Overweening Generalist

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Books and Reading: Rifflings

I finally got to a book I'd "been meaning to get to for awhile now" (this represents quite a large set) recently, The Man Who Loved Books Too Much, a 2009 non-fiction book by Allison Hoover Bartlett, and her meetings and interviews with a sociopathic (probably?) book thief named John Gilkey. This guy would pull credit card scams just to get hold of first editions, and he never really seemed to be interested in reading them; rather, he wanted to build a rich man's book collection because he thought he was entitled to own an impressive collection of books. It's not fair that other people own these just 'cuz they have a lot of money, Gilkey seemed to think. And then Bartlett (in a page-turner in the "New New Journalism" style), in a meditation about why this seemingly nice guy, unthreatening, non-violent, would risk multiple returns to prison for such a thing, realized, after Gilkey said something about how others would see his books and admire him for owning them , that mere ownership confers an identity, an existence that might allow Gilkey to escape into another life.

Bartlett visits Gilkey's childhood home, and the family were all collectors, so there's obviously something genetic going on there, but Bartlett does not muse on genes. The book is a sort-of True Crime delight, filled with antiquarian book lingo, and Bartlett's search for understanding the mind of Gilkey, who is probably in prison again for book theft as you read this, or is stealing books on the outside, and will soon go back to prison. (Let's hope Gilkey gets it together, but I ain't bettin' on it...)

It turns out Gilkey lived and stashed his stolen gems of books on Treasure Island, a tiny, man-made island between Oakland and San Francisco that anyone driving the Bay Bridge passes by every time they cross that 7 mile span. I've never heard of anyone who actually lived there. Now every time I drive through Treasure Island I'll think of Gilkey, along with the fog. (That's another thing I love about books: you can inhabit them, then meld worlds when you visit those places in "real life." I grew up in Los Angeles, so I "know" what Charles Bukowski or Aldous Huxley or Raymond Chandler are getting at, in a certain and somewhat rare way. But I guess all the great cities have their writers, and citizens who read like me...but all I can really say is that sometimes you can get a wonderfully odd feeling. Like I know exactly the spot where Jack Nicholson's character Jake Gittes in Chinatown parks in San Pedro, and puts his watch under Mulwray's car wheel. I know exactly where The Dude and John Goodman blow Donnie's ashes into the ocean, in The Big Lebowski. Do I make any sense here? Oh, I see that I've wandered into a nearby blogpost by accident; let me see if I can make it back.)

If I own a first edition, it's not anything anyone would want to collect. I think I understand a bit of Gilkey when it comes to my signed books. I have about 15 of those, nothing to jump up and down about, but an odd, probably Freudian thrill. Very many of my own books were bought for less than $2 each at yard sales or library sales. I like having the physical objects, the tactility of books, their odors (even though very many of my books were housed in boxes in a garage for a long rainy winter on the Los Angeles Harbor, and contracted tiny mold spots), but mostly for the "Gumby"aspect of them. (The wha?)

A few years ago I took a class on how to teach adult illiterates how to read. On the first day of class, the teacher went from person to person and asked what literary figure we identified with, along with our names, and why we wanted to teach an adult illiterate. People gave the usual suspects: Huck Finn, Holden Caulfield, Sherlock Holmes, Hamlet, and one pretty gal said, memorably, Holly Golightly (!). When my turn came I said I wasn't sure if my character was in a book, but he was a claymation figure who had a peculiar relationship to books, Gumby. The teacher seemed baffled. So I sang, quite off-key, "He can walk into any book, with his pony-pal Pokey too..." and explained that I saw each fictional book as representing a "world" and thought that, neurologically, part of us must somehow "believe" we are "in" that world when we are reading. I think I was officially the Class Freak after that. Nothing new for me, that is...(But c'mon! That Gumby stuff by Art Clokey? Just try and tell me that wasn't Clokey after...umm...becoming...ahhh...as Jimi Hendrix said, "experienced." Oh wow: my brother and I were watching LSD-inspired "art" before we shoved off to elementary school every morning.)

No but seriously: when we read, we ought to "be" in the world of the book. Or at least my aesthetics says so. I do read, say Ulysses with my consciousness alternating between being in Dublin on June 16th, 1904, and in the minds of Stephen, Bloom, and Molly, AND I'm thinking of Joyce and his style and virtuosity and knowledge AND I'm watching my mind make those movements in and out of the book. And I just began yet another reading. Let most Unistatians have their Bible-bibles; I have Ulysses, The Illuminatus! and Schrodinger's Cat trilogies, Gravity's Rainbow, Montaigne, Shakespeare, Pound's Cantos and a few others.

I have been riffling through an amazing and wonderful book from the public library called A Universal History of the Destruction of Books, by a Venezuelan erudite named Fernando Baez, who is an authority on the Library at Alexandria. The book took him 12 years to write and it's just marvelous. I spent a couple of hours delving randomly in it, and experiencing the unique emotional pain of such losses of books over humankind's history, since books were written. How odd these strong emotions about books. And books were destroyed since the time they were written, as Baez says in his first chapter, on Mesopotamian books:

"No one knows how many books were destroyed in Sumer, but 100,000 is a plausible figure, given the number of military conflicts that ravaged the region. Archeology reveals the existence of these ancient books. Excavations of the fourth level of the temple of the fearsome goddess Eanna, in the city of Uruk, uncovered tablets, some intact, others in fragments, pulverized or burned, that can be dated between 4100 and 3300 BCE. This discovery contains a great paradox of the Western world: the discovery of the earliest books also establishes the date of their earliest destruction." (p.22)

Baez's book runs chronologically, with the last section centered in the 20th century, with fascism, China and the Soviet Union, censorship battles, an entire chapter on Spain, Chile and Argentina, and the looting of Baghdad in 2003, of which Donald Rumsfeld is quoted as saying, "Stuff happens. [...] Freedom's untidy, and free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes, and do bad things." I am one who thinks it would be good for all of us if Rumsfeld were on trial in The Hague. All this, while a former Iraqi library director said, "I can't remember barbarity like this, not even from Mongol times."

A chapter (number 18) that I found especially fascinating was "Books Destroyed in Fiction," with plenty about my favorites: Borges and Lovecraft, Poe and Wells, Robert Louis Stevenson and Cervantes all playing parts. In here there is much on authors and their inventions of "dangerous books," which is a topic that has long fascinated me: the "demonic" power of books.

And then I realized: this whole book is really about that subject; but most of the times the humans who had the power to demonize books were emperors and Caesars and chancellors and kings: books and the ideas in them threaten power. These autocrats and fascists and bullies may have been power-mad and murderous, but they were and are right about books, I think. And for that I take a perverse pleasure: they may burn them, but they continue to rise.

Blogger James Bridle has a good-looking review of Baez's book here.

Now, if only we can get more people to actually READ them.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Earthquakes, According to Aristotle

[First off, my conspiracy hypothesis, tongue planted firmly in-cheek: The August 23rd earthquake centered in Virginia that put cracks in the Washington Monument? I think it was some delayed ju-ju action from Boobquake from sixteen months earlier. Follow the leads from here. You <ahem> heard it here first!]

I've been reading Aristotle's book, Meteorology, written a shade over 2400 years ago, and it's brilliant. Not because Aristotle is scientifically accurate (he's rarely even close!), but because of the quality of mind he brought to bear on such problems when actual science as we moderns know it - with doubt, testing of hypotheses, publishing your data so that others may seek to replicate your tests, etc. - didn't really get going for another 1800 or 1900 years after Aristotle died.

I was struck by his explanation of earthquakes. I grew up in the Los Angeles area, and now live in the San Francisco Bay Area, and I've lived through very many quakes. Many of us lifelong Californians mark times of our lives in relation to one of the big quakes..."When did she get finally get married? Good question...Well, it must have been early 1995, because I had just finished rebuilding my carport after the Northridge quake of 1994, that was January of '94 and the insurance took about 10 months to come through, and I recall seeing her say she was getting married..."

If you were near the epicenter, the extreme event tends to indelibly stamp your neurons: you remember where you were, who you were with, what you did for the next 48 hours, how the weather was that day, etc. It's similar to people who were old enough to remember when JFK was assassinated, or 9-11 for Unistatians, or when they rolled out New Coke. (<----joke stolen from Robert Sapolsky)

Aristotle addresses quakes first by naming three philosophical predecessors who gave explanations for the occurrence of quakes, and tries to keep from making fun of them. Anaxagoras, Anaximenes and Democritus and their explanations were hard for Aristotle to take seriously. He explains what Anaxagoras thought in a very short paragraph and then says, "This theory is perhaps too primitive to require refutation...," adding that Anaxagoras didn't even account for why some countries or seasons have earthquakes. Aristotle's predecessors all name water or ether or maybe fire as the cause. The translator of my copy even uses "absurd" in Aristotle's dismissals of his predecessors.

For Aristotle, it's all wind. He had already proven that wetness and dryness require evaporation. Water from rain gets into the earth; the earth must exhale and evaporate, then. The sun penetrates the Earth and causes evaporation, which means wind. Wind is the "greatest motive force" because it's "rare" in that it can move through things, it's very fast and therefore violent. Solid logic! And yes: winds move underground. When a very large amount of wind gets built up inside the Earth, is must burst forth. This causes earthquakes.

Aristotle - "The Master of Those Who Know" for much of Western history - says the severest quakes happen at night, because it's the calmest part of the day. Why? Well, because when the sun is shining it exerts its full power, trapping the winds inside. At other times, he seems to hedge on this dynamic, but nevermind. Spongy countries - places on and in the earth that have lots of rainfall and moisture trapped beneath - are "exposed to earthquakes because they have room for so much wind."

Here's a telling passage and key to Aristotle's brilliant metaphorical thought: "For the same reason earthquakes usually take place in spring and autumn and in times of wet and drought - because these are the windiest seasons. Summer with its heat and winter with its frost cause calm: winter is too cold, summer too dry for winds to form."

We must cut Aristotle some slack because his view of the world was pretty much - literally - "Mediterranean": the "middle of the earth."

My favorite passage from Aristotle on quakes is this, which I felt coming on before it actually came to pass:

"We must suppose the action of the wind in the earth to be analogous to the tremors and throbbings caused in us by the force of the wind contained in our bodies. Thus some earthquakes are a sort of tremor, others a sort of throbbing. Again, we must think of an earthquake as something like the tremor that often runs through the body after passing water as the wind returns inwards from without in one volume." (For Aristotle on earthquakes, see Book 2, chapters 7 and 8 from Meteorology.)

Methinks this was the true starting point for Aristotle's thinking about the cause of earthquakes, and he merely buried the lead. You have to read ten or twelve paragraphs before he relates that which happens on the macro scale to that which happens inside us, on the micro scale. As above, so below...and Aristotle is usually not thought of as a Hermetic thinker. (Rabelais had a lot of fun with these ideas from Aristotle! All you need is a character who is a giant, even "gargantuan," a large portion of food for the giant, and then flatulence that wipes out entire towns, much like certain hurricanes recently in the news. No seriously: Rabelais's "Gargantua" goes to "make water" and floods an entire village: you undergrads who skip through that part are really missing out!)

Anaximenes, Anaxagoras, Democritus, and Aristotle and their ideas about what causes earthquakes? These would constitute a sort of imaginative "guess," or what Charles Saunders Peirce called the logic of "abduction."

This level of explanation brilliantly demonstrates the most cutting-edge cognitive science from the year 2011: we think based on our own embodiment as beings that have evolved in a particular way, and most of our "thought" is not conscious. If we want to figure out the causes, the "why" of some mysterious problem, a reasonable place to start is with what we know: our sensations and experiences as the sort of "featherless bipeds" that we are.

[In this mode of thought the being often named as "Yaweh" in the Old Testament? The one who acts like a two year old? We can understand where "He" came from!]

Plate tectonics, continental drift, the basic theories of Geology: these ideas, this knowledge took a long time to develop, for good reasons: the dynamic actions of the moon and tides, the molten core of Earth, seafloor spreading, how weather really works: our bodily flatulence and need for elimination were only going to take us so far in our explanatory schemes. Once enough odd men and women began looking outside the body for reasons why earthquakes and other geological phenomena occur, armed with a scientific method, many scientific revolutions followed quickly, one upon another. Science is not personally intuitive, in general; it is an attempt to get at a reality that is not only stranger than we had imagined, but perhaps "stranger than we can imagine," as one early 20th century thinker* said.

                                      click on the map to enlarge on my neck of the woods

I live on top of a big earthquake fault that is about nine and a half months pregnant. This we know. A Big One is due any day, but on geological timescales in this sense, about a 95% chance of the Big Baby due within the next 30 years.

Why do I live here? Good question. On one level, it's sort of crazy, because I knew full well about the fault under the house. And I knew it was due. The thing about quakes and the areas in which they are frequent over relatively large timescales: quakes create beautiful landscapes. What a cosmically vicious paradox! If you've been to San Francisco or only seen pictures of it, it's a beautiful City, a gorgeous area.  I often find it breathtaking. And it's right on the edge of two very big earthquake fault lines: the San Andreas and the Hayward. I live atop the Hayward. I know it's crazy, but I'm just hoping we're prepared and lucky when the Damned Thing hits!

A less than 3-minutes video on the whole lotta shakin' that will be goin' on:

* J.B.S. Haldane: "Now, my own suspicion is that the universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose. I have read and heard many attempts at a systematic account of it, from materialism and theosophy to the Christian system or that of Kant, and I have always felt that they were much too simple. I suspect that there are more things in heaven and earth that are dreamed of, or can be dreamed of, in any philosophy. That is the reason why I have no philosophy myself, and must be my excuse for dreaming." 
 J.B.S. Haldane (Possible Worlds: And Other Papers)

Friday, August 26, 2011

Sombunall Philosophical Problems

I picked up the neologism "sombunall" from Robert Anton Wilson, who was heavily influenced by Alfred Korzybski's General Semantics. Because in the sensory-sensual phenomenal-existential world no one can ever say "all" about anything - we are almost always abstracting -  he advocated the practice of using "some but not all" instead, which turned into the new word "sombunall." So far, it has not seemed to catch on, but I'm putting in for sombunall right here, right now, and some but not all of you will find this idea worth practicing, if only to see how it might alter your consciousness over a week or three?

[Exercise: try to say all or "everything" about the gadget you're using now to read this. It's a digital gadget. It's some color or colors. It has words on it. These words indicate other words, people, ideas. If you're using, say, an Apple product, say everything about Steve Jobs: his life, character, his ideas, how he collaborated with others to get the gadget onto your table, lap, palm of your hand, etc. Then go into who influenced Jobs. Who were his parents? His parents' parents? What about the electronics inside the gizmo? What are they made of? Silicon? Who figured out that silicon was a good element to play around with when making gizmos? Do quantum mechanics figure into how your computer operates? How did those ideas come about? What about the idea of a "blog"? On and on and on: we CANNOT say "all" except in very restricted domains in which there are countings and everyone agrees upon the meaning of the countings and reasonings.]
I've been reading Aristotle on meteorology, and have been having a blast, and I'll try to relate that blast here soon, but I've been thinking about philosophy as an endeavor, and how distasteful many professional thinkers and philosophers have found the pragmatic movement. It's easy to see it lambasted as an anti-philosophy, because it seems to do away with the 2500 year old questions, or many of them.

A sort-of current philosophically pragmatist line: If, since at least Plato, we have tried to find a definition of "truth" that satisfies everyone and we have failed, perhaps it's time to drop the inquiry and change the conversation. Pragmatists think the old philosophical question has ceased to qualify as "edifying discourse." They'd rather keep things interesting. Because pragmatists see human knowledge as always contingent, and our language games (influence of quasi-pragmatist Wittgenstein here, and we're talking Philosophical Investigations) indicate that language does not "copy" the world, and rather, we think metaphorically and whether we know it or not, we are heavily influenced by "strong poets."

I see the haters of pragmatism as something like drug addicts: don't you go around saying that the quest for the ultimate definition of beauty is a defunct mission! I've put my whole life into that problem! I'm strung out on beauty! Or rather, capital B Beauty. I will be the one who finally - somehow - gets to the One True Essence of Beauty. (il est ridicule!)

Cool. We're not saying you shouldn't "do" that pursuit; we're only saying you will not find a final vocabulary in which everyone will agree what "beauty" "really is." And fer gawdsakes: as least be a little playful in your quixotic quest. Your humorless thick academic prose about beauty seems unseemly!
Beware the semantics of "pragmatic." You will see it used disparagingly, and often in a way that seems to want you to unpack it mentally as "soulless and uncaring and bureaucratic." This is not the pragmatism I'm talking about here.
The briefest outline of pragmatic thought for further inquiry and delvers and the gloriously inquisitive: Charles Saunders Peirce (say "Purse") ----> William James ---->John Dewey----->Richard Rorty.

                                               John Dewey: merged pragmatism with Hegel
                                               and scientific inquiry: "Instrumentalism"

There seem very many interesting sidelights to these guys (all Americans, so maybe that's part of the distaste?), and I'm leaving out a tremendous lot of top-notch people thinking in the pragmatic vein.
By way of tantalizing illustration: In an interview of Richard Rorty from 1998, in Munich, conducted by Wolfgang Ullrich and Helmut Meyert:

Q: How can we relate the idea of the heroic poet with the liberal ironic figure whose model we ought to emulate?

Rorty: In my book, Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity, I defined irony as recognition of the contingency of one's "final vocabulary." This is simply consciousness of the fact that the deepest convictions one holds are the result of past poetic and creative achievements. This goes along with the recognition that there will never be a final poem. There will always be space for self-creation, because no previous act of self-creation can be ratified by some nonhuman authority.

When it comes to philosophy, however, it doesn't always make sense to call the supersession of one poem by another a victory. Sometimes, within philosophical traditions, problems aren't solved --- they, along with the ways in which we formulate them, are simply forgotten. In Nietzsche's words, "Philosophical problems are not solved, they become frozen."

Nietzsche is completely right. Russell made the same point when he said that nobody had refuted Bergson, but everybody had become bored with him. Philosophical problems are transitory, as are the vocabularies with which they are formulated. For this reason, there will always be a tension between the clarity of the old languages and the crudeness of the new suggestions about how we might speak. - from Take Care of Freedom and Truth Will Take Care of Itself: Interviews With Richard Rorty, p. 72

                                  Richard Rorty, my favorite academic philosopher of the late 20th c.
I've read a lot of Rorty, and he's open to someone finding some new way of reading, say, Bergson here, and opening up a novel and fruitful discourse on the phenomenon of how we experience time, or even humor, two topics Bergson wrote on. And there was a time when Bergson was on a hot streak. Henri Bergson had his halcyon days, aye.

One of the most difficult but rewarding books I've ever read was Rorty's Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature, which provided a very convincing argument for something I had been piecing together for a long time, via my readings of the so-called "Great Books," yet Rorty articulated many tens of times better than I ever would or could have: our ideas and language do not "mirror" the "true world." The idea that we can arrive at truths that "correspond" to some putative "actual reality" somewhere "out there" has been an idea that has held sway in Western thought for around 2600 years at least. And the 20th century epistemologies strongly suggest it's wrong: language doesn't "copy" the world, it's a part of the world. We are natural beings who somehow, via the wonders of evolution, arrived at a seemingly freakish mode of symbol manipulation. And we mistake these symbolizings for Ultimate Reality. (Well, sombunall of us do. Others of us seem to have happily glommed on to Rorty's sense of "irony.")
And for the present-day "neo-pragmatist" philosophical thinker, you consider sociopolitical problems as a species, your own and others' quest for self-creation and your own unique vocabularies as another species. How these two species meet seems up to you. But something like "Missing Public Discussions" seems to me NOT philosophical as a species. Rather, it seems to me entirely public, and of interest to everyone in anything that would seek to self-describe itself as a "democracy."

Here's 2 mins of Rorty on "Truth":

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Missing Public Discussions: A "Reality" Problem

Continuing from yesterday: check this out:

"In fact, the wealth gap in the United States is wider than it has ever been. In 2009 alone, the pay of America's highest earners quintupled, while more Americans found themselves on food stamps than ever before. Wealth inequality in the United States had already hit its highest level since 1929 two years before that. Throughout the recession and its jobless aftermath, that gap has only grown bigger. Andbigger. And bigger. We're now roughly on par with China."

That's from Larry Womack's article "Where 30 Years of Real Class Warfare Has Left America," which can be read in its entirety here.

Why do only "we" see this? How can the Far Right Tea Baggers actually believe that we need to lean on the poor more?

My best read on this is that the public has been dumbed-down by an increasingly atrocious public school system (I am NOT attacking teachers!), coupled with the vastly underappreciated knowledge that watching moving images in one's own home is akin to self-brainwashing if one has not been educated to understand how electronic media - or better, all media - "work." In this case, TV "information" has been overwhelmingly non-progressive (putting it mildly) in that area that purportedly seeks to "inform" the public via "news" or "the issues."

So, what we have...is a failure...to communicate. I don't like it anymore than you do!

Aye: the Right has been so brilliant at framing information about the economic/business/political/social sphere on the Idiot Box (because it's all owned by giant corporations, what would you expect?) that we now have enormous numbers of people who believe in innumerable aspects of phenomena which I consider baseless; they were made up a long time ago. These ideas are "facts" to their adherents, because they've heard them  repeated so often, for years on end. We have a large segment of Unistatians who believe in a almost completely fake "reality" that was dreamed up mostly in right wing think tanks, and they mostly did it via manipulation of the fear response by an ingenious use of language and images. And this is a humongous problem.

Call this my Conspiracy Theory, but the rise of Rush Limbaugh and his clones was tailor-made for the Five Percenters: with NAFTA/GATT, etc: the jobs in middle America were going to disappear extra-quickly; they needed an amped-up Noise Machine that made up "facts" and developed a Big Narrative so that men who suddenly couldn't make their mortgage payments had someone to blame: homosexuals, "liberals," women, poor people, people of color, educated people, people who consumed items like latte or Volvos, "rap music," heavy metal, Hollywood, the Great Society programs of the 1960s, people who thought a background check before buying an automatic weapon was a good idea, and...everyone but Jedd and his friends! Blame! It's an underrated drug. 

It's a narcotic, methinks.

I could catalog my own list of non-realities that a large number of the population believe in, but I would use up too much space. Here's a list of 23 dippy realities that Tea Partiers tend to believe in. Each, I consider, patently absurd. Apparently these ideas "really are" believed by folks who somehow think that Bachmann, Palin, and Rick Perry are fit to take helm.

This is not a "difference of opinion." I know an opinion when I see one. This seems far more like a DELUSION. 

Here's a morbidly fascinating problem: among epistemologists, it's been long discussed that a bad social idea, if it gains enough adherents, becomes "real" even if the Idea In Itself seems baseless. We must deal with human beings who believe things that have no base in "reality." 

That's an unpleasant philosophical problem we must deal with, but I must admit: it is interesting. I only wish I was reading about it in some ancient history text, not current politics.

Even more fascinating: "reality" bites back. If I believe I can fly off the roof of this building by flapping my arms, a "reality check" is fast approaching, at 32 feet per second per second. Likewise, in the social-political "reality" sphere: how long can the Ruling Class continue to feed extremely sophisticated garbage about "reality" down most peoples' throats? Because the business class surely must feel the sting when people are too stupid to manage their interests. Having a load of crap in your head to try and think with in "reality" is not good for business, at a certain point. Now: some of my friends think it can go on like this for much longer, because the Five Percenters who own most of the land, businesses, banks, etc, have enough smart college-educated people to manage their concerns; the Idiocracy will just lap up more and more and more Trash and blame anyone but the Five Percenters for their own squalor. 

But I do wonder. I sincerely do not believe Unistatians are born stupid; they must be made that way. And what can be made can be unmade. Or altered in interesting ways. But WHAT will actuate this process of change?

I put the word "reality" in quotes because one of my favorite philosophers, Robert Anton Wilson, convinced me that "reality" seems a very dodgy concept. I do not claim to know "reality." I strongly doubt any one person alive has a direct hotline to True "Reality." But I am saying what I think is close to something truthful. I am giving my truth here. "Reality," I strongly suspect, is a great example of a word that, because we can creatively conceptualize that such a "thing" exists, that It must somehow "really" exist. But I think that whatever it "is," it isn't a noun, and doesn't exist as much as that big fat hunk of government cheddar we might have to subsist upon if more of us don't get smarter, quicker. Indeed: "reality," in almost all of the semantic senses in which we encounter it, may not have much of an ontological status at all! 

[What I mean is: it might help to de-conceptualize the idea of "reality" and work on better definitions of whatever it "is" or whatever dynamic processes we are groping toward when we attempt to say anything about "it."]

And my truth is: there are some ideas that are widely believed, that, if I were allowed on national TV with enough time, I could make a very persuasive case that much of what is believed as "fact" by, say, the Tea Partiers (see link above), has ZERO basis in "reality." 

I do, however, admit that when enough people believe in a package of patently absurd, idiotic ideas, that "reality" comes into some sort of "being" and it's quite unfortunate, but the rest of us have to deal with it, and it's a difficult problem, because part of the delusional "reality" is that anyone outside their delusional "reality" are the ones that are delusional!

Here's one of the biggest Morons I've seen in a long time, a Murdoch-Fox "News"- Tea Party favorite, Sarah Palin, who does a version of Josef Goebbels's "big lie," accusing others of doing what she herself does: makes things up: (2 mins, and videlicet):

I leave you with the High Drama of Anonymous! Vive ANONYMOUS!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Missing Public Discussions: Income Inequality

I have some numbers to start off with, if ya wanna. About inequality within Unistat? Check out this. Or check out this article, by a Nobelist in Economics. Or how about "U.S. Leads Developed World In Income Inequality," found here.

A crack from the peanut gallery: if you're citing articles, then how is it "missing" as a public discussion?

Well, first of all, Unistatians don't read this stuff. Worse: when they hear such stuff mentioned, they seem to be so brainwashed they think they're "middle class" and so not part of the inequality mentioned, which surely is between the Rich and the Poor. And even worse than worse: they don't care, because they've been taught to not care, by the <cough> "liberal" media here in Unistat. And worse than worse-worse: too many Unistatians seem to harbor the idea that, a winning lottery ticket or...something will come along and they'll finally be some filthy rich asshole too, just like the people they admire on their trash TV shows. Meanwhile, they're two paychecks away from being homeless with a rapidly dwindling safety net and a sick political system that wants more from the poor and, it seems, not much from the obscenely wealthy. (READ at least one of the articles or links at the beginning of this post, pleeeze?)

I have made a couple stabs at talking about the idea of the Universal Basic Income. See here and here. This is yet another reason why these ideas entering the sphere of widespread public discussion is vital. Because, at least since Aristotle, the knowledge that a large and true "middle class" is absolutely essential for democracy to exist.

(Side-bar: Every time I write "democracy" I confess I feel inordinately romantic, idealistic, and almost foolish, such are the blaring data that the US has turned into a run-away plutocratic oligarchy with marked kleptocratic tendencies by the wealthiest, and indeed, it looks much like the Corporate State that was idealized by Italian leaders in the 1920s and 1930s. But far more hi-tech than the Italians: if you can get the masses to root against their own interests, you'd better own most of the electronic media and you'd better implement the latest in Public Relations techniques. And they did do that, and they have had incredible success. So far...)

                        Rich Uncle Pennybags, who reminds me of J.P. Morgan, but that's just me?

One thing I feel I don't really know, but would like to, if I could somehow figure out a way to do it: Do the obscenely wealthy and politically powerful in Unistat:

1.) Not care about the widening gap between Haves and Have-Nots?

2.) Actually know, and like the fact that they're "winning" and that the more people who are poor and destitute, the more they can manipulate them further by using fear and other tactics of domination?

3.) Not care but think that trying to do something about it would alienate them from their class? (Warren Buffet recently was accused of doing "class warfare" when he said he and his billionaire friends ought to be taxed at a higher rate, in the interest of the health of the country. I'm not making this up.)

Right now, my guess would be that the wealthiest class - let us call them the Five Percenters - is not of One Mind. It seems not fruitful to think of the Five Percenters in some way that makes the actions of, say the Koch Brothers, fungible and reflective of the entire billionaire and hundreds-of-millions class. Clearly, the quality of "mind" sees quite a disparity between billionaire Buffet and billionaire Kochs.

I wish it were easier to assign blame or culpability, but let us move on...

The earliest theorists of laissez faire economics saw extreme poverty and insecurity versus extreme opulence as a serious problem. Thus, a political reason may be the best reason why ideas like the UBI urgently need to enter public discussion.

Late 18th and early 19th century thinkers knew that if a class ran away with most of the wealth - and they HAVE (read those articles linked above!) - then the very rich could buy political power (they have),  change the laws to suit their own interests (they have), influenced public opinion (what the hell do YOU think?), and....well, those three seem quite enough. As Emma Rothschild says about vast income disparity in 18th century political thought in What's Wrong With A Free Lunch?, a series of essays pro and con on Philippe Van Parijs's ideas about the UBI:

"This was an obstruction, it was thought, to the efficient operation of economic competition, and to democratic political institutions. The very poor, in the ancien regime, were excluded from political power on the grounds (among others) that they were dependent on other people, they had no time to become educated, and they had no interest in the great questions of public life or in the future of the society. The equality of rights, Condorcet wrote during the French Revolution, would be no more than a 'ghostly imposture' if large numbers of people continued to subsist on insufficient and uncertain resources  and were subject to 'that inequality that brings a real dependence.'" (p.48)

It all seems like quite the uphill battle. But any UBI-like reforms could NOT work if they were predicated upon getting rid of existing programs, safety nets, or a 1930s-style promise of social security.

Hey, what does the CIA think of this? Oh, it's here.

I guess a take-away idea from this post is this: try to work Condorcet's term "ghostly imposture" into one of your daily conversations. Oh yea: and that whole vast inequality thing too.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Possible Fallout From Human Contact With Intelligent Aliens

First off, read this short piece I copped from Science Daily, which is a website that's like eating potato chips: once I start, I find it difficult to stop.

Okay, now: If you read Science Daily and you're like me you revel in stories about new genetic markers for common diseases and longitudinal studies and neurodegeneration and bioengineered bacterium that solve a deadly problem and galaxies colliding and odd physics experiments, etc.

But this one (linked to above) was the first time I ever read about a study conducted by doctoral and post-doctoral..."thinkers?" who ended up saying everything my friends and I say when we sit around and get stoned and talk about what might happen if we are finally contacted by intelligent extra-terrestrial Beings.

Every idea these academics cite as possibilities are ideas that have appeared for at least 50 years in pulp science fiction, popular science fiction films, the innumerable (and mostly kooky, although I like reading them) non-fiction books on the subject. Think Whitley Streiber. Or the intrepid Harvard psychologist John Mack. Or my all-time favorite, Jacques Vallee. The riff (sorry post-docs) about the aliens seeing what we're doing to the environment and wiping us out because we've proven to be unable to take care of our stuff? That's a warhorse from those Very Interesting Humans who talk about their abduction by aliens, and what Their message to us was. Heard it! Next!

Not to mention any random late-night college "bull session" where a bunch of undergrads, under the influence of magical potions surreptitiously bought in the city park, where the subject of When They Finally land and have conversations with us, like, you know, on TV 'n shit.

And also: me and my friends. We already had all these ideas. These doctoral folk should've called me; I could've given them some truly fantastic leads to further their "research." I would've excused myself to take a bong hit before getting back on the phone with them to answer any and all questions, but that's just me...

I loved the bit where one of the scientists who collaborated on the article says that their review "provides the groundwork" for further thinking on the subject. Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't the "groundwork" already put in place by Asimov, Heinlein, Sturgeon, Pohl, Wells, Bradbury, Charles Fort and Philip K. Dick? Or aye: even Carl Sagan. The cultural anthropologists even earlier than most of the SF guys, but who was paying attention then? And don't these scientists have a library card?

I have not read the original <cough> "report." I wonder if they delved into the fascinating area about why some aliens who have already - alleged - been here: why do they seem so interested in "probing" human rectums? This seems like serious stuff that should be addressed by <cough> "scientists."

I always liked the idea that They would land and give us tips on math.

Here's a very brief scenario I dreamed up with the sort of thoughtful firepower the scientists in the Science Daily article brought to the table:

Alien (that I imagine will look like the guy above): The logic you Earthlings have used that emanated from the one you call "Aristotle" has caused great harm. His rule of the excluded middle should have been done away with long ago. Your kind happened upon fuzzy logic far too late in your species development, and we must liquidate you.

NASA Old White Man (With short hair and glasses, wearing a white lab coat): NO! Give us another chance! Our people can be GOOD! They are a LOVING species! Please!

Alien: Silence!


Okay, okay: Is this a prank? I'm leaning towards prank. These people actually got a grant to produce this paper? Or if not, they were in some way paid? Real money? Jeez! Nice work if you can get it...One assumes they were not doing it gratis.

Because if these dudes got some dough-re-mi-cashola for writing this stuff: like, you know...whoa!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Paideuma: Continued Cogitations and Concatenations

I sent an email to the U.C. Berkeley Anthropology Department asking one of them to call me with the correct pronunciation. I'll let you know, because obviously, I mean...who isn't fascinated by this stuff? (Don't answer that.)

Joseph Campbell was also influenced by Adolf Bastian, who thought there were Elementergedanken, "elementary ideas" in humans, and something called Volkergedanken, or localized "folk" examples of those elementary ideas at work. To some of us, Bastian seems like a very early - a prefiguration - of contemporary sociobiology/evolutionary psychology.

Carl Jung turned Bastian's Elementergedanken into "archetypes of the collective unconscious." Quite a move. Very creative. I applaud Jung, because he's taken a pretty cool idea from Bastian and made it into a Wiggy Idea, the kind of idea that has all kinds of non-ordinary intellectually-minded folks all worked up. Jung takes what seemed like rational ideation and tweaks the metaphor a bit, so that by the time he's done with it, it's somewhere in an obscure subliminal abyss. But if Bastian's original thinking was correct, it was what phenomenological sociologists call "the seen but not noted world," a world that is simply taken-for-granted. And therefore, Jung's move - possibly influenced by Freud's theory of the unconscious - seems more articulated, possibly "truer" than Bastian's metaphor.

Mircea Eliade called this level of unconscious processing "hierophanies."

So: Jung's archetypes in the collective unconscious. Pound took Frobenius and made paideuma into the "tangle or complex of the inrooted ideas of any period."

Currently, acting as a cartographer for these sorts of ideas, I think of Jung's level as a more basic case for the entire human race, probably since the early Neolithic at least; paideuma seems relatively more mutable historically. If Wilson calls paideuma "the semantic unconscious" then I see semantics as changing from culture to culture and from each language's constant shiftings under a collective social weight, as humans try to make sense of the world and themselves over time.

Jung seemed to have an even deeper level, the "psychoid." This was the unseen aspect of archetypes, and inhered in all vital matter, anything organic.  Jung said it was like electromagnetism, or aspects of energy or light that we cannot see, but nevertheless it "is there," like infra-red light. The psychoid level was (is?) something like a bridge between matter and life...But I'm getting carried away.

Turning to current neurobiological research, Professor George Lakoff's semantic "frames" are "part of what cognitive scientists call the 'cognitive unconscious' - structures in our brains that we cannot consciously access, but know by their consequences: the way we reason and what counts as common sense." - p.xv, Don't Think of an Elephant!

What I wonder about the deeper aspect of Lakoff and his colleagues' work: how well do these ideas work cross-culturally?

Mark Turner, a cognitive literary theorist (or at least that's what he seems like to me; I'm not sure how he's labeled himself), has some ultra-persuasive (to me, at least) things to say about how stories are FAR more basic to our lives than most of us have ever realized, much less dreamed. He writes in his book The Literary Mind, "Story as a mental activity is similarly constant yet unnoticed, and more important than any particular story." (p.13) There's that...thing again: something that seems so basic that we can't notice it!

At this point, many of you FFUIs, NMIs* and other types of thinkers have part of your brain saying, "Yes. These kinds of ideas always were pretty damned mind-blowing," while other bits of neural circuitry are telling your conscious brain, "Just how 'real' are these ideas? Could they just be the kinds of things that very creative humans come up with, even if they are not ordinarily recognized as 'artists'?"

I know what you mean.

To further confuse matters for some of you who really like these Wild Ideas (I'm obviously one): read about Anthony Wallace's idea of the "mazeway"!

It seems to me we all have to fight back this influx of knowledge about the blooming buzzing confusion of other levels of "reality" all around us, and indeed, "in" us. We want to assume we are in control. I know I catch myself thinking that the me that is thinking is the One and Only Really True Me. Alright, but...

Go to a horror movie. You're sitting in the dark theater, or your dark living room, comfortable. You "know" it's only a movie. And yet you (probably) will react, physically, to the goings-on on the screen. What part of you "forgot" it was only a movie?

Robert Anton Wilson, who was as fascinated about these ideas as I am - maybe more so - was reviewing one of his favorite films, King Kong, in a 1977 edition of New Libertarian magazine. RAW had written extensively about King Kong, in surrealistically humorous ways, in Jungian terms, and other modes. He loved that film! He writes of King Kong (we not even talking about a psychopathic slasher hiding behind the curtains here), "Once again, officially tabooed insights into the nature of our society are made palpable and admitted to consciousness by the dream-dark atmosphere of the movie theatre."

So: one avenue for investigation of these vast, permeating invisible levels of some sort of "reality": movies! See one soon, and keep in mind what stirs from..."below?"

* = New Monastic Individuals

[Get a load of the acting from "We're millionaires boys! I'll share it with all of you!" So bad it's good!]

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Meditation on "Paideuma"

Paideuma is a word I happened upon while reading Ezra Pound; I had never seen it, but thought I could tell what it meant from my first gloss within the word's context. Then Pound used it again, and it seemed to escape my previous gloss on it. Whatever it meant, it was a big-time wild idea, and it excited me intellectually. Then it happened again while reading Pound. Just when I thought I had a purchase on "paideuma," it slipped through.

How is it pronounced? I have asked two men - both FFUIs* - who had read Pound for a long time. Robert Anton Wilson said, "I'm...not sure...I think it's pronounced 'pah-DOY-mah'." Jack Foley said, "I say 'pie-DOO-mah'." Google searches haven't yielded much. I think I probably ought to call up an Anthropologist at Berkeley and ask.

What the hell IS this thing?

It turns out that Pound got the idea of paideuma from the German anthropologist Leo Frobenius. In Pound's Guide To Kulchur, he defines it as "the tangle or complex of the inrooted ideas of any period." (p.57) So I went with that.

When I asked Wilson what he thought paideuma meant, he said "It's the semantic unconscious." I liked that idea a lot, too. We feel an odd relief when we finally find out there exists a word for some idea we had been thinking about for a long time, but didn't know what to call it. Words being pegs to hang ideas on. Or at least that's one way to think of the function of a word...And Wilson's gloss of paideuma was no doubt merely one way to think of paideuma...

Now to Frobenius: He was so adept at discerning the unique styles of ceramics and other artefacts of long-gone peoples, that, when their pots or pitchers were unearthed, he could "read" a shard of pottery and give a hyper-educated guess as to what those long-dead peoples believed, the role of women, their view of the cosmos, gods, and other Big Ideas.

Frobenius's biographer, Janheinz Janz (Leo Frobenius: The Demonic Child) unpacked paideuma in this way: Frobenius thought there is an essence behind every culture, and that essence has a soul, and the soul of a given culture in history is its paideuma. Every culture has its own "shape," which includes its ideas and "mind." Frobenius also used the term kulturmorphologie. Curiouser...

This view seems in keeping with a German intellectual raised before 1914 and all that: very romantic, very organic, a mind steeped in Goethe, but not quite as "scientific" as I'd like. (Frobenius was one of the pioneers of Modern anthropology; let us cut him some slack.)

                              Leo Frobenius (1873-1938), German ethnographer, in Ethiopia

As I delved further, the idea acquired flesh, depth, and some distinction, yet it was on the whole murkier for me. (What sort of a person allows himself to be so enthusiastic about such ideas? A show of hands?)

I found out Joseph Campbell had been very much taken by Frobenius, too. As Robert Ellwood writes in  the section on Campbell in his book The Politics of Myth, "He was struck by Frobenius's comparable concept that every race had its own paideuma or soul, its own way of feeling and its own spectrum of significant knowledge. This spirit is expressed in its art and its mythology, and it may evolve over time, so that the paideuma of a Neolithic agricultural people may be different from what it was when they were hunters and gatherers, or that of Renaissance Europe different from that of Medieval Europe." (p.157)

I liked the part about "evolving" but the part about "race" worried me a bit.

In Campbell's own The Inner Reaches of Outer Space he seems to be using the term "monad" in place of paideuma. Perhaps he realized that odd word starting with the "p" alienated some of his listeners?

Well, Pound obviously thought the paideuma could be changed, evolve. He seemed to think it could be consciously changed! I direct the intrepid reader to Mad Ol' Ez's Selected Prose 1909-1965, pp.284-289, "For A New Paideuma." Call me weird (really: I won't mind!), but Pound is psychedelic there, to me. He's elliptical, he uses his occult ju-ju ideogrammic method, he's at times presenting something like a zen koan, he typically lambastes academics, who hadn't taken to Frobenius nearly as much as they ought to have - the academics had erred in paying too much attention to Freud! - probably because Frobenius was too "wild and poetic."

Long story short: for Ezra Pound, the "hidden" aspects of our own culture could not evolve toward something greater unless we re-thought how money worked, what money was, how we conducted our banking system, and economics in general.

I ask the reader: how "crazy" is that?

More on paideuma soon...

* = Free-Floating Unattached Intellectuals

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

On Self-Definition

Recently I read a piece from Disinformation on women who insist militantly on dressing provocatively (AKA "sexily"?) and not allowing themselves to be defined as "asking for it" or for others to define them as "sluts." (They're calling themselves "sluts," much like homosexuals and African-Americans took re-appropriated the words, "faggot" and "nigger." The piece is here, and links to the original.)

For the record, I am 100% on their side. And not just because I like checking 'em out. I do check 'em out. But I think we ought to be more relaxed about nudity. And I have never thought a woman was "askin' for it" when she got raped, just because she went, at 10PM, to a bar with three pool tables, lots of Harleys parked out front, Stevie Ray Vaughan blasting from the juke box, and she wore hot pants, a halter top and heels. Maybe my mom raised her son to think that women should be able to express themselves that way; I don't know. Some critics have asserted that college undergrad women who go to frat parties and drink way too much, then allow college men to come back to their place for more partying "deserved it." No way. It's rape. She is guilty of being criminally ignorant, that's all. Anyway...

[I am well aware of the problem is saying it "is" rape, outright. I know it's at times not that easy to determine "consent." Each incident needs to be determined on a case-by-case basis, obviously. But "just look at what she was wearing" and "she was askin' for it, dressed like that" are never valid defenses, in my eyes. The case must be more about human actions than the way anyone was dressed.]

The playwright Edward Albee caught some flack a few months ago for asserting that he's a playwright who happens to be gay, and not a "gay playwright" or a "gay writer" or a "gay artist." And at first I thought, "What's the big deal?" Well, we know the deal: some of the more well-meaning politically militant in the homosexual "community" (I never liked the term: it implies a balkanization of some sort, and that there is "a" gay community, when I know plenty of gays and they're quite a disparate group, I hesitate to say they're not one "homogenous" group as the term "community" implies, as it might seem like a stab at a lame joke, but there it is.) insist on claiming every talented homosexual in their turf wars of Identity Politics. To be talented and gay and to reject the label of a Gay Artist is, to some caught up in these politics, to put at risk some posited solidarity against the repressive elements of Control. To reject the label is to open oneself to accusations of "false consciousness." Etc. I am also 100% for Albee's right to assert he's a writer who happens to be gay. Or as simply A Writer. Or as a Nice Guy. Or a Dodger fan. Fine!

                                                "But I tell you I am Napoleon!"

From where I stand, I'm sorry it's even an issue. But it is an issue for some. That's a basic Reality Test: when you stop thinking about it or taking it seriously, does it go away? In this case, no. It's part of our collective "reality" and we must deal with this stuff, in some way.

[Caveat: when your "friend" says over and over he's a "stand-up guy," that you can trust him, and then he rips you and others off over and over, it's a different story. For obvious reasons. Then people in his circle will call him "So-and-So the Thief"and he must change his ways in order to be labeled in a more desirous way. When Bush 43 called himself "The Education President" the appropriate response was to laugh and point, and snicker, or feel disgust. You can self-describe all you want, but there's gotta be some semblance of "reality" to it!]

Any democratic, liberal society is, to me, one that allows everyone to pursue their own "identity." To allow some In-Group to be able to dictate how we can describe ourselves is, to me, a nightmare society.

Recently I labeled the Tea Party as "beige fascists." Assuredly a Tea Party member would take issue with this. And then I would say WHY I used the term. And she would counter with something. She's a True American, probably...<cough>

I put the term "identity" in quotes, because I reject the basic Western idea that we have one "self." I just think the idea's wrong, and leads to all sorts of contradictions, puzzles, and problems. (Note well the next time you hear someone say, "I can't believe I did that! What was I thinking?") Hey, maybe it was all that postmodernism I read in the 1990s. I see the one solitary "self" as being a convenient legal fiction in order to assign guilt and "cause." Which seems fairly limited in justice to me, as of this date.

But we do seem to have putative, convenient-fiction senses of our selves as social beings, having to do with the presentation of ourselves in everyday life. And I assume, based on neuroscience and sociology, that these selves are mutable. And I love that! We change over time. We ought to change, or probably something's wrong. And we can get feedback from friends, family, strangers, etc, telling us, "You seem different now." And that's data for us to think with. But only we can say who we are.

I have had it pretty damned easy, being a hetero white guy. And getting to Know Thyself seems ever-more difficult, the older I get. The more I know, the more I find I don't know! Which is...bracing.

Identity Politics has always seemed like a basic mistake to me, but I think I have a deep understanding as to why it caught on so strongly. I see it as ultimately divisive, but I might not see it that way if I were gay, or muslim, or of African physiognomy...

Let us revel in diversity! Vive la differance! (Or however you spell it.)

Monday, August 15, 2011

Universal Basic Income: A Screeching Angry Radical's Few Takes

In current-day Unistat, a populist and - from what I can see after some shovel-work - a beige fascist movement calling themselves the "Tea Party" are listening to their billionaire leaders (I know, rest of the the civilized world, it's insane) and buying F.A. Hayek's The Road To Serfdom (1944). (Because someone like Glenn Beck told them to.) I have much respect for Hayek's intelligence, although I disagree with a lot of so-called "Austrian economics" as of this date. I find Hayek far more interesting than Ayn Rand. But how many of the Tea Partiers will understand Hayek, much less read him? Is it a fetish? You own the book, you carry it around. You show other Tea Partiers that you have it in your hands; you are part of the Movement to "take back our country." Maybe by simply holding the Glenn Beck-sanctioned Hayek in your hands you will feel enough of a surge of Patriotism that the vibrations could harm a vegan poet at fifty paces!

I suspect that if the ordinary Tea Partier actually gets to pp.89-90 (of the version I have from the library; I assume there are many others), they might find a quizzical passage:

"[...] the security of a minimum income" or the "certainty of a given minimum of subsistence for all" should be "provided for all outside of and supplementary to the market system."

How, dear Tea Partier, do you square that with not getting rid of the Bush Tax Cuts? I also don't hear a peep from you guys about dramatically slashing the military budget. (Well, barely a peep.) Indeed, your leaders have you rooting for anything that makes life even more difficult for about 90% of the population...one would assume you, Dear Tea Partier, are in that 10%.

Because if not, you're being taken for a ride.

Oh, I get it: now that a half-black man is a symbol for the nation's father in your pea-brain, suddenly you are for fiscal responsibility for you and your neighbors? Wha???

In the vastly underrated 2006 movie The Good Shepherd, directed by Robert DeNiro, there's a section of dialogue:

Joseph Palmi: Let me ask you something... we Italians, we got our families, and we got the church; the Irish, they have the homeland, Jews their tradition; even the niggers, they got their music. What about you people, Mr. Wilson, what do you have? 
Edward Wilson: The United States of America. The rest of you are just visiting. 

Matt Damon as Edward Wilson plays a mid-20th-century Yankee-Yale-Skull and Bones-CIA WASP type, who seems a composite of many characters I've read about in histories of the CIA and the wealthy old money East Coast establishment. The movie reminded me of Mailer's book Harlot's Ghost. Do you believe "the rest of you are just visiting" is a lark from the pen of a screenwriter? I say: think again.

Well, the Super Rich have always hated the citizen's social security. They've even succeeded in steering the corporate media debates about "entitlements" in a way that assumes that Social Security is part of the national budget. Which it is not. It's part of the "liberal media agenda," I guess. Of course!

Well, it's going to run out at some point. The money you paid into SS with every paycheck, so you will have some safety net upon retirement? You may have heard something about this. That's gonna run out sooner of later. Sooner if the Unistatians keep thinking and electing the same types of people they have for the last 31 years...And the Super Rich want that social security money. And they'll get it. They get everything. God DAMN! Just take a good hard look at the Unistat economy since 1980: sustained by socialism for the rich - especially military expenditures, which serve to protect the ruling elite's interests all over the globe - and "voodoo economics," coined by George H.W. Bush until Reagan tapped him for Vice President. Cut taxes for the rich because it will create jobs! That's like theology (like "How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?") now, but I hear ordinary working-poor Unistatians say that all the time. "Yea, but if we tax the rich they'll stop creating jobs and they'll move the existing jobs overseas." Uhhh...Yes, my friend. They were already going to send their jobs overseas. It's called "free trade" and "capitalism." And also, my fellow citizen: those tax cuts never really created any jobs to speak of. They are ruinous of our economy. These people take the tax cuts, lay off workers, their stock goes up...Please stop watching TV!!!

I used to hear Michael Parenti repeat these lines in talks: "All the rich want, all they've ever wanted, was everything. And they don't want to pay for it." I used to think that was a bit of poetic hyperbole in the overall rhetoric of Parenti, but since around 1999 I've wondered. And since 2008? It seems sound in every way. I think Parenti is right...

The 10% that have benefited (I'm pulling the 10% and 90% numbers  - like this long parenthetical I'm about to let loose with - out of my ass, like every "expert" does; only I admit I am no expert, and that I'm making numbers up as a rhetorical device; most of the "experts," on the other hand, are full of merde, and if you don't believe me, follow a few of them, note what they predict and then note how often they're wrong a year or two down the pike. Be prepared to have your mind blown! Report back here with your findings, please!), and the ten percenters use far more of the existing infrastructure anyway. In the interest of basic fairness, they should pay more and they can pay more.

And don't tell me the corporate tax rates in Unistat are higher than most other counties: they are nominally higher, but the problem is: they hire 100 (again: out of my ass) lawyers in order to use every loophole that the corporations themselves have basically written into US law under Republican administrations. With loopholes and dazzling accounting shenanigans (i.e: crimes), they don't pay much in taxes at all, given their profits.

Alright, my BP (blood pressure, not British Petroleum...do you have corporations on the brain, for some reason?) is high and I'm all worked-up about the idiocy of the Unistat system and the hordes of potential brownshirts rooting for their own demise, but thinking they're only rooting for the death of: immigrants, homosexuals, liberals, environmentalists, beautiful artists who embody "Hollywood values," "elites" who have no real power but do have education and can speak in well-articulated sentences which makes it seem like they're tryin' to make you look bad, and people of color. We live in a Black Comedy.

Yes: so these screeds that never quite made it to the level of "argument" were meant to be made in service of the idea of some sort of Universal Basic Income, which I also wrote about here and here. Oh well. I don't know about you, but 31 years of Reaganomics, then neo-liberal economics under Clinton, then fascist Neo-Conservatives have me on the road to serfdom...(Where have I heard that phrase before? Someone help me out on this one; I've probably been smoking too much good dope lately...which that communist-elitist-Nazi-secret muslim named Obama the Tea Partiers hate so much? He wants to prevent me from smoking pot! Even though I live in a state where the voters...oh, never mind.)

As my rioting Londoner friends might say, "Ta!"

Here's our dearly departed Professor Carlin, 25 seconds on why the rich will get our Social Security: We never really belonged to Their Country: