Monday, July 31, 2006

Gödel rides again

Saw a reference William Gibson's latest blog entry on John Robb's website, (of global guerrillas fame) and I am going to reproduce it in full because Gosh Darn It, it is educational.

posted 1:35 PM
'I'm not sure I really get why the US and Israel haven't yet come to terms with the fact that this fourth generation war cannot be won with classic military action. I suspect it is the neocon influence which, throughout many decades, never gave a passing thought to terrorism or assymetrical warfare. They have been stuck in a cold war mindset (a mindset that was wrong about the cold war too) and have consistently seen the world through the prism of rogue totalitarian states. This is why, in spite of the fact that everything is going to hell in a handbasket in a hundred different ways, they persist in focusing on Iran (formerly Iraq) and ignoring all the moving parts that make their aggressive plans to "confront" these regimes simpleminded and doomed to failure.'


Myself, I keep going back to my no doubt sloppy and imperfect understanding of Thomas S. Kuhn's The Structure Of Scientific Revolutions. If the theory of "fourth generation war" is viewed as a new paradigm (and it seems to me to meet the criteria) then this is more than a failure of perception on the part of neoconservatives.

Consider the following, from the Wikipedia entry on SSR:

'According to Kuhn, the scientific paradigms before and after a paradigm shift are so different that their theories are incomparable. The paradigm shift does not just change a single theory, it changes the way that words are defined, the way that the scientists look at their subject and, perhaps most importantly, the questions that are considered valid and the rules used to determine the truth of a particular theory. Kuhn observes that they are incommensurable — literally, lacking comparison, untranslatable. New theories were not, as they had thought of before, simply extensions of old theories, but radically new worldviews. This incommensurability applies not just before and after a paradigm shift, but between conflicting paradigms. It is simply not possible, according to Kuhn, to construct an impartial language that can be used to perform a neutral comparison between conflicting paradigms, because the very terms used belong within the paradigm and are therefore different in different paradigms. Advocates of mutually exclusive paradigms are in an insidious position: "Though each may hope to convert the other to his way of seeing science and its problems, neither may hope to prove his case. The competition between paradigms is not the sort of battle that can be resolved by proof." (SSR, p. 148).'

This would explain, it seems to me, the apparently literal impossibility of explaining the fundamentally counterproductive nature of the United State's invasion of Iraq, or of what's currently going on in Lebanon, to those who disagree. Or, literally, vice versa. If you're behind the curve on the paradigm shift, if I'm reading Kuhn at all correctly, you're literally incapable of getting it. Or vice versa. "It is simply not possible, according to Kuhn, to construct an impartial language that can be used to perform a neutral comparison between conflicting paradigms, because the very terms used belong within the paradigm and are therefore different in different paradigms."

The bad news is that the policy-makers of the United States and Israel apparently (still) don't get the new paradigm, and the bad news is that Hezbollah (et al, and by their very nature) do. Though that's only bad (or double-plus-ungood) if you accept, as I do, that the new paradigm allows for a more effective understanding of reality. So if you still like to pause to appreciate the action of phlogiston when you strike a match, you may well be okay with current events. So many, God help us, evidently are.

I've heard that Kuhn fiercely lamented the application of SSR to anything other than the structure of scientific revolutions, but that's how it usually is, when the street finds its own uses for things.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

not a hair shirt environmentalist nor a fool

“The ads are back,” announced Green Business Network founder Joel Makower in August 2004. He referred to the recent rise in frequency of corporate environmental image advertisements. Aimed at values-based consumers, socially responsible investors and public policy makers, the ads number as many as a half-dozen per issue in National Geographic, The Economist, Atlantic Monthly and other opinion-leading magazines. With lesser but likewise increasing visibility, the marketing blitz has advanced into newspaper and television markets nationwide. Not since the early 1990s – when the green consumerism emerged, and delegates to the United Nations Rio Earth Summit debated ratifying international environmental regulations – have companies so aggressively asserted their green credentials.

The greenwash blasted into our scorched industria is wearing thin. A greenless world exists around us all, excepting slivers inexpedient to the tendrils of a technocratic culture.

Trees bedded in concrete, feed on oil and angular shadows. Hothouse flowers of the twenty-first century, relics living on borrowed air, as artificial as a city in the desert. Landscapes are shaped by addiction, and the results are grimly ignored. Arsenic washes mountain streams, and the exodus of life proceeds at a rapid pace.

A pattern conformant race carefully maintains this illusionary system. Ossified dreams are manufactured into trivialities. The resource base for every form of creature is meanwhile destroyed. Oceans are freed from the burden of complex and ingenious life by massive scraping nets. Weeds flourish above water as niche after niche is consumed.

Soil is the name given to those crumbled husks of earth upon which petroleum derived products are slathered. What we now call "soil" is a rusty shelf to hold up corn and wheat as a limited supply of fuel is poured in. It is abuse, and the bill will come due as energy becomes dear.

Even as the oceans boil and the arctic steams, patterns of consumption remain unchanged. Our civilized culture exhales carbon in such quantity, and for such pointless accoutrements, that the very idea of civilization must come under suspicion - - perhaps recast as suicide by pyramid scheme.

There is no point to a civilization when the best parts of a culture can be lost to a cycle of unripe mortality as the resource base collapses.

Friday, July 28, 2006

heat stroke

Thursday, July 27, 2006

That Hideous Strength

I’ve been doing my best to enjoy a few weeks of sunshine, here in the lately overwarm state of Washington, country of USA. Secure in the knowledge that the problems facing the globe will still exist as the leaves change color and that focusing on positive hedonism for a few months can only help me analyze the human predicament in the long run.

Current events trump sloth.

The current war in the Middle East, a clash of cats paw (Hezbollah) and cats claw (Israel) raises anti Semitism to ironic heights of tail biting. One must examine the lettering on the holy text in the picture below to figure out whether the brown skinned dead child is a pepsi semite or a coke semite. The body count odds are ruthlessly stacked against the Lebanese, as Israel has conflated a questionable POW incident into a far ranging attack on the civilian infrastructure of an entire country.

Personally, I don’t have a pony in this race, provided it stays confined to current borders, (ill spent American tax dolloars notwithstanding). I refuse to cast this lopsided war in puny tribal terms, the picking of sides, as peak oil commentator James Kunstler does here.

Unfortunately, concern for a non-sequiter war with Iran and Syria expands as days stretch to weeks. Violent events, rather than cooling, can be seen converging towards a conflation point, an explosive increase in hostilities. One nitwit recently said that World War Three has already started. This can be seen as an attempt to bring around a mal result through force of will, or intent. Frankly, the scene is set for a major war whose genesis would be as lame as sacrificing millions for the death of an Archduke.

As with the run up to the invasion of Iraq, culminating in the comic denouement of the pathetic Saddam, a chorus of angels sings for blood and flowers, now to be planted in Iran. As with the preface to war in Iraq, real military actions by the United States rumble in the margins. Those skilled in pattern matching will have little trouble understanding possible new American deployments of troops to the Middle East.

II. The Guru and the Exile
In recent weeks, the attacks by Hezbollah on Israel have given neoconservatives in the Bush administration the pretext they were seeking to launch what former House Speaker Newt Gingrich calls "World War III." Denouncing the bombings as "Iran's proxy war," William Kristol of The Weekly Standard is urging the Pentagon to counter "this act of Iranian aggression with a military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities." According to Joseph Cirincione, an arms expert and the author of Deadly Arsenals: Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Threats, "The neoconservatives are now hoping to use the Israeli-Lebanon conflict as the trigger to launch a U.S. war against Syria, Iran or both."

Hezbollah’s strategy is childish and useless, other than as a rallying point for more stupid random violence. Israel’s strategy is overwrought and heavy handed, and has multiple apparent jump off points, given the pregnant, overwhelming force of the Israeli military in the face of Hezbollah pinprick rocket attacks.

Israel can smash the entire country of Lebanon, even parts far North of where the missile attacks originate, such as Beruit. COMPLETED.

Israel can declare victory and go home.

Israel can grab land and water (buffer zone) and plant fundamentalist settlers on the new border.

Israel can push close enough to Damascus that some response by Syria becomes an excuse for a wider war, drawing in Iran.

Israel or the United States might then bomb Iran.

At which time - -

All hell will break lose. The world has never fought a war in which the spectre of energy depletion loomed, and has never fought a war in which a series of simple asymmetric attacks can cut the global oil supply in half in days. Imagine the carnage as the globes supply of cheesy poofs dries up overnight.

One needs to do more than pray this doesn’t happen. One needs to do more than hippy around, caterwauling in the streets and running to Canada.

For Americans, this means voting out every democrat and republican who support these absurd foreign entanglements, in the November elections.

If given the chance.

Man is the only Patriot. He sets himself apart in his own country, under his own flag, and sneers at the other nations, and keeps multitudinous uniformed assassins on hand at heavy expense to grab slices of other people's countries, and keep them from grabbing slices of his. And in the intervals between campaigns he washes the blood of his hands and works for "the universal brotherhood of man"- with his mouth.

"The Lowest Animal" - - Mark Twain.