About Me

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Did Socrates say "Know Thyself", or was he misunderstood, as all are. Show Thyself is all we can do. The knowing is unknowable.  

I am filled with joy.  It can't be helped.  

Became a Farmer, Builder, Musician, Tank Commander, Librarian, Lawyer and Minister. I have failed at many things. And now retired.  Filled, just filled, with Joy. 

Monday, August 27, 2007

Hegelian Dialectics, where is it when we need it?

What I loved about Hegel (1770) was the understanding that opposites are not merely "attractive" or repellent; opposites are generators: They create new things. This creativity is what makes a conversation fun, as opposed to simply a dialogue of replayed tapes and recitations of tiresome details. The "thesis" -- what one person says, anything -- leads to "anti-thesis" there is always the "other" thing -- and then as it swings back to the thesis, there is that new thing SYNTHESIS.

For Hegel, the conversation was about sin and salvation, earth and heaven, church and state, finite and infinite. The emphasis of Jesus on love as the chief virtue was because love can bring about the marriage of opposites. Love aids the conversation, the charism for A and B, for their co-existence, is what brings C into play. Bring it.

The Hegelian dialectic, in which human progress is generated by the meeting of opposites, has almost been forgotten. Synthesizing dynamics barely survived the stormy unilateralism, intolerance, and virulence of the Nazi/Communist Party. Where Hegel argued that each political movement is imperfect and therefore gives rise to a counter-movement, which, if it takes control, is also imperfect and therefore gives rise to yet another counter-movement, and so on to infinity, what actually occurred was imperfection locked into its errors -- because imperfections did not "give rise" to an effective means of balancing.

Where has the "conversation" gone? People speak in one-liners, and devote themselves to their things, telling us about the Stuff....Where is the dialogue upon which Civilization depends? Gone to gamers, gone to extremists.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Haleh Esfandiari, imprisoned in Tehran's Evin torture block

Since May 8, 2007, Haleh Esfandiari has been held in Section 209 of Tehran's prison for political prisoners. Esfandiari is a scholar, affiliated with the Wilson Center. The Center is not only not an arm of the United States or any government, it is remarkably hostile to the present administration. Esfandiari is herself a grandmother and was in Iran visiting her 93 year old mother. For the government of Iran to accuse her of "spying", in the absence of any motive, opportunity, benefit, or evidence, is not merely criminal. It is "proof" that there is No God, that these thugs in Tehran are not Believers, and any one who authorizes the interrogations of grandmothers is not a religious by any definition. These men are not motivated by spiritual values. Her interrogators could not possibly have any genuine "religious" beliefs.

I can but be reminded of the fact that Mata Hari was accused of "spying" by another group of thugs claiming to be pious. In France, when things were not going well on the war front, some religious fanatics went after Mata Hari, an independent woman who had introduced Middle Eastern "belly dancing" to the corsetted and bustled society of Paris. Ironically, with no evidence against her other than that she loved men and women, she was executed by firing squad as the World War began taking its pointless toll. There was never any evidence of espionage on her part, and few women in Europe were LESS conspicuous than this theatrical performer.

Now the "Ministry of Intelligence" in Iran goes after another independent woman. Apparently, war mongers find it convenient to go after UNARMED WOMEN. The Ayatollah claims to find some justification in the Quoran for doing the worst things to an unarmed grandmother? They have insured the immortality of this great martyr to truth, the scholar, the seeker of evidence and truth, who could have served as a great bridge of understanding between civilizations. Tney put her in a filthy prison.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Tenacity and Success?

This is another pathetic belief, which is peculiar in its "hold", the way it is repeated, and which is demonstrably wrong: If you want success, just keep at it; there are smart, talented, resourceful failures, but even without intelligence, talent, or good looks if you just have tenacity...you will succeed!

Tenacity. Sure. I know dozens of people living in poverty, whose lives are abject failures, and there they are still clinging "tenaciously" at it. What part of this is the "success" part?

Some People are never lost, never not Home

This is one of the odd and most consistent things my father taught me just by the way he lived: He was always never "lost", and never "not home". It was not just Not Planning. He would plan. He would have objectives. But he was never single-minded about it. I would be on a Quest, looking for something important, and he would just be looking. And there would be something offered, something half-full that he would fill, and then there it was, overflowing.

Civil Rights and Duties

One of the universal values--expressed in virtually all mature cultures--is the Basic Right to "do as you please" so long as what you do does not cause harm to others. What is curiously defended against, however, is any respect for the Basic Duty, which is, to take responsibility for what you do.

How many institutions, how many officials, how many "corporations" are doing this?

Mata Hari's Dance, old Flamenco, new Lumbres and Alegrias

This is the 100th anniversary of Mata Hari's execution in 1917. Under her married name, she is the most famous of the MacLeods, and although well-known, completely unsung and misunderstood.

The MacLeods were a Scots clan that pretty much annihilated the Keys, a sept of the McKay clan, but by some oversight, they missed my progenitors on that branch of the tree. Still, I remember all MacLeods, with a kind of gratitude that they have calmed down considerably. And Mata Hari is simply one of the greats.

And this comes up opportunely in 2007, with the first biography I have seen of her. Pat Shipman authored a significant Biography of our dearest MacLeod, known to us by her stage name, "Mata Hari". [Shipman, Femme Fatale; Love, Lies, and the Unknown Life of Mata Hari]. Born in Holland in 1876, Margaretha Geertruida Zelle married Rudolf Macleod, an army officer stationed in Indonesia. She eventually returned to the Netherlands, divorced, and penniless, sought the attention of wealthy men. With an instinct "for what would succeed", she developed a series of "sacred dances" ostensibly learned in the Indies. The Malay phrase she adopted as her name, means "the eye of the day", or "sunrise".

As World War I broke out, the Belle Epoch tied off, and it got hard for a dancing lady to earn a living. She was approached by French and German diplomats, all males, with advances in cash and kind. Eventually she was hounded mercilessly by a French double agent, Georges Ladoux--he was himself playing both sides--and prosecuted for spying, although the evidence was completely based on her supposed "immorality", her transparently eager willingness and patent ability to drain men of their bodily fluids. Her skills had really nothing to do with espionage, and it is difficult to imagine a lady less likely to be able to go un-noticed than Mata Hari.

She was imprisoned in the filth of the prison at Saint-Lazare until her execution by firing squad in 1917. And this is but another example of a miscarriage of justice in the magistrate system under the Napoleonic Code; see also Dreyfus. Preconception and scapegoating, religious piety, the need to do "something" when another thing--the War--is not doing well, all tainted the pretense of a trial.

Now, about the dancing....!

The costume alone, of course, was worth the price of admission: Beautiful brunette in a shining metal bra, spangly tiara, and transparent veils. We have no choreographic descriptions although the men who watched her have related fairly specific bits. Their journals were set atremble by the intoxicating mixture of exotic music, striptease, and veiled anatomy. These accounts, all by men, "are a hoot" in their way, but we have no way of reconstituting the dances. Nejla Y. Yatkin is one professional who does a great contemporary depiction.

I want to suggest something more. The descriptions of the rhythms--from slow liquid gestures to swirling and shaking--are in many forms of dance. However, it is hard for me not to think of Romani women and small flamenco performances. First of all, the performance itself was a series of alegrias, with taranto stylings, at one with the music, sumptouous. From her poverty in the Spanish portions of the Netherlands, and in Europe, there would be exposure to the Gypsy solo dances. And the veils? This is not really a "sacred" or traditional element in Indonesian dance. It is moorish, Arabesque, belly-dancing. She provided content to the interest Europeans had in the Middle Eastern cultures -- with veiled women.

It is documented then (!): Mata Hari drew from the nyai traditions of Malaysian mistresses, gypsy performers, and Middle-eastern exoticism, to capture an audience.

Sabotage and Terrorism

Suppose a terrorist decides to blow something up. Say a bridge, or a building that took years to build. And he blows it up and people get injured. He would be culpable. We would not hesitate to hunt him down and hold him responsible.

Suppose a terrorist runs for Congress. And he gets elected by promising to reduce taxes and the size of Government. However, instead of reducing the size of Government, he actually reduces its regulatory functions but increases its budget. He votes so as to cut funding for the repair and maintenance of a bridge, or a building. But he increases taxes and redirects tax money into the coffers of a "capitalist" company to do nothing at great public expense. (I have to put quotation marks around ANY "private enterprise" company which is set up to take money from the Government, because any company that takes public money while pretending to be engaged in private enterprise, is a scam.)

For example, say the company operated as a "power broker" like Enron--whose "service" did nothing but increase the cost of electricity without providing any other value or producing any product whatsoever. Or like one of VP Cheney's multi-national corporations. Halliburton buys fuel oil in Iraq and sells it to the US military for more than twice as much as fuel oil costs anyone else in Iraq--another company that actually offers no service and produces no product except to expense the Government.

Anyway, your terrorist Congressman, dismantles the infrastructure of this country, each Government Department at a time, by defunding the regulators. No one inspects the bridge, no one repairs the bridge....and because of Entropy, and because earthquakes, floods and droughts occasionally do occur, pretty soon the bridge just collapses. Or buildings burn down, or for lack of Air conditioning or plumbing repairs, it just becomes unusable.

Now, are we going to hunt down this terrorist? Hold him responsible for his deliberate acts? Can we fix blame and responsibility for his Votes, his grip on our Public Purse Strings? Hunt him down and hold him responsible. Hold his "leaders" responsible. Hold his voting machines responsible?

One after another of the Bush appointees have been found to be incompetent at best, and deliberately predatory in benefiting themselves at public expense. The fact that Kenneth Lay was not only the founder of Enron but a long-time family friend of the Bushes reveals the complicity of Bush in terrorism. Another one of President Bush's relationships is with a billionaire Saudi Prince. These relationship reveal the scale of Bush's complicity with predators. It is true that the Saudi royals and the Lays are not "suicide bombers", but they are effectively WORSE in terms of the billion-dollar damage they have caused.

Road Kill -1.2 million - the facts of vehicular slaughter and maiming

Why are people willing to spend trillions of dollars and years of "waiting" at airports and court houses waiting to pass through "weapon" inspections, when it is thousands of times more likely that any one of us will be killed or maimed by a car than by a terrorist? Each year since 9/11/01, more pedestrians have been killed in cross-walks than in the entire death toll in the buildings attacked by terrorists.

There are Islamic Arabs all over the world. Many of them drive cars and trucks. As drivers, they are thousands of times more likely to kill and maim, than as "jihadists" or bombers. Put another way, America IS under attack, but not from Arabs. The world is under assault from manufacturers. From drivers.

Let's look at the actual numbers:

UNITED STATES - TRAFFIC DEATHS. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration 42,642 Americans DIED in traffic accidents in 2006. (NHTSA was de-funded by the Bush Administration and placed in the hands of appointees with no expertise, so the numbers must be considered extremely "conservative" and unreliable on the low side.)

GLOBAL - TRAFFIC DEATHS. Traffic deaths are the fastest-rising cause of death in the world, in every nation, and exceed 1 million per year for the last 5 years. By comparison, last year's combat deaths have been estimated at 100,000. Roadways pose a greater danger to human beings than war.

VEHICLES AND RAILROAD CROSSINGS. In America, a train collides with a vehicle every two hours. It is never pretty. In 1996, there were 415 deaths and 1554 serious injuries. The average victims were sober, driving within 25 miles of their homes. Since 2004, there has been almost no "infrastructure" improvement, and the crossings are worse than ever, with more traffic exposures.

VEHICLE MILES. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, in the last three years, vehicular travel has increased 170% in the last three decades in America. (The EPA was de-funded by the Bush Administration and placed in the hands of appointees with no expertise, therefore the figures should be regarded as extremely conservative.) Mobility is clearly linked to prosperity, productivity, and even freedom. However, this is not true of the vehicle mile increase in the last 6 years, during which America has suffered decreased prosperity, less vacation time, reduced productivity, and less freedom.

FATALITIES PER MILE. Curiously, in spite of dramatic improvements in vehicle safety engineering--anti-lock brakes, air bags, impact engineering, inclined roadbeds--casualties per mile traveled have not significantly fallen. (Note, fatalities are slightly decreased, but injuries have actually increased.) It appears that cell phone usage and other driver distractions have increased. In addition, the horsepower has dramatically increased. Twenty years ago the average consumer vehicle had 119 "under the hood". Now, almost doubled, to 210 horsepower. The Porsche Cayenne SUV has 520 horsepower. The 2008 Toyota Camry with 268 horsepower does zero to 60 in 5.8 seconds, equivalent to the acceleration of a racing Corvette of a generation ago. Thus, we are STILL killing and maiming people at the same pandemic rate in spite of the additional and extraordinary "safety" features.

THE MYTH OF PROSPERITY AND PRODUCTIVITY. The transportation-industrial complex dominates the lion's share of advertising, and is an important contributor to the diversification and prosperity of the world. This complex, consisting of vehicle manufacturers, roadway builders, fuels, and insurance, is also a major lobbying power. Government regulators are run by appointees of the Executive branch which has de-funded and marginalized scientific expertise across the board. Just as significantly, the complex is responsible for suppressing the facts, and promulgating distortions--for example the myth that lax regulation of transportation contributes to prosperity.

It is of course true that mobility and transport are critical to prosperity. However, it is criminal to make decisions based on only partial truths. The fact is, Medical Treatment costs have sky-rocketed. Why? More people need more care, because THEY ARE INJURED. 2.6 million Americans were injured in traffic crashes in 2006. JUST IN ONE YEAR. Many of them suffered spinal injuries which leave them in chronic pain for decades.

I was rear-ended three times in a three-year period, and I have never recovered. I live in constant pain. And my "productivity" rapidly declined, although I continue to work and appear presentable. My pain is not in any statistics. The fact that I am producing 1/10th what I used to before the accidents is not going to influence the policy of studied indifference to 2.6 million injuries per year. And the traffic deaths-- 1.2 million in the world, annually.

The suggestion that the "convenience" of taking a car to pick up groceries should include a statistically significant risk of death and maiming is insane. If I hear anyone suggest that the pain is worth twice the horsepower I will ever need, or that our nation is prosperous because it ignores traffic casualties, I am very likely going to physical with that person.

At the least I will leap up and breathe into their nostrils--and tell them that whiplash is contagious. Well, it isn't really. And I would not wish debilitating whiplash pain on anyone. Still, it might help my chronic pain to get the message out.

Nazi Gold

According to a report released by the US government in December 1997, less than 20% of the gold looted by the Nazis across Europe and placed into officially "neutral" national banks has ever been returned. Nazi officers and German government agents deposited GOLD (not including cash) into national banks in Portugal, Spain, Sweden and Turkey. Those countries' banks STILL HAVE THE GOLD.

In addition, Switzerland only recently reports that it has $475 million worth of GOLD which was removed from other countries and deposited in Swiss banks during the war. $132 million was removed from occupied Austria and Czechoslovakia, and $146 million from Jews. Argentina is also reported to have Nazi Gold, all of which it has kept.

The Report was presented to the 41-nation conference on Nazi gold, giving figures FOR THE FIRST TIME.

In a separate revelation about the origin of the looted Gold, as a result of recent investigations begun by the World Jewish Congress, newly-discovered documents now confirm that 60 tons of gold were stolen from the Jews. Does it seem just crazy that no one went after these records earlier? And that even now, only Jews themselves, the disenfranchised victims, have to put the investigation together?

To put this in perspective (?), the Allies recovered 337 tons of plundered gold, and returned all but 5.5 tons to the Central Banks of the respective countries from which the removals were traced. None of this gold went back to any individuals, although significant amounts were looted from "private persons" [Jews].

Negotiations with the "neutral" countries continue--and they continue holding over $170 million in looted gold.

These are "GOLD" figures. Not cash, or the cash from the sale proceeds raised by the Nazis when they sold the property confiscated from millions of people. Where did the cash go?

Reward for Killing Taslima Nasrin is $2400

What is wrong with True Believers? Today, clerics in eastern India offered a cash reward of 100,000 rupees ($2,400) to anyone who murders TASLIMA NASRIN. This is really appealing to easy money greed, since the beautiful TASLIMA is an unarmed helpless woman without guards, army or police protection. She does not even have a political protector or the aegis of the Press. The Death Warrant is also money-grubbing on the part of the mosques, since her life is worth, frankly, millions.

TASLIMA is a writer. Novels, little stories. The novels barely touch upon any "religious" criticism. She certainly does not criticize clerics with the passion exercised by Mohammed against pretenders. Her life is worth more than Bin Laden. If the clerics seriously want to appeal to money greed, and they clearly are, surely there are a thousand money-grubbing clerics to kill a thousand Bin Laden's for the $50 million dollar reward, before even one would kill TASLIMA. They should offer at least $100 million to kill an unarmed woman.

What decent self-respecting warrior would kill an unarmed woman for less? Especially when a righteous warrior would be willing to fight honorably against a formidable and dangerous opponent for free?

I can just see the expression on the faces of the brave jihadists in heaven. And their astonishment when they come across this woman-killer among the peerage of valiant Warriors: "Ah, here is Hussein who killed the Great Devil. And Saladin, lived for years in combat against hordes of heavily-armed Crusaders. Yes. Oh, and you? What? You murdered an unarmed woman who was writing stories? For Money? Well, was it for a Lot of Money? No? Just 100,000 rupees! [Big Pause.] Do you know how that makes US look? Do you think that the Great Warriors of Heaven are assassins of women for money?"

Clearly some of the Mullahs are so deeply depraved, so caught up in hatred, they cannot be trusted to understand their own instincts. Their greed, their hysteria, their wild jeering at a person who has done them no harm, and is harmless, their need for a scapegoat in the crisis of their own management of the mosques....

The life of one TASLIMA NASRIN is worth so much more. Alive or dead, for she will never die. Never. Never. She has already entered into the pantheon. She is not threatening the clerics, not with stones or guns. She has terrified them with understanding and courage.

Lonely, Un-tethered, Un-loved, as a waste of...Freedom

I seem to be surrounded by people living productive lives with warm and loving families. They really ARE thriving, although few are "ambitious" or striving. They "struggle" with minor ailments, chores, and even relationships, schedules, and occasional death. But the natives are remarkably happy. These are cheerful and helpful people. They are prepared for their lives.

Still, there is that low-level depression, some of them, only some, seem to suffer. And they do not seem to know exactly Why. In an entertainment age, they seem a bit bored. Is there almost a "waste" of Freedom here? People have it "for granted", and do not feel engaged in the urgency of its preservation?

Seeing sadness fills me with empathy and great concern. I get edgy. When I see suffering it makes me really really edgy. Every suffering person is a canary in the mine. This is Our Mine.

Fortunately, my wife and most of our family friends and neighbors do not seem to mind having an "edgy" guy in town. I am just grateful that the Inquisition and Party Members have calmed down and I do not have to fend off packs of Red Guards, wolves, lynch-parties or witch-burning villagers. Real grateful.

The Two Solutions to Political Conflict

Offering "peace" or "justice" is never a Political Solution, where a conflict is in play. All sides are always in favor of general ideals, which have universal appeal. The Nazis and Saddam Hussein constantly invoked Justice, and Pol Pot made a "theme" of Peace, a leitmotif of the Killing Fields.

Conflicts tend to break down into two competing strategies, both equally available to all sides: Unity and Partition. All sides will invoke both strategies. Both sides attempt to "unify" enough people to prevail, and to "separate" themselves from those they want to be seen as fighting.

It turns out as a matter of genes, "personality" profiles, and even "culture", a person will have more in common with a large segment of the population in any part of the world, than with his or her immediate neighboring group. In other words, if you take a statistically significant group of people out of ANY fighting element, many of the individuals will have MORE IN COMMON with their assigned "enemies" than with their designated fellow-combatants.

This is why UNITY almost always makes the most "scientific" sense. However, where there is injustice, there is always the tendency to revolt, and this leads to revolution, the "separation" dynamic. For people to be free, they must free themselves FROM a coersed "unity".

In spite of the fact that the "groups" overlap, Partition remains a vital strategy, and in the absence of a political opportunity for participation of a minority group in the Unity, it should be recommended. Partition was used by European colonial powers in 1920 in Ireland, in South Asia in 1947, in Palestine in 1948, in Cyprus in 1974, and in the Balkans in the 1990's. Should it be used in Iraq? Sudan? Chechnya? Montana?

Holy City of Karbala, Ashura festival

As many as 2 million mostly men gathered in Karkala, south of Bagdad, just last March. They shared cell-phone and TV images of themselves, flagellating their modestly-exposed shoulders, heads, and backs with bundles of chain "zangeel", and cutting into their heads and necks, to mourn the 7th century defeat and killing of Hussein during Islam's civil war of the 7th century. The grandson of Muhammad PBUH was pushed aside by the lords of Mecca and Medina. But what is the meaning of the Ashura today? The Golden Mosque in Samarra was destroyed by Al Quada militants in February 2006. Al Quada is Sunni. Now the devotees are shouting KUL YOM ASDHURA! KUL ARD KARBAL! "Every day is Ashura! All land is Karbala!"

Americans seem to keep wondering when the Iraqis will "step up" to fight for their country. This is a terrible question. Iraqis are already fighting, bravely, thoughtfully. And savagely. They are imbedded in a history which is not taking prisoners.

The Bush-Cheney-Rove trinity will be forgiven by the merciful Arabs and the remarkably civilized Persians long before they will ever be forgiven by "religious" Americans. No follower of Jesus Christ is permitted to lie, much less to harm so many innocent people pretending to fight enemies who are in fact unscathed and strengthened. In other words, no follower of Christ would invoke Christs' name as a cover up or excuse for stupidity and greed. Bush could not "lead" a penitent to a wailing wall. Even one Word, a single Zangeel of remorse and humility, even one step toward a pilgrimage of peace, would help.

Animals not in the Ark: griffin, basilisk, unicorn

Unforgivable. Noah was clearly commissioned by God to float the progenitors of ALL forms of life out of harm's way. Why did Noah-thinks-he's-God turn away the majestic griffin, the intense basilisk, and the graceful unicorn? What was he thinking when he refused them entry, and let in the flies? The mosquitoes? The chiggers. The fire-ants. Ticks! Now it is reported that bed-bugs are making a big come-back. If only Noah had not taken the trouble to furnish nasty little compartments in the Arc for blood-suckers!

Give someone a fast blog; someone willing to go into harm's way....

John Paul Jones went to the Continental Congress--which was meeting in black sessions under cover of night and secrecy, with his ragged commodore hat in hand, with a plan to break the blockade imposed by the Royal Navy. The illegal body was moved to provide funds to outfit a clipper ship by these words: "Give me a fast ship. For I intend to go into harm's way!"

Someone needs to go into the face of pirates, of tyrants, of fear itself. The thing that gives me the most fear is that we are surrounded by the craven quaking paltry fear -mongered alarmists on the one hand, and the be-numbed sleeping short-termers on the other, and so very few, so few are stepping up to the plate of responsibility, the launching wharf, asking for a fast ship!

We are far more likely to be slain by ignorance as by any other means -- dysentery from bad water, vehicles that should never be built, diseases ramping up in over-crowded cities -- more are killed and maimed by these than by wars and terrorism.

"The law" pretends to be what it is not.

At all levels of adjudication, the judge tries to appear as a "standard bearer" or even the "servant of law", as if his or her discretion was bound by its letter. Rule of Law is often presented as the alternative to a Tyrant's Will. In fact, however, the "rule of law" is not well understood. Like "justice" it is a concept that all sides invoke, simultaneously and from conflicting interests. There is universal and profound ignorance of "The Law", an abstraction, no matter how lengthy its recitation.

And if a Rule appears to apply, it has subjective exceptions which can, and often should, swallow it up. For example, there is the principle that the specific rule "prevails" over the general expression -- which is an admission that the law is swiss cheese. Semantically, words have no objective meaning - not a single word can survive deconstruction, and nor can the law.

In addition, judges are keenly aware of the maxim that "the spirit prevails over the letter" of the law, which is another way ultimately giving sway to the subjective will of the judge over any possible theoretical objectivity in the realm of semantics.

And of course, one is always left wondering what the Legislative Law-maker intended in the first place? Where lobbyists write most of our laws, where many of the laws are simply reactions to extreme cases of abuse, where there is No Lobby willing to fund objectivity, order, common sense, and "public good" where factions write the rules.

However, there are a number of institutional self-correcting mechanisms "at work" in the legal system. One is the Separation of Powers, the "independence" of the judiciary from legislative and executive power. Another is the "due process" cluster of rights in which the conflict is ventilated by professional advocates with Notice and Opportunity to respond to each other; this creates a kind of "record" or precedence which give validity to the derivative decision.

Finally, there is the concept of EPIKEIA, which dates back to Classical Greece. This is rooted in fairness -- whatever the law says, its application must go beyond mere policing its margins, or automatically spitting out a result. Epikeia commands the consideration of application: In addition to the letter of the law, the executive police work, the matching up of the facts of the case to the laws which "apply", the Epikeian Step requires consideration of the result in the particular case in its possibly unique circumstances. Without throwing out or amending the law, is it sensible and fair to apply it to the parties before the court now?

Modern courts, however, are paralyzed by the accusation of "subjectivity" -- most judges want to hide the political facts of their appointment, the lack of merit in the "choice" made in seating them. They are sensitive, after all, to the mystery of how they ended up in such a seat of power; they understandably do not invite scrutiny into that example of a process of "application". Judges cling to the appearance -- and it is pure fiction -- of "objectivity". Now, Judges rarely discuss "fairness". Chief Justice Earl Warren was one of the last great judges to test the outcome against this segment of the franchise of the court. He understood the Epikeian burden, the importance of that pause before application of the Rule, to ask if it works appropriately in the particular case.

Just as Plato wrote that "Without an Absolute, the particulars are meaningless" -- and 2500 years of philosophy is the footnote consequence, and the phenomenon of angst is as fresh today as then-- so is every judgment meaningless without Justice.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Without an Absolute...footnote 43: A. Personal attachments, B. Dreams, C. Beauty

The Platonic Particulars are Meaningless. And there is not a Moment to Lose.

People with time--never too much, tirelessly infinite--on their hands are necessarily confronted with the meaninglessness of their lives. Not life in general, but in particular. We draw three solutions from what others have found:

A. PERSONAL ATTACHMENTS. As gentle as starlight, the twinkling of a hot ball at far remove, there is the comfort of personal attachments. We may be born alone, sharing no limbs, no organs, or even undertanding, and yet, there is no one and nothing "complete". Everything is incomplete. Even Unity is undone. So your life has meaning in its exile from the womb, from its being part of that partition, that multiplication off the introduction of sperm and egg, that contact. And contact continues. As gentle as starlight, however great the remove.

B. DREAMS. The meaning is not only in the twinkling massage of starlight. The consciousness goes to sleep and awakens to its Dreams -- and why is this? Why is Dreaming happening? The meaning of life is bundled with the exilic mass, and sits astride the saddle of the corpus colosum, as a headless horseman holding his head, holding in his hands the meaning of his ride. In our sleep, we work out the route of our purposes. In the tidal cycle of sleep and awakening, one draws out the other, which pushes in turn. This is the hall of mirrors bespoken by poets, the reflection of of the push to pull virtual to virtual, sleep/awakening. The meaning is in the rising and falling, in the reflection of the cycle on itself.

C. BEAUTY. And why does the imagination have the ability, the desire, to appreciate moments of beauty, often so fleeting? The Inuit family trapped in the dark privations of winter, minutes from death, will resort to Art - from child-like giggle songs, to story-told scrimshandering. Beauty is a refuge in difficult times. And so the explanation for the phenomenal impulse of wealthy people to pay millions to other wealthy people to acquire mosaics made by slaves (the Greek decorations displayed in the nonpareil Roman ugly Getty Villa) and the stretched and colored canvas of poverty-ridden painters (Van Gogh). How can beauty be bought? And its accumulation is so mandatory for the powerful, not because they can, for they cannot, but because they must, for they are not living without it.

Friday, August 10, 2007

IT - can we plug historical data into algorithms to predict future?

Software developers have long been offering "tools" for a broad range of issues. For example, we are offered programs which prepare taxes, assure compliance with regulations, route shipments, or even predict outcomes given different scenarios.

The Government (Bush administration) now claims it has software that can even predict terrorist strikes. In 2004, the Government Accountability Office revealed that our Administration was running over 199 "data mining projects", many of which involved private sector information provided by private aggregators. The National Security Agency has amassed a database upon which it supposedly performs pattern-based analyses to hunt for terrorists.

There is no doubt among the marketing cognicenti that mathematical algorithms can identify trends and patterns of consumer shopping habits. In addition, IT experts can match voter proclivities, and even reveal financial fraud and crime. However, can running algorithms through consumer data predict where a terrorist strike will occur? Of course not. The NSA is using an enormously expensive tool -- data mining of every citizen's private data -- which will never provide the results needed. The people supposedly assigned to "hunt terrorists" are now sidelined in unproductive but almost infinitely time-consuming endeavors.

Specifically, instead of learning Arabic or interviewing Bin Laden's relatives, huge truckloads of numbers are being "analyzed" for patterns that will never reveal who will hit what target with what type of destruction. The NSA does not need to analyze the phone calls of 300 million Americans, for any reason, ever. The fact that they admit they are doing so is an admission that they have lost their way. They need to analyze the phone calls of a few thousand "fund-raising" religious fanatics -- and again, they HAVE to learn Arabic. The fact that the Government has populated its database with information about every citizen in the United States, and is not accountable for what it is doing, raises serious concerns about "abuse of power".

Remember how Nixon compiled Tax Information concerning his "enemies". What precautions have been taken to prevent private information from being used by people in positions of power to harass their personal "enemies"? Has Rowe used the "data-mining" to compromise his enemies -- by threatening to disclose the fact that they have visited Porn Sites, etc. What safeguards against manipulation of IT by people in power are in place? Do you think Rowe has any kind of restraint that prevents him from using Consumer Information against Senators who might otherwise be troublesome if they spoke out?

As a matter of fact, Why is the Senate so silent? Recall that when Hoover took over the FBI, we now know that he maintained "files" on all of his enemies, and collected information to compromise them. He went so far as to plant "communist" agitators in Martin Luther King Jr.'s churches, and then accuse MLKJ of being a communist! Did any Senator or Congressman question Hoover's budget? There were Journalists who spoke out, only to be suppressed -- they lost their jobs, because their Editors were threatened.

There is virtually no institutional criticism from any person in any part of our Government who is questioning why we are spending billions of dollars probing into the private information of citizens, while Al Quada is still actively and successfully training terrorists all over the world. The CIA has not bothered to learn Arabic or engage the Mullahs on the subject of what the Quoran does nor does not say! All over the world, people are cheering Bin Laden -- while we seem to have elected a President who is incapable of understanding, much less directing, actions appropriate to the circumstances.

I have to go farther: Does it not appear true that the Terrorists who are penetrating our "soft" and exposed parts with the most potent and portentious threats to our safety and security are not Arabs, or Islamicists? Those people seem to be largely occupied with their own problems. The Arab warrior, blessings upon him, is a model of restraint, fairly and openly expressing himself and his intentions. The Islamicist, assuming some have read the text, is living for a hereafter, and the Quoran specifically proscribes suicide, homosexuality, and killing of innocents. Clearly the world has little to fear from Arabs or Islamicists as a whole -- a few idiots aside, who can be found in every region and under every Religion.

The group which can clearly be seen actively grabbing our stuff, and threatening our future, is the cadre gathered about the person of George W. Bush. The waste is criminal, but there is more going on than mere "waste of public resources". There is a deliberate plunder -- the billions going into "IT" is simply pouring into the coffers of these pirates -- there is simply no expectation that "analysis" of consumer data will ever pin-point a terrorist strike. The billions are being spent to enrich the Bush family, the secret Cheney corporations, and the "legacy" institutions set up to provide for Rowe and his minions.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Parable of the Pounds, with Slaying for Jesus

Did Jesus exhort his followers to kill his enemies? On his way for the last time to Jerusalem, Jesus tells the Parable of the Pounds. This message is broadly delivered to the crowd, not just to Zacchaeus, his host. The wisdom character in the story -- and it is clear that it is not Jesus, but this King in his parable -- says "As for these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slay them before me!" [RSVP, Luke 19:27; in Phillips, "execute them in my presence"; in NEB "slaughter". Clearly it is physical, murderous, without a tribunal, and personal.]

First, we should note that this murdering bit is unique to Luke, and not any of the other Gospel authors who tell the same story of Jesus' entry into Jerusalem, with all which that implies.

The ending verse appears to have no relationship to the somewhat strange "Parable of the Pounds" which Jesus has just related to people who were hanging upon his every word. Remember that this parable of the pounds, given to us only by Luke, is similar to the parable of the talents related by Matthew--25:14-30. Some scholars think that Luke combined the Matthew story with another involving gaining of a kingdom. In any event neither of the related parables, nor this synthesis, seem to need to have anyone getting slaughtered, and the risk appears unrelated to the matters at stake--talents and pounds (equivalent to the Greco-Syrian mina, or about 100 drachmas, worth 20-35 dollars).

I cannot help but mention that Christian scholars for the most part simply ignore the last verse. (Harpers' Bible Commentary 1037). Perhaps during wildly retributive episodes in the past, the good Church Fathers dearly invoked this instruction. But lately, Christians have calmed down. Not much slaying, in spite of what Jesus said.

The next thing Luke turns to in his story of Jesus' final trip to Jerusalem, with all that implies, is stealing a virgin colt for the ride into town. Did we mention going into Jerusalem, with all that implies? The sight of the city moves Jesus to tears. But other than that, it is peace and joy all around. By the time Jesus mounts the colt [in Luke it is a colt, not an ass], the crowd is rejoicing and throwing their clothing down on the ground, as they do, 2 Kings 9:13. Luke does not mention olive or palm branches, but the disciples were raising a great praise, and when Pharisees tell Jesus to rebuke the noise-makers, Jesus assures them that if the disciples were silent, then "the very stones would cry out" [RSV; "burst out cheering" Phillips]. Did we mention Jerusalem? Jesus predicts that the city would be destroyed "and they will leave not one stone upon another in you". Of course Luke is privy to fact that Rome's "final solution" was to enslave all the Jews, force them to dismantle the largest fortified city in the world, and then exile all of them, and rename Judea (the land of Jews), "Palestine".

Did we mention the great entrance into Jerusalem?