node created 2019/09/29
Political or military commentators, like astrologers, can survive almost any mistake, because their more devoted followers do not look to them for an appraisal of the facts but for the stimulation of nationalistic loyalties.
"Notes on Nationalism"
People think being alone makes you lonely, but I don't think that's true. Being surrounded by the wrong people is the loneliest thing in the world.
Minor drug offenders fill your prisons
You don't even flinch
All our taxes paying for your wars
Against the new non-rich
"Prison Song"
Remember this. The people you're trying to step on, we're everyone you depend on. We're the people who do your laundry and cook your food and serve your dinner. We make your bed. We guard you while you're asleep. We drive the ambulances. We direct your call. We are cooks and taxi drivers and we know everything about you. We process your insurance claims and credit card charges. We control every part of your life.

We are the middle children of history, raised by television to believe that someday we'll be millionaires and movie stars and rock stars, but we won't. And we're just learning this fact. So don't fuck with us.
"Fight Club"
Suppose that humans happen to be so constructed that they desire the opportunity for freely undertaken productive work. Suppose that they want to be free from the meddling of technocrats and commissars, bankers and tycoons, mad bombers who engage in psychological tests of will with peasants defending their homes, behavioral scientists who can't tell a pigeon from a poet, or anyone else who tries to wish freedom and dignity out of existence or beat them into oblivion.
Whenever I am in a place where you have to wait a lot, like at a bus station, nearly everyone is swiping at their phone.

They all look like crack addicts scratching for rocks in an alleyway.
There are two kinds of light - the glow that illuminates, and the glare that obscures.
Prejudice is an emotional commitment to ignorance.
We're constantly being bombarded by insulting and humiliating music, which people are making for you the way they make those Wonder Bread products. Just as food can be bad for your system, music can be bad for your spirtual and emotional feelings. It might taste good or clever, but in the long run, it's not going to do anything for you.
Unpopular ideas can be silenced, and inconvenient facts kept dark, without the need for any official ban. Anyone who has lived long in a foreign country will know of instances of sensational items of news — things which on their own merits would get the big headlines-being kept right out of the British press, not because the Government intervened but because of a general tacit agreement that ‘it wouldn’t do’ to mention that particular fact. So far as the daily newspapers go, this is easy to understand. The British press is extremely centralised, and most of it is owned by wealthy men who have every motive to be dishonest on certain important topics. But the same kind of veiled censorship also operates in books and periodicals, as well as in plays, films and radio. At any given moment there is an orthodoxy, a body of ideas which it is assumed that all right-thinking people will accept without question. It is not exactly forbidden to say this, that or the other, but it is ‘not done’ to say it, just as in mid-Victorian times it was ‘not done’ to mention trousers in the presence of a lady. Anyone who challenges the prevailing orthodoxy finds himself silenced with surprising effectiveness. A genuinely unfashionable opinion is almost never given a fair hearing, either in the popular press or in the highbrow periodicals.
There we go, now the entire conversation is everything or nothing, you're either with them or against them. Then it's off into personal attacks and arguments about followers and etc.

Nobody is talking to each other in any of that. They're just posting for everyone else to see.

The medium is the message and twitter is dumb, and it makes everyone on it dumb.
An efficient and valuable man does what he can, whether the community pay him for it or not.
Given the track record of institutional science and the ever-growing list of regulatory failures, moral failures and outright abuses pushed in the guise of scientific expertise, why do so many people seem to think that simply doubling down and bullying the general population into compliance with expert consensus will ever work? What if institutional science in the US has a legitimacy crisis because it has failed to police its own corruption and failed to address its own limitations and vulnerabilities? What if everyday people can see this more clearly than those striving on the margins of these institutions?

Personally, as a scientist, I am comforted that there are enough others out there who doubt the entire notion of a scientific establishment that the population should "trust" to make decisions without oversight. Our numbers are growing, and I know many people who fight every day to ensure we will never be ruled by unquestionable expert consensus. Anyone who has been inside these institutions knows exactly how petty and arbitrary the hierarchical structures can be. I'd rather be ruled over by elite families than squabbling, territorial, overconfident scientists who can be bought off for nothing and blackmailed easily.

I think the constant stream of these articles just illustrates the massive social blind spot that comes from training STEM professionals solely for careers rather than for citizenship, communication and community membership. STEM training itself has sadly become a hierarchical, cult-like, anti-intellectual system that deprives students of critical thinking skills.
If your algorithm doesn’t allow a pedophile to irreversibly scramble his drive and avoid prosecution, it can’t be used by freethinkers under ideological oppression to hide state-banned books. If your messaging app won’t let someone safely plan bombing the Super Bowl, it can’t be used by an activist to reveal human rights abuses. If your map doesn’t let poachers stalk rhinos without alerting rangers, it can’t be used by ethnic minorities to escape purges.
Every powerful state relies on specialists whose task is to show that what the strong do is noble and just and, if the weak suffer, it is their fault.

In the West, these specialists are called "intellectuals" and, with marginal exceptions, they fulfill their task with skill and self-righteousness, however outlandish the claims, in this practice that traces back to the origins of recorded history.
If it isn’t illegal, it isn’t strong enough. If the government doesn’t denounce it, it isn’t good enough.
I think the argument is clear. A few people in the West have found ways to abuse the political system in a few marginal ways and get away with it for limited periods until independent journalism, public opinion and the courts stop them.

However they get away with it for a while. Therefore it's ok to have an entire political system in China, constructed entirely out of the abuse or elimination of the rights of it's people, with no way to challenge their leaders or hold them accountable.

I make no claims for the validity of the argument.

nailed it.

Moreover, I'd like to have all the extremist argumentation slapped the fuck down by intellectuals in public. Given the way things are going however, it's as though transparency and public discussion were anathema to those with power to censor.

I mean, it can't possibly be that some jack-ass white supremacist, trash-ass ISIS goon, or wank-ass Hillary Trumponite, were hard to repudiate -- unless your own wack bullshit depends on similar constructions. Then it's really hard without stabbing yourself in the back.
To state it in slightly different terms: in those critical years [roughly from age 17 to 20] I learned how to be alone.

This formulation doesn't really capture my meaning. I didn't, in any literal sense learn to be alone, for the simple reason that this knowledge had never been unlearned during my childhood. It is a basic capacity in all of us from the day of our birth. However these 3 years of work in isolation, when I was thrown onto my own resources, following guidelines which I myself had spontaneously invented, instilled in me a strong degree of confidence, unassuming yet enduring, in my ability to do mathematics, which owes nothing to any consensus or to the fashions which pass as law.

[..]

By this I mean to say: to reach out in my own way to the things I wished to learn, rather than relying on the notions of the consensus, overt or tacit, coming from a more or less extended clan of which I found myself a member, or which for any other reason laid claim to be taken as an authority. This silent consensus had informed me, both at the lyé and at the university, that one shouldn't bother worrying about what was really meant when using a term like "volume", which was "obviously self-evident", "generally known", "unproblematic", etc. I'd gone over their heads, almost as a matter of course, even as Lesbesgue himself had, several decades before, gone over their heads. It is in this gesture of "going beyond", to be something in oneself rather than the pawn of a consensus, the refusal to stay within a rigid circle that others have drawn around one - it is in this solitary act that one finds true creativity. All others things follow as a matter of course.
"The Life of a Mathematician - Reflections and Bearing Witness" (1986)
These huge TOS agreements are akin to governmental authoritarian control. Everyone has broken something in them, we are all a criminal. Knowing this, we all live in fear knowing that it's not a matter of 'if' but 'when' the government/corporate overlord can cancel everything we've been working on or living for because of an obscure clause that no one has ever read, which was created for this very purpose.
So we should, I think, stop trying to fool ourselves when we say that we don't care about things, or that we want to help, but we don't help the things that are obvious and directly in front of our face. We should try to work together, I think, to try to build independent structures to replace the parts of the state that have been dismantled.

This is something which is I think highfallutin and difficult for people to grok, but part of the reason that we loose so much in our societies is because we don't have democratic control over the things that matter to us.

So what we need to do is to try to replace those structures. The structures especially that are missing. And that includes stuff that's not very sexy, like child care or education, as well as, you know, open and free base bands for cell phones. It's all related. So I think we have to move from a world where we act, not just a world where we react.
Love is all we have, the only way that each can help the other.
"Orestes" (408 BC)
'I feel, you know, I hurt, please help.' I'm saying words, man, and if I look at an audience and they ain't understanding me, it's just like getting kicked in the teeth.
As individuals, we need to stop expecting shortcuts. We need to learn to reject rewards we haven’t earned. When someone asks us something we don’t know, we need to be confident enough to say so, and suggest someone who might. Because we all want a meritocracy, and the only way we get one is by being brave enough to believe it can actually happen. If we keep acting like an industry of frauds who would be thrown out were it not for our self-aggrandizement and our politicking, we will have exactly that industry. As individuals, we’ll be better hustlers than we will developers. Fuck that shit.
No, no. It's ok to do that to the lower classes, because this keeps costs down, which lets the upper classes get more. This increase in wealth will eventually trickle down to the lower classes in the form of more shitty, underpaid jobs. Because, you know, companies just hire people out of the goodness of their hearts when they have more money. It has nothing to do with the level of demand at all.
It is very sad then that so many children are hurried along and not given time to think about themselves. People say to them when they think that they have been playing long enough: “You are no longer a child. You must begin to do something.” But although playing is doing nothing, you are really doing something when you play; you are thinking about yourself. Many children play in the wrong way. They make work out of play. They not only seem to be doing something, they really are doing something. They are imitating the grown-ups around them who are always doing as much instead of as little as possible. And they are often encouraged to play in this way by the grown-ups. And they are not learning to be themselves.
We all seek to know whether we shall be rich; but no one asks whether he shall be good.
Laughter helps one to find a place in the world, but ironically, which is to say, without selling one’s soul to it.
I love quotations because it is a joy to find thoughts one might have, beautifully expressed with much authority, by someone recognized wiser than oneself.
[Q: Isn't there a certain calculus that someone who is sitting in the shoes of a Condoleezza Rice can make, that they're responsible for the best outcome for American citizens, and there's an upside of going into Iraq which is we get one of the greatest material possessions in world's history, and there're downsides which are: we upset the international community, and maybe there's more terrorism. Couldn't you envision a calculus where they say, sure, that's the reason, and it's a good reason, let's do it. What's the flaw in the calculus?]

Oh, I think that's exactly their calculus. But then we ought to just be honest and say, "Look, we're a bunch of Nazis." So fine, let's just drop all the discussion, we save a lot of trees, we can throw out the newspapers and most of the scholarly literature, and just come out, state it straight, and tell the truth: we'll do whatever we want because we think we're gonna gain by it. And incidently, it's not American citizens who'll gain. They don't gain by this. It's narrow sectors of domestic power that the administration is serving with quite unusual dedication...
Talk titled "Why Iraq?" at Harvard University, November 4, 2002