Thursday, May 24, 2012


Quotable: Historians & Deconstruction

... historians don't just reconstruct the past from documents. They also deconstruct narratives of the past. Deconstruction is a term that often sounds like some sort of trendy, high-theory concept of little practical use. In fact, however, deconstruction is a way of getting at truths beyond the obvious, and is therefore highly useful in expanding the range of information we can extract out of documents, images, and other sources from the past.

Most sources contain intentional messages. That is to say, they were produced by some person or persons for the purpose of conveying information to an audience. Oral, written, and visual sources can all contain intentional messages. ... Often, the meaning is open to debate ... Nevertheless it is clear that there are intentional messages ... We call the practice of seeking to understand the information or messages that the authors of the text wanted to convey to their audience reading with the grain. ...

However, texts also contain messages that their authors did not intend to convey to their audience. Often these messages are a set of assumptions. ... By definition, these assumptions are not explicitly stated in the text because they are assumed by the author to be universal truths that anyone (or at least the audience) would immediately recognize.

It is necessary, therefore, to read against the grain--or to deconstruct our sources--in order to gain access to the assumptions. The practice of deconstruction generally involves a series of steps. The first of these is to establish the origins, author, and other evidentiary issues about the text and to read it with the grain. It is especially important to know as much as possible about the author--his or her status in society, life experiences, political and cultural outlook, and so forth.This is because the assumptions we are looking for are usually generated communally and shared among a group. ...

The next step in deconstruction requires the researcher to search for assumptions and figurative language--metaphors, similes, stereotypes, and the like. Often, it is useful to look at a range of documents as a way of identifying language that is commonly used by many people in the same society or social group. At the same time, it is important to read the document closely to see where explanations end and assumptions begin--in other words, to search out the points that the author assumes need no explanation.

     Source: Trevor R. Getz and Liz Clarke. Abina and the Important Men: A Graphic History (New York: Oxford UP,
     2012) pp. 126-127.

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Quotable: Reality & Idealism

Reality follows where idealism leads.

     Source: Inscription seen May 2012 on a monument on the University of Puget Sound campus.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2012


Two Excerpts from, and One about, the Chronicles of Narnia

And the longer and more beautifully the Lion sang, the harder Uncle Andrew tried to make himself believe that he could hear nothing but roaring. Now the trouble about trying to make yourself stupider than you really are is that you very often succeed.

Source: C. S. Lewis. The Magician's Nephew in The Chronicles of Narnia. (New York: HarperCollins, 2004) p. 75.

"Then I [Emeth] fell at his feet and thought, Surely this is the hour of death, for the Lion (who is worthy of all honour) will know that I have served Tash all my days and not him. Nevertheless, it is better to see the Lion and die than to be Tisroc of the world and live and not to have seen him. But the Glorious One bent down his golden head and touched my forehead with his tongue and said, 'Son, thou art welcome.' But I said, 'Alas, Lord, I am no son of thine but the servant of Tash.' He answered, 'Child, all the service thou hast done to Tash, I account as service done to me.' Then by reasons of my great desire for wisdom and understanding, I overcame my fear and questioned the Glorious One and said, 'Lord, is it then true, as the Ape said, that thou and Tash are one?' The Lion growled so that the earth shook (but his wrath was not against me) and said, 'It is false. Not because he and I are one, but because we are opposites--I take to me the services which thou hast done to him. For I and he are of such different kinds that no service which is vile can be done to me, and none which is not vile can be done to him. Therefore if any man swear by Tash and keep his oath for the oath's sake, it is by me that he has truly sworn, though he know it not, and it is I who reward him. And if any man do a cruelty in my name, then, though he says the name Aslan, it is Tash whom he serves and by Tash his deed is accepted. Dost thou understand, Child?' I said, 'Lord, thou knowest how much I understand.' But I said also (for the truth constrained me), 'Yet I have been seeking Tash all my days.' 'Beloved,' said the Glorious One, 'unless thy desire had been for me thou shouldst not have sought so long and so truly. For all find what they truly seek.'

Source: C. S. Lewis. The Last Battle in the The Chronicles of Narnia. (New York: HarperCollins, 2004) pp. 756-757.

In the field of literature, myth usually does not mean a "fictitious story, or unscientific account, theory, belief, etc." (literary critics do not dismiss something as just a myth). Instead, to Lewis and Tolkien, myths deal with matters beyond and above everyday life, concerning origins, endings, aspirations, purpose and meaning, in concepts or narratives that appeal to the imagination and the emotions rather than the intellect. They are nonrational and nonintellectual, not irrational or anti-intellectual. Thus Tolkien says that myth has a "total (unanalysable) effect." Myth, Lewis adds, "deals with impossibles and preternaturals." The experiences that myths generate are serious and awe-inspiring, conveying a sense of the numinous. Myths open huge vistas, plumb depths of the emotions and the spirit. The sheer imaginativeness of such stories, like that of much poetry, adds to life, creates sensations we never had before, and enlarges our conception of possible experience.

Source: Peter J. Schakel. The Way into Narnia: A Reader's Guide (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2005). p. 34.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2012


"What If We All Stopped Paying Taxes" by Sharon Jones and the Daptones

This groovy tune is featured in the intro to the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee's excellent video, Death and Taxes.

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Sunday, May 13, 2012


Mmmm, Human-Based Gelatin

Photo of Jelly Babies by Father Jack at
Remember the scene in the dystopian film, Soylent Green, where Det. Robert Thorn (played by Charlton Heston) dramatically reveals the origin of the food source for much of the world's population? He cries, "Soylent Green is people!" . Any way, I couldn't help but remember this when I read last July on that: "Scientists are reporting development of a new approach for producing large quantities of human-derived gelatin that could become a substitute for some of the 300,000 tons of animal-based gelatin produced annually for gelatin-type desserts, marshmallows, candy and innumerable other products."

Last September, The Telegraph reported, in a piece featuring the same Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry article that Science Daily referenced: "Reports last week that researchers could be just six months away from producing the world’s first artificial meat, using thousands of stem cells bred in a laboratory, sent a wave of fascination around the world. Yet there is an even more ghoulish prospect ahead: the idea of eating artificial food made from humans" and "In fact, human-derived gelatin is already in use by the pharmaceutical industry in the manufacture of certain pills and vaccines."

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Keynes on Hayek's "The Road to Serfdom"

In my opinion it [The Road to Serfdom] is a grand book. We all have the greatest reason to be grateful to you for saying so well what needs so much to be said. You will not expect me to accept quite all the economic dicta in it. But morally and philosophically I find myself in agreement with virtually the whole of it; and not only in agreement with it, but in a deeply moved agreement. ... I should say that what we want is not no planning, or even less planning, indeed I should say we almost certainly want more. But the planning should take place in a community in which as many people as possible, both leaders and followers, wholly share your own moral position. ... Moderate planning will be safe enough if those carrying it out are rightly oriented in their own minds and hearts to the moral issue. This is in fact already true of some of them. But the curse is that there is also an important section who could be said to want planning not in order to enjoy its fruits, but because morally they hold ideas exactly the opposite of yours, and wish to serve not God but the devil. -Letter of John Maynard Keynes to Friedrich Hayek

Source: Nicholas Wapshott. Keynes Hayek: The Clash that Defined Modern Economics (New York: Norton & Co., 2011) p. 198.

I've posted this quote not as a blanket endorsement of Hayek's book but because I was surprised to read that Keynes actually had something good to say about it--shows you how little I know about Keynes, I suppose. I mainly agree with the Libertarian critique of the state. It's been a long time since I read The Road to Serfdom so I can't say if this is true of Hayek but what I generally find lacking in Libertarian rhetoric is an acknowledgement of and grappling with the real threat to liberty posed by private, as opposed to state, power. As if to confirm that it turns out that General Motors bankrolled the distribution of a cartoon version of the The Road to Serfdom, which was first published in Look in February 1945 (see video below).

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Quotable: Purpose of Lawyers

Well, I don't know as I want a lawyer to tell me what I cannot do. I hire him to tell me how to do what I want to do. -Bankster J. P. Morgan

Source: Robert Heilbroner. The Worldly Philosophers (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1999) p. 215.

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Saturday, May 12, 2012


de Klerk: 'Two-State Solution'=Apartheid

Last December, F. W. de Klerk, the last president of South Africa under the system of White supremacist rule known as apartheid, confirmed what every informed, thinking person already knew: The so-called two-state solution to the conflict in Palestine is about locking in a Jewish supremacist apartheid solution in Palestine. De Klerk told the BBC program Today: "What I supported as a younger politician [in South Africa] was exactly what the whole world now supports for Israel and Palestine; namely, separate nation-states ..." In South Africa, the Black "nation-states" were derisively called bantustans.De Klerk's statement can be heard at about 2:27 in the 13-minute interview.

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Falk & "Blind Justice"

Below is the cartoon that brought UN Special Rapporteur for Palestinian human rights Richard A. Falk so much grief last year from anti-Semitism tricksters. It's called "Blind Justice" and was penned by Palestinian refugee and cartoonist Emad Hajjaj. Unfortunately, Falk caved under the pressure, removed the cartoon, and apologized. It's comforting to know such a stalwart guy is charged with monitoring human rights violations against Palestinians.

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Former Israeli MP: The Anti-Semitism/Holocaust "Trick"

Ten years ago, Shulamit Aloni, a former Palmach fighter and Israeli Knesset and cabinet member, gave an interview to Amy Goodman on Democracy Now. Below is part of what the interview:
Goodman: Yours is a voice of criticism we don't often hear in the United States. Often when there is dissent expressed in the United States against policies of the Israeli government, people here are called anti-Semitic. What is your response to that as an Israeli Jew?

Aloni: Well, it's a trick, we always use it. When from Europe somebody is criticizing Israel, then we bring up the Holocaust. When in this country people are criticizing Israel, then they are anti-Semitic. And the organization is strong, and has a lot of money, and the ties between Israel and the American Jewish establishment are very strong and they are strong in this country, as you know. And they have power, which is OK. They are talented people and they have power and money, and the media and other things, and their attitude is "Israel, my country right or wrong", the identification. And they are not ready to hear criticism. And it's very easy to blame people who criticize certain acts of the Israeli government as anti-Semitic, and to bring up the Holocaust, and the suffering of the Jewish people, and that is justify everything we do to the Palestinians.
You can watch the entire interview on Democracy Now. The segment quoted above starts at about 50:51.

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Insight into Wikipedia's Pro-Israel Bias

The video below is from an August 2010 story by the Israeli Zionist media organization Arutz Sheva. If the video disappears you can also try to watch it here.Outside Israel the story seemingly got mainstream coverage only in "Wikipedia editing courses launched by Zionist groups" in the Guardian (UK) but it did merit lengthy discussion in a NY Times blog post entitled "Wikipedia Editing for Zionists".

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