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April 6th
3:47 PM

The Atheist Bus

Francis Spufford  |  Guardian »

 The atheist bus says: "There’s probably no God. So stop worrying and enjoy your life." All right: which word here is the questionable one, the aggressive one, the one that parts company with recognisable human experience so fast it doesn’t even have time to wave goodbye? It isn’t “probably”. New Atheists aren’t claiming anything outrageous when they say that there probably isn’t a God. In fact they aren’t claiming anything substantial at all, because, really, how would they know? It’s as much of a guess for them as it is for me. No, the word that offends against realism here is “enjoy”. I’m sorry – enjoy your life? I’m not making some kind of neo-puritan objection to enjoyment. Enjoyment is lovely. Enjoyment is great. The more enjoyment the better. But enjoyment is one emotion. To say that life is to be enjoyed (just enjoyed) is like saying that mountains should only have summits, or that all colours should be purple, or that all plays should be by Shakespeare. This really is a bizarre category error.

… A consolation you could believe in would be one that wasn’t in danger of popping like a soap bubble on contact with the ordinary truths about us. A consolation you could trust would be one that acknowledged the difficult stuff rather than being in flight from it, and then found you grounds for hope in spite of it, or even because of it, with your fingers firmly out of your ears, and all the sounds of the complicated world rushing in, undenied.  >continue<

Too astonishing, too adroit, too thought provoking to be missed, regardless of wherever an engaged regard might lead one. At the same time, it is all that in a manner which obviates any trite introduction. Again… >continue<

h/t The Electric Typwriter

October 7th
12:25 PM
Via

Legitimizing bullshit

underthemountainbunker:

Matt Taibbi:

“I read the transcript of the debate and all I got from Romney was either outright factual lies, or total rhetorical dishonesty.

“[…] Romney’s entire debate performance was like this. He said absolutely nothing, but got lots of credit for style points. Here’s Romney’s answer on what budget cuts he would make, addressing perhaps-soon-to-be-ex-PBS employee, Jim Lehrer:

I’m sorry, Jim. I’m going to stop the subsidy to PBS. I’m going to stop other things. I like PBS. I love Big Bird. I actually like you too. But I’m not going to — I’m not going to keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for it. That’s number one.

Number two, I’ll take programs that are currently good programs but I think could be run more efficiently at the state level and send them to state.

Number three, I’ll make government more efficient, and to cut back the number of employees, combine some agencies and departments. My cutbacks will be done through attrition, by the way.

“So the answer to the question, “What will you do to rein in the biggest budget deficit in history?” comes down to, “I’ll cut PBS, which is about one millionth of the federal budget, and some other stuff.”

“For God’s sake – “I’ll take programs that could be run more efficiently at state and send them to state”? Is that a joke? That’s worse than a Bill Belichick answer: “What’s our plan against the Broncos? We’re going to watch the film and do what’s best for our football team.”

“Reporters should have instantly pelted Romney with bags of dogshit for insulting the American people with this ridiculous non-answer, but he was instead praised for the canny “strategy” hidden in the response. Despite the fact that Romney is running as a budget hawk and yet has refused to name any actual programs (except Obamacare and PBS) he will cut, reporters gave him credit in the debate for being willing to be the bearer of bad budgetary news, because he essentially advance-fired Jim Lehrer on TV.”

It’s like political analysis focused on the qualities that make for a good infomercial host

June 26th
3:32 PM
Citizen Zed - 6/26/12
Corollary: The more entities spend trying to buy elections, the dumber they think you are.
It&#8217;s doubtful Ms. Soltis means to complete the thought this way. She&#8217;s a &#8220;Republican pollster&#8221;. Rigorous thought and logical progression aren&#8217;t a part of her rationale for tweeting the proposition in the first place. One can, however, imagine the ostensible point. When we see these ubiquitous polsters and &#8220;analysts&#8221; as nothing but marketing professionals and Mad Men, all turns on soliciting feeling and outrage, on tweaking the immediacy of prejudice, impulse, and desire.
Politics, that most equivocal pastime, at once conjuring the most noble and the most base, is now mostly marketing. Universities still have philosophy and political science departments, but we know politics is now the province of a vocational school and the vulgar lens of a marketing apparatchik.

"Young voters who start voting today and have bad taste in their mouths about the GOP are likely to look at politics through that lens for years.&#8221;

Read on and we might as well be talking about toilet paper, toothpaste or vinyl siding. Appearances and perceptions unalloyed by critical faculties, the stuff of stupidity in other words, are the primary terrain. Mapping the "reptilian brain" is job one for navigating both analysis and action in a nation where citizen has condensed into mere consumer.
"Yes, those people who whine about money buying elections think you&#8217;re dumb," the tweet reads in translation. But, of course, what shows itself here is that Ms. Soltis thinks you&#8217;re dumb.
She doesn&#8217;t think you&#8217;ll have the temerity or the cognitive fortitude to read it as an underpinning to ROI strategies for those who do the actual buying, that is, &#8220;in an age of austerity surreally contradicted by the hundreds of millions being poured into campaigns.&#8221; No, it&#8217;s the people who complain about this increasingly warped campaign fun-house - they think you&#8217;re dumb. They don&#8217;t simply claim you&#8217;re dumb, which would imply an argument is forthcoming, but rather ensconce the evaluation at the level of a premise.
Let&#8217;s assume we&#8217;re all dumb. Let&#8217;s buy the premise, touch that third rail en masse and agree we are, each and everyone of us, stupid. Ask yourself who&#8217;s tone betrays wanting you to remain that way. What tone and style is it which sinks itself into sentimentality and satisfaction, into affirming the greatness of America merely on account of what we&#8217;ve already achieved, and (since inquiry is unneeded) into unexamined feelings about freedom? What forces slap on the veneer of logic and argument for the sake of an apology for the status quo, and leave you exactly where you were before?
I&#8217;d hazard to guess that even in our stupidity, we&#8217;ll find an answer in those who are squeezing every ounce out of the Citizens United ruling. We may have forgotten what to call these people, but thanks to Ms. Soltis&#8217; jingle.. tweet, we do know a premise they hold dear.

Citizen Zed - 6/26/12

Corollary: The more entities spend trying to buy elections, the dumber they think you are.

It’s doubtful Ms. Soltis means to complete the thought this way. She’s a “Republican pollster”. Rigorous thought and logical progression aren’t a part of her rationale for tweeting the proposition in the first place. One can, however, imagine the ostensible point. When we see these ubiquitous polsters and “analysts” as nothing but marketing professionals and Mad Men, all turns on soliciting feeling and outrage, on tweaking the immediacy of prejudice, impulse, and desire.

Politics, that most equivocal pastime, at once conjuring the most noble and the most base, is now mostly marketing. Universities still have philosophy and political science departments, but we know politics is now the province of a vocational school and the vulgar lens of a marketing apparatchik.

"Young voters who start voting today and have bad taste in their mouths about the GOP are likely to look at politics through that lens for years.”

Read on and we might as well be talking about toilet paper, toothpaste or vinyl siding. Appearances and perceptions unalloyed by critical faculties, the stuff of stupidity in other words, are the primary terrain. Mapping the "reptilian brain" is job one for navigating both analysis and action in a nation where citizen has condensed into mere consumer.

"Yes, those people who whine about money buying elections think you’re dumb," the tweet reads in translation. But, of course, what shows itself here is that Ms. Soltis thinks you’re dumb.

She doesn’t think you’ll have the temerity or the cognitive fortitude to read it as an underpinning to ROI strategies for those who do the actual buying, that is, “in an age of austerity surreally contradicted by the hundreds of millions being poured into campaigns.” No, it’s the people who complain about this increasingly warped campaign fun-house - they think you’re dumb. They don’t simply claim you’re dumb, which would imply an argument is forthcoming, but rather ensconce the evaluation at the level of a premise.

Let’s assume we’re all dumb. Let’s buy the premise, touch that third rail en masse and agree we are, each and everyone of us, stupid. Ask yourself who’s tone betrays wanting you to remain that way. What tone and style is it which sinks itself into sentimentality and satisfaction, into affirming the greatness of America merely on account of what we’ve already achieved, and (since inquiry is unneeded) into unexamined feelings about freedom? What forces slap on the veneer of logic and argument for the sake of an apology for the status quo, and leave you exactly where you were before?

I’d hazard to guess that even in our stupidity, we’ll find an answer in those who are squeezing every ounce out of the Citizens United ruling. We may have forgotten what to call these people, but thanks to Ms. Soltis’ jingle.. tweet, we do know a premise they hold dear.

February 17th
4:44 PM
Via

The New Inquiry: Predictive analytics and information camouflage

thenewinquiry:

By

…Duhigg’s article focuses mainly on Target’s efforts to figure out which customers are about to go through a major life change (like pregnancy) so that it can take advantage of their flux and vulnerability to change their shopping habits.

"Consumers going through major life events often don’t notice, or care, that their shopping habits have shifted, but retailers notice, and they care quite a bit. At those unique moments, Andreasen wrote, customers are “vulnerable to intervention by marketers.” In other words, a precisely timed advertisement, sent to a recent divorcee or new homebuyer, can change someone’s shopping patterns for years."

Apparently humans’ habits are hard to alter unless they are thrown into a kind of emotional state of shock by impending situations. For the time being, companies like Target are content to sift through our data trails to figure out who among us are entering into chaotic periods (and the process for this involves all sorts of cross-referencing of data from pools most of haven’t ever thought it was possible to combine — the focus of Turow’s book). Perhaps the technology to instigate such chaos in people’s lives on an individual by individual basis is waiting in the wings.

Read More.

December 31st
4:28 PM

Newt Inc. Thrives as Campaign Founders
Timothy P. Carney

…The increase in Newt’s net worth will be the true gauge.

Anyone who has worked in marketing understands what was going on here. Gingrich lured in motivated private citizens to his “Solutions Lab,” promising them they could “collaborate on developing policy solutions to the many challenges facing America,” as one book put it. These right-leaning idealists’ email addresses and personal information was then compiled into valuable lists… >continue<

A great read on the Newtser.  Frankly, we’re glad somebody has the courage to point out what should be fundamentally obvious.  Namely, that Newt Gingrich has never really been running for President so much as he’s been angling to pad his speaker’s fees and his “visionary” brand identity.

November 22nd
10:00 AM
Grover Norquist: the tax lobbyist with an iron grip on the GOP

Grover Norquist took an interest in politics at an extremely young  age. He says he worked as a volunteer on the 1968 Nixon campaign at the  age of 12, and it was then that he had his big idea.
While his  contemporaries were consumed by comics, movies and candy, it occured to  Norquist, as he returned home from school in Massachusetts one day, that  Republicans should pledge never to raise taxes. Four decades on, that particular  brainwave is at the centre of the country&#8217;s biggest political story.
Now 55, Norquist holds no elected office but is one of the most powerful figures in Washington&#8230;  &gt;continue&lt;

Sunday&#8217;s 60 Minutes Appearance  |  A Child Shall Lead Them

Grover Norquist: the tax lobbyist with an iron grip on the GOP

Grover Norquist took an interest in politics at an extremely young age. He says he worked as a volunteer on the 1968 Nixon campaign at the age of 12, and it was then that he had his big idea.

While his contemporaries were consumed by comics, movies and candy, it occured to Norquist, as he returned home from school in Massachusetts one day, that Republicans should pledge never to raise taxes. Four decades on, that particular brainwave is at the centre of the country’s biggest political story.

Now 55, Norquist holds no elected office but is one of the most powerful figures in Washington…  >continue<

Sunday’s 60 Minutes Appearance  |  A Child Shall Lead Them

November 20th
7:58 PM

As a child, Grover Norquist figured politics should be a brand

According to Norquist on 60 Minutes tonight, he came up with the bright idea of making politics like Coke and Pepsi while riding on a school bus. No tax increases under any circumstances, and a drive to cut them at any opportunity, is not the product of adroit political rationality but, rather, a formula of consistent brand control, knowing exactly what you’re buying - the marketing rubric of modern consumerism, one which aims at feelings, impulses and desire at the expense of active reason.

This vulgarity is made even more astonishing by the frank admission that our budget crisis is beholden to marketing, and a branding scheme as constant as the scent of a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken.

If only it smelled that good.

November 16th
12:26 PM
Via
randomactsofchaos:

Clay Bennett/Chattanooga Times Free Press (11/16/2011)

randomactsofchaos:

Clay Bennett/Chattanooga Times Free Press (11/16/2011)

August 26th
10:29 AM
Via
"Our political and media culture reflects and drives an obsession with who is going to win, rather than who should win. For most of my time covering presidential elections, I shared the view that there was a direct correlation between the skills needed to be a great candidate and a great president. The chaotic and demanding requirements of running for president, I felt, were a perfect test for the toughest job in the world. But now I think I was wrong. The “campaigner equals leader” formula that inspired me and so many others in the news media is flawed."
—  

Jay Rosen, Why Political Coverage is Broken

All about talking heads focusing “analysis” not on argument connected with reality but, rather, on how a candidate’s marketing schtick plays with a consumer demographic - all while cultivating a savvy charade of “innocence”, as detached “connoisseurs of bamboozlement”. 

July 13th
8:59 AM
Via
"For five thousand years, successful imperial rulers have maintained their power in part by controlling the story tellers to communicate fabricated cultural stories that evoke fear, alienation, learned helplessness, and a sense dependence on a strong ruler for direction and protection. This induces a cultural trance that suppresses our inherent human capacity for responsible self-direction, sharing, and cooperation. The falsified stories create an emotional bond between the ruled and their rulers while alienating the ruled from one another and the living Earth, eroding relations of mutual self-help, and reducing the ruled to a state of resigned dependence. Corporate advertisers and PR propagandists have mastered and professionalized the arts of cultural manipulation. Their stories lead us to base our personal identity on the corporate logos we wear, the branded products we consume, the corporation for which we work, and the Wall Street-funded political party to which we belong."
—  David Korten (via azspot)
May 23rd
4:05 PM
Newt Gingrich, Lost In Space

George Lakoff has devoted serious energy to unmasking this framing game. It&#8217;s a game Newt developed and pushed to new levels, surfacing more or less explicitly in the 90&#8217;s with the memo "Language: A Key Mechanism of Control".

&#8230;we have heard a plaintive plea: &#8220;I wish I could speak like Newt.&#8221;

"The words", we hear from Gingrich&#8217;s cover letter, "are  tested language from a recent series of focus groups where we actually  tested ideas and language." With this political style directly imported  from advertising, working below the radar of active reason, one can only wish for the kind of disclaimers that pop into fantastical car and truck ads: "Dramatization", "Professional sophist on a closed course" or "Do not attempt in a real debate".
&#8230;oddly enough, Newt&#8217;s fate may be all the worse insofar as Republicans take seriously his stature as an intellectual. When one can imagine Jerry Springer as  the most apt moderator for a Republican debate, there are hazards to  branding oneself in a way that leverages opportunity amidst a general intellectual  vacuum&#8230;. His audience is more likely to see him cast  &#8220;appropriately&#8221; - alongside Will Robinson and the Robot, a Dr. Smith dramatically  lost in space.  &gt;read more&lt;

Newt Gingrich, Lost In Space

George Lakoff has devoted serious energy to unmasking this framing game. It’s a game Newt developed and pushed to new levels, surfacing more or less explicitly in the 90’s with the memo "Language: A Key Mechanism of Control".

…we have heard a plaintive plea: “I wish I could speak like Newt.”

"The words", we hear from Gingrich’s cover letter, "are tested language from a recent series of focus groups where we actually tested ideas and language." With this political style directly imported from advertising, working below the radar of active reason, one can only wish for the kind of disclaimers that pop into fantastical car and truck ads: "Dramatization", "Professional sophist on a closed course" or "Do not attempt in a real debate".

…oddly enough, Newt’s fate may be all the worse insofar as Republicans take seriously his stature as an intellectual. When one can imagine Jerry Springer as the most apt moderator for a Republican debate, there are hazards to branding oneself in a way that leverages opportunity amidst a general intellectual  vacuum…. His audience is more likely to see him cast “appropriately” - alongside Will Robinson and the Robot, a Dr. Smith dramatically lost in space.  >read more<

May 15th
11:13 AM

Eli Pariser: Beware online “filter bubbles”

"A squirrel dying in front of your house may be more relevant to your interest right now than people dying in Africa"
- Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook

Pariser is talking about “what a web based on that idea of relevance might look like”. While it may appear tangential, the phenomenon here is directly related to the sophistry Socrates fights at every turn. Namely the power of intellect/speaking aimed at satisfying where people are at rather than provoking a transform - a transform that ironically leads them to themselves.  And in that way of thinking, this phenomenon (the filter bubble) is fundamentally unjust.

April 7th
2:43 PM
Via
motherjones:

The Newt Testament
Your guide to Gingrich’s greatest rhetorical hits over the last 33 years. Now with more Hitler/Munich analogies!

We have to add another to MoJo&#8217;s great collection.  It&#8217;s from back in 87 during the Iran Contra hearings - when Oliver North was on for hours. Now this is when Reagan funded terrorists in Central America with moneys derived from helping Iran during its war with Iraq (assisted much more explicitly).
In an amazing example of pernicious verve, we have sophistry essentially revealing itself as sophistry:

One Marine Lieutenant Colonel had more courage than every Chief Executive officer of the Fortune 500 combined.  People were tuning in for hours, more than they watched soaps, more than they watch situation comedies.  Increased total ratings for day-time television by 10% &#8230; because they were fascinated by the drama.
And I&#8217;ve suggested strongly to the White House - The country will believe the drama in which we point a finger and say &#8220;these people want to take us down the road of European socialism, these people are the intellectual parallel to the German socialist party&#8230;&#8221;

&#8230; see more Newt gems at Mother Jones

motherjones:

The Newt Testament

Your guide to Gingrich’s greatest rhetorical hits over the last 33 years. Now with more Hitler/Munich analogies!

We have to add another to MoJo’s great collection.  It’s from back in 87 during the Iran Contra hearings - when Oliver North was on for hours. Now this is when Reagan funded terrorists in Central America with moneys derived from helping Iran during its war with Iraq (assisted much more explicitly).

In an amazing example of pernicious verve, we have sophistry essentially revealing itself as sophistry:

One Marine Lieutenant Colonel had more courage than every Chief Executive officer of the Fortune 500 combined.  People were tuning in for hours, more than they watched soaps, more than they watch situation comedies.  Increased total ratings for day-time television by 10% … because they were fascinated by the drama.

And I’ve suggested strongly to the White House - The country will believe the drama in which we point a finger and say “these people want to take us down the road of European socialism, these people are the intellectual parallel to the German socialist party…”

see more Newt gems at Mother Jones

March 25th
11:19 AM
"My illness helped me to see that what was missing in society is what was missing in me: a little heart, a lot of brotherhood. The ’80s were about acquiring — acquiring wealth, power, prestige. I know. I acquired more wealth, power, and prestige than most. But you can acquire all you want and still feel empty. What power wouldn’t I trade for a little more time with my family? What price wouldn’t I pay for an evening with friends? It took a deadly illness to put me eye to eye with that truth, but it is a truth that the country, caught up in its ruthless ambitions and moral decay, can learn on my dime. I don’t know who will lead us through the ’90s, but they must be made to speak to this spiritual vacuum at the heart of American society, this tumor of the soul."
—  Lee Atwater ~ Interview with Life Magazine, Feb 1991