Saturday, October 3, 2015

"staunchly supportive despite all" The New York Times Review of Books Review of Mother Country

Note:  The recent controversy over the New York Review of Books hiring Andrew Roberts to review the Niall Ferguson's official biography of Henry Kissinger, Roberts having been both Kissinger's first choice to write his official biography (you can read that as "hagiography" with complete assurance of accuracy) who, reportedly gave up the plum assignment because he didn't choose to wade through Kissinger's self-collected papers and it generally being too much work than he wanted to put into it.  So another star neo-con quasi-academic type, Ferguson, was the second choice.   The "public-editor" for the Times was forced to give that most pathetic of excuses,  "mistakes were made" when lots and lots of people complained that they'd obviously hired a reviewer with the most obvious of conflicts of interest and ideological smoke screens to spread.   Henry Kissinger is a war criminal who, if he had worked for a less powerful government, would likely have been indicted and if arrested would likely have passed the last decades of his life in prison, his crimes include those in Latin America and South-East Asia involving the deaths of huge numbers of people.   Beside those his frequently cited role in the rapprochement between the United States and the massively corrupt and criminal Chinese government has to rank as one of the most vulgar and cynical of defenses ever mounted in the face of massive criminality.   Pointing out that Al Capone financed a soup kitchen would be a far more intellectually honest defense of that penny ante criminal of the same kind.  

The New York Times, like so many institutions based in that city, has always been vastly overrated, the Book Review no less than their editorial pages.   It has always been a reliable prop of the establishment with the rare and always "responsible" (you can read that "ineffective" with complete assurance of accuracy) opposing points of view included.  I wrote an analysis of the review with which they helped sink one of the most important books you've likely not heard of before, sunk at the same time by the British establishment which it critiqued most devastatingly.   The choice of a reviewer with obvious conflicts of interest in the topic was just as plain as the choice of Andrew Roberts in the current case.  So I'm going to repost that piece.   I repost it because the New York Review of Books is part of the cover up of the many murders that came from choices and decisions that "Kissinger: The Ideal­ist" made in his public career.   It has long taken upon itself the task of slipping the intellectual equivalent of  Rohypnol to the NYT reading class when it was deemed desirable to have them forget stuff like that.  

In the days as the Fukushima reactors were melting down,  there were a number of blog fights on the topic at Eschaton blog, where I hung out quite a lot.   I was involved on the anti-nuclear side.   One of the the pro-nuclear antagonists, and in his case that word is a massive understatement, was one,  Chris Tucker,  a typical example of the frequently encountered angry atheist whose religion is scientism.   Some of us brought citations from The Union of Concerned Scientists, George Kistiakowsky, other specialists I don't specifically remember to the argument.  Tucker brought an xkcd cartoon asserting that the dilution of nuclear pollution in the general, background radiation,  make it innocuous,  harmless.   As an aside, I wish I had ten bucks for every time some college educated  disciple of scientism had turned to the authority of xkcd or the like to, as they believe, clinch an argument.

When I pointed out that the cartoonist included a disclaimer at the bottom that his drawing shouldn't be mistaken as a serious reference,  Tucker, who was prone to enraged tantrums, had one.  He had a number of them over the coming weeks at a number of us, as our predictions of meltdowns and pollution became lines in news stories, stories that were clearly pushing a nuclear industry line of minimization of the risks of what many scientists, some of them prominent figures in nuclear science, warned of. 

Believing that the truth merely has to be true in order to justify telling it,  I'm going to tell the rest of the story.   It would probably be called out of bounds and, somehow, outrageous to note that in the weeks after that, Chris Tucker announced that he had been diagnosed with thyroid cancer and that he  was reported to have died after several months of reportedly drastic therapy, the modern medicine he expressed a rather bleak hope in.  It will be seen as unseemly to note this outcome to his story, though I, for the life of me, can't understand what is unfair about noting the extreme coincidence and irony of him very possibly serving as an example of what we were talking about mere months before.   I will tell it to stand in for those people who will die of thyroid and other cancer deaths, the people who ingested or inhaled nuclear materials from the Fukushima meltdowns and will die of it, many of whom didn't promote nuclear energy on a leftish blog, sitting on North America as the Fukushima reactors were melting down, as it were, before our eyes, remotely.


I mentioned the New York Times review of Mother Country in my post yesterday.   It was one of the cases when that most august of book reviews assigned someone with a clear, ideological agenda against the subject of the book to review it.  Typical of scientists who want to shift attention from the argument,  Max Perutz, began his review by putting the case Marilynne Robinson made against the Sellafield operation which was intentionally and knowingly  and openly pumping nuclear wastes, including plutonium, into the ocean.

Here in Britain we are all criminals: guilty of conniving at a crime against humanity committed by a government that is polluting the Irish Sea, the British Isles, the entire globe with the radioactive discharges from its nuclear plants at Sellafield, a village in northwest England, on the Irish Sea.

Just to start, Perutz clearly lied about what the book said.   As I've shown this past week, in one of the most detailed indictments ever given in a book of the type, Marilynne Robinson took enormous care to show that the large majority of Britains were innocent of the pathological indifference and selfishness that allowed the Sellafield plant.   Even if the New York Times reviewer and eminent scientist, Max Perutz, had entirely neglected to read the long first section of the book, the second section that deals with Sellafield is largely concerned with showing how it was the British people, themselves, who were the first and most numerous victims of the criminal acts of the British government and the industrial-scientific elite which lied to them and duped them.  

Having attempted to achieve the discrediting of the book by absurd exaggeration, Perutz immediately went in for the kill by noting that Robinson was a novelist, as he continues to mischaracterize a very detailed and carefully stated case.

According to Marilynne Robinson, the author of the novel House-keeping and now of the book under review, “The earth has been under nuclear attack [from Sellafield] for almost half a century.” This book is aflame with indignation at the diabolical practices of the British Atomic Energy Authority, at the irresponsibility of our National Radiological Protection Board, at the careless indifference of our venal members of Parliament and of the British public, at the American press for failing to warn unsuspecting tourists of the deadly dangers threatening their health if they set foot on these poisoned isles, and the American government for wasting its armed forces on their protection.

The effrontery of non-scientists in questioning what scientists do is a common and frequent resort in these kinds of confrontations.   Especially, but not exclusively,  those scientists with a financial and professional interest, what for most of us constitutes a likely impeaching SELF-INTEREST.  It is interesting to note that a short review in arts section of The Times,  the editor of The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Len Ackland noted the same passage to an entirely different tone:

Sellafield, located in Cumbria on the northwest coast of England, is the sprawling industrial complex where Britain produces deadly plutonium for war and for profit. In the process the Irish Sea has been turned into a radioactive cesspool, untold damage has been inflicted on the human and natural environment. ''The earth has been under nuclear attack for almost half a century,'' in Ms. Robinson's words. She seeks to expose why this outrage has been allowed to happen.

I will take a step into the present to point out that even according to the British government, Sellafield today is the ongoing and developing disaster that Mother Country warned of almost a quarter of a century ago.  Since it is part of Perutz's discrediting operation to fault the book for concentrating on Sellafield,  citing that concentration on that outrage instead of on the American sites that were also releasing nuclear pollution,  I will point out, in passing, that in the American context, the cult of national security could stand in place of the British class system in providing cover for the same kind of outrageous, criminal behavior in the United States.  History seems to be vindicating the case Marilynne Robinson made in a way that it hasn't Perutz's review, it is also vindicating those who have been making similar arguments about the Hanford and other sites, to a similar reaction presented in the name of science,  here.

Perutz's hatchet job on Mother Country, appearing in the extremely influential New York Times Review of Books, probably had a similar effect on its suppression that the lawsuit did in Britain.  Being the land of the First Amendment, the means of suppression here take a peculiarly American form and a bad review in the NYTRoB probably is more effective than the suppressive British libel law* in achieving that end.

I will grant to the Review of Books that they published a response by Marilynne Robinson, with a reply by Perutz, and further exchanges with other letter writers.  Oneby David J. Brenner, Ph. D.
Assistant Professor Center for Radiological Research Department of Radiation Oncology
Columbia University, New York City was a succinct refutation of Perutz's major scientific assertions in the review,  claims related to the xkcd cartoon mentioned above.  Since, as published, his letter ends in ellipsis, it makes you wonder what else he had to say which the NYTRB didn't think was fit to print.    A further letter from Jay M. Gould, Director, Radiation and Public Health
Project, United Church of Christ, pointed out further problems with the pro-nuclear case Perutz made.  All of those and Perutz's responses are still worth reading.   

I suspect fewer people read the exchanges than read the original review and that those had far less of an influence in the reception of the book by the audience for such books.   The role that the review had in the de facto suppression of what is an important book is worth considering.  The Review, as all other influential book reviewing bodies, at times, assigns books to people with a known bias, as it did in this case.  I don't believe that assignment isn't done without an intention.  

Marilynne Robinson was clearly aware that her status as a lay person instead of within the hierarchy of science would be used against her.  She was clearly aware that her status as a novelist would be used against her.   In the first paragraphs dealing directly with Sellafield she made what is as clearly true a case as possible justifying her book:

Having come finally to my subject, Sellafield, I am forced to confront the epic scale of my narrative.  My inability to invoke a suitable muse is really my only deficiency in treating this great subject.  To the objection that I know very little about plutonium,  I can reply that I know better than to pour it into the environment.  On these grounds alone I can hope the British nuclear establishment will learn something from my work,  so that I may repay them for the insights they have given me into the nature and prospects of humankind.  

The point that anyone can know enough about plutonium so as to know better than to pour it into the ocean is sufficient to support the case against doing that.   The fact is that even scientists have to rely on nontechnical literature to inform them of things their professional competence doesn't prepare them to understand.  The decisions of voters depend on that kind of information. That plutonium is, in fact, being pumped into the environment isn't denied by Perutz and other nuclear industry apologists, they have to rely on denying the science that indicates it is dangerous.  As Robinson pointed out in her reply to his review:

Mr. Perutz’s argument, an argument which this eminent man clearly intends as a daunting and chastening demonstration of the scientific mind in action, suggests that scientific discourse is not what it claims to be, or what we must all wish it were. His essential tactic is to dissociate radiation from cancer and environmental damage, and to imply that an unsavory mix of hysteria and ignorance is the whole cause of my indignation.

and later:

And look at what Mr. Perutz concedes: Britain reprocesses wastes from its own and foreign civil reactors, and, in the course of producing plutonium, flushes plutonium into the sea, where a quarter ton of it has now accumulated. Plutonium and caesium 137, the only materials Mr. Perutz chooses to talk about in any detail, “were expected” to have no harmful effect because one is insoluble and the other highly soluble in water. After thirty long years these expectations were at last found to have been disappointed—there is plutonium in the surf and the wind, plutonium is highly concentrated in fish and shellfish, which people are allowed to eat. Children in the region of the plant develop leukemia at a rate ten times the national average. A government committee has considered that exposure to plutonium is a “conceivable explanation.” The government concealed information about the Windscale fire in 1957. The factories at Sellafield have produced misleading information about their discharges. When radioactive effluent is found on the coast, the government must be told to warn the public and to clean it up. The plant is shoddily built and technically primitive, characterized by “scandalous malpractices” which have shaken public confidence. The functioning of the plant through its whole history has been based on naive assumptions about the “harmful biological effects of radiation and the possible buildup of radionuclides in living creatures.”


As can be said of religion, there really is not a single thing that is "science" about which you can make accurate, unconditional universal statements.  Science discovers good and useful things that enhance and extend life, it informs us of how we could try to save environments and species and, in fact, our own species. It produces a lot of information which is mainly valuable because it is fun instead of useful for anything.  It also produces weapons, biological, chemical, bullets and bombs of increased killing power, it produces oil wells, pumping secret poisons to frack for gas and environmental toxins that probably will be bemoaned in the same media that is promoting them.  What science has given to us with one hand it has taken, and more so, with the other.   When any criticism is made of science, as in all professions, there is a circling of the wagons and they blast away at their critics with everything they've got.   Much of that effect is enhanced by massive funding of public relations by the industries and the governments that the malignant science is produced for.

In order to kill a book dealing with a technical,  scientific or scholarly topic, one of the most effective things is to give it a general air of unreliability with the casual, slightly informed reader who would likely pick it up or buy it.  The kind of person who reads The New York Review.  A bad review of the kind noted above can kill a book in that way.  I think reviewers know that they have that power.  They may not with movies or sensational garbage that can flourish on bad reviews, but for a serious book on a serious topic, which would never be likely to make any best sellers list, that power is a serious impediment to our intellectual life.  In the case of this book, it was a danger to the ability of an informed people to make political decisions and the lives of many millions of people.

* As unsuccessfully resorted to most infamously and, luckily, ineffectively, by David Irving.

Update:  After trying to justify those broken lines in the text a number of times, trying to tease out the HTML to fix them, I'm giving up.   Please excuse the spaces. 

Friday, October 2, 2015

Hate Mail

I am asked why I so often slam the United States Constitution.   Given the record of the Supreme Court for the past fifty years and the catastrophic results, things like unrestricted gun sales and ownership making semi-automatic weapons available to homicidal psychopaths, resulting in mass murder after mass murder for decade after decade and the stinking corruption by entrenched, indifferent enablers of that horrifying history like the NRA becoming the determining factor of that in our politics, all using the United States Constitution as its controlling document, calling it anything other than the source of the problem is a huge, fat, obviously and indifferently and corruptly told lie. 

The Constitution is the problem, it was a badly compromised document of the last third of the 18th century, born out of corrupt motives and including some of the most blatant corruptions possible including making it practically impossible to correct those.  It took the Civil War to get rid of only a few of the most obvious of them, that was an enormous clue as to how bad it was.   The phony, hypocritical reverence for the thing is a national pathology given the problems that it causes and allows and encourages in the hands of those who benefit from those problems.   The worship of the Constitution is a form of idolatry which includes the unlimited sacrifice of people, even the youngest of children.  It is a modern form of Moloch worship.   

Someone has to stop lying about that. 

Update:  This is too serious an issue to waste space on pointing out the stupidity at the jr. high on the Delaware. 

Gustav Mahler - Urlicht

Sara Mingardo, alto
Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della RAI
Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, conductor

Primeval Light

O little red rose!
Man lies in greatest need!
Man lies in greatest pain!

Even more would I rather be in heaven!
There I came upon a broad path.
There came an angel and wanted to turn me away.
Ah no, I would not be turned away!
Ah no, I would not be turned away:
I am from God and want to return to God!
The loving God will give me a little of the light,
will illuminate me into the eternal blessed life!

Serial Mass Murder Is A Thing Thanks To Our Constitution

The mass murder by gun at the Umpqua Community College missed out of being the golden anniversary mass murder by a year, it being only 49 years since the inaugural mass shooting at a place of learning in the United States, the University of Texas shooting of 1966, in which 14 people were murdered and 31 injured, shot from a clock tower.  Since none of the names of the victims of these murders is ever mentioned or remembered I won't mention the name of the murderers who are generally the only ones mentioned by name.    I don't point out the number of years since that iconic event in American history and that we are one year shy of the half-century mark as a form of black humor or irony but just as a means of showing how long this problem has been slapping our nation in the face to no effective remedy and as a means of pointing out why that has not been happening. 

Nothing will be done, nothing has been done because the gun industry and its propaganda arm, the National Rifle Association and their property, the Republican Party and the mass media will prevent anything from being done, the thuggish American judiciary will see to nothing happening if they won't.  The excuse will be one of the worst written amendment of the Constitution, a document filled with things that should have been changed by the past two and a quarter centuries but which won't be changed because the method of changing the Constitution contained in the document gives the corrupt, the paranoid and insane a veto on changes to the Constitution.   And, thanks as well to the naivete of our fumbling founders, commercial interests have the most reliable of all vetoes on sanity and morality.   

We are a nation living under a Constitution that does not do the first things it claimed were the reasons for its existence, it does not,  "establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity"  it doesn't even protect us from the gun industry and the most corrupt politicians and media scum who went after the SURVIVORS of the attack on the Sandy Hook Elementary School, it is the vehicle by which the commercial and political sponsors of this serial mass murder among us operate.  This has been going on for a half a century and we are farther away from an any real address of it than were were in 1966 by Supreme Court rulings citing that Constitution.   That fact is all the proof any rational person would need to see that our Constitution is so bad that we can't even use it to stop attacks on SCHOOL CHILDREN.   We are terrorized by the gun industry who are arming the insane, enabled by the legal establishment and the media, all due to the fact that the Constitution enables them and prevents our government from protecting us.   

There, I said it. 

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Pauline Viardot - Aimez-Moi Ma Mignonne and Hai Luli!

Back when I posted Brahms' Alto Rhapsody, I looked into the performance history to see if there was an off chance that the soloist had lived into the recording era.  I found out that the original performance, under Brahms' instruction, was given by Pauline Viardot who lived till 1910, though I don't find that she ever made a recording, having retired even before she sang the Alto Rhapsody in 1870.  Brahms asked her to come out of retirement to sing it so her voice must have still been remarkable, even then.  The reported range of it, well over three octaves and the range of roles she sang and originated, at the request of top rank composers, would mean she must have been able to sing alto and soprano, a rarity in itself.

But, even if I didn't find any recording  of her I found out she must rank as one of the most fascinating and accomplished people of her times with one of the most remarkable musical careers of all time. It started by growing up in a family of famous and accomplished Spanish opera singers who not only toured Europe but also gave the first performance of Don Giovanni in the United States, with the librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte* in attendance, Don Giovanni being a specialty of their performances.

She was a fine pianist who took lessons with Liszt and studied composition under Anton Reicha as well as having instruction in voice from her parents and others.  She wanted to pursue a career as a pianist, having acted as the accompanist for her father's music studio before he died when she was 11(!) but her mother insisted that she concentrate on singing.   Which might have been the right decision because her career as a singer was nothing short of spectacular, her huge vocal range allowed her to sing a cadenza - I'd guess of her own invention - based on The Devil's Trill by Tartini, a virtuoso display piece for violin. which launched her into fame.

Her personal and musical life included friendships with Chopin, and George Sand, who were her intimate friends.  She introduced them to Ivan Turgenev who, remarkably, quit Russia to go be with her in France and, though she was married with children, he moved into her home and became a part of their household.  

In the course of looking for information about her I found out that she was a very good composer, herself, that, too, a rarity among singers after the 18th century.  Franz Liszt declared her the first woman composer of genius and Chopin consented to her adapting, with his assistance, some of his mazurkas into songs.  She composed several chamber operas to stories by Turgenev and one full, though short opera,

I am only beginning to learn about her and am planning on posting more about her this month.  To start with,  here are some songs which show she had her own style and put her knowledge of vocal music into them.  The accompaniments show her intimate familiarity with the piano, as well.  

Françoise Masset accompanied by Françoise Tillard

Cecilia Bartoldi, accompanied by Myung-Whung Chung

And a remarkable Cossack Lullaby which might have a bit to do with her association with Turgenev.

Jacqueline Laurin, Soprano
Laurent Martin, Piano

*  Who knew Mozart's greatest librettist moved to the United States where he operated a grocery store as well as being the first Jew and Catholic priest to teach at Columbia (college, then)?   Nor that he was born a Jew and was also ordained a Catholic priest who, none the less, had a mistress and fathered children by her.   I'll be looking into Da Ponte a bit more, as well.  It's incredible where the librettist of Don Giovanni, Cosi fan Tutti and The Marriage of Figaro ended up, why was I not taught this when I studied Mozart at university?

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Pope Meets With The Pentacostalist

So, I've got a message saying, in effect, "Na, na, na, na, nah, the pope met with Kim Davis".  As if that's going to upset me.  I read the report that he met with her, in secret, that her lawyer leaked the story and that he gave her some rosaries and told her to keep praying.   I don't see anywhere that her marriage status was mentioned, nor her apostasy from the Catholic church, under whose rules, as they stand now, she couldn't receive communion.

I was curious to see what her new, Pentecostal, church thought of Catholicism and the Pope, suspecting it could have, not long ago, called it  "the whore of Babylon" or some such thing.   What I found was a bit more interesting.

According to what I read online, she belongs to "Oneness Pentacostalism" which, I have to admit, I didn't know from Muggletonianism.   Reading about it I wondered how much the Pope understood, since he gave her rosaries.  The "Oneness" church is anti-trinitarian and, I read, rejects the Nicean Creed.  Which would make the rosary a non-starter as it begins with the trinitarian formula of the sign of the cross and, immediately, goes into the Apostles Creed which, I doubt, the Oneness theology would countenance anymore than the Nicene Creed.  Not to mention the Hail Marys before another trinitarian prayer, Glory be to the Father, and a lot more Hail Marys.    Needless to say the differences between Roman Catholicism and the Oneness church are somewhat bigger than those questions of the "filioque" clause of the creed which the Catholic and Orthodox churches split over and have kept them apart for a real long time.   I'd really like to know what they make of Catholic Marian theology.

As to "keep praying" I'd say the same thing to her, praying for a better grasp of the responsibility to practice equal justice and the difference between her personal belief and her official duties.

I said the other day that I doubted Pope Francis understood the issues involved, I suspect, even more so, that some right-wing member of the hierarchy arranged the meeting to cause mischief during the Pope's visit, trying to spin it to the right of where it was likely to settle.

Jesus, specifically, criticized Kim Davis's marriage and divorce choices, he was silent on a single, monogamous gay marriage.   Overlooking that makes it legitimate to ask what else could be overlooked.   I knew there were things I didn't agree with Pope Francis about, but there are a lot more things, some of which, like climate change and economic justice are more important.  Even with gay marriage the law of the land, those issues still endanger LGBT folk as much as they do everyone else. He's still to the left of Barack Obama or any of the other secular leaders of the world.

Update:  Well, yes, actually, Jesus did criticize Kim Davis's marriage and divorce choices,  Luke 16:18.   I know it's kind of, you know, old fashioned but, reading, it works.

A Republic of Lies Will Be Governed Of By And For The Liars

If Ahmed Mohammed could sue Maher, Dawkins, Palin, and the media companies which have spread lies about him for slander the story of his false arrest would have died a long time ago.   Since lies and and the lying liars who lie them have been given First Amendment protection by a series of some of the stupidest and most destructive Supreme Court rulings, I'd guess that's a lot less likely to succeed.

To which the idiotic answer given by the free speech industry is "more speech" but a 14-year-old kid should not and could not compete with the combined forces of adult liars from Sarah Palin to Richard Dawkins-Bill Maher.   No reasonable person would claim to believe that he had the star power and the media and other connections to prevail in such a fight of speechifying.   The "more speech" slogan is a fraud invented by the media which has always had an interest in having their false statements protected from legal action by those they harm with their speech.   The libertarian spin put on the First Amendment in the past half-century and longer was always guaranteed to enhance the power of those with the most resources and influence.

The first blog post I ever wrote took a swipe at Nat Hentoff, one of the most annoying and creepy of the professional "free speech" and Code of Liberal Ethics scolds.  The kind who were forever worried that some liberal, somewhere was being unfair to a Nazi.  That was in 2006, before the Village Voice dumped him and he did what any one who had read between his lines might have foreseen, he went to the Koch bros. funded Cato Institute and, I hear, he then wrote for the far-right World Net Daily, or as a few of us know them as, World Nuts Daily.   Some on the left lamented that he had switched sides, just like they did when Christopher Hitchens went full neo-con.   I didn't really understand the issue fully in 2006 but looking more closely at the phenomenon of pseudo-liberalism, pseudo-leftism has led me to understand that they were never really liberals, they were always enablers of the right, they were always enablers of those with control of the media they worked in or, in the case of Hitchens, would work for.   I recall some of those at The Nation pined after him like jilted high-school lovers when they should have said, "good riddance" and learned something from the experience about why they got suckered in by him in the first place.   The left should scrap its support for guys like them.

Making the United States safe for broadcast lies, protecting the liars from those they hurt with their lies was always a really stupid thing that was always bound to be most useful to those who had an interest in lying, in duping people into believing a lie.  That is the nature of lying in a political and commercial context.  It was always guaranteed to harm people without money and power and it was always guaranteed to destroy self-government and democracy.  The great irony in this is that "free speech" was held to be an absolute value when its only value comes from SPEAKING THE TRUTH. Freedom to lie is not a value, it is an evil and an evil which, if not stopped, will destroy us.   Power can be amassed with lies, the history of dictators, especially those like Hitler who gained power through an election are all the proof anyone needs to see that truth.  It is that potential that makes the simplistic, non-judgemental pose taken by the "free speech" industry so insidious.   Lies permitted and given the protection of judicial decisions are at the bottom of most of the public evil that we experience.   There was never anything about this that wasn't obvious, none of it was a mystery.   It's stunning that some of the great minds of the past century have been so duped by such an obvious lie. But, whatever else can be said, the experiment was run and the results include that democracy is on its deathbed.

When Entertainment Informs Our Political Lives It's Not "Just" Entertainment

Yesterday noon, I found this comment from Steve Simels:

You went on about 24, and I guarantee you've never watched a single episode. And if you claim you have, everyone will know you're full of shit, so don't even bother. on Blithering Brain Trustifarians At Noon

I didn't have time to write a response so I posted the piece from Eric Deggans about how the TV and Hollywood depiction of torture "working", of the brave cop or government agent bending and breaking the law and using torture to find the ticking time bomb, was causing real problems for real government agents and leading their sadistic colleagues in other departments into using torture, which the real experts in interrogation were talking about.

And, after that, what did Simels do, he posted this.

So you never saw any of this stuff? Quel surprise. 

Well, since I was able to locate it, copy it and put a disclaimer on it in about seven minutes during my short lunch break, obviously I'd seen it before, it and similar things I've seen online, with clips pirated from 24 showing what the FBI experts and torture opponents were criticizing is what informed my criticism of 24, Keifer Sutherland, his hypocrisy as a prominent member of the leftish New Democratic Party of Canada and associated matters.   I think it's a pretty good guess that what Sutherland does in 24 has far more real effect in the real world than his mealy-mouthed memories of his grandfather, one of the founders of the NDP, which has never held a parliamentary majority in Canada.    I suspect his association with the NDP is better for him than his for the NDP.

The simple non-thinking of the comments to me aren't especially surprising or interesting coming from my volunteer lab rat in the befuddled thinking of the conceited "reality community" in which everything, no matter how obviously self contradictory or contrary to facts, must work out meaning they're right.   Which might really be what's at the bottom of all fundamentalist thinking, right-wing Republican and pseudo-leftist liberalish-libertarian.  Not caring about the transcendent category of thought, the truth, their goal isn't to find it but to find some pretended way to make what they want to be the case, be the case, even when the disconfirmation is plain as the monitor in front of their noses.

I am afraid that the ability of people to choose what they watch to inform their thinking leads to this kind of cul-de-sac thinking, something which, when they got their information from a regular news programs which had some degree of objective choice in what was discussed, was less likely to happen.  I think it accounts for some of the hardening of opinion, especially that which isn't informed by reality but is formed on the basis of what people like.   That process will, I suspect, always lead right and not to a real left which is dependent on two things, an informed concept of the real world and, even more so, an honest pursuit of things which are not especially gratifying to the narrow self and which are not infrequently not what gratifies our selves.   The Bible says, You will know the truth and the truth will make you free, not "you'll think what you'd like to be true and that will make you free".   I'm afraid, as the polls show, more people probably have heard of 24 and Kiefer Sutherland than have bothered to look at the Senate report on torture or even heard a news report of what it said.   It's 24 that informs their political choices, not reality.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

I Will Take This Post Down Within 24 Hours, I'm Posting It Only Because I Need To Answer A Comment And I Don't Have Time To Write It

This is a report by Eric Deggans from NPR from last December.

As the CIA and Senate Intelligence Committee clash over whether so-called enhanced interrogation techniques are considered torture, another question arises: Have depictions of torture on TV and film helped convince us that it works?

Consider this warning that recently greeted viewers of ABC's political soap opera, Scandal:

"The following drama contains adult content. Viewer discretion is advised."

That label was slapped on the episode because of scenes like the moment when trained torturer Huck prepared to ply his trade on colleague (and soon-to-be girlfriend) Quinn Perkins.

"Normally, I'd start with the drill or a scalpel," he told Perkins, who was bound and gagged, looking on in terror. "Peeling off the skin can be beautiful. Or removing fingers, toes; I like the feeling of a toe being separated from a foot. ... I'm so sorry, because I'm going to enjoy this."

Scenes like that have become a regular part of some popular TV shows and movies. People may disagree in real life, but in Hollywood, torture works....

UPDATE:   I decided to leave this much up because the comment made was too good to take down with the post.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Leo Brouwer - Sonata de Los Viajeros

João Luiz and Douglas Lora, Brasil Guitar Duo

Blithering Brain Trustifarians At Noon

QL, honey, if you're going to comment on something I write, at least read what I wrote.  It doesn't really reflect any kind of  higher intelligence to take a passage as clipped by Steve Simels as reliably indicating the context that gives it meaning.  I know you guys over there are allergic to anything longer than three sentences but, really, some arguments take a few more than that to be made.  You might have gotten a clue from the qualifier, "as given by Reuters", earlier in the article I questioned its accuracy or completeness.  But you'd have to, you know, have read it to know that.

Really, Simels.  You're going to take what the Ann Coulter of Escahton says as accurate.

As for his comment that lead me to read yours,

Steve Simels, blog malignancy  SkepticTank • 3 hours ago
these guys really, truly, are fascists who speak English and who 
actually hold political offices, here and now promoted on the Murdoch 
family of companies. This is what watching Family Guy and 24 pays for.

If he's ever watched a movie made at any time in its history by 20th Century Fox, then objectively he's a Nazi.

He must forget his perennial accusation made against me that I don't watch movies, which he apparently considers a mortal sin.

R. McGeddon" believes Shakespeare in Love is a "bio-pic". 

Here's a clue, numbnuts -- in terms of genre, it IS a bio-pic. You may think it's not factually accurate, but that's irrelevant. It's like saying that you believe STAGE COACH is a quote " western" unquote.

On the other hand, given that you don't watch movies its no wonder that on the subject you have no idea what you're talking about.

It could be said, with complete confidence, that I've never paid to watch a 20th Century Fox movie since Rupert Murdoch bought the company because I've been to see exactly one movie in a theater since then, the tail end of the first run of Hairspray, which was from New Line Cinema, I believe under Warner Bros. though maybe Simps would know something about that, at least.  Though he does think that things that are entirely made up constitute "biography" so maybe he'd just make that up too.   An inability to discern reality from fiction seems to account for a lot of what he says.

I don't watch FOX, I didn't even before I gave up TV when they switched to HD or even before that when I realized cable was a huge rip-off, certainly not in any form that would put money into Murdoch's pocket so people like Tucker Carlson can put the neo-Neues Volk thinking of the mayor of Lewiston, Maine on TV.   I have watched pirated clips of neo-fascist content in some of FOX entertainment programming of the kind Simels goes nuts about when someone criticizes it and its "news" programming, often as clipped by the competition at MSNBC and the Comedy Channel so I know what they're doing before I comment on it.  Maybe you'd like to try that kind of thing before you comment on things.

Update:  Literally every, single thing in "Shakespeare in Love" was fiction, even calling the guy "Shakespeare" which he never managed to sign his name as in any of the examples supposedly of his writing that are extant.

Willm Shakp
William Shaksper
Wm Shakspe
William Shakspere
Willm Shakspere
By me William Shakspeare

Every, single thing in the movie is pure invention.  It's easy to know that because the list of verifiable facts about Willaim Shaksper is short and other than his marriage to his wife, the birth of his children, the death of his son and a few personal odds and ends, everything else is a hodge podge of pedestrian business dealings and lawsuits.   There isn't enough to make up an absorbing narrative about an accountant out of it.   Given his inability to write his own name consistently or legibly I'd say that even the assertion that he ever wrote anything else is fiction.  I wonder how many of the writers in history even those who didn't use standardized spelling managed to mangle their own signature that badly, even on different pages of the same document.

No, you didn't even have to see that one to know it was fiction, not biography.

Update 2:  That's called, "Hanging by a thread while twisting in the wind" Sims.  Only in your case it's more like hanging with a thread.

Putting The Worst Spin On It Is What The Online Media Does

The headline says: The Pope Just Handed Kim Davis A Huge Win

The story says:

On the flight back to Rome, he was asked if he supported individuals, including government officials, who refuse to abide by some laws, such as issuing marriage licenses to gays.

"I can't have in mind all cases that can exist about conscientious objection but, yes, I can say that conscientious objection is a right that is a part of every human right," he said, speaking in Italian.

"And if someone does not allow others to be a conscientious objector, he denies a right," he added.

Francis said conscientious objection had to be respected in legal structures. "Otherwise we would end up in a situation where we select what is a right, saying: 'This right has merit, this one does not.'"

The fact is, Kim Davis, AS A PUBLIC OFFICIAL, wasn't exercising a personal right in refusing to obey the courts and issuing marriage licenses, she was refusing to abide by the law.  Though I don't read Italian very well and I can't find an exact transcript, in any case, I doubt that Pope Francis had a clear knowledge of the case and I'd like to know what he was responding to when he said it.

Conscientious objection would not include violating your agreed to duties as a public official in violation of a court order, it would include resigning because you can't do the job you agreed to do without violating your conscience.

The official Catechism of the Catholic Church says:

2237 Political authorities are obliged to respect the fundamental rights of the human person. They will dispense justice humanely by respecting the rights of everyone, especially of families and the disadvantaged.

The political rights attached to citizenship can and should be granted according to the requirements of the common good. They cannot be suspended by public authorities without legitimate and proportionate reasons. Political rights are meant to be exercised for the common good of the nation and the human community.

Someone arguing for Kim Davis refusing to follow the law might point out to this section right before that:

2236 The exercise of authority is meant to give outward expression to a just hierarchy of values in order to facilitate the exercise of freedom and responsibility by all. Those in authority should practice distributive justice wisely, taking account of the needs and contribution of each, with a view to harmony and peace. They should take care that the regulations and measures they adopt are not a source of temptation by setting personal interest against that of the community.

defining gay sex as "a source of temptation" for their argument.  But that wouldn't work because if there is any interest of the community in the matter, it would be to have gay sex (which will happen) happening in the context of stable relationships, something that can be said of any sexual activity because the foremost problem for the community in sexual activity is in promiscuous sex which spreads diseases, unwanted pregnancy, the disruption of families, etc.

Later in that section of the Catechism it defines civil disobedience as an obligation of citizens,  I can't find it presented in terms of public officials, though I'm hardly an expert in the Catechism.

2242 The citizen is obliged in conscience not to follow the directives of civil authorities when they are contrary to the demands of the moral order, to the fundamental rights of persons or the teachings of the Gospel. Refusing obedience to civil authorities, when their demands are contrary to those of an upright conscience, finds its justification in the distinction between serving God and serving the political community. "Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.

In terms of Kim Davis, consider this section of the Catechism defining "OFFENSES AGAINST THE DIGNITY OF MARRIAGE"

2384 Divorce is a grave offense against the natural law. It claims to break the contract, to which the spouses freely consented, to live with each other till death. Divorce does injury to the covenant of salvation, of which sacramental marriage is the sign. Contracting a new union, even if it is recognized by civil law, adds to the gravity of the rupture: the remarried spouse is then in a situation of public and permanent adultery:

If a husband, separated from his wife, approaches another woman, he is an adulterer because he makes that woman commit adultery, and the woman who lives with him is an adulteress, because she has drawn another's husband to herself.

2385 Divorce is immoral also because it introduces disorder into the family and into society. This disorder brings grave harm to the deserted spouse, to children traumatized by the separation of their parents and often torn between them, and because of its contagious effect which makes it truly a plague on society.

As a gay man, I don't think there is anything wrong in pointing out that Kim Davis is a serially divorced and married person, if she had to go to a clerk who followed these teachings they would be free to refuse to issue a marriage license to her and what would be legally considered her second, or third husbands.   And the matters of "conscience" don't stop at people who view gay sex as wrong, the occasions in which any government official could refuse to issue needed licenses or other documents are limited only by the willingness of officials to give that as an excuse to not perform their official duties.   If a public official thought along the lines that Ann Coulter was mendaciously tweeting the past few days,* they could refuse to issue marriage licenses to Catholic couples or even approve voter registration applications.   They would have been free to refuse to issue The Pope  or the Dalai Lama permission to enter the country.

I agree that a county clerk who can't follow the law and their conscience has every right to resign their position, I don't believe that any citizen has a right to draw a government salary while violating the law.

It is interesting to look a little farther in this section of the official Catechism because it also lists unmarried sex as an offense against the dignity of marriage BECAUSE IT LACKS A "JURIDICAL AND PUBLIC FORM".

2390 In a so-called free union, a man and a woman refuse to give juridical and public form to a liaison involving sexual intimacy.

The expression "free union" is fallacious: what can "union" mean when the partners make no commitment to one another, each exhibiting a lack of trust in the other, in himself, or in the future?

The expression covers a number of different situations: concubinage, rejection of marriage as such, or inability to make long-term commitments. All these situations offend against the dignity of marriage; they destroy the very idea of the family; they weaken the sense of fidelity. They are contrary to the moral law. The sexual act must take place exclusively within marriage. Outside of marriage it always constitutes a grave sin and excludes one from sacramental communion.

All of which apply to two people of the same sex in exactly the same ways.  The evils that come from straight folk having sex with people they refuse to make any kind of a commitment to aren't any less evil when it's two lesbians or gay men who are having sex.   Change one phrase and this is exactly why marriage equality is a good for society.

I would like to discuss this with Pope Francis because I think his thinking, as given by Reuters, was undeveloped and likely not well considered.   He's a reasonable man who doesn't just ignore reality, as his recent statements about divorcing Catholics and the sacraments shows.  I don't think the Catholic church will change its mind about gay marriages any time in the foreseeable future but it has an interest in at least having their opposition being coherent with its official teachings.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Kai Winding - Lover Man

Thelonius Monk, piano
Dizzy Gillespie, trumpet
Kai Winding, trombone
Sonny Stitt, sax
Al McKibbon, bass
Art Blakey, drums

Amazing line up of great musicians from 1971.

"Liberal" Maine In The News

Mayor Wants To 'Name And Shame' Welfare Recipients So Disabled Kids Stay Out Of Maine

Robert MacDonald, mayor of Lewiston, said on Sunday that he wanted to publish a registry of welfare recipients because he was annoyed by disabled children coming to the state for help.

In a column last week MacDonald explained his plan to publish names, addresses and other personal information of welfare recipients.

"We will be submitting a bill to the next legislative session asking that a website be created containing the names, addresses, length of time on assistance and the benefits being collected by every individual on the dole," he wrote. "After all, the public has a right to know how its money is being spent."

During an "Entitlement Nation" segment with the caption "Name and Shame" on Sunday, the mayor explained to Fox News host Tucker Carlson on Sunday that it was not fair for the names of state pensioners to be public while welfare recipients were not.

"This is something born out of frustration," he said. "For three and a half years, I've been putting all kinds of welfare laws, I've been submitting them. And the legislature is just tanking them. And what really hurts is the legislatures from Lewiston are basically stabbing me in the back."

According to MacDonald, Somali refugees were not the problem in his city because they had jobs. But he complained that "the domestic people" were abusing welfare benefits.

Which reminded me of this:

" This cripple with hereditary defects costs society 60,000 Reichsmark during his lifetime. Fellow German, that is your money, too."

Which was part of the ad campaign for the Nazi "euthenasia" program.   I keep pointing out that these guys really, truly, are fascists who speak English and who actually hold political offices, here and now promoted on the Murdoch family of companies.  This is what watching Family Guy and 24 pays for.

Comments on Religion Dispatches

nightgaunt • 2 days ago
Judaism-Christianity-Islam are all related very closely. Sharia Law came directly from Leviticus Law. And they both took it from the Jews. So they are all of the same cloth, though the offshoots-Christianity and Islam added their own weaves to it.

The Crusades, Inquisition and witch finders came from Christianity and was picked up by various fascist groups with the Nazis being the most prominent and memorable. I think the US is one country ripe to become a Holy American Empire any time soon. (I hope it doesn't, but it should be watched out for.)

Camera Obscura  nightgaunt • a minute ago
Oh, so the Nazis were inspired by the Jews.

I was going to say that all haters and hate groups come from the same country and all speak the same language and your comment is a totally predictable demonstration of it.

The Nazis were explicit haters of all things Jewish, including Jesus and his followers named in the Second Testament, they were in the process of trying to destroy the Christian religion in Germany and Europe, they hoped to do that through propagandizing the young through the Hitler Youth which was vehemently and viciously anti-Christian as well as antisemitic.

Neo-atheism is as openly and clearly all about hate - of religion and religious people as can be,in the case of atheism -  as are such cults recognized for what they also are, right-wing hate cults like (Glenn)Beck's.

"The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the LORD your God."
Leviticus 19:34. That, alone pretty much destroys your contention that the Nazis were inspired by Leviticus. Not to mention the entire range of verses on how the poor and those unable to work were to be treated, such as 25:35
"If any of your fellow Israelites become poor and are unable to support themselves among you, help them as you would a foreigner and stranger, so they can continue to live among you." Which would destroy the Republican-right-atheist-right version of the gospel of hate you are pushing.