Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Enlightenment Two-Step

If I were a satirist I might try to write a story set in 35, 830 AD (they'll have gone back to using Year of the Lord, just to annoy the right people) in which two people talk about the amazingly primitive ideas of ignorant plutonium age folk who believed all kinds of amazingly stupid stuff and who were so uninformed as to believe there was no God.  Something no one was so benighted to believe anymore in the age of Universal Kindness.

It is one of the more silly ideas of a conceited and ignorant age that knowledge such as is available to us, today, represents a glorious conclusion of what is knowable.  That we are such a great leap of an advance over the "bronze age" or other period disdained whenever online atheists start gassing on ignorantly and arrogantly.  If we were all that much advanced we wouldn't have wars, poverty, preventable disease, preventable deaths, preventable and unwanted pregnancies, commercial and sexual exploitation of children, women, men, slavery - let's not forget slavery, such atheist paradises pretending to be Marxist paradises such as China and North Korea among the larger venues of slave labor in the world.

Anyone who thinks an age which is destroying the very basis of life, with science, with technology, in the pursuit of fortunes too big for their owners to ever spend in a thousand lifetimes and tacky, gaudy baubles and masses of bling that would make a Pharoh gag at the excess, is some kind of great advance on the past is probably distracted by the wall screen and the one in their hand and on their phone, on which they're probably catching their latest show and other brilliant products of the intellect as they check on what's new about Honey Boo Boo's mother and Lena Dunham's latest hair color.

You want a dark age, we live in the darkest of them.   That enlightenment is just the TV screen set to FOX entertainment where Seth MacFarlane is telling you how smart you are.

Update:  I generally use CE and BCE to annoy one set of the right people, I think I'll sometimes use the old AD and BC to annoy another appropriate target set of the right people who have a lot in common with that other set of them.

Geri Allen Trio - Dark Prince

I posted this a long time ago but I love it so much that it bears repeating.

Update:  Charlie Haden, Geri Allen, Paul Motian - I'm All Smiles

Sacred Cows of The Nothing-Sacred Clique, Cluelessness of the Clued-In

One of the things I've learned in the past two weeks is that for the secular, sciency soi disant "liberals", the icon puncturing, nothing sacred thing that is "satire" is an inviolable  sacred cow.   Boy did they ever go all Margaret Dumont over my mild observations about Charlie Hebdo's incitement of murderous violence,  Mort Sahl's endorsement of a terrorist and war criminal, even as the bodies in his terror war were piling up, the inability of real satirists through history to get the effect they wanted with their pens and the such.  Which was too funny, the very raw material of satire.  But how can I write it when they produce it themselves, in real life?

Well, brace yourself because I'm going after another one today, one I've gone after before, pointing out that he stole the boresome atheist scold shtick of that other sacred cow of atheists, the mediocre comic George Carlin.   What I'm getting at is that Bill Maher has spoken again and, as always, what came out of his forequarters is what comes out of a cows hindquarters.

Bill Maher explained his choice to make decisions based on fact versus “ancient myth” in a video that aired online earlier this week. The video is a promotion for the Openly Secular campaign, which encourages “atheists, freethinkers, agnostics, humanists and nonreligious people” to be more forthcoming with their secular beliefs in order to help dispel discrimination.

“Hey, sign me up!” Maher exclaims in the advertisement. “I’m openly secular!”

“It seems to me the most obvious decision a person could make in their life,” Maher explains. “Do I want to make real-world policy decided on the basis of proven facts and the reaches of what humans have gotten to do in science? Or do I want real-world decisions made based on ancient myths written by men who didn’t know what a germ or an atom was, or where the sun went at night?”

“I picked choice A,” Maher stated emphatically, “science and facts.”

The quotes in this passage  are so full of myths, self-contradictions and ignorance that it didn't take me till the second sentence to count up several definitively discrediting ones.   And then there's the smug conceit, which is the real purpose of Maher, Dawkins et al.  This has nothing to do with "science and facts" it is a bald faced, PR appeal to the conceit of people who like to think they're better than other people and nowhere near as good as they tell themselves they are.  It's no different from any other ad campaign that appeals to that universal human folly of human vanity and conceit.

We've been over the impossibility of an atheist who is a materialist to believe that such a thing as "free thought" was possible and any who called themselves "freethinkers" are guilty of a massive unawareness of the logical necessities of their own ideology.   Freedom of anything is something you would have to go outside of materialism to find.  It is invisible to science,  science couldn't find if it were right in front of the scientists noses., their methods and tools are all dependent on material causation.  Apparently his degrees in History and English didn't prepare him enough in either science or philosophy for Maher to understand that much about the science he has also taken up as a part of his shtick instead of as an intellectual endeavor.

The foremost presence of "free thought" and "free will" and free anything in what is passed off as science has been as things to debunk and refute, but only among such scientists who have pretended to destroy those because of the difficulty they pose for their extra-scientific ideology of materialism, something they generally adopt in service to their scientistic atheism.  Most materialists, even among scientists are pretty clueless as to the absolutely inescapable and necessary logical conclusions about their own ideological holdings.   And those aren't attractive, they certainly don't support freedom of any kind for the reason that they deny what you would need for human minds to escape the bonds of material causation, what makes free thought even possible.

The political usefulness of the attractive idea of free thought is due to our non-scientific, human experience and non-quantifiable and rigorously analyzable history of what happens when it is made impossible.  People, including those such as Maher, who pretend to know much of anything about the physical sciences,  know what it is when someone can be denied their freedom and that the difference between freedom and bondage is as real and as experienced and as knowable to be the difference between right and wrong and so know it is as real as anything in science - also entirely reliant on human experience - is.

The pose of sciency atheism is that science gives them access to a higher reality that is not dependent on mere human experience, choice, judgement and preference and that is the founding myth of their ideological faith.  That it is human minds who are doing all of this science is pretended to not matter, not to mention that its methods are not only demonstrably prone to human error and human vice (fraud, cover up, etc) and that most successfully adopted of all scientific errors, ideological wishful thinking, but attempts, imperfect attempts, to correct and prevent those errors were put in place by the choices made by scientists based on that experience.

And also part of the mythos of the Maher mind is that science has universal power when it is, actually, constrained by those same methods and choices.   Science works only when it extracts and, often, abstracts a small specimen of reality to subject to its methods.  It is most successful when those specimens are sufficiently simple in themselves or the aspects of those specimens are sufficiently simple to discern limited factual information of great reliability about them.   Chemistry is far more successful at reaching its goals than biology is, due to the far greater complexity of organisms, especially those who act through volition and behave in unpredictable ways due to their behavior being motivated by volition and not by simple physical forces.

Physics on a small scale is certainly more successful at generating enduring information than cosmology is, though cosmologists, many of them physicists, enjoy the reverent faith of many millions who ignorantly follow their wild ride through various absolute holdings about the ultimate character and fate of the physical universe due to the reverence that physics has built up for itself.   I've grown ever more skeptical about the reliability of anything a cosmologist says because of 1. the dogmatic nature of the pronouncements of cosmologists, 2. their history of being wrong and those dogmas being rapidly overturned and seldom universally agreed on by eminent cosmologists.  The belief of anything any cosmologist says by any math-physics deficient layman is due to the myth that it has any of the reliability that its history proves it to not have.

You could add the clearly ideological nature of so much that cosmologists say these days, especially in the post-war period, which is obviously invented to explain things they can't explain and, especially, to try to avoid anything that might be taken to imply that there is a God who created the universe.  Something which, by the absolute claims of scientists, science shouldn't even be involved in because any scientist with enough knowledge of philosophy would know science couldn't ever deal with those questions.*

Maher's disdain for the knowledge and thinking of ancient people is, also, saturated in the most clearly a-historical myth.   Atheism, itself, is the product of such men as who didn't know much about the physical universe.  You could add to the achievements of such disdained primitives the foundations of mathematics, written culture, etc.  Only a true idiot could escape Cornell with a degree in history without knowing that or how to find that information if he cared about reality instead of commonly held atheist myth.

That brings to mind my recent, angrily met and unacceptable free thoughts about the self-contradicting, dogmatic and silly Strunk and White, another Cornell product, another inviolable sacred cow of Maher's iconoclastic target audience. You're not allowed to think its reliability is a myth even as its content proves that it is unreliable.  And its reliability is a myth you will be commanded not to attack. One might conclude that, perhaps, most commonly used intellectual contribution of Cornell would show that Ivy League school doesn't produce a reliably reliable product.   Strunk-Whitewise, they also gave Maher a degree in English.

Oh, and Maher isn't funny.   He's just telling you what he hopes you'll want to hear.  It's not satire. 

* It is remarkable, considering how eager scientists are when their discoveries can be prostituted by the military-industrial and political aspects of human culture, how horrified they are when religious folk, some of them fully qualified and even accomplished scientist, draw religious conclusions incorporating their findings.  Their angry, irrational reaction, much of it called "science" is a dead giveaway as to their real motives and what they really care about.

Update:  To the idiot who challenges me to "call a theologian" the next time my computer crashes,  the guy I take my computer to isn't a theologian but he is a deacon in his church.  He's something so many others including your sacred cows aren't, honest.

Update 2:   Sorry that a subscription is required but I can't resist posting this in lieu of writing a response:


God bless Jan Freeman. At least there is one newspaper writer on language who has, in addition to great style and humor, good research and a real sense of what is important and what is not. And in the case of Sunday's column, a better critique of Strunk and White ("this aging zombie of a book") in its stupid new full-color illustrated edition ("a colorful shroud on a corpse that's overdue for burial") than I could imagine writing myself. I will say nothing more about the October 23 "The Word" column in the Boston Sunday Globe, headed "Frankenstrunk", other than this: go and read it.

Friday, January 16, 2015

And This Is Wonderful

Marilynne Robinson with Bill Moyers

Not going to bother describing it, except that it's a real treat to listen to this interview.

Someone Isn't Familiar With Sinead's Transgression (see post below) Here's an Old Post I Wrote About That

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Watching Sinead With My Catholic Mother 

It was quite uncomfortable to be sitting up with my mother while she watched Rachel Maddow last night. Since her operation last December we’ve been taking turns staying with her until she goes to bed at 10:00. She can’t wait until it’s warm enough to not have a fire at night and she can “have some solitude again”.

Anyway, when Rachel said that her interview was going to be with Sinead O’Connor and they were going to talk about the sex abuse scandal I thought, “Oh, oh. She’s not going to like this.” As it turned out my mother knew who Sinead O’Connor was, she remembered the famous incident where she ripped up the picture of JPII, for which Sinead was, if not black listed, somewhat disappeared from American media. Subsequent events vindicate what Sinead said then, you don't generally expect popular singers on SNL as voices of prophesy.

I kept looking at my mother as she watched the interview, as the now all too familiar crimes and sins of Catholic priests, bishops, cardinals and, now, popes were listed. She’d heard all of those already and certainly wasn’t happy about them, but she wasn’t in denial that they’d happened*.

As it went on and O’Connor said that the problem wasn’t Catholics, it was the clique that had stolen The Church from them. Her declaration that she was a Catholic “in love with the Holy Spirit” and that she thought it was high time that Catholics took ownership of their church was nothing my mother hadn’t said in some form, though less passionately. O’Connor’s recognition of the many women and men who used their religion to serve humanity was totally in accord with my mother’s view of religion.

After the segment was over, I asked her if it had upset her too much. My mother looked at me with surprise and said, “I agree with her.”

I don’t think it’s just because Sinead is Irish.

* My mother was a bit annoyed by the “Infallible” subtitle. Being an Irish Catholic my mother can’t abide the common misunderstanding of that doctrine, which she has little enthusiasm for. It’s a bit odd but it’s really not that incomprehensible, in theory. Most of what the Pope says isn’t held to be “infallible”. I believe it has been invoked twice in the relatively short time it’s been official teaching.

Though it certainly has more than a bit of historical proof of its falsity, which even an Irish Catholic, if they are liberal enough, will acknowledge. As James Carroll, one of my mother’s favorite Catholic columnists (Richard McBrien is another) recently noted the doctrine is the illogical result of Cardinals giving it to Pius IX as a consolation prize when the former Papal States were removed from him. To have “infallibility” dependent on a vote by the First Vatican Council is quite a logical disconnect. I believe the sometimes mentioned quote by John XXIII, that he knew he wasn’t infallible, is authentic. I hope it is. If it is, that would present a bit of a problem to the biggest fans of that most famous of recent innovations, flying in the face of many centuries of tradition.

Hate Mail Bag

You really think it's news to me that what I write has no commercial potential?  I went into this knowing what Carla Bley, one of the best of living composers said about not having the chance to sell out because no one was interested.  

You don't understand that I don't have any interest in being acceptable to the news media or those who worship it.  I come to beat them, not to join them. 

The Difference Between "Transgression" and The Overrated Art of Satire

I don't have time to write something about Karl Kraus and the sophistication and power - even relentless pummeling - of his satire but this can give you some idea of why it deserves the name "satire" even as what passes for that today doesn't.  I will point out that some have said that Kraus was the most significant successor to Jonathan Swift in that department of writing.

When, in the late war years, artists and writers began to understand the very real horror of the Great War, they turned their attention from politics and culture to the ordeal of those who had actually fought in the trenches. Here the most striking German work was Ernst Jünger’s The Storm of Steel (In Stahlgewittern) of 1920, with its graphic account of frontline combat. By the time Erich Maria Remarque’s pacifist All Quiet on the Western Front (Im Westen Nichts Neues) was published in 1928, the mood had shifted completely. “This book,” says Remarque in a headnote to what was to become an international best seller and later a celebrated film, “is to be neither an accusation nor a confession, and least of all an adventure, for death is not an adventure to those who stand face to face with it. It will try simply to tell of a generation of men who, even though they may have escaped shells, were destroyed by the war."

But—and here things get complicated—Kraus’s The Last Days of Mankind has no more in common with All Quiet on the Western Front than with the odes in praise of war of 1914–1918. For whereas Jünger or Remarque or, for that matter, the English war poets like Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen wrote highly subjective and graphic accounts of warfare, bearing sympathetic witness to the ostensibly innocent young soldiers who were its victims, Kraus’s documentary drama uses every device in its poetic arsenal to dramatize the complicity, cravenness, and often inadvertent cruelty, not only of those who make war, but also of those who carry it out or remain behind. From the first shrill cry of the newsboy announcing the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, to the petty controversies between waiters and diners in the local cafes, to the dispatches from the Ballhausplatz (the ministry) and the sermons preached in Vienna’s churches, few, if any, are seen as exempt from the fevers and follies of war. What often begins as accident rapidly turns into status quo, revealing a latent viciousness that seems to permeate, not only the public discourse, but also the entire social fabric. High culture versus mere “civilization”: the dichotomy counts for little to the hungry children in the schoolroom forced to recite patriotic pieties or to the new recruits at military headquarters trying to bribe the petty bureaucrats in charge to give them a few hours of leave.

Kraus’s cruel apocalyptic vision may well have struck modernist readers as excessive; unlike, say, Brecht, he saw no political alternative to the capitalist competition that drove the war engine. If anyone was to blame for the cult of war, it was, in Kraus’s view, the press corps of which he was himself a member. Such obsession with the media will strike many readers as misconceived or at least excessive. Walter Benjamin, a great admirer of Kraus’s, reminded readers that “the newspaper is an instrument of power. It can derive its value only from the character of the power it serves.” This was in 1931, shortly before the Nazis came to power.

Yet the same article says:

Discussions of the early twentieth-century avant-garde rarely refer to the writings of Kraus or Wittgenstein,[who knew?] of Joseph Roth and Elias Canetti, and, in the next generation, of Paul Celan or Ingeborg Bachmann. In part, this neglect has to do with the subordinate status of post-World War I Austria, whose literature has been treated, at least in the English-speaking world, as if it were merely part of the larger body of “German” writing. In this context, the emphasis on the Marxist literature of the Weimar Republic, from Bertolt Brecht to the great critical theorists Walter Benjamin and Theodor W. Adorno, has eclipsed its very different Austrian counterpart.

I'll raise the point, first, that Brecht's Marxism already gives a lot of what he wrote and his biography something of a quaint irrelevance that it didn't have before the fall of the  "German Democratic Republic",  just to add a touch of irony, despite his undoubted greatness as a writer.  Likewise his lumpen proletariat  content must have always seemed bizarre to the actual underclass whose experience of gangsters and pimps wasn't suggestive of liberation. That was never more than an elite fantasy.  If that will lead him into obscurity is improbable, though for the English speaking world probably mostly due to his having written musical comedies and comic operas.  Kraus has, though.

Yet Kraus was a far, far bigger political presence in his time than just about any contemporary so-called "satirist".  His body of work is enormous and he had an actual political effect in the late part of the Hapsburg empire, such as no satirist today can claim.   His role in the largely forgotten Harden–Eulenburg affair,  a homosexual scandal of the late Hapsburg empire, is where I first heard of Kraus. That scandal has, by some, been credited with bringing down figures around the Kaiser who may have prevented the Great War, which, itself, led to Nazism.     A tragic failure of the alleged power of satire, in itself. Kraus opposed the chief scandal monger, Maximilian Harden, their epic war against each other would have been like Mary McCarthy and Lillian Hellman going at it with brass knuckles instead of only with lawyers.

As he was producing his work Kraus was fully exposed to lawsuit in a way that of our "satirists" seldom are.  Unlike writers in the third-world and dictatorships, ours are seldom at enough risk to call what they do "brave" in that way.  They don't even have to flee like Brecht did when his satire didn't protect him from reality, both in Nazi Germany and later in the red scare in the United States - so much for the power of the First Amendment.  That he ran, eventually, to the bloody dictatorship in East Germany has even more revealing truths to tell that are beyond the scope of mere satire.

The most politically influential "comedy" in English speaking countries is the insane unreality of right wing hate-talk radio and cabloid TV.  Those provide, essentially, the same level of content as most of the pseudo-leftist "satirists" whose acts are merely based on mocking targets agreed on by their target audience.  That is why someone like Mort Sahl  is able to pass harmlessly between the imaginary wall that separates pseudo-left from actual right and why people were puzzled when Dennis Miller turned out to be a center right Republican despite having worked on a commercial network TV comedy show which many on the left were successfully sold on content that was merely transgressive of already dead taboos.  What happened when Sinéad O'Connor truly transgressed on Saturday Night Live over real issues instead of comic ones is illustrative of what would happen if they'd actually transgressed living taboos.

I most certainly don't agree with everything about Kraus, I'm here to point out that he was a genuine satirist, a form that I have already said I thought was pretty useless in making real change.  Real change requires far more effort than satire does.

Well, I guess I had better stop before I make a liar of myself and do write something about him.  I'm hardly a scholar of his extremely complex work and life, just a casual reader of a small part of it.

Update:  Apropos of my recent transgressions against Strunk-White and Hemmingway, also from the article linked to above.

If it were the intention of the press to have the reader assimilate the information it supplies as part of his own experience, it would not achieve its purpose. But its intention is just the opposite, and it is achieved: to isolate events from the realm in which they could affect the experience of the reader. The principles of journalistic information (newness, brevity, clarity, and, above all, lack of connection between the individual news items) contribute as much to this as the layout of the pages and the style of writing. (Karl Kraus never tired of demonstrating the extent to which the linguistic habitus of newspapers paralyzes the imagination of their readers.)

What you could say about the press is even more true of electronic media under the First Amendment, here.  They are free to do service to the corporate oligarchy what the press in Imperial Austria did for their aristocracy.  Only it's easier to insert subversion in print, than it is over cables or controlled airwaves, problem is, with TV and radio available, not enough people will read it.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

OK, That Title Was Too Much of a Provocation

This video, a short excerpt of an interview with Carla Bley and Steve Swallow has an enormous amount of experience and wisdom about playing music in it.  What Steve Swallow says about musicians working on a solo over time, as Carla Bley says, giving out something to do with the composition instead of "yard goods", is incredibly useful to someone who doesn't have any idea of what the music is really about, in real experience.

His example of Miles Davis in that regard may force me to go back and listen to more of his music, he's never been one of my favorites, I like him best when he was playing under someone else.  You're not required to like everyone but if a musician as fine as Steve Swallow recommends someone, I feel obligated to give them another try.

Hate Mail Bag

My but they do go all deranged like Baby Jane on meth when you point out a comedian isn't funny. Or is a hypocrite.   

I wonder who Dennis Miller was supporting for the presidency in 1988. 

Update:  So, as great a fan and expert on Jonathan Swift as you will be able to come up with a list of improvements in the lives of the impoverished Irish directly due to Swift's "Modest Proposal" or even one that can be plausibly attributed to it.   You see, unlike you, I've actually read it, Brain Trustifarian. 

The Great Lie of The Great Power Of Satire

Well, now I've seen everything.   No, sorry to have gotten your hopes up, I'm not going to shoot myself in the head like in a Loony Tunes cartoon, now.

Someone got far enough into my post yesterday to read my update

[Update:  I also hear in the news just now that threats and violence against Jewish institutions and individuals are up in Europe, as well.   So, well done, Charlie Hebdo!  You showed them.]

And has decided that it meant I approved of the threats of violence against Jewish institutions and individuals in Europe.  Which, in the midst of a long post containing sarcasm, condemning what Charlie Hebdo does, inciting violence and a threat of violence, failed to communicate sarcasm, to at least one person.  Or at least one person who wants to pretend to not have understood my meaning. Which shows you just how effective satire is at getting a message across.

For some reason it made me think of Mort Sahl, the stand up comedian who was famous as a "satirist" who many of what would pass as urbane liberals would have claimed as an anti-establishment bird of a feather in the early 1960s.

His what-passes-for satire did nothing, though, to keep him from being a supporter of the presidential ambitions of Alexander "I'm in control here!" ""I would like to suggest to you that some of the investigations would lead one to believe that perhaps the vehicle the nuns were riding in may have tried to run a roadblock," Haig, after he claimed the presidency in the wake of the Reagan assassination attempt and his trying to blame the four murdered American Church women for their rape and murder by the El Salvadoran military thugs, trained, armed and funded by the U.S. government.

Now, isn't that a knee slapper.  It called to mind that 1956 interview of Dorothy Parker  I excerpted a part of a while back.

Ah, satire. That’s another matter. They’re the big boys. If I’d been called a satirist there’d be no living with me. But by satirist I mean those boys in the other centuries. The people we call satirists now are those who make cracks at topical topics and consider themselves satirists—creatures like George S. Kaufman and such who don’t even know what satire is. Lord knows, a writer should show his times, but not show them in wisecracks. Their stuff is not satire; it’s as dull as yesterday’s newspaper. Successful satire has got to be pretty good the day after tomorrow.

That it was part of Mort Sahl's stand-up act that he'd walk on with a newspaper under his arm and make cracks about topical topics is what made him a legend in what gets called "satire" now.  And his biting, anti-establishment satire was of such moral and intellectual power that he was able to endorse Al Haig for president.  Now, that is, actually,  the raw material for satire but if Dorothy Parker didn't feel up to it, I'm not going to even try.

I do think that it is the moral purpose that is missing from everything I've heard graced with the name "satire" these days.  And along with that disintegration of the denotation of the term, there has been an absurd overestimate of its influence in the world.  I mentioned the failure of the biting and often brilliant satire of the likes of Brecht and Karl Kraus to prevent the Nazis coming to power. There is no one working in English or French today, who I'm aware of, who can match either of them for writing talent or intellectual content mixed with truly dangerous ridicule.  While, of course, I've never witnessed one of Kraus's performances even the most sophisticated audience members said he was spell binding.  Even when he was reading other peoples' non-satirical material.  Yet Hitler came to power, made himself an absolute dictator, brainwashed Germans and Austrians in the millions and fomented one of the most homicidal regimes and one of the worst catastrophes in the history of our planet.   And they spoke the same language as Brecht and Kraus, the pitiful excuse for satirists we've got today probably couldn't reliably order up a meal from an Arabic restaurant without descriptions.

It's the attractive and easy thing to believe, that all we have to do is ridicule people and ideas and political movements and they'll magically go away, it's so much less work and leaves us so much more time to be witty and urbane and socialize and watch Comedy Central.  But it's a lie.  It's a lie that has worked far better for the Al Haigs than it has for the Maryknoll nuns who get killed while they're trying to change things.   I saw Al Haig's performance where he said that, part in a cover up of those murders, something he later tried to pretend hadn't happened.   I couldn't find the video on Youtube or online but as I recall, when challenged on his lie during the testimony, he tried to turn it into a nun joke.  I'm sure some found it funny.  Or found it advantageous to pretend to have.  Of course the terror war in El Salvador that was in service of was a victory for the oligarchs and fascists and American economic interests.   Even as Mort Sahl was joking about his endorsement of Al Haig.

Update:  The hate mail is coming in and it's obvious I have spoken truth to impotence.

Update 2:  Oh, yeah, I've always been sooooo impressed with how Jonathan Swift's brilliant satire did so much to improve British policy in Ireland in the subsequent decades and centuries.  And how it led to the enlightened British social policy of the 1840s and onward.   Which, are sarcastic remarks, not satirical ones.

Update 3:   An objection is made at Duncan's Brain Trust that I brought up - with citations in the friggin' New York Times, I'll point out - that Mr. Liberal c. 1960,  Mort Sahl was supporting a war hawk, right-wing Republican for president to succeed the husband of his good friend, Nancy Reagan.

Oh, yes, I remember it so well, in 1987 it was de rigueur among liberals to endorse Al Haig for president, even as the dirty, terror war in El Salvador he had a large part in waging was at its height and death squad murders were happening most every day.

And it is de rigueur among blog rat "liberals" c. in their own minds, to forget little details about that so they can make nostalgic pop-culture references to people who self-generated such inconvenient baggage as supporting the candidacy of a right-wing war criminal.

Like I said, you could make up satire out of this if the irony didn't block the way.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Ossi di Seppia - Paolo Fresu

Just feels right for the evening.

Update:  Danilo Rea e Paolo Fresu - "La canzone di Marinella"

What If The Attacks Don't Stop? What Next?

The morning news says that Al Qaeda in Yemen is taking credit for the attacks on Charlie Hebdo, policemen and innocent bystanders in a kosher market.   Oh, yes, it also carries the great new that Charlie Hebdo is supplying more of the fuel for the fire.

I am pretty sure that Al Qaeda and its central purpose will benefit from being associated with the killing and further benefitted from the stupid, macho stance of the Western media, producing more of the raw material for the creation of this cycle.  The people who would join or support Al Qaeda will be quite willing to take what is being played in our media as courageous defiance in yesterday's issue of Charlie Hebdo for more of the intentional provocation that led to the violence last week.  The Islamists who are supposed to be those attacked by the stupid cartoons will be among the greatest beneficiaries of it.  So Charlie Hebdo's issue is a win for violent fundamentalism of that kind.

I have no doubt that the Front National of Marie LePen and other European fascist and neo-Nazi parties will, also, benefit.  So, big win for Liberté, Égalité, et Fraternité, non?   Sometimes I think Moniseur Arouet and his friends were a lot better at coming up with slogans than they were at thinking stuff through.  And we haven't learned much in the two centuries after he died.   That the sciency enlightened folk have learned nothing of the past century of witnessing the power of hate-talk to destroy freedom, not to mention scores of millions of lives has lessons about the pretenses of that intellectual platform, as well.    Actually, I suspect that most of the English speakers bloviating about the events of the past week have never heard of Marie LePen or the Front National and have no idea that their imaginary, liberal, secular Europe is seeing a pretty shocking and dangerous resurgence in fascism and Nazism, as they decry laws against hate speech in places which had the full benefit of allowing fascists and Nazis free speech in the early decades of the last century.

[Update:  I also hear in the news just now that threats and violence against Jewish institutions and individuals are up in Europe, as well.   So, well done, Charlie Hebdo!  You showed them.]

Yesterday morning on the BBC during one of those two-minute debates, a British "free press" advocate also decried "self-censorship" when the host pointed out that the editor of  the  Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, which set off the cycle of violence over cartoons mocking Islam and Muhammad, said he was afraid to publish the most recent Charlie Hebdo cartoons.   Apparently being unwilling to irresponsibly provoke a violent response by publishing incredibly stupid, pointless cartoons is a vice.  And let's not self-censor on that matter, the Charlie Hebdo cartoons like every single other one I've seen in this series is stupid and pointless, saying  nothing about the historical figure, what he actually said or Islam in general.

It's odd that the spark that set this off isn't documented, scholarly critique,  but the stupidest level of ethnic and religious mockery, which would not be championed by anyone but neo-Nazis and the flakiest idiots in the "free speech" industry if those mocked were Jewish.  We know that because the hate speech against Jews published in countries where that is as acceptable as anti-Islamic hatred here isn't internationally championed by the "free speech" industry.

The angry condemnation against "self censorship" is one of the most telling stupidities of the pose of free speech absolutism because it is a total and complete denial of reality.   Everyone self-censors all the time, and no one self-censors like newspapers, magazines and other venues of the commercial press. The first and most widely spread form of self-censorship is called EDITING and the foremost reason that is done in the media is nothing higher than what will sell and what will inhibit sales.  Since the idiot I heard on the BBC was decrying someone else "self-censoring" because they didn't want to bring violence onto themselves, you wonder why she wasn't going out and drawing fire to herself by publishing that kind of offensive material, herself.  Only, I'm sure, she wouldn't want to be professionally associated with something as vulgar, pointless stupid or dangerous as the Charlie Hebdo cartoons.

Media is never not "self-censored" except in the make believe we are coerced into pretending is real.   No media is going to publish stuff that will kill off their product, or survive it it does.  So there is constant commercial self-censorship for financial reasons.  So, self-censorhip for that reason is OK, self-censorship as moral responsibility is immoral in this bizarre world view.

And among the free speech champions there are ideas that are subject to suppression by coercion.   In the idiocy of "free speech" theory as it has come to be practiced in the past century, anyone who brings up a wider consideration of the role hate speech plays in the oppression of other people is discouraged from saying it.  I have been encouraged and commanded, over and over again to shut up by the advocates of free speech and free press whenever I criticize the "free speech-free press" industry and their frequent sponsors, the porn-prostitution industry.

They're worried about some kind of "slippery slope" at the bottom of which the publication of seriously important speech would be banned.  Apparently they're worried that the human species is too stupid to distinguish between important speech in which difficult and truly important things must be said and the stupidest most absurd of intentional and unimportant offense which will incite violence.  Even when we know it will incite violence from past and recent experience and that the violence will enhance the status of those who are willing to mount a violent reaction to that offense.   Believe me, important speech isn't the winner when Al Qaeda's status and power have been enhanced through angering Muslims.   It isn't the winner when the sides in an ethnic dispute use free speech and free press to encourage one side to take up their machetes and slaughter the other side, as we saw in Rwanada, as the American administration rejected the plea to bomb the radio tower that was instructing the murderers in how to find their victims.  Free press, free speech was the reason given for that refusal.

Hate speech, the freedom to offend and provoke a violent response constitutes a slippery slope into a situation where freedom of important and responsible speech are the victim.  The pretense that we can't safely distinguish between the two is the grease that facilitates the slide down that slope.  And the professional self-interest of those in the free- hate speech, free- hate press industry is the motive of those who provide that.  When the results of what they advocate come, the worst part of our culture and societies are the greatest beneficiaries.  The people they victimize are victims of real violence, real discrimination.  It's only safe for the elite when those people can't hit back.   The great advocates of free speech, free press in the early United States were certainly not in favor of those for the people they held in slavery.   They wouldn't have tolerated speech that would have led them to escape their slavery and the  resulting loss of their privilege extracted from the labor of those slaves  if they enjoyed the most basic rights their enslavers pretended to advocate.  Our entire free-speech, free press discourse is dishonest because it suppresses a review of the complete reality of it.

So, I could go on and on but I'll leave it at this,


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Frank Glazer Plays Chopin Nocturne in E minor Op. posth. 72 No. 1

I just heard the news that Frank Glazer died.  I attended a masterclass he gave,  one of my friends played this piece for it.  He was a fine musician and a good teacher.  He was preparing a recital, from what I gather,  not bad for a piano player who was about to reach his hundredth birthday.   Here he is playing in a recital last February.

Makes you want to go out playing.  May he repose in peace, but not in silence.

Resolution Revealed

Inspired by the young jazz recorder virtuoso, Tali Rubinstein - a geezer my age should learn from the young instead of pretend we're one of them - and this incredible lecture, demonstration by Gary Burton, I'm going to try to work through and begin to deal with the scales and chords in all of the keys (including Db, Gb and other alternative enharmonic equivalents) and resources of improvisation on a cheap, plastic, though in-tune, recorder this year.   I figure it's my last chance, if I can't do it with the 2 octaves plus one note on a recorder I'll never do it.  I'd rather do it on a different instrument but figure if I don't get it in my ear and under my hands on a recorder that's never going to happen at my time of life.

Especially useful is his exposition of 10 jazz scales and the families of chords associated with them early in the video.   I had to go over it, taking notes a number of times before I got the three I wasn't already familiar with.  His advice on how to practice those strikes me as some of the most useful advice I've ever heard in a lecture on music theory and musical practice and, believe me, I've sat through more hours of those than you'd care to believe.

Of course that's only one kind of jazz improvisation.  If I get this far I might go and explore things like the Messiaen scales that Nelson Veras uses or the "harmonic expansions" Hristo Vitchev talks about in other videos.  Music is infinitely expansive and able to always be new,  those suckers who settle for listening to the same old, same old, same old, served up in the same way for fifty years are suckers.   Or maybe they just were never listening to it anymore than they were noticing the wall paper.

Two Provocative Ideas For Tuesday

The idea that we shouldn't believe Jim Jones when he said that he was an atheist pretending to be a Pentecostal preacher in order to dupe people into his cult carries a huge problem.  If he's lying about being an atheist, if he's unbelievable on that count, why isn't he also unbelievable on his professions of Christianity?

There is one good reason why its more plausible that he wasn't lying about being an atheist and it's something that atheists often use to deflect criticisms made of atheism.  His actions in forming an oppressive, enslaving and, ultimately, homicidal cult are entirely inconsistent with the Gospel he used as a false front, they aren't inconsistent with atheism.

Jim Jones' actions are more than a good reason to doubt his Christianity, it is a definitive reason to reject the assignment of that name to him and, certainly, of assigning guilt for him to other people whose conduct is entirely different from what he and his true believers, in him, did.

The same atheists who object to me bringing up Jim Jones are also atheists who, when someone brings up the notable moral lapses of famous atheists, such as Stalin and Pol Pot, will disavow responsibility because atheism is mere negation of belief in God and is nothing else.  Which is one of the oddest possible defenses as it points out why atheists who want to make moral criticisms of religious people have to reach outside of atheism for some basis on which to do that.  Atheism is a morally deficient basis for making moral criticisms.   Atheists can't be true to atheism when they invoke moral positions that atheism denies have a basis  just as Jews, Christians or Muslims can't be true to their religions as they violate the moral foundations embedded in the scriptures that are the bases of those religions.

Another example was in the news last year, when Tim Lambesis, a member of a "Christian" metal band, convicted of trying to hire a hit man to murder his estranged wife admitted that he and the other members of his band were, in fact, atheists.

He and other members of his band "As I Lay Dying" were pretty much faking Christianity for the money and fame.  Rather cynically manipulating their image to dupe people into thinking they were Christians for its career advantage.

“As far as the [YouTube] video I did explaining 'Pyrithion''s lyrics… I was trying to put out a fire. I was afraid it would affect As I Lay Dying sales, which would affect my overall income. I was trying to put out the fire by saying the easiest thing, 'I'm not a satanist!'" he explained in the Alternative Press interview.

"Truthfully, I was an atheist. The 'strategy' I had at the time was cowardly. Two of the songs on that record were about coming to grips with the idea that life has no purpose, no meaning. These were negative themes I wasn't 'allowed' to deal with in As I Lay Dying songs. I thought making As I Lay Dying darker would be bad for my career. That was my thinking," he continued.

Since I reject the compatibility of Christianity with the strutting, angry, sexist, nihilistic, cynicism of metal, I'm not convinced that the Christianity of many of his fans would have passed the least rigorous examination of conscience.  The threats made to the ex-wife and would be victim of his murder for hire are also reminiscent of the Jim Jones cult members who were ready to kill for him, something they wouldn't have gotten from Jesus who told his apostle to put away the sword he took out to defend him, or any of the prophets.

Murphy said the ordeal will haunt her for the rest of her life, leaving her always looking over her shoulder. She said many of his fans had sent her threatening messages on social media since his arrest.

"The question of who Tim talked to or will talk to will forever haunt me,” she said in that San Diego courtroom. “The scariest thing is Tim's notoriety. He has followers that will do anything for him. It's terrifying to think there are people out there motivated to kill me on his behalf."

All of which would violate nothing presented as a moral restraint by atheism but which violates just about the entirety of The Law and the prophets as elucidated by Jesus in The Gospels.  One of the more prominent warnings contained in The Gospels was that false prophets would always be there and ready to suck people in, the test against those being the actions of them and how well they accorded to The Law.

I will not assign guilt to atheists who don't form or support oppressive, enslaving, mind-controlling and homicidal cults for those atheists who do, even as I agree with those atheists who point out there is no moral content in atheism that could say those were objectively wrong.  For that reason it's even odder that atheists, in such large numbers, are eager and quick to assign guilt to Christians who reject those things and don't practice them, many of whom have opposed those things being done using the name of their religion and its central figures and ideas. Though, I will admit there is nothing in atheism to prevent them from practicing a double standard they form in their favor.  A belief in the reality of equally held moral obligations are not a necessary part of atheism, they are of intellectual integrity, though.

During the early stage of the TV fundamentalist revival in the late 1970s, in response to the "praise the Lord" cult, I once heard a woman who identified herself as a liberal Christian point out, "It's a lot easier to praise The Lord than it is to follow him."  Thus it was, thus it will always be.  But that tendency is certainly not restricted to religion, it is ubiquitous in human culture, just as religion is.

We don't use the massive amorality of commerce and banking to call for an end to commerce and banking, the lapses in scientific method and outright fraud as discrediting honest scientists and rigorously done and honest science.  We haven't let the even more notable lapses in medicine, education*, journalism, scholarship, all of them being as covered in grime and filth from immoral behavior countenanced by the human beings who are their agents be the definitive condemnation of those human activities.

Part of that is due to their utility, more so, I would hold, due to the wealth gained through them and, so, their prestige and power.   In the west, the ease with which the one area of human activity which contains absolute condemnations of lying, murder, oppression, etc, religion, is bashed is directly due to its relative weakness, as compared to most other human activities.  In trying to think of a close second, perhaps the public schools and work of other public servants might be good for comparison.


The fine blogger, Southern Beale asked an interesting question the other day, why, when a fanatical gunman shot up a Unitarian Universalist congregation weren't people all declaring that they were UUs?   Why weren't we all Planned Parenthood when Dr. Tiller was murdered (as he ushered at his Lutheran Church, I will always remind people)?

I think there are lots of reasons for that, the relative attention given by the media to the killing of their own and our total dependence on the media for information. What Charlie Hebdo was spewing was right-wing hate speech pretending it was in some way an expression of liberality, which has something to do with it.  The extent to which people who never saw or heard of Charlie Hebdo before late last week are just assuming they know the nature of what it was putting out and that it was some great and wonderful thing only proves how even the most educated of people can substitute their habits of thought for looking at what is as plain as the page in front of them.  I will write about how the civic ideals of freedom, liberty, etc. are hollowed out into mere and empty slogans by removing them from a context of morality, later.

I can't imagine if some fanatic attacked a liberal Christian organization that was truly speaking truth to power and wealth that it would have been given the same treatment in the media.  I doubt that if they were even reporters of fact as opposed to propagandists of accepted hate the story would have been played the same way.  The attacks against reporters in Russia, in countries around the world, reporters of fact instead of empty and vicious entertainment counts as little to nothing in the intellectual world as created by our scribbling, drawing establishment.

The extent to which hostility to religion moves the popular culture, the online dialogue and the intellectuals in the west since the late 19th century is one of the more surprising things I've learned since going online.  I'd never been exposed to a large enough range of the unedited thinking of such people until then to get a real sense of it.  That and looking at the history what has been politically powerful enough for liberalism to overcome the massive forces of selfishness, xenophobic and bigoted suspicions and jealousies and a myriad of other inherent obstacles it faces, have led me where I am now.  Liberalism is not friendly to those things that lead to fame and fortune, neither is the Gospel of Jesus, The Law or the prophets for the same reason, they are the most radical of all demands for equality, justice and rights.

Monday, January 12, 2015

My Hate Mail Overflows

Read The Links And Weep, Atheist Fellers. 

Update:  Like your Depends, ath-guy. 

Since Dawkins, Harris, and Their Fan-Boys Force The Issue

The challenge made to me last week, to name AMERICAN mass murders committed by atheists was one I was reluctant to answer.  Not because I couldn't but because I am loath to practice the same kind of group guilt that is the first resort of online atheists whenever some killing which has, or can be made to appear to have a religious association is in the news.  Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and other soft-handed, scientifically vetted bigots have revived the respectability of that kind of bigotry and the online intellectual world has taken it up in a way that a lot of us, fifty years ago, would never have believed we would see again in the post-Holocaust period.

Well, I did take up the challenge to some extent, noting an atheist hate-talker, serial murderer, one whose declarations, by their description,  would probably fit in easily at many if not most online atheist hate-talk venues, both blog and webloid.   I also mentioned the little known fact that Jim Jones, the pseudo-Pentecostalist and self-declared atheist was, by his own words, an atheist.   He explicitly said that he used the trappings of religion to gull people into his cult, of which, of course, he was the substitute for a god. Even as he led them to murder-suicide.  There's nothing in atheism that would keep an atheist who thought he could get away with it from pretending to be a Christian of some kind and doing what Jim Jones did.  And nothing in The Bible that would support it.

To those I could have added Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, and the man who inspired them, William Pierce, infamous as the neo-Nazi advocate of violence of the kind McVeigh and Nichols committed against the people in The Murrah Building in Oklahoma City, what was previously considered the biggest mass murder in American history prior to 9-11, the incident that Dawkins and Harris used to whip up hatred against religion and, especially, the 1.6 billion Muslims across the world.  I could have mentioned it but I don't own a copy of the book I read that in and had to borrow it over the weekend.

McVeigh read and recommended the white supremacist novel The Turner Diaries, which dramatizes attacks on Jews and racial minorities in order to establish "Aryan nations" and has scenes both of the bombing of the federal building and of an airplane being flown into a building in Washington, D.C.  The authore of Diaries, William Pierce, talked of being an atheist, as McVeigh and Nichols did occasionally, but they apparently only meant that they rejected a personal God.  Pierce held that the life force is evolutionary, with the white race at the pinnacle.

Juan Cole:  Engaging The Muslim World.

Now, I don't really get what Cole means by his assumption that they "only meant that they rejected a personal God" not having found any evidence that McVeigh or Nichols expressed themselves on that.   His attribution of replacing that with an evolutionary life force to William Pierce would fit right into some of the weirder aspects of German and, then, Nazi beliefs flowing from their interpretation of natural selection.  I don't think Ernst Haeckel or, in fact, Alfred Rosenberg would be far from it.  The belief that "the white race" would be at the pinnacle, could be directly derived from Charles Darwin and Thomas Huxley, both of whom were led to their belief in racial supremacist theories from their natural selection, a scientific racism they share with a line of the most orthodox scientific figures up to and including Watson and Crick, into the present generation.   None of which, I am sure, the people making that challenge to me or their inspirations, Dawkins and Harris would be happy to have forced me to point out.

Don't bother to challenge me to document that, I have, massively, in their own words, look at my archive.   Clearly, William Pierce was no orthodox believer in the God of Abraham, if he believed in the god substitute of Dawkins and Harris might make an interesting study, if I could stomach reading more of his hate talk.

I have read that Terry Nichols has had some remorse for what he did in prison and, though I haven't researched it, he has been accused of having a religious conversion.  McVeigh, though, didn't change his mind on that point.

In a letter to the Buffalo News daily in New York state yesterday, McVeigh used the word "sorry" for the first time, but instantly rendered it meaningless. "I am sorry these people had to lose their lives," he wrote. "But that's the nature of the beast. It's understood going in what the human toll will be."

There was anger in Oklahoma City yesterday after his claim that the bombing of a federal government building was a "legit tactic" in his war against the excesses of central government. Yesterday, his lawyer compared his role to that of a pilot who drops a bomb on a foreign country killing women and children. "He does feel for people but he doesn't feel like he did anything wrong," Mr Nigh said.

In his letter, McVeigh said he was an agnostic but that he would "improvise, adapt and overcome", if it turned out there was an afterlife. "If I'm going to hell," he wrote, "I'm gonna have a lot of company." His body is to be cremated and his ashes scattered in a secret location.

Since I doubt the guys who have been hectoring me on that point will check my references, I'll point out that it is from The Guardian, not some politically unacceptable venue.

While he was glorying in his macho declaration, his personal and seedy apotheosis, quoting that dreadful poem Invictus*, outside of the prison, Christians,  "faith heads" were protesting his execution and against capital punishment, in general.  McVeigh, of course, was not opposed to capital punishment and clearly relished his going out in that kind of glory.  He was, also, not, apparently, concerned with the other people who had been held on death row with him, also from The Guardian Article,

Before today, the federal government had not executed anyone since 1963. Most executions are carried out by the state authorities. Now death row opponents fear the floodgates may have opened. Another convict, Juan Raul Garza, is to be executed next week.

Sister Rita Gerardot, a Catholic nun who visits Terre Haute's death row, told the Guardian: "It's a very sombre mood. There's a lot of tension among the men, because they know that's their fate. They're like sitting ducks now."

Protesters from each side of the death penalty debate will be allowed to gather in separate locations. Yesterday, however, the only sign of protest outside the prison was a middle-aged man in a white T-shirt and baseball cap worn backwards holding a sign saying: "Pray for Tim's dad on Father's Day. God forgive all of us."

* I have not, nor do I especially wish to do enough research to discern if  the claim made by some atheists to William Ernest Henley (also an accusation of atheism by others) online, is accurate.  I can say that I think he's a pretty awful poet and that that poem is rather stupid.  Its use by those ranging from the great and good, Nelson Mandela, to the terrorist and supporter of apartheid, Ronald Reagan might indicate that it an empty vessel into which anyone can pour anything.  If it made McVeigh able to pretend that he was the master of his fate even as he was about to be proven rather definitively not to be might be worth considering.   Its agnostic declaration of thanks to"whatever gods may be For my unconquerable soul" certainly did nothing to stop McVeigh from killing many hundreds of people or to express any real remorse for having done it.

Update:  Hate against hate only doubles the amount of hate and reinforces the hate the haters are hating on.

Update 2:  Well, Mr. Atheist, you made me go back, again, and I realized that I left out that, when he was murdering at least 16 people, Jeffrey Dahmer was also a convinced atheist.  And that satisfied YOUR condition that it happen in the United States, as well.   Now, doesn't that make you happy?

Update 3:  If I'm mistaken about Darwin's relationship with Haeckel, and by the evidence of Darwin's own, published declarations, I'm not, and Haeckel's relationship with German scientific racism, and I'm not, then I shared that second misunderstanding with the atheist and eminent Darwinist, Stephen Jay Gould.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Michael Mantler - Prisoners - Many Have No Speech

Prisonniers  by Phillipe Soupault


One hundred and fifty of them here
Not sleeping
There are the ones who always wait
There are the ones who whisper a name
The ones who barely breathe
The ones who lie
There are the ones who suffer all the time
The ones who cry softly

The ones who sing

There are the ones who are hungry and thirsty
The ones who walk slowly
The ones who eat
There are the ones who scream with all their might
The ones who lower their heads
The ones who live

Men of suffering
Men of laboring
How long are our nights


Whines and The Whining Whiners Who Whine Them: Some, Not All, Comment Policy

1. All of the comments posted to my blogs go into moderation because there is often content in them I will not post and help to spread.

2. Foremost of those is invective against other people who a. post comments on my blogs, b. are other people who the commentator might lie about.  I won't use the fiction of legal inculpability as an excuse to allow my blogs to be used to spread lies. 

3. If your comment contains either of those or anything I think might be those, it will not be posted, though I may choose to respond to content in the comment.  I generally won't post the partial comment because the charges of "quote mining" "cherry picking", etc will, in my experience, follow the posting of an edited comment.

4. I am not obligated to post invective against me.  Though if I think I can use it, I will, as suits my purpose.  You don't like that, don't supply me with it. 

5.  Mistakes may be made.   I'm not the infallible Strunk and White,  after all.   OK, that last part was snark. 

6. If you're so ignorant as to not understand what "comment moderation" means, you shouldn't complain when your comments go into moderation, you should look up the concept.