Instapun*** Archive Listing

Archive Listing
June 28, 2011 - June 21, 2011

Monday, June 27, 2011

Fisk: Continued

Original caption: "Brain death. No flow."

PREVIOUSLY... God bless you guys. Your comments on Part 1 of this fisk were insipring.

The always-brilliant Guy T. carpet-truth-bombed:

Yeah, if zealous advocates of individualism forget their origins in a long ago program of government propaganda, it just might be because they ascribe those origins to the even-longer-ago program of a Jewish wiseguy who thought people should be people and not, say, doormats or despots.

Oh yeah, Him too. Him. Him. Can you tell I'm dutifully capitalizing Him?

Since he sees fit to bring "rational choice theory" into the picture, I feel obliged to bring "game theory" into the picture as well. One well-known experiment, the Prisoner's Dilemma -- and I grant that it was, at best, a very imperfect model of actual human life -- concluded that over the long term, the second best model for behavior was "tit for tat" and the best model was "tit for two tats." I.e., turn the other cheek, but stop when you run out of cheeks.

Until I run out of cheeks! Newest addition to my daily vocabulary. The applications are endless.

The usually-brilliant Diogenes threw in his two cents:

RCT sure beats all hell out of climate change for government propaganda.

HA! But the sad thing is, there's people who'd agree.

And the not-always-brilliant-but-his-batting-average-is-still-solid Eduardo finds himself converted:

I forgot to mention that I have a certain mentally unstable relative who has been saying for decades that the RAND Corporation is out to get her. I always thought she was crazy...

...until now!

Effin' A.

Let's get on with the killing. Once again, original in regular type. My brilliant-ass fisking in bold.

* * *

Rational choice philosophy, to its credit, made clear and distinct claims in philosophy’s three main areas. Ontologically, its emphasis on individual choice required that reality present a set of discrete alternatives among which one could choose: linear “causal chains” which intersected either minimally, trivially, or not at all. Epistemologically, that same emphasis on choice required that at least the early stages of such chains be knowable with something akin to certainty, for if our choice is to be rational we need to know what we are choosing. Knowledge thus became foundationalistic and incremental.

For those readers without the patience for deliberately opaque philosophical technical jargon, I'll translate. That part about the causal chains intersecting means that, according to McCumber, rational choice theory holds that there's no such thing as unintended consequences. Not so. You might think this is the only way to justify rational choice theory, Prof, but as with every goddamn thing else on Planet Earth, you're wrong.

For once, I'll leave aside Ayn Rand for a moment. The less ambitiously comprehensive rational choice theorists, like Milton Freidman and Thomas Sowell, never conflate rationality and omniscience. Sowell has a book called Applied Economics: Thinking Beyond Stage One where he details some disasterous unintended consequences of various economic policies in history. His point is not that the future can be known perfectly by a single act of honest contemplation. His point is that unintended consequences can be dramatically minimized if you think about what the consequences of your actions might be. Which is pretty simple shit we all learned in childhood, but Sowell wants us to see that this wisdom is just as sound on the macro level.

But the real significance of rational choice philosophy lay in ethics. Rational choice theory, being a branch of economics, does not question people’s preferences; it simply studies how they seek to maximize them. Hey, you've managed to say something factually accurate! Congrats! Rational choice philosophy seems to maintain this ethical neutrality Ah, you almost had it. Maybe you can prove it? (see Hans Reichenbach’s 1951 “The Rise of Scientific Philosophy,” an unwitting masterpiece of the genre Son of a. Telling your reader to go find a book for himself is a poor substitute for providing an illuminating exerpt yourself, champ. Can't stress this enough.); but it does not. Whatever my preferences are, I have a better chance of realizing them if I possess wealth and power. Rational choice philosophy thus promulgates a clear and compelling moral imperative: increase your wealth and power! I love to break it to you: The precept of Equal Liberty effectively moots the retardo point you're trying to make. The power an individual must acquire in life is power over his own life. Even guns and lawsuits and other things designed expressly to affect the lives of others are moral when a man uses them in defense of his life against immoral uses of other lives to intrude on his own. Not a tough concept to grasp.

And only the most deranged stripe of lefty could see wealth as inherently, and obviously, immoral. Next.

Today, institutions which help individuals do that, Christ forbid, (corporations, lobbyists) are flourishing; the others (public hospitals, schools) are basically left to rot. Good old fashioned bullshit. In real life, I've seen a few crumbling schools. I've seen a lot more thriving schools with all kinds of fancy new buildings and gizmos. The only place I've ever seen a crumbling hospital is on the National Geographic channel. Lots of those in North Korea. Must be individualism run amuck over there. Business and law schools prosper; philosophy departments are threatened with closure. At first read, I thought this was the real source of all your sour grapes against the free market. But that can't be it. You're not a philosopher.

Rational choice theory came under fire after the economic crisis of 2008 by such luminaries as Paul Krugman, but remains central to economic analysis. Rational choice philosophy, by contrast, was always implausible. BAHAHAHAHA fuck you. Hegel, for one, had denied all three of its central claims in his “Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences” over a century before. In that work, as elsewhere in his writings, nature is not neatly causal, but shot through with randomness. I haven't read Hegel, but I have to assume his actual analysis wasn't quite so stupid. In the context of nature, "randomness" is only intelligable as a subjective concept. Events can seem random to us, but in reality everything has a cause. Not knowing that cause doesn't mean the cause doesn't exist. And again, Prof, your insistence on rationality's need for "neat causality" betrays your fundamental, existential cowardice. No offense.

Because of this chaos it's not chaos just because it's complicated, pussy, we cannot know the significance of what we have done until our community tells us; and ethical life correspondingly consists, not in pursuing wealth and power, but in integrating ourselves into the right kinds of community.

This is an elegant inverse of the "overwhelm with too much stupid" strategy. It's like having so many fish in a barrel you can't decide which to shoot first. "In ancient Rome/There was a poem/About a dog/Who found two bones/He picked at one/He licked the other/He went in circles/'Til he dropped dead."

I'm not that kind of dog.

How is our community to determine the consequences of our actions? Rationality? I thought we were moving "beyond" that. Is that impossibly tangled ball of causal thread easier to decipher when you're on the receiving end of a consequence? Or maybe everyone in this community just pools their observations and from that you get a general gist of what happened and how. Out of curiosity, what's the minimum number of observers necessary to comprehend reality? Cite the accredited scientific studies that determined this number. And make sure they had the right number of scientists, or else we're back to square one, you know?

But the big ruby in the center of this crown is the last several words. At first, you must have written "integrating ourselves into our communities," but that was too evocative of the aforementioned stereotype of 50s conformity that looms so large in your consciousness. So you took pains to distance yourself from the time and place in human history you hate the most. Not just any community will suffice unto which one surrenders one's pesky independent, individualist judgement. It has to be the right kind of community. But do you see the bind you've put yourself in? How are we to determine which communities are "the right kinds"? By some means other than rational choice? Gut feeling? Dartboard? Y-shaped stick?

Critical views soon arrived in postwar America as well. By 1953, W. V. O. Quine was exposing the flaws in rational choice epistemology. Don't bore us with examples or anything. John Rawls, somewhat later, took on its sham ethical neutrality, arguing that rationality in choice includes moral constraints. The same John Rawls who wrote, in all earnestness, "Those who have been favored by nature, whoever they are, may gain from their good fortune only on terms that improve the situation of those who have lost out"? We're just about done here. The neat causality of rational choice ontology, always at odds with quantum physics, was further jumbled by the environmental crisis, exposed by Rachel Carson’s 1962 book “The Silent Spring,” which revealed that the causal effects of human actions were much more complex, and so less predicable, than previously thought. True enough point about the complexity of human action, but how do you know? Logic and rationality. I know you people think it's cute to say rationality disproves rationality, but that doesn't actually work.

These efforts, however, have not so far confronted rational choice individualism as Hegel did: on its home ground, in philosophy itself. Quine’s “ontological relativity” means that at a sufficient level of generality, more than one theory fits the facts; we choose among the alternatives. I'll take Meaningless Faux-Profundity for 800, Alex. Rawls’ social philosophy relies on a free choice among possible social structures. Even Richard Rorty, the most iconoclastic of recent American philosophers, phrased his proposals, as Robert Scharff has written, in the “self-confident, post-traditional language of choice.” Terrible, isn't it. Even among the most committed egalitarians and existential impossiblists, an element of personal, individual decision making always sneaks in. How unethical. At least they all took vows of poverty. No doubt.

If philosophers cannot refrain from absolutizing choice within philosophy itself, they cannot critique it elsewhere. If they did, they could begin formulating a comprehensive alternative to rational choice philosophy — and to the blank collectivism of Cold War Stalinism — as opposed to the specific criticisms advanced so far. The result might look quite a bit like Hegel in its view that individual freedom is of value only when communally guided. You've heard of the False Dichotomy fallacy? This is False Lack of Dichotomy. False Lack of Binary, to be precise. (remember precision, John McCumber? No?) Individual freedom and individual flourishing cannot be parsed. (I know you'd pefer to work towards "societal flourishing," but society is made OF individuals. If you have a small society of, say, 9, that society cannot flourish without 9 instances of individual flourishing. Unless you're willing to settle for a simple majority of flourishing individuals. But then how can you call yourself a lover of humanity when you're indifferent to the frustration and stagnation of nearly half of society?) You take away self-determination, you start down the road to "blank collectivism." The whole "blank" part comes from, IS, the lack of individualism, and therefore the lack of individuals. What you're hoping for is akin to a middle ground betwen throwing a baseball and not throwing it, that still results in the baseball being thrown. You cannot throw a baseball without throwing it. You cannot drop it without dropping it. You cannot lose a thing without losing it. But good news: Your entire perspective on rational choice theory is a sham and a farce, so you don't have to waste the rest of your life trying to create some impossible comprimise between freedom and slavery. You're welcome!

Though it would be couched, one must hope, in clearer prose.

No way. No way you ended this rambling shambles of a piece with that sentence. Of ALL sentences. You've been fucking with us this whole time, haven't you?

Got me good, you fucker. Got me good.

Brizoni is a Senior Fellow at He mixes metaphors like a boss.

5 Songs: The Wisdom of Imus

(Don Imus. Ask me, I didn't think caricatures were supposed to idealize...)

ALWAYS BRILLIANT... The kind of thing that seems like a good idea. He asks his guests to forward their five favorite songs before they appear on his show. It gives him an opportunity to make fun of the losers (people he doesn't like) before they appear and to praise people he does like. Watching, you tend to judge: They like that? Ooh. Yuck. Sometimes he plays snippets of the "good" songs and derides the bad ones.

Instant character test, eh? Sure. Find out everything important about a person in advance of meeting and talking with them. Until you try it yourself. Can't be done.

That's when you realize what a mental and emotional midget Imus is, if you hadn't figured it out already. He probably does have five favorite songs, although new ones can displace old ones, just like all his views. He just says things, repeats them until you're sick of them, always as if they were the revealed word of, er, Imus. Nobody else has five favorite songs that sum up their entire being.

But I like the idea. With some modifications. It can't be an absolute list. It has to be focused on today, this minute, this moment in your life. It can't be all songs, because that would bring in classical definitions such as the songs of Schubert or Yeats or operatic arias. Strict limits have to be imposed. And it can't be just five songs.

What I propose, with the idea that all of you can participate. Popular music songs that reflect how you feel today, bearing in mind that you might have a completely  different set tomorrow. Ten of them. Ten that sum it all up.

I'll go first. Today I'm thinking about Mrs. CP. I've spent the last week recovering from a very painful cracked rib. Raebert, not meaning to, knocked me over in one of his mad rushes to the out of doors. I fell and hit the arm of a chair he'd chewed to the bare wood. Since then I've had to sit, mostly stationary, on a couch, sleep sitting up, and wincing a lot if I forget and reach for something within reach. Am I thinking about politics or existence or the history of popular music? No. I've been taking 'nsaids' and aspirin. (Don't tell me I shouldn't be taking both. I know.) But I haven't been able to sleep all the night through and I'm averaging about four and a half hours a night. But I've been nursed and waited on and seen to in every possible way by Mrs. CP. And I've also been thinking of these ten songs:

Poor Poor Pitiful Me -- Warren Zevon
Comfortably Numb -- Van Morrison
Stand by Me -- Ben E. King
Dreaming -- Blondie
When I Saw You -- The Ronettes
Angel -- Aerosmith
I'm No Angel -- Greg Allman
Crazy -- Gnarles Barkley
Comfortably Numb -- Van Morrison
In Your Eyes -- Peter Gabriel
For a Love -- Linda Ronstadt
Nightmare -- Artie Shaw
Elizabeth -- Frank Sinatra
Keep Me in Your Heart -- Warren Zevon
C'est L'Amour -- Edith Piaf
Comfortably Numb -- Van Morrison
Sweet Child O'Mine -- GNR
Sitting in the Dock of the Bay -- Otis Redding
Groovin' -- The Young Rascals
Don't Change -- INXS
Comfortably Numb -- Van Morrison
Dreaming -- Blondie
Betty Davis Eyes -- Kim Carnes
I Melt with You -- Modern English
Nothing Compares to U -- Sinead O'Connor
Unchained Melody -- Righteous Brothers
Inside -- Moby

Tomorrow, I'm thinking about thinking about politics again. The list will be different. It will probably begin with Mixed Emotions by the Stones. Unless it's Rough Justice instead.

I'm sure you've detected by now that we have the makings of a little InstaPunk contest. Give us your ten songs. That will give Brizoni time to march his legions another hundreds of thousands of paces against the wall of barbarian prose. In the meantime, we can, you know, share....

P.S. This is what we call a short post, Z. It takes me no time at all (ha ha) and most readers no time at all. But then there are the readers who feel compelled to find all the nonlinks on their own. They're the ones you're writing for. They're the ones you stay up nights writing for.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Beware the Desperation

OVER ONE HUNDRED YEARS OLD. There is literally no limit to the arrogance of the "progressive" left in this country. All their most cherished policy prescriptions are imploding around them. Obama is in so much political trouble that even they have finally begun to perceive the danger. Their messiah has been from the first so determined to reign rather than preside that he has abrogated all his leadership responsibilities with regard to the legislative branch. In every instance requiring congressional action he has been content to ignore the legislative process, let congress concoct and pass what it will, and then impose his executive will after the fact via back-door presidential fiats, edicts, and bureaucratic regulations designed from the outset to bypass our democratic institutions. Thus, Obama passed on directing the content of his trillion dollar stimulus bill, the specifics of his nation-altering healthcare bill, and chose instead to use administrative agencies outside the purview of congress to enforce his wishes with regard to macroeconomic, energy, environmental, immigration, and foreign policy, not to mention all the dirty deals associated with Wall Street and Detroit bailouts. The man who promised to expel lobbyists from Washington, DC, has staffed his administration almost exclusively with powerful, well nigh invulnerable lobbyists who have nothing to do with Everytown, USA, and everything to do with Goldman Sachs, Fannie Mae, organized labor, and sundry grievance organizations, which now count among their number the entire Justice Department of the United States.

Everyone with any sense knows by now that Obama's a failed president whose domestic and foreign policies are equally ruinous and whose only remaining electoral advantage is that he still looks good in a suit. Which is why we need to be especially vigilant about what will be said and done to prop him up in an office he is manifestly unfit to occupy. Exhibit I: What the left thinks about our constitution.

Let's see. What were the progressives -- er, the NYT Editorial Board -- saying about the constitution during the Bush administration? (This from an old IP post you'd do well to read in its entirety, as few apparently did.)

[Samuel Alito's] record strongly suggests that he is an eager lieutenant in the ranks of the conservative theorists who ignore our system of checks and balances, elevating the presidency over everything else. He has expressed little enthusiasm for restrictions on presidential power and has espoused the peculiar argument that a president's intent in signing a bill is just as important as the intent of Congress in writing it. This would be worrisome at any time, but it takes on far more significance now, when the Bush administration seems determined to use the cover of the "war on terror" and presidential privilege to ignore every restraint, from the Constitution to Congressional demands for information.

There was nothing that Judge Alito said in his hearings that gave any comfort to those of us who wonder whether the new Roberts court will follow precedent and continue to affirm, for instance, that a man the president labels an "unlawful enemy combatant" has the basic right to challenge the government's ability to hold him in detention forever without explanation. His much-quoted statement that the president is not above the law is meaningless unless he also believes that the law requires the chief executive to defer to Congress and the courts...

Constitution good, Bush and Alito bad, n'est-ce pas?

And what are the president's relexive, increasingly desperate mass media apologists saying about the constitution today?

Here are a few things the framers did not know about: World War II. DNA. Sexting. Airplanes. The atom. Television. Medicare. Collateralized debt obligations. The germ theory of disease. Miniskirts. The internal combustion engine. Computers. Antibiotics. Lady Gaga...

If the Constitution was intended to limit the federal government, it sure doesn’t say so. Article I, Section 8, the longest section of the longest article of the Constitution, is a drumroll of congressional power. And it ends with the ‘necessary and proper’ clause, which delegates to Congress the power ‘to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.’ Limited government indeed…

We can pat ourselves on the back about the past 223 years, but we cannot let the Constitution become an obstacle to the U.S.’s moving into the future with a sensible health care system, a globalized economy, an evolving sense of civil and political rights. The Constitution, as Martin Luther King Jr. said in his great speech on the Mall, is a promissory note. That note had not been fulfilled for African Americans. But I would say the Constitution remains a promissory note, one in which ‘We the People’ in each generation try to create that more perfect union.

A constitution in and of itself guarantees nothing. Bolshevik Russia had a constitution, as did Nazi Germany. Cuba and Libya have constitutions...

The Constitution does not protect our spirit of liberty; our spirit of liberty protects the Constitution. The Constitution serves the nation; the nation does not serve the Constitution.

My own favorite quote from the Time article just quoted:  "Article I, Section 8, the longest section of the longest article of the Constitution, is a drumroll of congressional power." Here is Article I, Section 8, all 429 words of it, fully half of which have to do with protecting the nation from external threats and providing for military defence.

The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

To borrow money on the credit of the United States;

To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;

To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization, and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States;

To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures;

To provide for the Punishment of counterfeiting the Securities and current Coin of the United States;

To establish Post Offices and Post Roads;

To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;

To constitute Tribunals inferior to the supreme Court;

To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offenses against the Law of Nations;

To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;

To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;

To provide and maintain a Navy;

To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;

To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;

To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;

To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings; And

To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.

Apart from all the defense items, what's most specifically called out? The Post Office, patents, and taxes and customs duties needed primarily to "provide for the common defense and general welfare" of the United States, which suggests that the term "general welfare" may have more to do with preventing international threats like piracy than paying for healthcare or subsidizing the poor.

My second favorite quote is: "limited government indeed." To which I say, "Precisely. Limited government indeed." What other point could one possibly infer from this very strictly enumerated list of federal powers? Even in this brief assignment of powers, the most specific items have to do with limiting government's reach in terms of both space and time. Because it is so well and concisely written, the underlying intention is clear. This is what a national government must be able to do to hold a nation together against the threats the outside world will always pose. It's a masterpiece of minimalism. To see it in any other way is a deliberate, willfully corrupt misinterpretation of a text so plain it permits no legalistic twisting.

What's left of the Time argument is self-evidently fanciful and irrelevant:

Here are a few things the framers did not know about: World War II. DNA. Sexting. Airplanes. The atom. Television. Medicare. Collateralized debt obligations. The germ theory of disease. Miniskirts. The internal combustion engine. Computers. Antibiotics. Lady Gaga...

So? These are events, phenomena, technologies, government overreaches, personalities, and matters of mere fashion that nowhere rise to the level of refuting the basic contract among men, government, and inalienable human rights. Nothing on the list represents a principle that should repeal the essential freedoms of U.S. citizens or expand the lawful claims of government on U.S. citizens. [ED: I added boldface so you don't miss it. Read this passage out loud to yourself. A few times. Then read it out loud to someone else. Then make them read it to someone. And so on. Do this now. Understanding this point is crucial to the survival of the republic. Not kidding. -Z]

Just a couple of final points. Note the change in the left's view of the constitution from the Bush era to the Obama administration. A few years back the constitution was considered a bulwark against the depredations of too much presidential power. Now it's an obstacle to the kind of necessary presidential power that would enable Obama to succeed in ways he clearly can't as part of the constitutional continuum of the U.S. presidency. Is there nothing they hold sacred? No. There isn't. All they really want is to be in charge. Of everything and everyone.

And if they had the chance to junk our obsolete constitution for something better? What would it look like? That's the most interesting point of all. The original U.S. constitution consists of 8,115 words, including all the amendments, which this site estimates at 12 pages. Using the same standard of measure, the 2005 European Union Constitution adds up to 300 pages, or 210,000 words. Yet that document is now six years old. We have the newer precedent of a healthcare bill of 2,000 pages-plus (or 1,400,000 words).

Who among you believes that the legalistic language of such a document wouldn't immediately transfer all power to the judiciary, which we have appropriately described previously as the progressive "House of Lords"? End of rule by the people, at once and forever.

The other alternative is even worse. The Constitution of the United States simply doesn't matter any more and withers into obsolescence with no replacement. Where would that leave us? With the British Constitution, which consists of the entire body of laws ever passed by Parliament and the interpretations of those laws as adjudged by the judiciary and trial decisions. Which would land us where the Brits are -- as the most surveilled society in the so-called free world.

I know it's hard to believe that American progressives are taking their own arguments about the constitution seriously. But the hard truth is this: they don't care about the Third Estate and never have. What they care about is reelecting Obama and everything that entails. Because the one thing that's never occurred to them is that they themselves would ever be beholden to the arbitrary enforcements of even the most totalitarian state. Because the nobility always believes itself immune from even the worst depredations they exact upon the citizenry as a whole. I mean, they are the nobility, aren't they? If the money runs out for Joe Sixpack, it still won't run out for them, will it? And they already think you live your lives with a beer-soaked couch on the porch and a KKK tramp stamp on your daughter's back. What have you got to lose? They're probably extending your short miserable life by a year or two. Unless you get bitten by a rattlesnake first in your sorry-ass Christian church.

There's only one article of faith that really sustains them. There is no lie they can tell you won't believe. They've already convinced you Sarah Palin is an evil, lying whore. Haven't they?

What won't you believe if you can believe that?

Still think you're immune? Beware.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

They Just Might
Make It After All?

MORE GOOD NEWS. Some weirdly promising news out of Europe. Not weird in the way that they're promising, but weird that Europe is home to any promise at all.

First up: Dutch politician Geert Wilders, who made Fitna, the 17-minute prosecutorial indictment of modern Islam, has been acquitted of hate speech charges! In Europe! This happened!

Judge Marcel van Oosten told Mr Wilders, 47, who has been on trial in the Amsterdam regional court since last October, ruled that his statements were "acceptable within the context of the public debate".

Pinch me. A continental judge ruled in favor of free speech and against political correctness? Impossible.

On Thursday, Judge van Oosten said about Wilders' statements: "The bench finds that although gross and degenerating, it dit not give rise to hatred."

OK, so the ruling judge is still a little reprobate. But hey! Glass three quarters full!

Here's Fitna. Watch it. All 17 minutes. God help us, it's all true.

It gets better. When I saw this next item, I was initially furious. Promise dashed. When I read the headline, "Family arrested after burgler stabbed to death", I yelled "IN CIVILIZATION, YOU GET TO KILL WHOMEVER BREAKS INTO YOUR HOME. PERIOD." at my computer. But, a few paragraphs down, I find this:

In January 2010 Mr Cameron said: “The moment a burglar steps over your threshold and invades your property, with all the threat that gives to you, your family and your livelihood, I think they leave their human rights outside.”

Last week he returned to the topic, saying: “We will put beyond doubt that home owners and small shopkeepers who use reasonable force to defend themselves or their properties will not be prosecuted”.

A 21st century British head of government said that?


Like I said. Promising. Weird.

A Fisk of Not-So-Pure

I'd feel bad about destroying him, if I didn't
have so much hate in my heart.

LAST TIME WE DID THIS DANCE. I'm drunk. Let's fisk.

One of my favorite song titles is "Premature Autopsy." The song itself is a lot of silly death metal noise (think this) but the concept in the name is a thing of beauty. Problem is, it doesn't translate well as an epithet. I'd call this fisking of yesterday's New York Times blog a premature autopsy, but it's not premature at all. It was overdue the second the post was published.

* * *

According to Hegel, history is idea-driven. According to almost everyone else, this is foolish. What can “idea driven” even mean when measured against the passion and anguish of a place like Libya? Right off the bat, a declaration of philosophical incompetence so vivid it almost counts as explicit. Of course history is idea driven. Belief driven, to be precise. How could the American Revolution happen without the ideas of the Enlightenment? How could Nazi Germany happen without an unquestioning belief in volklore and the idea that one group, one race can be blamed for collective failure of another? How could the economic miracle of Israel-- an orchard in the desert-- have happened without belief in civilization? And where might the rest of the Middle East be without passionate faith in religiously-mandated stagnation?

Only a pundit could write something this dumb. We can't be dealing with an accredited philosopher here (bad as they are). Right? Let's scroll down to his byline real quick...
John McCumber is Professor of Germanic Languages at UCLA. Oh, so he's yet another linguist decrying foreign events as existentially incomprehensible. I forgot: There is a class of intellectual dumber than New York Times commentator. He is the author of "Time in the Ditch: American Philosophy and the McCarthy Era” (2001) Uggghh... and, two forthcoming books, “On Philosophy: Notes From a Crisis” and “Time and Philosophy: A History of Continental Thought.” A book on the McCarthy era AND a tome celebrating European thought. That's a lot of academia stereotypes to throw at me at once, NYT. I'll do my best to keep up.

But Hegel had his reasons. Ideas for him are public, rather than in our heads, and serve to coordinate behavior. They are, in short, pragmatically meaningful words. To say that history is “idea driven” is to say that, like all cooperation, nation building requires a common basic vocabulary. Two telling reductions. The first, the reduction of ideas to "pragmatically meaningful words," is gibberish without the illuminating intervention of the second. Again, nation building requires common ideas, and ideals. Not merely common vocabulary. But he is a linguist. Good of him to so clearly set the hammer-and-nail tone of the piece right up front.

One prominent component of America’s basic vocabulary is ”individualism.” The concepts "ideal" and "word" are closely related and even dependent, but not interchangeable, but whatev. Our society accords unique rights and freedoms to individuals, and we are so proud of these that we recurrently seek to install them in other countries. If I made a drinking game of the bad causal inferences in this article, I'd be deader than Ryan Dunn. And twice as flammable. We are proud of our liberties, and we do forcibly export them from time to time. But we don't do this because we're proud. We do this because it is right. We believe-- we recognize-- that unfree and less free forms of government are invalid. In fact, some of us hold that even the government we have here at home isn't quite free enough. Mind-blowing, I know. But individualism, the desire to control one’s own life, has many variants. Tocqueville viewed it as selfishness and suspected it, while Emerson and Whitman viewed it as the moment-by-moment expression of one’s unique self and loved it. Sigh. Dude. These aren't variants OF individualism. What you've deliniated here is varying perspectives ON individualism. What kind of linguist is so... um... un-meticulous with his phrasing? A sloppy linguist is as absurd as an obese personal trainer.

After World War II, a third variant gained momentum in America. It defined individualism as the making of choices so as to maximize one’s preferences. What the hell else would individualism consist of? Minimizing one's preferences? Maybe he'll (try to) explain. This differed from “selfish individualism” in that the preferences were not specified: they could be altruistic as well as selfish. Aren't you higher education philosopher types always denouncing altruistic choices made for the selfish pleasure of making them AS selfish, and therefore bad and invalid? In fact, altruism, by definition, can't be a preference. As Nathaniel Branden explained in his essay "The Moral Revolution in Atlas Shrugged":

It was a nineteenth-century advocate of collectivism and totalitarianism, Auguste Comte, who coined the term that names the essence of this concept of morality: “Altruism.” Today, the average man often takes “altruism” to mean simply benevolence or kindness or respect for the rights of others. But that is not the meaning Comte intended and that is not the term’s actual philosophical meaning. Altruism—as an ethical principle—holds that man must make the welfare of others his primary moral concern and must place their interests above his own; it holds that man has no right to exist for his own sake, that service to others is the moral justification of his existence, that self-sacrifice is his foremost duty and highest virtue.

Sorry. How unfair of me to expect a linguist to know what a word means.

It differed from “expressive individualism” in having general algorithms by which choices were made. These made it rational. I know you suck at deliniating, Prof, but here would have been the perfect time to give us an example of one of those "algorithms." We'd normally infer what you mean from context, but since you're as precise as a drunken shotgun blast, that's no easy task for your readers.

This form of individualism, which, if he has identified, he's failed to distinguish from any other, did not arise by chance. Alex Abella’s “Soldiers of Reason” (2008) and S. M. Amadae’s “Rationalizing Capitalist Democracy” (2003) trace it to the RAND Corporation, the hyperinfluential Santa Monica, Calif., think tank, where it was born in 1951 as “rational choice theory.”

For clarity, here's how the definition of rational choice theory in McCumber's provided link reads:

Insofar as economics explains and predicts phenomena as consequences of individual choices, which are themselves explained in terms of reasons, it must depict agents as to some extent rational.

Rational choice theory’s mathematical account of individual choice, originally formulated in terms of voting behavior, made it a point-for-point antidote to the collectivist dialectics of Marxism; and since, in the view of many cold warriors, Marxism was philosophically ascendant worldwide, such an antidote was sorely needed. Which was the correct perspective. The pattern in the first half of the 20th century was tough to miss. Russia, Vietnam, Korea, China, Cuba, Yugoslavia, probably a few other Latin American toilets, et al. Functionaries at RAND quickly expanded the theory from a tool of social analysis into a set of universal doctrines that we may call “rational choice philosophy.” Here's another place where your piece would have been well served by some of those "example" things we talked about, John. Governmental seminars and fellowships spread it to universities across the country, aided by the fact that any alternative to it would by definition be collectivist. During the early Cold War, that was not exactly a good thing to be. Mark this sentence. He's setting the reader up for a little sleight of mind that pays off in the next couple paragraphs.

The overall operation was wildly successful. Once established in universities, rational choice philosophy moved smoothly on the backs of their pupils into the “real world” of business and government (aided in the crossing, to be sure, by the novels of another Rand—Ayn). Today, governments and businesses across the globe simply assume that social reality is merely a set of individuals freely making rational choices. Hoooooold on a minute, Professor. You've just implied that rational choice theory and the philosophy of Ayn Rand (!) gained widespread acceptance in the 50s, and that acceptance continued unabated to this day. Wrong on both counts. Even in the McCarthy era, universities were hotbeds of Stalin apologetics and other forms of left-wing retardation. Ayn Rand has been a perennial favorite of students, yes, but never a mainstay of curricula itself. And you were smart to avoid any mention of the 60s in your timeline. Otherwise your thesis would have really fallen apart. Good thing you specified "early Cold War," huh? Make your assertions seem more plausible, if one doesn't look too closely. Wars have been and are still being fought to bring such freedom to Koreans, Vietnamese, Iraqis, Grenadans, and now Libyans, with more nations surely to come. But, contrary to your muddled perspective, "such freedom" is good. Great, even. We're at the point where a condemnation from you constitutes an endorsement, among rational men and women. All war is horrible, but freedom can, in fact, justify that horror. It's a hard truth, but it is true. In fact, I can justify the Iraq War with a single photograph.

At home, anti-regulation policies are crafted to appeal to the view that government must in no way interfere with Americans’ freedom of choice. Before (more) confusion sets in: Libertarianism 101 distinguishes between Absolute Liberty, "that liberty which disregards the liberty of others," and Equal Liberty, "that every man may claim the fullest liberty to exercise his faculties compatible with the possession of like liberty by every other man." (Liberty and the Great Libertarians, by Charles T. Sprading) Equal Liberty is a cardinal principle of any rational choice philosophy, including Ayn Rand's (since you dragged her into this). Even religions compete in the marketplace of salvation, eager to be chosen by those who, understandably, prefer heaven to hell. Yeah, I like to drop in random, irrelevant points, too. Just throw in all your impressive bon mots at once. A few here and there might not relate even tangentally to the topic at hand, but hey. Showing off is showing off. It's all gravy.

This next sentence is such a stunner, I'm snapping it off into its own paragraph.

Today’s most zealous advocates of individualism, be they on Wall Street or at Tea Parties, invariably forget their origins in a long ago program of government propaganda.

And here it is. The facile talking point the New York Times wants inattentive lefty (but I repeat myself) readers to take from this article. "Don't you stupid Teabaggers know that you're just dupes of an old propaganda campaign spearheaded by the RAND corporation? It's documented! I saw the links that linked to the documentation with my own eyes!"

Truth be told, it's a brilliant rhetorical strategy. Establish a position so wrong that to refute it all would require more time than the standard lefty attention span can give. Sophistry for the MTV generation.

But not the InstaPunk reader. Let's turn our scalpel on it now.

American individualism dates back to the settlement of the New World. Not the machinations of the RAND corporation. Informed by English and Enilghtenment ideas of the rights of man, inspired by Biblical notions of a just universe, and drawing upon their own experience of working and building lives for themselves in an untamed and unforgiving frontier, American colonists conceived of and fought to establish the most profoundly moral nation in human history. A nation dedicated to the sanctity of self-determination.

And by "moral," Mr. Linguist, I don't mean moral as in your lazy caricature of repressed 1950s neo-puritanism. I mean moral as in no-bullshit moral in actuality moral.

It wasn't just the Founding Fathers who did this. A small group of iconoclastic idealists could never have led a nation that didn't share their sense of life. From the very beginning, Americans have known the importance of freedom in their bones. They weren't tricked into feeling it a scant 50 years ago by some Cold War think tank.

Nigga please.

* * *

This is a long one, kids. Splitting it into two parts. Come back tomorrow for more annihilation.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

We're NOT in decline.

They can't wait to write our epitaph. They're lining up.

TRY TO REMEMBER. I'm guessing you all know that already. But it's still worth saying. That's the advantage of being old enough to have seen the circus a couple of times. Yes, perversely, the MSM want America to be in decline. Hell, they've had their hair shirts on order at Brooks Brothers since the 1920s.

But the only pattern that matters is their devotion to rotten, incompetent presidents who advance their notion that America shouldn't lead the world. They rail at "Imperial America" when we have a strong president, and then they gush over "declining America" when one of their chosen liberals demonstrates, once again, that  being "the smartest person in the room" somehow makes the presidency seem an impossible task.

News flash. This is old old news. According to the press, the presidency of Jimmy Carter proved that no one could be president of the United States. It was was just too hard a job. The world was to complicated and like that, and so forth, and so on. Until Reagan came in and they started asking how many hours we should expect a president to put into the job, because it shouldn't be this easy. Which led, of course, to the facile notion that Reagan was only a figurehead, blah, blah, blah, who just accidentally rescued the American economy from a seemingly permanent state of 'stagflation' and won the Cold War despite the contemptuous disapproval of Bryant Gumbel.

That's what you all need to remember now. There are always signposts of disaster. Kids are stupid and learn nothing in school. Always. But here we have Brizoni, whose ability to educate himself in full view of predatory commenters should inspire respect if not outright awe is proof positive of the underlying glory of American culture. Read Brizoni. Listen to Brizoni.  He likes all kinds of things you stuffy prigs (you know who you are) can't or won't countenance -- hard punk music, edgy filmmakers, and maybe even Barbara Stanwyck (okay I'm just hoping about Barbara.) [I'm more of a Jane Russel guy. Lying on that pile of hay, giving me those eyes... hoo boy. My kingdom for a time machine. --ED]

A thing to remember. America is hardly a fragile flower. In the whole history of life on earth, we're "The Man." Why do American movies rule the world? Because of the American sensibility they can't help but perpetuate. We just don't ever stop, quit, or accept the authority that says "No, you can't do that because we say so." We take it for granted that every government edict also contains a "fuck you" clause. Nobody else has that clause in their life contract. Do you get that? Really?

That's the thing about middle America the elites don't get. Well, they get it to a certain extent and they hate it. Hate it. I love it when the MSM gloats over the fact that American life expectancies still lag behind Europe's. Awwww. Socialized medicine must be the way to go. Right.

American medicine is spectacularly successful. Think about it. Americans are out there playing football, racing on the highway, playing with guns, eating monster cheeseburgers, competing in rodeo, fucking each other like they really mean it, and hard-charging their own individual field of dreams. Of course they're going to die young. Except that our docs and nurses are still able to keep us alive almost as long as the desiccated little European turds whose only passion in life is hating and envying America.

A sad note. As I gradually lose it myself, I am acquiring an enormous regard for American vitality. When you start to become a still ife, you are enabled to see everything that isn't still. Look around you. Everyone is working. All the time. Even on weekends. Clipping hedges, emptying gutters, changing the oil, mowing the lawn, weed-wacking, re-tiling the bathroom, upfitting the basement, painting, planting, fixing the broken things...

Meanwhile,the American story continues. People come here to work. They learn English. Their children become valedictorians. And if they don't perish in drive-by shootings, they get to be hugely successful, and even the dumb ones can run for congress.

And they do. Unlike Europe, Americans aren't measured by the idle aristocrats who are farmed out to run the government.

At least not until recently.

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