Saturday, August 24, 2013

Maybe I Should Start a Blogging Gossip Column? Naw.

Open Message to Ms/r. X

If I still went to Baby Blue I might start a pool to bet on who the next adult to flee with what's left of their adulthood will be.  It would probably be easier to say who won't because that's not an option available to them.  Well, that's unless the list is a comprehensive one.  

Until then, let's go Feudin' and a Fightin' with Jo Stafford.

Update:  Atrios Gives Up Part The Infinity (to steal a riff)


It's Sunday, Sunday
Not really in a bloggy mood. Talk amongst yourselves.
by Atrios at 11:14

Duncan, really, you're better than that and there's a reason.  Considering how bad so many of your regulars are at reading and the propensity some of them have for lying about it, it's no wonder you've give up.   Maybe you should really ask yourself if you want to be hosting their crap when you're fifty.   Digby seems to have been revived after relieving herself of comments.   I look at your early years and shake my head, so much potential come to nothing.

Do The People Squawking About This Online Like My Ten Week Old Hens Not Get The Idea of Being On Social Media?

Apparently the latest shocking revelation on a jillion blog comments is that Cass Sunstein called for the government to violate peoples' online privacy.

In 2008, while at Harvard Law School, Sunstein co-wrote a truly pernicious paper proposing that the U.S. Government employ teams of covert agents and pseudo-”independent” advocates to “cognitively infiltrate” online groups and websites — as well as other activist groups — which advocate views that Sunstein deems “false conspiracy theories” about the Government. 

While there are real issues to discuss about this ANYONE WHO IS BLATHERING ABOUT IT ON A BLOG COMMENT THREAD OR IN A BLOG POST AS A VIOLATION OF PRIVACY IS TOO STUPID TO SWALLOW WATER UNASSISTED.   And I'm nothing like a fan of Cass Sunstein or illegitimate violations of privacy.  AND LOOK AT THE DATE, IT'S A THREE YEAR OLD STORY.

For the fans of the Snowden-Greenwald cult, who seem to be the model of a developing area of what is, unfortunately coming to be called "journalism" TO BE GOING ON ABOUT THIS ONLINE is incredible. It's as if these journalists don't read the news.   If these people had any memory at all, they'd have seen this little story about St. Edward Snowden's brilliantly chosen safe haven of privacy:

In February 2011, Ai Weiwei tweeted that he would like to conduct an interview with an “online commentator”. Commentators are hired by the Chinese government or the Communist Party of China to post comments favourable towards party policies and to shape public opinion on internet message boards and forums. The commentators are known as the 50-Cent Party, as they are said to be paid 50 cents for every post that steers a discussion away from anti-party content or that advances the Communist Party line.

And if the Chinese government is doing this and, no doubt so, so much more, you can be certain that Snowden's owners in the Russian government aren't far behind them, if not far ahead.

If you don't realize that, you know, people you don't want to see what you write can see it online chat sites and message boards, you are are tinfoil hatted nut cases.   If you don't realize that the person you're reading under the heading of Sunflower Seed or Caspar the Friendly Goat  might be hired to do that by The Chinese or Belizian, Brazilian, Russian government or some Chamber of Commerce in Nigeria or anyone with fifty cents to spend you're totally too stupid to be participating in rational discussion or even what's found in almost all online discussions.

There are times you have a close to absolute right to privacy, its violation dependent on the government getting a legitimate warrant to violate it.   BUT WHEN YOU ARE GASSING AND FUSSING AND FUMING AND FIGHTING ONLINE YOU HAVE NO REASONABLE EXPECTATION OF PRIVACY EVEN FROM THE GO'MMENT.   

Do you really want law enforcement and security to ignore the blog chatter?   Do you think they shouldn't have paid any attention to those sites and chat groups that were targeting abortion providers by name, with their personal information and the least veiled encouragement to murder them?    Do you think that they might have no responsibility to try to discourage that?  Because if you think that someone monitoring them for the police shouldn't discourage murder, I'm afraid I don't agree with you at all and I think you are an idiot.

There are legitimate issues to be discussed but if you're going to waste everyone's time by whipping up hysteria about privacy WHEN YOU HAVE VOLUNTARILY SURRENDERED ANY BUT THE MOST IRRATIONAL EXPECTATION OF PRIVACY YOU ARE OBSTRUCTING PROGRESS ON THIS ISSUE.

How Our Alcoholic Brother Died

He looked tired in a way I can't describe as I told him.  It was hard to know if he was listening until he said, "Oh, a handle a day."   As if it decided something.

I'd never heard the phrase "a handle" used that way and it took me a few seconds to understand what he meant.   Then I remembered what I'd just said about my brother buying a half-gallon of vodka a day and drinking it until he either passed out or it was gone, sometimes not sleeping to finish it.

He was staring at me in the silence,  his eyes more focused.  Then he said,  "Go on."

I told him as many details as I could in that short time,  he hardly reacted.  None of it surprised him, he'd seen it scores, hundreds of times.   He didn't have to tell me that, it was in his face.

He finally said,  "I'm going to tell you straight, he's not going to stop.  He knows all the lines and if he's at the vodka stage like that, he's going to drink until he dies of it.  I'm real sorry, but it'll only make it worse for you if I lie about it."

He was the first alcoholism counselor I'd gotten that much time from.  They don't tend to have lots of free time to talk to the brothers of alcoholics not their clients.   My brother wasn't about to become one.  As he said,  he knew all the lines.   The guy had a lot more than he could handle and, I guessed, a waiting list.  All with a large percentage who wouldn't stop either.


It wasn't like when our father died of liver cancer.  He was diagnosed four days before he died, his year long decline a mystery to doctors who couldn't be bothered with an old man on medicare and VA insurance. They finally found out he had hepatitis C.  That led them to the hepatoma they wrote on the death certificate within a week of making the diagnosis.  We knew what it was when my brother turned the too familiar sickening yellow bronze color, we'd been dreading it for years.

The ascites had developed before, his horribly swollen abdomen a peculiar contrast to his wasting arms and legs. That's not something that happened to our father. That certainly must have been obvious when he joined the 10 o'clock club at the liquor store for opening. Sometimes six days a week, if he was especially thirsty. He went there when he was undeniably yellow too, undeniable except to himself.   He had to hear it from three of us, independently, before he stopped denying it.  We tend to be a skeptical bunch but we can be convinced.

The clerks at the state store must have seen it and must have known what it meant as they saw him, a familiar sight, walk to the wall of cheap vodka and to the cash register.   I never saw but he only shopped at the one store, right across the bridge in Somersworth.  I'd seen his fellow club members often enough, though not close up.  Sitting in their cars, some smoking, anxiously waiting for the clerk to unlock the door, the meeting usually over in less than ten minutes as they drove away, all on their best behavior, not wanting anything to delay their first drink from the new bottle.  I don't know how many of them bought handles but apparently that's a well known thing.   The people who make rot gut vodka and put it into those jugs with a handle must know as well as the manufacturers of "bum wine" who their customers are.

After he lost his job and he began liquidating his retirement money things gradually lapsed.  His insurance, his mortgage, his property and income taxes.  His car was the last thing he lost, his lifeline to the liquor store.  He certainly couldn't have walked and we weren't about to bring him.  Looking backwards that probably would have been the best thing, he was already in the early stages of death.  I hadn't realized that cirrhosis was irreversable and progressive, neither did my sisters and brother, he didn't.

Our mother knew, she'd worked in hospitals, she'd seen it.  She didn't tell us what she saw, she never talked about it.   In her nineties, with all of her faculties, unlike every one of her children able to read the paper without glasses.  She'd seen her uncle Jimmy die of alcoholism, brought on by shell shock, she was told back then.  From WWI.  I never saw him, he died long before I was born.   It was when the jaundice developed that she admitted what she knew.  Thinking back, that was when she stopped encouraging her other sons to try to talk to him about his drinking, urging us to try to get him to try another treatment.  Only one of my sisters was directly involved, she'd seen something similar with one of her daughters, similar but not alcoholism.

Our brother had been seeing a psychiatrist for eight years before he lost his insurance and then that was the end of that.   The shrink had had him on Xanax, mixing it with liquor for a good part of that time. He was probably addicted to it, though I'd think he was an alcoholic before then. Then there were the three day dry outs, I never did know how many of those he tried, some of them at the insistence of his supervisor at work.  They were useless.   He had gone to one 28 day spin dry too, only he didn't manage to stay even a week.  "Spin dry" was another phrase I didn't know, apparently designed to last for the term an insurance company will pay, known to be generally ineffective.   He flat out refused to go to AA, he knew all of the lines provided by self-declared rationalists, tailor made excuses for the desperately addicted to not try to stop.

The end was the horrible punctuation of a horrible, years long horror.  Increasing disability and progressive death of his liver and other organs even after his immobility  forced his sobriety.   He had no income, no money, no insurance, no ability to care for himself, a total loss of dignity and, finally a horrific, agonizing and terrifying death as the ascites caused a blood vessel in his esophagus to burst.  His horrified look and inarticulate, choked cry for help the last thing we saw of him.  It was the only blessed thing about this that our mother wasn't there to see it.

And that's that.  How it happened, or a little of it.  There isn't any way to tell most of it, just to say it was awful.   I wrote the first version of this the day after he died but didn't post it until now.  In the education that something like this affords, I found out that it's a more common experience than we have been led to believe. Since then, I've heard people who had it a lot worse.  My brother never got into an accident.  He didn't kill anyone that way.

Twilight of the Slugs

Someone over at Eschaton must like me.  Or at least likes me well enough to tell me when I'm the subject of the patter and to let me know about it with links, saving me the time of having to sift through some pretty tedious material.   A lot of the time I just ignore it but I'm rather fascinated by the Snowden-Greenwald cult of the "left" and the rigid and uncritical compliance required to constantly declare I BELIEVE AND BOW DOWN.  That was where it started.  It's not only rather funny but it's also a chance to try to gain more insight into what a total disaster that kind of required conformity is for the left.  I've written about that a number of times.

It began with comments about the substantial post from yesterday.  It escalated after I posted the first part of my light response last night, into a lie I take pretty seriously, perhaps enough to really do something about, eventually.

Apparently things weren't going well for a couple of the Eschaton regulars.  Steve Simels, you'll, no doubt, have already noticed is in the habit of habitually attacking me.  Last night he was joined in by one "Gomez" a lawyer from Western Pennsylvania who apparently doesn't get much work as he seems to spend much of his waking life on the comment threads at Eschaton.   I'm told he apparently broke up with his long suffering girlfriend again and, from what he's saying, this time it looks like she's noticed greener grass on the other side of a fence.  I'm aware of two E-ton based romances going that wa.....

But enough of that nearly alluring gossip.   Gomez, on behalf of Simels, pulled out all the stops and went for the big one, the accusation that I'd made an anti-semetic remark and wouldn't apologize for it.   Which is what Simels has said repeatedly whenever he couldn't sustain his end of an argument with me.  Which, I will not apologize for noting is what uniformly happens whenever he tries to mix it up with me.

I wrote a piece a while back for just such occasions and I am reposting it here with the full explanation of what happened and why.

When A Charge of Antisemitism Is A Tactical Smear

Update:   After fiddling with the HTML for a while I decided to just provide a link to the piece and go on to new business.

Update 2:  Ah,  I don't care.  Baby Blue was the place that taught me blog friendships tend to be a smile wide and a picometer deep.  And I mean the smile on a stupid emoticon.   I don't care if they don't read what I write, they don't seem to be great on the reading comprehension thing.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Answer to an E-Mail

Well, what can I say.  Clearly I don't write for the reading impaired and the attention deficient.  There are plenty of blogs they can, eh, ....  shit on. 

Update:  Would you believe me if I claimed to have meant to type "sit on"? 

Duncan, apparently one of your regulars isn't experiencing enough Fahrvergnügen over there because s/he is giving me regular updates.


46 Reasons This Is The Best Blog In The Universe
Apparently that's the new way to get the kids to click. Anyone wanna write that post for me?
by Atrios at 18:21 

Gee, you can write a pretty decent post on infrastructure, have you given up to the point where you're asking them to write a friggin' list post for you?  Or did you just want to suck in the mutual self-admiration before their attention waned and they went back to the glorious pop music and TV shows from before you were born and their rhumatiz and supper menus?    I did warn you that I wasn't going to tolerate being lied about on your blog anymore.

On Greenwald's Identity as a Journalist with A Question for Journalists Who Get Paid To Be Journalists And Those Who are Journalists ITOM

How much of the coverage of the Snowden-Greenwald-Poitras story treats them as if they are objective reporters of their own roles in the story?  

 I'd guess less than 5% of what I'm seeing in the alleged news treats them as entirely interested parties involved in the story, not to be taken as objective sources of information.   In the blog blather and, from what I've seen of the putrid twitter chatter, I'd guess the figure would be less than 1%.  Far less than 1%. 

The standards of journalism in this story are self-discrediting, if nothing else.  This is a band wagon, it is pack journalism exactly of the same species we decried when it was Clinton's sex life and the war mongering that went on in the Bush II regime and in the selling of the First Gulf War during the Bush I regime.  

I asked about the use of statements by Snowden and Greenwald about their own activities, treating those as if they were actual reporting of fact instead of statements by two people who have made themselves principle parts of the story and who are entirely self-interested in how it is seen.  The response was that I was some kind of NSA "Obamabot".   Which is what passes as legitimate thinking by the Snowden-Greenwald cult.   Of course I wouldn't trust the NSA or the Obama administration to report on themselves, I wouldn't trust anyone to report on themselves or on issues they have a direct interest in.  A self-interested party should never be trusted to report on themselves.   UPDATE:  THAT INCLUDES JOURNALISTS.  

Greenwald, by his statement that he would publish information Snowden gave him to punish the British government for detaining his partner should have removed himself from the profession of journalism, definitively.  That is one of the baldest acts of journalistic malfeasance, explicitly and arrogantly announced by the malfeasant, in recent years.   Others have been discredited by doing far, far less.   

I've even seen people call statements by Snowden, while in both China and Russia "reports" and even more bizarrely, "reporting".  Apparently the supernatural transference of the mantle of journalism that came to include David Miranda last weekend, now also includes Edward Snowden.  At least for a good deal of the college educated public that blathers on like that online.  With how his statements are treated by professional journalists, perhaps that's an understandable if delusional belief. 

For more on journalistic malfeasance in this story,  I'm finding Joshua Foust to be unusually thoughtful, even when I don't entirely agree with him. 

Update:  From what I'm told, apparently the Eschatwittersphere doesn't like me saying that journalists aren't reliable sources of reportage concerning themselves and that His Holiness Glenn Greenwald (HHGG from now on) using his perch at The Guardian as a means of getting revenge on behalf of his partner is going way past what should be considered journalism.  I don't expect it will keep me up tonight.  

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Because That Google Doodle Really Annoyed Me

Claude Debussy is one of the most misunderstood of great composers.  The inventive genius of his music, his radical newness is held captive to a facile and easy listening interpretation of a few of his pieces.   The form of his music, how it grows out of the substance of the music, the melodies like no one before had written, its rhythms and non-functional harmonies, for me, counts as the real beginning of modern music.   He did more than anyone to set music free.

Claude Debussy:  En blanc et Noir

Robert et Gaby Casadesus 

The Coming Disaster For The Left Is Brought To You By "The Left" And The Media It Worships

When I first started blogging my theme was how the left could get smart and start winning elections again so we could make the kind of change I was talking about in my next to last post.   That is still my overarching theme. There are definite problems with "the left" and one of those problems is that "the left" largely figures there are no problems with it.  But we haven't elected but one genuine liberal as president in the last century, Franklin Roosevelt.  And he wasn't any kind of leftist as that term is usually understood.   His closest rival for that position in that time, in terms of actual radical achievement, is Lyndon Johnson and he waren't any kind ah liberal.  You should read that last clause with a Maine accent, by the way.   On top of that we've been consistently losing elections since then.  We've been loosing them, not only to centrist Democrats but to some of the worst and most obvious liars and crooks who have steadily undermined the well being of The People and the entire biosphere.  Something is obviously not not broke with the left and it's time we faced that so we can find ways to fix it.

Who is to blame?   Well, a lot of the blame can go straight on TV.  TV has been a constant source of propaganda for the right, it got Nixon elected in 1968 even as he pretended the media hated him.   As someone who remembers that year as if it were yesterday,  TV was a constant source of propaganda for Nixon and against Hubert Humphrey and was unquestionably instrumental in getting one of the most bizarre, unappealing and most crooked men elected to the presidency in our history. Oh, and, even as the corporate media was attacking Humphrey in 1968, "the left" was also attacking him. Understandably over his position on the War in Vietnam, though his positions would have almost certainly ended it faster than Nixon most certainly did not and never had any intention of doing as he expanded it into surrounding countries, leading to the Khmer Rouge, among other things.

The media was also instrumental in destroying the reputation of George McGovern in 1972, one of the most decent, honest and competent men who has ever run for that office.  It did that even as it was becoming obvious how entirely and pathologically corrupt Nixon was.   And what TV did for Nixon it has done for a steady stream of increasingly right-wing Republicans.  Reagan,  Bush I, Bush II and numerous candidates for lower office.  And there was the non-stop campaign to make "liberal" a dirty word and a word of scorn. That was so pervasive that even the token liberal of many of those years,  Phil Donahue,  generally used it as a synonym for everything flakey and foolish.  So, TV is guilty, beyond a reasonable doubt.

But, there's a big problem with fixing that.  Lots and lots of liberals are against regulating TV to force it to stop lying for the opponents of liberalism.   Reimposition of The Fairness Doctrine, public service requirements, protecting children from the lies of advertisers.... is opposed by a considerable faction of people who are believed and who believe themselves to be of the left.   The media must not be restricted or the shades of Jefferson and Madison will weep?  Or something like that.  Perhaps a clue to this is that it was Ronald Reagan who got rid of those things, in a quintessentially conservative move.  And there has been no greater beneficiary of that deregulation than Rupert Murdoch, the man who elected Margaret Thatcher in Britain and who has done so much to destroy liberalism in the United States.  Oh, and lying, pathologically deranged corporation and oligarchy supporting hate talk radio which, free from regulation, is what the corporations that control radio chose to put on.   Reagan and the Republican right knew they had nothing to fear from an unregulated press, they'd been among their greatest beneficiaries,  getting rid of those requirements were the mutually beneficial reward to the media for a job done well.

You might almost get the idea that lassez faire was not working out so well for liberalism and The People who liberals are supposed to be supporting.  I seem to have some vague recollection of something similar happening in the late 19th and early 20th..... But why bother with that old stuff when it's so much cooler to hate on regulation.  Oddly enough, that seems to generally happen when liberals adopt ideas and policies that are good for corporate media, as almost all but the tiniest fraction of TV and radio are.  There is definitely something wrong with an idea as a "liberal" or "progressive" idea when the position taken by Herbert Hoover turned out, in real life, to be more favorable to liberals actually holding office and passing liberal laws.  Real life is the real test for any theory, including those of government and that "liberal" idea has failed so many tests of time that it should have died in the 1970s.  Yet it is more pervasive than ever.

And there's a real and obvious reason for that.   Liberals of the kind who think it's entirely more important that Rupert Murdoch get to broadcast whatever he finds profitable and the entire radio spectrum to spew lies and hatred of liberals and women and minority groups of all kinds than actually taking office are no liberals at all, they are not leftists at all, they are are actually libertarians with a liberalish cover.

Liberalism has, in the past four decades, become so thoroughly corroded that their position has supplanted traditional American liberalism.  When Herbert Hoover's positions turn out to be better for liberals, when they require corporations to serve the public more than the "liberal" position, that particular "liberal" position is fraud.  That Mr. Free Speech-Free Press Nat Hentoff has gone from The Village Voice to The Cato Institute and World Net Daily is no accident, it is no fluke, it is only a clearer example of this phenomenon. Almost all of the electronic media "liberals" you can name are certainly libertarians when it comes to the business they work in.  I'd like to know how many of them regularly discuss things like making their medium serve the interest of The People, especially those who need that.  I mean on-air or on-cable where it really has a chance to cause some kind of effect in reality

I could go over example after example of how the pseudo-liberal position destroys the chances of liberals to gain office and make policy, almost all of it pushed and promoted by people working in media, people who have a financial interest in its deregulation and people employed by those who have a financial interest in its deregulation. But I'm going to cut to the current set up job they're constructing.   I believe it is leading us on the path to what may be the biggest fall the left has taken in a long time,  the Snowden cult and the perhaps somewhat lesser cult of Glenn Greenwald.

For all the reasons I've noted here and elsewhere in the past two weeks, the Snowden affair is almost certainly based on a rather transparent lie, that Snowden has some great and wonderful goal of protecting privacy from government spying, of exposing wrong doing by the U.S. government*.

From his perch, protected by the authoritarian Russian government that has been implicated in the murders of numerous reporters - real and courageous journalists truly critical of a really oppressive and corrupt government -  we are seriously supposed to believe that Snowden is some kind of beacon of civil liberties. That is how he is presented in the press, either directly or by his proxy, Glenn Greenwald.  Even as Glenn Greenwald is praising him for things like intentionally releasing classified information about the United States government spying on China in order to ingratiate himself to that other beacon of privacy and freedom, to get them to protect him against the government of the United States.

And now Greenwald and the American media are claiming the right of the Brazilian partner of Greenwald to the protection of the very American Government all of the above are engaged in attacking, WHILE HE WAS IN TRANSIT FROM BERLIN, THROUGH BRITAIN, TO BRAZIL, CARRYING MATERIALS THAT ARE, BY GREENWALD'S OWN ADMISSION HOSTILE TO THE GOVERNMENT OF THE UNITED STATES!   I'm not going to apologize for saying that there is something pathologically bratty and entitled about that.

Sooner or later, and I'm inclined to believe it will be timed for the mid-term elections next year, the defection and betrayals of Edward Snowden will be revealed with real compromises of American security and interests if not far worse consequences.

And who is going to take the fall for that?   Why the "liberal" media that has grasped the boy to their bosom and defended him from the government of the United States and, specifically Barack Obama, the second closest thing to a liberal the American left has managed to elect since FDR's last election campaign.   Jimmy Carter, also noted for not having all that much support from liberals, being the closest thing to a philosophical liberal in that time.  And not the media "liberals" who will be suitably chastened and apologetic and accept the blame for all of us who never thought he was anything but an idiot if not an actual crook and phony, and, yes, a traitor, in the informal though not legal sense of the word

Once again the liberalish-libertarians and the media that has defined liberalism as comprising their political program has set up the real left to take an enormous fall.   We have got to get over the phony-Jeffersonian fetish for a deregulated mass media that is part and parcel of that artificial substitue.  They will lie to the disadvantage of real liberalism every single time.  They set us up over and over again.  They will sell lies as absurd as that Edward Snowden is some beacon of freedom liberty even as he prefers to go flee to China, which has performed the miracle of combining the worst of totalitarian one-party government with the worst of Victorian era corporate lassez faire economics.   And who is now being run by Putin's government in Russia.  I haven't seen many media figures glorifying Snowden and Greenwald speculate what would happen to a Chinese or Russian defector who came here with massive amounts of government secrets and how they and the equivalents of Greenwald and Poitras would be treated by their government.   I strongly suspect that the equivalent of Miranda would have died mysteriously in a robbery with something like an iridium pellet laced with some exotic poison being used to subdue him.  Someone's body would probably show evidence oddly suggestive of exposure to unnatural levels of polonium.

Having seen how the media "liberals" have set us up over and over again, I'm going to risk a charge of paranoia in saying that there seems to be a pattern developing and in looking at that pattern one of the useful clues in why the left keeps losing might reside.  I'd look closely at the large financial incentive of such people. Playing a liberal in the mass media pays so much better than being a real one in the real world.  To use a phony quote invented by them, follow the money.

*Which, as everyone is supposed to know, is the greatest force for evil in the entire world.  Why, liberals have been telling us how the federal government is the locus of all evil from the time of John C. Calhoun, Ayn Rand, William F. Buckley jr...  And, today, it is the free mass media who are warning us of the same thing.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

In Which I Disagree With Rachel Maddow

That the Obama administration is being blamed for the action of a Conservative British government and the British security service in detaining David Miranda is one of the symptomatic mass delusions of the Snowden-Greenwald-Poitras cult.   The other day Rachel Maddow joined in:

The White House today said it had been given a heads-up in advance that the detention of David Miranda was likely to happen. Britain gave the White House a heads up that it was likely to happen. The White House went out of their way today to say that it was Britain's decision to detain Glenn Greenwald's partner -- it was not something the US asked Britain to do; and okay fine, but the White House did know about it in advance and it still happened.

We have that kind of special relationship with Britain where if our government were outraged that this detention was going to happen, we could have objected, right?  We could have at least asked our dear friends, the British government, to not do this, maybe in the interests of not intimidating the activities of the free press, if not for any other reason.  Did our government make any objections when it got advance notice from Britain that this detention was going to happen?  Did our government protest?  And if not, why not?  I tend to think we did not protest, since it went ahead.

While Maddow, being one of the smartest people who currently appears on American TV, doesn't pretend that the American president, even Barack Obama, has the power to compel the British government, acting under British law on British soil to not detain someone they believe they have the authority to detain,  she comes right up to that boundary into the realm of non-reality.  The fact is that the British government can do what it is permitted to do by the British public that elects it.  Just like the U.S. government can do what it feels is necessary domestically, under U.S. law without seeking the permission of the British government.  It happens between other countries.   It happens between Britain and other countries in Europe with which Britain has a far more formal and legal relationship.   Certainly Rachel Maddow is smart enough to know that, though, from the last three days of blog blather about it,that's the shocking fact,  that many would-be liberals and their close allies, the libertarians don't get that basic fact of civics.  

Furthermore, the British government is able to do things that an American president might not like all on their own for their own purposes.   As I mentioned yesterday, the prospect of British intelligence getting its hands on a large cache of classified U.S. intelligence that the American government has, for its own reason, not shared with the Brits might plausibly be a reason, when they find it very likely has been voluntarily put within their grasp by a David Miranda and the people running him, to take it by means deemed to be legal under British law.  

Since Barack Obama didn't know what was on the hard drives and other things David Miranda was carrying, those could have contained secrets which would have offended the British government, damaging relations between the governments and to the "special relationship" that Maddow seems to believe goes a lot farther than it does in reality.   Glenn Greenwald had chosen to reveal information of that type, offending the British government and people before, so there was reason for Barack Obama to suspect maybe more of that was in his possession.  Or, maybe, that information released by David Miranda's de facto husband has chilled the "special relationship" already.  For all Maddow knows, the Obama administration didn't particularly like the idea of more of Greenwald's cache of stolen American secrets being known by the British Government, which could risk more of that damage.

Maddow's statement,  "I tend to think we did not protest, since it went ahead," is quite naive in any number of ways asserting powers to an American president, blaming him for actions of a foreign government that are better assigned to the British government and courts.  But, in the milieu in which Maddow finds her audience, that delusion is all the rage.  And it isn't the only one of those on full display this week.  She went on to say:

I know the US government is not happy about Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald and their reporting about US surveillance.  The president said that the disclosures from their source have led to a disorderly debate about these issues and even though we ought to have a debate about these issues, it ought to be more orderly.  Fine.  But if the United States wants to convince the world that the Glenn Greenwalds and Laura Poitras' of the world are correct when they say the US government is going too far -- if they want to underline and put flashing red lights on that reporting that says that counter-terrorism is being used to justify all sorts of things that are not justified by the actual threat of terrorism, and that in fact have just greenlit gross government overreach and intrusion and intimidation of legitimate activity including journalism -- then putting journalists and their families through marathon interrogations and seizing all their electronics is a really great way to start convincing the world that all that reporting is accurate.  

Letting our closest allies do it while we stand silent is the same thing as us doing it.  Journalism is not terrorism.  Pretending otherwise is outrageous, and ridiculous, and a dangerous affront to who we are as a country and a democracy.  It's an absolute outrage.  

Well, in the first sentence of that, she gave a good reason why the Obama administration might not feel inclined to come to the defense of David Miranda, since his husband, Glenn Greenwald had already said his mission to Berlin was to carry material to and back between him and Poitras.   

But perhaps what I should have begun with needs to be said now.


If Glenn Greenwald wants to come back to the United States with David Miranda after they have been legally married, perhaps the recent Supreme Court ruling annulling the "Defense of Marriage" Act - with Barack Obama's support - would make David Miranda's well being and happiness Barack Obama's legitimate concern, but that's up to Greenwald and Miranda, not the President of the United States.  

Furthermore, David Miranda, by Glenn Greenwald's own and opportunely made declaration is not a journalist.  He doesn't fall under the mythical veil of protection that journalists claim for themselves, under no law that exists in the United States.  And journalists are not diplomats certified by any government in the world, they don't have a right to diplomatic immunity.  The things they carry through other countries can be searched, copied or seized by any government which decides they have that legal permission to do so.   It's for the journalist to watch out for its security in countries other than the U.S. not the American president's responsibility.   Journalists can be detained and questioned in Britain just as anyone else can for up to nine hours, what they are carrying can be confiscated.  I would imagine if what they were carrying is encrypted and the person carrying it doesn't give them the key to its encryption, that alone would justify their keeping it to see if they could break the encryption and find out if what they are carrying MIGHT BE relevant to the security of Britain.   

Given the experience in those paradises of journalism China and Russia, of Edward Snowden, the man who made this star turn by Greenwald possible, and Greenwwald having been a practicing attorney,  he's been remarkably irresponsible with the handling of information not only embarrassing but likely damaging to the interests of the United States.   For him, acting in the way he has, to expect anything but what the American president is obligated by his responsibilities of office is due to him,  he is only justifying the charge of narcissism which has been noted long before he ever heard of Edward Snowden.   For it to be claimed that any obligations an American President has to a citizen extend to David Miranda is absurd.   

Journalists who do so are claiming that they have some kind of legal status which they have never had under the American Constitution or American law.  To claim those rights for a Brazilian citizen flying from Germany, stopping over in Britain en route to his home country, merely because his partner is an American opinionator, is entirely ridiculous and symptomatic of a dangerous delusion current in American journalism. For Maddow to assert it under these conditions diminishes her.   If she wants to extend the title "journalism" to what David Miranda was doing, only diminishes her claims to being a journalist in exchange for support of people who are ignorant enough to not be taken seriously in discussing this issue. 

For journalists to go too far in claiming rights they don't have and a right to The President's protection past where it extends, under any interpretation of the law, discredits their claims about overreach by the government.

What Rachel Maddow did was demanding that Barack Obama attempt to assert authority far past when he had any authority on behalf of a Brazilian Citizen who is engaged in acts hostile to what The President believes is the security of the United States.  Doing what he believes to be in the security of the United States is within his authority and his sworn responsibility.  It's our responsibility to debate that and to try to make the congress pass laws to ensure that the president's and the government's ability to do that doesn't actually endanger freedom and a reasonable expectation of privacy.   That's an American journalist's job, or so they like to claim.  Them doing their job is the only reason they are granted any special status they can claim under the law.  

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

"You've turned conservative" Answer To A Representative Tantrum

No.  I'm more radically radical than I've ever been, more desirous of changing reality, moving towards the real agenda of radicalism.  There is nothing more really radical than reality. The entire program of political radicalism of, as I usually put it, traditional American liberalism, consists of actually making the lives of people better.  Nothing any radical-in-their-own-and-millions-of-others-minds has ever done is as radical as the passing of  a law that feeds and houses poor people, provides people with health care, or even a local statute that protects a spot of the environment.   No matter how much they declare or what they advocate to achieve that greatest desideratum of those on the play left, to be the most leftist of all in the room,  without really improving lives they're no different from the mushy middle and the conservative status quo.  Worse, they discredit the real left, hindering their work.

There is nothing more radical than the agenda I have:

 - Total equality,

-  Holding that rights are as real as the screen you're reading this on held in tension with the as real  rights of everyone else and so,

-  The stand that there is a real, consequential obligation to respect those rights in other people and another obligation to demand the equal ability to practice them for yourself and others.

Nothing, nothing that exists in the entire leftist books sections of the set of all of the libraries in the world, is more radical than that.  And I doubt anyone can come up with something more radical.

Many of those held to be the great figures of radicalism have never done anything radical in their lives.  Many of those have erased what little good they could have done with further irresponsible talk and actions. Emma Goldman's stirring speech about work, bread and taking it when they won't give bread,  is entirely negated by the deliciously savored and massively stupid fetish for the "propaganda of the deed" You can say the same thing about related acts of exciting violence, which are dramatic and get enormous attention-  more bad than good - and which, in their utter futility turned out to be melodrama,  They setting progress back and are entirely outstripped in their radicalism by getting the aristocratic FDR elected to his first term.  Yet the play left, with the fact of the radicalism of things like social security staring them in the face, go for the cults of those who never so much as improved the life of a single person.  Except, in some rare cases, their own and that of their family.   Late in her life Emma goldman and Alexander Berkman asked people if they'd wasted their lives.  The answer to that is yes, if radical change was the goal.  Anarchism has never and will not possibly ever exist because it will create a vacuum which will be filed by thugs and despots if no one else. In the same way, the vacuum in politics on the left end, hollowed out by play leftists, has been filled by thugs and despots, attention grabbing do-nothing idiots and the largest body of futile and arid theorists as has ever blighted the intellectual landscape.

It is more radical to do the possible than to insist on the impossible.  It is more radical to face that some things are not going to happen now and, likely ever, no matter how desirable they might seem.  Their desirability in real life is only known by them becoming actual, in real life, through real changes made in lives, in politics, as the result of taking office and changing laws.  That is something the play left has proven themselves to be incapable of doing through decades and going on into centuries of unrealistic, theoretical exposition and posturing.  Throug melodramtic - badly considered and planned demonstrations and on to the stupid violence and babyish babbling that is really motivated to get attention for those who engage in it.  The history of the futility of that would discredit it to any real liberal, to any real radical who is really interested in making real life better instead of posing and pretending.   You can look at the remarkably futile history of third parties in the United States as representative.  In the entire history of the country the only third party that has ever gained power and made any kind of change was the Republican Party in 1860 and by the time it was the age of the most prominent of recent third party movements, the Greens, they'd been governing the country for a quarter of a century.  And it wasn't their radical faction that held power.

Our time to do any of that is the present, we can't change the past, we can only learn from it to understand the past and the present and to try to discern the future.   Any future we eventually get to must pass through the one and only door of the present time.   Any and all radical change depends on what can happen now, what can be made to happen now.  In her obituary of Barbara Jordan, Molly Ivins praised her for never wasting a minute on what wasn't possible.  That is a truly radical stand, that is a truly hard reality, that is one of the indispensable tools of real radicalism, that is what the play left will never take up to work for real change.

Instead of looking at the time wasting and famous and lauded and futile radicals of the past, the ones to learn from are those who changed laws, who made lives better, who effectively resisted entrenched power to force change.  Those people made the civil rights struggle of the 1950s and early 1960s before the play left took the mic and destroyed progress, they made the women's suffrage movement, the part of that which succeeded in changing laws as entrenched as Jim Crow,  and they made the other successful movements that made change, few of those involving the popular cult heroes of the children of the play left.   An effective left, a left that can take power and change laws for the better is the greatest fear of the corporate, oligarchic establishment.  Which is why they do everything in their power to undermine and disappear it in American life.  In that they are allies of the play left which, as mentioned before,  is actually not far removed from them.

The Idiocy of the Snowden and Greenwald Cults Only Becomes More Idiotic and More of a Disaster For the Real Left

Here is part of the story first interview with David Miranda and the Guardian,  you recall, Glenn Greewald's partner who has been so much in the news of late:

He was on his way back from Berlin, where he was ferrying materials between Greenwald and Laura Poitras, the US film-maker who has also been working on stories related to the NSA files released by US whistle-blower Edward Snowden.

Miranda was seized almost as soon as his British Airways flight touched down on Sunday morning. "There was an announcement on the plane that everyone had to show their passports. The minute I stepped out of the plane they took me away to a small room with four chairs and a machine for taking fingerprints," he recalled.

His carry-on bags were searched and, he says, police confiscated a computer, two pen drives, an external hard drive and several other electronic items, including a games console, as well two newly bought watches and phones that were packaged and boxed in his stowed luggage.

"They got me to tell them the passwords for my computer and mobile phone," Miranda said. "They said I was obliged to answer all their questions and used the words 'prison' and 'station' all the time."

'll pause right here and note how they really put the thumb screws on the guy, detaining him for nine whole hours and using the word "prison" and "station" finally forcing him to crack to tell them the passwords to his computer and mobile phone.  And him facing the horrific prospect of facing the British justice system under the charges they could conceivably have brought and sustained, with media oversight.  And we're supposed to imagine this entire time that Edward Snowden didn't break under the resources available to Chinese intelligence and then Russian intelligence with many more than nine hours and the conditions that are entirely permitted to those governments and their security services.   If the Chinese or Russian governments said,  "We don't know where Snowden is," while knowing exactly where he was, do you think their domestic media would find out where he was?   And do you think that, stupid  as he was to go to China, that Snowden wasn't made aware of what could happen to him if he didn't "answer all their questions"?  I'd imagine that "prison" and "station" would have been the least of it.

The story said:

He was offered a lawyer and a cup of water, but he refused both because he did not trust the authorities. The questions, he said, were relentless – about Greenwald, Snowden, Poitras and a host of other apparently random subjects.

Oh, the horror, being offered a lawyer.  I'm sure that Snowden was threatened with at least that much in Hong Kong,  but, in his situation, I would suspect a cup of water might have been a bit more of a danger. Though I'd guess tea or coffee would have hidden the taste of any drugs more effectively.   I somehow, doubt that Snowden managed to go without liquids for the more than nine hours that was the length of his stay there or at the Airport in Moscow.   Even his most ridiculous fans wouldn't believe that Snowden Man could hold out that long.  Though they obviously believe he has other super-powers which are almost as absurd.

Back to the interview:

"It is clear why they took me. It's because I'm Glenn's partner. Because I went to Berlin. Because Laura lives there. So they think I have a big connection," he said. "But I don't have a role. I don't look at documents. I don't even know if it was documents that I was carrying. It could have been for the movie that Laura is working on."

ell, perhaps by now Miranda will have read the New York times stories that appeared roughly while he was in transit where both Poitras and Greenwald bragged about using their friends and associates as mules to carry stuff across borders for them.  Not that I'd imagine British intelligence was unaware that Miranda, going from a week with Poitras in Berlin back to Greenwald might just have a large cache of material that British intelligence was able to want all on their own without the U.S. requesting it.  After all, some of the material that Greenwald used to embarass the United States government was of interest to the British government.  Who knows what else in that line Poitras and Greenwald were ferrying back and forth with their human mules.

And there was this:

Speaking by phone from the couple's home in the Tijuca forest, Miranda said it felt "awesome" to be back. "It's really good to be here. I felt the weight lift off my shoulders as soon I got back. Brazil feels very secure, very safe," he said. "I knew my country would protect me, and I believe in my husband and knew that he would do anything to help me."

Because, as everyone knows Rio de Janeiro is so crime free with no presence of organized criminals, at all. Perhaps, with their obsession about the United States government being out to get them, it hasn't occurred to Greenwald and Miranda that by announcing to the world that he's sitting on lots and lots of U.S. classified intelligence,  that their home has become a repository of some very valuable material, which many governments and non-governmental groups would love to have.  When their home was broken into in early July and only a lap top was taken,  all of their adoring fans assumed it was the U.S. who took it.  Why they'd want to steal information they already had is a bit more problematic than why organized criminals would want to steal it to sell it on the black market or hold it for ransom.  Or some other intelligence service of some other country, friendly or hostile to the United States government might want it.  Perhaps the Brazilian security services would like to know what Greenwald had gotten from Snowden.   They should hope that someone who gets that doesn't want the key to any encryption enough to force it out of them.  A lawyer and a cup of water would probably look really good to them before nine hours are up.  And The Guardian will not be there to protect them if that should happen.

These guys are amateurs who have gotten in far, far over their head in an extremely dangerous game.  Only it's not a game, the people and organizations they face are all business. 

The cult of the new holy trinity, Snowden, Greenwald and Poitras is going to blow up in the face of the left and this leftist doesn't intend to go down with the idiots who are ignoring that what is already known about it indicates that it was based in either Snowden's idiocy or criminality in going to China with lots of stolen U.S. intelligence.  That's the key to decrypt the real nature of this disaster.   What followed was just more evidence that it is an impending disaster for the left which has taken him and Greenwald - a man who has spent many words supporting such well known leftists as Rand Paul - to their bosom.

Update:   As RMJ points out today, the original assertion that the British officials who detained Miranda had denied him a lawyer is contradicted by him saying he was offered a lawyer and that he refused one.   Which is an excellent point.  I'm going to predict that sooner or later The Guardian will rue the day it took on Greenwald.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Good Lord, Greenwald is an Idiot If He Thinks Any Security Service of Any Country He or Miranda Go Through Won't Want To See What They're Carrying

From today's New York Times:

Mr. Miranda was in Berlin to deliver documents related to Mr. Greenwald’s investigation into government surveillance to Ms. Poitras, Mr. Greenwald said. Ms. Poitras, in turn, gave Mr. Miranda different documents to pass to Mr. Greenwald. Those documents, which were stored on encrypted thumb drives, were confiscated by airport security, Mr. Greenwald said. All of the documents came from the trove of materials provided to the two journalists by Mr. Snowden. The British authorities seized all of his electronic media — including video games, DVDs and data storage devices — and did not return them, Mr. Greenwald said.

Please, we need more mature and honest leakers and more mature and less narcissistic journalists who get the information that is leaked.   I came into this believing that Snowden and Greenwald's motives were similar to those of Bradley Manning and Daniel Ellsberg but this is looking ever more like idiotic narcissism if you put the best spin on it.   With what I've read this week I think the espionage charge against Snowden is justified. 

Intelligence services are a fact of life and if we're going to have democracy they have to be made compatible with democracy.   I don't see anything coming from this that will do anything but harm that necessity of democratic government.  

When He Was Coming Home From A Visit To Poitras With a Load of Electronics What Did Miranda and Greenwald Expect To Happen?

Should a journalist be taken as an unbiased source when reporting or commenting on their spouse? Apparently we're all supposed to t think so when it's Glenn Greenwald reporting on the detention at Heathrow Airport of  David Miranda, effectively his husband, while en route from spending a week with Laura Poitras in Berlin.  Poitras was another of the people to whom Edward Snowden leaked material he stole from the NSA.    So far, at the time of this writing, everything I've been able to read seems to have come from Greenwald, other details are pretty sketchy.   While I've got no problem with Greenwald announcing what's happened, in so far as he knows it, he's not an unbiased source of information and he has every reason to be suspected of bias.

Perhaps the authorities in Britain* had already read the New York Times story on Laura Poitras that appeared yesterday when they detained David Miranda, but in it she says

After being detained repeatedly, Poitras began taking steps to protect her data, asking a traveling companion to carry her laptop, leaving her notebooks overseas with friends or in safe deposit boxes. She would wipe her computers and cellphones clean so that there would be nothing for the authorities to see. Or she encrypted her data, so that law enforcement could not read any files they might get hold of. These security preparations could take a day or more before her travels.

Passing by the naive faith she places in her encryption as compared to that available to governments, by her statement IN THE NEW YORK TIMES that she's using traveling companions to act as couriers of her laptop SHE HAS NOW MADE THEM THE TARGET OF INTELLIGENCE OFFICIALS AROUND THE WORLD.   I was avoiding calling anyone in this story narcissistic but with her and Greenwald's ridiculous assumption of permission to do what they've been doing on the basis of them declaring themselves journalists and that this blanket of immunity covers their spouses, friends and traveling companions, they are a danger to them and to the effort to make intelligence services compatible with democracy.

Greenwald and Poitras seem to mistake someone deciding to call themselves a journalist or being employed as a journalist as providing them a grant of diplomatic immunity.  Apparently they're joined by that delusion by millions around the world.  Perhaps anyone so ignorant of the laws and rules under which the profession of journalism operates should be excluded from those who get to be considered journalists.

Intelligence services of some kind are an intrinsic part of governments, every single one of them has them and has had them from the beginning of governments.  Just as with armies and police forces, they are not going to go away.  The problem for a democracy is in making and keeping their intelligence services, the military and police compatible with democracy, something that the increasing travel and shipping industries have done so much to make so much more difficult.   Modern life has made that effort many times more difficult, computers and the internet have made it even harder.

If all governments, everywhere were always forced to have complete transparency the world would be far better, dictatorships would not form nearly as often. But that world is not here in 2013, it will not be for the lifetime of any of us, it's an effective fact of life that governments will have secrets.  Many of those secrets will be truly needed and will not only protect lives but the conditions under which democracy is possible.  The down side of that is that other secrets endanger lives and attack democracy.   So it's a question of which secrets must be exposed and which must not be exposed.  I don't trust Edward Snowden - who admitted he took the job with an NSA contractor** in order to steal information - and self declared journalists to make those decisions.  Greenwald and, now Poitras have given me serious doubts about their maturity to handle secrets by their juvenile revelations of things like their use of friends as guardians of secret information and as donkeys to get them past security officials at borders.   We don't get to elect employees of contractors, we don't get to vote for journalists, we get to vote for politicians and on that thin reed the protection of democracy from the necessary evils of intelligence services depends.  They are the ones who are going to have to come up with a solution to the problem that Snowden, Greenwald and Poitras have contributed to making far more difficult and, as these headline grabbing incidents continue, will make even worse.

It's only a matter of time before antics like Snowden's, Greenwalds, and Poitras' will blow up in the face of their supporters.  These people are too immature to be trusted with such important things as civilian control of intelligence services.

I was entirely in favor of jailing Judith Miller when she was covering up for the Bush II thugs who leaked the identity of Valerie Plame Wilson to get back at her husband for reporting information of the greatest importance to democracy and an evaluation of some of the worst decisions an American Government has ever taken, selling that on the basis of lies.  The Bush II thugs exposed her and her contacts in other countries to danger.   Judith Miller was a witness to a crime, she covered up for some of the more ruthless criminals in the United States in the last decade.

We don't have a complete list of what Snowden took and who he has given what but we have it on his word and that of the two journalists he's leaked to that he took a lot.  I've written about his complete irresponsibility in taking it with him to China and the Russia, who would certainly get it from him one way or another, including any encryption keys he believed protected it.  Anyone who doesn't believe that those governments have whatever he was carrying with him is hopelessly naive.  I would expect that any of that information such as, for example, contacts of their dissidents with Americans could endanger their lives.  And who knows what other material he brought with him.  Certainly not Greenwald and Poitras.  But it's certainly more than was leaked to Judith Miller and Robert Novak.  I don't think either of them should have been immune to investigation either.

*  Apparently that small point that it was BRITISH AUTHORITIES ACTING UNDER BRITISH LAW and not under the United States Constitution has been lost on a large percentage of the vent-o-sphere going on like an out of control copying machine on this story.

**  End the contracting of things like this now.   That entities such as the Bush Crime Family have their hands all over these contracters should scare us all a lot more than that the intelligence services are making life hard for leakers and the recipients of leaks.  If you trust companies to handle this information, not skimming off some of that for their own profits you are too naive to be discussing this.  The intelligence services should be entirely in the hands of civil servants who have the highest level of civilian control exercised over them and effective oversight.  The system of contracting that the Bush II regime put into place, continuing a trend that was increased in the Bush I administration should be entirely unacceptable as an attack on democracy and the national security that democracy depends on.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Geri Allen Trio: Feed the Fire

Geri Allen is one of my favorite piano players.  I love her music and the singers and musicians she plays with.   Always exciting with an amazing technique and hair pin navigational skills.

Burning Down Darwinism to Save Darwinism: Another Summer Rerun

Note:   I ran into someone going on about Richard Dawkins' exposition of avian altruism, one of the most irrational of current superstitions among the educated classes of the English Speaking Peoples.  I have to admit, its violations of both the law of physics and basic mathematics, and its constituting a contradiction of the very biological theory it purports to support annoys the hell out of me.   Or maybe it's the arrogance of the people who think they're better than their ideological opponents as they gas on so stupidly that has become one of my pet peeves.   So, in lieu of new research,  I hope you enjoy this as much as I did when I wrote it. 

One of the most popular ideas in current materialism, atheism and among the self appointed "skeptics" is that "altruism" is a product of natural selection.   That idea was pushed by a latter day Darwinist named W.D. Hamilton* who came up with equations alleging to prove that conscious acts of self sacrifice by an individual were really acts of genetic self-interest, selfishness for the propagation of genes by organisms that are the mere robots and vehicles of them.

Backing up, the problem that acts of generosity posed for the theory of natural  selection goes back to the beginning with Darwin.  If natural selection is what formed all organisms, body and mind and behavior, acts of generous self-sacrifice, resulting in the death or injury or even some form of reproductive disadvantage can't be explained.  Natural selection is, as even Darwin asserted, all about "survival of the fittest" [On the Origin of Species 5th ed. p. 92] in a struggle for life and reproduction.  And, as seen in yesterday's post, Darwin and his followers were already making the most extravagant claims about its action in human societies.   They, of course, had nothing but narrative, lacking data to back up then claims.  Quite often in Darwin, Haeckel and others, the narrative was a thinly veiled creation myth designed to assert an appearance of natural selection in nature when it was only there in the fables.  That effort has continued down to today, it is the reason why such an overwhelming amount of asserted "science" surrounding behavior and thought becomes accepted, fashionable, out-moded and then junked as newer fables or, on occasion, some actual data or the application of reason debunks them.

In the hands of any Darwinian fundamentalist,  whose goal is not to test Natural Selection but to uphold it and assert its universal explanatory power,  all phenomena which could harm the theory must be either rejected or twisted to fit it.  "Altruism" as expounded by Hamilton is transformed into a mere appearance of generosity but which is, actually, Darwinian self-interest on behalf of genes contained within organisms.  In order to do that the human experience of generosity has to be made to equal behaviors in other species which are far removed from us in evolutionary descent by many hundreds of millions of years,  ants figure heavily in it.  I haven't seen any applications of Hamilton to organisms more distant in time for us, though the imperatives of the ultra-Darwinist claiming the total explanatory power of natural selection could hardly continue to ignore the vast majority of the living species, and grad students in the soft "sciences" will always be looking for novel ways to please the faculties in their field.

The most frequently articulated form of Hamiltonian "altruism" I've encountered, by far, is that of gene selfishness as popularized by Richard Dawkins in The Selfish Gene.  And by a factor of many times to one, the expression of such "altruism" brought up by his fans is in the fable of "the first bird to call out".   I wrote briefly and quickly on that last spring.  My recent go around at Jeffrey Sallit's  atheist themed "science" blog, "Recursivity",  brought up some even more absurd aspects of it, so I will go over it again.  Here is the fable as Dawkins sets it out.

Laying down one's life for one's friends is obviously altruistic, but so also is taking a slight risk for them. Many small birds, when they see a flying predator such as a hawk, give a characteristic "alarm call", upon which the whole flock takes appropriate evasive action. There is indirect evidence that the bird who gives the alarm call puts itself in special danger, because it attracts the predator's attention particularly to itself. This is only a slight additional risk, but it nevertheless seems, at least at first sight, to qualify as an altruistic act by our definition.

Richard Dawkins:   p.6, The Selfish Gene,  Thirtieth Anniversary Edition, 2006

In my analysis last spring, I noted, at great detail that the entire basis of the invented "altruism" was the assertion,  "There is indirect evidence that the bird who gives the alarm call puts itself in special danger, because it attracts the predator's attention particularly to itself." Only where is that "indirect evidence" that the first bird calling out had more of a chance at being killed by the predator?   Dawkins gives none, something he has in common with others making assertions of "altruism" of this sort.   Lacking a large enough number of filmed examples to study in which to identify both the "first bird to call out" and that it was the one caught by the "flying predator" it would be impossible to make that hypothesis into real science.  No matter how well it might work as convincing narrative. 

Just on the basis of physics, if the other birds in the flock were close enough for the alarm call to allow them to escape, they'd have to be far closer than the predator and, the speed of sound being rather fixed, they'd probably have taken off in a flurry of confusion before the predator even heard the call.  I don't think that part of the fable passes muster either in terms of adequate scientific observation (something generally lacking in evo-psy)  or on the basis of basic physics.   I'll pass over the often observed phenomenon that when birds see a predator, they very often don't call out but play statues.  Also that among some birds, it's not uncommon for different species to flock together and for bird flocks to be found in close proximity to each other. 

But, as I put it to the mathematician, Shallit, the proposal has even more basic problems with it.   If Dawkins is correct that there is a genetic basis of  bird "alturism",  in lines with his fable, and that the "altruism" consists in the self-sacrifice of birds containing those genes, in order that other birds containing that gene can escape and reproduce, he ignores that birds not containing that genetic "altruism" would also benefit from that self-sacrifice.   That would mean that every time Dawkins fable happened, every time those "altruism" genes worked as proposed,  the percentage of birds containing the "altruism" genes would decrease and the percentage of those not containing them would increase within the flock and within the species.  For Dawkins fable to work, decreasing numbers within the population would have to result in either increasing percentages or, at the very least, a statistically neutral wash.   I challenged Shallit to explain why that wasn't true.  On my last check the self-promoted champion of science and mathematics had failed to do that.   As I noted to him neither has anyone else I've ever posed that problem to.

Even more problematic from the point of view of natural selection would be the fact that every time an "altruistic" bird sacrificed itself, its breeding potential, passing on the "altruism" gene to a new generation, would be cut off.  In its stead the birds not carrying "genetic altruism" would have an increased chance of successfully breeding in its place and any offspring they produced would not have to compete with as many offspring carrying his "altruism genes" in the next generation.  How the "altruism genes" would increase from that needs to be answered.  As well as how those who claim to uphold the highest of scientific and logical integrity could create such "science".

Now, there is nothing in classical Darwinism that is more established than the contention that eyesight and hearing are the products of natural selection, progressively selecting individuals with inferior eyesight and hearing to die through predation and decreased success in producing offspring.  Good eyesight and hearing are the quintessential examples of positive adaptations,  offered as proof of the correctness of the theory of natural selection.   Natural selection fails as a theory if positive adaptations do not result in more offspring for those individuals having them than for those which don't have them, eventually resulting in new species which incorporate that adaptation.  That is the bedrock concept of natural selection and Darwinism.   Without that the long, violently contested  and continuing struggle over the evolution of the eye would never have happened.

I further noted that the proposed "altruistic" self-sacrifice, based in genetics would have the odd effect of turning superior eye-sight and hearing into a maladaptation.   "Altruistic" birds with superior eyesight and hearing would be more likely to see a predator first, more likely to call out first and more likely to die in its talons than an "altruistic" bird with bad eyesight and hearing.  Nearsighted, hard-of-hearing "altruistic" birds would be more likely to be among the survivors as their more able fellows sacrificed themselves, they potentially would increase the percentage of bad eyesight and hearing in the subset of "altruistic" birds, leaving them more prone to being preyed on in other ways.   I'll repeat that.  According to classic Darwinism, such good eyesight and hearing would increase the maladaptive effect of genes that directly led to early "altriustic" bird death if they had superior eyesight and hearing within the group of "altruistic" birds, but bad eyesight is, in itself, maladaptive.   Any way I can see,  Dawkins' proposed "altruism" is a maladaptation, failing in purely Darwinian terms as well as contradicting the properties of the set of Natural numbers.

How Richard Dawkins and those who peddle the idea of Hamiltonian "altruism" can be successful when their ideas are so essentially irrational needs investigation.  It also has to be asked how the entire effort to dispose of real generosity on behalf of a theory that can't explain it can lead alleged champions of science to so totally trash everything, including logic, including mathematics, including Darwinian doctrine, itself.  in order to deliver on a bad note of promissory materialism.

No matter what it's alleged scientific origin is, the concept of "altruism" set out in such illogical fashion is extremely popular with materialists,  atheists, "skeptics" because of their devotion to Darwinism.  As noted, it is frequently cited by them in online discussions and blog brawls.  It is ideologically important to them that Darwin's ultimate theory, which is natural selection, not evolution, has a standing similar to that of the laws of gravitation and those concerning chemical bonds.   I was brought up with a non-ideological faith in the power of natural selection which I've found extremely difficult to test and question and I wasn't wedded to it in the same, emotional way that atheists are.   The first reason for the atheist devotion to natural selection is found in its earliest supporters.   Galton said it in noting his motives in the invention of eugenics,

THE publication in 1859 of the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin made a marked epoch in my own mental development, as it did in that of human thought generally. Its effect was to demolish a multitude of dogmatic barriers by a single stroke, and to arouse a spirit of rebellion against all ancient authorities whose positive and unauthenticated statements were contradicted by modern science.

Ernst Haeckel, as well, expressed his adoption of natural selection in terms of its ideological use,

On the other hand, the theory of development carried out by Darwin, which we shall have to treat of here as the Non-miraculous or Natural History of Creation, and which has already been put forward by Goethe and Lamarck, must, if carried out logically, lead to the monistic or mechanical (causal) conception of the universe. 

Most explicitly he said,

This final triumph of the monistic conception of nature constitutes the highest and most general merit of the Theory of Descent, as reformed by Darwin.

As noted in previous posts, Charles Darwin was fully aware of Haeckel's statements as he cited the book in which Haeckel said it.  I have seen nothing to indicate that Darwin rejected that view.

The very real conflict over evolution overturning a literal interpretation of Genesis masks a far deeper ideological conflict that comes from natural selection, considered to be an absolute law of nature.   It was a fight that Darwin's accepted and deeply appreciated early promoters were already laying out in full detail, including, literally, a rejection of the most basic ideas of morality.  You can read Huxley, Galton, Haeckel, and others right down to today to see that has been a feature of natural selection as articulated by its foremost promoters.  As natural selection was, itself, based in the moral atrocity of Malthusian economics, any expectation of anything else coming from it is irrational.  There is no place for the real phenomena of human generosity in the declaration that the alternative to selfishness is death, which is what natural selection is.   Generosity escapes the artificial gravity of Darwinism, it will whenever it arises.  Its reality is denied by Hamilton's perversion of "altruism", itself a word invented by Comte to try to force generosity into his less sciency articulation of materialism.  It's hardly a surprise that, given the cynicism and stupidity of most of the promotion of atheism today, that turning it into selfishness by unthinking molecules would be so very popular.

* In a planned post I will look at the idea that what the rather awful and depraved W. D. Hamilton had to say about generosity and "altruism"  should have been taken with more pinches of salt than are compatible with health.

Update:  Since someone asked, my difficulty in questioning natural selection comes, first and foremost, in that it was the way I've been taught to think of evolution for more than fifty years.  Try to imagine how you would face the fact of evolution if you didn't presume that natural selection was both a law of nature and the framework into which all other thinking about evolution must fit.  Second was the enormous coercion that comes to someone who begins to question the theory.  That coercion is ubiquitous and powerful.  Creationists aren't affected by it because their denial of evolution removes them from its effects.  I was never brought up to believe in the literal truth of the early chapters of Genesis, I never have so I never had that to overcome.  I had been brought up to an entirely conventional belief in contemporary evolutionary theory.  My mother has a degree in Zoology, I did well enough in the biology classes I took that my teacher encouraged me to think of changing my major, I've had two field biologists in my family.  I used to care what the people imposing that coercion think, most people on the left still do.  I don't care about their opinion any longer.

I was brought to not caring about it through my investigation of "evolutionary" psychology and Sociobiology and other "scientific" expositions of biological determinsm far earlier than my reading of Darwin's books and letters led me into total heresy on the matter.

I now doubt that natural selection is a force of nature in the same way that gravity or other physical forces abstracted into laws are.  I don't think that, as science, it's an especially good theory.  I don't believe that all of those trillions of  variable, changing lives of unique individuals, their deaths, their successes and failures at reproduction, the role of mere chance and far more subtle and effectively infinite variation in those really equals one force of nature.   I think a lot of the articulation of this is colored by natural selection instead of the actual events being accurately explained by it.

Natural selection's alleged virtue of providing an explanatory mechanism for evolution doesn't make up for its deficiencies as a theory.  Evolution would still be a fact if natural selection was junked and no successor framework for thinking about it replaced it.  There is no law of nature that everything has to be susceptible to that level of human comprehension.  The belief that everything is eventually explainable with science is a superstition, not scientific.    As I noted in talking about the enormous dimensions of evolution, both in time and in numbers of lives, the idea that Charles Darwin would find the key that unlocks the entirety on the basis of the information he had available in 1859 it is a matter of faith, not of reason.  I think that to a great extent the lens of natural selection might have a decisive effect on what is looked for, how what is found is looked at and for the acceptance of any analysis of that by science.  I will predict that, eventually, natural selection will either change far more radically than it already has in its history (Darwin and his contemporary colleagues, other than Weismann,  believed in Lamarckian inheritance, after all).  I think it's also possible that, eventually, natural selection will be laid aside as more of that enormous field of study is discovered.

Much is made about the instances of accuracy in what Darwin said and I am not entirely dismissive of Darwin.  I firmly believe in what I think is his greatest insight, common ancestry, while admitting that is based on belief and presumed probability.  Which will be the topic of my next post in this series.  But I am in the same position that St. George Mivart, an early convert to Darwinism, found himself in while attending a series of lectures on the subject given by no less of an authority than Thomas Huxley.  He found that the more he learned about it the less credible it seemed to him.

Online Privacy Experiment

After the experience of having a comment I made on Glenn Greenwald's Guardian comments to one of his posts decrying the violation of online privacy tapped by whoever it was choosing ads for me to see,  I decided to test just how much online privacy I had.  I removed all of the cookies from my computer and went to do something I've never done and never had anything to do with,  sign up for Face Book using an assumed name, a false location in another state, date of birth, my gender, everything.   I signed up and as soon as I had confirmed it at an e-mail address (also under a pseudonym and false location, etc.) I seldom use, I got a list of people I might want to contact.  

Every single person in my near immediate family, up to my great-nieces who are on Face Book, were on that list, some of them living clear across the country, many of them not living in the same town I do.  And speaking of that, there were people who live in the same town and went to the same high school I did, even though I'd claimed to live in another state.  People with the same names of people I know but who I don't contact by e-mail, who I never mentioned online, some of whom I haven't thought about in years.  It was pretty flabbergasting and I'm not a sucker for the myth of online privacy.   

Try it yourself if, like me, you've never had anything to do with Face Book.   I don't know, it just might work with Twitter and other things I don't have anything to do with either. 

So, another nail in the coffin of the myth of online privacy.