"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Fake News And The Myth Of Fact–Nothing Is What It Seems

Reality is a tricky business.   Philosophers from Aristotle to Paul Weiss have considered the nature of reality, whether such a thing exists, and how meaning can be derived from what may be fictitious.  Phenomenologists like Bishop Berkeley even suggested that reality is created by perception – i.e.  only if a tree falls in the forest someone is there to hear it fall does the sound of its falling exist.

Plato has Socrates describe a group of people who have lived chained to the wall of a cave all of their lives, facing a blank wall. The people watch shadows projected on the wall from objects passing in front of a fire behind them, and give names to these shadows. The shadows are the prisoners' reality.

The  philosophy of Kierkegaard resembles that expressed by McCarthy, at least until McCarthy’s final epiphany of grace. One of Kierkegaard's recurrent themes is the importance of subjectivity, which has to do with the way people relate themselves to (objective) truths. In Concluding Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments, he argues that "subjectivity is truth" and "truth is subjectivity."

What he means by this is that most essentially, truth is not just a matter of discovering objective facts. While objective facts are important, there is a second and more crucial element of truth, which involves how one relates oneself to those matters of fact. Since how one acts is, from the ethical perspective, more important than any matter of fact, truth is to be found in subjectivity rather than objectivity (Hong, Howard and Edna, The Journals of Soren Kierkegaard, Vol. IV)
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Browning, Kurosawa, and Durrell have written novels and screenplays which tell the same story from different perspectives.  The architecture of the story – place, time, season – may be agreed upon, but little else.  Memory itself is only fill-in, fractions of what actually might have happened, and larger segments added by others; so not only might four people have different impressions of what happened on a given day, but their own impressions might be little more than quilted memories.

People they remember may or may not have been there, said what they were supposed to have said, or acted according to what was remembered.  By listening to the accounts of all four, one may have an impression of what might have happened, but no certainty that it did.

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Social psychologists after decades of research have concluded what we instinctively understand – eye-witness accounts are no more than validation of personal perceptions.  We see what we want to see and nothing more. In experiment after experiment, different observers of the same event perceive it differently.  A big family Christmas dinner is the best example.  The exploits of Uncle Harry are told and retold, but never the same way twice.  Each relative remembers the incidents differently, and after the telling of many versions, Uncle Harry’s adventures are far from what he ever even imagined doing.

Scholarly research into the nature of memory has shown that the process of reconstructing past events is dependent on many different parts and functions of the brain; and by the time the memory is assembled, it may have little to do with reality.
Memory is never a literal recount of past experiences, rather it is dependent on the constructive processes present at the time of Encoding that are subject to potential errors and distortions. Essentially, the constructive memory process functions by encoding the patterns of physical characteristics that are perceived by the individual, as well as the interpretive conceptual and semantic functions that act in response to the incoming information.
During the recall of Episodic memory, the information that a person remembers is usually limited in scope, ultimately giving an incomplete recollection of an event. By employing reconstructive processes, individuals supplement other aspects of available personal knowledge into the gaps found in episodic memory in order to provide a fuller and more coherent version, albeit one that is often distorted.
Scott Fraser, a forensic psychologist, provided surprising evidence in a recent interview on NPR’s Ted Talks. Fraser researches what's real and what's selective when it comes to human memory and crime. He focuses on the fallibility of human memory and encourages a more scientific approach to trial evidence. He has testified in criminal and civil cases throughout the U.S. in state and federal courts. In 2011 Fraser was involved in the retrial of a 1992 murder case in which Francisco Carrillo was found guilty and sentenced to two life sentences in prison.

Fraser and the team that hired him staged a re-enactment of the night in question, and they showed the testimonies that had put Carrillo in jail were unreliable. After 20 years in jail for a crime he didn't commit, Carrillo was free. Not only were the testimonies of the eyewitnesses questionable, what they said they saw had no bearing whatsoever on reality.

The genius of Faulkner – part Hindu, part Descartes – was that he was never troubled by what was or what is; but only interested in what may have been or what could be.  Thomas Sutpen did what he did, fathered whom he fathered, and came to an unhappy end because of his ambition; but those whose lives were affected by him could only remember what he seemed to be.  A story of misjudgments, misapprehensions, and ignorant ambition can also be read as one of inevitable admixture of truth and untruth, fiction and non-fiction. While logic may enable one to appreciate the steps to eliminating logical thought, it can lead to nowhere on its own.

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Not only has objectivity been debunked by philosophers, psychologists, and artists; but also by physicists.  Heisenberg famously concluded that reality – fact, the absolute – was nothing but a matter of perception.
In quantum mechanics, the uncertainty principle, also known as Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, is any of a variety of mathematical inequalities asserting a fundamental limit to the precision with which certain pairs of physical properties of a particle, known as complementary variables, such as position x and momentum p, can be known simultaneously.
In other words one can never know how fast a particle is travelling and where it is located at the same time.  Reality – or at least some semblance of objectivity – is determined by which axis of perception we choose to use.  Do we want to know where the particle is or how fast it is travelling?

When politics are added to this metaphysical mix, the result is a three-ring circus.    There are no such things as facts to begin with – only presentations of subjective reality – but self-serving politicians sell their perceptions as fact to voters who want to believe them.  The collusion, the complicity between the fake news purveyor and the fake news consumer is complete.

If this were not enough to whirl objectivity on a merry-go-round of fantasy and illogical hopefulness, enter the media.  Although the New York Times, the old newspaper of record, champion of objectivity and factual reporting, still holds on to this fantasy, its editors are committed to a political agenda.  So are the editors of Fox News, and both preach to the choir. 

The Left hates Fox News and the Right hates the New York Times because of what they see as fake news, distortion, and revenue-driven political hysteria.   They are both right, of course.  There is no more factual truth on the networks than anywhere else on the planet; so why the fuss?

All of us need personal identity, and the current wave of protests, marches, banners, slogans, and political electioneering are more means of validating that identity than accomplishing any specific social agenda. It feels good to howl at ‘systemic racism’ and by so doing to burnish one’s political credentials and far easier than to address the persistently high rates of murder, violence, and social dysfunction in black inner cities. Marches for women’s rights, the environment, and for distribution of wealth feel good.  There is camaraderie, brother- and sisterhood, and a happy mood of belonging.  Far be it for these marchers to let facts get in the way of commitment.

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All of which is to say that facts don’t matter, only the perception of them does.   Given this factual free-for-all, elections are always the greatest circus shows on earth, now more than ever.  The issue of fake news has been raised and brought to the fore by Donald Trump, and the side show has already begun.  Bearded ladies are just teasers and the most outrageous, impossible, and unbelievable freaks are about to be onstage – even before the big tent opens its flaps.

We do have to thank Trump for all this.   Never before has there been such a showman, carny barker, and trapeze artist in the White House.  Trying to pin him down to facts, as his opponents have tried unsuccessfully to do for four years, will be an act to watch. Yes, yes, the election is serious business, or at least is supposed to be; but how can it be with this master vaudevillian running again? How can it be when all the Ferris wheels, merry-go-rounds, roller coasters, and three ring circus events of American politics will be going on all at once?

Facts? Who needs them?

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Toppling Statues - It's Never Been About Race

“I’m inclined to reserve all judgments”, says Nick Carraway in the opening lines of Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, and true to his word, he is generous with regard to Daisy, Jordan, and Gatsby, all deeply flawed characters but whose good sides– Daisy’s beauty, charm, energy, and social grace; Gatsby’s sense of romance, optimism, and hope; and Jordan’s directness and forthrightness – far outweigh the bad.  Nick takes them all for what they are, not for what they are not, enjoys them, delights in them; but is not shy in admitting their faults.  Jordan is the most dishonest person Nick has ever met; Gatsby has hopelessly bourgeois tastes, has made his money suspiciously, and has never been honest about himself or his past; and Daisy is shamelessly selfish and manipulative.

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Yet Nick loves them all.  “You’re worth more than the lot of them”, Nick shouts to Gatsby when he sees that Gatsby’s so-called friends have abandoned him, his generosity, and his home without a second though as more indicting rumors about his past surface. Nick sticks by him till the end, for Gatsby is a man worth notice and friendship.  He may have had shady dealings with Meyer Wolfsheim, exaggerated his personal history, and done questionable things to rise to wealth if not prominence; but his fundamentally good, moral, and principled nature is worth it all.

Nick, of course, cannot be entirely consistent.  There are no two sides to Tom Buchanan, an arrogant, mean, brutal, and totally immoral man; and Nick watches with shame as he abuses Daisy, Myrtle, and Wilson.  He cannot forgive Daisy for abandoning Gatsby and not speaking up for her role in the death of Myrtle and for having given up her supposed love for Gatsby for a man of her own class and breeding as ugly and unredeemable character as Tom is.  Being the objective, distant, non-judgmental observer has its limits.

Yet Fitzgerald’s point is clear and repeated in the short stories that form the Gatsby-cluster.  Dexter Green loves Judy Jones despite her insincerity, her superficiality, and her social deviousness.  She like Daisy is irresistible, beautiful, energetic, and a living symbol of something out of reach.  Judy, Daisy, and Gatsby are cut from the same Fitzgerald cloth – desirable, hopelessly flawed characters who have the power to influence and destroy. 

Tolstoy was famous for his nihilism, his sense of determinism, and randomness.  Napoleon lost the Battle of Borodino not because of any one strategic error but because of the accumulated effect of so many seemingly insignificant but important events in the past.  Had Napoleon’s valet not forgotten to bring the General’s gum boots (an oversight because he was obsessed with his wife’s infidelity caused in part and in turn by her own dissatisfaction with her valet husband’s attention paid only to his patron), Napoleon would not have caught cold, felt feverish and rheumy on the morning of battle, and would not have had the foggy brain of congested man.

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If individual events are nothing more than the result of an accumulated history, then individuals themselves are no more than a randomly selected composite of parents, ancestors, and influences.  There would be no point in forming moral judgments, for morality itself is relative.

Herein lies the dramatic difference between progressive and conservative political philosophies.  Conservatives are advocates of Fitzgerald, Tolstoy, Nietzsche, Darwin and Kierkegaard.  Absolute morality is a fiction.  Given human nature, natural selection, and the essential randomness of the universe, there can be no such thing as progress, Utopia, or ‘positive’ change.  Things simply are what they are, and that change is determined by the dynamics of countervailing forces, dialectic, and survival of the fittest.  

Progressives deny all this; and despite the record of millennia of history which demonstrate that human nature, human beings, and human society have not changed one iota since the first human settlements, insist that there is such a thing as a better world and the path to it is unmistakably clear.  There is nothing random about racism, they say, or slavery.  It is an absolute evil, a fundamental evil which unless it is excised will infect like a virus. 

These social advocates disregard the history of slavery itself, an institution as old as human settlements and still practiced one way or other in much of the developing world – and some would say, at the hands of capitalist overseers.  They disregard biology, physiology, genetics, and social history when promoting the ‘gender spectrum’.  The dismiss and derogate individual enterprise even though buying and selling, trading, and bartering through private markets have been a feature of human society since its beginnings.

The two fundamental philosophical aspects of history are at present in serious conflict.  Toppling statues is not about race, racism, or slavery but about historical revisionism, Utopianism, and progressive myopia.   It is also about Puritanical purity – anyone who has committed an act deemed to be wrong, immoral, or unjust according to contemporary, partisan views, is by consequence and nature all wrong, immoral, and unjust.  Neither do these social ‘reformers’  understand the nature of history, its relativity and amorality; nor can they possibly accept – as Fitzgerald has – that few people are either all bad or all good; and that in the recognition of that complexity, that irrefutable personal integrity, no matter how conflicted, few should be discarded.

It is understandable, therefore, that social anarchists want the head of Thomas Jefferson – America’s third president, diplomat, scholar, political philosopher, principle author of the Declaration of Independence and influential contributing author of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights – condemned for an act (owning slaves) that was legal, permitted, and acceptable; and against which he argued? Or Washington, Hamilton, and Madison for the same reasons?  Are not the achievements and contributions of these men more than worth an act – slavery – which was historically conditioned? Andrew Jackson, President of the United States and uniquely responsible for key victories against the British in the War of 1812 should be honored for that alone as should Ulysses S Grant for his Union victories in the Civil War. 

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By the same myopic historical revisionism and Puritanical arrogance, the greatness of Martin Luther King, Jr. who was a great, courageous man; but also a Lothario who cheated on his wife and was even more of a sexual wastrel than JFK should be dismissed from history. Yet did their questionable sexual judgment disqualify both men from leadership or high public office? Hardly.

Many women immediately disqualified Bill Clinton from any further political consideration after he had sex with Monica Lewinsky in the Oval Office. If he cheated on his wife, they said, he will most certainly cheat on us. Yet the Bill Clinton years look good in the light of recent White House debacles.

Ezra Pound and H.L. Mencken were both rabid anti-Semites, but their work was notable.  Immanuel Kant said, “'The Jews still cannot claim any true genius, any truly great man. All their talents and skills revolve around stratagems and low cunning ... They are a nation of swindlers.”

George Bernard Shaw said, “Stop being Jews and start being human beings”. Theodore Dreiser said, “New York is a 'kike's dream of a ghetto,' and Jews are not 'pure Americans' and 'lack integrity”. Are we to burn their books? Consign them to the trash heaps of literary history?

If the issue of the day were anti-Semitism and not racism, social anarchists would be burning their books.

The point is first to accept important figures for the best that they were, not the worst – i.e. why they are revered as great statesmen, writers and thinkers; not what they did in their off time; and secondly to accept them as indicators of history – i.e. notable for achievements that were important or noteworthy to American history. 

Yes Robert E Lee was a Confederate general who led the secessionist fight against the Union; but tearing down his statue will not erase the pernicious influence of the slavery for which the South fought – that is still painfully obvious in inner cities throughout America – it will expunge any memory of why and how the war was fought.  Statues of Jefferson Davis do not glorify slavery, but are indicators of the nature of the conflict between the states and should not be ignored.  Before long if all such statues and images are removed, we will have no idea what slavery actually was, how it functioned, and why it became the Cause Célèbre of the Secession.

Such anti-historical revisionism knows no bounds.  Statues of Jesus Christ which picture him as white should be torn down because they are thinly-veiled expressions of white supremacy.  Wall Street should be occupied and defiled because of credit swaps and Enron. There is nothing, once one starts looking, that doesn’t offend someone.  The problem is that the progressive Left has conflated all its grievances about race, gender, ethnicity, and capitalism; has chosen to ignore the course of history; to forget achievements while revealing wrongs; and a juggernaut is difficult to stop, particularly since craven supporters of the anarchist agenda have jumped on it.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Blonde, Blue Eyes, And Irresistible–A Wet Dream In The Age Of Diversity

Harvey Parker’s girlfriend – as pure and pristine a Minnesotan as they come with long blonde hair, blue eyes, peaches-and-cream complexion, and a Midwestern simplicity that was disabling – was one of a kind.  Before her was Usha, the dark-eyed Palestinian woman who had escaped Hamas and the unremitting violence of the Middle East, his Sheba of the Thousand and One Nights – transparently veiled, pearled, and scented with frankincense, secretive and seductive, and alluring.

Or Nadia, the charmed Egyptian princess with an ancestry back to the Ptolemies and Cleopatra who took him into her rooms in Alexandria and threatened the worst if he left her.  Or Farida, the Pakistani muhajir whose family had built Bombay, fled India after Partition, and who had resided in and helped build the new Karachi; or even Meta, the Haitian mulatto who had met him in Petionville, seduced him in Kenscoff, and lived with him in Jamaica.

Yet no matter how many women of exotic descent he had loved, Laura Johansson was the only woman he dreamt of, remembered, and wished he could revisit after so many decades of simple, uncomplicated, married life.

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What was it about Laura – or blonde, blue-eyed women in general, for that matter? Why was Marilyn Monroe so seductively irresistible?  Ava Gardner, Hedy Lamarr, and Vivien Leigh were classic beauties, descendants of Greek, Roman, and Pompeian women  whose symmetrical features, sedate, but exotically feminine looks had been the ideal for centuries; and yet men of the modern era – as much as they might admire these Hollywood icons, would like, more than anything else in their lives, to bed Marilyn.

This classically beautiful blonde ideal was idolized in Phillip Roth’s The Human Stain where the black, passed-for-white Coleman Silk in his youth falls for a Minnesotan blonde beauty.  It is no coincidence that the virile, sensitive, intelligent, and desirable Coleman chooses her over all others to be his bride.  She is the final vindication of his deception, his long secretive life as a black man wanting to be white.  Marrying her – the quintessential white woman – would mean that not only had he finally arrived; but that all the hurt he caused his black family was worth it.

Woody Allen parodied this idolization of the blonde, blue-eyed white woman.  An imagined dinner in Minnesota with Annie Hall's family, though caricature and comedic, was no less telling than the story of Coleman Silk.

Italian Americans are no different.  For swarthy, short, dark men only a few generations removed from Naples, Bari, and Palermo, there can be no greater glory than a Minnesotan goddess.

In ‘A Newark Tale’ Joey Pandolfini writes:
The boat trip would have been routine – Stash Kryzewski and Larry Lugno fishing for blues off of Barnegat Light while Harry, Andy, and Petey Brogna did Yellow Jackets and goofed on the seagulls – if Stash had not invited Delia Bourne along for the ride. Delia was a friend of Stash’s daughter who had invited her down to the Shore for a week. Delia was a blue-eyed blonde from the Midwest, and like a million Sicilians before him, Larry was a sucker for white pussy. She was a religious wacko, and kept talking to him about his inner self. “I can tell you’re a seeker”, she said.
“I can feel your divine spirit trying to come out”; but Larry lapped it all up. Jesus this, Jesus that. Moses, Mohammed, Gandhi, angels, archangels – the whole religious pantheon was emptied and Larry couldn’t believe his good luck. Fuck the religious part. This was pure, golden, blue-eyed pussy. Every goomba’s dream. As the ship rolled with the swells and Delia leaned into him, and he could smell her hair and the fresh soapy scent of her body, all he could think of was her naked body, soft and smooth. Enough guinea poontang with wiry nipple hairs. Delia would have milky-white tits and a fluffy blonde bush like baby hair.
This preference for light coloring is as old as the hills. The ancient  Aryans were powerful rulers and administrators who imposed their religion, philosophy, and social system on  those under their authority.  The caste system was a unique and successful way of controlling and monitoring the conquered Dravidian population; and racial distinction was another.  While the Aryans were light-skinned (they considered themselves ‘wheat-colored’) the Dravidians were dark, if not black; and color became a convenient marker identifying the subjugated. This concept of racial distinction and preference for light-skinned beauty was not restricted to the Aryans.

 In the ancient Western and Eastern Zhou states, clear distinctions were made between them (Chinese) and ‘barbarians’, those tribes to the north who were racially and culturally distinct from them. Skin color for the Han (206 BC) as in the case of the Aryans, was an easy marker to delineate cultural and ethnic distinction.  This early racial/cultural segmentation became widely accepted in Chinese society and became codified in the caste system of the later Yuan Dynasty (1271).

Racial distinction was evident in Roman civilizations, largely because of its territories in Africa from which were brought black slaves; and the concept of ethnic difference spread widely throughout Europe and the Middle East as the Roman Empire expanded its borders.

The point is that the idea of a light-skinned racial edge has been around for a long, long time; and has been prevalent in the ancient civilizations of India, China, Japan, Korea, and Rome. So Southern Italian goombas come by it naturally.  Dark-skinned, dark-haired, dark-eyed peoples have always been, as Larry Lugno said, ‘suckers for white pussy’; and blonde, blue-eyed beauties remain the sexual norm


It is no surprise that of all the Hollywood actresses who have appeared on screen since the beginning of film, Marilyn Monroe has had the most interest.   She was not classically beautiful, but had an unmatchable sensuousness and sensuality.  She had allure, an immediate, unmistakable and undeniable sexual appeal.  She – and Brigitte Bardot before her – embodied sexual desire.  Men were drawn to her not to admire her beauty but to make love to her.

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The norm for classic feminine beauty has been unchallenged for millennia.  Tuba Büyüküstün is a Turkish actress of remarkable beauty well-known for her work on the television series, Kara Para Aşk

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Despite the claim to the contrary, beauty is not in the eye of the beholder, and most men will agree that Büyüküstün is beautiful.  Her type of beauty, with predictable cultural variations over time, is reflective of those characteristics which have always made women attractive. Symmetrical features, luminescent eyes, full lips, and luxuriant hair all express health, wealth, and well-being as well as being pleasing to a natural sense of geometrical order (the golden mean is universally appealing), and sexual appeal.  There is little difference between the women painted by Leonardo and Tuba Büyüküstün.

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Asian women are no different and film and television actresses have the same classic beauty as their European counterparts.

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One of the most popular African film stars is no different

115 Best African Movie Stars (hidden hobby ☺️) images | African ...

Classic beauty will always determine feminine appeal, social status, and desirability.  When blonde hair and blue eyes are added to the mix, the result is irresistible.

Beauty is a fact, a tradable commodity, a factor in natural selection, a variable in social and commercial transactions, and the first and last thing we remember about people.  It is no surprise that some of the most famous paintings and sculptures in history have been of women.  Artists since Greek and Roman times saw a sublimity in the female form.

'Diversity' is all well and good - until it comes to beauty.  On that there is no such thing as the eye of the beholder or 'beauty is as beauty does'.  There is one standard for beauty and it has not changed since the Ancient era if not before; and the closer a woman comes to that norm, the more advantages she has. 

The only significant variation in beauty which has nothing to do with line, symmetry, shape, and form, is a light-skinned, light-haired sensual beauty; and thanks to the Aryans, this cultural variant has always persisted. 'Gentlemen prefer blondes' has never more been true, especially since the recessive genes responsible for Nordic beauty are quickly disappearing.

A blonde friend once told me that she, because of her hair color, had at least a ten percent advantage over other women....at least ten percent.

Amazon.com: Marilyn Monroe Black and White 8x10 photo: Photographs