There’s a simple answer to the question posed in the title to this post. Either he did or he didn’t. The question was raised directly to Julian Assange last summer by a Dutch TV interviewer, and it has become “relevant” (as far as relevancy goes these days) again because of a sputtering non-story that broke on Fox News this week that nevertheless lit a fire under conspiracy theorists on left and right. Continue reading
My basic feeling about Charlie Hebdo: The crime was committed by a clique of criminals who self-identify as Muslims and identify this crime as being part of a holy war. But the crime is not holy, it’s murder of people for offending with cartoons, which is about as pathetic an excuse to commit murder as can be imagined. So the murderers deserve to be caught and shown only the mercy inherent in the criminal justice system in France and no more. That should be the scope of the discussions around this crime.
Instead, we are being treated to the spectacle–the same-idiotic-old-shit of a spectacle–of incensed white people, mostly, wanting to spread the blame for this murder away from the murderers and all over Islam and believers in Islam. To me, the idiocy of Islam is another discussion, and this red herring of Islam’s “blame” for this murder is just an excuse for incensed white people to behave badly and give full vent to their worst, most bigoted impulses. It’s all beside the point. It accomplishes nothing but spleen venting. It’s tiresome to have to fight it, but I just can’t stand stupidity from any quarter.
I just wonder, what am *I* missing? I have a knee-jerk need to fight the prevailing idiocy. What makes me so smart that I’m immune to it all, though? What am I missing? I don’t know…
I don’t listen to talking heads. I just want the basic facts, not all the bullshit that always comes with them, all the gas spewing out of idiots’ gas holes on TV about them. Of course I found this story irresistible, like everyone else in the world. I was also curious how Twitter was talking about it, so I saw that #killallMuslims had been trending worldwide. Then I saw what the general feel for the story was on Twitter, and it was basically ultramorons over here wanting to #killallMuslims, Muslims and bleeding hearts over here claiming the killers weren’t “true” Muslims because “Islam is a religion of peace” (with a bunch of both types criticizing CH for “provoking” the attacks), and atheists over here jumping on the Bill Maher/Christopher Hitchens (praise be to his name) bandwagon using this as an excuse to piss all over their favorite most-hated sky pixie worshippers of the moment. All so predictable and beside the point.
Last week, in the wake of the People’s Climate March and the #FloodWallStreet protests that followed it, I was tweebating folks of the “voluntarist” persuasion of libertarianism about the alleged hypocrisy (or irony, at least) of environmentalists using the fruits of capitalism to communicate their presumably anti-capitalist ideas. This was something we used to hear a lot in the beginning of the #Occupy movement from Wall Street’s apologist-propagandists in the media and the grandstands they played to. The argument seemed to be, if you use it, you can’t complain about it. Interesting to me, those who take this argument seriously (and assuming anyone really does, it must be these people), they don’t seem able to see that they could be accused of a similar hypocrisy for criticizing the government when they benefit from government infrastructure, public safety and defense.
But that is not my problem with the voluntarists. My problem is with their fundamental stance, which was exemplified for me in a tweet from one “Jack”:
Jack @oaaselect Sep 23
Did you get tricked into buying your device [meaning what I was using to Tweet with] or did you buy it voluntarily? @ChristofPierson @scooterpie61
On its face, this seems like a good question. The problem is, if you dig just a little under the face, the question falls apart. Do we really buy things “voluntarily”–of our own free will? Is it as simple as that? Consider the millions of people who broke records dumping their current phones for the iPhone 6 recently. Did all of those people need a new phone? Did they need the iPhone 6 in particular? Considering they were surviving fine without it until it went on sale, It’s hard to believe they did.. But the question is not did they need it, but did they want it? Did they buy it of their own free will?
Philosophically, free will is still controversial, of course. It’s a popular belief for obvious reasons, but the jury is still out on whether or not it’s fact. The very unpopular determinist position is that we are restricted to a very limited range of behaviors, based on any given stimulus, and the range shrinks the more habituated to these stimuli we become–unless we are insane, in which case, our behaviors can be frighteningly free-ranging and considered dangerous to society. Of course, just because this is an unpopular (because unflattering) point of view doesn’t mean it’s wrong.
I think it’s prudent to wonder, then, if the millions who ran out to buy the iPhone 6 all really “wanted” the phone or were responding as expected to a stimulus (“new Apple product,” or just,” latest gadget”) they’ve become habituated to reacting to in a specific way. There is no easy way of knowing, except maybe by comparing one’s own responses to these kinds of stimuli. Do we always buy what we want? Do we always take the job, or marry the spouse, or buy the house or car or gadget we want? If I were a voluntarist–I mean, if voluntarism were something I thought I wanted to believe in–wouldn’t it be important to know if free will were something more than a wish or hope–in other words, a self-flattering illusion? Wouldn’t it be important to know if it were something more like an objective fact?
If it is more like fact, it certainly is not a simple one. But my conversation with these voluntarists was unsatisfying not just because of Twitter’s limitations as a forum for complex discussion. These voluntarists were not interested in complexities in the least. They were quite content with their received opinions about free will, the nature of “real capitalism’ (which according to them is something, unironically to them, not of this world), or the right (or justice, if you will) of those who critique capitalism partaking in the gadgets the system produces. I have to wonder, who’s less liberated: the person within a system who sees its faults and says what those faults are, or the person whose ideology doesn’t permit more than a shallow understanding of the very thing they think they believe in.
There’s a fascinating, very sour interview on Salon.com with Adam Brandon, a leader of Freedom Works. That organization, somewhat defanged in the wake of an acrimonious split with its former leader, the former Texas Congressman Dick Armey, was nevertheless instrumental in forging right-wing discontent with Obamacare into pockets of astroturf activism around the country. More recently Freedom Works played a role in goading Republicans into following the Tea Party line over the shutdown and debt ceiling debacles. Brandon has ideas about the shutdown and House Speaker John Boehner’s motives during it that are worth considering,
I’m not sure if he’s going to be running for Speaker again. I wonder if that’s part of all of this as well. Why did – I mean the way it was crafted…You needed Democrats to pass this. And what I don’t understand is, if the plan all along was to put just basically a pretty clean CR out there and pass it with Democratic support, Democratic members, why even do it? Why not do this a month ago? Or were they actually trying to embarrass some people, or trying to cause this fight? I mean who knows. I don’t know why these things – if this was the plan all along, he should have started this at the very beginning, and just, “Hey, listen, we’re just going to pass this with Democratic votes.”
All along, observers were wondering what Boehner was up to. He looked weak, terrified of a small group of rabid right-wingers who were insisting on an all-or-nothing fight against Obamacare, which Boehner, being an old hand in DC, had to have known was a big fat turkey that was never going to fly. He would not be Speaker without the rabid right, but he would never be able to accomplish anything worthy of a legacy with them. The Tea Party coalition is the entire reason the Republicans have become the Party of No: No major legislation, no enabling of Obama, no compromise ever. Not much ammo there to stake a Speakership on.
Brandon’s paranoid theory actually makes a kind of sense, then. What if Boehner, realizing his legacy was doomed because of this awful hand he was dealt, decided, having nothing personally to lose, to take revenge on his tormentors on the right by giving them enough rope to hang themselves? What if he was thinking, if they’re going to tear me down, I’m taking them down with me?
Perhaps this is giving Boehner too much credit. But even if this were his intention, and even if it shows him to be more of a master Machiavellian than most had assumed, it doesn’t change the fact that the shutdown caused massive pain, to government employees, to families, to women with infants and children, to cancer patients, to people with disabilities, veterans, to local and national economies. He can’t be forgiven for that. But it would at least make his actions comprehensible. At least we would know, that cruel and heartless though he may be, he wasn’t motivated by sheer insanity.
- ZeroHedge: Obama: “John, What Happened”, Boehner: “I Got Overrun, That’s What Happened” (silveristhenew.com)
- Nancy Pelosi Busts John Boehner for Trying to Sabotage the Senate Debt Ceiling Deal (politicususa.com)
- Pelosi, Reid slam Boehner’s reckless effort to sabotage deal to end shutdown, avoid default (dailykos.com)
- Take a Bow, Mr. Speaker (dannyvinik.com)
- Insight: Budget fight leaves Boehner ‘damaged’ but still standing (reuters.com)
- Conservatives Now Love John Boehner After Dragging Him Into Shutdown Debacle (huffingtonpost.com)
- What if the Tea Party overthrows John Boehner? (salon.com)
Gary Wills has a very enlightening new piece in the New York Review of Books about the debt-ceiling/shutdown crisis manufactured by the Tea Party wing of the GOP. I can’t add anything to it, Please just go and read it. It’s an opinion of the American present deeply informed by the American past.
Here’s a taste:
Republican leaders in Congress are too cowardly to say that the voting restrictions being enacted by Republican-controlled state legislatures are racially motivated. They accept the blatant lie that they are aimed only at non-existent “fraud.” They will not crack the open code by which their partners claim to object to Obama because he is a “foreign-born Muslim” when they really mean “a black man.” They will not admit that the many procedural laws adopted to prevent abortion are in violation of the law as defined by the Supreme Court. They go along with the pretence that all the new rules are “for women’s health.” De facto acts of secession are given a pseudo-legal cover.
Thus we get people who say they do not want the government in control of women’s health under Obamacare—just after they order doctors to give women vaginal probes the doctors do not consider medically necessary. Or that they do not want the government telling Americans what they should do about their health—just before they prohibit “navigators” from even discussing choices about their health. The same people who oppose background checks for gun purchases now want background checks for anyone the government authorizes to explain the law to people. This is a gag rule to rank with antebellum bans on the discussion of slavery.
So we have one condition that resembles the pre-Civil War virtual secessionism—the holding of a whole party hostage to its most extreme members. We also have the other antebellum condition—the disproportionate representation of the extreme faction. In state after state in the 2012 election, there was a large vote for President Obama, but a majority of House seats went to Republicans. In Pennsylvania, for instance, Obama won 52 percent of the votes cast, but Republicans got over twice as many seats (13 to 5), thanks to carefully planned gerrymandering of districts by Republican state legislatures. This advantage will be set in stone if all the voter restriction laws now being advanced block voters who might upset the disproportion.
The presiding spirit of this neo-secessionism is a resistance to majority rule.
(My only comment on all this I said a little over two years ago,)
- Nothing Secedes Like Success (gregmitchellwriter.blogspot.com)
- A Bountiful Harvest of False Equivalence Analyses (theatlantic.com)
- The shutdown probably won’t hurt Republicans in 2014. Here’s what will. (washingtonpost.com)
- GOP Forgot to Line up a Plan B (hispanicbusiness.com)
- Sunday Night Shutdown Reader: Advise, Dissent (theatlantic.com)
Copyright advocates have long (and successfully) argued that keeping books copyrighted assures that owners can make a profit off their intellectual property, and that that profit incentive will “assure [the books’] availability and adequate distribution.” The evidence, it appears, says otherwise.
Rebecca J. Rosen outlines that evidence in an article at the Atlantic, “The Hole in Our Collective Memory: How Copyright Made Mid-Century Books Vanish.” It’s always worth asking ourselves just what use present copyright law is for anyone but the massive copyright hoarders like publishers and entertainment retailers. It certainly doesn’t benefit the public and now it’s even clear that it doesn’t even benefit the author whose “intellectual property’ it’s alleged to protect and promote.
Copyright law does, in any case, provide a good lesson in American civics. It demonstrates loudly and clearly whose interests our government has nearest and dearest to its heart. It’s not the people, of course, but always the intellectual property barons. We can rely on our faithful public servants in government, when given a choice between liberalizing the law (which would have the effect of enriching the creative atmosphere for all) and making it more and more constipated, to always choose the path of most constipation. Call it the trickle out theory of American culture.
- Crowdfunded Contest: What Should Future Of Copyright Law Look Like? (ip-watch.org)
- RT: Will Russia’s follow-up to Snowden be copyright reform? – by Max Kaiser (jhaines6.wordpress.com)
- Merger in Copyright Law (concurringopinions.com)
- Why does Amazon have more books from the 1880s than the 1980s? Blame copyright. (washingtonpost.com)
- THE COST OF INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY OVERREACH: The Hole in Our Collective Memory: How Copyright Made … (pjmedia.com)
- Key intellectual property and copyright Issues (benjiatcollege.wordpress.com)
- Rosen on Copyright and Vanishing Books (lawprofessors.typepad.com)
- How to Protect Intellectual Property (hispanicbusiness.com)
Big, stinking heap of phony outrage story of the day: Rolling Stone is printing a cover story about Boston marathon bombing suspect Dzokhar Tsarnaev and they have the nerve and lack of good taste (which is always the very first phrase we think of when we think American media, isn’t it?) to put a photo of the subject of that cover story on their cover. Shame, shame, Rolling Stone, now every body knows your name (which was probably the point to begin with, wasn’t it?).
Obvious point millions of “concerned” media members and other nervous nellies are blithely missing while falling all over themselves to feel outrage on behalf of poor, weak, innocent, defenseless, little Boston (Shame on you, Dropkick Murphys!): Rolling Stone has the same right to put on their cover whoever or whatever they want to put on their cover as all of those magazines that chose to give Osama bin Laden his celebrity treatment in the aftermath of September 11th did. What part of First Amendment right do you hypocrites not understand?
Grow up, America. The world is a hard place. The news media have a right (and responsibility) to make that unpleasant fact known to us.m
No use spending any more time on this ridiculous waste of a non-story. But if you want to defend the “defenders of decency” and attack Rolling Stone‘s “poor taste” and “bad judgment” in the comments, I will be more than happy to kick your ass down there.
- Rolling Stone puts Boston bombing suspect on cover (aeradioshow.wordpress.com)
- Would Rolling Stone Put George Zimmerman On Its Cover? (spectator.org)
- Rolling Stone Puts Dzhokhar Tsarnaev On Cover – And I Say, “So What?” (roadundiscovered.wordpress.com)
- Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on Cover of Rolling Stone! Ignites Firestorm (guardianlv.com)
When last we checked in at DemocraticUnderground, where I posted as BurtWorm for seven years before getting the boot in December 2010 without a single warning, the Administrators had revamped the site and imposed a new set of rules emphasizing the “Democratic” part of the name and seeming to toss the “Underground” part, as it were, under the ground. If you’ve never heard of DU, it’s self-described as the largest “progressive” forum on the Internet, larger even than Dailykos (allegedly). Its politics, however, have been nearly dead centrist since (at least) the 2008 election, when Barack Obama made being a Democrat “respectable” again.
I was curious how our friends over there have been handling the president’s embellishment of the Bush national security policies. I’m especially curious about how the Administrators are coping. These have got to be trying times for a forum with rules meant to stifle talk that disparages Democratic elected officials. Luckily, the administrators can always count on at least a handful of shameless partisans to carry team Obama’s water even during the worst of times. Continue reading
If yesterday’s post of Lawrence Lessig‘s TED talk on corruption gives you reason for optimism, you may want to check that after you read this from perennial thorn in the side of the powers that be Noam Chomsky writes of a peculiar distinction between the most “advanced” societies in the world today and those least touched by technological “progress” as far as the threat of climate change goes:
So, at one extreme you have indigenous, tribal societies trying to stem the race to disaster. At the other extreme, the richest, most powerful societies in world history, like the United States and Canada, are racing full-speed ahead to destroy the environment as quickly as possible. Unlike Ecuador, and indigenous societies throughout the world, they want to extract every drop of hydrocarbons from the ground with all possible speed.
Both political parties, President Obama, the media, and the international press seem to be looking forward with great enthusiasm to what they call “a century of energy independence” for the United States. Energy independence is an almost meaningless concept, but put that aside. What they mean is: we’ll have a century in which to maximize the use of fossil fuels and contribute to destroying the world.
And that’s pretty much the case everywhere. Admittedly, when it comes to alternative energy development, Europe is doing something. Meanwhile, the United States, the richest and most powerful country in world history, is the only nation among perhaps 100 relevant ones that doesn’t have a national policy for restricting the use of fossil fuels, that doesn’t even have renewable energy targets. It’s not because the population doesn’t want it. Americans are pretty close to the international norm in their concern about global warming. It’s institutional structures that block change. Business interests don’t want it and they’re overwhelmingly powerful in determining policy, so you get a big gap between opinion and policy on lots of issues, including this one.
This seems to be a pretty important point, but it’s very difficult to know how seriously it’s being taken: The United States government does not have the species’ or the world’s best interests at heart. And it’s not just the Republicans, who are an easy target for American liberals, that we have to blame. The fact is the Republicans are pretty much brain-dead and useless at this point. But are the Democrats really all that much better on this issue in particular? Continue reading
Lawrence Lessig, Harvard professor, lawyer, creator of Creative Commons, and author of Republic, Lost, explains via masterful use of Power Point, the profound corruption problem facing the republic and why there is reason for optimism that the people can solve it.
- Lawrence Lessig: What an ‘Originalist’ Would Understand ‘Corruption’ to MeanMichael Ramsey (originalismblog.typepad.com)
- Lawrence Lessig: We the People, and the Republic we must reclaim (forwardsojourner.wordpress.com)
- On Corruption: 5 Questions with Lawrence Lessig (pogoblog.typepad.com)
- Lawrence Lessig “Code is law” (copyrightmit.wordpress.com)