Sunday, February 01, 2015

"All there is, is metaphors."

Was Abolitionism a Failure? - "Today, we point to abolition as proof that we can improve society by eliminating one glaring evil. This is what unites “new abolitionists” across the political spectrum, whether they’re working to end the death penalty or ban abortion. We like the idea of sweeping change, of an idealistic movement triumphing over something so clearly wrong. The problem is, that’s not really how slavery ended. Those upright, moral, prewar abolitionists did not succeed. Neither did the stiff-necked Southern radicals who ended up destroying the institution they went to war to maintain. It was the flexibility of the Northern moderates, those flip-floppers who voted against abolition before they voted for it, who really ended 250 years of slavery. Abolitionists make better heroes, though, principled and courageous and seemingly in step with 21st century values. But people from the past who espoused beliefs we hold today were usually rejected at the time. We can only wonder which of today’s unpopular causes will, in 150 years, be considered the abolitionism of 2015."

Watch Marshawn Lynch Frustrate Adult Reporters By Not Talking: "Once again, these are grown-ass men who are so upset that a football player won't say things like "I'm excited for the big game" and "Whichever team wants it more is going to win" that they've managed to turn an exasperated running back into America's most effective sports-media critic. "

Texas Cop Suspended for Eight Hours for Mistake That Led to Years of Legal Troubles for Innocent Man, According to Lawsuit - Hit & Run : "Tidwell eventually filed a federal lawsuit. He accepted a settlement [of $110,000], which was paid by the city's insurance and not with city funds, according to city officials. Tidwell’s attorney says he hopes the settlement sent a message to police “to do tip top work.” But the settlement doesn’t affect the police department, and an eight hour suspension is unlikely to send much of a message at all. "

CUNY Tells Profs Not to Say 'Mr.' or 'Ms.' Because That's Offensive and Illegal-ish (It's Not) - Hit & Run : "Taub's definition of political correctness implies that the perpetually offended are "often" correct to feel that way. Fine. Are they justified in having their sensitivity codified and enforced as well? Because that's what has happened on college campuses across the country, where students and professors are not merely chastised for saying the wrong thing, but formally sanctioned. Professors have been fired and students have been suspended for thought-crime and word-crime—for saying something that didn't quite clear the unreasonably high offendedness bar of the modern leftist. This has created a culture of feelings-protection on campuses under which students increasingly feel entitled to emotional comfort; in response, administrators keep introducing rules to give them more of it.

On that note, let's dig into a prime example of something that supposedly doesn't exist. CUNY's Graduate Center now believes the use of gendered salutations like "Mr." and "Mrs." might offend some students. What's more, administrators think federal non-discrimination law requires the university to prevent its faculty from inadvertently giving offense. Therefore, professors have been instructed to wipe the contentious words from their memories and cease using them in any and all forms of communication."

Fred On Everything: "Perhaps a few examples of the sorts of misunderstandings prevalent among commentators would be of use: It is well known that Paul Bremer, the virtual viceroy of Bagdad after the city’s fall in Gulf I, disbanded the Iraqi army. Less known is that he replaced Mohammed al Aksa, the chief of intelligence, with Abdul dhar es Salaam, a known Sufi extremist with ties to Iranian intelligence. In fact he seemed to be on its payroll: The man had palatial residences, widely suspected of having been paid for by Tehran, in Tikrit, Saddam Hussein’s home town, in Bangui in the Kurdish north, as well as in the ritzy Sulawesi suburbs of Fallujah (the latter dwelling destroyed by American shell-fire in the siege). 

Bremer apparently didn’t know any of this, though it was a commonplace in journalistic hangouts. Dhar es Salaam was instrumental in stirring up resistance to Coalition forces trying to pacify the country—while on the American payroll. As everyone knows, General David Petraeus saved the situation, or at least bought time, by playing off the Awali and Litani sects against each other with the help of Muqtada al  Sadr. He did this by simply paying the irregulars of both sides to join the loyalist militias. This was eminently practical, though not lasting.  

The Petraean tactics which proved so successful in Iraq, pacifying the provinces of Anbar, Shakti, and particularly the suburbs of Sudra, a notorious Shia stronghold, failed utterly in the barren mountains of Afghanistan’s Anterior Zygopophysis range, through which runs the famous Khyber Pass. Why? A spokesman for the US command in Kabul attempted to pin the blame on Iran in what has become a standard tactic for diverting attention from failure. Extremist groups outside of Afghanistan were responsible, he said: “outside agitators” so to speak. 

Allegedly, fanatics of the Falafel Brotherhood were crossing the Afghan-Tajic border with weaponry supplied by Tehran. This view drew support from the later Bush administration and came to be accepted in Congress. It was nonsense, like so much of what is written about the wars. Those more familiar with the region responded that the “Afghans” and “Tajiks” were in fact pastoralists dominated by tribal, not national loyalties, and looked not to the central government in Kabul, but to their own leaders, Ahmed Shah Massoud and Sala al-Din for guidance. (Or Akhmed Shah Massoud: The guttural is transliterated in various ways.) These men were essentially rebranded Mamelukes, having been raised in or around the Janissary madrassas (Koranic schools) of Kandahar before the Russian invasion of1976. Warlords at heart, they were suspected by US intelligence of being interested chiefly in extending their rule beyond the Chagras River into the rich opium lands of the Bekaa Valley. They had no connection to Iran...

The inability of Americans, in and out of Congress, to tell nonsense from truth, the tendency to simplify baffling complexity into slogans, makes US policy easily shoved in directions favored by special interests. Make no mistake: The ignorance is real. A Congressman I once spoke with told me of going to Thailand on a junket with a fellow member of the legislature who constantly referred to the country as “Taiwan.” The Mideast is far more contorted in its politics. Our “leaders” need to learn to know when they are being gulled, to distinguish fact from twaddle. They cannot, and neither can the public. There will be a price."

The Outtakes From The Deflategate Video With Ben Affleck And Matt Damon Are Better Than The Original: "Ben Affleck should just be typecast as a guy with a Boston accent because he is fucking incredible at it. Unlike the others in the video, his delivery seemed completely effortless. So much so, that I hope he used it while filming the new Batman. Christian Bale gave us that ridiculous gravel voice for three installments, the least they could do is make Bruce Wayne talk with a hilarious Boston accent for the next three."

Watching American Sniper in Baghdad - Hit & Run : "As everybody knows, Clint Eastwood’s film has been a box-office smash, praised for its directing and its performances, and attacked as a work of bloodthirsty, racist, militarist propaganda. One of the few things about the film that has received little attention is that it has been playing well in the Middle East, including in Iraq...

“I love watching war movies,” said a satisfied customer, “because especially now they give me the strength to face ISIS.” Asked if he found the movie to be racist or anti-Arab, he said, “No, why? The sniper was killing terrorists, the only thing that bothered me was when he said he didn’t know anything about the Quran!”

...American Sniper has also been playing to packed houses in Iraq’s Kurdish region, right behind Taken 3, including in theaters owned by the same chain that that shied away from opening the film at all in Baghdad. “The Kurds don’t like the Baghdadis that much so they have no big problem seeing them getting shot by an American,” said one film exec who operates theaters in Iraq. “So far, the film is working well for our screens in Kurdistan.”"

Joss gets it. 

Reading, Jan 2015 - "It is a cardinal error to theorise in advance of the facts."

Golden Son (The Red Rising Trilogy, Book 2) by Pierce Brown

Die Trying by Lee Child

The Seven-Per-Cent Solution: Being a Reprint from the Reminiscences of John H. Watson, M.D. edited by Nicholas Meyer

Sorcery at Caesars: Sugar Ray's Marvelous Fight by Steve Marantz

Dinosaur Training: Lost Secrets of Strength and Development by Brooks Kubik

Convict Conditioning 2: Advanced Prison Training Tactics for Muscle Gain, Fat Loss and Bulletproof Joints by Paul Wade

THE OFFICIAL TESLADYNE ACTION SCIENTISTS FIELD GUIDE: Essential Subjects for Survival, Evasion, Maintenance & Combatives by Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegener

Aquaman Vol. 3: Throne of Atlantis by Geoff Johns, Paul Pelletier & Ivan Reis
Aquaman Vol. 4: Death of a King by Geoff Johns, Paul Pelletier & Sean Parsons

Captain Carrot and the Final Ark by Bill Morrison, Roy Thomas and E. Nelson Bridwell.  Art by Scott Shaw, Ross Andru, Rick Hoberg, Al Gordon and others

Golden Son
This is so far from the future I imagined for myself as a boy. So far from the future I wanted to make... I thought I would change the worlds. What young fool doesn’t? Instead, I have been swallowed by the machine of this vast empire as it rumbles inexorably on.

We’re all just wounded souls stumbling about in the dark, desperately trying to stitch ourselves together...

There is no greater plague to an introvert than the extroverted.

‘Home isn’t where you’re from, it’s where you find light when all grows dark.’

We are not our station in life. We are us—the sum of what we’ve done, what we want to do, and the people who we keep close.

“I will die. You will die. We will all die and the universe will carry on without care. All that we have is that shout into the wind—how we live. How we go. And how we stand before we fall.” He leans forward. “So you see, pride is the only thing.”

I would not have raised you to be a great man. There is no peace for great men. I would have had you be a decent one.

Sad to see how weak and petty the demons of my youth really were. As though I come from some hollow fantasy past.

The Seven-Per-Cent Solution
I never guess. It is a shocking habit, destructive to the logical faculty.

It is a cardinal error to theorise in advance of the facts.  Inevitably it biases the judgement.

Tell them I was murdered by my mathematics tutor, if you like.  They'll never believe you in any case.

Convict Conditioning 2
The mind controls the body. No matter how physically fit we may be, or how much we should be gaining from consistent training, if our minds are not in the right place training falls by the wayside. Who cares if your muscles are strong? If your mind is weak, corrupted by destructive self-talk, you won’t be breaking any personal records.

Our “demons” are largely the result of wrong ideas. We acquire many of these ideas tacitly, almost by accident. It’s certainly not deliberate. But once a bad idea gets lodged in your brain—maybe from something you’ve been told by somebody who should have known better—it’s virtually impossible to shift. Good thoughts practically fly out of the mind, but bad thoughts dig their heels in. They want to stay forever. Don’t let them. Confront your demons and challenge them—every day, every night if you have to. If you let your negative ideas and destructive self-talk have free reign, the darker sections of your mind will grow larger and larger until they take control of your spirit and destroy you entirely. The only way to battle the negative ideas that attack your training life is to become conscious of them, and challenge them.

DEMON # 4: …AGING “I’m getting too old for all this.” Ah, this is a biggie—although you may not realize it. Yet. If you are in your teens, you probably don’t think about aging at all. Training is new, and so are you. In your twenties, you have a dim awareness that aging exists, but you don’t truly believe it’ll happen to you the way it happens to others; almost all the great athletes are in their twenties anyway. Suddenly you are thirty and your attitude changes. The pros are looking younger. Hey—where are all the champs in their mid-thirties? Guys you played football with in high school with are fat and bald. A few years pass and that big milestone—forty—is around the corner. You become aware that less and less of the people you see in fitness magazines, or working in the gym are your age. Then you are fifty. Old. Before long you will be sixty, and by then it’s positively foolish to be seen training seriously. The big 7-0 comes next. By now—if you have been paying attention—you understand just how quickly time slips through your fingers. This is how the average person thinks. You know what? It’s all total bulls***!

Scientists are only now coming to understand what Victorian strongmen knew only too well; that much of the decline seen in elderly people isn’t down to aging—it’s down to disuse.

Far from being dangerous, strength training is positively essential to health as you get older (past seventy-five). Osteoporosis, arthritis and immobility can’t be cured by chemical drugs—the best way to combat them is by resistance training. You gotta move that bodyweight. Keep training as long as you live. You never really appreciate how quick the years pass until you are standing at the end of them. Please don’t waste any more precious time.

Sorcery at Caesars: Sugar Ray's Marvelous Fight
On the night of April 6, 1987, Sugar Ray Leonard stole a fight. A couple of million witnesses saw him get away with it. Leonard's theft was so slick that the victim, Marvelous Marvin Hagler, didn't know until it was too late. His middleweight title was picked clean and gone, forever.

Friday, January 30, 2015

It's all these problematic, triggering microaggresions, really.

Just to the right of Nelson Mandela.  I'll take it.

Cory Doctorow: The Monster: the fraud and depraved indifference...: "The Monster starts with the S&L crisis, and the fraudsters who destroyed the finances of the ordinary people who’d trusted them, and shows how the worst of the S&L conmen moved on to subprime, founding companies like Ameriquest and FAMCO. People like Richard Arnall, who became a billionaire, was the prime financier behind George W Bush’s 2004 presidential bid, and actually served as the US ambassador to the Netherlands, even as he built an empire built on outright, deliberate swindling. And swindling it was. Hudson leaves no room for doubt here. You may have heard that the subprime collapse was caused by greedy homeowners fudging the facts about their income in order to secure easy credit, but Hudson shows that in the vast majority of cases, the “liar” in the “liar loan” was usually a banker, a mortgage broker, an underwriter, a bond-rater, an appraiser. These are the people who went into poor neighborhoods where vulnerable, poorly educated people had scrimped and saved all their lives to buy their homes and conned them into taking out brutal, lopsided second mortgages, lying to them, bilking them out of 20% (or more!) in upfront fees, lying some more, forging documents, and then handing off the mortgages to Wall Street to launder out as toxic bonds....

The subprime outfits literally used the movie Boiler Room as a training film, requiring new hires to watch it in order to learn how to conduct their working lives. But lest you think that the problem was just the con-artists at the bottom, Hudson shows you how regulators (all the way up to Alan Greenspan), Lehman and the other big Street firms, and politicians all the way up to the President of the United States were all in on it, that there was no way they couldn’t have known that they were participating in a once-in-a-century scam that was destroyed millions of good peoples’ lives as well as the planet’s economy, and how they all sat idly by and collected their share of the wealth rather than speak up. From lobbyists to campaign contributions, dirty tricks and massive media campaigns, bribery and intimidation, the men behind the subprime crisis were not merely expressing some historical abstraction, playing a part in a nebulous “business cycle.” They were deliberately, personally participating in something that they had to know would result in terrible consequences for innocents all around them."

What's wrong with political correctness? A few observations from a mansplainer.: "Conservatives can get in on the identity-politics game, too. The reprobate may be damned, but we’re not stupid. If statistical underrepresentation is likely evidence of subtle institutional bias, or of cultures that exclude some as a "bad fit," or of networks that discourage the "other" from even seeking entry, then academia must have a “statistically impossible” bias problem against Republicans and Evangelicals. Conservatives pretending to want in on an identity-spoils system is partly a way of calling the P.C. bluff. It asks the left to admit that there are some identities that don’t deserve a safe space...

Political correctness can hurt or distract from broad left-wing goals. I apologize in advance for conservative-splaining liberalism to you, but the left succeeds when it creates solidarity among broad groups. For all its protestations about good allies, the demands of political correctness seem to act like an acid on solidarity. This may be why leftists who are concerned primarily with redistributing economic power get tired of the kind of infighting, back-biting, and jockeying that is inherent to this style of politics. Political correctness talks about solidarity, but performs itself as expressive individualism. Everyone is micro-aggressed and silenced in their own special way. Solidarity-liberalism helps people communicate across divides, and trains leaders to speak for mass groups. Political correctness tells us that no, your communication is problematic...

Political correctness conflates normal slights, sincere disagreements, thoughtless cracks, and the verbal miscues of the uninitiated with actual oppression. In extremely crude terms, political correctness engenders (or really, embodies) extreme sensitivity to status. The victims of historic oppression were accorded a low status by their oppressors. Imposing a low status on a group is a way of granting yourself permission to abuse its members. And so some of the normal rough and tumble of human interaction can be mistaken (or willfully misconstrued) as an attempt to replicate the very hierarchies that cause oppression and genocide. A real “P.C.” blowup leaves one person crying and feeling misunderstood and “othered,” while it leaves another person feeling both defensive and offended that the crying person appears to be trivializing real oppression...

Political correctness looks like grasping aspirational privilege. Related to the above. The right not to be offended, or the ability to punish those who offend your finely tuned sensibilities, is a form of privilege...  “politically correct” styles of engagement are most popular among a class of people that is in a similar position to the old petite bourgeoisie: college students and strivers whose primary class consciousness is not their relative privilege over, say, Appalachian whites or people in the developing world, but their lack of power and status compared with the haute bourgeoisie, which is composed of everyone from crass GOP-affiliated lax-bros that want to go into finance to the polished and tamed “liberal” graduates of Sidwell to the real inheritors of privilege like the Bush twins...

It is joyless, unempowering, and unattractive. Political correctness instills a narrative of defeatism, doubt, and anxiety. Because it so zealously ferrets the political dimensions of everyday social life, it provides a sense that many or most social occasions are a confrontation with a pervasive tyranny. Do you want stories about people rising above their circumstances, or cowering in fear before a bizarre statue of a vulnerable man sleepwalking? As Freddie DeBoer pointed out, the social left’s new form of political correction informs young liberals that everything they like and enjoy is poisoned in some way. It is a left-wing version of Dana Carvey’s church lady. “Could it beeeee…… Patriarchy?”"

[Oh, so much this last one...] What's wrong with political correctness? A few observations from a mansplainer.: "I understand the instinct to not only listen to victims, but to venerate or sacralize them. And I wonder if this almost Christian reflex is kicking somewhere within the drive for political correctness. The victim’s bruised body and wounded dignity testifies to us of a broken social order, even a broken human nature. Transcendence is found in turning the event of their martyrdom into the locus of a new redeemed social order, where the hierarchies are reversed and the spotless Victim reigns."

Where Online Social Liberalism Lost The Script « The Dish: "I guess what it all comes down to, for me, is that social liberalism was once an alternative that enabled people to pursue whatever types of consensual personal behavior they wanted, and thus was a movement that increased individual freedom and happiness. It was the antidote to Jerry Fallwell telling you that you were going to hell, to Nancy Reagan saying “just say no,” to your conservative parents telling you not to be gay, to Pat Robertson saying don’t have sex, to Tipper Gore telling you that you couldn’t listen to the music you like, to don’t have sex, don’t do drugs, don’t wear those clothes, don’t walk that way, don’t have fun, don’t be yourself. So of course that movement won. It was a positive, joyful, human, freeing alternative to an exhausted, ugly, narrow vision of how human beings should behave. It seems to me now that the public face of social liberalism has ceased to seem positive, joyful, human, and freeing. I now mostly associate that public face with danger, with an endless list of things that you can’t do or say or think, and with the constant threat of being called an existentially bad person if you say the wrong thing, or if someone decides to misrepresent what you said as saying the wrong thing. There are so many ways to step on a landmine now, so many terms that have become forbidden, so many attitudes that will get you cast out if you even appear to hold them. I’m far from alone in feeling that it’s typically not worth it to engage, given the risks."

The Neighborhood That Policed Itself - The Daily Beast: " recent weeks, Broken Windows has come under fire. As the police ended their slowdown early in the month, New Yorkers—for the first time in thirty years—experienced what their lives would be like without Broken Windows. And contrary to Bratton’s predictions, crime did not appear to be skyrocket. If anything, it looked like crime went down. Still, the NYPD was back to issuing petty summonses last week—and they appear to have been trying to make up for lost time. Summonses tripled and arrests doubled in New York City in the week after, with Bratton allegedly threatening to take away vacation time to make up for the slowdown’s loss of revenue...

While it’s too early to tell for certain how the slowdown will affect crime rates, many have begun to question the core tenets of Broken Windows—both for the way it disproportionately targets minorities and for the way it alienates communities from those in charge of protecting them."

The American Sniper Was No Hero - "This is neither a movie review nor a review of the late Chris Kyle's autobiographical book on which the movie is based. My interest is in the popular evaluation of Kyle, America's most prolific sniper, a title he earned through four tours in Iraq. Let's recall some facts, which perhaps Eastwood thought were too obvious to need mention: Kyle was part of an invasion force: Americans went to Iraq. Iraq did not invade America or attack Americans. Dictator Saddam Hussein never even threatened to attack Americans. Contrary to what the George W. Bush administration suggested, Iraq had nothing to do with the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Before Americans invaded Iraq, al-Qaeda was not there. Nor was it in Syria, Yemen, and Libya. The only reason Kyle went to Iraq was that Bush/Cheney & Co. launched a war of aggression against the Iraqi people. Wars of aggression, let's remember, are illegal under international law...

Eastwood's movie also features an Iraqi sniper. Why isn't he regarded as a hero for resisting an invasion of his homeland?  ... (Eastwood should make a movie about the invasion from the Iraqis' point of view, just as he made a movie about Iwo Jima from the Japanese point of view to go with his earlier movie from the American side.)"

Thursday, January 29, 2015

"... the legitimacy of cable news sounds to me like an oxymoron."

Holy Shit, I Interviewed the President — Medium: "There is nothing actually legitimate about Fox News (or MSNBC for that matter) and young people know this. They don’t trust news organizations because news organizations have given them no reason to be trusting. These channels exist not to inform but to uphold the biases and values of particular ideologies. Ideologies and values, by the way, that very few young people embody. Even when they try to strike a balance, they do it by pitting different perspectives against each other in staged arguments. But neither perspective looks familiar to most people under the age of 40, so they just tune out..." 
Holy Shit, I Interviewed the President — Medium: "This complete lack of objectivity and representation in cable news has degraded the legitimacy of news media as a whole. Young people have absolutely no faith in people sitting at desks on television anymore. It’s gotten so bad that the most trusted news show among people under 40 is on Comedy Central...

Legacy media isn’t mocking us because we aren’t a legitimate source of information; they’re mocking us because they’re terrified. Their legitimacy came from the fact that they have access to distribution channels and that they get to be in the White House press pool because of some long-ago established procedures that assumed they would use that power in the public interest. In reality, those things are becoming less and less important and less and less true. Distribution is free to anyone with a cell phone and the legitimacy of cable news sounds to me like an oxymoron. The median-aged CNN viewer is 60. For Fox, it’s 68...

This is the real source of legacy media’s belittling and diminishing language around our interviews with Obama. They have degraded their own legitimacy so much that, to a lot of people, I (a 34-year-old former bio-chemist and current video blogger) appear to be a more legitimate source of unbiased thought and information than the fucking news...

I think sub-consciously they understand the really terrifying thing here. Glozell and Bethany and I weren’t put in a chair next to President Obama because we have cultivated an audience. We were put there because we have cultivated legitimacy. The source of our legitimacy is the very different from their coiffed, Armani institutions. It springs instead (and I’m aware that I’m abandoning any modicum of modesty here) from honesty. In new media this is often called “authenticity” because our culture is too jaded to use a big fat word like “honesty” without our gallbladders clogging up, but that’s really what it is...

The relationship between press and the politician was once good for everyone. It was good for the press, for the politician, for the Americans, and for the country. We’ve lost that. Certain press organizations have degraded their own legitimacy by forgetting that their responsibility is to more than the shareholder. That degradation has, for young people, spread throughout the entire news media either in fact or in perception. In the process the legitimacy not just of individual politicians but the entire political process has been whittled down."