Friday, June 29, 2012

2012 Presidential Election Forecast

It's much the same as 4 years ago: I'm not worried, and I'm wondering why so many of my fellow Democrats, and others horrified by Republicans, and ex-Republicans, and so forth, are so worried. I don't think this is going to be close. A lot of people seemed to be really worried in 2008 that McCain-Palin could win. I told them they were being ridiculous, and of course I was right.

Maybe Barackwon't get as many electoral votes in 2012 as he got in 2008 -- maybe -- he got 365 by the way, a little more than twice as many as McCain -- but I'm studying the polls, and I can't see how his chances of carrying every single state he carried in 2008 are any slimmer than Mitt's chances of getting 270.

Could this simply be an example of my autism allowing me to do the math much more easily and correctly than most people? I don't like math, and I can't do it as well as Rain Man or that nice young British man Steve Kroft interviewed on "60 Minutes" who's both an Asperger and a real big deal in the world of math, who has memorized pi to a very unusual number of digits and associates numbers with colors, and on the show he was obviously -- obviously to me -- made very uncomfortable by the surf crashing onto a seawall where Kroft wanted to stop and interview him, although Kroft seemed completely clueless about what it could possibly be which was bothering the young fellow, sorry I can't track down his name -- but I can easily handle the math involved in Presidential elections, without a calculator. Obama has at least 240 electoral votes locked up. At least. That's being very kind to Romney, and saying for the sake of argument that Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina and Florida are all toss-ups. That makes 107 tossup electoral votes, of which Obama needs 30 to be re-elected, and Romney needs 79 to beat him.

Which means Romney won't beat Obama. Okay, fine, be worried. Whatever. I'm right.

And things keep getting worse for the Republicans. They are splitting into two parties, the Tea Party whackos and the regular Republicans, many of whom like Obama better than they like the Tea Party. There are growing cracks in the usual disciplined Republican unity. The fury directed from the Right toward Chief Justice Roberts is just the latest of many such stories this year. Usually it's the Democrats in disarray in election season, savagely attacking each other while the Republicans come together and put aside their squabbles until after November. Other way around this time. Sure, there are the usual Democratic or ex-Democratic or otherwise Leftist nincompoops claiming they were deceived and that now they see that there is no difference between Democrats and Republicans, because their disappointment over one issue has rendered them blind to all of the obvious things in the rest of the world -- but there is no Ralph Nader gathering them together and leading them this time. No King of the Leftist Nincompoops in 2012, as far as the eye can see. No significant third-party madness on the Left, no serious Democratic competing with the POTUS for the nomination.

And on the Right, even if Paul and Santorum and Gingrich and Bachmann and Pawlenty and Huntsman and Perry don't run on any third party tickets they're still all going to get significant numbers of write-in votes from wingnuts who hate Romney, except of course in the case of Huntsman who will get significant numbers of protest votes from moderate Republicans who hate Romney. They're going to get together in Tampa and nominate somebody everybody hates! Romney's a poster boy for party dysfunction.

And the Libertarian party is running a former Governor of New Mexico. In short: there is great disarray on the Right, even if you don't hear much about it, or about other very significant things like how severely and obviously skewed the polls from Rasmussen and others are, from the big media outlets.

Don't worry. Obama 2012. Take it to the bank. If you want to worry about something, worry about why the broadcast networks and CNN keep trying to present this as a close race. If they're really that dumb then that's something to worry about. If they're not that dumb then they're fundamentally dishonest, another thing worth worrying about.

Thursday, June 28, 2012


I let my cat write the headline above. We are both very happy that the Supreme Court announced their decision today that it was not unconstitutional for Congress to pass legislation protecting people's health and making it more difficult for insurance companies to screw people over and less likely that people will go broke just because they happened to get sick in the US.

For now, Obamacare is safe. As most of you probably already know, Obama has embraced the term "Obamacare," although it originated as a term of abuse coined by his political opponents, following the example of the makers of Gothic cathedrals (They got that name because critics said they were barbaric, like hordes of Visigoths.), Know-Nothings, Led Zeppelin (The band had formed but didn't have its name yet when Keith Moon predicted that they would go over like a lead balloon.) punk rockers and others. It's a shrewd political tactic. This guy keeps impressing me. I feel healthier already, and I hope all of you feel better too.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Religious Moderates, Phooey Phooey Phooey!

They're so icky!

They ask high-sounding and dumb questions like, "How can religious societies become less fundamentalist?" and they clearly are not the least bit interested in any sensible replies, such as, "By becoming less religious." Not interested in people pointing out that less religious IS less fundamentalist and vice-versa. They make these RIDICULOUS, STUPID comparisons of fundamentalism and atheism, even going so far as to insist that is such a thing as "fundamentalist atheism," and aren't the least bit interesting in hearing the plain truth, that "moderate" religion is always a potential breeding-ground for fundamentalism and fanaticism, and that atheism almost never is. [PS, 11 June 2017: Clearly, I was wrong about fanatical atheism. At the time I wrote this essay, I knew much less about Dawkins and Harris and New Atheists in general. I had read 2 books by Dawkins on biology, The Selfish Gene and The Ancestor's Tale. When I first heard that there was a thing called New Atheism and that Dawkins was its foremost proponent, I assumed that his writing on atheism and religion would be brilliant, informed and reasonable, just like his work on biology. Of course, this assumption was about as wrong as an assumption could be.]

These awful dingbats. Complaining about "secularists" telling them what to believe. Acting as if they're being oppressed by fanatical atheists, when in reality all that has occurred is that opposing viewpoints are gradually being tolerated. 1,600 years went by in the West with no debate about some very basic things. 1,600 uninterrupted years of anything will get people pretty used to it. But, no, believers, disagreeing with you, calling for an end to your privileged position, even (*sob!*) making fun of you, is not persecuting you.

And no, virtually no atheists anywhere want the West to emulate North Korea in any way.

It's so easy to refute them on all the elaborate mental apparatus with which they interpret the world so as to save a place for belief in God in it. Of course, if you actually broach the question of God's existence -- there's no good reason to do that -- but if you do, more likely than not the "moderate" nincompoop will smugly, triumphantly claim that they define "God" completely differently than you assumed they did.

Which might even actually be true. But was there some fucking reason we were supposed to know which particular weak semantic shell game a particular silly-ass "moderate" was going to play when the subject of God came up? No. There was not. (Another good reason not to touch that subject.)

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Norman Mailer, Ernest Hemingway, Myself and Other Superstars

Hemingwaywrote "d--n" instead of "damn." In some of his works, at least. In The Naked and the Dead,Norman Mailer may have spelled out all of the other dirty words, but instead of "fuck" he wrote "fug."

And it was published and it was a huge success, and the reason, Mailer said, that in all of his later works he spelled out all of the naughty words is that when he was first introduced to Dorothy Parker, she said, "Ah, you're the young man who doesn't know how to spell 'fuck.'"

This would have been the late 40's. Hemmingway was still alive then, he lived until after 1960. I don't know whether he and Mailer ever met. It seems strange to me that I don't know that. I also don't know whether by the late 40's Hemmingway had begun to spell out the naughty words.

Clive Owen plays Hemmingway in a new HBO movie. He wears spectacles and a big moustache and a goofy expression, but still it's very flattering physically to Hemmingway.

Okay, okay. I'm not complaining about how much better-looking Cate Blanchett is than Elizabeth I was, or that Owen played Walter Raleigh opposite Blanchett.

And if we get right down to it (Mailer was a shrimp!), it's possible that if I had had more success as a writer, and as a young writer like Hemmingway and Mailer, I might have spent less of my life sneering at Hemmingway and Mailer.

That's either all the way right down to it, or painfully close.

Close Encounters With Real-Life Idiots, Part However Many it Is Now

IDIOT: Just for the record, "infidel" was what the Muslim and Arab religions referred to Christians as... during the crusades in particular.. - it IS defined as a broad term in the dictionary... but I have never hear Christians refer to those of other religions as "infidels."

(For the record, no less!)

ME: "And what concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?" —2 Corinthians 6:15. "But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel." —1 Timothy 5:8. King James Version.

IDIOT: As I said - it has broad meanings... that it is referenced in the bible - it not at all surprising.. The writings in the bible are referenced and written from people from the same geographical areas.. where non-Chistians may have been referenced as infidels... as a common term in that time and part of the world.. I believe I was clear that during the Crusades - it was the Muslims and other Arabic sects etc. who referred to the Christian invaders as "Infidels"... that it has raised so much attention to detail is delightful.


Anybody have any Earthly idea what this dingbat finds delightful here? I welcome guesses, including wild ones.

That's the entire exchange between me and this particular idiot. Am I growing more impatient, or just wiser? Either way I saw no point in rejecting his "As I said" and pointing out that what I said clearly contradicted what he said. Because, how much more clear could it be? And how much more clear could it be that this person refuses to see the very numerous instances where what he has said is wrong? (This refusal is key to being and remaining an idiot.)

I'm still enraged and appalled by the idiocy, but unlike earlier exchanges I've recorded here, this time I had no desire to extend the exchange further than: Idiot says something nonsensical; I point out it's wrong; Idiot says: Yeah, that's what I said.

This doesn't mean I don't care about idiocy any more, that I no longer regard it as a serious problem. It means I'm stumped. I don't know how to help these people.

Maybe shame might help: videotape idiots behaving idiotically, show the tape to the idiots surrounded by roomfuls of relatively-normal people, which of course would cause the idiots to wonder what all the derisive laughter was about. Might. Might cause them to wonder. I don't know. As wise men before me have pointed out, stupidity is tenacious.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Selling the Lie About the Harmony Between Religion and Science

Karl Giberson is completely full of shit -- but chances are you knew that already, if you're familiar with his work.

He writes: "I have on my desk a delightful little book titled Galileo Goes to Jail and Other Myths about Science and Religion.Myth is employed here in the popular sense and the title essay explains that the harsh treatment of Galileo by the Inquisition -- torture, imprisonment -- has no basis in fact. It is a made-up story -- a myth."

I never heard stories about Galileo being tortured and thrown into a dungeon until I heard apologists refuting them. Of course, the apologists' refutation is misleading, as is their assertion of what the story used to be. Galileo was threatened with torture, and he was imprisoned -- in two of his houses, which certainly were much more comfortable than dungeons, much as today's minimum-security prisons for Wall Street criminals and other perpetrators of Ponzi schemes are more comfortable than maximum-security prisons, but he was still confined. And he was only not tortured because he signed documents saying that he didn't believe what he did believe about science. That's definitely a serious conflict between science and religion.

I have an interesting little book on my desk: Sources of the Jesus Tradition: Separating History from Myth.

That sort of thing is obviously not for everybody.

"To take root in deeply religious America," prattles Giberson, "evolution needs to be a better myth."

No. Replacing bullshit with better bullshit only benefits purveyors of bullshit. Like Giberson and the author of that little book on his desk. And most of the other people who write about religion for HP. Giberson is pushing their tired myth about the harmony and scinece, not, as, they claim, for the sake of science, but for the sake of religion and their phony-baloney jobs.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

When You're Poor For a Long Time --

-- you learn to really stretch a buck. Which is good, it's a good skill to have, buck-stretching. But then recently I became less poor, and sometimes I've been stretching the dollar unnecessarily. Without thinking about it, by instinct. For example, for several years, my home had a completely unnecessary lack of flyswatters, because I had attained the level of wealth where buying a flyswatter would not break my budget, but it continued not to occur to me to buy one.

But those several years too had a big and unexpected upside. After several years of swatting flies with rolled-up newspapers, and with towels, and with books, and whatever other less-than-ideally-suited object was at hand, after I finally smacked myself on the forehead and went out and bought that flyswatter, I found that my skills had been honed to a very fine edge. With the proper instrument, now I am deadly. An anti-fly ninja. Fugettaboutit. I see a fly, it's dead, like in the time it takes me to walk over there. Doesn't matter how old and wily the sucker is. It's history, and it's easy.

The glass is half-full. Always. Whether you can see it or not. It just is.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

I Just Have to Share This With Someone

It's a review, by Pierre-Olivier Leroy, on the Bryn Mawr Classical Review website, of volume 10, the index, of a Greek-German bilingual edition, by Stefan Radt, of Strabo's Geography.

That's right, it's a review of just the index. The index of an edition of the work on geography by the 1st-century AD Greek scholar Strabo, a multi-volume edition with the Greek text on the left and a German translation on the facing page. Dr Leroy's review is about 1000 words long, and it's in French. Leroy's conclusion is that the volume is indispensable.

Classical scholars will find nothing at all remarkable about a thousand-word-long rave review in French of the index to an edition of Strabo with facing-page German translation in an American online Classical studies journal. Maybe very few people in the world but me (an autodidact, not a bona fide scholar with academic bona fides) care about these sorts of things. If there's anyone reading this who's a lot like me, trust me, they're fascinated. This multi-lingualism is what has replaced the recent wider use of Latin I described in my recent post Change is Bad, and demonstrates why I wonder why people don't still use Latin the way they did a century ago. I mean, I like things like thousand-word-long rave reviews in French of the indices to editions of ancient Greek authors with facing-page German translations in American classical studies journals. I love things like that. You probably can't imagine how much I love such things, unless you happen to be rather eccentric in certain ways resembling Jorge Luis Borges or Umberto Eco. But although I am positively beaming, I really can't see how such a state of affairs is practical, compared to everybody writing everything in these journals in Latin. Change is bad.

I don't know, maybe there are a lot of you who are eccentric in such ways. Who, for instance, will smile with real wry pleasure when you learn that I learned today that Strabo's name is spelled the same way in German and in French. If there are I wish you would get in touch with me already, it's lonely out here in the cold all by myself.

Misunderstanding Nietzsche

Nietzsche is very widely misunderstood about some of his central viewpoints. He's associated with Schopenhauer's pessimistic (depressed) outlook, and not without reason. One of his early works is an admiring take on Schopenhauer. But he rejected that pessimism outlook in the most emphatic way imaginable, even while suffering health problems which might have left many people very depressed.

Another reason why Nietzsche is often misunderstood is because his most popular book, Also Sprach Zarathustra,is written entirely in mostly-cryptic verse, and people have tended to see whatever they want to see in it, the way children see duckies and horsies in puffy white clouds. (He wrote once, in reference to Wagner,that artists often don't know what they themselves do best, because they're too vain to see their own work for what it is. I think this ironically applies to Nietzsche himself. He called Zarathustra his best book. I think his best work is his prose, especially when he's being very direct.)

Then there's the perception that Nietzsche was antisemitic. Not true. However, his brother-in-law led an antisemitic political movement, and his sister did all she could to associate his name with that movement, despite his vehement objections. Also, Richard Wagner, Nietzsche's mentor for a while, to whom Die Geburt der Tragödieis downright gushingly dedicated, was antisemitic -- or, in Nietzsche's account of things, let himself be associated with anti-semites. (Whom Nietzsche referred to as the lowest of the low. How much more clear could he have been?) (And Schopenhauer was antisemitic too.)

It's true that Nietzsche was stupidly sexist, though. In his published works, whenever he mentions women, that brilliant mind just gets shut off. He rarely mentions any individual women, just refers to "die Frau" as such, or, oftener, "das Weib," which is a slightly less respectful way of referring to women. After knowing only his philosophical works, it was quite a surprise for me to read some of his lettersand find him writing to and about individual women in a civilized and friendly way. (Even more surprising that they wrote back, if they'd read his books. He must have been very charming indeed.)

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Gore Vidal, Political Populist and Literary Snob

Gore Vidal's essays on politics and those in the form of memoir are glorious, but he more than makes up for it with his literary essays, which basically consist of contempt for writers and their readers who are not of his aristocratic class and or, among contemporary writers, his personal friends. In the essay collection At Home there is a Part I, consisting, oh boy oh boy! of delightful telling of anecdotes from Vidal's amazing life, peppered with good angry funny political populism, and a Part II consisting, oh Jesus, oh no, of Vidal pompously and dully lecturing the reader about American writers who have had the nerve to win more awards than he has, and to make ends meet by teaching, instead of from coming from a wealthy family like he did, the barbarians who *cringe* went to public schools -- the bad American kind, not the good English kind which produced some of Vidal's friends who it's an outrage they didn't get the Nobel Prize cause it's all a conspiracy of mediocrity among people who weren't taught the classics and have an (understandable, of course) envious rage against the cool kids like Gore.


Except that one of the essays in Part I belongs in Part II because it mostly consists of spleen against those of us who waste our lives with trash like Gaddis and Gass, and, oh dear, even uncouth types such as Pynchon, instead of having the common decency to love Louis Auchincloss for having continued the tradition of George Eliot, Henry James and Edith Wharton. (Never mind that Gaddis and Pynchon are just as upperclass as Vidal, Pynchon maybe even a little more, but Gaddis committed the crime of becoming good buds with that professor Gass, who lives in St Louis, my God! and Pynchon, worse still, often convincingly writes in the cadences of us regular folks.) I'm talking about the essay "Frederic Prokosch: the European Connection." Prokosch was cool with Vidal because he came from that same American boarding-school background, was an expat like Vidal is part-time, and, most important of all, because he dripped with the same instinctive contempt for non-snobbish writers.

I just want to talk about the end of the essay: Vidal has taken his friend Prokosch (why??) to a party chock-full of his bêtes noires, American poets who have won awards and who teach college classes. Vidal's description of these people is petty and gratuitously cruel, and, twenty-some years after first having read it -- pardon me, folks, sometimes I'm slow -- it only now occurs to me to wonder how accurate his descriptions of the persons are. (His descriptions of their books are pretty much completely worthless.) He writes that all these boors have just agreed that the classics are worthless -- Did they? It occurs to me, unforgivably late, that this is the sort of thing I tend to encounter in Vidal's depictions of writers he hates, and nowhere else; for instance, nowhere in the writing of those writers -- which inspires Prokosch to the classy act of reciting some lines of Vergil, after which he will calmly inform these tenured unwashed where he used to read them every day, carved in marble in the gardens of the Villa Borghese "at Rome," so there! And he will go on to say, "I'd think, that is what poetry is, something that can be carved in marble, something that can still be beautiful to read after so many centuries."

The implication, which of course Prokosch was too cultured to say, and Vidal too cultured to write, being that centuries after the world had forgotten this entire roomful of college-teachin' boors, the best people would continue to read Vergil and Prokosch and Vidal.

Yeah, maybe so. Vergil, anyway. But as I said, I wonder whether those people Gore Vidal hates so much really did say anything like "The classics are worthless." It has been known to happen that a party guest was so choked with booze and bile that it affected his hearing. According to Vidal, as Prokosch began to recite Vergil, a "full professor" murmured to his "full wife," "It's Dante." (Hey, Gore, you're fat too! Sometimes you act like you don't know it.) Cause he wuz just what passes for a full professor in Amurrka these days, and ain't never even been to no public school and cain't even tell no Latin from no Eye-talian! hyuck hyuck hyuck...

This was the point and peak of Vidal's punchline in the joke he made of these partygoers. But maybe in reality it was all very different. Maybe these professors and their spouses -- according to Vidal it was all professors and their wives, as if there were no female professors and no gay professors to be found in the Hudson Valley in the 1980's. Add that to the list of unrealistic details in Vidal's portrait of American academia and American prizewinning literature -- maybe they appreciated the classics very much, and were also bright enough to perceive Vidal's and Prokosch's misguided disdain, although too polite to return it in a manner pointed enough that Vidal could perceive it. (Why were the two of them there? Is it completely farfetched to wonder if they might go to a party full of American professor-poets solely in order to wallow in their own disdain?) Maybe that man knew quite well that Prokosch was reciting Vergil, and what he really whispered to that woman was something actually quite witty, like, "We're officially going to Hell now. I feel like Dante."