Nietzsche’s Revenge

Nietzsche’s Revenge
The Unlikely Origin of American Decline
By umair haque
Sep 27 2016

What any thinking person should want to know today is: how did America get here?

Inside every myth is a tragedy. And beneath every worldly tragedy lies not just politics but philosophy. There is a Western philosopher who has unwittingly shaped the history and trajectory. But he wasn’t American, and he never cared much about America at all.


There are three things that characterize America. Here we are speaking about facts — not my or your opinion.

First, brutalism. An unmitigated disregard for human life. No other rich nation, etc. Builds large-scale institutions for the express purpose of entire social classes and ethnicities to be broken, used, and abused. The question is: why?

The answer is: second, because cruelty is seen as virtuous. It is virtuous because it is seen as a kind of social enforcement of the common good. To be weak is to be unethical. The weak are dead weight stopping progress, destiny, the rightful ascension of the strong.

Third, power as the end of human life. Power realizes selfhood, and therefore power alone is the overriding value — not, say, compassion, justice, or courage — towards which society is oriented. So, third, moral inversion: might essentially makes right.

In these three defining characteristics of America, there is no philosophy in human history that comes so strikingly close as Nietzsche’s. Whatever words we use to define America — individualism, utilitarianism, brutalism — we will see pale reflections of the Neitzschean positions defined long ago. That the highest values of humankind are the will to power, self-mastery, dog-eat-dog conquest, life as raw animality — all these ideas were chalked out first and best not by Lincoln or Jefferson but by Nietzsche.

I won’t discuss just how a German philosopher’s ideas came to shape and define the decline of a nation. The route is obvious, and maybe you already see it.

When you understand the Nietzschean origin of American decline, suddenly, things come into sharper focus everywhere. You see it in triumphalist brand names, like Uber. You see it in “YOLO” — Nietzsche was the first Western philosopher to tell us that this life was all that mattered, because God is dead, remember?

You see it in the relentless quest for “personal power”, “power poses”, and so on — you need to power to “realize yourself”, which, though you might think is an idea Abraham Maslow had, is in fact one that Nietzsche had long before him.

You see it in a constant need for “positivity” — we’re beyond good and evil, remember? They’re obstacles to be dispensed with. You see it in the absurdist subjectivity of the age of self, where everything has been reduced to an “identity”. You see it in “work hard play hard”, the “innovation” of socially useless things like plastic surgery for butt implants, the rise of the VIP lifestyle, all which, of course, reflect the idea of the overman or woman.

If one is an overman, then of course one deserves special privileges. One is not just more fortunate, lucky, or even talented, but inherently worthier. And it is that fools’ quest for special privilege that defines American decline. The dream that used to be about a little house on a quiet street is about a private jet and fuck-you money.

At this point, you might say: but what about religion? Nietzsche eschewed, even damned, Christianity. But Americans embrace it feverishly. Do they? In what sense is denying your fellow citizens healthcare, education, safety, and clean water Christian — let alone religious? If that is religion, then it surely can’t be in obeisance to a God that we all hold in common. Such a God wouldn’t really be worth praying to.


A disaster is looming for American men

[Note: This item comes from friend Mike Cheponis. DLH]

A disaster is looming for American men
By Lawrence H. Summers
Sep 26 2016

Over the weekend, the Financial Times published my review of Nicholas Eberstadt’s important new book Men Without Work. The core message is captured in the graph below:

Job destruction caused by technology is not a futuristic concern. It is something we have been living with for two generations. A simple linear trend suggests that by mid-century about a quarter of men between 25 and 54 will not be working at any moment.

I think this likely a substantial underestimate unless something is done for a number of reasons. First everything we hear and see regarding technology suggests the rate of job destruction will pick up. Think of the elimination of drivers, and of those who work behind cash registers. Second, the gains in average education and health of the workforce over the last 50 years are unlikely to be repeated. Third, to the extent that non-work is contagious, it is likely to grow exponentially rather than at a linear rate. Fourth, declining marriage rates are likely to raise rates of labor force withdrawal given that non-work is much more common for unmarried than married men.

On the basis of these factors, I expect that more than one-third of all men between 25 and 54 will be out work at mid-century. Very likely more than half of men will experience a year of non-work at least one year out of every five. This would be in the range of the rate of non-work for high school drop-outs and exceeds the rate of non-work for African Americans today.


Could Ancient Remedies Hold the Answer to the Looming Antibiotics Crisis?

Could Ancient Remedies Hold the Answer to the Looming Antibiotics Crisis?
One researcher thinks the drugs of the future might come from the past: botanical treatments long overlooked by Western medicine.
Sep 14 2016

On a warm, clear evening in March, with the sun still hanging above the horizon, Cassandra Quave climbed aboard a jalapeño-green 4-by-4 and started to drive across her father’s ranch in Arcadia, Fla. Surveying the landscape, most people would have seen a homogenous mat of pasture and weeds punctuated by the occasional tree. Quave saw something quite different: a vast botanical tapestry, rich as a Persian rug. On a wire fence, a Smilax vine dangled menacingly pointed leaves, like a necklace of shark’s teeth. Beneath it, tiny wild daisies and mint ornamented the grass with pink tassels and purple cornets. Up above, on the sloping branches of oak trees, whiskery bromeliads, Spanish moss and the gray fronds of resurrection fern tangled in a miniature jungle all their own.

Each of these species intrigued Quave enough to merit a pause, a verbal greeting, a photo. An ethnobotanist based at Emory University in Atlanta, Quave, 38, has an unabashed fondness for all citizens of the kingdom plantae. But on this evening, her attention lingered on certain species more than others: those with the power to heal, with the potential to help prevent a looming medical apocalypse.

Quave parked near the edge of a pond crowded with the overlapping parasols of water lilies. Here and there a green stem rose from the water, capped with a round yellow flower bud, like the antenna of some submerged mutant. Alligators had attacked dogs and ducks around here in the past. “But don’t worry,” Quave said, tracing the pond’s perimeter. “If we see one, I’m going to shoot it.” She wore lightweight cargo pants, a black tank top, a paisley bandanna wrapped around her head and a .357 Magnum revolver strapped to her hip.

After Quave gave the all-clear, her colleague Kate Nelson and I pulled on some tall rubber boots and proceeded cautiously into the water. I repeatedly plunged a shovel into the pond’s viscous floor of gray mud, just beneath the tenacious roots of a water lily — species name: Nuphar lutea — working it like a lever to loosen the plant as Nelson tugged on its stems. We seemed to be making good progress, until the roots suddenly snapped and Nelson fell backward with a splash. Thirty minutes later we emerged with boots full of water and several intact specimens. “Beautiful!” Quave said. “Hello, lovely.” The roots, which she had not seen properly until now, were large and pale like daikon, though much gnarlier and bristling with a mess of shaggy tendrils. Before this trip to Florida, while reading an old compendium on plants used by Native Americans, Quave had learned that a decoction of N. lutea’s roots could treat chills and fever, and that a poultice of its leaves could heal inflamed sores.

Ethnobotany is a historically small and obscure offshoot of the social sciences, focused on the myriad ways that indigenous peoples use plants for food, shelter, clothing, art and medicine. Within this already-tiny field, a few groups of researchers are now trying to use this knowledge to derive new medicines, and Quave has become a leader among them. Equally adept with a pipette and a trowel, she unites the collective insights of traditional plant-based healing with the rigor of modern laboratory experiments. Over the past five years, Quave has gathered hundreds of therapeutic shrubs, weeds and herbs and taken them back to Emory for a thorough chemical analysis.

By revealing the elemental secrets of these plants, Quave has discovered promising candidates for a new generation of drugs that might help resolve one of the greatest threats to public health today: the fact that an increasing number of disease-causing bacteria are rapidly evolving immunity to every existing antibiotic. Without effective antibiotics, common bacterial diseases that are curable today will become impossible to treat; childbirth, routine surgeries and even the occasional nick could turn lethal. The widespread emergence of resistant bacteria already claims 700,000 lives a year globally. Experts conservatively predict that by 2050, they will kill 10 million annually — one person every three seconds. “We’re standing on the precipice of a post-antibiotic era,” Quave says. “We just haven’t fallen off yet.”


Re: Fighting Politicians’ War on Truth

[Note: This comment comes from friend Steve Schear. DLH]

From: Steven Schear <>
Subject: Re: [Dewayne-Net] Re: Fighting Politicians’ War on Truth
Date: September 25, 2016 at 11:06:58 AM PDT

Ever wonder why the Government and Politicians lie even when they know they’ll get caught? Asymmetry. It’s a tax on resistance. Its due to their keen understanding of what is now commonly called Brandolini’s Law

The amount of energy needed to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude bigger than to produce it.


From: janosG <>
Subject: Re: [Dewayne-Net] Fighting Politicians’ War on Truth
Date: September 17, 2016 at 4:17:32 PM EDT

Definition from personal experience: “Journalism: A craft practiced between the 18th and 20th centuries, poorly compensated; now no longer a paid activity, but expected to perform miracles.” Yes, I am trying to get free or inexpensive NYTimes/WxPost/etc. coverage myself.

Fighting Politicians’ War on Truth
U.S. journalists have an obligation to call out presidential candidates when they lie.
By Dan Gillmor
Sep 16 2016

The Islamic State’s Chemical Attack on U.S. Troops Shouldn’t Be a Surprise

[Note: This item comes from friend Jen Snow. DLH]

The Islamic State’s Chemical Attack on U.S. Troops Shouldn’t Be a Surprise
The Pentagon prepared for this exact event
Sep 24 2016

The Islamic State fired a mustard gas shell at American troops this week — a rare but not unprecedented tactic on the part of the terror group. “We assess it to be a sulfur-mustard blister agent,” Gen. Joseph Dunford said during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Sept. 22.

The attack occurred the day at Qayara West air base, which currently hosts hundreds of U.S. troops supporting Kurdish and Iraqi army troops as they prepare for the much anticipated assault on Mosul — the country’s second largest city which has been under Islamic State control for more than two years.

Dunford emphasized that the attack resulted in no injuries.

Nevertheless, the development provoked a small panic on social media, with some frightened by the prospect that chemical weapons used on Americans could signal a new phase in the conflict. But the presence of chemical weapons in Iraq is hardly new.

In fact, Islamic State fighters have already deployed chemical weapons — typically chlorine bombs — during attacks in both Iraq and Syria. The terror group has expanded the use of chemicals in its war on Kurdish civilians and fighters in northern Iraq.

For the Kurds, chemical weapons hold a particularly bitter resonance. The large scale use of chemical weapons by Iraqi forces during the 1988 Anfal campaign killed thousands of Kurdish civilians. The campaign culminated in the Halabja Massacre, the deadliest chemical weapons attack in history.

During those days Saddam Hussein’s armies produced chemical and biological weapons with the blessing and support of Western nations, including the United States. After the 2003 invasion of Iraq to halt Hussein’s supposed production of weapons of mass destruction, coalition forces found no evidence of any active chemical, nuclear or biological program.

They did however find thousands of the old chemical weapons, including mustard gas contained inside rusty artillery shells.

The U.S. government downplayed the presence of those weapons, which served as an embarrassing reminder of America’s complicated history in the region. In October 2014, The New York Times revealed that the U.S. military often neglected to warn soldiers about the presence of old chemical ordinance, and even ordered soldiers not to talk about encounters with them.

The Islamic State’s use of chemical weapons is occurring on a much smaller scale.

During the group’s takeover of Mosul in the summer of 2014, its fighters seized facilities storing the aging munitions. Despite panic by some commentators, most of the old rounds were far too old and unstable for the militants to effectively repurpose.


Dog with nearly completely severed spinal cord has spinal cord repaired by team working towards human head transplant

[Note: This item comes from friend Jen Snow. DLH]

Dog with nearly completely severed spinal cord has spinal cord repaired by team working towards human head transplant
Sep 16 2016

Video footage seen by New Scientist appears to show a dog walking three weeks after its spinal cord was almost completely severed. Italian neurosurgeon Sergio Canavero says the technique used to treat the dog will make a human head transplant possible next year. The idea is that someone paralysed from the neck down, for example, could have their head connected to the body of someone who is brain dead, restoring their ability to move

Papers published today detailing the spinal cord repair technique applied to the dog have prompted other scientists to express concerns over the work. “These papers do not support moving forward in humans,” says Jerry Silver, a neuroscientist at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio.

In a series of three papers, all edited by Canavero for the journal Surgical Neurology International, researchers in South Korea and the US claim that a chemical called polyethylene glycol, or PEG, may help reconnect a severed spinal cord.

C-Yoon Kim at Konkuk University in Seoul and his team – who have been working closely with Canavero – severed the spinal cord of 16 mice. They then injected PEG into the gap between the cut ends of the spinal cord in half of the mice, while the rest were injected with saline. After four weeks, they report that five of the eight mice in the PEG group had regained some ability to move, compared with none of the control group. The other three PEG-treated mice died, as did all those in the control group.

Even better spinal cord repair treatment with graphene nanoribbons

A team at Rice University in Houston, Texas, has been working to develop a better version of PEG. Hearing about Canavero’s plans to use the solution in a human head transplant, the team believed it could improve it by adding graphene nanoribbons – an electrically conductive material that acts as a scaffold that neurons can grow along.

“My motivation is spinal cord repair. If this works, it’s going to have huge ramifications for spinal injuries,” says James Tour, who is part of the Rice team. “But we thought, if you’re going to be working towards a head transplant, you’re going to need this, so let us help you.”

In a final experiment, the South Korean team tested the original PEG in a dog immediately after it was given a near-complete cervical (neck) spinal lesion. Visual inspection suggested more than 90 per cent of its spinal cord had been severed – similar to what is seen in people who receive stab wounds to the spinal cord.

The following day, the dog was completely paralysed, but after three days, the team reports minimal movement in all four limbs. After two weeks, the dog was able to drag its hind limbs by its torso and forelimbs, and during the third week, it was able to walk. The team claims that the dog began to grab objects, wag its tail and resume a normal life. There was no control in the experiment.


Study finds young men are playing video games instead of getting jobs

Study finds young men are playing video games instead of getting jobs
By Ana Swanson
Sep 23 2016

Danny Izquierdo, a 22-year-old who lives with his parents in Silver Spring, Md., has found little satisfaction in a series of part-time, low-wage jobs he’s held since graduating from high school. But the video games he plays, including “FIFA 16” and “Rocket League” on PlayStation and Pokemon Go on his smartphone, are a different story.

“When I play a game, I know if I have a few hours I will be rewarded,” he said. “With a job, it’s always been up in the air with the amount of work I put in and the reward.”

Izquierdo represents a group of video-game-loving Americans who, according to new research, may help explain one of the most alarming aspects of the nation’s economic recovery: Even as the unemployment rate has fallen to low levels, an unusually large percentage of able-bodied men, particularly the young and less-educated, are either not working or not working full-time.

Most of the blame for the struggle of male, less-educated workers has been attributed to lingering weakness in the economy, particularly in male-dominated industries such as manufacturing. Yet in the new research, economists from Princeton, the University of Rochester and the University of Chicago say that an additional reason many of these young men — who don’t have college degrees — are rejecting work is that they have a better alternative: living at home and enjoying video games. The decision may not even be completely conscious, but surveys suggest that young men are happier for it.

“Happiness has gone up for this group, despite employment percentages having fallen, and the percentage living with parents going up. And that’s different than for any other group,” says the University of Chicago’s Erik Hurst, an economist at the Booth School of Business who helped lead the research.

While young men might temporarily enjoy a life of leisure, the implications could be troubling for them as well as the economy. The young men aren’t gaining job experience that will better equip them to work in their 30s and 40s. That, in turn, could lead to a lifetime of decreased wages, limited opportunities and challenges such as depression and drug use — problems that the United States is already seeing in areas hit with heavy job losses.

At the same time, if a historically vibrant portion of the population doesn’t feel as much desire to work, this could harm the economy’s future and the ability of government to use policy to create jobs. “That’s a big chunk of labor that could be used for something, and we’re not using it,” said Greg Kaplan, an economist at the University of Chicago who was not involved with the new research.

As of last year, 22 percent of men between the ages of 21 and 30 with less than a bachelor’s degree reported not working at all in the previous year — up from only 9.5 percent in 2000. Overall, only 88 percent of men between the ages of 25 and 54 are working or looking for work, the third-lowest among 34 developed countries, according to the White House’s Council of Economic Advisers.

Young men without college degrees have replaced 75 percent of the time they used to spend working with time on the computer, mostly playing video games, according to the study, which is based on the Census Bureau’s time-use surveys. Before the recession, from 2004 to 2007, young, unemployed men without college degrees were spending 3.4 hours per week playing video games. By 2011 to 2014, that time had shot up to 8.6 hours per week on average.