Tag Archives: current events

Sabbatic Goat Reviews Avatar

Click for review

Leave a Comment

Filed under Uncategorized


Kate and Anna McGarrigle – Hard Times Come Again No More (S.Foster)

Lessee: selfish social darwinist nihilism–wrapped in self-aggrandizing ‘personal responsibility-with-exceptions pieties, or, help your neighbor, Christian ethics?

That’s easy.

H.R. 3962 squeaks by in the House, with one brave Republican vote. The loner was Joseph Cao, R-La. He told a reporter, “But I felt it was important of me to support the president in this matter because, like I said before, based on my own conscience, it was the right decision for my district.”

Conscience. Compare the existence of Joseph Cao’s conscience with that of Steve King, D-IA. His understanding is that everybody has health coverage because of the existence of emergency rooms! Then all you do is add his prescriptions:

Better ideas for health care reform include full deductibility of medical expenses for all Americans, medical malpractice reform, an increase in Health Savings Account contribution amounts, giving consumers the ability to purchase health insurance across state lines, allowing small businesses to band together to negotiate lower costs for themselves and their employees through Association Health Plans and fixing Medicare reimbursements to raise reimbursement rates for states like Iowa that have high quality care at a low cost. These are real solutions that will protect the relationship between patients and doctors and improve the quality of health care in America without raising taxes.

Oh, and protect insurance company profits. After all, isn’t that written somewhere in the bible…? How many Republicans congresspersons have opted out of their own health insurance benefit?

‘Tis the song, the sigh of the weary.
Hard times, hard times, come again no more.
Many days you have lingered all around my cabin door.
Oh, hard times, come again no more.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Individualism and the FollowerArk

Sometimes, while channel surfing, my attention latches onto one of the religious channels. I call it ‘doing research.’ Well, it is a guilty pleasure–watching theocrats. (See Frank Schaeffer: Spaceship Jesus Will Come and Whisk Us Away for a good take.) Glenn Beck provides another guilty pleasure, although I depend on Crooks and Liars and MediaMatters to pluck the ripest insanity out of a sea of lunacy.

Beck is a masterful architect, but of what, I’m not sure. He’s not really a polemicist or propagandist in the sense that both those dispositions usually presume coherency. His basic argument is structured as a sort of daft hermeneutics, connecting dots, but doing so incoherently across domains. It all ends up, usually, in the same place: a cabal of Marxist elitists are planning to take over the country and “control every aspect of your life.”

The aspect that evokes cognitive dissonance is Beck’s appeal to freedom from control, while offering at the same time, an analysis that could only be practically powerful were persons to accept it uncritically ‘en mass.’ For Beck, America is free when there is a monotheism of individuality, and if you’re so individuated as to disagree, well then, you’re helping to destroy the country.

Jon Stewart breaks down Beck’s hermeneutics.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
The 11/3 Project
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political Humor Health Care Crisis

What would be the nature and inherent cognitive complexity of someone who would buy Beck’s binary paranoia, who would follow his connected dots to their satisfying conclusion: slaughter or ark? Decades ago I wondered the same thing about who possibly could find Ayn Rand’s insipid version of logical rationality reasonable.*

Jason Richwine, unintentionally unleashing silliness in The American, the Journal of the American Enterprise Institute, Are Liberals Smarter Than Conservatives?, ponders anecdotal counter-factuals, while missing the point of Lazar Stankov’s research, Conservatives and Cognitive Ability. Heck, Richwine misses the point even though it’s pointed to in the paper’s title.

Richwine does mention that conservatism isn’t defined deeply enough in Stankov’s research. I’d love to see a factor analysis of policy-oriented beliefs meshed with a meta-analysis of several orders of cognitive complexity and personality constructs. For example, is there a correlation across the range of the former beliefs with binary attitudes? How does ideological certainty correlate with tendencies having to do with reducing complexity, anxiety, and dissonance? I don’t think Richwine read the paper though, because Stankov’s work is not primarily concerned with ‘smarts’, and is, in fact, focused on a very complex meta-analysis, very close to my intuition about what I’d like to see.

In our work, conservatism is captured by a score — usually a factor score — obtained from several scales that were not developed specifically for the measurement of conservatism. Thus, it incorporates measures of Personality (Big Five from IPIP), Social Attitudes (Saucier, 2000; Stankov & Kneževi?, 2005), Values (Schwartz & Bardi, 2001), and Social Norms (GLOBE; House, Hanges, Javidan, Dorfman, & Gupta, 2004) — a total of 43 different subscale scores.Nevertheless, ouranalyses show the presence of a factor of Conservatism that has loadings from subscales from all these domains and captures many constructs that are included in the nomological net of Jost et al. (2003) and Wilson (1973). This factor is expected to correlate with cognitive ability for reasons outlined above. What are the other factors that emerge from the analysis of 43 subscales? Are they also expected to correlate with cognitive ability? Stankov (2007) found three domain-related factors. They are quite different from the Conservatism factor in that they show very little overlap between the domains.

These are:

• Personality/Social Attitudes. This is usually a bipolar factor contrasting Personality traits on the negative side and Social Attitudes on the positive side. Loadings of Personality traits on this factor are typically lower than loadings from the Social Attitudes measures. In some of our analyses, this factor splits into a separate Personality factor representing “good” evaluative processes (or perhaps social desirability) and a Social Attitudes factor representing anti- or amoral attitudes towards social objects (Stankov & Kneževi?, 2005). • Values. See Method section for the interpretation of this factor.

• Social Norms. Several Social Norms scales from GLOBE study (House et al., 2004) load on this factor. In this paper I report the analyses based on a smaller (22) number of variables that correspond quite closely to the solution obtained with the full set of 43 measures. Smaller number of variables is employed in order to carry out simultaneous (i.e., multilevel) structural equation modelling of individual- and country-level data that has not been reported in the past.

There is no empirical evidence or theoretical arguments in the literature that suggest a relationship between cognitive ability and Values or Social Norms.2 Thus, it is reasonable to assume that these two constructs do not correlate with cognitive measures. The situation is different with the Personality/ Social Attitudes dimension. Jost (2006) reports that Conscientiousness (positively) and Openness to Experience (negatively) correlate with Democrat/Republican voting preferences of the states within the U.S., interpreted as reflections of liberal/conservative tendencies. Openness to Experience is also known to correlate about .30 with measures of intelligence (Stankov, 2005; Stankov and Lee, 2008). The other side of this bipolar factor, Social Attitudes, captured by Toughness, Maliciousness, and Betaism (i.e., non-PC motives for behavior), have qualities reminiscent of Dogmatism and Authoritarian personalities that are often seen as components of conservatism (see Jost et al., 2003). Since in our work they define a factor that is separate from conservatism, it is reasonable to assume that there is a separation between thuggish and rough Social Attitudes trait and Conservative syndrome that captures not only social attitudes but also Values, Social Norms, and Personality traits. These rough social attitudes are also likely to be related to cognitive ability—they often reflect difficulties or disinclination to make fine-grained analysis of a problematic situation (see Wilson, 1973).

Snap! Maybe the article was so complex it caused Richwine anxiety? I wonder what Glenn Beck would think?

*John Galt’s Monologue

Leave a Comment

Filed under social psychology, organizational development

Affectual Politics

Glenn Beck: “I really like our Constitution, I’d like to see it enacted. Let’s fix it and get back to where our founding fathers are.”

Loony, yet, “crazy ass sh*t, but. But, more than a few people do agree with Beck. This is so even if such people couldn’t tell you anything intelligent about what the founding fathers actually thought; what they contested among themselves; and what were their various radically liberal principles.

Here’s a conjecture (of mine) about ideology and history. There is no extant or past example of a form of governance for which it could be demonstrated that it’s procedures of governance wholly and absolutely are realized solely as a matter of adherence to ideological principles. This is falsifiable if it can be shown that there exists or has existed a form of governance for which, in its application of its principles, every instance was/is entirely consistent with principle.

Let’s imagine there are people who are committed to some set of principles in the following, narrow way:

Our endeavor is to instantiate a set of principles. We believe this for two reasons. First, because this set of principles is the best of all possible set of principles. Second, that the principles are best, is verified by the fact that their truth is the most reasonable truth upon which any possible set of principles could be based.

News for social, fiscal & national security conservatives who believe in God, family & country. We seek to uphold the rights of citizens under the U.S. Constitution, traditional family values, Republican principles / ideals, transparent & limited government, free markets, liberty & individual freedom. The ARRA News Service is an outreach of the Arkansas Republican Assembly. However, all content approval rests with the ARRA Editor. While numerous positions are reported, our beliefs & principles remain fixed. mission

Our political climate in the U.S. is very interesting in this year, unfolding now, after the election of Mr. Obama. Several developments have taken me by surprise. Obama surprised me by not partnering his financial system bailout policies with policies aimed to help right the economy of main street from the bottom up. It was also surprising that he didn’t articulate in concrete, instrumental, terms what kind of reform he would endorse, and insist upon, to end the depredations of the speculation-driven shadow economy.

Then, he moved to reform health care and laid it in the laps of his congressional majorities.

In light of these developments, I’m not in any way surprised that people have been stirred to reactionary and (called by me,) restorative activism. Nor was it surprising that they oriented their dissent positively around their patriotism, and, negatively, around their primal fear that the government is posed to strip from him or her so-called freedoms.

I’ll let Missy, writing on her blog at TCUNation, the Social Network for Conservatives, explain:

But the worst part? It allows the federal gov’t to be in charge of every aspect of your life. Every decision you make on a daily basis can be linked to “healthcare.” You drive an SUV? You’re contributing to pollution & that increases asthma…..you need to pay more! Since we have direct access to all of your accounts we know you own a 4-wheeler. That’s dangerous………you need to pay more! We see that you eat at McD’s twice a week. That’s bad for you……you need to pay more! YOU OWN A GUN??? THAT’S DANGEROUS! YOU NEED TO PAY ALOT MORE!!

These liberal fanatics will most DEFINITELY use the federal gov’ts financial stake in your everyday lifestyle choices to CONTROL THEM. Your decisions will no longer be your own, they will be decisions that will be for the “collective good.” And they will be MANDATED & CONTROLLED by the gov’t. And in order to “nudge” you into compliance with their ideology of how you should live your life, they will simply put a financial burden on you if you choose differently.

The paranoia surprised me. How does one square paranoia with a normative conservative ethos that holds its funding principles to be both first, and, last, and to be foundational, and also holds these principles are the only possible enlightened goal granted by reasoning through the problem of governance? Where does paranoia fit in? Is it possible that such foundational principles are, in fact, extremely fragile?

I don’t think so. President Obama has offered a mild liberalism. The bank bailout was extraordinary, yet a Republican would have had to have done the same thing. (Creative destruction is a notion one can practically hold only when the bombs aren’t falling on your own head.) All such bailouts tend to occupy uncertain spots in any ideology. A bailout is above all expedient and unhooked from conventional, ideological morality. They’re grotesque too.

So far Obama’s maneuvering hasn’t been much like anything we associate, historically, with truly radical presidents; especially those with very novel views of the Constitution—such as Jefferson, Lincoln, FDR, Reagan, and Bush II. Nevertheless, the ideological principles survive, and this suggests underlying principles, aren’t at all fragile. This includes freedom given to be a result of, contingent upon, application of, ideological principles.

So why is paranoia evoked?

My tentative view is: affect is consequential in the current ‘social psychological framed’ ecology. Forged in the magical bake shop of projective identification, specific affect-laden estimations are on offer. So: a messianic leader is scapegoated so as to be the cause of knowing (i.e. unconsciously feeling,) that what is possessed, “freedom,” is to be stolen by the conspiratorial Other, (i.e. an alter.) This inflated threat is to be met and defeated by, ironically enough, the collective personal power of freedom-loving individualists. It’s worth noting that in some quarters, this evil goat is assumed to have super powers, or, alternately, is assumed to be the servant of hidden masters.

Putting the participation mystique aside–may Levi-Strauss rest in peace–what are the embedded chain-of-being regimes supposed in a clash between the red-in-blood red-tending-to-blue meme, and, the blue-tending-to-orange meme. These, given by Grave’s Spiral Dynamics, and, given by me in my deployment of a shadow dynamics* supposing the red shadow of blue conservatism’s ‘traditionalistic’ paternal chain of being comes to clash with the neoliberal paternal chain-of-being of Orange. Pre-modern, the red shadow of blue, collides here with the post-modern orientation toward technocratic problem-solving.

(Or, the atavistic self and identity, is felt to be threatened by the spectral, post-modern selves and identities. Perhaps, were one to dig into the narratives, one would find at their core a clash between the production of certainty and productions of uncertainty.)

Among many curious aspects of this clash, is the gravity given to an emotionalized, largely unconscious, sense of freedom. (I’ve written about this before.) What is it about a notional freedom that one can be dispossessed of, versus, other less vulnerable notions about freedom? Isn’t it interesting that the conservative concept of freedom-under-constraint, a necessary consequence of the pessimistic view of human nature, is subsumed in the shuffle through the emotionally-charged libertarian bake shop!

Then there is the conspiratorial tenor of magical narratives. Of course, it’s long-standing that the government is anthropomorphized to be a kind of beast, capable of devouring freedom. In this respect the conspiracy mongering of Ron Paul, or Michelle Bachman, comes to be of a piece with the extreme supernaturalized conspiracy advocates, David Ickes, Alex Jones, and Michael Tsarion. In turn, the current extremes are merely the contemporary waves of olden conspiracy theories. And, heck, why not share some air time with the truly deluded?

“they’ve been positioning…” they, theY, thEY, THEY!

*I have yet to go into this in detail. However, roughly, my proposal is that the vertical scale of Spiral Dynamic is configurable as a dynamic, oppositional scale. This is able to depict how higher and lower memes serve as descriptive categories, and schema, for shadow dynamics. For example, by such a dynamic scale, the shadow dynamics for the Blue Meme are discoverable as aspects of Red (below) and Orange (above). In my novel (or idiosyncratic,) view, the shadow dynamics then tend to fall (or regress,) toward the lower, more archaic order, while this unconscious propensity is galvanized by fear of the upward pull toward the newer, more complex order.

My notion here supposes that a concept of Blue freedom, will come to be defended at the lower, unconscious level of Red. Similarly, this defense is waged against a super-charged (by way of ‘social cognitized’ projection,) ‘controlling’ Orange. Grant this phenomenology, and the result is that fear of bureaucracy regresses to fear of collective control, control formulated to the scale conspiracy; “conspiracy” being the shadow concretization of Orange—in its worst form.

This is consistent—well, at least it is to me—with the mental procedures via which contested, soft conceptions–such as freedom–are reduced, reified and objectified. Then the reified conception’s opposite, in this case anti-freedom, is realized and nailed to the alter. Thus, a collective complex is constellated.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Kenneth Warren, social psychology, organizational development, sociology

The Health of Money

The God In the Machine, Lewis H. Lapham, Lapham’s Quarterly, V.II,No.3

President Barack Obama during his first months in office seldom has missed a chance to liken the country’s healthcare system to an unburied corpse, which, if left lying around in the sun by the 111th Congress, threatens to foul the sweet summer air of the American dream. The prognosis doesn’t admit of a second or third opinion. Whether on call to the Democratic left or the Republican right, the attending politicians and consulting economists concur in their assessment of the risk posed by the morbid emissions. The country now pays an annual fee of $2.4 trillion for its medical treatments (16 percent of GDP); the costs continue to lead nowhere but up. Fail to embalm or entomb the putrefying debt, and it’s only a matter of time—ten years, maybe twenty—before the pulse disappears from the monitors tracking the heartbeat on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

So say the clinicians in Washington, and I don’t quarrel with the consensus. If I can’t make sense of some of the diagnoses or most of the prescriptions, at least I can understand that what is being discussed is the health of America’s money, not the well-being of its people. The symptoms present as vividly as the manifestations of plague listed in Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War, but they show up as an infection of the body politic caused by the referral of the country’s medical care to the empathy of accountants and the wisdom of drug dealers.

If I can’t make sense of some of the diagnoses or most of the prescriptions, at least I can understand that what is being discussed is the health of America’s money, not the well-being of its people.

This is the most cogent comment about the current debate over reform of the health care system I’ve encountered.

Thank goodness for Lewis Lapham. More:

The medieval church marketed its healthcare product as the forgiveness of sin, in the form of Papal indulgences intended to preserve the vitality of the immortal soul. In an age that places a higher value on the flesh than it does on the spirit, the guarantees on the label promise to restore the blooms of eternal youth. To the extent that we construe physical well-being as the most cherished commodity sold in the supermarkets of human happiness, we stand willing to spend more money on the warrants of longevity than we spend on lottery tickets and cocaine. Our consumption of medical goods and services constitutes the performance of what Thorstein Veblen in The Theory of the Leisure Class characterized as a devout observance—the futility and superfluous expense of the exercise testifying to its value as an act of worship. The more health product that we conspicuously consume, the more of us feel conspicuously ill. To express our devotion we magnify every “riddling distemper” the flesh is heir to, deprive ourselves of food and blood, discover diseases where none exist, incise ourselves with liposuction and the angiogram. The pharmaceutical companies step up the dosages of terror in their print and television advertising; volunteer committees of vigilance gather in city parks to keep a sharp watch for obese wastrels who neglect their aerobic exercises, smoke cigarettes, fail to ingest their antioxidants, refuse to drink their pomegranate juice. We learn to think, as do the characters in a Woody Allen movie, that we become commendable, or at least interesting, by virtue of the stigmata verifying our status as victims and attesting to our worth as patients.

My only gripe with the Medicine issue is that for whatever reason, Ivan Illich, (author of the classic Medical Nemesis,) wasn’t included.

The Lapham Quarterly is the single most edifying and provocative publication now being produced in the sphere of the ‘public intellect.’ Of course, Lapham himself is a terrific essayist. As it turns out he’s also a visionary assembler of ideas, given the brilliant collections organized around themes he’s issued in the form of his journal. Above all, The Lapham Quarterly honors the intellect of the reader by juxtaposing classical and modern thinking around the themes, and then allowing the reader to reason through a robust clash of historical and contemporary perspectives. It’s not all words. Each edition includes graphic evidence and images aimed to do what 1,000 words cannot.

The web site for The Lapham Quarterly has evolved to offer content not in the journal. Highly recommended. At the web site are Lapham’s introductions for each issue and its centering theme. Right now, Lapham is second-to-none as a commentator on current events.

Leave a Comment

Filed under adult learning, current events, journalism & writing

Lunar Times

The shadow is not the whole of the unconscious personality. It represents unknown or little-known attributes and qualities of the ego-aspects that mostly belong to the personal sphere and that could just as well be con- scious. In some aspects, the shadow can also consist of collective factors that stem from a source outside the individual’s personal life. When an individual makes an attempt to see his shadow, he becomes aware of (and often ashamed of) those qualities and impulses he denies in himself but can plainly see in other people-such things as egotism, mental laziness, and sloppiness; unreal fantasies, schemes, and plots; carelessness and cowardice; inordinate love of money and possessions-in short, all the little sins about which he might previously have told himself: “That doesn’t matter; nobody will notice it, and in any case other people do it too.”

If you feel an overwhelming rage coming up in you when a friend reproaches you about a fault, you can be fair1y sure that at this point you will find a part of your shadow, of which you are unconscious. It is, of course, natural to become annoyed when others who are “no better” criticize you because of shadow faults.

Joseph Henderson, Jungian Analyst

There may come a point when the lay observer lurches back from being enthralled by the amazing conspiracy freak-a-thon. He asks himself: ‘What is so compelling–to you–about the garden variety magical participation you’re chewing up (your) valuable time voyeuristically looking upon?”

The main thing for me is that a robust socio-psycho-historical snapshot has to have enough depth of field in it to capture the background where the shadow of regressive dynamics comes into resolution. As phenomenologist, this interests me. So, looking into such a picture, an embarrassment of super loopy psycho-dynamic riches is revealed. Ummm, wordplay intended.

Did you know Orly Taitz is outside-looking in on the main birther action these days?
Continue reading

Leave a Comment

Filed under social psychology, organizational development


Although it’s fairly obvious that the varieties of right-wing punditry and congresspeeps likely couldn’t tell a questioner what socialism was, is, I would also suggest that it might be hard for the same to tell what conservatism itself was, is.

Of all the photos I’ve seen of members of the not-at-all silent minority, each one expressing on t-shirt and sign sentiments ranging from forthright trepidation to depraved paranoia, this photo is the one that, for me, says it all. Harkening back to previous discussion about how sentiments, (and world views and framings and the sort,) may be an aspect of allowing sensibility to be programmed–thus etched, thus unmovable–the dichotomy in the idea of hard workers/everybody else, puts the object relations in relief.

This goes back a very long way, to the 19th century in America. The following cartoons are from the collection at The Southern Labor Archives, Georgia State University.


PROTECTING WHITE LABOR (click for larger version)

Both cartoons are from the 1880’s.

Then there’s the resurgent idea about the salutary effects of resistance.

Plucked from Jefferson’s letter to William Smith in 1787:

“Yet where does this anarchy exist? Where did it ever exist, except in the single instance of Massachusetts? And can history produce an instance of a rebellion so honourably conducted? I say nothing of it’s motives. They were founded in ignorance, not wickedness. God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion. The people cannot be all, and always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented, in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions, it is lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty. And what country can preserve its liberties, if it’s rulers are not warned from time to time, that this people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to the facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.

I suspect advocates of this salutary resistance wouldn’t be able to tell you much about the so-called second American Revolution–Jefferson’s presidency–or the sweep of events leading to Jackson, then to Lincoln and the Civil War, and, soon enough to the first iteration of contemporary themes in the last four decades of the 19th century.

In our national discussion, the terminology from the right has obtained a marvelous level of conflation. What can a student of political philosophy and political economy and history say in response to Republicans musing over calling their opponents ‘socialist democrats,’ this coming on the heels of their stringing together, liberals-socialists-marxists-fascists?

However, given the demographic Waterloo the Republicans now face, rallying a few more badly educated yahoos to the rump party’s cause won’t do the trick. The Daily Show and Jon Stewart nail the actual state of the bruised Republican psyche: they’re struggling with having to cope after having lost the presidency after controlling the executive branch for 28 out of 40 years. Like it was in the era of McKinley, the country was not guided by populists, let alone Jeffersonians.

Not for nothing do some protest in knowing ways: “But, we’re not a democracy–we’re a Republic!”

The several core contradictions are delicious. I’ll gloss the context and explain why I suspect the Republican idealogues have lost their purchase on the vaunted principles of conservatism. Three features jump out above all. One, is their appeal to righteousness based in a Manichean struggle for the soul of an idealized America. Two, and related to this, is their retreaded appeal to a silent majority. And, third, is how all of this is inflected by a kind of post-modern Calvinism, and, a version of Christian ethics, removed almost completely from the communitarian Christologcal ethic, from the ethic, (so-to-speak,) of the beatitudes.

So: there is the formation of identity based in appropriation of a backward cast idealization of a monolithic golden primal age, itself–this glorious and singular past–produced by the severe Christianity of the sainted Founders. Then, it is incumbent upon the knowing patriots to–always–resist the forces of “liberal-fascist” traitors.

It goes something like this, I feel.

It is true, on the other hand, that the golden age of founding patriotism was not funded by a severe Christianity, was not in any way monolithic, (witness the gulf between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson; between Alexander Hamilton and james Madison, etc.,) and would not come to a bloody clash of divergent patriotism and between patriots, until the Civil War.

(That the extremist tea party brethren reject Christian brotherhood in favor of personal responsibility-fueled social darwinism is remarkable too.)

What ideas brought this about?
Continue reading

Leave a Comment

Filed under current events

Lewis Black On Health

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Back in Black – Health Care Reform
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political Humor Joke of the Day

Leave a Comment

Filed under humor

Down from The Wall

Back in the eighties, I was working the front, retail, lines of the record business, managing a record department in the back of a book store in Middlebury, Vermont, home to Middlebury College. I was a long haired jazzer, whose musical boat had departed the mainstream currents in the early seventies. Even then, I marveled at how easily mobs of college kids marched to the beat of the mass culture drums.

I more than witnessed the Michael Jackson phenomena as it first broke in 1979, and crested with Thriller in 1982. What I know of his music came from incidental exposure. At the peak of his musical popularity, his music was not considered hip. However, even then, his artistry was praiseworthy even in my aficionado’s biased terms simply because it was Jacko who seemingly single-handedly turned back soul music’s disco infection.

In many respects, Jackson’s musical revolution was exhausted by 1987, the year of his LP/CD Bad. By then he was the most successful entertainer in the world. He wasn’t finished entertaining, but his second career of serial re-creation and lurid lifestylin’ eventually overwhelmed his musical bona fides as the centering force of his persona. He became cultural cannon fodder; his genius reduced to ferocious chapters of topping the previous chapter of strange.

It is the distressing norm should any celebrated figure morph into iconic stature, that its basis is the hook for massive magical participation of both fan and anti-fan, of sympathy and antipathy. There is no right mind able to support willfully doing this consciously. So, when it is said that the icon reflects something of this participation, it would be most accurate to say that the icon reflects cultural unconsciousness without any mercy whatsoever. Alas, in such a phenomenology of ‘cultural activity’ the evident whipsaw cuts both way, and never to a satisfying, terminal, abreaction for the iconic subject or his or her minions.

And minions is the right term: the king of pop mightily favored his loyal subjects. To unglue the cultural mass from Jackson simply brings into relief shared symptoms. It seems no episodic detail of his life was not a comment on symptoms writ large: in the bubble, neverlands, shapeshifting, carving away bodily features, dangling infants, comforting sleep partners, unlimited discretionary income, and, forcing a family out of surrogates and sexual compulsion. It matters not that Jackson’s own compulsions were chaste, its the compulsion. Above all there was our golden wish: to turn back the clock and never grow old.

When asked what I thought, last week I said, “Michael Jackson was one of the strangest people ever peopled,” (to use Alan Watt’s trope.) I have credible people I can ask, but no one has nailed where Jackson’s psychological makeup vectors in any armchair diagnostic take.

Given my archetypal prejudices, it is certainly obvious that no conventional or generic character-logical version of the psychology of the Puer Aeturnus fits Jackson very well. Except, it must fit someway!

Nevertheless, the Puer facets offer clues. It’s easy enough to place provisionality in the terrain of his complex. This feature is always a hallmark of persons who strive, and sometimes realize, their own world. It’s never a perfect world, yet its a better world. But, this world can scarcely be inhabited. It, then, also may be the case that the ‘other’ world fortune and magnification buys is a solitary, barren, and finally, tiny world.

We don’t really wish to be left alone on throne or cross or couch. I read today that Michael deeply wished to be royalty. How revealing. For what is the King but the loneliest creature in the kingdom? Our culture, with its harsh and fickle and always unconscious loyalties, only appoints figure heads–only crowns with a thorny embrace the gilded imago personified by charismatic celebrity. Short of royalty, those so elevated are our figure heads, literally left alone but to our own cruel devices. In the austere mythologem, the consequence of christological aspiration in this context of our collective complex is necessarily tragic.

Then it struck me: the last narrative chapter of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince.

Beside the well there was the ruin of an old stone wall. When I came back
from my work, the next evening, I saw from some distance away my little price
sitting on top of a wall, with his feet dangling. And I heard him say:
“Then you don’t remember. This is not the exact spot.”
Another voice must have answered him, for he replied to it:
“Yes, yes! It is the right day, but this is not the place.”
I continued my walk toward the wall. At no time did I see or hear anyone. The
little prince, however, replied once again:
“–Exactly. You will see where my track begins, in the sand. You have nothing
to do but wait for me there. I shall be there tonight.”
I was only twenty metres from the wall, and I still saw nothing.
After a silence the little prince spoke again:
“You have good poison? You are sure that it will not make me suffer too
I stopped in my tracks, my heart torn asunder; but still I did not understand.
“Now go away,” said the little prince. “I want to get down from the wall.”

Leave a Comment

Filed under analytic(al) psychology


Wouldn’t you like to ride in my beautiful balloon
Wouldn’t you like to ride in my beautiful balloon
We could float among the stars together, you and I
For we can fly we can fly
Up, up and away
My beautiful, my beautiful balloon
The world’s a nicer place in my beautiful balloon
It wears a nicer face in my beautiful balloon
We can sing a song and sail along the silver sky
For we can fly we can fly
Up, up and away
My beautiful, my beautiful balloon
Suspended under a twilight canopy
We’ll search the clouds for a star to guide us
If by some chance you find yourself loving me
We’ll find a cloud to hide us
We’ll keep the moon beside us
Love is waiting there in my beautiful balloon
Way up in the air in my beautiful balloon
If you’ll hold my hand we’ll chase your dream across the sky
For we can fly we can fly
Up, up and away
My beautiful, my beautiful balloon
Up, up, and away…..
-Jimmy Webb

I find fundamentalisms to be amusing. They are so whether they are religious, Bright-minded and hyper rationalistic, or psychologically systematic. I have been fortunate (or cursed,) to have a lot of exposure to the weird and the wonderful and the unexplicable, yet, about absolute matters and both first and final things, I am agnostic. Any opinions I have are tentative, but my prejudice does favor a minimal capability enabled to understand what is demonstrably and reasonably widely applicable and what is, surely, not known to be certainly universal.

When I was 21 I had dinner with a friend and his wife and another couple. This second couple was literally led by the husband, a twenty-something Navy officer several years out of Annapolis. He worked as a weapons coordinator at Portsmouth naval shipyard. He also was a dominionist. He laid it all out how a Christian God stood, for him, firstly over everything including history itself, so-to-speak. I thought nothing of it except that the only proof he spoke of us was the truth of the bible. And, he told us it would end badly for the infidel and, just maybe, the US Navy might have to weigh in on the side of the about-to-return, sword bearing, Jesus. He sure hoped he might get a chance to rain some hellfire on the unsaved.

Scroll forward through many other encounters, each one characterized by the same “proof”. Such intellectual silliness is hardly worth challenging. For example, intelligent design proffers not even a single coherent contest of evolution. And it’s whole primary frame is supernaturalistic expicalicreationist. Heck, the other morning on the local NPR station a minister stated that evolution could not be true because nobody was around to observe it. I thought it was a delicious moment of solipsism, but the caller on the line fumbled the golden opportunity to shoot fish in the barrel.

I have friends and colleagues who are much more anxious about Jesusmanic religious fundamentalism, 21st century revival-style. Not me. The problem with the prospect for a theocracy is demographic and generational. A friend of mine is the son of pentacostals and he chose sex over snakes at 15. Doh.

This week I watched Jesus Camp, (official site,) a movie mostly about a crazed youth minister, Becky Fischer. Her game is to indoctrinate 5-15 year old kids and make them into Christian warriors in the Manichean war of saved Jesus peeps against unbelievers. Among many chilling sequences are two that leap out. The first is when she expresses envy of Islam because the Muslims, according to Fischer, have the kiddie indoctrination process down cold. The second is when she forthrightly admits that the end game of God’s design isn’t compatible with democracy.

But what the theocrats are up against is the increasing plural and cosmopolitan character of the U.S. As well, the generation galvanized to fearfulness by free love and freely chosen spirituality and freaks and, heck, the enlightenment, are aging. Ask any twenty-year-old about the counterculture of the sixties and how it has impacted them.

Sure, there is a wedge strategy to take over South Carolina, and, evidently, some of the suburbs of Colorado Springs have already ‘fallen,’ yet, over the next decade or so, the aging evangelical babyboomer, (see the red and blue political maps for 1972 and 2004,) and the generation X evangelical will go into fast decline. Fischer will not be able to create her warriors fast enough to war against culturally tolerant, hedonistic generations Y & Z.

Rapture gallery time.

Ask the aces question of any fundamentalist of any heuristic stripe: “Is your God, model, system, view, knowledge, required to also be my God (etc.)?” See if you’re forced to point out that something held to be truly universally applicable can only be true if it is truly universally applicable.

If my intuition is wrong and I end up in hell for eternity, so be it. If hell is good enough for Ronald Reagan and JFK –if there be a hellish there, there–it’s good enough for me.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Religion


DailyKos highlights positions taken by Burns & Allen (!) in the aftermath of the Florida Fiasco six years ago.

Leave a Comment

Filed under current events


If the election tomorrow is about Iraq, it’s also about a nation of citizen armchair geopolitical strategists making up their minds. Yup, each of us indulges our hunch about the war and for some of us this sense will be decisive. Presumably a vote to sustain Republican majorities in the Congress endorses the continued effort to pacify and re-organize Iraq. I don’t know exactly what a vote for Democrats means with respect to Iraq. They haven’t really weighed in on whether Iraq can be fixed or not, but, nevertheless, it would appear the Democrats are mostly against the neocon fantasy of ruling Iraq for whatever reasons, and, I’m hoping they are against destroying Iraq to save it.

Leave a Comment

Filed under current events


I’m a political junky. Over the years I’ve tried to keep politics out of the explorations here, but the personal is the political. I’ve thought about a political blog too, although the world probably doesn’t need another lefty blog. Far lefty in my case for I am a fabian, a digger, a radical humanist, and, perhaps worst of all, I can count. Think of me as a pointed headed auto-didact 52yo slacker. If I did have a blog I would orient it around the common cognitive dissonances which riddle political discourse.

more on diggeracity

Leave a Comment

Filed under humor


it is quite possible for commonsense to join with an iconoclastic mission. My friend Alan Kuper, the father of a junior high classmate of forty years ago, and a retired professor of electrical engineering, is on such a mission. At the same time, his approach is commonsensical: he has devised a system of scoring U.S. Congress persons based in evaluating their voting records on environmental matters.

This would be the broad brush. What Dr. Kuper notes is that the United States is home to the biggest population problem on earth. Why? Because our resource hungry, wasteful, and polluting consumption grows as our population grows. As is well known, the U.S. is the world’s leading resource mongerer, consumer and polluter. And, as Illich pointed out, the earth itself cannot support a global consumer society on the U.S. model. There aren’t enough raw materials in the earth, nor reserve of fresh atmosphere, (etc.,) to fund a global consumer utopia.

Somebody has to take a stand; a lot of somebodies; and from a small home office in his home, Dr. Kuper has taken a stand. It provides for a good human interest story too. Alan Kuper is wholly devoted to the cause of connecting the dots between the big picture of consumption la-la lunacy and democratic policy making. In his eighties, he hasn’t shuffled off to the wings of oblivious retirement. Since I’ve known him for so long, but no better than I have only recently, I am pleased to state he is a delightful curmudgeon of the old school, speaking truth to power and to the people for that matter.

The point is to leverage the data he’s put together. …because we might all better evaluate the voting implication of those congress people who purport to be acting in the citizenry’s self-interest. Dr. Kuper’s mission is completely grassroots, hardscrabble, and, at the same time, relentless in its evaluation of congressional commitments.

He generates a scorecard of each congress and this scorecard is packed full of valuable, surprising, and, often, shocking data. Consider a donation too–you’ll receive CUSP’s booklet and a hardcopy scorecard.

CUSP: USCongress-Enviroscore

Leave a Comment

Filed under current events


From a perspective of what language can and cannot accomplish, and especially from the perspective concerned with the dynamics of cognitive relation to persuasive language over time, the effort of the Cheney Inc. to push “stay the course” back in the box is fascinating.

Maureen Dowd is pithy:

The Bushes don’t connect words with action. Action is something that’s secretly plotted with the inner circle behind closed doors. The public should stay out of it. The Bushes just connect words with salesmanship. (NYT Oct.25:2006)

Message management can only serve proscribed purposes. Conceptual simplification, reduction to spin, and repetition across delivery domains, lands rightly with some and lands not at all with others. There’s a ‘matching’ goal and, presumably, it reinforces acquisiton of consonance with both the message and the conceptual structure implicit underneath the message. The idea is people want to feel okay about the sense they make about something. For example, all the Bush callers who phone Washington Journal (on c-SPAN) and state their “100% approval” likely fund this consonant sense using rationales which smooth over divergence and dissonance. For some, there’s no devil and no details; it’s all good. One never hears a caller say they are “85% supporters”.

Having at hand a language of convergence, and of absolute sympathy and alignment, obviously helps the make the sale. One might, were one a marketer in this mode, measure the effective matching with the return report “Doh, we should stay the course!”. We buy what makes us feel good. It’s a hunch. Sure, who wouldn’t want to bring a victory home?

What happens when the matching becomes more difficult? Surely dissonance starts to ripple into the placid sympathy, unwelcome thoughts intrude, reality begins to feel different than it did previously, anxiety increases. The sturdy sense begins to become fragile. That stay the course refers to an actual course is besides the point for the most part. The point of matching to a sense of resolve, to confidence in the proxy, (ie. the executive and its military fighting on our behalf,) and, implicitly, to an optimal outcome, “Victory,” loses its grip when any of those vectors begin to be displaced or deposed. When several or all of them begin to unravel together, it’s possible to speak of, perhaps, a multiplier effect.

Keep in mind the phrase was often deployed-over and over again-defensively. The defensive maneuver was implemented in light of trying to smooth over the rough and disturbing spiral downward of the news coming from the battlefield of Iraq. In effect, stay the course glides over its own middle since the full posit is: stay the course to victory; stay to victory. Tis a hard deployment to cut and run from. Clearly the administration wants to stay the ‘something or other’. Even now the idea is to stay in Iraq until the course, whatever it is, is completed. But it is impossible to persuasively reimplement stay at the same time the recipient of the pitch is searching for a way to get away from the sudden, prominant feeling of severe dissonance. Nobody volunteers for a cognitive game of chicken.

There’s a point of irony, doubled, in noting this. This point is: reality is always dynamic and always requires adaptation. This week it was laughable for me, someone who isn’t likely to be ever persuaded by surface language, to hear Tony Snow state what I already knew had to be the case anyway and always. Yes, the facts on the ground are dynamic and our forces are always flexing and adapting to the changes. Twas ever thus.

(Oct.23:2006) Q Is there a change in the administration “stay the course” policy? Bartlett this morning said that wasn’t ever the policy.

MR. SNOW: No, the policy — because the idea of “stay the course” is you’ve done one thing, you kick back and wait for it. And this has always been a dynamic policy that is aimed at moving forward at all times on a number of fronts. And that would include the international diplomatic front. After all, the Iraq compact is something we worked out with the Iraqis before visiting the Prime Minister in Baghdad earlier this year.

So what you have is not “stay the course,” but, in fact, a study in constant motion by the administration and by the Iraqi government, and, frankly, also by the enemy, because there are constant shifts, and you constantly have to adjust to what the other side is doing.

I already knew “stay the course” was implemented to cover or even bury the dynamic situation on the ground. Failed adaptation was not to see the light. Consider it is the dynamics of shifting cognitive apprehension of rhetoric which eventually exhaust the ameliorative power of the spin and the catch-phrase and the reductive move to a satisfying ‘selleable’ trope.

Continue reading

Leave a Comment

Filed under social psychology, organizational development


Underneath the complex clashes of the cultural war are very interesting conundrums which do not yield to superficial criticism. For example, any cost/benefit analysis used to rationalize real harm supports a dry ‘scientism’ unhooked from morality. From the other side, this same problem arises in most presumptions of primary substantive principles. With this, the cost/benefit analysis isn’t often done. Yet, in the clash between liberal social analysis and absolutist ‘guiding, a priori ordination’ both share a terrific insensitivity to real harm. The idea of Justice was once time-honored; it tends to disappear at both extremes.

I take problems like this to be problems of human sentience. The Sentient Times March issue contains an interview with Paul Krugman, yet another presentation from George Lakoff, and, pertinent to this item, an interview with John Perkins, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man.

We’re a long way off from a Buddhist politics.

Leave a Comment

Filed under current events


Elsewhere I am likely to make personal comments about world events. I make an exception this evening here. The Schiavo case is for me, a phenomonologist with archetypal leanings, the bookend to Gibson’s The Passion of Christ. In The Passion, relentless suffering of the sancrosanct object The Christ; in the flesh and blood of T.S. the relentless and solipsistic suffering of those for whom she is their object. The ‘sensitive’ in the afermath of their encounter with the simulcra Christ, (crudely outfitted with the special ‘effects,’ while in real time actual unspeakable suffering was visited on peoples in the crucible of civilization – not effects, but effective,) would easily cathect the simulated cinematic crucifixion into, for them, personal catharsis. Sure, one is moved, yet to what?

The unsaid word is, of course, Mercy. And, over many daily ‘news cycles’ it is Mercy itself that is so sunk into the shadow of humanity. For it is Mercy that is unspoken, unheard, and it is Mercy that cannot be roused. The hideous consequences of scapegoating Mercy are incalculable. As for Terri, why wouldn’t we prefer her to be released to the peace of the afterlife if we’re inclined to hope Paradise exists?

Until we allow Mercy to happen, unfold, for God knows Best, we will have war and wars like this. Cinematic portrayals will enthrall us. We will do everything to avoid any understanding at all while calling out a “culture of life” with the stench of death all around us; cluster bombs not flowers.

It has all been merciless.

Leave a Comment

Filed under current events, Religion


Well, how about this: the idea that within the US administration there are rogue tentacles that go around the world doing exactly the same but almost entirely out of any centralized control system? To me, that is even scarier.

To me too. Well put, Helena.

Helena Cobban Just World News Blog

Leave a Comment

Filed under current events