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It is going to be a busy day! So much to do!
- Congratulate a bunch of people — those who felt the system was failing them — for letting their voices be heard in a dramatic way. I’m sure there is something hopeful in that. Well done.
- After considering some of the people mentioned in #1 — just as a precaution, change my Christmas shopping wish-list from Amazon books to Cabella’s gun department.
- Check into that whole “rigged election” thing…after all, he’s been right about everything else.
- Check the over/under on “Days Until Military Coup.” If they’re calling it 230, I’m taking the under.
- Select my outfit for the Inaugural Ball. (I am thinking something white and billowy, with maybe a pointy cap….)
- Read a good “prepper” manual and stock up on canned goods, freeze-dried meals, and water. Also pretzels. I really like pretzels.
- Remember to boot my computer from Tails, and always use a zero-knowledge VPN and the TOR browser. Get all my friends to switch to the Signal instant messaging app (end-to-end encryption, and not owned by Facebook). Delete all my social media accounts (please send cute baby and kitten pictures via snail-mail to my new post office box in Belize).
- Smash capitalism.
- Scoop the litter box.
- Shut down this blog.
Well, I’d better get busy!
People want to know: Who is to blame for this whole election, for these two candidates, for all the rancor and dissension. I’ll explain:
- The Republicans are to blame: from Gingrich on, the party has positioned itself to lead inexorably to Donald Trump. Their emphasis on no-nothingness, obstruction, racism, sexism, their denigration of the poor, weak, and vulnerable — no wonder this is who they’ve nominated. He is a mirror to that party, and many in it now don’t like what they see. But Republicans have brought it on themselves.
- The Democrats are to blame: ever since Bill Clinton, the party has tried to move rightward such that it is now “Republican-lite” — and not even that “lite.” They are in bed with finance capital, and no longer are they the party of labor. They are traitors to their base. They are the ones who started to cut the social safety net to ribbons, they are the ones who removed the protections of Glass-Steagell, they are the ones who implemented mass incarceration and the prison-industrial system. The forgotten and disaffected needed someone who would listen — or at least feign listening, as the Democratic party no longer even pretends to be the representatives of the middle and working classes. And when a candidate like Sanders comes along who can galvanize the party’s historical base, they do everything in their power to quash his efforts. Instead, they nominate the one candidate in the world who is vulnerable in a campaign against Trump. The Democrats have brought this on themselves.
- Democracy is to blame: Democracy — the rule of the people, by the people, for the people — i.e., self-rule is an oxymoron. If the system depends on everyone having a voice, then the enemies of democracy get a voice — and no anti-democratic voice has been louder in recent times than Donald Trump (“I, alone, can fix it!”). A social system based on the occasional voting of a populace otherwise unconcerned and ill-equipped in matters of governing, is fundamentally vulnerable to demagoguery, fascism, political suicide. Was Churchill correct? Is democracy the worst form of government…except for every other form of government? Democracy requires constant attention. Trumpism (or something like it) is a permanent risk and tempation for democracies. Is it worth it? Democracy has brought this on itself.
- We are to blame: We consent to work 50+ hours per week, often at what David Graeber calls (technically speaking) “bullshit jobs.” We have our faces buried in our mobile devices. We live our lives on social media, blissfully unconcerned about matters of privacy, ideology, manipulation, and control. We dumb down our schools, cutting music and the arts, belittling philosophy and critical thought, turning educational institutions into factories for producing more cogs for the machine. We get our “news” from any website with a .com, regardless of its quality. We repost articles we haven’t read and have not vetted, and then feel we’ve added to the civic conversation. We believe all the lies that make us feel better about ourselves and that give us someone else to blame for all the troubles. We pat ourselves on the back for making it down to the polls once every four years and throwing a few switches (or punching out a few chads) for candidates about whom we haven’t the slightest idea. We are proud patriots. We look down our noses at the non-voters (lumping them all together under the umbrellas of “lazy un-americans”) and feel superior that we have kept democracy safe (for capital, for the 0.1%, for creeping bureaucracy, for the surveillance state, for a system for lining the pockets of those who play this highly artificial game). We denigrate those who just say ‘no’ to this charade, insisting that they have no right to complain, no voice, nothing to say. If they propose alternatives, we simply stop our ears. “Just vote once every four years, then shut the hell up.” Well, in fact we voters are the lazy and the ignorant — perhaps the most ignorant, the most duped, the most “played.” We are right where the powers-that-be want us: compliant consumers of whatever bullshit they configured us to “need.” We brought this on ourselves.
Until we admit this, we will continue to be plagued by bad politics. And it will be our fault.
So what shall we do?
What, again? Are you still asking someone else what you should do? Let me remind you of something Immanuel Kant wrote [An Answer to the Question: What is Enlightenment? (1784)]:
Laziness and cowardice are the reasons why so great a proportion of [people], long after nature has released them from alien guidance, nonetheless gladly remain in lifelong immaturity, and why it is so easy for others to establish themselves as their guardians. It is so easy to be immature. If I have a book to serve as my understanding, a pastor to serve as my conscience, a physician to determine my diet for me, and so on, I need not exert myself at all. I need not think, if only I can pay: others will readily undertake the irksome work for me. The guardians who have so benevolently taken over the supervision of men have carefully seen to it that the far greatest part of them…regard taking the step to maturity as very dangerous, not to mention difficult. Having first made their domestic livestock [i.e., us] dumb, and having carefully made sure that these docile creatures [i.e., we] will not take a single step without the go-cart to which they are harnessed, these guardians then show them the danger that threatens them, should they attempt to walk alone. Now this danger is not actually so great, for after falling a few times they [i.e., we] would in the end certainly learn to walk; but an example of this kind makes men timid and usually frightens them out of all further attempts. Thus, it is difficult for any individual [person] to work him- or herself out of the immaturity that has all but become his [or her] nature.
Has immaturity become your second nature? Are you able to respond to Kant’s clarion call: sapere aude — “Dare to know!”? Can you think for yourself? And do you think you can think for yourself if you don’t even know yourself?
Okay, you say, you’ll think for yourself for a change. But still you ask: can you at least give us some guidance, some way to go about it?
Fine…but just this once. On Tuesday, go down to the polling place and pull the Democrat lever. Don’t even look at the names…just pull it and leave. [Why not Trump? Answer: Clinton is (a symptom of) the problem; Trump is not the answer; there is no quick fix.] On Wednesday, after Clinton is deemed President-elect, write her a letter (okay, okay, an email). Congratulate her, then tell her that you vow to never let up on her the entire time she is in office. Tell her you don’t mean you are falling for all these phony “scandals” the opposition has tainted her with all these years. Tell you mean you will be on her about her policies, decisions, alliances, and performance on the job. Tell her you are not doing this because she’s a woman. Tell her you are doing this because you should have been doing this all along, no matter who got elected. Tell her you promise to seek out your local and state representatives and deliver them the same message. Tell her you will do what you can to organize a local meeting of your party — whatever your party happens to be, or, if you do not belong to a party, that you will at least meet with neighbors and friends (it could even be bi- or non-partisan) — every two months to discuss the performance of all your representatives, and that you will report to all those representatives your collective views of how they are doing. That means that she, along with all your other representatives, will be getting a “report card” based, not just on your own idiosyncratic opinions, but on the research, discussions, and debate that you’ve been engaged with and tested by. Tell her you hope to encourage friends and family outside your local community to do the same. Tell her a failing grade will not be tolerated, at least not by your local, informed, diligent, and objective group which has actually thought things through. Tell her that the existence of this network of discussion groups may very well result in a significant grassroots movement or even a third (or fourth) party, unless she (and your other representatives) are adequately responsive to those she/they purport to represent.
There you go! Do that. Not enough, you say? Won’t work, you say? Well, it is likely to be about a jillion times more than what you have been doing, right? And things have gone to shit, I’m sure you’ll agree. So give this idea a whirl. At least you might meet a few neighbors and make some new friends and learn a few things. How bad could that be?
“…the most improper job of any man, even saints (who at any rate were at least unwilling to take it on), is bossing other men. Not one in a million is fit for it, and least of all those who seek the opportunity.”
— J.R.R. Tolkein
Posted in Sports on February 2, 2015
Thoughts on Superbowl XLIX
- Patriots vs. Seahawks. The sports book calls it a pick ’em. Turns out to be a pretty thrilling game between two teams I don’t like.
- Katie Perry was very entertaining at half time. Big show for a big stage. Well done.
- The vaunted Superbowl ads were just so-so. The “lost dog” ad seemed to be a favorite, but it was just emotionally manipulative. Wait…all ads are manipulative. Okay, I liked it. I wept. Not.
- Loved the Seahawks’ call to go for the TD at the end of the half. Bold in a big, close game.
- LOVED the catch by Jermaine Kearse to keep the Seahawks, trailing by 4 points with just minutes to play, in the game. It would be known as The Catch, if things had turned out differently.
- Loved the run by Marshawn Lynch to take the ball to the 1 yard line with seconds to play. Victory a yard away, he must be thinking. Just one more carry. I am LARGE, I am INVINCIBLE. Just GIVE ME THE BALL!
- On 2nd down, the Seahawks call a slant route (!), which is intercepted. The Seahawks snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Stunning. This will probably go down in infamy as “The Call”.
- Apparently, according to Doug Baldwin, the new way to do a touchdown dance is to simulate pooping. Who knew?
- Both teams show their true colors by having a ridiculous, embarrassing fight at the end of the game. Perfect.
So, what does that one play mean? It depended on the outcome. Let’s examine two alternatives, one speculative, one actual.
A. Let Lynch Run the Ball (LLRB): 1 yard run, touchdown, time expires, Seahawks win.
B. Actual (The Call): Patriots intercept, run out the clock, win.
If A, then Kearse’s catch goes down in history (along with the Immaculate Reception and the Helmet Catch) as one of the greatest of all times. Chris Matthews, who never caught a ball in the NFL, might win MVP (maybe), or Russell Wilson gets it instead for beating both Manning and Brady in consecutive Superbowls, or maybe Marshawn Lynch gets it just so we can hear him say NOTHING after the game. Hard to say (no pun intended). Meanwhile, question about Brady abound. He’s 37. He can no longer finish. He made some very bad passing decisions. Maybe it’s time for a change. The Karma argument ascends (deflation-gate meant they had it coming).
But it was B. So Brady is MVP (!), but no one can say why. He is tied for the most Superbowl wins, of course, so the Legend continues. The Catch is quickly forgotten (hardly any discussion of it on the sports stations this morning. The Call is the main topic of conversation and not the performance of the Patriots (which was good, but perhaps not great). The Patriots didn’t win; the Seahawks lost.
And fortunes changed hands, contract potentials have shifted, the rosters of the teams (the Seahawks in particular) are up in the air.
It was a good day.
Posted in Wisdom on January 26, 2015
What do you believe?
- Do you believe that the world’s climate is being radically altered in large measure because of human activity?
- Do you believe that climate change is a very significant issue?
- Do you believe that vaccinations for serious diseases such as measles and mumps do not cause autism?
- Do you believe that every child (barring extraordinary medical reasons for not doing so) should be vaccinated against chickenpox, diptheria, measles, mumps, polio, rubella, tetanus, etc.?
- Do you believe that there is no evidence that tax cuts for the wealthy result in job creation?
- Do you believe that the earth revolves around the sun?
- Do you believe that the theory of evolution in its most current articulation is our best explanation for the origin and diversity of species?
- Do you believe that the recent rapid expansion of the gap between the wealth possessed by the world’s 80 richest people, on the one hand, and the other 7+ billion people, on the other, is a sign of a sick and unjust economic/political system?
If you answered “no” to any of the questions above, you can help me with my efforts to use my time more efficiently and, thus, to be more productive. If you answered “no” to any of these questions, please note that I will no longer spend any time considering any of your views about these issues – or any others issues, for that matter. Your judgment is so suspect that it is extremely unlikely that any of your views will be credible or justifiable, and so I need not waste my time on them. Thank you for your assistance.
P.s., this arrangment is mutually beneficial. As your “no” answers demonstrate your unwillingness to listen to reason, weigh evidence, or think clearly, you do not need to waste any of your valuable time considering my views. They will be pearls before swine.
Please also note, lest you think you detect a degree of arrogance here, that by “my” views I do not mean anything idiosyncratic or particular to me, nor do I mean that I, myself, am responsible for discovering all the insights that make up my considred views. I simply mean that my views on these key matters are consistent with those that are held by the overwhelming majority of sane, intelligent, honest, and objective persons. The endorsement of such persons is to a significant degree a very good reason for holding the views I do. They are very good reasons for anyone to hold such views.
Of course I realize that a majority’s holding a view does not constitute proof of that view, not even if that majority consists purely of sane, intelligent, honest, and objective persons. But because the majority I have in mind (for the key issues I’ve enumerated here) is sane, intelligent, honest, and objective, they, themselves, have come to their views as a result of examining evidence, considering alternatives, weighing arguments, and then committing themselves to the best explanations for the issue at hand. This is a very good way for anyone to come to their views. The alternative would be to…I don’t know…believe that anything that comes into your head, simply because it came into your head, is GOOD, TRUE, and BEAUTIFUL. This, obviously (to any sane, intelligent, honest, and objective person), is utter nonsense for which there is no justification.
So, please answer the questions to see whether we can save each other some precious time. Thank you.
Posted in Uncategorized on January 9, 2015
Wow! Judging from my Facebook stream, yesterday everybody was Charlie Hebdo. Today, nobody is Charlie Hebdo. Today’s line goes like this: “These killings were terrible, of course. But those cartoons were disgusting! They are racist, sexist, anti-religious, and generally obnoxious. I cannot associate myself with that.” But the “that” that we were associating ourselves with yesterday was not the content – most people didn’t know the content, I’m sure – but the freedom to express your opinion, whatever it might be, without fear of being murdered for it. Back-pedaling today suggests you think that maybe just a little bit they had it coming.
In this world, with those kind of people in it, if you have a view at all, you are Charlie Hebdo to someone.
Posted in Philosophy on December 24, 2014
It is of the utmost importance to shout from the rooftops that someone could be, or could have been, an anti-communist, a Stalinist, a philo- or anti-semite, hostile to women, a feminist, a monarchist, a democrat, a militarist, a nationalist, a partisan, a Nazi or Mussolinite, gay, sexually conformist, internationalist, colonialist, egalitarian, aristocratic, an elitist or friend of the masses, and so on and so forth… and be a philosopher of the greatest importance. Examinations of morality, passing as a democrat, being of the right ideological breed, non-criminality, inscrutability – ideological purity, in sum, the characteristic that these inquisitorial apostles test in those whom they must purge, and of which they must be the most perfect incarnation – are intolerable, and must not be tolerated. Down with the little masters of the purification of philosophy!
—Alain Badiou, Letter to Jean-Clet Martin, here.
Why I am (not) an anarchist.
Here are some random thoughts on this claim:
- Anarchism tends towards emphasis on negative liberty: “Nobody tells me what I can and cannot do.” Like difference philosophy and deconstruction, anarchism emphasizes one pole of the sphere of human existence. What about postive liberty, the freedom for becoming what you are (or will have been)?
- Anarchism, as Emma Goldman puts it, resists the state, property, and religion. It is an open question whether these can be resisted. All can be seen as “artificial,” creatures of human artifice, and so we might be warned against, in Roberto Mangabeira Unger’s terminology, false necessity. But the question is whether underlying the particular manifestations of state, property, and religion there is not something fundamental, something fundamenting, as Xavier Zubiri would put it, that explains the inescapability of something like state, property, and religion.
- Anarchism, as an ism, paradoxically functions as an archē, as an inviolable principle which serves to authorize, to generate authority (and heresy). A good example of this can be seen in all the trouble Shevek gets into with the “anarchists” of Anarres in Ursula LeGuin’s The Dispossessed. He is called a “traitor” for his “egoizing” desire to be in contact with the people of Urras (the “Propertarians”). The “anarchism” of Annares becomes the tyranny of the mass, as Goldman would put it.
- I am interested in an anarchy that has no archē. Or at least no single archē.
- Anarchy means to be without a ruler. It means, thus, to be unruled, unmeasured, without a measure. But is it so that human beings are lacking all measure? Is self-transcendence (Augustine) the same as infinitude? Is not the confusion of these two what is meant by “original sin”?
- Multarchism would mean that there are multiple measures, perhaps always one more measure. It would reject the idea that there is no measure (an-archy), but it would also reject the hegemony of any particular measure, principle, foundation.
Is douchebag the white racial epithet we’ve all be waiting for?
The douchebag is someone—overwhelmingly white, rich, heterosexual males—who insists upon, nay, demands his white male privilege in every possible set and setting. The douchebag is equally douchey (that’s the adjectival version of the term) in public and in private. He is a douchebag waiting in line for coffee as well as in the bedroom.
So says Michael Mark Cohen in his splendid piece ondouchebaggery.
A douchebag is a subspecies of asshole, who, according to Ta-Nehisi Coates’ rumination on assholishness is “a person who demands that all social interaction happen on their terms.” The example Coates gives is of certain people who talk on the cell phones, play music, and even hold parties in the “quiet car” on Amtrak trains. In what could easily be an Augustinian example of the stain of original sin, Coates recognizes that it is not that the offenders don’t know the rules, but that they just don’t care. Indeed, although they could be loud in any other car, it is important for some reason (sin) that they be loud in the quiet car, because it is the quiet car.
But we’re not talking about general assholishness here, but rather more specifically douchebaggery. Cohen notes:
While anyone can be an asshole, though, the douchebag is always a white guy—and so much more than that. The douchebag is the demanding 1 percent, and the far more numerous class of white, heterosexist men who ape and aspire to be them. Wall Street guys are douchebags to be sure, but so is anyone looking to cash in on his own white male privilege.
This narrowness of categorization—perhaps unique in the history of America’s rich history of racial and sexual slurs—is what makes the word douchebag such a potentially useful political tool.
White people tend to be oblivious to white privilege. Indeed, that’s part of the privilege: to feel exempt from having to deal with your life in terms of race. To be a douchebag, though, is to somehow have a sense of one’s white (and male) privilege and to insist on exercising it wherever possible.
Not every white male is a douchebag, of course. It is not metaphysics but practice:
And if we needed further proof that the douchebag is a social construction, and a set of personal choices, rather than some form of white male essentialism, I give you the paradox of Michael J. Fox: Alex P. Keaton is a douchebag, but Marty McFly is not.
The point is you don’t have to be a douchebag. In order to help attain self-awareness, I warmly recommend you read Cohen’s essay.