Saturday, July 16, 2016

Hate Mail

"Sounds like an existential crisis to me".

No, it's just Steve Simels lying, that's as common as dirt.  In fact, that's what it is. 

Double Feature - Norman Corwin - The Curse of 589

This might be the best acting by William Shatner I've heard that wasn't in Esperanto.  A physicist encounters a sassy, in your face, fairy.  

Saturday Night Radio Drama - David Kranes - Murder Therapy

Why I Am a Quaker and a Muslim

He Put His Pants On One Leg At A Time And Occasionally He Didn't Have A Leg To Stand On

Richard Feynman is considered one of the the greatest theoretical physicists of all time, he was a great genius, brilliant, an engaging personality and from everything I've read a great guy.  A physicist once told me that the only other figure he knew of who might have matched him for intelligence was Sakarov - I'm not in any position to make that kind of claim.   He was not, however, God and where he was demonstrably ignorant, he was as ignorant as anyone else who is ignorant. That's one of the qualities of ignorance. it is a great leveler.  As someone who once gave a famous lecture called, There's Always Room At The Bottom, Feynman might have realized that.   He was not only, by his own demonstration, ignorant on the topic of philosophy, he was determinedly ignorant of it.  As I've quoted the historian of science,Paul Feyerabend before,

The younger generation of physicists, the Feynmans, the Schwingers, etc., may be very bright; they may be more intelligent than their predecessors, than Bohr, Einstein, Schrödinger, Boltzmann, Mach, and so on.  But they are uncivilized savages, they lack in philosophical depth.

And considering that Feynman chose to put his dismissal of philosophy in an assertion that philosophers were ignorant of mathematics and mathematical thinking he was showing his profound ignorance of the history of mathematics.  Just off the top of my head,  I can think of Van Quine, George Cantor, Kurt Godel, Bertrand Russell, and many others in a list that would include such figures as Rene Descartes - one of the most significant mathematicians in history as well as one of the most significant figures in European philosophy.  

Polls such as the ones linked to above, often put Issac Newton at the #1 position as greatest physicist of all times (Feynmann is most often listed as #4 or there about).  Newton also has a place near the top of any greatest mathematicians list as, among other things, the co-inventor of calculus, the other inventor being the eminent German philosopher Gottfied Leibniz.  One of the most significant critics of their mathematical discoveries was a philosopher who I suspect Feynman would dismiss as do most extremely ignorant people, George Berkeley, most often, today, dismissed by the entirely ignorant for his purportedly  extreme idealism - look it up, in philosophy it doesn't mean what you almost certainly don't think think it does.   His critique of the logical foundation of Newton's calculus was so spot on and so profound that it took centuries for some of his points to be answered.  I recall reading that one of the deficiencies  in rigorous foundations Berkeley discovered in the early 18th century  wasn't adequately addressed until well into the 20th century.   

Berkeley didn't, of course, reject Newton's calculus, his argument was made to show that mathematicians have to, in the end, depend on things taken at faith and, at times, on the basis of authority.  And at times they go quite far on that basis.  That is something about mathematics which was confirmed, with recourse to philosophical thinking, in the early 20th century, to the crushing dismay of some of the most eminent of mathematicians and some extreme materialist-scientistic philosophers, Bertrand Russell, perhaps the quintessential example of that.   Berkeley's mathematical thinking and reasoning certainly proved he understood mathematics on a very profound level that engaged the minds of other mathematicians in a controversy that has lasted for centuries, the general point he was making now being confirmed.  Mathematics has no final basis in rigorous logic, there are things necessary to it that can't be finally based in logic.   It is funny that the same day I listened to the video I posted this morning I also listened to one in which Feynman admitted that physics, in the end, had to do the same thing.

Interestingly, he's engaged in philosophical thinking as he's answering it and he doesn't even realize it.   He certainly couldn't develop the distinctions he made between why and how things happen and are as they are without recourse to philosophical thinking.   It's remarkable how he could make such arguments and not realize what he was doing because he had a prejudice against philosophy.  

He played bongos OK, for a physicist but it wasn't very musically interesting,  No one can do everything equally well.  Berkeley's mathematical observations are a lot more accomplished.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Hate Mail - Oh, I'm Tired Of Trying To Reason With Unreasonable People

Brilliant as it is, Richard Feynman's limits are on full display near the end of this segment.  After reeling off long passages of philosophy, on the basis of his own misunderstanding of C.P. Snow's "two cultures" theory, essentially a critique of the British educational system, he dissed philosophers as math-deficient ignoramuses.  Apparently Feynman never bothered to notice that a number of the most eminent mathematicians of his day and, perhaps more so, the preceding generation, were also eminent philosophers as were a number of the most accomplished physical scientists.  Not to mention a number of philosophers had been and still, to some extent are, quite conversant with, not only mathematics, but, also, physics.   Once you introduce the word "philosophy" into the discussion, Feynman was quite able to act like an ignorant yahoo.

That said, notice that he expresses, rather brilliantly, the same idea that George Ellis did, that the relationship between mathematics and the physical world is, essentially, a total mystery.   He, like Ellis, has the faith that mathematics is an expression of the deep structure of the universe, but the actual relationship remains unknown.  He goes so far, as a physicist, as to speculate that eventually physics will get to a direct description of the actual physical basis of the universe without resort to mathematics, but that's, as he says, his preferred belief.

I think his point that comprehensively describing even the tiniest area of space-time would require a, literally, infinite number of calculations (done by a machine, since no person could do that) has other implications than his preferred one that the truly deep structure would rest on a description of physics.  One, of course, is that mathematics is a human activity and as subtle as it is, it cannot comprehensively grasp even the tiniest object or spec of space-time.  But physics is no less a human activity and to think it will have more of an ability to comprehend what mathematics can't is likely no more rational than the belief of mathematicians at the start of the 20th century that they might be able to come up with a complete system based solidly on logic.  I'd think that there is probably less reason to believe that about physics than math.

Of course, the very problem he posed in that regard impeaches the idea that the deep structure of the universe is, at a foundational level, expressible in any mathematics that human beings will ever know. It could be that mathematics says as much about our minds as it does about the universe that we use both to see.  Both our minds and our mathematics.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Jorge Caballero - C. Curtis-Smith Evocation

I'm pretty sure this is a sort of fantasia on material from the large, very complex song cycle by Curtis Curtis-Smith, Golden Are My Flowers. The composer of the guitar piece isn't stated, explicitly but I think it is probably a guitarist who made the adaptation.  If that's the case it is in the very old tradition of guitarists making similar pieces on operas going back to the start of the 19th century.  If that's the case then I'm very impressed with the choice of material and the execution of the composition.  If Curtis-Smith made the setting, I'm even more impressed that a non-guitarist could do such a fine job.
Here is, I believe, the first song in the cycle.

I do not care what Simps is saying about me at Duncan Black's boring old blog of boring old gasbags. 

Hillary Clinton Owes PEN And The Media Nothing Special None Of Us Do Since They Serve Themselves Not Democracy

Twenty years ago I would have nodded my head or agreed with PEN's rote call for the two parties to "respect the press".  PEN was one of those groups I automatically considered credible and respectable. Not that I paid that much attention to them, other than to monitor the suppression and murders of writers and journalists in the predictable places.

But the notice I got about their recent call,  U.S. ELECTION FRONTRUNNERS MUST RESPECT AND PROTECT THE ROLE OF THE PRESS, is making me yawn.  The American media has so discredited itself, from the alleged  far left to the far right that I really can't get too worked up if Donald Trump calls them names and bad mouths them.  He knows that the media that matters will fall in line and give him their tacit support, they'll present it as "balance" and "fairness" but, when they're balancing a raving, neo-fascist like him by trumping up yet another in of its "scandals" in its Thirty-Year-War against Hillary Clinton I couldn't possibly care less about them or their role in this election. PEN's own brand of "balance consists of this:

It is also important for candidates to make themselves accessible to reporters. Although Clinton has given individual interviews to print and broadcast journalists, she has not held a general access news conference since December 2015 in Fort Dodge, Iowa. Her campaign has since been criticized for rarely answering questions from her traveling press corps.

Why the hell should she?  The American media has been engaged in trying to destroy her. Why should she trust them?   She is probably the most vilified, most attacked most LIED ABOUT of any person who has ever mounted a serious presidential campaign and it wasn't just the low end of the media which did it, as mentioned here recently, the most august of print media has been as involved in that as FOX and CNN.  Literally, no lie made up about her has been too extreme for the media to not echo it.  If she avoids taking or answering questions from the people who work for those who have published those lies, I'm not going to hold her at fault for that.

You should read the press release and note how they "balance" the list of attacks from Donald Trump and his surrogates - going on for paragraphs and, also, noting the death threats from Sanders supporters when they didn't like the fact that he was behind in the nomination process.  Even as critical as I have been of Sanders, it wasn't he who attacked the media.  The same can't be said of Donald Trump.

PEN says:

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world.  Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.

I don't see in its mission statement that it defends democracy and self-government by accurately informed people.  It only cares that writers get to write what they want, not that they are there to defend the truth as opposed to lies.  Which is where the problem starts.  No one has ever been kept from lying on behalf of the powerful and wealthy, writers who do that are well paid and entirely free to do that, it's when they write on behalf of those without money and, under the "money equals speech" doctrine, without power, that writers are in danger.  That's not a distinction that PEN makes and holds as being of the most importance.  I don't give two cents for PEN unless it operates on that distinction and with the prime reason for its existence to promote, protect and defend the peoples' right to the truth so they can cast an informed vote, I will oppose anything that elevates the ability of liars to lie for pay or profit or ideology because that destroys freedom.  And, in the United States, in the past fifty years, especially when the topic has been Hillary Clinton, the media has been in the forefront of destroying the truth.  I couldn't care less about the rights and privileges such a media claims for itself.

I have come, especially in the past twenty years, to rather despise the publishing industry and the media.  If I've developed a cynical attitude toward them, that wasn't something I chose, it was forced on me by them, by their behavior, by their pretensions which they have discredited rather constantly.  I really wish The Horse of Media Whores Online had stuck it out.  It would be a lot better world if she had.

Marilyn J. Ziffrin - Suite for Piano

Max Lifchitz, piano

Ruth Tells The Uncomfortable Truth And The Court Has Been Politicized For Decades

The Great Grey Trollop, the New York Times, a paper which, during an election season which long ago offered a prospect of another and likely more horrific Republican presidency, not merely drifting toward fascism but overtly promising it spent quite a bit of its time lying about Hillary Clinton, the only alternative to that.   And now it  has agreed with Donald Trump about Ruth Bader Ginsburg telling the truth about that horrific prospect.   It makes Madame Times very nervous when someone violates the agreed to rules of propriety and decorum, even more than the country careening toward fascism.

Mr. Trump responded on Tuesday.  “I think it's highly inappropriate that a United States Supreme Court Judge gets involved in a political campaign, frankly,” he told The Times.  “I couldn't believe it when I saw it.”

There is no legal requirement that Supreme Court justices refrain from commenting on a presidential campaign.  But Justice Ginsburg's comments show why their tradition has been to keep silent.

As someone who has long figured the Paper of Record had an editorial policy of upholding the corporate state which has financed and promoted the drift toward fascism for the past fifty years and which had an obvious double standard in that, it comes as no surprise that, when a true crisis in American democracy was imminent, it would emphasize putting the forks and spoons in their prescribed places.

Considering the role the Times played in smoothing over the Supreme Court confirmed coup in 2000 their concern about Ruth Bader Ginsburg's comments for future electoral crisis fomented by Republicans shows what a discreditable rag it is.

In this election cycle in particular, the potential of a new president to affect the balance of the court has taken on great importance, with the vacancy left by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.  
As Justice Ginsburg pointed out, other justices are nearing an age when retirement would not be surprising.  That makes it vital that the court remain outside the presidential process.  And just imagine if this were 2000 and the resolution of the election depended on a Supreme Court decision.  Could anyone now argue with a straight face that Justice Ginsburg's only guide would be the law?

Yeah, the New York Times would argue with a straight face that Anthony Kennedy, and Clarence Thomas would, the two remaining members of the Bush v. Gore five who installed a Republican president of their party. And there was also Sandra Day O'Connor, having been on record as expressing the hope that a Republican would replace her, as her chosen winner in that case did.  There is no doubt that partisan considerations were the deciding factor in that case just as there could be no doubt that those who would favor Trump over Hillary Clinton would include the two Republicans who Bush II placed on the court.  Fruit of that poison tree.

As others have pointed out, there has been a decades long effort and overt by Republicans and radical right-wing groups like the Federalist Society to pack the federal court with politicized, ideological hacks.  All they have to do is lie about their intentions to the equally courtly courtesans of the Senate Judiciary Committee.  That is what the pantomime of judicial nominations have been, open lying about what everyone in the room and anyone with any knowledge knows they will do on the court. Barring those rare times when they put up a pretense of judicial impartiality or have a score to settle or are laying the path for future mischief.

As I said, yesterday, Ruth Bader Ginsburg stepped out of the phony pantomime of judicial non-partisanship, a remaining habit from the time when the Republican Party actually was not a fascist party, to signal the real danger that today's Republican nominee is to democracy.  The flaws in our Constitution surrounding elections came home to roost in 2000, including partisan Supreme Court members installing a member of their party.  The impossibility of really changing that built into the amendment mechanism made fixing that beyond reach, saving democracy from corporate domination through the media had to try other things.  The rulings of previous ideological courts from the time of Buckely v. Valeo, knocking down every legislative attempt to work around the corruption of our politics has led us to the second real crisis of democracy in two decades, this time with an overtly fascist candidate having the nomination of the Republican party.   If the Grey Lady is confused, it is only the more remarkable that it's supposed to be a NEWS paper.   But, then, it pretty much got things going in 1964 by making lies about politics immune from action so the regime of lies that built on that isn't something it should be expected to notice.  It's what any rational person could have concluded would be the likely result of enabling the telling of lies by the media.

I think that Justice Ginsburg knows how dangerous this situation is, she has watched it developing her entire career in the law and as a member of the Supreme Court.  That she is breaking the rules of etiquette shocking the dainty sensibilities of the media which has presided over the selling of the lies that have brought us here shows how dangerous things are.  Its unprecedented danger calls for unprecedented acts and hers is one of the bravest of them all.

Note:  A draft of this post was published by mistake, I've edited that and will let it stand.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Walter Ross: Midnight Variations for Tuba and Tape

The composer Walter Ross, probably best known for his works for brass instruments, has self-published most if not all of his music on his faculty website, giving an enormously important opportunity to musicians who are interested in studying and learning his music.  It is a growing trend which I expect will become common for composers.   It is enormously generous to those of us who could never afford to buy the music we're interested in.  I found it when I was hoping to buy the score to his beautiful trombone quartet, one of his best known pieces.  I'm studying his etudes for two trombones, right now.  His music should be better known among musicians.

This is a piece that makes me nostalgic for the instrument and tape music of my relatively early adulthood.  You can read about it at the link below.


Five Cheers for Ruth Bader Ginsburg

It's so funny to see the people who are getting into a swivet over Ruth Bader Ginsburg telling the truth about Donald Trump, saying things that any thinking person would think about him because of the phony impartiality of the Supreme Court.  What she said is certainly not as bad as what Samuel Alito did when he publicly, during the State of the Union, audibly and as was widely reported accused Barack Obama of lying about the Citizens United ruling he and his fellow Republican hacks issued.  

If showing partiality is any bar to ruling on a president then all of the Republicans who voted to install George W. Bush in 2000 should have recused themselves on every single issue that impinged on his presidency, yet I don't remember the New York Times, the Washington Post, the cabloids and networks questioning the propriety of Republicans on the Supreme Court deciding cases on a president they had installed.  

I strongly suspect that Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in telling the truth about Trump has upped the ante for Democrats and liberals because this certainly looks like a notice of intent to leave the court.  Since Republicans in the Senate have improperly nullified the election of Barack Obama by refusing to consider his nominee to replace Antonin Scalia on the court she is pointing out the stakes for the country because whoever wins in November will be the one who replaces her and, beyond any reasonable doubt, other Supreme Court members.   People are expressing mystification over her breaking of decorum and alleged precedent to point out that Donald Trump is an extremely dangerous man but there is really no mystery to it.  She is 83, she has had major health problems, someone that age must know that they are sitting on death row with minimal likelihood of a stay of execution.  The people who are clutching their pearls over her "destroying her legacy" are idiots, she knows that far more than her personal legacy is at stake in this election.  The whole thing hangs in the balance and only an idiot would expect justice to be served by playing blind, deaf and mute.  

She deserves a medal of honor for doing what judges aren't supposed to do, telling the truth about a threatening disaster.   It is probably the bravest and most moral thing any of the sitting justices have done.  

Update:  For the second time in a week some dolt at Duncan Black's blog has claimed that I'm some kind of Republican leaning lackey.  Yeah, someone who regularly uses the term "Republicanfascist Party" is rationally accused of that.   And people wonder why I've come to the conclusion that atheists are prone to lying. 

James Cone - Strange Fruit: The Cross and the Lynching Tree

I've posted these videos before but not for a long time and what they say is so important that they should be heard many times.

James Cone and Bill Moyers discussing the lecture posted above.

The lecture and the discussion happened before the election of Barack Obama, eight years ago.  It is especially meaningful now, after the more than eight years of Republican-racist campaigning against Barack Obama, the diminution of his presidency by Republicans using racism to mobilize racists and in the epidemic of police shootings and killings of black people that has given rise to Black Lives Matter.

Hate Mail - Oh, For Crying Out Loud "Genes" Don't Do What You Want Them To Do

Oh, for Pete's sake, I pretty much answered the alleged genetic evolution of God nonsense more than nine years ago.  Here's a mildly edited version of that.  Please note this was early in my writing on the topic, I'd put it a lot stronger today and be a lot more dismissive of your superstition.  I was more patient with you guys back then.

As I recall I wrote this after hearing Dennett going on in his typical cluelessness on the topic, probably on Terri Gross's Fresh Air, though it might have been after reading some online atheist dolt going on about it, most likely at Eschaton where I wasted a lot of time that year.  Though I'd concluded the year before that they were political dead weight on the left.  I've come ever more confirmed in those conclusions, today.  The left loses a lot more by pandering to atheists than it is commonly believed.  Their materialism is fatal to any real liberalism in the traditional American meaning of the word.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Daniel Dennett Just Can’t Stay Out of That Lions Den

For all of their self-publicized objectivity and rigorous standards of reasoning, there are some rather breathtakingly naive ideas that have gained currency in the contemporary culture of atheism and among some of a vaguely scientific bent. Few of these are as astonishing as the assumption that the theorized genetic basis of religious belief necessarily leads to the conclusion that religion is just the undesirable artifact of evolutionary biology and QED: God is bunk. For a person who doesn’t believe in God or who is making a career in the burgeoning pop culture field that champions these kinds of ideas, that assumption seems to be immediately grasped because they think it confirms their pre-existing preferences. But that is certainly not the most necessary conclusion, nor is their heart’s desire of "nailing the coffin of God shut" the only conclusion that can be drawn from it using their own level of rigor.

First, the proposition, most often associated with Daniel Dennett, is glaringly lacking in rigorous analysis. It assumes that a proposed creator God who created the entire universe, planets, solar systems, galaxies, clusters, dark matter, energy, the entire shebang, and who also keeps it in motion, wouldn’t have any say in what happens in the puny little molecules that make up our genetic inheritance. Perhaps they think that such a God would just have to grow forgetful under the burdens of considering the big picture.

Not only COULD such a creator God’s role be proposed in any such genetic basis of belief, but to leave out that possibility is entirely dishonest in a PHILOSOPHICAL* discussion of the matter. It is hard for me to believe that doing so could be just a rather astounding oversight for a philosopher to make. If you’re talking god, you don’t get to leave the possibility of God out of the picture just at a point when doing so best suits your conclusion. It certainly wouldn’t be by a careful philosopher who was thinking about the subject. When talking about “God”, God isn’t an unimportant detail in the argument.

Rather charmingly, Dennett and his cubs seem to not realize that even if they were to conclusively prove that faith was controlled by genetics that could lead someone so disposed to take that as the strongest physical evidence ever found that there was a God. Not only a God but a God who wished that people should know of his existence, or at least to have that option open to them as a recessive or latent possibility**. They could be handing the I.D. types, not their death sentence, but fulfilling their greatest desideratum***. I say charmingly only because Dennett, one of the proponents of that other PR disaster in the making, “The Brights” idea, seems to have a bad habit of handing ammo to the other side.

Note: From experience, you can be certain that one of the things that might come up in a discussion of this issue is the matter of “wish fulfillment” to impeach one side of the argument. That is, again, rather an astounding gap between the pretense of the self-identified “realist” side of things and life as it actually is. There are few, established, well accepted ideas found by scientific research which were not fervently desired by their discovers and promoters. And there are a lot of ideas that, found by mistake, lead to an equally fervent desire for confirmation and extension. Wish fulfillment in and of itself doesn’t prove sloppy thinking or dishonesty, though it can certainly be a motive in both. The falsity of an idea isn’t based in whether that it’s considered to be desirable by the person who holds or promotes it but that it has been disproved. If that wasn’t the case then even the idea that there is a genetic basis of religious belief would have to go, since it seems to be pushed most strongly by those who have a well known axe to grind on the subject. And, like many of the ideas of this school of speculation, it’s pretty much a construct made of words and assertions. And , as seen above, many of them are rather shaky in themselves.

* That is philosophical, not scientific, so don’t bother bringing that red herring up. Questions of a God have no place in any part of science. Philosophy can and does deal with many things that fall outside of science, whether or not anyone likes that.

** God help us, the strict predestinarians would have a field day with that one.

***I, personally, am doubtful that there is any such genetic mechanism but I’m not a biological determinist to begin with.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Marilyn J. Ziffrin - Ten

I. Leisurely 

II. Slowly With Feeling 

III. Allegro

North South Consonance Ensemble
Max Lifchitz, conductor

Hate Mail

"Do me a favor .... shut up."

Do yourself a favor and come up with a way for a materialist-model brain to make what it needs to make before it can know what it needs to make.   I notice you haven't done that as you froth and lather over the issue being raised.   Only, you can't and no one else can, either. Your brain-only model is brain-dead and with it materialism is even deader.   Not good news for atheism.  

William Bolcom - Curtis Curtis-Smith - Pieces from Collusions

Moonlight on Ice 

Sarabande Mortelle

Snippets (Some long some short)

James Giles, piano

Yeah, I've ordered it.  I love them, these performances are by James Giles wonderful.  I expect the CD sounds even better.

I believe this description of Collusions comes from the publisher, E. B. Marks.

This unique five-movement set was a collaboration between Bolcom and Curtis-Smith, both on the faculty at the University of Michigan. For a year, each composer would write ten measures before passing the piece back to the other, making these pieces true compositional collaborations. It was premiered by James Giles on November 15, 1998.

William Bolcom - Sweet Hour of Prayer - from Gospel Preludes Book 4

Marianne Kim, organ

Does The Long Arc Of The Universe Bend Toward Justice? Is That Embedded In The Foundation Of The Universe?

I have been finding that going through the Hebrew scriptures, guided by Walter Brueggemann's writings on them, has been a real revelation that contradicts pretty much everything I'd ever been led to think about them.  Even though I was certainly not ever taught to think of them as "literally true" in the way that atheists wish that religious people always regard scriptures, I had never been exposed to thinking about them on such a deep, deep level of engagement, a level of engagement that includes criticism that distinguishes between the view of the wealthy elites contained in them and the view of, by and for the underclass, the slaves, the escaped slaves, the laboring class and the destitute which are also contained in the collection.  There is no, one thing that is "the Bible" it is a collection of very diverse writings by very different people and to regard it as a unified entity with a single purpose or a single origin or a single goal is to start out on a program of lying about it.   How complex it is can be seen in Brueggemann's life-long engagement with it at a level of the highest intelligence.  I suspect if he lived another seventy or eighty years he might write another hundred or so books on the topic, revealing even deeper levels of engagement with those writings.

Listening to an old interview that Krista Tippett did with the South African physicist and cosmologist, George Ellis, I was struck at how another wide ranging intellectual made me think of Brueggemann on the 4th chapter of Hosea.   I'll start with what Ellis said about his belief that morality is an embedded property of the universe, just as mathematics and the laws of physics are believed to be.  From the transcript.

MS. TIPPETT: I think I want to ask you, is this something that has to do with you as a person of faith more than a scientist, or does this also flow into this idea of this ethic that's embedded in the universe? Does this also affect your — you as a cosmologist or the way you approach the field of cosmology?

DR. ELLIS: It's this cosmology with the small "c" and the big "C."

MS. TIPPETT: So this is the cosmology with the big "C."

DR. ELLIS: Yeah. Absolutely.


DR. ELLIS: From the cosmology with the big "C," it immediately gives one for a route into — in effect arguing for the existence of God, if you like, from the way that the whole thing is constructed.


DR. ELLIS: From the small "c," it's — as a scientist, I work as a scientist and this just doesn't enter into it. As a cosmologist in the big "C," they're just trying to understand the big pattern, the way humanity relates to the universe. It's a central issue.

and later in the interview:

MS. TIPPETT: So this is the nature of God, this way of being.


MS. TIPPETT: This kenosis, this ethic. And it's embedded in the universe as an expression of — an expression of that is embedded in the universe.

DR. ELLIS: This is why I introduced this thing about mathematics. We haven't got a clue in what way mathematics is embedded there, but it is there in some platonic space waiting to be discovered. We actually haven't got a clue how the laws of physics are embedded in the universe. We know they're there. We know they're effective. We don't know how they are embedded.

MS. TIPPETT: Mm-hmm. OK.

DR. ELLIS: So, it's important to understand that we don't understand those, either. In the same way I envisage ethics as being a universal thing, which is applicable. It is there because of the nature of God. It is something we discover and don't invent. That's why I made that point about mathematics. And it is discovered to be the same by all these religious traditions. I'm confident of the following: If we were to one day make contact with people in Alpha Centauri…

MS. TIPPETT: Those are people in other galaxies, life in other…

DR. ELLIS: Yeah.


DR. ELLIS: …we would start talking with them about mathematics, because we are confident that they will have the same understanding of mathematics as we do. If we got on to talk to them about ethics, I'm confident we would find that they, also, had discovered kenotic ethics in the nature of the universe.


MR. BUZENBERG: [The producer of Krista Tippett's program, I believe] We have a questioner who wants to know what is the evidence that ethics, like math, is in the universe, waiting to be discovered?

DR. ELLIS: The evidence is, firstly, in seeing that all these other religious traditions have come to the same conclusion. But the deep evidence is the same in all faith. It is by beginning to comprehend the deep nature of this transforming current. If you see the deepness and the quality of transformation that is possible through this, and if you really asked me to pursue it, then it is the life of Christ, which is the example. Giving up life in order that those that persecuted Him would have freedom. That is what it is about. And in the end, it is self-authenticating. There is actually no other way of saying it. It is just something you either see or you don't see. There is no proof. It's something you recognize or you don't recognize.

MS. TIPPETT: I also hear you describing it as a model which replicates itself…


I am sure one of the first things that some reading this will do is mock George Ellis as a science denying crack pot, to which I'll point out that he's one of the foremost cosmologists of his generation, having co-authored one of the recent classics in the field, The Large Scale Structure of Space-Time, with none other than that great hero of pop-atheists, Stephen Hawking.   Get back to me when you can match his scientific CV and publications history on that point.

And as to why that brings me back to what Walter Brueggemann has pointed out about what Hosea says in Chapter 4, it's short so I give you the whole thing.

4 Hear the word of the Lord, you Israelites,
    because the Lord has a charge to bring
    against you who live in the land:
“There is no faithfulness, no love,
    no acknowledgment of God in the land.
2 There is only cursing,  lying and murder,
    stealing and adultery;
they break all bounds,
    and bloodshed follows bloodshed.
3 Because of this the land dries up,
    and all who live in it waste away;
the beasts of the field, the birds in the sky
    and the fish in the sea are swept away.
4 “But let no one bring a charge,
    let no one accuse another,
for your people are like those
    who bring charges against a priest.
5 You stumble day and night,
    and the prophets stumble with you.
So I will destroy your mother—
6     my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge.
“Because you have rejected knowledge,
    I also reject you as my priests;
because you have ignored the law of your God,
    I also will ignore your children.
7 The more priests there were,
    the more they sinned against me;
    they exchanged their glorious God for something disgraceful.
8 They feed on the sins of my people
    and relish their wickedness.
9 And it will be: Like people, like priests.
    I will punish both of them for their ways
    and repay them for their deeds.
10 “They will eat but not have enough;
    they will engage in prostitution but not flourish,
because they have deserted the Lord
    to give themselves 11 to prostitution;
old wine and new wine
    take away their understanding.
12 My people consult a wooden idol,
    and a diviner’s rod speaks to them.
A spirit of prostitution leads them astray;
    they are unfaithful to their God.
13 They sacrifice on the mountaintops
    and burn offerings on the hills,
under oak, poplar and terebinth,
    where the shade is pleasant.
Therefore your daughters turn to prostitution
    and your daughters-in-law to adultery.
14 “I will not punish your daughters
    when they turn to prostitution,
nor your daughters-in-law
    when they commit adultery,
because the men themselves consort with harlots
    and sacrifice with shrine prostitutes—
    a people without understanding will come to ruin!
15 “Though you, Israel, commit adultery,
    do not let Judah become guilty.
“Do not go to Gilgal;
    do not go up to Beth Aven.
    And do not swear, ‘As surely as the Lord lives!’
16 The Israelites are stubborn,
    like a stubborn heifer.
How then can the Lord pasture them
    like lambs in a meadow?
17 Ephraim is joined to idols;
    leave him alone!
18 Even when their drinks are gone,
    they continue their prostitution;
    their rulers dearly love shameful ways.
19 A whirlwind will sweep them away,
    and their sacrifices will bring them shame.

Which, of course, is the kind of thing that atheists love to poke fun at but just consider the point Brueggemann emphasizes about how nature is drying up as a result of the practice of injustice.  In some of his lectures from recent years, he mentioned the long drought in Texas, he could be talking about Maine the past two of those years, as well.  

Could it be that injustice, economic and social injustice, practiced on a large enough scale, inevitably have a disastrous impact on the life systems of the Earth and human societies that depend on them? 

If you take it out of the historical and literary context and put it in terms of today, oligarchic monopoly, extraction of wealth, despoliation of the environment, animals and people, you would have pretty much the same scenario that produces global warming and the human made extinction event that is going on right now.  I don't know, of course, but you could probably magnify the ability of the local elite in Hosea's region destroying the local environment, to a global scale and you can begin to see the wisdom in what his poetry says.  

If you wanted to put it into the same terms George Ellis does, you could see the consequences for our planet and our lives in a violation of the ethical foundation of the universe.  Of course, in our terms, an embedded ethics would intimately involve what makes life possible and what preserves instead of destroys it.

I have come to see that, where we might get caught up in the anachronistic language and literary modes of expression in the prophets, when you translate those into our daily experience of the world of consequences coming from practices, of committing injustice out of motives of selfishness are often most like doing stupid things out of ignorance.  Though I think mere ignorance is less likely to produce really catastrophic consequences than selfishness.   Yet in both conventional economics and in its child, the Darwinian theory of natural selection, selfishness are considered to be naturally embedded in the universe, even by many of the professionals in those fields, elevate to a status not unlike an ethical principle.  I think we're going to have to look, seriously, at the real life, real world consequences to try to discern which view point is right and I don't think there is any serious doubt about selfishness producing disaster.

Note:  I will caution that thinking of this in terms of "structure" and other physical concepts of the kind that science can talk about is probably getting farther from the issue than closer.  I will mention that thinking about the problem of how a merely physical mind could construct a structure to BE an idea without that idea already being present in the brain and related problems flowing from the atheists' "brain only" model of the brain seems to lead to the conclusion that that model can't work, I suspect that trying to fit a moral universe into the physical concept of "structure" and the habits of thought that come from engaging the universe in scientific terms is probably doomed to produce the same kinds of paradoxical dis-confirmations.   I don't see any way for materialists to get past that problem with their "brain only" assertions and if they can't then their model is not possibly true and the mind is not material.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Curtis Curtis Smith - Etude I Chords in Canon

C. Curtis Smith, piano

Curtis Curtis Smith was the composer to whom William Bolcom dedicated the second of the Dance Portraits posted here the other night.   I wasn't familiar with Curtis Smith's music until reading Bolcom's recommendation of it.  It is, indeed, very individual, very original, beautiful and with all of the attributes of greatness.  He was also a very fine pianists who wrote a number of really wonderful works for the instrument.   I'd put him on a list of most unjustifiably neglected composers, his music should be very widely known, it should have been more known during his lifetime.  

The recording of his Twelve Etudes on the Albany label also has his fantastic, original, audacious and outrageous Great American Symphony (GAS!).  You really have to hear it to believe how original it is.

I didn't realize that he died a year ago last October and that he'd been suffering from Parkinson's disease for some time.  Such a loss to  music.

Etude II Passacaglia

Václav Nelhýbel - Brass Trio

Aaron Witek, trumpet
James Boldin, horn
James Layfield, trombone

The Grey Lady Deserves To Wear A Scarlet "L" for Liar

That most full of itself locus on North America, New York City, has a number of institutions and entities which are ridiculously lauded and held up as some kind of pantomime of greatness when they are just businesses.  One of the most ridiculously lauded of those is the New York Times.   The "great grey lady" is hardly what it's sold as being.  It never was what its PR sold it as being.  It operates as much as a propaganda organ for those who own and run it as much as it is a reliable source for information, its record is an unpredictable mix of good reporting and the worst of corporate oligarchic stenography.  Lest anyone forget, there is the decisive role the New York Times played in promoting the illegal and disastrous invasion of Iraq through the reporting of the publisher's good friend, Judith Miller.  And that's only one of the many instances that balance such things as publishing the Pentagon Papers.  And that's not to mention the license it gives its favored opinion scribblers to lie, distort and defame - a license to lie it has bragged of obtaining from the Supreme Court in the Sullivan decision, something which I will never stop pointing out.   That any major newspaper would present its role in expanding the power of the "news" media to publish and push lies should be something which is an occasion of serious shock and self-examination.   Facts and the truth are alleged to be the purpose of the news media, they never stop telling us that and that they are important because of that, which is obviously a lie when a major organ of the media brags about its role in endowing the media with a privilege to lie with impunity.

Yet they wonder why people don't trust the press or, in large numbers, even bother with it.

The New York Times has sponsored one of the most malignant voices in journalism for decades, Marueeen Dowd, and there is no one who has been the focus of her malignity more so than Hillary Clinton.   As Media Matters says,

New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd continued her nearly 23-year long crusade against Hillary Clinton with a column accusing her of “compromis[ing] the president” and “willfully put[ting] herself above the rules.” 

Dowd wrote a July 9 column, titled “The Clinton Contamination,” admonishing Clinton after FBI Director James Comey called her private email server “extremely careless” but recommended no charges for criminal conduct -- the Justice Department accepted those recommendations. In her column, Dowd called Clinton’s actions “arrogant” and “selfish” and said she “contaminated three of the purest brands in Washington -- Barack Obama, James Comey, and Loretta Lynch,” continuing that “Hillary’s goo got on Obama.” Dowd concluded that “the Clintons work hard but don’t play by the rules.” Dowd lamented that “the email scandal” had supposedly “clouded the futures” of some of the most trusted Clinton aides, and derisively referred to former President Bill Clinton as “the Arkansas devil.”

A Media Matters analysis of Dowd’s columns found that 72 percent of her work between November 1993 and June 2014 included negative tropes against the Clintons, including regularly portraying Hillary Clinton as an unlikeable, power-hungry phony. In the year following, all 17 of Dowd’s columns with significant mentions of Clinton were negative. Dowd regularly relies on sexist tropes to describe Clinton, including that she is a “granny” who “can’t figure out how to campaign as a woman” and suggesting she “should have run as a man” during the 2016 election. Hypocritically, Dowd has also accused her of “cry[ing] sexism too often.” 

That record of her personal campaign against Hillary Clinton has been being laid down in "the paper of record" for almost a quarter of a century.  If Hillary Clinton becomes president it will likely extend to more than three decades, if they both live long enough.  And Maureen Dowd has taken full advantage of the permission the publisher and editors at The New York Times grant her to carry out her personal campaign of defamation against Hillary Clinton.   That she does it from the editorial pages of the rag allow her even greater scope for defamation than the alleged news reporters who have been laying down a record of false reporting on Hillary Clinton.

It is clear that the publishers and the rest of the establishment at The New York Times have and have had a goal of damaging Hillary Clinton.  I've read and heard gossip about why that might be but, unlike the New York Times, I'm not in the business of passing on gossip as if it were confirmed fact.  The New York Times, its owners, its publishers, its editorial staff, really its entire staff, deserve to be held accountable for the record of Maureen Dowd and the decades long campaign of lies, half truths and smears she's written against someone far more accomplished than she will ever be.  I don't know the extent to which envy might play in Dowd's obsession with Hillary Clinton,  I always suspected it had everything to do with the campaign of lies and smears that the equally putrid Christopher Hitchens conducted against Bill Clinton.  I've read people who knew them who said it extended to the period when they were both at Oxford and Bill Clinton was more successful with women than the silver-tongued Trot.   I doubt that Dowd's motivations are any less petty and base, nor those of the women and men who have given her permission to use the New York Times to conduct it.   I wonder if some member of the Sulzberger family didn't get seated in the right place at a table or something back in the 1990s.   Oh, I'm sure they'll endorse her late in October or November, the alternative being the insane choice of the Republican-fascist party.  That changes nothing about their conduct.

Update:  Get back to me when Sanford or Biddeford or Alfred, Maine is as full of itself as New York City.  And, for the record, I really wish people really, really didn't want to move here.  I'd talk it down incessantly if I thought it would make them want to move to The City instead of ruining the countryside here.   That still doesn't change the fact that New York City has a Paris or London sized over-estimate of its superiority over everywhere else in this or any other possible world.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

William Bolcom - Three Dance Portraits

1. Dead Moth Tango - Dennis Russell Davies, dedication
2. Knock Stuck - Curtis Curtis Smith, dedication
3. Abracadabra - For Abba Bogan's Birthday

The pianist isn't listed but I think this might be Barry Snyder playing them from the recording on Vox, a recording which also has William Bolcom playing his great Piano Concerto, so it shouldn't be allowed to go out of circulation.

These are some of my favorite pieces, the tango is so darkly colored, it sparkles like anthracite, the Knock Stuck,  is a piece I remember my niece couldn't keep from dancing to when she was four, the last movement is full of tricks. too.

Clifford Simak - Lulu

This is fun, the commercials maybe even more than the play.   I liked the ones for the cold medication and the PTA.  

You Have Only To Carry It Out - A Really Egalitarian-Democratic Economic System Won't Require Erudite Experts And Theoreticians They'll Just Muck It Up

Oh, dear.  I doubt that the announced resurgence of socialism among the very young, the Bernie Sanders fan club, is going to end well for the promotion of real socialism.  I say that as a socialist. It's promoted in a sort of Manichean book review by Richard Seymour in In These Times.   He contrasts the, no doubt, evil Regnery effluent, The Problem with Socialism by one Thomas DiLorenzo with the opportunistically timed Verso book, The ABCs of Socialism Edited by Bhaskar Sunkara of that most absurdly named Jacobin Magazine.   I haven't looked at either of the books, I think I've outgrown an absurd primer style treatment of would-be socialism - I have every faith that they, no less than DiLorenzo, don't mean at all what I do when I call myself a socialist.  Considering that In These Times apparently thinks Seymour's socialism has a snowball's chance in hell of surviving the Sanders fad the whole thing turns immediately into a ridiculous attempt to do things like downplay the reality of Stalinism

Still, the best arguments that DiLorenzo can muster are some warmed-over scare tactics about Stalinism and a bizarre retelling of the story of Pocahontas.

Considering the fact that Stalin is in the running for most accomplished mass murderer in history, can one over emphasize the importance of avoiding repeating it?   Though I don't know what Seymour is referring to, I'm sure that anything Regnery publishes is likely to include a bizarre retelling of history, I don't have any more faith that what Seymour says is any less bizarre.  And it's a rather odd thing to allude to an absurd story about Pocahontas, considering how Seymour promotes the Jacobin's book.

For a volume that aims to cover all bases, the collection succeeds to an impressive extent. There is a spritely tone to a lot of the argument, and a precise calibration of piss and vinegar that works particularly well when puncturing pieties. The ABCs offers answers to a range of questions, from “Isn’t America already kind of socialist?” to “Will socialists take my Kenny Loggins records?” (The answer to both is “no.”)

I certainly hope that any young person who is bright enough to read the book would find that insultingly condescending and clueless.  "Kenny Loggins records"?   I can imagine after lots of them ask "Who's that", they might be miffed.  The equivalent would have pissed me off when I was in my 20s.

And, if the goal is to instruct today's young this seems to be rather anachronistic.

The kind of “freedom” offered by capitalism, explains sociologist Erik Olin Wright, preserves the “tyranny” of the nine-to-five workday, hoards control over the major investment decisions that affect our lives and compromises even the limited political institutions that we are left with. 

I think most 20 somethings facing an Uber economy, a future as "contractors" and "subcontractors" and part-time wage slaves would love to experience a secure full-time job with the "limited political institutions" such as guaranteed benefits that even the wage slaves of my generation once knew.

No, the kind of "socialism" that these guys are talking about has nothing much to do with direct worker ownership of the means of production within an egalitarian democracy.   My socialism is so shunted aside and disregarded and talked over that I don't think calling it "socialism" is useful anymore.  Some new name for it needs to be found.   I'd like someone to supply one, I don't have any gift for inventing neologisms that catch on.

Most ironic of all, to me, is that I look at what Seymour and the neo-Jacobins advocate and I don't see it as really different from what they're pushing at Regnery.  I think the attempt of the Marxists and the fascists to distingish between themselves has produced a false and phony dichotomy when they're just variations on the same, oppressive, materialist, ultimately enslaving and murderous system of thought.

The Bernie or Busters I know tend to be rather affluent, many with something I don't and wouldn't have, investments in stocks and money markets and the such.  If Richard Seymour's style of socialism came in, they'd be among those who would resist it and be fighting against it, tooth and nail.  I can well imagine a lot of them taking that well known road from the alleged far left into neo-conservatism which, in reality, is a baby step.

Those 20 somethings, they'd hate living under Marxism, especially as it has existed in any of the places it has been imposed.  Though I think they'd really like to own the means of production they rely on to make a living.


One of the biggest lies that came out of that section of the neo-atheists who were also peddlers of the pseudo-science of evolutionary psychology was the accusation that the universal declarations of love found in the Gospels was meant only for Jews, that Jesus would have turned over in the ossuary or pit or wherever they claimed his unresurected body lay if he knew that Paul and others were preaching the Gospel to gentiles.   Such was, of course, contradicted directly in the text.   That's most notable in the famous passage from Luke 25 in today's lectionary of many churches,  the parable of the Good Samaritan. The passage starts when a "scholar of the law stood up to test" Jesus.  He asked what he had to do to gain eternal life, what we'd probably call "going to heaven".   Jesus asks him what The Law says.  The Scholar gives him the formula from the book of Daniel, the Shema, with references from Deuteronomy and Numbers, said as a daily prayer by strict Jews appended with reference to the passage from Leviticus popularized by Christians as "The Golden Rule".

"You shall love the Lord, your God,
with all your heart,
with all your being,
with all your strength,
and with all your mind,
and your neighbor as yourself."

He replied to him, "You have answered correctly;
do this and you will live."

The Scholar wants clarification as to just who it is he has to love like himself so he asks who his neighbor is and Jesus teaches him with a parable.

In the parable a traveler is assaulted and robbed and left lying in terrible condition on the side of the road.   Though Jesus didn't specify the ethnic identity of the man, I think it's generally assumed he was intended to be understood as being a Jew.  Though perhaps Jesus was indicating that wasn't important so he didn't assign him ethnic identity.

Two highly placed Jews - no doubt to be considered strictly law abiding - see him lying injured on the side of the road, a priest and a Levite - the Levites were the assistants to the temple priesthood - and they ignore him, passing on the other side of the road.  But a Samaritan, who might well have been considered a heretic, certainly not followers of THE authentic, Jerusalem Temple based, tradition, gives the injured man first aid, puts him on his own animal and brings him to an Inn where he takes care of him and leaves money so the inn keeper will let him stay there till he recovers, promising to come back to pay the balance when he passes through again.   Jesus asks which of these were the injured man's neighbor and the Scholar has to admit it wasn't the two members of the high religious establishment, it was the heretic who - by his actions - was a neighbor to the injured man.

Which of these three, in your opinion,
was neighbor to the robbers' victim?"
He answered, "The one who treated him with mercy."
Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise."

Clearly the Scholar of the Jewish Law knew, when it was pointed out to him,  that genetic and ethnic and clan relatedness had nothing to do with who we are to consider our neighbor, treating them like we'd want to be treated.  Jesus certainly taught that ethnic groupings and class didn't matter.  So the accusation made against both The Law and the Gospel is a bald-faced lie.

The accusation that few of those who professed that passage, who read it or heard it in church who didn't "Go and do likewise" were hypocrites would have been entirely justified but there's no news in that.

What is especially ridiculous for someone like Richard Dawkins or John Hartung or Kevin MacDonald or anyone trying to squeeze morality out of natural selection in using that as a criticism of Judaism and Christianity is that the Priest and Levite were practicing what they preached was the way of nature, part of the mechanism of evolutionary advancement, something that so many of their fellow Darwinists such as Charles Murray, Richard Herrnstein, have advocated be turned into social policy and law. turning passing on the other side of the road into a requirement of law and a societal good.

Darwinist social science and biology always has tends to drift to the end result of propping up capitalism, unsurprising in that it originated in the worst, most cruel and least Christian of capitalism as elucidated by Malthus and succeeding generations of enlightened, priests and Levites of  English language and European materialism.   Trying to paint a happy face on it will, sooner than later, fade and wear away like an old political campaign sign.


Now, the Golden Rule, that's something I think just about everyone can get, it doesn't require an insulting primer-style book for the ignorant masses, it is as the passage, also in today's lectionary from Deuteronomy says:

"... this command that I enjoin on you today
is not too mysterious and remote for you.
It is not up in the sky, that you should say,
'Who will go up in the sky to get it for us
and tell us of it, that we may carry it out?'
Nor is it across the sea, that you should say,
'Who will cross the sea to get it for us
and tell us of it, that we may carry it out?'
No, it is something very near to you,
already in your mouths and in your hearts;
you have only to carry it out."

I don't think anything more complex than that has any chance of working as a real political or economic strategy of defeating the horrors of capitalism.   I am absolutely certain that someone like Richard Seymour or the writers at Jacobin are not going to come up with anything except what will only make that less likely.