Showing posts from February, 2020

What is Progress?

Progress does not mean movement that closes in on some ultimate goal.  Nor does progress imply a single direction to history.  Progress is movement away from past errors and terrors - movement outward , in an infinite number of directions.  We measure progress not by our proximity to perfection, but by our distance from oppression.  And this distance is not measured in years - the mere passage of time does not imply progress.  To think that it does is to fail to understand the second law of thermodynamics.  The comparison I keep coming back to is gravity.  Moving out, away, exploring the vast unknown universe of possibilities requires attaining escape velocity.  An enormous amount of force and energy must be used, directed with extreme precision.  This will be and is such an enormous cost of resources that most of what we are must be fuel , burned up and ejected for this purpose alone.  If we were ever to stop thrusting outward, we would not be able to maintain our position - instea
There is more than a whiff of weird, inverted idealism when Sartre makes his Romantic pronouncements about how only the dead are truly free.  Water Benjamin was much closer to the truth when he said, "Even the dead are not safe."

Is this the end of the world?

Does global anthropogenic climate change mean the end of the world? [The following text was originally part of “ The Snap of Thanos ,” but it was getting so big and bulky that I decided to make it a separate entry. You might want to read the rest of the original article for context.  In that essay, I make reference to the Fermi Paradox - not really a paradox, but a strange fact, which is difficult to explain: namely, that we can see billions of stars, and yet we see absolutely no evidence of alien civilization, or alien life of any kind, anywhere.]  Is this the end of the world? First of all, we need to be asking this question.  The stakes really are high enough that this is the frame in we should be thinking. We have to give up the notion that there is some "Mother Nature" that is keeping everything in balance, which will ensure our continued survival.  Given the Fermi Paradox, the inescapable conclusion is that nature - the entire 93 billion lightyears of it

On Cancel Culture

Freedom of association also implies the freedom not to associate with people, especially if they violate your ethical system.  Since I believe in freedom of association, I don't think it should be illegal to "cancel" anyone, or, as it used to be known, to shun, to ostracize. I think there are even times when it is warranted. It's one of the few tools, besides praise and condemnation, that a non-coercive society can use to modify anti-social behavior.  There is a long history of ostracism and shunning, from ancient Greece to the Amish.  I have a great deal of sympathy with Alonzo Fyfe's ethical theory of Desirism , which would seem to provide a moral basis for cancel culture.  Not only that, but there is a kind of "bottom-up" "spontaneous" "emergent" quality to cancel culture, which more formal, hierarchical disciplinary measures lack, which I partly find appealing in a romantic, quasi-anarchist way, though I recognize that


My position on Russiagate is nuanced... nuanced as in, "meh." 1) I never denied that Russian "meddling" in the US election in 2016 happened.  I'm pretty sure it did happen, to one extent or another. 2) But I don't really know. 3) And I don't really care. 4) Let me modify and clarify that: so far as I know, Russia didn't do anything that I care about during the 2016 US election.  But that doesn't mean that there couldn't, potentially, be something that Russia did that I don't know about which I would be very, very concerned about. 5) When people say that Russia "hacked" the American election, what exactly are they accusing the Russians of doing?  Two things, as far as I can tell:      a) They are accused of setting up teams of trolls who personally and by way of bots put up messages on social media, including facebook.            i) That is not "hacking" by any reasonable definition of the term "hack

My Position, in Two Steps

I know, I can be wordy.  I write a lot about a wide variety of subjects.  Sometimes it can be hard to see where I am coming from. So I hope, in this entry, to give an extremely brief overview of my political perspective, which will of necessity involve massive over-simplifications.  But hopefully this will be a good starting point, and I can work out subtler nuances in other writings. The shortest way to say it is that I am trying to work out a position somewhere between socialism and anarchism.  I think it was a big mistake when the ("first") International (Workingmen's Association) split at the Hague Conference in 1872.  I don't claim to know all the answers. I don't even claim to have a fully coherent and worked-out worldview.  In fact, I will fully admit that there is a fundamental tension - maybe even a contradiction - in my position.  So here is my position, such as it is, in two steps  (please reserve judgment until you've read both steps): St

Don't Throw Elizabeth Warren Under the Bus

Proud Snake   This is not a pep rally. On breadbook and breadtube and breadtwitter (i.e. the leftist subcultures within facebook, youtube, and twitter) these days, you'll see a lot of people complaining about Elizabeth Warren's base.  They say that her constituency tends to be, on average, better educated, that they tend to have a slightly higher income than the national median, that they are disproportionately white, English-speaking, etc., etc..  In short, her leftist critics say that Warren's constituency is the PMC: the professional-managerial class, as described by Barbara and John Ehrenreich in their famous 1977 article printed in the book Between Labor and Capital (1979), which argued that a new class had emerged neither bourgeois nor proletariat.  This has, in turn, set off a renewed debate over the Ehrenreichs' thesis, its defenders pitted against more traditional Marxists, who assert that no such third class exists, that the Ehrenreichs proceeded from a

What I Got Right and What I Got Wrong

Since the 90s, I have been making predictions in my head and for anyone who cared to listen.  In some ways I think I was pretty prescient; in others, I was way, way off. Back in the 90s, I noticed some dynamics in the two major political parties in the United States.  First of all, I noticed - as did just about everyone with a brain and a pulse - that the Democrats were drifting to the "center," moving further and further to the right every year, until they were almost indistinguishable from the Republicans.  This was true throughout Clinton's presidency, and it was especially obvious during the run up to the election in 2000, when Bush and Gore were struggling to find anything to disagree about, and even the pundits were bored.  Many people, like myself, saw Bush and Gore as indistinguishable, and some of us, myself included, wound up voting for Nader.  Now it's obvious that we were wrong.  Bush turned out to be way worse than we predicted, and perhaps Gore has