Saturday, January 14, 2017

Second Feature - Clifford Simak - X Minus One - How-2

You want to hear what the future was going to be?

Saturday Night Radio Drama -Leila Aboulela - The Museum

Wendy Baxter
David Tennant
Tracey-Ann Oberman
Ray Emmet Brown
David Baker
Gordon Reid

It's too bad I had to guess at some of the spellings and I'm not even going to try to list the characters. It's one of the things about radio drama, till the end I didn't realize that the actors were using theater accents.  I have no way to know how authentic they are but I imagine Leila Aboulela participated in the production.  The part when they get to the museum seems to me to be appropriate considering the posts I did yesterday and today.

This little article says that David Tennant and Catherine Tate preferred making the radio versions of Dr. Who to the visual version.  It's interesting to consider how much easier it must be to make a radio version because, as Tate said, "You zip through it because you haven’t got to worry about camera angles, and lighting and make up, and all these things,am I on my mark? You just use the words and your voice."   Sounds like making music.

Lelia Aboulela is an author I'd never heard of before.  This review leads me to hope to read some of her writing, someday.

Update:  I found Lelia Aboulela's personal website, with some of her writing on it.   Haven't read any of it yet but I certainly will.

I'm With John Lewis, Donald Trump Will Never Be A Legitimate President

Thanks to RMJ for pointing me to the statement of John Lewis that says that Donald Trump is not a legitimate president of the United States.   In the Huffington Post piece about the interview with Chuck Todd, Representative Lewis said:

“I don’t see this president-elect as a legitimate president,” Lewis told Chuck Todd, host of NBC’s “Meet The Press.” “I think the Russians participated in helping this man get elected and they have destroyed the candidacy of Hillary Clinton.”

Lewis added that he believes there was a conspiracy “on the part of the Russians and others” to help Trump get elected.

“That’s not right, that’s not fair, that’s not the open democratic process,” he said.

That is a truth that cannot be stated more clearly and it is a truth which will have the most devastating consequences for this country.  It is a truth that points out so much about how seriously wrong this country has gone since the Supreme Court under Republican leadership has been dismantling the Voting Rights Act.

Through those states where Republican governors and legislators have been implementing what is obviously racially, ethnically and other means of suppressing the votes of groups that tend to favor Democrats they have given the dictator of Russia more of a voice in choosing the president of the United States than citizens of this country have.  The director of the FBI and may of his agents have aided in the effort John Lewis talked about as has much of the American media.

Either you believe that the declarations basic to the establishment of this country are really true and of actual meaning or you don't.   You either believe that democracy is based on true and consequential foundations of it is a sham.  If you believe, as the Declaration of Independence said, that

"Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,"  

which can only mean the honestly informed consent for that to mean anything, you either really, truly believe that or you don't.  John Lewis, in his long life of service to American democracy, in making his statement endorsed and called into effect the next statement:

"That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it,"

Lacking the power to abolish it, John Lewis has both the credibility and the power derived from those truths held to be self-evident in our founding document, to declare the Trump presidency is, by the terms set out in that document, illegitimate.

The warnings contained in that paragraph of the Declaration will, I'm afraid, become more evidently true though hard experience.

"That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security."

How much more obvious than having the Constitution that followed that, allowing the installation of a president, with a minority of the popular vote, with the decisive help of foreign dictators, as interpreted by Republican Courts and also aided by a baldly partisan Republican director of the FBI meets all of the requirements of an illegitimate government, such as the universally touted Founders gave as their reason to abolish their ties with Britain.

Jimmy and Rosalind Carter,  Hillary and Bill Clinton should change their mind and not go to the inauguration.  John Lewis is right to not go and pretend this is a legitimate inauguration of a legitimate president.

Hate Mail - Yes, I Guess I Did Say That

Yes, I guess I am accusing the four authors of that paper, Does Science Education Need the History of Science?,  Graeme Gooday,  John M. Lynch,  Kenneth G. Wilson, and Constance K. Barsky of either complete incompetence or outright lying.  If it is the first they were incompetent to make their arguments by not having read The Descent of Man, other writings of Charles Darwin in which he explicitly states, endorses and promotes the idea of the deaths of individuals and even entire ethnic groups, through violence, even, as beneficial for the murdering survivors.  No one who read him on that topic could possibly miss those claims made in that book and elsewhere by Charles Darwin, doing so on the basis of his theory of Natural Selection.  They also would have had to be incompetent through their not checking his many glowing citations of Ernst Haeckel who, even more explicitly, made the same arguments, cited by Darwin in Descent of Man, and other Germans who were either in contact with Darwin or who it is known - BY HIS OWN CITATIONS - that Darwin read.  I still believe he invented a citation of Hermann Schaaffhausen, claiming him in support of the idea that the extinction of a large number of human groups - certainly in the minds of Darwin's Victorian readers, groups of dark skinned people - would be a boon for the survivors.  I have had the challenge out for several years, for someone to point out what Schaaffhausen said that constitutes that infamous citation in The Descent of Man and no one has been able to refute my conclusion that Darwin made it up.

Either those four scholars, published in the reviewed journal Focus-ISIS 99:2 (2008) were ignorant of the very material that constitutes the basis of any argument for the relationship of Darwinism to the particularly murderous Nazi eugenics- indeed all of eugenics - or they would have had to be lying about what they knew.   They would certainly have had to be ignorant of his short correspondence with the eugenicist and advocate of birth-control G. A. Gaskell in which Gaskell proves he has understood what Darwin said in The Descent of Man and points out that the only alternative to birth control for those they both deemed a threat to the human species through their having children was their violent destruction as explicitly stated by Darwin and Haeckel in passages Darwin cited.

The weak in body or mind may be cared for and protected so long as they conform to the social mandate not to continue their race. They may, to use Professor Mantegazza's* words, "love, but must not have offspring."

In conclusion, I submit, the birth of the fittest offers a much milder solution of the population difficulty, than the survival of the fittest and the destruction of the weak.

Even with that explicitly being pointed out to him, Darwin not only rejected birth control because he believed it would lead to women enjoying sex outside of marriage, he also explicitly articulated essentially the idea that the future of the world belonged to the biologically superior Brits and those closely related to them.

Suppose that such checks had been in action during the last two or three centuries, or even for a shorter time in Britain, what a difference it would have made in the world, when we consider America, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa ! No words can exaggerate the importance, in my opinion, of our colonization for the future history of the world.

If it were universally known that the birth of children could be prevented, and this was not thought immoral by married persons, would there not be great danger of extreme profligacy amongst unmarried women, and might we not become like to "arreois" societies in the Pacific?

In the course of a century, France will tell us the result in many ways. We can already see that the French nation does not spread or increase much.

Those who have read what he had to say in Descent of Man about such things as the extermination by the British of the inhabitants of Tasmania and other islands and even continents, it is inescapable that he was saying he was in favor of the white Brits wiping out entire ethnic groups through violence instead of even doing it by preventing them from having children.   How exactly that is supposed to differ from the Nazi idea of Lebensraum, versions of which were already, by that time, circulating among German speaking Darwinists, using arguments derived from Natural Selection, would have to be based on the fact that Darwin's succeeding populations would speak English instead of German.  Otherwise, it's essentially the same claim.   He would, apparently, exclude the French who were insufficiently imperialistic to suit him.  I would suspect that Belgium under Leopold II in central Africa would be more in line with his idea of biological progress, though perhaps not, since they spoke French as they murdered millions.  How the crimes of the Belgians in Africa would differ from what Darwin explicitly envisioned as a mechanism of biological progress for the human species is something I'd love to hear his apologists explain.

That the claims made in that paper could be made by four academics at credible universities and could pass peer review is, to me, incredible.  That is especially true if they had read those two papers by Richard Weikart that I cited yesterday, both of which were written before that article was written. To conflate his work with the controversy over Haeckel's embryo picture is an act of either complete ignorance of Weikart's writing or outright misrepresentation of it.  Weikart may have provided me with reasons to disagree with him but it's not on the basis of his scholarship in his own area of expertise.  Though that area which he has chosen was bound to earn him that kind of dishonest misrepresentation because the Darwin constructed after the crimes of the Nazis were revealed is a widely agreed to fraud which has become a required article of faith among the academic community.

You don't have to be a creationist* to not lie about what Darwin, Haeckel, Muller, Fick, Ploetz, Shallmeyer, Fischer, Lenz, etc. said.   You can be someone who accepts the reality of evolution, though, as I have found, the more I read about it, not necessarily believing that Natural Selection is a particularly good explanation of how evolution happened.  I started out reading about this more than a decade ago convinced of the reality of Natural Selection, I don't even believe it exits, now.  Whatever explanations there are for the enormous phenomenon we define as being evolution,  I doubt there will ever be one real overriding "thing" that will explain it.   While I disagree with Karl Marx on much, almost everything, in fact, I do agree with his observation that, though he deemed it useful for promoting materialism, what Darwin had done is impose the British class system as a law of nature.

* Note:  I think it's really unfortunate that the idea of "intelligent design" has been conflated with Creationism.   You can be totally convinced of the reality of evolution while believing in intelligent design,  The entirely conventional believer in evolution and natural selection, Theodosius Dobzhansky, with credentials as good as any, declared

It is wrong to hold creation and evolution as mutually exclusive alternatives. I am a creationist and an evolutionist. Evolution is God's, or Nature's method of creation. Creation is not an event that happened in 4004 BC; it is a process that began some 10 billion years ago and is still under way.

The conflation of that belief with the naive faith in the literal truth of the King James translation of the beginning of Genesis isn't especially honest or useful, except to those who want to make science into an ideological weapon of atheism.

I got into this for other reasons, I've gone into that over and over again.  I started looking for the refutation that Darwin would have provided to show he was not responsible for eugenics and found, immediately upon reading what he said on the topic, that article of faith I'd been sold during my entire education was a flat out and obvious lie.  That it was a lie became more obvious the more I followed up on Darwin's citations in The Descent of Man and began reading entire letters in his correspondence instead of the Darwin industry cherry-picked and distorted excerpts.  The fact that Darwin was in eugenics of the worst sort up to the top of his head and over was confirmed by what his children, his friends and associates said about him and his thinking, it was confirmed by the arguments made by eugenicists in English AND IN GERMAN who all, unsurprisingly, gave natural selection as the basis of their advocacy for everything from coerced and then  forced sterilization and, as a final resort, killing people.  As seen in the correspondence mentioned above, Darwin obviously rejected the more "moderate" means of doing that, even when the only alternative he, himself, gave was violent and deadly and genocidal struggle for existence.

I got into this as a supporter of American style liberalism and a conventional believer in evolution, I remain a believer in evolution, though a total skeptic of Natural Selection and an even more convinced and, I think, clearer advocate of American liberalism.  Darwin and his inner circle were certainly not liberals in the traditional American use of the word.  You can't be a believer in egalitarian democracy and a eugenicist and you can't be an American liberal without believing in egalitarian democracy.  Any confusion on that point can only end up discrediting liberals.

The language of the Darwinists, beginning with Darwin and immediately after through Thomas Huxley, Ernst Haeckle and others and the language of Nazism is remarkably similar.  Struggle for existence, survival of the fittest,  There really is no room in a belief that Natural Selection is a vitally relevant force at work on the human species for any other kind of talk.  It will always end up with someone's elimination being proposed and, when it will, "moderate" means fail, their murder will be the only alternative.  That's what history shows happens in real life as opposed to academic abstraction.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Andrew Hill - Refuge

Andrew Hill (Piano)
Richard Davis (Bass)
Anthony Williams (Drums)
Eric Dolphy (Flute, Alto Saxophone, Bass Clarinet)
Kenny Dorham (Trumpet)
Joe Henderson (Tenor Saxophone)

I'm really excited, I got my copy of Andrew Hill: 21 Piano Compositions.  I'm really going to need it to get through the next little while.   I'll take whatever refuges there are, right now.

Update:  I haven't read it yet but while I was looking for the link to the publishers listing, I came across this dissertation AN ANALYSIS OF SELECTED IMPROVISATIONS BY ANDREW HILL AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF PROGRESSIVE JAZZ PIANO, 1959-2005.  It's got some transcriptions of improvisations by the great Andrew Hill, one of the most neglected giants of American music.

Update 2:  Flight 19

Hate Mail

I really don't care.  

Except maybe I should start calling Simps 
"The Other Idiot From Queens™".  

He's got that much in common with Trump, they're both congenital liars.  

Old Hate Mail - If Richard Weikart's Work Passes Peer Review And What I Can Check Him On Passes My Review I'm Not Going To Blacklist Him

This is a confession.  I was cleaning up some old computer files when I came across some hate mail sent to me after one of my posts about the relationship of Darwinism, that is natural selection, to the eugenics of the Nazis.  And when someone talks about the eugenics of the Nazis, it is inevitable that you are talking about the industrialized murder as racial and national biological purification and economic efficiency.

The accusation in the old piece of hate mail was due to me having made my one and only citation of the scholar of the topic, Richard Weikart.  I cited him because he had provided a latter that Charles Darwin sent to the law professor at the University of Zurich, Heinrich Fick.  Fick had sent an essay of his to Charles Darwin in which he applied Darwin's natural selection to make the claim that military policy which selected the fittest young men to fight in wars and which exempted those who were unfit led to the fittest being more at risk of dying without leaving offspring and the "unfit" remaining alive to cause the dysgenesis of their nation through their presumably "unfit" children.  It was hardly a huge jump from Darwin's original exposition of natural selection to proposals for changing legal policy and such practices.

July 26 [1872]
Beckenham, Kent
Dear Sir

I am much obliged for your kindness in having sent me your essay, which I have read with
very great interest. Your view of the daughters of short-lived parents inheriting property at an early age, and thus getting married with its consequences, is an original and quite new idea to me. — So would have been what you say about soldiers, had I not read an article published about a year ago by a German (name forgotten just at present) [Fick identified him as H. Richter] who takes nearly the same view with yours, and thus accounts for great military nations having had a short existence.

I much wish that you would sometimes take occasion to discuss an allied point, if it holds good on the continent,—namely the rule insisted on by all our Trades-Unions, that all workmen,—the good and bad, the strong and weak,—sh[oul]d all work for the same number of hours and receive the same wages. The unions are also opposed to piece-work,—in short to all competition. I fear that Cooperative Societies, which many look at as the main hope for the future, likewise exclude competition. This seems to me a great evil for the future progress of mankind. — Nevertheless under any system, temperate and frugal workmen will have an advantage and leave more offspring than the drunken and reckless.— 

With my best thanks for the interest which I have received from your Essay, and with my
respect, I remain, Dear Sir

Yours faithfully

Ch. Darwin

As Weikart pointed out in the article in which he introduced the letter into the, then current discussion of Darwin's relationship with social Darwinism and eugenics, though the letter had been previously cited in relatively obscure German scholarship, it was unknown to the current English language discourse on the matter.  He also points out that its existence made it far more difficult to claim that part of the post-war plaster St. Charles Darwin myth, that he was entirely innocent of holding social Darwinian views and promoting them*.

The hate mail I received didn't refute anything that Weikart said in the article, it condemned my citation of him due to him working through The Discovery Institute as well as being a profesor of history at the California State University, Stanislaus.  It's my observation of those who try to give Weikart the cooties that they leave out his working for the Uof C system.

I read the Wikipedia citation used to condemn Weikart to the status of a banned scholar, not to be cited,  and read the piece it cited to declare him "controversial".  The piece, Does Science Education Need The History of Science makes the declaration:

What can historians of science do to counter this clear misuse of history? Somewhat perversely, much of our community has remained silent over the past decade while antievolutionists have publicly twisted historical fact regarding Haeckel. It took three biologists to set the record straight in 2005. They explicitly made the point that Darwin did not in fact rely on Haeckel but, rather, on information taken from the antievolutionary Karl von Baer...

[ I am going to break in at this point and say anyone who claimed that Darwin didn't rely on Haeckel for much of what he claimed about the action of and implications of natural selection in the human species is either guilty of the grossest negligence in reading what Darwin, himself, in his major work on that very topic, natural selection as it concerns human beings, The Decent of Man, said,  In that work,  in which he not only repeatedly credits Haeckel's work with the most effusive of glowing citations - even on such topics as the desirability of allegedly eugenic infanticide and the extinction of human groupings - but in his introduction he said:

This last naturalist,[Ernst Haeckel] besides his great work, 'Generelle Morphologie' (1866), has recently (1868, with a second edition in 1870), published his 'Naturliche Schopfungsgeschichte,' in which he fully discusses the genealogy of man. If this work had appeared before my essay had been written, I should probably never have completed it. Almost all the conclusions at which I have arrived I find confirmed by this naturalist, whose knowledge on many points is much fuller than mine. Wherever I have added any fact or view from Prof. Haeckel's writings, I give his authority in the text; other statements I leave as they originally stood in my manuscript, occasionally giving in the foot-notes references to his works, as a confirmation of the more doubtful or interesting points.

You could only claim that Darwin hadn't relied, very heavily on Haeckel if you either neglected to read the foremost document you would have to have read to make any credible claim on the matter or you would have had to lie about what Charles Darwin, himself, said on that topic, repeatedly throughout the book.

Now back to the paper.]

...They further noted that the creationists “are deeply confused or intentionally confusing regarding the history and significance of this well-known field.”

This preoccupation with Haeckel is taken a stage further by Richard Weikart, a senior fellow of the Discovery Institute, the leading organization promoting and funding the dissemination of intelligent design. In his provocatively titled From Darwin to Hitler: Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics, and Racism in Germany, Weikart implicitly indicts Darwin and Haeckel for acts that occurred long after their deaths. In line with older creationist claims, we are asked to reject modern scientific theories because of how older versions of these theories were misused. Unlike the claims regarding Haeckel’s embryology, Weikart’s claims regarding a lineage from Darwin to Hitler via Haeckel have been examined by historians of science and indeed have generally been found lacking. Numerous reviews have accused Weikart of selectively viewing his rich primary material, ignoring political, social, psychological, and economic factors that may have played key roles in the post-Darwinian development of Nazi eugenics and racism. Since there is no clear and unique line from Darwinian naturalism to Nazi atrocities, useful causal relationships are difficult to infer; thus, as Robert J. Richards observes, “it can only be a tendentious and dogmatically driven assessment that would condemn Darwin for the crimes of the Nazis.”

The fact is that Robert Richards is far more a revisionist of history than Richard Weikart, his attempted rehabilitation of Ernst Haeckel far more fits the accusations than does Weikart's work.  The best proof of that is what I've always advocated people do CHECK THE CLAIMS OF SCHOLARS AGAINST WHAT THE PRIMARY DOCUMENTATION ACTUALLY SAYS.  The inescapable fact is that by the 1870s Haeckel was using natural selection in advocacy of people being killed with claims that the effects of that murder was beneficial for the survivors - those who would do the killing.  That is the basic act of all genocide, including that of the Nazis.  Haeckel did an enormous part to introduce that idea into German intellectual life and more generally into German language popular culture. THE FACT IS THAT WE KNOW CHARLES DARWIN KNEW THAT BECAUSE HE CITED HAECKEL TO MAKE THE SAME CLAIMS IN THE DESCENT OF MAN.

There is something really rather funny about the accusation in this paper against Weikart in that before the section I just quoted it complains.

There is a long— but poorly evidenced—tradition of claiming, for example, that Karl Marx and Friedrich Nietzsche were followers of Darwin...

If they had bothered to look at Weikart's dissertation "Socialist Darwinism" they would have read a far more nuanced view of the very complex, hardly uniformly supportive, but very real relationship that Marx and Engels had with Darwinism, presented in great detail by Weikart.  While you get the feeling that the authors of the critique yearn for a simple, black or white reading of that history, it is far more complex and nuanced than is convenient for them.  Ironically, for them, Weikart notes in detail that the use of Darwinism by Marxists as a general support of their materialism ** (though not so much Marx) wasn't generally biological, they rejected the very Malthusianism that Darwinism is founded on.

Weikart also noted that Darwin, Haeckel and other member of the Darwin inner circle, like Thomas Huxley certainly didn't return any compliments that many socialists of various kinds and Marxists gave them in the general support for materialism they took from natural selection.  I read Weikart's dissertation last month and found it was excellently supported and reasoned and entirely balanced and fair in its claims and conclusions, not at all like the paper used to condemn Weikart, or, in fact, much of any of the effort to distance Charles Darwin from the terrible history of application of his theory to real people.

If you want to read what Weikart wrote about the links between Charles Darwin' theory and the line of German thinking that began, almost immediately, to associate natural selection with advocacy of genocide, you can read his paper Progress through Racial Extermination: Social Darwinism, Eugenics, and Pacifism in Germany, 1860-1918, which, among other things, explains the "pacifism" of the very same Haeckel who, throughout his career advocated the murder of large numbers of human beings and the salubrious effects of that genocide.  Something which Charles Darwin also presented as science in The Descent of Man, citing Ernst Haeckel to strengthen his arguments.*** If you want to distance Darwin from Haeckel, you've got the insurmountable mountain range of his citations of Haeckel AS SCIENCE, his correspondence with him (citing it in full, not the typical Darwin industry cherry-picking and clipping) the testimony of those in the English speaking Darwin circle, including his own sons who noted the close relationship and even friendship of Darwin and Haeckel and just about all of the primary evidence.  And not only those links with German eugenics and calls for genocide, but others such as are documented in primary sources, such as those Weikart cites.

Charles Darwin didn't even have to know, know about or even be alive for his theory of natural selection to have been the inspiration of specific eugenic proposals, either through forced or coerced sterilization or even by actual legalized murder, all anyone has to do to make that connection is to cite natural selection as supporting their eugenics.  They don't even have to cite Charles Darwin by name but merely the idea he created and promoted that it was scientific fact that the deaths of anyone deemed to be a lesser specimen of humanity before they could have children was generally beneficial for society at large and the surviving population.  In that scheme of things the survivors will include those who plan and carry out that murder - in fact their success in doing so is one of the traits of their superiority.  If they were inferior they would not succeed and would be the ones killed.  That is Darwinism as applied to the human species.

If you want to turn a scholar like Weikart into a banned person who can't be cited, you have to do so on the actual basis of their scholarship and their citations, not on a general claim that it is "controversial" or claimed to be such by clearly ideologically motivated ginners up of such "controversy".   I'm not going to play that game, anymore.  Not even if someone works at the Discovery Institute.   If we were to blackball all scholars based on their employing institutions having unsavory associations, I'd have to give up citing people who work at places like MIT and the University of Chicago,  Harvard and Yale.   With its association with Trump, The University of Pennsylvania would be suspect.  The direct links between Nazi eugenics and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory are undeniable.  Should anyone who is associated with it be intellectual kryptonite too?

I chickened-out on that account in the past, I'm done with it now.

*  It's also a fact that such an assertion has to ignore Charles Darwin's own assertion that natural selection was identical to the Spencerian formula "survival of the fittest" from the 5th edition of Origin of Species.  It is also noteworthy that that Darwin says he was urged to make that clarification by the man often credited as the "co-discoverer" of natural selection,  Alfred Russell Wallace, giving Wallaces' letter to him on that point.

**  Thomas Huxley may have been an even earlier advocate of the idea that natural selection would inevitably lead to genocide and that the effects of that genocide for the survivors - in his case he explicitly said those would be white people who benefited from the slaughter of former slaves -  would be entirely beneficial.  His argument was based on the economic utility of slaves and how, with a loss of that economic value to white people, they had no reason to keep them alive.  It's a really peculiar, viciously racist version of "white-mans' burden" and an encouragement to throw it aside through murder, all based on natural selection.

*** In the book Darwin cited most heavily in Descent of Man, Haeckel's Naturliche Schopfungsgeschichte,  Haeckel prominently and repeatedly credits Charles Darwin and his theory of natural selection with the "final triumph" of the materialist monism which Haeckel shared with the very Marxists and many (though hardly all) of the socialists he despised.  Darwin nowhere in anything have ever read of him objected to Haeckel having credited him with that final confirmation of materialist totalism.  As Weikart notes, Darwin, Haeckle and Huxley all rejected socialist and, later Marxist economics, in fact the evidence would indicate that they even rejected egalitarian democracy on the same basis of natural selection.  Haeckel explicitly stating that rejection, Thomas Huxley explicitly doing the same and Charles Darwin's declaration to Haeckel that he agreed with everything he said in his "Freedom in Science and Teaching" where he made that declaration.

I think the logical case is that you can't believe that natural selection is the basis of evolution while also believing in egalitarian democracy.  That rejection of egalitarian democracy is certainly more in line with the actual history of Darwinism than the conveniently held logical disconnect that asserts the ideas are compatible, the currently held conventional dogma of dishonest Darwinist discourse.

Thursday, January 12, 2017


I'm still feeling poorly.   What's going around here is really bad.  I'm really worried about my extremely, morbidly obese neighbor (I'd guess she might weigh at least 500 lb).   She's got it and looks like she's at death's door.  I'm the one who regularly checks up on her.  I'm afraid of her collapsing when I'm alone with her, I wouldn't be able to do much but stay with her till the ambulance came and I'm not sure they could handle her.  I don't even know what to tell them if I have to call. Should I tell them how big she is?   I think I have to. 

I really hate what the corporate food industry and media has done to this country almost as much as I hate what the alcohol, tobacco and fire arms industries have done to it.   Our legal system leaves us at their mercy, allowing them to exploit our weaknesses and appetites, scientifically trying to determine how best to get around our morality and reason.  TV is in on it too.  

Samantha Bee Is An International Treasure

Dusan Bogdanovic - A Fairytale with Variations for Guitar

The guitarist isn't named.

Even Boganovic's relatively simple music is full of interesting features.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Two Comments From A Blog Brawl

DiegoVan  Anthony McCarthy • 21 hours ago
The problem of controlling free speech is always, who will decide.

The courts and politicial theorists have decided that it is better to leave it alone and not control it in the way you say. Who will decide what are lies? What will be the penalties?

Our society, thank goodness, has decided that any harm caused by lying is not worth the greater damage caused by the curtailment of speech. There are libel and slander laws. Why aren't they good enough?

I find it ironic that the left, the traditional supporters of free speech, have come out against it in recent years. The left would similar support to what I am offering you, now.

BTW, would you mind posting some of the lies you think would need to be controlled or outlawed?

Do you think Hillary and the DNC lied in the released emails? Should their speech be curtailed? What about Benghazi? Did Clinton lie about that? Did Donna Brazile lie about leaking debate questions? Would they be prosecuted?
 • Reply•Share ›

Anthony McCarthy  DiegoVan • 2 minutes ago
Judges are tasked with deciding that all the time. The very media people who push that lie, that the lie can't be distinguished from the truth, would be the first to go to court if they thought their vendible scribblege had been cribbed by someone else. Judges are asked by the beneficiaries of "free-speech-free-press" to punish the people who pilfer their "intellectual" property all the time. About the only real sin for them is plagiarism. Plagiarism will get you banished in the way that the most consequential lies won't in the American media and academic world.

Lying is what brought us Nixon, his continuation of Vietnam and its expansion into Cambodia, Reagan and his terror campaigns in Central America, the middle east and elsewhere, George W. Bush and the illegal, catestrophic invasion of Iraq. How many millions of sacrificial victims does your alter of free-speech absolutism require per decade?

Donna Brazile? Really, that's what you're going to use in this argument? You, sir, are not a serious person, you are a dolt of the kind who populate the American media.

The Supreme Court pretty much exempted even the most monumental lies told against, mostly liberal, politicians from having any consequences. Thus the quarter of a century of lies Hillary Clinton had to run against, in opposition to one of the biggest liars in the world whose lies had been carried by and magnified by the freest-press in the world.

Why I Am A Christian

The Fretheim lecture given by Walter Brueggemann at the Luther Seminary which I linked to the other day was one of the most radical and practical political visions I've heard presented in this past year of my undisciplined but constant reading of what Brueggemann wrote, consulting the texts he sites and listening to the enormous number of his lectures, discussions interviews and sermons available online.  As I said at the beginning of last year I had intended to do something like that with what Reinhold Niebuhr wrote, and I might get around to doing that but I am far from done with Brueggemann's view of the Hebrew scriptures, revealing how entirely relevant they are to our present world, how they raise the same questions and the same issues and present variable ways of addressing the horrific and wonderful world and give advice and warning about the various ways people propose of addressing our world, today as much as their worlds when the many texts were written.

The often mentioned anger of alleged many Christians whenever other people point out the political issues and consequences that flow from taking the radical egalitarian content and the consequent moral obligations is, pretty shockingly, often found in those who pretend to take the Bible most seriously.   If they hold that politics is to be kept out of it, they couldn't more obviously demonstrate that either they don't know it or they choose to not see what it is all about.

The text of the Bible is saturated with the clash between human politics and the consequences of managing our lives and socieities as if economic and social justice don't matter. Every single book in it, including Genesis, is saturated with the political critique of the societies the poets and prophets lived in.   Even while the authors are held back by the social conventions that provide them their stock of references and images and metaphors there is always the radicalism that forces people who read those texts to face that truth even while they can do what the authors so often can't, transcend of disregard or stay in ignorance of those references, images and metaphors.  More often than not, that transcendence of those requires understanding what those are, why they came about and why the truth being pressed requires that those be left behind.  Walter Brueggemann points out, though, that to turn everything into a metaphor carries the danger of dissolving the thing that made that truth the reality behind the text.  These aren't easy books to read, outside of the general requirement of radical equal justice and other tests of truth, they can lead to misunderstanding and abuse to promote the opposite of that truth.

In the lecture and in the answer to questions after, this stands out as both a summary of what Brueggemann is saying and an idea that is as striking disturbing and productive as anything I've heard in the past year. NOTE:  The transcription is by me, including any errors or elisions.  The first questioner asked:

Q - Can you talk about the nexus between so many Old Testament texts that are about purifying, dividing you know no two kinds of of fabrics no two kinds cheese and meat have to be apart  everything has to be separate… purity including don't take any hostages don't intermarry the dialogue of all of that kind of holiness talk … with what you've just been explaining about dialogue, meaning, coming together, loving the other.     How do those things, how do those two channels work in interpretation.

Brueggemann – Which is why I said that I think a contestation  about neighborliness runs through the Bible.  It's not an unequivocal testimony to neighborliness,   it is an argument about neighborliness it ...its an argument in which we as the Christian congregation have to participate.   So there are many texts that want to fence out would be neighbors by labeling them as threats.   

There is a book by a scholar named Beck, I think it's called Unclean.  He lists all the things that disgust conservatives and then he has a shorter list of things that disgust liberals.  But he wants to argue that all these purity laws and so on grow out of what disgusts people who imagine that what disgusts me must surely disgust God.  

There is a book by Martha Nussbaum it's called The Clash Within.  I recommend it to you, it's an analysis of Hindus and Muslims in India and Nussbaum concluded that the clash in India is not between Muslims and Hindus,  it's between people who can allow the other and people who must eliminate the other.  And the title of the book is to indicate she believes that all of us carry this clash in ourselves of openness and exclusion and what counts is how we manage that clash. 

Now I think that one of the implications of your question is that we have to help church people see that the Bible is essentially an ongoing interpretive dispute.  We have allowed people to think that the Bible is all a seamless theological package to which everyone has agreed but the only people who could think that are people who have never opened it. 

And when I am a public persona as I am tonight I want you to think that I practice purity of heart which is one thing.  But I am like you, I am a conundrum of contradictions and what I wanted to argue is that the Bible says that God's struggles with these realities in God's own life that we are in the Image of that God.  Does that make sense?

So what I think the church has to do is to surface the contest that is going on everywhere in our society but we want to pretend that it's not going on.  I don't know if you have it in Minnesota but you see these church signs all welcome what they mean is all who are like me.   And you know that's the reality of our life.  But the Bible is a script for processing that reality.   That's my thesis.

That could lead to a month's worth of posts.

First, it is the opposite to what atheists and other anti-Christian, anti-Jewish, anti-Islamic people present religion as being, a monolithic and rigid set of dogmas and doctrines whose blind allegiance is forced by violence.  And that view isn't unknown among those who claim to believe.  A lot of them like that violent dictatorship, and I think they have to be opposed.

But as Brueggemann said, it's an idea that can only be held by people who haven't ever read the Bible which contains within it a more exigent and brutal self-criticism than almost any other large collection of texts I'm aware of.  As has been pointed out, every sin of the ancient Hebrews which we know about, we know due to their telling on themselves, in many cases presenting the claims of divine approval and the rejection of those claims.  The questioner mentioning the exclusions against the other as a means of maintaining a distinct identity is the heart of the Trump campaign, the most exigent opponents of which include even some conservative churches.

The thing that I found the most striking in it was when he said,

But I am like you, I am a conundrum of contradictions and what I wanted to argue is that the Bible says that God's struggles with these realities in God's own life that we are in the image of that God.  Does that make sense?

Which presented me with a way of thinking about God which I'd never had before.  God as a person who struggles with these issues in God's own life.  A God who contains what we experience as contradictions and uncertainties and that God cares about those.   And that our own struggles are a real part of being made in the image of that God.  To answer his question, yes, that does FINALLY make sense.  That God is one I can really love, or, more honestly, that understanding of God is open to my heart and more immediate than the Great and Powerful Oz in the sky.  I think I can finally get that picture of God touching Adam on the famous ceiling at the Vatican.  Like the people who wrote the Bible, it was one of my folks who painted that.

I haven't transcribed it but at one point Brueggemann points out to the necessity of and the enormous opportunity that having so many different, often clashing ideas about God in the Bible, how even given the necessity of those views of God clashing makes that God superior to other, narrower, statements about divinity.  I agree with that, too.

On Listening To Jeff Flake And Susan Collins Preparing To Rubber Stamp Trump's Ship of Pirates Hosea 4 - For "Israel" read America

1Hear the word of the LORD, O children of Israel,
for the LORD has a controversy with the inhabitants of the land.
There is no faithfulness or steadfast love,
and no knowledge of God in the land;
2there is swearing, lying, murder, stealing, and committing adultery;
they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed.
3Therefore the land mourns,
and all who dwell in it languish,
and also the beasts of the field
and the birds of the heavens,
and even the fish of the sea are taken away.

4Yet let no one contend,
and let none accuse,
for with you is my contention, O priest.a
5You shall stumble by day;
the prophet also shall stumble with you by night;
and I will destroy your mother.
6My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge;
because you have rejected knowledge,
I reject you from being a priest to me.
And since you have forgotten the law of your God,
I also will forget your children.

7The more they increased,
the more they sinned against me;
I will change their glory into shame.
8They feed on the sinb of my people;
they are greedy for their iniquity.
9And it shall be like people, like priest;
I will punish them for their ways
and repay them for their deeds.
10They shall eat, but not be satisfied;
they shall play the whore, but not multiply,
because they have forsaken the LORD
to cherish 11whoredom, wine, and new wine,
which take away the understanding.
12My people inquire of a piece of wood,
and their walking staff gives them oracles.
For a spirit of whoredom has led them astray,
and they have left their God to play the whore.
13They sacrifice on the tops of the mountains
and burn offerings on the hills,
under oak, poplar, and terebinth,
because their shade is good.
Therefore your daughters play the whore,
and your brides commit adultery.
14I will not punish your daughters when they play the whore,
nor your brides when they commit adultery;
for the men themselves go aside with prostitutes
and sacrifice with cult prostitutes,
and a people without understanding shall come to ruin.

15Though you play the whore, O Israel,
let not Judah become guilty.
Enter not into Gilgal,
nor go up to Beth-aven,
and swear not, “As the LORD lives.”
16Like a stubborn heifer,
Israel is stubborn;
can the LORD now feed them
like a lamb in a broad pasture?

17Ephraim is joined to idols;
leave him alone.
18When their drink is gone, they give themselves to whoring;
their rulersc dearly love shame.
19A wind has wrapped themd in its wings,
and they shall be ashamed because of their sacrifices.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Dusan Bogdanovic - Levantine Suite

The guitarist isn't listed.  Interesting that he notated some of it on two staves.  I'm not sure I ever saw that before.

Being A Pathological Liar Generates Its Own Ironies

I just thought of it being an enormous irony that Simps tried to get into it with me over Nat Hentoff, using one of his frequently wielded and totally ineffective tools, my Irish surname.  I had forgotten what I'm sure he never knew, that Nat Hentoff credited his career to being hired by one of my mother's great heroines, the Boston-Irish woman who made a career out of exposing racism and anti-Semitism, who almost got excommunicated by going after the awful Cardinal O'Connell for not speaking out forcefully against it.  I'm talking about the largely forgotten Frances Sweeney.   I've got to go to an appointment or I wouldn't resort to the short bio of her at Wikipedia, as far as I can tell, it's accurate.

Frances Sweeney (c. 1908 – June 19, 1944) was a journalist and activist who campaigned against fascism, antisemitism, and political corruption in 1940s Boston. She edited her own newspaper, the Boston City Reporter, and started the Boston Herald Rumor Clinic to combat fascist disinformation. Seeking to counteract the influence of the priest Charles Coughlin, whose antisemitic broadcasts were popular with Boston's Irish Catholics, she led protests and wrote editorials condemning the Christian Front and similar organizations. She was secretary of the American-Irish Defense Association of Boston and vice chairman of the Massachusetts Citizens' Committee for Racial Unity. A Catholic herself, Sweeney was threatened with excommunication when she criticized Cardinal O'Connell for his silence on Catholic antisemitism.

 Hentoff dedicated his memoir to her memory.   Like I said, I didn't like Hentoff but he wasn't a compulsive liar.

Update:  Three sentences saying something they never thought before is too much information for the rump of regulars at Eschaton.   Duncan tried it and found they couldn't read it.

Update 2:  I would imagine anyone who comes here to read who I would care about already has all the proof they need that Steve Simels is an ignorant, stupid and not very nimble liar so I won't bother with that demonstration any more.  Anyone at Eschaton, where he proves it daily, who doesn't know that is even stupider than he is.  

Monday, January 9, 2017

I Don't Hesitate To Say Of The Dead What I Would Say About Them In Life

In my first blog post I took a swipe at Nat Hentoff who died the day before yesterday.  I don't regret that now, more than ten years later that he has, as all 91-year-olds eventually do, died.  Many die far younger, and sometimes with his help, as I'll point out below.   I didn't much like Hentoff who I thought was obnoxious and self-promoting whether writing about jazz or writing about politics or civil liberties.  I thought he was a man who enjoyed his straight-male privilege as he posed as a liberal and also enjoyed other things unavailable to other people whose equal rights were certainly not his first priority.

I held him to be a pseudo-liberal for much of his life.  It didn't surprise me much when, after the Village Voice discontinued his regular employment, he went to work at the corporate-fascist false front of the Cato Institute.  It didn't surprise me when he endorsed the idiot-Republican Rand Paul for president or the illegal, disastrous invasion of Iraq.  In the taunting notice I got of his death daring me to diss him now that, as we all must, he's died, I didn't see any mention of the hundreds of thousands of entirely innocent lives taken, not by natural death but by avoidable violence in that invasion which he supported, sold with lies .  I always assumed that it was on behalf of Israel, for which he had no problem with lying, distorting, twisting words and ideas and even violating his patented civil libertarian pose.

Rather tellingly, I thought, for a guy whose side did so much to enable the most repressive of pornographers, the atheist, Hentoff, was an opponent of women being able to obtain legal abortions. And I will put the emphasis on the GUY in that sentence.  According to what I've read he claimed he never thought much about the issue until 1984, which would have made him 59 before he thought about it.

And with typical Hentoffian fact twisting, he claimed the case that got him on an anti-choice tare wasn't even, in his telling, about abortion but infanticide.    Reading that brings up one of the things that I found most obnoxious about him, his twisting things to suit his own ends.   No matter whether or not he is honestly characterizing what people HE KNEW were saying about the case in question, it was not and was never a case of abortion.

"They were saying, 'What's the big fuss about? If the parents had known she was going to come in this way, they would have had an abortion. So why don't youconsider it a late abortion and go on to something else?'

"Here were liberals, decent people, fully convinced themselves that they were for individual rights and liberties but willing to send into eternity these infants because they were imperfect, inconvenient, costly. I saw the same attitude on the part of the same kinds of people toward abortion, and I thought it was pretty horrifying."

And before someone snarks about me linking to something written in the repulsive Washington Times, he wrote for them as well as the Village Voice.

The central issue in the debate about legalized abortion is whether or not the state has the right to compel a woman to carry a pregnancy to term, a legitimate interest to regulate what a woman does with her own body.   I hold that the state's legitimate right to make that decision for an individual ends at the skin if not considerably before that.  

You can argue whether or not that is the case, but if you give the state the right to compel a woman to be pregnant but, then, reject far, far less intrusive restrictions on aspects of personal integrity, ownership of your own body and regulation of your conduct you give yourself a huge problem of hypocrisy.  Especially if you make such arguments while entirely safe from ever being pregant.

It makes little sense to then say a democratic government has a legitimate interest in forcing a woman to carry a pregnancy to term but no legitimate interest in keeping someone from lying or promoting discrimination and the inequality of people.  To deny that egalitarian democratic government  has an interest in protecting the blessings of egalitarian democracy from its enemies but then claim that it does have an interest in whether or not a woman remains pregnant is grotesquely hypocritical.

A woman having control of her own body is of far less impact on other people or society at large or the nation as a whole as compared to fascists, Nazis, Klansmen or others with a history of mass murder and violence being allowed to promote and advocate their programs of inequality, discrimination and murder.  The body count of those groups runs into the tens of millions.  Even the limited obnoxiousness of the funeral disruption stunts of the Phelps cult has far more of an impact on other people , denying rights of privacy and a right to be unharassed and unwillingly being roped into being the center of the publicity stunts of hate groups, than a woman deciding what to do with her own body.

I think his positions on those things were a key to the hypocrisy of, not only Nat Hentoff but his entire theory of civil liberty.  I think, in the end, the results of it is the empowerment of the already privileged, the entrenched privileged, the majority race, etc.  It has certainly empowered the billionaires and the racists and enemies of democracy.

And that was only one aspect of Nat Hentoff's act as The Greatest Civil Libertarian In The World which I found repulsive.

I think even before that it was his eternal repetition of his role in producing that TV show with Billie Holiday that first put me off him.  I remember about the fourth time I read him repeating it I asked if he wanted people to figure he'd put every note she sang in her mouth.  I never could stand critics much and he could be one of the most annoying of them.

Update:  I have no problem with people opposed to abortion advocating to women, in general or those who seek their opinion, that they not have an abortion.  That is if they honestly represent that as their intention from the start.   I have no problem with people arguing that in general.  I have a huge problem with people advocating that abortion be made illegal and unavailable.  Not least because it is an absolutely guaranteed result of making a safe abortion illegal, unsafe illegal abortions in large numbers with many injured, traumatized and dead women will be one result.  Making abortion illegal does not end abortions, it merely makes them dangerous in the black market that will develop or in the equally dangerous attempts to self-induce or, perhaps most dangerous of all, involuntary boy-friend-husband induced miscarriage, which is, as well, a violation of womens' ownership of their bodies.

That is an entirely different thing from infanticide of a child who is not contained in the mother's body.  Once born, the issue of a mother's ownership of her own body is not part of the decision.

Update 2:  Someone has objected to my criticism of Peter Singer in the comments.  Peter Singer is not a liberal, he's a philosophy prof on the make who knows he can get big appointments on the basis of being hot and someone like him gets hot by making outlandish and offensive statements, especially those that promote the objectification of powerless and relatively powerless people in a way pleasing to such people as publish his stuff.  The kind of people who choose who to publish in the New York Times.

NO ONE WHO CALLS FOR KILLING PEOPLE ON THE BASIS OF HIS PREFERRED SCHEME OF VALUATION OF THEIR LIVES IS A LIBERAL.   His preferred scheme of valuation is whatever cult of utilitarianism he's pushing at the time.  From what I understand what is called "preference utilitarianism" gave him his preferred scheme for most of his career, now in the last couple of years, he's declared that it's now "hedonistic utilitarianism".  I will leave it to you to go see if you can tease out the differences between them.    My question would be if he can change something like that, what's the consequence for the reliability of his work up to that point?  What's the implication of it for what he's written after that change?  And why should actual lives be put into question on the basis of anything he says?

I would ask Singer if someone who came up with a scheme of utilitarian valuation of lives that resulted in them figuring that more people would be happy if they offed Peter Singer and his loved ones if he thought that would be a good idea.  I'm sure someone might be able to come up with some contorted figure of pseudo-algebraic stuff that could be made to come out that way, it's what he does.  Then he insists that his preferred scheme is to be the way that the problem is looked at. At academic departments of philosophy at major universities, I believe his is still Princeton these days, that is what will get you the big bucks and the attention and buzz.  Which is one of the reasons I agree with whoever it was who said that these days it's a lot more interesting to read theology.  Academic philosophy has pretty much gone down a rabbit hole into wonderland.  It's sad but that's their choice. Fields do go through their decadent phases.

It's kind of interesting that a guy famous for being a vegetarian serves up the amount of tripe Singer does.  Hitler was a vegetarian, I point out as someone who's been one for longer than Singer has been. I think it's really weird how he gets points for being a vegetarian as he blithly advocates killing people and it's completely OK and even swell with the academic establishment because he does so while being an academic.  It's like the mass slaughter of the 20th century, especially the enormous numbers killed with excuses of social and economic efficiency - though though they were  often designated as benevolence, taking advantage of the prejudices in matters such as disability - but in academia, it's as if those never happened.

I don't see Peter Singers' schemes of determining who isn't fit to live on the basis of his current sect of utilitarianism is much better than any other one that comes up with their list of people who are candidates for being offed.  I think that it's done in English at American and other English speaking universities doesn't put it in a different category than if it's done in North Korea in Korean today or in Germany in German in the 1940s or in Tasmania in English in the 19th century.    Though, when I have tried to read through Peter Singer going through his pseudo-mathematical means of coming up with who can be killed and why, I don't really see much of a difference from how Rudolph Hoess talked about his methods of doing the same.  From what I read, Singer aspires to come up with some kind of Darwinian based ethical system, which, after my long study of Darwinism and its actual relationship with eugenics, English and German, doesn't surprise me.  Scratch a Darwinist and you'll often find someone who wants to rank people in terms of valuation and, at times, propose killing them or sterilizing them.  Though the one can turn into the other with the change of a law or two.

Perhaps I don't see eye to eye with him because my father was severely disabled.  If he'd been born with his disability, Singer would say it was OK to kill him before he was old enough to object.

Still Ill - Here's Brueggemann - Why the Old Testament Must not Go Away

I have found that his view of the Psalms and the Prophets is a better preparation for the impending and tragic crisis of Trump-fascism than lots of other things.  It's a lot better than the world-weary, cynical, lazy encouragement to give up.

In the Regime of Free-Speech-Free-Press These Things Aren't Allowed To Be Thought Never Mind Said

The series of tweet attacks Donald Trump made against Meryl Streep again shows that our constitutional system has put the United States and so the world in the hands of an unbalanced, undisciplined, sociopathic little boy who never grew up and never had the capacity to mature. Donald Trump is like those incredibly rare individuals who can become adults without their bodies or minds ever developing past the stage of a baby, only it's his personality that never left the age of 2, the kind of 2-year-old who give other 2-year-olds a bad name.

The conditions set by the Constitution have always produced a range of quality in our presidents.  At their best they have given us an FDR, a Lincoln and I would include in that group an LBJ, the most liberal president we have ever had in terms of domestic policy.   But it has mostly produced lesser and even very bad presidents in far larger numbers.  The expansion in that range would seem to be mostly on the worst end of it in the past fifty-years, under the current interpretation of the Constitution.  In case you missed it, we have had more confirmation that on the worst side, that expansion began in 1968 with the election of Richard Nixon,  another who was a criminal eligible for impeachment as soon as he took the oath of office and he would compound that with criminality that murdered tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of people.  Millions, if you admit that he was directly responsible for producing the killing fields under Pol Pot.

In addition to him, the current political milieu, largely the product of the media, has given us the senile Ronald Reagan, the callow illegitimacy of George W. Bush and, now, Donald Trump.   I have every confidence that Donald Trump will be a contender for the worst president which our system has, so far, generated.   The conditions that gave us a Trump were produced in 1964 at the height of liberal achievement through the confusion of 18th century libertarianism for American liberalism by our highly educated Supreme Court.  If you think that's something I can't seem to stop saying, it's because it is the key to what went wrong in every way.  But the potential for that to happen was built into the American Constitution from the day it was issued and the moment it was ratified.   

I have pointed out before that the American fascists and racists in legal societies on law faculties and in think tanks studied hard to find all of the exploitable weaknesses in the American Constitutional system and the laws in individual states.   The availability of computers aided them in exploiting every weakness in our system, especially those which our system also makes hard if not impossible to fix.  Things have gone so far that, in some cases, even the father of that effort, Richard Viguerie is sometimes uneasy about the results.  

Now we know that they weren't the only ones looking to exploit those inherent weaknesses, the Russian government under Vladimir Putin was, as well.  Given his past as an apparatchik of the old Soviet government, I wouldn't be surprised if they hadn't been studying that for at least as long as our domestic fascists and racists have been.  I will grant Putin that, he is far more wily and clever than our intellectual and writing class who won't even start to admit their part in producing this disaster.   And being as amoral as our domestic fascists, he realized his highest potential was with cultivating and promoting the same fascist class whose ascendancy was made possible by the utter stupidity of liberal intellectuals in the media and in the past.  It is no enormous shock that Putin would take advantage of the opportunities handed to him by us.  As I've pointed out in the past even someone as relatively stupid and brutal as Nikita Khrushchev understood the possibilities of exploiting the weaknesses intrinsic in our system, so much so that he bragged that we'd sell them the rope to hang us with.  

Our Constitution, our  revoltingly deified founders, our idiotic acceptance of the minor 18th century poetry of the First Amendment that makes it possible for people with law degrees from elite institutions to privilege lies over the truth, all of those were a set up of the American People which were obvious and exploitable by the worst among us and among foreign despots.  

Even Meryl Streep in her great and inspired speech, easily 95% of it about the best thing anyone has said about the rise of Trump, to date,  continued to make some of the same mistakes.   Of course when she talks about the media, the press, she doesn't distinguish between the media that tells the truth and the majority of it - including much of it based in Hollywood - that lies with impunity to give us the very Trump she attacked.  We aren't allowed to make that distinction, we aren't allowed to articulate their part in producing Trump or it's an attack on free-speech, free-press.  Only Trump is their creation, Trump is the one who they promoted with hours and hours of free air time and decades of lies told about Hillary Clinton.   If Meryl Streep had said it as well as making those connections, she wouldn't be the toast of liberals today, her speech would have been seen as self-contradictory or, in some way, problematic.  If she had pointed out that Trump is a product of the self-serving venality of those founders who framed the Constitution, of their distrust of the popular vote, even the limited one they allowed for, she would be slammed by them just as she is by Trump and his fascist followers.  

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Hate Mail - I Prefer Music Made By People Who Don't Call Themselves Folkies

Last year, or maybe the year before that, someone sent me a Youtube of one of the old big-time folkies being interviewed.  I listened to it and realized that the guy was a total bore and blowhard, like the kind of drunk barroom philosophers who get loaded and want to get attention by making categorical declarations that everyone is stupid.   Again, I refer you to The Iceman Cometh in which that role is given to the eternally drunk Hugo Kalmar.  Quite often those I've run across are the stupidest of play-lefties, the kind who haven't quite gotten around to getting their I.W.W. card or, if they did, they waved it as proudly as the stupidest wannabee, phony Vietnam vet who conned their way into the American Legion and waved the flag by flapping their drunken lips,  and to about the same effect.  

I'd never heard of Eric Bogle before you sent me that link and, listening to the dolt, I'm looking forward to forgetting his name.  You guys always go for the cheap point against the easy targets, you never come up with anything that's going to change anything.  It wasn't the friggin' folkies who got anything done, that was the Black Church people who put their lives on the line, over and over again. Walter Brueggemann is a lot easier to take and actually has ideas that might lead to some kind of change.  

I prefer real folk music to singer-songwriter junk, anyway.  

If I want to hear a sermon I'd rather hear one by someone who isn't stupid.  The music in church is likely to be better, too. 

Update:  Note to Simps,  I'm not going to post your stupidest comments anymore.  They're stupid.   They all are but the stupidest ones aren't even useful for pointing that out. 

Google Ain't No Minnie Earl Sears

Image result for minnie earl sears

Not to pick on Kevin Drum, who I genuinely like and respect but he has had two recent posts that seem to me to exhibit far too much credulity for the superstition of machine intelligence.  The first one is more complex as it deals with his noting that Google Translate has "gotten better" recently due to changes in the algorithms used.  The implication is that Google, wherever or what ever that artificial entity is, is better at understanding human languages and transferring information from one to another.   That involves a lot of complicated and unanswerable questions about language and, tempting as it was to research and write about those and why Google the great and powerful didn't understand anything, the complexities in making that case didn't appeal to me with the world on the verge of having its biggest superpower become the plaything of the Russian Neo-Tsar and ruled by a fascist mad-man in his power.  I suppose that's the best prospect under the Republican-fascist regime that is taking hold, that at least the senile 2-year-old our system has elected will be under the control of an adult, though an evil adult.

Anyway, Kevin Drum gave me another chance to address the alleged understanding of computers and computer programs, even big, big ones in a later post.

A little while back I mentioned that Google Translate had gotten a lot better overnight when they switched to a new machine-learning algorithm. Their voice recognition got better too. And so did its question-answering capability.

I was chatting about this at Christmas with my family, and we all decided we should test it. But not with anything boring. We know that Siri and Google and other digital assistants can find nearby coffee shops or tell us the weather in Berlin. How about something harder? The conversation then morphed into something about pencils, and my mother said she only trusted erasers that are pink. But why are they pink, we wondered? Why indeed?

So there you have it? Not only did Google understand me, even with a cold, but it also understood the question and provided a brief and precisely on-point answer, which it read off very nicely. Impressive!

Anyway, this strikes me as close to Watson-esque. The thing is, this is not as simple a question as it seems. It requires a fairly sophisticated understanding of context and meaning. And finding a source that matches the question perfectly is also pretty amazing. If my phone can do that, how long before it can drive a car too?

The answer that first came to me and a number of his other commentators was that, far from Google doing any thinking, the results of its new algorithms are based on the thinking and choices of the many, many thousands of people who asked the same question, probably in a wide but limited range of forms the question could take and their choices in which of the results on older versions of Google they clicked on to find an answer to it.  The machine didn't do any thinking, the people who came up with the rules for matching and listing a string of characters input to it with an existing set of strings of characters did a lot of it and the rest of the thinking involved was in the choices people made about clicking the lists that came up from the entire line of entirely human thought.  The engineers who came up with the original means of doing that and the, hopefully, improved means of doing that, no doubt based on the choices people made in the past are the ones who did the thinking.

The machine no more thinks than the index in a book or a card catalog in an uncomputerized library does.   A well indexed book or a well cataloged library had more work, more thought, more insight put into the information retrieval aids than ones which are less well indexed or cataloged.  The same goes for a computerized library catalog, the main advantage of that is that the number of subject listings might be larger because the computer records won't take up room in a card catalog or be as expensive to print on card stock.  Though the numbers of those subject headings will be of variable usefulness.  I always found those in Sears Subject Headings to be very well thought out, like Google, they were chosen in consultation with a large number of librarians who did a good job of cataloging their small libraries.  The alternative of using the far more detailed Library of Congress headings would have been too expensive for a small library and most of them would probably not have been commonly useful.

It's even more basic than that, though, the choice of pixels or other means of symbolically recording thought are no more akin to the human acts of thought and articulation than the ink on a page that is given semiotic significance by the people who do that.  As far as the machine goes, it's far more like paper and ink sitting on a table, any information recorded with them depends on human action and any consumption of that information depends, as well, on human action.

The disabling effects of materialist ideology, not only preventing understanding of these mundane realities but creating their materialist phantoms and materially based ghosts in machines they generate the most stunning of ironies.   And a lot of the most educated and intelligent people among us fall for them.

I never thought about the time I spent working in a small, rural library - under the supervision of a professional (retired) librarian - as perhaps inoculating me against that superstition but I've never bought it.   I knew that to come up with useful subject headings to type on cards you had to consider it and even then it sometimes wouldn't work.  It worked best for mundane questions, not as specific as "Why are erasers pink?" that was more the work of a book indexer or an encyclopedia compiler.   I never mistook a book or a card catalog as an intelligent object, just a useful one, depending on how useful it had been made.

Try asking Google how Americans got duped into voting fascists into power and see how clear the answer is.  Answering that one takes some real insight that computers will never have.

By the way, I don't think the Youtube of the audio response Kevin Drum put up as the right answer is really an answer as to why [SOME] erasers are  pink, never mind why his mother didn't trust erasers that aren't pink.

That doesn't tell anyone why even the "Pink Pearl" is pink, which would involve who made the decisions that went into them not changing the color to something else.  I'm pretty sure they put some coloring in their products, Pink Pearls aren't a natural color.   They could have chosen to make it a different color.  Lots of erasers aren't pink.   Back when I did lots of music manuscript, I preferred a white eraser with a texture that wouldn't erase the staff lines or leave a stain that might show up when the page was photocopied.  But, then, I always worked in a soft pencil that looked like pen when it was photocopied.  I hated it when one of my teachers insisted on ink.  Friggin' mess, totally pointless, the guy was a jerk.  

As to why his mother didn't trust erasers that aren't pink, she's the only possible source of that information.  If Drum had asked Google to give him the answer,  "Why does my mother only trust pink erasers?" I wonder if it could come up with an answer that satisfied everyone.   I also wonder if maybe Faber or someone else might have Google bombed to make their product come up high in such a search.  Tell me when Google can protect itself against Googlebombing, that might impress me.  

Answer to Kevin Drum's Post About The Influence of Russia Today Television

I am surprised people didn't realize RT was a big part of the problem.  Though I would say that entities like the so often loony Pacifica are more of a problem for liberals and real, as opposed to play-lefties, as well.

Any media that lies is a problem for democracy and liberalism and in the United States the media has a carte blanche to lie with impunity thanks to the Supreme Court, such self-defeating, allegedly liberal institutions as the ACLU and the media which has both promoted its "right" to lie and enjoyed the benefits of it being allowed to lie.  Why would any foreign government or potential beneficiary from fascist-government being set up here not take advantage of that?  They must have noticed the role the Aussie T&A and fascism peddler, Murdoch has played in it and how much money he's made from it.

The laws of the United States have to be made to disable the power that lies can have.  Lies have many built in advantages over the truth.  They can be constructed for popular sale whereas the truth is frequently not bound to be popular.  Lies can be made sensational, attention-getting and tailored to benefit from our worst weaknesses, the truth has to be true.   The idiots on Supreme Courts of the past, especially the alleged liberals from the Warren Court till today enabled lies and we have Trump as a result of that as much as their enabling fascists, foreign and domestic.  Putin knows that a neo-Tsarist Russia, under his rule, will benefit far more from anti-democratic governments than from democratic ones.  He was able to use the regime set up by our so-called civil libertarians to put his puppet into the White House, using the party that benefited enormously from the kinds of lies I described.  They saw the advantage they were given the Ivy-league trained lawyers and judges and justices missed it entirely.