Tuesday, March 21, 2023

graduate school vision ( notation )

I am going to start posting more flexible and less formal musings on option3 with "notation" in parentheses.  I am applying to graduate schools.  One elite one-year social science MA application has an answer box called "short answer", which prompts you to discuss in 3 or 4 paragraphs the newness of your voice and challenges you have overcome.  Here is response with major edits.  It is slightly different from what I am trying to accomplish with option3.  But it heavily inform option3.  

"I have a peculiar voice – a rare amalgamation and a severity of differences that I have sought to harmonize in hopes to create something valuable.  I am half Mexican American; I am ADHD; I am heavily impacted by the traditional Lakota way of life; and yet I am still committed to Western knowledge – that of the so-called dominant society.  These knowledges perhaps never meant to harmonize.  I obtain the term ‘dominant’ from a relative.  It is a problematic yet insightful term.  

The core allegiance for the academic is knowledge.  A central tool in handling and transmitting knowledge is language.  As historians and anthropologists, we also study ideology and linguistics as subjects themselves.  When I understood the linguistic turn under Saussure, I was shocked.  That we might only exist relationally and not essentially was decentering to me.  Hume’s own anti-essentialism produced the same result.  It challenges my intuitions and beliefs.  I returned to school to study Lacan and Žižek; I had no idea how serious the implications were.

My interest is how Western society can disentangle itself from its own existential risks such as biospheric risks, governance failure, nuclear war, and food insecurity; I have included two related footnotes.  These are long-term research interests that exceed what a thesis can accomplish.  These questions operate decidedly through Western knowledge.  While the Euro-centric psychoanalytical turn needs decentering, if it can be decentered, it offers a synthesizing and totalizing potential to address these risks.

My ultimate project, hopefully at the doctoral level, involves a confrontation with economics – the most damaging and elusive framework.  My recent epistemology course delivered an idea for a dissertation that comes full circle on my work on ‘post-normal’ science and ‘arrationality’.  Behavioral economics has invalidated epistemic assumptions about internal rationality.  I want to leverage Quine and naturalized epistemology to examine epistemic assumptions about external rationality.  In applying unusual knowledge systems – such as from the East, the Americas, or antiquity – to economic data, we may find novel yet empirically sound results that confirm patterns that economists have resisted.

Rockström, Johan, et al. “Planetary Boundaries: Exploring the Safe Operating Space for Humanity.” Ecology and Society, vol. 14, no. 2, 2009

Giddens, Anthony. Runaway World: How Globalization Is Reshaping Our Lives. 1st ed., Routledge, 2000."

Monday, June 20, 2022

Umair Haque Revisited

This content was originally prepared for the option3 podcast - not including quotes.

Daniel Pinchbeck, Fareed Zakaria, and Umair Haque my triumvirate for news and cultural analysis. Pinchbeck is my open-minded and my longterm thinking guy who picks up where Terence McKenna left off. Zakaria is conventional but well informed; he is a supposedly a radical centrist but more of vanilla flavored Clintonian centrist. (I secretly used to include Alex Jones as a counterbalance to someone like Pinchbeck but Alex is having a rough decade. As I better understand Zizek, I include him too.)

Enter Umair Haque. 

“despair, rage, and anxiety”

When we take a hard look at US collapse, we see a number of social pathologies on the rise….strange and bizarre ones... They suggest that whatever “numbers” we use to represent decline - shrinking real incomes, inequality, and so on - we are in fact grossly underestimating what pundits call the “human toll”, but which sensible human beings like you and I should simply think of as the overwhelming despair, rage, and anxiety of living in a collapsing society.
        Umair Haque, January 25, 2018

I first read Haque in January 2018 in an article titled, “Why We’re Underestimating American Collapse”. I blogged about it here.  He observed that “America has had 11 school shootings in the last 23 days, which is more than anywhere else in the world, even Afghanistan or Iraq. In fact, the phenomenon of regular school shootings appears to be a unique feature of American collapse…and that is what I mean by “social pathologies of collapse”.

He goes on to talk about the opioid epidemic, “nomadic retirees”, weakened “social bonds”, and “a predatory society” and writes the “uniqueness of these social pathologies tell us that American collapse is not like a reversion to any mean, or the downswing of a trend. It is something outside the norm. Something beyond the data. Past the statistics.”

It’s a singular read. The subtitle of the article is “The Strange New Pathologies of the World’s First Rich Failed State”. He leverages not only the political-economic but the psychological and soular. It’s something people such as Aldous Huxley, George Orwell, or Philip K. Dick had anticipated.  The concept of a rich failed state deserve more attention. 

“this is all about supremacy”

Kids are not allowed to be just kids in America. What are they doing at school? Well, they’re not studying or learning very much — you only have to look at America’s dismal rankings in international education to know that much. They are being trained to be little consumers and producers.
        Haque, December 4, 2021

In an article ”Why is America the Only Country in the World With Regular School Shootings?”, he revisits school shootings and talks about young people, socialization, and consumerist one-upmanship: “What is all the stuff really saying? What is the message the social signifier is sending? See how powerful I am. See how much better than you I am. I am the superior one. So this is all about supremacy. That is why I said American kids interact in profoundly weird, abnormal ways, compared to anywhere in the rest of the world. Their every interaction is a competition for social superiority.”

He continue: school is an environment where "aggression, competition, individualism, greed, selfishness, contempt for others, nobody having any kind of intrinsic human worth or inalienable dignity…all those are norms. And the most aggressive, competitive, ruthless, selfish, greedy, and violent are the ones who win the power, money, and fame.”  Then he concludes: “Grown up American life is a contest to the death. And so is life for America’s kids.”

“A death drive?”

Think about all the self-destruction for a second… What kinds of people want more gun massacres? …What kinds of people don’t want everyone to have decent healthcare? Not to cancel student debt, which is crippling three generations at this point, and slashing a massive hole in the economy? What kinds of people don’t care about the spectacularly obvious ongoing death of the planet — as if the megafires and megafloods and pandemics weren’t a clue?
        Haque, June 7, 2022

In the article “The Age of Thanatos”, Haque relies on a mythological metaphor to observe that our hostile world, driven by poor policy-making and the related social collapse, has triggered the death drive in our collective unconscious.  He relies on psychologist Harry Guntrip to point out that death in this case is an attempt to return to the womb in a form of infantile regression.

There’s a lot more to the article. He ties in Republican hate for children, the scapegoating of gays, and the role of atavism in forms of our hunger for fascism and theocracy (rather than the hard work of democracy).  He closes with “Freud made a mistake. Civilization, he theorized, is humanity’s greatest source of unhappiness, frustrating us endlessly with its demands and grating work and difficult freedoms. Perhaps. But try living without it.” 

Civilization Collapse

You can now literally begin to see what it means to be a species living on a dying planet. You can see with your own two eyes what happens when a civilization’s investment rate is too low, and it’s consumption rate is too high.... Extinction. It eats through everything, and replenishes not enough, and so its own life support systems come undone.
        Haque, May 30, 2022

One of my concerns about Haque is the repetition and wordiness. In “A Conversation About Civilizational Collapse”, he seems to ramble. It's a small price to pay for the quality of ideas.  Still he make a simple point that merits attention. A lot of attention. I myself have discussed species loss since at least 2012 when I started option3. I am not certain when I came across the ‘nine planetary boundaries’ concept.

In this article, he basically frames civilization collapse, climate change, and species loss - including our own extinction - as a problem of underinvestment that requires immediate amelioration. He points out that “shortages, inflation, uncertainty, war, conflict, nationalism, fascism, fundamentalism” embody this immediacy. People who don’t already know about these ideas probably need to experience some very serious person loss in order to have an awareness.

January 6

This content was originally prepared for the option3 podcast - not including quotes.

January 6 Itself

We got one! We got one! Kill him with his own gun!
        J6 rioter

On January 6th, I was at home doing applications to master’s degree programs.  In 2020, I had worked on the Biden campaign. I was drawn to the election by Bloomberg’s wages; but I was also delighted to help fire Trump. Ironically, I had worked for Trump and Mark Burnett on The Apprentice, as an on-camera driver for season six.  In any case, I blithely aware that the vote on Biden’s victory was occurring. When I saw the rioters enter the Capital I was more impressed more than anything. I did not think they had the coordination talent or the balls. 

 In the end, five people died on January 6. My concern is that January is more preclude of things to come than a conclusion of things gone by.  Regardless, this brand of activism is facing and will face a heavy response. White men enjoy profound privilege. And yet even that privilege has limits. You can’t disrupt business nor the business of government without expecting a response. And you can’t simply kill cops in broad daylight, which effectively did occur that day.

Digression on Fascism

The strangest thing about fascism in America today is that American fascists are so dumb, they don't even know they're fascists. They don't even know what the word fascism means.
        Oliver Markus Malloy, writer extraordinaire*

[History] does not repeat. But it does offer us examples and patterns, and thereby enlarges our imaginations and creates more possibilities for anticipation and resistance.
        Timothy Snyder, Yale historian

Early on I compared January 6 to the Beer Hall Putsch of 1923 Germany. It’s a facile comparison, as so much is different. Dylan Matthews has an article on Vox that surveys 8 experts to surmise that he is not a fascist in an academic sense. Still, Trump would rob his mother and fuck his daughter if you helped him hold one of them down. But that makes him a grifter and daughter fucker, not a fascist. Besides he is cunning enough to occlude his nascent fascism.

Timothy Snyder has argued that Trump would attempt something akin to the 1933 Reichstag Fire. His followers seem to have more guts than he actually does. He is not a rational actor in a revolutionary sense. He enjoys whipping up the crowd but doesn’t really know what to do with them. His skill base is limited to dialing people up on the phone.

In the end, Trump is still sufficiently reckless and unfit for presidency that the real question is how to end his political career through isolation or prison. Some forecast doom in 2024. Snyder is among them, according to a nightmare scenario he cooked up on Substack this year. The J6 commission is a first step in getting some potential justice.

J6 Commission

It was Mike Pence who they had come to hang. It was Mike Pence who refused to commit a crime for his boss.

Shouldn’t he testify, under oath, about the events of January 6? Don’t we deserve to hear from Pence what his conversations with Trump were like in the lead-up to that day?

…The notion that a man who committed the acts Pence has accused Trump of should be given the opportunity to ascend to the presidency again is beyond explanation.

…Mike Pence has the opportunity to put a stake through the heart of the man who abused him and left him for dead. That chance is right now. Before this committee.
        Tim Miller, former Jeb Bush Comms. Director and RNC Spokesman

Jan 6th Committee is doing something. It is, and I would never discount its historic work. And yet really doing doing something is up to Merrick Garland — prosecuting the coup attempt. I use the Committee as an example of how shocking it is these days when institutions work at all.

        Umair Haque


The J6 Commission aims to outline what happened and suggest policy and, if it wished, refer crimes to the Justice Department. It’s an important two or three tasks but it could set the scene for another Washington DC nothing burger. I just read a good Wapo piece by Amber Phillips; and, if you read the comments, you’ll see other people with the same sentiments as me.

To quote myself from my 'Putin’s War' blog: “I am always shocked in the ability of major leaders and experts to resist progress. It seems people will go to great lengths - even subverting their own presumed or stated principles - to avoid change and avert risk.” I have no anxiety about whether the commission or Justice Department will drop the ball.  I am expecting it. And I don’t blame Republicans, voters, and perhaps not even the Dems. I blame the listless culture that always find a way to forgive itself without learning a lesson. I simply don’t expect a former president, even Trump with his scuffled veneer, will find justice.

Michael Cohen is a nice exception to my prejudiced assessment. He pleaded out in 2018 to unrelated crimes. Maybe Steve Bannon will follow the same fate for his contempt of Congress before the J6 Commission. Mark Meadows, former Trump COS, remains in limbo. Jeffrey Clark, former of the JD, has likely avoided matter in saying would plead the 5th. Perhaps there are others - beyond Representative Perry Scott and Jim Jordan.

I am not taking away from the good work that the commission is doing. I’m simply modulating my expectations and then heaping those expectation on Merrick Garland, who can then fall on his face like Robert Mueller sorta did.  Let me at least offer my brand of hope. Many people contend that humanity is in the midst an ascension process. I have addressed it elsewhere on the blog. A sufficient cadre of people everywhere want real peace and progress. They may not care that Trump faces justice. But they don’t want the drama of Western political violence. People have an appetite for something better. Ascension is the term we use on TikTok and before that on YouTube and before in books and before that in conversation.

* The quote is amazing and continues: “They vaguely know that it had something to do with Hitler and the Nazis, but that's it. They have no idea that the first words of the Nazi anthem were "Germany above all else" which was their version of "America first." And the way Nazis demonized jews was no different than the way American fascists demonize liberals. Hitler promised to "make Germany great again." And Hitler denounced the newspapers, which exposed him for what he really was, as "Lügenpresse," which is German for "fake news."

If the German Nazi party still existed today, they would look exactly like the Republican party under Trump. Hitler's rallies looked no different than Trump's rallies. And Hitler would absolutely love a well-oiled propaganda outlet like Fox News.”

Sunday, June 19, 2022

Putin’s War

This content was originally prepared for the option3 podcast. 

Last Things First

Every constructivist has a plan until they get punch in the face by the Realpolitik.
        Velina Tchakarova, Dir. for Austrian Inst. for European & Sec. Policy

I am always shocked in the ability of major leaders and experts to resist progress.  They will go to great lengths - even subverting their own presumed or stated principles - to avoid change and avert risk. Putin’s elective war is about shifting spheres of influences, post-war IR, and post Cold War dynamics, and globalization

On a very long twitter thread, PhD candidate and Director of for Austrian Institute for European and Security Policy Velina Tchakarova argues Putin has shored up relations with China since 2014, is positioning himself in Eurasia, and “shifting its COG from an interdependence w W Europe to Eurasia, S, Asia… & even the Indo-Pacific region”. Putin’s goals is to become indispensable power to the US or China or both. She points out that “Ukraine was invaded by Russia not because it was unilaterally striving to join NATO but because it wasn't a NATO member”. The goal for Putin is to keep going.

In short, she says it's a war of assertion or power expression with some goals. Just as the time between WWs was only an interruption, so is the same of Cold Wars, as we are enter a new Cold War ( w China ). Trends include: US-China competition and even decoupling, India-China tensions, potential US/European withdrawal from West Asia, and greater global fluidity.

Venerated or Overrated

Bandwagoning is a strategy for the weak.

According to the great realist, Mearsheimer, Ukraine should never have let go of their nukes. He was likely right about that at least in a conventional sense. I don’t agree with his 2014 Canada and Mexico analogy regarding NATO. It’s a mixed metaphor. It also requires you to believe in the analytical falsity of the liberal hegemony ( while also believing in the empirical nonexistence of the liberal hegemony ). You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

The bottom line is that Western influences - with all their baggage - should and, more importantly, would grow if they were to seek greater power and stability. That is axiomatic. I also don’t think that because Russia asserts itself, as April 2008 at the NATO Summit, that the West ought to acquiesce per se. Finland and Sweden are not acquiescing - though conditions have changed since 2008.  The whole point of being a realist is strategic confrontation, which institutionalists can pursue.

The Institutionalists

Power is the ability to affect others to get the outcomes you want, and that can be done by coercion, payment or attraction.
        Joseph Nye

But I find figures like Mearsheimer tragically dated. When I say dated, I mean he has tendencies that predate classical liberalism.  His realist sobriety lead him to not support the war in Iraq in 2003, which is sound. I also agree on the periodic necessity of war, better containment of China, and the assertion that Putin is rational.  But that does not preclude strategic response to Putin.

His ambivalence on greater concepts of interdependence and compromise seem most outdated. At best, they produce regressive structures that indeed can contain adversaries. At worst, they produce paranoia, even unwarranted aggression, which he is not prone to, and a sublimated form of paralysis, which I am emphasizing here. He is correct that the West has put Ukraine in a strategic limbo. That is perhaps his main point - the security dilemma argument. But the rub lies much deeper. And it's a sticky wicket.

I admit it is hard to determine whether institutions have failed and thus we must pull away from them and allow for rationally, defense-minded Russia. Or precisely the opposition: we need to fortify them more to better contain a belligerent Russia. I take the latter view. It's not only about security for today. It is about institutions and norms. We are only partially in an anarchic international system. It is about values, freedom, and ultimately security across time - into the future. 

An Eastern Look

To demonstrate China’s role as a responsible major power, China not only cannot stand with Putin, but also should take concrete actions to prevent Putin’s possible adventures.
        Hu Wei, Chinese state intellectual

State professor and Chinese intellectual Hu Wei, who almost sounds himself like a psyop asset, had an interesting take early on in the war in Ukraine.  He begins with the point that the "Russo-Ukrainian War is the most severe geopolitical conflict since World War II”.  He may be correct. Korea and Viet Nam did not bring conflict so close to Europe, which for better or worse - for racist or not - is where a central balance of power has sat since VJ Day.   The world is changing. China rises. And yet, a war on the border of Poland is so reminiscent of WW2 that Wei is reasonable in this notation.

In the same first sentence, Wei says the consequences will be “greater than the September 11 attacks”. Again, he may be right although, as I have argued elsewhere, 911 was almost certainly a synthetic endeavor designed to unify Americans. With a new Cold War, as Tchakarova discusses, China is a sufficient unifying adversary.

Wei notes “the blitzkrieg failed” and nuclear war “would put Russia on the opposite side of the whole world and is therefore unwinnable”. In the time since Wei published, people and governments from all over the world have sided with the Ukraine - some literally flying to the region to fight. Keep in mind, the purpose of the Wei post involves advising Chinese interests as much truth seeking per se. That’s where it gets interesting.

He argues that the conflict would strengthen NATO and US's aging hegemony - both of which have happened. As Wei suspected, Germany increased its military budget and Sweden and Finland abandoned neutrality.

The document is quite an interesting portrayal of how the US may benefit from Putin’s gamble. I will note that, according to Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty, as of March 5, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the New Development Bank both suspended business with Russia on March 3. CNN ran a piece, titled “4 way China is quietly making life hard for Russia” - noting anemic support for the ruble, withholding yuan conversions to dollars or euros, withholding aircraft parts, and withholding the aforementioned infrastructure help.

The TikTok PhD Guy With No Bio

Dmitry Medvedeve…has come out and said that if the West does not stop aiding Ukraine…the four horsemen of the apocalypse are on the way…  It shows...how far Russia has declined as a power.  Basically, the only leverage Russia has on anyone anymore, is the nuclear capability… [T]his really isn’t very credible…  They’ve lost every other forms of leverage they used to have over the international community…. [D]iplomatically they’ve completely isolated[.]  [E]conomically, they’re almost irrelevant…  [Their] conventional military has shown to be a kind of paper tiger…  They still a major regional power, but they’ve been unable to defeat Ukraine, despite the huge disparity in military resources and budget.

Here is my favorite analyst although his lack of a bio is concerning. PhD TikToker @hyphysterialhistory is another fascinating source of analysis. He identified Russia loss early on in the conflict. As others might have seen our ineptitude in Iraq, he has saw something similar though I do not recall him making that analogy. If you listen the podcast version of this blog, you will hear 
@hyphysterialhistory talk about Medvedev threatening that the four horsemen of the apocalypse are coming.

In the end, I take the rather one-dimensional view of @hyphysterialhistory. Sometimes a one-dimensional view suffices. Russia has started an exhausting endeavor akin to the USSR or the US in Afghanistan or the US in Viet Nam or Iraq. They will bleed out or go home to prevent bleeding out. I am not going to review all the economic costs Russia has experienced except to note how they are hemorrhaging their millionaires and agitating their billionaires.  I think Russia wants an out.  But too much is tied up in this knot now.  So they have to play the drama out.  

Unsolved Matters

There are many questions about the bombing of Yugoslavia by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation - meaning primarily the United States. They come down to two fundamental issues: what are the accepted and applicable “rules of world order” and how do these or other considerations apply in the case of Kosovo?
        Chomsky, May 1999

Here are several final notes on why the war is happening, Russia war rimes, astrology of the war, illegitimate NATO violence, Neo-Nazis, a Gurdjieffian analysis herein, and, to make a long story endless, a conclusion.

Many factor led to this war. Trump's ineptitude in general is one. Biden’s ineptitude in leaving Afghanistan is two. In the end, Putin wanted to assert himself and Russia to, as Alistar Coleman at the BBC noted it, to reunite "Little Russia" with its Mother as a question of honor, food, and energy. 

But I still wonder: why Putin choose February 2022? We would have to revisit the annexation of the Crimea in 2014 and possibly the 2008 NATO summit. Putin’s domestic conditions also factor. We suspect Putin thinks the US is weakening.  SolarWinds, the 2016 election, and the rise of China are cases in point.  Upon reflection, I see that the 2014 and 2022 episodes in Ukraine appear in lockstep with Obama and Biden's piecemeal admissions of defeat in Afghanistan.   Here the realist proves himself.  

Some other observations...

It goes without saying Russia is committing war crimes. So did we in Iraq. To learn more fascinating but gory details, consider the case of Jon Michael Turner, rank and branch unverified, and his killing of ‘The Fat Man’. The video link is on SoundCloud; and Google will find it fast.  His testimony is so important.  Great powers get away with so much. 

The podcast version of this piece on SoundCloud notes also have a look at the astrology of the war, which does not bode well for Putin. NATO is not a perfect organization. The questions of illegitimate NATO violence deserves attention…on another occasion.

A penultimate note. A number of right-wing writers, thinkers, and citizenry have noted the use of Neo-Nazis in the anti-Russia campaign in Ukraine since 2014. To complicate matters, I have even read observations online that Neo-Nazis have supported Russia near or in the Donbas region. And we have other ultra-nationalists in Russia such as Aleksandr Dupin to complicate matters yet further. Let me be clear on two points. One. If I was in the Ukraine and had to protect my neighborhood from Russian tanks, I will coordinate with Neo-Nazis. I’d keep my other fucking eye on them but I would work with them. Two. The War in Ukraine is not a Neo-Nazi endeavor or a psyop. It is a return to Cold War structures, East-meets-West conflict, and ultimately, conflict between authoritarianism and liberal democracy.

A Gurdjieffian Insight

War is due to cosmic forces, to planetary influences. But in men there is no resistance whatever against these influences, and there cannot be any, because men are slaves.

A final note. Master of wisdom and dance, Gurdjieff once observed that war happens because planets get too close to each other. They get upset. And we suffer in response. We are like the hairs of the Earth on edge and suffer our own fates. He also says one as individual - working with like minded folk - might be able to rise above what we calls mechanical influences and the law of accident. Either way, in my belief system, we are held to an account even during war. We need to determine what is going on. I point this out because we see the absurdity war…but only afterwards.

In October 2002, I read an article in the NY Times. Perhaps it was the one written by David E. Sanger and Eric Schmitt. It was obvious we were going to invade Iraq regardless of purpose or legitimacy. It was also obviously not a war of necessity. I was against it then and remained against thorough its supposed 2011 conclusion and beyond. I was an Assistant Hall Director at Umich in the Oxford Housing facility. I remember my colleagues, all my immediate colleague, who may have been influence by me, blindly supported the war. Within the confines of a man like Dick Cheney, I see a cold rationality in relation to oil with Iraq invasion. But elsewhere it was ‘food for the moon’ as Gurdjieff would say.

Putin didn’t only choose February 2022 rationally. The planet precipitated a set of influences where human would sacrifice humans for an extra-planetary plan. For this very reason, we see the warcrimes of Iraq and Ukraine.  

One can contextualize a Gurdjieffian view usually Western ideas.  I read a piece by Professor Stephen M. Walt in Foreign Policy to get background. He recalls security expert Professor Robert Jervis regarding misperception and miscalculation. Walt says no one plans to have a protracted and difficult war. First, I am not certain he is correct there. But second, and more importantly, wars ARE often protracted and difficult.  Western academics such as Walt and Jervis see misperception. Meanwhile, Gurdjieff would agree its a questions of misperception but the source of that misperception he would argue is not simply ‘folly’ or some form of hand-waving that a rational Western academic might see. It’s planetary conflict. Not aliens but planets themselves experiencing tensions.

A Conclusion

In one week of war, life within the boundaries of Ukraine has been upended, but the brutal assault Russian President Vladimir Putin launched last Thursday has also reverberated around the globe, steering history in a new direction and switching up 75 years of relations among some of the world’s most powerful and wealthy countries.
        March Fisher, Washington Post

History itself - as a function of post-War stability - is abrogating and heading in a new direction. Some have argued that the NATO and Western actors promised not to expand east in 1990. According to my reading, Gorbachev himself said “[t]he topic of NATO expansion was never discussed. It was not raised in those years.” For me personally, when an adversary is bleeding, open the wound further all other things being equal.  14 nations have joined NATO since 1997. Putin has attempted to establish himself as an authoritarian.

Putin and Mearsheimer are anachronisms.  Paper tigers.  Kings with no clothing. Ukrainians are showing the world how to stand up against ignorant and vulgar power.  They are getting raped, murdered, and bombed and still outclassing the Russian army.  Medvedev - calling on the four horsemen - is the pinnacle of absurdity and cowardice.  This is a grown man resorting to superstition.  I may believe four horseman exist.  But I know Russia is not in coordination with them - not on any level.  We face far greater dangers from climate change.

In the end, Mearsheimer is particularly offensive in the context of all this. Between wikipedia and two authors at duckofminerva.com, I am beginning to see some indications that he has nontrivial vulnerabilities as a theorist.  I don't even see the realism in his thinking.  Russia is looking quite weak at this time.  I don't see myself as an optimist.  I just see Putin facing a stacked deck. 

2020's Woke-ism & CRT

This content was originally prepared for the option3 podcast.  I added an Update below on why I even approach this subject the way I did.

Critical Theory

Freedom would be not to choose between black and white but to abjure such prescribed choices.

This blog is in some ways for my own edification.  I largely support CRT.  What I find interesting is the fuss it creates? That is what I try answer here. Many people think the BLM movement, which began around 2013, created critical race theory. The opposite is more true. And there were many steps involved.

According to wikipedia, Max Horkheimer described a theory as critical if it was “ to liberate human beings from the circumstances that enslave them”.  Horkheimer was a member of the Frankfurt school and published his greatest works before 1950. He is not THE progenitor of CT. He is among a network of key players.


"The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy distinguishes between Critical Theory (capitalized) as the product of several generations of German philosophers and social theorists of the Frankfurt School on the one hand, and any philosophical approach that seeks emancipation for human beings and actively works to change society in accordance with human needs (usually called "critical theory", without capitalization) on the other”.  Nothing here is too subversive unless you are an entrenched and entitlement White male in a Western nation.

Derrick Bell

We live in a system that espouses merit, equality, and a level playing field, but exalts those with wealth, power, and celebrity, however gained.
        Derrick Bell, American lawyer, professor, and civil rights activist

Again we consult wiki, the building blocks of critical race theory began with the legal scholarship of Derrick Bell, who wrote a book titled Race, Racism, and American Law. Among other things, he took a critical view of desegregation - shifting the emphasis away from integration towards simply better education for black students. There were other relevant founders and innovators in the 1970’s but he was the center of gravity then.

This network of thinkers challenged notions of rationality, objectivity, and judicial neutrality.  They played a central role in bring prior academic ideas into a practical field of law.  They were critical of both the Left and the Right. That would continue under next generation of thinkers.

Critical Race Theory

[It] was our job to rethink what these institutions were teaching us…and to assist those institutions in transforming them into truly egalitarian spaces.
        Kimberlé Crenshaw, American lawyer, professor, and public intellectual

People first attribute CRT to Kimberlé Crenshaw.  The term itself originates from a workshop organized by Crenshaw, Neil Gotanda, and Stephanie Phillips at the University of Wisconsin in 1989.  This cadre of thinkers began to build a larger critique of institutions themselves.  Those thinkers also include Angela Harris, Charles Lawrence, Mari Matsuda, and Patricia Williams, according to the Middle Tennessee State University’s First Amendment Encyclopedia, which also emphasizes how CRT has today cross-pollinated fields such as education, political science, American studies, and ethnic studies.

This is 90’s woke-ism. My first interaction with these ideas was in Ed 40 in summer 95, a class that Professor Pedro Noguera designed.  He is now the Dean of the USC Rossier School of Education.  It was my first class on the UCB campus.  Although these ideas call for deep structural reform, they don’t rely on hand-waving or irrationality.  

So what made CRT such a problem for people? Three factors I argue: Trump’s channeling of White male fear, BLM’s emphasis on the matters at hand, and the question of intersectionality.  Trump's bitterness and Neanderthal inspired openness of thought have intensified factors 1 and 2.  But intersectionality is even more unsettling for Trumpers.


Intersectionality has given many advocates a way to frame their circumstances and to fight for their visibility and inclusion.

Intersectionality was evolving idea in the 80’s.  Crenshaw formally coined the term in 1989. It looks at identity, discrimination, privilege, advantage, disadvantage, and countervailing balances between intersecting and overlapping identities that may empower or oppress an individual.  In practical terms, feminism was where one might apply intersectionality in its earliest years. Intersectionality does not simply accumulate prejudices but also help to determine if a compound prejudice or third intersectional prejudice may exist as Crenshaw saw Black women had faced in the 70’s.

As such and in conclusion, intersectionality is a precise sociological, legal, and philosophical tool through which to consider economic, moral, and legal injuries. That, in conjunction with the hot-button racial frameworks, is an emotionally charged third rail for people. When you add LGBTQIA protections and principles, you have a big and complex idea that very well may touch upon their own sexuality in a subconscious fashion.  Some people are not psychologically and linguistically evolved beyond being a 14th century teenager.  It becomes a complicated landscape for them. That is why I think people have such difficulty with CRT.

For me, CRT has a place among other methods to interpret social truth.  It's not a panacea but it's earned a place at the power table and need not threaten anyone who hasn't confronted their own inequity.


Questions of Lineage [An Update on 9/9/22]

There are five major components or tenets of CRT: (1) the notion that racism is ordinary and not aberrational; (2) the idea of an interest convergence; (3) the social construction of race; (4) the idea of storytelling and counter-storytelling; and (5) the notion that whites have actually been recipients of civil rights legislation. 
       Nicholas Daniel Hartlep, 

This morning or yesterday morning I was driving on 20 East to Atlanta to go to class - possibly my literary theory class - which covers essentially Lacan but spills into Afropessimism, Franz Fanon, and bell hooks and other non-White and sort of non-European subject and thinkers.  I was thinking to myself: did I error in connecting critical theory to CRT.  If I read the assessment of education Professor Hartlep at Berea College or that of philosopher and Professor Brian Leiter at the Uchicago Law School,  I might be mistaken.  But I will persist.  

While Hartlep omits the connection and Leiter directly discourages it, I cannot unwed critical theory and CRT.  Leiter does properly distinguishes deep differences - under the listings I to IV in his post - and says effort to connect them is 'blather in the humanities and social sciences'.  Points I and II reflect his deep training and capacity.  I would also agree that CRT is less ambitious philosophically but sometimes a knife is sufficient when an entire army is not.  

Why did I really revisit this subject?  Because I think it's strange that people don't more often recognize the Frankfurt school here.  It bespeaks a wound too recent to reveal.  People do not want to admit how strongly European ideas impact every single component of modern thought.  The next step in this trajectory IMO is the unification of Western and real African and real Indigenous ways of thought, speech, and being.  Asian thought, a most loaded term, is impacting global culture more.  It could take hundreds of years for a hybrid system to emerge; change is certainly coming.  And they may not unify in a Hegelian synthesis.  Western ideas may simply subside.

Note to Self: As wiki put it, Bell “employed three major arguments” regarding “constitutional contradiction, the interest convergence principle, and the price of racial remedies.”

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Open Ideas on Extraterrestrials: Evidence

Evidence - Potential Exopolitics

Next month the Department of Defense and related intelligence agencies will release a UFO report stipulated in former President Trump's last stimulus bill.  It will likely be a 'limited hangout'.  In other words, TPTB will reveal only enough information to pacify the masses.  In some sense, it would also not make any sense to even attempt to share too much information.  From a practical standpoint, it takes time to organize, present, and teach information.  Whatever is shared will be some form of progress.   

My aim here today is not to convince you entirely or present the evidence in full.  I simply want to share some interesting rational evidence and also some less than rational insights on how people connect aliens to other questions of global conspiracies.*

An Interdisciplinary Approach

What we call reality is in fact nothing more than a culturally sanctioned and linguistically reinforced hallucination.
        Terrence McKenna

Rationality obviously has a place in state decision-making.  2 and 2 are probably almost always 4.  However, an openness of thought is also important.  I call this openness of thought arationality - not to be confused with irrationality.  Personally, I find the evidence of extraterrestrials overwhelming - mostly because I take first-personal testimony seriously.  I see a consistency in the observations and themes in those testimonies.  We have a plethora of first-person testimonies - many of which corroborate various details of others' experiences.  First-person testimony is a meaningful component of truth-finding; and reliance on those testimonies is rational.  

You can't discount it simply because it is at odds with your worldview.  That is actually irrational.  We must have an open yet discriminating mind.  In this sense, we practice an interdisciplinary approach that utilizes the rational and arational.  There are many ways to refute testimony on UFOs or extraterrestrials.  The greater question you face is what happens if you don't immediately rush to judgment and let your intuition and subconscious consider these matters without the force of your immediate prejudices or desires about the truth. 

Some Engaging Samples of Evidence

[T]here is every bit as much evidence for the existence of UFOs as there is for the existence of God.  Probably far more.  At least in the case of UFOs there have been countless taped and filmed and, by the way, unexplained sightings from all over the world, along with documented radar evidence seen by experienced military and civilian radar operators.
        George Carlin

Today it can be stated with a high degree of confidence that observed manifestation of UFOs is no longer confined to the modern picture of the world… The historical evidence of the phenomenon allows us to hypothesize that ever since mankind has been co-existing with this extraordinary substance, it has manifested a high level of intelligence and technology.  The UFO sightings have become a constant component of human activity and require a serious global study.

        Major General Pavel Popovich, Soviet Cosmonaut

Although the 1947 Roswell incident is a significant event in this history, I found myself drawn to post-1980 evidence when I started this piece.  Roswell is particularly relevant to the atomic weaponry connection addressed below.   Truthfully, a robust list of evidence would also include the 1561 incident over Nuremberg, several historical paintings such as Visoki Decani's 1350 The Crucifixion Of Christ, and other ancient cultural evidence among the Mayans and Sumerians, for instance.

First, recall this short documentary of an event involving several interrelated and corroborated experiences among many children in Zimbabwe in September 1994; this testimony simply deserves your attention.  It is fascinating in that testimony is invariably about extraterrestrials and not UFOs.  It is by far my favorite source of evidence.

Second, recall the seminal NY Times article from 2017 that recalls an event involving US Navy fighters pilots in 2004; here is a related video from The History Channel.  The significance of this event, which is merely UFOs, is not so much the event but that the NY Times and other news outlets choose to report on it. 

Here is a third incident.  Recall Japanese Airlines flight 1628; consider the wiki and a related presentation with John Callahan, an FAA Official involved in the investigation that followed.  Essentially, two objects directed lights at the airplane.  The lights created heat that the pilots could feel.  Soon afterward, a third larger object became visible on the port side.

Fourth, recall this interview with Paul Hellyer, former Canadian Minister of National Defence.  He is the so-called 'highest-ranking believer'.  He is the first and only cabinet-level official from a G8 nation to make such claims.  He specifically claims that American officials have met with extraterrestrials.  He also claims that these extraterrestrials have shared technologies such as lasers, fiber optics, and kevlar.  He corroborates Linda Moulton Howe's claims that extraterrestrials are concerned about the human use of atomic weapons.  He discusses the existences of short Greys, tall Greys, Nordic blondes, and Praying Mantis beings.  He not only had access to relevant reports, but he also has had an encounter of the first kind - namely a vehicle sighting. 

Fifthrecall this (sadly comedic) documentary on Phoenix Lights from 1997.  Here is a related interview of the then Arizona Governor Fife Symington.  What makes this event interesting is certainly the footage but also the number of witnesses.  Sixth, recall Joe Rogan's interview with the infamous Bob Lazar, who claims to have worked near Area 51 on extraterrestrial spacecraft

Seventh, consider this interview with Steve Boucher.  He claims to have had two encounters of the fourth kind, depending on your interpretation.  A fourth-kind encounter involves an abduction.  His interview is not famous but I find him authentic and clearly affected by the experience.  Eighth, recall the testimony of US Air Force Sergeant Jim Penniston regarding an event in the Rendlesham Forest in England.  Penniston is not the only person who has shared testimony here but the Rendlesham Forest incident is worth learning about.

Ninth is the 2001 National Press Club testimony event hosted by The Disclosure Project, which is headed by Steven Greer, MD.  This event was an extensive showcase of testimony from over twenty military, intelligence, government, corporate, and scientific witnesses.

There are other testimonies and incidents: Pervez Jafari, Herb Schirmer, Travis Walton, NASA Captain Edgar Mitchell, and others.  

For further learning, consider the work of Richard Dolan and Linda Moulton Howe.  Greer, Stanton Friedman, and Bruce Maccabee are all key researchers in these matters.  Dolan has a truly wild interview with forecaster Clif High; it is admittedly strange.  Dan Aykroyd also has an interview with Joe Rogan regarding his own film on the subject.   I am also partial to the work of Linda Moulton Howe but it is very strange material.  Her more recent work is not for the faint of heart.

* As I have been saying a lot in recent years, option3 remains committed to conventional policy issues.  And yet I am increasingly open to what some call woo-woo.  Since at least 2012 and probably much earlier, I actively believed that extraterrestrials existed.  And I sensed the same perhaps my entire life.  

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

COVID: System of Systems Failure

In 2012, I posted my sixth and seventh entries: Governance Failure.  I argued that governance "failure is a condition where the economic and logistical problems, which the state has traditionally addressed, exceed the capacity of the state."  I also asked the question:  "will the modern Western administrative state exist in 30 years as it did over the last 200 years?"  

COVID-19 is dangerously close to suggesting the answer is no.  Part 1, Brass Tacks, was a face value estimation of COVID.  Here we examine a collective, psychoanalytic interpretation alongside a more conventional, external view.  

System Failure

As Above, So Below
        Hermes Trismegistus (possible attribution)

It is no exaggeration to say that the United States currently lacks a functioning national system for responding to pandemics.
        New England Journal of Medicine, July 2020

Consider inverting the first quote into 'as below, so above' for a moment.  Our microcosms don't necessarily cause impacts on our macrocosm.  The experiment simply helps to think about how COVID is a symptom of something more fundamental than a pandemic.

COVID is revealing failure and fragmentation at many levels - the respiratory system, the body as a whole, individual hospitals, the public health system as a whole, various political-economic systems, and the biosphere itself.  I recently watched a TED Talk with global health expert Alanna Shaikh titled "Coronavirus is our future”.  She argued, among other things, that the Coronavirus reflects our push ever deeper into the wild.  It implies that we have some culpability here.  

Many journalists have made the observation that COVID is revealing weaknesses in our institutions, structures, and systems; and these weaknesses also imply second-order human culpability.  Fareed Zakaria says we "are in the early stages of what is going to become a series of cascading crises, reverberating throughout the world.  And we will not be able to get back to anything resembling normal life unless the major powers can find some way to cooperate and manage these problems together."  His interpretation is political, economic, and financial. 

I hope Shaikh and Zakaria are wrong.  I hope we do what we should have done after the publication of works such as Silent Spring by Rachel Carson decades ago - namely to develop and implement aggressive ecological policies that do not simultaneously destabilize markets.  Otherwise, I do see something scary afoot.

System of Systems Failure

We are on in a space without a map... all previous expectations, all familiar features no longer apply.  It's like we are unmoored, cast loose.  In Tibetan Buddhism, such a place or gap between known worlds is called a bardo.  It's kinda frightening.  It's also a place of potential transformation.  As you enter the bardo, there facing you is the Buddha Akshobhya.  His element is water.  He is holding a mirror for his gift is mirror wisdom - reflecting everything just as it is.  And the teaching of Akshobhya's mirror is this: do not look away; do not avert your gaze; do not turn aside.  This teaching clearly calls for radical attention and total acceptance.  Well for us right now, it's pretty clear, who is holding up Akshobhya's mirror: COVID-19.
        Joanna Macy, June 2020 (emphasis added)

[A system] of systems is a collection of task-oriented or dedicated systems that pool their resources and capabilities together to create a new, more complex system which offers more functionality and performance than simply the sum of the constituent systems. 

The mission of option3 emphasizes "full systems thinking".*  That obviously includes considering a system of systems.**  Where we draw boundaries is important.  COVID draws a planetary boundary.

The "cascading crises" to which Zakaria refers may not contain themselves to politics, economics, and finance.  COVID feels more like the beginning steps toward a scientifically predictable apocalypse, which constitutes a system of systems failure.  We are talking, informally, about an order of magnitude difference.  If it is not the beginning of an apocalypse, it is a warning shot from the collective unconscious.  Most of my adult life has been lived under the shadow of some notion of an apocalypse.  We live in a world-historic time.  I recall learning about climate change at least in the mid-1990s.  I worked in the climate justice field in 2004 and 2005.  That's when I started to feel we were in trouble.

The path ahead is almost certainly going to test us.  We face the gnashing of teeth eventually.  The bardo is a serious matter; and I do not pretend to have studied Tibetian Buddhism.  So I will keep my words simple.  As Macy observes through metaphor, the bardo is a also place of transmogrification akin to the Jungian shadow.  It is our hope that we can purify ourselves into something new and move forward.  

What does this psychoanalytic speculation mean in concrete terms?  Macy, like others, points to the degree of interdependence societies exhibit.  It is a testament to our investment and trust in each other.  But it is a potential source of fragmentation and vulnerability when the system undergoes stress.  Public health systems will experience failures until we have some affordable solution to COVID - especially as we head into winter.  But, whereas with public health we see predictable and incremental fragmentation, elsewhere we see possible emergent and nonlinear fragmentations.***


Unless immediate action is taken, it is increasingly clear that there is an impending global food emergency that could have long-term impacts on hundreds of millions of children and adults...  Even in countries with abundant food, we see risks of disruption in the food supply chain.
        António Guterres, UN secretary general, The Nation

There is not only no global leadership, there is no national and no federal leadership in the United States...  In some sense, this is the failure of leadership of the U.S. in the U.S.
        Ricardo Hausmann, Director of the Harvard’s Growth Lab, NY Times

The first fragmentation (or impact) of COVID is generally considered the health impact itself, getting sick, and the related disruptions in public health systems.  The second fragmentation is reduced economic activity and reduced employment.  Fragmentation in the food distribution system (i.e. food supply chains) is the so-called third wave of COVID.  Food is an altogether new specter of uncertainty that takes us from system failure closer to the attributes of a system of system failure.  Hunger is more vivid than unemployment.  The delay is shorter.  We had food insecurity in the US well before COVID.  But the tenor of recent COVID-driven shocks feel different: massively increased demand at food banks, disruptions in meat processing and other food harvesting, and seeing farmers destroy food due to supply chain problems.   

As The Nation recently wrote, Lloyd's of London has focused on of food system shocks in the past and identified the potential to disrupt stability across multiple years and across the entire food system, which has their own attendant economic, social, and political impacts including stock market prices and insurance claims.  Lloyd's looked at dynamics during the Arab Spring such as food protectionism and the attendant price increases.  All of these effects spell political instability such as food riots. 

We hope a fourth fragmentation does not surface.  COVID is possibly deepening the governance failure to which I referred above.  But frankly, separating Trump's unwillingness to tackle COVID makes it hard to determine if we see COVID-driven governance failure or plain ineptitude.  The latter is the likely culprit.  Still, I have theorized since at least 2017 that a few factors may force people away from globalization not only for ideological reasons seen on the Right but because of automatization and related job losses and a general loss of faith in political institutions.****  The system is not serving the needs of the people.  And people may return to the land as best they can - possibly banding together.

Cascading Impacts

You accumulate problems, and because you’re such a strong player, you can carry these dysfunctionalities for a long time...  Until something happens and you can’t anymore.
        Timothy Garton Ash, Oxford Historian, NY Times

When asked to identify clusters of global risks from among the list of risks that are most likely to have synergistic effects and possibly lead to a global systemic crisis, 82 scientists replied.  A network map of those responses reveals how all assessed risks are embedded in a complex web of interdependencies...  An event in any one of these dimensions could potentially trigger events in connected realms, multiplying the likelihood and impact of risks.  The potential for crises arising from interactions is well known; society has seen many crises coming from sometimes-unexpected cascading impacts across systems.  
        Future of Earth, Our Future on Earth, 2020 (emphasis added)

As interdependent disruptions in the public health, economic, and food systems accumulate and multiply their impacts, those systems and others will falter and the system of systems will approach its own moment of truth.  Interdependent and interconnected dynamics deserve attention here.  COVID is not an isolated event.  As Alanna Shaikh argued in her TED Talk, COVID is a function of humans pushing further into the wild.  Consider: Asian Flu, Hong Kong Flu, HIV, SARS, Swine Flu, MERS, and Ebola all occurred in about the last 60 years.  Shaikh goes so far as to argue we are entering an era of pandemics.

We have disrespected Mother Earth under any common sense estimation.  She had been exceedingly patient with us.  A system of system failure is something we have never seen.  It is more serious than Yersinia pestis (i.e. the plague).   Determining when an apocalypse will happen is like forecasting accidents.  You can't.  You can use an exponential distribution to characterize small and middle scale risk.  But, but high consequence events are notoriously hard to characterize.  In short, our continued failure to see the interdependent and interconnected nature of this planet and our role in biospheric damage will mean we will continue to take non-incremental steps towards a scientifically predictable apocalypse.

Wikipedia defines a system as "a cohesive conglomeration of interrelated and interdependent parts which can be natural or human-made.  Every system is bounded by space and time, influenced by its environment, defined by its structure and purpose, and expressed through its functioning.  A system may be more than the sum of its parts if it expresses synergy or emergent behavior."

** Clif High deserves credit here.  At some point in 2020, he argued in a YouTube video that we are in the middle of a shift from one system of systems to another - a significant event, no doubt.  As such, I got the term from him; and he did connect it to COVID as well as other disruptions occurring on Earth.  Where the term began, I do not know.  I recalled Clif discussing a French theorist.  I reached out to Clif; and he referred me to Jean Baudrillard.  However, Baudrillard talked about a 'system of objects' in reference to ideas he had on consumerism.  I did not want to jump headfirst into a 200-page post-structuralist text to see if the Baudrillard had captured the idea for which I was looking.  I also saw other more satisfying references to the term in engineering.  I leave the matter at that for now.  

I also note that I became aware of another term 'complex systems' in 2001 or 2002 as a student of Professor Carl Simon at the University of Michigan.  He is a founder in the field of complex systems, which is an increasingly codified field.  Still, the term system of systems is somehow more satisfying in this discussion - though less functional.  An equally note-worthy term and theorist is 'gestalt'.  Kenneth Boulding applies that the term from earlier works. 

***Emergent is a specific term from the field of complex systems.

**** This idea is newish.  The automatization argument I have discussed on the podcast several times.