Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Hollow

No gravitational force is exerted within a hollow sphere: the gravitational field from the matter of the shell cancels itself out.  Everything floats!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Review: "On Bullshit" by Harry G. Frankfurt

"On Bullshit" by Harry G. Frankfurt is a short book less than 70 pages long.  It is a small book (4x6).  You can carry it in your pocket.  It can be read in about an hour at a leisurely rate.  The format is thus appropriate for its content.  I got it from the public library.  Bullshit does not deserve a long treatment.  It's not like it is lying.  The person bullshitting obviously has something to gain.  Although the author generally discusses more interesting cases of bullshit, it does not really touch on how much bullshit is just being driven by insecurities.  Truth is irrelevant to bullshitting.  A liar obscures the truth, but at least recognizes its existence.  Politicians and the media are full of bullshit.  Lies are relatively easy to catch.  Bullshit must be put through a sieve if one is to separate truth from lies.  In a sense, if not an actual lie, propaganda may or may not be bullshit.  The effort required to sort it all out is exhausting.  So it can be accepted or ignored.  (Of course, ignoring bullshit is a type of acceptance.)  Absent a positive response, you can call it out for only so long before ceasing to care.  Insincerity is sincerity to those not knowing better.

Read this book.

One thing I learned from the book: Wittgenstein did not apparently understand hyperbole.  (Too much logic perhaps?)

Monday, November 28, 2011

Leaders Are Poison

Thomas L. Day, a 31 years old Iraq War Veteran, laments in Penn State, my final loss of faith, the fact that no real leaders exist anymore.  I will have to disagree.  There is nothing lamentable about it.  Leaders are poison.  At best, they represent an unnecessary weakness as they allow the mass of humanity to escape their own culpability.  Leaders enable passivity.  In cases of mass movements, leaders may be eliminated and/or co-opted. At worst, a leader is nothing but the scum that floats to the top of a cesspool.  (Penn State is certainly a most disgusting example.)

For any real change to occur, people need to take responsibility for their own lives.  I have recently come across the term "Leader-Full," where everyone is a leader (See Here.)  I admit that I kind of like the term and the theory behind it as it fits nicely with Fourth Generation Warfare (4GW) Theory, which involves a decentralization in human affairs as people shift toward primary loyalties as the nation-state decays.  It is also compatible with open source theory as well.  As the nation-state withers, people do not need to swear fealty to little dictators like tribal chieftains, warlords, organized crime bosses etc.  Hierarchies are not necessary.  People can do things for themselves and not for the benefit of a parasitic elite--that is real freedom.  It's hard work, but it seems at least some of the younger generation gets it.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Trading

Trading one addiction for another leads nowhere.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Objectivity is a Lie

Anyone who believes in objective journalism is a Chump.   This sort believes facts are not important.  In this flawed fantasy verbal world, only assertions have meaning. A journalist is part of the world, and therefore has inherent biases based on a number of factors.  Who pays the bill is always a factor.  Thus only toadying authoritarian bootlickers will ever become media stars.  Objectivity is another mindless faith.  Like any religion, the media is not a defender of truth, any more than the Catholic Church is a defender of molested children.

From Bob Schieffer, Ron Paul and journalistic “objectivity”:
Along those lines, Radley Balko has argued [link fixed], with ample documentation of the media’s almost unanimous opposition to any form of liberalization of drug laws, that the real media bias is authoritarianism: loyalty to those who wield power. That's unsurprising: after all, when you watch a media star on TV, what you are seeing in almost every case is an extremely well-paid, high-ranking employee of a major corporate conglomerate. They are the consummate insiders in every single sense. Except in the rarest cases, it would be irrational to expect them to be adversarial to the establishment which is responsible for their status and which lavishes them with so many rewards. Those admitted to the royal court don't make a habit out of agitating against the King; quite the opposite: they become his most loyal and devoted subjects, the ones most eager to protect and defend the monarchy which guarantees them their wealth and status. That's all the Bob Schieffers of the world are doing. Again, there's nothing wrong with it per se, or at least not unusual. It's just the very opposite of “objectivity.”
Contrary to popular wisdom, there aren’t two types of journalists: those who express opinions and those who are objective. The two types are those who honestly acknowledge their opinions and those who deceitfully pretend such opinions do not influence their journalism. One reason modern establishment journalism has become so corrupted and worthless is because of the conceit that they engage in some sort of objective reporting that is free of bias and opinion, even as they are the stalwart defenders of a clear set of political opinions and interests (those wielded by the same power factions which they pretend to hold accountable). Any time someone is tempted to believe these fairy tales of objectivity, they should just re-watch this Schieffer interview. 
Say what you want about Gonzo Journalism, but at least it does not make this fundamental error.  The reporter is always part of the story.  Objectivity is a lie.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Burn 'Em Out

The comments by so-called survivalists on the post They Know Social Unrest is a Foregone Conclusion made me chuckle. Some of these people seem to think they can hide out in areas that are away from cities in the event of a societal collapse. When it was pointed out that these areas would be flooded with people fleeing a hypothetical collapse, their typical response was that they would shoot anyone who came near. This sort seems to think they can just hold out forever. They never seem to consider that nobody need go near them.  They could just be burned out.

So what you gonna do then, nutball?  I think someone has been watching too many movies...

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Turkeys

Some turkeys are not worth eating.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Big Lie

I'm not a big fan of the Federal Government, but some stuff spewed by right wing idiots is just to much to take.  Those Chumps believe just about anything.  For the rest of us, propaganda can be countered.  In this example, the Big Lie that the financial crisis was caused as a result of poor, helpless banks being forced to make loans to people who could not afford them is skewered.

From Examining the big lie: How the facts of the economic crisis stack up:
•The boom and bust was global. Proponents of the Big Lie ignore the worldwide nature of the housing boom and bust.
A McKinsey Global Institute report noted “from 2000 through 2007, a remarkable run-up in global home prices occurred.” It is highly unlikely that a simultaneous boom and bust everywhere else in the world was caused by one set of factors (ultra-low rates, securitized AAA-rated subprime, derivatives) but had a different set of causes in the United States. Indeed, this might be the biggest obstacle to pushing the false narrative. How did U.S. regulations against redlining in inner cities also cause a boom in Spain, Ireland and Australia? How can we explain the boom occurring in countries that do not have a tax deduction for mortgage interest or government-sponsored enterprises? And why, after nearly a century of mortgage interest deduction in the United States, did it suddenly cause a crisis?
The housing bubble was (and is) a global problem.   The U.S. economy does not exist in a vacuum.   Also, I would like to see morons who believe this particular Big Lie to explain how the U.S. government forced them to package and sell financial junk like derivatives.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Failure

Failure is success for failures.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Never Runs

Only a fool never runs.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Rebel

A rebel is a deluded slave.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Leaders

Leaders are an unnecessary nuisance.

On Bullshit

I just came across the book On Bullshit by Harry G. Frankfurt.   I have not read it, but it looks interesting.  One of the points from the book's description is a good one:
...He argues that bullshitters misrepresent themselves to their audience not as liars do, that is, by deliberately making false claims about what is true. In fact, bullshit need not be untrue at all. 
Rather, bullshitters seek to convey a certain impression of themselves without being concerned about whether anything at all is true. They quietly change the rules governing their end of the conversation so that claims about truth and falsity are irrelevant. Frankfurt concludes that although bullshit can take many innocent forms, excessive indulgence in it can eventually undermine the practitioner's capacity to tell the truth in a way that lying does not. Liars at least acknowledge that it matters what is true. By virtue of this, Frankfurt writes, bullshit is a greater enemy of the truth than lies are.
If you've ever been plagued by someone who engages in this behavior excessively, I think you'll agree that he hits the nail on the head.  At least someone who lies knows the truth; the bullshitter does not know the difference.  (Meaning, they have a bright future as a propagandist, a politician, or at least a P.R. hack.)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Undertow

In economic matters, an undertow sucks everyone down.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Self Interest

Enlightened self interest is not rational self interest.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Impulses

New responses are often old impulses.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Priorities

1. Sometimes apathy is a matter of priorities;
2. One cannot care about everything;
3. One who tires to fix everything will fail at everything.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Social Darwinism

Social Darwinism is a rationale for the existence of those whom would otherwise quickly perish.

Unemployed Vets

From Unemployment for Young Vets: 30%, and Rising:
Dig deeper into the pages of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics employment data and it becomes apparent that while the job market is slowly improving for most Americans, it’s moving in the opposite direction for Gulf War II vets (defined by the BLS as those on active duty since 2001). The youngest of veterans, aged 18 to 24, had a 30.4 percent jobless rate in October, way up from 18.4 percent a year earlier. Non-veterans of the same age improved, to 15.3 percent from 16.9 percent. For some groups, the numbers can look a good deal worse: for black veterans aged 18-24, the unemployment rate is a striking 48 percent.
Via Global Guerrillas:
IF we keep going in this direction, and there's no reason to think we won't, these young men find new groups to care for them and they shift their loyalties to new gangs/mafias/cartels/militias etc. at a pretty amazing clip. Given the danger this shift in primary loyalties represents for the future, going it alone isn't an option. You need a community at your back.
And since community has ceased to exist for many, this situation will not be pretty. Unlike the mid-1990s, post OKC bombing, the government is not quietly employee those with combat skills (as was related to me, when I had business at the Federal Building), but others will be more than happy to do so.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Deserving of Nothing

As George Monbiot describes in The Self-Attribution Fallacy, the 1% are simply where they are due to luck and the willingness to screw everyone else:
If wealth was the inevitable result of hard work and enterprise, every woman in Africa would be a millionaire. The claims that the ultra-rich 1% make for themselves – that they are possessed of unique intelligence or creativity or drive – are examples of the self-attribution fallacy. This means crediting yourself with outcomes for which you weren't responsible. Many of those who are rich today got there because they were able to capture certain jobs. This capture owes less to talent and intelligence than to a combination of the ruthless exploitation of others and accidents of birth, as such jobs are taken disproportionately by people born in certain places and into certain classes.
The findings of the psychologist Daniel Kahneman, winner of a Nobel economics prize, are devastating to the beliefs that financial high-fliers entertain about themselves(1). He discovered that their apparent success is a cognitive illusion. For example, he studied the results achieved by 25 wealth advisers, across eight years. He found that the consistency of their performance was zero. “The results resembled what you would expect from a dice-rolling contest, not a game of skill.” Those who received the biggest bonuses had simply got lucky.
In other words, they deserve nothing.  In fact, if not for the circumstances of their birth, they would probably be in prison:
In their book Snakes in Suits, Paul Babiak and Robert Hare point out that as the old corporate bureaucracies have been replaced by flexible, ever-changing structures, and as team players are deemed less valuable than competitive risk-takers, psychopathic traits are more likely to be selected and rewarded(4). Reading their work, it seems to me that if you have psychopathic tendencies and are born to a poor family you're likely to go to prison. If you have psychopathic tendencies and are born to a rich family you're likely to go to business school.
One other thing, not touched upon, is that psychopathic tendencies, on so wide a scale, considering the 1% is not drawn randomly from the population at large (as in more the case for prisons) but rather from the very rich, is sign that these people are horribly inbred.  In the poor, inbreeding is derided; in the rich is is celebrated. The only thing they are deserving of is to be aborted.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

The Situationists

Despite not being very interested in reading about the 1960s, perhaps because it did not originate in the US, I've always felt the Situationists to be worth the time to consider their ideas.  Ken Knabb's Bureau of Public Secretes is among the best sources for translations and analysis of their intellectual "products."  I've always favored the lack of leaders in that particular movement.

Anyway, a piece by Ken Knabb featured on Counterpunch offers a good synopsis of what the Situationists were all about, and the parallels with the Occupy Movement (including the use of the General Strike).  It also contains a rebuttal of the god-awful Salon article by Gary Kamiya, The Original Mad Men: What Can OWS Learn from a Defunct French Avant-Garde Group?  Frankly, it was such a piece of crap that I couldn't finish it, but Ken did:
I have examined Mr. Kamiya’s article here not because what he says about the situationists has any particular significance, but simply because it happens to be among the first examples of the sort of thing we can expect to see in the coming months as media commentators attempt to get their tiny minds around this strange phenomenon in order to reassure their readers and viewers: “Don’t worry, we’ve got this covered, we’ve already read this stuff so you don’t have to and we can assure you that these situationists are of no significance, they’re just some sort of zany cultural pranksters, or ivory-tower theorists, or grim radical dogmatists, or stuffy academic propagandists, or loony utopian dreamers, or irresponsible vandals, or something . . . . Anyway, whatever they are, there’s nothing to see here. Move on.”
God save OWS from the liberals--always the vanguard of the counter-revolution--and their authoritarian ass-licking.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Attack It

If you fail to understand something attack it.

(Note that this can be taken several ways.)

General Strike in Dallas?

Dallas General Strike?  Yep.  Well Maybe.  It is Texas after all, but one thing I learned, when I lived in the part of the country for a few years, is that people there can sometimes surprise you.  I would have figured on it being Austin first...

Monday, November 07, 2011

Only in America

Only in America could someone as obviously incompetent as, the former administrator of the US-dominated Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, L. Paul Bremer still get a hearing.  It illustrates why the political elite is not as threatening as would otherwise be possible.  They can do damage, but they can create nothing.

Science of Consciousness

As I've noted over the years on this blog, I find it amusing that some scientists claim that we pretty much know everything there is to know, when the science of consciousness is still in its infancy.  From Consciousness: The Black Hole of Neuroscience:
"The questions [we ask] have become a little bit more sophisticated and we’ve become more sophisticated in how we ask the question," she adds - but we're still far from being able to explain how the regions of the brain interact to produce thought, dreams, and self-awareness. “In terms of understanding, the awareness that comes from binding remote activities of the brain together, still remains what philosophers call, ‘The hard problem.'"
I have long maintained that it may turn out that it is fundamentally impossible to describe consciousness quantitatively.  The mind may be above and beyond scientific observation.  In other words, the mind cannot know itself entirely.

For further reading on this topic, I highly recommend the works of Roger Penrose.  I also absolutely do not recommend reading anything by Stephen W. Hawking that even remotely touches on this topic as it is a pedantic waste of time.  Positivist reductionism is a dead end.  (I do respect his other work, especially A Brief History of Time, which is an excellent book for non-scientists.)

3rd Alternative

As an alternative to defaulting on credit cards, "replacing" a big bank issued credit card and transferring the balance to a credit union (which is usually lower interest) is also possible (or a zero interest transfer to another big bank).  Why pay them all that interest?

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Don't Pay

Taking it a step further and refusing to pay off credit cards is easy.  Just stop paying! See Here and Here.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Divest

I moved my bank accounts from what was Washington Mutual once Chase took it over to a small bank, but I had also been using a credit union for about 10 years.  It's nice to see people are starting to do this en mass.  What took so long?  Hopefully the trend continues with more awareness concerning what one's money supports.  Small is better, and it is not just financial institutions.  Also, when will the stop paying your bills to corrupt corporations movement begin?  Puritan morality needs to finally die. Paying back a person who loaned you money or provided a service is one thing, but only a tool believes the same applies to corporations.  The ballot is basically meaningless, but one can still vote with their feet.  In the end, only economic democracy has any meaning.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Hilarity

Hilarity is the last refuge of a kook.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Systemic Failure

Systemic failure is the face of entropy.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Commodified

Only when it loses its soul may spirit be commodified.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Learned Somthing New About Lumber

Although my trade has enabled me to develop an expertise with respect to construction economics, until reading today's Financial Armageddon post, I was unaware that there was a correlation noted between lumber prices and the "prevailing economic winds."  (Of course, other pricing ACZA stub piling, timber marine decking and form/false work, most of my experience with heavy civil highway and marine work does not concern lumber.  I did know lumber was declining in price.)  It does make sense as less housing is likely to be constructed during a poor economy.  It will give me something new to track.

The only thing really going on is energy related construction (power and electrical), but I did know that already from reading ENR. (See also Calculated Risk.)

I Hate Art

I freely (albeit grudgingly) admit that I am an artist, but obviously not a professional one.  I have absolutely no interest in selling my art, and I don't respect those who do any more or less than I respect someone for getting paid to clean a toilet. (Although the janitor is doing something that is far more in my basic interests, namely sanitation, than any artist could possibly do.)  It's a job and that's it.  Unlike the janitor, what I really dislike about professional artists--by which I mean someone making a tidy profit off their so-called "art" (not just breaking even)--is their attitude that they do something more worthwhile than the rest of us.  Frankly, I don't buy it (pun intended).  Pandering to a lowest common denominator is not something worthy of respect.  The product is not great, nor even good, but rather dull.  A century from now, if it even exists, their art may shed some light on the mediocre time for which it was made, but otherwise nothing lasting beyond the paycheck to the artist.  The culture industry is not praiseworthy.  It's not even culture. It's just crap. I hate art.