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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Oh, I Hope So (2017Sep07)


bible8

Thursday, September 07, 2017                                        11:33 PM

Oh, I Hope So   (2017Sep07)

I feel a tremendous sense of freedom lately—recent events have created the same sense of hyper-alertness, of being under attack—as a nation—that we felt for so long after 9/11 (the 16th anniversary of which is hard upon us). But we have recovered from the surprise ambush of ignorance—we have taken the measure of the beast now—and we see many ways to maneuver against Trump, his supporters, and his oligarch buddies over in the new Mob-run Soviet.

Instant destruction still looms, of course, but aside from the willful rush towards it, nothing is really new. So I’ve recovered from the sense of dislocated reality—I’ve got ahold of myself, and I have faith that the backlash will ultimately blow his weave right off his empty noggin.

Direct proof of Russian meddling and mischief—above and beyond the attempted hacking of voting machines, above and beyond the WikiLeaks disruptions—traced the spreading of lies through social media to Russian troll-farms pretending to be American Conservatives, posting disinformation on Twitter and Facebook—investigators can give hard data on the perpetrators now, so it can no longer be dismissed as mere rumor.

Evidence has also been found to indicate that Russian meddling very definitely saw Hillary’s defeat, and Donald’s sneaking a slim victory, as unexpectedly sweet revenge for Putin and a strategic victory for the Russian State. Of course, in spite of this solid picture that’s forming, we have an enthralled, segregated sector of Americans who still access ‘alternative news’, even as we expose ‘alternative news’ as a Russian disinformation and disruption campaign.

More importantly, we face a conundrum: Trump lies like a rug about America and the Federal Government and the elected officials. So does Russia. Are these two forces of evil coincidentally centered on the same presidential election? Or were they coordinating their lies for the promise of Russian banking loans and development deals? We’ll see, eventually, I guess. But, in the meantime, I’m satisfied that serious people are out there proving that Trump is dishonest to the point of treason—as I’ve shouted (in blog-post style) for over two years now.

And that lets me off the hook. Sure, I’ll remain a voice crying in the wilderness, blog-wise, but I’ll go back to focusing on basic principles and apparent paradoxes in current American events—now that the Trump-effect is starting to flicker and dim. I think we, as a nation, have finally hit bottom and come (partially) to our senses—beginning the long climb back up to a citizenry that would only laugh at the idea of a Trump presidency. Or, at least, I hope so.

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Can You Make Change? (2017Sep06)


FDR_1944_Color_Portrait

Wednesday, September 06, 2017                                              6:16 PM

Can You Make Change?   (2017Sep06)

In the Era of the Stupid President, we are all searching for answers: How did this happen? Who voted for the con-man and why? Were we tricked by the media, by Russia, or by Trump himself? How can we validate online sources and avoid ‘fake news’? Will our country survive four years of deliberate malfeasance—and, if not, why is he not impeached yet?

But I think I’ve found a central issue: How do people deal with change? And the answer is: Really badly.

As we grow older, we fight against accepting the change in ourselves. When people are presented with a new idea, they tend to fight against hearing it, to fight against accepting it, and to fight against living by it. Americans, being ‘free’, have a tendency to overdo our fight against change—we often claim our right to be wrong (even when it hurts others—which removes it from the arena of personal freedom).

And, as a nation that does poorly with change, we are the most vulnerable country in terms of future shock and disruption overload. While electronics and microbiology and nanotech and DNA-sequencing transform global culture, erasing millions of old jobs and habits, creating millions of new challenges and changes—we experience the drag of a national culture that has learned to be oblivious.

While less than a tenth of Americans (I’m guessing) are actively involved in making the future, at least half of us are so uninvolved that we don’t even vote. Our academic standings have dropped compared to the rest of the world. Our manufacturers move jobs to make a quick buck, leaving us shouting about lost jobs—while robotics inexorably replaces all manufacturing work.

Instead of growing our country with unlimited free wy-fy, we make it a commodity—guaranteeing that wy-fy will be withheld from the most desperately hard-striving half of the country. Instead of making healthcare a universal right that we can all rely on (at a sixth of what we spend now) we support the insurers and pharmacists that see healthcare only as a cold-blooded cash cow. We the People? Sounds more like We the Entrenched Business Interests to me.

People, generally, don’t change. They will follow someone they respect into a new paradigm—FDR, JFK, and Obama are a few examples. But without an idealist who also happens to have charisma, Americans are lemmings. We’re in lemming-mode right now. We need a leader. Or we need to learn to deal with change much more courageously.

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President Barack Obama is photographed during a presidential portrait sitting for an official photo in the Oval Office, Dec. 6, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Harvey Fail (Among Others) (2017Sep01)


KConway

Saturday, September 02, 2017                                          1:09 AM

Harvey Fail (Among Others)   (2017Sep01)

We’re getting a broader picture of Trump every day—last week’s failure to condemn hate groups was followed by this week’s failure to achieve the proper tone at a disaster-site photo-op. His loyal Kellyanne Conway is back with her special brand of neuroti-spin. First she claimed that Climate Change was too broad a subject to focus on, while Texas was still mid-disaster—then she claimed the Trump’s tax-returns were too narrow a subject to focus on, while Americans wanted their own taxes lowered.

I suppose that’s a step up from her early work, when she would simply accuse interviewers of asking stupid questions and go on to verbally dog-paddle until her mic was turned off. Nevertheless, her footwork in the face of reality is unerring—like a little child who blurts out, “It wasn’t me!” before anyone even accuses her of something. She starts from the premise that anyone who asks her a question is a bad person—which makes it okay for her to respond with venom rather than reasoned rebuttal. But she does do a great imitation of reasoning. It’s a shame, really—she’s that close to actually making sense, while still missing it by a mile.

She used to be one of a crowd—we don’t see that crowd of apologists for Trump anymore—just the beleaguered few remain—Kellyanne and Sarah Huckabee, maybe one or two others—those whose connection to reality has never been as strong as their drive to win the PR contest. Americans, take note—those best able to win a popularity contest aren’t going to be the best at running the Administration.

But that stop in Corpus Christi was pretty chilling wasn’t it? That clown waddled around, trying to rev up his ‘audience’ for a rally—completely overlooking any mention of the deaths of Harvey’s victims, completely forgetting that it’s a good idea for the president to reassure a disaster zone that the whole country is behind them. Then he had his Phoenix rally the next day—what a schmuck.

And I think there’s a popular meme in our culture—the strong, silent male (like Gary Cooper or John Wayne, for example) that provides cover for other types of men. Some men aren’t ‘strong and silent’ because they repress their manly feelings—they’re ‘strong and silent’ because they’re cold and uncaring. Trump doesn’t look embarrassed when he’s caught in a traditional touchy-feely moment—he looks annoyed, as if wondering how long he has to pretend to be a caring human being until he can go back to his self-absorbed ego trip.

With the Trump/Russia scandal spilling over into New York State and the IRS, one gets the feeling that a tumor is growing under Trump’s façade. And with Trump still believing that he can zig-zag his way through legal troubles, just as he’s always done, ignoring the fact that the presidency is different—well, he should ask Bill Clinton about that, is all I’m saying.

I mean, look how clueless this rube is—by donating $1,000,000 of his personal fortune to Harvey victims, he makes two mistakes for the price of one. Firstly, he’s reminded everyone that he has not put his assets in a blind trust, as real presidents do—and, secondly, he’s trying to make the sun shine out of his personal ass when what he should be doing is preparing the billions in federal relief planning that he’s in charge of.

But that is something only a person who gave a shit about the Harvey victims would do.

POEM:  Ode to Navigation (2017Aug26)


20170826XD-POEM_Ode2Navigation_01

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.

A Lover of History (2017Aug26)


BoucherAllegoryOMusic

Saturday, August 26, 2017                                                3:30 PM

A Lover of History   (2017Aug26)

I’m not a believer, but I sing “God Bless America” just as loud as anyone else—I love this country. And I admire its greatness—its ideals, its inventions, its victories, and its opportunities. When Trump says MAGA, he simply reveals his ignorance of America’s true and enduring greatness—something he has continued to do for over 200 days now.

America is a dream dreamt by most of the rest of the world—not the land, but the culture of freedom and inclusion and opportunity—that’s America’s greatness—and ironically, it is threatened by the very con-man who ran on MAGA. Big surprise, right?

But I don’t want to discuss that blimp today. I want to talk about seeing America with open eyes—seeing that, in spite of its many achievements, there is plenty to regret in its bloody and divisive history. We are currently at war with a country that surrendered to us sixteen years ago—and at war with another group borne of the fighting—that’s some sad, stupid shit.

But America’s history is not a pretty picture. Those of us with the luxury to sit around and post online all day, with a fridge full of food and an electrified house and good roads—we tend to forget that it took over four hundred bloody, horrifying years to get here—and if we’re not mindful, it will all go down the drain.

GiaquintoWinter

First, we killed off all the innocent native people, who lived here before we ‘discovered’ it. Then we set to shipping as much of the natural spoils (fur pelts, lumber, new products) as possible back to Europe. Britain and Europe sent criminals and refugees off to our country—just to remove such people from the civilized world.

Okay, that was glib—but let me just say that I still respect Americans who take pride in their pioneer and settler forebears—that process was a grueling one, demanding incredible courage and sacrifice. But it was also a bloody one—and the pioneers were, from the aboriginal viewpoint, merciless invaders.

Even when native Americans surrendered to the ‘civilized’ white people, it was always a lie—the colonists and later, the United States, would always make a binding pledge to their captives—and then turn around and break it—always. If one is proud of one’s heritage, it’s always dangerous to examine that history too closely.

Further, let me point out, the Europeans prized furs and lumber because they had denuded the European landscape of same—even without the benefit of industrial technology, human beings, like goats, can destroy an ecosystem simply by living there.

Also, the vast majority of immigrants (colonists) being criminals and refugees made for a rather anti-establishmentarian culture in the North American part of the ‘New World’. Eventually, we rebelled against the Church, the King, and wrote Founding Documents that specifically direct the citizens to keep firearms and rise up against the government again—whenever we weren’t happy with the people in charge. And people wonder why the United States has ten or twenty times the annual gunshot deaths of the rest of the world combined.

So, that’s just for starters—then we started kidnapping Africans, shipping them to America and making slaves of them. It seemed like a great idea at the time, I’m sure—but, in hindsight, it had a few problems. And slavery was the worst of it—but it was far from all of it.

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The white, English-speaking Protestants (along with the Dutch in New York) have always exuded a pompous, entitled discrimination against anyone from out of town—like Peyton Place people. They persecuted the Asian immigrants, the Irish immigrants, the Scandinavian immigrants, the Italian immigrants, the Polish immigrants, the Jewish immigrants, the Indian immigrants—I know I’m leaving a few out—Americans love their pet peeves.

Nor is this ancient history—as a child, I remember people discussing whether an Irish Catholic (John F. Kennedy—and me) could ever be elected president of the United States. But African-Americans still win—white America has, somehow, made a fetishistic art-form out of hating African-Americans.

We’re the only country with an entire region characterized by a nostalgia for the ‘good old days’ of African-Americans in chains. We’ve had a hundred years of ‘the first Black this’ or ‘the first Black female that’—and you’d think Barack Obama’s two terms would put a period to all that, but no—there’s still some slots open for discriminating white people to take note of.

We even have a white nationalist movement—right now—that sees a leveled playing field as ‘reverse racism’—these are many of the same yahoos that complain that our religious-freedom-laws are an imposition on the freedom of their religion—no one has the heart to explain to these morons that that’s what it’s for.

But all the above is just human nature—we haven’t even started on how greed (aka Capitalism) has transformed our environment, our lives, and our laws—even our elections. But pollution, corruption, neglect, and community apathy are all much too complex, ingrown, and depressing for me to go into here and now.

All I’m saying is that America is neither simple nor easy, neither perfect nor perfectly evil—it is a struggle, a moral experiment, a system that bets on good against bad. It is complicated enough that sloppy-thinking, ignorant people like our president just get in the way of people of good will—the entitlement that makes them ignorant of our true character is the same entitlement that makes them a danger to the character of our nation.

GiaquintoAutumn

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