Archive for Philosophy and Logic

Jul
04

Sellin’ the big nothin’

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Public domain from Library of Congress

There is an emotional scene at the end of the movie First Blood. Rambo, the decorated war veteran with post-traumatic stress, is breaking down.

He tells his best friend – his only friend – how since leaving the army his life has gone to hell.

He shouts, “For me, civilian life is nothin’. In the field, we had a code of honor. You watch my back, I watch yours. Back here there’s nothin’.”

That nothin’ is what our elites are sellin’.

Oh, our leaders love them some troops in uniform. They put their hands over their hearts, get all solemn, and snap to attention when soldiers pass. They may even think they mean it. But the values they praise in the military are not the values by which they (and we) have organized an economy that no longer serves us. We serve it.

Inside the base perimeter, training instills esprit de corps. Teamwork. All for one, one for all. Self-sacrifice. We give medals for it. Leave no one behind. A code of honor.

But outside in Anytown, USA? Screw you, I’ve got mine. Anyone “out of uniform” is unworthy. Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps. Stop picking my pocket. Everyone for himself.

Why is that? What is that?

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Om nom nom! Waffles!This is an invitation to a Waffle Brunch I help organize once a year. It’s a lot of fun – and if you don’t show up you’ll be missing out on some seriously awesome food. It’s known to local foodies as ” The Greatest Waffle Brunch In History.”

Chefs from around the world compete in Asheville, NC to decide who will be crowned “Master of the Waffle Iron And Supreme Potentate Over All Creation”.

To aid this culinary contest the community (That’s YOU) comes together to taste & vote on the waffles. Side-items such as fruit salad, bacon, and mimosas are provided by the attendees to share with one another.

This year all proceeds go to BAMFS – The Blueridge-Asheville Movement & FlowArts Society. (Look them up & “Like” them on Facebook.)

The Waffle-Off Championship is considered the most important event on Earth.

Cost: $5 per person + _ONE_ of the following items to share:

–> Real maple syrup (No HFCS please)
–> 1 gallon of organic orange juice
–> 1 bottle of Sparkling wine (aka: Champagne)
–> Bowl of fruit salad. (Doesn’t have to be organic fruit)
–> Something you want to share with the community, as long as it’s pre-cooked. (eg: Bacon, Mom’s breakfast strudel.)

Link to ticket page: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/1353721

Advance ticket: $5
Tickets at door: $8

Note: A small group, such as a family or couple, may show up with a single one of the above items and it will count for the entire group. (For example: A family of 4 can bring a single bottle of real maple syrup.) If you don’t have time to pick up one or create of the items, no worries, an additional $5 will be accepted.

* Kids under the age of 10 and press get in free.

So, to summarize:

What: 2015 Waffle-Off Championship & Brunch

When: Sunday – March 29th 2015 @ 10:00am – 12:30pm

Why: To answer the most important question of all time: Who makes the best waffles IN THE UNIVERSE!!!???

This event is a benefit for BAMFS: Blueridge-Asheville Movement & FlowArts Society (Look us up on Facebook)

Where: The Asheville Commissary – 3080 Sweeten Creek Rd Asheville, NC 28803. (Formerly CinTom’s Frozen Yogurt) Refer to this Google Map: https://goo.gl/maps/rztBY

This is a rain-or-shine event.

Mar
17

From my cold, dead fingers

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If there’s anyplace that defines exceptional in this big, ol’ beacon of freedom called America, it’s Texas. They are SO American in Texas, they can even take exception to the First Amendment and puff out their chests with pride about it.

Molly Ivins, I think, used to call the Texas state legislature “the Austin Funhouse,” noting once that state legislators there are the lowest paid in the country and Texas gets what it pays for. As Digby reported yesterday at Salon, Republican state legislators are “extremely bothered by the idea that a citizen might film the police in the course of their duties.” Ergo:

The House Bill 2918 introduced by Texas Representative Jason Villalba (R-Dallas) would make private citizens photographing or recording the police within 25 feet of them a class B misdemeanor, and those who are armed would not be able to stand recording within 100 feet of an officer.

As defined in the bill, only a radio or television [station] that holds a license issued by the Federal Communications Commission, a newspaper that is qualified under section 2051.044 or a magazine that appears at a regular interval would be allowed to record police.

Isn’t that exceptional? It takes exception to the United States Court of Appeals For the First Circuit in Glik v. Cuniffee (2011) and to the United States Court of Appeals For the Seventh Circuit in ACLU v. Alvarez (2012), both of which uphold the right of citizens to film police.

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Mar
13

Behold, the relativist wasteland

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A number of people have taken shots at David Brooks this week for his essential cluelessness about people who are not David Brooks. Over at Rolling Stone, Matt Taibbi calls Brooks’ “The Cost of Relativism” his “10 thousandth odious article about how rich people are better parents than the poor.” Taibbi writes:

Brooks then goes on to relate some of the horrific case studies from the book – more on those in a moment – before coming to his inevitable conclusion, which is that poor people need to get off the couch, stop giving in to every self-indulgent whim, and discipline their wild offspring before they end up leaving their own illegitimate babies on our lawns:

Next it will require holding people responsible. People born into the most chaotic situations can still be asked the same questions: Are you living for short-term pleasure or long-term good? Are you living for yourself or for your children? Do you have the freedom of self-control or are you in bondage to your desires?

Yes, improving your station is a simple matter self-discipline and of pulling yourself up by those bootstraps, if you have the boots. Can’t find a job? Pull together some investors and start your own business. Personal responsibility … yadda, yadda, yadda … achieve the American Dream.

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Mar
12

Junior DeMint

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Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton’s letter to the Iranian government, the one 46 of his GOP colleagues signed, has everyone from NPR to the Wall Street Journal to MoveOn.org talking about the Logan Act. This, in spite of the fact that since its passage in 1799, there have been “no prosecutions under the Act in its more than 200 year history.” The law forbids citizens from interfering with U.S. foreign policy “without authority of the United States.” Whatever that means.

But the controversy must look to his T-party cohort like Tom Cotton’s coup. (Or is that Tom Cotton’s kooks?) “Cotton is a conservative hero, and a crackpot,” reads the Washington Post’s landing page teaser. Paul Waldman writes for the Post’s Plum Line:

On paper, Cotton looks like a dream politician with nowhere to go but up — Iraq veteran, Harvard Law School graduate, the youngest senator at 37. It’s only when you listen to him talk and hear what he believes that you come to realize he’s a complete crackpot. During the 2014 campaign he told voters that the Islamic State was working with Mexican drug cartels and would soon be coming to attack Arkansas. When he was still in the Army he wrote a letter to the New York Times saying that its editors should be “behind bars” because the paper published stories on the Bush administration’s program to disrupt terrorist groups’ finances (which George W. Bush himself had bragged about, but that’s another story).

While in the House in 2013, Cotton introduced an amendment to prosecute the relatives of those who violated sanctions on Iran, saying that his proposed penalties of up to 20 years in prison would “include a spouse and any relative to the third degree,” including “parents, children, aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces, grandparents, great grandparents, grandkids, great grandkids.” Forget about the fact that the Constitution expressly prohibits “corruption of blood” penalties — just consider that Cotton wanted to take someone who had violated sanctions and imprison their grandchildren. Needless to say, this deranged piece of legislation was too much even for Republicans to stomach, and it went nowhere.

Waldman suggests Cotton is poised to be the next Jim DeMint.

But forgetting about what the Constitution expressly prohibits is just the point for T-partiers like Cotton. Cloaking themselves in it should be enough. What the law actually says doesn’t matter. What matters is what they believe it should say. (I’ve heard this argued in person.) The fact that “God helps those who help themselves” is not in the Bible, for example, is beside the point. It should be. It feels right. And that truthiness is good enough for them. To borrow again from Stephen Colbert, they want to feel the law at you.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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Feb
06

Deference must be shown

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Somebody didn’t get the memo. For an exceptional people who celebrate their revolution to overthrow rule by kings and titled nobility, we have an amazing number who still believe they are entitled to deference. According to some in Washington, “entitlements” are bad. They make a people weak. And if there is anything (besides LGBT people) that makes their skin crawl and makes them reach for another grain alcohol and branch water, it’s weakness.

See, deference must be shown to “the job creators” — praised be their name — even when their invisible hands create no jobs. Deference must be shown to Wall Street titans, for without their wisdom, there would be no six- and seven-figure bonuses for selling fraudulent securities, and no taxpayer-funded bailouts. Behold them in their glory. Behold the power the royals wield over our late, great democracy. Psst. Kneel, willya?

Proper deference must be shown, too, towards the alpha dogs’ faith, a faith that justifies. Tolerated other faiths must know their place. Sadly, the Kenyan Pretender did not get the memo either. At the national prayer breakfast Thursday, President Obama said:

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Feb
03

Freedom to be jerks

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Image public domain via Wikipedia

The Kochs, the NRA, and Randians of the right treat the word freedom as a conversation stopper. (What, are you against freedom, commie? Game Over. We win.) But just as creating the T-party pushed the GOP so far right that party regulars now are stuck with trying to reign in the monster they created, turning freedom into a worship word may be backfiring too:

A Florida man set up a gun range in his front yard, but police said there’s not much they can do but keep an eye on him.

Other residents are livid that 21-year-old Joseph Carannate set up targets and plans to fire his 9mm handgun in his residential Saint Petersburg neighborhood, reported WFLA-TV.

“I don’t know if this idiot is going to start popping off rounds,” said resident Patrick Leary. “I’m furious.”

Yeah? Furious commie.

But since by law the Gunshine State prohibits local governments from restricting gun rights, freedom means fire at will. Freedom means telling the neighbors, hide in the basement with your young-uns if you don’t like it.

The recent fight over vaccines travels that same road, doesn’t it? The teaser headline on the front page of the Washington Post online grabbed me this morning. Gerson: Vaccines and our duty to our neighbors. Whaddya mean “duty to our neighbors,” commie? Free-DOM:

Resistance to vaccination on the left often reflects an obsession with purity. Vaccines are placed in the same mental category as genetically modified organisms (GMOs), DDT and gluten. But the problem with organic health care is that the “natural” rate of child mortality is unacceptably high. Organically raised children can get some very nasty ­diseases.

Opposition to vaccination on the right often reflects an obsession with liberty — in this case, freedom from intrusive state mandates. It has always struck me as odd that a parent would defend his or her children with a gun but leave them vulnerable to a microbe. Some conservatives get especially exercised when vaccination has anything to do with sex — as with the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine — on the questionable theory that teenagers are more likely to fornicate if they have a medical permission slip (or less likely to without it).

Whether you are blazing away in a suburban front yard, or putting neighbors’ children at risk by refusing to immunize yours, or publishing cartoons of Mohammed with intent to offend (France, I know), or strolling into the Burger King with your AR-15, or doing anything else arrogantly prick-ish, because freedom, maybe the radical individual thing has gotten out of hand. Doesn’t it seem, at long last, that our freedom fetish is turning us into a nation of jerks?

Michael Gerson dares use the phrase “common good”:

In all these matters, there is a balance between individual rights and the common good. This may sound commonplace. But some Americans seem to believe that the mere assertion of a right is sufficient to end a public argument. It is not, when the exercise of that right has unacceptable public consequences, or when the sum of likely choices is dangerous to a community.

Commie.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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Jan
23

Are we not Ubermen?

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Those using the Gregorian calendar count the years since the birth of Christ as Anno Domini, A.D. Bullshit is probably a lot older. But given that it’s a new millennium, maybe it’s time we started counting the years in A.B. “One of the most salient features of our culture,” as Aaron Hanlon quotes philosopher Harry Frankfurt at Salon, “is that there is so much bullshit.”

Case in point. In its obsession with turning everything on this planet into the Precious (other planets will come later), the Midas cult has turned its sights on sleep because “sleep is the enemy of capital.” Thus, sleep must be abolished. From caffeine-laced Red Bull to topical sprays to marshmallows, “perky jerky,” and military experiments with transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), Newsweek  looks at how we are waging the war on sleep:

For those looking to sleep less without drugs or military tech, there’s the “Uberman” sleep schedule: 20 minute naps taken every four hours. That’s just two hours of sleep in every 24 hours. Uberman is based on the theory that while humans experience two types of sleep, we only need one of those to stay alive. Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep is the stage in which we dream, and it also has been shown in lab tests to be critical to survival: Rodents deprived of REM sleep die after just five weeks. Then there is non-REM sleep, which itself is broken down into four separate stages. One of those is short wave sleep (or SWS). Scientists aren’t really sure what function SWS serves, and Uberman advocates argue that it may not be critical to survival at all.

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Jan
22

Born under a bad sign

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On Wednesday, NPR ran a story about a Russian writer, Mikhail Bulgakov, whose work Stalin enjoyed, but whose ideas Stalin considered “too dangerous to publish.” Ideas are like that. Invasive. Pernicious. Bulletproof, as “V” said in the movie. They can spread like a virus. Or, reduced to shibboleths, become objects of worship. For many, freedom works like that now.

Also this week, Michael Kraus and Jacinth J. X. Tan of the University of Illinois released a paper on the role of a particularly virulent notion, essentialism, in how people see themselves and report their health:

In this research, we proposed and examined the possibility that lay theories that people hold about social class categories can mitigate class-related health disparities. Across three studies, we found that while lower-class individuals were more likely to report experiencing poorer health and greater negative self-conscious emotions compared to upper-class individuals when they endorsed essentialist beliefs about social class, this class-based difference was not observed when participants endorsed non-essentialist beliefs about social class.

Basically, if you are poor and believe social status is inbred
—in your genes—you are more likely to report being unhealthy, the study suggests. Poor people without this belief are more likely to report being healthier and less likely to accept their status as unchangeable.

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Jan
18

Losing our collective nerve

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Ballast Point Park Playground, Tampa, FL (via Wikimedia Commons)

Besides suffering Ronald Reagan in the 1980s, the decade saw (IIRC) parents bringing the kiddies to the mall on Saturday to be photographed and fingerprinted. Maybe bringing dental impressions to help identify their bodies. We called these “child safe” programs. In the 1950s, it was commies hiding in the woodpile. By the 1980s, it was child abducters hiding behind every tree. Heaven forfend that little Johnny or Janie should walk or ride a bike to school or to the playground without a hypervigilant parent for a bodyguard. Well, somebody is finally trying to beak the spell:

On a recent Saturday afternoon, a 10-year old Maryland boy named Rafi and his 6-year old sister, Dvora, walked home by themselves from a playground about a mile away from their suburban house. They made it about halfway home when the police picked them up. You’ve heard these stories before, about what happens when kids in paranoid, hyperprotective America go to and from playgrounds alone. I bet you can guess the sequence of events preceding and after: Someone saw the kids walking without an adult and called the police. The police tracked down the kids and drove them home. The hitch this time is, when the police got there, they discovered that they were meddling with the wrong family.

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