So-called conservatives out of their minds — still, but moreso: 3 reasons not to fear ‘Brave New World’

April 11, 2013

You can’t make up this kind of crazy.  This guy’s been Tweeting this to everyone he can find on Twitter:

Seriously?  Hatcheries for children?

Isaac Asimov‘s great off-the-cuff essay one why 1984 wouldn’t be like 1984 is sort of a prototype of the sort of take-down of dystopias one finds in literary and historical circles.  (Once I had a link to a version of the essay, but it’s buried in the bowels of the internet now.)

First edition cover

Is this where we are going, so rapidly in this handbasket? First edition cover, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World – Wikipedia image

But it never makes the true crazies see the light.  They can’t see contrary evidence.

Asimov’s essay noted Orwell’s lack of foresight in simple things, and human things.  In Orwell’s Big Brother dystopia, Winston Smith couldn’t get razor blades or shoe laces, indicators of the economic failures of Big Brother.  Asimov wrote that, in reality,  he used an electric razor, and wore slip-on shoes.  Blades and laces were foreign to his world, too, but not evidence of dystopia; instead, they were evidence of changing fashion and innovation. Orwell thought Big Brother would watch everyone with electronics.  We learned that people as a mass, who use phones, especially cell phones, and the internet, put out too much information in total for a Big Brother to make sense of it, absent other indicators — and that even when hints of wrong-doing turn up, the bureaucracies tend to prevent quick action, or any action at all.  (See the report of the 9/11 Commission.)

One wishes Asimov were alive to do a take-down of the Brave New World fears.  One also suspects those living in fear of Huxley wouldn’t understand the takedown.

Huxley himself gave it away.  Nothing in scientific discoveries has altered Huxley’s errors of prediction (if he was “predicting” and not simply fantasizing).

So, here are three reasons a rational human should not fear we are on the verge of Brave New World, as Huxley scared us all:

  1. Huxley’s dead, and out of date.  Huxley died 50 years ago (on November 22, 1963, coincidentally enough — Sam Theissen with find some omen in that; superstition can’t be stamped out of those who refuse to learn).  Huxley’s premises, his assumptions about society, don’t work in a modern world.  Huxley’s imaginings were almost pre-modern science.  His story doesn’t imagine electricity on the Navaho or Hopi or Apache reservations.  He didn’t foresee Interstate Highways, nor even Route 66, and America’s love affair with travel and the automobile.  He didn’t see the rise of broadcast television and radio, nor rock ‘n roll, nor especially did he see the cultural effects of popular radio on U.S., British or world politics.  Huxley assumes a Soviet-style dictatorship can work.  We know better.  We have Solzhenitsyn.  We had Sakharov protesting in the Soviet Union, and Oppenheimer protesting in the U.S.  That should also remind us that Huxley missed nuclear power.  Huxley simply missed most of the technology and especially culturally-affective technology that makes a Brave New World impossible.
  2. Human hatcheries don’t work.  Hatcheries work for fish; we’ve been unable to make them work for most birds.  Critically, they don’t work for humans, nor for any other complex mammalian — nor chordate, in the ways Huxley describes the embryoes being programmed for certain kinds of intelligence and physical traits.  Oddly, that seems to be the focus of Thiessen’s fears — but the technology simply doesn’t work.
  3. Sex is fun. Huxley’s story required that sex and procreation be done away with.  Oh, there was some sex — but procreative sex is presented as a shameful character flaw, like patricide, embezzling or drug dealing.  Brave New World is frustrated, in the 20th century, by the backseats of cars and the simple fact that sex is so much fun.  Raising kids is fun, too, and valued by adults the world over, a value that got much more expression after World War II.

It’s difficult to imagine kids in high school reading Brave New World without giggling, and without noting the difficulties of the story now (try to get a high school kid to believe Superman used phone booths . . .).

Sam Thiessen is convinced civilization will collapse — he’s written books about it.  I wonder about people who miss the ultimately fatal flaw of Huxley’s story, that humans love one another, and humans like to have sex.  Those who fear Huxley’s book is a forecast, I think, either don’t get enough sex, or don’t know how.

The things are going with current witch hunts, Texas teachers who use Huxley’s book should look out — Thiessen and his fellow travelers will soon accuse them of indoctrinating students in the stuff, instead of warning them against it.  After all, Thiessen seems to have missed the warnings himself.

I’d wager that in other rants, self-titled conservatives and libertarians like Thiessen rail at the usual-suspect decline in morals, including a lot of actions shocking to them, caused by the fact that most people find sex really fun.  Does it not make sense that they’d take a step back, and see that the behavior they claim disgusts them, also makes possible the broken future they fear?

Oblivious to this odd balance of freedoms, they then campaign to end the immorality they see, never thinking that by doing so they advance the dystopia they claim to fear.  What a tangled web we weave when first we practice to misperceive.

More:

A note about the title of the book:

O wonder!
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
That has such people in’t.

  ♦ William Shakespeare, The Tempest, Act V, Scene I; spoken by Miranda


Obama Derangement Syndrome, described in 2013

March 24, 2013

Superman stands with President Obama

This photo will set off most sufferers of Obama Derangement Syndrome — who can’t stand Superman’s duplicating Obama’s stance. Can’t find details on this photo — I believe it was taken in Metropolis, Illinois, in 2008.

In my post drafts I have a longish one on various forms of crazy that, well, make me crazy.  It includes a lot of illogical things that populate the internet and political discussions like dysentery in a poorly-run refugee camp on the border of two third world nations at war with each other.

But it’s still hanging fire.  Plus, my description of the various anti-Obama crazinesses isn’t so cogent as our friend Jim provided in comments to an earlier post.

So, for your edification, and in the hopes that some sufferers of Obama Derangement Syndrome (ODS) may seek help on their own, or that you may be able to persuade them to seek help, here’s what Mr. Stanley wrote about it (all links added by me, here):

As with any mental illness, Obama Derangement Syndrome’s treatment must begin with an accurate diagnosis. It is certainly possible that what passes for ODS may actually be nothing more complicated than food poisoning. Got ahold of some bad clams? It will pass. It could be severe constipation. Nothing an enema can’t clear up. But if you’ve ruled out the usual suspects, follow this handy checklist to determine if you are an ODS sufferer. Remember, admitting you have a problem is the first step toward lucidity and wellness.

You may have Obama Derangement Syndrome…

  • . . .  if you believe he was a CIA operative fighting with the Afghan rebels and against the Soviets in the 1980s. Your case of ODS may be terminal if you believe this, and yet now believe Obama is, himself, a Marxist.
  • . . . if you suspect he had that great American patriot, Andrew Breitbart, murdered. Extra points if you are sure the Obamas have had as many people murdered as you believed the Clintons did. Still more bonus points if you think gay sex orgies were connected to his murder spree.
  • . . . if you are reasonably sure President Obama orchestrated Hurricane Sandy in order to improve his chances at the polls in 2012; planned and ordered either the Sandy Hook school massacre or Aurora Theater massacre to create a pretext for a giant “gun-grab”; and was behind the BP oil spill and/or the Massey Energy coal mine disaster in an effort to justify tighter regulation of business.
  • . . . if you believe the President used an executive order to hand over U.S. territory to Russia. [Or to the UN, or to anyone else.]
  • . . . if you have seen incontrovertible “proof” that Obama removed the American flag from Air Force One and replaced it with his campaign logo; has consistently refused to say the Pledge of Allegiance or salute the flag; seldom if ever wears an American flag lapel pin and steadfastly resists suggestions from staffers that he say “God bless America” at the end of his speeches.
  • . . . if you know that he was a member of the Black Panthers, the Weather Underground, the American Communist Party, the American Fascist/Third Way Movement, the Illuminati, the German-American Bund, the Campfire Girls of America and Friends of Ish Kabibble.
  • . . . if you believe President Obama has a “secret plan” to remove evangelical Christian young people from their homes and place them in FEMA or UN-run re-education camps.
  • . . . if you believe the birth certificate is a forgery, never existed in the first place or that it exists – but that it, upon careful examination, shows that Barack Obama was sired by a jackal.
  • . . . if you have seen “evidence” that he furnished the Oval Office with Islamic or Middle Eastern décor; that he has changed the name of the WH Christmas tree to the WH “Holiday” tree; that he wears jewelry with secret Koranic verses on it; or that he was sworn in on the Holy Koran and not the Bible.
  • . . . if you believe he had the October, 2012 jobs report altered.
  • . . . or if you believe President Obama is part lizard, the Antichrist or a former CIA operative who was teleported to Mars.

If any of these resonate with you as plausible, reasonable or outright true, seek help for ODS immediately. There is no shortage of treatment options. One might begin by cancelling subscriptions to Stormfront, Newsmax, Citizen Magazine, World Net Daily, Conservapedia and World Magazine. Additional recommendations include a Fox “News” fast, putting your “Left Behind” books in the recycle bin and avoiding those personalities who may function as enablers of ODS. Such individuals include Glenn Beck, James Dobson, Rush Limbaugh, Tom Sowell, Laura Ingraham, Texe Marrs, Hal Lindsey, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, Michelle Malkin, Ann Coulter, Allen West and Rick “Man on Dog” Santorum. (This is, of course, not an exhaustive list.)

Side effects resulting from successful ODS treatment may include increased lucidity, rationality, compassion and diminished feelings of inadequacy and self-loathing. People who have recovered from ODS report a significant reduction in suspicion and mistrust of those of different races, religions and cultures. Ask your mental health professional if receiving ODS treatment is right for you.

Mr. Stanley got through that entire list without mentioning  Kenya, Bill Ayers, or the Illinois Bar disciplinary procedures.

You may be suffering from Obama Derangement Syndrome, if the symptoms listed above describe you.

There’s hope for you, if you are a sufferer. ObamaCare covers treatment.

Obama Derangement Syndrome may be a lot more prevalent that he thinks!

More:


It’s raining crazy

January 12, 2013

Sheesh! Did climate change boost the crazy crop, or what?

Without much comment, a few stories that cropped up in the browser today; as the comic writer Dave Barry says, you can’t make this stuff up.  If you were trying to sell it as fiction, they’d laugh you out of the room.  Nobody could be that crazy . . . and yet:

  1. Creationists visited the Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, they found they don’t like what science knows about nature, especially evolution.  Why did they even bother to go?  Story at the Sensuous Curmudgeon.
  2. At Slate, David Weigel wrote about Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s plan to eliminate the state tax on gasoline — the tax that pays for roads and bridges — and instead tax hybrid cars.   It’s stupid, because it dramatically increases taxes on clean air machines, and it creates the wrong incentives for a tax system.  But it’s dramatically crazy because it sucks money out of the funds to build and repair roads and bridges.  As best I can tell, it takes a tax that collects about $100/vehicle now, and imposes a tax on about 5% of cars, of about $100.  There can’t be enough money coming in to replace the tax.  In short, McDonnell’s plan damages jobs, hurts business, and leaves Virginia in the back row of well-run states.  With patriot plans like McDonnell’s, who needs al Quaeda, the Soviet Union, or China?

    RawStory image of Fox News Eric Bolling flunking math on national teleivision

    Fox News’s Eric Bolling calls the distributive property of multiplication “liberal bias.” It must be embarrassing to flunk algebra so publicly on national television. RawStory image

  3. Sometimes the excess of stupid makes you feel embarrassed for them.  Fox News distorter Eric Bolling accused teachers (natch!) of indoctrinating students in algebra classes.  (See what I mean?  You can’t make up this sort of crazy — oh, you don’t see what I mean?  Read on).  Seems Mr. Bolling has discovered — this is exclusive — that there are problems in algebra books that teach the distributive property of multiplication! Can you get much more liberal that that? Bolling wonders.  The rest of us wonder, can Fox News sink any lower in the stupid sump.  (Distributive property.)
  4. Meanwhile, in Tennessee, James Yeager who claims to be a consultant and instructor in security, urges people to arm up for civil war because, Yeager is sure, Obama is coming to get everybody’s guns.  His profanity-laced YouTube rant is off of his site, but preserved for us (fortunately? unfortunately?) at RawStory.  This is a bit too crazy even for West Tennessee — the state suspended the man’s handgun carry permits. (Would he have been so persecuted, had he been living in East Tennessee?)
  5. Hackers exploited a flaw they found in Java 7 — the U.S. Department of Homeland Security can’t figure a fix, and neither has Oracle, so Homeland Security urges businesses to disable Java on their browsers.

    Bildbeschreibung: Frank Zappa-Statue von Vacla...

    There’s a statue to Frank Zappa in Europe, another in Baltimore; Rep. Gingrey, not so much. Frank Zappa-Statue von Vaclav Cesak in Bad Doberan Quelle: selbst fotographiert Fotograf/Zeichner: Hei_ber Datum: 2003 Sonstiges: (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  6. Another Republican Member of the House of Representatives made a burro of himself with comments about rape.  In a bad paraphrase of Frank Zappa, “Rep. Phil Gingrey, what’s gotten into you?”  Gingrey misrepresents a district in Georgia.
  7. The House GOP is still threatening to shoot America’s economy in the head unless Democrats agree to crash the economy in the ditch with draconian, unnecessary and damaging spending cuts.
  8. Anthony Watts already has a half-dozen posts up denying the recent findings that 2012 was the warmest year on record for the contiguous 48 United States.  James Delingpole, at The Daily Mail is just making stuff up.  (Should it be “Gourdian?”) I hadn’t realized there was a King of Denial crown up for grabs.
    Update, January 15, 2013:  Greg Laden reported that the Watts blog has taken crazy to cosmic proportions.

There is good information out there.  I hope there is an army of sane people to get the good information, and sort it from the bad.

I’m going to sleep on it.  Good night!

More:

This one’s for you, Eric Bollinger; from Khan Academy, the Distributive Property of Multiplication:

(Did you notice that the answer was the same under the “liberal” distributive law as it was without its use?)


Are you sure you’re seeing reality? (Richard Wiseman)

December 27, 2012

Brilliant Richard Wiseman short.

TAM London 2009: Richard Wiseman's tricks

TAM London 2009: Richard Wiseman’s tricks (Photo credit: prokrastinuft)

In a time when about half of Americans incorrectly believe the national government is “broke,” and a similar number believe that government should aid rich people but not poor people, and an astonishing number believe that Americans will stop working if they don’t get tax breaks fast, we might want to question whether we’re seeing things realistically.

Wiseman shows how our view may be distorted:

So, we should wonder:  How can we tell whether our views are distorted?

And:  Are our views distorted?  How can we account for that, or amend it?

More:


Gilding lilies with PhotoShop – Mount Fuji and cloud version

November 16, 2012

Take a photo of amazing stuff:

Lenticular cloud over Mt. Fuji, 2003 (?)

Lenticular cloud over Mt. Fuji, 2003 (?)

Then mess it up with PhotoShop:

Photoshopped version of a 2003 photo of Mt. Fuji

Photoshopped version of a 2003 photo of Mt. Fuji

Why?  It’s the old question of why do we need fairies in the garden — isn’t the garden itself enough?

Phil Plait at Bad Astronomy called attention to other fantastic lenticular clouds near Mt. Fuji — are those fantastic formations not enough?

Did the PhotoShopper add anything of value to the picture?  Of what use is a gilded lily?

(Please help — the original photo is identified as an award winner in 2003 — do you know the original photographer?  We should give credit appropriately; I’ve not found the person’s name, yet.)

More:

English: This is the final slide to Phil's pre...

Final slide to Phil’s presentation at the JREF’s TAM6 The Amazing Meeting convention. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Quote of the moment: Al Gore on facing reality

November 25, 2011

Michael Tobis says Gore said it — that’s good enough citation for me:

Reality of climate change crises, Matt Mahurin for Rolling Stone

Matt Mahurin in Rolling Stone, June 11, 2011

Even writing an article like this one carries risks; opponents of the president will excerpt the criticism and strip it of context.

But in this case, the President has reality on his side. The scientific consensus is far stronger today than at any time in the past. Here is the truth: The Earth is round; Saddam Hussein did not attack us on 9/11; Elvis is dead; Obama was born in the United States; and the climate crisis is real. It is time to act.

- Al Gore, in Rolling Stone, June 22, 2011

Actually, Real Aspen has audio of Gore saying stuff like that, and you’ll probably want to listen.  NPR has a story on Gore’s essay in Rolling Stone.


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