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Rain In A Rusty Bucket

It's what makes the bucket Rusty... and by the way, if you see Rusty tell her to write.

Friday, April 29, 2005


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if you want to learn... find things that seem paradoxical to you and don't give up until you've made sense of them.

This works, I guarantee it.

Thursday, April 28, 2005


Pericles did an interesting job readjusting Lakoff's strict father/nurturant parent pair of models into something related, the important idea of obligation. Traditionally, everyone believe in obligation, at least supposedly. Most acknowledge it's right to be obligated in some circumstance.

The dichotomy that Pericles proposes as models are related to how obligation is viewed. In one the obligation is inherited, and this is the traditional or conservative model, and in the other obligation is negotiated, ties can be severed, to put it most bluntly. Of course, arbitrary obligation is akin to slavery.

But there you have the the gist of it. Slavery. There is a kind of slavery called indentured servitude, in which, of course, the slave has sold themselves into slavery for some cost. For example, people used to do this to get passage to America, after a period of time, the servant was free to go, and of course this kind of slave sometimes achieves more rights than other kinds of slaves, and in deed there were a wide variety of types of slaves and various sort of obligation were expected.

The modern perspective, of course, does not recognize that sort of obligation, not even voluntarily engaged or by any means. And socially, there is a lot of controversy where obligation ends. Some feel obligated to their children. Other's do not. Some feel obligated for their debts, some do not, while still others feel obligated... except... there are exceptions, there are literal interpretations of the risks that were understaken and in fair circumstances, perhaps certain obligations can be void.

But when we allow that in general, then we find that it's true that there is no obligation at all. So there is in fact a question "is obligation the right concept for its function?" And of course, "what is its function"?. But equally, "Is obligation perhaps abolute after all?", and "Is obligation possible to inherit?"

The reason for obligation in social networks is, I think, consistency... obligation is how honest deals happen, because deals are spread out in time and commitment obligation is how these trades appear simultaneous from an economic point of view. There should be no question of completing the deal, of course there is, but it works more often than not, amazingly enough.

I suspect every kind of obligation is a deal of this sort, the completion of some transaction, although the matter of opinion remains as to what types of transaction incur obligation, or if any do, or even if perhaps all do.

But as a skeptic I have to admit also that every obligation can in fact be broken as a practical observation. They have. So it's worth noting that obligation is an arbitrary quality which is attributed to the situation by a mind. A sociopath can feel no obligation. Strong instinct for obligations, if they exist, have good reason, and in my view some obligations are certainly trained by the culture, but become like instinct for the individual, and I would not be surprises if some were genetically encoded at well. And still, I cannot think of any potentially genetic motivation to some obligation has not been broken many times by more than a few individuals... feelings of obligation is not particularly universal. I think there are built in feelings of obligation, but they are merely such that individuals can overrule them, like breathing is an automatic reflex but when you consciously think about it you control it.

And in the end your politics will depend to a large degree on what sort of obligations you allow.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usThere is a lot of talk about the way the Republicans have simplified arguments down to easily accepted premises.  This work goes back to finding the right words, the very successful approach of Luntz and Gingrich.

But it's not really about the right words, it's about concepts, possibly false in their case, but concepts nonetheless, concepts which are simple.

And there is much handwringing on the left over what is really just an ancient philosophical debate... are our ideals complex because they have to be? would simplification be "simple minded"?  Well, the history of knowledge has a lot to say on simplification, how simplification is achieved, and its value.

I'm going to use (possibly to the point of abuse) a metaphor from science, but admittedly when science was still called Natural Philosophy, for science is a specialization of philosophy... a certain type of philosophy about something that happened to be reducible... that is, possible to simplify.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usWhat is complexity?  Complexity is the need for many rules, and for those rules to have many parts in order to explain something.  In the history of philosophy, things seem simple once you have the right coordinate system.  If you find the right basic qualities of something such that one quality is distinct from the other, you will probably simplify your understanding, while increasing it's ability to accurately comprehend the subject matter.

So for example, the motion of planets bore some special explanation.  Every night, as every culture had noticed on its own, the stars travel across the sky in an arc.  Each star takes a path that does not intersect the others, and each star was always the same distance from and in the same relation with the other stars.  Planets also take the same arc through the sky at night, and look like bright stars.  

But they do not have the same relation to the stars, they move in the sky from night to night.  "Planet" comes from the reek word for "wanderer".  

And this is where my metaphor needs direct explaining, the key to simplification is first to understand the basic facts, but then, in a case like this, where the basic facts and measurements are available, the job of simplification becomes one of finding the right coordinate system.

Finding a coordinate system, either in a conceptual space such as political philosophy, or in a physical system like the solar system, involves finding the right reference points, the right origin.  From this origin you will state all your measurements.  And a great deal of apparent simplicity rests on your choice of origin system.  The nature of the coordinate system is also important, but I'll ignore that because in my example, that was agreed upon and all that was left to make sense of the data was choice of the proper origin.

By the time of the Ptolemy much was agreed upon, that we were in a three dimensional space, and this included the heavens, that the planets were not stars but bodies in our solar system, that these things were not just traveling across the sky but were traveling in space.  But to explain their motion (which meant the ability to predict it) he chose as his origin point, the Earth.  

It made sense, the Earth was Ptolemy's preferred point of origin... he lived there, it didn't even seem to move, though Ptolemy probably understood it might in fact move.  To support this theory the planets could not move in mere arcs or circles or even ellipses, but had to be moving in circles within circles, wheels within wheels, to explain their backward motions in the sky.  And his system was so accurate it lasted for 1400 years.

But it was complicated.  By moving the origin to the Sun, of course, all was simplified, the planets moved in near circles around the Sun, not around points moving around points moving around points moving around the Earth.

I assume you all know this story, but I lay it out slowly so you have it in mind.  The complexity of liberalism is in exactly the state Ptolemy's theory was in.  We are expressing our philosophy, which is the philosophical spirit itself, relativism, in terms of their reference points.  We express it in a dogmatic coordinate system.  In such a system one has to say things like "well, I voted for AND against it!"  HAHAHA!  Epicycles, good one!  Suuure.

We've done a good job with our epicyclic Ptolemean explanation, we really can calculate good policy using it, but it will forever seem complex until we adopt the coordinate system natural to it.  That coordinate system is relativity.  Physical, social, moral, you name it, relativity wins.  Even WE might want the coordinate system firmly rooted in the mundane, on mundus... the world, our Earth.  Even we tend to want that.  But it really is better located in the Sun, and in relativity.

We need this other coordinate system and its origin point(s) because it is with respect to that system that 1400 years of measurements should be taken, the coordinate system as reference gets drummed into the analysis itself, reinforcing itself.  By measuring celestial motion with respect to the sun, not only do predictions become better, but it becomes obvious the Sun really is the center of the solar system even though one can place their origin points wherever they like... for example, at the center of the Galaxy, or back at the center of the Earth, or perhaps wherever your cat is.  

If the origin can be placed anywhere, then which is "true"...? well, I used the word "natural" because it's a matter of finding where the simplicity lies.  The natural origin to use depends on the problem.  It is located wherever the problem is made most simple.

For progressive politics, that center is relativism, which I believe is related to the philsophical spirit in general.  To explain our philosophy in simple terms requires understanding, embracing, and explaining: relativism.

Friday, April 22, 2005

It's What You've Got

What you have is Barbara Boxer posting diaries in the egalitarian bazaar of the DailyKos diaries. There is selectivity for progressive viewpoints, but Democrats will more than do.

That's Senator Barbara Boxer. Here is the picture from her second diary, you see, a DailyKos diarist arranged the idea that people could send roses to Senator Boxer to show their appreciation of her stand on the election certifications and the Condoleeza Rice confirmation for Secretary of State. On Valentines of course.

And right now she's advising "Tell George Bush to nominate a new UN Ambassador!" in a "diary" which is among the recommended diaries (diares can be recommended by the users who click their approval).

The daily visits at dailykos are about 400,000 a day according to sitemeter. Not pageviews but someone staying at the site for a while. Some visits will be different people, say someone that logs on in the morning and then at lunch.

It's sort of remarkable. That's a blog. That's a Senator. That surpising. If it's your blog nothing can take the shine off since at the very least it's a kind of legitimacy you literally cannot buy. But tacitus (aka trevino of redstate.org) tries to by claiming it's merely a staffer. This comment is a reply to his own piece relying on the questionable premise that Bolton is opposed by both North Korea and Boxer and so can't be all bad. Believe me when I tell you tacitus is capable of far better reasoning than that, so much so that it's a bit of a dissapointment.

But maybe before long Senator Hegel will post diaries at redstate.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Is the New Pope a NAZI?

Of course not! It's a ridiculous question, really.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Did you miss me?

I was travelling. I may have to retreat to philosophy since I'm getting politically re-dissillusioned by the day.

Anyway... here is another hero... and this one is French, trying to save a mother and her baby. I doubt he was thinking about the political advantages involved.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Beautiful City

I had to post something, I couldn't let that picture be this blog any longer.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Baby Seal Hunt Still Evil

Canada's shame: A hunter clubs a harp seal to death on an ice floe in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The brutal hunt, the largest in the world, is expected to bag 975,000 seals, most of them babies. CP photo by Jonathan Hayward via Associated Press

Do I really have to say more?  Isn't that enough?  I'm against it.  Sure, I know they need the vital fluids from the baby seal blubber to make the cure for cancer they distribute on the African continent, not to mention that millions of people can live only off the meat of... oh wait... no, it's just because some people feel really pretty when they wear something which has been brutally clubbed to an ugly death.

I don't have much to say... it's sad and disgusting.  Try these people instead, IFAW, Save Baby Seals: End the Seal Hunt

Friday, April 01, 2005

They've found the WMD!!!!

Here it is... the LAB!

Um. Now go get those hundreds of tons of plastic explosives that have been looted.