Bands in Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson’s Illuminatus Trilogy

I recently read the Illuminatus! Trilogy by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson. I found it a bizarre yet highly enjoyable work of fiction, complete with contradictory multilevel conspiracies, over the top sex scenes, real historical figures, quadruple agents, fun acronyms, word play, 1960s counter-culture, fnords, drug use, nonsensical philosophizing, politics, anarchism, talking dolphins, rock’n roll and zombie NAZIs.  All of this is delivered with a great deal of humor and it is quite an enjoyable trip for anyone who might be into this sort of thing.

In the third book of the trilogy a large Woodstock-like Music festival is takes place in Ingolstadt, Bavaria which actually is organized for far more malicious purposes than it’s attendees suspect. Shea and Wilson clearly had fun coming up with names of the fictitious bands that performed at this festival and they also included a few real life musicians in the line-up as well. At least one of the names they used for a fictitious band would become the name of a popular real band decades later (the book came out in the mid 1970s). The full list in the first chapter of Leviathan, the third book of the trilogy,  follows below:

The American Medical Association (AMA) (This is the festival’s headliner)
Clark Kent and His Supermen
Filet of Soul
The Wrathful Visions
The Cockroaches
The Senate and The People of Rome
The Ultraviolet Hippopotamus
The Thing on the Door Step
Science and Health
Key to the Scriptures
The Glue Sniffers
King Kong and His Skull Island Dinosaurs
The Howard Johnson Hamburger
The Riot in Cell Block Ten
The House of Frankenstein
The Signifying Monkey
The Damn Thing
The Orange Moose
The Indigo Banana
The Pink Elephant
Frodo Baggins and his Ring
The Mouse that Roars
The Crew of the Flying Saucer
The Magnificent Ambersons
The House I Live In
The Sound of One Hand
The Territorial Imperative
The Druids of Stone Henge
The Heads of Easter Island
The Lost Continent of Mu
Bugs Bunny and his fourteen Carats
The Gospel According to Marx
The Card Carrying Members
The Sands of Mars
The Erection
The Association
The Amalgamation
The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre
The Climax
The Broad Jumpers
The Pubic Hairs
The Freaks
The Windows
The Trashers (Mick Jagger‘s new group in the story)
The Roofs
Moses and Monotheism
Steppenwolf
Civilization and it’s Discontents
Poor Richard and his Rosicrucian Secrets
The Wrist Watch
The Nova Express
The Father of Waters
The Human Beings
The Washington Monument
The Thalidomide Babies
The Strangers in a Strange Land
Dr. John the Night Tripper
Joan Baez
The Dead Man’s Hand
Joker and the One-Eyed Jacks
Peyote Woman
The Heavenly Blues
The Gollums
The Supreme Awakening
The Seven Types of Ambiguity
The Cold War
The Street Fighters
The Bank Burners
The Slaves of Satan
The Domino Theory
Maxwell and His Demons
Kachinas of Orabi
Acapulco Gold Diggers
The Epic of Gilgamesh
The Second Law of Thermodynamics
Dracula and His Brides
The Iron Curtain
The Noisy Minority
The International Debt
Three Contributions to the Theory of Sex
The Cloud of Unknowing
The Birth of A Nation
The Zombies
Attila and His Huns
Nihilism
The Catatonics
The Thorndale Jag offs
The Hay Market Bomb
The Head of a Dead Cat
The Shadow Out of Time
The Sirens of Titan
The Piano Player
The Streets of Laredo
The Space Odyssey
The Blue Moonies
The Crabs
The Dose
The Grassy Knoll
The Latent Image
The Wheel of Karma
The Communion of Saints
The City of God
General Indefinite Wobble
The Left Handed Monkey Wrench
The Thorn in the Flesh
The Rising Podge
Sha-Zam
The Miniature Sled
The 23rd Appendix
The Other Cheek
The Occidental Ox
Mizz and the Chairperson
Cohen,  Cohen, Cohen and Kahn
The Joint Phenomenon
The Wonders of the Invisible World
Maul’s Curse
The Jesus Head Trip
Ahab and His Amputation
The Horseless Heads Men
The Leaves of Grass
The Gettysburg Address
The Rosy Fingered Dawn
The Wine Dark Sea
Nirvana
The Net of Jewels
Here Comes Everybody
Pisan Cantos
The Snows of Yesteryear
The Pink Dimension
The Goose in The Bottle
The Incredible Hulk
The Third Bardo
Aversion Therapy
The Irresistible Force
MC Squared
The Enclosure Acts
Perpetual Emotion
The 99 Year Lease
The Immovable Object
Space Ship Earth
The Radio Carbon Method
The Rebel Yell
The Clenched Fist
The Doomsday Machine
The RAN Scenario
The United States Commitment
The Players of Null A
The Prelude to Space
Thunder and Roses
Armagedon
The Time Machine
The Mason Word
The Monkey Business
The Works
The Eight of Swords
Gorilla Warfare
The Box Lunch
The Primate Kingdom
The New Aeon
The Enola Gay
The Octet Trust
The Stochastic Process
The Fluxions
The Burning House
The Phantom Captain
The Decline of The West
The Dualists
The Call of The Wild
Consciousness Three
The Reorganized Church of The Latter Day Saints
Standard Oil of Ohio
The Zigzag Men
The Rubble Risers
The Children of Ra
T N T
Acceptable Radiation
The Pollution Level
The Great Beast
The Whores of Babylon
The Wasteland
The Ugly Truth
The Final Diagnosis
Solution Unsatisfactory
The Heat Death of The Universe
Mere Noise
Eye Opening
The Nine Unknown Men
The Horse of Another Color
The Falling Rock Zone
The Ascent of the Serpent
Ready, Willing and Unable
The Civic Monster
Hercules and the Tortise
The Middle Pilar
The Deleted Expletive
Deep Quote
Lucifer
The Dog Star
Nothing Serious
Preparation H

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Embryos in a Fridge: A question for pro-lifers

Here is a hypothetical situation presented to me a while back, that I
figured I thought to be a good conversation starter.  This goes out to the pro-lifers out
there, especially prohibitionist anti-choice, pro-lifers (I figure a distinction should be made, between to oppose abortion [pro-life], it is another to thing to want the government to impose your opposition to abortion on everyone else [anti-choice]), especially anti-choice
pro-lifers who would argue that a human embryo is morally equal to a fully developed  person.

An embryo is a multicellular diploid eukaryote in its earliest stage of development, from the time of first cell division until birth, hatching, or germination.  In other words the term embryo is used to describe the phase in human development, ranging from the time in
which one is nothing more than a cluster of cells to the time in which the internal organs have begun to develop (Essentially the first 2 months of pregnancy).  I know there are more ardent individuals who argue that a Zygote, or the single fertilized egg cell, is also
morally equal to and deserving of all the rights of a fully developed person, but for this exercise, I think going with the embryo stage is more sensible.  Something about assigning rights to a single cell seems a little absurd, especially when considering the millions of
individual cells that die when I scratch an itch or roll over in bed.

So, anyway the hypothetical situation is this:

You are in a burning building and your are stuck with the choice (how
ironic) of saving either a 3 year old girl, or a refrigerator, full of hundreds of human embryos.  You only have time to save one, so which do you save??

It seems to me that one who holds a human embryo to be the moral equivalent to a fully developed  person, would have to choose the hundreds of embryos in the refrigerator, and yet I cannot imagine that any sane person would choose this option.  In fact, I would say only a monster who has had his humanity and his morality warped, twisted and destroyed by religion and political dogmatism would save the embryos and let the little girl die. Something about this just strikes me as common sense, but I would like to see if any of you out there disagree, and learn what reasons you disagree.  Perhaps there is some flaw in my dilemma, making it a poor analogy, if so let me know.

Also, does this change for you if it is a refrigerator full of fetuses (a more advanced stage in prenatal development)?  Is there a certain number of fetuses or embryos that the fridge must contain to before you can justify saving it over the little girl?

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The Keystone Pipeline is Big Government

Recently, the construction of the controversial Keystone Pipeline was put to a vote in the Senate and lost with one additional yes vote needed to win. Of course all the Republicans in the Senate voted for it as well fourteen Democrats. The yes votes from the fourteen Democratic Senators are unsurprising to me, being that they are a party with a long proud history of support for large scale government infrastructure projects and in practice are just as much in the pockets of big business as their loyal opposition.  It is the universal approval of the project from the Republican Senators that demonstrates what an incredible lie the claim that the Republicans are a party of “free markets” or “small government” is.

Large scale government infrastructure projects such as the keystone pipeline are completely incompatible with either of these alleged “conservative principles”. Such a project would further distort the economy in favor of the oil industry which the Republican party is unabashedly in bed with, and it would employ tax payer dollars on this industry’s behalf. Such cronyism is the exact opposite of the free market or a limited government. This is only made worse by the fact that the project would require great deals of land taken through eminent domain, also known as government land theft.

In a free market, oil companies would be free to build their own infrastructure without tax-payer assistance. They would have to compensate buy or compensate legitimate landowners for the use of their land in the project and they would have to face full liabilities for any unintended damage that takes place. This, in other words, is the exact opposite of what the proposal voted on by the Senate. No consistent conservative (if there is such a thing) could support the current pipeline proposals, while remaining consistent with the state values of his her political philosophy.

Unfortunately when ever self-proclaimed conservatives are in power they always pursue cronyist courses of action at the behest of big business with no concern about their expressed principles or the resulting distortion of the economy. It is as if they they believe anything that upsets liberals and benefits big business, is consistent with conservatism, which is clearly not the case.

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In Defence of My Government Neutrality / Full Liability Position on GMO Crops

I have previously discussed my position on the issue of genetically engineered foods and genetic engineering on this site. Readers of this blog as well as people who know me personally are familiar with my position, but apparently it is not enough for me to merely state it. I have been asked to defend various parts of my position and will do so here.

Simply put my position on GMOs is this:

1. No one should be allowed to patent a genetically engineered life form.

2. Governments should stay out of the business of subsidizing the growing, selling, distribution or development of GMO foods. They should be neutral to this technology.

3. If a someone sells GMO foods under false pretenses, they owes damages, as this is fraud.

4. Governments should stay out the business of attempting to directly influence the decisions of other governments concerning these products. (Leading by example does not count here).

5. If your GMO seeds, or crops or livestock in anyway contaminate or violate the property of anyone else you are liable for damage, with no exception.

6. If you’re GMO foods are responsible for compromises to the health, life or well being of another individual in anyway shape or form, you should be held FULLY liable for ALL damaged caused.

In defense of my first point, all I can say is that patents are simply government granted monopolies. I am of the position that we should not have any such monopolies as I elaborated here, but even for people who reject this position, I would still think the world’s food supply should be the last place we want government granted monopolies. The GMO foods business is largely dominated by a small number of companies, and this concentration of government granted privilege will only get worse if we continue in this direction. People should be free to peacefully use the information and finding of science as they see fit. This should be especially true of research that is government funded. I believe all research findings should be public domain, but this is especially true of research that is publicly funded.

This leads to my second point. I find government involvement in research and development as well as government promotion of some products over others to be problematic in numerous ways. To start government research is by definition tax payer funded: not all tax-payers support this research, why should they have to pay for research they don’t support? After all, forcing people to pay for it only legitimizes the case of the anti-GMO types that the government and big business are colluding to impose this form of technology on people who neither wanted it nor consented to it.

Furthermore, governments are known for being corrupt and generally in bed with big business. Government R&D strikes me as highly likely to favor established firms with large budgets over smaller competitors and would be competitors. Ultimately, I would rather technology emerge as a response to real demand expressed by the consumer. In a market, in which all parties are fully liable for their actions, fraud is not allowed and there are no arbitrary entry barrier or government favoritism, competitive pressures will push toward the development of the most efficient combination of technologies and techniques to meet the actual demands of consumers. Government R&D distorts this process.

My third point to me seems straight forward, but I have heard it objected to by people who do not like the decisions many of the consumers make. Some hate the idea that consumers may make purchasing decisions that are misguided or wrong and labeling measures and even prohibitions against fraud, will enable consumers to make the “wrong choices”. An example that was brought up is the gluten-free craze, which apparently started when people who have no biological need to avoid gluten started buying large quantities of gluten free foods at high prices.

To this I would respond that my stance is simply a consequence of the illegality of outright fraud. If people do not want gluten or GMO’s or whatever, they should be allowed to buy products without them (if the market produces such products) and they shouldn’t have to be lied to or forcibly kept in the dark. This is true even if their reasoning for not wanting these products is misguided or outright wrong. Ultimately it should be up to the consumers to decide what their preferences are. If you think the consumers are making misguided, wrong or stupid decisions, the solution is not to forbid labeling, but to engage in a little outreach and making your opinions known through the free exchange of information.

For my fourth point is largely a consequence of my position of foreign intervention in general, but it largely follows from the rest of my points here. I do not see much further need to elaborate on it. My Fifth point however received bigger objections that I wish to answer.

Mostly the objections consisted of how damages should be determined and what if the contamination actually improves one’s product. For the question of damages, I would say That probably depends on the situation. For example, if A is growing “non-GMO-corn” and has buyer lined-up for it, but B’s “GMO-corn” gets into A’s causing his buyer to nullify the contract, I think B should have to cover the cost A’s buyer would have paid. I am not a legal scholar but I suspect there is sufficient for legal precedent handling more ambiguous cases. Also note, I would hold the same position if the roles were reversed. If A’s “non-GMO” corn somehow compromised B’s crop, A would owe B. This would even be the case if no crops in this scenario were Gmo, or if both were.

In the even the contamination in someway benefits the neighbor, he or she should not be forced to pursue damages, but he still should not be able to lie and sell his crop as if no contamination occurred (as I mentioned above). The point is, if your activities interfere with someone justly acquired possessions or body in a way they did not consent to, you should be held responsible, which I think more than sufficiently accounts for my sixth point.

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Food Stamp Confessions: Why not Just Give Cash?

Years back, I had an enjoyable but low paying job at a small non-profit organization. This was in a new city. I had little money at the time and needed to find a place to live quickly. I found an apartment in a low rent, working class area of the city and ended up staying there far longer than I initially planned. This was not because I had to, but because I enjoyed living in the area and moving is a lot of work in itself.

While I was there I befriended quite a few people with an assortment of backgrounds and pasts. One man in particular was a middle aged divorcee, with many children that he largely had to take care of on his own. His ex-wife neglected to send any form of child support and apparently had legal troubles of her own.  I never knew why the guy had so many kids nor did I wish to ask. In fact I never knew how many he actually had. My estimate is somewhere between six and eleven. But, they never stood still for me to count them nor were they usually ever in one place. It seemed every-time I came by I saw one I had not previously seen. What I do know is that, he spent nearly every moment of his free time tending to them in one way or another. They absorbed all his time and a great of deal of his spending money. I always wanted to ask why he had so many, but I never thought anything positive would come out of that line of questioning.

This was at a time when the economy was not so good, and all the guy could find was a part time job cooking at a fast food establishment. He frequently asked me to assist in finding him work elsewhere, but I did not have many connections in the city at the time and he lacked the background that was needed for work with my employer.

Unsurprisingly, he turned to a combination of the state and the people he knew to make up for the money needed to support himself and his children, which he was not getting from the economy. On days when he had to work short notice, he asked me for transportation, which I was happy to provide. It was only a short distance and I often got a free meal in return. In addition to this he would frequently make arrangements with me, in which I could use his food-stamps card in exchange for cash.

He generally made it worth my while by giving me more in food-stamps than he requested in cash. Though the exact amount varied from time to time, I was often offered a sizable amount more than I was paying out. This kind of bothered the part of me that sees charging excessive interest or imposing pointless user fees as exploitative, but the man was insistent, and my desire to help and my need to feed myself were sufficient to override any unspoken objections I may have had.

The arrangement worked out for both of us for a while. Food was my primary expense  in those days, and he apparently was given more than enough food money for himself and his kids. When asked, he would tell me he spent the cash I gave him on things like clothes for his kids, as well as medicine and diapers, though I know he was not above the occasional pack of cigarettes. Not that I blamed him.

During this time, he was able to purchase a car, which allowed him to get to work without my assistance, causing me to suspect our arrangement helped a great deal. That said, it was not always convenient. He would often ask for cash on fairly short notice, and I had to plan my shopping around times when he could give me his food stamps card. When I did finally move from that area, maintaining the arrangement simply became undoable.

My experiences reinforced my belief that if we are going to be giving people government money, why not just give them cash or some equivalent? After all, if they can exchange it for cash anyway, why not just give them more freedom to make whatever purchases they desire? It seems that much of the opposition to this idea comes from a puritanical belief that people using the welfare state should not be able to use government money for anything but basic needs. As far as I can tell each individual is a much better judge of what their needs truly are than the people wishing to impose such restrictions on them.

 

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Why are Campaign Contributions considered Exercises of Free Speech, but Bribes to Cops or Judges are not?

Most people I talk to are of the opinion that money plays to big a role in the American political system. This is true from people all over the political spectrum. It is also a common observation that campaign contributions in today’s political climate essentially act as a sort of legalized bribery. Even those who justify the current system seem to acknowledge this, if not celebrate in some cases. The primary objection to any sort of campaign finance reform is that campaign contributions are an exercise of free expression. This leads us to the question: Why are campaign contributions considered an exercise of free speech but outright bribes to government official not viewed in the same way?

I would argue that a case can be made in favor of placing limits to how much one can contribute to an official political campaign, without violating any basic libertarian assumptions and it goes as follows. Elections for government office are government functions and  government activities, and as such candidates for government office, while acting in their official capacity as candidates can be viewed as part of the state. I view this as related to Murray Rothbard’s argument that ostensibly private companies whose primary source of funding is government contracts can and should be viewed as part of of the state.

While I doubt many would argue against the notion that incumbent candidates are part of the state, I would go as far as to say that non-incumbents and even third party candidates who have no chance of getting elected serve an important role for the state. They contribute to the perception (whether accurate or not) of the people having a choice and of there being some level of consent of the governed.

As such the state can limit what types of transaction they are able to make while acting in within their capacity as candidates, just like the state can limit the type of transactions one can make while acting as a judge or a cop or companies involved in government contracting. This of course says nothing of what third parties (as in people who are not affiliated with the candidates) can say or do to promote a political candidate, and it does leave open the question of how a candidate can interact with the third parties in question. That said, I think a basis can be found for a libertarian case for limits on contributions to official campaigns or even for publicly financed campaigns. This of course takes for granted that laws forbidding cops and judges from taking bribes are legitimate.
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Thoughts on Voting for The Anti-Establisment Minded

I vote in most elections that I get the chance to, though I am not completely unsympathetic to the argument that electioneering is not a particularly effective way of promoting meaningful change, and that it does often feel like the act of voting is an merely an endorsement of the existing system and all its problematic aspects. At the same time I am also sympathetic to the argument that since the current system does exists and its overlords are selected through voting, one might as well practice defensive voting and choose the lesser of the multiple evils who will be appearing on the ballot. After all, some candidates are genuinely better than others on at least some issues and some really are evil bastards who should be kept out of power when possible.

This is not to say that I think one’s individual vote is likely to sway an election. It is highly unlikely, comparable to winning the lottery or being struck by lightening. Even worse, if one’s vote were able to sway an election it would hardly matter as the entire political system is dominated by a two establishment parties that are mostly the same. The illusion of choice is just that: an illusion. We are still going to see the same crony-corporatism, the same war-mongering and spying on violations of the privacy and civil liberties of US citizens regardless of which of the two big parties are in power. In practice most representatives receive the active consent of fewer than a fourth of the people they claim to represent. While the existence of some form of consent of the governed may be a step above outright dictatorship, one should not fall into the trap of thinking the average person has much influence on who makes the real decisions in this country. This is especially true when one considers the fact that to even get on the ballot one generally has to raise a great deal of money from economic elites and win the approval of party insiders, whose desires are quite different from the general population.

It should be pointed out that while all I said above is true at all levels of government, it is less the case in smaller and more local elections than it is in bigger more nationwide ones. As local and state votes are likely to be the one spot where one hopes any hopes of swaying an election can be realized. So what strategies do those of us, with generally anti-establishment sentiments choose to adopt?

My strategy is generally this:

1. In close elections vote for the lesser evil. If one lives in a swing state or swing district, go for the candidate who will screw you over the least.

2. If one lives in a state or district where the one party is very likely to dominate it why not go third party. In many elections a third party candidate (such as a Green Party or Libertarian Party Candidate or even the occasional Ralph Nader) will be closer to the preferences of many voters than the candidates from the two major parties. One should look into this. Voting for them does show distaste for the two-party monopoly and it could help give the third party more attention and more influence in the debate. Even if the third party candidate in a particular election is sub-par, voting for him or her still expresses satisfaction with the two big parties.

3. Vote out incumbents. If one is not able to find information on a given candidate, or does not find the any of the options particularly satisfying, why not vote against the incumbent. After all keeping a continuous flow of people in and out office undermines their job security, and keeps our officials from becoming too established or set in their ways.

4. Write someone in. Even if you think someone could do better, write them in, or organize a write in campaign.

5. Complain. Make it known your dissatisfaction with the American political process and the the lousy, dishonest cronyism politicians it produces. Whether you vote or don’t vote you have every right and reason to complain and make your feelings in known. Never forget this.

6. Seek alternatives and become active. When you can feel free to engage in protests and boycotts, letter writing and phone and email campaigns. Openly question laws that you find unjust, and when on a jury, vote not guilty when the defendant is charged with breaking an unjust law. When possible avoid working for or buying services from companies that are in bed with the worst parts of the current system (such as companies that are military or drug war contractors ect).

So go vote or don’t but by all means stay vocal and visible.

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