Friday, February 25, 2005

On Bullshit

One of the most salient features of our culture is that there is so much bullshit. Everyone knows this. Each of us contributes his share. But we tend to take the situation for granted. Most people are rather confident of their ability to recognize bullshit and to avoid being taken in by it. So the phenomenon has not aroused much deliberate concern, or attracted much sustained inquiry. In consequence, we have no clear understanding of what bullshit is, why there is so much of it, or what functions it serves. And we lack a conscientiously developed appreciation of what it means to us. In other words, we have no theory. I propose to begin the development of a theoretical understanding of bullshit, mainly by providing some tentative and exploratory philosophical analysis. I shall not consider the rhetorical uses and misuses of bullshit. My aim is simply to give a rough account of what bullshit is and how it differs from what it is not, or (putting it somewhat differently) to articulate, more or less sketchily, the structure of its concept. Any suggestion about what conditions are logically both necessary and sufficient for the constitution of bullshit is bound to be somewhat arbitrary. For one thing, the expression bullshit is often employed quite loosely — simply as a generic term of abuse, with no very specific literal meaning. For another, the phenomenon itself is so vast and amorphous that no crisp and perspicuous analysis of its concept can avoid being procrustean. Nonetheless it should be possible to say something helpful, even though it is not likely to be decisive. Even the most basic and preliminary questions about bullshit remain, after all, not only unanswered but unasked. So far as I am aware, very little work has been done on this subject...

A classic already - also in book form.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

"The Iraqi resistance is a popular resistance

/ iraqi / resistance / patriotic /
"ON MARCH 19 LAST YEAR, the eve of the first anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, thousands of Shia Iraqis marched down from their mosque in Khadamiya district in Baghdad, passed a US military base, and crossed the Tigris river to meet thousands of Sunni Iraqis who were also marching towards their direction from their own mosque in another district.

The show of unity was organized by groups behind the Iraqi National Foundation Congress (INFC), a broad coalition of Iraqi political forces, which some see as a possible nucleus for the emergence of a united front against the occupation. Founded in May this year, the INFC is an umbrella group that includes leftists, nationalists, and Islamists from various tendencies who opposed Saddam’s regime and who refused to be part of any US-installed political body. Membership in the Congress is open to all who subscribe to its minimum bases of unity: an unequivocal call for the withdrawal of occupation troops and opposition to any possible division of Iraq’s territory and people on religious or sectarian basis..."

Condoleeza Rice vs. Democracy in Mexico

/ mexican / revolts /
"A new kind of coup d’etat has been hatched to strip Mexico City’s activist governor Andrés Manuel López Obrador – the country’s most popular political leader according to all national public opinion polls – of his right to run for president in the July 2006 elections.

This attempted coup became official policy the week that Condoleeza Rice took the helm of the U.S. State Department last month, and Washington’s reliable puppets in two of Mexico’s national political parties immediately jumped to implement the master’s orders.

López Obrador’s opponents – domestic and foreign – fear that the leader of Mexico’s electoral left wing will be unstoppable at the ballot box sixteen months from now. And so forces accustomed to stealing and fixing elections for 75 years in this country have come to a last resort: A dirty plot to remove his name from the ballot...

...If the plan to remove López Obrador from the ballot succeeds, Mexico’s 2006 election will lack all legitimacy among much of the country’s 100 million strong populace, especially among the nation’s youth. This, in turn, is likely to lead to massive civil resistance and disobedience, including effective blockades of highways and border commerce, similar to events of recent years in Bolivia. And that could end up paralyzing the country, sparking an international economic and political crisis."

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Gay love and armed struggle

/ ceremonies / revolutionary /
It seems that the days when conservative and puritan ethics dominated revolutionary struggles are becoming history. The happy Filipino guerrilla couple who were married a couple of weeks ago by the New People's Army in the Philippines, provide testimony to the fact. Note that the article describes the Communist Party of the Philippines policies on homosexuality:
On gay relations

"[We] conducted painstaking discussions to make comrades understand gay relations and gay rights," Andres said.

"Gay cadres adhere to the strong Party discipline. They enhance the prestige of gays in the movement. This has gained positive results through the years. Comrades (male and female) and even the masses have learned to respect and recognize gays and their contribution to the revolution," he said.

As early as 1995, the CPP's Southern Mindanao Regional Party Committee started to discuss gay rights in the movement.

In 1998, a provision on gay relations and same-sex marriage was added to the CPP's guiding policy on relations contained in a document titled "On the Proletarian Relationship of Sexes (OPRS)."

Under the OPRS, the communist movement is committed to guide and ensure there is no exploitation in any relationship-heterosexual or homosexual.

Some reactions from the local community:

"Councilor Emmanuel Galicia said though he respects the same sex marriage between the two NPA rebels, "it would be difficult to enact a new legislation allowing same sex marriage since our country is predominantly Catholic."

"As of the present, our culture and religion do not support such idea," Galicia said."

Monday, February 21, 2005

Option Zero in Haiti

/ western / interventions / diversity /
A very multilateral coup. Franco-American harmony and unanimous blessings from the Security Council for the overthrow of a constitutional government and crushing of popular hope, in the Western hemisphere’s poorest nation-state.

As his advisors ponder the ever more troubling consequences of regime change in Iraq, Bush is entitled to take some comfort from the far more successful operation just completed in Haiti. [1] No brusque pre-emptive strikes, domestic carping or splintering coalitions have marred the scene; objections from caricom and the African Union have carried no threats of reprisal. In overthrowing the constitutionally elected government of Jean Bertrand Aristide, Washington could hardly have provided a more exemplary show of multilateral courtesy. Allies were consulted, the UN Security Council’s blessing sought and immediately received. The signal sent to Chávez, Castro and other hemispheric opponents was unambiguous—yet it was not a bullying Uncle Sam but France that made the first call for international intervention in Haiti’s domestic affairs.

via Monochrom

Saturday, February 19, 2005


/ spectre / haunting / again /
"Spectrezine is a radical journal of the European Left, with a global perspective. Beginning as a print magazine in 1997, Spectrezine has been an online journal for the last four years and now, in our latest redesign, incorporates a weblog, allowing readers to respond to news items and participate in debate..."

The weblog goes to the sidebar, as you all might have guessed. I would also suggest that European readers take some time to check out their piece on the Bolkestein directive, take a deep breath as France saves our Euro-asses from the threat (for Chirac's own reasons), remain vigilant and go sign the petition against it.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Bombed and poisoned

/ poisoning / natives /
A Japanese report form Kosovo detailing among other things the aftermath of massive Depleted Uranium use. Excerpt:

"Dr. Milan Jocic has worked for more than fifteen years at a hospital in the center of town. 'Since the bombings, cancers of the lungs, bones, and tongue have all increased with many children falling ill. The number of cases has risen at least 30 percent. Many more people are dying young. It is the same here as in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.' Zorisa Markovic, a reporter, formerly with the Tanjug News Agency now with Balkan newspaper, has long covered health care issues. He estimates that 'it will take more than ten years to determine accurately the effects of depleted uranium ammunition. When symptoms began appearing among Italian soldiers, there was an uproar in the Western European media, but in Serbia under economic sanctions there was no money to survey the health of residents. What is known is how much depleted uranium was dropped, and that cancer has increased since the bombings which are also thought to have caused weakened resistance to stress. Another problem is that many young physicians, who see no future here, have left for other countries...'"

The Japanese focus on radioactivity is natural, but one would think that there were other toxic emissions conceivably more carcinogenic than DU - at least for those outside the close vicinity of the actual targets.

World view of global warming

/ warmer / by the year /
An excellent site, providing photographic documentation of climate change and demonstrating rather dramatically the effects of global warming.
The Kyoto Protocol is welcome as a first step, but more action is needed - and certainly getting the US to sign it is priority munber 1. Some argue that it's already too late.
Georges Monbiot notes that "daffodils, primroses, almond trees, bumblebees, nesting birds" in Britain are all "a month ahead of schedule".

More than you can possibly hope to ever read about climate change: here.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Climate change: Menace or myth? - Features

/ climate / science / not punditry /

The New Scientist has a rather readable and comprehensive view of the situation in climate science - a must read really, discussing the evidence and arguments supporting the prediction of climate change and finding them more or less convincing. Excerpt:

"Where does this leave us? Actually, with a surprising degree of consensus about the basic science of global warming - at least among scientists. As science historian Naomi Oreskes of the University of California, San Diego, wrote in Science late last year (vol 306, p 1686): 'Politicians, economists, journalists and others may have the impression of confusion, disagreement or discord among climate scientists, but that impression is incorrect.'

Her review of all 928 peer-reviewed papers on climate change published between 1993 and 2003 showed the consensus to be real and near universal. Even sceptical scientists now accept that we can expect some warming. They differ from the rest only in that they believe most climate models overestimate the positive feedback and underestimate the negative, and they predict that warming will be at the bottom end of the IPCC's scale"

I must also add the following excerpt from the article demonstrating the paucity of reasonable arguments on the "no climate change at all" camp:

For the true hard-liners, of course, the scientific consensus must, by definition, be wrong. As far as they are concerned the thousands of scientists behind the IPCC models have either been seduced by their own doom-laden narrative or are engaged in a gigantic conspiracy. They say we are faced with what the philosopher of science Thomas Kuhn called a "paradigm problem".

"Most scientists spend their lives working to shore up the reigning world view - the dominant paradigm - and those who disagree are always much fewer in number," says climatologist Patrick Michaels of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, a leading proponent of this view. The drive to conformity is accentuated by peer review, which ensures that only papers in support of the paradigm appear in the literature, Michaels says, and by public funding that gives money to research into the prevailing "paradigm of doom". Rebels who challenge prevailing orthodoxies are often proved right, he adds.

This is pseudotheoretical bullshit, coming from a person who should know better than to use a standard erroneous creationist cliché: most "rebels" who challenge prevailing orthodoxies in modern science are wrong. As Michael Shermer has noted:

"History is replete with tales of the lone scientist working in spite of his peers and flying in the face of the doctrines of his or her own field of study. Most of them turned out to be wrong and we do not remember their names. For every Galileo shown the instruments of torture for advocating a scientific truth, there are a thousand (or ten thousand) unknowns whose "truths" never pass muster with other scientists."

To see the falaciousness of the argument (often repeated by the non-scientists who comprise the overwhelming majority of the climate "skeptics" BTW), one simply has to think of any number of cranks "refuting the second law of thermodynamics" (and there are hundreds out there) using the exact same argument against the "consensus view".

Tuesday, February 15, 2005


/ media / submissive /
The exile points out a rather glaring discrepancy in journalistic standards across the Atlantic, once again indicating the rapid stalinization of the major corporate US TV channels - and their subservience to the State Department.

Let's not leave the "free press" out of this however. As Edward Herman points out in his recent article on Iraqi election coverage. The New York Times' commentary these elections: "Would Pravda have had the nerve to write something this brazen about Czechoslovakia in 1968 or Afghanistan under Soviet proxy rule?"

Web art criminalized

/ web / police / halfwits /
The thing really buzzing in the greek blogosphere today is the arrest of web artist Dimitrios Fotiou, on charges of internet fraud, due to a website which he put up (as a web art project as he stealthily but clearly explained linking to his personal website - a sure sign of a con man eh?) titled dirty-works greece (the site has exceeded its monthly traffic allowance already due to all the fuss), which supposedly could, for the right price, find you a job in Greeces corrupt public sector, or indeed in its private sector as well. The thing was pretty damn obviously a spoof, lampooning corruption and favouritism in Greece. His sin, though, was to include a seemingly real credit card submission page (google cached here), which the technophobic press (and that's most of the Greek press unforunately) took seriously despite the fact that (as a quick look at the cached page's source can easily demonstrate) it submits nothing at all...

For more information: Academia Nervosa has a much more thorough take on the story.

We're all waiting to see how this thing plays along, given the fact that the press reports had sarcastic comments about "his art project" and the fact that the Greek cybercops are very obviously clueless. I wont be surprised if I'm back with a petition to support the imprisoned artist in a week, especially given the tradition of web-related idiocy the country is establishing.

Update 15/02/05: kathimerini misses the whole point too. Wow, this is becoming quite telling in regard to the complete lack of the slightest web savvy among greek journalists in general...
Update II: Kathimerini finally gets a clue...
Update III: Anatomy of Melancholy provides the story's background.

Monday, February 14, 2005

What's the story?

/ twin / Kosovos /
How does this compare to this. What was the message Tadic sent from Kosovo? "This is Serbia"? Reminds me of a much less forceful statement.
Anyway things might be getting out of hand in new ways already.

World Press Photo of the Year 2004

/ photos / impressive /
This years World Press Photo awards contain amazing pictures. Besides the truly shocking first prize winner, I have to point out this amazing photo that won second prize and tells all that can be humanly conveyed about the plight of the third world. Then don't miss the gallery of the winners from the past 50 years, which include some very well known photos. This however was not well known, and neither was the event it portrayed - a little known piece of japanese history, a web search of which took me to this interesting page...

Wednesday, February 9, 2005

Tariq Ali: Imperial Delusion

/ iraq / analysis /
Tariq Ali has some rather sensible things to say about the current situation in Iraq. Forgets to mention the Wahabbi squads apparently on a mission to start a civil war in Iraq, and how they might differ from your run-of-the-mill Iraqi resistence groups... Excerpt:
"The battle for Iraq is far from over. It has merely entered a new stage. Despite strong disagreements on the boycott of the elections, the majority of Iraqis will not willingly hand over their oil or their country to the West. Politicians, bearded or otherwise, who try and force this through will lose all support and become totally dependent on the foreign armies encamped in their country. The popular resistance will continue. Times have changed. Many in the North find it difficult to support this resistance. The arguments for and against are old ones. In the last decades of the 19th century, the English socialist William Morris celebrated the defeat of General Gordon by the Mahdi: 'Khartoum fallen-into the hands of the people it belongs to'. Morris argued that the duty of English internationalists was to support all those being oppressed by the British Empire despite one's disagreements with nationalism or fanaticism.

In another story from Counterpunch, it seems that Giuliana Sgrena (which some reports suggest has been executed while others that she is soon to be released), could very well have been kidnapped for non-political reasons...

Tariq Ali: Imperial Delusion

Tariq Ali: Imperial Delusion: "The battle for Iraq is far from over. It has merely entered a new stage. Despite strong disagreements on the boycott of the elections, the majority of Iraqis will not willingly hand over their oil or their country to the West. Politicians, bearded or otherwise, who try and force this through will lose all support and become totally dependent on the foreign armies encamped in their country. The popular resistance will continue. Times have changed. Many in the North find it difficult to support this resistance. The arguments for and against are old ones. In the last decades of the 19th century, the English socialist William Morris celebrated the defeat of General Gordon by the Mahdi: 'Khartoum fallen-into the hands of the people it belongs to'. Morris argued that the duty of English internationalists was to support all those being oppressed by the British Empire despite one's disagreements with nationalism or fanaticism."

Friday, February 4, 2005

Iranians for Peace

/ iran / vox populi /
"This weblog is dedicated to the Iranian people who are against a military attack on Iran. We believe that no war can contribute to the establishment of liberty and democracy in our country. 'Iranians for Peace' welcomes the opinions of Iranian people around the globe who are in opposition to war."

Reasonable arguments against an attack on Iran, from Iranian citizens. They would be very effective if they were directed to rational humans. Unfortunately they mostly appeal to the "reality based community". As does another Iranian blog No War on Iran!.

Some interesting links from the two blogs:

Two petitions against US military interference in Iran (go, sign, its not much, but it provides a psychological argument against the invasion):

  • The first one, is directed to George Bush, and is titled "We are against military interference of USA in Iran".

  • The other one is directed to the UN General assembly, to pass a resolution to prevent an attack by the US in Iran, and is simply titled "No war in Iran".

  • Also read Ervand Abrahamian's Iran: the next target?; it is both interesting and scary, as it argues that an adventure in Iran is not at all inconceivable, and goes on to suggest a few steps towards defusing the situation, some of which are sensible and others unrealistic. However the analysis of the situation is spot on IMHO. Excerpt:

    The risk of a collision remains high, but the Iraqi quagmire has created a mood of complacency in the international community and among liberal and conservative “realists” in America about US capabilities. Conventional wisdom now argues that because the US military is overextended, its citizens are uneasy about the extent of international commitments, and its leaders have supposedly been “chastised” by Iraq, the country is unlikely to venture into new wars – especially into the vast inhospitable region of Iran.

    This overlooks several counter-arguments for the likelihood of an escalation of conflict – especially those that take into account the power of ideology. The neoconservatives who brought us the Iraq conflict are more entrenched in power now than they were in 2001-2003 when more conventional conservatives could still be found in the corridors of the CIA and the State Department.

    These neoconservatives do not consider the Iraq exercise to be a failure since they have achieved their avowed goal of overthrowing Saddam Hussein. They are still convinced that they have the power to change facts and create their own reality. They have been demanding the destruction of the Islamic Republic – much like the refrain “Carthage must be destroyed” – ever since Iran’s 1979 revolution. As Saddam Hussein fell, they proclaimed that everyone wants to go to Baghdad, but real men aim for Tehran.

    Tuesday, February 1, 2005

    Wildest blog in the wild South East

    / awards / mistaken /
    As I had noted a week ago, just about, this blog was a contender for the Fistful of Euros, Satin Pajama awards for the European blogosphere. I mentioned it on my (much more visited) greek blog as well, and the result was a patriotic response which helped propel me to the top of the "Best Southestern European Blog" category - with the help of an endorsement (thanks Michael!) by the eventual winner of the big one: the "Best European Blog" category, The Glory of Carniola - and almost won me the "Most Deserving of Wider Recognition" category, (a rather self contradictory category in which it was assured that the blogs that already had wide recognition would fare better than the others...) anyway, greek blogospheric solidarity was not enough, cooler minds prevailed and the very deserving Non Tibi Spiro took that prize.

    Of course had either Carniola been in the list (not Southeastern enough?) or Halfway down the Danube (its owners were among the Fistful), it would have been rather improbable that this humblest of blogs would have prevailed.

    But anyway, you are now reading the regional champion blog for SE Europe. Rejoice! And go take a look at the other nominees and winners....

    This Election Will Change the World. But Not in the Way the Americans Imagined

    / maelstroms / electoral /
    This Robert Fisk corrrespondence seemed to me the only safe and sensible thing to take out of the elections in Iraq. The elections themselves are interesting (to tell you the truth I can see many reasons one could go vote - despite the fact that these elections are not really legitimate) and I'm waiting to see the results. Sistani is probably going to be the defining figure/winner of the elections, but it will be interesting to see the balance of power and how the victors of the election will handle the issue of American occupation forces withdrawal. Here's Robert Fisk on Democracy Now, talking about the Iraqi elections.

    The other important development not being stressed enough is the Kurdish independence push, which is met by threatening and warning noises from across the border.

    So whether these elections become the first act of a generalized civil war in Iraq (which I'm not sure if the Pentagon would be very upset about) or just provide positioning for the interested parties, will be to a large part determined by how the "winners" of the election will handle this and how much the situation can be controlled from above. I'm not very optimistic, but then again I never am about such things. There remain of course other options...

    The European Project: Dismantling Social Democracy, Globalising Neoliberalism, by Andy Storey

    The European Project: Dismantling Social Democracy, Globalising Neoliberalism, by Andy Storey: "Leaving aside for now obvious questions of how exclusively European are the citizenship and social models discussed above, to what extent does European regionalism in the form of the EU currently promote these models? We may conclude with little argument that it does promote a certain version of post-national citizenship (though increasingly restrictive asylum and immigration policies render that rather less inclusive than its adherents might claim - Beatty, 2004). However, does it promote the social model? In the view of some observers, including Anthony McGrew (see above), it most certainly does not.

    Van Appeldoorn (2001) provides some useful historical perspective on these questions. He identifies three different visions of European order: neoliberalism; neo-mercantilism; and social democracy. The neo-mercantilist vision, it is argued, underpinned the initial drive towards the creation of the European single market and Economic and Monetary Union (EMU). For neo-mercantilists, a European competitiveness gap vis-a-vis the rest of the world was attributed to fragmented markets, a related inability to fully exploit economies of scale in production, and insufficient investment in research and technology. (For neoliberals, the problems were - and still are - more likely to be attributed to factors such as inflexible labour markets, and unsustainable and work-discouraging welfare states)."