America’s Greatest Weakness (2017Nov01)


Wednesday, November 01, 2017                                              7:27 PM

America’s Greatest Weakness   (2017Nov01)

Today Trump said of the rent-a-truck terrorist, “We have to get tougher.” I’m unclear as to what we are supposed to get tougher towards. Excuse me for wondering what we can do about a 39-year-old Uzbek immigrant of seven years—who suddenly decides to travel to New York City, rents a truck, commits heinous, unspeakable vehicular homicide and assault on twenty strangers, hits a school bus, and jumps out of the truck with a BB gun shouting, “God is great!”

I believe one of New York’s Finest then immediately shot the guy. Someone tell me how you get tougher than that? Or faster? Insanity is such a thorny issue that we like to steer clear of it—preferring to speak in a criminal or political context. Yet were not these the actions of a madman?

Yes and no. In harsher places all around the world, including Uzbekistan, there is some wildness of culture—a clinging to a patriarchal fundamentalism that has never heard of such flighty ideas as ‘inclusion’ and ‘honest modern-day biology’—never mind ‘educating girls’ or ‘gay marriage’.

To such, we ‘first worlders‘ are not to be envied—we are demonic infidels who scorn the true faith (provided them by their Byzantine-minded village elder(s)). And that old fool may be some miserable, ignorant senior, more interested in his own power than anything else—but he has been the font of all their lore, since most of them had learned to talk.

We who have been blessed to be born in America often see no great difficulty in considering ourselves entirely free and equal—but, for those born in oppression, to embrace those ideas is akin to jumping off a cliff. Even many American-born shrink from true self-determination—it is no small thing to take complete responsibility for one’s life and deeds.

It cannot be purely political when a man goes berserk, as this terrorist did—there is madness there, too. Else how could anyone do such a thing? Yes, male Eastern European immigrants of a particular age group seem particularly vulnerable to Jihadist brainwashing—but that still doesn’t make that entire demographic automatically suspect. Remember, it takes a person who is unbalanced enough to be taken in—to the point of mass murder/suicide—by the indoctrination—regardless of where they’re from. These attacks are undeniably terrible—but there are still thousands of Uzbek-Americans who are just like you and me (American, that is).

Besides, the regular, old, rich, white guy who shot up Vegas, mere weeks ago, had a far greater body count—and he was from Florida or someplace. I simply cannot believe that Trump—supposedly an American, supposedly the leader of America, has just called for an end to inclusion. Did I really just hear an American president say, “Diversity is a nice idea—but it’s just not working.”—have I truly lived long enough to have my ears sullied so? Has this fucking idiot perused the census? America is diversity, Donald, you fuckwad—and its greatest weakness has always been goons like you, who refuse to accept that.

Happy Halloween   (2017Oct31)


Tuesday, October 31, 2017                                               2:46 PM

Happy Halloween   (2017Oct31)

In a few minutes, we will have arrived at November 1st, 2017, as I predicted—less than a year from inauguration, and the first indictments of our President’s circle of co-cronies have been unsealed. Information included in those legal issuances leads us to expect much more to come—and that right soon (if I may reference “The Shawshank Redemption”).

Yesterday Chief of Staff Kelly demonstrated more concern for the Confederacy of the old South than for any practical solutions to a nuclear North Korea—or the sudden loss of our military ally in Africa, Chad.

Rachel Maddow recently speculated that Trump’s spurious addition of the nation of Chad to his third attempt at a Muslim ban—had angered Chad, which until then had been supplying military patrols to three of its neighbors. This included Niger, where four US Special Forces would be ambushed and killed less than a week later—by extremists who have historically rushed to fill the void whenever the Chadians withdraw their seasoned troops. What bothers me most about Rachel’s theory is that no one else has brought it up since. I hate when that happens—then I’m left between being lied to by the media—or—being a conspiracy theorist.

The drug lobbyists recently convinced Republicans to block the DEA from being able to track prescription opioid suppliers—an important step in monitoring the commerce of opioids—which the DEA is now denied. Then, Trump announced two things last week—one, that he would not allow funding to fight the opioid crisis (unless it was swiped from Obamacare funding) and two, that we should remember Nancy Regan—and ‘Just Say No’ to opioid addiction. Trump made no mention of the 90% of addictions that begin with doctor-prescribed opioids—or the reluctance of big Pharma to put the speed-brakes on their opioid ‘gravy train’.

But the above is a mere sprinkling of the mountains of misbehavior demonstrating the ethically vacuous character of our current politics. The nature of our present governance catches one torn between wonder at the pols’ perfidy and awe at the voters’ lack of informed self-interest. The reason the Russian encroachment on our public discourse fails to elicit much fury is that we throw so much bullshit at each other, the Russian bullshit hides amidst the noise of what’s already there.

And honestly, the Russians have only taken the Republican’s tactics to their most extreme. That’s why they worked so well—and that’s partially why the Republicans are so slow to condemn them for it.

I wanted to entitle this post “Fuck You, Putin!”, because we seem finally to accept that those fuckers attacked us. And yet, to be fair,

the Russian people are fine people—though under the thumb of a murdering gangster. Twitter, Facebook, and Google reps are being heard in Congress today as that august body tries to determine the best way we Americans may protect ourselves from online disinformation.

One person said it best—‘Awareness is key.’ Now that we know that Trump’s support was partially a foreign attack upon our way of life, it makes a little more sense that we could elect such a disgrace. I hope the next time some candidate tells Americans his or her political opponent is running a child-sex-slave-ring out of a Midwest pizza-parlor, we’ll apply a little judgement.

I know—Putin will remind us all that the USA was surveilling everybody—even heads of state—even their own citizens—not so long ago. But we had a hero who exposed the whole thing—and America reformed itself. When Russian heroes try to pull off something like that—they end up with plutonium in their tea, or a bullet in the head. It’s not about us being perfect, Vlad—it’s about us being still willing to try. You shove your face in your dystopian sand, if you want you, but we still have hope over here.

‘Awareness is key.’ Just as democracy relies on a free exchange of ideas (hence the protections for free speech and a free press) Online content must include a free exchange of sources. I don’t want to go look up the true author of some quote-meme—and I don’t want to have to assume that they’re all false attributions, either. Online media needs to lump its memes in with the rest of their literature—making plagiarism and inaccurate attribution things that are regularly sifted for, to weed out psy-ops—or just plain ignorance-based—dis-information.

And don’t be fooled by the ‘Freedom of Speech’ ploy—it doesn’t protect against incitement or treason. If everything online can be completely false, why should a sane person waste time with it? We’re not talking about ending open-sourced coding here—or muzzling honest dissent—we’re just talking about some standards being adopted. Cyberland is unreliable enough, with actual code-hackers and such—there’s no need to allow purposefully fake news to pass by unchallenged in social media or other public cyberspaces.

My Sincerest Condolences (2017Oct23)


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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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Trump Cherry-Picks Our ‘Freedoms’ For Us (2017Sep25)


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Monday, September 25, 2017                                          4:50 PM

The recent episodes of “Trump’s Tweets” show our hero indulging in his own freedom of speech to condemn others’. He seems to misapprehend the distinction between authority and constitutionality—as if the Constitution’s Bill of Rights were a takeout-menu selection type of thing.

Trump’s so sure in his presentation of his opinions, it’s as if he had reason to be so sure—as if he had carefully pondered all the imponderables, after decades of discussion and experimentation, years of study, etc. But let us not forget that Trump is just blowing opinions out of his ass, strictly top-of-his-head, off-of-his-cuff bullshit that occurs to him, out of the blue—and he rushes to share it with his doting cultists.

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I know that nobody wants to—and I know nobody wants to bother. But let’s take a moment with his ravings-of-the-cycle: We may presume that the president is leaning hard on his own right-to-free-speech when he calls a bunch of people ‘sons-of-bitches’ in public. But he is not—he is using the phrase in a familiar fashion—like a ‘regular joe’, see? He’s so popular.

The more important argument—does this Kaepernik guy have the right to kneel during the singing of the anthem, in protest against civil injustice? Well, let’s see—he started out ‘sitting it out’—and then when people got ‘tudinal about that, he knelt instead—in deference to the flag and the anthem—but still making a protest. This Kaepernik actually had the grace to make concessions in his protest—out of respect for others’ feelings. Trump is more graceless.

But most important, to my thoughts, is that Trump doesn’t see the difference between a deal, a PR stunt, and the hallowed traditions of American ideals. He is of the class that has always gleefully used the USA’s greatness for their own purposes, while giving lip service to its truth—the class that makes it necessary to fight and re-fight these tired old fights about race, gender, religion, and rule of law. Entitled assholes, in other words—but we the people have never before been so well snookered into electing one of these sons-of-bitches.

And now he’s making hay while his son-in-law is shining—while the rest of those worthless GOPs balk at the ever-more-inevitable impeachment. I’d be tweeting random BS, too, I suppose—if I was living in the White House, and had no good goddamned reason to be there.

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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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