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Fri Sep 16, 2011 at 07:50 AM PDT

Truth and Progressivism

by Cartoon Messiah

Despite his principled resistance to the concept of martyrdom, the great German philosopher, Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, clearly sacrificed himself for the truth. After resigning due to ill health from his position of professor of the University of Basel, he lived a spartan, hermetic lifestyle, wracked with an illness that is now thought to have been syphilis, as Nietzsche scholar Walter Kaufmann describes:

He is shy, about five-foot-eight, but a little stooped, almost blind, reserved, unaffected, and especially polite; he lives in modest boarding houses in Sils Maria, Nizza, Mentone, Rome, Turin.

To the outside observer, he must have appeared a pitiful shadow of a man. But he burned with an unparalleled intensity in his inner world, producing dozens of lengthy philosophical volumes in just fifteen years. His four part masterpiece, Also Sprach Zarathustra, was written in under two years in a grand style reminiscent of the Old Testament.

Nietzsche called himself a friend of the truth, but he also realized that in order to become the man that Diogenes sought with a lamp in the broad daylight of  ancient Athens, he had to attack that which he loved most of all:

A very popular error: having the courage of one's convictions; rather it is a matter of having the courage for an attack on one's convictions.

Polonius would be proud of this succinct crystallization of the scientific method. But those who seek wisdom must question even their quest for wisdom, and wisdom itself.

What is truth?
asked Pontus Pilate, words which Nietzsche believed to be the wisest spoken in the entire New Testament.

And so those who seek the truth arrive at a dangerous question mark: is nothing true? and if so, how do we, as empathic and social creatures, reconcile this with the violence of the natural world (ourselves included) and avoid the doctrine:

Nothing is true/Everything is permitted

Progressives strive to maintain a reality based community, and it is precisely because of this principled stance that we must have the courage to examine our progressive values and attempt to discern our justifications for possessing them, following again the scientific method...

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One of the leitmotifs of the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche is Amor Fati - which he takes to mean the ability to love and learn from that which does us harm. That when we are done wrong or suffer hardship we should strive to glean from such suffering the opportunity to learn and to grow.

I don't really quite know where Obama completely lost me. It was probably the tar sands. While I have often been highly critical of the President, I have had trouble making up my mind about how much support, if any, to continue to provide. I think I stopped liking him a while ago... probably after a few months in office he became just another politician.

I have spent the interim vacillating between calls to outright anarchy to just sucking it up and digging in to a deep survival trip. However, regardless of my desperate attempts to find some firm ideological yet non-dogmatic ground on which to stand and defend some principles amid a sea of squishy thirdwayism, I have always carried in me the realization that Obama is also a teacher to those who have become - either gradually or all of a sudden - utterly disappointed in him...

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I grew up a 70s baby, early 80s child in suburban middle-America, raised by European hipsters who had partied with the Yardbirds and Jimi Hendrix in 60s London. My nursery rhymes were things like, "I Am the Walrus, goo-goo gachoo" and "The Answer is Blowing in the Wind".

While my parents' marriage exploded, my early teenage years were spent with my chuck taylors and doc martins firmly glued to the deck of a skateboard, flying as fast as I could through the concrete jungle. I was a punk, a misfit, a rebel giving the middle finger to my vapid surroundings. I searched for meaning in a broken world, remaining completely drug-free for most of my HS years, including eschewing both alcohol and cigarettes.

I was disenchanted with the normalness of suburban American High School. The stupid conformity. The apparent willingness to jump through all the right hoops that I observed in my peers. I was a GT student who refused to do my homework, because it bored the shit out of me to regurgitate a bunch of answers that I had learned by heart the very first week the textbook was put in my knowledge-hungry hands. I had no interest in the drudgery of imposed knowledge. An intrepid explorer since the first time I stepped into the woods, I wanted to learn of other worlds, other thoughts, other paths than the well-trodden, safe and reliable roads that my 'elders and betters' forced me to walk down.

I became depressed, and watched a lot of TV. I had always fought against the machine - now I was sucked into it. I stopped thinking, I stopped exploring, I became a reclusive spectator. I had been turned on to the machine.
Then one day someone turned me on to something new...

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Those who advocate for a world liberated from the monopoly of the state lack the historical sense and the intellectual rigor needed to comprehend that said monopoly has enabled all of the things that such people cherish, from bourgeois society to open markets. For that which existed prior to the bourgeois republics that have come be the dominant paradigm of the contemporary world and which inevitably led to the development of these republics was precisely the private ownership of the means of not only production, but of existence itself, which was in turn the result of fortunate, aggressive and opportunistic individuals who through organized violence and the imprimatur of organized religion dominated humanity, thereby curtailing the latent power of every individual to create its own reality.

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Wed Dec 08, 2010 at 06:14 PM PST

Larry Summers? Really?

by Cartoon Messiah

Larry Freakin' Summers?
The Larry Summers who got his ass fired from the Obama Administration's National Economic Council?

Is that the best they can do at this point? I mean, Larry Summers has less credibility than Donald "N/S/E/W of Baghdad" Rumsfeld, fer cryin' out loud!

Or, is this more  of that "eleventh-dimensional chess" we heard so much about? I am starting to believe that the Obama Administration IS playing chess - with the American Public. Is Summers just the flavor of the week?

If so, I mean jeez, what a sorry pick.

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The recent decision by the House Foreign Affairs committee to condemn Turkey for committing genocide against the Armenian people is a sterling example of US hypocrisy and lack of historical sense.

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I'm in the process of completing my application for U.S. citizenship, and this little question jumped out at me:

Have you ever advocated (either directly or indirectly) the overthrow of any government by force or violence?

Yes, I realize that all most Americans had to do to become citizens of this great land was to be born within its borders, or be of American parentage. However, IF U.S. citizens had to take this exam to be confirmed in their citizenship, many would have said citizenship revoked.

Especially right-wingers.

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Tue Dec 15, 2009 at 04:21 PM PST

Screw Health Care Reform

by Cartoon Messiah

I purposely refrained from using far more colorful language in the title.
I am starting to wonder if we really deserve HCR right now.

We spend over $400 billion dollars per annum on 'defense'.

We have over 700 military installations all over the world.

We, a mere 5% of the Earth's dominant life form, use a quarter of its resources.

We, the people of the United States, are kept in thrall by multi-national corporations who use our government as if it were a free PR firm, presenting us with a political scene which is little more than legerdemain.

We are so desperate for the crumbs our own government, duly elected by us, should deign to spill, that we are willing to compromise, and compromise, and compromise away all our demands, until we are left with less than nothing, a farce and a sick joke on the American people.

There are places in America that gladly pay corporations to screw them over.

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War, in one form or another, appeared with the first man. At the dawn of history, its morality was not questioned; it was simply a fact, like drought or disease - the manner in which tribes and then civilizations sought power and settled their differences.

- U.S. President Barack Obama, Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech

In this diary I wish to focus on the absolute falseness of this assertion, in light of recent (and not-so-recent) developments in the fields of philosophy, anthropology, and archaeology.

The key to understanding the assertion made in the above quotation is the lingering dominance of the Hobbesian view that primitive human existence was, "nasty, brutish and short." This notion, although it continues to be widely held by lay-people, has been wholly refuted by the results of contemporary study of pre-historic and primitive humans.

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McClatchy reports that the Obama Administration has given the go-ahead for Shell Oil to begin exploratory drilling in the Chukchi Sea, part of the Arctic Ocean that borders north-western Alaska.

President Bush admitted in his 2006 State of the Union address that "we have a serious problem, America is addicted to oil." Indeed. In the normal course of addiction, an addict becomes more willing to engage in high-risk behavior and suffer greater negative consequences in order to secure the next fix.

- Rick Steiner, Anchorage Daily News 2/2008

In an ironic twist of news during the initial days of the Copenhagen Climate talks, the U.S. Department of Interior will allow Shell Oil to drill three exploratory wells in Northern Alaska. The area has been the subject of much political controversy, and any move to drill there is naturally opposed by Environmentalists.

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We live in interesting times indeed. The two hot-button issues of the week are the escalation of the war in Afghanistan and the international climate change summit in Copenhagen, Denmark.
These two topics are not independent of each other. They are, in fact, inextricably linked to one another.

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Thu Dec 03, 2009 at 06:56 PM PST

I Can't Quit You, Babe

by Cartoon Messiah

Much has been made of late of 'Obama haters'. Leaving aside the obvious pack of racists, throwbacks, and narrow-minded squares colloquially known as 'teabaggers', I don't think there are many people who hate the current occupant of the White House. There are those who are angry at his policy decisions, and there are those who could simply care less about politics.

I am among those who oppose from the left some of the policy decisions - health care reform, DADT & LGBT rights, economic reforms, and most of all the escalation of the war on Afghanistan. What I would like for steadfast supporters to understand is that, as such a person, I by no means hate our President.

I will try to make this point herein with a loose analogy.

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