5 November 2014

THE 19TH CENTURY IS THE NEW 21ST CENTURY…

0800 by Jeff Hess

In the wake of the violent upheavals of the French Revolution, European monarchies came together in 1791 at the Pillnitz Conference to declare their support for the embattled Louis XVI and warn the burgeoning revolutionaries of the dangers of toppling a fellow monarch. Far from stifling the ambitions of the insurgents however, this declaration was widely seen as a provocation which helped kick off the devastating French Revolutionary Wars, in which the new French Republic battled a number of neighboring monarchies.

In their aftermath, and after the defeat of Napoleon’s imperial ambitions on the continent, the empires of Austria, Prussia and Russia came together to form the “Holy Alliance” – an effort to maintain the political status quo and to stifle the spread of popular republican ideas among subjects.

Signatories to the alliance affirmed that, “the three contracting Monarchs will remain united by the bonds of a true and indissoluble fraternity, and consider each other as fellow countrymen,” and pledged to, “lend each other aid and assistance; and, regard themselves towards their subjects and armies as fathers of families.”

This happens to be very similar to the patriarchal and fraternal language that Arab autocrats use when discussing their relations with one another. And just like their contemporary Arab counterparts, European monarchs characterized themselves as champions of religious orthodoxy in an effort to shore up popular support.

Murtaza Hussain writing in The Middle East’s Unholy Alliance for The//Intercept.

5 November 2014

DEMANDING, AND RECEIVING, SATISFACTION…

0700 by Jeff Hess

Social psychologists use the dull term “self-schema” to describe the mental maps we use to make sense of our own personalities: we think of ourselves as traditional or conven­tional, self-disciplined or lazy, optimistic or pessimistic. Yet when researchers try to measure such things, they run into people who are “aschematic”: they’ve simply never given much thought to whether they’re traditional or conventional, etcetera. So it is with oblivious rude­ness: your always-punctual friend may think of herself as conscientious, but your always-late friend has probably never considered the matter. The silver lining is that remedy­ing obliviousness, in principle, ought to be a simple matter of ­triggering a person’s a­wareness. I’m not about to start picking fights with wearers of leaky headphones, but it’s amazing how effective it can be to tap one’s fingers amiably to the beat of the leaking music.

The vicious rudeness of much ­online discussion might seem like an exception to this rule, as it can feel very calculated and conscious. But something similar is surely involved: an obliviousness, albeit a partial one, to the fact that one’s inter­locutors in cyberspace are real people. Not being a commentator on politics, I don’t get many venomous emails from strangers, but when I do, it’s usually clear the writer didn’t think through the fact that a specific human would be reading their words. It is the purest of joys to respond to such emails—demurely, of course, yet by one’s very demureness upbraiding the sender for rudeness. I like to think I’m being insulting without ­being ungentlemanly

Oliver Burkeman writing in The insulted and the injured for The Guardian.

5 November 2014

VACLAV HAVEL ON THE POWERLESS: PART VI E…

0600 by Jeff Hess

If an entire district town is plastered with slogans that no one reads, it is on the one hand a message from the district secretary to the regional secretary, but it is also something more: a small example of the principle of social auto-totality at work. Part of the essence of the post-totalitarian system is that it draws everyone into its sphere of power, not so they may realize themselves as human beings, but so they may surrender their human identity in favor of the identity of the system, that is, so they may become agents of the system’s general automatism and servants of its self-determined goals, so they may participate in the common responsibility for it, so they may be pulled into and ensnared by it, like Faust by Mephistopheles. More than this: so they may create through their involvement a general norm and, thus, bring pressure to bear on their fellow citizens. And further: so they may learn to be comfortable with their involvement, to identify with it as though it were something natural and inevitable and, ultimately, so they may—with no external urging—come to treat any non-involvement as an abnormality, as arrogance, as an attack on themselves, as a form of dropping out of society. By pulling everyone into its power structure, the post-totalitarian system makes everyone an instrument of a mutual totality, the auto-totality of society.

From The Power of the Powerless by Vaclav Havel, 1978

Previously…

5 November 2014

THE IMPORTANCE OF STATE OVER CHURCH…

0530 by Jeff Hess

Via Zen Pencils

Previously

5 November 2014

NOT THE MARIETTA TIMES

0500 by Jeff Hess

TODAY’S MARIETTA TIMES FRONT PAGE

Today’s headlines include:

Local News

Commissioner
Deputy on leave after fatality
County helps Johnson win 3rd term
Thompson keeps Ohio House seat
Race for Ohio’s 94th District seat too close

Top Headlines Poll: What’s your favorite main dish for Thanksgiving dinner?

Great pictures of Marietta

What’s going on here

Previously

4 November 2014

WHO IS ZEPHYR TEACHOUT…?

1000 by Jeff Hess

Which is to say, there is one issue that subsumes all other issues, upon which all other issues depend—and that is restoring democracy itself. If we don’t have a responsive democracy, all the debates about charter schools, and fracking, and high-stakes testing, and the militarization of police forces—all of which are issues I care about—they aren’t real debates. When elections are not democratic, even the most populist discussions become superficial, disconnected from real power; they are theatre.

Zephyr Teachout writing in What ever happened to ‘of the people, by the people, for the people’? A manifesto for The Guardian.

Of course, politics (and economic disparity) are worse than in any time in my life and possibly since FDR occupied the White House, but they have never been even remotely as good as Teachout would like to dream they were.

When Abraham Lincoln spoke those famous words, democracy was already a sham, a salve manufactured by that age’s One Percent to keep the fantasy of upper mobility and self-reliance alive.

Wealth has always shaped government.

4 November 2014

THREE PRACTICAL DECISION STRATEGIES…

0700 by Jeff Hess

1) 5-3-1: A dependable tactic for two people choosing a restaurant or movie: one person picks five options, the other narrows the field to three, then the first person selects one. This “has saved me and my girlfriend from starving to death on more than one occasion”, writes one commenter at ask.metafilter.com. Hint: couples should agree in advance to use this rule, so that “whether or not to use 5-3-1″ doesn’t become a ­dilemma itself.

2) Be a satisficer, not a maximiser: “Satisficing”, coined by the economist Herbert Simon, means not ­letting the best be the enemy of the good. But it’s more rigorous than that. Rather than trying to pick the best bed-and-breakfast, for example, decide first on the criteria that ­matter most – “near woodland”, “serves a great breakfast” and “in Wales”, perhaps – then select the first one you encounter that ticks all the boxes. This is far less exhausting, and may actually bring you closer to the “best”, by focusing your mind on what matters, rather than alluring advertising or other distractions.

3) The 37% Rule. This is for ­sequential choices, where each ­option must be accepted or rejected in turn – as in flat-hunting, where an option may vanish if you hesitate, or, say, choosing where to picnic while hiking (assuming you don’t want to retrace your steps). Provided you can estimate the total number of options – the number of flats you’re prepared to look at, the number of potential picnic spots – it’s a weird mathematical truth that your best bet is to reject the first 37% of them, then pick the first one that’s better than any of those first 37%. (If none is, pick the final one instead.) According to an article in Lecture Notes In ­Economics And Mathematical ­Systems, this can be applied to choosing a mate, too. But maybe that journal’s not the greatest place to look for dating tips.

Oliver Burkeman writing in Short cuts for taking everyday decisions for The Guardian.

4 November 2014

PLAIN DEALER, HENRY GOMEZ, TAKE NOTE…

0630 by Jeff Hess

For your best source

4 November 2014

VACLAV HAVEL ON THE POWERLESS: PART VI D…

0600 by Jeff Hess

The woman who ignored the greengrocer’s slogan may well have hung a similar slogan just an hour before in the corridor of the office where she works. She did it more or less without thinking, just as our greengrocer did, and she could do so precisely because she was doing it against the background of the general panorama and with some awareness of it, that is, against the background of the panorama of which the greengrocer’s shop window forms a part. When the greengrocer visits her office, he will not notice her slogan either, just as she failed to notice his. Nevertheless, their slogans are mutually dependent: both were displayed with some awareness of the general panorama and, we might say, under its diktat. Both, however, assist in the creation of that panorama, and therefore they assist in the creation of that diktat as well. The greengrocer and the office worker have both adapted to the conditions in which they live, but in doing so, they help to create those conditions. They do what is done, what is to be done, what must be done, but at the same time—by that very token—they confirm that it must be done in fact. They conform to a particular requirement and in so doing they themselves perpetuate that requirement. Metaphysically speaking, without the greengrocer’s slogan the office worker’s slogan could not exist, and vice versa. Each proposes to the other that something be repeated and each accepts the other’s proposal. Their mutual indifference to each other’s slogans is only an illusion: in reality, by exhibiting their slogans, each compels the other to accept the rules of the game and to confirm thereby the power that requires the slogans in the first place. Quite simply, each helps the other to be obedient. Both are objects in a system of control, but at the same time they are its subjects as well. They are both victims of the system and its instruments.

From The Power of the Powerless by Vaclav Havel, 1978

Previously…

4 November 2014

WITH A CAMEO FROM HIS NOODLENESS…

0530 by Jeff Hess

Via Zen Pencils

Previously

4 November 2014

NOT THE MARIETTA TIMES

0500 by Jeff Hess

TODAY’S MARIETTA TIMES FRONT PAGE

Today’s headlines include:

Local News

Poll workers
Shriners make new kids gym a reality
Pedestrian killed crossing Ohio 7
Common Core: Bill would create 3-year period of adjustment
County health office targets juvenile diabetes

Top Headlines Poll: Should Ohio require breath test equipment on vehicles driven by convicted drunk drivers?

Great pictures of Marietta

What’s going on here

Previously

4 November 2014

I CAN’T BUT IF YOU CAN, VOTE FOR BRUNNER…

0000 by Jeff Hess

3 November 2014

FOCUS ON ALLIES, NOT ADVERSARIES…

0630 by Jeff Hess

Tom Peters 141103

Previously…

3 November 2014

VACLAV HAVEL ON THE POWERLESS: PART VI C…

0600 by Jeff Hess

The greengrocer had to put the slogan in his window, therefore, not in the hope that someone might read it or be persuaded by it, but to contribute, along with thousands of other slogans, to the panorama that everyone is very much aware of. This panorama, of course, has a subliminal meaning as well: it reminds people where they are living and what is expected of them. It tells them what everyone else is doing, and indicates to them what they must do as well, if they don’t want to be excluded, to fall into isolation, alienate themselves from society, break the rules of the game, and risk the loss of their peace and tranquility and security.

From The Power of the Powerless by Vaclav Havel, 1978

Previously…

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3 November 2014

WHAT HAPPENED TO THE MORE WOMEN PLEDGE…?

0530 by Jeff Hess

Via Zen Pencils

Previously

3 November 2014

NOT THE MARIETTA TIMES

0500 by Jeff Hess

TODAY’S MARIETTA TIMES FRONT PAGE

Today’s headlines include:

Local News

Ohio 339 determines school split
Most are unswayed or annoyed by campaign ads
Pay it forward: Retired teacher keeps active
American Legion toy run raises $6,000 for area children
Remember safety as temps start to drop

Top Headlines Poll: Do you think political ads and mailers help or hurt the candidates paying for them?

Great pictures of Marietta

What’s going on here

Previously

2 November 2014

HOW MANY CIRCUS PEANUTS DID YOU EAT TODAY…?

0730 by Jeff Hess

2 November 2014

VACLAV HAVEL ON THE POWERLESS: PART VI B…

0600 by Jeff Hess

It seems senseless to require the greengrocer to declare his loyalty publicly. But it makes sense nevertheless. People ignore his slogan, but they do so because such slogans are also found in other shop windows, on lampposts, bulletin boards, in apartment windows, and on buildings; they are everywhere, in fact. They form part of the panorama of everyday life. Of course, while they ignore the details, people are very aware of that panorama as a whole. And what else is the greengrocer’s slogan but a small component in that huge backdrop to daily life?

From The Power of the Powerless by Vaclav Havel, 1978

Previously…

2 November 2014

WEALTH HAS ALWAYS SHAPED GOVERNMENT…

0530 by Jeff Hess

Via Zen Pencils

Previously

2 November 2014

NOT THE (SUNDAY) MARIETTA TIMES…

0500 by Jeff Hess

TODAY’S PARKERSBURG NEWS AND SENTINEL FRONT PAGE

Today’s headlines include:

Local News

Riding The Rails
Area residents worry about deer poaching
CVS recognized for tobacco stance
Dobson plans to update PHS campus
More than 1,000 attend Warren High craft fair

Top Headlines Poll: Do you believe there is a political/economic “war on women?”

Great pictures of Marietta

What’s going on here

Previously

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