Monday, April 24, 2017

The Age of Pipik

So now we know two things, amounting to a paradox, to matter meets anti-matter boom. First as per "Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton's Doomed Campaign" that new, hot supposed exposé, neither Hillary nor her staff knew either why she was running or how. Her defeat was therefore doubly assured.

Then, as per a NY Times investigative piece ("Comey Tried to Shield the F.B.I. From Politics. Then He Shaped an Election," 4/22/17) FBI head James Comey inadvertently, by virtue of sheer high-minded praetorian idiotic klutziness, managed to fatally undermine the Clinton campaign while reigning in his forces when they could have done the same to Trump's.

This is, as they say, concerning 

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Brexit

So let me get this Brexit story straight: Conservative PM David Cameron, for (un)reasons of his own, foists a referendum on staying in the EU on the wool-gathering, ale-swilling British populace. Cameron was for REMAIN. REMAIN went down to defeat. LEAVE kicked ass. Cameron, personally, therefore, had to LEAVE, and doesn't seem to be terribly missed. (Perhaps he's removed himself to Paris.)

Monday, April 17, 2017

Haredim


All those who agree a Jewish state was and is necessary but occasionally permit themselves to wonder if it might have been better in, say, Uganda, raise your hands.

Am I being facetious? Of course, and yet beyond the existential Palestinian problem and the looming Iranian threat, there is the inner threat of a religious problem. Because the Jewish state is where it is, on land roughly coterminous with Biblical territories, its thought processes are clogged by an extravagant, uncompromising and bellicose religiosity based on confusion between the fifth century BC and today's world. This makes sane solutions to all of contemporary difficulties hard to come by, and maybe unobtainable.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Westbrook's Statistics

Yes, Russell Westbrook is having an amazing season. How amazing? You have to look past Michael Jordan all the way back to Oscar Robertson and Wilt Chamberlain for apt comparison.

Commentators are reaching beyond basketball, claiming Westbrook’s feat deserves comparison with Ted Williams hitting .406 in 1940 (no one has hit .400 since), Joe DiMaggio hitting safely in 56 straight games that same year (a record that still stands), Hank Aaron breaking Ruth's lifetime home run total, Bonds hitting 73 homeruns in one year.

It's kind of odd to hear comparisons to baseball, though, not because Westbrook's achievement is inferior but because basketball has never been a game of numbers the way baseball has always been. Basketball has never fetishized its statistics, though these days, when all aspects of sports are being quantified  that's changing.

Still, when Williams hit .406 everybody knew Bill Terry in 1930 was the last to hit .400. They knew it on the sports pages and they knew it in the schoolyards. They knew Ty Cobb had done it three times, Rogers Hornsby twice.

When Robertson set his triple double record in 1961-62, everybody was aware he'd had an amazing season, in the midst of an amazing career, but as for the record itself, it was barely recognized as such. Robertson himself has said nobody thought much about triple doubles.

As I said, that's changing.

I used to think the reason boys were better at arithmetic than girls, assuming they were, is that boys computed batting averages, earned run averages, won lost percentages in their spare time. If you wanted to argue that Mickey Mantle was better than Willie Mays you had to have some numbers at your command, and having such numbers meant you had toned up your command of the times table and of simple division.

Once again, that's changing. Sabermetrics has transformed the way baseball is evaluated and played, and is doing the same for basketball.

But sabermetric evaluations are subtle and numerous. Do any stand out the way simple, durable verities like batting average and home run do? I don't think so.


Westbrook, though, is providing a readymade, unforgettable stat, a benchmark for basketball fans to come, something unforgettable.


Like Williams hitting .406.

PBS: The Great War

Continued to watch PBS's The Great War. I don't think it ever sufficiently credited the American Socialist Party, led by Eugene V. Debs, and also the Wobblies for their principled opposition to American entrance into the war. But the show, once again. offered compensations.

I already knew how rabidly racist Woodrow Wilson was, and how he reversed whatever small progress blacks had made in entering civil service but the show hammers that point home. Wilson, grand idealist and determined self-determinist that he was, was also a rank, low grade racist. 

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Stray Thoughts

Stray thoughts: Marx and anti-Semitism.

Was Marx anti-Semitic? Writings such as his "On the Jewish Question" (1843), written when he was 25,  indicate he was, drawing on readymade tropes of the Jew as financier, symbol of, to his young mind, everything wrong with, or retarding, the bold and transformative new capitalist economy.

The Jew as parasite. That particular trope got a lot of seriously murderous play in years to come.

As Marx saw it in 1843, capitalists made things, and reconfigured society for the — scientifically inevitable — transcendence of capitalism that would be enacted by its proletariat, which would lead, after a paroxysm or two, to a blissfully classless society, the end of all history.

Let's draw back a bit and remember that Jews and the Jewish question occupied only a tiny amount of Marx's voluminous corpus. Does the Jewish question recur in "The Communist Manifesto"? It does not. Do Jews get even a mention in Marx's famously trenchant "18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte"? Not even a footnote. How about in the three volumes of "Das Kapital"? You'd think in his supposedly seminal grand prospectus of history Jews might have cropped up now and then. But, so I've heard, they don't. (I've never read beyond some choice bits in those three volumes and don't intend to start now.)

To reject Marx for anti-Semitism, therefore, is a cheap and uninformed way of rejecting him. It is to miss entirely the much more appropriate ways of rejecting him.

If you reject him for his anti-Semitism, you're not rejecting him much at all.

What about his metaphysics, his ontology and epistemology? What about his entelechy and his teleology? What about that?

Heh heh heh.
What about that?