Empty Days

Saturday, January 31, 2004

PayPal mystery

I've been around blogs for a while now and the thing that keeps puzzling me no end is the occasional "PayPal - donate" sign I run across on some blogs. Holy papa - donate, what for? For the public service of being adulated by a random number of people while exhibiting your best-and-brightest (or so you think) online?

I've been trying to pierce the underlying philosophy of this support-my-blog mentality, with no success so far. Perhaps it's an exclusively american phenomenon and I am not getting something very local and obvious here. Maybe my understanding of money-making is too limited. Whatever.


Death as experiment

Haphazardly visited Atlantic Monthly's site and glanced this:
Life or Death Decision

In his latest book, Scott Turow talks about how he came to believe that the country's experiment with capital punishment has "failed miserably".
The curious word is "experiment". This brought to mind the outrage over the idea of medical experiments on near-dead patients (Peter Singer). Supposedly this outrage is based on the idea of the "sanctity of human life". Yet, this very idea doesn't seem to extend to capital punishment. Many, if not most, of those outraged by Singer are not at all outraged by death penalty.

Why? Perhaps the argument of the "sanctity of human life" is only a camouflage for something else - and it is this something else that provokes the outrage.

If ethics were a science it would investigate real-motives as opposed to slogans (or call it doctrines).




I've noticed that I am paying almost no attention to my cat these days - it's there, I feed it, but that's about it. The cat frequently sits near my computer chair and looks at me while I type away - hoping that I might finally turn my head and notice it's there, *looking at me*.

I thought what a tragedy it would be if I had a child and treated it in this way. A cat is less of a casuality.


The king is naked

I am probably one of those people inclined to point out that "the king is naked". In various situations. Perhaps I am a lover of truth or incredibly simple-minded and have no time for nuances.

Or maybe I just like nudism :-0


The eye of God

In discussing ethics there is one overall "test" to determine whether behaviour is ethical or not. It is known as the Sunshine Test, and the idea is that you ask yourself if you would be happy for your friends and peers to know what you are doing. If the answer is no, then it's a fair bet that what you are doing is unethical. The beauty of the test is that it implicitly takes into account society's values (as expressed by your friends/peers).
Well. Maybe not. For example, if I now took up drawing, I would make every effort to conceal this fact from the eyes not only of friends but also of strangers.

Does this mean that I consider drawing unethical? :-0


Overblown ethics

While looking for stuff by Peter Singer and his opponent, Raymond Gaita (and not Giata, as I've misspelled previously), happened on this blog-entry from Tim Blair:
Raimond Gaita, professor of "moral philosophy", writes:

Only someone who believes that the end justifies the means will think the liberation of the Iraqi people from Saddam's murderous dictatorship, the creation of a democratic state in Iraq, or even the flowering of democracy in the entire Middle East, will justify the killing of tens of thousand of Iraqis.

That's me! Actually, it's less to do with anything Machiavellian than with simple mathematics. Fewer Iraqis died in the liberation of their country than would have died under Saddam's continued rule. Only someone who believes in impotent, pathetic inertia will think the perpetual enslavement of the Iraq people justifies the killing of tens of thousands of Iraqis in Baghdad alone.
There is about a thousand comments following this entry and, curiously, *all* of them take for granted that the US war on Iraq was waged to liberate Iraqis - as opposed to neutralizing a dangerously unruly regime.

Now, does this mean that if Bush-aka-Cheney had framed his intentions in another language (that is: "we're going to oust Saddam because Saddam is a perpetual threat to the security of the USA and we've been made aware by 9/11 that we need to trample out such weeds before they fester"), does this mean that the US public opinion would not have accepted this argument to support the war effort (that is: send their sons and daughters to die in a war overseas)?

It seems to me that this would have made as good a case for the war as the pseudo-moral motives proposed by Bush and Blair - especially since those are the real reasons, and always have been the *only* reason for this war. The fact that it has been camouflaged by massive propaganda to look like a world-class-humanitarian-mission is actually pretty despicable.

The question is: could the US *afford* to speak the truth and still go to Iraq?

I think - yes. It had enough of a case without all the moral humbug.

Incidentally, the WMD controversy today is yet another vestige of a lie-told-in-vain - those supposed WMD were never the real threat. Saddam was the threat. An unruly post-war Iraq still is the threat. This mission is *not* humanitarian or universally moral in any way. Is this so hard to see?

Or rather: why is it undesirable that people see things as they are?

Friday, January 30, 2004

Fat scared cows

What is it about Norman Finkelstein that irks so many people? And I am not one of them. There are some really fat sacred-cows running around that need to be shot and I think Finkelstein is doing just that. And of course the cow-worshippers hate him for it.

I don't follow politics very closely but I do remember when Itzak Rabin was murdered. Perhaps I am terrifically mistaken but he seemed like the only man who was willing to really push for a new way out of the endless Middle-East conflict. It's so endless it's about to beat the IRA-vs-UK in longevity.

Too many fat sacred-cows need to be shot - and the man who first dares to raise his voice to proclaim this truth is the greatest heretic. Rabin was a heretic. And so is Finkelstein.

***

In connection with this I am also intending to investigate Peter Singer's bioethics philosophy. It's too new for me to pronounce as to whether I might find it sensible or not. But the man is clearly trying to chase some of those fat animals infesting the neighbourhood - and I am willing to listen to what he's got to say about it.

***

What makes me willing to listen to the heretics? I don't do it on purpose - it's a natural inclination. Perhaps the mere fact that I am not caught up in a tight social circle where thinking is not so much censored as constantly directed and shaped to fit the interests of the group. I am not sure this is the right explanation.




I just realized that I am one of those people, cast outside time and civilization, who will never use or possess a cell-phone.

If, however, events prove me wrong - it would be some major, unfathomable, incredible and entirely unimaginable events. Like world-war or universal flood.




Another psychological observation. There are two types of pretty girls - the arrogant ones, obsessed with fashion and body-shape, profoundly insecure and haughty; and the ones who are busy with loftier concerns yet find it easy to look great and not snub anybody for it.

It's not the beauty - it's what you think it's there for.


Mad-cow effect

Did my grocery today and made a psychological observation. Some beef was on sale, really cheap, and in these cases there's never enough for everybody and when the butcher rolls his tray out people pounce on it unashamedly, pushing and shoving - and if you don't join in adroitly enough you don't get no beef as a rule. So I joined in but was cut off by an elderly guy who really went for that beef like it was some sort of a military operation. And I felt disgusted. With myself and with that old shnock.

But afterwards it occurred to me that perhaps this feeling of disgust was a wrong reaction on my part. For what was it about? A tiny tinge of humiliation from having to scramble for stuff; a bit of indignation at seeing an elderly man behave like a bum; resentment from being cut off; disgust with my own greed. But who the fuck am I to react like I am some prince of Belair in dire circumstances? Where is the humiliation when this is pretty much the only time I can afford to buy some beef and what is greedy about it? And lastly - who the fuck am I to judge this old guy?

So basically I decided that next time this happens I will have great fun laughing at myself, at the beef, and at the people scrambling for it. And I'll make some damn good stew today.


Blogging - a waste of time or better still?

Sometimes I berate myself for wasting so much time on blogging. And of course it's hard to escape the fact that it takes so much energy and produces exactly nothing. Basically, blogging is useless. But it's enjoyable. And it has benefits after all.

In my case benefits are as follow: 1) I get to write a lot of English 2) I get to see what other people have to say from their unfathomable perspectives 3) I get to feel important from the mere fact that at least one stranger gets to read my blog every day 4) I am getting to learn CSS practically despite myself 5) I have somewhere to go every day 6) I get to think in a sustained way about various things because I want to write about them 7) I get to do something that I enjoy and be fairly satisfied with it because standards are not high.

The list could probably continue but it's enough of a set of benefits. And besides - the main reason I blog so much is that I have nothing better to do. And that's one mighty reason for any activity, I would say. Plus, being busy blogging, I can't put as much energy into fighting my environment. I haven't picked a fight with the janitor in ages - he tried to, but I was too busy blogging :-0

Clearly, blogging is not just a stupid waste of time - it's a detour on the road of crime and villany.


May the Bible fall on you

Ended up at this exuberant site - Aarons Bible [the actual www address is a goddam fake btw]. If this is what born-again movement is like, it's pretty scary. Once upon a time I saw something about Nostradamus that was not very far removed - both in tone and purpose. I suppose Hassidic sites (who is: Jewish orthodox) sport a similar pitch.

Jesus...

That's all I can say.

***

Heard something on local news about the growing gap between Americans and Canadians. A question was put to the public on both sides of the border: do you need to be christian to be moral? In Canada 30% said yes as compared to 60% in the States. This of course means that the mood in America is staunchly traditionalist and conservative - we have some of that here too of course, but it is mostly located in the central farm-lands. Perhaps this gap simply means that Canada is more urban - and has less people tucked away in small-town communities. Or maybe not.

***

The gov is determined to pass same-sex marriage legislation. But it decided to postpone, in order for the Supreme Court to decide whether this respects the religious groups' rights. That's very thoughtful of them. Actually it all comes down to words: "marriage" for church-goers, "union" for everybody else. As long as the gov doesn't force churches to perform same-sex ceremonies - and it can't do that, of course.

If man and woman marry in a city hall - does this make their marriage "a sacred union" in the eyes of whatever religion? I'd say not. The whole point of a church-marriage is that it transcends the merely contractual and/or social part of it. It makes a "union" sacred first and legal second.

Same-sex legislation is not (and should not be) concerned with that first part.

***

What would happen if one day the USA became a really christian-fundamentalist state? Why - it's not entirely unthinkable. By that time Canada would have legalized drugs and allowed gay marriage.

We might find ourselves with an iron curtain running along the whole length of the border :-0


Third eye - and counting

I've been meaning to blog some more about telepathy. Not to disparage scientific dismissal of the thing - let them lab-dwellers worry about their jobs and reputations. I, otoh, have no reputation to lose and can speak freely.

For one thing - telepathy is something really hard to define. Because it takes strange forms. I am not very big on it, and my "sixth sense" is really lagging behind the latest advances in paranormal technologies (joke here), but I've had had a few occurences and I must say - it's overwhelming and damn disturbing.

From my own paltry evidence I can distinguish four types of telepathic events:
1. those produced by a strong emotional connection to another person (especially sexual)
2. thought-influence incoming from a close person (non-directed)
3. random visions unrelated to thinking or one's own known environment (so called third-eye)
4. abiilty to find hidden objects in an unfamiliar environment (medium-like)

In the first case I would know when and with what intensity another person is thinking of me - being thousand of miles away and all. The strange thing is that this is felt physically and not mentally - somewhere in the pit of my stomach, a sudden pulling sensation. Or I would know that at this moment I am being sent an e-mail - and I go check my mail, and it's just arrived. Or that I am about to receive a phone call - and I receive the call. I think this type of telepathy is often connected with sexual desire and is greatly intensified by it. Don't ask me why or how - I don't know.

The second case is when I've been made to have thoughts about things that another person was thinking about but which were very out of the blue for me - and I could verify it later. One such event was strange enough for me to try and investigate. At one point I had a sudden half-dream (or call it vision) of the winning lottery numbers. Of course when it occured I didn't know they were going to be winning numbers - but it was out-of-the-blue enough for me to take note and verify this later. I have never been interested in playing lottery and never gave any thought to it. After the vision occured and I verified that I have indeed "dreamed up" the exact numbers, it turned out that on the same day my mother had decided to buy a bunch of tickets as Xmas presents for us all - a surprise, because lottery has never been a matter of interest in our family.
(I think there were other such instances of "implanted thoughts" between me and my mother, with whom I do not communicate very often, but they're much more illusive and hard to describe.)

The "third-eye" cases only happened a couple of times and very dimly. It's a bit like the stuff with the lottery numbers, a sort of out-of-the-blue day-dream vision that happens while I think about something else entirely - the vision is usually extremely strange and has a peculiar feel to it. It's very different from "letting my mind wander" - in fact, it happens "on top" of whatever is happening in my mind at that time. The strange part is that I am suddenly made to see a sort of movie and I am immersed in it, as if in a dream, and yet my usual train of thought continues in parallel. The latest instance was bizarre: I suddenly find myself walking up a totally unknown street in an unknown and very real town, and I see everything as if I was there. The vision vanished as soon as I tried to think about what I was seeing.
This is mostly useless but strange.

Ability to find hidden objects in an unfamiliar environment. Here I can remember only one instance. I went to see a friend I had not seen in about 10 years, it was a sort of belated reunion and I was in an unusually open mood. Of course her place was entirely new to me. We decided to go for a walk but she realized she couldn't find her keys. She and her hubby looked everywhere, pockets, under the furniture etc, without success. I watched them rumage around the flat - and then I suddenly "knew" where the keys were: in a certain drawer in the hall, which had already been inspected btw. This was certainly no induction. Effortless.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Rules of the game

I am really beginning to wonder how long I will be able to sustain this strange out-of-the-world condition I gradually put myself in - and not climb the wall out of sheer desperation. Try spending about a week standing on one leg and not blinking. Sometimes you see those mimes in the park - well, that pretty much illustrates the above-mentioned condition. It's self-inflicted and perhaps it's a form of art, but I never intended it this way.

***

I have a big communication problem with people - and this is not because I can't communicate - it's simply because I've drifted so far away from the regular human lifestyle that it's always something of a burden to take on another person's worldview and blow it to pieces - simply by talking to her.

Experience has shown that in a group of random characters I tend to drift towards the most visibly screwed-up of them all - not out of compassion, but actually because with such folks mutual understanding occurs almost instantly. I've never been an actual suicide or an actual drug-addict or whatever - and I don't have insider stories to share - but for some reason I happen to share their vision of the world, which would be hopelessness in this case.

In other words, I have a problem with people who are not hopeless. Which is to say - the vast majority of people. Hopelessness is a form of intelligence. It simply doesn't exist in those bereft of it.


Daylight depravation

There's is this interesting phenomenon happening in my head - apparently I become claustrophobic from day-light depravation. Sometimes I stay up all night and then sleep late into the day - and this invariably results in a state of acute depression which basically feels like I am in a can. And I think this is because days are so short in winter and when I sleep late I only have a couple of hours of daylight to go by and this really puts me down. No such problem in summer.

As a matter of fact I hate artificial ligth (electricity of all types, including neon) and I suffered enormously on this account when I worked in an office that had no windows to speak of. I hate modern offices with their plastic-box air-conditioned artificiality - I'd rather suffer from heat and humidity but have a big window that I can close and open when I want to and look outside and not feel like a stupid fish in somebody's aquarium.

I am the type to walk out in the street in my slippers.

Oh shit. I am so glad I am through with that part of my life. No more offices for me, welfare or not. Why do people flock to the cities and scramble to work in those high-rises? Money-car-home-status.

Screw this.




Sometimes news stories make an impression on me and I get to remember that politics actually impact people's lives. At the same time, it doesn't matter very much whether I remember this all the time or only rarely - I don't eat cereal for breakfast and I don't read newspapers. It's enough that I have some sort of a civic consciousness, exactly proportional to my impact as a citizen - which is really extremely minimal. So being a de facto political zombie is about the right state for me. Otherwise I may end up like one of those taxi-drivers: to listen to some, you'd think he's gonna run for office - and he's just blowing hot air.

It's already exacting enough to pose as an intellectual - let alone a militant one.


Suicide wonder-drug

Dr.Kelly's death was due to the following (Telegraph):
Principal cause of death was bleeding from wounds to the left wrist and an overdose of Coproxamol tablets.
Since cyanide and such are not freely available in free countries, this is all very instructive and good to know "just in case".
Researchers have called for Coproxamol, the prescription-only painkiller, to be prescribed less often, because it is one of the most commonly used drugs in overdose attempts. After antidepressants, Coproxamol is the most common drug used in suicide, but people are twice as likely to die as a result of an overdose of Coproxamol than of antidepressants. Fatal overdoses due to Coproxamol are the second most frequent means of suicide with prescribed drugs in England and Wales. Restricting availability could have an important role in suicide prevention, argued the Oxford University psychiatrists in the British Medical Journal.(Guardian Online)
Composition:
Each tablet contains 32.5mg Dextropropoxyphene Hydrochloride BP (equivalent to approximately 30mg dextropropoxyphene base) with 325mg Paracetamol Ph. Eur.

Therapeutic indications
Actions: Dextropropoxyphene is a mild narcotic analgesic structurally related to methadone.
Indication: For the management of mild to moderate pain.

Special warnings
Dextropropoxyphene products in excessive doses, either alone or in combination with other CNS depressants, including alcohol, are a major cause of drugrelated deaths. Fatalities within the first hour of overdosage are not uncommon and can occur within 15 minutes. Some deaths have occurred as a consequence of the accidental ingestion of excessive quantities of Distalgesic alone, or in combination with other drugs. Distalgesic should not be taken with any other paracetamol containing products.
Overdosage may damage the liver, due predominantly to the accumulation of intermediate metabolites of paracetamol which cause hepatic necrosis. Immediate medical advice should be sought in the event of an overdose, even if the patient feels well, because of the risk of delayed, serious liver damage.

Overdose
Initial consideration should be given to the management of the CNS effects of dextropropoxyphene overdosage. Resuscitative measures should be initiated promptly.
Dextropropoxyphene: In the acute phase dextropropoxyphene produces symptoms typical of narcosis, with somnolence or coma and respiratory depression, sometimes with convulsions. Blood pressure falls and cardiac performance deteriorates. Cardiac arrhythmias and conduction delay may be present. A combined respiratory metabolic acidosis occurs, which may be severe if large amounts of salicylates have also been ingested. Death may occur.
Source


So why did Dr.Kelly die?

On the bad side there was the Hutton report in UK. And it is so very strange that this whole thing started over a man's death and what caused it - and now it turns out it's still nothing but a tug-of-war between the BBC and the UK gov.

So why did Dr.Kelly have to die?

Hutton says Kelly lied and committed illegal actions and therefore decided to kill himself out of bad conscience. The family says he was effectively outlawed by his employers (gov & MoD) on top of which his name was deliberately leaked to the media. In the end his suicide was rather a case of betrayed confidence and lost ideals.
Lord Hutton concluded the scientist killed himself because of a severe loss of self-esteem, as he felt he had lost people's trust, and as he was subjected to the media glare. (BBC)
...
He also disputed the evidence of Mrs Kelly, who said her husband's distress as a result of being outed by the Mod was tangible and there was little in the way of support from officials in the department. (Telegraph)
Which leaves the question open: why did David Kelly decide to "lose people's trust" (read: the gov's trust) by speaking to the media about bad intelligence? Could it be that intelligence was indeed bad and Kelly was too honest to shut his big mouth?

Journalists fucked up the story, fine. But the gov fucked up too. And a man died because of it.

Let's hope Ms Gun has stronger nerves - because this sort of thing is deadly indeed.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Arar gets inquiry

Well, isn't that curious - that anouncement yesterday by the gov supervisor supposed to investigate the role of RCMP and/or canadian gov in Arar's deportation to Syria, about how there was no legislation to allow a gov investigation - well, today Arar got his wish for a public inquiry instead. Directly from the Prime Minister. Who apparently decided it wasn't a good time to be afraid of upsetting the Americans, if need be.

That's on the good side.

And btw: check www.freemaherarar.com to see just how long it took for Arar and his family to come to the surface. That was looong before any media interest and such.


Maher Arar again

Today's harvest of local news brought new developments. Because of course the whole point is that it is not only about the fate of Mr Arar - 'a citizen of a country'. It's about police being given the power to be as stupid as they want without anyone having the power to do a thing about it (hilariously, this also includes the Prime Minister of this country here - Paul Martin).

CBC is keen on this story too, as opposed to other stations - perhaps they bought the rights to the story? In any case, today we had a blunt statement from the woman in charge of reviewing RCMP's role in Arar's deportation to Syria (RCMP is our local FBI here, we love it hard):
"The recent security legislation gave the RCMP new powers to combat terrorism… However, the new security legislation did not provide the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP with similar new oversight powers to review the RCMP's anti-terrorism activities," Heafey said in a statement.

For months, Arar has been asking for a public inquiry into how information the RCMP and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service collected about him made it into American hands.
And for months it's been refused. Well, now it appears - they either have to change the legislation or hold that public inquiry they abhor so much. We'll see. And it won't go away - at least I don't want it to go away, and CBC is aware of this popular feeling. And while we're at it, here's a concise overview of the related situation with a journalist's home being raided on charges of security leaks while apparently it is the RCMP itself who initiated those leaks in the first place. From The Guardian Online:
Ms O'Neill was not the only reporter who used the leaked information in a story, but she appears to have been the only one who specifically referred to leaked documents.
Two weeks ago, Mr Martin angrily denounced continuing leaks from the RCMP and security officials smearing the reputation of Mr Arar. This may have been what prompted the bizarre, yet disturbing, spectacle of RCMP officers going through a reporter's underwear drawer in an attempt to find the name of a fellow officer who had leaked information.
I read on the webogs that something more or less similar (worse) is happening with a Mrs.Gun in the USA. I probably don't watch enough news, but I haven't heard anything about that story on tv (american or canadian). Probably because they don't have a big network in the USA going after the story - like the CBC is doing here for Arar-related stuff. Sometimes I just love the CBC. That would be one of those times.

Previously there was a story about an Iranian-born Canadian journalist who was jailed and murdered in Iran. Her son campaigned here to get Canada to make an inquiry into this and once again it took a tremendous lot of effort from the son and the media to get it going. In the end not much came out of it. Our gov hates being unpleasant to other countries, whatever they do, really. Especially when it has to do with naturalized canadians. But maybe not only.

***

One peculiar development of this story here is that Arar actually went ahead and sued the US gov and Mr.Ashcroft in particular. And he had a valid reason:
"I believe that the persons who sent me to Syria knew that I would be interrogated under torture there," said Arar, 33, who lives in Ottawa with his wife and two children. He has been unemployed since his return from Syria after years of working for a high-tech company.
There've been squeaks about this practice on american tv here and there, mostly on PBS, I think. Since I don't have time to read newspapers or online news, I get all my infos from tv or when I am messing about with weblogs. And *squeaks* about this stuff are not enough. Let's hope for some more human-like noises.

For an inside-US angle on this found an article in Oklahoma Daily (of all places) titled America's use of torture by proxy is more than a partisan concern:
Perhaps the Maher Arar case is a single unfortunate, but isolated, incident. But the evidence suggests that it is the tip of the iceberg. We have only heard his particular story because he is a Canadian citizen and because the evidence against him is especially weak so that he made it back alive.

In some circles, it is fashionable to wear political outrage on the sleeve, and thus we have become inured to such cries. But at some point, we must draw a line. Arar’s plight reveals grave deficiencies in our claim to be a society based on inalienable rights. To save ourselves from becoming what we most hate, we must demand the responsibility from our leaders and from ourselves that such things never happen again.
The tip of the iceberg that showed up in Canada. Because no American network would take up a story like that for their own "second-rate" citizens. Lucky we're just up north behind the bush-line.

Monday, January 26, 2004



Got to watch Le Merveilleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain on tv today (The fabulous destiny of ...). Caught it by accident of course. It is strange that I watch so much tv and never check the schedule. I tried doing something about it once, namely hunt for a local schedule on the net, but it proved too confusing and so I abandoned the idea. And in any case I like the element of surprise in not knowing what lies ahead (and miss a lot of good stuff of course, but that's a calculated risk - sometimes I know there's something I want to watch and still miss it because I am happily busy at something else and can't tear myself away).

Well, I've heard a lot of talk about this film, and since I never go to the movies I have to wait for all these "exciting new films" to come up on tv - and usually it takes about 2-3 years (did I mention I was a major time-waster?). So here I am writing a belated review, I suppose. And it shall be short - I completely failed to be captivated-stimulated-elated by this movie. I think it was made by the same guy who did Delicatessen (an old story by now), though I am not sure because I don't know the names, but the cinematography is very similar plus one of the actors in Amelie was there too. It's a cute film, yes. And I don't like cute. Though I loved the actress - who's also superiorly cute. However a cute film and a cute actress are two vastly different categories. I prefer the latter, by far.

So I got bored and switched the channel.


Euthanasia for sentient beings

And ran directly into a documentary about Peter Singer, that Princeton prof who advocates euthanasia. Ok, this is very far from The Fabulous Destiny of Amelie P - it's grim, dark and confusing. And it raises a whole mountain of questions which the documentary was clearly unable to negotiate. This left me with the same feeling of profound dissatisfaction as what they did on PBS about the Theory of Everything. Perhaps it is absurd to expect a popular program to deal with such complex stuff in a meaningful manner - let's say it was just a teaser.

Curiously enough, the problems raised by Singer (and his opponents) are in fact just as complex as the ones in physics (string theory etc) - though it would seem that ethics are nowhere near as subtle as sub-quantum intricacies etc. But if we were capable of devising equations in ethics, we would likely find that the Theory of Everything is perhaps a child-play compared to the abysses we would run to with "ethical calculations" - and first of all, we'd find that we have no clear idea of what we are thinking with, that is: reason.

Needless to say, none of this was tackled in the documentary. I heard an interesting term - "understanding by the heart" - from a philosopher, L.Giata (sp?). As opposed to Singer's utilitarian outlook. For what it's worth, I got two meaningful insights into the underlinings of Singer's supposed philosophy (of which I know exactly nothing). First, he said that as a father he found that he was unable to communicate with infants and therefore it appeared clear to him that infants cannot be called sentient beings (because he can't talk philosophy to a babe - now, that's revealing). Second, he said that doctors are already effectively practicing medical euthanasia by removing some terminal patients from artificial life-support and that they cover this fact by technical jargon - and he thinks it's time to call things by their name.

This reminds me of Alan Dershowitz demanding public debate on the practice of torture by a gov (american in this case) - in order to find out clearly and openly when and how such brutal methods of interrogation might be justified (as under threat of terrorism). Well, that's an interesting dilemma: can you really resolve this "clearly and publicly" and still maintain a moral framework? Or are lies and euphemisms necessary to maintain it *notwithstanding* such damnable practices?

Can there be non-contradictory clarity in ethics? You can establish laws - and break them, for good or for worse.

An outraged critique from The New Criterion
An outraged defense from Salon.com

***

As to euthanasia per se, this is the kind of background Peter Singer works against. From a Catholic online journal, a review of a book on the history of euthanasia advocacy in the States:
And lastly, despite being the most successful advocacy effort in the history of the euthanasia movement, Jack Kevorkian’s eight-year crime spree is all but overlooked. Between 1990 and 1998, Kevorkian assisted the suicides of more than 130 people, was acquitted by several juries despite admitting his participation in several assisted suicide deaths, and, in an ultimate act of crass utilitarianism, harvested the kidneys of one of his victims for use in organ transplantation. Most of Kevorkian’s victims were not terminally ill. Indeed, based upon their autopsies, five weren’t even sick. Moreover, Kevorkian’s amoral mindset—going so far as to advocate conducting medical experiments upon people being euthanized—is strikingly similar to the thinking of the originators of the euthanasia movement. Considering the attention and detail paid to far more obscure and less consequential euthanasia advocates, Dowbiggin’s short shrift of the Kevorkian debacle is inexplicable.
Notice the "crass utilitarianism", as in - "harvested the kidneys of one of his victims for use in organ transplantation". One wonders: don't we have hospitals engaged in exactly that sort of "crass utilitarianism" and people signing declarations to donate their organs after death? That's exactly the same rhethoric as that of the XVIII century, when they had such a hard time with dissecting corpses - it was thought so very crass and immoral.

Personally I believe Dr. Kevorkian was a bit of a madman - not in performing assisted suicide, but in going totally public with it (wasn't he finally convicted after an interview on 60 Minutes?). Perhaps he wanted to make a point, by immolating himself in full public view, so to speak.

It reminds me of a cannabis grower here in Canada who went public on CBC to further the cause of cannabis legalization. And what do you figure: he was arrested immediately after the program aired. He knew this would happen and explained thusly: I am so very tired of having to hide all the time when the whole thing should not even be a crime.


Sunday, January 25, 2004



Tremendously enjoyed yesterday some incomprehensible writing by Paula at her House of Toast.

Of course it is I who am incomprehending for the simple reason that about 25% of the words used in the texts are unknown to me - and require deep guessing, and I am too lazy to go for the dictionary. But the difference between convoluted prose and bad convoluted prose is that the latter leaves you with nothing but a sprawling jungle of words, while the former... The former somehow manages to make you dream and scratch your head in wonder and do a lot of other things that you wouldn't normally do - unless you were reading something unusual. So that's what happened yesterday - it was unusual.

I would say this is probably one of those hidden jewels of the blogworld that you wouldn't find even if you tried - it has to be a sudden concourse of circumstances all coming together to hit you like a lightning. Writing is not about style per se - it's about a certain angle on things, and the power to bring it across. I think of Kafka who used the simplest language and yet managed to produce the strangest prose ever with a vocabulary of about 3000 words.

And here's another bit of Petrov-Vodkin.

[Example of a typical piece by Paula (where the level of unknown words for me is 50% overall):
I bought it after we gave up on having a lawn. We have some remnant lawn, to be sure, but each year whole ecosystems of interesting plants compete with it and win. The overall effect is green, and up close it's fascinating: blue field madder, poor man's pepper, spotted spurge, broadleaf plantain, yellow hawkweed, shepherd's purse, corn speedwell, nutsedge, swallow-wort, nightshade, red clover, dandelions, chicory, asters, pigweed, ailanthus, wild pansy -- and, of course, crabgrass. And, of course, there was a poem in it.]





This blog is getting somewhat insane and so am I. Hopefully this will pass soon - because it's tiring, actually.


Petrov-Vodkin

There's this Russian painter I keep going back to, not sure why. I guess I am tired of all the run-of-the-mill impressionists, even though Van Gaugh is really hard to "dismiss". And that's probably only because I really fell in love with his brush-stroke back when I was a teen - those things have a staying power.

It is said that Petrov-Vodkin's art is something of a cross between icon-painting and latter-day expressionism. True enough. What I get from him is a sense of life that is not just color but something beyond. A sort of pensive lightness coupled with an outlook that is perhaps reminiscent of fairy-tales. Petrov-Vodkin was a philosopher.

(and the reproductions don't do justice to him, of course, because you can't see the phosphorescent light of his color-work - at least I can't, not on this monitor)




It is an entirely futile endeavor to try and rearrange this template without ever making the effort to learn CSS. Too bad I got stuck with my html skills in the other century :-0
I can't bring myself to learn etc because it's just so damn time-consuming. I am a great time-waster and when technical stuff gets involved it becomes a waste of industrial magnitude. So screw it, I guess. And all those library books looking at me and saying: you can't renew forever, you know.
I know.





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