Atomized junior- The Web log
Monday, 31 January, 2005
Tran leaves for Vietnam
In the last post, when I said it was hostile or arrogant to install
democracy with armies; it is not that I don't desire a good outcome, or
democracy, the best for the Iraqi people. All peoples of the middle
east, who may be feeling less than free. It's not that I don't see the
need to follow a course once the die has been cast - in a given
direction. Provided that that continues -- under constant reassessment
-- to be the right and steadfast thing. And truly benefits those
it purports to benefit.
It's not that I doubt democracy, allowing that a distilled
principle of democracy is what is being championed. Democracy is an
ideal of which any particular democratic goverment is an evolved
creature, manifested by a particular culture. Democracy has its small
set of universal conditions from which it cannot wander far. The ballot
is one of these. Against those who claim democracy is apostasy (Zarqawi And the D-Word), I champion rule of the people, and rule of law.
Democracy; against those who see - in front seemingly in spite - of God's words and plan - a
system that lets people do as they see fit. Ansar al Sunna's
words. Only the self recognized will of a people allows them to
see themselves as a community who can come together under law divine or otherwise.
The true virtuous first ruler will allow this, speak to it and allow
truth claims to stand before reason. Without reason and agreement,
truth and falsehood are one. The ballot spoke in Iraq yesterday.
Hopefully it asked democracy to move forward into Democracy.
This is not what this post is about. My co-worker Tran
Nguyen going back to Vietnam is what this post is about. The title
gives it away. She is going back with her parents for a whole month.
Its the first time going back since she
left in 1994. They are going
back to visit relatives, see her oldest sister and her family, who
didn't come with them. She said they'll be visting Saigon (I don't call
it Ho Chi Minh city, she dosn't correct me) but also the towns her
parents grew up in, the three river region, where she herself lived for
several years. This is south of Saigon where the Mekong river divides
into three branches. Work, in the McKeldin techinical services
department. - never exciting or even interesting in the best of times -
is going to be quite dreary for the next five weeks until she
I imagine that all the DC Maryland suburbs are collected into one large
Vietnamese parish, but I noted in the Washington Post article
yesterday, "Brilliant Student Mourned",
that the funeral for the Johns Hopkins University student who was
murdered last week, was at her church, where she also teaches Sunday school. It's just a mile or so up
New Hampshire avenue here.
11:38:21 PM ;;
Wednesday, 26 January, 2005
Cost of doing business
Having staked out the position that the dialogue on public affairs
is and needs to be on-going. I want to offer some examples of the cost
of not doing so. We are lead by people who cannot or will not admit to
ever being wrong. If we hold our tongues, they will eventually lead us
to catastrophe even as much as they protest they are leading us away
Margaret Warner interviewed Paul Wolfowitz for the Newshour last Wednesday, Online NewsHour: Wolfowitz Discusses Tsunami Relief Iraq Elections -- January 19, 2005.
I hadn't seen Wolfowitz sit for an interview for a while so I watched
with some interest. The first part concerning the junket with Andrew
Natsios and Gov. Jeb Bush to Indonesia was sincere and sensitive;
although, the concurrent network coverage of that trip dealt little
with the part of his mission (as deputy Secretary of Defense) which
concerned lifting the current humans rights sanctions which prevent
arms sales to Indonesia. It was the next part, his vapid denial-laden
description of the Iraq war which stuck with me. Margaret Warner asked how
Mr. Wolfowitz responds to feelings by some that the administration
mislead the public about the rationale for the war. He leads with the Wmd: everyone thought they had them gambit.
-- I don't believe so. No, the intelligence was very strong
on all these points. And frankly, I think if I may say so, I think some
of the critics now are a bit too definitive about what we've
learned. They say there are no stockpiles found. Well, at least so far
that's true. Let me finish, okay? So far, that's true, but does that
mean no WMD?... So I don't believe this discussion is helped by
accusations of misleading. There was a very strong intelligence
assessment which had to be taken seriously. If this -- turn it around,
Margaret. If we had been wrong the other way and if the threat had
really been imminent and we had been hit with an anthrax attack here
that was tied to Iraq and the president had done nothing about it, what
would people then say?
This by the way shows the importance of trying to swing the
CIA. DIA's custom intelligence shops run by the civilian leadership
(specifically here asst. deputy secretary Douglas Feith, it is
interesting that he now is going off to spend time with his family : Top Pentagon Aide Who...)
would have had little sway over the international intelligence
community. It was necessary to get the CIA to buy into it a little, or
at least bullied into not actively resisting it. Few aside from the
Washington Post and Judith Miller of the New York Times ever really
believed it. Mr. Wolfowitz still seems to believe in his definitive
non-fact and signals with his words here, there is no contrary evidence
that can ever change his mind. I liked the impatient dismissive "...wait
let me finish", to Ms Warner who was basically serving up
softball questions to him. Also his presence-of-mind to add "tied to Iraq" between anthrax attack, and President done nothing
Now between statements they are willing to make, and those
they are less willing to make, we glimpse the widening war on terror
soon to come. The Presidents own inaugural speech, and Seymour
Hersh's article in last weeks New Yorker. A story initially denied but
confirmed by the week-end, on DoD's paramilitay intelligence operations
(see Bush's Father Warns Against Extrapolating From Speech, Ready for a fight, The Coming Wars, and New York Times > Intelligence: Pentagon Sends Its Spies to Join Fight on Terror).
The post 9/11 blur, which is the administrations national
security strategy - its entire foreign policy, can be summed up in the
fearful phrase; 'Imagine what might happen...if we didn't/don't.' Call
it the Cost of Not Doing it (making war on all our enemies), or CoNDi, for short.
There is rhetorical and logical looseness to this argument.
One that either can't or doesn't wish to discern among these threats.
Conflating all disagreement with U S interests with annihilatic intent,
and leaves them to prove the negative that it doesn't. Again from Mr. Wolfowitz:
And the burden was on them to come clean, to
declare everything they had and to not obstruct inspectors and they
defied that resolution. At that point, the president faced a critical
decision of how you weigh the risk.
Let me throw out a couple of analogies here, metaphors for
war. In the first scenario two neighbors vie to put a garish neon
display on their roof first, a laughing bare-bellied Santa Claus
manufactured by Hotei Christmas decorations ltd. A community
compact allows for such displays, putting up the more involved displays is
referred to by area residents as 'going nucular'. By generally followed agreement these are limited to one per street. The first
man buys such an object and installs it with gusto. It is a
considerable middle-class coup, and he baths in the accolades and
acknowledgment of the street. His neighbor is consumed with envy. Of
the power, and of the glory. He can afford one he reasons, and he can
put it together (comes as a kit). So he buys one and starts to put it
up. At this, the first man runs up, slaps a ladder against his
neighbors house scrambles up and starts to yank the Santa down. Yelling
that his neighbor can't have it, because he has one already.
In the second scenario: A man becomes convinced that his
neighbor has bought a semi-automatic assault rifle at the local flea
market, and is going to use it to shoot up the school bus when it comes
by on a certain day. Therefore; he purchases a gun similar to that
which he believes his neighbor has himself. On the day, just
before the bus arrives, he kicks in his neighbors door murders his
neighbor and half his family, whom he believes to be accomplices, in a
shocking and awful hail of bullets and blood.
These are charactertures, to be sure, but whatever argument we
are using lies between them. Between reasonable men caught up in an
emotional and unreasonable mood, and paranoid pathology. Many nations
have achieved workable levels of weapons of mass destruction. Nuclear
weapons are a djinn that came out of the bottle at Alamagordo, sixty
years ago. They are never going back in. One reality of weapons
politics is that those who can build a bomb and whom we can not stop
are described differently than those we believe we can stop. It is an
unfortunate artifact of our policy is that it becomes absurd and
arbitrary as nations draw near completing a program of acquisition.
Particularly when measured against the indifference accorded the
disintegrating management of the arsenals of the former Soviet states,
which is likely Al Qaeda's first choice for obtaining such weapons. All
the good intentions in the world can not mask the arrogance and cold
hostility of using armies to install democracy in order to feel secure
in this world.
11:52:18 PM ;;
Monday, 24 January, 2005
Politically conscious web logging
A keypad life journal from user land.
Mir from Dim Sum Diaries had a post last week that I copied a
line out of because I wanted to think about it. "[M]entally
disengaging from the world (at large). I don't track the news and
politics like I used to. It seems like after Bush got re-elected, a
sort of resignation set in. What's the point, it seems. It's sad but
She could have been referring to post-election ennui of all or
any political or socially aware web logs. That distinction is aimed not
the wholly political writers, who seemingly continued on with scarce
pause like so many dogs with lockjaw, but all the others, the ones that
follow events commenting on things only as they see particular
Her feeling is shared by me, I think, and I was a
Government and Politics major. I no longer hang on Move-On's or G.
Soros' every pronouncement, or even listen daily to the Diane Rehm show
- especially the Diane Rehm show. I find myself sizing up what else I
have to write about. Part of this is realization that the prior
arguments that seemed so convincing, were not, at least not to enough
others. Still I feel the need to keep speaking, or rather see it - the way Poe saw that bird of his. I feel
it the way I do when my fingers can't find the sounds in the strings of
my guitar, I know have to be played next. As Ted Leo says: "When will
we find a chord as resonant as to shake the sheets and make us move?"
There was another phrase of Alexander Meiklejohns', in the
article I read for that last post. Glasser quotes him saying: "'not that
everyone shall speak', but that 'everything worth saying shall be
said.'" The tiresome and redundant are not guaranteed a voice. I
followed the footnote (up to the six floor as it happens - the
advantage of working in a library pp. 25-28). At the same time as he says only
some need to speak: [yet] "No speaker may be declared out of order
because we disagree with what he intends to say... When men govern
themselves it is they - and no one else - who must pass judgment upon
un-wisdom unfairness and danger." At the heart of the matter:
"Just so far as, at any point, the citizens who decide an
issue are denied acquaintance with information or opinion or doubt or
disbelief or criticism which is relevant to that issue, just so far the
result must be ill-considered... it is that mutilation of the thinking process of the community against which the First Amendment to the Constitution is directed."
I sat through inauguration week listening to Bush's speech,
asides from Cheney and Rumsfeld. Seeking some response to the idea that
this is what we do in their democracy. Hold a four year
referendum on the policies of the leadership, then refrain from
commenting in any way once that's done, because the referendum has
settled all issues whether raised or not. Yet continue to believe that
democracy and free speech survive in the chilled spaces between
There is no choice but to exercise our political freedoms.
Freedom beyond the thin contracting freedom they would allow the market to give us - freedom that
belongs to our dollars - a freedom to consume. To exercise them
individually collectively pluralistically; that is democracy's purpose.
It is part of the demonstrable weight of being alive. The goal is the
associated mode of living (society) where we realize our true nature as
Meiklejohn, Alexander, 1872-1964.
Political freedom; the constitutional powers of the people. With a
foreword by Malcolm Pitman Sharp. New York, Oxford University Press,
1965 [c1960] McKeldin Library : Stacks - JC591 - .M42 1965
11:23:55 PM ;;
Thursday, 20 January, 2005
Wither WHFS, or the Winter of our Dischordtent
I want to return again to the retired notion of format doctrine for U S
Radio. While people noted and mourned the passing of WHFS from the DC
airwaves, no one bothered raising any objection to it. That's not how it
used to be.
I should try to give you an idea WHFS's history in the shadow of
the format doctrine. A sense of WHFS's place as a DC and national
alt/rock, new wave/punk institution. It was big - Rodney on the Rock
big. I first heard WHFS soon after moving to Washington DC. I was still
in the Navy at the time. They were conducting an interview with
musicians from a band called Nightman, which had some connection with a
band called the Razz, which in turn had some connection to someone
named Tommy Keene. All they did was talk. It drove me nuts, this is not
radio I thought. But I tuned in again a few nights later - they were
doing the same thing with a guy named Syl Sylvain. The next time I
tuned in, on a saturday, a DJ who called himself Johnny Walker played
Minor threat and the Bad Brains. Its hard to characterize the effect
Minor Threat and the Bad Brains had on me hearing them for the first
time. If you have ever read the Wind in the Willows it was like that
scene where Mr. Toad is sitting in the road by himself among the
splintered remains of his caravan repeating over and over to himself
"beep beep, beep beep." This was when they got their mail on Cordell
ave. in Bethesda and broadcast at 102.3fm. In May of 1983 they played
Joy Division's Transmission, then ended their transmission selling the
frequency to someone else. One pointless and ineffective listener
petition to the FCC later. A Phoenix arose when Jake Einstein bought
another radio station to keep his kids off the street, WHFS 99.1fm.
Washington High Fidelity Stereo.
From there followed a multi year struggle for nation level
advertising. You have to show up in arbitron to get it and WHFS wasn't.
If you don't whatever else your doing your not really running a radio
station as a business. In 1987 the Einsteins sold the station to
Duchossois Communications. Before long the remaining Einsteins and
holdover dj's left, but the songs remained the same. Ironically this
opened into the Heyday of WHFS and what it stood for in the light of
grunge and the "HFStival". They became popular and profitable and
salable and passed through several hand before ending up with Infinity
in 1995. The Post had a good feature on WHFS last saturday, which
covers all this and more: WHFS: For Many, The Only Alternative (washingtonpost.com).
This obscure notion of a format doctrine, and FCC's
market approach to all broadcasting issues is central. For this I turned to
books on shelves:
Glasser, Theodore L.
Competition and Diversity Among Radio Formats: Legal and Structural Issues.
Mass Communication Review Yearbook 1985, Vol. 5, p547
(orig. pub. in) Journal of Broadcasting Spring 1984, Vol. 28, Issue 2, p127.
In the 1970's there were four cases that went before Judge McGowan
of the 2nd circuit Court of Appeals. In aggregate McGowan's opinions
formed something that people referred to as the Format Doctrine. Simply
put Judge McGowan cautioned the FCC that when significant public
disgruntlement was apparent, manifested perhaps by listener petitions,
or when programming changes would leave a broadcast area without a
unique format, the FCC ought to take that into consideration at license
renewal time, the FCC having been organized to oversee the airwaves to
the 'public interest'. This nearly drove the FCC around the bend. In
1976 they wrote a long memorandum (Memorandum Opinion and Order, 41
Fed. Reg. at 32953) in which they described this format doctrine as a
"fearful and comprehensive nightmare". They did not have to tremble
long in sickness and dread the Supreme Court took up the last of the
format doctrine cases on a writ of certiorari (WNCN, 101 S. Ct at 1269)
and ruled in favor of the FCC's view, ending forever anything the
public might have to say about radio, as the public. The future
of entertainment formats wound down a long road of increasing niche
marketing, while American culture and technology changed around it. One
of these changes is rock and roll no longer has the market share to
splinter into subformats or maintain multiple enterprises within
a market. Another element is technological change - the era of digital
reproduction. Again I'm going to stop here because the Washington Post
covered well on Monday: washingtonpost.com: Rock, Rolling Over.
Four words satellite radio, iPod, streaming radio. Dj's at
some college radio stations just run their entire shows into the board,
out of their iPods. The old school mind (mine) reels, it even reel to reels. Compressed Digital audio moves digital beyond
the lp model - the CD into competition with radio itself. I also note a news item which
uses 'format' in a lateral sense as a technological fork in the
road. DRMS in compressed digital audio players prevents
interoperability and dampens the effect of the overall MP(x) base
BBC NEWS | Technology | Format wars could 'confuse users'
Beyond entertainment formats, I still have some questions
left over concerning diversity, the market, and the public. Glasser
seems curiously relevant. Supporters of diversity were a little
nonplussed at the FCC's attitude: the marketplace- most desirable,
least objectionable. a soft-focus vision of laissez faire. The Format
Doctrine had evolved in a perfect vacuum at the FCC in the first place.
Now they insisted on the right to do nothing for the public on the eve
of a generation of broadcasting consolidation into limited sets of
hands, much of it requiring positive action to negate inconvenient
rules,and call this their duty. Glasser appears to have had a sense of
this from where his article goes next.
In the section headed consumer welfare, pluralistic
programming, first amendment values he examines what might make
cultural pluralism a value worth preserving or facilitating. It is not
an accidental adjacency that leads the 1rst amendment from free speech
into free press. The Press gets all the benefit of doubt due free
speech because only a free press can meet "public communication needs
of a democratic society." Only a press free to assume a natural
pluralism is "[a] press able and presumably willing to accommodate
divergent points of view." This is a "Public understanding". A
"Political Freedom." Glasser notes this is Alexander Meiklejohn's term
(Political Freedom, 1965). A 'cultural interpretation' essential to self government" Glasser sees
shading into John Dewey's thought.
Political Freedom, a cultural interpretation of Meiklejohn, is to see
this freedom dedicated not just to a level of information exchange some
degree of enlightenment but to the principle of plurality itself, From
which these thing will emerge. The principle of associated life;
democracy as a "conjoint communicated experience" (Dewey, Public and
its Problems, 1927). "Only a culturally plural society ... can
embody the spirit of democracy"
The FCC's format policy is fundamentally flawed, Glasser
argues, because it accepts competition not diversity as the goal of the
first amendment. He agrees with former FCC commissioner Nicolas Johnson
that a pricing mechanism [set up on these terms] represents a
'normative not an empirical judgment'. What he means by this is that
for free marketors, that the market delivers the best of all possible
worlds is an a priori truth judgement - they don't let facts interfer
with it. Variety is mistaken for
diversity. Variety equals intraformat diversity; true diversity equals
inter-format diversity. One can see these same arguements in play today
As Sinclair, Infinity and clear Channel and only a few others take up
ownership of all media outlets across the country. Not to worry we are
told with cable and satellites and your internets you can get your
information many ways. I'm grasping for an analogy that voices my
disquiet. Consider a content management engine in a XML publishing
process: many looks, feels and ways. One ultimate document in serving
database of unified information with mere associated extensible (or is
that expendable) style sheets. Format variety masks the message.
Glasser views the essential difference between what he terms
variety and diversity as the difference between wants and needs. Wants
are private and idiosyncratic a personal preference, an individual
gratification. Needs are public and shared, transcending personal
preference to the purposes and interest common to a class of people.
When the mechanics of governance conspire to supply one without the
other. It is all mere bread and circus.
Addendum: Even before I manage to finish typing this I see that
Infinity is letting the old WHFS alt-rock programming back on - as
internet streaming radio. I don't know yet whether Djs come with that.
Also I heard on the news tonight that Michael Powell is stepping down
as Chair of the FCC. I suppose the stress of being a free market
deregulator on one hand, and responding to the "there oughta be a law"
social conservatives who want the heck regulated out of all
broadcasting, got to him.
11:16:26 PM ;;
Saturday, 15 January, 2005
Giving the People what they want.
I looked in on another web log the other day How to Save the World. Written by a Canadian
named Dave Pollard, does a nice job on environmental
concerns (lying between me and the bachelors degree I don't have is a
economics class on externalities, I actually registered for it a few
semesters ago but never made it out of the wait list). His site is
maintained on a much higher plane of existence than Atomized here. He is a writer by profession, and he's trying to save the world. In
my defense I want to point out my job - affixing barcodes to library
books - that's my knowledge base (you stick 'em on up at the top). This
takes me away for several hours nearly every day. It does better
work as curse, than as provider of living wage. Something Nancy
(Micaela) once said to me - She had been thinking. She said: "When
I was a little girl I went to my older sister and told her 'when I grow
up I want to save the world', My sister looked at me blankly, and
answered 'save the world, from what'?" That's my circumscribed
ambition, simply to figure out what.
Saving the world, when I looked in on it, had a post on web log
metrics and reader's interests which was triggering off the recently
released Pew Trust survey on Blogosphere (Pew internet
report). He had a table up, which looked at A list web loggers, B list
and 'up and coming' web logists by the daily hits each catagory might
expect. At 4 to 6 hits per day my catagory: also ran. The press is
only obligated to report on win, place and show. No one cares about the
ponies who are just out for a Sunday stroll.
I resolve this year; then, to give the people what they want. Which I
will determine first by the handy list of what people want Dave Pollard
provides on a sidebar, and by logical deduction, and by my referer logs.
once said to Me "Writing doesn't really capture the way you think --
and frankly, speaking doesn't either". That's ok, I can always
draw you a picture.
1:22:30 PM ;;
Wednesday, 12 January, 2005
Channel flipping or Ceca de ti
I was flipping channels last Saturday ended up on channel
14; Telefutura in my neighborhood. A show was on called "Pepsi
Musica". A lively paced show. Theme that week was rock/pop women
singers, singing in spanish, of course. They were in music video mode.
No degree of channel surfing was going to improve on it, so I stopped
and watched. Most of it was more pop than rock. I didn't mind not
following the plot lines, It was better that way. Car windshields golf
clubs flying shards of glass; clearly a love song.
One of them seemed much better than the rest a song called 'Ceca
de ti', which I think also exists in english as 'closer to you'. The
singer was a women named Thalia (not Thalia Zedek though). She must be
famous already. People who have dropped down to one name are always
famous, or immune to ridicule. Since that song seemed fine, I guess
The strange demise of WHFS-FM brought this back to mind - that was
DC's supposed alternative rock station. Changed into a modern latin pop
station during a commercial break earlier today. I thought about that:
which would I rather listen to Thalia or Korn? Turns out I'd rather
listen to Thalia. Besides the Format Doctrine has been dead for twenty
years. Long live the doctrine of formats.
11:52:49 PM ;;
Friday, 7 January, 2005
Whistling and swearing, the sailor said: "There'll be something to pick up here." (Voltaire, Candide ch. v)
Holding God accountable. After the Tsunami I noticed in the Web
logging world first but then in other media, commentary that took to
hold the divine accountable for the wave in one fashion or other.
The routine run of these commentary plow a boundary around the
position that there can not be a wise and benevolent God if disasters
like the one on 26 Dec 2004 occur among us. That loss, pain and
suffering contradict the existence of a good and living God.
Religionists - the theocratic minded see disaster as punishment,
directed at wickedness. The slackness of their own people, or as
proof of their enemies disfavor. Always in contrast to their own
believers favor, the facts such as can be determined are sorted to fit
Our minister over at First Congregational W.DC, Rev. John Mack,
made that a topic of the sermon Sunday. I imagine most preachers dealt
with the Tsunami in degrees. Rev. Mack seemed personally confronted by
the doubting. He reiterated the true voice of God is to be found
not in the wind or shaking of the earth but in a still small
voice. The position of God, he pointed out lies in the whole of
creation. It's a very large whole, but noting how John's gospel begins
with a brief retelling of Genisis. For the purpose of establishing that
providence coexists with creation.
I had run along similar lines of thought during the week. I
noted these articles, as I saw them, but found myself dismissive of the
debate. It never seemed to me that Man gives God mission, or outlines
God's duty. Neither fealty nor prayer, constitute orders to an
adjunct. If it seems a cop-out not to see God as something
rubbed out of an oil lamp, and owed fortune from, I can only reply:
that wouldn't be God. The ocean - the land beneath it is the
terrestrial sphere. The disaster at hand is part of Mans relation to
nature. Nature the realm where man exists fragily and transiently is
not moraly willfull, it is chaos, offers no recognition to particular
life, but is not evil. Mankind's mortality is not the cause or result
of nature, but part of it. I think some would like to view ambient evil
(suffering) as freefloating response to original sin -- something
deserved, even to the good and innocent. The toiler by the sea, and
child. Opposed I suppose to evil that springs from man's ill opinion
and desire. What some might call man's nature, borrowed as it seems
from wolves, where virtue is known by the identity of the pack.
Another post where my writing became too unwieldy
to gently lay relevant links in line. So I'm leaving them all off
here. If you do read any of these - read the pdf by Dynes first.
That link is in the text where it belongs mysteriously. The Metafilter
thread on Tom Delay's unfortunate session opening prayer last week is
here just for fun. If I did not already consider him a borderline
psychotic things like that would worry me.
As some of these articles mentioned all this has been chewed
through before in a dialogue between Voltaire and Rouseau concerning
the Lisbon Earthquake. In 1755 on November 1 between earthquake Tidal
wave and Fires perhaps 70,000 people lost their lives. It was the
first disaster to the western world to occur in the modern era and one
of the worst. After the quake Voltaire wrote a short poem with a
brief introduction called 'the Lisbon earthquake'. It was intended as
response to writings by Pope (essay on man), and Liebnitz. It proceeded
against Optimisim: that this is best of all possible worlds. That what
is, is good or right. This is the precurser to today's technological
optimism, What we call progress. A belief that technology through
innovation will solve all mankinds problems a process that
automatically leaves our affairs on a higher level. This is a
different from adaptation a way of thinking of evolution (or
evolutionary change) as a response to nature - which despite an innate
complexity may be viewed as lateral in essence and not reflecting
mastery. Voltaire writes: "when man groans under such a load of woe, he
is not proud, he feels only the blow. Later: Or else the God who being
rules and space untouched with pity for the Human race indifferent,
from both love and anger free still acts consistent to his first
decree". This is Voltaire's dubious view of Enlightenment Deism -
Man deals with but a small portion of creation, Where god created
immutable moral and physical laws then withdrew. Man left in his proper
and particular place place. Voltaire asks: if this is the right way to
see God, What are we to understand or believe about God?
Rousseau replied in a letter to Voltaire dated 18 Aug
1756. He wished to reaffirm the principle of providence - that a
caring God is the agent of a human destiny, It is irrevocable that mans
destiny unfolds in a world of laws of matter, motion and reason.
It's an open question what reason could develop outside discoverable
material causality. Rousseau also wanted to point out that our ills are
generally of our own making. Either direct of mans active inhumanity to
man. This is what some recently would regard evil, specifically a
supernatural evil supernaturaly placed into some mens hearts our
enemies; whomever, but never ours. Or else indirect ie through
inattention, unreasoned engagement with natural world. Our expectation
that our least manmade environment is set free from natural forces. The
natural world persists. Nature is a chaotic machine whose gears are
partialy visible and turn relentlessly. In response Voltaire
While doing an obligatory Google sweep on this subject before leaving it. I turned up a paper by Russell Dynes : Dialogue between Voltaire and Rousseau on the Lisbon earthquake: the emergence of a sociol science view.
Dynes offers a number of interesting and critical observation about
this debate between the two philosophers. One is a notion that
disasters are in addition to all other things a social construct
"occuring...within a specific social and cultural context" from which
we draw what meaning we can of it from it Significant to the Lisbon
earthquakes memory it struck hard at the wealthier parts of Lisbon.
Another is the prevalent notion of disasters as technological failings
seeking after a technological fix. Dynes also considers the role of the
modern state a role government would not have played until the advent
of the monolithic nation state. Disasters are among all else disruption
and threat to social order. In response the state has assumed role of
responsible agent for recovery and prevention, if not of disaster
itself then at least of its worst effect.
Put into Dynes frame of mind. I recalled that I always
previously held a special contempt for those governments unable or
unwilling despite the monopolies they hold, of coercive force of state
resources, respond effectively to natural disasters. No helicopters
fly, no one is pulled from the mud, no water or food is delivered. The
elites fade back into the recesses and finger their riches
nervously while neighboring nations step in. The scale of this
catastrophe is such that all nations must consider themselves affected
and step in, and that step will be a further step of destiny.
[I know I'm posting this on Monday even though it has a post date of Friday. This is due to optimism, but not providence.]
10:20:20 AM ;;
Wednesday, 5 January, 2005
A line for the day. From A C Newman's album the Slow Wonder (op
cit), which I've been listening to the past few months. The song "On
the Table" : Copping a plea, is the new - innocent.
That's it I'm done, I'm in a single thought framing of mind, see you all tomorrow.
...Later that very next day... Allright; when I finally got around to looking it up I see that line actually reads: Copping a plea as they went. Innocent. Do re mi innocent. Now the plain blondes are playing along with you.
I dunno I think I like my version better. Maybe I can impress on
Mr. Newman to change it for the next edition. Some of you may be
thinking right now- "record albums don't have second editions, Paul."
Why not? If it were a live recording by a large symphony orchestra that
might pose some logistic difficulties, but this is a modern pop record.
An edit like that ought not be more difficult than a cut 'n paste using
Garageband [dot accent] on a powerbook with a 17 inch monitor.
I remember reading once that REM were so out of sorts with the way
"Feables of the Reconstruction" (no wait I think that actually reads
"Fables...") turned out, that they wanted to re-record the whole thing
and release it as a new album. F.o.t.R/R.o.t.F - 2nd ed. revised. Think
about it. Better to light a candle, than to curse the darkness.
11:35:41 PM ;;
Monday, 3 January, 2005
Ehrlich or good (government) grief
I don't get some of this new-style republican stuff. The chaste and
pure, logical and responsible. Uncorruptable. 'Good Government' through
loathing government; though, still being in (and around) government
mind you. Its not just the righteous pose or the garlands laid at the
feet of efficiency and efficacy, the moral justification of the free
market (or are we beyond it needing justification). It's not that, or only that.
True I suspect that somewhere in our thrall to efficiency. growth, and
innovation that there is something that isn't what it seems to be.
Something either slightly more or slightly less than we take it
for. The answer there, is hidden somewhere in the words
themselves. It's that I'm not seeing it - the purity I mean.
All last week the Governnor of Maryland Robert Ehrlich held
the state legislature in session because he insisted on an emergency
recess session to deal with the Malpractice Crisis. Everything's a crisis these days and must be solved
quickly, before thinking sets in. At the end of the week there were at
least four versions of a plan to fund the malpractice insurance subsidy
and keep medical practitioners in Maryland: one from the Governor, Md
state house, Md state senate, and the compromise joint resolution bill
put together in an all night session. The Governor allowed that none
but but his were acceptable the others were miles off the mark and that
he would veto it all at his leisure. The next day He was quoted
admitting he might not be able to get a veto to stick Ehrlich Foresees Trouble With Veto Frankly he had
nothing, the other plans placed a tax on HMO's, his plan called for the
money to come out of the general fund on his call some time down the
line. An empty and self-serving gesture. Also he had provisions and
caps to largely end the ability of the
public to effectively sue a HMO, doctor or insurance company. And no
oversight regulation to bring any other sense of account to their
practices. In the background to all this is the Federal governments
intention to restucture medicaid, which could knock most state budgets
off their foundations.
Over the past month a little scheme came to light where the governor's
office arranged for park land the state had bought (at market price) to
keep it non-developed, to be placed back on the market (at set-aside
price) - to a particular customer a friend and campaign donor of the
governor's who was simultaneously arranging for it to be re-classed as
developable land: Sellout in Maryland, Protecting Maryland's land, and Top Aides To Ehrlich Knew of Land Deal (washingtonpost.com). All other things being equal I usually like to see
people go to jail for stunts like that. In this case reporters from the
Baltimore Sun Newspaper who cover the Governor have been barred from
his presence NPR : 'Baltimore Sun' Suing Maryland Governor.
These are your New Style Republicans. No sense of corrupt
- what is corruption, nothing to do with them. They do management.
Corruption is a thing belonging to Old Style Democrats, its owned by
them. My father never tires of bringing up Mayor Curley of
Boston; hobgoblin of his transplanted youth (from the midwest) in
the Hub. Curley was (in)famously elected Mayor from his jail cell. To
be sure there is more than a little truth
in these opinions my father holds, but they belong to previous times.
There is a set of shifting realities occurring now for which perception
is lagging. Arrogance is flowing across caucuses, like water over land.
Corruption is a function of power in the hands of the weak, the
ignorant, the un-reflective. It will come to all of those every time.
Addendum: There appeared to be a brief interruption to this
process last night when the Republican house voted to reinstate the
robust version of their ethics rules GOP Abandons Ethics Changes (washingtonpost.com).
Note though that this did not come from the leader ship but from
the republican rank and file. Even though mag. leader DeLay assures us
that he no longer believes he will be indited and be asked to
step down. Likely others have assured him he won't be. Perhaps
also coming into play here was that the democratics had been trying to
arrange that the vote to change the ethics rule be a formal vote on
public record and not a voice vote. Which may have left some feeling
the Ring of Gyges had been unfairly taken from them.
11:35:29 PM ;;