September 21, 2012 archive

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The Main Event

Americans are, generally, averse to “big” issues and thinking in the long-term. History is bunk (as Henry Ford famously said) to most Americans which is why exactly the same patterns in policy and execution of that policy are manifest in Afghanistan and Iraq as were shown in Vietnam. We, collectively, have learned nothing. At a time when people distrust government when it comes to the military or military actions believe absolutely everything the government says. 9/11 was a case and point. The government offered no evidence and, in fact, destroyed or seized any evidence that there was for the events with the excuse that we were “at war” though no war was declared and there was no country that we were at war with–rather, Americans swallowed whole that we were at war with “terror” which is completely impossible and irrational. This “War on Terror” which was to last, essentially, forever was swallowed by most of the left despite abundant evidence that the U.S. government has consistently deceived the public particularly since the national security state was established during the Truman administration. Some people on the left did object to this war on terror nonsense but no great figures on the left were the least bit skeptical of the government accounts of 9/11! Chomsky accepted that the government tended to lie about everything concerning war and foreign policy but not about 9/11! Somehow they found their hidden ability to tell the truth during that fateful date. Regardless of how any of us feel about the mechanics and cause of 9/11 I think we can agree that the government was hiding something.

The reaction to the events of 9/11 is why I have no faith in the American left–but I believe a real left can emerge but it must emerge out of what I call the Main Event. I don’t mean 9/11 either–it is just a milestone something that was, I believe, inevitable one way or the other. The Main Event is not actually an event but the ongoing horror of climate change. All the issues we talk about are important but they are candles in the sun of what is happening to our environment.

I want to talk about an article I read on the Counterpunch site. The article was written by the brilliant thinker Morris Berman and is entitled: Time to Abolish the American Dream: The Waning of the Modern Ages. He was musing about the issues we face when he came across something Naomi Klein wrote:

….she chastises the Left for not understanding what the Right does correctly perceive: that the whole climate change debate is a serious threat to capitalism. The Left, she says, wants to soft-pedal the implications; it wants to say that environmental protection is compatible with economic growth, that it is not a threat to capital or labor. It wants to get everyone to buy a hybrid car, for example (which I have personally compared to diet cheesecake), or use more efficient light bulbs, or recycle, as if these things were adequate to the crisis at hand. But the Right is not fooled: it sees Green as a Trojan horse for Red, the attempt “to abolish capitalism and replace it with some kind of eco-socialism.” It believes-correctly-that the politics of global warming is inevitably an attack on the American Dream, on the whole capitalist structure.



Speedy is much rarer than you think.  Originally posted May 30, 2011.

Cannery Woe

On This Day In History September 21

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

September 21 is the 264th day of the year (265th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 101 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1780, during the American Revolution, American General Benedict Arnold meets with British Major John Andre to discuss handing over West Point to the British, in return for the promise of a large sum of money and a high position in the British army. The plot was foiled and Arnold, a former American hero, became synonymous with the word “traitor.”

Born in Connecticut, he was a merchant operating ships on the Atlantic Ocean when the war broke out in 1775. After joining the growing army outside Boston, he distinguished himself through acts of cunning and bravery. His actions included the Capture of Fort Ticonderoga in 1775, successful defensive and delaying tactics despite losing the Battle of Valcour Island on Lake Champlain in 1776, the Battle of Ridgefield, Connecticut (after which he was promoted to major general), operations in relief of the Siege of Fort Stanwix, and key actions during the pivotal Battles of Saratoga in 1777, in which he suffered leg injuries that ended his combat career for several years.

In spite of his successes, Arnold was passed over for promotion by the Continental Congress while other officers claimed credit for some of his accomplishments. Adversaries in military and political circles brought charges of corruption or other malfeasance, but he was acquitted in most formal inquiries. Congress investigated his accounts, and found that he owed it money after he had spent much of his own money on the war effort. Frustrated and bitter, Arnold decided to change sides in 1779, and opened secret negotiations with the British. In July 1780, he sought and obtained command of West Point in order to surrender it to the British. Arnold’s scheme was exposed when American forces captured British Major John André carrying papers that revealed the plot. Upon learning of André’s capture, Arnold fled down the Hudson River to the British sloop-of-war Vulture, narrowly avoiding capture by the forces of George Washington, who had been alerted to the plot.

Arnold received a commission as a brigadier general in the British Army, an annual pension of £360, and a lump sum of over £6,000. He led British forces on raids in Virginia, and against New London and Groton, Connecticut, before the war effectively ended with the American victory at Yorktown. In the winter of 1782, Arnold moved to London with his second wife, Margaret “Peggy” Shippen Arnold. He was well received by King George III and the Tories but frowned upon by the Whigs. In 1787, he entered into mercantile business with his sons Richard and Henry in Saint John, New Brunswick, but returned to London to settle permanently in 1791, where he died ten years later.

“You’ll never see a squirrel trapped by a syllogism.”

Mr. Smiff is a genuine kick in the pants.  Dude’s worth listening to.

The fact that he got Buffalo Bill-ed by our psychopatho-genic society simply gives him more time to kick me in the pants, which is fine by me, as I appear to be a more-than-fashionably-late political bloomer.  If only he had gotten to me sooner.  I wish him the best in a long, wave-lapped retirement.

However, my eyebrows torqued when he claimed that [unlike humans], “You’ll never see a squirrel trapped by a syllogism,” while continuing his discussion on the “lesser evil” problem presented by Democrats, i.e., the neurotic yowling between advocates of lesser evilism (logic-trapped squirrels) and the “fuck all y’all and the horse you rode in on” camp (my people).

Mr. Smiff’s main point, to my mind, is that you can’t fucking tell Republicans & Democrats apart!  It takes such a fine-tuned sense of discrimination to reveal the iota, the remaining quantal unit of distinction, and even that discrete packet is suspect, that it drives one fucking nuts, neurotic, pissing oneself, snarling, hunkering in dark corners, clawing at the handlers, and falling down, sprawling and panting.  Be more squirrel-like, and reject the choice itself.

I am not claiming that my admiration for squirrels is any less or more than Mr. Smiff’s  (some of my best friends in Golden Gate Park are squirrels!), but mine is different, in that I think squirrels and humans have more in common than Herr Smiff thinks obtains.  To phrase my view in Clintonesque Obamanisms, there’s nothing right with our squirrels that can’t be fucked by what’s wrong with humans.

My good buddy and comrade, Ivan Pavlov — who was probably dead wrong when he apocryphally warned his underlings that “The revolution is not out there; it is in here, in this lab!” —  provided some relevant experimental evidence on conditioned conflict behavior in dogs, which he referred to as “experimental neurosis.”

Pavlov was toying with the borderline between competing conditioned responses, using a discrimination task (circles v. ovals as signals) to train responses, and then inducing conflict by making the discrimination ever more difficult.  

In experimental canine terms, the syllogism is expressed as:

IF circle, THEN respond (orient to the circle, and get food reward.)

IF oval, WITHHOLD response (do not orient to oval, or else!  Zappo! Electric shock.).

After training both competing response elements, the un-American commie bastard then proceeded to present increasingly oval-shaped circles, and increasingly circle-shaped ovals. The dogs, unable to tell the difference between reward and punishment, became progressively unhinged, and unmanageable (Yay, dogs!).  The same has been shown in cats.  Democrats and Republicans have merely demonstrated that such frustrating breakdowns in discrimination also occur in humans.  If that finding, “experimental neurosis,” does not also hold true in squirrels, I’ll eat my straw hat loaded with nasty brick dust.

My point is this: it is precisely the current non-difference between our formerly distinct expectancies of Republicans and Democrats (ovals and circles) that evokes our conflicted animal phenotypes.  The formulation, “You’ll never see a squirrel…” only works until you present the squirrel with a choice between Republicans and Democrats.

The confused frustration expressed under such confused signaling conditions in all mammals tested to date already indicates that the answer is “none of the above.”

Next week we’ll discuss flesh-ripping weasels.

Muse in the Morning

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Muse in the Morning

Art Glass 20

Life, Liberty & the Pursuit of Alcohol

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

America has a long interesting history with alcohol that dates back to the Pilgrims running through what really started the American revolution to Prohibition. The Discovery Channel began a three part series, “How Booze Built America,” that examines the history of alcohol in the American culture. Mike Rowe, the series host, spoke on MSNBC’s The Cycle about the series and making history fun.

Did you know that the Puritans landed the Mayflower early on Plymouth Rock … because they ran out of beer? Or that Johnny Appleseed was actually creating farms to sell hard apple cider?

It was all the fault of demon rum.

Fighting for the Right to Vote

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Voting rights have come under attack in the last few years based mostly on the false premise of voter fraud. Civil liberties and private citizen groups have been fighting back with some help from the Federal Government in states that are governed by the 1965 Voting Rights Act that ended “Jim Crow” laws. Recent federal court rulings threw out the voter ID laws in Texas, South Carolina and the District of Columbia.

In Pennsylvania this week, the State Supreme Court handed down a 4 – 2 ruling that returned that state’s controversial voter ID law (pdf) back to the Commonwealth Court for review with these instructions:

Thus, we will return the matter to the Commonwealth Court to make a present assessment of the actual availability of the alternate identification cards on a developed record in light of the experience since the time the cards became available. In this regard, the court is to consider whether the procedures being used for deployment of the cards comport with the requirement of liberal access which the General Assembly attached to the issuance of PennDOT identification cards. If they do not, or if the Commonwealth Court is not still convinced in its predictive judgment that there will be no voter disenfranchisement arising out of the Commonwealth’s implementation of a voter identification requirement for purposes of the upcoming election, that court is obliged to enter a preliminary injunction.

In other words, the state must show that they can get a valid ID in the hands of any eligible voter who wants one between now and the election. If they can’t and , the court believes that voters will be disenfranchised, then the court must issue an injunction enjoining the law.

After all this country went through in the 1960’s to ensure the voting rights of minorities, it seems surreal that we are having a similar battle to protect not only those same minorities but the elderly, the poor, and students.

Why Do People Riot?

The above  question has been sort of dogging me for several days, and I felt the need to write about it.  Why do people riot in the streets?  Why are the riots throughout the world presently taking place?   Is it one incident or event that causes a given riot, or is it a whole set of other factors at play that only needs a specific set of incidents/events to set off a riot?

Riots, in general, are quite complicated, and nobody really knows how or why  even the most respectable, law-abiding people will sometimes engage in this kind of civil disorder, or allow themselves to be influenced by a small percentage of people in a given group who are prone to this kind of behavior in the first place?  Again, nobody really and truly knows.  

Sometimes, even good, law-abiding people can get caught up in all the excitement of rioting, and become aroused when the people all around them are acting as such.  What makes such people prone to that?  Is it because they, too, are under some sort of pressures that they don’t particularly wish to discuss with others?  Is it because they, too, are bothered by things that’re beyond their control, or at least tough to change?  Is it because they, too, fear that they’ll one day end up with no job, no home, money, food, or opportunities for education and meaningful employment?  Is it because being under martial law puts a ton of pressure on them, they feel trapped in a cage and need to throw things out, so to speak?  Is it possible that people believe that if they don’t partake of the riots, they’ll either become outcasts, or get beat-up or possibly killed?    I believe that all these things definitely produce a sort of a powder-keg situation, where all it takes is one seemingly small (or not so small) incident or event to set off a riot.   On the other hand, however, riots are often instigated by people who are prone to breaking the laws to begin with, and find further excuse for law-breaking when they instigate such civil disorders.  Without a small band of angrier people to set things off, riots might not occur, either.  

Cocktail Hour

I’ve been trying to start out with some of the older recipes with which one of the problems is that they’re quite simple.  The first thing to understand is that the core building block of alcoholic beverages is brewing.

To brew you need 3 things- sugar, water, and yeast.  The yeast eat the sugar and poop alcohol until they die of alcohol poisoning.  With the right kind of yeast you can get concentrations of 20% or more.

Almost anything will brew, from a mash of sprouted barley (malt) to grape juice (wine) and it will taste more or less good depending on the 80% that is not alcohol which is flavorless (or slightly astringent because of the chemical reactions that take place).

Back in the day finding good produce was not nearly as hard as finding good water and because wine was not reliant on water as there is so much of it in the juice it was generally of superior quality to beer, though it’s very possible to make horrible tasting wine, just ask anyone who has tried.

The basic motivation for mixing a drink, as opposed to drinking it straight out of the bucket, is taste.  The Greeks probably deserve credit for inventing the mixed drink because they always mixed their wine with water which reduced the slight resinated taste of the local product and lowered the alcohol content that was a little higher than imports.  Indeed the Greeks looked on Romans (who borrowed so much of their culture) as sort of drunken uncouth red neck yahoos because they didn’t follow the practice.

What the Romans would do instead is put a piece of burnt bread in their cups as a kind of charcoal filter.  Believe it or not, this is the origin of the ‘toast’.

A lot of what our ancestors drank we’d consider pretty awful today and they were always looking for ways to improve it.  Sangria, mixing fruit with wine, is probably the very oldest but the various mulls of wine, cider, or beer (heating it with a spice infusion) have been around nearly as long.

Another interesting ancient cocktail is Puggle, a mixture of beer and wine.

Wait.  Won’t that make you sick?

Lots of things will make you sick if you do too much of them.

What makes this drink attractive is the carbonation, not easy to come by without special techniques.  In fact the Champagne method of creating carbonated wine was revolutionary in a medieval Benedictine kind of way.  How you do it is to induce a secondary fermentation, restarting the yeast (those that are not quite dead yet) with the goal of producing carbon dioxide bubbles.

In beer throwing a little more sugar in usually does the trick since beer yeast don’t generally produce suicidally high levels of alcohol.  In wine you have to artificially interrupt the yeast before they fall lemming-like into the abyss, customarily by chilling.  There’s also the minor problem of creating containers that will stand up to the pressure.

So why is fizzy good (or bad)?  Well, it stimulates the pyloric sphincter and allows your beverage into your small intestine where it is absorbed faster.  This can affect your judgment and you may consume more than you ordinarily would.

As far as hangovers go there are basically only 3 factors that govern their severity-

  • Amount, amount, amount–  It’s not the alcohol per se that does you in, what happens is that it’s metabolized into a lot of nasty chemicals including formaldahyde, so if someone says they’re going out to the bar to get embalmed they’re not too far from the truth.
  • Sugar–  Sorry umbrella drinkers.  The problem with sweet is that sugar, while not enhancing your buzz, gets turned into many of the same nasty chemicals as the alcohol.  Also I have noticed this tendency for people to over look the fact that a Scorpion Bowl serves two because it is so tasty.
  • Water, water everywhere–  Most hangover symptoms are caused by dehydration, it takes an enormous amount of water to process and flush your system.  A liter at least before napping is just a good start.  Coffee is a mixed bag, sure it makes you alert but it’s also a diuretic and sucks you dry so that now you’re wide awake AND hung over.

In fact the best thing you can do is get some protein and fat to slow whatever is left in your system, some carbs for energy, and some more alcohol to dull the pain.  Cold pizza and warm beer, breakfast of champions.

If you want to be a mite more hoity-toity, Eggs Benedict and a Bellini.