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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Presidency, Bought & Paid For (2017Jul25)


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Tuesday, July 25, 2017                                             8:26 PM

Presidency, Bought & Paid For   (2017Jul25)

I don’t follow the Trump story anymore—what it boils down to is this: the man is unfit for office, and it’s a matter of whether, and when, the Republicans will finally reach their collective limit, in supporting this destructive and dangerous clown. Meanwhile, the Democrats should be focused on what they’re going to do—their hands are tied for the next several years, no matter what happens with Trump—and they have to reach the people with some hard truth. Otherwise, they’ll just stay ‘Republican-lite’.

Perhaps we’ll learn from a bull-in-a-china-shop like Trump that our government is very fragile, in some basic ways—informed engagement being foremost among its needs, in a democracy—and that government and business are two separate things for an excellent reason—government is supposed to be For the People. Business is just about the money.

Now, before you get started—yes, money is everywhere—in everything from how well we can raise our children to whether we can afford life-saving medicine. But businesses are not required to concern themselves with that—they are concerned solely with how much money comes in and goes out.

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Government regulations, government inspections, government testing—we hear a lot of bad-mouthing of these activities, as a rule. But we only hear from the business interests that find government quality-control too great an expense. If anyone wants to bad-mouth the EPA, or the FDA (or whatever few government regulatory agencies have survived the business-friendly Republicans) it should be about how their function isn’t being fulfilled properly.

Arguing against government regulation is stupid. Arguing to make regulations ‘more better’—now, that’s a good idea. If you take home packages of food and bottles of drinks, don’t you want to know that the people that sell it are legally liable if they get careless with your family’s food? Of course business will always criticize government—they don’t want any rules. But they need them—or rather, we need them—to protect us from rampant business without a conscience.

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Remember when Volkswagen had half-a-million ‘volks’ driving around what they thought were fuel-efficient, eco-friendly cars—and they were simply cars with ‘lying’ emissions readouts. That’s what you get when you have rules in place. Imagine a reason to “let up” on business watchdogs—I dare you. We need consumer protection, eco-protection, and employee protection. The lack of sufficient government oversight is the reason we have so few, but very rich, people now—and most workers haven’t seen an increase in thirty years.

That’s hundreds of millions of Americans being taken advantage of by what Senator Sanders calls ‘da Big Banks’. That’s the trouble with technology—if this were pre-industrial times, no way such a small group of people could sit on mountains of money while everyone else struggles.

If the American Revolution hadn’t happened when it did, it couldn’t have worked—if we’d waited until the British had Gatling Guns, we’d have lost. Of course, you correctly point out that the Gatling Gun was a product of our Civil War, and so wouldn’t have existed—but someone would have come up with something like it, so I maintain my point holds. Automatic gunfire is the ultimate crowd control—so, nowadays, anyone who can hire a gang of mercenaries with automatic weapons becomes a small nation unto themselves.

The mindless power of wealth is armed with all the latest weapons—if we are not already adopting paranoia towards its potential to enslave us all, we are not being careful enough. While we, as individuals, meander through our destinies, trying to get by and minding our own business, the wealthy are plotting to become more wealthy. Why?—because that’s how they got wealthy. And with all that money, they can lobby legislation, they can ‘buy’ influence for ‘their’ candidates, they can tell a whole town full of employees ‘how it’s gonna be’.

Wealth is powerful—but it doesn’t think—or feel. It is a danger when uncontrolled and we knew it, long ago. But ever since the last World War, propaganda for a stronger military—and against socialism—has turned Republicans against their better interests. We already have some Socialism in our government—and it does a lot of good. Taxes are a form of socialism, too—in their own way—they are a collective asset, spent for the good of all.

Humane, safe, fair conditions for employees—that was a struggle fought over decades. And the owners that opposed the workers cited Socialism as the problem. Socialism is used as an insulting label by Conservatives—any group activity they disapprove of is Socialism—if they approve of it, it’s the Right to Assemble being exercised. These people have always been villains—the fact that one of them is probably your employer doesn’t make them the one good guy out of the rest—he or she is the most dangerous—because they hold your life in their hand.

Conservatives have to stop chowing down on the s**t-sandwich that is ‘a business-friendly’ government. Any time the government takes the side of business over the people, they are disgracing themselves—all these congressional bills pampering the big industries (and their profits) are a betrayal—and people don’t see that. It’s very frustrating. You don’t see the media taking this perspective—maybe it’s because they are owned by a bunch of fat-cat oligarch-types.

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Sunday, July 23, 2017                                              1:11 PM

Butterfly   (2017Jul23)

The butterfly was very curious about me (‘though I don’t know why—I’m wearing black pants and a grey shirt—and I’m pretty sure I don’t smell like perfume). It flew around and around me, up and down—it especially liked my ears, which freaked me out a little. I noticed then that the butterfly was just one of hundreds of butterflies, bugs, bees, and bits of tree falling in the light breeze.

The fact that the air was full of anomalies reminded me about outer space—about how space isn’t a pure vacuum, that there’s plenty of dust and particles. If a starship went through space fast enough, it would have its nose-cone eroded by the friction of passing through that dust and whatnot—just as when a car on the highway will see its windshield accumulate a layer of squished bugs.

The Most Dangerous Game (2017Apr03)


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Monday, April 03, 2017                                          10:47 AM

We like to pride ourselves on our progress—we’ve conquered the apex predators with stones and bones, conquered the elements with clay and lumber, conquered hunger with agriculture and husbandry, conquered thirst with aqueducts, pumps, and plumbing, conquered winter with fire, and conquered boredom with the arts and sciences. Using these tools, we expanded our species from its niche-point to cover the globe.

Taking all that success as encouragement, we entered an industrial age, an atomic age, and a digital age—our control and manipulation of matter, energy, and other life is impressive. But there’s one thing we don’t control—ourselves.

We have laws, treaties, and understandings—but these are frail things that leave us still with a substantial amount of war, crime, and violence. We have some socialism, but it still leaves substantial numbers of children hungry, sick, uneducated, and generally underserved. We have some equality, but it still leaves substantial numbers of wealthy people able to take advantage of others and skirt the law.

We have a representative government—but somehow it fails to represent us all. As soon as the Constitution was ratified, self-serving people have sought to circumvent its spirit—two centuries later, they’ve got the whole thing pretty well hacked. Now, it is a joke, and we elected a clown who, evidence indicates, has no idea what it says in the document he swore to uphold and defend.

I could live with a venal president who wanted only to line his pockets. I could live with a conservative whose ideals are premised differently from my own. That’s democracy—but how does a perverted, ignorant narcissist get elected? Border-line-legal corruption and intentional confusion are the only answers. We are still waiting for the answer to the question of whether legality’s borderline was, in fact, crossed—and the crooks are in charge of the investigation, so we’re not holding our breath.

Trump is the poster-boy for our present day crisis—people need to have unity and inclusion. Patriotism, capitalism, tyranny, and secrecy are all opposed to unity—these ideas split us into ‘teams’ that work against each other and fear each other. Wealth also breeds disunity, making poor people resentful and rich people paranoid. This is a bad thing for a global community that is on the edge of climate change, habitat loss, resource shrinkage, and overpopulation—and anyone considering making the whole thing worse with a ‘limited nuclear exchange’ is just flat-out psychotic.

Income inequality wouldn’t be such a big deal if there were a bottom to the lower end of the income scale. If everyone could be sure their families had plenty to eat, public education, internet access, and all the other necessities of modern life—then having rich people driving around in fancy cars would simply be an annoyance, at worst. The reality is that these people take and take, in the face of millions who go wanting—and that’s sociopathic.

Capitalism was founded back when the class system was still the norm—that is why the vast majority of its participants, the laborers, fight even today to get their due—their nature was defined back when their equal value as humans was ignored. That is why capitalism, an inherently mathematical idea, became nothing more than a re-tread of monarchial rule. Capitalism allows us all a loophole, where we can ignore the Constitution (and all decent human instinct) in favor of owners’ rights and the laws of property.

Now, I want to keep my property as much as the next guy—I own a home on a piece of property, a car, appliances, and books and other sundries. Compared to most of the third-world, I’m in the lap of luxury—and I consider myself to be so. But there should be limits on property—if I had $85 billion, like the Koch Bros., I would consider it only fair that I disburse some of that money to other people, perhaps hungry children or college students who can’t afford their tuition. Just keep a few billion—anyone who feels strapped because they only have a couple of billion bucks is living in a fantasy world.

Financial institutions try to frighten us with ‘Cold-War’-like warnings of the Chinese or the Russians having bigger financial cannons—that’s nonsense. A more grass-roots, localized economy is stronger in the long run—and less likely to abuse its power. Greed will continue as major motivation for so long as we refuse to recognize the unfairness of capitalism—and greed, at this point in our civilization, is a fatal addiction. Unity is the only health food that can wean us off of greed.

So we must recognize that our government is infested by greed—and our mass media, too—and we must begin some sort of underground that circumvents all these broken institutions, without becoming just another problem in the mix. Human nature defies us to try—nothing has yet withstood the rot of corruption—even the great experiment that was America is frayed and torn. But those men in Philadelphia made a good jab at the problem—and perhaps our best tribute to them would be to try for something new, like they did, in spite of the odds against success.

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Ceding Power To The Pig (Snort!) (2017Jan03)


Tuesday, January 03, 2017                                                6:22 PM

20141019XD-StandardsSunday (35)To many people someone like me is going to seem like an alarmist, an inciter, a stirrer-up of trouble—trying to upset the boat when everything is mostly working out just fine. What’s so wrong (I imagine them asking) with the world today—especially with the United States—with the status quo? And truly I have no rebuttal to that—for many millions of people, life is better than it has ever been before, in the history of all mankind. The tremendous lace-work of global civilization, with its titanic industries and giant manufactories, with the endless cycle of tons of material—necessities and luxuries—that circle the globe by sea, by rail, by truck, and by air, the smooth operation of all the stores and shops, restaurants and theaters, schools and hospitals, universities and laboratories—our world is a marvel.

And if the United States of America isn’t the epicenter of that marvel, I don’t know where else it could be. Everything is state-of-the-art: communications, transportation, engineering, entertainment, agriculture, medicine—most of the modern world originated here, if not literally, then in spirit. And I wish us all the best—me, you, whoever—I hope the whole thing outlasts all the neglect and abuse heaped on it by we who have come to take it all for granted.

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But, just as a person may be very good at securing a high post, yet have little ability to do the job once hired—it’s looking like the USA was well-equipped to invent the future, but has given no thought at all to maintaining all its healthy ambition, now that Babel has reached thunderbolt-calling altitude.

An older America, full of empty space and potential, loved rapid growth—we suffered boomtowns and cities choking on their own waste—conditions were such that a modern business or local government could never get away with the health risks, the dangers, and the unfairness inherent in an open town, with more traffic in change than in civilizing influences.

And the laws and ordinances that prohibit such chaos today were enacted only after the rush of development had settled and slowed to the point where people started to care about their homes and communities as much as whatever commerce was going on.

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Plus, new business in the present would not be filling a void. Today’s new business is far more likely to impinge on some other business’s market. The kind of growth that made America a ‘big-shouldered’ country—that’s all over. And the cracks that allowed people to avoid being imprisoned by Capitalism have all been filled.

When the power of Capitalism was more potential than actual, the idea of ‘every man for himself’ made things as fair as such things can be. But now we have a mature Capitalism, fully formed and, more importantly, entirely owned already—by a surprisingly small group of people. They not only own all the old stuff—they are strategically poised to acquire any new stuff from the puny inventors or entrepreneurs that find new ways to break through the status quo.

But it is not simply a stranglehold on the common man or woman, whose chances of making it big from scratch are on par with winning the Lotto—it is a stranglehold on the culture. Our legislators and our courts spend virtually all their time and energy on serving the wealthy—good governance and justice have become antiques, found only rarely, in tiny, out-of-the-way places.

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Our obsession with absolute property is itself a symptom of the stagnation and stultification of mature Capitalism—corporations own people’s likenesses, they own people’s silences—they even pay scientists to do research, insuring that, if they can’t own the truth, they can at least obscure it.

Capitalism, Progress, the American Dream—whatever you want to call it—its job is done. We don’t need to build empires anymore—they are built. We don’t need to access our natural resources anymore—they’ve been accessed. We don’t need to build a Republic anymore—it’s been given infrastructure, industry, wealth, and power—all its citizens can talk to each other, from any place at any time—we are the envy of the world.

Our biggest and only problem is recognizing that the ends our forebears worked towards have been reached—period—full stop. Our job is not to keep hammering our heads against the family wall—it is to take stock of what we have—of where we’ve arrived—and try to find some new way forward. Hopefully it will have something to do with taking responsibility for the deprived victims of our present system. Hopefully it will reverse our present system’s tendency to empower the entitled, elitist pigs, like our fresh-baked president-elect.

Before Sundown, Every Day (2017Jan02)


colethomvoygolife2-d2

Tuesday, January 03, 2017                                                1:03 PM

Congress voted to do something truly stupid the other day—then they changed their minds in the space of 24 hours, and decided not to do that particular stupid thing. I’m not sure which is worse: the poor judgement that first led to the initiative, or the mercurial, chicken-without-a-head nature of this totally corrupt majority in Congress.

But I do not call them corrupt because they were trying to disintegrate an ethics watchdog (created not so very long ago—because of all their corruption). I refer to the corruption of their wetware—the bad programming in their heads. These people get elected through gerrymandering legerdemain and mass media tap-dancing—they answer to sponsors, not to voters. They have no ethical motivation—and they have no need to make even a pretense of it.

They are misguided, thinking that to succeed in politics is to succeed in government. They are misguided, thinking that winning at Capitalism is winning at survival. But what misleads their thinking most often is this idea that having the world’s most powerful military gives us the most influence over the world.

The best idea is always what has the most influence on the world. Our nation’s preeminence can be directly traced back to the best ideas—even our vaunted military is the product of thinking, done in an open-minded society that valued creativity and vision—and many other freedoms.

Our penchant for ownership of creative and scientific efforts is the latest and most deadly infection of Capitalism—first created to protect inventors and artists, copyright and trademark laws now operate as a means for corporations to ‘own’ the efforts of its best and brightest employees, without any requirement to give them equal value in return. It also acts as a shield of legal secrecy about any shady dealings that can be labeled (however pretentiously) ‘proprietary knowledge’.

Monday, January 02, 2017                                                1:11 PM

The airwaves are supposed to be for the public good, but they have become ‘profit centers’ instead. We can weigh, one supposes, the value of all the people employed by the entertainment industry—who support their families through television, and through advertising—against the total lack of value, for the viewer, in any of the garbage that gets broadcast one way or another to the various screens that fill our lives.

The schools are supposed to be for the public good, but now they either snooker you out of your money with fake classes, a la Trump U., or they give you an ‘actual’ education by handing you over to the loansharks. The loansharks will be a bigger part of your future life than the education, in many cases—so now many people seriously consider whether they really want to bother ransoming their youth for the sake of a sheepskin, or whether they might be happier in a trade. That sort of attitude is bound to keep America at the forefront of innovation—he typed facetiously.

Government is, of course, supposed to be all about the public good, but its rules against bribery and corruption do nothing to protect our legislators from lobbyists whose sole task is to influence in favor of special interests. Add in all the nonsense about fund-raising and campaigning becoming the higher priority than the actual job one was elected to do—all bound up with the perceived primacy of media-spending over fitness for office—and you get the kind of ‘democracy’ that we find ourselves stuck with today.

Capitalism goes beyond money and transactions—even beyond a way of life—it is a way of distorting reality, to make nonsense seem oh-so-sensible. Our public forums, our educational system, and our government are all baldly under the sway of the wealthy—one would laugh at the notion of ‘self-government’ were it not for that terribly sour taste in the back of the mouth.

Our interdependence is intrinsic, it is undeniable. Competition is a nice way to introduce energy into our culture’s interdependence—but Capitalism puts the competition before the interdependence. Wealth is a club—and there is no law against beating people to death with it. As we have seen, there’s not even any law against demolishing our values with it. Money makes monsters of us all—clutching our own to ourselves, more worried for our own skins than whether anything has a right or a wrong to it.

People say money is the root of all evil—I disagree. Surely people found ways to mistreat each other before specie was invented. No, I think of money as more of an enabler of evil, an enzyme for cruelty, if you will. If there are thousands of laws protecting our grasp on our money—and no laws that insist that every person be sheltered and fed before sundown, every day—then we have some messed-up laws.

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This Country Will Self-Destruct In Five, Four…. (2016Dec09)


pogo

Friday, December 09, 2016                                               10:08 AM

But what really bothers me is the end of the-world-as-I-know-it. Between the loss of habitats, shrinking species diversity, toxins and pesticides, we may well be able to kill ourselves off, even before we reach overpopulation, extreme global warming, or killing the oceans. Also, Capitalism has become a Frankenstein’s Monster—created by us, but too strong now to be defeated, even by the whole village carrying pitchforks. And then we go lobotomize ourselves, and elect a scoop of shit to the Oval Office—that was the wrong move. I know, I know—it’s too late now. But, ma-a-a-a-n, was that the wrong move.

The real question is—does having even the slightest hope for the future depend on a bad president? And the answer is definitely no. Trump, by himself, is a harmless, doddering idiot. But with the entire globe on the precipice—make that innumerable precipices—a Trump presidency is kind of gilding the lily. What, you couldn’t wait a few decades for things to go blooey—you want to see it right now? Well, if that’s what you were thinking—you got your wish.

It reminds me of a story that got a lot of attention when I was younger—in the midst of the civil rights movement, when a legal fight gave African-American kids the right to use the public pool in one southern town, the response was to fill the town pool with cement. That was the racists, blatantly cutting off their own noses to spite their faces. And we are living through something similar now—President Obama has ‘besmirched’ the presidency, so the idiot-half of the country has elected to fill the White House with cement.

Not that Drumpf was running against a non-white candidate—but he was running against a woman—and racism and misogyny are just two sides of the same bigotry sandwich. And Trump is just a tiny speck of betrayal and stupidity, compared to the decades of it that led up to the present.

Our problems go so much deeper than a Trump presidency—our problems are rooted in the historical chain of events that led to his candidacy—the rot of riches, the fiduciary mugging of college students, the neglect of our most precious resource—the very world we live and breathe in, and the voluntary insertion of millions of heads up millions of asses, begun by reality TV and brought to fruition by Twitter. The list of bad-turns American society has made goes on and on.

The smart youngsters of this world are looking for the next big thing—they look at America and they see an empire drowning in its own decay. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that being the greatest superpower for seven decades has brought on the ‘absolute corruption’ of the old adage. And we must admit that America was never the land of hearts and flowers that its cheerleaders would have us see it as. America, the idea, was great—is great—but America, the place, is full of people: rich, thoughtless people, poor, bitter people, ignorant, hateful people, and a few good eggs.

You don’t, as a nation, ‘come back’ from a President Trump—he is more than a problem that ‘popped up’—he is a symptom of a deep, deep sickness that has matured over decades. You cut your losses and go looking for a new beginning, somewhere else or somehow else. The ‘light of the world’, if it is to be re-ignited, is not going to flare back to life in this country—it’ll happen somewhere else. We are too busy hugging our past, and hugging what we have left, and hunkering down against an increasingly threatening government and corporate system. This is what the inevitable decline of an empire looks like.

Misdirection is the key—just as Trump gets the media to talk about flag-burning, when that is the last thing we need think about, we mislead ourselves by focusing on Trump himself as the problem. He is not the problem, he’s a symptom—his ascendancy is due to millions upon millions of Americans who are too lost to see him for what he is. Forget Trump—you want a mission? Go after whatever it is that makes us so self-destructive.

This nation is polka-dotted with high-ticket research and development laboratories—working night and day to find the secrets of science and technology. Where are the equivalent number of researchers working on social justice or humanitarian aims? This nation is blanketed by media—corporate powers that have taken hostage the journalism that protected democracy. Where are the new journalists who will report facts, without a leash? And how come the terrorists never go after the lobbyists? Do they respect them as allies in the war on freedom? And how the hell do lobbyists sleep at night, or look themselves in the mirror?

In the words of an old comic strip, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

Avoiding the Void (2016Aug21)


 

Sunday, August 21, 2016                                         11:20 AM

Only 80 or so days until our national mental-health referendum. I expect we’ll pass it with flying colors (knock wood) and then we can turn to Europe and the rest of the world and say, “Sorry if we scared you. That’s free speech—waddaya gonna do?” There are several countries with dictators who strut about and make stupid decisions—and don’t even bother to make up believable propaganda to excuse their neglect, their excesses, and their violence. But I think the citizens of those countries, though used to such blatant bullshit, would have been crestfallen to witness proof that the United States of America was no different from any other tin-pot dictatorship.

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The USA has been a symbolic haven for many people of the world who never reach our shores—it is a dream they have. Those of us who live the American Dream may well envy them their perfect dream of a land of liberty. Would that the reality met their bar—but America is still an experiment in living—a work in progress. Our growth, our reaching for perfection, is less obvious—after 200+ years, we’ve gotten sedentary in some of our ways—and the lure of conservatism grows with every new blessing we stand to lose through the gamble of progressivism.

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But the struggle goes on. America is a work in progress. If you think about it, irresistible change over time makes that a truism for all nations—whether they countenance the fact or not, the world’s sovereignties should all have some mechanism by which they can deal with the permutations of time, nature, and civilization. Resignation to the impossibility of Perfection should never prevent us from the pursuit of perfection—it is the pursuit that refines our lives, not the perfection.

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A paradox arises from our core strengths—free speech, freedom of religion, democracy, justice, and tolerance. We aspire to those things, not just for ourselves but for everyone in the world. Hence UN, NATO, and our many other treaties and pacts with the nations of the world—we want to hold common cause with any governments that embrace, as we do, democracy, human rights, and equal justice. Thus, while nothing is ‘nailed down’ about America, there is an infrastructure to it. At times confidence men will contort freedom of speech to threaten our ethical infrastructure itself. Because it goes beyond the bounds of freedom, into the realm of nihilism, we call it ‘hate speech’. The con-men counter with a sneer at ‘political correctness’.

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They have an answer for everything—their debate skills are phenomenal. It is in the absence of understanding that they reveal themselves. Their statements chivvy us towards frustration, anger, even violence—but they will always say something that gives them away. They don’t understand or appreciate the grandeur of America’s dream. To them, it is a game to be won—and in their exertion to win the prize, they reveal their cold emptiness of spirit. They carry the seeds of their own downfall within them.

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It is an easy mistake to make. Capitalism is America’s guilty pleasure. Within the bounds of commerce we permit ourselves to seek power and wealth, to be selfish, rude, even cruel. And money is power of a kind. But in embracing Capitalism we conveniently overlook the fact that, in terms of our ideals, America should be one big hippie commune—Capitalism opposes freedom and equality—it rewards the cold-blooded and preys on the careless.

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That is the true focus of the two-party system in America, as I suspect it is in most places, though with less rules to the dance. The Democrats represent the people and the Republicans represent the money and the power. In effect, the Republicans are the bad guys, unless you’re one of them. To hide their shame, their political rhetoric has evolved a series of memes that ‘invert the argument’.

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For instance, their ‘voter-ID’ legislative efforts are a transparent attempt to keep minorities from exercising their right to vote. Their ‘Pro-life’ anti-abortion agenda is likewise transparent pandering to the evangelical right-wing, AKA Christians With a Bad Attitude. Their denial of Climate Change is really just their stupefying genuflection to the big pockets of Big Oil. Their vaunted ‘patriotism’ is just craven sucking-up to the military-industrial complex—the Republicans don’t care if we have a good military, just so long as it’s an expensive and profitable one.

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The Democrats try to enact benefits for vets, and get shut down by the Republicans. The GOP doesn’t want to know that, after they make money off of war, some kids make the final payment in blood—and we owe them for that, at least. But they see that as an unnecessary expense. Some patriots.

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The Republicans fought against the Affordable Care Act—and still fight it, after it’s already been made law—and shown economic benefits. They want ‘smaller government’ because their friends in Big Pharma and the Insurance Industry own these ‘representatives’ of the people. Millions of sick and dying are not their priority—but what is? If Americans have to live in agony or die uncared for, I’m gonna need something more than word-salad as an excuse.

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So America tries to keep the struggle between rich and poor off the streets—we consign them to political teams and watch them play against each other, with democracy as the referee. When some guy waltzes in and says he’s gonna turn everything on its head—he’s not talking about ending political gridlock—he’s talking about trashing our most sacred beliefs and creating a void where the Constitution used to be. That’s already a problem for us—the last thing we need is someone rushing headlong into the void—and taking us with him.

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So Capitalism is as much America as our Constitution is—Democrats prioritize the people, and Republicans will say, ‘The business of America is business’. The debate between the two parties is serious business—but our media have learned to mine treasure from its drama, so it can be made to look like a circus, especially this latest show. And with Journalism also falling victim to Capitalism, we were in mortal danger of falling for a snake-oil salesman—thank goodness his own words revealed his true nature before the election.

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