Monday, July 30, 2007


Zwoof on dailykos (reproduced in full)

In February 2003, a Florida Court of Appeals unanimously agreed with an assertion by FOX News that there is no rule against distorting or falsifying the news in the United States.

Lawyers that were paid by Bill O'Reilly's bosses argued in court that Fox can lie with impunity.

It's their right under the 1st Ammendment

FOX asserted that there are no written rules against distorting news in the media. They argued that, under the First Amendment, broadcasters have the right to lie or deliberately distort news reports on public airwaves.

December 1996, Jane Akre and her husband, Steve Wilson, were hired by FOX as a part of the Fox "Investigators" team at WTVT in Tampa Bay, investigat bovine growth hormone (BGH), a controversial substance manufactured by Monsanto Corporation.

Fox executives and their attorneys wanted the reporters to use statements from Monsanto representatives that the reporters knew were false and to make other revisions to the story that were in direct conflict with the facts. Fox editors then tried to force Akre and Wilson to continue to produce the distorted story.

Akre and Wilson refused and threatened to report Fox's actions to the FCC, they were both fired.

August 18, 2000, a unanimous Florida jury found that Akre was wrongfully fired by Fox Television when she refused to broadcast (in the jury's words) "a false, distorted or slanted story" The jury awarded her $425,000 in damages.

FOX appealed the case, and on February 14, 2003 the Florida Second District Court of Appeals overturned the settlement awarded to Akre.

In a stunningly narrow interpretation of FCC rules, the Florida Appeals court claimed that the FCC policy against falsification of the news does not rise to the level of a "law, rule, or regulation," it was simply a "policy." Therefore, it is up to the station whether or not it wants to report honestly.

During their appeal, FOX asserted that there are no written rules against distorting news in the media. They argued that, under the First Amendment, broadcasters have the right to lie or deliberately distort news reports on public airwaves. Fox attorneys did not dispute Akre’s claim that they pressured her to broadcast a false story, they simply maintained that it was their right to do so.

Fox then filed a series of motions seeking more than $1.7 million in trial fees and costs from both Akre and Wilson.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The President covers up a murder?

Pat Tillman was shot at close range.

The doctors ... said that the bullet holes [three bullet holes in Tillman's forehead] were so close together that it appeared the Army Ranger was cut down by an M-16 fired from a mere 10 yards or so away.

Wikipedia excerpts

Patrick Daniel Tillman (November 6, 1976 – April 22, 2004) was an American football player who left his professional sports career and enlisted in the United States Army in May 2002, along with his brother Kevin Tillman.

Tillman was the first professional football player to be killed in combat since the death of Bob Kalsu of the Buffalo Bills, who died in the Vietnam War in 1970. Tillman was posthumously promoted from Specialist to Corporal. He also received posthumous Silver Star and Purple Heart medals. He is survived by his wife Marie.

His decision to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan, and subsequent death, were the subject of much media attention. More controversy ensued when, on May 28, 2004, the Pentagon notified the Tillman family that he had died as a result of a friendly fire incident; the family and other critics alleged that the Department of Defense delayed the disclosure for weeks after Tillman's memorial service out of a desire to protect the image of the U.S. armed forces. Specifically, Patrick Tillman, Pat Tillman's father, told the Washington Post, "..all the people in positions of authority went out of their way to script this. They purposely interfered with the investigation, they covered it up."

From the news-item linked above:

Army attorneys sent each other congratulatory e-mails for keeping criminal investigators at bay as the Army conducted an internal friendly-fire investigation that resulted in administrative, or non-criminal, punishments.

The three-star general who kept the truth about Tillman's death from his family and the public told investigators some 70 times that he had a bad memory and couldn't recall details of his actions.


So far it seems simply like some stupid Army Brass, right? Then why this?

White House, Pentagon cite executive privilege to hold up documents on friendly fire victim Tillman

Mr. President?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Crisis I - the Attorney General

The Attorney General, responsible for enforcing the laws of the United States, answering Senators, who have the Constitutional duty of oversight:

Leahy asked if Gonzales would block prosecutors from prosecuting contempt-of-Congress cases. "I'm not going to answer that question," the witness answered.

"Do you think constitutional government in the United States can survive if the president has the unilateral authority to reject congressional inquiries?" Specter pressed.

"I'm not going to answer this question."

The President has made a claim of executive privilege that his officials can ignore a Congressional subpoena. Not that they will attend the session but refuse to answer or claim they don't remember. Rather, they will simply ignore the summons.

The Congress would normally have the US Attorney for the District of Columbia pursue someone who behaved thusly.

But the President has said that his Department of Justice (headed by Gonzales) will not prosecute such a case. The President also has full confidence in his Attorney General and will not fire him.

The Congress is left seemingly toothless - or it has to revive some customs of yore, when it had its own jail and its own trials. But one can imagine a showdown between sheriffs deputized by the Congress on the one side and the FBI and Secret Service on the other.

It has been said that President endorses the view that the Constitution is just a scrap of paper. His actions amply prove that whether he actually ever said anything like that or not.


PS: here is what Glenn Greenwald says

That is what Alberto Gonzales does. He lies to protect the President. And the President will never fire him. Gonzales isn't keeping his job despite his willingness to lie to Congress, but because of it. Congress has no choice but to act meaningfully -- impeachment of Gonzeles and a Special Prosecutor -- and if they do not, then, I suppose, one could say that Congress deserves to be lied to.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Physicists, your country needs you!

I was impressed by the quality of intelligence in my Congressman. It shouldn't be a matter of wonder, it turns out:

Rep. Holt earned his B.A. in Physics from Carleton College in Minnesota and completed his Master’s and Ph.D. at NYU. He has held positions as a teacher, Congressional Science Fellow, and arms control expert at the U.S. State Department where he monitored the nuclear programs of countries such as Iraq, Iran, North Korea, and the former Soviet Union. From 1989 until he launched his 1998 congressional campaign, Holt was Assistant Director of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, the largest research facility of Princeton University and the largest center for research in alternative energy in New Jersey. He has conducted extensive research on alternative energy and has his own patent for a solar energy device. Holt was also a five-time winner of the game show “Jeopardy.”

Hey, other physicists out there, do run for political office!

Rep. Holt on Impeachment

My representative Congressman Rush Holt (D- NJ 12th district) held a townhall meeting today, which I attended. There were many tens of people there. Troubling to me were that the number of incoherent (a PC term for scared sh*tless) people that were there for whom illegal immigration is the main source of terrorism - the build-a-wall-on-the border, fight-them-in-Iraq so they-don't-fight-us-in-Freehold types. The Congressman was very adroit in disentangling their concerns into the separate issues and then talking about how one might address them.

But I want to report here about what I remember of Rep. Holt's thoughts on impeachment of the President. It is from memory only, I don't even have notes, and is a composite of answers to several questions, and in my own words. So it is really what I heard rather than what he said.

Holt believes that he won his election to Congress in 1998 at least in part because of reaction to the impeachment of Clinton which he condemned as a partisan affair. He fears that if a substantial minority - even 25% - begin to have the attitude that "we lost the last elections, but we have impeachment - the country is in trouble. So the second of the two conditions he thought necessary for impeachment was that it not be seen as a partisan issue. So far no significant slice of Republicans have signed up for impeachment.

In short - impeachable though this President is, having a partisan impeachment would be worse than what we currently have. What happened with Clinton has to stop there, and not become a political custom.

Holt thought that the suspension of habeas corpus, the warrantless wiretapping, the policy of torture all rose to the level of impeachable offenses. He said that probably most people in the room could compose a Bill of Particulars for impeachment. But he did not think that the vast majority of Americans had any sense of what is at stake. To them, we are talking about the rights of some stranger, an unfamiliar looking person with an Arab-sounding name. Unless they themselves feel threatened, they will not sign on to impeachment. Still far too many of them tell him in essence, I'll sign away my rights if it makes me safer. So we have a job of education to do.

He said that the Declaration of Independence was a Bill of Particulars, and its virtue was that everyone at that time understood them. Everyone today would have a different set of grievances in their version of such, and until it became one, "our Bill of Particulars", (this is the first of the two conditions) impeachment would go nowhere.

Holt thought that rather than having this neon sign "Impeachment" at which half the country would turn one way and half the other, it was important to firmly mark out that "Habeas Corpus cannot be suspended", "Wire-tapping without a court warrant will not be allowed", etc.; impeachment in the current political climate would only be a distraction.

So as of now, Holt has not signed up on HR333 and is not considering impeachment as a real possibility.


Saturday, July 21, 2007

The Business Approach to War

One of the criticisms of the Bush Administration in general and former Secy. of Defense Rumsfeld in particular, is that they approach military affairs with a business mindset. So, for instance, having ample forces in reserve, from a business point of view is an unnecessary cost, and so that they won't do.

This mindset can produce comedy such as:

"The key to boosting the image and effectiveness of U.S. military operations around the world involves "shaping" both the product and the marketplace, and then establishing a brand identity that places what you are selling in a positive light, said clinical psychologist Todd C. Helmus, the author of "Enlisting Madison Avenue: The Marketing Approach to Earning Popular Support in Theaters of Operation." The 211-page study, for which the U.S. Joint Forces Command paid the Rand Corp. $400,000, was released this week."

While not abandoning the more aggressive elements of warfare, the report suggested, a more attractive brand for the Iraqi people might have been "We will help you." [...]

In an urban insurgency, for example, civilians can help identify enemy infiltrators and otherwise assist U.S. forces. They are less likely to help, the study says, when they become "collateral damage" in U.S. attacks, have their doors broken down or are shot at checkpoints because they do not speak English. Cultural connections -- seeking out the local head man when entering a neighborhood, looking someone in the eye when offering a friendly wave -- are key."

Friday, July 20, 2007

Krugman on the President's Enablers


I don’t know why the op-ed article that General Petraeus published in The Washington Post on Sept. 26, 2004, hasn’t gotten more attention. After all, it puts to rest any notion that the general stands above politics: I don’t think it’s standard practice for serving military officers to publish opinion pieces that are strikingly helpful to an incumbent, six weeks before a national election.

In the article, General Petraeus told us that “Iraqi leaders are stepping forward, leading their country and their security forces courageously.” And those security forces were doing just fine: their leaders “are displaying courage and resilience” and “momentum has gathered in recent months.”

In other words, General Petraeus, without saying anything falsifiable, conveyed the totally misleading impression, highly convenient for his political masters, that victory was just around the corner. And the best guess has to be that he’ll do the same thing three years later.

You know, at this point I think we need to stop blaming Mr. Bush for the mess we’re in. He is what he always was, and everyone except a hard core of equally delusional loyalists knows it.

Yet Mr. Bush keeps doing damage because many people who understand how his folly is endangering the nation’s security still refuse, out of political caution and careerism, to do anything about it.


FishOutofWater's diary :: ::

at dailykos

Bush defied Congress today, telling them that he would not let the Department of Justice enforce contempt charges after he claimed executive privilege.

Bush administration officials unveiled a bold new assertion of executive authority yesterday in the dispute over the firing of nine U.S. attorneys, saying that the Justice Department will never be allowed to pursue contempt charges initiated by Congress against White House officials once the president has invoked executive privilege.

Bush is claiming that the US Attorneys cannot and will not be allowed to enforce contempt charges following his declaration of executive privilege. In effect he is declaring that Congress only has the oversight powers that he is willing to give it.

Under federal law, a statutory contempt citation by the House or Senate must be submitted to the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, "whose duty it shall be to bring the matter before the grand jury for its action."

But administration officials argued yesterday that Congress has no power to force a U.S. attorney to pursue contempt charges in cases, such as the prosecutor firings, in which the president has declared that testimony or documents are protected from release by executive privilege. Officials pointed to a Justice Department legal opinion during the Reagan administration, which made the same argument in a case that was never resolved by the courts.

But because the Democrats kept their powder dry on Roberts and Scalia, judges who support authoritarian executive power, the courts will be more receptive to supporting executive power than they were in the Reagan years. If this case goes to the Supreme court it will likely be a 5-4 decision one way or the other. Justice Kennedy would likely decide.

In effect, Bush is saying fuck you to Congress.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


After some thought, I propose that the most likely improbable thing a man can do is to change a habit overnight.

That would be a baby step on the ascent of Mount Improbable.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007



Lawn-edging solution (B&D's Grass Hog powered by a rechargeable battery + 3 additional batteries purchased online).

Monday, July 16, 2007

Thought of the Day

A schedule broken at will becomes a mere procession of vagaries.
-Nero Wolfe to Archie Goodwin in Rex Stout's Murder by the Book.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Win Lottery or Attain Moksha!

On the pursuit of the improbable: Improbability is in the nature of things.

Our very existence is improbable! If the latest landscape ideas from superstring theory are correct, our universe is just one of an extremely large number - 10500 - that are physically possible, each with a different low-energy physics; no one has found so far any reason that our universe is somehow required or even infinitesimally more likely than all those rest.

Even given the laws of physics of our universe, there is an improbability at the very moment creation - the universe at the Big Bang was in a state of low entropy.

Then, given our universe that started out improbably, our own existence - the existence of sentience - is extremely improbable. As biologist PZ Myers pointed out on, sentience is not a repeated theme in the history of evolution on Earth - it has appeared but once in the billion years of life - and while extraterrestrial life exists with high probability, intelligent life is improbable.

And even given human life, many improbabilities lead to the birth of the particular individual. And the road of life is paved with the potholes of chance.

Therefore it is fitting that you should have goals in which the dice are loaded against you. The Universe itself demands nothing less! There is no question of being optimistic, determined or indomitable. Really, no self-reflection is required. It is not a matter for either cheer or depression. Simply obey the laws of existence, Nature's commandment, and reach for the improbable!

The Ugly Face of American Conservativism

A journalist set sail on the annual cruise organized by the right-wing rag, The National Review.

An excerpt

There is something strange about this discussion, and it takes me a few moments to realise exactly what it is. All the tropes that conservatives usually deny in public – that Iraq is another Vietnam, that Bush is fighting a class war on behalf of the rich – are embraced on this shining ship in the middle of the ocean. Yes, they concede, we are fighting another Vietnam; and this time we won't let the weak-kneed liberals lose it. "It's customary to say we lost the Vietnam war, but who's 'we'?" the writer Dinesh D'Souza asks angrily. "The left won by demanding America's humiliation." On this ship, there are no Viet Cong, no three million dead. There is only liberal treachery. Yes, D'Souza says, in a swift shift to domestic politics, "of course" Republican politics is "about class. Republicans are the party of winners, Democrats are the party of losers."

The panel nods, but it doesn't want to stray from Iraq. Robert Bork, Ronald Reagan's one-time nominee to the Supreme Court, mumbles from beneath low-hanging jowls: "The coverage of this war is unbelievable. Even Fox News is unbelievable. You'd think we're the only ones dying. Enemy casualties aren't covered. We're doing an excellent job killing them."

Then, with a judder, the panel runs momentarily aground. Rich Lowry, the preppy, handsome 38-year-old editor of National Review, says, "The American public isn't concluding we're losing in Iraq for any irrational reason. They're looking at the cold, hard facts." The Vista Lounge is, as one, perplexed. Lowry continues, "I wish it was true that, because we're a superpower, we can't lose. But it's not."

No one argues with him. They just look away, in the same manner that people avoid glancing at a crazy person yelling at a bus stop. Then they return to hyperbole and accusations of treachery against people like their editor. The ageing historian Bernard Lewis – who was deputed to stiffen Dick Cheney's spine in the run-up to the war – declares, "The election in the US is being seen by [the bin Ladenists] as a victory on a par with the collapse of the Soviet Union. We should be prepared for whatever comes next." This is why the guests paid up to $6,000. This is what they came for. They give him a wheezing, stooping ovation and break for coffee.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Re: Losing the Thread

Digby is confused by a HuffingtonPost writer RJ Eskow.

I have attempted a de-confusion in the comments, but since I'm not sure it will be noticed, I'm attempting a trackback.

Senator Liebermann offered an amendment to a Defence Spending Bill that calls Iran to task for supporting militia in Iraq that are killing members of the US Armed Forces.

The amendment as originally offered can be read as an implicit authorization to the President to use force against Iran.

However, contra RJ Eskow, Liebermann's language is not what the Senate passed 97-0 (and that is what has Digby confounded that the Democrats would hand the President a "loaded gun"). There were at least two crucial modifications to Liebermann's amendment before it passed. You can look it up in the Congressional Record (look for CR S9001-9002). Here is briefly what they are:-

First, this following clause was added to the end of the Lieberman amendment:

" (d) Nothing in this section shall be construed to authorize or otherwise speak to the use of Armed Forces against Iran."

Second, a clause was amended to read

" (1) the murder of members of the United States Armed Forces by a foreign government or its agents is an intolerable and unacceptable act against the United States by the foreign government in question; and"

(compare with the original Lieberman language

" (1) the murder of members of the United States Armed Forces by a foreign government or its agents is an intolerable and unacceptable act of hostility against the United States by the foreign government in question; and"


----- The answer to Digby's confusion is that Liebermann's amendment was defanged and then passed unanimously.

The Failed Crusade

A description of the realities of the Iraq war.

"I'll tell you the point where I really turned," said Spc. Michael Harmon, 24, a medic from Brooklyn. He served a thirteen-month tour beginning in April 2003 with the 167th Armor Regiment, Fourth Infantry Division, in Al-Rashidiya, a small town near Baghdad. "I go out to the scene and [there was] this little, you know, pudgy little 2-year-old child with the cute little pudgy legs, and I look and she has a bullet through her leg.... An IED [improvised explosive device] went off, the gun-happy soldiers just started shooting anywhere and the baby got hit. And this baby looked at me, wasn't crying, wasn't anything, it just looked at me like--I know she couldn't speak. It might sound crazy, but she was like asking me why. You know, Why do I have a bullet in my leg?... I was just like, This is--this is it. This is ridiculous."

Michael Moore to CNN

Read the letter here.

Bizarre Presidential Story

Republican craziness still has the power to surprise.

It starts with:

Why did Bush try to fire the International Boundary Commissioner (for the US/Canadian border)?

I suggest you read it, but briefly, the Commissioner was trying to demolish an illegal construction made on the border by a Republican couple. Everyone in the story is Republican, and that is what makes it even stranger.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Why Universal Health Care?

Amanda Marcotte explains:
... my argument for universal health care is pure selfishness: We citizens who pay for insurance deserve to get some return on our investment. In Bush’s ideal world, we’d all have to write checks to insurance companies once a month and, if we get sick, we’ll be generously granted a shot of morphine before being shoved out in the snow to die, while the insurance companies are free to liquidate what’s left of our assets to pay themselves back for the cost of the morphine and the labor costs of closing the door as it hits you on your way out. We’re not there yet, but it’s basically the end goal of an industry that exists to make money by denying care. I want a return on my health care dollar. I want the money I pay in to come out in benefits to me, not in checks made out to stockholders. Pure. Selfishness.

At The Tipping Point

The US Constitution may be set to fade into history. The Executive Branch may permanently diminish the Legislative Branch, and the US after 200+ years will pass into the reign of a monarch.

Hunter, in this dkos diary, writes in bafflement

This morning, Harriet Miers refused to appear after being subpoenaed by the House Judiciary Committee. I don't mean she refused to answer certain questions -- I mean she, through the White House, declared herself immune to subpoena, period.

This is -- yet again -- a remarkable situation. Harriet Miers isn't merely refusing to answer certain questions under the rubric of executive privilege, the White House is asserting that her very person is immune to constitutional oversight, and that thus she may ignore congressional subpoenas in their entirety.

That's an astonishing claim, if for no other reason than it is flatly, unambiguously, and laughably wrong. It's not even a debatable statement, but one of those now-regular White House quasilegal statements that mocks well-known and well-established laws to such an extent that no other conclusion can be reached but that the White House legal team is willfully setting out to break laws just to demonstrate that they can.


This is astonishing. That this would have to be explained -- no, more than that, that this could even be argued -- is baffling. The only explanation is that the White House knows full well it is violating the law, and is counting on political actions by their own party to block prosecution of the transparent offense.

Harriet Miers, obviously, needs to be held in contempt of Congress. More to the point, since the Bush administration has indicated that the Department of Justice will as of now not enforce contempt charges brought by Congress, the House has no other option but to use its Constitutional powers of inherent contempt, and direct the Sergeant at Arms to enforce their subpoena by placing Miers in congressional custody.

Despite what others may say, this isn't a high stakes game. It isn't a "game" at all. The power of Congress to subpoena witnesses and have them appear is an absolute Constitutional power, and not one that can be ignored. It's high time for the White House legal team to understand where the boundaries of law are.


What Hunter is missing is that the White House is deliberately setting out to move the boundaries of the law, and is counting on Congressional Republicans, a conservative Supreme Court, the Democrats' meekness (demonstrated time and again) and the passiveness of the public to be successful.

When Congress proves to be unequal to the task of making Miers appear, the "absolute Constitutional power" to subpoena witnesses and have the appear will be broken, once and for all.


PS, Congressman Conyers understands the stakes, he is reported to have said this morning "If we do not enforce this subpoena, no one will ever have to come before this committee again."

Cause of the malaise?

Bush appointees mistakenly think they've taken an oath to the President.

The transcript of the exchange between Senator Leahy and former White House political director Sara Taylor is copied from the link above:

Leahy: And then you said, I took an oath to the President, and I take that oath very seriously. Did you mean, perhaps, you took an oath to the Constitution?

Taylor: Uh, I, uh, yes, you're correct, I took an oath to the Constitution. Uh, but, what--

Leahy: Did you take a second oath to the President?

Taylor: I did not. I--

Leahy: So the answer was incorrect.

Taylor: The answer was incorrect. What I should have said is that, I took an oath, I took that oath seriously. And I believe that taking that oath means that I need to respect, and do respect, my service to the President.

Leahy: No, the oath says that you take an oath to uphold and protect the Constitution of the United States. That is your paramount duty. I know that the President refers to the government being his government -- it's not. It's the government of the people of America. Your oath is not to uphold the President, nor is mine to uphold the Senate. My oath, like your oath, is to uphold the Constitution.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Free Market Incentives

The wonderful Digby, writing about Michael Moore's movie, Sicko

If this film does anything it will bring home to people that they are living in denial if they think they are safe because they have health insurance. The fact is that in America, the insurance companies incentives are designed to kill you if you get sick. It's really that simple.

Stupidity and its consequences

By attempting to block a book review, the Israel lobby is making sure more people read it than otherwise. (via C.I.P.)

In more than 20 years of writing and publishing I have never experienced such behavior or encountered what to me, at least, is so blatant a case of censorship.

The Book Review.

While there can be no doubt that, since its inception, Hamas has engaged in violence and armed struggle and has been the primary force behind the horrific suicide bombings inside Israel, Levitt's presentation reduces this increasingly complex and sophisticated organization to an insular, one-dimensional and seemingly mindless entity dedicated solely to violence, terrorism and Israel's destruction. To fully understand the current political stature of Hamas, it is necessary to closely examine the dramatic transitions that have occurred within the organization itself, among Palestinians with respect to their society, and in Palestine's relationship with Israel.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Balu on Self Knowledge

Inter-Religious Dialogue - A Heathen Perspective from India
Draft version of a talk given at the Katholieke Universiteit van Leuven,
March 27, 2007
S. N. Balagangadhara
Research Centre Vergelijkende Cultuurwetenschap
Universiteit Gent
One of the ideas in this talk is that (as per the Indian traditions) an impediment to happiness is a lack of self-knowledge. So what is self-knowledge?

Balu tells us below what self-knowledge is not. (emphasis added by me).

"I live in a culture (the western culture) whose members not only pride themselves in their self-knowledge but also believe such knowledge is an index of the maturity, independence and stability of a person. What they mean by self-knowledge is actually self representation, which is more often than not at odds with the kind of creatures they are.

"It is a mixture of odds and ends: ideas, pictures, values, fantasies, ideals, etc which they slug all through their lives. The less this picture is subjected to shocks by the events that occur in their lives, the more comfortable they feel. Looked at it this way, a person is said to have a stable and mature “identity” (this is another word they use in psychology for this assortment) if this representation is not shaken by what happens in that individual's existence. Creation of an identity or the emergence of an identity refers to that process or event where the person in question begins to relate to this picture consciously and explicitly.

"Is this also self-knowledge? This amalgam does contain elements of insights by the person about him/herself. But these are not thought-through; they are not the deliberate results of exploration and reflection into oneself. Mostly, they are the insights the organism has acquired about itself during the course of its journey through life.

"Grafted onto this are other odds and ends: the strategies one used as a child, the remembered feelings one has had at different phases in life, a way of holding oneself while alone, different ways (both successful and failed) of going about with people, the vague images of heroes one admired but has since forgotten. In the full sense of the word, it is an assortment of junk that one is somehow held together. This junk is accumulated in the course of one’'s life.

"What holds this junk together even as an amalgam? Emotions. They cement these odds and ends together and ignorance does the rest: one presupposes that this junk is a coherent picture of some sort or another. One does not know whether this amalgamated junk that we call self-knowledge or self-representation is a coherent picture; most of us might even suspect that it is not, which is perhaps why we are so afraid of attacks against it. That is also why we get so attached to it. However, the emotions invested in this amalgamated junk and ignorance makes us think that this is what we are.

"This is one of the reasons why we are so sensitive to remarks by others about us. They nastily remind us that the emperor is naked. The others exhibit this truth, albeit in perverse ways (by insulting us, by poking fun at our self-image, etc), about this junk: namely, that it is junk. The fact that we get emotional (whether positively or negatively) about this amalgamated junk is the surest indication that emotions hold this junk together.

"If the emotions did not hold these odds and ends together, two things would have happened: there would be no picture to talk about or hang on to, and the remarks of the others would induce no emotions in us. But the emotions that hold this junk together also blunt the remarks that others make about it. They redirect such remarks (as weapons) against the amalgamated junk that the others hang on to: the other is prejudiced, ignorant, jealous, stupid.

"Thus, the ideal and mature person that the western psychology talks about has two properties: such a person must know which remarks from others should be recognized as true (even though painful) and which to redirect.

"You do not learn these two abilities in order to become a mature person; these abilities are the consequences of your maturity.

"If the above is true, what stands in the way of achieving self-knowledge or knowledge about the kind of organisms we are? The amalgamated junk that we call psychological identity’. Having such an identity is not indispensable to being a person; instead, it stands in the way of becoming one. What prevents self-knowledge is the picture we have of ourselves as individuals. Or, better put, the emotions we invest in holding our self-representation together prevents us from understanding ourselves for the kind of creatures we really are.


To not be hindered by this "amalgamated junk" leads to freedom.

What Can India Offer?

Balu's article in Outlook India

"Today, we think that the European story about human beings constitutes knowledge. That is because there are no competitors to this story as yet. How about tomorrow, when there will be competition in the marketplace of ideas, and Indians and Asians come up with other and different theories?"

Thursday, July 05, 2007


Some readers might like the racing motorbike pictures in this fredmiranda thread. Or these.

Monday, July 02, 2007

I is for Impeach

It is time to impeach the President, the Vice-President and the Attorney General for the wholesale destruction of the Constitution.

"It's time to break out the damn powder already. I don't give a damn what Speaker Pelosi says; with all due respect it's always worth it to defend the Constitution, whether or not you can succeed. And if our reps won't defend the Constitution, we're going to replace them with reps who will." here.

and here

"I don't intend to vote for any Congressman who fails to support impeachment by word and deed. It might be third party time."

and the case for impeachment:

"By disobeying Congressional subpoenas, by retaining a perjuring Attorney General, and now by commuting the sentence of convicted perjurer and justice obstructor Lewis Libby, President Bush has clearly announced his intention to issue a get out of jail free pass to anyone convicted of covering up his administration's crimes. These actions strike at the core of the concept of the rule of law, and demonstrate that no other remedy to protect the Constitution still exists save impeachment."

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Effortless living

The sheer number of things one has to do e.g., to even maintain a small patch of garden can seem overwhelming. Then add to it all the other things one wants to do. This is a general problem with goal-oriented behavior.

So I'm trying to change my perspective. Just like with breathing - I have no goal, no destination, just have to keep on breathing.

Let's see if it works.