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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POEM:  Ode to Navigation (2017Aug26)


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Saturday, August 26, 2017                                                7:58 PM

Ode to Navigation

 

Gusts of emotions push me askew and awry

No star or sun do guide me across the sky

The yaw and roll of time and heart

The mystery of end and start

Awash on a quantized sea, afoam with tessellations

Sighting a castled isle, athwart with crennelations

Spraying up flumes of probability

Dashing upon the rocks of mortality

Knowing that my past had got the best of me

Leaving the rest of me

Sailing into the dusk of danger and death

Parsing the delta twixt fact and faith

Pressing the limits of love unboundeth

Hiking the summit of truth and grace.

Media Milquetoasts   (2017Aug24)


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Thursday, August 24, 2017                                               4:29 PM

Media Milquetoasts   (2017Aug24)

As we know, Trump has a fetish for “I know you are, but what am I?” During the campaign, Trump echoed every accusation HRC made against him: unfit, corrupt, collaborator with Russians, using charity for personal gain, etc. Every time Hillary described an aspect of Trump, he found some paper-thin rationale to throw the accusation right back in her face.

The media, instead of reporting on his fetish for “I know you are, but what am I?”, decided to run every statement he made, as if he had as much reason to say it as she did, even though he had never said anything about any of these things, until someone with a sharp mind had thought them up.

Then, after those countless PR ‘gimme’s, they had to report some facts about Trump lying. Then he, of course, called them liars and ‘fake news’—and, instead of filing a slander lawsuit against him, the media reported on his ‘fake news’ statements, as if he had as much reason to say it as they had, even though he had never said anything about any of these things, while the media had been playing for his side.

Today I felt the assholery peaking at maximum—Trump isn’t just mirroring his critics anymore—his latest psycho-reversal: explaining stupid to smart people. He and his cronies are following up his recent word-salad public statements with commentary about how it all makes a sly kind of sense, if you look at it from Trump’s point of view. Sorry, BLOTUS—‘five dimensional chess’ is just a buzzword, meaning: you’ve crawled so far up your own ass that you can’t back out.

Yet, still, the media hops onboard with the agenda-setter-in-chief—never mind the real actions and consequences happening behind the scenes of this apocalyptic presidency—let’s just keep re-tweeting him and his friends. Sure, that sounds about right…yeah, sure. Besides, real journalism has that pesky ‘work’ element to it—eh?

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Fate Steps In (2017Aug19)


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Seneca lunching across from Danny Glover

Saturday, August 19, 2017                                                3:07 PM

Fate Steps In   (2017Aug19)

The media has a bad habit of equalizing two ‘sides’ of an issue, even when it is pretty clearly a matter of right vs. wrong being the two ‘sides’. But fate continues in its old, natural way—as time passes, those on the left tend to rise in our esteem, and increase in dignity—those who most vocally support the far right tend to fall to scandal, or even criminal charges and prison sentences. This is such a common occurrence on the right that there have been cases of Republicans running for office while standing trial, or even serving time.

Thus the media can equalize all it wants, and muddy the waters of public perception, if they must mock true journalism in this way. But fate will ultimately deal with either side as it has always done. Evil never rests—but that is the beauty of it: evil disrupts everyone, including the unethical. As they fight to enrich themselves through the sacrifice of others, the same amorality bedevils their efforts—just as it does our own. Ain’t that a pip?

The champions of love and inclusion and acceptance—these people naturally attract supporters, and are keeping their eyes on a prize other than their bank accounts . The hate-group members live in such a way as to narrow their community and repel sensible people. And we humans are such silly people that it is a lucky thing that the universe works in this way. Look how we totter on the edge of disaster—even with everything in our favor (except the present government, perhaps).

The Art of the Lie (2017Aug19)


SimonLegree

Saturday, August 19, 2017                                                2:17 AM

The Art of the Lie   (2017Aug19)

You have to give the alt-right credit for being creative liars—even unto what the science-fiction writers refer to as ‘world building’, where they create a planet that is like Earth, but with some major differences.

In the same way, the alt-right is heavily invested in trying to get us all to perceive reality through their own special filter (which removes pesky ideas such as inclusion, human rights, the dignity of the individual, etc.) and simplifies everything down to ‘us vs. them’ and ‘the one with the most money makes the rules’.

Take Steve Bannon—on leaving the Administration he boasted that they had achieved the Trump presidency they wanted, and that from now on, it would be a ‘different presidency’. Would that it were true. The truth, however, is that the presidency is the mess is started out as—and nothing changed except that Bannon lost his job.

But nothing beats Trump for lying. He invented the term ‘alt-left’ during his Tuesday nazi-rally/press-conference, in a stunning attempt to both equalize the Nazi marchers and the counter-protestors—and to pigeonhole any of the vast majority of good Americans who dare to speak against white supremacy, with a dismissive nickname. The truth is, there is no ‘alt-left’—it was an inspired piece of lying by the president—but the 90% of Americans who understand the character of our nation do not call themselves by that label—nor does anyone else.

Thus the question arises—which is crazier: to suffer from delusions or to make a career out of attempting to delude the public? And we can add to that another question: With Trump’s brain so busy churning out moment-by-moment revisions of reality, isn’t it likely that he may himself be sadly unclear about what is real and what is the lie?

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Hurry Up, Mr. Mueller (2017Aug18)


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Friday, August 18, 2017                                           3:50 PM

323,000,000 people live in the United States—61.3% white—that comes to 198,000,000—which leaves 125,000,000 non-white. Anyone preaching division in our country is trying to cause trouble—period.

Human nature is such that any form of institutionalized division, even so-called ‘separate but equal’, will lead us down a path that can only end in persecution, slavery, or genocide. And America is uniquely vulnerable to this abhorrent rationale, being a melting pot, and having hundreds of millions of people from every corner of the earth—every race, every color, every religion, every orientation. If we start to tear ourselves apart, we’d make our first civil war look like a tea party.

So, anytime someone tries to sell you on division or hatred, they’re really encouraging you to partake in a bloodbath. They want your blood to spill. Oh, they’re nice enough about it—all reasonable and logical sounding at first. But their bottom line is death—for ‘many sides’, as the orange fool would say.

In the land of equality, when people claim others are unequal—they are the problem, not the others they’re so aroused about. By their logic, writ large, if any one person on earth committed a crime, we should all be in jail. That’s a lovely fantasy, I suppose—but this Nazism thing is often a symptom of a more general mental mistake—trying to rationalize things into what one already believes them to be, or what one wishes things could be, instead of taking them as they are (as godawful messy as that may be).

So, hurry up, Mr. Mueller. I think Congress is about ready to impeach—as soon as you can tell them just how horrible the whole back-room story is, they’ll no longer have any defense as to why they still sit on their hands while an egomaniac ruins our country.

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