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It isn't some ennobling experience, of heroism and sacrifice. It is ugly violence with no restrictions. The Times has news from the civil war in the Congo:
And let's remember: men did this.
Turn men into killers for some insignificant political gain, and you open a big can of sadism. Not so easy to close again. Rape and torture aren't accidents that happen on the fringes of war; they are the essence of war. This is what happens when men are told to kill.
The story keeps getting more and more horrific. It is one more sign that this Iraq Occupation policy was immorality piled on stupidity stuffed in corruption.
I must say that it also confirms my belief that mercenaries are vile beyond measure. No civilized country should allow it. I rank mercenaries below terrorists on the scale of humanity. I abhor political violence, but I can understand why some people would choose to engage in murder for a principle. But to kill out of love of violence and greed is, simply put, inhuman.
The NY Times has an investigative piece on the impending mortgage foreclosure disaster. Gretchen Morgenson notes:
The explanations offered by the executive from the worst of the mortgage companies are feeble. The evidence presented by the cases covered and consumer advocates is damning.
In case anyone was uncertain, the message is clear: the corporation's interest is in extracting value from you regardless of how sweet their communications to you are or how many butterflies and puppies are in their TV ads.
Capitalism is not in your interest if you are not one of the world's owners.
You can suffer in silence, hoping for an interview with a Times investigative reporter, do your best to try to enjoy life before the multinationals figure out a way to squeeze you to death, or you can help to build a better world, based on cooperation instead of competition.
My new book/CD project, Urban Birds, is now available. The book includes a series of manipulated images of birds in urban settings. The CD includes four tracks of ambient music I composed using instruments, tapes, and field recordings.
Only $30 plus postage. Write to uberkatze AT anti-naturals DOT org to reserve your copy.
an interesting animal I ate
an interesting thing I did with or to an animal
(They might have been caribou. It was a long time ago.)
an interesting animal in the museum
an interesting animal in its natural habitat
As far as tagging others, well, that is a bit of a problem. See, no one reads this blog. Not wanting to be a party pooper, I'll see what I can do. Perusing the referrers, I see mostly spam, but there is Gordo and Vlorbik. Sorry guys.
More cat pix after the fold.
Professor Myers has an excellent brief explanation of how moral development is independent of religious practice.
By independent, I mean that its presence or absence is unrelated to the presence or absence of religion. There are moral atheists and moral religionists, and I suspect that the reasons for their development are similar. That the religionists might believe that their morality comes from religion doesn't make it so.
There are immoral atheists and immoral religionists, too, obviously. At this historical moment, it is the latter who are plaguing us with their peculiar insanity.
One thing is clear, and this is a point that atheists are making more vigorously these days, that religion is a potent potential justification for horrific violence. It is like other totalizing ideologies in this regard. Atheism is a conclusion, not an ideology, so it does not have the power to inspire this kind of insane political violence.
For more on this topic, see my essay Death Mobs.
Over at Reclusive Leftist, the Ghost of Violet* has a post about an invited address at the American Psychological Association annual meeting. She correctly nails the evopsych motivation of the dren**. Further investigation reveals that the speaker is full of mens'-rights-type resentment.
If my social psychology brethren don't drop the pathetic "evolution justifies the status quo" nonsense that seems all the rage these days, I'm going to have to start kicking some ass. Brothers: evolution is a biological theory; it is not a metaphor***. So stop dreaming up some lame just-so stories to explain gender differences. If you want to make a scientific evolutionary psychology, start by reading a biology textbook. When you are finished with that, pick up an anthropology or sociology textbook to see what the prevailing cultural explanations are. If your proposed explanation stinks in comparison, that is probably because you are talking bullshit.
Don't make me come over there.
* I don't believe in ghosts, so I don't think Dr Socks is really dead.
** That's Farscape-ese for horse shit.
*** It can, of course, be a metaphor, but then it isn't science, and such an evolutionary psychology would not have any more relevance than, say, life-force psychology or some other New Age crap. A proper evolutionary psychology would ask how evolution by natural selection (a biological process, not a metaphor) has shaped the human mind and behavior. Given how incomplete our understanding of the genetic determination of neuroanatomy and physiology, and how little we actually know about the Pleistocene social environment, that is going to be a sketchy proposition for now. But what does seem clear is that the effects of selection will have shaped the human brain much more than the male or female brain. Because, despite all the blather about modularity, selection for mental flexibility is far more efficient than a module for every imagined group difference or trait. Further, once we developed brains that permitted substantial sociability, then the primary selection pressures would have shifted from the natural environment to culture. If we can say anything with confidence at this point, it is that humans evolved as social beings.
Only fools, fascists or pathological partisans could defend such an obvious and incompetent hack. Well, Bedrock, which is it?
Another insightful essay from Sara at Orcinus:
I haven't seen the CNN series yet, but I'm looking for it. The reviews have been good. I think it is a breakthrough moment for American journalism. The usual frame, 'the West v. radical Islam', is sadly lacking. As Sara points out, the real historical development is fundamentalism v. cosmopolitan secularism.
One should go back and reread Benjamin Barber's "Jihad vs. McWorld".
While watching the ball game this afternoon, I saw a commercial for commercial copier. This smart-looking executive walks over to the machine and in just a couple of taps gets the quarterly report. How convenient! But wait! There's more. He suddenly realizes that he doesn't know the address of a good steakhouse downtown. (Where else would he read that report?) So he uses the copier's built in mapquest-like search engine.
Really! Is that just the silliest thing? What idiot would ever want to get a restaurant address from a copier? I'm betting that everyone in any company that purchases the copier has a computer with an internet connection and a printer. Hell, is there an executive in the country that doesn't already have a cell phone that could look up the address and produce a map of that steakhouse?
This is an excellent example of feature creep. Instead of doing one or a few things really well, the boys in marketing think that the do-it-all product will sell better. Soon enough they run out of meaningful tasks, so eventually they make a copier with mapquest or a razor with five blades that vibrate. The end result, typically, is a product that does a hundred mostly useless things poorly.
Jenny Diski comments on another absurd EvoPsych just-so story. Let's cut to the chase:
I quite agree that such work is rather striking evidence of how science is emptied of the spirit of discovery when in the hands of intellectual hacks.
I say this as someone keenly interested in evolution as a scientific theory. I think it has much to offer the social sciences. But, sadly, it is often used as a appallingly bad metaphor rather than a real biological process, and the result is always the same. It is simply bad science.
Sara Robinson at Orcinus has an interesting essay on some of the social psychological aspects of RWA:
This is an important point. The main benefit of rigid religiosity is that it promises an escape from the complexity of the modern, adult world. Believers trade autonomy for perceived (i.e., fantasy) safety. This, of course, makes them easily manipulated, a ready army-in-waiting for fascist opportunists.
I watched the hated Braves beat the Mets 7-3 at Shea Stadium this evening. We were sitting in field box seats — the best seats I've had in a MLB stadium — and it was quite an experience. We were behind the visitors dugout, in prime foul ball territory. Several came our way, and one caused minor injuries to a young woman sitting two rows in front of us. You always have to be alert that close to the field.
It was a fine game, even though the Amazin's lost. I was looking forward to seeing Oliver Perez pitch. When he is on, he's electric. Alas, he wasn't sharp on Tuesday evening. Still, you have to admire what the players can do; when you sit so close to the field, you realize how fast the game is.
Perhaps the best thing about the evening at the part was missing the news of that certain player hitting that certain historic home run. I prefer to have my baseball memories remain innocent.
Congratulations to Tom Glavine on his 300th career victory. He's the 23rd pitcher to reach the that mark, and perhaps the last to do it.
I always liked Glavine, even when he pitched for the Braves. He's a yeoman rather than a prima donna. He's a big union man, and that shows good judgment as well as enormous talent.
Other recent milestones have been achieved by players with questionable character, so it is nice to have a truly nice guy to cheer for.
Sent to me by my friend Karla:
As an anarchist, I prefer no government, but a government of Tims would be a step in the right direction.
Not that anyone from NYC, even those who like him, needs to be reminded what Giuliani is really like:
The main difference between Rudy's opponents and supporters is that the latter believe vulgar opportunism is a desirable quality in a leader. It makes you wonder just how far up their asses their heads have been for the last six years.
Keith Olbermann, in another wonderful special commentary, answers Chertoff's gut feeling:
And you and your folks there have a different kind of stomach pain, knowing that with a track record that consists largely of two accomplishments — inconveniencing people at airports, and scaring them everywhere else — your department doesn’t know what the hell it’s doing, and even you Mr. Chertoff, know it.
It’s impossible to prove a negative, to guarantee that you and your predecessors deliberately scared the American public just for the political hell of it — even though your predecessor Mr. Ridge admitted he had his suspicions about exactly that.
That is precisely where they belong, but I am not holding my breath. Our politics consistently demonstrates that the ruling class is exempt from justice.
Inside Higher Ed is reporting a new public opinion poll that suggests that the anti-academy propaganda of the past twenty years has taken hold. A sizable minority of Americans believe that professorial bias is a problem. Of course, such bias is a problem in principle. The important question is whether or not it is a problem in fact. As far as I know, there is no serious empirical evidence to support the claim that bias is widespread. (The only campuses where we know indoctrination is prevalent are those campuses that advertise the fact as part of their heritage, that is, religious colleges.) That many people believe bias is endemic in the university setting suggests only that many people don't really have any idea what goes on in college classrooms.
If a survey were to ask, "Do you think that bankers' three martini lunches are a problem?" You'd probably find a significant portion of the respondents answering yes. After all, it sounds like a problem, and why would you be asking if it weren't? All it does is play into a stereotype. People are prepared to believe that bankers are drunkards and college professors are hippie communists.
The state of public opinion is a matter of concern. Colleges and faculty need to be more active in making a case for the value of liberal arts education. The vast majority of faculty, on the right or left, are professionals whose main concern is teaching students to think critically and acquire literacy in a particular discipline. I believe that most people are supportive of the idea that college should be a site of open inquiry.
Those who beat the drums (and earn a comfortable living doing so) on this issue are, in fact, hostile to the idea of open inquiry. They want the university to be an active participant in ideological socialization — another total institution in a totalizing society. They believe that universities should be turning out good little soldiers and workers, not cosmopolitan free thinkers.
If we ever manage to break out of this society-of-fear so artfully and purposively crafted by the neocons and christanists, it will be because of the cosmopolitan free thinkers among us.
It occurs to me that the annual All-Star Home Run contest is no more interesting than the NBA Dunk contest. It isn't that the skills on display are anything but extraordinary, but rather, when taken out of the context of their respective games, neither the home run nor the dunk is all that interesting.
Well, this is Friday so there must be another Coulter controversy. Forgive me for not manning the barricades on this one. Many will claim that Coulter is beyond the pale in our public sphere, but as a scientist who studies public discourse, I have to disagree.
There has long been a fascist fringe in American politics. A decade ago, I wrote a chapter in a volume on the "culture war" that argued both that the right-left dynamic is considerably more complicated than the culture war metaphor connotes and that cultural conflict is as American as apple pie, baseball, and motherhood.
What is new, I think, is the structural composition of public discourse in the digital age. We are hearing more, and more often, from the fascist right, of which Coulter is simply a useful clown, than in the recent past.
Moneyed interests with fascist tendencies are able, in the new media world, to buy a significant portion of the public sphere. On immigration, race, gender, and a whole host of related issues, the fascist right is injecting its cold-blooded viewpoint into mainstream discourse.
Far right christianists are taking advantage in this historical moment of global religious tension to project their fantasies of ultimate control. The secular fascists are just happy to be in the daylight, cheering the christianists on even as they roll their collective eyes at the irrationality of their medieval Weltanschauung.
This moment will pass. There isn't more than a third of the American public that accepts or even tolerates the style or substance of fascism. Yes, progressives must continue to argue for peaceful cosmopolitanism in the public sphere. After all, what choice do we have?
But the public will never be persuaded of the wisdom of fascism as a way of life. Coulter and her low-rent imitators are amusing to the thugs who control contemporary conservatism, but they are not so foolish as to believe.
What is more serious as a threat is that the temporary takeover of the state apparatus by christianist lunatics, like Bush, and ill-tempered paranoid soviets, like Cheney, will result in more permanent damage to our political system. I don't have much faith that, should the Dems take control of the federal government in 2008, they will be eager to give up the security state so insidiously constructed by the present criminals in charge.
American fascists may be carrying bibles and wrapped in flags, but they are just noisemakers. It is the permanent declaration of war that may enslave us. Fear is a powerful corrosive.
The working class and the employing class have nothing in common. There can be no peace so long as hunger and want are found among millions of the working people and the few, who make up the employing class, have all the good things of life. Between these two classes a struggle must go on until the workers of the world organize as a class, take possession of the means of production, abolish the wage system, and live in harmony with the Earth. -- IWW
In a democracy it is necessary that people should learn to endure having their sentiments outraged. -- Bertrand Russell
Let us strangle the last king with the entrails of the last priest. -- Denis Diderot
It's not that no one sees the straight line to Doomtown we've been on since Reagan, it's that there's big profits in it. The most superficially Christian and Other-Worldly-Yearning nation in the developed world is the one most likely to kill you for your shoes. -- Doghouse Riley
The true purpose of education is to try to foster in students a kind of critical cosmopolitanism, such that they learn, among other things, to question any notion that one’s nation or tribe is favored by God or destiny. -- Michael Bérubé
It is not enough to decry the existence of the Spectacle. We intend to use both art and theory as a battering ram against Capitalism and its false opposition, tribalism, in all of its mystical forms. We believe it is possible to move beyond the inexcusable savagery of everyday life. -- The Anti-Naturals
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