Category Archives: speculations

The Strong Voice

Anne Baring The Dream of the Cosmos: online | Amazon

The Real Challenge of Our Times:
The Need for a New Worldview

Neither do men put new wine into old bottles; else the bottles break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish: but they put new wine into new bottles and both are preserved. Matt. 9:17

To reclaim the sacred nature of the cosmos – and of planet Earth in particular – is one of the outstanding spiritual challenges of our time. Diarmuid O’Murchu, Quantum Theology

The threat of global warming, the urgent need to free ourselves from dependency on oil and the current financial crisis could be the triple catalyst that offers us the opportunity of bringing about a profound shift in our values, relinquishing an old story and defining a new one. Our lives and well-being depend upon the fertility and resources of the earth, yet in relation to the earth, it would seem that we have been autistic for centuries. Now, instead of treating our planetary home as the endless supplier of all our needs, without consideration for its needs, we could rethink beliefs and attitudes which have influenced our behaviour for millennia.
Because of those beliefs we have come to look upon nature as something separate from ourselves, something we could master, control and manipulate to obtain specific benefits for our species alone because ours, we were taught, has been given dominion over all others and over the earth itself. It has come as a bit of a shock to realise that our lives are intimately bound up with the fragile organism of planetary life and the inter-dependence of all species. If we destroy our habitat, whether inadvertently or deliberately by continuing on our present path, we may risk destroying ourselves. We have developed a formidable intellect, a formidable science, a formidable technology but all rest on the premise of our alienation from and mastery of nature, where nature was treated as object with ourselves as controlling subject.
Yet now, the foundation that seemed so secure is disintegrating: old structures and beliefs are breaking down. It is as if mortal danger is forcing us to take a great leap in our evolution that we might never have made were we not driven to it by the extremity of circumstance. Many people are defining a new kind of relationship with the earth, based not on dominance but on respect, responsibility and conscious service. Because our capacity for destruction, both military and ecological, is so much greater today than it was even fifty years ago, and will be still greater tomorrow, we have only decades in which to change our thinking and respond to the challenge of this evolutionary leap.
There is a second problematic legacy from the past: the image of God shared by the three Abrahamic religions. This has presented God as a transcendent creator, separate and distinct from the created order and from ourselves. Western civilisation, despite its phenomenal achievements, developed on the foundation of this fundamental split between spirit and nature—between creator and creation. Only now are we brought face to face with the disastrous effects of this split.
Once again, as in the early centuries of the Christian era, it seems as if new bottles are needed to hold the wine of a new revelation, a new understanding of reality which could heal this split. But how do we create the vessel which can assimilate the wine of a new vision of reality and a different image of God or Spirit? How do we relinquish the dogmatic beliefs and certainties which have, over the millennia of the patriarchal era, caused indescribable and quite unnecessary suffering and the sacrifice of so many millions of lives?
I cannot answer these questions. But I do know that as the new understanding, the new wine comes into being, we have to hold the balance and the tension between the old and the new without destroying the old or rejecting the new. It must have been like this two thousand years ago when the disciples of Jesus tried to assimilate what he was telling them, something so utterly different from the belief-system and the brutal values which governed the world of their time. Even today, the revolutionary teachings and the different values he taught have barely touched the consciousness that governs the world of our time, however much political and religious leaders proclaim allegiance to them. What would Jesus have thought of WMD, depleted uranium and cluster bombs, and the massacre of helpless civilians in war, let alone the destruction of vast swathes of the earth’s forests to supply crops for biofuels? What would he have thought of the fact that colossal sums of money are spent on the military when 17,000 children die every day from hunger and disease?.
The need for a more conscious relationship with both nature and spirit, bringing them closer together, is intrinsic to the creativity of the life-impulse itself—urging us to go beyond the boundaries of the known, to break through the concepts and beliefs, whether religious, scientific or political, which currently govern our culture and constrict the expansion of our understanding and our compassion.
What is the emerging vision of our time which could offer a template for a new civilization? the remainder of the essay

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Anti-Hayek

No man is an Iland, intire of itselfe; every man is a peece of the continent, a part of the maine; if a Clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as well as if a Mannor of thy friends or of thine own were; any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

Devotions upon Emergent Occasions John Donne (1624), No. XVII

h/t Jerry Swatez

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Two Sided Coin

Then what are the most essential learnings from your 20 years of dealing with and researching change?

Michael Jarrett:Good question. Let me try to highlight them. First, external factors are often the driver for change, but how organizations respond is the critical factor. Then, too, the managerial capabilities of companies help determine organizational responses; so, the change leadership at the top, middle and bottom is something to be audited and bolstered.

I’d also note that organizations with greater levels of internal dynamic capabilities have a source of competitive advantage as they can adapt more easily. Again, the more locked into the status quo, the more cumbersome any company becomes when it tries to convert a desire to change into real action.

But I should add a caveat or two. Radical change is not the answer for everyone. It’s important to gauge how much change is needed. Incremental and process changes work in relatively stable environments. The invention of the transistor shook the entire electronics industry. The kind of change your own company is facing may not be that profound, and so you must not overreact to change. High-change organizations do better in volatile environments than their lower-change counterparts. In stable environments, the differences are not as significant. Over 20 years, I have seen some organizations face change and succeed; and I have seen some organizations confront change and remain inert. Those who banked on inertia to propel themselves into the future are no longer around. [src pdf]

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Virgin Galactic Shot No. 3

Meanwhile…”NASA-funded R&D engineers are working on plans for future spaceships to enter orbit around Mars using a doughnut shaped, steerable balloon-chute to slow down by flying through the Red Planet’s atmosphere.”

DoughnutSpaceship

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American Oyster

education

 

2012 Presidential election. Thank you foxbusiness.com.

Of course: lies and damn statistics — ignorance may exist anywhere and obviously a college degree isn’t an arbiter. For example, we have persons educated as medical doctors serving in the US Congress who believe in young earth creationism. Sure, they represent red states, still. . .

Alan Keyes, graduate of Cornell and Harvard: When they came to lead, the children of the generation that fought World War II allowed the focus of American education to shift decisively away from a serious regard for the seminal documents that convey the logic of America’s liberty. This is the key to the elitist apostasy from America’s creed. On account of this apostasy, a more and more organized, self-consciously elitist faction has matured. It rejects the moral egalitarianism that undergirds America’s creed of liberty. Therefore, it works to overthrow the form of constitutional self-government that respects the sovereignty of the people. Informed by socialist totalitarian ideologies, this elitist clique is endowed by the materialist, authoritarian corporatism of the money powers now largely in control of America’s financial institutions, its so-called mainstream media and both the Democrat and Republican parties.

In political terms, these elitist faction forces come against the U.S. Constitution from left and right. Whatever the rhetoric of their verbal professions, in their actions they unanimously reject the premise that there is one benevolent and superintendent Deity whose spirit, will and judgment created human nature and ultimately rule over human affairs. This rejection of God’s authority is the daily proven fact that belies the specious opposition that is supposed to divide one of the elitist faction’s wings from the other. Whatever they say, the resultant of their supposedly adversarial interaction has for more than a lifetime consistently undermined this central pillar of American self-government, without which its other supports are like branches of a tree, forced to bear a weight they cannot stand. [excerpt] Defending the American Way, WorldNetDaily, June 2013

Slavery and sexism in the founder’s era kills your point concerning ‘moral egalitarianism that undergirds America’s creed of liberty,’ Dr. Keyes. Kill as I use it here is unqualified, so obviously and plain as day there was no moral egalitarianism back in the olden, golden, and beloved day.

The ignorance Keyes is apparently proud of did not come from his lack of education. But, from the perspective of my own being badly educated–in the normative-institutional sense–does his scree exemplify ignorance? What is ignorance and is it valid to assert that ignorance is supported by a particular individual nature–in the sense of finding what causes it?

The escape claus goes like this: what one knows is not such a big deal, what is a big deal is whether or not one ever got the message cum transmission.

If Remi Brague is correct in saying that it is the Judeo-Christian faith in a transcendent God, not only separate from the life of a particular tribe or political community but outside human history, that ultimately grounds the classical culture of emulation; and if Benedict XVI is correct in discerning that, at least in comparison with Europe, America remains a profoundly Christian nation with a strong tradition of independent, church-supported liberal education; what are we to make of the mainlines of the history of American higher education? That story as it has been told for two hundred years, whether in celebration or in lamentation, has been the story of unremitting secularization.

Even Henry Adams’s Education, his great memoir-style protest against the secularization of the American university in his life-time and thus the loss of the very character of university–despite being a protest–seemed only to further establish the main storyline ofthe field. “If Harvard or Yale had been less foolish in their origins and had held onto the Church, we should have probably kept a base on which to build some real scholarship; but when our ancestors cutoff the limb that made us a part ofthe tree, we naturally tumbled off. I do not suppose we ever produced a graduate who would have known how to sacrifice a bull to Jupiter.”‘(10) He argues that powerful as the literary and political tradition was in America, in the Boston of his youth, at Harvard, it was devoid of any religious underpinnings:

“Of all the conditions of his youth which afterwards puzzled the grown-up man, this disappearance of religion puzzled him most. The boy went to church twice every Sunday; he was taught to read his Bible, and he learned religious poetry by heart; he believed in a mild deism; he prayed; he went through all the forms; but neither to him nor to his brothers or sisters was religion real. Even the mild discipline of the Unitarian Church was so irksome that they all threw it off at the first possible moment, and never afterwards entered a church. The religious instinct had vanished, and could not be revived, although one made in later life many efforts to recover it. That the most powerful emotion of man, next to the sexual, should disappear, might be a personal defect of his own; but that the most intelligent society, led by the most intelligent clergy, in the most moral conditions he ever knew, should have solved all the problems of the universe so thoroughly as to have quite ceased making itself anxious about past or future, and should have persuaded itself that all the problems which had convulsed human thought from earliest recorded time, were not worth discussing, seemed to him the most curious social phenomenon he had to account for in a long life.”

His memoir of his later years, after his wife’s suicide, and the insanity and death of his close friend Clarence King who he had once thought represented the perfection of the frontier American, becomes an agonized, strained search for faith–he spends his final years touring the French countryside in his new motor car, trying to catch some whiff of faith from the power of the Virgin, which he acknowledges still retains its force at Lourdes. But his own failure and the triumph of secularization was never Henry Adams’ point–rather, as he argues repeatedly, “eccentricity is strength,” and American history, like human history, gives up its prophetic ghost to those who are willing to read it in silence, to those who will listen rather than forever reciting their own variety of pseudo-religious experiences. Adams is a believer. He believes that Americans who flew into the wilderness in 1620, in 1776, in 1845, in 1892–who knew that the only way to save their nation was to leave it behind–carrying their household gods on their backs, have not been defeated. Henry Adams realized that the restraints of a fixed religious, cultural, familial, or political tradition were only superficially a “handicap.” He repeatedly compared himself, “American of Americans, with Heaven knew how many Puritans and Patriots behind him and an education that had cost a civil war,” with a sort of pride and arrogant relish, to a “Polish Jew fresh from Warsaw or Cracow . . . a furtive Yacoob or Ysaac still reeking of the ghetto, snarling in weird Yiddish.” In tl1e “races of the twentieth-century,” the race to abandon all restraints of past or nature, to strip oneself of all prejudicial identity and submit oneself, the naked servant and worshipper of the dynamo, he asserted (strangely enough!) that the American cultural tradition would prove as resistant to the worship of the twentieth-century Alexanders, Pharaohs, and Caesars, as the Jewish cultural tradition had ever proven. It is a breath-taking claim-the claim that American eccentricity can survive 600-pages worth of experiential learning and never lose its old illusions about liberty, virtue, or wisdom!

What then are we to make of this narrative of the liberationist effects of the American frontier on the old-world traditions imported from Europe; what are we to make of the story of the tabula rasa, the erasure, the secularization, the oblivion of the past and its lessons, prejudices and constraints? Henry Adams’s assertion invites us to look again at the meaning of the history of American higher education:

“Harvard was founded to help the Puritans escape Anglican Oxford and Cambridge, and Yale appeared in 1701 when a group of New Haven ministers, influenced in part by distrust of the liberal heresies that were to dominate Harvard, established a competing college to preserve the old social and religious order in Connecticut. Again, the Congregationalists who founded Amherst were in part moved by the objections to the Unitarianism that shook Harvard in the early l9th century, and the Yankee Methodists who set up Boston University at the time of the Civil War felt that Harvard’s classical curriculum and aristocratic values were destroying the ethos of pious dissent. The same era also saw the Jesuits establish Boston College, to help the new Boston-Irish community maintain its religious and social integrity. (Riesman in Sanford, 89)

From this history can we say that it is secularization or the perennial escape to eccentric orthodoxy that is the core “American” dynamic of the history higher education in this country? Is the declension of Harvard from Puritan seminary to Unitarian classical college to secular multiversity the inner dynamic of American higher education, or has the original eccentric dynamic of Harvard’s Christian orthodoxy simply metastasized in hundreds of small Bible colleges and Christian liberal arts colleges across the country? Are not these small Christian liberal arts colleges the truly American-the most distinctively American-contribution to the idea of the university in the modern world?(11) Whatever one thinks of such quaint neo-medieval, neo-classical flora and fauna sprouting in the American frontier–whether one considers them the hope for the future of Westem Civilization or embarrassing windows into the reactionary mind of middle America, it can hardly be denied that they, and not the anonymous, mega-state-universities of the great cities, are the peculiarly American features of the modern educational landscape.

Alasdair Maclntyre, in the now famous final paragraph of his work After Virtue, prescribed another round of that excellent habit of running away:

“It is always dangerous to draw too precise parallels between one historical period and another; and among the most misleading of such parallels are those which have been drawn between our own age in Europe and North America and the epoch in which the Roman empire declined into the Dark Ages. Nonetheless certain parallels there are. A crucial turning point in that earlier history occurred when men and women of good will turned aside from the task of shoring up the Roman Imperium and ceased to identify the continuation of civility and moral community with the maintenance of that Imperium. What they set themselves to achieve instead–often not realizing what fully what they were doing–was the construction of new forms of community within which the moral life could be sustained so that both morality and civility might survive the coming ages of barbarism and darkness. If my account of our moral condition is correct, we ought also to conclude that for some time now we too have reached that turning point. What matters at this stage is the construction of local forms of community within which civility and the intellectual and moral life can be sustained through the new dark ages which are already upon us. And if the tradition of the virtues was able to survive the horrors of the last dark ages, we are not entirely without grounds for hope. This time, however, the barbarians are not waiting beyond the frontiers; they have already been governing us for quite some time. And it is our lack of consciousness of this that constitutes part of our predicament. We are waiting not for a Godot, but for another–doubtless quite different–St. Benedict.”

‘Tis sure to be an immortal paragraph. But (dare I say that) Alasdair Maclntyre, like Christopher Dawson, indeed like Edward Gibbon, imagines that this “construction of local forms of community within which civility and the intellectual and moral lite can be sustained” is a “turning aside from the task of shoring up the Roman Imperium.” Yet these Britishers never fully grasp that this English, Scottish, Irish, Jewish, Polish, Italian habit of running away with their traditions on their backs is actual pietas to the founders of the imperium. Eccentricity is a very American virtue.

Indeed George Washington himself knew the value of a strategic retreat that might keep one’s ragtag army intact–to fight another day . . _ or at any rate to hold out until one can find an ally with a navy.” (12) [excerpted from Chapter 5, Eccentric Education - The American Way, Susan E. Hanssen, The Idea of the American University (Bradley C.S. Watson, editor)]

[full chapter-pdf] See also Ms. Hanssen’s “‘English in spirit’: G. K. Chesterton and the debate over church and state in the 1906 Education Act,” The Catholic Social Science Review (2007).

Whatever are the virtues of institutionalizing orthodox centralities in the periphery, I tend to view the eccentricity–that (unbeknownst to Keyes) could still smartly inform his own argument–to itself cast off further eccentricities so that, eventually, the operating quality is, as Ms. Hanssen puts it, institutional peculiarity-more than any other quality. 

To weigh the gross generalization, secularizing and neo-liberal and post-modern Blue does correlate with degree of education and everyman traditionalism does correlate with deficits of learning and Red. For both Blue and Red, there is a lot of sub-set or sub-cultural eccentricity, and, let’s call, ‘eccentrification.’

American religiosity is extremely variable with respect to the straightened ordinates of classic Christian commitment, and, it would seem the employees of the governed are nowadays so energetically variable that the straightest Constitutionalism is spun away off to some radical precinct.

There’s no reason to refuse the challenge of orbiting cloisters. The neo-liberal order wants able workers to be ejected from schools. This represents another turn on the secularizing gyre, following from Taylorite pieces and Fordist machinists, and, now (and newly minted,) inchoate collections of human post-capital detritus. Denouement!

This is where both Mr. Keyes’ ideological ‘eccentrics’ and Ms. Hanssen’s historically minded supposition roll back to the natural law tree and beg for me a question about personality and the nature of personality and cognition. Surely it matters how the societal and spiritual conditionals work to instantiate particular human ends. Intentionality is not subsumed in the mystic chord even if it comes to be modified. There haven’t been, nor are there any utopian Natural Law states or political entities that have escaped doing lots of harm.

Certain rearguard’s aspirations–and eccentricity is presumably also defined to be a rearguard–are cast outward in comprehensive, oft times in totalizing terms, with there being no room to quibble over either ‘their being no God, but God alone,’ or the actualities of a Thomist heaven and hell,  or the cosmos set in place necessary to the Pauline ‘only possible true church.’ This latter eccentricity is such that its closing circle (and argument) encompasses the entire universe. This is the same presumption naming eventuations happening “outside human history.”

Keyes is arch and forthright in framing his eliminativist perspective. As much as he could have padded its bluntness with a portion of Henry Adamsian ‘depressive,’ his position isn’t for him able to be cast off, and, it takes no prisoners, and, its educational precepts are staked to analytic compliance. What’s true for him is to be true for you.

St. Benedictine?

Of the Virtuous Zeal Which the Monks Ought to Have

As there is a harsh and evil zeal which separateth from God and leadeth to hell, so there is a virtuous zeal which separateth from vice and leadeth to God and life everlasting.

Let the monks, therefore, practice this zeal with most ardent love; namely, that in honor they forerun one another (cf Rom 12:10). Let them bear their infirmities, whether of body or mind, with the utmost patience; let them vie with one another in obedience. Let no one follow what he thinketh useful to himself, but rather to another. Let them practice fraternal charity with a chaste love.

Let them fear God and love their Abbot with sincere and humble affection; let them prefer nothing whatever to Christ, and my He lead us all together to life everlasting.

In America, that the above is voluntary with no other respect otherwise given, might be the simple phenomenal element forceful enough to cast the sturdy outward and into eccentricity. What isn’t voluntary is attainment within the eccentric order. I doubt theocratic designs will bring forth any pearls.

 

 

 

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Mandorla: Trailer

Mandorla – working trailer – CA from Roberto Miller on Vimeo.

Mandorla Movement

>>via Robert Rich Facebook; Robert is doing the music.

comment:

Life is a system of ‘now you see it,’ and ‘now you don’t.” Alan Watts

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Interesting Times

MArginal

“Buying and Selling is an Art, whereby people endeavour to cheat one another of the Land…….and true Religion is, To let every one enjoy it.”
Gerrard Winstanley A New-yeers Gift for the Parliament and Armie 1650

(I’d be a Bernie Sanders Democrat if Bernie was a member of the Democratic Party. So, I’m a Winstanley Democrat, because the triangulation of George Fox, Eugene Debs and Thomas Paine somehow incarnated by Winstanley in the late 17th century is about right.)

Charles S. Pierce: In the year of our Lord 2010, the voters of the United States elected the worst Congress in the history of the Republic. There have been Congresses more dilatory. There have been Congresses more irresponsible, though not many of them. There have been lazier Congresses, more vicious Congresses, and Congresses less capable of seeing forests for trees. But there has never been in a single Congress — or, more precisely, in a single House of the Congress — a more lethal combination of political ambition, political stupidity, and political vainglory than exists in this one, which has arranged to shut down the federal government because it disapproves of a law passed by a previous Congress, signed by the president, and upheld by the Supreme Court, a law that does nothing more than extend the possibility of health insurance to the millions of Americans who do not presently have it, a law based on a proposal from a conservative think-tank and taken out on the test track in Massachusetts by a Republican governor who also happens to have been the party’s 2012 nominee for president of the United States. (Charles S. Pierce blogs at Esquire, in a devastating manner about politics–so I don’t have to do so myself, as much.)

plutoPledgeofAllegiance1

President Barack Obama:”They’ve shut down the government over an ideological crusade to deny affordable health insurance to millions of Americans.”

I find Conservatism in its Reaganesque revision to be abject and might as well throw into the compactor the Tea Party and Libertarianism* and everything to do with the whiny ethos of the “Makers;’ itself a position of bathos first scribbled out in post-Burkean form in the, alas, enduring circular banalities of Ayn Rand.

In the last week I wandered through comment threads expressly etched to pry apart the paradox of Ted Cruz’s high IQ and ivy league credentials and his having before the Supreme Court. (Clarence Thomas!!!)

(But I wasn’t doing so to contribute or be a voyeur. I did so because the problem posed by a public personage triggering a public inquiry about his or her ‘intelligence’ provides a great portal through which to witness the sweep of folk sociology and folk psychology as-practice in discussion about the nature of intelligence. This particular topic happens to interest me a great deal.)

Cruz apparently was indoctrinated into his father’s belief system as a teenager and has used his great mind for purposes other than shifting away a half iota or more from that 25+ year old teenage belief system. Speaking to David Gregory this weekend, Senator Cruz made a number of comments that indicate he has forgotten, or is unaware of very large, important chunks of the U.S. Constitution. Oh, well, I guess that part of his reputation is undeserved and is now in the toilet!

(Meanwhile, Cruz’s father reminds us all, Obama is a Muslim!)

Still, I can inhabit the devil’s advocate enough to understand that as far as ‘getting one’s way,’ politics is a hard ball game played by more than a few crusty white men and, so, right at the beginning of the day, many such men understand that, for example, ‘the Constitution isn’t a suicide pact,’ and ‘one’s deepest beliefs shouldn’t be sacrificed in the a pyre fueled by the anti-royalist dreams of the founding fathers.’ At the end of the day, for those men, taking an entire economy of the USA hostage for the sake of rolling back the healthcare of many African-Americans is just a day’s labor in the second Civil War.

Although it does take a mountain of chutzpah to then blame the hostage’s family for killing the hostage, after the kidnappers’ insane demands weren’t met. 

It is a historical fact that at times corporate collectivists and plutocrats both ensnare populist resentment, and, re-deploy it for purposes dreamed up in 1% fan club think tanks. But, if, like Paul Ryan, you deeply adhere to the entwined ideas that it is (#1) government that makes it impossible for the one percenters to (#2) exhale and fill the sails of the fleet of swamped middle class dinghies, then you, I’m afraid are stupid about economics, as is Paul Ryan. and, just as evidently, as are the entirety of Tea Party reactionaries, Ron/Rand Paultards, and the other hand children to the upper echelon of the corporate and financial classes–you know, the one’s who think “Tea Party” on their way to their offshore bank’s web site, and guffaw, ‘what suckers!.’

GOP is said now to be run by their nihilistic wing. Better: they’re being run by a mob of autistic teenagers.

absurd capitalism


Falsification of Libertarianism: I enjoy both liberty and freedom today in portions that exceed anything that would be possible were you to give the world over to any persons and to any ideology supposed to be libertarian. This is true despite any argument you could devise to try to prove my statement of fact to be not true.  (And, I mean: little ol’ me is free.)

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Bayesian Aesthetics, oh, and Play

Action Shot

On Sunday we enjoyed an iconic Free Play Softball League contest. Perfect weather greeted us. The home team won on what surely was the first walk-off two run, two RBI sacrifice fly. It was hit by John. He was making his first appearance in a Free Play game. I later learned what brought him to our game for the first time.

The game was iconic because it obtained almost all the implicit goals of our weekly softball games: the game was well played, very close, included some absurdist theatre, and showcased several individual feats. The photo below captures a bit of our happy collective mood in the game’s aftermath.

Free Play August 11

Given the “case” this particular game presented, I, with my researcher’s beanie set a kilter on my head, found the morning’s affair to be especially wondrous. We’ve been doing three experiments, one started last season, one started at the beginning of this season, and one started six weeks ago. Collective informal, ad hoc, social experiments aimed to identify possible avenues of change interest me a great deal. This past Sunday offered up a good, let us call it, ‘experimental circumstance.’

Experiment No. 1. Set in motion last season, and implemented by virtue of a voice vote, we began to call balls and strikes using a nifty affordance, a mat placed over the rubber home plate. It delineates a strike zone determined entirely as a matter of a pitch striking it on the fly. At the time it was a daring experiment because it attended to a problem only a few people felt was a problem: batters waiting for the perfect pitch under the old regimen, under which balls or strikes weren’t called. We have stuck with the experiment, having the catcher call the ball or strike. We have also gone back to the old routine under specific extreme circumstances having to do with wind velocity!

Experiment No. 2. Set in motion at the beginning of this season, and implemented willfully by me and several others, this experiment had a singular hypothesis. Should we actively promote the entertainment and sporting opportunity to our personal networks and on local bulletin boards, our numbers will increase. New players have arrived and stuck with us. We’ll see if our numbers stay robust as the weather becomes less attractive in the fall.

Experiment No. 3. Set in motion six weeks ago, and implemented without any input from the group, we have moved from having me determine the line-ups–a role I had for nine seasons–to me picking up teams school-yard style with Mark Jr. There were two basic goals, the primary one being to spread the talent around more equally, and, secondarily, to offset the advantage Mark jr. himself offers to the team he is placed on. This latter goal follows from his own tracking of the performance of his weekly, temporary team. By doing so he quantifies our results and certifies that his team wins 75% of the time.

(I’m tempted to say we’ve also been doing a meta or over-arching experiment that has something to do with giving me such a hand in the proceedings! As I mentioned to Kurt on Sunday, if I’m bossy, it’s the only day of the week I’m like a boss. Oddly, my imperial authority is partly rooted in the fact that I carry the collective equipment in the trunk of my Civic, and store all of it over the winter. He who trucks the crown and throne and battle gear. . .)

Because of this secondary goal of picking two teams, offsetting Mark Jr.’s track record, he and I have figured out a rough formula. My team is always the home team, and, I get the first pick, and, I start with longtime player Francis, and, in the fourth round Mark Jr. makes up for my extra player, and, finally, we may haggle over the last few picks.

Francis is the key gimme because he plays shortstop. Mark Jr. brings his own performative edge to his own team because he is a lock-down shortstop on our bumpy grassy infield. Others among us have tried their hand at shortstop, yet is has come down to Mark Jr. and plucky Francis.

This approach held until last week. Experiment No. 3 constitutes a series matching one person’s picks against a second person’s picks. In the experiment MArk and I determine our own line-ups, figure out in which slot players bat.

14-13

The 15-8 game was the only game where some players thought the distribution of players at the outset determined the outcome of the game. Mark Jr. has won 50% of his games. So far this experiment is progressing. Its most positive effect so far is twofold. First, players no longer feel my solitary, inept picking is ruining their chance to win. Second, when players express displeasure with the line-up, the blame is distributed to two possible culprits. The experiment has dramatically dampened second guessing about weekly competitive balance.

An Epic Fly

We play on a diamond with a screened backstop and no other fences. (Our field reminds me of the country fields I played on in Vermont decades ago.) As far as I know, this is different than the set-up for most of the (higher-than-our-modest level) slow pitch softball played year in and year out in our region. Next door to our favored wide open field #8 are four manicured, fenced, typical fields. On those fields, hard hit drives and flies can leave the field in classic home run fashion. On our field the hitter probably has to run out a home run. Outfielders, especially when the field is dry and hard play to prevent balls from skittering past them.

State Road Park


Parma’s State Road Park, one of upper level softball’s most storied diamonds

Sunday, John, a friend of Carman, shows up to play with us for the first time. He goes out to shortstop for our batting rounds. He looks experienced. He’s wearing actual baseball/softball jersey pants. He’s big. Then he takes a few practice swings, and the ball just soars off his bat.

I think to myself, “He’s pro.” This is my way of stating what was obvious to me, this is a high level player, one whose hitting approach is to launch the pitch over the fence. And, then I thought, here’s a guy who offsets Mark Jr.. And, this meant we might just do a straight back and forth choosing of players for the first time ever.

So we did. Francis got to play with Mark jr. and happily showed his mettle and versatility with one of the season’s most stellar outfield catches, a running chase-down of a falling bullet.

It came down to the last inning. The visitors took a 13-9 lead in the top half of the inning. In the bottom half, the home team grabbed three runs and John, the brawny newcomer stepped up to the dish with the bases juiced. Francis, in left field, was something like 350+ feet away. In a fenced-in softball field he would have been standing on the other side of the leftfield fence.

I don’t know squat about elite softball but I suspect top level players who come to the plate with the game on the line, one run behind, bases loaded, knowing any hit wins the game, nevertheless want to send the ball into a definitive orbit.

Mark Jr., for whatever reason, commanded his pitcher move to short, and he took the ball and stepped to the mound. Okay, he stepped to not a mound but, rather, to a rugged gash where a mound never existed. He threw some practice pitches. He took some grief from the home team. Tom, our elder was catching and warned Mark Jr. about “too much arc.”

Standing on the sideline, I understood this was a case of mano-y-mano, taking the game literally in one’s own hand, live by the sword or die by the sword, gamesmanship. Ha! Absurd! Crazed! It was a beautiful distillation of everything our free play game isn’t ordinarily about–yet our game can be about anything.

Then John blasted a 3-2 pitch in the direction of heaven itself. There’s no fence! I half expected the fly ball to sprout a parachute on the way down. The outfielder catches the ball and three runners tag up. It wasn’t even close. The tying run scores and the next, winning, run scores and would have beat any throw.

Game, but not match. John, you da man. (It turns out John is visiting us to get reps before autumn’s league and tournament league action.

 

 

 

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Scrappers Edge Freeplayers 6-5!

Babe Ruth

April 28. Day Two of season twenty-seven. 9:45am, Field #8, Forest Hills Park, Cleveland Heights, Ohio? Drizzling.

Then a busload of 9-11 year old boys and their minders unload and inform us they have a permit for the hallowed field for this day.

We count our numbers and seems their are eight, and we will commence to practice the game of softball. We make our way over the the fenced in softball fields. Another team is practicing on the northwest diamond–no doubt for the opening week of league play–and Dave asks of them if they will engage us in a friendly game.

“No.”

Later, with a light rain falling, a second inquiry is made and this other team agrees to a game. As it turns out, our spontaneous opponent is a co-ed team in the co-ed league. (We’d be co-ed too; alas…) They inform us in the league they are in the men bat on their ‘off batting side.’ However, for the purpose of what amounts to a scrimmage-type game, they decide not to do so.

We play four innings, and the line score looks like this at the end:

Scrappers score

What fun was had! After the game, the two teams collided in gratitude and high fives and hand shakes. We mentioned anybody is welcome to join us on Sunday mornings. We told the Scrappers,

We’ve been playing pick up games for decades here on Sunday mornings.

April 21. Opening day and we have eleven, then Pete shows up and we’re twelve. It was a crisp day. The metal bats could transfer quite a pointed zing at times.


Freeplay Softball league

Sunday mornings 9:30; game time 10:00am
Open to participants 16-116 years of age; any gender; any background

We try to keep an accurate score.

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Gods of the Abstract Social

Hydra

Several years ago I heard an introductory presentation by a retired sociologist. He spent a half hour presenting basics so he could frame a further argument about politics in a small city. The problem of introducing sociology is impressive to me–there was no mention of problems in this introductory presentation. Sociology sets off to abstract social functionalities in various ways and the ‘meta’ in relation to each such way is abstracted too; conundrums of self-reference and subjectivity and multiple subjectivities,  are abstracted, so forth, on and on, etcetera.

The sociological project often ventures away from the sensible matter of considering and studying the practical sociological experience and learned informal social means of the (so-called) folk. What of a field of inquiry termed Folk Sociology? I will need to google it!

Excerpt via N+1.

Too Much Sociology N+1 Magazine – The Editors – This spread of sociological thinking has led to sociological living?—?ways of thinking and seeing that are constructed in order to carry out, yet somehow escape, the relentless demystification sociology requires. Seeing art as a product, mere stuff, rather than a work, has become a sign of a good liberal (as opposed to bad elitist) state of mind. This is why you must support upper-middlebrow Terrence Malick one day, and the next spuriously shock everyone with a loud defense of Transformers: Dark of the Moon. Too often, being on the left tasks you with a vigilant daily quest to avoid being tagged with snobbery. In sociological living, we place value on those works or groups that seem most likely to force a reevaluation of an exclusive or oppressive order, or an order felt to be oppressive simply because exclusive. And yet despite this perpetual reevaluation of all values, the underlying social order seems unchanged; the sense of it all being a game not only persists, but hardens.

The initial demystifying shock of the sociology of culture in the academy partly accounts for its popularity. Thanks to the dead ends of certain kinds of European hermeneutics the realization that repeated analyses of Balzac novellas might not shake the foundations of the subject, let alone those of capitalism?—?it became more promising to ask why certain classes of people might be interested (and other classes not interested) in Balzac at all. No more appeals to the inexplicable nature of genius. Seen from the longue durée of social change, individual authors or works were less important than collectives or status groups, cities or systems. Like latter-day Northrop Fryes, armed with data, the critic-sociologists converted writers back into “literature” as a system, and from there into refractions of codes, institutions, and classes.

The effect on a sector of the professoriat, at least, has been liberating. It has led to a new wave of semi-sociological studies of institutions instead of works. Many of these, such as The Economy of Prestige or The World Republic of Letters, are, if we permit ourselves a value judgment, among the best works of criticism in our time. The overpowering influence of sociology outside its own disciplinary borders was recently verified in a list of “most-cited” intellectuals in the humanities.

“Most-cited intellectuals” is etched here without irony!

Personally, I’m curious about folk sociology*, and glad, Hans-Georg Moeller wrote Luhmann Explained From Souls to Systems. The opening leaf in Moeller’s book offers up Niklas Luhmann this way:

It has always been clear to me that a thoroughly constructed conceptual theory of society would be much more radical and much more discomforting in its effects than focused criticisms–criticisms of capitalism for instance–could ever imagine.

…a fine Batesonian insight methinks.

* (Speculation;) First order question of folk sociology: What do you know about your being an agent and actor? embeds a second order problem of reflexivity.

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Rep ‘n’ learnin’

Folk Psychology

Dependency relations between phenomena can be very complex. In much of life, dependencies are conditional and probabilistic: If I put a fresh worm on the hook, and if it is early afternoon, then very probably I will catch a trout here. As we learn more about the complexities of the world, we ‘upgrade’ our representations of dependency relations;10 we learn, for example, that trout are more likely to be caught when the water is cool, that shadowy pools are more promising fish havens than sunny pools, and that talking to the worm, entreating the trout, or wearing a ‘lucky’ hat makes no difference. Part of what we call intelligence in humans and other animals is the capacity to acquire an increasingly complex understanding of dependency relations. This allows us to distinguish fortuitous correlations that are not genuinely predictive in the long run (e.g., breaking a tooth on Friday the thirteenth) from causal correlations that are (e.g., breaking a tooth and chewing hard candy). This means that we can replace superstitious hypotheses with those that pass empirical muster.

Patricia Smith Churchland (Wikipedia) How Do Neurons Know?

Presentation: Philosophy In the Age of Neuroscience

Paul Churchland

Rep&Learning

I’m agnostic in so many ways! I’m not an advocate for the proposal that states: Brain = Mind. Still, I am really pleased the Churchland’s convictions have cascaded–as it would be–into the field of ‘The Mind.’ I remain suitably impressed by the evidence which certifies if the physical system of the brain is shockingly altered, the mind is altered too.

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Gerrymander and the GOP’s Worldliness Conundrum

gerrymander

 

I didn’t expect the schadenfruede to be so long-lasting.

GOP study calls for changes to halt presidential losing streak

By Paul West
March 18, 2013, 4:00 a.m.
WASHINGTON — A smug, uncaring, ideologically rigid national Republican Party is turning off the majority of American voters, with stale policies that have changed little in 30 years and an image that alienates minorities and the young, according to an internal GOP study.

That blunt assessment on the state of Republicanism at the national level comes from a major new report, out Monday, that will likely shake up an already battered party. It was commissioned by the head of the Republican National Committee in the wake of Mitt Romney’s defeat last year.

Without offering detailed policy prescriptions, the 98-page report calls on the party to “smartly change course,” modernize itself and develop “a more welcoming brand of conservatism that invites and inspires new people to visit us.”

There are extensive lists of proposals, many of them technological and procedural, designed to help the GOP better engage voters, especially women, minorities and the young, and reverse a losing pattern in five of the last six popular votes for president.

“Unless changes are made, it will be increasingly difficult for Republicans to win another presidential election in the near future,” the report concludes.

RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, in remarks in Washington on the release of the study by the party’s “Growth and Opportunity Project,” is unsparing in his analysis of the 2012 election setback.

“Our message was weak. Our ground game was insufficient. We weren’t inclusive. We were behind in both data and digital. Our primary and debate process needed improvement,” he says, according to an advance text of his remarks.

“We know we have problems. We’ve identified them, and we’re implementing the solutions to fix them,” he says.

Most of the criticisms are familiar to those, both inside and outside the GOP, who have watched the party fail to come to grips with changing demographics and, instead, try to rely on older, white voters who represent a shrinking part of the electorate.

“Young voters are increasingly rolling their eyes at what the party represents, and many minorities wrongly think that Republicans do not like them or want them in the country. When someone rolls their eyes at us, they are not likely to open their ears to us,” the report says. Young voters, it says, see the party as “old and detached from pop culture.”

In calling for the GOP to develop “a more welcoming conservatism,” the report rebukes those who remain in denial about the seriousness of the problem and those who are unwilling to broaden the party’s appeal.

A just-concluded gathering of conservatives in Washington cheered speaker after speaker who urged the GOP to stick to its guns and, instead, largely blamed the 2012 defeat on Romney or the way he ran his campaign.

“The Republican Party needs to stop talking to itself,” the study says. “We have become expert in how to provide ideological reinforcement to like-minded people, but devastatingly we have lost the ability to be persuasive with, or welcoming to, those who do not agree with us on every issue.”

The report calls on Republicans to counter the party’s image as an arm of business. It says Republicans should “blow the whistle at corporate malfeasance and attack corporate welfare. We should speak out when a company liquidates itself and its executives receive bonuses but rank-and-file workers are left unemployed. We should speak out when CEOs receive tens of millions of dollars in retirement packages but middle-class workers have not had a meaningful raise in years.”

Beyond that, however, there are no policy details. Indeed, the authors point out that they are not a policy committee, in a section calling on the GOP to “embrace and champion” comprehensive immigration reform without further specifics.

In addition, an extensive set of “inclusion” proposals for minority groups, including Latinos, Asians and African Americans, appears to mimic similar, failed outreach efforts by various RNC chairs over the last 30 years.

The report notes the party’s problems with women voters, especially unmarried women. But its 10-point plan for appealing to women makes no mention of the GOP stance on any social issues, such as abortion and same-sex marriage, that have turned off many of the voters in question.

In a section on campaign mechanics, Republicans are advised to make “a critical cultural shift” on early, absentee, and online voting, trends that the report notes are “here to stay.” The report fails to note, however, that Republican elected officials fought to block and even reverse that trend at the state level in 2012.

Although the RNC study spares Romney any direct criticism, it includes tacit criticism of GOP polling that seems directed at his campaign. Research conducted for the study report found that 70% of Republican pollsters surveyed said that Democratic polling in 2012 “was better than our own. Fully 22% felt the Democrats did ‘much better’ than the Republicans when it came to accuracy and reliability.”

In a section on party primaries, there are thinly veiled attacks on efforts by outside groups, such as those tied to former George W. Bush strategist Karl Rove and organizations like the Club for Growth, that seek to apply litmus tests or weed out candidates considered unelectable.

“It would be a mistake for any one organization to think it can circumvent GOP voters and hand-pick our nominees,” the report says. “Third-party groups that promote purity are hurting our electoral prospects.”

There are also calls for fewer candidate debates during the presidential primaries, a shorter nomination calendar and an earlier national convention.

The report is the product of a committee headed by Priebus’ allies and supporters, including Henry Barbour of Mississippi, the nephew of former governor and RNC chairman Haley Barbour; former George W. Bush White House spokesman Ari Fleischer; and Sally Bradshaw, a longtime advisor to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

If this problem of the GOP–losing national popular votes–interests you, you’ll be moved to follow the various scenes of crashing perceptions and the subsequent wreckage.

If somebody asked me what the chief deficit of the GOP is, I would answer that the Red States provide generous amount of evidence about what the Grand Old Party hopes to accomplish. So, from this, my short answer would be,

The GOP wants to race to the bottom. This desire strikes many people as being the equivalent of asking voters to punch themselves in the face–and be better off for it!

The bottom is many ‘bottoms’ and each such bottom can be well defined by the data. If you aspire to obtain the median education or household income or physical health of the average citizen of Mississippi or Tennessee or Alabama, then I have a political party that aims to support your goals.

What is the predicated goal enabled to head downward? Cheap Labor.

There you have it. The strategic handwringing is marvelous yet the actual situation isn’t very dire. The GOP is in fine shape when you look at what the nature of their actual success is all about.

Its libertarian “Chamber of Commerce” wing is fabulously fat and happy. The libertarian wing requires frightened, racist, aging, married, white people to lock in political advantages in Red States and so it has gone famously for four-plus decades. Fueling non-economic resentments of such people and then also gaming as much as possible the available, gritty mechanics of elections has proven to be a marvelous trick.

This strategy has worked out well. The political directors have leveraged resentment and cheap labor to a commanding political lead in the Red states. Has the bottom come into view? Not yet; ‘call the Texas textbook folks.’

(Cheap labor figures into the ability of state level oligarchs to put their money to work on political projects without many monied opponents standing in their way.) The GOP’s success is etched by the various state-level measures. Hurray for Kansas!

Losing national and statewide elections in blue states is the price exacted by the Red State strategy. The GOP protests too much. There is no chance of the GOP winning substantially more votes of young, or single, or minority, or, highly educated voters, as long as the GOP wants to play this hard ball strategic and tactical game on any Purple-to-Blue state’s territory.

For example, it should be completely obvious that the GOP, if it is hoping to make it harder for minorities to vote, is not going to make the party attractive to those same minorities. Having leaders in some states assert the state’s interest in penetrating and raping a woman’s vagina prior to the woman undergoing a medical procedure is not going to make your party attractive to most women.  Supporting the teaching of intelligent design and/or young earth creationism; denying climate change; and, (recently we learn,) spinning slaveowners as benefactors of slaves, is not going to make your party more attractive to college kids and the educated classes.

Over the long term of the GOP, the paradox inherent betwixt its ruthless plutocratic libertarian ideology and its core voters’ theocratic fantasy is resolved by the GOP’s inability to accomplish the task of replacing its aging white core voter. Who knew paranoia and fearfulness and resentment has a shelf life?

Until then, I fully expect GOP directors to continue to follow the overt marching orders of Rush and Rand, and be obedient to the tactical orders of ALEC and the Koch Brothers, et al.. In doing so, at least, its power players will continue to enjoy big paydays. I get it: the principle grifters, the Makers, are laughing all the way to the bank. The GOP’s success is not fragile as long as there are, in the Red states, resentful and fearful old white social conservatives for the rightward Makers to shake down and manipulate.

Conservative Order

Sociological meta-order-a reduction showing the gulf between economic and social GOP conservatives–roughly this depicts the difference at the extremes between voters who are sure ‘Satan eventually loses to Jesus,’ with, political directors who are willing to play very pointed electoral hard ball to lock-in their political-economic advantages–the former remain unappreciative of the worldliness of the latter!

The key requirement of continued GOP success supposes the “Libertarian directors” understand the grievances of the social conservative hoi polloi are never to be resolved.

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A Knotty Issue of Development

men and women iconized into bias

If you were asked, ‘How do you reduce prejudice, prejudicial behavior, bias?’ how would you respond?

Just the other day I was asked this same question by a good friend who has been charged with teaching college sophomores something useful about how to, as she put it, think, feel and behave, in a diverse social environment.

It strikes me as a difficult and complex problem, and, also, one that is itself prone to being addressed in unreasonable and biased folk-psychological estimations of how, in effect, prejudice and bias can be said to operate.

Is the mitigation of prejudice against the opposite gender simply a matter of unlearning a pattern of response, or simply a matter of replacing this same pattern with a new behavior? My friend and I discussed empathy in terms of being the kind of ‘simulation’ that could serve this simple ‘replacement’ formula.

Stereotypes

We moved onto consider bias being partly a consequence of inaccurate evaluation; with this possibly being a crucial aspect of a biased learned response. This seems, to me, closer to the developmental knot of bias, in that inaccuracies of evaluation often are straight-forward threads of such a knot.

This also allows for experiential approaches to revealing the evaluative aspects of how people experience different, other persons.

The following formula summarizes our intuition.

presence + ignorance + humility
= (more accurate evaluation)
increased potential to reduce biases in evaluation

 

detail

presence: intentional focusing of external (object) awareness, while also being reflective and introspectively sensitive to emergent internal content (Note-Presence constitutes an active, vigilant behavior with respect to sub-conscious and automatic, or otherwise habitual, upwellings of inaccurate evaluation.)

ignorance: knowing ahead of time what you don’t know (Note-Ignorance contextualized by: knowing how one might both choicelessly and choicefully fill in the blanks with: prior knowledge; stereotypical knowledge; ad hoc knowledge; sub-conscious intuitions: prejudicial knowledge

humility: willing submission to being attentive without prior knowledge (Note-Submission is equivalent to also being willing and able to entertain an experiment through which one closely observes the nature of their own participation in their own experience of instantiating inaccurate evaluation.)

 

 

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CIA Goes Social

Twitter Blue Birds

I much prefer the international party / creep show by design that is Google Plus (G+) over both The Facebook and The Twitter. Alas, hardly anyone I know shares this view as of the end of 2012.

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The Perfect Candidate

BaptistryThe baptistry in the new Mormon Temple in Nauvoo, Ill., features 12 oxen representing the 12 tribes of Israel.

Many losing candidates became elder statesmen of their parties. What lessons will Romney have to teach his party? The art of crawling uselessly? How to contemn 47 percent of Americans less privileged and beautiful than his family? How to repudiate the past while damaging the future? It is said that he will write a book. Really? Does he want to relive a five-year-long experience of degradation? What can be worse than to sell your soul and find it not valuable enough to get anything for it? His friends can only hope he is too morally obtuse to realize that crushing truth. Losing elections is one thing. But the greater loss, the real loss, is the loss of honor. What Romney Lost – Garry Wills – NYRB – 11/9:2012

For the archetypal moment, Willard was the perfect candidate, fit to the cultural contradictions stretched between “government hands off my Medicare,” and the opacity of out-of-sight riches, and, of course, the etch-a-sketch scrim for the shape-shifty fulfillment of Romney’s feudal ambitions intermixed with the White Horsey Prophecy.

The latter I offer with a wink, while pointing in the direction of that most scientology-like of the post-modern Christian Heresies.

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Slices of Stupid

Newleftmedia once again demonstrates that if you shoot enough video interviews at Romney (or Tea Party) events the most select slices of STUPID are gloriously deranged.

My favorite spot of dumb in the video is the guy, once again, passionately wishing for the U.S. not to be, anymore, the laughingstock of the world.

It is possible to empathize if you can simulate the guy’s sense that the world is laughing about something ‘the world’ surely doesn’t find anywhere near as funny as that which actually is laughable.

World support for Obama

What’s funny are America’s proudly stupid people, their hypocritical religiosity, their ignorance, their pride in their ignorance, and. . .one could go on and on. As a marker of cognitive ability what does it mean to think Obama is a Muslim, atheist, communist?

Sure go vote for the manic plutocrat, mendacious Reagan wannabee, and, strangely enough, perfect symbol of greed and one percent Toryism, Willard Romney.

The sad answer is there is no way to know what Mr. Romney really believes. His unguarded expression of contempt for 47 percent of the population seems as sincere as anything else we’ve heard, but that’s only conjecture. At times he has advocated a muscular, John McCain-style foreign policy, but in the final presidential debate he positioned himself as a dove. Before he passionately supported a fetus’s right to life, he supported a woman’s right to abortion. His swings have been dramatic on gay rights, gun rights, health care, climate change and immigration. His ugly embrace of “self-deportation” during the Republican primary campaign, and his demolition of a primary opponent, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, for having left open a door of opportunity for illegal-immigrant children, bespeaks a willingness to say just about anything to win. Every politician changes his mind sometimes; you’d worry if not. But rarely has a politician gotten so far with only one evident immutable belief: his conviction in his own fitness for higher office. (excerpted from WAPO’s endorsement of Barack Obama)

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Rejecting Kitsch

Yellow Zebra

This turned out nice. Yellow Zebra reflects a pass through FX in Photoshop. The source material was a captured frame from streaming image discovery and manipulation programmed by Leonardo Solaas, and, keyed and initiated by me. This is the basic search and retrieval methodology constituting what I term Appropriated Random Kitsch.

However, Leonardo’s automated manipulation is too close to the source in this instance, so this image ends up a discard, or, is it just a remix?

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Paul R-Ayn, “I give out Atlas Shrugged as Christmas presents”

Ayn Rand and Paul Ryan

Paul Ryan in remarks this weekend, about President Obama. “Whatever the explanations, whatever the excuses, this is a record of failure.”

Linguists could parse Ryan’s phrase, whatever the explanations. I’d be curious to learn more about its construction. Actually, Paul R-Ayn, explanations do matter. Let’s bring our big brackets in to play. On one end is the domestic economy from the mid-nineties going forward into the Bush era, then the inkling of a housing asset bubble, and then cheap money, exotic derivatives and collateralized debt instruments, into that August four years ago, and, soon enough, TARP, and, under the circumstances, a fairly close election.

Obama’s first two years without enough of a congressional majority or mandate to go full-on-Roosevelt, then the Tea Party wave election, and, a spectacular do nothing congress, in which many of the House’s GOP members were, in effect, pledged to the destruction of Obama’s Presidency.

What are the explanations? What does it mean to state whatever the explanations?

Keep the concept explanation in mind for the following thought problem. Here’s a question you can pitch to right leaners, tea partistas, libertarians, and, galtians: if a two trillion dollar stimulus in 2009 & 2010 would have driven unemployment down to 6% by August 2012, would it have been worth it? In other words, assume it would have and decide your answer.

Okay, my iconoclastic view is that if you do not care to accurately explain why a problem came about and happened, then it’s unlikely your solution is going to work. For example, this sense of mine means creationists and advocates of intelligent design disqualify themselves for solving the problem, how is biology to be taught?

It’s likewise with those who advocate supply-side economics; privatizing social security; and democratizing the mid-east. (And, on and on of course, on both sides of the partisan divide.) Paul Ryan is the leading intellect of the GOP and, at the same time, he’s an anti-intellectual, is apparently against explanation.

David Frum: Romney has transformed a campaign about jobs and growth into a campaign about entitlements and Medicare.

Charles S. Peirce; Esquire: This is a guy in love with his own concocted genius.

[Ryan] does not have the raw balls to explain to the country that, no, he does not believe in government — not the federal government, anyway, and not as it was originally conceived, as the fundamental expression of a political commonwealth. He’s grandfathered his plan to chloroform Medicare so that, despite the deficit that he considers such an urgent problem, nobody alive today who might vote against him will be affected by it. For the same reason, he will not specify the cuts that he will make or the tax “loopholes” —coughMortgageInterestDeductioncough — that he will close. In any way that will come to matter to the people whose lives his policies will make harder and more miserable, Paul Ryan is still the high-school kid living off Social Security survivor benefits and reading Ayn Rand by flashlight under the sheets.

John Dickerson; Slate; But for all of the talk of a new emphasis on policy specifics, this is still going to be a campaign deeply connected to American values. When Ryan spoke on Saturday, he talked about the threat Obama poses to the American way of life. Underneath every policy debate will be the argument that when tough choices have to be made about the federal government, you’re going to want candidates who share your values when they’re doing the awful math of scarcity.

GOP Resotration

Let’s contemplate seven phases of the fully realized form of R-Ayn’s utopia perspective. (I read these goals to constitute a furious race to the bottom.)

(1) throw millions of government employees out of work

(2) throw millions of people off their healthcare

(3) throw millions of college students off their Pell Grants

(4) pluck hundreds of millions of dollars from the pockets of the elderly, the salaried and hourly work force, and, give this money to

(5) tens of thousands of high-wealth individuals, including many who never worked a single day in their life for their wealth

(6) just for grins, increase the incidence of the late stage cancers women get

(7) Accelerate tens of millions of sick people visiting emergency rooms

This will be wrapped in Christian ‘ethics’ and Patriotism. Except, obviously, Romney and R-Ayn won’t be running very hard on this platform at all. It’s a loser. They’ll run against Obama the socialist and anti-Capitalist deceiver, and traitor to America, and son of a dirty fucking hippie and African. The GOP side, methinks, are now forced to go completely with the culture war strategy, the politics of resentment, and this seems especially congruent with their patently racist voter suppression strategy.

The point of this would be painting, again, the picture of Obama being something like an African Jihadi Manchurian Anti-colonialist Cosmopolitan Ivy league Affirmative Action Saul Alinsky Communist Organizer who abhors success and loves the culture of handouts. There will be plenty of dog whistles and appeals which suggest Obama is actually trying to buy votes with welfare. This tactic reflects a useful but untrue explanation Romney/Ryan endorse.

As a political and sociological phenomena, I, for one, am interested in how this all works to fit together the social and institutional structure and political economy of the USA. What, come the day after the election, explains the result, and, explains how one might smartly anticipate the new prospects? Just sayin’ . . .explanations matter!

Last item:

(8) [The Hill] The House Republican budget released Tuesday would shield the Pentagon from nearly $500 billion in automatic cuts and roll back some of the $487 billion reduction approved in last year’s Budget Control Act. The plan from House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) asks six congressional committees — but not Armed Services — to find $261 billion in savings to help roll back the automatic cuts through sequestration that were triggered by the failure of the supercommittee. The Ryan plan also increases national defense spending to $554 billion in 2013, an increase of $8 billion over the $546 billion that was agreed to under the Budget Control Act.

War. Destruction. Death.

I suspect the scale of our nation and its resources help conceal how unexceptional in many ways is our nation’s recent performance. My provisional explanation about this particular trend, (rooted to an anthropologically-minded analysis of the socio-political economy,) begins with the 1960 election. We can track over fifty years the curve of an appalling amount of death-dealing, the amount hundreds of billions of dollars purchases.

Meanwhile, domestically, why would anyone intentionally amplify, for example, greed and rent seeking and Randian ethics at the same time, for example, most of Asia and Europe and India, has come to eat our lunch and shorts by committing to eventually educating their billions of children better than we educate our own American children?

Who possibly in their right mind believes America’s future global ability to compete will be secured by making the country into Texas?

Romney/Ryan would be unable to convince me that their intense, self-righteous utopian phantasy about saving America is not also yoked to an equivalent Shadow; underside; blindness; and hubris. But I can’t (much) explain why it is they wholeheartedly endorse America transforming itself into an even more vicious, hyper-aristocratic, Galtian triumph-of-the-makers, society.

Especially this is so when I contemplate a future in which several billion 20-40 year old English-speaking Chinese and Indian men and woman have no trouble rattling off, when asked, what is the scientific method.

 

 

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Science and Serendipity

clip serendipity

Not sure the exact date of this clip from an old issue of Science; (early twenties?)

The concept of serendipity that is the most robust is found in the field, sociology of science. My opinion is that this is the only robust treatment of serendipity.

 

 

 

 

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Final Fantasy and Thinking of Buddy Roemer

Low hanging fruit.

Fail:David Plouffe.

Fill stop right there. Meanwhile, Obama’s inner populist doesn’t ring true for me at all. But, Willard doesn’t even have an inner populist. This leads to the coding crunch in the above call and response videos.

If Romney squeaks by and also is gifted with slim Republican majorities in the Congress, then I would predict the filibuster would be ejected. Romney would be under a ton of pressure to instantly deliver the country to the gateway of the Randian/Vatican utopia.

Ezra Klein: The Keynesian case for Romney

But Romney, though he often buys into that sort of nonsense while criticizing Obama, knows better. Time magazine asked him about cutting spending in 2013. “If you take a trillion dollars for instance, out of the first year of the federal budget, that would shrink GDP over 5 percent,” Romney said. “That is by definition throwing us into recession or depression. So I’m not going to do that, of course.” You couldn’t have gotten a clearer definition of Keynesian budgeting from Obama.

Will Romney, if elected, flip flop flip back into his natural state of easefulness: technocratic Reagan wannabee? In which case, his policy venture strikes me as revolving around tax and regulation mitigation, and, purchasing more toys for the military. …kind of exactly like Reagan. With such a thrust out of the gate, like Reagan, he could then ride the business cycle to both more concentration of wealth and tilting of the table toward the warmer climes, and, maybe an unemployment rate of 6-7%.

The deficit would skyrocket. Many more children would be thrust into poverty. He’d have to avoid a regional war ‘about’ Iran. And, an activist Congress could cast all manner of politically harmful legislative paper across his desk. Still, Ezra Klein considers, albeit late in the game, the obvious prospective Romney tilt away from a doctrinaire, kamikaze, mission.

(For normal, old school, capitalists oriented to the quaint structure of the consumer economy, it still doesn’t make much sense to vote for Romney–if the main goal is too grow one’s pile of assets should same be rooted in consumption of goods and services. On the other hand, new fangled speculators and rent seekers and Galtian innovators may laugh at such stocks and bonds avatism.)

GOP DEM Numbers

job-creation-bush-obama

(6/5 Update Ezra Klein More on whether Romney is the Keynesian choice)

Now, let’s rank those scenarios by their probability of occurring, at least according to the InTrade market’s betting estimates:

1) Obama and a divided Congress.

2) Romney and a Republican Congress;

3) Romney and a divided Congress;

4) Obama and a Democratic Congress;

The least Keynesian outcome is suddenly the most likely outcome. The most Keynesian outcome is the least likely outcome. But Romney and a Republican Congress — the second most Keynesian outcome — remains the second-most likely outcome.

The wild card remains the utopian fervor of the teaparty members of the House of Representatives. In the past, this wasn’t a factor at such times when a newly minted Republican President made the turn toward the Keynesian. This turn has always happened, and it could be cast as the inevitable consequence of the GOP having reached their usual ne plus ultra objective: a return to power.

But the teaparty wish is for a permanent rearrangement of the political economy and Constitutional order. This fantasy, even if it can be made to jibe with the rightward ‘Galtian’ plutocratic fantasy of sustaining its own defense of privilege and hyper-wealth, collides with the tried-and-true and old fashioned Republican muddling along with Keynesian strokes, paying off donors, and, doing nothing about social issues.

(After all, you need those social issues to remain unresolved so that resentment, etc.. never wanes.)

Starting with Richard Nixon, every Republican president has left the dollar lower, the federal budget deficit higher, the American trade position weaker, and the U.S. manufacturing work force smaller than when he took office. James Fallows 2005

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