Sunday, February 27, 2011

NRO Article "The OIC and the Caliphate" by Andrew McCarthy

My comments on the article at

Mr. McCarthy has at least one thing in common with certain mullahs.  Sometimes it seems like every other word he says is infidel.  Well not exactly, but his version.  Approximately half the article consists of dubious claims about what either progressives or "Islam" believes.

It doesn't leave much room for saying what he thinks (aside from what he thinks other people think), and indeed he provides no practical recommendation - the closest he comes is, after ridiculing the idea of a "battle for hearts and minds" (which Gen. Petraeus has shown is essential for winning wars, or at least salvaging them from total catastrophe) ... he tells us that Attaturk's secularization of Turkey was accomplished by "one of those quaint military wars...".  Typical innuendo ("That's how a liberal would see it" - apparently); it's easier than giving any clue as to how Attaturk's revolution is a model for anything that is happening today.

The article is full of "Islam this" and "Islam that".  OK, "know your enemy" is an important part of conflict, but Mr. McCarthy's sweeping generalities apply to only some parts of the Muslim world, and the more we address the Muslim world as if they are all the enemy of the west, the more they will be driven to unite and really be at total war with the West.

Suppose Mr. McCarthy is right, then what recourse is there?  Can we take out the whole Muslim world even if we somehow decided that was the right and moral thing to do?  No, we are simply in a quandary with no escape, unless there is to be an apocalypse orchestrated by God.

But he is not right (see article here), and we simply must find and forge ties with the saner elements of the Muslim world, and wage a long fierce but patient struggle to isolate the fanatics who would gladly bring on the apocalypse.

Andrew McCarthy's books include

If we are unaware of the sane and human side of the Islamic world, we will simply remain in an impossible situation with no way of mitigating the worst possibilities of world with 1.5 billion Muslims.  Are we forced to choose between the apocalypse and waiting till the tide engulfs us?  The following books offer insight into the human side of Islam, and demonstrate that there are effective means of winning the support of non-fanatics.

QUOTE: "There could be a powerful international women's rights movement if only philanthropists would donate as much to real women as to paintings and sculptures of women"
    This book has plenty to say the very worst things happening to women in the world. Chapters include "Rule by Rape" and "The Shame of 'Honor'", and it certainly doesn't shy away from misogyny in the Muslim world.
    But it doesn't stop there -- with no hope unless maybe the "hope" of converting (or if not that, then what?) 1.5 billion Muslims -- an idea as impossible as it is inhumane, and based on inability to see that there are many Muslim cultures.
    Indeed the last chapter, which can be read online, is "Four Steps You Can Take in the Next Ten Minutes."

 A True Story that reads like an incredible adventure: In 1993, an unemployed mountain climber, on a mission to climb K2, is separated from his party and becomes lost.  After much wandering and nearly dying from exposure he stumbles into a Pakistani village unreachable by road.  Villagers take him in and nurse him back to health.  Seeing the poverty and illiteracy there, he promises to return in a year and build a school there.  He leaves after consulting with locals on what it will take and the cost of materials.  
   Needless to say, he cannot build a school by himself, but will bring material and some expertise, and expect the villagers will do most of the work. 
   He spends much of the next year soliciting donations from prominent people.  After 1,000 letters he gets one check, for the whole amount that he needs, from an electronics entrepreneur and former mountain climber.      
  In the two years it takes to build one school, a small core of fierce supporters is drawn to Greg Mortenson, the one-time adventurer.  But some of these supporters want schools for their own villages.  Ultimately, this leads him to found the Central Asia Institute, which has now been responsible for educating over 50,000 Pakistani children, as Mortenson became fluent in many languages, and adept at getting around in the back country.
     One condition for the Central Asia Institute's help in building a school is that "A village must agree to increase girls’ enrollment by 10% a year". "Mortenson believes, as do many experts, that providing education for girls directly helps to lower infant mortality and bring down birth rates—which in turn reduces the ignorance and poverty that help fuel religious extremism."

More than a sequel to Three Cups of Tea. Mortenson has carried his work into Afghanistan, including building a girl's high school in the village of Mullah Omar, head of the Taliban since before 9/11.  His organization, which is almost entirely made of of Afghans and Pakistanis, has by now built over 130 schools which are educating 50 thousand students, the majority girls, and has also built community centers for village women.
   Virtually all the work of the CAI is done, and the decisions are made, by a diverse group of Afghan and Pakistani ex-Mujahadeens, ex-cabdrivers, ex smugglers and warriors and you name it. You definitely see a different side of the 1.5 billion people, and countless different cultures, that call themselves Muslim.   Many of these men took on impossible projects so their daughters, and sometimes wives, can be educated.  The propaganda that tells us Islam is 100% a horror show is self-defeating and taken to its logical conclusion, can only appeal to those who eagerly await Armageddon.  After 200 years of 'Reformation', Catholics and Protestants mostly stopped declaring holy war on eachother (tho in Northern Ireland it lasted almost to the present day).  It can and must happen with Islam.

  Bangladeshi-born Muhammad Yunus is another believer in improving society by empowering women.  In 1973 he was an economics teacher in Tennessee with an American wife.  Shortly after Bangladesh became independent, in a time of severe famine, he returned to his newly independent native country.
   After some years there founded the Grameen Bank, the original blueprint for "Microlending" which is now a worldwide phenomenon.  It started with money out of his own pocket to provide tiny loans to poor villagers, especially women, and has grown and diversified enormously in the last 35 years.  The loans must be for specific business purposes (such as buying a supply of bamboo for making stools), and loan recipients are required to belong to support groups, which have helped maintain the extraordinarily high rate of loan repayment.
    Yunus is no fan of government programs for the poor, but believes passionately in his trademark form of "social business" which is something in between the normal non-profit, and corporations which are legally obligated to maximize profits no matter what.
     Some of Grameen's enterprises have included the "Telephone Ladies" who for a time were likely to be the only owner of a phone (cellular) in a village, and who made the phones available for a fee.  Something like the old style payphones that those villages never had -- at a fraction of the cost.
     The "Micro Lending" which Yunus made famous, has been imitated by groups all over the world, and I believe the total scale of this kind of operation had gotten into the billions of dollars.

  History of the Shiite-Sunni split.  Particularly interesting at a time when people believe an email that says the martyr "Imam Ali" flew one of the planes on 9/11 (it turns out Imam Ali was a founding prophet of the Shiites, who died before 800 AD, and so did not live long enough to participate in the 9/11 attacks  - see "My Not-Really Right-Wing Mom and her Adventures in Email-Land"

To Take Control of Your Own Destiny, Take Control of How You See the World

Take Control of How You See the World.  Huh? You may ask, or maybe just "easier said than done".

The most common human reaction, when we begin to feel like we have been systematically lied to by the "mainstream" whatever, is to quickly jump ship to some leaky lifeboat of a new system of explaining everything (or at least everything that matters), which, more likely than not, will be more of a deceitful mind-controlling system than the one we started with.

I call this pseudo-skepticism.  It might also be called "Out of the frying pot, into the fire".  If we drop the assumption that the "new system" will be worse, we can call it an epistemic break.

Cases in point:
  1. France, late 19c: From awe of the king, and belief in the Catholic priests to one system, then another (the French Revolution went through several distinct epistemic breaks, or at least changes in who controlled the center of action, and tried, at least to define truth (their ideology).  The last couple of phases involved were most preoccupied with trying to kill off ideological rivals.  The epistemic break became so extreme and disorienting that time was redefined: the year was declared to be "Year 0", and a new calendar, abandoning the names of months associated with the old "superstitions" was declared.  It did not stop until Napoleon was emperor, which started a new era in which millions would die.
  2. Russia, 1917 and thereafter: From awe of the Tzar, and belief in the Russian Orthodox priests to belief in Marx and Lenin's all-encompassing all-explaining system, and belief in the "Dictatorship of the proletariat", and giving all power to the most ruthless faction so they could nationalize and/or redistribute everything, and ultimately to worship of the new "Red Tzar", Stalin whose power was unimaginably beyond that of the old tzar.
  3. U.S. 1970s: From mainstream Christian to Jim Jones disciple to mass suicide.
In the U.S., we have had plenty of epistemic breaks by one faction or another which separates itself, sometimes physically (or just with mental armour), and goes into their own separate reality.  The results are sometimes amusing (in a sad way) but occassionally horrific.

So far, we have been luck not to see a mass stampede of an epistemic break taking the whole nation on some nightmare ride.

Sometimes I use the internet to go in search of people who might be thinking along some of the same lines that I am.

I struggle to find words for a lot of my thoughts.  Sometimes a phrase emerges, and I go looking on the internet for instances.  One such phrase was the "Echo Chamber Effect" -- I don't think I knew the actual phrase when I tried to put my finger on something that was bothering me -- which lead to a post on this blog, and also an odd relationship with a blogger who always refers to Obama as Il Duce. He had written something about the Echo Chamber Effect before I did.  I think he's wildly misguided on most things (at least the ones he talks about on his blog), but we manage to have conversations from time to time.

A wikipedia article on "Echo chamber effect" begins with:
The term "media echo chamber" can refer to any situation in which information, ideas or beliefs are amplified or reinforced by transmission inside an "enclosed" space. Observers of journalism in the mass media describe an echo chamber effect in media discourse. One purveyor of information will make a claim, which many like-minded people then repeat, overhear, and repeat again (often in an exaggerated or otherwise distorted form) until most people assume that some extreme variation of the story is true.
My friend, the Christian Libertarian (and I suspect Jonah Goldberg disciple) "The Lurking Vulture" starts off his meditation on the subject with:
In what perhaps may be an apocryphal quote, Pauline Kael is supposed to have said regarding the landslide victory of Richard Nixon over George McGovern in 1972, "I can't believe Nixon won. I don't know anybody who voted for him

From my echo chamber posting:
Part of the point of a "Truth Project" is the hope that people on both sides of many issues - those who aren't active and conscious propagandists at least, really would want to know the truth if it turned out that everything they think is wrong ... if they'd even consider the possibility.
But here is what worries me:
There is something a little special about the internet. If you have to find books and magazines in libraries and bookstores (unless you only go to Islamic bookstores / Christian bookstores / "Radical" bookstores ...) you go to a store and you have to at least walk by books and magazines with other points of view. On the internet, you can go to your favorite blog, and never go anywhere except via links from that blog (or from your other favorite blog).
I have been an autodidact on a number of subjects, especially history.  Autodidacts, by coming at a field without being plugged into the culture of the field, sometimes have brilliant insights.  There are, however, many more crackpots.

I spent a few years long ago studying mathematics with people on their way to doctorates, and got a real appreciation for pedagogy from that.  I'd have gotten nowhere without the culture of professors and textbook writers who have thought deeply about how to pass on the subject.

History was more autodidact-friendly, although an awful lot of autodidact historians have a bug up their ass about some particular obsession, which usually makes for really annoying and not very enlightening historians.

Often the idea of the autodidact serves as a romantic idea that lets us fantasize that we don't need other people.

I found an article,

Autodidactic and Alternative Schooling Meta-Learning

The author has put some deep thought into what makes self-learning work or not work.

I think maybe I will do better to work with google hits on:

   google { facilitating self-learning }

(1) Facilitating self-learning or autodidacticism, and (2) the attempt to restructure the world of media(?), and also our cultural biases and practices, so that individuals will have a greater tendency to converge on truths, rather than separating into warring "echo chambers" are, I think, closely related enterprises.

[to be continues]

Friday, February 25, 2011

Back to Truthology: "The Real Truth Project" Needs to Become a Reference Site

I still believe in the critical need for work on "Practical Epistemology", or maybe I should drop the Latinism and call it Truthology.

A blog should be a small part of that project.

About 15 years ago, I started the web site, or JMISC.NET (one is a synonym for the other) to explore and try to understand and share understanding of the period around the 1830s, with frequent excursions a couple of decades in either direction.  The title page said "Tales of the Early Republic", and I spent a lot of time looking at "miscellaneous" period documents, and, on an email list called "Jacksonian Miscellanies", publishing excerpts from these documents, with some commentary.  There were newspaper stories on spontaneous combustion, some very odd poetry, which was welcomed as filler material for newspapers in those days, a dueling manual (A high percentage of "Southern Gentlemen", including many congressmen had fought at least one duel -- in the majority of cases nobody died though injuries were common).  I got to have a mailing list of several hundred people, including many of the best historians of the era.  After a year or so I began going to conferences of the leading historians of the era, and in time it seemed to me that around half the people I met there were aware of my work, and very encouraging.

I started out not knowing anything about this period.  What it took was a lot of patience, reading historians past and present, but always going back to the original sources when I wanted to make a contribution, finding something that cast a surprising light on things, and putting it into one of my "Jacksonian Miscellanies" posts.  And meanwhile, gradually building a encyclopedic framework for jotting down detailed information as I learned of it.  What was New York like in 1830?  Well for one thing, New York much less than half of Manhattan Island -- not the other way around.  What sort of roads existed between Boston and Portsmouth, Maine.  When were they first connected by railroad?  What were the issues of religious controversy?  I built up a file of particular schools and colleges, small town, even particular churches and who had served as minister there and what their politics were.  I never knew enough to write a work giving important insights into some particular issue, but could hold my own in conversations with historians.

Ultimately, I need to build up TRTP (The Real Truth Project) to be something like that.  And it is mostly too abstract for me to try to deal with the issue of truth in general.  If I spent too much time on that plane, I would probably end up building all encompassing ideologies, like those of Karl Marx and Ayn Rand, that in my opinion cause people to lose sight of the real world, with disastrous consequences.

So there will have to be more specific sub-projects, one of which, is to try to map the landscape of America's (especially, and sometimes the world's) wars of ideas.

The resources will be extremely incomplete for some time to come, but I hope there will some useful things from the beginning.

Where to begin? I am going to take a look at "Watcher" organizations that try to map out the vast landscape of organizations characterized as "Right" and "Left".  Those who lean more or less "left" have organizations that try to compile a picture of funding sources in the network of organizations on the "right".  And vice versa.

E.g., the "Media Matters Action Network" has a section called "Conservative Transparency"  ( collects information on "conservative" or "right" leaning organizations of all sorts.

I am developing my own understanding of it at this link.

Other groups that watch and analyze other groups include:
  • Source Watch at ("left").
  • Capital Research Center at ("right").
OK, that's a wrap - a not insignificant start I hope.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

"Freedom Through Violence?" a Chapter from Gene Sharp's From Dictatorship to Democracy

The Entire book is available for download from a link on this page:

I won't say much, but would like to draw attention to the last paragraph:
Even when successful, guerrilla struggles often have significant long-term negative structural consequences.... If the guerrillas should finally succeed, the resulting new regime is often more dictatorial than its predecessor due to the centralizing impact of the expanded military forces and the weakening or destruction of the society’s independent groups and institutions during the struggle — bodies that are vital in establishing and maintaining a democratic society.

What is to be done [when faced with dictatorship]? The obvious possibilities
seem useless. Constitutional and legal barriers, judicial decisions,
and public opinion are normally ignored by dictators. Under-
standably, reacting to the brutalities, torture, disappearances, and
killings, people often have concluded that only violence can end a
dictatorship. Angry victims have sometimes organized to fight the
brutal dictators with whatever violent and military capacity they
could muster, despite the odds being against them. These people
have often fought bravely, at great cost in suffering and lives. Their
accomplishments have sometimes been remarkable, but they rarely
have won freedom. Violent rebellions can trigger brutal repression
that frequently leaves the populace more helpless than before.
      Whatever the merits of the violent option, however, one point
is clear. By placing confidence in violent means, one has chosen the very
type of struggle with which the oppressors nearly always have superior-
ity. The dictators are equipped to apply violence overwhelmingly.
However long or briefly these democrats can continue, eventually
the harsh military realities usually become inescapable. The dictators
almost always have superiority in military hardware, ammunition,
transportation, and the size of military forces. Despite bravery, the
democrats are (almost always) no match.
        When conventional military rebellion is recognized as unrealis-
tic, some dissidents then favor guerrilla warfare. However, guerrilla
warfare rarely, if ever, benefits the oppressed population or ushers in
a democracy. Guerrilla warfare is no obvious solution, particularly
given the very strong tendency toward immense casualties among
one’s own people. The technique is no guarantor against failure,
despite supporting theory and strategic analyses, and sometimes
international backing. Guerrilla struggles often last a very long
time. Civilian populations are often displaced by the ruling gov-
ernment, with immense human suffering and social dislocation.
     Even when successful, guerrilla struggles often have signifi-
cant long-term negative structural consequences. Immediately, the
attacked regime becomes more dictatorial as a result of its coun-
termeasures. If the guerrillas should finally succeed, the resulting
new regime is often more dictatorial than its predecessor due to the
centralizing impact of the expanded military forces and the weaken-
ing or destruction of the society’s independent groups and institu-
tions during the struggle — bodies that are vital in establishing and
maintaining a democratic society. Persons hostile to dictatorships
should look for another option.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Has Dr. Gene Sharp, "Clausewitz of Nonviolence" Been the Biggest Inspiration and Guide for Nonviolent Revolutions for 3 Decades?

Has Dr. Gene Sharp, "Clausewitz of Nonviolence" Been the Biggest Inspiration and Guide for Nonviolent Revolutions for 3 Decades?

That's the question I've been asking myself since this morning, when I first heard of him in an NPR interview?  He has written perhaps a dozen or more books, most of which can be downloaded online.  And the movements in Libya and Egyptian may have learned (largely by way of Serbians who struggled against Slobodan Milosevic) their style of peaceful regime change from Sharp.

Dr. Sharp, who gives much credit to Gandhi, created the Albert Einstein Institution which has actively trained and advised people all over the world who are trying to free themselves, and  has written "how to" books like 198 Methods of Nonviolent Action. (The Iranian regime accused their own pro-democracy activists of using over 100 of the 198 methods).

It is too much for me to digest right now, so I'll just suggest a couple of links.  One is the a New York Times article which provides a concise but detailed account of the workings of the Egyptian revolution so far: A Tunisian-Egyptian Link That Shook Arab History.
You can read a very recent short interview with Sharp on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty., or a longer article on him here.
  Oddly, there are a couple of very interesting reflections on Sharp in Scientific American (or their web site at least) by science journalist John Horgan:

How George W. Bush rejected my "Sharp" idea for countering terrorism


Egypt's revolution vindicates Gene Sharp's theory of nonviolent activism.

The first SciAm article points out that Sharp was once funded by DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) who subsequently, unfortunately, ignored him.

This DARPA episode, and the Bush admin's rejection of Horgan's "outside the box" idea of distributing Sharp's writings to "fundamentalist Muslims and others who might be at risk of becoming terrorists" -- these two cases illustrate, I think, the self-defeating attitude looked at in "(What Was the Cold War?) The Man With Only a Hammer".

To me, it seems very important that Dr. Sharp does not advocate non-violence for its "virtuousness", but rather because it is most effective.  He says
Peaceful protest is best, he says — not for any moral reason, but because violence provokes autocrats to crack down. “If you fight with violence,” Mr. Sharp said, “you are fighting with your enemy’s best weapon, and you may be a brave but dead hero.”
I might add that the nonviolent approach as pursued in Egypt, with all the discipline and meticulous planning it requires complements the forging of a new structure to replace the oppressive regime, while violent revolutions too often leave things in chaos, which then is replaced by a regime which is either naturally oppressive, or, in the course of turning the chaos into something orderly becomes oppressive.

At the moment, Gene Sharp's books prices have gone into the stratosphere, as they were mostly out of print, and he has suddenly gotten so much attention.

It may be best to see what free downloads are available at The Albert Einstein Institution web page.

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Integration of Theory and Practice: A Program for the New Traditionalist Movement by Eric Heubeck

The Integration of Theory and Practice: A Program for the New Traditionalist Movement 

by Eric Heubeck

This seems to have been basically Paul Weyrich's vision for movement conservativism from around 2000. It was written with the guidance of Weyrich by Eric Heubeck.  It used to be posted on the Free Congress Foundation / Center for Cultural Conservativism website till they decided not to give it so much exposure, so now we must get it from a snapshot archived at on 7/13/01.

Let me just throw out a few quotes to whet your appetite:

This essay is based on the belief that the truth of an idea is not the primary reason for its acceptance. Far more important is the energy and dedication of the idea's promoters--in other words, the individuals composing a social or political movement

... conservatives have failed to devote the proper amount of energy to developing an alternative cultural world-view opposed to the dominant leftist one... (well, that's no longer true)

Our movement will be entirely destructive, and entirely constructive. We will not try to reform the existing institutions. We only intend to weaken them, and eventually destroy them.

Focus on The Big Short by Michael Lewis

After reading Michael Lewis' Liar's Poker, I doubt we could find a better guide to just how we got into the current economic mess.  The book was put together from interviews with investors who made a lot of money in the crash.  They saw what was rotten about the system, and some at first tried to issue a warning to stop it, but, that being futile, they saw what holes trillions of dollars worth of wealth were about to pour out of, and were there with buckets catching some of it.  I take no position on whether we should admire them or not, but at least one could say they knew in a concrete way what was going on, and later were willing to talk about it.  To start reading the 1st chapter, click on small rectangle below which will say "Full Screen View" when you point your cursor at it.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Hayne-Webster Debate, an Experiment in Hypertext Style

Debate is at in case you want to skip the following:

For once, I'd like to step back from arguing with bits and pieces of misinformation (or what appears so to me), and look at the question of truth per se, or what steps we might take to reconstruct the world so we have a better chance of getting at the truth, and so acting better in our individual and collective self interest.  No idea of a "master plan" of  "reconstructing" the world should be tried.  It would be like repeating the mistakes of Lenin and his successors.  Rather, perhaps we could all become familiar with practices that nudge the world just a tiny bit in the right direction.  Practices like not putting up with as much imprecise, vague, and just plain emotion driven language as we have to every day.

10 or 15 years ago, I tried to make a little demonstration of one small approach.

For many years, I maintained and expanded a large web site to collect all sorts of thoughts, analysis, and original source material related to the U.S. in the early 19th century.

One of the most successful things I did was to try to put a "zoom lens" on one formidable historical document, the record of the Hayne-Webster debate. At least I've heard from quite a few professors who assigned it for class reading.

In an introductory essay, I tried to explain my vision of "A New Connection Between Original and Secondary Texts"

 I also claim, and hope to demonstrate, that when authors learn the art of using online media, it will change the way history is experienced by the reader. When reading secondary sources, those who wish will immediately glance at the source material which the author has cited, thus benefit from a specialist's reflections on the material, without spending hours trapped in the author's head. One can go out; walk around in the original text, and breath, and think, freely. One can say "I see what he/she means, but I would read it a little differently." Reading can become an active, creative, thought process.

If you want to know more, just go to the page at

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

"Obama & The Human Stain" (from Canada Free Press)

This Jewel can be found at
It is very badly argued in my opinion, but someone I care about was much taken with it, so I feel a need to say something about it.

The whole title is "Obama & The Human Stain: Or How Political Correctness Gave America a Con-Man President".  I was wondering how much notice this publication got, so did these checks:
 Google { "Canada Free Press" } ==> 245,000 hits (up from 207,000 earlier today)
         Their motto is "Because without America there is no Free World"
 Google { "Obama & The Human Stain" } ==> 883 hits

Well, the article is only 2 days old.  It is posted in full on (with enthusiastic discussion) and has several links from  Obviously these are two of many, but are one's I'm familiar with (the person I care about frequently reads

The major claims:
  Claim 1: (implied) Obama owes his election to "PC".  This comes in the form of a question: Could Barack have been elected president without the doctrine known as Political Correctness? The author's answer, without giving any reasons is that the "vast majority of Americans" know this.  Oh, before giving that answer, he asked rhetorically "Or is simply to ask the question an unforgivable act of racism?".  This illustrates, in my opinion, how people who read only right wing news sources get their ideas about how "liberals" think.  Rush Limbaugh, for one, spends more time telling listeners what Liberals think, than he does telling what he thinks.
   Claim 2: "Political Correctness is Cultural Marxism", and it was invented (much as the evil southerners played by Lloyd Bridges and Burl Ives invented sharecropping and the KKK in just one little conversation in the mini-series Roots) by the Frankfurt School, a bunch of disappointed Marxists, in the 1920s and 30s.  It turns out that the slogan "Political Correctness is Cultural Marxism" goes back about 20 years, maybe to Pat Buchanan, or perhaps he got it from someone earlier.  The best I can make of this is that "Political Correctness" has come to stand for all sorts of things, and especially Post-modernism, which the Frankfurt was very instrumental in bringing about.  I have never known PC to stand for anything other than an often excessive avoidance of old pejorative labels or doctrines (such as inherent mental or moral differences between races) that have come to be associated with past horrors like the Nazi Holocaust.
    Claim 3: Obama is a "malignant narcissist" which is a very bad thing.

In Philip Roth's The Human Stain, a professor wonders out loud whether 2 students registered for his class, who never showed up, were real or "spooks".  Because they just happen to be black unbenownst to the professor, he is duly crucified.  The writer tends to make a lot of associations that don't add up to anything; e.g., he seems to think The Human Stain is particularly relevant because both Barack Obama and the professor (mischevously and un-PC-ishly named Coleman Silk) are of mixed race (the professor's part-black ancestry is unknown, which is the Great irony(!!) of the book).

The article writer manages to work in, in the space of 2 pages, four bits of seeming erudition meant, I think, to impress, but in my opinion, one after the other fails to serve any real purpose in the essay.  There is
  1. Philip Roth's "tome" as he calls it.  OK the book addresses PC, which the writer claims is the key to Obama's election, and it has a mixed race protagonist.  But the discussion of The Human Stain does nothing to support the claim about Obama and PC.  I'm afraid it may just be emotionally gratifying because Human Stain free-associates with "black" as well as with "bad".  Also a mixed race professor happens to get crucified, hoisted on his own petard, which I expect the author would like to see happen to Obama.
  2. He also introduces Melville's The Confidence Man, only as far I can see as a fancy way to call Obama a Con-man.  He even shows off that he knows something about a real like case that help to inspire the book.  But does he give any example of Obama acting as a con-man?  No; much less relate any such example to Melville's subject.  He just says "like with Obama, the scam could not be pulled off without well-meaning but fatuously (that will send some people to the dictionary!) naive people ready to be conned.  Did he fail to notice that in many if not most cases, the big con is based on the greed of the victim, who thinks he has by some luck been given a secret advantage over other people.  No, in his circle to mention that would be politically incorrect, because greed is good.
  3. We are to be impressed again by her knowledge of the Frankfort School, though no more is said about them than could be found in a one volume encyclopedia.  It's just that they were evil Marxists, and they invented PC.  I'm old enough to have observed PC evolving -- the awkward stumbling over "man vs person", chairwoman  or chairperson, "black", "Persons of color", Afro-Americans, and most recently, "slaves" must be replaced with "Enslaved persons".  It can go too far, and people on occasion get hurt, as they get hurt by other sometimes useful things, like automobiles.  If it is all totally dismissed with contempt, we will again see Sambo and big-nosed ugly caricatures of Jews in our editorial cartoons.  Won't that be great?  The point seems to be I suppose that everybody was cowed from being critical of Obama out of "PC" because he was black.  That's not the way I remember it.  I've never seen the image of a presidential candidate and later president so trashed.  The thing one will get crucified for is saying there is the least element of race in it when Obama is called an "alien"; when it is said that he is obsessed with colonialism and vengefulness towards white, "proven" by writings of his father, for whom he seems to have faint and mixed feelings despite the title of the book, if one actually reads it.
  4. Finally, we have an "expert" on narcissism, Sam Vaknin who sees signs of this "full-blown mental disorder" in Obama.  Perhaps I should go further into this, but not today I'm afraid.

Finally, in a summary, the piece breaks down into pure unsupported raving, and says "he must be impeached from office for the survival of the American Republic".

OK, but can you tell us why, and avoid saying "everybody knows"?

Sunday, February 13, 2011


Another email making the rounds, or it was last December (2010) courtesy "":
In a press conference last week Obama was not
wearing his wedding ring nor was he wearing his watch.
When noticed, his staff said his ring was out for repairs.                                                                                                      
No reason was given for the missing watch.
So it’s just a coincidence that Muslims are forbidden
from wearing jewelry during the month of Ramadan???

Can't possibly be that, because although he hasn't gone to a
Christian church service since entering the White House, we
know he's a committed Christian 'cause he said so during the campaign.
to see why every word of it is false, starting with the fact that there is no Muslim prohibition on wearing jewelry during Ramadan.

USPS New 44-Cent Stamp Celebrates a Muslim holiday

Claims like this have been around, especially in the forwarded email channel at least twice. One such forwarded email says

President  Obama has directed the United States Postal  Service to REMEMBER and HONOR the EID MUSLIM  holiday season with a new commemorative 44-Cent  First Class Holiday Postage Stamp.
See for the full email.

What is the truth?  There are a couple of excuses for saying this has a grain of truth.  One is that anybody can send off a picture to, say of your new baby, or cat, or some mysterious Arabic writing, and will produce a real usable stamp.  E.g.

which was the image used in the email that I read.  See

The email says it is the second time a stamp honoring an Islamic holiday has been issued, leaving the reader to assume Obama "ordered" the previous one.

Actually, Snopes tells us there was a real stamp issued to honor an Islamic holiday.  It was issued on September 1, 2001 as part of a series of Holiday Themed Stamps, including ones of Hanukkah and Kwanzaa which turned out to be very bad timing.  If any president was responsible it was the then current president GW Bush.  According to Snopes, the Holiday Series is still reissued from time to time, and nobody has seen fit to exclude the Muslim one.  Apparently there were 4 reissues under Bush, and 3 under Obama.

How widespread is this misinformation?  At the time of writing,
Google { "Stamp  Celebrates a Muslim holiday" } ==> 33,000 results
I assume mine will be among them sortly, but see how long it takes you to find one of these links that isn't repeating the story as gospel.

I have been checking out emails like this for a couple of years, since my mother started forwarding them to me.  Nearly all the ones she forwards contains elaborate deceptions just as this one does (there are a lot of jokey emails that don't claim to reveal some new fact, but she sends the ones that do make some shocking claim).

My observations of such emails are summarized in My Not-really-right-wing Mom and her adventures in Email-Land.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

On the article "Social Scientist Sees Bias Within" by JOHN TIERNEY

On the article "Social Scientist Sees Bias Within" by JOHN TIERNEY.

I don't find any problem with the article per se, though I suspect some people are reading too much into it. The gist of the article is the vast majority of social scientists are to say the least, liberal.  The social scientist of the title says:
“Anywhere in the world that social psychologists see women or minorities underrepresented by a factor of two or three, our minds jump to discrimination as the explanation,” said Dr. Haidt, who called himself a longtime liberal turned centrist. “But when we find out that conservatives are underrepresented among us by a factor of more than 100, suddenly everyone finds it quite easy to generate alternate explanations.”
 IMHO, sometimes an organization does exercise bias towards a group of people, and sometimes there are alternative explanations.

The article points out that
Larry Summers, then president of Harvard, was ostracized in 2005 for wondering publicly whether the preponderance of male professors in some top math and science departments might be due partly to the larger variance in I.Q. scores among men (meaning there are more men at the very high and very low ends). The outrage ultimately led to his resignation.
Possibly a huge overreaction (there could be important facts in the case I don't know), Anyway, I suppose the Obama administration is to be commended for taking him on as director of the National Economic Council?  Summers is about to return to his Harvard professorship (no longer as president) because if he stayed away any longer he would lose his tenure.

Why would social scientists be liberal? What is the point of being a social scientist unless it has some potential application.  What would such applications look like?  Maybe tending in the direction of "social engineering"?  Anyway, the discipline seems to be largely about understanding, and dare I say, the diversity of human culture.  It is not about a "good vs evil" world view, which I think might put off many varieties of conservative.

[to be continued?]

Sunday, February 6, 2011

David Stockman (Reagan's 1st budget director) on Bank Deregulation (Part of Reagan Centennial hoopla)

Worth quoting, from an interview at:

What do you think about the thesis that the deregulatory impulses that received such a huge boost under Reagan contributed to Wall Street's recklessness ... and laid the groundwork for the financial crisis?

"The only thing that was seriously deregulated during the Reagan era was banks, and that was the wrong thing to deregulate. Surface transport deregulation was started by Carter and we finished it, airline deregulation was already done by the time we came in. And those were the right things to do. But in the case of financial institutions, banks are not free enterprise businesses, they are wards of states, they have the right to create money out of thin air. They have to be regulated, and they have to be kept out of the speculative use of deposits that are guaranteed by the taxpayer, by the FDIC. And in the '90s, the Clinton administration joined in on this, with the elimination of Glass-Steagall and all of the other remaining restraints on the banking system. That was a tragic, terrible error; it was a confusion of the free market with a set of institutions that are inherently dangerous. And as a result of bad monetary policy interacting with the deregulation of depository banking you created a witches' brew that ended up predictably in the meltdown of 2008."

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Obama Selling out the Brits' Nuclear Secrets?

That's the conclusion drawn from the latest Wikileaks releases, at least on countless right wing blogs and a few newspapers including the UK Daily Telegraph and New York Daily News.

google {wikileaks  trident start treaty} gets 33,000+ hits though the story only broke today, and I can find almost nothing among these hits but blog posts and a few newspaper stories that take for granted that a terrible betrayal has occurred.

The key allegation is that the U.S. in Start negotions with Russia promised to provide the serial number of every Trident missile the US provides to Britain.

I've had a hard time tracking down any actual source documents but here, perhaps is the source of that key assertion: