Cliff’s Notes for Dummies!

Let’s face it – no one reads anymore.  In fact, if you do you hide it.  It’s embarrassing to admit you still do it – kind of like admitting you still use MySpace, for example.

In fact, even knowing how to read marks you as perhaps one of the dreaded out of touch “elites.”

Aside from the social stigma of being a literate reader, there’s just the fact that when you’re part of “Real America,” the part that’s not out of touch, you sure don’t have time to read, or to learn to read.

Sure, in school they still attempt to teach it, but like algebra, when are you ever going to use it in practically in real life?  And, heaven knows, if it can’t be used practically, then what good is it?

Unfortunately, there are still some schools and universities and even a few employers who are still elitist enough to expect you to know how to read, and to know a few things about books.  Fortunately, this won’t last much longer, but for now, some classes, teachers, etc. want you to know about some books written a zillion years ago by weirdo dorks who thought they were better than us just because they could do this thing called “critical thinking” or had “creative literary skill,” or could invent some silly thing called the “theory of relativity,” – like who did they think they were anyway, Einstein? Regardless, for now, at least, while people like Obama (elitist professor) are still in charge, it could be to your advantage to play along.  Of course, no one expects you to really do it, but just fake it.

That’s where we come in- we provide a product called “Cliff’s Notes for Dummies”. (Note we have already resolved the intellectual property lawsuit regarding this since Cliff’s Notes are much different than our product – they are just as much of a waste of time and hard to read as the book itself anyway).

We can give you a short synapsis of a book, or a biography of a writer or thinker, etc. – enough for you to fake knowing not only how to read and write a sentence but actually what the thing means.

The good thing is, standards in college are so low now that just by reading these you will impress your professor so much that you’ll ace the class and probably be known as the smartest in the class.  Of course, that could be a liability (and will be soon) but not yet.  But at the very least, you could win trivia games.

Of course, it’s embarrassing to admit, or let others think, that you’re actually READING.  So this is strictly confidential.  The only ones who will know you can read (or think you can) will be profs, elitists, etc., that you have to play the game for….the best thing is, these Notes will NOT clutter your mind with knowledge or take up valuable space your brain should be using spending it on video games and “social” interaction in front of a computer in your dark basement with strangers in Thailand.

They are written for “dummies,” but even dummies don’t need to understand them.  You just need to be able to transfer, or, like, copy, the notes- no understanding or memorizing necessary, and they will do the trick.

For example, you may be asked, “Who was Karl Marx?”  To gain bonus points, the Notes teach you to say, “the 4th Marx brother” – if your prof is REALLY old- but then, to seriously say, “The guy we want to take our country back from – see “Barack Obama.”

We realize that you have to be able to read somewhat since you’re reading this, but we’ve got this whole thing on audio.  So actually you can listen to our sales pitch and our Notes without having to read a thing. Not only that but in our next version we will have microchips that can be directly installed into your brain so that you don’t even have to listen to the audio.  (This version will be much more expensive, obviously.)

The Notes even teach you how to write out answers in English to written exams, etc., through a crude shorthand that does not even require you to know the alphabet.  How’s that?

Thankfully society is progressing fast enough that probably within a decade, all books will have been burned (because they will all have been transferred to Google), and then Google will crash and lose all those darn books.  Then problem solved.  Then there won’t be no book learning going on anymore by them elitist smarty-pantses out there.

So this is just a stop-gap measure to help you get along until that age arrives.  Further on down the road, once there are no books and thus no reading, quite possibly language will go the way of the horse and buggy too, thus reducing us to the level of chimpanzees, the way nature intended.  (There is a Note explaining “horse and buggy.”)

Then without words, without language, here will be no more miscommunication, and therefore peace and utopia will reign.

Until then use “Cliff’s Notes for Dummies.”

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Someone apparently hijacked this blog to post things about how they got a new job or won the lottery or a new apartment, I don’t have any clue why they would want to choose this obscure place to advertise!  But I removed what I think is all there is, and hope to revive this blog with real material ASAP.

Obama’s Secret Law in the Patriot Act | Nat Hentoff | Cato Institute: Commentary

Obama’s Secret Law in the Patriot Act | Nat Hentoff | Cato Institute: Commentary

I’m posting this because I absolutely love Nat Henthoff!  He is right on about almost everything in my mind.  (at least, for the most part!)  I think he’s in his 80s now- he co-founded the Village Voice and has always been concerned about our civil rights.  But I think that he’s like the voice crying in the wilderness.   Or rather, the boy crying wolf- because nobody is listening to him!!

Honestly, he is a consistent critic of any and all who mess with the Constitution!  He protested about Bush, and now he’s on Obama!  And the thing is, it appears that Obama’s administration is even more clandestine and cavalier with our rights than the Bush one was, if that’s possible.

Like in the paper today, Obama’s administration being sued for refusing to follow the War Powers Act regarding our involvement with NATO in Libya.  Granted, many presidents have disregarded this law – but weren’t we supposed to expect more from Obama? I mean, he seemed like the “anti-war” candidate, and he was a Harvard constitutional law professor previously.  But as if still being in Iraq and Afghanistan weren’t enough, he wants to spend millions on Libya, which certainly is not a threat to us?  What’s next, the rest of the Middle East?
Anyway, I digress about Obama and his blatant disregard for the Constitution….more on that another time.

What I wanted to write today relates to Nat Hentoff’s column- about the importance of education regarding the constitution.
Democracy (or a representative democracy, a Republic, which is what the US has), is one of those things, like communism, that in theory seems great.  But it, like communism, holds an optimistic view of humanity that is not warranted by factual reality and history.
Instead, as the founding fathers called it, it is an experiment.  And experiment that fails if the presumption is incorrect- namelt, that the average person (American) is capable of engaging in, and being knowledgeable about, holding up their end of the social contract.  THis presumes a basic level of intelligence, education, critical thinking, reasoning, intellectual curiosity, knowledge of not only history and civics but also of current events.
A basic level that is truly no longer basic.  It is now almost astonising if a person has those abilities, or admits to them.

The rules of the “game” of this experiment require peope to be able to (literally) read them and get them.  Otherwise it’s like a toddler trying to play monopoly.

Both assume the “proletariat” is apable of rule -or even of meaningful participation.  Both assume the soile reason for their position in loife is factors such as oppression, or the “cultural elite” –That Joe 6-Pack, as well as a peasant worker, are no different in leadership, etc. ability than the

Food For Thought:

“The continuance of the Christian ideal is one of the most desirable things there are – even for the sake of the ideals that want to stand beside it and perhaps above it – they must have opponents, strong opponents, if they are to become strong.

Thus we immoralists require the power of morality:  our drive of self-preservation wants our opponents to retain their strength – it only wants to become master over them.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

The Fairy Tale is Over – A (Long) Diatribe

               So at
long last there was another royal wedding. 
I wrote this before the actual wedding, so it may seem a little dated,
but I still think it is relevant.  (Yes,
I know Charles remarried a few years back, but no one cared about that embarrassing
affair, and this wedding is not the same.)
               Princess
Catherine (Kate Middleton) is no Princess Diana.  Not sure if that’s good or bad.  She’s 28, as opposed to Diana’s age of 19
when she got married- the new princess is college-educated, and apparently has
worked as a buyer.  Opposing Di’s
nannying and no education.  Catherine comes
from an intact family of basically commoners while Diana was a Lady who
effectively was raised by her father, her mother having abandoned her at a
young age. 
               Kate,
having dated Prince William for eight years and weathered more than one
break-up and his “partying,” does not seem to be either the babe-in-the-woods
or the emotional basket case Diana appeared to be.  Of course, look who Kate got, compared to
Charles!
               William
and Kate are the same age, went to the same school, know each other well.  She seems very self-possessed, not too camera
shy or frightened, SO she probably will fight right in with the royal family.
               But she’s
no Diana, because she doesn’t appear to have the faults that Di had that
endeared her to the public- the “people’s princess.”  Diana’s faults seemed understandable—forgivable.  She, on the one hand was gorgeous,
fashionable, tall and magnificent.  She
just could never fit in with the family. 
Even with all her money, beauty and all that, people sympathized with
her.  She was in a loveless marriage with
Charles cheating, she supposedly had a borderline personality and was
bulimic.  You could feel her sadness; it
was read.
               Her
empathy with victims, orphans, AIDs patients, etc. may have just been because
of the charities she had to do out of duty. 
But so did Charles, and the rest of the family, have those obligations,
yet Diana seemed like one of them, the real, suffering people, not like a
patronizing royal.
               She
desperately wanted a normal life she could never have- a real marriage, for one
thing, which Charles nixed.  Sure, she
was no intellectual heavyweight, but Charles knew that beforehand (not that he
is Einstein either).  Apparently her
beauty was too much for Charles and didn’t keep him from hideous Camilla
Parker-Bowles.
               People
got it — Diana was spurned by a man who was lucky to even have her—she was way
too beautiful, too popular- he, showing his complete insecurity and dominance
by his mother, couldn’t stand to be upstaged by Diana.  They wanted her, not him.  He fancies himself serious, intelligent, and
made her out to be an hysterical woman, while cheating on her.  He simply could not handle her.
               Even
though she was fragile, given to irrational behavior and emotional problems
apparently- and selfish, as they all are, she had an openness and vulnerability
that made people want to be in her presence- to care, to sympathize, just as
she did with those who suffered.  That
empathy cannot be faked, and she had it. 
A good heart.  It may not seem
like much but a princess’ visit in the hospital ward was enough to brighten
many people’s lives!
               It seems
like, from over here at least, that the mystery, the thrill, is gone.  Granted, the tabloids left little of it a
mystery anyway- but Diana had an aura, an allure that made people want to know
what made her tick.  Although we hear
little to nothing here in the U.S. about Camilla, there’s no mystery there, or
rather, no one wants to know – her charisma is lacking, she seems tough as
nails, she’s not attractive, and she stole Charles. 
               Although
no Camilla, (which would be hard), Kate Middleton is not in Di’s league.  She seems rather plain Jane, she will not be
a fashion trend-setter, and she is pretty but not glamorous.  The fairy tale is not here, there is no ingénue-
she is an experienced adult, not the girl Diana who had to turn into an adult
in front of the entire world.  It remains
to be seen what Kate will do, but at least to me, she seems more like Camilla
(although better looking and a nice person).
               Because
she doesn’t have that mystery, that aura, that presence that we had in the “real”
princess.  She doesn’t look like she
needs a shoulder to cry on or a sympathetic ear.  She doesn’t look like she needs
anything.  She doesn’t appear or present
herself as anything but capable, quite at ease, confident- loved.
               Since
she doesn’t need anything, are WE needed? 
Do we even need to care?  Is she
capable of empathy ?
               Diana’s
flaws were the kind that made her interesting – a phenomenon – someone with
genuine hurt- who felt it and could feel it in others.  The thousands of miles of class-nobility,
money, fame, beauty, that separated us – she crossed that span effortlessly –
by being herself.  She was human:  imperfect, hurting, desperate, rejected,
selfish, searching, making mistakes (big ones) – talking too much, she worked
the press while deriding it – but she learned to survive.  She was not a natural at being in the
spotlight.  Someone like her needed
approval, the approval of everyone including the public- and it was a horrible
task to have to always be liked or good enough.
               People
want to feel like they are needed – or have the capability of being able to
help.  Older women saw in Diana that she
wanted acceptance and unconditional love and approval – she showed it– and they
knew they could help and did.  Younger women
knew they could commiserate with Diana’s marriage break-down, her bulimia, her
self-esteem issues, her looking for a place to fit in- to have a security she couldn’t
find.
               Perhaps
her greatest charity was in presenting herself (whether consciously or not) –
being real – and allowing others to be that way too.  Maybe she could understand since she was as
vulnerable and insecure as many people. 
This didn’t take away from her glamour, it gave her authenticity.  Her charity was not patronizing, or smug and
condescending- but rather helping, because she knew what was felt.
               It wasn’t
her giving to the needy from a position of grandeur- rather it was her giving
because she needed THEM to give to HER. 
She affirmed the sick, the poor, the dying, etc. because she sought
affirmation herself.  She had something
to receive as well as to give- “sharing,”- she needed it too.
Can someone like Kate, so
self-assured, proper, seemingly unflustered- does she really FEEL?  That’s what Di did.  Since Diana felt, she could feel for others,
and that’s what WE felt.
Following in Di’s footsteps is no
small task any way you look at it.  But
it may be that that era – that seeming fairy tale- is over, not to be relived,
or forgotten.  

Some short comments about the free will thing

One of the worst defenses for free will is that determinism may be true, but if the common person finds out, all hell will break loose.  No one will then be morally responsible, or can be held to that standard, once the “cover is blown.”  Among many arguments against this, is that just because one gains the knowledge, it does not follow that he will choose to commit crimes, etc.

Because the defense is basically, “If they find out the truth, they will use their “free will” to escape responsibility, commit crimes and bad acts, loaf in bed all day, quit going to work, or doing ANYTHING.”  This is inane, since finding out the truth doesn’t “free” one from determinism.  You’d do the same thing you are determined to do- the knowledge wouldn’t change anything- although it MIGHT be determined that certain people will, after gaining this knowledge, commit crimes, it doesn’t follow that the person did so of their own “free will.”

Because you can’t have both.  If the knowledge precedes new action, that was inevitable, given all the factors, the gained knowledge being one of the factors contributing to the outcome.

Just like if you could read the future and see who your spouse will be, and if you don’t like it, you can’t just avoid the marriage.  It’s inevitable that you will, somehow, even against your preference and all effort to avoid it.  Otherwise, the future you saw was not the truth- not real.  If you can change the future from what it otherwise would be, you could never predict it with certainty (and that’s the case now, although if we had complete knowledge of the present we would be able to see what the inevitable future is).

In fact, you could never predict any outcome of any of your own actions either.  If libertarian free will, which amounts to randomness, is the case, any choice you make, the ensuing result would be up for grabs, every time.  All the things we take for granted, such as relying on automobiles, airplanes, tools, etc. are not random happenstance – if decisions are to mean anything, they must be based on some degree of predictability.  The law of gravity will not suddenly cease to exist- we can be quite reliably certain that if we drop a ball, it will fall.

In other words, if determinism is true, and people “taught” it widely, and people actually believed it, there would be no mass inertia, or mass hysteria.  Life would go on as usual, as intended.  Like me, and all types of determinists, we just do what the day brings us.  We get out of bed somehow, react to our environment, learn, remain law-abiding, get to work, etc., all without “free will,” and us knowing it doesn’t make us suddenly OBTAIN free will so that we can willy nilly commit crimes knowing we can’t be held responsible!

Just briefly it is quite possible that none of us can actually avoid living under the illusion of “free will,” even if we intellectually do not believe it to be true.  It may be a state of nature that we are “programmed” to think we are in control, we make choices as free agents, and we could have done otherwise.  There may be very good reasons for us to live in this illusion- I won’t get into.
More later….

What The Dog SawImage by Bill McIntyre via Flickr

Would somebody tell me why, oh why, Malcolm Gladwell is hottest thing since sliced bread?  It irritates me to no end that he is a regular contributor to my favorite magazine, “The New Yorker.”  The magazine is usually quite discriminating with its writers/contributors.  Although by no means do I find them all interesting, Gladwell stands out- like a sore thumb- for his widely celebrated, yet plainly obtuse, articles and books.
This guy’s “talent” is in stating the obvious. Period.  That’s bad enough, but he states the obvious, and then analyzes it to death (as if analysis is needed).  He does this, ostensibly seriously, in order to enlighten readers.  So, he must believe one of two things.  Either he fails to see the obviousness of his craft, or he himself does see it, but counts on most readers to be ignorant.
If the former, he is simply ignorant himself. If the latter, he is making a bet (a rather safe bet) that Americans don’t know very much, and don’t care, and are willing to accept what he presents, uncritically.  And, with astonished admiration for this apparently innovative, profound thinker.
Not only does he state the obvious, he supports his grand theories with evidence that he propounds in such a manner as though he were the first to figure this out, the first to describe the support for the theory, as if he is the only one smart enough, or skilled enough, to do this.
Is the joke on me?  The fact that his books are on the NY Times best seller list for weeks is not surprising- so is Dan Brown, John Grisham, Dr. Atkins, and that “Twilite” author, whatsername.  What is surprising is that “The New Yorker” features him so prominently.  There must be something amiss here.
One thing I thought of was that perhaps Gladwell sees himself as writing “Game Theory for Dummies” – or, insert any of these:  Neuroscience, Economics, Sociology, Nanotechnology, etc.  And he takes his ideas from scientific and medical journals, from philosophers long dead; etc.  because he knows most people are not knowledgeable on these subjects.  I can see it now.  His next article:  “The Earth Is Indeed Not Flat.”
 He takes the idea and provides it in Cliff’s Notes form to make it as simple as possible to understand, and presents it as his own novel, astonishing, ground-breaking idea.  The credit he gives is minimal and seems like an afterthought.  It’s almost like he data mines, then pawns the stuff he discovers off as largely his own idea.
The book “Blink” presented supposedly new and incredible ideas, when the science it is based on was already at least five years old and common knowledge to those who care about the subject matter.
The thing is, Gladwell doesn’t appear to be any specialized professional – just a rehasher.  I wonder if that could be a title, Professional Rehasher?
You may say that his talent is IN the rehashing, providing “scientific” and other esoteric, obscure theories to the average reader, because he knows the odds are that the average reader does not know.  If he can simplify it and make it somewhat “sexy” to appeal to the masses while presenting himself as an authority, he will laugh all the way to the bank.  I guess.
I never considered doing that.  So perhaps I am envious of his ingenuity (of course there are others like him, but he’s the “it” guy right now).
Whether he’s ignorant or somewhat of a shyster, I must admit, he has mastered the art of presenting the obvious, or old news, as something fresh, up and coming, perhaps radical, and as something he himself largely figured out, and he deigns to speak it to the undereducated masses.
He has managed not only sell scores of books and become wealthy, he is also presented as an intellectual authority, as someone to be reckoned with, and to be taken seriously.  Hence, his writing takes on a gravitas it does not deserve.  However, I am just surprised that the common knowledge he writes so incredulously about is not common knowledge to more people.  At least to those interested enough in the subject matters of his stuff to bother to read him.  And to the readers of The New Yorker, who haven’t complained enough to get his stuff banned from the magazine. Not that he should be banned.
My own theory is that this situation is like “The Emperor’s New Clothes.”  Readers of his work all know it is b.s., it obnoxious, and takes no genius to write…..however, since he, like the Emperor, is “royalty,” or a favored son, we readers fear to point out that the Emperor has no clothes.  We mistrust our own judgment—we can’t believe that the Emperor would be so silly and inept, and who are we to say anything? Maybe we’re blind.
And maybe I AM blind.  Maybe the Emperor IS wearing clothes and I’m the one so simple-minded as to think he’s not.
But I’m going to be like that lad in the tale who yelled out that the clothes were missing. There’s a chance I’ll embarrass myself for doing so, but I’ll venture that I’m not the one who should be embarrassed.
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Three Arguments Against Determinism

 (I am posting this short article that my brother emailed me, in order to reply to it.  My position is completely opposite of his.  I am just posting this now while I work on getting my response up.)

Three Arguments Against Determinism – by Greg Boyd

March 23rd, 2011

There was an interesting article in the NY Times yesterday by John Tierney entitled “Do You Have Free Will? Yes, It’s The Only Choice“.

The article reviews research that suggests that everybody intuitively believes people are morally responsible only for actions they could have refrained from doing and that when people don’t believe they are free they tend to behave more unethically. Hence, if free will is in fact an illusion, it is an illusion that is hard wired into us and one that is extremely helpful, if not absolutely necessary, for ethical behavior. If you believe in God and yet deny the reality of free will, you have to wonder why the Creator would hard-wire us to be so thoroughly self-deceived. In any event, I thought I’d offer three other pragmatic arguments for free will along the lines covered in this article.

The Incoherence of Ordained Morality. I would argue that the association of moral responsibility and free will is not only deeply intuitive, as the article suggests, it is also logically necessary. That is, I would argue that denying the association of moral responsibility and free will results in incoherence. For example, when a Calvinist asserts something like: “God ordains that Satan does evil in such a way that God remains morally holy for ordaining Satan to do evil while Satan becomes morally evil for doing what the all-holy God ordained him to do,” I submit they are asserting something that is beyond counter-intuitive; it is utterly incoherent. For a concept to have meaning it must have some rooting in our experience, at least by analogy. A concept for which there is no analogy in our experience is a vacuous concept. Yet, after decades of asking, I have yet to find anyone who can provide an analogy by which we might give meaning to the concept of an agent being morally responsible for what God ordained them to do. (I develop this argument at length in response to Paul Helseth in Four Views of Divine Providence).

Determinism is Self-Refuting. If free will is an illusion and everything is predetermined, then the ultimate cause of why a person believes that free will is an illusion and everything is predetermined is that they were predetermined to do so. But it’s hard to see how a belief can be considered “true” or “false” when it is, ultimately, simply a predetermined event. The snow falling outside my window right now is due to the fact that preexisting conditions determined it to be so. But we wouldn’t say that the snowfall is “true” or “false.”

Refuting Determinism By Action. You know what a person truly believes by how they act more than by what they say, for we often think we believe something when in fact we don’t. (E.g. the husband who convinces himself he loves his wife even though he mistreats her, cheats on her, etc.). On this basis I’d like to suggest that everyone who deliberates believes in free will, even if they think they do not, for its impossible to deliberate without acting on the conviction that the decision is up to you to resolve. For example, I am this moment deliberating about what to work on when I finish this blog. Should I work on a peace essay for a book collection that is due at the end of this week or should I finish reading a book by Andrew Sullivan that I started two days ago? As I weigh the pros and cons of both possibilities, I cannot help but manifest my conviction that I genuinely could opt for either one of these alternatives and that it is up to me to decide which I will choose. In other words, I reveal a deep rooted conviction that I am free as I deliberate, and the same holds true for every deliberation anyone engages in. There simply is no other way to deliberate. People may sincerely think they believe in determinism, but they act otherwise, and must act otherwise, every time they deliberate. The great American philosopher Charles Pierce argued that a belief that cannot be consistently acted on cannot be true. If he’s right about this – and I believe he is – then determinism must be false.

Words That Need to be Banned ASAP!

Deepak Chopra at MSPAC eventImage by tobin.t via Flickr


  1. “Vetted.”  Unless referring to a veteran, a veterinarian, or a Corvette.
  2. “Evidence-based Medicine.”
  3. “Postmodern.”
  4. “Worldview.”
  5. “Welcome aboard! (when starting a new job)”  Unless you are on a ship.
  6. “Metrics.”
  7. “Quantum physics.”  Unless you’re actually a physicist (and no, Deepak Chopra is not).
  8. “Wiki” anything.
  9. “Bonus parent.”
  10. “Missional.” 
  11. “Think Outside the Box.”-  I think it’s time to start thinking back inside the box again!
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Review of: Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia

I couldn’t read the entire thing, I just skimmed it. The author was just too annoying and self-absorbed. It was as if she thought we, the reader, would be so enthralled with the inanities of her pampered life that she could afford to write basically a diary of her life. 

And a boring diary too. Her “problems” really aren’t that problematic. Her solution of traveling the world and taking a huge amount of time off work, to cavort with assorted men, etc., is not realistic for most of us. 

Her decision to divorce is not explained well; it seems as if she just got sick of her spouse. Selfish, complaining and whining, self-absorbed to the point of narcissism, and supremely confident that the reader will sympathize with her and her mundane writing….I just cannot believe everyone loved this book so much!

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