Monday, February 28, 2011

postmodernists and climate change

In denying the objective validity of science and reducing it to one narrative among a wide fields of unstable narratives, have postmodernists greased the wheels for climate change denialism?

Chris Mooney doesn't think so. He is responding to Judith Warner's New York Times Magazine piece by Judith Warner (who misattributes postmodernism to the left, where it's never, technically been), in arguing that the far right appropriated the anti-foundationalist discourse of postmodernity in their attack on science.


Mooney jokes:
Can you picture James Inhofe citing Derrida or Foucault? The very idea is comical.
But more seriously, he writes that climate deniers do believe in objective truth--just not the objective truth of contemporary science. There's no overriding, systemically consistent reason for their position. It's more pre-modern than postmodern. I don't really have any strong disagreement with Mooney's position here. But it may be possible that intellectuals who have ridden the right's coattails, who author carefully coded "intelligent design" treasises and cite Heidegger and Nietzsche in the service of radical orthodoxy do, in fact, deploy postmodernist thinking in their attack on science. Such intellectuals may contribute to the anti-scientific attitude of rank-and-file Christians who know little to nothing about the foundational poles of the overall debate. It's also important to remember that the scientific method, when properly deployed, is an instantiation of democracy, while a certain strain of religious postmodernism is both deeply anti-scientific and hostile to cosmopolitan democracy.

Finally, I posed the question at the top of this post on my Facebook page earlier, and received some extremely thoughtful responses:

"Yes, amongst other things, in fact I believe that in promoting the Many Truths narrative they have helped the Right define the debate in their favor."

"Um, no. If you don't understand that science is unstable, you don't understand science, IMHO. There's a difference between instability and complete indeterminacy. In that difference, the entire world lies."


"I suspect the vast majority of climate change deniers have never heard of postmodernism or think it's a communist plot."

"Habermas makes that argument. I don't buy it. The problem with science in the U.S. comes from evangelicals, and they are hardly postmodernists. There are many more relativists/postmodernists in Europe and a much higher belief in science."

"For an interesting read on the question see Bruno Latour, “Why Has Critique Run out of Steam? From Matters of Fact to Matters of Concern,” Critical Inquiry, 30 (2003). Latour is one of the original critique of science people."

"And besides capital "S"cience is a narrative science itself is a method of inquiry while postmodernism(s) can call into question the big Truth claims that people think science makes but science isnt concerned wit...h the Ultimate truths that say religion or philosophy is. Only the best truth that fits the available evidence. In this respect science in its always unfinished-- constantly revisiable-- self reflexive-- process oriented methodology is and has always been the paragon of post modernity."

The King's Dump

I have a great idea for the next Hollywood smash hit: A movie, which must be over two hours long, depicting the struggle of a sympathetic king-character with his bowel movement. In the midst of international turmoil and intrigue, as the masses struggle for security and the royal family comes to terms with their Nazi sympathies, the king sits in his bathroom, grunting away. Plagued by a dreaded spell of constipation and considered too bloated and unhealthy to be king, our protagonist engages the help of an unorthodox poop therapist. Through a set of unorthodox cognitive restructuring techniques, and as a result of an unlikely friendship and specially made laxitives, the king is able to "find his voice," as it were, and boldly lead the country through war, taking symbolic dumps on the British working class.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Not just a democratic revolution...

Guess what? The revolts in the Middle East and North Africa are not just against the broadly brushed "dictatorship," but also against the global economic hierarchy. That's the argument advanced by John Pilger in his Truthout article Behind the Arab Revolt Is a Word We Dare Not Speak.
The revolt in the Arab world is not merely against a resident dictator, but against a worldwide economic tyranny designed by the US Treasury and imposed by the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, which have ensured that rich countries like Egypt are reduced to vast sweatshops, with half the population earning less than $2 a day. The people's triumph in Cairo was the first blow against what Benito Mussolini called corporatism, a word that appears in his definition of fascism.

...which makes all of this even more interesting than it has already been--and even more intimately connected to the conditions and stakes in the Wisconsin battles.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Economic History


I'm starting to ask myself if they've ever been right about anything.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Wisconsin and Priorities

From Tom Hayden:
Cost of Iraq: $3 trillion [projected]
Cost of Afghanistan: $1 trillion [projected]
California budget gap: $28 billion
Wisconsin budget gap: $138 million
...the budget crises faced in places like Wisconsin and California can be ended by rapidly ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

trying to get some politifacts straight

Last week, in the midst of the unprecedented labor uprising in Wisconsin, Talkingpointsmemo.com ran an interesting, much-cited story about Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker "ginning up" budget figures, and essentially causing a budget crisis through mis-timed tax cuts, which he then turned around and used as a reason to push through legislation limiting public workers' right to collectively bargain. TPM got that story from the local Wisconsin media, and Rachel Maddow picked up the story and ran with it--as did many other sources, including my own politicalcontext.org.

A conservative friend pointed out that politifact.com has called the "ginning up" story false.

So earlier this morning, I emailed Brian Beutler at talkingpointsmemo.com --who broke the story of Gov. Walker ginning up the budget crisis before Maddow did-- asking him to comment on the politifact.com analysis. I'll report his reply if and when I receive it--and I sincerely hope I do. If it comes out that this was a screw up on TPM's part, a lot of people will need to clarify their position concerning Wisconsin. Supporting the 70,000 + people in the streets in Madison, and the right of all workers to collectively bargain, does not stand or fall on whether Gov. Walker messed up the budget and lied about it. Public workers make less than private sector workers, and the whole blame game being lobbed against the public sector is ridiculous. And, Wisconsin Republicans aren't interested in facts and have rejected compromise offers by the unions. But we still need to make sure we get our facts straight--always, every time.

Friday, February 18, 2011

that refreshing mass action feeling

It's been nice this past week to see actual working people take to the streets in mass action rather than seeing half a dozen aging, government teat-sucking teabaggers shout epithets on courthouse steps.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

this is how far the right has fallen...

Conservative stalwart and professional hatemonger Debbie Schlussel, one of several conservative Hosni Mubarak fans, is celebrating the rape of CBS reporter Lara Logan. It seems that Logan offended Schlussel's anti-Muslim extremism by feeling good about the Egyptian anti-Mubarak uprising. So when Logan was raped (as women are statistically in danger of in the United States as well as Egypt), Schlussel wet her pants with joy, delcaring on the O'Reilly Factor:
"So sad, too bad, Lara. No one told her to go there. She knew the risks. And she should have known what Islam is all about. Now she knows. This never happened to her or any other mainstream media reporter when Mubarak was allowed to treat his country of savages in the only way they can be controlled. How fitting that Lara Logan was 'liberated' by Muslims in Liberation Square while she was gushing over the other part of the 'liberation.' Hope you're enjoying the revolution, Lara!"
What, exactly, is it appropriate for us to wish upon Debbie Schlussel?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Obama vs The Rest of Us

Patrick Martin hits his target again in "Obama’s budget and the rot of American capitalism:"
Programs to be cut include not only those targeted by Obama and the Republicans in the current budget debate—home heating assistance, Pell Grants, WIC, Head Start, etc.—but the much larger entitlement programs, Social Security and Medicare, which will face cuts later in the budget process. The social impact will be incalculable. As hundreds of thousands of people face the bitter cold of winter without heat and gas, Obama is proposing halving the grossly inadequate federal assistance that is available. As students graduate with record debt and no job prospects, the administration is proposing significant cuts in government aid. Such gross indifference to social distress is repeated in every sphere.

Friday, February 11, 2011

a progressive non-manifesto

Shared Media Cooperative, formerly Shared Sacrifice Media, launches two new web sites next week, starting with Politicalcontext.org. I have previewed the introductory post here.

Politicalcontext.org is a new web site produced by Shared Media Cooperative, devoted to interviews, blog-diaries, news, and debates concerning progressive politics, culture and philosophy. Politicalcontext.org’s home page is a hub for blogs devoted to politics, religion, law, sexuality, philosophy, economics, arts & culture, science & technology, and direct action. The posts on each individual blog will roll through the main page, along with breaking news from the activist community, and daily compilations of leading currents in progressive and left wing politics and culture.
Politicalcontext.org contains the following blogs:
• Politics and Policy: Policy analysis and advocacy. Wide-ranging and in-depth discussion of both foreign and domestic policy. An examination of legislative and executive decisionmaking of government both in the U.S. and abroad.
• Economics: Political economy, economic science, an examination of the goings on in the material base. Debates and updates on long-term and short-term economic issues, from both the theoretical and the practical.
• Rule of Law: Legal debates and news from constitutional issues to the prison-industrial complex, from drug policy to immigration, from the death penalty to corporate personhood. Updates on the rule of law in America and abroad.
• Take Action: Immediate and significant opportunities to make a difference. Direct action opportunities: protests, strikes, boycots, petitions, elections, targeted fund drives, and more.
• Spirituality: Institutional and non-institutional religious perspectives on contemporary politics and culture. News of religious dissent and progressive spirituality around the world, as well as a chance to thoughtfully report and criticize on regressive religious tendencies.
• Philosophy: Foundational human thought and its relation to the politics of history and everyday life. Criticism, advocacy, speculation, and logic.
• Sexuality: News, views, and analysis of intimacy and pleasure. Sexual politics, alternatives, and the struggle for sexual freedom.
• Arts and Culture: Music, dance, literature, movies, poetry, theater, graphic arts, folklore, fiction, high and low art, featuring both reviews and original work.
• In addition, we are adding a Science and Technology blog in the near future.

those selfish egyptians--what about my needs???

"US stocks fell amid speculation out of Egypt that President Hosni Mubarek will step down" should read "the suits are trying to scare & shame us away from revolution." Don't overthrow dictators, folks. It might tank the market!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Princess Gwyn meets the cowboys

"The world of country music, like, the values are so strong, you know."

~Gwyneth Paltrow, Starz Studios interview, explaining the title of the movie, and not sounding aloof or condescending at all.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

three predictions

1. I will not be watching the Superbowl tomorrow.
2. Steelers will win. This is a prediction, not a normative judgment.  I mean, the Packers are the only "socialist" team in the league (owned by the people of Green Bay). But laudible ownership schemes do not guarantee a championship. If they did, Cuba would win at other things besides just baseball and boxing.
3. If I am wrong about 2, I will only focus on how I was right about 1, and in any case shall not blog of this again.

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