My Sincerest Condolences (2017Oct23)


foundingDoc_02

Monday, October 23, 2017                                               2:13 PM

Condolences   (2017Oct23)

I want to express my heartfelt condolences to the United States of America. Losing so many of your treasured offspring, all at once, must cause unimaginable heartbreak.

Your Separation of Church and State—your eldest—the engine of your supremacy–finally succumbing to the vermin gnawing at her roots.

Your Democracy—between being sold out and being taken for granted—has unbarred the door to ignorance and division, becoming a front for autocracy.

Your Republican Party has devolved into a virtual cesspit—quite openly and publicly–and the fact that they still beat the Democrats proves that the Voters (though less than half of them have earned the right to describe themselves so—except as, perhaps, ‘abstentions’) have forgotten that ‘We the People’ implies some minimal amount of involvement.

Your Freedom of the Press has been imprisoned by media conglomerates—seeking only our attention, not our health—and the news has become a siren song, distracting us from the deadly rocks before us—to focus on an old man’s Twitter-feed.

And that same dirty old man has obliterated your most august Office of the Presidency—coating it with the slime of incompetence, disrespect, oafishness, and treason. His treason is multi-pronged—he attacks the Constitution because it won’t let him be a dictator—he attacks our ideals because he is a misogynist, racist, classist prig—he attacks our education because he doesn’t value knowledge as much as money—and he attacks our self-respect by telling blatant lies, right to our faces, daring us to do anything about it.

O America! You’ve heard bullshit before—it shouldn’t surprise you that the pig who claimed it wasn’t great, by saying he would make it great ‘again’, has leached out every drop of greatness garnered in your two-hundred-plus years of glory. I can’t tell you how sorry I am.

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Policy, Theoretically   (2017Sep27)


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Wednesday, September 27, 2017                                              3:24 PM

Policy, Theoretically   (2017Sep27)

Trump spouts an endless stream of lies, hate-speech, willful obtuseness, and the rhetoric of a school-yard bully (or is it ‘a junk-yard dog’?) yet the media displays these assaults on our society, these insults to our intelligence—then they turn around and talk about the ‘Administration’s policies’, discussing them as if they were ‘thought-out’, or ‘a settled matter’—neither of which is ever the case.

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To talk of a Trump policy is to posit a theoretical—unless we count ‘a pompous attitude and suppressed rage’ as a policy stance. Look at health care (ignoring the GOP for the moment—which, trust me, is the best you can do for them at this point). Trump’s office has never specified a single item of detail on health-care legislation—and Trump has never said anything on the subject that he hasn’t contradicted in some video archive somewhere. He has blamed specific people for his failure. He has attacked his opposition (everybody?) for thinking there is anything good in Obamacare. But positive input? No, Trump doesn’t play that.

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Now everyone is discussing tax reform—referring to Trump on this or that point—but Trump, being pointless, simply functions as a screen for GOP wealthy-donor pandering. He’ll say stuff (My god—as if this overgrown lap-dog could ever stop his yapping!) but it won’t have any bearing on anything besides himself.

The GOP will try to publicly reconcile their overall stinginess with their generosity towards the fat-cat donors, in statements that will push bamboozlement to new heights—but it’ll all be so much bullshit. Nothing new there—except perhaps the new, raw, nakedness of the GOP’s pandering to the wealthy, counter to any public-opinion-poll that shows 98% of citizens wanting the opposite. The wealthy, IMHO, are painting themselves into a corner. When there are only a dozen of them, and ten billion starving outside their mansion walls, what will their money be worth then?

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Alas, we are ruled by people who specialize in winning campaign fights—a mark against them, if anything. Look at HRC—woulda made a great leader—but she lacked Trump’s capacity for hypocrisy and bullshit. It was never about which would make a better president—lucky for Rockhead Man.

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What Happened? I’ll Tell You What Happened (2017Sep12)


New York, Hillary Rodham Clinton

Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks to the reporters at United Nations headquarters, Tuesday, March 10, 2015. Clinton conceded that she should have used a government email to conduct business as secretary of state, saying her decision was simply a matter of “convenience.” (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Tuesday, September 12, 2017                                          11:07 AM

What Happened? I’ll Tell You What Happened   (2017Sep12)

Hillary Clinton’s new book, “What Happened”, has been getting a multitude of similar reviews—all of which summarize her reasoning and smugly find it lacking, for a bunch of self-assured reasons. It makes me crazy to see this reek of misogyny continuing on, as if the election were still in progress.

We all know exactly ‘What Happened’. Hillary Clinton offered the country an intelligent, reasonable choice—and we, in our collective wisdom (or lack of) chose Donald Trump—an idiot we would be hard pressed to find the equal of. It is not Hillary who has to explain herself. ‘We have met the enemy—and he is us.’

The GOP blamed Obama for eight years of struggle to recover our employment rate—forgetting that Bush made the crater Obama then crawled out of. Did Hillary fail to recognize the spasms of rage and resentment being stoked by Republicans, Alt-righters, and Russians? Did she keep her head in an environment where quiet common sense had gone out of fashion? Yes. Does her being a minority of one mean that she should have acted like a carnival barker—that she was the one making mistake after mistake? Sadly, no—that was us.

The media, especially social media, whipped us all into paroxysms of hysteria over the 2016 presidential race—and only in such a fact-free, reason-free, top-of-your-voice environment could we have been turned around enough to have voted in a TV con-man with his hand out, groping for pussy. But hey—that’s What Happened.

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The Ephemeral Nature of Knowledge (2017Sep09)


GiaquintoWinter

Saturday, September 09, 2017                                          11:14 PM

The Ephemeral Nature of Knowledge   (2017Sep09)

In 1975, the two parts of the Apollo-Soyuz mission took off—Soyuz 19 launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, Apollo from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. That’s how things were in my day—information was free, research was shared, all classes were open to audit. Oddly enough, science had to court interest back then.

Now that information has been commodified, the focus has turned to how the new data or discovery can be cashed in on for the highest price—even if it’s just a nuisance lawsuit against an actual inventor. If you want help with your computer, you have to pay for it. In the past, if something broke, you only payed for parts and labor—in our brave new world, we have to pay for explanations about products and services we bought in good faith. That may be the norm, but no way does that make it right and proper.

We see this info-hoarding effecting education, too, in scam seminar universities, scam online degrees, predatory school loans, and a general consensus among the business world that it is now okay for someone to be charged for information—and as always ‘caveat emptor’. Conversely, as Bill Maher addressed in his ‘New Rules’ last night, people can be charged for what they don’t know:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xP13QTOI9z4&list=PLAF22812129BFCD50&index=1

 

There is another side of the information situation—YouTube, Google, Wikipedia, Gutenberg.org, et. al—the Net-Neutrality crowd, so to speak—which allows anyone with computer access to self-educate, up to and including PhD-level science lectures from Ivy League professors on YouTube. The only catch is that it is all public-access, public-domain. For example, let’s look at http://www.gutenberg.org (The Gutenberg Project)—their mission was to make the text of every book available, online, for free.

When I first found this site, I was blown away. Previously, I had spent childhood in the library and adulthood in the bookstores—and neither could ever offer ‘every’ book, much less without leaving home. Gutenberg allows free text downloads of every classic in English literature—the only catch is, they can only offer what is in the public domain. Amazon started selling the for-profit books, the latest, the bestsellers, anything really—it was a bibliophile’s dream, even before they started in with e-books.

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Today, when you go to Gutenberg’s site, it has been hybridized, offering the same free downloads, but with a Kindle e-book-file download-option—so users can keep their reading material all on one device. The oddest part is that some of Gutenberg’s offerings have been re-issued as e-book classics by the publishers of the hard copy—making it possible to buy a book (say Jane Austen’s Emma) on Amazon, that is available free on Gutenberg. I know because I have done it—and keep both editions on my Kindle out of sheer cussedness.

But my point is that if you read every book they have (I’m joking—an impossible task, in one lifetime) you still would not be acknowledged academically in any way. The same is true for whatever you learn online—even the degree-issuing online institutions are condescended to by the analog schools—as if being on-site really impacts most of today’s workplaces.

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However, you can do things with knowledge—that is its ultimate purpose—so even if education can’t get you a job, it can still help you invent your own. Nevertheless, the sheepskin (as a ticket into a well-paid position) is a commodity now—and must be paid for. But all these conditions are just the extremes of greed brought out by the commodification of knowledge.

The real danger is the stagnation of research and development. Not only are the greed for profits skewing the directions of researching, but the findings themselves are kept confidential.

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The boom days of Thinking are over. In Einstein’s time, German universities were hubs of intercourse between academics and scientists, as were the great schools of Britain and the rest of Europe—and American institutions as well. Traveling to mingle with others in one’s field, holding conventions and seminars on the challenges of the day—it was as free as a bird. Nobody knew what an NDA was—hell, scientists at NASA were challenging the government’s Security strictures (mid-Cold War) because they claimed that science could only exist as a global effort, with shared information. Imagine.

And it is worth mentioning that the guy who ran IBM, who put up signs around the offices with the one word ‘THINK’—was not being cute. After two world wars, people didn’t waste time sitting around thinking—no one had had that kind of leisure in living memory. But it was exactly what IBM needed its employees to do. He had to actually encourage them to remember that thinking was their job now.

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The reason for the change was that academics had entered the everyday—it had started with autos and radios and such—but now people had electrified homes, TVs, rocket ships—and as the IBM staff thunk, it only got more complicated and scientific. Now, I’d have to write several paragraphs to summarize all the modern stuff in our modern lives.

But the dichotomy is still there—we still believe that achievement should make you sweat. We still believe that just sitting and figuring something out is a waste of time—‘things are okay as they are’. We are wrong to believe that.

We have accepted all the gifts of technology, but pretended that it was all for free. We are close to recognizing that technology has a cost on our environment—several decades have been spent on that inconvenient truth—and there are still those who refuse to acknowledge the bill coming due.

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We haven’t even begun to address the cost to our society of technology. If we are going to have our children growing up around wireless electronic devices, we need to start calculating the parameters of how much their development will be influenced, or even damaged, by certain gadgets, apps, and games. We also need to address the asocializing effect which smartphones have on both children and adults.

Beyond that, it would be nice to have a grown-up discussion about the fact that half of society has integrated itself with the Internet, to the point of total dependency on its reliability—while the other half is finding ways to disrupt online systems for political or profitable gain, assuring us that the Internet can never be secure in the way we need it.

Yesterday’s announcement about the Equifax hack, exposing private info on millions of Americans and their finances, leaves all those people vulnerable to ID-theft and bank fraud. And this is the same system that runs our banks, our government, our phones, and damn near everything else—while totally unsecure. I’d like to talk about that—wouldn’t you?

Still, the ‘big boss’ paradigm persists—the idea that a strongman like Trump is America’s best choice for a leader, here in the twenty-first century—should be a joke. A man who can’t even use Twitter without typos is the wrong guy to be in charge of an online, subatomic, robotic world, okay? Bluster is still very effective—a lot can be done with bluster. But like many American workers today, having an old skill-set leaves one obsolete for the challenges of today.

And while all the fat cats are getting rich off of each new boner pill or wireless ear-pod, real forward movement in science is relatively crippled by the secrecy and the patent lawsuits and the proprietary research that’s kept hidden.

It’s time for one of my ‘true stories from history’. In ancient China, the emperor’s court was very exclusive—successive layers of the grounds were off-limits to the public and to lesser officials. One of the innermost places was the workshop of the Emperor’s scientists and engineers. When one emperor’s reign ended, the new emperor would appoint new scientists and engineers. In this way, many inventions and discoveries came and went.

In eighth century China, an artificer created the first escapement clockwork—but the usurping Emperor caused all record of the clock’s design (and the clock) to be destroyed. Clocks would disappear, until they were reinvented in Europe, in the fourteenth century.

People tend to focus on firsts—who gets credit for inventing a new thing—who gets credit for noticing some physical constant for the first time? But this story struck me not as a story of invention, but a cautionary tale about the ephemeral nature of knowledge. If the machines break, if the books get burnt (or locked away), if the kids don’t get educated—all technology, all knowledge—just disappears. And information is a lot easier to keep than it is to find.

The way to preserve information is to disseminate it, print it, teach it, put it online, make a movie about it. The way to lose information is to hoard it, to dole it out for a price—as we have seen, when information becomes a commodity, a lot of cheap knock-offs get sold—fake news, scam universities, corporate climate-change denial. The truth is precious is its own right—putting a price-tag on knowledge only corrupts it.

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Dear Mr. President: (2017Jul19)


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Wednesday, July 19, 2017                                                2:52 PM

Dear Mr. President:   (2017Jul19)

Don’t lecture us that ‘Obamacare will fail’. The Presidency should embody a figurehead, not a scolding schoolmarm. And stop pointing fingers, you ‘whiny little bitch’ (credit: Bill Maher)—the last thing a President should ever do is try to shift blame. If our fearless leader is looking around, mewling, “Who, me?” then how will that make America look, to the rest of the world? I don’t mind you embarrassing yourself—you obviously enjoy it, and I could give a damn—but as far as making America a laughingstock—that I don’t appreciate.

Don’t think we failed to notice you’re unable to talk policy specifics with thorny issues like healthcare—we knew you were ignorant about it, going in, and we know you’re a seventy-year-old putz who can’t learn anything new, even if you had the will to do it. Your sales schpiel is all you have in the way of managerial skill—you never need to know anything, just push others to do it and blame them if they fail.

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Undoing Obama’s work towards addressing the threat of climate change may have garnered you a few points with your racist base—but everyone else, in America, and in the entire world, sees it as proof of your idiocy. Your helpless flailing, when it comes to healthcare, tax reform, immigration, or education—pairs nicely with the Republican majority’s dog-who-finally-caught-the-car act.

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Let’s face it—you and your ignorant GOP legislators are typical bullies, becoming enraged, to hide your suspicions that your opponents are correct—and overturning the table because the board-game isn’t going your way. Understand me—it’s no crime to be slow-witted, we aren’t judging you for that, but enforcing ignorance is a crime against nature and man.

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Science Fictions   (2017Jul05)


Wednesday, July 05, 2017                                                10:53 PM

Science Fictions   (2017Jul05)

Improv – Jeans Instability

Before I begin ranting, let me explain about today’s batch of baby videos—I decided to take all the titles from Astronomical Terminology, which I googled—if you want to know what a ‘Jeans Instability’ is, you can google it, too. (It’s the point at which a galactic dust cloud gets massive enough for gravity to start making it collapse into a baby star, though).

Improv – Galactic Tide

As usual, the titles, baby videos, and the piano music have nothing to do with each other—that’s just the way we do things here. Now, on with the lecture:

Improv – Critical Rotation

Greetings, People of Earth. Today’s message is: Things can only get better. I’m sure of it. Honest Abe said you can’t fool everybody all the time—and people are getting a nice, close look at the way things are. Politicians and business leaders can blue-sky all they want about tomorrow—seeing real-time performance on a daily basis, even with all the spin in the world, is harder to dismiss with words. In other words, I think it will be harder for Trump to run on his record than it was to run without one.

Improv – Celestial Sphere

Depending on how the Supreme Court sees ‘gerrymandering’, we might even see some Democrats win an election or two. There’s no limit to how much change for the better may be ahead. Heck, we could win it all—and we’d still have a couple of years of work on legislation and diplomacy before we could undo the damage the GOP has already done (and Donnie helped!), post-Obama.

Improv – Eccentricity

By now, whatever further extremes the Right goes to, those actions will only inflame the backlash of people who didn’t see this reactionary wave coming—and are watching government implode almost daily. Did you hear the departure of the last few people, last week, wiped out the larger White House Office of Science and Technology Policy? You can ignore Science, if it means so much to you—but turning our backs on Science is extremely dangerous—as dangerous as putting its detractors in charge (a pretty ignorant act in itself).

 

We know how scary technology can be—with serious people making the decisions. It gets a lot scarier when things like quality-control become a matter of alternative facts. Humanity has raised a mighty pyramid of technological connections—it is awesome in its complexity, its interdependence—every cog matching every tooth in in every gear, round and round, humming without a break—like a heartbeat from the world. We are letting childish people tear out pieces, clog up chain-links, and throw big, fat monkey-wrenches into this global clockwork.

Freedom of Speech may allow people to bad-mouth Science—and hard-case Ministers may encourage that—but anyone who wants to turn their back on our technology is threatening your life and everything in it. We take our developed-country lives for granted—they only exist courtesy of a gigantic legacy that started with Fulton and Edison—and continues with Jobs and Musk, etc. Trucks, Trains, Ships, Air Freight—spiderwebs of businesses—blizzards of paperwork—from international trade agreements to the economics of your corner deli—and that’s just for all the food and drink. Denying Science is the most retrograde opinion a person could hold—it’s like intellectual suicide.

Respectfully   (2017May31)


Wednesday, May 31, 2017                                               7:07 PM

This whole political snafu is about respect. Our president is supposed to champion our country—and for most people, that means championing what America stands for. It was perfect, in its way—because a lot of bullshit gets sold under the rubric of ‘American Values’—bullshit just as coldblooded a scam as Trump’s administration.

Pompous peacocks have gotten a lot of mileage out of ever-so-solemn reference to our founding principles—and while I disagree with Trump that political correctness is clogging the works—it’s not nearly as bad as the political bullshitting—I agree with the premise: We need to get our government back. So while the country’s middle became unhappy with the neglect and corruption, they sought a champion that would shovel the bullshit out of Washington and get the pipes working again. Unfortunately, all they got was a new layer of fresher manure.

Individuality and new perspectives have always had value—but they are not absolute goods, just an ingredient in a healthy whole. For the individualists and free-thinkers that support Trump, he represents someone who will bypass all the red tape and get stuff done. They applaud when he upsets the bureaucratic apple-carts and garners gasps from the liberal media at all the false gods he throws to the ground. They love the Tweets signaling them late at night that, behind that sober guy at the desk, there’s a fool with no concept of probity—just like themselves.

But in giving respect, finally, to these overlooked groups of people—people who say they want less government—when what they need is good government—Trump has, through ignorance or otherwise, signaled disrespect for things that made our government better. It is no better to blame American values for being in the mouths of corrupt politicians than to blame Islam for being in the mouths of mindless animals.

When Americans support Freedom of Religion, we do not support religious freedom—we do not support religion at all—not in our government. And we do this for the very good reason that people have different religions. Our government has consciously, purposely kept its distance from religion since the Pilgrims settled—they came from Europe—where people killed each other over religion for centuries—and they had no intention of just bringing in the old problems.

There is an unhealthy Fundamentalist Christian group in this country that promotes the ignorance to misunderstand this important principle—and tries to twist it into an excuse for their overweening influence on legislation. These people are dangerous extremists—using our legal system to subvert our way of life—and they can pray ‘til doomsday and it won’t make them any righter. These are some of the people who are finally getting the respect they pine for, from Trump.

Money influences (or simply bypasses) government in much more direct ways than lobbying—often the only way to stop corrupting influences is to arrest the people who break the rules—very rich, very connected people. That can only happen in a country where the law cannot be bought, not in broad daylight.

Many people work for rich people who use their wealth to influence their employees, enlisting them in getting around regulations put in place to protect those employees—and whistleblowers, especially undocumented ones, are a rare breed that usually gets crushed, no matter how the big picture works out. Business owners like it that way—and they don’t like inspectors—and they are finally getting respect from a guy who does business the same way, Trump.

Rich people have a sad habit of starting to look down on others—as if their money put them in a higher level. Money madness—poor people know who they are—they don’t look to possessions to define themselves. I’m not saying we should hunt down all the rich folks, or anything, I’m just saying it doesn’t hurt to put them in their place sometimes. But they too see a kindred spirit in Trump.

I think it’s the American Dream idea—lots of people dream of making it big, having it all, and giving back. Some people leave off the last part, making their American Dream into a lonely, rapacious video game, where you never win enough money and possessions. America used to whine less about helping others—we were eager to do what we could to lift up the less fortunate, to let them and their children have a shot at living a nice life. Now all we do is bitch about our taxes being used for ‘no-accounts’—like, who died and made you the fucking king of the hill?

Let some of those rich bastards fall on hard times—suddenly, they’re filled with wisdom—from living on the street, from feeling like they need help and it’s not there. Like you couldn’t empathize with this back when you could have done something to help? You had to have your face rubbed in it? Eau de humanite.

Anyway—getting off topic there. So: respect. Middle America wanted it—and they got it. They did not get better government (my money is on worse, much worse) but they did get respect, for now, and they’ll keep supporting him until something changes their minds. What that is I couldn’t say. A lot of them will be dead by the time their kids and grandkids have to deal with the damage from the Trump presidency—so I guess they did the right thing, as they saw it.

But I can’t help pointing out that Coolidge tried to create the League of Nations after the first World War—and failed. Truman tried to create a United Nations after the second World War—and when that failed to fully form, NATO was created to act as a bulwark against any future rogue alliances bent on war.

If you will consider their times, you can see that they not only wanted peace—they were sick of the horror of war. Millions of corpses littered the world’s largest land mass—twice—and sensible people felt that war had no profit for anyone—and led to much death and destruction—no brain-teaser there. But we have had half-a-century to develop amnesia, or extreme myopia, call it whatever you like—and we don’t have the least idea of the suffering that a third global conflict would visit upon us.

And that specter demands some respect, too.

The Russians aided the Trump campaign—and characterizing that as an ‘excuse for losing’ misses the point. Being infiltrated by Russians is a bad thing—and the worst thing about it would be not to recognize that the Russians have fed you lies. The next worst thing would be the reasons why we were so easily played—how could this work on us?

The bad guys have found a way to weaponize Free Speech—and that makes it important for all of us to become smart-asses—people who look things up and study original sources and work on checking the math. We need to become too smart to fall for their bullshit—and it starts with recognizing that it happened.

Public education was one of America’s great advantages against the rest of the world—and we have fallen behind, forgetting the tremendous value of educated, highly skilled, even innovative young people. And we are blind to the great expense of being negligent of citizens in need, especially the young. A productive citizen is an asset—a neglected citizen becomes a liability. It’s simple logic—there’s no bleeding heart here—it just makes sense to do the right thing. Anyone who says different has a touch of the sociopath.

So, Trump has taught us a valuable lesson—the road paved with bullshit leads to madness. We can no longer rely solely on the United States to function automatically—we have to build new voting blocs of people who want to do the right thing, who feel better with a real leader at the head of our state, and will not condemn their own children in their eagerness to deprive the children of strangers. Which is harder, getting the voters or finding the candidates amongst honest Americans? It’s an impossibly huge job—but that’s what happens when you put democracy on two-party cruise-control for a full century.

Or we could just wave Democracy bye-bye, as the fat cats work their mindfuck magic on the unsuspecting pod-people, and we all just watch TV.