Overweening Generalist

Friday, December 23, 2011

Updates on a Few Old Posts

Rachel Maddow's Herman Cain Thesis
Regarding Rachel Maddow's framing of Herman Cain's run amongst the Republicans as "performance art," I posted THIS back "then" but soon after, sexual harassment charges and then (what's worse among Republicans, apparently) strong allegations that Cain had an extramarital affair brought him down.

Now, I watch Maddow's show about once every two/three weeks. I like her a lot, but would rather do other things with my time. I wasn't able to find anything about how Maddow responded to Cain's dropping out of the race, or if she changed her thesis in any way. My take on it is that, if it was a big piece of performance art, then Cain wasn't in on it. I'm not sure what it was, but I think the guy was just a colossal d-bag, an evermore typical sociopathic personality who will do literally ANYTHING for money. The Theater of the Absurd which is national Unistatian politics has no end of varieties of this type of stock character strutting upon the stage for awhile, a large enough segment of the populace apparently stoned enough on the dazzling little pills that makes you think that, if it's on the teevee then it's to be taken seriously.

In this case, he appeared to be running for the Republican nomination only to sell more books as a "motivational speaker." (Or, in maybe a first for me, I'm basically with George Will in calling Cain an "entrepreneurial charlatan.") Hey Rachel: there's a section of Huckleberry Finn that concerns a "duke" and a "dauphin." Re-read that.

I didn't see any wit, anything all that creative or "artsy" in his act. What was the imaginative intent if this was indeed an artwork? I think his handlers were as cynical as he was, and plied him with lines from Pokemon and other pop kulch sources. The fact that the Koch Brothers funded this ass should tell us more about them and what they think of us than perhaps we'd wanted to know.

Maddow is very smart, and very smart people sometimes can't fathom someone as hellaciously bad a person as Cain and his motivations. Which were/are - I assert - crass and solely for individual gain, not to make any sort of "point" via performance art. Or perhaps the lovely Ms. Maddow isn't as well-read about the raisons de etre for performance art in the first place? That would be surprising; she seems to be well-read concerning just about everything. But no, Rachel, it wasn't performance art. The guy was just another sociopathic jackass. And because Mencken wasn't being perhaps as hyperbolic as he thought when he wrote that no one every went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public, we shall see many more variations of this horrid type. Sarah Palin precedes him.

                                                           An artist's rendering of the Duke and the Dauphin, 
                                                           with Huck and Jim looking on

The Pepper Spray Incident at UC Davis
My little blogspew on this was HERE. Around the same time, UC Berkeley students were violently clubbed by campus police, and later the faculty voted No Confidence in the chancellor, Robert Birgenau. The UC Davis chancellor, Linda Katehi, publicly apologized. Both chancellors have been walking on eggshells ever since, but we shall see how long this lasts. It's clear that campus police don't act as free agents; these sorts of egregious actions towards nonviolent protesters were part of official higher-up "policy." I wrote both chancellors, telling them they need to do the right thing and resign, but surprisingly, neither wrote me back.

The enigmatic, eerie and dispersed presence of the hacktivist collective Anonymous came down on the cop who pepper-sprayed the protesters at Davis, a human named John Pike. They published on *the Internet his home address, his email address, his cell phone number, his home phone number, and other personal information. It's since been found that Pike is an ex-Marine and has a problem with homophobia. (*= why do we say "the Internet"? There's only one...or is there?)

In what seems to me as the most troubling aspect post-Pike, I find that his pay as a campus goon...errr...policeman was $110,000 a year. That's twice what a newly minted Humanities professor gets, and three times what a non-tenured adjunct professor gets. See Mark Bousquet's jaw-dropping article.

Finally, a shout-out to the mordant wits who started Ask Lt. John Pike, An Advice Column, for adding some much-needed satire to this story. (My personal fave of the letters is the Q to Pike from a parent about whether to tell their kids about Santa Claus.)

Regarding Your Own "Weaponized" Drone
In what I take was a lame stab at satire, I posted THIS article six days ago. I kept digging on this story and found that, for example, the Europeans think armed police drones for domestic purposes seems, uhhh...questionable. See, for example, HERE. And further, what is one to think about THIS?

"Clinical distress" is hampering a lot of the "pilots" in these high-stakes all-too-real video killing games. In reading this article, get a load of the quotes from Kent McDonald, about how they try to select only guys of "high moral" quality. Is it me, or is that just creepy-sick-o stuff?

By the way, one of the OG's favorite public intellectuals and Third Culturalists, Prof. Robert Sapolsky of Stanford - one of the world's most knowledgeable people about how stress manifests in humans and our primate cousins - has been talking about the video-game killers of other humans on the other side of the world aspect of stress for at least eight years. Note how the military in this article tries to downplay the causes of "clinical distress." Sorry. I know you love your toys that allow you to kill from an absurdly safe vantage point, but this was KNOWN to cause stress in anyone even close to mentally "sound." If you want less health problems in your remote drone-killers, hire the mentally deranged. I'm sure there are plenty of them in the military. It should be easy! But noooo...you want only the good family men. "It does cause them to re-think aspects of their life and it can be bothersome." Sez Lt. Col. Kent McDonald.

Good gawd! You can't make up more clueless, bloodless, and zombified quotes!

Now I'm going to link two stories to my idea - originally typed in as a lark, myself in a sour mood - about "weaponizing" your personal drone. These two stories are about how security officials seem sorta panicky about how much cheaper and easier it has become to play with viruses. The squeamish may want to stop reading here and go on to the next blog.

Let us contemplate some rogue element - or just some crapped-upon nerds with a grudge - who stumble upon a particularly virulent, aerosolize-able form of the H1N1 or "bird flu." And then think of their own personal drones. Sorry, but I feel it's a public service:



Happy Holidays!

And now, because the wise AdSense people took all my ads (and revenue) away, for a reason not entirely clear to me, I turn to another sponsor, the good people at Grady's Oats. We'll be right back after this important message:

Ezra Pound and Conspiracy Theory
Last July I wrote a short piece on Pound and conspiracies. It recently occurred to me that what many writers have labeled Pound's "conspiracy theory of history" has at its roots something quite similar to Noam Chomsky's term "marginalization." This theory's engine is malign neglect, silence and indifference, mostly on the part of academics. In Donald Davie's book Ezra Pound, subtitled, "a major new study of the life and work of the great American poet," Davie writes about Pound's involvement with the esthetic movement of Vorticism, and how the ideas there were strongly influenced by Allen Upward, who had been influenced by Confucius and Mencius. Pound found that critics didn't understand Vorticism, and the more he tried to explain it, the more indifferent critics seemed. If Upward's work were disseminated and written and talked about, Pound thought, more people would understand this dynamic esthetic movement. Pound, since around age 15, had wanted to make a revolution in poetry, and thereby revolutionize civilization. Pound was in a hurry. Davie writes that Upward's 1908 book The New Word, chapters 13 and 14, give a pretty good explanation of what Pound meant by the "vortex." But the book didn't find large favor among the academic and publishing class, and for Pound this was a scandal.

Anyone who reads and studies Pound will find at minimum 25 more cases similar to this: great thinkers, thinkers who could shed light on the underlying problems of Western civilization, but have been shamefully neglected, and there must be...some reason!

Well, we know where Mad Ol' Ez ended up vis a vis monetary ideas, banking, usury, credit, etc.

However utterly noxious the antisemitism (and flat-out wrong ideas about jews running the banks, period), I assert that, with the 2008 crash, most of Pound's ideas about economics deserve another look.

I won't hold my breath.

A final word on Pound and conspiracy from Davie's book. After discussing critical neglect of Upward and Pound's anger about it, Davie writes, "It was a case like this, of the unconventional thinker effectively gagged by simple or deliberate neglect and indifference, which in later years converted Pound to a conspiracy theory of history, in which the worst, most murderous conspiracies were conspiracies of silence. Wyndham Lewis, though in one sense the whole vorticist program had been devised for his benefit, declared that he didn't understand what 'vorticism' meant. Pound understood; and if we don't, it is because we haven't looked where he told us to." - page 42, Ezra Pound, Davie

As with most conspiracy theories, I take an agnostic stand.

(There are some CTs I consider about 99.9998% likely to be wrong, such as the "Holocaust Revisionist" idea that the Holocaust never happened; the footage you've seen is faked; maybe a few hundred Jews actually died under Hitler. The Jews are trying to make us feel sorry for them, etc. What a denial of one's own humanity to agree to this idea! Robert Anton Wilson responded to these conspiracy theorists by asserting that there never was a World War II, or that Holocaust Deniers don't exist; the ones that think they do are only imagining their existence. If anyone ever wants to see virtuoso usage for satirical and rhetorical purposes of the reductio ad absurdum, read anything by Robert Anton Wilson.)

Pound's vexatious ideas, their emotional and intellectual tones, are almost always compelling to me, despite his "craziness," and I do think the academic class of intellectuals do have cliques and do often marginalize people and ideas, for not-very-intellectually-honest "reasons." They're only human, after all...The "neglect" and "indifference" Donald Davie mentions might be an unconscious response due to general trends in thinking among the relatively powerful literati and academia, but may also evince a demonstrable collective lack of imagination among a large percentage of comfortably-ensconced and attached-to-university-protocol thinkers and knowledge workers.


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