Friday, November 26, 2010

Extremely Cool

Here is a bit of space music and the aurora borealis over Norway. A little thing to be thankful for. That is all.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Meretocracy v. Meritocracy

When visiting my relatives in the Nutmeg State I made the mistake of reading the Hartford Courant's editorial page, primarily for Colin McEnroe, who was, as usual, quite funny and as usual slagging Droopy Dog Lieberman. But just to remain fair and balanced the editors also let Tom Foley, recent loser in the local gubernatorial race, soil a few column inches in a piece entitled Ice Cream For Everyone! Or, How To Win An Election. And what a steaming pile he served up.

Foley is a preppy, a slick and shady operator, and a longtime bagman for the GOP, which explains why, despite being a criminal hothead, he was still made ambassador to Ireland by George W. But Foley really is a gem-quality specimen, and as such he served up some prose that deserves to be remembered for its quintessential GOP-ness, its illustration of the global delusion at the core of Republican thinking. Says Foley:

Politicians win elections by making promises..... This is very different from the business world, where people have a lot of information and personal contact before entering into a business transaction with someone. A reputation for truthfulness and follow-through on commitments is essential for success in business and, therefore, is carefully cultivated and protected.

But politics is different. Saying what people want to hear — even if it
doesn't really add up — and being purposely vague seem to work in politics.
These skills may even be some of the most important for political success. If a
businessman is caught lying to a lender, there will be no loan. If a businessman
makes absurd or vague promises to a customer, there will be no purchase

However, a politician caught lying to voters can still win a lot of votes.

Leaving aside the falsity implied by the article's headline in this context -- that Foley lost because his opponent made more spurious promises than he did. What's more striking here is that Foley apparently believes, or wants us to believe he believes, that the business world is a meritocracy! Such a belief would be a self-serving delusion, paralleled perhaps only in days of old, by Massa's conviction that the childlike slaves are happy. It would require complete amnesia about, for instance, The Savings and Loan Disaster, Enron, the Archer Daniels price-fixing scandal, the Mortgaged Backed Securities Disaster, Bernie Madoff, and innumerable other examples of just how sleazy business-as-usual often is. Some will say these examples just point ot a few bad apples, but in point of fact, in the private sector, just as in all walks, bullshitting, corner-cutting, fact-fudging, book-cooking, expense-padding, resume-inflating, sand-baggging, back-stabbing and outright thievery, grand et petit, are rampant and more or less accepted. If a "reputation for truthfulness and follow-through on commitments" was, in fact "essential for success in business" all commerce would grind to a halt and virtually no MBA would be employed anywhere in the country , and perhaps nowhere the world.

Foley, an MBA himself, seems to have forgotten things like marketing and advertising -- things which in the usual practice deliberately mislead. Indeed, as Neil Postman observes, the message American children rightly take from the countless commercials they're subjected to (and in which modern "business" is predicated) is that "Adults tell lies for money."

The thing is (as I have said before), Republicans speak a special "pro-business" dialect: Advertese, or Spiel if you will. It's all pitch. Like musical notation, this dialect cannot convey truth; it is not built for assertion. Its measure is not truth or falsity, but effectiveness in conveying feeling, in persuasion, seduction, deception, the conjuring of mood or illusion. Speaking spiel as they do, I suspect that Republicans like Foley have come to think in it too, and thinking in a language with no truth-value, they have lost the ability to discern or even care whether their assertions have any correspondence with reality. They have come to believe their own bullshit. It would be sad if it weren't so dangerous and despicable.

Monday, November 15, 2010

We're Not Worthy

Went to see Wild Target last night, needing an antidote to late imperial decline, existential nausea, intimations of mortality et cetera. As one might suppose of a caper-comedy with Emily Blunt and Bill Nighy, the movie didn't have a brain in its head, and so it served the purpose admirably. Absolutely fabulous in its way. It went on precisely as long as it should have, had just enough violence and tons of Emily behaving badly (as she also did so deliciously in Sunshine Cleaning) in slinky clothes and best of all, no growing, no learning. My kinda film entertainment.

The Lobbyist and I got to see a flash of the National Gallery rotunda where we recently dined in high style, and some art so it was all cool.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Pythagorean Silence

Kierkegaard the Ironist fulminates against journalists in his journals: "What we need is a Pythagorean silence. There is a far greater need for total-abstaining societies which would not read newspapers than for ones which do not drink alcohol."

Of course Kierkegaard did not dream of Powerline and Fox News, but he certainly understood how the need for a "public" makes truth at best a tertiary consideration to journalists -- even as they congratulate themselves for their objectivity.

In any case, I have come to the conclusion that paying attention to the divergence of our national discourse from reality, or even rational abstraction, has had a pernicious effect on me, driving up my blood-pressure, making me irascible, causing me a very low form of despair, and distracting me from more salutary labors. So, I'm giving up the news -- not reading any more papers or blogs, not watching any news on TV, or not with any regularity anyway. We'll see how that goes and what it does for blogging.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

What's Your Sign

I thought it might be a public service to post a compendium of sign-compendia from the Fear/Sanity rally. There's a good bit of overlap among these but here are some. Here are some more from the same people, their 20 Funniest. Here's their most offensive, most of which aren't very offensive to thinking people. Here's a good Top 100. And here's somebody else's funniest.

Monday, November 01, 2010

The Numbers

The Lobbyist and I attended Stewart/Colbert rally on Saturday and had a big time, especially at the afterparty. It was by far the biggest crowd I've ever seen on the Mall, and a very witty, decorative, polite, and hope-inspiring crowd it was. My favorite sign read: "I'm already regretting my decison to carry this sign all day."

I snarkily predicted at the time that the corporate media would minimize the numbers in any way they could; I figured they'd reduce the participants' numbers to about the Pentagon's kill numbers for Iraq. But in at least one case they went another way.

Well the Post went about 220k, CBS 225. Seems low to me, but whatever. It's three times as many as the Glenn Beck cross-burning, brought out -- and they were mostly stupid, fat, angry white guys, many on the government dole in one way or another, and yet mortally afraid the government will do something for brown people. Their response is then rather like the ape's tendency to growl at strangers who appear at the small water hole, and this is consistent with fascism's engagement of the reptile brain.

As someone pointed out, the IQ, the energy, the age and child-bearing potential of the crowd on Saturday should spell doom for the Reich. But, as I've often said (after Stalin) it's not who votes who counts, it's who counts the votes. And given that the GOP has devolved into stooges of the oligarchs, we can expect that their general trend for disenfranchisement, disillusionment and in general suppression of democratic action will continue. That's what their voter fraud thing is all about. You can tell what a Republican is up to these days by what he's on about -- if he's raving against perversion he's got a rent boys waiting in a suite. If he's warning about pickpockets he's got his hand on your wallet. If he's on about voter fraud, he's doing all he can to rig the election. Of course all this got a big boost from Citizens United, now the oligarchs can sell any lie they can afford, and you can bet the booboisie is buying. Expect them to inflame the masses whenever one of their flunkies loses an election. The citizen is lot less than 3/5 of an individual as a result.

Anyway, I'm flipping channels first thing this morning, looking for local weather, and I alight briefly on CNN's segment about the rally. It was predicably weak. There's no love lost between Jon Stewart and CNN, so that is perhaps to be expected. But the segement ended with the news-bimbo slavishly reciting, without further comment, Glenn Beck's ludicrous claim of 300,000 to 600,000 folks at his last rally. I was a bit surprised, but then I remembered, CNN were the folks who gave Beck his start on TV. So of course however many wefre there on Saturday, CNN would report that Beck brought out more. Expect a lot more of this sort of math in the future, only expect it about balloting.