Thursday Reads

Good Morning!!

The media is all worked up about how badly NY Mayor Michael Bloomberg handled the blizzard that hit the Northeast early this week. Can we please put aside all the talk about this man running for President? He’s really not that bright, judging by his stupidity in the face of a little winter weather. Bloomberg didn’t even have the brains to declare an emergency parking ban so plows could clear the streets! In Boston, parking bans are routinely declared in advance of a big storm.

From the NYT: Inaction and Delays by New York as Storm Bore Down

At 3:58 a.m. on Christmas Day, the National Weather Service upgraded its alert about the snow headed to New York City, issuing a winter storm watch. By 3:55 p.m., it had declared a formal blizzard warning, a rare degree of alarm. But city officials opted not to declare a snow emergency — a significant mobilization that would have, among other things, aided initial snow plowing efforts.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority entered the holiday weekend with modest concerns about the weather. On Friday, it issued its lowest-level warning to subway and bus workers. Indeed, it was not until late Sunday morning, hours after snow had begun to fall, that the agency went to a full alert, rushing to call in additional crew members and emergency workers. Over the next 48 hours, subways lost power on frozen tracks and hundreds of buses wound up stuck in snow-filled streets.

By 4 p.m. Sunday, several inches of snow had accumulated when Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg made a plea for help at his first news conference about the escalating storm: he asked people with heavy equipment and other kinds of towing machinery to call the city’s 311 line to register for work. A full day had gone by since the blizzard warning had been issued.

Yes, you read that correctly. Bloomberg called for help from private contractors DURING the blizzard! What a dope. You’d think New York had never experienced a snowstorm before.

Speaking of stupid, did you catch Floyd Abrams’ op-ed at the WSJ yesterday? Abrams presents his lame arguments against Wikileaks by discussing how the Wikileaks revelations differ from the Pentagon Papers.

In 1971, Daniel Ellsberg decided to make available to the New York Times (and then to other newspapers) 43 volumes of the Pentagon Papers, the top- secret study prepared for the Department of Defense examining how and why the United States had become embroiled in the Vietnam conflict. But he made another critical decision as well. That was to keep confidential the remaining four volumes of the study describing the diplomatic efforts of the United States to resolve the war.

Not at all coincidentally, those were the volumes that the government most feared would be disclosed. In a secret brief filed with the Supreme Court, the U.S. government described the diplomatic volumes as including information about negotiations secretly conducted on its behalf by foreign nations including Canada, Poland, Italy and Norway. Included as well, according to the government, were “derogatory comments about the perfidiousness of specific persons involved, and statements which might be offensive to nations or governments.”

Um…duh. But so what? Is he claiming that the diplomatic cables that major newspapers are publishing are analogous to peace negotiations? Doesn’t Abrams understand that Wikileaks released the cables to these newspapers so that they could make educated journalistic judgments about which parts should be made public and which should be redacted or kept secret?

Furthermore, the analogy that Daniel Ellsberg has made is not between Wikileaks and the Pentagon Papers but between himself and Bradley Manning. They were both whistleblowers who revealed government lies and corruption. As for the diplomatic cables, there is no evidence that Manning gave those to Wikileaks.

Abrams even tries to blame Manning and Assange for the overkill reactions of the Obama administration:

Mr. Assange is no boon to American journalists. His activities have already doomed proposed federal shield-law legislation protecting journalists’ use of confidential sources in the just-adjourned Congress. An indictment of him could be followed by the judicial articulation of far more speech-limiting legal principles than currently exist with respect to even the most responsible reporting about both diplomacy and defense. If he is not charged or is acquitted of whatever charges may be made, that may well lead to the adoption of new and dangerously restrictive legislation. In more than one way, Mr. Assange may yet have much to answer for.

What a load of garbage. Abrams once fought in defense of the first amendment. Now he’s just another enabler of government corruption and lies. I guess he spent too much time hanging out with Judith Miller, because he seems to have adopted her views on journalism. We have every right to know what our corporate-sellout politicians are doing.

Here’s what Emptywheel had to say about Abrams’ piece:

Abrams’ purported rhetorical questions–can anyone doubt that WikiLeaks would have published the diplomatic volumes of the Pentagon Papers? can anyone doubt he wouldn’t have paid the slightest heed to efforts to end the war?–are one of two things that dismantle his entire argument laying the responsibility for the government’s overreaction to Assange with Assange. Because–as Digby has explained at length–we have every reason to doubt whether WikiLeaks would have published the diplomatic volumes of the Pentagon Papers. And we have solid evidence that WikiLeaks would shield really dangerous information.

Because they already have. And because they have now outsourced responsibility for choosing what is dangerous and newsworthy or not to a bunch of newspapers.

Indeed, back before WikiLeaks ceded that role to a bunch of newspapers, WikiLeaks was actually being more cautious with the publication of sensitive information than the NYT was.

So rather than blaming the government and the press for mischaracterizing what WikiLeaks has done here and then using that mischaracterization to justify an overreaction to that mischaracterization, Floyd Abrams just participates in it. WikiLeaks is responsible, Floyd Abrams says, and I’m going to misrepresent what they have done to prove that case.

Abrams either was never a liberal or he lost his liberalism along the way to his current rich and powerful status. He sounds more like a neocon to me.

At Slate, Jack Schaeffer is even more down on Abrams than I am.

Did an imposter steal Floyd Abrams’ identity and use it to sell an op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal? That’s the only explanation I can come up with after reading the First Amendment litigator’s wacky battering of WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange (“Why WikiLeaks Is Unlike the Pentagon Papers”).

Abrams, who represented the New York Times in both the Pentagon Papers and Judith Miller cases, applauds Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg because he withheld four volumes of papers—while releasing 43—because he “didn’t want to get in the way of the diplomacy.” That is, Ellsberg didn’t want to interfere with ongoing and confidential negotiations to end the war. Continuing his “Ellsberg good,” “Assange bad” formulation, Abrams asks, “Can anyone doubt that [Assange] would have made those four volumes [of the Pentagon Papers] public on WikiLeaks regardless of their sensitivity?”

Well, yes, I can doubt that.

Perhaps because Abrams listens to too much NPR or doesn’t read the New York Times very closely, he’s under the misconception that WikiLeaks has published all 251,287 U.S. diplomatic cables it claims to possess. It hasn’t, as NPR noted in a correction yesterday. WikiLeaks has released just 1,942 cables, which makes Assange’s ratio of released-documents to withheld-documents much, much smaller than Ellsberg’s. By that measure, Abrams should regard Assange as a more conscientious leaker than Ellsberg, not less conscientious.

‘Nuff said.

In his latest post at Truthdig, Chris Hedges’ argues that both Orwell and Huxley were right when they wrote their dystopian novels about the future. Now that we’re here, we’ve got the worst of both their worlds.

The two greatest visions of a future dystopia were George Orwell’s “1984” and Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World.” The debate, between those who watched our descent towards corporate totalitarianism, was who was right. Would we be, as Orwell wrote, dominated by a repressive surveillance and security state that used crude and violent forms of control? Or would we be, as Huxley envisioned, entranced by entertainment and spectacle, captivated by technology and seduced by profligate consumption to embrace our own oppression? It turns out Orwell and Huxley were both right. Huxley saw the first stage of our enslavement. Orwell saw the second.

We have been gradually disempowered by a corporate state that, as Huxley foresaw, seduced and manipulated us through sensual gratification, cheap mass-produced goods, boundless credit, political theater and amusement. While we were entertained, the regulations that once kept predatory corporate power in check were dismantled, the laws that once protected us were rewritten and we were impoverished. Now that credit is drying up, good jobs for the working class are gone forever and mass-produced goods are unaffordable, we find ourselves transported from “Brave New World” to “1984.” The state, crippled by massive deficits, endless war and corporate malfeasance, is sliding toward bankruptcy. It is time for Big Brother to take over from Huxley’s feelies, the orgy-porgy and the centrifugal bumble-puppy. We are moving from a society where we are skillfully manipulated by lies and illusions to one where we are overtly controlled.

Orwell warned of a world where books were banned. Huxley warned of a world where no one wanted to read books. Orwell warned of a state of permanent war and fear. Huxley warned of a culture diverted by mindless pleasure. Orwell warned of a state where every conversation and thought was monitored and dissent was brutally punished. Huxley warned of a state where a population, preoccupied by trivia and gossip, no longer cared about truth or information. Orwell saw us frightened into submission. Huxley saw us seduced into submission. But Huxley, we are discovering, was merely the prelude to Orwell. Huxley understood the process by which we would be complicit in our own enslavement. Orwell understood the enslavement. Now that the corporate coup is over, we stand naked and defenseless. We are beginning to understand, as Karl Marx knew, that unfettered and unregulated capitalism is a brutal and revolutionary force that exploits human beings and the natural world until exhaustion or collapse.

Hedges is right, IMHO.

As an antidote to the dystopian nightmares Hedges discusses, you might want to check out some idealistic utopian dreams. Alternet has an excerpt of a new book by Richard Fairfield, The Modern Utopian: Alternative Communes of the ’60s and ’70s (Process Media, 2010). It’s pretty interesting. Check it out if you have time.

Returning to grim reality, the WaPo has an article on high unemployment among returning war veterans.

As they return home to the worst labor market in generations, the veterans who are publicly venerated for their patriotism and service are also having a harder time than most finding work, federal data show.

While their nonmilitary contemporaries were launching careers during the nearly 10 years the nation has been at war, troops were repeatedly deployed to desolate war zones. And on their return to civilian life, these veterans are forced to find their way in a bleak economy where the skills they learned at war have little value.

Some experts say the grim employment landscape confronting veterans challenges the veracity of one of the central recruiting promises of the nation’s all-volunteer force: that serving in the military will make them more marketable in civilian life.

“That [promise] works great in peacetime,” said Lawrence J. Korb, an assistant secretary of defense for manpower under President Ronald Reagan who is now a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. “But that does not work too well in war. . . . If you are in there four years and deployed twice, what kind of skills have you learned other than counterinsurgency?”

Finally, Elizabeth Warren has piece up at Huffpo: New Consumer Agency Is Frightfully Necessary — And Late

No one has missed the headlines: Haphazard and possibly illegal practices at mortgage-servicing companies have called into question home foreclosures across the nation.

The latest disclosures are deeply troubling, but they should not come as a big surprise. For years, both individual homeowners and consumer advocates sounded alarms that foreclosure processes were riddled with problems.

[....]

First, several financial services companies have already admitted that they used “robo-signers,” false declarations, and other workarounds to cut corners, creating a legal nightmare that will waste time and money that could have been better spent to help this economy recover. Mortgage lenders will spend millions of dollars retracing their steps, often with the same result that families who cannot pay will lose their homes.

Second, this mess might well have been avoided if the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau had been in place just a few years ago.

Thanks for being one of the few people advocating for us, Ms. Warren.

Sooooooo…. What are you reading this morning?

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43 Comments on “Thursday Reads”

  1. HT says:

    Yes, Hedges is correct, dismally so. I read and studied both novels back in the day when literature was a part of school curricula. Both gave me the heebejeebies back then. I never imagined I’d be living them.

  2. zaladonis says:

    After reading the Hedges piece, which I agree is absolutely spot-on, this by Elizabeth Warren strikes me as provincially well-intentioned and hopelessly naive:

    Once it is fully operational, the new consumer agency will have supervisory authority over all large mortgage servicers. It will be able to examine them on a regular basis to make sure they follow the rules. If those servicers decide it is cheaper or faster to circumvent federal law, the consumer agency will have the tools to hold them accountable.

    No one will be allowed to break the rules without triggering a strong and prompt federal response.

    • bostonboomer says:

      Yes, I agree. But at least she tries and she actually cares that American families are suffering.

      • zaladonis says:

        I know, and I’m glad people like Elizabeth Warren are still around and working so hard to make things right. I admire her tremendously. She and others like her are a glimmer of hope. But I believe that, like Tinkerbelle’s light, hope is fading. I’ll tell you frankly that since the 2008 Primaries, and in the way Obamabots behaved, and continue to behave, my own hope has steadily declined. Even through the Bush years as long as it seemed to me (and maybe I was deluded) that Democrats would fight for citizen power, I had hope we might turn this around. But now I think, in a word, the United States is doomed. Along with the rest of western civilization as you and I grew up knowing it. Headed into a dark age. Chris Hedges perfectly describes what I believe — and my obsession with 1984 and Brave New World, in college, gives me chills today. I believe Hillary was our last chance to at least put the brakes on this disaster, which now will only pick up speed, and what happened in 2008 and since shows that if manipulation is sophisticated enough the people will, indeed, passionately participate in their own demise.

        So, like purplefinn, I appreciate the love in my life, the wonder of an owl in a tree or deer running through the wood or ice forming on a winter pond or dogs dancing in powder snow, and try not to worry about retirement accounts and the cruelty that lies ahead for so many.

        • bostonboomer says:

          I gave up on turning it around a long time ago. I only see one possibilities for change: revolution of some kind or the economy collapses and the government goes down with it–like the Soviet Union.

          I keep thinking that if things get bad enough for the middle class, there will be some kind of uprising–I hope not violent. But people just seem to have become passive and resigned to their fate.

          I do think a complete collapse is entirely possible, and that would be very scary. It would lead to terrible breakdowns in food and water availability, loss of heat and electric power, and total choas and perhaps dictatorship in the end.

          I keep hoping I’m wrong, but things just keep heading that way.

          • zaladonis says:

            I see it the same way.

            Maybe it’s futile, but that’s the reason I’ve been investing in our little 6 acre property the past several years and this spring my big building project is a barn chicken coop and acre-size vegetable garden. If everything turns out okay then the worst that’ll happen is we’ll have yummy fresh vegetables and eggs, if it all goes up in smoke through violent uprising the at least we’ve enjoyed the building (which we have), and if our nation’s food and water become hopelessly compromised then we might have usable food and water (we have three wells, two of them more than 100 years old, and a spring-fed pond) – and you’re welcome to join us! We have a few very pretty guest rooms, one we call the bird room because of the antique wallpaper and the row of windows giving view to the pond and orchard that’s always alive with bird song.

            Oh but I do go on. ;-)

          • HT says:

            Zal, you know that a bunch of us will turn up on your doorstep not that you’ve revealed your situation. Will we be welcomed?

          • Sima says:

            Zal, I’m late in responding but I just wanted to say, you won’t need an acre sized garden. Well, I guess that depends on who you are feeding and what you are growing. If you grow the food for your chickens and other animals, it’ll need to be that big.

            We feed about 50-100 people on an acre. Simply working the land well, using manure, hand tilling a lot of things (not all, but definitely weeding and so on) make it fairly easy to do.

    • dakinikat says:

      All I could this is what army of auditors and budget is she anticipating? This her life’s work and I imagine she feels changed right now but my guess is she will not see the necessary funds to carry out the mission.

  3. purplefinn says:

    Thanks, BB for a timely and stimulating round-up.

    “In his latest post at Truthdig, Chris Hedges’ argues that both Orwell and Huxley were right…”

    Yes. I see that PBS is doing a kind of “take off” on “as seen on TV” with its new program “Making Stuff.” The promos are so over the top that they are as annoying as any TV ad program. They should watch some old Carol Burnett shows that exemplify satire rather than simply imitating bad TV. Loud and frenetic isn’t necessarily funny.

    With dystopia all around, it is no wonder that I took particular delight in the outline of a Great Horned Owl in a tree along the fence row this morning. Simple pleasures remain.

    • bostonboomer says:

      Hi Purplefinn,

      You’re so lucky to have seen that owl.

      I love to watch birds. They remind me that I still have a connection to nature despite the efforts of the powers that be to damage it. I want to hang onto that connection–it’s what keeps me sane and gives me some hope.

      • Delphyne says:

        I’ve felt for many, many years that the more disconnected humans are from Nature, the more aberrant their behavior is. Like you, BB, my connection to Nature is what keeps me from going completely crazy.

        • bostonboomer says:

          There are even psychological studies that demonstrate that people’s moods improve with just small exposure to nature and the outdoors.

          • Branjor says:

            I guess it’s the type of exposure to nature and the outdoors which determines if it raises mood. I was stuck in a snow drift yesterday and almost became an iceberg. It didn’t raise my mood much, but made me very tired.

          • Branjor says:

            It gets a bit ridiculous with all the studies though. The next thing you know, we’ll have to have a study to prove that people are better nourished when they eat food. How much money is spent on all this?

          • dakinikat says:

            Studies exist because proof and evidence provide insight that conjecture and philosophizing can’t. There can be hidden benefits as well as hidden costs in many things. The scientific method and studies exist to separate fact from wishful thinking and myth.

          • Branjor says:

            I know, I’m a biologist.
            I just have a lot less faith that variables can be adequately controlled for, that observer effects don’t affect the outcome, that personal beliefs and biases can be kept out interpretation or that objectivity exists at all. Meanwhile, all this patina of science and objectivity give things an appearance of indisputable truth as bad as the dogma of the bible.

      • HT says:

        Agree with Delphyne that a connection to nature is imperative for all of us to remain human. Now I have a concern that I haven’t shared with anyone. As you know, I live north of the 49th parallel – a Canuck. It’s almost January, which is traditionally the coldest month. I have a flock of robins still here, and crows, still here. It’s not the way it should be. Squirrels abound – they aren’t hibernating. Racoons aren’t hibernating – I know because I see their feet prints in my very small pond. This is very worrisome.

        • bostonboomer says:

          It’s been that way down here for a long time. This winter has been colder than most recent ones, but still not like it was 40 years ago in either Boston or Indiana.

          I saw a science prof on TV a couple of days ago who explained why winters seem to be getting colder. It is because the polar ice caps are melting and the cold air is being released–changing the patterns of the climate dramatically.

          Guess what we had her in Indiana this morning? An earthquake!

          • Delphyne says:

            http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/eqinthenews/2010/usc0000x03/

            Earthquakes are fascinating to me, even after living in California for 33 years…we’ve had a few in NJ since I’ve been back and I think the New Madrid fault is a bit more active than in recent years, too. The living Earth!

            HT – I remember seeing robins in NJ in January a couple of years ago and it was a bit unnerving. I thought they always flew south to warmer climes. I saw an article a few years ago that talked about birds being found way north during the winters – I can’t remember exactly where I saw it, but if I run across it, I’ll post the link.

            So interesting, Dak, that a winery wants to move to the Rockies! I would love to know more about that.

            Maybe Grayslady and Sima can do a Nature post, in addition to their posts, to humor some of us nature lovers!

          • Minkoff Minx says:

            BB that earthquake was just a send off for you! See, you can honestly say now that the earth trembles at your wake…I am guessing that you will be glad to point your ship towards home.

        • dakinikat says:

          Wow. A friend of my inherited a great deal of land that is smack in the middle of a national park I rocky mountain Idaho. His grandfather was a fur trapper pioneer sort. It’s comprised of several mountains. A huge Italian winery wants a long term lease on one side to start up a vineyard from old vines. They said they’re expecting the global warning to make growth of grapes for wine bad in 20 years in the southern alps. They think that part of Idaho will sustain a grape crop. We’re talking high in the Rockies here. I was amazed. This type of an investment is serious business.

      • dakinikat says:

        I saw a falcon in the live oak across the street on the neutral ground a few days ago. That really surprised me.

  4. grayslady says:

    Always love your morning news reports, BB.

    The story of Bloomberg and his reaction to the snow crisis is a useful reminder that making lots of money on Wall St. doesn’t necessarily mean you know anything beyond how to make money on Wall St. Here’s an interesting article (http://tinyurl.com/24xkfy5) about Chicago’s Office of Emergency Management Control, which also includes management of snow removal. Richie Daley, whose family is not exactly known for its intellectual prowess, conceived of a centralized, high-tech facility for emergency management, after 9-11. Combining a Federal grant from Homeland Security with municipal bonds, a state-of-the-art facility was constructed and city vehicles were equipped with radios, cameras, and salt sensors to manage snow removal (among other tasks) in an efficient and cost effective manner. The whole idea was to keep Chicago’s traffic moving to enable speedy access by first responders, regardless of weather. What the article doesn’t say is that when weather forecasters predict heavy snow, individuals at the control center sleep on cots so that they can be immediately available to help with monitoring and directing snow clearing efforts. Wouldn’t you think that, after 9-11, NYC would have a similar control center? And Bloomberg was being considered as presidential material? Please.

    The Huxley and Orwell references are all too timely, I’m afraid. It’s hardly science fiction anymore, is it?

  5. zaladonis says:

    Love all this talk of nature.

    It’s on my mind a lot lately. A beautiful red headed woodpecker works daily on a snag we’ve left standing near the pond, and it’s just mesmerizing – especially the past week with the snow fall.

    While New York City descends into darkened snow slush and garbage pile-ups, the whisper of squirrels scurrying through the forest and other critter’s footprints pocking the snow drifts, reminds we don’t need pills to feel calm and at peace. Nature does it just fine.

    • HT says:

      I agree because I love nature, however I’ve had many years of closely watching nature in all it’s forms, and what I’m seeing lately is a matter of concern. Squirrels and Racoons not hibernating, Robins where they should not be, saw a Blue Jay today, Crows, it’s very disturbing. It’s not that I don’t want to see them. It’s just that they shouldn’t be here – it’s winter, it’s Canada, they need to be in a warmer clime so why are they here?

      • Minkoff Minx says:

        HT, it is interesting that you have robins up there still. This year the robins came through North Georgia early. At the time we were thinking, man it is going to be a cold winter…

    • Minkoff Minx says:

      Zal, I love the way you wrote your comment up top @10:53 it is beautiful.

    • bostonboomer says:

      Your place sounds wonderful, Zal.

  6. Valhalla says:

    That article about vets is a bit weird. First of all, it fails to mention that returning vets must be re-employed by their employer, absent exceptional circumstances. A lot of the examples the article uses must be people who didn’t have jobs before they went into the services (a lot of the reservists do) — possibly because many of them are younger or just out of high school — or they just don’t know about the law. Seems like WaPo should have known.

    Second, the comparison to the overall unemployment rate doesn’t prove much, because many of the troops are younger and minorities, and the unemployment rates are much higher for those two groups. The unemployment rate for people with h.s. degrees is 10%, for 25-34 year olds is 10.4%, for AAs is 16%, and for males is 10.6%.

    The trouble returning vets are having finding jobs is largely the same trouble everyone is having finding jobs. That’s not to take away from special problems which affect veterans, but to point out the larger horror that there aren’t any jobs, and no one is doing anything about it. Despite problems I have with the gender-ration aspect, I think if we should be able to find jobs for anyone it should be for servicepeople; with the help the military provides to vets their unemployment rates should be well below their demographic cohorts. But the larger issue is that we should be able to find jobs for everyone. The Democrats just ignore the jobless rates (gee, you’d almost think they want to normalize the situation!) and Republicans distract with deficit handwringing.

    I’ve long thought that Obama’s reluctance to bring back troops from any of the wars was partially to keep them from driving the unemployment rate up further. And the effects of the hideously bad economy (on “the rest of us” at least) just increases the economic draft.

    I just hate this kind of sloppiness (it’s why I hardly ever read “mainstream” media).

  7. Boo Radly says:

    BB – great round up. We are so far down that road – “1984/Brave New World” – warning was not heeded – so we are boiled frogs now. I was really young when I read those books and I shuttered then. I can remember first hearing about lobbyist and laughing at the insanity of it all – greed, greed, greed. This is not a test – the emergency is here for 99.9% of us. Think Bu$h, think lose of rule of law, think DOJ arm of the R party still – today as that is what BO gave us, more of the same.

    PF@7:39 – I always turn to nature to give me succor – but not much is moving in the brutal conditions we have had here in WNC. I strangely turned to Carol Burnett’s newest book – yes, there was a time when humor really was fun instead of the uglyness that passes for it now, and the politicization….our comic’s are the dumbest pundits in the world. That’s a lot of ignorance considering our MSM paid shill political pundits and bloggers. The people we get comfort from, instill hope, are those who are authentic – plastic has long been known as a carcinogenic.

  8. HT says:

    Oh, by the way, I’m one of those bourgeoise liberals, but I agree with Geoge, there is nothing wrong with the planet, only with the people.

  9. 0utis says:

    The Hedges article is a brilliant analogy and should be widely read and discussed. It strikes at the heart of the matter that we have arrived at this state of things because we, the masses, have allowed ourselves to be herded. There is no other way the PTB can overwhelm the numbers unless we give our, albeit unknowing, consent. My European friends remark all the time that Americans seem to have lost all sense of themselves apart from being consumers. We slave away at jobs that we hate (for little or no vacation, no benefits, no sense of respect for the work we produce; all the time fearing losing that job) to buy things we don’t need (to quote Fight Club).

    But it leads to the interesting discussion that I’ve been following on here about philosophy vs science and the inferiority of one to the other. When in fact, they are both tools to seek out answers. Each works better in some cases than others. I wouldn’t use a spoon to cut an onion and so it is with these. Science can provide facts and test material theories. But philosophy tests and produces thought and ideas. Philosphy–which is wholly distinct from opinion–follows its own rigorous tests in what are called Proofs. That name is no mistake. Science can merely produce facts, but those facts must be interpreted, and that is where philosophy comes in. That is why Albert Einstein said he learned more from Dostoyevsky than from any scientist. Einstein was in fact a modern philosopher because he could discover the equations that could build a bomb to destroy the entire world, but for him the more important question became: Should we?

    Science and Philosophy are not antithetical. Case in point, at my fancy ivy league college, the philosophy department building was delapidated and forgotten. It couldn’t bring in the funding the science and business departments could and besides, philosophy is considered a dead, out-dated, useless exercise. Then all of a sudden, all this money started flowing, with a total redo of the offices and once scruffy professors looking very posh. I asked what was going on and given the old, shh, we’re getting money from the government. Whatever for? The philosophers were being hired by the military to work with scientists on artificial intelligence. They would figure out the nature and scope of human thought and provide ideas and interpretation to scientists. Though I found this creepy and corrupt, it showed the true nature of Philosophy and its power to interpret raw scientific data into human terms.

    Just my humble opinion/thought.

    • dakinikat says:

      For me, it’s that there’s such a blur between the practice of philosophy and the consuming of just another set of dogmas, theology and tenets … where do you put the likes of Ayn Rand? One person’s philosopher can be another person’s pulp fiction. Then throw theology in there! To me, there’s a difference between thought based on reason and logic, and proofs and some of the stuff labeled philosophy which seems to be just people putting personal anecdotal grievances to air. I never could figure out where people actually draw their lines.

      • Valhalla says:

        Ayn Rand isn’t a philosopher (despite what her extremely vocal fans would like us to believe, or the lazy categorizers from Barnes and Noble) she is an ideologue. She advocates for a very particular view of the world, largely because she says so, like the anti-evolutionary crowd advocates for a view of the world based on their/god’s say so.

        I agree the lines can be blurry sometimes at the edges. But philosophy and science (and math) were for a long time not separate disciplines like they are today (more the pity for us). What philosophy shares with science is a central activity, that of exploration and questioning. Most of the name philosophers’ writings are a process of trying to figure stuff out. Yes, they do draw conclusions, but based on observations, logic, and reasoning. They create bodies of thought with the goal of trying to better understand something, whether it’s we humans, the universe, morality or what have you. Most of the time, the study of philosophy causes people to think and if anything, sharpen their analytical abilities.

        Ayn Rand causes people’s brains to shut down. Not universally, perhaps, but by and large. And while it’s not dispositive to judge a person based on her followers, it is indicative.

        A very good question, overall!

        • dakinikat says:

          Economics actually started out as philosophy until folks started applying math models and the scientific method. That’s how some of the social sciences like Political Science got out of the philosophy category during the Age of Reason. I think there has to be some kind of scientific method or process involved which is why putting stuff like Ayn Rand into philosophy categories is spurious. But then, there’s also the philosophy of Pooh, right? Philosophy courses require logic courses so that you understand all the fallacies in arguments and you understand proofs but I swear that never seems to rub off on a lot of people that consider themselves to engage in philosophical debates.

          • Valhalla says:

            Well, I think that’s a result of a misuse of the term. I love Pooh, don’t get me wrong, but that’s not really philosophy.

            Or maybe it’s more correct to say that the term “philosophy” has multiple meanings. There’s philosophy as a discipline, and the there’s the everyday term “philosophy” which is used to cover a broad spectrum of things. I might say “it’s my philosophy to use a vinegar solution for cleaning my kitchen” but that’s not really invoking philosophy as a discipline.

            And while I agree that the “discipline” part of philosophy in terms of logic and analysis often does not seem to rub off on a lot of people (excellent way of putting it) who claim to engage in it, that doesn’t remove it from being a discipline. I’m sure there are many people who claim to be economists who just spout any old baloney!