Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Don't count the Republican party out

It is, of course, slightly encouraging to note that conservative intellectuals are (all too slowly) becoming disenchanted with the Republican party. But don't count the Republican party out quite yet.

I was young during Watergate, but I remember: a president forced to resign, many of his closest advisers tried, convicted and jailed, the Republican party in disgrace. Four years later, Ronald Reagan is president and G. Gordon Libby soon has his own radio show. I was a little older after Reagan & Bush pere: a half-trillion bailout of the Savings and Loans, contempt of Congress and outright treason. Eight years later, Bush fils is president and every obvious failure and excess of the Reagan administration is not only repeated but expanded by an order of magnitude.

The Republican party is taking the exactly correct strategy: temporarily give up the intellectuals and protect the base. Revolutions — including the American Revolution — have been won outright with the enthusiastic support of only 20-30% of the population. Intellectuals are whores: they'll come up with reasons to support whoever takes political power. If and when the Republican party uses their solid base to regain political power, the intellectuals will quickly fall into line.

(It was misguided of the Russian and Chinese revolutions to directly attack the privilege of the intelligentsia. Just because they're whores doesn't mean they're not powerful. Intellectuals do not need to be persuaded or coerced. They can be bought off — cheaply — and will then enthusiastically support and defend any cause, even one as retarded as the far-right neoconservative agenda.)

There are two issues that leave me unimpressed by conservative intellectual "apostasy". First, they are not correctly identifying conservative ideology as foundational to Republican excesses. The theme, rather, is that the Republicans have somehow become "unconservative". Second, the liberal bourgeoisie has not itself created a coherent unifying narrative to capture their own intellectuals: the liberal intelligentsia is all over the map. Thus the conservative intellectuals disenchanted with the logical consequences of their ideology have no ship to jump to.

(Of course the real problem is not the moral and practical failure of conservative capitalism, but of capitalism in general, conservative and liberal. But that's an issue for another post.)

There's simply no reason for history not to repeat itself: a (more or less) liberal Democratic president, taking office with high hopes but without a coherent unifying intellectual narrative ("hope and change" is a slogan, not a narrative), later dashed to pieces by its own inevitable mistakes and compromises.

Double-reverse political jiujitsu

An email correspondent directs my attention to Charles Hugh Smith's hypothesis that Obama has a secret plan to discredit the big bankers. As much as I'd like to credit Obama with even populist motives, I don't find the hypothesis plausible.

It's pretty clear that Obama is a tool of the bourgeois capitalists. Why shouldn't he be? The ruling class does in fact actually rule. That's what they do. I also don't see why Volcker should be much of a bellwether; it's not like he's sitting in the treasury basement studying Marx, Lenin and Mao. He's just as much a capitalist as Obama.

I'm more confident that Obama represents one faction within the bourgeoisie and that there are serious internal contradictions within the bourgeoisie driving the social dialectic right now. And it's almost certainly true that Obama is not talking about everything he knows or everything he plans.

But there's no evidence at all to falsify the simplest hypothesis that Obama is being mostly sincere and direct, that he is in fact sincerely trying to save the capitalist system he's grown up with, believes is best, and that he has clearly been beholden to for his entire political career.

I think its more plausible that Obama is trying to buy time to enact a liberal reformist agenda, and that he does not believe he has enough political power to risk an open confrontation. As a communist, I have little confidence in liberal reformism, but even within that paradigm, I think Obama fails to realize that you gain political power by fighting and winning open confrontations; avoiding them just makes you look weak.

Even if Obama were to (probably correctly) believe he didn't have enough power to overhaul the capitalist institutions to make them "FDR liberal", his best strategy would have been to find or create some confrontation he was sure to win. The most obvious battle would have been prosecutions over torture. A win there was almost guaranteed and would pose minimal political risk: just let the Justice Department do its job. Maneuver a few good Republican judges — such as Judge Jones of Dover v. Kitzmiller — into heading most of the trials and Bob's your uncle.

That Obama hasn't done that, that he's released the torture memos without initiating prosecutions, is equivocal and weak. Obama is a smart guy, and one cannot plausibly believe a Chicago politician lacks the will or ability to fight; the only conclusion is that Obama rationally believes that prosecuting torture would not serve his interests.

The problem with the "Secret Plan" hypothesis is the same with any conspiracy theory: secret plans are usually too dangerous to seriously contemplate when it's your own ass on the line. If Obama were to give the bankers enough rope to hang themselves, it's far too easy to get a loop caught around his own ankle and go down with them.

It's also entirely unclear that the bankers would actually hang themselves no matter how much rope you gave them. Never in human history — even before the advent of scientific propaganda — has any ruling class lost its grip just because of some short-term non-catastrophic crisis; class rules changes only when society has verged near catastrophic anarchy, and never even then without a bloody revolution. I don't think Obama intentionally wishes to steer society to the brink of catastrophe.

At one level, I more or less wish him the best.A revolution is sure to be a bloody mess; I don't advocate revolution because I want one, and I'd rather be mistaken about the inevitability of capitalism's failure. But I don't think I'm mistaken, and I don't think Obama, despite being a smart, sincere, moderately nice guy, will be able to fix capitalism.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Divine Command Theory

The argument against Divine Command Theory — if God commands X, then X is good by definition — is very simple.

There are only two cases: Either God commands only what conforms to our independent judgment, or God commands some activities contrary to our independent judgment.

The former case is vacuous. Divine Command Theory adds nothing to our independent judgment: we can rely directly on our independent judgment without talking about God. At best, Divine Command Theory becomes merely a terrible ontological theory to pretend to explain why we independently make certain judgments. It is no longer an epistemic theory: we don't know, learn or discover how we should exercise our judgment — distinct from how we do in fact make judgments — by examining God's commands.

The latter case is problematic. If we believe that God makes some commands contrary to our independent judgment, how are we to respond to those commands? More importantly, how are we to distinguish authentic commands from fake commands? How are we to distinguish between commands that are dependent on some particular context and commands that are independent of context? By definition, since we are accepting a priori that God's commands can differ from our own independent judgment, we cannot use our independent judgment to distinguish authentic commands from fake commands. Similarly, we cannot use our independent judgment to distinguish what elements of context are relevant to a particular command.

Any exegesis of any scripture other than absolute literalism requires the exercise of our independent judgment. But if we can reliably use our independent judgment to interpret commands, why not rely fully on our independent judgment? On the other hand, if our independent judgment is not sufficiently reliable to rely on fully, by what virtue do we rely on it to distinguish authentic commands from fake commands? By what virtue do we rely on our a priori unreliable independent judgment to pick out those elements of context relevant to the command?

The only way to avoid hypocrisy is to grasp the nettle: fix on some scripture, and take every moral commandment literally, completely independent of context unless that element of context is explicitly, unequivocally stated in the scripture itself. Any attempt to do otherwise is hypocritical bullshit sophistry.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Truckling to the Faithful

Jerry Coyne blasts the accommodationists: Truckling to the Faithful: A Spoonful of Jesus Helps Darwin Go Down:
[T]he accommodationist position of the National Academy of Sciences, and especially that of the National Center for Science Education, is a self-defeating tactic, compromising the very science they aspire to defend. By seeking union with religious people, and emphasizing that there is no genuine conflict between faith and science, they are making accommodationism not just a tactical position, but a philosophical one. By ignoring the significant dissent in the scientific community about whether religion and science can be reconciled, they imply a unanimity that does not exist. Finally, by consorting with scientists and philosophers who incorporate supernaturalism into their view of evolution, they erode the naturalism that underpins modern evolutionary theory. ...

The NAS is saying that most religious people and scientists have no problem with evolution and faith. Given that 40% of Americans reject evolution outright (almost entirely on religious grounds), while 92% of NAS scientists reject the idea a personal god, the National Academy is clearly pushing its agenda in defiance of evidence. ...

In his accommodationist books God After Darwin and the more recent Deeper than Darwin, [NCSE website contributor John Haught] espouses a teleology in which evolution is ineluctably drawn by God to some future point of perfection. ... But any injection of teleology into evolutionary biology violates precisely the great advance of Darwin’s theory: to explain the appearance of design by a purely materialistic process — no deity required. ... If we’re to defend evolutionary biology, we must defend it as a science: a nonteleological theory in which the panoply of life results from the action of natural selection and genetic drift acting on random mutations. ...

If natural selection and evolution are as powerful as we all believe, then we should devote our time to making sure that they are more widely and accurately understood, and that their teaching is defended. Those should be the sole missions of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Center for Science Education. Leave theology to the theologians.

Also read PZ Myers, Larry Moran and Richard Dawkins on this important position.

The only way that religion can be compatible with science is to suck all the meaning out of "religion": To hold the position that God is a vague deity, with vague properties and no effect whatsoever on the world, neither physical nor moral; to hold an Einsteinian "God" as a metaphor for the nonteleological physical laws that govern our world. The vast majority of self-described religious people do not hold such a vacuous view of God: they see God has having some influence on the world, many see God as having a profound and continuing influence. I cannot imagine how those few self-described religious people who do talk about a "God Who Makes No Difference" (Greg Egan's phrase) and really mean it can muster up the energy to regularly meet.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Ten retarded questions

Retard Scott Pruett posts 10 [Retarded] Questions for the Atheist. I don't know who the atheist is, but I'll the trouble to mocking Pruett's childish understanding of both science and philosophy.

First of all, all ten questions essentially say: this science, math and philosophy stuff is complicated! We don't know everything! Therefore goddidit! Fucking moronic.

As faithlessgod notes, Pruett conflates atheism, naturalism and materialism. Anyone with a triple-digit IQ who has studied philosophy on the internet for six weeks knows these are entirely different philosophical positions. (Atheism is, however, an consequence of methodological naturalism and the evidence of our senses.)

Each of Pruett's stupid questions not only proclaims his trivial, sophomoric god-of-the-gaps nonsense, but also his ignorance of science and philosophy.
1. Creation
The overwhelming consensus of science is that the entire cosmos (including space and time) came into existence at a finite point in the past. All of our observations, equations, and physical laws testify to a point of origin for this universe.
In light of the troubling evidence for a beginning, and that we may not even be able to find a natural cause in principle, what explanation is given to the questions, "Why is there something rather than nothing?" and "Where did it all come from?"
Pruett gives us two stupidisms for the price of one (aside from the trivial stupidism that "science" doesn't have an opinion (only scientists have opinions) and that "consensus" is a superlative; an overwhelming consensus is nonsense).

First, scientists are not in widespread agreement that the "entire cosmos" (which is itself not a scientific term) came into existence (again not a scientific term) at a finite point in the past. Pruett needs to read actual science books, not tendentious apologetic interpretations of science. If Pruett wishes to represent the opinions of scientists, he would do well to find out what their actual opinions are instead of putting words in their mouths.

Second, the philosophical question "Why is there something rather than nothing?" has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with Big Bang cosmology; the question would be equally applicable in an eternal, steady-state universe. Furthermore, if the "entire cosmos" means everything that exists, it's nonsense to ask where it came from.

Of course, "Why is there something rather than nothing?" is itself a stupid question. Something (the entire cosmos, the relativistic quantum field, the multiverse, or God) just is. Don't like that answer? Too bad.
2 Order
The past several decades have added profoundly to our knowledge of chemistry, physics, and cosmology. It has become increasingly clear that we live in a universe finely tuned for the support of complex life. This fact is so universally acknowledged that even secular scientists have coined the term "Anthropic Principle" to describe it.
How is it that we live in such an exquisitely fine-tuned universe? Even assuming that the universe could have popped out of nothingness, why should it have been such an orderly and hospitable one? Is there a scientific, testable answer for this question that does not simply appeal to imagination?
Pruett — surprise, surprise — does not understand the Anthropic Principle; Nor, apparently, does he understand how to use Wikipedia or Google. The Fine Tuning argument has been thoroughly debunked.
3. Abiogenesis
The problem of abiogenesis (the origin of the first lifeform) is one of the thorniest and most intractable issues in chemistry. Our increasing knowledge of microbiology and earth history has only added to the complexity of what needs to be explained. The simplest life is equivalent to modern bacteria, which is loaded with complex activity, information, and molecular "machines." The fossil record does not give evidence that there was a "prebiotic soup," or that there were any biological precursors to the first organisms, or that the atmosphere was the ideal mix to yield the necessary molecules, or that there was the expected long period of time between when the Earth could support life and when it actually appeared. Evolutionists regularly segregate the abiogenesis problem from the issue of evolution because (1) it is a challenge they'd rather not be saddled with, or (2) it is the most logical point for possible divine intervention. However, for the atheist there is no escaping this issue; they are obliged to seek out some purely natural explanation.
What hope for an explanation do you have? Are you satisfied to have problems like this that are unanswered, or even unanswerable?
In telling the tale of life on earth science writers often unconsciously use the word "miracle" for the appearance of the first organisms.
What kind of evidence is needed before we are to actually accept that something like this really is a miracle?
Wow... let's catalog the stupidisms one by one.

The problem of abiogenesis... is one of the thorniest and most intractable issues in chemistry.

JFGI. The problem of solving the quantum field equation of a deuterium atom is much more difficult than abiogenesis. There are any number of plausible hypotheses.

Our increasing knowledge of microbiology and earth history has only added to the complexity of what needs to be explained.

Quite the contrary. See above.

The fossil record does not give evidence that there was a "prebiotic soup"...

Howls of derisive laughter, Bruce! In addition to his deficiencies with Wikipedia and Google (not to mention Talk.Origins), Pruett appears unable to correctly employ a dictionary.

... or that there were any biological precursors to the first organisms, or that the atmosphere was the ideal mix to yield the necessary molecules, or that there was the expected long period of time between when the Earth could support life and when it actually appeared.

None of these issues are presently considered important to actual scientists.

Evolutionists regularly segregate the abiogenesis problem from the issue of evolution because (1) it is a challenge they'd rather not be saddled with, or (2) it is the most logical point for possible divine intervention.

Pruett flat-out lies here. Scientists segregate abiogenesis from evolution because they are entirely different fields of study with different evidentiary bases and that require different specialized knowledge.

In telling the tale of life on earth science writers often unconsciously use the word "miracle" for the appearance of the first organisms.

Not only does Pruett simply use the bullshit "some people say", he elevates it to the argument from phantom experts. Even if he weren't just making facts up here (which ordinary people call "lying") the linguistic solecisms of science writers do not seem a compelling challenge to atheism, naturalism or materialism: maybe they're just as stupid and mendacious as Pruett.

Ah... that's enough. The rest is a rehash of all the moronic, retarded arguments for the existence of God that any self-respecting atheist intellectual chewed up in her first six months on IIDB.

Here's a few howlers from the rest.

Skeptics often bring up the "problem of evil" as evidence against God... Do you think that this is a valid objection?


Yet our deepest longing is for our lives to count for something.

Something more than abject subservience to a priesthood claiming to speak for a psychopathic deity.

Every known time and culture is rich with stories of near death experiences, ghosts, angels, demons, prophetic dreams and visions, and miraculous healings.

Yet only the Christian stories are real. Everyone knows that all the rest are just delusions and fantasies.

The case for the Jesus of Scripture is extremely compelling.


The trend of archaeology is toward validation, not denial, of what it is possible to confirm in Scripture.

Pruett apparently hasn't read The Bible Unearthed. Archaeology tends towards dismissal of the Bible, especially the Old Testament.

Christians are often accused of being simple-minded, superstitious, or irrational.

You don't say.

Is it so unreasonable for us to believe that the universe had a beginning because it actually was created; the laws of physics are so fine-tuned because it had a designer; people are preoccupied with good and evil because they are real things; we long for purpose and meaning because they exist to be had; life from non-life really is miraculous; consciousness and freewill seem real because they are; people are incurably religious because there is actually something real in religion; and the historical case for Jesus is so tenacious because it is actually true?

Yes, yes it is unreasonable.

If there really is no meaning or purpose to life, no objective good or evil, and the existence of "truth" itself is open to debate, by what standard will you condemn the beliefs of Christians?

Because you all are retards and liars.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

This is not your father's Star Trek

According to Kris Straub:
Star Trek XI - Coming May 8
Meet Captain J. Kirkz, the most extreme officer in Score Fleet. When space be trippin', here's one ice-cold motherf---er that don't lose his s---. Check out Kirkz, Spok, and Dr. Leo "B0n3z" McCracken as they cruise Jupiter and Mars for some bangin' action. Brought to you by Surge and Boost Mobile.
Every time I think the franchise cannot possibly sink any lower, I am proven wrong.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

But what about...?

Johann Hari correctly rebuts the tu quoque rhetorical fallacy*:
As a rhetorical trick, it is simple. Anyone can do it, and we are all tempted sometimes. When you have lost an argument - when you can't justify your case, and it is crumbling in your hands - you snap back: "But what about x?"
*h/t to Butterflies and Wheels

Hari's rebuttal concerns the "first-level" argument: thus-and-such is bad. He mentions specifically the conditions of de facto slavery in Dubai. Slavery is bad; responding to criticism of slavery by pointing out the critic's own failures is the essence of the tu quoque fallacy.

There are, however, different kinds of arguments where pointing out the critic's own failures is legitimate: specifically when the failure of one system (or culture or ideology) is used as evidence for the superiority of another system.

This issue comes up often discussing communism and socialism. It doesn't seem at all controversial that a shitload of people died* under Stalin's rule of the Soviet Union and under Mao's rule of China. No one — not even the most dedicated Marxist-Leninist-Maoist communist — wants a shitload of people to die. It is equally uncontroversial that we must discover precisely why these people died and make whatever changes reasonably foreseeable to prevent excess deaths.

*excess deaths; i.e. by other causes than old age and other ordinary causes of death

The criticism, however, does not simply stop at noting the specific failure. It goes on: that a shitload of people died under Stalin and Mao is evidence that communism and socialism are failures.

"But what about the shitload of deaths under capitalism?" asks the communist.

"Oh, that's just a tu quoque fallacy," responds the capitalist critic.

Bullshit. The communist is not trying to justify these deaths, he's rebutting the argument that these deaths show the superiority of capitalism over communism.

I know no small few "apologists" for Stalinism and Maoism. There are always a few fringe weirdos, but the overwhelming majority of those who admire Stalin and Mao* do not say, "Oh, those people were bad and deserved to die." They do not say, "Well, you can't make an omelet without breaking eggs; their deaths were justified as a sacrifice to implement socialism." To impute such position to admirers is an egregious slander.

*I myself am still mostly agnostic on the issue. Of the two, Mao seems more admirable overall.

The vast majority of admirers hold the position that these deaths are primarily* a combination of a) factors outside the control of these leaders (e.g. droughts, the initial conditions of extreme poverty, the imminent invasion of the Soviet Union by the capitalist west) and b) these leaders' mistakes and errors (e.g. Mao's Great Leap Forward), errors that absolutely should not be repeated.

*There are other contributing factors outside the scope of this particular post but that also deserve detailed critical analysis.

Many self-described communists and socialists hold a similar position to capitalist critics of socialism: that we have no more to learn from Lenin, Stalin and Mao than we have to learn from Hitler: That the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China have no more to do with communism and socialism than Nazi Germany.

The problem with this position is that seems extraordinarily difficult to implement socialism — in the sense of "lower" communism, a transition from capitalism to "higher" communism — without examining both the USSR and the PRC and replicating many, but not all, of their innovations. To simply consider the USSR and PRC "irrelevant" means that we should do nothing at all that they did: that the USSR or PRC did X is prima facie evidence that X is bad.

The most obvious "somethings" that the USSR and PRC have in common are a revolutionary overthrow of the bourgeois state and centralized control of the economy. The facile dismissal of the USSR and PRC is thus used to justify not overthrowing the bourgeois state and not centralizing control of the economy in any way. But abandoning these principles surrenders communism completely to the essence of capitalism: if you're not a revolutionary and an advocate of intelligent economic centralization, you might as well stop dishonestly calling yourself a communist or socialist and join the Green Party.

The first kind of surrender is reformism, that the bourgeois state can be reformed from within, by participating in and upholding the essential structures of the bourgeois state. But these structures are fundamentally and intrinsically instruments of class oppression; they cannot be reformed from within. Even if some progress is made, we know from dismal and bloody experience, such as in Indonesia and the United States, that the bourgeois state will just suppress, imprison or kill the communists. The bourgeoisie has power, and they have read Machiavelli. They will not voluntarily and peacefully give up that power. The bourgeoisie will oppose by force any attempt at undermining their power.

The only justification for "participating" in the bourgeois state is to explicitly and openly oppose it from within, as the Russian communists did with the Duma in the early 20th century. Their delegates used their elected positions not to participate in parlimentarianism, but rather to use their privileged position to call openly for the destruction of the bourgeois state, including the Duma. If you cannot use "participation" in the bourgeois state to directly, openly and explicitly undermine and destroy it, participation is unjustified.

The second surrender, opposing economic centralization, is at best a Utopian fantasy and at worst support for the essence of capitalism: private, individual ownership of capital.

I have been told most emphatically that, "Socialism is the workers owning the means of production." But what does this slogan actually mean? Does it mean each individual worker owns the physical (constant) capital she actually uses? If so, does the worker who owns a lathe in an automobile factory have the right to use that lathe to produce model railroad parts instead of crankshafts? Once you collectivize production above the individual, you are centralizing: the point at which the centralization becomes "unsocialist" in principle is completely arbitrary. And if ownership of physical capital really is individual and private, in what sense is one not upholding the essence of capitalism: the private ownership of capital?

Similarly, ownership is the right to use. If any external restrictions are placed on an individuals use of capital, her ownership is compromised: some ownership accrues to the individual or institution enforcing the restriction. If I cannot transfer an object as I please, rent it as I please, loan it as I please, or even destroy it as I please, I do not fully own it. I own it only to the extent that I can use it as I please. Again, making any restrictions on the use of capital entails some centralization: the point at which the centralization becomes "unsocialist" in principle is completely arbitrary.

Furthermore, centralization happens whether we like it or not. It's hopelessly Utopian to just declare "no centralization" as if by magic. Such a position is fine in a work of fiction, but it ignores the present-day reality of our material circumstances and economic relations. Our only choice is to centralize intelligently and intentionally; the alternative it to simply let centralization happen... and we can see today the effects of centralization without social intention (or with a catastrophically dysfunctional kind of social intention).

How much centralization is best, which decisions should be centralized, is a pragmatic* question, a question to be decided as to what best implements the fundamental principle of "lower" communism: elimination of the exploitation of the surplus value of labor. The only way to intelligently answer this pragmatic question is to critically — but not dismissively — examine those societies that have intentionally centralized their economies at least purportedly for socialist goals. And we have only two examples large enough that their decisions can be considered independent: the USSR and PRC. We do not have to slavishly emulate them, but if we simply dismiss them out of hand, we ignore valuable empirical** evidence and risk slipping into idealism and Utopianism.

*In the broader, all-sided sense of "pragmatism" not restricted to narrow expediency.

**Again, in the broader, all-sided sense of "empiricism" as substantiated by experiment and experience; not restricted to narrow and naive positivism.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Reductive and contemptuous

And it’s true, Pullman’s treatment of the Church is pretty reductive and contemptuous, since we all know that the Church didn’t really torture and burn witches, or torture and kill ordinary humans whose philosophical and scientific speculations were at odds with the teachings of the Vatican. On the contrary, the Church has always been pretty cool about alternative readings of Scripture, on the grounds that the Bible is an ambiguous and contradictory text that can plausibly be read in any number of ways by honest people working in good faith. About the varieties of human sexual expression, as well, the Church has always been admirably catholic.
Michael Bérubé, reviewing His Dark Materials

Monday, April 06, 2009

Pope okays abortion, birth control.

Panicked, Sweat-Covered Pope Reverses Longstanding Ban On Abortion:
VATICAN CITY—Overturning 2,000 years of religious doctrine, an out-of-breath and visibly flustered Pope Benedict XVI announced Sunday that the termination of unwanted pregnancies was now "completely and perfectly acceptable in the eyes of God." ...

Stunning all in attendance, the head of the Catholic Church announced that contraceptives were, in fact, not a grave evil, and recommended that birth control be used by everyone, even those who claim they are already on it, but as it turns out, are really not.

[h/t to PZ Myers]

Anal beads

Anal beads:
BILLBOARD ads for anal beads have upset Bob McCoskrie, head of New Zealand’s Family First fundie group.

The ad shows a satisfied D.Vice sex shop customer wearing a beatific smile as she enjoys a heavenly anal bead moment in church.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

What is Constructivism?

What is Constructivism?
1. Our moral discourse is cognitive.
2. Some moral statements are true.
3. Moral statements are true or false in virtue of evaluative attitudes.

Very informative. Constructivism (in some sense) appears to be another name for meta-ethical subjective relativism.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Regional Wars and the Decline of the US Empire

Regional Wars and the Decline of the US Empire:
All the idols of capitalism over the past three decades crashed. The assumptions and presumptions, paradigm and prognosis of indefinite progress under liberal free market capitalism have been tested and have failed. We are living the end of an entire epoch: Experts everywhere witness the collapse of the US and world financial system, the absence of credit for trade and the lack of financing for investment. A world depression, in which upward of a quarter of the world’s labor force will be unemployed, is looming. The biggest decline in trade in recent world history – down 40% year to year – defines the future. The immanent bankruptcies of the biggest manufacturing companies in the capitalist world haunt Western political leaders. The ‘market’ as a mechanism for allocating resources and the government of the US as the ‘leader’ of the global economy have been discredited. (Financial Times, March 9, 2009) All the assumptions about ‘self-stabilizing markets’ are demonstrably false and outmoded. The rejection of public intervention in the market and the advocacy of supply-side economics have been discredited even in the eyes of their practitioners. Even official circles recognize that ‘inequality of income’ contributed to the onset of the economic crash and should be corrected. Planning, public ownership, nationalization are on the agenda while socialist alternatives have become almost respectable.

[h/t to kevin]

Fear, uncertainty and doubt

J. Pratt Vulpes on fear, uncertainty and doubt:
Imagine a world where children are raised to become agents of change throughout their work and lives, not docile employees, consumers, and followers. One in which corporate personhood has been displaced, and human needs and the environment take precedence over the unlimited quest to maximize profits. A world where every citizen feels confident speaking out and organizing to advance a shared vision of justice.

Imagine that, in this world, health care for all prevails, with no place for insurance company intermediaries or pharmaceutical ad campaigns. Elections are publicly funded and verifiable, and politicians are responsive to the people, not to corporate lobbyists and wealthy donors. Openness is prized, and intellectual property restrictions, proprietary software, and closed ways of doing business have fallen from favor.

Imagine people no longer stirred by religious leaders to restrict the role of women, reject science, and hate or invade their neighbors. People boldly charting their own courses in life according to their values and sense of authenticity, rather than following standard routes laid down by others. People living without fear of scarcity or distrust of difference, confident that together their diverse abilities are ample to meet all their needs.

For ten decades, the industry I now have the privilege of representing has worked tenaciously to protect you from this nightmare scenario.

Gun control

ginandtacos on gun control:
I can think of [no other term than "retard"] to describe someone* who has stood at the front of a giant public university lecture hall packed with 150 sleep-deprived, emotionally unbalanced, substance abusing, clinically depressed, and stressed out 20 year olds and thought, “You know what would make me feel safer? If they all had fucking guns.”
*Glenn "Instapundit" Reynolds