Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Baghdad Bob Syndrome

Does anyone remember this guy??? It's Saddam's press secretary, aka "Baghdad Bob". He was certain that Iraq was defeating the American troops and all was well (after all, it took 3 full days before a tank rolled through the heart of Baghdad, success!). I remember watching McClellan spin himself into an ataxic stupor during his press conferences and finding myself muttering under my breath "there's no way this guy can *possibly* believe what he is saying". I'm reading his book now and even still, despite his claims that he believed what he was saying at that time, I find it very hard to believe.

The Baghdad Bobs of the world are all over the media- Limbaugh, Hannity, Oreilly, Beck, and a few left wing ones most liberals are too embarrassed to listen to... They all have one thing in common. They know that just the act of saying something- no matter how ridiculous, outrageous or obviously warped it is, makes it seem like a potential reality to some people. It plants an idea in the mind. If Baghdad Bob goes 1000 miles into the outfield and he gets you to follow him only halfway into loony land, he's succeeded.

The job of the Baghdad Bob is that of the defense attorney. He is getting paid to defend a client. In this case, the client is a political ideology. Like a defense attorney, he is not so interested in the truth about whether the client is guilty or innocent in this particular instance. He is merely interested in winning the case in whatever way he can, and preserving the reputation of the client. Being wrong repeatedly is only a small price for Baghdad Bob to pay for preserving the reputation of the ideology.

And that, in a nutshell is exactly what is wrong with the one way conversation found in the "new media". It is not designed to inform anyone and it discourages the aperspectival awareness necessary for good critical thinking. In short, it is pure propaganda. It preys on every human weakness and seeks to eliminate every virtue involved in human rationality. It attacks depth and sincerity. It ridicules detail. It punishes brilliance and replaces it with cheap counterfeit soundbites.

Limbaugh, the Black Knight

I am sitting here listening to Rush Limbaugh go into a tirade over the McClellan book and several other issues. It's hard to imagine what it would be like to be demonstrably wrong so many times in a row on such a wide variety of issues from Iraq to global warming, and yet still have to get on the radio every day and pretend with a straight face that someone should care about what you have to say.

But I admire Limbaugh's creativity. I always look forward to seeing how the maestro weasels out of each development that crushes his beliefs in the eyes of everyone but himself and his uninformed brainwashed dittoheads.

Somehow Limbaugh managed to accuse McClellan of being a "lybrll". I guess anyone who states the obvious must be a "lybrll", especially if the truth denegrates the "Bwoooshhhh" administration. I said that the McClellen story couldn't be spun because he couldn't be blamed for being a "lybrll", but shit, Rush just proved me wrong! Now even McClellan is a "lybrll".

As I listen right now, Limbaugh is trying to sweep all of the republican problems under the rug by blaming them for transforming themselves into"lybrll" republicans. So in Limbaughs world, all the moderates and all the people left of center are "lybrlls", and now even the republicans are "lybrlls"! So because everything is so completely fucked up in U.S. politics, and conservatives can't possibly be responsible for it despite being in power for 8 years, then by definition everyone currently involved in U.S. politics who has any power whatsoever must be a damned "lybrll".

This effectively underscores Arnold Schwarzenegger's statement- "Limbaugh is irrelevent". But only 70% of Americans polled have a negative view of Rush Limbaugh. Who are those other 30%? Might they be the elusive "real" conservatives? I've heard they walk on water and shit roses but one has never actually been photographed in the wild.

A caller calls in and suggests Limbaugh finally abandon the Republican party as the representative of American conservatism. Rush ponders for a moment and says "no, 3rd parties can't win".

So now in Rush's little bubble of self-referential make-believe, the liberals are liberals, the moderates are liberals, and the republicans are liberals. Limbaugh stands on the stumps which were formerly his upper thighs and begs with all the car salesman vocal inflection that he can muster for the evil cowards to stand up and give a fair fight!

Lest you think the black knight only exists in conservative circles, think again.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Scott McClellan Punctures the Bush Echo Bubble

As I am sure everyone has heard, Bush's own press secretary has written a scathing book that could easily be mistaken for a speech by Cindy Sheehan.
First thing that went through my mind was "how in the world will Fox news and company spin *this* one?". But never fear, they are already on the attack.
Since Scotty was Bush's loyal right wing confidant, he presents a difficult challenge to the spinsters who typically just use the word "liberal" to sweep any and all credibility from an opposing point of view. What he has to say is obviously the truth from his own vantage point.
About 70% of the country already knows what McClellan has to say is true- that propaganda was used to trick the American people into accepting an unnecessary war. But frankly, I'm gonna have to fork out the money to buy this book. I can't resist seeing the inside story on one of the most tragic mistakes in American history.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

More Foul Play by the Creationists

Of course, they have never been able to make a point without lying.
Less than 1 out of every 36,500 biologists rejects evolution.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Batman and Robin versus a Republican

I just had to steal this from Too good not to share.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Philosopher Ken Wilber Almost Died

I am amazed to find out today that Ken Wilber almost died- in 2006. Somehow I hadn't heard. He had 12 Grand Mal seizures in a row in one day which led to cardiac arrest and a 4 day coma. The doctors "paddled" him back to life. The doctors admitted later that they didn't expect him to make it and it was because of his excellent health going into it that allowed him to survive.

Wilber claims to have had a couple of classic NDE's during the experience and he claims to have been conscious during the coma. The seizures are a common part of a condition he has which was once misnamed as "Chronic Fatigue Syndrome" and is now commonly referred to as REDD or EM.

His account is fascinating to read, and I was truly saddened to hear that it happened (as well as amazed it happened 2 years ago). The world would be missing something without Ken Wilber, regardless what you think of his ideas. I think he has fully recovered now.

This is a great new interview with Wilber where he mentions the experience.

This is his personal account of the experience.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Head in the Sand Liberals

Chris Hedges is the poster child for Sam Harris' essay "Head in the sand Liberals". Hedges embodies the straw man liberal who gets the stuffing beat out of him daily on right wing radio and punditry and then equated with anyone who is not staunchly conservative. In typical fashion I agree with Sam Harris that people like Hedges have their heads firmly buried in the sand. on this religion/society issue.
People like Chris Hedges are committed to being tolerant of the intolerant. He embodies what Wilber would call the "mean green meme" or liberalism gone insane.

I have watched the debates with Hedges and to my mind he has been trounced each time. The only thing he does is go on and on about how much more knowledgable he is of Muslim society because he lived in it for years as a reporter, but dodges specifics. Then he will claim that atheists are fundamentalists, but when questioned about how they are like fundamentalists he stammers and stutters grasping for some absurd comparison with no compelling weight behind it. He has called Sam Harris a racist in debate, apparently because most Muslims have brown skin? Harris easily countered by pointing out that he was equally against John Walker Lindh, the white American who joined the Taliban. In typical mean green meme fashion, Hedges searches desperately to find a way to call people he doesn't agree with "racist", "sexist" etc...
In this Point of Inquiry interview, Hedges pulls his same tactic out on D.J. Groethe and whines on and on about how he understands Muslims better than everyone else, as if this alone is a powerful argument.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Stroke = Bliss

This is an interesting video brought to my attention by What is Enlightenment Magazine. I have experienced this bliss momentarily before myself. The most vivid experience I had of it did not come from a formal meditation but from a process called "image streaming" where you verbally describe your mental imagery. It is a good mental workout that is supposed to synchronize the brain's hemispheres.

We are constantly worrying even when we don't know what we are worrying about. This is an important apparatus for our survival as it keeps us wary and it drives us towards innovation and preparation for perceived or imagined threats. But this process exist even when we feel like we are not worrying there is a continuous loop of time mapping/identity formulating/ future speculation/danger monitering of the environment that goes on behind the scenes and keeps us in a tense state. When the input is overridden it is shockingly freeing (as was the case with the woman's stroke).

We are constantly seeking this experience in various forms of entertainment, fantasy, drugs, etc... We know we can over-ride that neural circuit, but for most of us it only happens in degrees and only rarely. Some people can train themselves to do it at will, but it is so far not possible to know whether this is a genetic trait that only some are capable of or all of us can do. I strongly believe only a few are capable of it, in the same way that only 1 in 50 million people (a guess) can throw a 98mph fastball for a strike. You are either born with the potential or not.

I believe that this state of peace is one of the primary rewards in the reward/punishment system that nature uses to funnel humans down to specific behaviors. When everything is right with the world (we have our sex, status, and protection of our offspring) we are at ease. And being at ease makes us appear even more attractive because others see us as successful. When we don't have these things, we live in a more tense state which is our body's way of telling us "you will not get the reward of freedom and peace until you figure out a way to aquire sex, status and protection of your offspring".

Drugs, fantasy, meditation, spirituality are ways to tap the reward without aquiring the darwinian currency. We were designed by nature to be obsessive worriers. Our ancestors who were not, did not survive long enough to breed as much as those who were. (Hitchens comes to mind here-"created sick by Gawd and commanded to be well"- an indictment not only of the Abrahamic religions but also of Buddhism which exists under the same complete lack of acknowledgement of human evolution).

Even the Dalai Lama has speculated about a future technology that could induce this state. Even just a taste of it made available for everyone on a regular basis could change the world more than a trillion prayers, sermons or holy books. Just a specific electrical current in the brain (imagining this were safely possible with some device) could truly be the next big advancement in human technology (a new paradigm larger than the computer, the atom bomb, or the microscope).

I suspect that such a device would be unfathomably difficult to construct due to the variation in human neuroanatomy, but it is without doubt theoretically possible.