Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Invisible Civil War Within: Part III

I Don't Want to Come Between You, but (Insert Divisive Topic Here)!!!!!!

I am going to start this post with a comment by Dean Wormer from my last post:

Often when we speak of the elites that govern our society (or the Freemasons if you will :) ) we sometimes characterize them as being devious in their self-interest but intellectually lazy.

I would say that the elites are anything but intellectually lazy. They're certainly individuals that subscribe to a dialectic world view and use it to their own ends. The status quo is not the calcification of a more conservative philosophy into the society but the calcification of the conflict between the conservative and progressive points of view.

The elites try to use all means at their disposal to keep the conflict going because they recognize that the resolution of the conflict will probably not work out too well for them and that the conflict itself keep the masses occupied.

Just my humble (and unworthy) riff off of what's turning out to be a terrific series of posts, don.


As The Tick might say, "Hotlanta! Get Out of My Head!"



Hegel envisioned his dialectic with these sets of two opposing forces on various issues/circumstances/worldviews driving us forward towards a continually more just, equitable world that was more in harmony with reality. However, there are others who see the Hegelian Dialectic as what can most easily be described as a perpetual Divide and Conquer tactic used by the rich and powerful, or elites, against the rest of us.

In other words, if a Democrat and Republican are focused on arguing about the value of religion in the public sphere, it frees up these elites to concentrate their control of the public sphere while we aren't paying attention and use our angst against us. The same holds true of things like abortion, evolution/creation, gay marriage, peace vs. war and other issues that hold our attention but never resolve themselves. If we are going berserk attacking each other about these things, we aren't paying to their continuing consolidation of power. The same holds true of other dichotomies in America and in other countries that may not be so clearly divided between liberal and conservatives.

This is why I wanted to bring up dialectics and Hegel's in particular. The question is whether to praise this modern definition for its accurate explanation or to bury it for being another route to dislike those who have achieved power. Are we being cleverly manipulated to keep us from seeing the larger issues that confront us clearly?

If yes, then who are these "elite" and why would they want to do it to us? If no, then how could people divide so bitterly over issues that they often have no personal stake in? Is the Dean right that really becoming united would mean something bad for the elites themselves?

I am not going to fully answer these question, but I am going to look some different perspectives as we go along to elicit your views. Tomorrow we look at how some define these elites and possibly how they define themselves.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Invisible Civil War Within: Part II

My Big, Fat Greek Philosophy Goes to Germany


Well, not my philosophy, but certainly it belongs to several somebodies out there. The groundwork starts with the Trivium, a fancy way of referring to “the three ways” that formed the basis of medieval liberal arts education. Wikipedia quoted Sister Miriam Joseph as decribing the trivium succinctly as:

Logic is concerned with the thing as-it-is-known,
Grammar is concerned with the thing-as-it-is-symbolized, and
Rhetoric is concerned with the thing-as-it-is-communicated.


Her word Logic is referred to in Greek philosophy as Dialectic. Since I ignore grammar in my writing for the most part, I will stay true to form and ignore that part of the trivium. That leaves us Rhetoric and Dialectic. To keep things moving, I will rely a bit more on Wikipedia to give us the condensed versions of these topics.

Dialectic

In classical philosophy, dialectic (Greek: διαλεκτική) is controversy, that is, the exchange of arguments and counter-arguments respectively advocating propositions (theses) and counter-propositions (antitheses). The outcome of the exercise might not simply be the refutation of one of the relevant points of view, but a synthesis or combination of the opposing assertions, or at least a qualitative transformation in the direction of the dialogue.


It certainly isn’t hard to see how this philosophy plays into politics and current events. Wikipedia continues:

Dialectics are based around three concepts:
1: Everything is made out of opposing forces/opposing sides.
2: Gradual changes lead to turning points, where one force overcomes the other.
3: Change moves in spirals not circles. (Sometimes referred to as "negation of the negation")


Application of these concepts leads to using these opposing sources towards learning the nature of reality through their resolution towards some synthesis that eliminates the contradictions between them. This is a vast oversimplification of course. People don’t spend generations studying things only to finally have them broken down into a few bite-sized concepts. I am not the person to be lecturing on dialectics anyway; I am just building groundwork here and this is "good enough" to keep us going.

Rhetoric, in the barest form, is the art of persuasion. Wikipedia describes classical Rhetoric thusly:

Rhetoric (from Greek ῥήτωρ, rhêtôr, orator, teacher) is generally understood to be the art (Latin) or technique (Greek) of persuasion through the use of oral, visual, or written language. However, this definition has expanded greatly since rhetoric emerged as a field of study in universities.


Well, if that doesn’t sound like politics, nothing does. It also sounds like democracy, propaganda, marriage, childhood, and a host of other things. Rhetoric, in this sense, is a large part of this multi-part post but it plays a silent, guiding role instead of being in the spot light.

This is all fine and good, but how does Dialectic and Rhetoric explain anything other than the deep ponderings of academics and providing explanatory entertainment at debates or public confrontations? Well, it probably doesn’t so if you want to quit reading now I will completely understand. After all, there is bizarre video clip of William Shatner at Atomic Romance that is more entertaining than all this poppycock. However, it IS leading somewhere I promise you.

We need to flash ahead several centuries past the Greek era to somewhere around the late 18th century/early 19th century to see the dialectic undergo a revival in Germany by two different men. The first one was a philosopher named Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. The Hegelian Dialectic is a variant of the original Greek form. Once again, I rely on Wikipedia to distill things a bit for us (skip it if it gets too bogged down, but come back it later):

Hegelian dialectic, usually presented in a threefold manner, was stated by Heinrich Moritz Chalybäus as comprising three dialectical stages of development: a thesis, giving rise to its reaction, an antithesis which contradicts or negates the thesis, and the tension between the two being resolved by means of a synthesis. This model is named after Hegel but he rarely used these terms himself. Rather it is due to Fichte.
In the Logic, for instance, Hegel describes a dialectic of existence: first, existence must be posited as pure Being (Sein); but pure Being, upon examination, is found to be indistinguishable from Nothing (Nichts). When it is realized that what is coming into being is, at the same time, also returning to nothing (consider life: old organisms die as new organisms are created or born), both Being and Nothing are united as Becoming.

As in the Socratic dialectic, Hegel claimed to proceed by making implicit contradictions explicit: each stage of the process is the product of contradictions inherent or implicit in the preceding stage. For Hegel, the whole of history is one tremendous dialectic, major stages of which chart a progression from self-alienation as slavery to self-unification and realization as the rational, constitutional state of free and equal citizens.


I quoted a rather long section to show that the Hegelian dialectic is subject to a number of interpretations and it isn’t a cut-and-dried philosophical thesis. Even Wikipedia is all over the place on this one. They weren’t the only ones; so was that great Western anti-hero Karl Marx.

Marx took a part of Hegel’s dialectic, turned it on its head and created his own dialectic. The Marx Dialectic was one of the underpinnings of his concept of dialectical materialism; a main tenet of Communism (and we all know how well THAT turned out). Marx claimed that his dialectic was the direct opposite of Hegel’s. Marx stated:

"My dialectic method is not only different from the Hegelian, but is its direct opposite. To Hegel, the life-process of the human brain, i.e., the process of thinking, which, under the name of 'the Idea,' he even transforms into an independent subject, is the demiurgos of the real world, and the real world is only the external, phenomenal form of 'the Idea.' With me, on the contrary, the ideal is nothing else than the material world reflected by the human mind, and translated into forms of thought."


(FYI: I think “demiurgos” refers to the creation of worlds)

This is an important point because some schools of modern political thought are based on an assumption that these two dialectics are natural offshoots of one another. I don’t think they are, but neither do I reject the premises of these schools of thought because I think might be on the track of something.

However, that is a topic for another day. If, on that day, I don’t start relating this ephemera to the Church of What’s Happening Now, you can smite me with mighty insults and general verbal abuse.

For you Heavy Metal fans, here is a band called Trivium...

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Invisible Civil War Within: Part I

Our/My Internal Battle for the Future

At what level am I self-governing? And what say should I have in my family, my community, my state, my nation, and my world? Where do I decide what is best for me and where does someone else’s or some group’s better judgment start? Is it really better? What if I don’t like it? What if I hate it and would die to stop it? Should I learn to adapt instead? What about your judgment? What if “my” group decides to change your self-governance? What if you hate it and would die to stop it? Could you adapt? This is one level of thought.

The Internet brings an astoundingly vast potpourri of knowledge and thought to our fingertips. Topics as delicate as the heartbeat of a hummingbird, as crass as German scheize fetishes, as sad and brave as a personal struggle against cancer, and as thoughtless as a website dedicated to demonizing a former spouse and billions more are covered on this vast network. Added to traditional television, movies, and periodicals, there is definitely more information available than could be processed by a million people. How this information is presented, when it is presented, and how we come upon it shapes our conception of the world. We depend on others for anything outside our tiny sphere of experience and we vote and decide on matters based on the opinions of others; especially in areas where we have no personal experience. This myriad of data points compete/exist/hide from our attention form a part of our core selves. This is another level of thought.

We are beings of compassion, anger, introspection, drama, logic, and a host of other sensations, emotions, and conceptions. We are born into a situation where the personalities, bonding, dependence, and responsibility of those we encounter bind us to these families, friends, coworkers, bosses, strangers, and even estranged acquaintances and enemies. This is the third level of thought.

We are at the emerging end of many chains of events that run from before recorded history until today. While some events are environmental, others involved the desires/needs/wants of people or groups of people. Civilizations formed and were destroyed, wars fought, groups lived in periods of relative peace, lives were changed/improved/wrecked/sold, and thousands of other complexities. Whether we want to be or not, we are embroiled in the complexities of all that came before us and we are mostly bit actors in the continuing saga known simply as History. The heritage and alliances and prejudices, the enemies and ignorance and amends are all such a part of us that we can’t escape it. This is the fourth (and thankfully) the last level of thought.

Put it all together and you have YOU. And ME. And LIFE. We exist alone and we exist as part of groups and between just the four levels of thought I’ve presented (oh yes, I could have gone on and on); the stage is set for a hopelessly complicated set of circumstances and relations. Yet it is in our nature to make sense of this complexity and to make decisions in our own lives and as families/communities/state/nations/the world that effect change and elicit our futures.

To do this, we simplify, classify, and distill these various influences to better explain what we want to explain. How we do this involves philosophy. Philosophy can borrow from cosmic/religious or human sources or be derived in any way that is appropriate to the situation. Wikipedia describes philosophy as:

Philosophy is the discipline concerned with questions of how one should live (ethics); what sorts of things exist and what are their essential natures (metaphysics); what counts as genuine knowledge (epistemology); and what are the correct principles of reasoning (logic).[1][2] The word is of Greek origin: φιλοσοφία (philosophía), meaning love of wisdom.


Pat Robertson has a philosophy. So does Michael Moore. Every President of the United States had one as did Karl Marx, Groucho Marx, Oscar the Grouch, and Oscar Robertson (bringing us full circle back to Pat). And everybody that has one is pretty attached to theirs and sincerely believes it explains things (even though the philosophy they really have is likely different than what you think it is).

I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know though. I am not wasting your time. I promise. I wouldn’t do that to you, so quit looking at me like that. This is all groundwork for where I am going next...and that next thing I am taking so long to explain is that those of us in the Western World have some historical philosophical underpinnings that are playing in to whether or not you get to pump your own gas, determine your tax contribution, end up on the wrong side of a bomb, the “right” side of the bomb delivery device, live in comfort into the middle of the 21st century, etc.

So I will wait to start on those philosophical underpinnings until the next post so you can feel like, “Hey, I just wasted several precious minutes of my life (which I won’t get back) reading what I already knew and then, what, nothing? Thanks a freaking lot, Don.”

To which I say...sorry.

And stay tuned for more excitement from Captain Obvious and his intrepid sidekick Lt. Lessobvious on the next post.

Friday, January 25, 2008

A Big Multi-Part Post Coming Soon

I have set of posts I am working on that encompass current events, politics, religion, philosophy, environment, individualism, and maybe a few other things. These threads wrap around a core of thoughts I've been struggling with for the last several years. It should be both chewy and interesting (I hope) but while I am working on it I might be posting only fluff here for a little while until the creative juices are flowing.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Snabulus Forces News Media to Carry Asteroid Story

Well, not really but it made a cool headline. Alicia Chang at Associated Press finally asked for NASA's opinion of Asteroid TU24 and they said:

An actual collision of a similar-sized object with Earth occurs


Just kidding, that was taken slightly out of context. What they really said was:

An asteroid at least 500 feet long will make a rare close pass by Earth next week, but there is no chance of an impact, scientists reported Thursday.

The object, known as 2007 TU24, is expected to whiz by Earth on Tuesday with its closest approach at 334,000 miles, or about 1.4 times the distance of Earth to the moon.

The nighttime encounter should be bright enough for medium-sized telescopes to get a glimpse, said Don Yeomans, manager of the Near-Earth Object Program Office at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which tracks potentially dangerous space rocks.

However, next week's asteroid pass "has no chance of hitting, or affecting, Earth," Yeomans said.


Great. Now what am I supposed to do with 25,000 packets of dried potatoes and 110,000 AK-47 rounds? I know a guy at Kellogg, Brown, and Root who can probably liquidate this stuff for me. What possible harm could come from that?

Anyhoo, back to thinking about restarting my bike commute in a slightly less demanding way.

Have fun!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

All Work and No Play, heh heh...whoop! Heh.

Every so often, a big programming job shuffles my schedule outside confines of the day job. My evenings are spent for the benefit of some customer instead my family or myself. When there are difficulties with some of the software tools, it can really seem like a pressure cooker.

The MiniSnab is preparing for finals week at high school so it is important not to bring my own pressures to bear on her efforts. In the past I've had difficulty seeing out of my own box to do that but it seems that, at least this time around, I am able to help her focus on her task-at-hand while I am nearly overwhelmed with mine.

I've always tried to be conscientious of the family, so my past shortcomings were not due to lack of effort; just an inability to execute too far out of my own mental box when the fecal matter contacted the whirling blades. As I analyze the difference between then and now, I really must credit the change to my CPAP (anti-snoring) machine and there was a small event that really brought it home.

One night last week, the power went out at about 2am. The CPAP machine died with it. I tried for the next 3 1/2 hours to sleep and, while I did, all of the breathing stoppages and subsequent frequent wakeups kept me from getting the quality sleep I needed. The power came back on at 5:30am and I caught 45 minutes or so with the CPAP.

I was simply a useless wreck all day. I was grouchy and ineffective at my job. Tired as heck. But you know what? Other than the acute change at the time that caused the grouchiness, I was dealing with the energy loss every day before the CPAP. I think it might have been for a long time too. As a couple of regulars here can attest to, I was a noisy snorer as far back as my teenage days in the Boy Scouts. I had a reputation as a loud snoring tent mate back when my body fat was below 15% (maybe below 10% in my cross country days).

I literally don't want to spend one more day without that CPAP device if possible, so I should probably think of a plan for extended power outage to make sure the thing keeps going.

The work scene should go back to mostly background noise sometime this week. I have a philosophical post I want to write about, so hopefully I can fill your brains up a bit this week (a hint: the Clintons and McCain/Bush may be more the same than different). I might also vent my spleen about a Crystal Reports shortfall over at the tech blog at Snabulus too cuz boy-howdy I need to. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

See You in 2 Weeks?

My brother sent me this news:

Asteroid TU24 is approaching very close to the Earth on 1/29/2008. According to NASA, the MOID (closest possible distance from the Earth) is 0.00124988 Astronomical Units or about 116,240 miles from Earth. That is about 1/2 the distance from the moon to the Earth so we aren't talking peanuts here.

There are folks already sounding the alarms about how disconcertingly close this object is. One reports says it is 500m long which is enough to cause real damage. The Goldstone asteroid schedule at NASA calls the asteroid "Scheduled. Extremely strong target. Also scheduled at Arecibo." Here is a movie sounds an alarm about this body...



Am I worried? Not that much mainly because people like to sound alarms but mostly because little can be done about it at this point. If a large urban area is flattened then I will help the survivors (or survive if we are the blast zone).

What I find odd is that I find no news mention of this story between Britney Spears' public breakdown and the artificial political primary feuds. Not too odd since I read somewhere about this flyby that the last big "near miss" wasn't reported until 10 days later. Here is to hoping the MOID is accurate and it whizzes right past us.

Update: As with any event of this kind, the information here is sketchy and doesn't agree with other information. The Jet Propulsion Lab information labeled the MOID figure I cited above while the Goldstone schedule shows a figure between a minimum 0.0032 and a max of 0.0036 AU. This could be a difference in calculation where the larger minimum is based on a more stringent limit on deviation than the MOID. I don't know: I am not an astronomer. In any case, of the known celestial bodies this is as close a pass by as we are likely to see for a couple of decades. I hope the web attention, whether or not some blog skeptic thinks is silly, is enough to generate a little more media and NASA public interest in this event. It is as significant as any eclipse and the risk factor, no matter how small, should make it more interesting.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Speaking of Nature...

...how about some simple common sense risk management?

(From one of the best science teachers I've ever seen:)

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Natural Trifecta is Now Complete

After our tropical disturbance last month, we can add a tornado and an earthquake in the last 48 hours (neither of which did I perceive in any way).

The Tornado report from the National Weather Service:

... Preliminary storm report for Vancouver tornado...

A strong thunderstorm moved through Clark County in southwest
Washington earlier today. The tornado touched down shortly after
noon near Vancouver Lake then moved northeast into Hazel Dell WA.
Preliminary estimates place the strength of this tornado as an EF-1
on the Enhanced Fujita scale with estimated peak wind speeds of 90
to 110 mph. The tornado was approximately 1/4 mile wide with an
initial path length of two miles. It appears that the tornado
lifted up and touched down multiple times... with the last report of
touchdown near Hockinson WA around 1240 PM.

Damage reports from the initial path include the following:

- 200 trees down... .most of the trees were 12 to 24 inches in
diameter with approximately 6 trees in excess of 30 inches in
diameter. The largest tree toppled was 50 inches in diameter. Some
of the fallen trees resulted in damage to homes and vehicles.

- 12 homes were damaged... primarily roof damage.

- 4 power poles were snapped off.

- A semi trailer was tipped over.

As more information becomes available... the National Weather Service
will update this report.




About the Earthquake from the Guardian UK (as always, I get my local news from another country):

Strong Earthquake Reported Off Oregon

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - A magnitude-6.4 earthquake was recorded 150 miles off the Oregon coast Wednesday. There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake struck at 5:37 p.m. A tsunami is not expected, according to the West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Center.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Back to the Spot

(cross-posted at www.snabulus.com as well)

After some deliberation, I think I will keep the main Snabulus web log here for the time being. I had to look at the Pros and Cons of moving the blog. They amounted to:

Pros of moving the blog

1. Get out from under Google's Terms of Service and other lawyerly constructs.
2. Support Pave whose site was highjacked and his graphics used by internet marketers after he closed down his Blogspot site. Google was totally unresponsive to his request to have them removed.
3. Increase my geekly control over the material.
4. Have a one-stop location for all of my personal projects
5. Other bloggers could share front page space while still maintaining their own blogs.
6. Provide a more private space where corporations and governments would not have tacit permission to raid content and usage records (because I would encrypt data and delete IP records).
7. Break through my current phase of boredom.

Cons

1. The DotNetNuke platform is neat, but it has a definite learning curve.
2. The blog software, while it had more options than Blogspot while creating posts, was definitely a work in progress and it is kind of green in terms of professionalism and easy usability for non-technical types.
3. It was impossible to share a blog among multiple people as I do now.
4. The responsibilities of hosting your own site are staggering in terms of keeping all the balls in the air, making sure things are backed up, hackerproofing, etc. I have enough people clamoring for my technical skills. Why invite more of that?

So I will live with my ennui at Blogspot and enjoy all the good things it has to offer. I will keep the www.snabulus.com blog as more of a Tech blog for my geekier moments. I appreciate all of the feedback and I will continue to improve that site and try to extend this "skin" here at Blogspot to get it to do what I want going forward.



PS: Pave's lesson for the day to keep information from being highjacked is to make sure you never delete a blog or a user; just the entries in the blog. That way nobody else can take it from you without hacking it which is still illegal and something Google will take action on.

PPS: It looks like the highjacked site finally went away. Good deal!

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Pilot Project

I installed something called a "web portal" over at Snabulus.com. Basically, it is a way to create a web site that doesn't require programming, but it does require endless tinkering and dealing with bugs you didn't create yourself.

Part of this involves a new blog. Whether it is permanent or not depends on you. If you would indulge me, please click over to Snabulus.com and let me know what you think in the comments there. I am interested in any aspect you care to mention of the blogging experience there and please don't pull any punches. If there are technical difficulties, I will check the comments here frequently so feel free to comment here as well.