Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Darkness Rising: Why respectful debate is more important than ever

Like I've written in previous posts, for the most part this blog is dormant, though please follow the link on the right to check out the Facebook page, which has been very active recently...

However, this post grew out of some comments on a link that grew into a Facebook post of its own, and which I think is worth posting here:

It's amusing to me... Only in this weird year, after these horrible presidential campaigns, could I ever be labeled as a member of the "far left"... :) And if you knew much about my political views in the 1980s and early 1990s, I am pretty much a conservative compared to those days, by the standards in those days... But while I've moved to the middle, even past what used to be considered the center into what used to be the liberal right, the political climate in this country has changed so much that Nixon would be labeled a communist these days by the descendants of his own conservative movement... That being said, my political posts, here and elsewhere, are a lot less about advocating for one party over another, or even broader, more "left" and "right" ideologies. Really, it is more about this: There are certain ways "dark" instincts and power works that is pretty universal, and it adapts to every political and economic system. Most people don't recognize it, but they fear it, and they usually aim their fears at straw men and red herrings laid out for them by the folks gaining advantage from that darkness (whether they even recognize what it is or not). There are many moral, philosophical and religious terms used for this darkness, and I am trying to avoid them, to strip it down to the basics (and darkness is a bit of a moral judgment, wild might be better?)... When fear and resentment and dissatisfaction with life rises to the top in the masses' day to day lives, this wildness comes to the front and, generally, very bad things start happening. In the end, us normal citizens have very little idea about who the good guys and the bad guys are in this battle, and we do our best, which is hard these days with the disintegrating media and laughable standards of journalism that we encounter, to pick the candidates and causes that we hope will battle this dark, wild force. And if not to actively battle it, to at least slow its rise to dominance. I've picked my side, the causes and candidates I support, based on the best, though always flawed, information I have available. Others pick the other side, feeling those better battle the darkness. Disagreement and healthy debate is good and, I will always feel, are enemies of this darkness. However, the mood and the climate is changing in the western world, and the space that used to be filled, for the most part, with healthy debate is now filled with anger and fear, ignorance and blatant lies, which is only making the enemies of freedom stronger, which won't benefit any of us, regardless of who we voted for a few weeks back. So let's keep the conversations calm, let's, the average people just trying to make sense of everything, respect each other, even if we disagree... Let's keep our minds open to new ideas, new information, and let's reject lies and fake news, even when it appears to support our "side." In social media, more than anywhere, this is so important, because too many of our feeds are designed by the sites to only provide us with ONLY the opinions and "facts" that we support, and sometimes, unfortunately, depressingly, even, the comment threads are the only place where we can actually learn new the perspectives and gain the information we need to make the decisions we need to make to keep our country free and great. Finally, further food for thought on this matter:

Thursday, April 23, 2015

I’m Calling It: The Death of Politics in America

Obviously, this blog is pretty much dead.

I've been trying to find the desire to write a “closing” post for a long time now, but even just doing that felt exhausting.  But today, I found the article below, which pretty much sums up everything I've been meaning to write.
American Politics: Why the Thrill Is Gone - The New Yorker:

It might not be wise for a sometime political journalist to admit this, but the 2016 campaign doesn't seem like fun to me. Watching Marco Rubio try to overcome his past support for immigration reform to win enough conservative votes to become the Mainstream Alternative to the Invisible Primary Leader—who, if there is one, will be a candidate named Bush—doesn't seem like fun. Nor does analyzing whether Chris Christie can become something more than the Factional Favorite of moderate Republicans, or whether Ted Cruz’s impressive early fundraising will make him that rare thing, a Factional Favorite with an outside chance to win. If this is any kind of fun, it’s the kind of fun I associate with reading about seventeenth-century French execution methods, or watching a YouTube video of a fight between a python and an alligator. Fun in small doses, as long as you’re not too close.
Is this a permanent shut down?  Who knows?  In 2012, this blog had a brief burst of life with that year’s presidential election, it is always possible that the same could happen again. 

However, the fact that I wrote just about everything there is to say about 2016 back in March of 2012 (Putin, Clinton, & Bush… Oh my! The current, dynastic period of American history), I see little hope that the upcoming elections are going to be nothing more than another agonizing shit fest of incompetent journalism, blazing lies fueled by bonfires of corporate cash, voters too ill informed, mostly through no fault of their own, to make competent decisions, and everything else that has come to signal the death of any true democratic spirit in America.

Beyond the presidency, things are even worse.

We can call it gridlock in Congress, but that is not what it is.  More and more I see this as being a sign of the increasing irrelevance of our republic’s institutions.  The partisan stonewalling may seem like political maneuvering to those involved, but all it has really done is remove an entire branch of government from any practical leadership role in our country.  

And the Supreme Court?  Man…  At best, hanging on by a thread.  At worst?  Not representing the interests of the Constitution any more, and one bad nomination away from eliminating any debate on the point.

The republic is over, democracy is dead…  Let the oligarchy reign!

UPDATE: 4/24/15

I will still be posting to the Facebook page, but not as often and I'm going to try to keep it to more focused on thoughtful, relevant articles with some depth and less on silly memes that are little more than red meat for the like-minded masses.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Biased political satire...Why There's No Conservative Jon Stewart - The Atlantic: "A unified theory of why political satire is biased toward, and talk radio is biased against, liberals in America."

This article is pretty stupid, really, overthiniking these topics by several degrees.  Really, shows like The Daily Show, while they do draw a more liberal than conservative viewership, are not "liberal" shows, and they go after the inanity of both parties with equal glee.  However, these days, the right is just producing a lot more facepalm moments.

If the right wants their own satire, it is already present in these shows.  Their politicians just need to clean up their acts a bit and quit saying and doing so many stupid things.  Not their policies, but rather how they campaign and lobby to advance them.  Then the jokes will be distributed more equally between the left and the right...

This is why the right wing attempts at these shows fail, because they put the politics ahead of the inanity of the situations being mocked, where the so-called "liberal" shows just mock first and never really worry about where their jokes are landing on the political scale.

As for talk radio, there may be more to this.  I think liberal do tend to get tired of the format and would rather have more factual reporting a la NPR than hours of discussion around facts that devolve into nothing more than meaningless partisan spin.

But another factor to consider on that front is that, for decades now, talk radio has been used as a major means of message delivery for the right, and has tremendous fininacial support from the right, while the rich and powerful on the left pretty much left Air America to wither and die.

Fox News, while successful in the ratings now, never would have made it if it were not for Murdoch's money and his ability to attach the network to the very established Fox name.

Why There's No Conservative Jon Stewart - The Atlantic: "A unified theory of why political satire is biased toward, and talk radio is biased against, liberals in America."

Monday, October 27, 2014

National security is never this black and white… (Unfortunately!)


I was thinking about this the other day, and then I saw this re-posted.

Why would we need something like this? Russia? Religious fanatics? These are arguably the biggest threats to the U.S. in the visible future, and we don't need the level of tech to act as a deterrent for those folks. We can take Russia with a couple of F-18s and the religious fanatics? Well, I don't think these bad boys would have led to a different result in Iraq or Afghanistan.

So why? Of course, there is always the propping up of the military-industrial complex, but even that does not feel right. We've scrapped some systems in the last few years which tells me that this is not the main reason why we're moving ahead on this...

So that leaves, who? China.

Yes, right now we have each other right where we want each other, but they are a growing economic and technological superpower, and we may eventually end up in a cold war with them. These sorts of investments in military technology are not necessarily about meeting current threats, but about preparing for future threats, and we don't want to end up in a position where we don't have the best hardware in the world.

So, is this the time to be throwing that sort of money at a weapons system like this? Could it be better spent elsewhere? Probably. But we still live in a dangerous world and I, for one, know our relationship with the only real superpower left goes a lot better down the road if they know they can't take us militarily without one hell of a fight.

Hopefully we are moving towards a world where superpowers can co-exist without living in fear of each other, and we may be there all ready. But are we willing to bet our children or grandchildren's freedom on this?

It's a tough call and one that I am glad I do not have to make.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Student Loans and Debt Slavery

This may be a bit overdramatic, but maybe it is time to look at this paradigm.

It used to be that you needed a degree to work in certain fields, now it is for almost everything. The degree has replaced the high school diploma as the minimum education standard required for most living wage work.

But it has very little to do with actual training for one's chosen field... More and more it matters little what your B. A. was in, only that you have one.

In this way, it really is being treated as diplomas use to be.

When hiring, we used to say that this was because we wanted to see that the potential employee could "finish what they started," and I still agree that there is some merit to that concept. Plus, the development of critical thinking skills that, more and more, happens in college versus high school is another benefit.

But considering the cost of college these days, there is a darker, but huge, benefit for companies that only hire college grads... the immense debt most recent grads are entering the workforce with!

There is so much fear around paying off these loans that people will put up with a lot more than they used to... Low wages and salaries, intolerable and invasive corporate policies, and the knowledge that most workers are immediately replaceable due to all the out of work college grads out there just waiting for the opportunity to "do something with their degrees" or, even more insidious, grads who are just desperate to start paying off their loans.

Of course, having workers who have to go into virtually life long debt for the privilege of working for your company, mostly doing work that could be completed by any average high school grad?


Fearful employees willing to do anything and put up with anything just to keep ahead of their government debt…

What’s better than this?  If you don't look too closely, these companies even come off looking like the good guys, since they are the ones giving us a chance to keep one step ahead of the big bad menace of the government.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Barack and Valdimir's Big Crimean Adventure

Earlier, on Facebook, I posted, "Remember a couple weeks ago when Russia was just weird, not scary?" 

Mostly, this was just a joke about a comment I made during the Olympics, saying the reverse and not meant to be a real conversation about the current geopolitical situation.

The truth here, this is all negotiating tactics right now and it is a little scary that Russia is going this big in the opening round. 

Most likely, the end result will be a functionally independent Crimea with a Russian puppet government and increased military presence to secure Russia's only warm water Atlantic naval base.

I could get more into the nitty gritty details here, but I really don't have the time.

It is still a pretty scary situation, though, because these things could go south with some really bad effects that essentially take us back to a Cold War relationship with Russia, but I think (hope) both sides are too smart to let that happen.

If played well, the US and the west will receive some important concessions from Russia in return, concessions they'd never receive unless something this critical to Russian state security was at stake.

Since these sorts of things will never be disclosed by either side, though, expect Obama to get roasted by the right for letting Crimea fall on his watch.