Monday, February 28, 2005

A guide to the future Carnival of Crime in America

These wiseacres (found at Billy Beck's blog) have stolen an idea that I've had rolling around in my mind for years, a Cross-Country Carnival of Crime in which the stupidest laws in America get broken.

I wish them a lot of luck.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Iowahawk strikes again

An excerpt from a very unusual Scooby-Doo episode, with a certain unexpected guest celebrity:
"Hanna and Barbera liked my story on hormone doping at the '72 Laff-a-Lympics and proposed that I cover a Harlem Globetrotters game at a haunted Aztec pyramid in Mexico. They called me to their offices in Burbank. "Jesus Christ, you're killing us here, Duke," Hanna complained when I demanded a $1500 advance for the project. "I've got expense," I said. They relented and arranged for a chirpy entourage to escort me into the belly of the beast. There was the lesbian chick, the blond Palos Verdes neck scarf Nixon boy and his frigid miniskirt girlfriend, the gawky soul patch hippie kid and his paranoid Great Dane. Lost Manson kids all, Squeakies and Leslies and a canine Tex in a puke green van hoping for some Mexican helter skelter. All the better reason to pack a few guns, I thought."

Monday, February 21, 2005

"The Simplest Thing in The World," or Pragmatics come from Principles

This is an excellent time to clear up a misunderstanding I had with Billy Beck in an old discussion on Q and O.

In the course of attacking a purely pragmatic/utilitarian defense of Wal-Mart's right to pull out of one of its Canadian stores, I wrote:

"I contend that "Homo Economus" doesn't exist. We are not ants in an ant-hill (i.e. the minimal hedonists of classical economics) merely satisfying basic desires. Freedom and genuinely human values exist on a higher plane than that, contra the classical economists and Marx."

To which Billy Beck replied:

"I could not disagree more with your final sentence, but you know that."

I think that Billy thought that I was referring to God as the source of ultimate value.* I actually was referring to the fact that human freedom and human values come from human nature and are not meant for economic exchange. You can trade ON your values, i.e. if you have a reputation for honest work, you not only can earn more money but you DESERVE to earn more money. You cannot TRADE your values, or else they cease to be values. If that were the case, prostitution would be the highest form of human love for someone like Ayn Rand.

I'll take the blame for not being clearer. "I contend that "Homo Economus" doesn't exist" is too extreme. Obviously, we employ our values in trade everyday. The point I was inexpertly trying to make is that taking the assumptions that economists use and then applying them to policy decisions on basic issues of human rights and existence is an inappropriate use of the methodology, a category mistake, since those assumptions, if they are of any value, must be based on an understanding of man as he is.

Using economic ideas as if they are disconnected from the philosophical premises to which they are connected generally cashes out to philosophical pragmatism in the long run. Pragmatism is based on a premise of ignorance about ultimates which I contend is ultimately UNpragmatic {in the conventional sense of the term} since it directs us to concepts that it attempts to deny to us under "the veil of ignorance." It leaves us teetering on the edge of either denying metaphysical propositions, and thus leaving us open to the sort of anti-scientific skepticism that undercuts empiricism and the "pragmatic project" or affirming them and denying that same skepticism, thus directly attacking the premises of Pragmatic philosophy.

How is this an "excellent time" to bring this up? Well, the death of Hunter S. Thompson moves Billy to say:

That "very little to do" part is the root of what must be my ultimate condemnation of Thompson. All day long, I've been loosely paging through a two-foot-tall stack of books and trying to recall if I ever saw him use the words "social justice". He might not have, but there is no question that he swallowed that goddamned evil bullshit, hook, line & sinker. You see, for all his vaunted "individualism", it was half-assed. He always took the government premise at face-value: the idea that some people -- a duly-processed herd at democratic poll -- could wield the force to rule others' lives by right. Everything about politics that we got from him must first be taken through that lens. Yes: all his work was filled with enraged tirades against "fixers" and all the rest of it, but serious observers know his attenuation whenever it looked like his herd had the angle. Never forget: when The Lying Bastard came along in 1992, Thompson settled: "He may be a swine, but he's our swine."

I am without any HST at the moment, but, if my memory serves me correctly, towards the end of F&L '72 he comments that one of the Democratic ops makes a "brilliant" argument for gun control and HST hopes that he doesn't find out about Thompson's "gun fetish." This symbolizes the sort of bad faith Billy refers to. When you read Thompson, you are struck at the palpable divide between his desire to "live his own life" as an "outlaw journalist" and his dumbstruck "ashamedness" at not being a bigger participant in the overall left/liberal drive for 60's style collectivism and mass action, hence his desire to "hide" his instinctive desire for the right to self-protection from the Democrat in question.

This fundamental contradiction between actions and values ultimately saw Thompson become a "mal pensant" regurgatator of the "conventional media wisdom," with only vulgarity and a fake patina of Hemingwayesque machismo to individuate him from the NY Times editorial page. The promise of his early years (yes, I am a fan of his pre-"Lono" work) was betrayed, and betrayed badly by selling out the value of individualism in favor of a "consensus" that was and is not only an illusion, but an evil one to boot.

*as a natural-rights advocate who is also a theist, I certainly do think that they ORIGINATE from intelligence [Billy doesn't, that's our real disagreement] , but one doesn't need to be a theist or religious believer to assert the truth of natural law.

An Absolutely Unsurprising Event

Hunter S. Thompson killed himself yesterday.


Lileks shows why he gets paid to write and I don't:

HST killed himself. He never would have “turned his life around” – that’s a hard thing to try when the room’s been spinning for 40 years. Depression? Wouldn’t be surprising. A bad verdict from the doc? Wouldn’t be surprising. A great writer in his prime, but the DVD of his career would have the last two decades on the disc reserved for outtakes and bloopers. It was all bile and spittle at the end, and it was hard to read the work without smelling the dank sweat of someone consumed by confusion, anger, sudden drunken certainties and the horrible fear that when he sat down to write, he could only muster a pale parody of someone else’s satirical version of his infamous middle period. I feel sorry for him, but I’ve felt sorry for him for years. File under Capote, Truman – meaning, whatever you thought of the latter-day persona, don’t forget that there was a reason he had a reputation. Read "Hell's Angels." That was a man who could hit the keys right.

I was going to fisk his unspeakable pro-Kerry pre-election garbage in ROLLING STONE, but decided against it because it would be like setting an old lame dog on fire. I'm glad I didn't, now.

Thompson was a man of harsh judgements. He just passed his harshest one yesterday.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Wild Things

When I was a kid, our neighborhood had a patch of wild growth just behind the houses across the street. It served as a little area where snakes and bushes, and even some garbage, flourished and as a piquant reminder of what is gained and lost by building a city. I was reminded of that when I came across the Forgotten NY website. It's an interesting peek into the strange and wonderful things that you can find in the most modern city on Earth, including wilderness areas, a quaint little New England fishing the Bronx!, the original, and now neglected, Hall of Fame of Great Americans, old transit stops and lore and many other fascinating things. Check it out!

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Tears for Some, Silence for Others

Ferdinand T. Cat wryly comments on The Progressive Blog Alliance HQ’s entry, “Why we denounce George Bush.”

The PBA HQ writes:

We watched from our televisions with tears in our eyes and screams in our hearts as innocent people died by the thousands.
The Cat points out how selective these tears are because they didn’t seem to flow when Clinton bombed Serbia. We can also add that they didn’t flow for the millions of Africans—the black ones, not the Theresa Heinz Kerry ones—killed in genocidal tribal war over the past decades. They didn’t flow for the hundreds of thousands of North Koreans who have died from starvation at the hands of a mentally ill communist dictator. They didn’t flow for the people killed by Saddam, or for the Marsh Arabs, or for the Kurds, or for the victims of the Taliban.

“I’ll weep for that falling star. The other stars will have to make do without my tears.”

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Forgotten Classics of Blogdom, Part 1

Jay Random from Shiny Happy Gulag takes a Betamax trip down Memory Lane to uncover the roots of Canadian Anti-Americanism in Waking Up from the National Dream: A Curtain-Raiser.

Monday, February 14, 2005

More Book Evilness

I suppose that working for a bookstore has always been my dream job. In addition to the employee discount and other promotions, I get an early crack at the free books and consignment/bargain titles as well.

For a bookaholic like me, it's quite a challenge, especially since you can figure that the store gets a good chunk of the salary it pays me back in sales. So, whenever I find superb bargains, I like to torment my friends with EVIL BOOKS. (Muhahahaha!) This means bad news for one person.

A) A Swedish anarchist so badly mugged by reality that he now argues in FAVOR of globalization. {In Defense of Global Capitalism -- by Johan Norberg}

B) The Last American (Mountain) Man, who has come to disdain hippies and vegans in favor of plastic buckets, walk-in closets and capitalistic self-promotion. {The Last American Man by Elizabeth Gilbert}

C) The untold stories of the Naval B-24 and Marine B-25 pilots of the Pacific WWII Theater. {Above an Angry Sea: United States B-24 Liberator and PB4Y-2 Privateer Operations in the Pacific (October 1944 to August 1945)} & Leatherneck Bombers Marine Corps B-25/PBJ Mitchell Squadrons by Alan C. Carey.}

D) Everything you wanted to know about the footnote and its history! {The Devil's Details: A History of Footnotes by Chuck Zerby}

(insert more evil laughter here, I'm catching my breath)

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Gaiman and Spelling and Sontag, oh my!

At this site, I managed to find an essay that sums up the lasting intellectual worth of the late Susan Sontag.

The Stasis of Class: Surrealism and Sontagist camp

Ludwig Long

Department of Ontology, Cambridge University

1. Stone and semanticist narrative

"Narrativity is unattainable," says Foucault; however, according to Buxton[1] , it is not so much narrativity that is unattainable, but rather the defining characteristic, and thus the failure, of narrativity. Therefore, the premise of surrealism implies that reality is created by the collective unconscious, but only if truth is equal to reality; otherwise, the State is capable of intent. Derrida promotes the use of Sontagist camp to modify class.

The primary theme of the works of Smith is a mythopoetical reality. It could be said that the characteristic theme of Sargeant's[2] essay on postdeconstructive appropriation is the role of the participant as poet. If Sontagist camp holds, we have to choose between dialectic discourse and precultural construction.

Thus, a number of discourses concerning the collapse, and subsequent economy, of conceptual society may be discovered. Foucault suggests the use of Sontagist camp to challenge colonialist perceptions of sexual identity.

In a sense, the subject is interpolated into a surrealism that includes sexuality as a paradox. The primary theme of the works of Spelling is not theory, as Sontagist camp suggests, but posttheory. Thus, Debord's model of dialectic discourse states that the purpose of the participant is deconstruction, given that the premise of Derridaist reading is invalid. Sartre uses the term 'dialectic discourse' to denote the difference between culture and society.

In a sense, Foucault promotes the use of Sontagist camp to deconstruct and modify class. Abian[3] implies that we have to choose between surrealism and prematerialist desituationism.

2. Realities of defining characteristic In the works of Spelling, a predominant concept is the concept of cultural sexuality. Thus, the subject is contextualised into a neocapitalist discourse that includes art as a reality. Debord suggests the use of dialectic discourse to attack sexism.

"Society is part of the failure of language," says Bataille; however, according to Cameron[4] , it is not so much society that is part of the failure of language, but rather the paradigm, and some would say the genre, of society. It could be said that if Sontagist camp holds, we have to choose between dialectic discourse and subdialectic theory. Sontag promotes the use of surrealism to read reality.

The characteristic theme of Dahmus's[5] essay on neocapitalist dialectic theory is the role of the poet as participant. Thus, Lacan uses the term 'dialectic discourse' to denote the bridge between sexual identity and class. Several theories concerning Sontagist camp exist.

It could be said that Lyotard suggests the use of subcapitalist rationalism to challenge archaic perceptions of culture. Baudrillard uses the term 'Sontagist camp' to denote not narrative, but prenarrative.

But Parry[6] holds that we have to choose between dialectic discourse and capitalist predialectic theory. Sontag uses the term 'Lacanist obscurity' to denote a capitalist whole. In a sense, the main theme of the works of Spelling is the role of the reader as poet. Surrealism states that class, paradoxically, has intrinsic meaning.

Therefore, if dialectic discourse holds, we have to choose between the subtextual paradigm of narrative and capitalist neomodern theory. Sontag uses the term 'surrealism' to denote the difference between society and art.

But Baudrillard's model of textual capitalism suggests that truth is capable of significant form. The primary theme of Buxton's[7] analysis of Sontagist camp is the role of the observer as artist.

3. Dialectic discourse and the dialectic paradigm of expression In the works of Spelling, a predominant concept is the distinction between ground and figure. Therefore, Sartre promotes the use of Sontagist camp to deconstruct and read sexual identity. A number of materialisms concerning not narrative per se, but postnarrative may be found.

"Society is fundamentally a legal fiction," says Baudrillard. However, the main theme of the works of Spelling is a mythopoetical paradox. Werther[8] holds that the works of Spelling are not postmodern.

The primary theme of Abian's[9] essay on the dialectic paradigm of expression is the stasis, and eventually the dialectic, of prestructuralist language. It could be said that the characteristic theme of the works of Spelling is a textual whole. Bataille suggests the use of Sontagist camp to challenge sexism.

"Society is part of the paradigm of narrativity," says Sartre; however, according to de Selby[10] , it is not so much society that is part of the paradigm of narrativity, but rather the meaninglessness of society. Therefore, any number of desemanticisms concerning surrealism exist. Debord promotes the use of the dialectic paradigm of expression to attack sexual identity.

"Truth is intrinsically impossible," says Sontag. Thus, Sartre uses the term 'surrealism' to denote the role of the reader as writer. The subject is interpolated into a Sontagist camp that includes culture as a paradox.

In the works of Spelling, a predominant concept is the concept of neocultural truth. It could be said that the main theme of Dietrich's[11] critique of surrealism is the economy, and hence the dialectic, of dialectic class. The masculine/feminine distinction intrinsic to Spelling's Melrose Place is also evident in Charmed.

The primary theme of the works of Spelling is the common ground between society and sexual identity. But Lyotard suggests the use of Sontagist camp to deconstruct hierarchy. An abundance of discourses concerning the role of the observer as reader may be discovered.

In the works of Spelling, a predominant concept is the distinction between destruction and creation. Thus, the subject is contextualised into a dialectic paradigm of expression that includes reality as a totality. A number of narratives concerning surrealism exist.

But the characteristic theme of la Fournier's[12] analysis of the dialectic paradigm of expression is the defining characteristic of deconstructivist class. Several theories concerning a self-fulfilling whole may be revealed.

Therefore, if surrealism holds, the works of Spelling are postmodern. Any number of narratives concerning substructural cultural theory exist.

In a sense, Bataille promotes the use of Sontagist camp to modify and challenge language. The rubicon, and some would say the failure, of postdialectic situationism prevalent in Spelling's Beverly Hills 90210 emerges again in Models, Inc., although in a more cultural sense.

But Foucault suggests the use of Sontagist camp to attack sexism. The main theme of the works of Spelling is the stasis of subdialectic sexual identity.

It could be said that Hubbard[13] suggests that the works of Spelling are modernistic. Cultural libertarianism implies that art is used to disempower the proletariat.

Thus, in Charmed, Spelling affirms Sontagist camp; in Beverly Hills 90210 he denies neodialectic cultural theory. Many narratives concerning a self-justifying paradox may be discovered.

Therefore, the premise of surrealism holds that the law is capable of intention, given that culture is distinct from reality. Sontag promotes the use of the dialectic paradigm of expression to modify narrativity.

In a sense, if Sontagist camp holds, we have to choose between the dialectic paradigm of expression and Batailleist `powerful communication'. The subject is interpolated into a surrealism that includes reality as a totality.

It could be said that the example of prepatriarchial nihilism intrinsic to Spelling's The Heights is also evident in Models, Inc.. The characteristic theme of la Fournier's[14] model of Sontagist camp is the role of the writer as artist.

4. Expressions of failure

The main theme of the works of Gaiman is the difference between class and language. In a sense, Sontag uses the term 'the dialectic paradigm of expression' to denote the absurdity, and subsequent paradigm, of capitalist class. The primary theme of Reicher's[15] essay on surrealism is the bridge between sexual identity and society.

If one examines the dialectic paradigm of expression, one is faced with a choice: either accept textual discourse or conclude that narrative comes from communication. However, in Stardust, Gaiman examines Sontagist camp; in Sandman, although, he reiterates surrealism. The characteristic theme of the works of Gaiman is the dialectic of neostructuralist class.

"Sexuality is responsible for outmoded, sexist perceptions of society," says Lacan; however, according to Prinn[16] , it is not so much sexuality that is responsible for outmoded, sexist perceptions of society, but rather the rubicon, and subsequent failure, of sexuality. But Sartre uses the term 'the dialectic paradigm of expression' to denote not, in fact, conceptualism, but preconceptualism. The subject is contextualised into a Sontagist camp that includes language as a paradox.

In the works of Fellini, a predominant concept is the concept of capitalist reality. However, Sontag uses the term 'the dialectic paradigm of expression' to denote the genre, and some would say the stasis, of postdialectic sexual identity. Sartre's model of Sontagist camp implies that society has objective value.

But Bataille suggests the use of surrealism to challenge capitalism. Marx uses the term 'Sontagist camp' to denote not narrative, but subnarrative.

Thus, the subject is interpolated into a dialectic paradigm of expression that includes narrativity as a totality. Debord promotes the use of Sontagist camp to analyse and read sexual identity. In a sense, the subject is contextualised into a dialectic paradigm of expression that includes reality as a paradox. Baudrillard uses the term 'surrealism' to denote the genre, and therefore the dialectic, of semioticist society.

Therefore, von Junz[17] holds that we have to choose between the dialectic paradigm of expression and the neocultural paradigm of reality. The subject is interpolated into a surrealism that includes culture as a reality.

But the premise of capitalist discourse suggests that consciousness serves to reinforce hierarchy. Any number of constructions concerning the dialectic paradigm of expression exist.

In a sense, the submodernist paradigm of consensus states that the raison d'etre of the writer is deconstruction, but only if Sontag's critique of Sontagist camp is valid. If the dialectic paradigm of expression holds, we have to choose between surrealism and Sartreist absurdity.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 1. Buxton, M. I. N. (1997) Sontagist camp in the works of Smith. Panic Button Books

2. Sargeant, S. ed. (1971) The Expression of Paradigm: Surrealism in the works of Spelling. Schlangekraft

3. Abian, W. H. M. (1985) Surrealism in the works of Burroughs. Panic Button Books

4. Cameron, S. A. ed. (1970) Reading Sartre: Sontagist camp and surrealism. O'Reilly & Associates

5. Dahmus, V. P. M. (1991) Surrealism and Sontagist camp. University of California Press

6. Parry, U. J. ed. (1984) The Expression of Dialectic: Sontagist camp and surrealism. Schlangekraft

7. Buxton, O. F. D. (1990) Surrealism and Sontagist camp. Loompanics

8. Werther, U. S. ed. (1987) Reinventing Surrealism: Sontagist camp and surrealism. Panic Button Books

9. Abian, E. (1973) Surrealism and Sontagist camp. And/Or Press

10. de Selby, J. Z. E. ed. (1997) The Genre of Class: Sontagist camp and surrealism. Schlangekraft

11. Dietrich, T. (1989) Surrealism, capitalism and capitalist preconceptualist theory. Panic Button Books

12. la Fournier, L. U. ed. (1975) Deconstructing Derrida: Surrealism and Sontagist camp. And/Or Press

13. Hubbard, L. T. K. (1996) Surrealism in the works of McLaren. Schlangekraft

14. la Fournier, C. ed. (1980) The Reality of Economy: Sontagist camp in the works of Gaiman. University of Georgia Press

15. Reicher, I. S. R. (1993) Sontagist camp and surrealism. And/Or Press

16. Prinn, B. ed. (1975) Expressions of Defining characteristic: Sontagist camp in the works of Fellini. Harvard University Press

17. von Junz, J. V. (1990) Surrealism in the works of Eco. And/Or Press

Friday, February 11, 2005

"Lay off that nostalgia, cousin, it's a killer"-S.J. Perelman

Iowahawk takes a rancid trip down memory lane to expose the genesis of Ward Churchill's dementia. As usual in such cases, it involves network television. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Boots smashing in human faces forever, thanks to Georgie Porgie

George Soros voids forth a disgusting stream of offal in the guise of "political commentary."

President George W. Bush's second inaugural address set forth an ambitious vision of the role of the United States in advancing the cause of freedom worldwide, fueling worldwide speculation over the course of American foreign policy during the next four years. The ideas expressed in Bush's speech thus deserve serious consideration.

It is too bad we won't find it here.

"It is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture," Bush declared, "with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world."

It would be nice to think so, but Bush and his fellow politicians are addicted to the power vibe, baybee.

There was a bow to diplomacy in the assurance that fulfilling this mission "is not primarily the task of arms, though we will defend our friends and ourselves by force of arms when necessary." Similarly, Bush recognized that outsiders couldn't force liberty on people. Instead, "Freedom by its nature must be chosen and defended by citizens and sustained by the rule of law and the protection of minorities."

Nothing but classical liberalism here, not that Soros would know anything about that.

Finally, there was acceptance of diversity, for "when the soul of a nation finally speaks, the institutions that arise may reflect customs and traditions very different from our own. America will not impose our own style of government on the unwilling. Our goal instead is to help others find their own voice, attain their own freedom and make their own way."

I agree with this goal, and have devoted the last 15 years of my life and several billion dollars of my fortune to attaining it. Yet I find myself in sharp disagreement with the Bush administration. It is not only that there is a large gap between official words and deeds; I find that the words sometimes directly contradict the deeds in a kind of Orwellian doublespeak.

We're about to get an earful from a master at the game. Stay awake, boys and girls.

When Bush declared war on terror, he used that war to invade Iraq. When no connection with Al-Qaeda could be established and no weapons of mass destruction could be found, he declared that we invaded Iraq to introduce democracy. In Iraq and beyond, when Bush says that "freedom will prevail," many interpret him to mean that America will prevail. This impugned America's motives and deprived the U.S. of whatever moral authority the country once had to intervene in other countries' domestic affairs. If, for example, America offers support to Iranian students who are genuinely striving for greater freedom, they are now more likely to be endangered by American support, as the regime's hard-liners are strengthened.

Oh, boo hoo. Transnational socialists like Soros have been whining about American power long before 9/11 or even 1/20/01. The only thing that Soros is really afraid of is that America WILL help the Iranian youth overthrow their mullahs, thereby discrediting his filthy little fascistic organizations like the U.N., which rejoices in genocide and oppression.

To explain what is wrong with the new Bush doctrine, I have to invoke the concept of open society. That is the concept that guides me in my efforts to foster freedom around the world. The work has been carried out through foundations operating on the ground and led by citizens who understand the limits of the possible in their countries. Occasionally, when a repressive regime expels our foundation, the Open Society Institute, as happened in Belarus and Uzbekistan, we operate from the outside.

Soros is parasitizing the concept from Karl Popper, whose forays into political philosophy were nothing but disastrous. Popper's OPEN SOCIETY AND ITS ENEMIES is infamously unfair to those philosophers, like Plato and Hegel, that Sir Karl attacks. This makes his entire defense of liberalism based on "falsification" that Soros appeals to a self-refuting sludge.

Paradoxically, the most successful open society in the world, the U.S., does not properly understand the first principles of an open society; indeed, its current leadership actively disavows them. The concept of open society is based on recognition that nobody possesses the ultimate truth, that one may be wrong. Yet being wrong is precisely the possibility that Bush refuses to acknowledge, and his denial appeals to a significant segment of the American public. An equally significant segment is appalled. This has left the U.S. not only deeply divided, but also at loggerheads with much of the rest of the world, which considers its policies high-handed and arbitrary.

There is nothing "paradoxical" about the fact that "the most open society in the world" affirms objective morality. The very fact that we have confidence in the truth and our ability to find it enables us to "tolerate" the search for truth wherever it is found without fear that the process will "contaminate" us. The one who really refuses to re-examine his positions here is Soros, of course. As evidenced by his constant reiteration of "failure" in Iraq and his refusal to acknowledge the known existence of uranium stockpiles there, he is completely impervious to counter-evidence against his little transnationalist fascist fantasy-world, where a velvet-soled shoe stamps into non-European faces forever. Elsewhere, I have written about the disastrous results that Soros's attitude towards truth had for Weimar Germany. Jacques Maritain's comments are appropriate here as well:

The problem of truth and human fellowship is important for democratic societies; it seems to me to be particularly important for this country (the USA-E.B.), where men and women coming from a great diversity of national stocks and religious or philosophical creeds have to live together. If each one of them endeavored to impose his own convictions and the truth in which he believes on all his co-citizens, would not living together become impossible? That is obviously right. Well, it is easy, too easy, to go a step further, and to ask: if each one sticks to his own convictions, will not each one endeavor to impose his own convictions on all others? So that, as a result, living together will become impossible if any citizen whatever sticks to his own convictions and believes in a given truth?

Thus it is not unusual to meet people who think that NOT TO BELIEVE IN ANY TRUTH, or NOT TO ADHERE FIRMLY TO ANY ASSERTION AS UNSHAKABLY TRUE IN ITSELF (Maritain's emphasis), is a primary condition required of democratic citizens in order to be tolerant of one another and to live in peace with one another. May I say that these people are in fact the most intolerant people, for if perchance they were to believe in something as unshakably true, they would feel compelled, by the same stroke, to impose by force and coercion their own belief on their co-citizens. The only remedy they have found to get rid of their abiding tendency to fanaticism is to cut themselves off from truth. That is a suicidal method. It is a suicidal conception of democracy: not only would a democratic society which lived on universal skepticism condemn itself to death by starvation; but it would also enter a process of self-annihilation, from the very fact that no democratic society can live without a common practical belief in those truths which are freedom, justice, law, and the other tenets of democracy; and that any belief in these things as objectively and unshakably true, as well as in any other kind of truth, would be brought to naught by the presumed law of universal skepticism... Be it a question of science, metaphysics, or religion, the man who says: "What is truth?" as Pilate did, is not a tolerant man, but a betrayer of the human race. There is real and genuine tolerance only when a man is firmly and absolutely convinced of a truth, or of what he holds to be a truth, and when he at the same time recognizes the right of those who deny this truth to exist, and to contradict him, and to speak their own mind, not because they are free from truth but because they seek truth in their own way, and because he respects in them human nature and human dignity and those very resources and living springs of the intellect and of conscience which make them potentially capable of attaining the truth he loves, if someday they happen to see it. (Jacques Maritain, . "Truth and Human Fellowship." in ON THE USE OF PHILOSOPHY: THREE ESSAYS. (New York: Atheneum) 1965 p. 17-18, 24)

Bush regards his reelection as an endorsement of his policies, and feels reinforced in his distorted view of the world. The "accountability moment" has passed, he claims, and he is ready to confront tyranny throughout the world according to his own lights. But the critical process that is at the core of an open society - which the U.S. abandoned for 18 months after Sept. 11, 2001 - cannot be forsaken. That absence of self-criticism is what led America into the Iraq quagmire.

Notice that self-criticism is not something that Soros engages in himself. He is that worst of mentally self-castrated pseudo-intellectuals, a "shielding skeptic." That is to say, skepticism is only to be employed against the premises of one's opponents, not one's own. This results in genuine unfalsifiability of one's premises, the very thing that he complains against.

A better understanding of the concept of open society requires that promoting freedom and democracy and promoting American values and interests be distinguished. If it is freedom and democracy that are wanted, they can be fostered only by strengthening international law and international institutions.

"International institutions" like the U.N. where Libya chaired the human rights committee, and Iraq the disarmanment committee? These organizations are fundamentally impotent without great power backing, and their fascistic bureaucratic nature is antithetical to genuine liberty. There is no excuse for Soros's advocacy of these criminal bodies, and it is especially obscene that he does so in the name of liberal democracy, a concept that the U.N. mocks openly, when it isn't denying Darfurian genocide or looking the other way in Rwanda.

“The human person possesses rights because of the very fact that it is a person, a whole, master of itself and of its acts, and which consequently is not merely a means to an end, but an end, an end which must be treated as such. The dignity of the human person? This expression means nothing if it does not signify that by virtue of natural law, the human person has the right to be respected, is the subject of rights, possesses rights. There are things which are owed to man because of the very fact that he is man.” (Jacques Maritain, THE RIGHTS OF MAN AND NATURAL LAW, p. 65, cited in Charles A. Fecher’s THE PHILOSOPHY OF JACQUES MARITAIN, New York: Greenwood Press, Publishers. 1953, 207-7)

No political body GIVES humans any rights.

Bush is right to assert that repressive regimes can no longer hide behind a cloak of sovereignty: what goes on inside tyrannies and failed states is of vital interest to the rest of the world. But intervention in other states' internal affairs must be legitimate, which requires clearly established rules.

Rules that his beloved "international organizations" have no intention of providing, since they are composed of said regimes and their enablers like France and Germany.

As the dominant power in the world, the U.S. has a unique responsibility to provide leadership in international cooperation. It cannot do whatever it wants, as the Iraqi debacle has demonstrated; but, at the same time, nothing much can be achieved in the way of international cooperation without U.S. leadership, or at least active participation. Only by taking these lessons to heart can progress be made toward the lofty goals that Bush announced.

On the contrary, the U.S. IS powerful enough to form its own coalitions and accomplish its own ends, that's why Soros hates it so much, to the point of trying to foist off a traitorous and politically/morally impotent swine like Kerry on America.

The real sickness in Soros's soul can be seen below:

It’s not often that George Soros, the billionaire financier and philanthropist, makes an appearance before a Jewish audience.

It’s even rarer for him to use such an occasion to talk about Israel, Jews and his own role in effecting political change.

So when Soros stepped to the podium Wednesday to address those issues at a conference of the Jewish Funders Network, audience members were listening carefully.

Many were surprised by what they heard.

When asked about anti-Semitism in Europe, Soros, who is Jewish, said European anti-Semitism is the result of the policies of Israel and the United States.

“There is a resurgence of anti-Semitism in Europe. The policies of the Bush administration and the Sharon administration contribute to that,” Soros said. “It’s not specifically anti-Semitism, but it does manifest itself in anti-Semitism as well. I’m critical of those policies.”

“If we change that direction, then anti-Semitism also will diminish,” he said. “I can’t see how one could confront it directly.”

That is a point made by Israel’s most vociferous critics, whom some Jewish activists charge with using anti-Zionism as a guise for anti-Semitism.

The billionaire financier said he, too, bears some responsibility for the new anti-Semitism, citing last month’s speech by Malaysia’s outgoing prime minister, Mahathir Mohammad, who said, “Jews rule the world by proxy.”

“I’m also very concerned about my own role because the new anti-Semitism holds that the Jews rule the world,” said Soros, whose projects and funding have influenced governments and promoted various political causes around the world.

“As an unintended consequence of my actions,” he said, “I also contribute to that image.”

(snip highly justified outraged reactions by Jewish leaders-E.B.)

Associates said Soros’ appearance Wednesday was the first they could ever recall in which the billionaire, a Hungarian-born U.S. Jew who escaped the Holocaust by fleeing to London as a child, had spoken in front of a Jewish group or attended a Jewish function.

The one-day meeting on funding in Israel, which took place at the Harvard Club in New York, was limited mostly to representatives of Jewish philanthropic foundations.

After Soros’ speech, Michael Steinhardt, the real-estate magnate and Jewish philanthropist who arranged for Soros to address the group, said in an interview that Soros’ views do not reflect those of most Jewish millionaires or philanthropists.

He also pointed out that this was Soros’ first speech to a Jewish audience.

Steinhardt approached the lectern and interrupted Soros immediately after his remarks on anti-Semitism.

“George Soros does not think Jews should be hated any more than they deserve to be,” Steinhardt said by way of clarification, eliciting chuckles from the audience.

Steinhardt then gave the lectern back to Soros, who said he had something to add to his remarks on the issue of anti-Semitism. Soros then paused to ask if there were any journalists in the room.

When he learned that there were, Soros withheld further comment.

...thus proving that, while they share the same hatred of America's genuine freedom principles, Soros has more common sense than Ward Churchill.

That's what we cowboys call "damning with faint praise."

Haunted Mailboxes

"...but my friend (and, not incidentally, tender of my abibliophobia)"

Billy Beck is about to get an extra dose of bibliomania, including the audio version of the best darn baseball book EVER.

I'm just mean, cruel and evil that way.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Peter Greenaway meditates on birds and immortality in THE FALLS (Revised Review)

My review of Peter Greenaway's first feature film, THE FALLS, has been re-edited and reposted for your reading pleasure over at the site.

Here's an excerpt:

Before he gained world-wide fame as the creator of THE DRAUGHTSMAN'S CONTRACT and THE COOK, THE THIEF, HIS WIFE AND HER LOVER, Peter Greenaway learned his craft making experimental films for the British Film Institute (BFI). The last and longest was his fake documentary, THE FALLS, which rivals Andy Warhol's EMPIRE for the label of the "Gone With the Wind" of avant-garde film.

The conceit of the film is that a devastating disaster has struck the world sometime in the near past, concentrating its fury on the Northern Hemisphere. Its victims underwent bizarre changes. They began speaking invented languages ("RegisT, "Olevlit"), dreaming of water, changing shape and color to mimic birds, experiencing "sexual quadrimorphism" and various negative mutations and, barring accident or violence, were granted a dubiously Swiftian immortality by the "VUE Immortality Clause." If they do die, VUE victims desire burial underneath bird-scarers in order to fully terminate their relationship with birds.

The generally accepted epicenter of the disaster is the Boulder Orchard at the Tyddyn-Corn Farmhouse, located on the Llynn Peninsula in Wales. The disaster itself is regarded as the work of the world's birds, and acceptance or rejection of the "Responsibility of Birds" theory is a major dividing point for the victims of the VUE as well as a major policy point for the world's governments in dealing with the ongoing crisis.

Official laws and regulations dealing with birds prohibit bootlegging their eggs or even their dead bodies. In response to this, various criminal enterprises have sprung up, ranging from individual poaching by small-time criminals to full-blown terrorism and murder under the auspices of FOX (The Society for Ornithological Extermination) which is headed by the vilely villainous Dutch ex-bird counter for the Amsterdam Zoo, Aad Van Hoyten. His chief foe is the ornithologist, cartographer and fabulist Tulse Luper, who made his debut in Greenaway's short films VERTICAL FEATURES REMAKE & A WALK THROUGH H.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Bio-Comprachicos, Incorporated

Alyssa Ford,, writes:

Biopolitics, a term coined by Trinity College professor James Hughes, places pro-technology transhumanists on one pole and people who are suspicious of technology on the other.
...and shoots herself in the foot with the lead sentence. I am no more "suspicious of technology" in this context than I am "suspicious" of fire because of the perversions of pyromaniacs or "suspicious" of knives because they have been used to carve children's faces into permanent smiles.

What I am suspicious of are ostensibly rational individuals who act like vomit-brained Pollyannas (yes, I'm talking to you, Reynolds and Postrel) on the subject. There is far too much evidence from human history as to the kind of downside that is present here for anyone to so flagrantly and dishonestly ignore it. We can take the examples of dog and cat breeding to be normative for what is going to happen with the tranzihumanists. Look for "stunties," permanently genetically-fixed children, thalidomide babies for the pelagic enthusiasts, and genetic determinism for every child. Oh, by the way, excuse me for laughing directly in your face when you tell me that such things will be "forbidden" by "law."

Why is this the case? The ugly truth is that the "trans"(anti)humanists possess the same reductive view of biology as their supposed left-luddite enemies. The anti-humanists take the same "a rat is a pig is a dog is a boy" conceptual approach to the ethics of genetic use that the Ingrid Newkirk crowd does, they just favor USING it irrationally rather than OPPOSING it irrationally.

God, Providence or Reality help us all.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

A Valediction Permitting Criticism

I see, via Billy Beck, that Rand's birth centenary has come and gone. Professor Bainbridge has validated every faith that Beck has in him via the following post:

Personally, I don't get it (or, more precisely, her). I found Fountainhead unbearably obtuse and Atlas Shrugged unreadable. As for Objectivism and Objectivists, they have always struck me as being the worst of the many brands of libertarian kooks...(snip second-hand quote-EB) Mockery has always struck me as the only appropriate response to Objectivism. Fortunately, the Objectivism Mockery Page provides a slew of links to sites making fun of Rand her theories.
Quite a refreshingly postmodern approach for a putative conservative academic to take, no? The Professor's professed inability to comprehend a straightforward, although admittedly radical, exposition of the classical liberal tradition in political philosophy gives me endless confidence in his commentary on man in his Aristotelian state. Perhaps Rand, with all Johnsonian gravitas, need only say, "Sir, I have found you an argument; but I am not obliged to find you an understanding."

As for myself, the following is my standard take on Objectivism, which I post to Objectivists from time to time. I haven't gotten a satisfactory answer from them yet:

I suppose the root of my interest in Objectivism is trying to find out how someone like Rand who gives lip service to the greatness of Aristotle and Aquinas can go so horribly wrong as to attempt to marry their philosophical accomplishments to atheism. In order to do this, Objectivists have to "steal concepts" in the philosophy of religion from Hume, Kant and other skeptical philosophers. You might say that (from my perspective) there is an ironic (and "ominous") parallel between Objectivists and their putative philosophical opponents.

I thank (R)eality that I am now, and always have been, a philosophical objectivist. This has kept me from being an Objectivist (TM), and as such has put me on the road to defending the truths of the Aristotelian/Thomistic tradition in philosophy against Objectivists who seek to trash the truths found there precisely for "atheistic reasons."

I don't accept their criticisms of belief in God primarily because I don't believe that it "contradicts the primacy of existence," and if Rand or Peikoff ever bothered to actually *read* Aquinas properly, they might have found that out...


1. Aquinas contra Peikoff-1

2. Aquinas contra Peikoff-2

3. Aquinas contra Peikoff-3

4. Aquinas contra Peikoff-4

5. Aquinas contra Peikoff-5

The fair-minded will not that, for Aquinas, the defining character of God is his -existence-, not his -mind.- God does not "self-create" himself. This arrant nonsense may be believed by Peikoff, Spinoza and Sartre, but not by me or by Aquinas.

No one has ever shown me good reason to believe that rationality can come from arationality or the non-rational. I'm no Objectivist because I'm not a Kantian about -anything-, including the philosophy of religion. It is an unfortunate fact that Rand and Peikoff implicitly rely on critiques of the theistic proofs posited by their good intellectual soulmates, Hume and Kant. When they don't, and try to critique sound Christian philosophers using their own arguments, they fall into the worst question-begging straw-manning imaginable. I am militantly unimpressed by the quality of their argumentation on the subject. Don't even get me started on George Smith. Leonard Peikoff's book, OBJECTIVISM: THE PHILOSOPHY OF RAND, is a fairly decent overview of her thought, but it illuminates her weaknesses. The section on religion, especially pages 30-33, really show ignorance of the Thomistic heritage of the Christian religion and its influence in Western Culture, ironically enough including Rand's thought. Rand and Peikoff assert that ALL religious believers insist on "the primacy of consciousness" (i.e., reality is controlled by,and dependent on, a mind) vs. "the primacy of existence" (reality is external to any mind), conveniently forgetting that Thomas asserted that God's EXISTENCE is primary, not God's consciousness.

For Aquinas, the existence of first principles is self-evident and the existence of God is not.(Summa Theologica, Question 1, Article 2) His arguments for God's existence do not rest on the "need" for a priori validation of our sense experience. In fact, he was the most prominent critic of Anselm's ontological argument during this time period!

Unfortunately, Peikoff makes the key intellectual error of associating the notion of -causa sui- ("self-causation") with the concept of God, a fallacy also committed by Spinoza and Sartre. In orthodox Christian theology, God does not "self-create himself," such a notion is arrant nonsense. Rather, since something now exists, something has always existed, and that -always existent- something is God, contra Peikoff. (OPAR, pp. 18-22)

Aquinas's contention is that God exists, not on anyone's "say-so," but demonstrably from the facts of existence. This notion that Christianity is -based- on "faith" as "blind belief without proof" (as opposed to certain Christians mistakenly -affirming- that it is based on such "faith") is exactly the "question-begging" fallacy I object to!

Kant has infected modern theology as well as philosophy. This, combined with horrible religious education in this country (paralleling the bad secular educational establishment) has given rise to this something-for-nothing -faithism-, which I reject on Biblical and philosophical grounds.

In order to accept the Kantian refutations of the Thomistic arguments, you must accept Kant's premises about the limits of the human mind's knowledge of reality. This is not only the conclusion of the vast majority of Kantian scholars (who may otherwise be wrong), but the express statement of Kant himself, as we shall see.

Let's begin with the standard quote from Leonard Peikoff:

"God" as traditionally defined is a systematic contradiction of every valid metaphysical principle. The point is wider than just the Judeo-Christian concept of God. *No argument will get you from this world to a supernatural world.* No reason will lead you to a world contradicting this one. *No method of inference will enable you to leap from existence to a "super-existence."* (187, emphasis mine)
Note that Peikoff is making an -a priori- argument that excludes -in principle- any argument for the existence of God drawn from experience. This is a very unusual thing for an Objectivist to do, unless they buy into the restrictions on human consciousness propounded by a certain Prussian philosopher. (or are engaging in a straw-man argument)

Just who is being more faithful to reason and reality here? To quote from a philosopher that Objectivists despise:

[W]e must assert that it is necessary that there should be an eternal unmovable substance. For substances are the first of existing things, and if they are all destructible, all things are destructible. But it is impossible that movement should either have come into being or cease to be (for it must always have existed) ...

... [S]ince there is something which moves while itself unmoved, existing actually, this can in no way be otherwise than as it is. For motion in space is the first of the kinds of change, and motion in a circle the first kind of spatial motion; and this the first mover produces. The first mover, then, exists of necessity; and in so far as it exists by necessity, its mode of being is good, and it is in this sense a first principle.

On such a principle, then, depend the heavens and the world of nature.... God's self-dependent actuality is life most good and eternal. We say therefore that God is a living being, eternal, most good, so that life and duration continuous and eternal belong to God; for this is God.

(Aristotle, METAPHYSICS. Book XII, chs. 6-7)

It appears that The Philosopher substantially disagrees with Peikoff on this issue, and in fact this version of the cosmological argument is the one that inspired Aquinas.

Turning to a philosopher that Rand and Peikoff love:

We should no doubt gladly desist from wishing to have our questions answered dogmatically, if we understood beforehand that ... it would only increase our ignorance ... This is the great advantage of the sceptical treatment of questions which pure reason puts to pure reason. We get rid by it ... of a great amount of dogmatical rubbish, in order to put in its place sober criticism which ... removes successfully all illusion with its train of omniscience. If, therefore, I could know beforehand that a cosmological idea [is] either *too large or too small* for any *concept of the understanding*, I should understand that, as that cosmological idea refers only to an object of experience which is to correspond to a possible concept of the understanding, it must be empty and without meaning, because the object does not fit into it, whatever I may do to adapt it. And this must really be the case with all cosmical concepts, which on that very account involve reason, so long as it remains attached to them, in inevitable antinomy. ... We have thus been led at least to a well-founded suspicion that the cosmological ideas, and with them all the conflicting sophistical assertions, may rest on an empty and merely imaginary conception of the manner in which the object of those ideas can be given ... (Kant, 343-45, emphasis Kant's)

Kant's attempted refutation of the cosmological argument is thus based on the categorical limitations arising out of his phenomenal/noumenal split, and thus the cosmological argument fails (on -his- terms) since it uses sense phenomena to come to a conclusion about the noumenal (i.e. God). Why are (alleged) realists such as Peikoff and Rand getting into bed with Kant on this issue? My experience has led me to the conclusion that Objectivists prefer to betray their own best philosophical impulses (those which derive from the truths of the Aristotelian/Thomistic tradition) in favor of atheism, even when it means "reifying the zero" and "stealing concepts."

I remain,

For reason and reality

Against Rand and Kant,

Ernest Brown

Works Cited ~~~~~~~~~~~ Aristotle. Metaphysics. Trans. W. D. Ross. Public domain electronic text.

Kant, Immanuel. Critique of Pure Reason. Trans. F. Max Muller. New York: Doubleday Anchor, 1966.

Peikoff, Leonard. "God." The Ayn Rand Lexicon: Objectivism from A to Z. Ed. Harry Binswanger. New York: Penguin-Meridian, 1986. 187