Friday, July 05, 2013

Thoughts of the day

New York Times story about Columbia milvet Jason Everman.

This United War Veterans Council, Columbia MilVets, West Point event is one of the kinds of activity I fantasized about in the long view when I started the Columbia civil-military movement. I'm pleased to see MilVets making progress and my work bearing fruit years beyond my time in the arena.

Regarding the Obama administration's broken lead-from-behind foreign policy, via Mad Minerva. Money quotes from the article:
These critics are not coming from conservative think thanks. They’re coming from former Obama administration officials.


For instance, Vali Nasr, who served as senior adviser to Richard Holbrooke when he was ambassador to Pakistan and Afghanistan, said this of Obama’s Afghan policies: “Their primary concern was how any action in Afghanistan or the Middle East would play on the nightly news, or which talking point it would give the Republicans. The Obama administration’s reputation for competence on foreign policy has less to do with its accomplishments in Afghanistan or the Middle East than with how U.S. actions in that region have been reshaped to accommodate partisan political concerns.”

Anne-Marie Slaughter, director of policy planning at the State Department from 2009 to 2011, said this about Obama's Syria policy: "Obama must realize the tremendous damage he will do to the United States and to his legacy if he fails to act. He should understand the deep and lasting damage done when the gap between words and deeds becomes too great to ignore, when those who wield power are exposed as not saying what they mean or meaning what they say."

And Rosa Brookes, a former senior adviser at the Pentagon, attacked Obama for his failure to outline a broad, sweeping foreign policy strategy. "The Obama administration initially waffled over the Arab Spring, unable to decide whether and when to support the status quo and when to support the protesters. The United States used military force to help oust Libya’s Muammar al-Qaddafi, but insisted at first that this wasn’t the purpose of the airstrikes — and without any clear rationale being articulated, the use of force in seemingly parallel situations seems to have been ruled out."
Here are good explanations of the political situation in Egypt from the week before the military coup here and here.

The crisis in Egypt reminds me that a society must be secure, stable, with healthy governance, economy, and culture in order for higher aspirations like liberty to work. Think of Alexander Hamilton's lasting contributions as a founding father and Maslow's hierarchy of needs applied to society. It also reminds me of the urgent need, correct posture, and inadequacy of SU4A. The activism upon which SU4A was founded is necessary to precipitate dynamic action but simple conviction and charismatic leadership are insufficient on their own to make a real difference. Intuition, passion, and idealism are not enough. To be a world changer requires a skilled hand and working knowledge of culture, history, social theory and philosophy, sociology, economics, law, policy, administration, and logistics. The field of political science, which was my college major, is intended to synthesize all those knowledge areas, but political science tends to become myopic. I hoped SU4A would, like political science, evolve into a forum to synthesize all the knowledge areas needed for American leadership in domestic and foreign affairs, while members would be focused and dynamically animated by SU4A's activist founding purpose. The goal was ambitious and Columbia was the right place for it, but the group fell short of my goal. I fell short of it as a leader.

The start of the solution for our social problem lies with Emile Durkheim's theories on integration and solidarity (mechanical v organic; normless v fatalism). Durkheim believed social pathologies were a result of too much or too little integration, and anomie or alienation which was the result of insufficient norms as mechanical solidarity broke down from the fracturing forces of modernity. A normless society is a chaotically balkanized or even atomized society. Social regulation was Durkheim's solution. He believed we can co-exist healthily in close proximity as a diverse society as long as we all share a culturally normative moral/ethical compass and standard, collective purpose, and common cause - the ties that bring known, reliable, comforting, efficient order to a diverse people in modern society with organic solidarity. However, note that Durkheim left the application of regulation purposely vague and thereby avoided Marx's error of formulating a reductionist totalitarian collective application that mutated into generations of massive, still on-going harm. Durkheim, while a methodological collectivist, held that we have both social or collective consciousness and individual consciousness. He retained an operative outlook based on individual agency, warned against both fatalism caused by over-regulation and anomie caused by under-regulation, and advocated for a "golden mean" of integration and regulation calibrated to individuals. As well as reviving Adam Smith with his theory of organic solidarity, there should be enough room for JS Mill in Durkheim's golden mean. For a Durkheim-type shared compass and golden-mean regulation and integration, I favor a Starship Troopers-esque civil-military "green" cultural ethic. Heinlein's proposition included libertarian spaces for individualism within the framework of a strictly enforced simple social structure with firm cultural norms. At the same time, care must be taken to avoid Mao's error of attempting to shoehorn civil society into an overbearing maladapted military template. Finding a balanced solution with a golden mean will require new ideas and trial and error. We have to do something - things are falling apart and the worst are full of passionate intensity.

Right's guide to the Left.

The George Zimmerman case reminds me of the John White case, though their facts diverge. Daniel Greenfield's post on the Zimmerman case is spot-on that the predominant social-political issue in the Zimmerman case is a besieged working middle class, not race. A social-cultural issue in the case is the modern contours of social cohesion, duty, and responsibility, especially for men. The surge to vilify Zimmerman, contrary to the evidence, reminds me of the unfettered propaganda about President Bush and the Iraq mission. Here are the Zimmerman case jury instructions.

Here is a real-world example of being objectified in terms of alienation social theory: a chilling account of paparazzi hounding Katie Holmes and Suri Cruise as commodities. It's a microcosm of the dehumanization and void of basic social decency that accompanies ressentiment and fed the excesses of the French, Bolshevik, and Cultural revolutions. It's the Occupy Wall Street rationale.

Be wary of trolls. Paparazzi are one set. Twitter haters are another set. They're self-conscious, resilient, decentralized, and they self-organize. They're proof that we are not noble in the state of nature. The internet and social media avail them a rapid and efficient dominance of a parallel order that rivals the traditional order with enough power to warp reality.

Blurred Lines, featuring Robin Thicke, TI, and Pharrell, is a catchy song with a fun video. Here's the unrated version. I first learned about it from the provocative RadioShack Beats Pill commercial that's based on the music video. Judgybitch posted about the song. The overt red pill, PUA themes in the song and video, combined with the unapologetic stance by the artists in response to feminist criticism, strike me as a knowing pushback - a purposeful political statement - by the artists against the reach of radical feminism in popular culture. The popularity of 50 Shades of Grey among women is proof that radical feminist doctrine on human sexual relations is misleading and mistaken. Young man, do you want to create the spark with girls that can light fires? If yes, then purge the PC and learn from #Thicke. I believe Professor Russell would approve. Bravo, gentlemen.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta endorses the legalization of marijuana. I believe marijuana should be legal and regulated. It has significant medicinal properties and is less harmful than alcohol and tobacco products. There's a much more compelling argument to outlaw alcohol than marijuana. The criminal justice system, among others, is packed with alcohol-related incidents.

MTV top music videos from 1997. 1997 was an eventful year for me and it had a soundtrack, especially during my KP duty at Fort Huachuca while I waited to join the next class. The top hits were played on a constant loop in the D-Fac.

The Walter Koessler project: his German great-granddad's personal WWI photo album. Source: Mad Minerva.

Pierre Woodman is doing it right.

I'm a fan of rhythmic gymnastics. The second pitcher in this video is a rhythmic gymnast.

My RiverFlicks thoughts were moved here, and my reaction to Moonrise Kingdom was moved here.

A nature-loving college student died in a Final Destination-type freak accident when, without warning, a tree fell onto her outside of the dining hall of the summer camp where she worked as a camp counselor. It's reported the tree had been recently inspected by a utility company and nothing dangerous was detected. Another one: An ad executive leaned or sat on her 16th floor apartment balcony railing, which she was accustomed to doing, when it failed suddenly Seconds from Disaster-style, causing her to tip over and fall to her death. At 12:50 am, she was entertaining a man on a first date in her apartment when she died from a total surprise that happened in one split second. In that same split second, he heard the railing crack and watched her fall away. Assuming each story of her building is 10 feet, her death plunge of about 150 feet took about 3 seconds. Physics always wins.

Joey Chestnut set a new record in the Nathans hot dogs eating contest with 69 hot dogs in 10 minutes. The 2nd place finisher ate 51 hot dogs. It's Chestnut's 7th win in a row.

Art of Manliness - I linked a basic knots video from on my knots post. - free amateur-read audio books.

Following this tip, I removed the lithium ion battery from my laptop and am now relying on A/C power only. According to my desktop battery gauge, its storage capacity dropped from 6 to 5:12 hours over the last year, and lately, the drop-off seemed to accelerate. Hopefully, the change will preserve the battery for when I need it. The risk is no power back-up and immediate uncontrolled shutdown if the laptop unplugs or a power outage. The power connector is loose and falls out easily, so I taped 2 layers of scotch tape to the base of the plug to tighten the fit in the socket. Update: My laptop has shut down at least once already, maybe twice, while plugged in with no power outage. I used my 3-strand braid with a rolling hitch to anchor the power cord, which hopefully will help the connector be more stable in the socket.

Adhesive hooks are better for hanging curtains than drilling holes in the wall. Oh well. Live and learn. I'll use the technique next time. The author recommends using 3M command strips, which are strong and removable.

DIY shoe repair: 16 oz, 3" diameter bottom, #5 (PP: polypropylene) plastic, sour cream containers can be cut into comfortably smooth, semi-rigid, flexible, and durable heel sheath, shoe liner inserts if you tend to wear away the rear inner lining of your shoes and expose hard support structure that tears at your ankles. I wonder how many pairs of shoes I've thrown out that I could have salvaged with this DIY repair. Remember to taper the outside arm to avoid scraping the knobby bump: "The knobby bumps you can feel on either side of your ankle are the very ends of the lower leg bones. The bump on the outside of the ankle (lateral malleolus) is part of the fibula; the smaller bump on the inside of the ankle (medial malleolus) is part of the shinbone."

A giant flying cockroach crawling and flying around your apartment is a bad experience. I suspect it entered through a kitchen or bathroom sink drain. It's happened before, but last time, the roach came out of the bathroom sink drain, took a look around, and left through the same drain. Not this time. This one explored my apartment. I eventually caught it when it went to ground next to my refrigerator. I tried to vacuum it up, but it was strong enough to hold its ground and resist being sucked in, but not strong enough to escape. I was able to nudge it from behind into the vacuum. I then set it free outside. I'm jumpy just thinking about it. Man, I hate roaches.

Chicken of the Sea canned pink salmon gives less flavor to my bachelor stew than Icy Point canned pink salmon. The difference may be a richer salmon oil with the Icy Point. I also added vinegar for a different flavor, so perhaps the vinegar neutralized the precious salmon oil.

Work smarter, not harder: The most aggravating part of making bannock was dry-scraping out the leftover scraps of dough and flour stuck to the mixing bowl in order to add them to the cooking bannock. The easier, more efficient alternative is to add a bit of water to the mixing bowl, dissolve the flour and dough into it, then pour onto the bannock.

And that's why I prefer canned or frozen fruits and vegetables over fresh. About 2 weeks ago, I bought 2 cucumbers on sale for 1 dollar. I just threw out 1.5 of them, moldy, crumbling, and liquefying. What a waste, throwing money away. I sliced off outside pieces of the .5 cucumber and ate the remaining roughly 2 inch cube. I hope it doesn't make me sick. There were too many patches of mold on the whole cucumber to mess around with. The lesson is to eat soft liquid-filled fruits and vegetables quickly. I also should clean, cut, and store them immediately rather than store them dirty in the store bag. On the other hand, the carrots I bought at the same time and stored the same way, except I cleaned the carrots right away, are fine. I've lost some onion, but they've mostly lasted in long-term storage. Same for oranges. The scallions have lasted.

Spur Tree jerk sausages are pretty good. I bought 2 beef, 1 pork, and 1 turkey sausage for .99 per package, although the turkey sausage was 12 oz, not 16 oz. It looks like a one-time promotional deal, though.

Pillsbury milk chocolate brownie mix (19.5 oz) is surprisingly decent. Not as fudgy as I like, but the flavor holds its own. I've been mixing in evaporated milk before baking and the result has been a satisfactorily thick brownie texture. I wonder whether mixing in milk or sour cream before baking would similarly boost the brownie texture. Allow it to cool before eating. A sour cream spread on top gives it a nice flavor kick.

Lesson learned: Pechter's Real Jewish Rye Bread with Caraway Seeds will become moldy when stored long enough on the shelf. Whereas the Ultimate Grains All Natural Whole Grain Multi-Grain bread has not grown any mold despite being stored just as long, same way, same place.

Bar S hot dogs are cheap but gross. Avoid.

West Point cadet Bugle Notes with fun plebe knowledge. I had a dream last night loosely based, as dreams tend to be, on my truncated sojourn as a West Point cadet.

Related to "Defining the problem frames the solution.", one of my basic leadership principles, the ends do justify the means. Saying the ends don't justify the means is as silly as saying that how you play the game matters more than winning or losing. Means should be rationally matched to the ends. However, in a multi-dimensional competitive arena, there are simultaneous different ends. They may conflict. The means that are necessary to achieve one end may undermine another end. For example, in a rules-bound arena, cheating may garner near-term victories that are necessary, but also cause long-term defeat when the cheating is uncovered and punished. It comes down to smart rational trade-offs and making mitigations and compensations. Ethics must be weighed rationally as a factor of varying weight depending on the contours of the competition. In the ultimate judgement, the concrete gains from victory are what count, but the competitor must be clear about his ends and the definition of victory in order to choose his means rationally. Thought inspired by this documentary on the Soviet defeat of the Japanese in Manchuria.

Thin slicing is an attractive concept to an intuitive person. Hm.

Dystopian economic forecast book recommended to me. The end is nigh.

Top 5 deathbed regrets according to a nurse. They wish they had lived a life true to themselves rather than others' expectations, not worked as hard, the courage to express their feelings, stayed in touch with friends, and allowed themselves to be happy.

UPenn girls are adopting the hook-up culture in service of their feminist career ambitions and crushing their feminine souls. Same old story of modern times.

More on Hikikomori. Hikikomori strikes me as a pathological form of MGTOW. It's a fine line. I first read about the phenomenon here. The BBC article uses a broader definition for Hikikomori than Mind the Science Gap.

I'm debating whether to add the MGTOW label to my thoughts of the day posts. I haven't done so because the element is assumed by definition. I may change my mind at some point.

The law utilizes 2 methods to establish legally certified truth: inquisitorial, or an active search strictly going only where the facts take us, and adversarial, or judgement based on a structured debate between interested parties. The premises may include natural truths and socially constructed truths. The law is utilitarian. The legal-rational perspective is socially conscious and guided by the principle of practical social application. While the law aspires to justice, as Mill observed, law and justice are not interchangeable because justice is fundamentally individual while law is fundamentally social. Either legal method is useful but insufficient in the critical search for individual conscious truth. For individual truth, man must turn to critical philosophical methods to cull natural truths and stock for his individual truth from the environment, and set aside socially constructed truths, which is neither simple nor obvious. The replacement of blanket mechanical solidarity with organic solidarity means man must find his particular individual truth and puzzle-piece fit with society. Individual truth must be man's core and anchor in life. When alienated from his individual truth, he can only simulate living as an automaton of his environment. Once his individual consciousness is awake, then he can reintroduce his social consciousness to weigh and adapt individual truth for practical social application and, if he can, integration. Man is born a social creature and cannot escape the world. His needs (see Maslow's hierarchy) disallow removal from the Matrix. Man depends on social relationships starting with basic parent-child and then man-woman dyads. He is positive material in body and godly ideal in mind. He is essentially environmental and desires reification. This contradiction between self-actualization and socialization must be reconciled for man to become his own master. It's work. First, know thyself. Who. Are. You? Defining the problem, trial and error, and choosing the right tools are as necessary in philosophy as they are in hands-on activities. Galileo's resolutive-compositive method is conventional, but there are other valid philosophical methods.


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