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Imperishable Bliss
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This feature is coming as soon as I can dope out the process, but in cyberspace it's never too early to start attracting the attention of potential friends and trolls alike. So let's begin with a short essay on how I set about steering your eyes to this page.

According to Google-provided stats on the frequency of various keywords used in on-line searches, "porno" occurs roughly 500 times more often than "pornography". This datum is of interest to your author, because the dedication page of his novel A Chant of Paradise slyly mentions pornography, in a kind of backhanded disclaimer, and he wants to maximize the mileage to be had from the legitimate appearance of this idea. Hence the paragraph you're reading right now, which incorporates the form of the word that's 500 times more potent as a lightning rod for search engines than the more "literary" one that actually occurs in the book.

"Literary" has a story too. While it's the single feature of my books that gives me the greatest satisfaction, most people would sooner watch beer commercials. "Literary" finishes in popularity at the very bottom of the list of keywords I considered, something like 3728 times less titillating than "porno". Pretension has its cost.

As far as the keyword stakes are concerned, I have now touched the alpha and the omega, and in this paragraph I'll just go trawl-netting for the rest of my audience, by appending (with Google-ranks of their value as fractions of "porno") some other keywords that actually seem to me to have something to do with my books: Christian (.0016), erotic (.0045), fiction (.0020), politics (.0045), psychology (.0036), religion (.0045), sex (.3013).

If you never heard of Tingle before, which of these keywords introduced you? (Until I can work out the reply process, this question is only rhetorical. But I'll be wanting to know.)


`Fraid so. That's what my preferred purveyor of both novels charges to drop-ship. The reason: BookLocker is a small but wholesome family operation, unable to command the special postal rates available to the big guys, and unwilling to disappoint its customers with the tardiness and occasional loss in transit of media-rate shipments. Your advantage: $8.33 gets you your book in just 2-3 days. (But so do the big guys with the cheap shipping.) My advantage: BookLocker pays me roughly $8 right away for each sale; everybody else pays me roughly $3 per sale a couple or three months later. But don't fret: I'm in this game for the ineffable satisfaction, not the notional lucre.

So here's the deal. If you're buying the eBook, please get it from BookLocker, because they and I shouldn't have to split the take with third parties, and your cost — including shipping ($0) — is the same everywhere. If you're buying the print edition, I'm serene with the thought of you getting it from any source at all except Amazon. Barnes & Noble, the last major U.S. bastion of brick-and-mortar bookselling, and clearly in the predatory sights of Amazon, would be a nice choice, but not compulsory.

Thanks for slowing the subversion of all world retail markets by Jeff Bezos. (He also owns the Washington Post, and enough column inches to respond easily to provocations like this one.)



Thesis:

If A and B are addressing a public issue, both are obligated to respect (but not to agree with, of course) the opinions of the other — but only to the extent that each is willing to engage freely and without prejudice the representations of the other.

The general case:

1) A offers a counterpoint to an asseveration of B. B takes the counterpoint into consideration, such that B undertakes to study and evaluate A's counterpoint. (A's counterpoint is, by definition, an element of A's obligation to respect B's argument.) A then remains under the default obligation to respect B's further response.

Alternatively:

2) A offers a counterpoint to B. B does not substantively engage A's counterpoint, but summarily and without examination rejects its validity. A is thenceforward under no logical or ethical obligation to consider B's opinion.

Discussion:

Currently, the most commonly seen example of failure to engage is by dismissing an interlocutor's argument as evidence of, or an element of, a "conspiracy theory". Here, lifted bodily from Wikipedia, is a definition of that term:

A conspiracy theory is an explanatory proposition that accuses two or more persons, a group, or an organization of having caused or covered up, through secret planning and deliberate action, an illegal or harmful event or situation.
 
Note that nothing about the definition merits automatic ridicule or summary dismissal of the theory in question. In fact, by this definition, both the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks official account of 9/11, and the many dissident accounts that infer, for example, Bush Administration collusion in the events, are conspiracy theories. Likewise the Warren Commission Report on the JFK assassination, and the many dissident versions involving U.S. agency plots.

A refusal to hear anything of the 9/11 Commission Report or of the Warren Commission Report on the grounds that both are conspiracy theories and not worth thinking about, would strike most well-meaning citizens as eccentric. Yet only a tiny percentage of Americans — and practically none of the U.S. mass media — have ever greeted any substantive challenge to those official accounts except dismissively.

My favorite case in point is the utterly unexplained (to me) pulverization of WTC Buildings 1, 2 and 7 on 9/11. No theory of energy transfer that squares with what I'm pretty sure I learned in high school physics can account even for the collapses. The further reduction of concrete to powder is not just implausible in the official scenario; it's at least an order of magnitude beyond being accounted for by the energy present in the system when the collapses began.

Here then comes the Establishment, not with a physics lesson that'll tell me where I'm wrong, but with a sad shake of the head that I should be inferring, by extension, a plot so elaborately cynical, large and complex that it could hardly have been hatched or successfully brought off by persons we know in other contexts. But I'm not inferring anything. I just want to have the physics explained to my satisfaction, and to the satisfaction of any high school graduate willing to think about it.

Not willing to think about it?

Then I don't give a rat's ass about your opinion on this subject. And if you're that comfortable with swallowing received wisdom unskeptically, I'm suspicious of your other opinions as well.


An age of transparency looms, and people and institutions everywhere are terrified. Private citizens have only as much privacy as may survive the efforts of hucksters and bureaucrats to collect every trace of information abroad in the world. Closet miscreants, secret philanderers, solitary onanists are in constant danger of exposure by wire and camera. Corporations and government agencies are outed as criminal enterprises. No practitioner of human activity traditionally done behind a veil can be certain any longer of concealment.

I find I couldn't be more pleased. I was tired of the bullshit.

But the full disclosure of everything, and the accountability that follows, threatens doom to the oldest, most widespread, most frequently charged and invariably denied human appurtenance of them all: hypocrisy.

We're all going to have to come to grips with this problem, and soon.

At the same time universal awareness of everyone's secrets renders blackmail impossible, it will also expose every apparent or obvious hypocrisy to the light of day -- and most painfully, I should think, for the hypocrite hermself*. As a hypocrite of long standing but no unusual distinction, I'm less daunted by the thought of being unmasked to fellow citizens, who probably have suspected me all along, than by the thought of having to come clean by giving up hypocrisies that have made my life supportable. If I were required to put up or shut up on any number of noble pretensions, I think I might have to kill myself.

Accordingly, I'd like to propose that all of us cut all of the others a break. If the default answer to the charge "You're a hypocrite!" necessarily becomes "Well, duh!", then the charge loses its currency, and we can hope it'll go away. Once our hypocrisies are a matter of public record, we'll all feel obliged to do better. Just imagine the benefits!

Unfortunately, the cognitive dissonance that will prompt potential saints like you and me to reform, will not do so with corporations, which, while persons under the law, by their fiduciary duty to maximize profit for their shareholders are of necessity sociopathic persons. In their case, coercion will be required.

As for governments, we'll have to take those back. That's what the whistleblowers are for.

___________

*Gender-neutral yet grammatical pronoun.


A commentary by Amy Davidson in the 20 April 2015 issue of The New Yorker has tipped me off to an ethical dilemma so subtle that you'll wonder that I think it's real. In "What Videos Show", Davidson addresses the case of Walter Scott, shot to death in North Charleston, South Carolina, and similar instances of persons unfortunate enough to have attracted the attention of violence-prone police officers unaware that they were being watched.

Roughly speaking, Davidson's thesis is that videos show whatever their viewers see in them. A grand jury in New York, presented with a video of several cops choking Eric Garner to death, returned no indictment. The exact significance of a video from Cleveland showing the summary gunning down of an unarmed twelve-year-old continues to elude authorities five months after the fact. Yet the cop who killed Walter Scott in the line of duty, immediately upon his previously accepted alibi being thrown into question by a video, was fired from his job and charged with murder.

In a political environment where video evidence is regularly and effectively doubted and second-guessed, it's notable that those benefits were not extended to Scott's killer. However airtight the Scott video might look to you and me, it seems fair to ask if the cop's superiors didn't rush to a judgment that their role as advocates for their agents should make unethical on its face. Divining a higher expedience, the mayor and the chief of police threw their minion under the bus as reflexively as if there were no long tradition of obfuscating official misbehavior. The cop's attorney, judicious but unlawyerly, did the same.

So there's the dilemma. You and I can take one or two looks at the video and consign Michael Slager conscientiously to hell. But shouldn't the principle of due diligence cause Slager's handlers at least to hesitate? Amy Davidson congratulates them for seeing the same video that she and I saw, and acting accordingly. I fault them for unprofessional behavior. Their man is unequivocally entitled to a defense, and their willingness to spin whatever a video appears to show, should have been its first line.


Catching up on my reading, I see that Amazon and Hachette managed to paper over their differences several months ago. Here's a link:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/14/technology/amazon-hachette-ebook-dispute.html?_r=0

Anyone afraid that Amazon might have suffered a setback here in its plan to take over the retail marketing of everything in the world — you can relax. Think of it as consolidation. Hachette remains a profitable and viable outsource until Amazon elects to move them in-house, along with whatever other independent suppliers of books, gadgets, furniture and jockstraps Amazon will have subverted by then.

My proximate reason five years ago for mounting a boycott against Amazon was their choice to embargo certain free speech by preventing Wikileaks from fundraising on their servers. Most of my current company seems motivated by Amazon's drive toward monopoly: see our fulminations on Twitter #EvilAmazon.

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