< ZeitVox
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Adam Davidson | New York Times >>

"An age of constant invention naturally begets one of constant failure. The life span of an innovation, in fact, has never been shorter. An African hand ax from 285,000 years ago, for instance, was essentially identical to those made some 250,000 years later. The Sumerians believed that the hoe was invented by a godlike figure named Enlil a few thousand years before Jesus, but a similar tool was being used a thousand years after his death. During the Middle Ages, amid major advances in agriculture, warfare and building technology, the failure loop closed to less than a century. During the Enlightenment and early Industrial Revolution, it was reduced to about a lifetime. By the 20th century, it could be measured in decades. Today, it is best measured in years and, for some products, even less."  >continue<

Perhaps only now can a quasi-Hegelian boast a relevant skill set.


"The split in America, rather than simply economic, is between those who embrace reason, who function in the real world of cause and effect, and those who, numbed by isolation and despair, now seek meaning in a mythical world of intuition, a world that is no longer reality-based, a world of magic."

Chris Hedges, American Fascists: The Christian right and the war on America

There are perhaps two sides; but it is not one of right and left, conservative and liberal. This tired media trope conceals a weird dynamic where a non-cognitive, duck dynastic cretinism poses as half of political possibility - a Hannitized fun house where the barest scent of interrogation and skepticism suffices to warrant the label of 'liberal', 'socialist', 'communist' and so on.

"Fair and Balanced" means registering this unfathomable fascination with non-sequiturs and this welter of pernicious question begging, brand America bullshit with an instant legitimacy. It makes a normative claim that journalism must account for this "point of view" as equal to all others, and as the "other side". It's the Jim Jones, Kool-Aid avatar of "join the conversation".


Something a recent argument reminded us of:

"A philosopher is not a specialist ... nor is oblique, difficult and/or indirect language necessarily 'obfuscatory' and/or authoritarian. 'Being is said in many ways', as Aristotle remarked - and the question "what does it mean to speak well?" is so damned central to both he and Plato that it can hardly be over-estimated as a maxim. But it does not follow that philosophical prose must be of a sort that immediately registers as cogent in a consumer society. And, insofar as the task at hand may require the oblique, the complex and/or the indirect, it doesn't follow that the mere capacity of a sophist or charlatan to ape any style necessarily and universally dooms such use to scorn." - XHerakleitos 


Vice >>

The current Ebola outbreak in West Africa began in Guinea in December 2013. From there, it quickly spread to Liberia and Sierra Leone. Cases also appeared in Senegal and Nigeria, and a separate outbreak appeared in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Today, Liberia lies is at the center of the epidemic, with more than 3,000 cases of infection. About half of them have been fatal.

As President Barack Obama announced that he would be sending American military personnel to West Africa to help combat the epidemic, VICE News traveled to the Liberian capital of Monrovia to spend time with those on the front lines of the outbreak. 

In Part 1, we meet confused and distressed people trying to receive treatment in the increasingly chaotic city, and speak to an ambulance driver doing his best to aid the sick.

See also: Ebola outbreak grows worse


"Responding to Ebola requires putting patients and families into inescapably horrific situations. Being diagnosed with the disease means confronting and accepting the absolute terror of a likely-terminal condition—I am probably going to die. It requires accepting the results of an opaque test done in a faraway lab even when it still just feels like the flu. It then requires accepting that you may never have human contact again for the rest of your life—and that the only communication you will have will be with a masked man tasked with isolating you, not saving you." - Raphael Frankfurter

The Danger in Losing Sight of Ebola Victims' Humanity

Thousands of People Are Trapped in a Liberia Slum, Under Ebola Quarantine
Clashes Erupt  |  West Point Reels  
Response 'Non-existent'  |  Those who serve soldier on


"As part of their overall embargo plan against Gaza, Israeli officials have confirmed to (U.S. embassy economic officers) on multiple occasions that they intend to keep the Gazan economy on the brink of collapse without quite pushing it over the edge"

- From a November 2008 U.S. Diplomatic Cable

video: a child’s view from Gaza


Frontline's Losing Iraq splays out the fateful scene of America's catastrophic botch of nation building. As absurd and costly as the invasion of Iraq was, the depth of failure here adds more than insult to injury.

Republicans had for years prior derided President Clinton over the subject of nation building. In Iraq we see what is either their attempt to prove their own sneering point or their naivete in thinking stable governments simply appear magically. The "design" of Iraq's post-Saddam government and the choice of Nouri al-Maliki as its head ultimately borked the promise Petraeus made in his gambit with the "Sons of Iraq", the faction that made the "surge" work at all, on account of the Prime Minister's weak minded trajectory towards ever increasing sectarian impulses. 

Obama may be guilty of letting Iraq rot. Although, short of violently removing the government and instituting things anew (and how would that work?), it's unclear that any engagement would have amounted to much, as al-Maliki (perhaps like Karzai in Kabul) likely never had enough substantive potential to justify the labor.

Iraq comes up full bore in any serious analysis of America's current standing and fate in the Middle East. And it's not just the drift into oblivion that conditioned the invasion, but also the careless and incompetent circus, punctuated by spectacular risks, that bloomed once the deed was done.

Once late in 2003, a retired Colonel Ralph Peters appeared on PBS to argue that the attack on a UN complex was preferable to terror attacks on our own soil. Here in Iraq, he argued, we would draw the vermin like moths to a flame - adding with an eerie confidence, "when that happens the flame wins." With ISIS and the inevitability of more horror, when any view to pragmatism gets spiked with ironic Iranian complications, it's long past the time when we should have cringed over a hubris so inflamed. 

.............Watch "Losing Iraq" via PBS video


Carl Sagan, The Pale Blue Dot (Cosmos 2014)


Russian Roulette

Vice News >>

Earlier this month, a number of pro-Russia checkpoints around the Donetsk region were taken by Ukrainian forces, in an attempt to encircle the city of Sloviansk, a stronghold for the pro-Russia insurgents. Here, VICE News reporter Simon Ostrovsky embeds at one of the checkpoints with the Ukrainian National Guard, a volunteer militia made up of people who were protesting at the Kiev Maidan just a few short, but eventful, months ago. Simon spent the night in the dark basement of a police station with some of the men, as heavy fire and fighting rumbled above them.

Ukraine's presidential elections are scheduled for [today], but with this volatile situation in the east of the country, it's starting to look a lot more like a war.


"Nietzsche can only be an embarrassment for atheists today. Worse, they can’t help dimly suspecting they embody precisely the kind of pious freethinker that Nietzsche despised and mocked: loud in their mawkish reverence for humanity, and stridently censorious of any criticism of liberal hopes."

- John Gray, The Ghost at the Atheist Feast

7/14 See also: From Nietzsche to Richard Dawkins: a conversation with modern atheism


How does Conservatism apply to the Russia/Ukraine situation

Nowadays "Conservatism" applies to Ukraine/Russia in the following way: Ignore the grey areas. Paint Putin as a thug but a virile, manly thug. Paint Obama as a pussy who doesn't understand the real world.

It doesn't matter that "conservatism" is nominally against Putin as much as his masculine grasp of realpolitik is heavily construed as a school yard threat to nerd Obama. This appeals to the high-school mentality of the current "conservative" base and is, thus, more important than default support for an American President. The fact that military provocation of Russia would be pretty much mindless, and that no "conservative" would be doing anything different also is of no consequence.

Questions and analysis of the situation are also of no consequence. Rather, the immediacy of the above narrative is to be slathered on top of the situation like syrup over hot pancakes, which should be clear from the ubiquity of talking points already delivered on talk radio.



"The existence of animal play is considered something of an intellectual scandal. It’s understudied, and those who do study it are seen as mildly eccentric. As with many vaguely threatening, speculative notions, difficult-to-satisfy criteria are introduced for proving animal play exists, and even when it is acknowledged, the research more often than not cannibalizes its own insights by trying to demonstrate that play must have some long-term survival or reproductive function...

...Friedrich Schiller had already argued in 1795 that it was precisely in play that we find the origins of self-consciousness, and hence freedom, and hence morality. “Man plays only when he is in the full sense of the word a man,” Schiller wrote in his On the Aesthetic Education of Man, “and he is only wholly a Man when he is playing.” If so...then glimmers of freedom, or even of moral life, begin to appear everywhere around us...

...if one wants a consistently materialist explanation of the world—that is, if one does not wish to treat the mind as some supernatural entity imposed on the material world, but rather as simply a more complex organization of processes that are already going on, at every level of material reality—then it makes sense that something at least a little like intentionality, something at least a little like experience, something at least a little like freedom, would have to exist on every level of physical reality as well.”

- David Graeber, What's the Point If We Can't Have Fun?


Conor Friedersdorf | Atlantic >>

Something special happened Monday [13th] on the Rush Limbaugh radio program. Its host set out to explain why conservatives won't be defending New Jersey Governor Chris Christie during the bridge scandal in the same way that they rallied behind Clarence Thomas during his 1991 nomination to the Supreme Court. And in doing so, Limbaugh provided an unusually frank account of how he and his followers reach snap judgments about what is true and what isn't true. This monologue laid bare the epistemology of talk-radio "conservatism."

When the controversy began, Limbaugh reminisces, he didn't know who the nominee was. "I didn't know Clarence Thomas," he recalled. "I had never met Clarence Thomas. I had to read about Clarence Thomas to find out who he was."

...Yet I didn't feel I was taking a risk at all in a full-throated, never-ending, full-fledged not only defense of Clarence Thomas, but an attack, a returned attack on Anita Hill and the Democrats. Now, how was I able to do this with such confidence, not having met the man, not having known the man?"...  >continue<


Hans Hoyng  |  Der Spiegel >>

"Wilsonian foreign policy" is premised on the notion, established in the Puritan days of the founding fathers, that the United States should emulate the Biblical city on the hill, a role model for all other nations. The country has a mission to fulfill: that of bringing light into the darkness of bondage and dependency.

Wilson managed to win over a majority in Congress with his fiery speech. Senator Ben Tillman described it as "the most startling and noblest utterance that has fallen from human lips since the Declaration of Independence." The New York Times called it a "moral transformation" of American policy... >continue<


Edward Snowden, Whistle Blower

“Considering the enormous value of the information he has revealed, and the abuses he has exposed, Mr. Snowden deserves better than a life of permanent exile, fear and flight. He may have committed a crime to do so, but he has done his country a great service. It is time for the United States to offer Mr. Snowden a plea bargain or some form of clemency that would allow him to return home, face at least substantially reduced punishment in light of his role as a whistle-blower, and have the hope of a life advocating for greater privacy and far stronger oversight of the runaway intelligence community.”


"A supreme warrior, you know, one that changed history, one that -- he made all humans believe that nothing is impossible... that victory is won already, you know? And the only enemy is fear. And he talked about that a lot. You transform fear with your supreme joy."

- Carlos Santana on Nelson Mandela


Egypt: Devastation is Upon Us

Omar Robert Hamilton |  Jadaliyya (excerpts) >>

What we do next will define the world to come. I do not know how we win. Not any more... Why am I writing this? Because devastation is upon us. Mohamed Ibrahim and the Ministry of the Interior have been unleashed. First on the Brotherhood and now on the activists who—for better or worse—launched and sustained this revolution we were once all so in love with. This revolution that gave so many of us the best part of our identities. This revolution that is drowning.

...Do not ask me what comes next, because I honestly do not know. Do not ask me how we turn street power into politics, because I wish—more than anything—that I could tell you. The two, as they are, exist in different universes. What I know is that, right now, the street is all we have. And that if the street is strong, the police are not.

If you are reading this then it means you have access to the internet, you probably own a computer and you can speak English. Which means you are harder—politically—to kill. Mohamed Ibrahim and his police can kill fifty Islamists and working-class kids before breakfast and the country does not seem to care. But they would care if he killed you. And he knows it. It is a filthy system. It stinks. But if we do not use our privilege to try and change it, then we are part of the problem. >continue<


Back to Housing Bubbles

Nouriel Roubini |  Project Syndicate >>

...five years later, signs of frothiness, if not outright bubbles, are reappearing in housing markets in Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, Finland, France, Germany, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and, back for an encore, the UK (well, London). In emerging markets, bubbles are appearing in Hong Kong, Singapore, China, and Israel, and in major urban centers in Turkey, India, Indonesia, and Brazil.

But the global economy’s new housing bubbles may not be about to burst just yet, because the forces feeding them – especially easy money and the need to hedge against inflation – are still fully operative. >continue<


“THEY told me,” Martin Sheen’s Willard says to Marlon Brando’s Kurtz in “Apocalypse Now,” at the end of a long journey up the river, “that you had gone totally insane, and that your methods were unsound.”

His baldness bathed in gold, his body pooled in shadow, Kurtz murmurs: “Are my methods unsound?”

And Willard — filthy, hollow-eyed, stunned by what he’s seen — replies: “I don’t see any method at all, sir.”

This is basically how reasonable people should feel about the recent conduct of the House Republicans.

...something well-nigh-unprecedented about how Republicans have conducted themselves of late. It’s not the scale of their mistake, or the kind of damage that it’s caused, but the fact that their strategy was such self-evident folly, so transparently devoid of any method whatsoever.

Every sensible person, most Republican politicians included, could recognize that the shutdown fever would blow up in the party’s face. Even the shutdown’s ardent champions never advanced a remotely compelling story for how it would deliver its objectives. And everything that’s transpired since, from the party’s polling nose dive to the frantic efforts to save face, was entirely predictable in advance.  >continue<

Indeed, if one has been paying attention to the talk radio whacko-sphere - painful as that is - the fateful trajectory is not at all surprising.  Before the election last year we witnessed a mind warping explosion of outrage geared around Obama's "You didn't build that" speech. That only an unfathomable level of cognitive confusion or a failure of adult reading skills could occasion such inane responses didn't stop Republican leaders from playing to stupidity.

That's because GOP managers are trapped in an awful drama not unlike that of Walter White in Breaking Bad. The Gingrich's, the Roves, like the Atwater's before them, cooked up a brew steaming with linguistic sorcery aimed at bypassing rational intellect. Perhaps they meant well or convinced themselves they did in some egotistical delusion. But after a while cooking mind meth, they lost control to a gaggle of low brow, yet motivated, white trash.

So it is that we can picture something like Duval's Lt. Colonel Kilgore surveying a disasterous scene with the line "I love the smell of nonsense in the morning.... It smells like, like purity"

Some Future Dictionary

Libertarian  noun \ˌli-bər-ˈtard-\

  1. A variant of Stockholm Syndrome, i.e., a captive rendering prison bars as first principles in a delirious explanation of freedom.


David Horsey | LA Times >>

The government shutdown has revealed the impressive skill of tea party Republicans to say untrue things with sincerity so convincing that they almost sound as if they believe what they are saying. Michele Bachmann, with her toothy grin and startling wide-eyed stare, is especially adept at this.  >continue<

That this was well planned is not quite as surprising as the unmitigated bravado behind the GOP's schoolyard finger pointing. Considering the threat to the very concept of a loyal opposition inherent in the tactics, this revved up commitment to supreme subterfuge, to mega-mendacity, strikes one as a form of pathology never before witnessed in American politics.

Indeed, the crazed conflation of 'bullshit' and 'politics' appears complete.

Historians can no doubt dredge up examples of analogous rot. So perhaps it's the sheer scale and repetition that's cause for serious concern - kinda like a chain reaction building a space debris tsunami.

The splintering momentum of jerksome stupidity was on display yesterday in Speaker Boehner's appearance on This Week. How many times did the dude use the term 'conversation'? Try to count!  Then in a beautiful move he essentially concedes that his earlier conversation with the President was just so much bullshit.

What is worse, the sheer desperation of a Speaker trotting out the lame "join the conversation" buzztrope or the apparent fact that, like some highschool kid working to explain empty beer cans, he seriously thinks his ad hoc prevarication is gonna fly?

Maybe what's worse is this stuff blooming everywhere. Like the self-evident bullshit of a conjurer plying a trick already seen through, this will to pile on "sophistical contrivances wherewith we are so industriously plied and belabored" is  practiced as if irrational contagion were a virtue. This is what politics has become. Boehner is just a mote in an expanding cloud.

It will be fitting if future political scientists the world over mark the ruinous scale and frequency of this event with the term 'American Exceptionalism'.



CIA Finally Admits Role In Iran Coup

DSWright  |  Firedoglake >>

Well that only took 60 years. The CIA has finally admitted to its role in the coup that overthrew Iran’s democratically elected leader and replaced him with the Shah – a tyrant whose brutality set the stage for the Iranian Revolution of 1979. The revolution involved the storming of the U.S. embassy in Iran leading to a prolonged hostage crisis.

"The National Security Archive on Monday published evidence of the CIA’s long-known role in the 1953 Iran coup that helped pave the way for the Islamic revolution 26 years later.

The newly declassified material is believed to contain the CIA’s first public acknowledgment of its role in deposing democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq after he nationalized the country’s oil industry. The move – and Iran’s broader lurch to the left under Mosaddeq – infuriated Great Britain and the United States, which pressed Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi to depose him in 1953."

The information released to the National Security Archive proves what most observers have long known – that the antagonism between the United States and Iran stems from U.S. malevolence in the country.

"The 1953 coup remains a topic of global interest because so much about it is still under intense debate. Even fundamental questions — who hatched the plot, who ultimately carried it out, who supported it inside Iran, and how did it succeed — are in dispute.

The issue is more than academic. Political partisans on all sides, including the Iranian government, regularly invoke the coup to argue whether Iran or foreign powers are primarily responsible for the country’s historical trajectory, whether the United States can be trusted to respect Iran’s sovereignty, or whether Washington needs to apologize for its prior interference before better relations can occur."

But why do they hate us?

Perhaps Americans should consider how they would feel if a foreign country was intimately involved in overthrowing its democratically elected leader and then helped install a brutal tyrant. And then, to add insult to injury, that foreign country spent the better part of three decades criticizing America for not being democratic enough after the American people overthrew the tyrant. Just saying.

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