would be in official licensing or inspection procedures. not they just routinely use it to mean, like "pay attention."
you know i'm surprised that there isn't a lot more focus on bradley manning and what may be happening to him. this would be a time for actual investigative reporting. or if there is some out there, i'd like to see it.
Manning allegedly used
the power of Lady Gaga to lip-sync his way to leaking
immortality—pretending to burn a copy of 'The Fame' while stealing
thousands of classified documents from the government's SIPR-NET secret
of course, this thing shows the amazing potential of free information. but it also shows the continuing relevance of mainstream media: obviously i'm not going to sit down and read 90,000 documents; i do need some interpretation. but you should listen for the vague skewed interpretation on television. it is amazingly hard to characterize or summarize something of that scale, and easy to be alert for the theme that supports your position. julian assange is more than serviceable on television. implacable, really.
ok i'll listen to this stuff about how the document dump endangers the lives of our troops etc. only the argument had better not be that it shows us in a bad light. and i might ask: which in the long run would cause more deaths: releasing the documents or repressing them?
hooray for wikileaks. i think the obama administration has had the lovely realization of many a war-mongering super-organism: if people actually knew what was happening, they'd turn against us, so a pervasive cloud of jive is essential to the war effort. this means all facts are dangerous.
one thing about the matter of shirley sherrod: it's not a racial disaster/meltdown of the sort rich and many others make it out to be; it's a relatively trivial revival of the very idea of race. well, that is going to happen from time to time. it's not lynching or jim crow or the civil rights movement; it's theater of race.
one begins slowly to take in the profundity of frank rich, for whom the bp oil spill, let us say, is almost as significant as the season premiere of mad men. i just want to remind him that someone actually wrote the script, not by channeling the voice of an entire era but by sitting there typing. cool. now write your own shit. rich doesn't really appear to be able to connect the script of mad men to anything in particular; he just uses it the way david brooks uses...reality.
you'd have to say that this approach to education reflects the basic strictures or canons of squishy totalitarianism; it's squishy in that it doesn't torture or exile you: it works to transform consciousness from the ground up so that actual physical coercion is redundant. not only that, but the approach is completely central to the sort of internationalist merger of state and capital, a world regulatory regime of productive service workers and bureaucrats. i would say that people like tom friedman and al gore are the marxes or jeffersons of this movement. (well maybe it's habermas.) but what they always emphasize is that american education has to compete with chinese or danish education...as measured by performance on standardized tests. this is so far distant from the life of any actual child that it's just a vicious abstraction; who could raise their children according to this idea of global competitivenes etc? at any rate, the position is: a single global economy, international institutions, free trade and regulated markets, "development," and always: a single world model of education.
one thing that i think is obvious: it's going to be a lot harder to shape the human soul than one might think: we are recalcitrant. the local and strange is going to be in constant...juxtaposition.in a situation in which knowledge, expertise etc are the product of institutions, even mere ignorance or irrationality is a worthwhile form of resistance.
one thing that the bush and obama administrations have had in common, of course, is that they both favor nationalizing, federalizing, and regulating all american education. essentially, they want to federal government to write the curricula, set the standards for teachers, etc.: they want minute by minute control of every classroom = "accountability." and they deploy only one value, exactly one value: standardization. let's just say that this is a mind-numbingly stupid approach to education, and finally a terrifying accumulation of arbitrary tyrannical power, entirely outside of our form of government. this is one way to see that the tea party is not merely paranoid about increasing federal power. and it's one way to see that re-reading the constitution might be a good idea. at any rate, surely no one could quibble, in a maoist situation like that, with an armed insurrection by schoolchildren. it's gonna have to be children because soon there will be no adults that haven't been processed through the factory of standardized consciousness.
so i'm goin straight to tea party propaganda heaven:
and let me just agree, as a short-circuit for your objections, that only a racist would object to universal standardized government education. indeed, only a racist could possibly disagree with you about anything, which must really feel good! fortunately, there are no such things as races.
good column. but what brooks needs to understand is that only ignorant racists could have a moment's doubt about the obvious desirability of an ever-growing state. only ignorant racists could think that we have a form of limited government, or that the social science of five years ago shouldn't tell you how to raise your children. is it any coincidence that the level of your education coincides precisely with the enthusiasm of your capitulation? capitulate.
what kind of amazes me about the coverage of the iranian nuke dude is that the american press reports what the american authorities say as though it were fact, which i imagine is precisely the way the iranian press reports the assertions of the iranian authorities. but it's gotten a lot more ambiguous. he says he was kidnapped by the cia; they have dribbled to the point of saying they "whisked him away," etc. it's a good guess that we'll never have a plausible account of what actually happened; that is because the various people trying to do the explaining are either governments - whom it is stupid or impossible to believe - or people who have been bribed, blackmailed, coerced and cajoled by governments.
sting and the symphony orchestra! delivering "a delectable trifle with a coy premise," in these terms: “It takes a man to suffer ignorance and smile,” Sting chirped, before
coming to the singalong refrain: “Be yourself, no matter what they say.” (it's hard to say what sting has in mind when he talks about 'suffering
ignorance': probably it means roughly talking to someone who disagrees with al gore.) um, yeah. how someone who just mutters extreme banalities ("if you love someone, set them free!"), like a public high school principal delivering a graduation speech under sedation, gets quoted at all, much less greeted ecstatically, is beyond me. "we are spirits in a material world": if i want half-baked metaphysics, i'll hire a grad student. what i dig about the lyrics is their incredible overblown emptiness, delivered over the la-di-da melodies. indeed, if you're going to rehearse a bunch of utterly empty cliches, you might as well jack up the pretentiousness to excruciating levels by standing in front of a symphony orchestra. so sting: no matter what the nyt says, be someone - anyone - other than yourself.
let me have a crack at tea party vs naacp. first off, the naacp obviously has no idea what a grassroots movement actually is, which tells you what sort of organization the naacp itself is. so president ben jealous calls on the leaders of the tea party to "expel the bigots from your ranks." well there is no hierarchy, no single organization. the media scrambled all day yesterday to get the "leaders" on, and the best you can do is, you know, "active in the memphis tea party" etc. cnn has to be frustrated because there can't be a spokesman. jealous is "ceo" of the naacp (for god's sake; what would w.e.b. dubois say?). there is no ceo of the tea party. jealous i think is not frustrated with that, just totally uncomprehending of even that possibility. there is no organization from which to expel somebody, and no one to do the expelling. (meanwhile everyone i saw that they actually did get on tv condemned racism.) but how is a guy "associated with the tea party in south carolina" supposed to start expelling people? ben jealous can expel people from his group, or could with the approval of the board of directors etc. but he cannot conceive of a movement without a hierarchy.
now every single piece i saw on the controversy put up an image of the billboard below. equating/comparing/connecting obama to hitler and lenin is pretty silly and useless, and the meme that what's happening here is exactly what happened in germany in the thirties or something is crazily wrong. i guess it came from limbaugh or beck. so the billboard is extreme and extremely wrong etc, and i would personally try to develop some different modes of criticism and ditch that one, although it's always worth suspecting that political leaders would like to amass totalitarian power. but it's only racist insofar as any attack on obama is racist. it makes no reference to race, even by implication: indeed it equates obama to two white guys. you may suspect, or rather hope, or rather find it useful to assert, that such things are made by racists. but that doesn't make 'obama is like lenin' a racist assertion.
i thought i might have a crack at some examples of what i might call strategic beliefs, which i think raise important questions in both epistemology and actual science and social policy. so here are my examples:
(1) alcoholism (or in general addiction) is a disease.
(2) people are born straight or gay.
(3) depression (or for example bipolar disorder) is a chemical imbalance in the brain.
now i am not a researcher and i haven't really had a serious crack at the evidence. but my view is that these assertions are either false, misleading, or so vague as to be unevaluable for truth value (for example: the notion of "disease" is an extremely vague, ambiguous, and problematic folk concept). but i also think that in certain situations each of these might be extremely important to believe: those circumstances are, roughly, treating addiction or depression, and making peace with one's sexual orientation and allowing people to have whatever sexual orientation they have.
each of these claims relieves the depressed, addicted, or gay person from personal responsibility for their situation: they all declare that the situation is not the result of the free decisions of the subject. now i think this actually has basically good consequences. i think this is the fundamental reason, for example, for the success of twelve-step programs, which i have experienced at first hand. it is a dogma in aa that alcoholism is a disease (or, as the big book says at one point, an allergy). if you think that your alcoholism is your fault, you will be filled with self-loathing, particularly at the point where it has destroyed your career or family. well this self-loathing will get you drinking. the typical drinking alcoholic is in a cycle where he desperately tries to exercise will power over his condition, which might work for a while, then lead to a collapse in which he succumbs. the typical addict runs through this cycle again and again. so you "turn your will over," you stop thinking that you can make yourself stop and are a horrible person because you fail. then you can stop.
so i would say that the recovering addict may need to believe that alcoholism is a disease (whatever that means, exactly). i might encourage someone to believe this - and i have - because it is more or less essential to recovery. and recovering addicts often are entirely outraged even by asking questions about this. but that does not make it true, which shows among many other things that the pragmatic theory of truth is false.
the "evidence" that depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain is kind of pathetic. i'll believe that when doctors are diagnosing depression by pet scan or urine test. depression is diagnosed on the basis of..sleep patters or energy levels, "suicidal ideation," etc. and of course even if there were chemical changes in the brain associated with depression, that would not establish direction of causation: the emotional condition could be causing the brain changes as well as the other way round. the fact that seratonin re-uptake inhibitors are (sort of) effective in treating depression no more shows that depression is a chemical imbalance than the fact that you can treat pain with morphine shows that pain just is a morphine shortage.
try saying something like this to someone who believes or needs to believe that bipolar disorder is a chemical imbalance, and you will just get rejected with extreme dogmatic insistence. no it just is a fact. but that you believe it the way a christian loves jesus doesn't show it's true.
honestly i think that sexual orientation probably has extremely complex or chaotic origins, including i would think the nature of one's early sexual experiences, what sort of person one comes to associate with orgasm. but saying that is dangerous: it indicates that we could manipulate people into heterosexuality etc; it hints at a kind of genocide or something. it hints that if we want our kids to be het we should keep them away from gay people at all costs. basic acknowledgment of the full humanity and basic rights of gay people may be well-served by 'born that way.' but that doesn't make it true.
there might be a hundred-year scientific consensus that depression is a chemical imbalance. but then, one might notice that much of the research is actually paid for by people who manufacture chemicals. and after it's over it might be entirely obvious that the claim was vague, ill-formed, and...wrong. that doesn't mean science doesn't converge on it for decades. to say that scientists are subject to social consensus, economic context, peer pressure, the models under which they were educated, etc is an understatement. well, there will be a new social consensus in 2045, and science will explore and explain the useful or consensus notion as the objective truth. it's happened many times, and will happen many more.
if i were the french parliament, i'd take the obvious next step of requiring all women only to wear bikinis. honestly if you think you can get to a good argument that it is legitimate for the government to tell you how to dress, i'd like to hear you formulate it. one question: if that is within the purview of legitimate state power, what is not? go ahead and ban islam, or being of pashtun origin. go in and start redecorating people's houses. start requiring plastic surgery of various kinds; once we all look pretty much the same, integration will be far easier to achieve. obviously in a secular state, religion ought to be against the law. we might be able to reinforce this with compulsory psycho-surgery. obviously, we should ban texts of the sort that suggest that women ought to be veiled; or maybe we ought to ban text altogether.
at any rate, the fact is that this is some people telling other people what to wear: this government is not an abstract object. it's not a deity. and it is obviously not us imposing rules on ourselves, since if these women were imposing rules on themselves, this wouldn't be one of them. and in virtue of what does someone have the right to tell you what to wear (etc)? not only is this an exercise of arbitrary tyrannical power, it is obviously an exercise of arbitrary tyrannical power. the restriction may seem relatively trivial to people who are not affected by it, but any government that claims and exercises such power should be destroyed.
so blowing up random football fans: what an excellent idea! what a useful tactic in achieving your desired future. the act is incomprehensible, purposeless, mindless. these grotesque vicious idiots cannot have any constituency. anyone stupid enough to sympathize should just think to themselves that there is no reason they shouldn't be the next victim, no matter what they do or believe.
the left needs its own tea party! let me put it this way: that's gonna be hard to reconcile with your technocratic elitism and enthusiasm for "shared responsibility," that is, universal subordination, statist solutions to every problem. you don't really want a tea party; you want a leftister bureaucracy. watch olbermann, say: he disagrees with the positions, but the real criticism - continuous - is that these are the wrong sort of people: we should make fun of them cause they don't have the right degrees, location, etc. that's gonna make populism pretty tough for y'all, i feel.
watcha readin, crispy? something i've been meaning to for years: hardt and negri's empire. i must say so far i am not very impressed. now you may speculate that that's because i am a reactionary, and just possibly you have a point. but it's not necessarily that i disagree; i'd say there haven't so far been any sufficiently definite assertions to make agreement or disagreement possible. the book is beset by extreme wooliness. i am left grasping for an explanation of its instant classic status. one thing is that by the time 2000 rolled around, the left was desperate for a theory or an ideology: to say that marxism is played-out and riddled with problems - including the monstrous history of people's actual attempts to apply it - is an understatement. however, hardt and negri are still throwing around "proletarian revolution," "the masses," etc. (the fucking masses! an undifferentiated human goop.) i'm serious when i say y'all got to get out from under the vicious stultifying spell of such ancient abstractions and on to something else. people seem to think h&n is that new phase, but to please the left you've still got to be a marxist, and the inspiration h&n provide comes largely from the slightly displaced revival. my honest advice to you is: blow that shit up and start again.
on the other hand, "politicizing" science is inevitable, and obviously actual science does not directly draw policy conclusions. you sort of get the vague feeling that we could actually be ruled by scientifically discovered facts, or by dudes down in a laboratory somewhere. but ask yourself whether that makes any sense or, even if it did, whether that's something you want. that the earth is getting warmer does not itself dictate any given policy, obviously. science can bear on policy, of course. but i would strongly advise you to stare directly at the history of science for awhile before you just, for example, embrace the equation of science and truth. the nazis had a science of racial differences, for example, but that already had a hundred-year history, and stood at the origin of anthropology. science takes place in a social and political and physical context, and you had better start thinking about who's funding what and why.
really it's funny that the public/political cult of science - its ever-growing pop prestige as the only outlet of truth - has been accompanied by actual work showing the way scientific truths are produced within power structures: foucault's, for example (esp with regard to the social sciences as handmaidens of subordination) and latour's (in the phsyical sciences).
but any way you look at it, science - even if it were the only source of objective truth - does not itself, or should not itself, articulate values or make policy decisions in a democracy. and really what this is all about is annexingthe epistemic prestige of science for whatever program you want to push, like evangelicals annexing the bible in the same way: as the only origin of truths. the cult of science is profoundly hierarchical, corresponding to a technocratic model of governance through expertise, which means: we want power.
what you need to see is that there are many and varied sources of knowledge and value. high-school dropouts have access to truths no ph.d. has ever clearly contemplated.
death panels just won't go away. and let me say this: of course the government of the united states has the power of life and death over you, as it does over every person on the planet. what do you think petraeus and his staff are? a death panel, not only for americans, but for all kinds of people. right now, obama is meeting with gates, petraeus (via video link), h clinton, jim jones, etc, deciding who in this world shall be permitted to live. indeed, we might consider euthanizing grandma with predator drones, if all else fails. dude our governments might shoot you in the back on a train platform, might convict you of murder and execute you. the government of the united states can kill anyone at any time, and often does.
keep in mind that the government is all of us, acting together collectively: our consciousness, our conscience. as hobbes or rousseau might say, the government killing you is you, killing yourself. any other conclusion is rank...individualism. so i say get over it. death panels are cool and fun and cost effective! i want you to take care of me, which is me taking care of myself, and when the whim strikes you i want you to kill me. kill me hard. kill me repeatedly. kill me with love. kill me bureaucratically, for i myself am the very bureaucracy of death. or actually, as long as the bureacracy exists, i too exist: no government can kill anyoone.