Wednesday, October 31, 2007
The High Stakes in Iraqi Kurdistan by Patrick Cockburn
"Turkish artillery is already firing shells across the border in the high mountains around Kani Masi, a well-watered border village in western Kurdistan, famous for its apple orchards. The shelling is persistent and is evidently designed as warning to the Iraqi Kurds. 'We are afraid but we have nowhere else to go,' said Mohammed Mustafa, an elderly farmer.
For the moment, the villagers are staying put. Many of them in this area are Syriac Christians whose parents or grandparents emigrated to Baghdad but had returned recently because of fear of sectarian killing in the capital. Omar Mai, the local head of Mr Barzani's Kurdistan Democratic Party in Kani Masi, said that seven villages in the area had recently been shelled.
He said that there were no PKK in the villages and that they stayed permanently in the high mountains. Another reason for the PKK guerrillas making themselves scarce in this area is that there are Turkish outposts and garrisons already inside Iraq, set up during previous incursions. At one point near the village of Begova the snouts of Turkish tanks point menacingly down the road."
Pilfered Scholarship Devastates Gen. Petraeus's Counterinsurgency Manual by David Price
On top of participating in an illegal war of aggression that has caused the loss of around a million lives and the exile of millions of Iraqis, Gen. Petraeus and others writing the new Counterinsurgency Field Manual are guilty of... plagiarism!
(is the idea to commit a bunch of small sins to cover the big ones up?)
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
"Give you the chills, yeah?
Developers don't build here
Property values low 'cause we still here
better believe most of us wanna leave
furthest we went was out of our minds, but we still here
from the cradle to the cage,
we bring our sons up to get gunned down,
our daughters to have more, it's war
we just a reflection of the world at large"
Sunday, October 28, 2007
Implications of Plutonomy by Girish Mishra
Friday, October 26, 2007
"Let one just question the premise: what is race and what is intelligence? Neither idea is physical, fixed, nor cross-cultural. Certainly, race and intelligence are real-but only as a social construction."
'Race' of course means whatever arbitrary skin color-based grouping happens to exist in your country; 'intelligence' means how well one does on some form of the IQ test or the SAT. Even if you buy into the social constructions of 'race' and 'intelligence', then according to IQ testing 'Asians' would be the most 'intelligent' 'race'. 'Asians' of course means Indians/Pakistanis in Britain and east/southeast Asians in the U.S. Russians, Persians, Kazaks etc. aren't 'Asian' notwithstanding the continent they live on.
In my world, the least intelligent race on earth is whatever bunch of idiots doesn't see the absurdity in this.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
This reminds me of the one thing I like that Winston Churchill said - sure wasn't the bit comparing Palestinians to dogs - "The best argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter." Looks like he was off by about 4 and 3/4 minutes.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Women Now Empowered By Everything A Woman Does
I think only the "Hoochie/Slut" t-shirts bit doesn't pass the satire bar, since that would actually be attacking sexual double standards by reclaiming erstwhile sexist expletives... maybe... but the rest is right on.
Mr. Fish - If I only had an uncompromised vote
...can't be had, so long as the voting public can be swayed by 30-second political advertisements, and each day in the U.S., people spend 4 hours watching TV, 3 hours listening to the radio and 14 minutes reading magazines.
Sunday, October 21, 2007
I remember this as an interesting application of evolutionary psychology and memetic theory to archeology, written by an archaeologist. The writing style isn't very engaging though - it's a very slow slog at times.
Shennan does, however, have one of the best approaches to the debate about memetic theory:
"It seems that we still do not understand the psychological mechanisms involved in cultural inheritance, which remain the object of ongoing debate and investigation. However, rather than worry too much about this and assume that we cannot make any progress until the mechanism is fully understood, the way forward for archaeologists and anthropologists, if not for psychologists, seems to be to ignore the psychological mechanisms and accept that, whatever they may be, they lead to culture having the characteristics of an inheritance system with adaptive consequences. Even if the meme concept in the strict sense is problematical, the word meme has been such a successful meme itself that it represents a useful shorthand way of referring to the idea that culture is an evolutionary system involving inheritance. Archeology is particularly interested in those cases where the information passed on concerns ways of making and using artifacts. ... We can ask what are the population level processes characteristic of this inheritance system. This is what biologists did before they understood genetics. They could still measure the heritability of particular traits from one generation to the next without knowing the mechanisms involved. Indeed, it is well known that Darwin came up with his theory of natural selection while holding a completely erroneous view about how genetic transmission worked. "
Saturday, October 20, 2007
Attempts to compress a continent's history in 370-odd pages, and so it gets bogged down in the first half with a hard-to-follow succession of names and places (without enough maps). For a primer on African history, it's good, living up to its name and all, and on how Africa got to be in its current state, it's pretty enlightening.
Basically, like a lot of the rest of the world, there were a number of regions in Africa that were more advanced than Europe up till at least the fifteenth century. The northern half of Africa got integrated into the very advanced Islamic world through trade back when Europeans were digging potatoes out of the ground with six-toed feet, and at first contact European traders were actually importing West African cloth, for example. But not having Europe's geography meant not having as much pressure to develop ships (except Eastern Africa, which was trading as far as China before Portuguese barbarians sacked its main cities) and weapons. The killer for African development was the slave trade, which beyond depopulating the continent by some tens of millions was destructive by hamstringing its manufacturing base. First, trading human raw material for manufactured goods - aka comparative advantage - worked as it always has in history. It had a negative effect (contrary to the current orthodoxy in economics) by forestalling any further development in metalwork and handicrafts. Plus, the people shipped off to Europe and the Americas were the most able-bodied men and women, skilled in metalworking and tropical agriculture. Not to mention the devastation that constant slave raids would wreak all around Africa's coasts and into its interior. (Even the east coast, which was for a long time under Arab Muslim control after they kicked out the Portuguese and reestablished the trade routes that the more barbaric foreigners had ruined.)
Funnily enough, once Europe was strong enough to actually invade Africa it did so with the best of intentions - to stop the slave trade. Gee, aren't humans great? Whenever any bunch of them engages in some extremely evil enterprise, they do so with the most laudable of intentions, like the Japanese freeing Asia from the bondage of European imperialism, or the U.S. bringing freedom and democracy to the oppressed like the British before them brought civilization and progress to the savages.
The Human Rights - Economics Connection by Michael Leung
But hey, why care what a bunch of commie foreigners think? Now if we could only make United Statesians (entirely) ignorant of themselves too, then we'd ensure that the U.S. succumbs in every battle - right, Sun Tsu?
Friday, October 19, 2007
Country Music Stars Challenge Al-Qaeda With Patriotic New Song ‘Bomb New York’
A group of country music's biggest stars have a message for terrorists: you can't hurt America by blowing up New York City.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
Poll reveals that bullshit is most important issue for 2008 voters
For a majority of likely voters, meaningless bullshit will be the most important factor in deciding who they will vote for in 2008.
Meeting Resistance - Trailer
Despite being wrong about everything they predicted prior to the Iraq invasion, people still believe the predictions of sundry Washington insiders, intelligence analysts and think tank apparatchiks, that Iraq will become engulfed in chaos if United Statesian troops were to be pulled out prematurely. (I've always been an unequivocal supporter of pulling out prematurely, but then I don't have a religious, pro-procreation worldview.) To these people, I'd say "put down the magic 8-ball, Nostradamus, we've had it up to here with your soothsaying," and pull the troops the fuck out with all due haste. Check out this trailer for an upcoming documentary that asks Iraqi insurgents what they think...
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
With a name like Oral, it's surprising the kind of conclusions he comes to regarding sex. "And if in your sexuality, you're outside of marriage with it, and you do anything with marriage outside of the male organ penetrating the vagina, you're outside of creation!" (Good, right!? But for him that's bad.) He discusses the possibility of using the orifices of the nose or ear for sex, so he's got a creative mind, but he dismisses those as impractical and comes to the conclusion that only penis-vagina sex is OK. But he finishes by boasting that he "can make your senses vaaah-brate," and saying, "Folks that tastes good and feels good, and I can't tell ya how good that feels and how good that tastes..."
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Monday, October 15, 2007
Religions and their practices evolve over time. Contemporary Christianity is not that of St. Paul's or Luther's time, and Islam today is not that of the Prophet's day or of the time of the Caliphate... I don't assume the average Christian takes the Bible literally, feels obliged to defend every passage, or wants society to be governed by the Laws of Moses or the instructions found in the epistles of St. Paul. Nor does the average Muslim want to live by the Sharia law..."
Sunday, October 14, 2007
Reaganomics Finally Trickles Down To Area Man
'When the tax burden on the upper income brackets is lifted, the rich and not-rich alike all benefit," said Arthur Laffer, who was a former member of Reagan's Economic Policy Advisory Board. 'Eventually.'
Prior to joining Marlin Car Wash in 2005, Kellener worked for nearly two decades at a local Ford assembly plant that is now defunct. Before that, he was employed by the FAA as an air traffic controller until his union went on strike and Reagan fired him, along with nearly 13,000 others. This is the largest tip he has received in his professional life.
Kellener, who has cared for his schizophrenic sister ever since her federally funded mental institution was closed in 1984, said that he plans to donate the full $10 to the Republican presidential candidate who best embodies Reagan's legacy."
Friday, October 12, 2007
I remember reading Stirner as a sort of radical libertarian (back in his time considered something of an anarchist), much more intelligent and interesting than libertarians of today, and as a result, he makes the flaws of libertarianism all the more clear. He's dismissive of ideologies, even of concepts like 'the people' or 'the working class,' calling them spooks. Shades of Maggie Thatcher saying that society doesn't exist, only individuals and maybe families (though Stirner wouldn't have liked the bitch any more than I).
But as much as Stirner rails against ideas and ideologies that rule the person rather than the other way around, and are non-existent abstractions (spooks) anyway, his ideas can be fall prey to his own criticism. For instance: "The labourers have the most enormous power in their hands, and, if they once became thoroughly conscious of it and used it, nothing would withstand them; they would only have to stop labour, regard the product of labour as theirs, and enjoy it." That's all well and good, and ironically a perfect example of a spook, a meaningless idea (when combined with Stirner's forceful individualism) with little relevance in the world. Being that humans are generally averse to a painful death, how except through organization around a unifying ideology will laborers realize their power? As individuals, they are nothing, and their labor has next to no value. Only as laborers, plural and organized, does the individual worker have any hope of emancipation.
That's not to say that there's nothing good or worthwhile here, quite the opposite. Check this out: "What is it, then, that is called a 'fixed idea'? An idea that has subjected the man to itself. When you recognize, with regard to such a fixed idea, that it is a folly, you shut its slave up in an asylum. ... Is not all the stupid chatter of most of our newspapers the babble of fools who suffer from the fixed idea of morality, legality, Christianity, and so forth, and only seem to go about free because the madhouse in which they walk takes in so broad a space? Touch the fixed idea of such a fool, and you will at once have to guard your back against the lunatic's stealthy malice. For these great lunatics ... assail by stealth him who touches their fixed idea. They first steal his weapon, steal free speech from him, and then they fall upon him with their nails."
Thursday, October 11, 2007
Modern methods of production have given us the possibility of ease and security for all; we have chosen, instead, to have overwork for some and starvation for others. Hitherto we have continued to be as energetic as we were before there were machines; in this we have been foolish, but there is no reason to go on being foolish forever.
Suppose that, at a given moment, a certain number of people are engaged in the manufacture of pins. They make as many pins as the world needs, working (say) eight hours a day. Someone makes an invention by which the same number of men can make twice as many pins: pins are already so cheap that hardly any more will be bought at a lower price. In a sensible world, everybody concerned in the manufacturing of pins would take to working four hours instead of eight, and everything else would go on as before. But in the actual world this would be thought demoralizing. The men still work eight hours, there are too many pins, some employers go bankrupt, and half the men previously concerned in making pins are thrown out of work. There is, in the end, just as much leisure as on the other plan, but half the men are totally idle while half are still overworked. In this way, it is insured that the unavoidable leisure shall cause misery all round instead of being a universal source of happiness. Can anything more insane be imagined?"
Sure Bertrand! How bout, of the half of the workers who were sacked, some of them were employed in devising still more efficient means of making pins, a few more were employed in marketing to convince the population that without owning hundreds if not thousands more pins, they'll be lonely sexless losers for the rest of their miserable lives. The rest of the unemployed workers are left with nothing but to go on welfare to attempt to stay alive, then get demonized by the media for being lazy, have the government eliminate welfare benefits and instead give them low-wage jobs (yet subsidized by the government, because the market wouldn't allow for even minimum wage) making more useless shit no one needs who hasn't been convinced by advertising that this or that gewgaw will determine their future happiness and life satisfaction.
By the way, Russell is the mf-ing man: "... only a foolish asceticism, usually vicarious, makes us continue to insist on work in excessive quantities now that the need no longer exists." Hahaha... usually vicarious...
Economists of the school that has gradually become dominant over the past 30 years never fail to amuse me. I love it: the most popular view among economists is to educate United Statesians more so that they'll be qualified for the jobs that are in greatest demand today (not the brow-wiping, drawing water and hewing wood types). If I may quote from a rap song that is more intelligent than this, the most popular view among economists:
"If everybody in the 'hood had a PhD
You'd say 'that doctor flipped that burger hella good for me'"
So the solution to the problem of a middle class in the process of being gutted is to prepare scores more highly-skilled workers. Because there is currently a high level of demand for highly-skilled workers. ... But what kind of headcount are we talking about here? Just how many jobs requiring "interpersonal or abstract skills" are out there? Even if we United Statesians do a gangbusters job at educating a new generation of highly-skilled workers - and given our record on education, I wouldn't give us good odds - at best we create more highly skilled workers than there are jobs, diluting demand and lowering wages, even at the top of the value-added food chain.
But what the hell, let's do it. Let's keep our faith in a school of economics that uses mathematical models, by necessity simplified with built-in assumptions that plainly do not obtain in the real world, that purport to make out the contours of immutable economic laws.
Wouldn't want to change horses in midstream, certainly not. How exciting that the implementation of currently favored economic theories is, by ending redistributive policies and liquidating public wealth, unveiling so awesomely the inherent gravity of wealth. It's like, thanks to our real-world experiments, we've found a beautiful truth in economics, like they often do in physics: that unrestricted capitalism moves societies towards a perfect Gini coefficient of 1. Perfection is beautiful. Oh but of course we won't achieve it: humans are imperfect and through implementation always mar the beauty of systems like capitalism (and, oh what was the name of that other one?). We'll never get to a point where one person receives all income, and the rest none. The king - or whatever they'll call him - will need to share the wealth to some extent to save his life, by allowing a small aristocracy.
Saturday, October 06, 2007
Americans for Free Trade! (With Iran)
But besides according to these two ex-spooks, Chris and Jennifer, seems like I missed the mark. Yo, it's (attempted) satire people. I'm not actually serious, and I sure as hell am not a born-again fundamentalist neoliberal free market-fellator. K? Just wanted to set the record straight, and head off anybody who's planning on getting together and setting up an 'intervention' for me...
Friday, October 05, 2007
"...We need a few more half naked women up in the pool
And hold this MAC-10 that's all covered in jewels
And can you please put your titties closer to the 22s?
And where's the champagne? We need champagne
Now look as hard as you can with this blunt in your hand
And now hold up your chain slow motion through the flames
Now cue the smoke machines and the simulated rain
But not too loud 'cause the baby's sleepin'
I wonder if it knows what the world is keepin'
Up both sleeves while he lay there dreamin'
Me and my robot tip-toe 'round creepin'
I had to turn my back on what got you paid
I couldn't see, had the hood on me like Abu Ghraib
But I'd like to thank the streets that drove me crazy
And all the televisions out there that raised me, I was (dreaming)"
Thursday, October 04, 2007
America - Sucker Nation
You don't read the eXile? "Get a brain, morans!"
"What do you call an American who votes Republican and isn't a millionaire? A 'Sucker.'
More proof that the Sucker Monkeys are destroying America came yesterday in reports about how the collapsing American dollar is allowing foreign companies from Europe, Asia and Canada (yes, Canada!) to snap up American firms in what an analyst called 'the world's largest tag sale.' The kicker to all this is that America's new foreign masters are likely to do to American workers what Americans did to their colonial natives--downsize, cut benefits, and basically treat them like so much cheap exploitable human material."
Wednesday, October 03, 2007
Islamist, Socialist Revolutions Don't Mix by Kimia Sanati
The organisers of the event were hardline supporters of Ahmadinejad who have nothing in common with leftists, even the Islamic leftists of the early days of the (Iranian) revolution. President Ahmadinejad has in fact much in common with President Bush, although he may sound very ‘leftist’, an observer in Tehran told IPS on condition of anonymity.
'Leftist countries must realise that if the issues that make the Iranian hardliners confront the West such as its demand to be accepted to the nuclear club are resolved, today’s leftist allies may instantly turn into their common enemies,' he said."
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
The Essays by Francis Bacon
Awesome book, especially considering when it was written. Bacon apparently was one of the first Europeans to re-introduce the materialism of Epicurus that had been suppressed by organized religious fanatics, aka the Church. Also, Bacon was a lawyer (before writing philosophy), and so that makes him the only lawyer I know of who has made a lasting contribution to the human race.
Monday, October 01, 2007
Support the U.S. Embargo on Cuba!
Do you happen to be thinking right now about how you can support your country's government in its never ending quest to see human rights blanket the globe like so many cluster bombs? Well, here's a start: don't buy Cuban cigars from this or other Swiss company. Sure Cuban cigars are the best in the world, are entirely organically produced, and are rolled by Cuban workers who enjoy better working conditions and quality of life than their Dominican counterparts. But what better way to assist in the U.S. government's policy of strangling Cuba than by *not* purchasing delicious Cuban cigars, fully guaranteed and shipped discretely via airmail, from this or any other business? As the rich smoke from a Romeo y Julieta Short Churchill doesn't escape your lips, you'll cherish the thought that your non-purchase is helping to bring the Cuban people ever closer to enjoying the enviable lifestyles of the masses of Haitians, Dominicans and Jamaicans.
"[On] the myth that the Democrats do not have the power to end the war because of an inevitable veto from Bush...
Nothing could be farther from the truth. The war demands funding, and a new supplemental funding will soon appear before Congress. That can be filibustered in the Senate, with only the 41 votes or abstentions required to sustain a filibuster. At that moment the legislation is dead. There is nothing to veto so Bush must come back with an acceptable bill. At the same time the Democrats could submit legislation to bring the occupying troops home quickly and safely. Let Bush veto that if he dares. There is already a national petition drive for this at FilibusterForPeace.org and every Senator has received a copy of it.
Nancy Pelosi ... can simply refuse to bring Bush's supplemental requests to the floor. In this she has veto power as surely as the president."
John V. Walsh, MD
Professor of Physiology
University of Massachusetts Medical School
Not one of my favorites, but it makes what should be an obvious point that culture can only be had through leisure, and any society that deifies constant work and busy-ness/business (...hmm, which society might fit that definition?) is one that makes culture and anything worthwhile in life impossible.
"One day, this Apollodoros encounters some friends of his from earlier days - the very ones, in fact, who now call him 'crazy,' the 'madman.' As Plato expressly points out, they are business people, people of money, who know precisely how someone can succeed, and who 'intend to do something big in the world.' ... Apollodoros cherishes no illusions about the 'philosophical' interests of his old friends. Rather, he says directly to their face, how much he pities them, '...because you believe you are accomplishing something, when you really are not. And maybe now you are thinking, I am not very well off, and you may be right, but I do not merely 'think' the same about you, I know it for sure!'"
"...philosophy begins in wonder. ... The commonplace mind, rendered deaf-mute, finds everything self-explanatory. But what really is self-explanatory? Is it self-explanatory, then, that we exist? Is it self-explanatory that there is such a thing as 'seeing'? These are questions that someone who is locked into the daily world cannot ask; and that is so because such a person has not succeeded, as anyone whose senses (like a deaf person) are simply not functioning - has not managed even for once to forget the immediate needs of life, whereas the one who experiences wonder is one who, astounded by the deeper aspect of the world, cannot hear the immediate demands of life - if even for a moment, that moment when he gazes on the astounding vision of the world."
"'None of the gods philosophizes,' Plato has Diotima say in the Symposium: 'nor do fools; for that is what is so bad about ignorance - that you think you know enough.' ... philosophy has never been understood as a special, superior form of knowing, but rather, as a form of knowing one's own's limits."