Sunday, January 29, 2017

Coalition of a Hundred Countries goes to War for Regime Change in the United States

Dateline: MOSCOW, Year Three After Trump—Three years into Trump’s presidency, a “new coalition of the willing,” of over a hundred countries led by Russia, China, and Europe declared war on Trump’s “rogue regime,” citing in a public statement: “the lunacy of allowing the American nuclear arsenal to be controlled by a manifestly insane and senile president, a dysfunctional Congress, and a delusional or apathetic American public.”

“The situation is just like George W. Bush’s declaration of war on Saddam’s Iraq,” said Putin at a press conference in Moscow, speaking for the Coalition. “Except that unlike Saddam, Trump actually has stockpiles of WMDs. We, too, seek regime change in defense of civilization itself. But this time the regime that must be eliminated by preventative military action is obviously Trump’s in the United States.”

When reminded that Trump never gassed his own people, whereas Saddam gassed the Kurds in 1988, Putin said, “Yes, but remember that time when Trump ordered that all the bridges in the United States be firebombed, because Trump had heard a rumour that a guy named Fred Bridgeman in South Dakota had called him fat? Remember how Trump had targeted bridges solely because that fellow had the word ‘bridge’ in his last name? And remember how Trump had neglected to warn the commuters, so that the bridges were destroyed along with the millions of Americans who were in the process of driving across them?

“Or remember that time when in broad daylight Trump raped a journalist in the middle of a White House press conference and then bizarrely denied that he had done so, calling the video evidence provided by the hundreds of cameras present ‘a big lie cooked up by failing news companies’?

“Or how about that time when Donald Trump ordered a nuclear strike against South Korea, mixing up the South with the North?

“Yeah, there’s only so much insanity and instability a civilized world can stand.”

Putin was pressed about why Russia would join the New Coalition of the Willing when Russia reportedly had personal leverage against Trump. Putin reminded the questioner that he had played his “Trump card, so to speak,” but it had backfired.

“You remember when we leaked the golden showers video, so to speak (again). Trump was caught with Russian prostitutes and we added that footage to the financial kompromat we had on him. When we secretly ordered Trump to help Russia take back our territories in Eastern Europe and he refused, we sent the video to Wikileaks. But after the world saw Trump with the pissing prostitutes, Trump said it wasn’t him but an actor with a bad wig.

“And that was that. The media went on to the next Trump scandal, since there was a new one every five minutes. We never bothered revealing the financial conflicts of interest Trump has with foreign banks, because most Americans wouldn’t understand them or care. For the same reason, the U.S. government doesn’t attempt to prosecute Goldman Sachs or other colossal banks for fraud, because the complexity of the case would put a jury to sleep.”

Putin was asked whether he thinks the Coalition can possibly defeat the American military machine. “Of course we can,” said Putin. “For decades, Americans have fought only fake wars against pipsqueaks like Saddam, terrorists in caves, or Stalinists in Grenada in 1983. Americans love to consume toys for their pleasure, not to make war. They’ll quickly surrender and the world will breathe a sigh of relief to be rid of Trump.”

For his part, a defiant Trump dared the Coalition to invade the United States. “Let them come!” he said at a Rose Garden press conference, holding a machine gun, his nose covered in cocaine. “Then they can say hello to my little friend!” There was tittering in the press pool and Trump said, “No, not my junk—which I can assure you all is yuge. This machine gun I’m holding—this is the little friend I meant. And the rest of the world can say hello to it. When they get here.” 

Sign on Trump’s Lapel Provides Running Tally of his Lies

Dateline: WASHINGTON, D.C. Year One After Trump—An anonymous member of President Trump’s staff fastened a digital sign to Trump’s lapel whenever Trump has been set to speak to the media, to stop reporters from having to flail about, guessing whether the president is lying.

“It started because I got annoyed watching the TV news,” said the staffer. “The anchors and pundits kept asking why Trump was saying that the sky is green, that two and two are five, or that his inauguration crowd was the biggest of all time. They just couldn’t figure out what Trump was up to—as if no politician had ever lied before! Or as if no legit psychopath had ever held high office!

“I just got sick of watching these fools on TV dancing around the issue, too timid to reckon with reality, just asking tedious questions like, ‘Why would the President say this when he must know it’s demonstrably false?’ or using euphemisms like Hilary Clinton’s gem, ‘Trump lacks the temperament to be president’—because it’s more polite to speak of ‘temperament’ than about Trump being literally a predator like a shark or the Terminator killing machine, a bona fide psychotic narcissist and, of course, a compulsive liar.”

To spare viewers from “having their time wasted by these clueless or cowardly news folks” and to “hold the baby journalists’ hands and steer them to the truth about Trump,” the staffer began affixing a battery-powered sign to Trump’s lapel. The staffer would listen to Trump speak in an interview, speech, or press conference, and editorialize by remote control.

For example, when Trump told ABC news that he’ll launch an investigation into massive voter fraud in the U.S., the sign on Trump’s lapel lit up with a message that scrolled across the small screen even as Trump himself was speaking. The message read, “Mother of all whoppers! The psycho Trump fears that a woman, Hillary C., beat him by three million in the popular vote—coincidentally the same number he says are voting illegally.”

And in his speech at CIA headquarters, when Trump accused the media of lying about his inauguration crowd size, the lapel sign read in blaring red letters, “Yuge lie! Psycho Trump can’t lose in a dick-measuring contest with a black man like Obama.”

Asked why he or she prefers to be anonymous, when Trump surely knows who is putting the LED sign on his suit, the staffer said, “Of course Trump doesn’t know! If he did, I’d be dead. Trump carries a laser blaster at all times. And if Trump knew, do you really think he’d leave the sign on and continue to lie like a madman?”

The extent of Trump’s obliviousness has flabbergasted the rest of the world. “How can Trump still not know about the sign?” asked a Democratic Congresswoman. “How can no one on his team be telling him that he’s being clowned over and over again, that everyone on earth now has a running breakdown of his every boast, evasion, distortion, slander, and confabulation, of every act of vain posturing or brazen pandering he clumsily undertakes?”

Clarice Foggarty, fellow at the Brookings Institution, theorized that “No one dares tell Trump about the sign for the same reason no Iraqi told Saddam Hussein he had no weapons of mass destruction.” In an authoritarian regime, she said, “the emperor is always wearing clothes even when he’s stark naked and his genitals are visibly flapping in the breeze. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself headless.”

As to why President Trump evidently can’t himself see the infamous sign, one psychotherapist speculated that Trump “effectively lives in the fiction he constantly spins. Trump can’t see beyond the hyperbole, according to which he’s a billionaire because he’s the greatest businessman ever, and he’s president because he’s a Batman-like hero who can do no wrong. Anything that contradicts that preposterous self-image can’t register in Trump’s conscious mind. If Trump suddenly could see himself the way practically everyone else sees him, his head would melt from the epic cognitive dissonance.”   

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Trump Orders Obama’s Presidency be stricken from the Historical Record

Dateline: WASHINGTON, D.C. (Crazy Town)—President Trump signed an executive order, commanding that every sign be erased, that Barack Obama had been president.

Trump ordered the military to destroy everything from stamps bearing Obama’s facial likeness, to news recordings of Obama’s speeches, to political cartoons about Obama.

The President added that anyone caught saying that an African-American was ever president of the United States would be sued personally by him.

“Repealing Obamacare is only a stepping stone,” said Trump’s spokesperson, Kellyanne Conway. “Talk about alternative facts! You liberals in the media actually think an African-American was president for eight years. But show me the evidence he was ever in office, once we’ve finished tossing that evidence into the memory hole.”

According to Democratic Senator Lillian Lillyliver, “You see, Republicans erred in attempting to tar Obama by informally naming the Affordable Care Act after him. Now they have to deal with the mess of trying to repeal and replace it, just because that healthcare bill is associated with Obama’s name, since Republicans evidently want no memory to survive that Obama had ever been president.”

Asked why she thinks Republicans are so opposed to that memory, Lillyliver said, “Methinks it’s because Obama’s as black as Trump’s heart.”

“President Trump seems to be taking a page from the pharaohs,” said Egyptologist Manuel Mysterioso. “If a pharaoh wanted to destroy his predecessor’s legacy, he obliterated every trace of it, by chiseling the former pharaoh’s face from relief sculptures, for example. And so future generations would forget that that detested pharaoh had ever lived. The belief was that our spirit resides in some physical form so that if you destroy the form, the spirit—and thus the intangible memory—dissipates.”

“It’s a case of ‘Hear no evil, see no evil,’” said one political analyst. “You know: out of sight, out of mind. If you don’t have to be reminded that something awful happened, you can pretend it never did. Why it matters whether a neoliberal president like Obama has light or dark skin is anyone’s guess. That’s a matter for a psychotherapist. I mean, Obama bent over backward a thousand times to accommodate the insanity from the far right. And the Republicans deliberately stonewalled him from the get-go to prevent the public from forming the conviction that a civil, democratic government can function as an alternative social arrangement to a capitalistic marketplace.”

“I’ve already forgotten who was president before me,” said Trump. “You say it was a ‘man of colour.’ Does that mean he was just someone other than an invisible man, someone who wasn’t colourless?” After the euphemism “person of colour” was explained to Trump, the president said, “Oh, so he was black, you say, an African American. I see no evidence there was any such person who used to sleep in my bed.

“In fact, the very notion that there are people with non-white skin seems farfetched to me. I’ve never seen these dark-skinned people you speak of. Is this like the myth that there are hordes of non-millionaires and non-billionaires polluting the earth? Where are all these losers supposed to be hiding? My Cabinet’s composed mostly of millionaires and billionaires, because there’s no one else in my world. And how can I step outside my world and still be me?”  

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Why is there Something rather than Nothing?

Why is there something—anything at all—when there could have been just nothing? The early modern philosopher Leibniz first posed this question, which Gr├╝nbaum, a philosopher of science, recently called the Primordial Existential Question. But what exactly is this question asking?

The question’s initial context is Leibniz’s cosmological argument for God’s existence. That argument is essentially that the Principle of Sufficient Reason demands an ultimate explanation that naturalistic science can’t offer. Reason cries out for a metaphysical explanation of all existence, not just for causal explanations which posit one contingent thing or state of the world to account for something equally contingent. Such partial explanations can never be fully satisfying, since if the series of natural things is infinite and so every part of the world is adequately explained in terms of some other part which causes it, one question yet remains to be answered: why is there anything in the first place, rather than nothing at all? The whole of nature must be understood in terms of something unnatural, some necessary being that lies outside the causal chain. That necessary being is supposed to be God.

The standard, logical response to this argument is that it commits the fallacy of composition. Just because something applies to a part doesn’t mean it applies to the whole; just because finite, contingent phenomena are usefully explained by positing causal relations between them, doesn’t mean the whole universe which contains all those phenomena as its parts is just as usefully explained as being an effect of some cause, a product of a necessary being. Causal explanations are inductive in that they’re based on our many experiences of regularities that hold in the interactions between finite, contingent things. You eat a hot dog, the mustard spills and lands on your shirt, staining it. The one event causes the other, under the right circumstances. But we occupy only one universe and haven’t even once experienced the whole of it. So the metaphysical or theological account that the whole of nature must be produced by a supernatural being isn’t as reliable an explanation as an inductive one of a pattern connecting some parts of the natural whole.

This response, though, amounts to little more than casting aspersions on Leibniz’s argument, since the response is consistent with Leibniz’s main point. The whole point is that scientific, probabilistic explanations are limited to the finite and contingent parts of the world, but that reason in general can ask a further, metaphysical question. The issue, then, is whether reason extends beyond science or reliable, probabilistic, quantifying, experience-based logic. If we think of reasoning pragmatically, interpreting reason as the more or less useful tinkering with mental models, we needn’t discount metaphysics or even theology because it’s not a branch of modern science. True, just because we can ask a speculative question doesn’t mean we can reason usefully about possible answers to it. Still, the point about the fallacy of composition begs this deeper question. The typical critic of the cosmological proof scientistically dismisses the metaphysical question of whether the entire causal chain making up the natural universe’s history is itself something that could be explained at all and would be explained only by positing something supernatural. Certainly, just because causal explanations work in one context, doesn’t mean they work in another. We have no experience of other universes, so we don’t know why one would have resulted rather than another; we have no objective basis for assigning probabilities to something compared to nothing, so we don’t know whether without God there should have been nothing at all, because nothingness is supposedly simpler than a natural series of causes and effects. This is all true, but is so only as far as it goes. Again, we have no empirical grounds for speaking with precision about being or of nonbeing in general. We haven’t quantified such entities and we can’t run experiments to test hypotheses concerning them. But this doesn’t mean a metaphysical question about natural things in general is irrational or irresponsible.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

CIA Digs up Dirt on President Trump, forms New Planet

Dateline: WASHINGTON, DC—In response to President-elect Donald Trump’s denigrating the American intelligence community, the CIA dug up a planet of dirt on Trump, altering the Earth’s gravitational field.

The American intelligence community was united in its assessment that Russia hacked into the Democratic National Committee’s emails to attempt to give Donald Trump an advantage in his campaign against Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.

But Donald Trump, apparently unaware of the CIA’s track record, preferred to go to war with his own intelligence services than admit his election was potentially tainted by that foreign interference.

Experts have formulated numerous hypotheses to explain Trump’s bizarre, arguably treacherous relationship with Russia. “Most people would be terrified to insult the CIA,” said psychologist Anne Funnyface. “But if someone were sufficiently narcissistic, the desire to be widely admired could theoretically outweigh that natural fear. Alternatively, Trump could be wholly ignorant of the Star Wars Empire-like nature of the war machine he’s crossed. That ignorance might be due to his infamously low attention span.”

Whatever the cause, Donald Trump praised Wikileaks founder Julian Assange’s criticisms of the CIA’s assessment of the DNC hacks, called the American intelligence services politicized, and has forgone receiving the traditional Daily Brief from the Director of National Intelligence.

In retaliation, the CIA tasked a fraction of its sinister forces to undermine Trump’s presidency the way the United States has sabotaged half the planet’s governments over the last seven decades. What the CIA didn’t count on was the colossal extent of embarrassing materials available on Trump’s upbringing, finances, business practices, and marriages. 

The dirt the agents discovered eventually amounted to a planet-sized edifice the size of Mercury.

Said one CIA operative, “We had to work with geologists and then with NASA to handle the mountains upon mountains of dirt that we dug up on that guy. At first we just piled up the black-ops dossiers to blackmail the traitor Trump. But then the dossiers added up to mountains that altered the skyline along the eastern coast. When planes began crashing into the mountains, we turned to NASA to transfer the embarrassing secrets into the stratosphere whereupon they began to orbit the Earth, forming a new moon. We added tidbits to that moon until it became a planet. The juicy secrets just kept coming, so can you blame us?”  

Before the intelligence agencies could knock on President Trump’s door, informing him that they have a hundred trillion ways to blackmail him should he persist in talking nonsense, the weight of Trump’s sins bore down upon the Earth, threatening us all with gravitational waves that pulled millions of buildings, cars, animals, and people into outer space, creating a ring around what became known as Planet Trump.

Two years passed until President Trump chanced to look up and ask whether anyone else noticed there’s a new planet taking up half the sky. But Trump refused to concede that this other world is composed entirely of dirty secrets that could ruin his presidency a trillion times over.

“Why would the CIA want to go to war with me?” he asked at a news conference. “What have I ever done to them and when has the CIA ever taken such petty or aggressive military action against a democratically-elected leader?”

Upon hearing that, the journalists’ heads exploded and Trump cried foul when some of the brain matter stained his Brioni suit. 

Sunday, January 1, 2017

The Paradox of Moral Obligations

What is a person, fundamentally speaking? A person is a creative void facilitating a fractal tripling of natural forms in the symbolic and technological realms. The void in each person is functional, not physical: while we aren’t absolutely empty, we’re defined by our fictions, such as by folk conventions about our identity as supposedly unified, immaterial selves or spirits. In evolutionary terms, animal brains became more sophisticated over a long period until the cerebral cortex developed, becoming a brain within a brain that initiates a spiral of abstraction in mental space. The higher, primate brain is biologically discontinuous from the environment, by way of its isolation within the skull, but the cerebral cortex has autonomous and global, holistic access to the rest of the brain, providing the person the power to veto his or her emotional impulses or instinctive reactions, and to imagine strategic models of the environment. These models are pragmatic idealizations and thus, strictly speaking, fictive; in science, they’re called “ceteris paribus,” meaning that their generalizations pertain to the counterfactual scenario in which certain factors falling outside the model’s purview don’t interfere with the modeled regularity. That is, the model is about only a small part of the world that’s isolated by the imagination, even though in reality that modeled part is entangled with the whole of nature. Despite our having a substantive neurological identity, then, we’re effectively hollow as persons in that as we model ourselves as well, we retreat to evermore rarified reifications, including daydreams and theological speculations. While we seem to ourselves to be the universe’s starring attractions, we’re vacuous in our existential homelessness and chameleonic flexibility We can survive virtually anywhere because we’re so lacking in a fixed identity and are so detached from nature that we’ve devised an objective stance towards the outer world, which has empowered us with technological applications of our models that have reshaped the environment to our benefit.

Whereas an animal is like a robot in lacking much hidden, mental depth, a person’s mind is master of the symbolic niche. That mind and niche are physically nowhere, as such, and so we’re the proverbial ghosts in the machine. We’re cognitively detached from stimuli and from our animal side, and so we’re liable to feel alienated and forlorn, oppressed by our understanding that the world that’s given rise to such freaks as us must be godless and out-of-whack. We boast of our spiritual depths, making esoteric religious pronouncements such as that the ultimate material (Brahman) and Self (Atman) are one, that matter and mind are aspects of the same thing, that our personal identities are masks worn by ultimate reality and that each of us, therefore, is fully God. And we war over the contradictions between our religious fictions, not willing to face the truth that was put best and most recently by the so-called existential philosophers and psychologists. At most, matter and mind are one in that what we usually think of as mind is entirely imaginary, and so the former cancels out the latter; the fictitious mind isn’t nothing at all, mind you, but it’s an embarrassing lie, an instrument used by greater forces to marshal our skills for the next round of mass extinctions and evolutionary transcendence. And at best we’re divine in that we’re godlike tools for transducing natural stimuli into symbolic representations and for imposing the products of those idealizations onto nature in the forms of our artifacts. Far from making us worthy of being revered, our divinity is likewise an indignity: our omniscience and omnipotence depend on our ability to form Voltron-like megamachines, that is, social collectives or mass minds which are inevitably oppressive in their hierarchical composition. Thus, our personal capacity for enlightenment is typically shortchanged, as a minority takes command and sets about oppressing and infantilizing the masses; the rulers become especially godlike, corrupting themselves in the process, while the bovine herd idles, numbing itself with bestial diversions.

The Moral Conundrum for the Enlightened Few

If this is our existential reality or if some such account is, at least, the most compelling philosophical story about the meaning of our species, we face an ethical conundrum. The enlightened person must be poised between feeling compassion and disgust for us all. On the one hand, we have every reason to pity ourselves and others, since we’re all trapped as playthings of monstrous (unguided but creative) natural forces and elements, and our vaunted spirituality is ironically a form of profound emptiness (fictitiousness). There is no substantial unifying self, but only a mammalian brain that dreams it’s a god, which fiction ironically brings divinity into functional being, as evidenced by the results of our artistic imagination, scientific objectification, and technological industry. So we’re each more or less deluded and lost. Shouldn’t we therefore help each other find ourselves? Wouldn’t nobility consist in the humility needed to recognize that since we’re all victims of the same existential grievances, we all need help, and vanity must be due just to a crass sort of narrow-mindedness? The ethical task would seem obvious: to elevate each other however we can, not putting ourselves before others, but recognizing the universality of our struggles.