zenpundit.com » politics

Archive for the ‘politics’ Category

Weather: waterworks, fireworks, & how the mindworks

Friday, April 13th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — and reality alwys strains towards a metaphor of itself, doesn’t it? ]
.

Today’s weather headline:

This isn’t a metaphor, weather here means weather, even thought you might imagine it’s politics it’s talking about. If it was politics and we were lucky, the header might read:

Wild storm raging across globe to unleash all modes of extreme weather through the weekend

**

Here are some of the details, graphically — very graphically — represented:

Blizzard conditions and heavy snow

Extreme fire danger

Oh, my!

Tornadoes and severe storms

Torrents!

Just suppose this was politics, after all!

**

Another headline today:

That’s almost meteorological, ne?

Or try this one, a week out, and international in scope:

I’d be lost without my wifi..

Biden Trump fisticuffs

Friday, March 23rd, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — a war, a schoolyard war, a war of schoolyard words .. at least we know now how childlike American politics have become ]
.

In the aftermath of the Mexican-American War, General Zachary Taylor of the Whig Party defeated Senator Lewis Cass of the Democratic Party.

**

I searched for “biden trump fisticuffs” on Google, and Lord bless us, Elle magazine popped up with an almost exact title, Trump and Biden Challenged Each Other to Fisticuffs, which was a delight.. Well to be frank, the first time I’d spelled my inquiry “dien trump fisticuffs” and received the response Will: Trump is threatening war with North Korea. But what kind? The kind of war I was looking for was fisticuffs, as specified, and the hoped for opponent was Biden, not Dien. But I got satisfaction on my second attempt. Dien, pfft — what was Google thinking about, Dien Bien Phu?

Anyway, even fisticuffs is a metaphor, I think / hope.

**

Elle’s words:

Today, exciting news coming to us from the prison of masculinity — the sitting president and the former vice-president have gotten into a chest-puffing war of words over which elder statesmen would thrump the other in a schoolyard braw ..

D dot Trump and J dot Biden fired warning shots at each other not at dawn on a field in Jersey but in the court of public opinion, a civilized and erudite arena if ever there was one.

Everyone reading this post will almost certainly have seen a refernce to this “chest-puffing war of words” because it has been splashed all over the news — but I’m not featuring it here as anything original or particularly obscure, but because of its sheet delight, as conflict reduced to a children’s brawl reduced to words — a cousin twice removed from real war, which is itself drawing appreciably closer at a diplomatic removed by the appointment of John Bolton as National Security Advisor — gatekeeper to the President, and supposedly an even-headed fellow who can balance out the differing views of the Secretary of Stat,, Secretary of Defense, the Intel community, and other advisors.

Bolton is distinctly not level headed, distinctly an ideologue, a hawk’s extreme hawk, in favor of war and opposed to Islam — Islam’s claim to be a religion of peace appears firmly confirmed by the contrast!

**

The 7 Traits of a Great Nat Sec Adviser (Bolton Has 0):

Just a few days ago, Brent Scowcroft celebrated his 93d birthday. He is not in the best of health. His days on the public stage are behind him.

But for those who study American power and leadership in the modern era, the slender, quiet former Air Force lieutenant general remains a giant. He established the standard by which all will be measured who hold the office of national security adviser to which John Bolton was just named. And understanding the reasons for Scowcroft’s success is the key to understanding why Bolton is such a disturbing, devastatingly bad choice for the job.

Read the whole thing!

Best Trump Ouroboros ever — and other phrasings of interest

Tuesday, January 9th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — politics gets literary fast in this one ]
.

An amazingly candid gesture from Donald Trump‘s back-story:

In a 1997 interview with Howard Stern, he described escaping from his own wedding reception—his second, when he married Marla Maples—as quickly as possible to look at coverage of the wedding.

How “Fox & Friends” Rewrites Trump’s Reality

**

The only vaguely comparable gesture I can think of for its severity is the one in which an unstable genius by any account, the poet Rainer Maria Rilke, chose not to attend his own daughter Ruth‘s wedding because he weighed up “the realization of my inner life” against “the work required to achieve an external life” and decided not to attend lest he miss a poem inbound during the journey or ceremony — or was it Cézanne he praised, “for not losing an afternoon of painting even to attend his only daughter’s wedding”? Surely they can’t both have missed their daughters’ respective weddings!

Or can they, almost?

Here’s a poem by Richard Michelson from More Money than God:

Cézanne Forgets His Wife’s Funeral

The day Rilke missed his daughter’s wedding,
the lesser poets, pens capped, were making love
in the Bavarian countryside, or feeding the chickens
on their fathers’ farms. But Rilke is bent over, chiseling
each syllable, although the chiselers who run the world
pay by the pound. Here, in the cherry orchard of his
patron’s château, he pauses, listens for the nightingales
singing their Keatsian songs, masking the pitiful sound
of his grandmother’s dying. What’s your excuse?

..

But in truth I am late again, running lights
and thinking of Cézanne, who is smiling
as he folds up his easel. Hortense, come quickly,
look
, he calls out; only then, remembering.

**

Well, that little meander through Rilke and Cézanne was a little more romantically endearing than the Trump matter..

Other oddments I’ve run across recently — I’ll use the comments section here to collect others —

A Freedom Outpost ouroboros:

Evidently now writing about Facebook censorship is grounds for being censored on Facebook.

Not terribly democratic, if true..

A note from friend JM Berger:

.. and there was something about whether Steve Bannon was a scapegoat or a lightning rod — a fine distinction for ontologists to ponder.

**

Discuss, eh?

What’s the distance between inside, and within — and politics?

Sunday, January 7th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — eerie distances between thus and so, this and that — and Trump, Wolff ]
.

Speaking practically: switching between the delicate details of the North Korean situation, and those of the Iranian situation, each of which involves a potential nuclear adversary and some deterrent balance, and each of which contains the other as a subset — what’s the mental distance between those two mindsets? How fast can a sharp mind switch betweeen them. Or, for that matter, between foreign affairs and domestic politics? Or between dealing with House and Senate? Or between treating with Democrat and Republican?

Is there a zoom at work here, between these difficult distances?

**

I’d been wondering recently about some mental distances that illustrate the difference betweeen qualitative and quantitative realms, subjective and objective realities..

I’ve been asking myself, what’s the distance between inside and within, between x-ray and insight, or sky and heaven?


Wm Blake, Newton (left); Angel (right).

And what scale should we use to peer into such questions? — the compass Blake’s Newton uses to parcel out earth is purely terrestrial, purely rational, and Blake’s own blazing angels would have no place in it. Should we perhaps use Taleb‘s Wittgenstein‘s ruler?

Unless you have confidence in the ruler’s reliability, if you use a ruler to measure a table you may also be using the table to measure the ruler.

Here, the distance between the measurer and the measured is itself in flux.

**

Back to politics.

How do those whose entire lives have been concerned with the largely substantial, ascertainable or verifiable facts of focus groups, polls, votes, election results, majorities, minorities, policies and so forth — with no time for Rilke‘s “angels’ hierarchies” — function when weighing the “mental stability” or “very stable genius” of a President with that same President’s policy with regard to — gasp — Kim Jong-Un?

Who has his own issues of “very stable genius” or “mental stability”?

And who doesn’t even have a semi-reliable chronicler like Wolff to illuminate the swathe he is cutting through ideology, dogma, doctrine, advisors, generals, and.. Juche?

How many minds do we have among the generals, among the punditry, who can roam at all scales of the relevant realms, psychological and political, blatant and nuanced, knowable and profoundly unknown?

Giving Critical Thinking Some Critical Thought

Wednesday, November 29th, 2017

[Mark Safranski / “zen“]

This is a useful, quick read…

Why Do Smart People Do Foolish Things?: Intelligence is not the same as critical thinking and the difference matters

….The advantages of being intelligent are undeniable. Intelligent people are more likely to get better grades and go farther in school. They are more likely to be successful at work. And they are less likely to get into trouble (e.g., commit crimes) as adolescents. Given all the advantages of intelligence, though, you may be surprised to learn that it does not predict other life outcomes, such as well-being. You might imagine that doing well in school or at work might lead to greater life satisfaction, but several large-scale studies have failed to find evidence that IQ impacts life satisfaction or longevity. University of Waterloo psychologist Igor Grossmann and his colleagues argue that most intelligence tests fail to capture real-world decision-making and our ability to interact well with others. This is, in other words, perhaps why “smart” people, do “dumb” things.

The ability to think critically, on the other hand, has been associated with wellness and longevity. Though often confused with intelligence, critical thinking is not intelligence. Critical thinking is a collection of cognitive skills that allow us to think rationally in a goal-orientated fashion, and a disposition to use those skills when appropriate. Critical thinkers are amiable skeptics. They are flexible thinkers who require evidence to support their beliefs and recognize fallacious attempts to persuade them. Critical thinking means overcoming all sorts of cognitive biases (e.g., hindsight bias, confirmation bias).

Read the rest here.

Most people will say (without critical thought) that critical thinking is a good thing but fail to define what they mean by that term. Usually right before they complain that schools and higher ed aren’t imparting the desired but undefined critical thinking skills to their students. While this stereotypical complaint is accurate as far as a generalization, it underestimates how much imparting such skills in students is generally opposed in practice by Left and Right. Argumentative peons who can think for themselves? Really, when in history has this ever been popular? Seldom with rulers and not often with the ruled; sheep do not enjoy the bark of the sheepdog even when the dog is defending the flock from the wolf.

There are idiotic factions on the Right, often socially conservative home schooler types who openly complain about “critical thinking” in the public schools as s kind of liberal conspiracy to replace content knowledge. It isn’t. Though the reverse idea, to minimize the idea of a canon of core content knowledge,  has appeared in ed fads, including aspects of the (deservedly) controversial Common Core Standards which was pushed by a cabal of billionaires, establishment GOP hacks, the Pearson corporation and the Obama administration in order to nationalize the school curriculum and vastly increase standardized testing. It is this recurring pattern of of political-academic-big business charlatanism in American education that gives this perennial right wing complaint traction. The public ed community in the past 40 years has pushed a lot of dubious programs and theories on students and the taxpayers. And still are; often in service of bureaucratic or political agendas like corporate ed reform.

The political  Left is no better and in some ways, worse. If ever there was a cultish, anti-critical thinking, movement for brain dead indoctrination, it’s the social justice/identity politics movement. Rarely have more intelligent people been made to say stupidly nonsensical things on a college campus than in the past two years. It’s play-acting Red Guardism  and vicious moral one-upmanship but as an ideology, SJW identity politics works socially as a self-referential, closed system to inoculate the believer from any need to consider contrary ideas and justify, if need be, violently suppressing them in others.

Critical thinking involves a capacity to use logical reasoning, the skills at the top of Bloom’s taxonomy, probabilistic reasoning and several other important intellectual skills in pursuit of rational, skeptical inquiry. It’s powerful.  So powerful that it has been an engine of mankind’s progress whenever it has been given enough freedom to flourish. The flip side is that critical thinking in essence and outcome is also ultimately subversive of all ideologies and regimes. Without exception – and there is the rub. There’s a reason in other words, that Athens put Socrates to death. And we are no better. We do it daily on Twitter, albeit metaphorically because millions of Americans today can neither think critically nor stand to see others do it if it calls their cherished sacred cows to account.

We can teach critical thinking skills along with content. It’s not hard, assuming you can think critically yourself. We don’t systemically do this because we create ed systems designed to prevent it (public ed) or hire an army of people opposed to critical thinking on principle (university diversity bureaucracy). I’ll end my rant on this thought: immediately improving American education across the board at all levels could be done without costing one additional cent, but it means getting a lot of self-serving, politicized, rubbish out of the way.


Switch to our mobile site