Saturday, November 28, 2009

In Praise of Artistic Nudes

Garrison Keillor knows what he likes.
"I see no reason to paint flowers. You can buy fresh flowers. Still lifes are only an exercise. And abstract expressionism is for the lobbies of big insurance companies. The true calling of an artist is to paint women and the greatest challenge is the naked female form. That's what separates the true artists from the wallpaper-hangers."

I said this in the room that houses some rather erotic Georgia O'Keeffe flowers and "American Gothic" with its squinty lady, and I spoke on behalf of American men everywhere. At the age of 67, I have stopped apologizing for looking at naked women. I don't stand directly in front of a nude and stare at her, lest I be taken for a pervert. I stand in front of the painting next to the nude and sneak sidelong glances, but nonetheless I am moved by her. Deeply.

Humbug Moldbuggery

No, this is not about the rampaging rapist home builders in Texas and their screwing buyers over mold damage.

Moldbug, not his real name, seems to be a leading Libertarian social philosopher blogger today.

I was exposed to his ideas recently by a quasi-Libertarian friend and was puzzled because I thought the ideas and arguments just didn't make sense.

Martin Regnen provides a Condensed Moldbuggery guide and also concludes it doesn't makes sense.

One example of the limitation of Moldbug's thinking is his dividing people today into three classes or castes. (No, people who divide people into classes isn't one of the classes.) Moldbug has:

Eloi - the educated liberal artistic elites who run things,
Morlocks who do all the illegal work or collect welfare,
and Proles who do the real work.

If you are flummoxed it may be because this is an almost complete reversal of H.G. Wells creation of Eloi and Morlocks. If you are familiar with H.G. Wells you realize that this should have been:

Eloi - the beautiful people, artistic and intellectuals who have no power but live in beautiful garden surroundings.
Proles - those who do all the work and live in the dark fiery Hellish industrialized underground.
Morlocks - the powerful masters of industrialization who the proles work for. In The Time Machine proles and Morlocks are really condensed into just the Morlocks.

The Eloi always end up being eaten by the Morlocks unless an unlucky time traveller comes along.

There is much other stuff in his works like for democracies with two major political parties, the more progressive party is referred to as the Inner Party and the more conservative party is the Outer Party. His key point is that supporting the Outer Party is not an effective strategy against progressivism. In case you haven't gotten it progressives are the evil Eloi who must be destroyed.

Progressivism (also called Universalism) is responsible for the vast majority of the world's problems today. It is a non-theistic religion descended in a direct line from the various Dissenter sects of England. Although the belief in God was dropped during the religion's evolution in order to improve its ability to spread, the core of progressive beliefs are very similar to the Quaker beliefs of a few centuries ago. In short, progressives are dangerous and creepy religious maniacs who don't need to believe in God but that makes them no less dangerous, creepy or maniacal.

The conflict between progressivism and conservatism

Progressivism always wins in the long run. Conservatism can at most slow down the implementation of selected progressive ideas. This is because progressives dominate the universities, media and non-governmental organizations which allows them to mold public opinion. Progressives dominate those institutions because progressivism is a far more attractive ideology for people who are intelligent, ambitious and status-seeking. In the US conservatives are largely members of Protestant sects of American origin (mostly Evangelical sects) whereas progressives are the spiritual descendants of the English dissenters, so this conflict is essentially a religious one.
I won't waste more time on this unless I get interesting comments. Even despite my social and political orientation - a Universalist Progressive, I can't see how more than a few misguideds would see Moldbug's hypotheses as more than a sad waste of limited intellect not worth mining the dross for a possible few gold flakes of real useful, or at least interesting, ideas.

Still, I am happy to see this is what passes for sophistication on the Libertarian Right.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Almost unbelievable story of the new economy

And the Money Comes Rolling In
Markus Frind works one hour a day and brings in $10 million a year. How does he do it? He keeps things simple.

How PlentyofFish became the world's largest dating site - make it free and fast.

I keep thinking this is much of the future of the new economy - unfortunately it does not spell much future employment. He works one hour a day and after very rapid exponential growth has two employees. A year ago his site had ten million users and was getting well over a billion page views each month. By now he should be creating a million successful relationships a year. is so successful now that it is doing a promotion offering dates with Lady Gaga - new single Bad Romance - to winners.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Locke seeks the homophobic vote

I am going to link to Kuff for the meetings Locke had with Harris County's nastiest political kingmaker and very political, very conservative preachers concerned about "the gay agenda." And Gene Locke's tepid response which I read as Locke saying I am not responsible for who votes for me or why.

It is disappointing but not unexpected that Locke is going that route. He already had alienated women voters with several good ol’ boy gaffes earlier in the campaign and the revelation of previous lack of respect for women.

It is significant that his political team consists of highly paid national Democratic and Republican operatives and insiders from a previous mayoral team not known for its smoothness or ethics.

So now Locke has meetings with the smear master of the far right in Houston who lead the Christian fundamentalist takeover of the Harris County GOP and the politically active anti-gay, anti-abortion, anti-Democrat pastor group. How much did he pledge to support conservative causes? Then a statement that essentially says Locke is not going to be responsible for what others say about his opponent. All this is a political style we thought Houston outgrew in local races.

I hope many Republicans will stay home rather than vote for a Black Democrat angling for homophobic support.

I see even an Evangelical minister is wondering if the Houston Area Pastor Council, which is the home organization of the US Pastor Council, is crossing the line in terms of IRS regulations in mounting a campaign against gay candidates.

Monday, November 09, 2009

More Criticism of SuperFreakonomics

I shouldn't be surprised at SuperFreakonomics. Freakonomics reminded me somewhat of early John Stossel, while not the established wisdom they were glib "common sense" economic arguments. Like Stossel, later works veer more right and less factual. This latest seems to exhibit the bias toward particular approaches they decry in others. From The New Yorker review:

Given their emphasis on cold, hard numbers, it’s noteworthy that Levitt and Dubner ignore what are, by now, whole libraries’ worth of data on global warming. Indeed, just about everything they have to say on the topic is, factually speaking, wrong. Among the many matters they misrepresent are: the significance of carbon emissions as a climate-forcing agent, the mechanics of climate modelling, the temperature record of the past decade, and the climate history of the past several hundred thousand years.
“The problem wasn’t necessarily that you talked to the wrong experts or talked to too few of them. The problem was that you failed to do the most elementary thinking.”
Pierrehumbert carefully dissects one of the arguments that Levitt and Dubner seem to subscribe to—that solar cells, because they are dark, actually contribute to global warming—and shows it to be fallacious. “Really simple arithmetic, which you could not be bothered to do, would have been enough to tell you,” he writes, that this claim “is complete and utter nonsense.”

But what’s most troubling about “SuperFreakonomics” isn’t the authors’ many blunders; it’s the whole spirit of the enterprise. Though climate change is a grave problem, Levitt and Dubner treat it mainly as an opportunity to show how clever they are.

Leaving aside the question of whether geoengineering, as it is known in scientific circles, is even possible—have you ever tried sending an eighteen-mile-long hose into the stratosphere?—their analysis is terrifyingly cavalier. A world whose atmosphere is loaded with carbon dioxide, on the one hand, and sulfur dioxide, on the other, would be a fundamentally different place from the earth as we know it. Among the many likely consequences of shooting SO2 above the clouds would be new regional weather patterns (after major volcanic eruptions, Asia and Africa have a nasty tendency to experience drought), ozone depletion, and increased acid rain. Meanwhile, as long as the concentration of atmospheric CO2 continued to rise, more and more sulfur dioxide would have to be pumped into the air to counteract it. The amount of direct sunlight reaching the earth would fall, even as the oceans became increasingly acidic. There are eminent scientists—among them the Nobel Prize-winning chemist Paul Crutzen—who argue that geoengineering should be seriously studied, but only with the understanding that it represents a risky, last-ditch attempt to avert catastrophe.

“By far the preferred way” to confront climate change, Crutzen has written, “is to lower the emissions of greenhouse gases.”

Here is another notable review on two Vegetarian books.

Monday, November 02, 2009

My Liberal Identity

How to Win a Fight With a Conservative is the ultimate survival guide for political arguments

My Liberal Identity:

You are a Reality-Based Intellectualist, also known as the liberal elite. You are a proud member of what’s known as the reality-based community, where science, reason, and non-Jesus-based thought reign supreme.