Off Topic

This is a collection of comments that may be interesting but are off topic.


The funny thing is that science is not really the answer to any of this – as we have seen Gory Al presents his Toyota sponsored version and in this blog we can read the G.M version, or whichever persuasion it is – perhaps an independent one, although that is a very difficult term.

At the end of the day, there are people dying every single day as a consequence of melting glaciers and failing crops and billions of people literally live under a brown cloud in Asia – and the point is that most of this seem to anyone – but the most idiotic fool in denial – as consequences of industrial capitalism, so the question is: what are we going to do about it? Sit around and write blogs about how it is /not/ happening or how there is no scientific “proof” that can tie such effects to any cause?

I, for one, need no science, really. Just go out there, in the real world, switch off the TV and go see some people who already live in the aftermath of industrial capitalism. Tell them that there is no evidence.

     by colono November 15, 2008 at 10:34 am edit comment

  • Dear Colono,I receive curious comments, challenging comments, rude comments and thoughtful comments.
    If you read through my blog you will notice that I try to respond with thoughtfulness and courtesy.

    But I must say, in all sincerity and hopefully in a constructive way, that your comment, above, is just plain foolish. Your emotions will not solve the problems of the world. Your caring and good intentions will not solve the problems of the world. Complex problems require reason, and science is the result of the most effective form of reasoning.

    I understand that it is very hip for beneficiaries of the industrial capitalist world to prove their higher moral existences to each other by ignoring the pros and exaggerating the cons of capitalism and the reasoning of science. I wouldn’t care so much, except for the damage that is done when their ill-considered plans go wrong.

    Very simply, capitalism and science have brought more benefit to more people than any two other concepts in history. I have no doubt you can list examples of where it has failed – but there are ten successes for every failure.

    We are at a crossroads, where one direction will take us down a path of expending huge amounts of time and treasure to solve problems that may be of little or no consequence (i.e. anthropogenic climate change). If this path is taken, there will be very little resources left to engage in projects that can really help the impoverished of the world.

    I sincerely wish you success in your efforts to help the indigenous people of South America. But I suspect that your efforts will lead to naught, or worse, until you take on a more rational attitude.

    Best regards,

         by tommoriarty November 19, 2008 at 4:16 am edit comment

  • Haha, sounds like my grandfather – that authoritarian voice that gives me no reason, except the “voice of reason”. There is nothing quite as “amusing” as the religious nature of distorted scientific reason expressed in self-serving rhetoric. I believe Nietzsche mused about this curious feature of the closed mind and the very generous translation of Goethe’s words might apply here: “None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.”Thank you for your success wishing, of which we have had quite a bit in a very satisfying manner by bringing people together and presenting them with the scientific data compiled by your anti-capitalist? colleagues in NASA and the World Bank, travelling with them to dying, drying communities, visiting their fungus ridden cacao gardens, staring at dead mountain tops that a few years ago were white, shining sources of water.

    Science has helped us a lot. We are very rational – quantifying and qualifying all aspects of our project within a framework of analytical philosophy and scholarly ethnography, but always reasonable enough to expand our field of vision, should experience show us something new – like good scientists we don’t stand on a firm ground of certainty, but seek to break down the barriers of ignorance through experimentation.

    Foolish is a compliment. Thank you.

         by colono November 20, 2008 at 2:25 pm edit comment

  • Dear ColonoThank you for another profound comment.

    I know that when someone starts quoting Nietzsche or Goethe that I am in the presence of the enlightened elite.

    Since you seem to be an anti-capitalist, chew on this quote from Nietzsche’s “Human, All Too Human:”

    “Socialism is the visionary younger brother of an almost decrepit despotism, whose heir it wants to be; thus its efforts are reactionary in the deepest sense. For it desires an abundance of executive power, as only despotism has ever had; indeed, it outdoes everything in the past by striving for the downright destruction of the individual, who it sees as an unauthorized luxury of nature, and who it intends to improve into a useful organ of the community. It crops up in the vicinity of all excessive displays of power because of its relation to it, like the typical old socialist Plato, at the court of the Sicilian tyrant; it desires (and in certain circumstances, furthers) the Caesarean power state of this century, because, as we said, it would like to be its heir. But even this inheritance would not suffice for its purposes, it needs the most submissive subjugation of all citizens to the absolute state, the like of which has never existed; and since it cannot even count any longer on the old religious piety towards the state, having rather always to work automatically to eliminate piety—because it works on the elimination of all existing states—, it can only hope to exist here and there for short periods of time by means of the most extreme terrorism. Therefore, it secretly prepares for reigns of terror, and drives the word “justice” like a nail into the heads of the half-educated masses, to rob them completely of their reason (after this reason has already suffered a great deal from its half-education), and to create in them a good conscience for the evil game that they are to play.”

    Give my regards to your grandfather, he sounds like a swell guy.

    Best regards,

         by tommoriarty November 20, 2008 at 11:08 pm edit comment

  • Good quote, sums up well why I am not a socialist (or a Christian or submitting to any other authoritarian power).“Funny” that being an anti-capitalist and in favour of drinking water should automatically result in being a socialist.

         by colono November 24, 2008 at 8:20 pm edit comment


    1. Dear Colono,

      Thank you for the additional comment.

      It is a useful simplification to define things, such as economic systems, along a simple spectrum. For example, you could define such a spectrum with laissez-faire capitalism at one end and communism at the other.

      Judging by your strong anti-capitalist remarks, you have defined some such spectrum, with capitalism at one end. I am curious. What you would put at the other end, and where would you put the ideal along such a spectrum.

      Simply put, capitalism is the economic expression of freedom. Capitalism is the right to pursue activities for self-benefit. It is the right to engage in voluntary exchange. It is the right to own property. These are rights that I assume you would like the people of South America to enjoy.

      Concerning drinking water:
      It seems that lack of clean water is one of the scourges of less developed countries. One of the reasons I created this blog is because global warming hysteria takes people’s eyes off the ball when it comes to real, and often solvable issues, like lack of clean water. Here is a case in point. Clean water could be brought to almost everybody with one tenth of one percent of the blah, blah, blah dedicated to saving us from “climate change.”

      I am worried about the impact of the push for biofuels because of their supposed CO2 neutrality. If you think your water shortage is bad, wait until you don’t have enough to eat because your food is being used to make gasoline. Wait until your soil is depleted because well-meaning envirosocialist have created a Rube Goldberg economy to foster the growth of biofuels (in an effort to save us from “evil” things like nuclear energy).

      Best Regards,

    2. We have a point in agreement – wow!

      Of course biofuels are not to be preferred. Of course they threaten people and they do so in great part because we live in a world where the are many rights with little duties and the “freedom” to engage in the market place – e.g. the right to buy land and grow crops for biofuels – constitutes the core of this threat.

      It is completely misleading to call biofuels the work of “environmentalism”. It is one particular strain of green capitalism, with very little or no “environmentalism”, and very very far from your green anarchist.

      Some environmentalists continue to advocate biofuels, but in the form of locally recycled fish and chips oils for your lawn mover and shared car. Other than that, environmentalists have been mounting a comprehensive attack on industial, mono-crop biofuels for years.

      With regards to the political spectrum:

      There are various ways of defining the difference between capitalism and socialism/communism.

      In political/analytical philosophy I prefer the line of thought that considers “pure capitalism” as a system in which the state interferes minimally with (imposes a minimum of limitations on) private property, while communism/socialism is a system where the state only permits a minimal conception of private property. Each in opposing ends of a spectrum.

      Thus the two are not distinct along, for instance, the misleading lines of private versus collective property, since both systems incorporate both forms, just to varying degrees. Rather than paradigmatically different and conceptually incommensurable, they are very much alike, resting on the same set of jurisprudential assumptions.

      In other words, the spectrum defined by the two extremes (neither of which are practically possible, which is why we keep swinging a little to that, then to this side, such as right now where the state needs to engage more due to a crisis brought about by leaning to far toward pure capitalism in the form of neoliberal politics) revolves around a central, coercive state to articulate and enforce either maximal or minimal conceptions of private property. Your anti-socialist quote applies just as much to capitalism as to any other authoritarian system.

      There are, however, different ways of thinking about social organisation. A notable one is of course anarchism, which seeks to perform social organisation without such a central, coercive state, thus setting itself apart from the linear spectrum (defined by the degrees to which the state treats private property).

      Another way of looking at it is through the lense of the structure of commons, as was very common, as it were, prior to capitalism and which still exists in many places (about which Elinor Ostrom’s lifework has had much to say). Customary law, the basis of all forms of modern legal systems, is yet another approach.

      A contemporary example, worthy of note, is the cyberspace phenomenon of Free Software, which is a form of social organisation developed from the grounds up and which relies very little on the state, but in general it is still very difficult to imagine escapes from that linear, statist spectrum.

      David Graeber here writes very informatively and relevantly to the limits of the imagination in this context:

      You are assuming a lot and saying next to nothing when you say…

      “Capitalism is the right to pursue activities for self-benefit. It is the right to engage in voluntary exchange. It is the right to own property. These are rights that I assume you would like the people of South America to enjoy.”,

      …since you are only rhetorically repeating what I already read in Murdoch’s press . but you are not defining the “rights to engage in voluntary exchange” and the “right to own property”. Such statements require specification to convey any useful meaning in an analysis or discussion. You might also be surprised that “the right to own” (in a private exclusive sense) does not figure that high on the wish list of many Amazonian people, for whom the rights to share and live collectively are a lot more important.

      When it comes to water…

      …Well, it is missing. It used to come from glaciers, but they have melted, because the temperature is rising, hence the ice melting. It won’t require much rocket science to correlate rising temperatures and melting ice and the consequent lack of water in the rivers below where people for thousands of years have been drinking it.

      Should I really accept that the industrial chimneys have no impact on glaciers? Should I accept that it is nature’s own way? No matter how, there is now compelling evidence that notwithstanding Mother Nature’s intentions and trajectories, human activity – in particular carbon emissions – can be configured so as to heat or cool down the planet. Cooling it down will restore the tropical glaciers and the polar ice caps and I think that sounds like a really good idea. Capitalism stands in the way of that.

      About the market thing:

      There is an infinite amount of possible articulations of “exchange rights” possible and in capitalism the rights of exclusion and the rights of exchange are lumped together – collocated – in such a manner as to actually limit autonomy and freedom, because not everybody will want to, prefer, to exchange in the capitalist market system, but will want other kinds of markets, but there is only one market and it is instituted by force and misleadingly, as exchange rights, lumped together with your exclusionary rights as if it was necessary for your autonomy, whereas in fact it can easily be argued that does exactly the opposite.

      The example of Free Software is relevant here, since it is a social movement that want to exchange differently, want to exercise the autonomy given by exclusionary rights in a non-capitalist manner, but they constantly face obstructions, because the free world strongly favours one kind of exchange system, which in turn strongly favours the strong and the rich. I.e. lessened autonomy, lessened freedom by way of the collocation of exclusionary and exchange rights; even by the capitalist/liberal philosophy’s own standards.

      This was rapidly written. My apologies, but it serves to illustrate two points: firstly, all this talk about freedom and capitalism and market place is conceptually and analytically empty, intellectually vacuous, insofar as it remains unspecified; hence it is mere rhetoric and all too often accompanied by an authoritative voice of unreason that demands that all follow suit, no further explanations given, “just because” it is the only way (to be free, or something!?).

      Leading to the second point: what a sad statement about the imagination: is that really all there is on offer? Again, I refer to Graeber’s piece, which well explains how this impoverished imagination has come about.

    3. Tom
      “(in an effort to save us from “evil” things like nuclear energy)”.

      I’m trying to make up my mind if they are worth the risk.So a couple of questions on that subject;

      (1)What would be the likely result if western US nuclear plants if the (overdue)Yellowstone erupted?

      (2)What would be the likely result to nuclear plants if an asteroid exploded over western US like the Tungsta event that happen every 100?yrs?

      (3)What would be the likely result to a nuclear plant if an earthquake like China’s happened near to one?

      (4)Would there be sufficent time to shut down and cool the Reactors?

      Now that we have learnt Co2 rise is within the error margins of what the natural sorces put out and not a great driver of climate,Using Coal for another 30 to 50yrs while making the sensible change to renewables sounds like a far less riskier option to me.Your thought’s please Tom.
      Reguards chugg.

    4. That last comment by colono — it reminds me of the old Alka-Seltzer ads. Any analogous treatments for mental indigestion?

    5. Hello. I’ve never commented here before despite enjoying the blog. Wondering what you make of this:


      It’s a ‘world clock’, including ‘real time’ measurements of global temperature, CO2 emmissions, disease rates etc. I don’t have the expertise to discredit it, other than to say that the ‘real time’ element is clearly bullshit, a priori.

      I’ll be posting the same comment over at TheAirVent.

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