I don’t usually use Google now. I don’t know how many people even know what that is. If your phone is an android phone, you should be able to swipe right on the home screen to get to Google now. Google now isn’t even what it is called anymore, but it still is exactly what Google now used to be, it’s just referred to as “Google” these days. That makes the following feedback even more succinct.
The above story was at the top of my Google feed today. A prime example of why I don’t use Google now very often in the first place. Top stories on my feed are almost always some flame-inducing bullshit from some less than trustworthy source. What does Google think I should read first today? A story from rt.com on Rachel Maddow. Google is suggesting I read an RT story about Maddow when there is a perfectly decent news article over on the Washington Post website that actually tells me what the real facts in question are. A news piece that isn’t about Rachel Maddow in the first place. So Google? Are you officially acting as a propaganda arm for the Russian government now? Why would I be offered a news story from rt.com in the first place, if not? RT is not a legitimate source for anything newsworthy. They are an even less reliable source than FOX is, which is saying quite a bit.
YouTube’s recommendation algorithms are designed to steer viewers to videos they may not have otherwise searched for, including by automatically playing more videos through its “Up next” function. But experts said that functionality can lead viewers down a rabbit hole of increasingly concerning videos of conspiracy theories, disinformation or offensive content.
YouTube’s algorithms have previously been designed to maximize watch time, which Chaslot and others have criticized as rewarding more shocking or sensational videos. YouTube said it now relies on information such as user surveys, likes, dislikes and shares to improve its recommendations.
Even its efforts to combat misinformation have in some cases backfired, as happened this month when videos of the flaming collapse of the spire of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris were incorrectly identified by YouTube as imagery from the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York.
Here’s a thought, Google. A thought I’ve offered to you as design advice more than once. I want the ability to exclude URL’s directly as an input function. I want to be able to key in URL’s directly and exclude those URL’s from my news feed. This would be useful in two ways. One, it would stop your customers from flaming you every time you offered an article that the user felt did not adequately outline the facts in question. Secondly, this block information should be useful as a rule of thumb determinate for the reliablilty and general acceptability of the source among the general public. A general trustworthiness rating of a site.
The subject in question is an excellent example of the problem. If I want to know how to get to the meaning of the Mueller report, I have plenty of reliable sources that I could go to, none of them controlled by the Russian government. Here’s one.
Thursday I surveyed the entire Mueller report. I read some sections carefully; I skimmed others. My job was to anchor Lawfare’s initial coverage, so I needed to have a sense of the big picture, as well as detailed knowledge of certain findings and arguments. Starting Friday, however, I am reading the entire document carefully, starting at the beginning. I’m writing up my thoughts as I go in this post. There will be no cohesive argument to this journal. It will simply be a collection of my observations, questions and thoughts as I go through the document. It will get long. I will not attempt to summarize the underlying document, merely to reflect on it, but I will organize this post by document section. I will update the post as I read. I hope people find it useful.
Lawfare is world’s above in reliability for communicating legal information than any other site I that I can think off right off the top of my head. So, contrary to the talking head on the RT Youtube video that dismisses the entirety of the report as some kind of conspiracy against the Orange Hate-Monkey (OHM) you might discover that the Mueller team uncovered real crimes committed by the sitting president of the United States, and we might want to impeach him for these crimes. It would probably be a good idea.
It would probably also be a good idea not to act as the propaganda arm of any government, Google. The numbers of propaganda organs that survive unscathed after the existing powers are unseated is a number very close to zero. You might want to contemplate your future employment plans if you continue down this road. The vast majority of the American people are not fooled by this chicanery conducted by the OHM and his Russian buddies. There will be hell to pay, eventually.
Google is not the only culprit here. Google is simply the culprit pushing misinformation on my personal device. In this TED talk, listen while this journalist describes the multiple crimes and misinformation spread by the leave campaign, with direct ties to Donald Trump and Russia.
This is the real harm in allowing ourselves to be used in this fashion. Allowing ourselves to be pushed in a direction we really don’t want to go except for the lies being told to us. The referendum that Theresa May thinks she has to honor was conducted outside the law. It baffles me why she thinks doing the stupid thing the referendum calls for, leaving the EU, is the thing that has to be done. What has to be done is to punish the lawbreakers who enacted the sham on UK citizens. The felonious results of the sham are irrelevant.
This revised article was inspired by the March 21, 2019 NPR Politics Podcast where they once again repeated the myth that the EC was not designed to reflect the popular vote. That is simply not the truth of the matter. The story is far more complex than that.
The electoral college has a long and troubled history; in fact, the electoral college wasn’t even in the first draft of the Constitution. In the original document, penned by James Madison, congress was to select the president. This mechanism was deemed too prone to intrigue by the members of the constitutional convention, and was seen as crippling the independence of the executive branch by making it reliant on congress. At least two of the original attendees of the convention favored direct popular election of the executive, including the author of the document himself. This idea was sacrificed even before the writing of the first draft of the document in order to make inclusion of the slave states palatable to the Northern states.
There was one difficulty however of a serious nature attending an immediate choice by the people. The right of suffrage was much more diffusive in the Northern than the Southern States; and the latter could have no influence in the election on the score of Negroes. The substitution of electors obviated this difficulty and seemed on the whole to be liable to the fewest objections.
The historical fact of American slavery is something that the defenders of the electoral college should take heed of. The numerous slaves in the Southern states, slaves that the Southern slave owners and state representatives wanted counted as people for the purpose of apportioning representation, would have skewed the college and congress towards the South, which the North objected to. The South wanted slaves counted as people, for the purpose of representation, but not counted as people, for the purpose of profiting off of their slave labor. The impasse over the problem of representation in the legislature and at the voting booth threatened the entire constitutional convention, much like the problem of slavery threatened the possibility of American independence.
It was the invention of the three-fifths rule, a rule that counted each slave as three-fifths of a person, that allowed for a compromise on representation; and through that, a compromise on the election of the office of president. Changes have been made to the electoral college along the way, but the essence of the college itself remains the same as it was back in 1787; that essence being a safeguard against factions having undue sway over the selection of the executive for the government.
Not the people but the factions, the parties, were to be guarded against. This was the paramount fear in the minds of the crafters of the Union. The electoral college was part of the whole package of division of powers, allowing for the will of the voting population of each state to be carried directly to the then new capitol. The preservation of state power was what the electoral college was designed to protect, enhancing the ability of sectionalism to thwart the corrupting influence of faction.
Faction almost immediately took hold, anyway.
Some states reasoned that the favorite presidential candidate among the people in their state would have a much better chance if all of the electors selected by their state were sure to vote the same way—a “general ticket” of electors pledged to a party candidate. So the slate of electors chosen by the state were no longer free agents, independent thinkers, or deliberative representatives. They became “voluntary party lackeys and intellectual non-entities.”Once one state took that strategy, the others felt compelled to follow suit in order to compete for the strongest influence on the election.
When James Madison and Hamilton, two of the most important architects of the Electoral College, saw this strategy being taken by some states, they protested strongly. Madison and Hamilton both made it clear this approach violated the spirit of the Constitution. According to Hamilton, the selection of the president should be “made by men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station [of president].” According to Hamilton, the electors were to analyze the list of potential presidents and select the best one. He also used the term “deliberate”.
The 1824 election, the first election in which the popular vote mattered, was the second time the electoral college failed to produce a president. Once again the House of Representatives was forced to debate and vote on presidential candidates, eventually electing John Quincy Adams, the son of John Adams, to the presidency. This so infuriated the winner of the popular vote in 1824, Andrew Jackson, that he broke with the party of Jefferson (Democratic-Republicans) to create the Democratic party, a version of which still exists today.
The formation of the other half of the two-party factional control of the United States government came about with the election of Abraham Lincoln. It was with the election of Lincoln that the regional Republican party graduated to the national stage. Lincoln is one of four presidents who won the office while not being on the ballots in every state, and the only president to win the office while not being on the ballot in more than 5 states (he was not on the ballot in ten of the eleven slave states) he did win the electoral college successfully, probably because the slave states of the deep South were already pulling their support from the union and actively engaging in dissipating federal power to the several states so as to strengthen their own hands in the coming war that they were actively conspiring to start.
The electoral college is the only one where they choose their own masters.
However, the electoral college was set up to reflect the population of the United States as a whole. It achieved this through tying a majority of the electors from each state to the number of representatives from each state in the House of Representatives. Each district of the House being determined through the arcane process of census and redistricting, the seats apportioned based on populations within geographical regions. One elector for every seat in the House of Representatives plus one for every Senator. Add in the three electors for Washington D.C. and you have the number of electors in the current version of the electoral college, 538. It is supposed to return results that roughly equates to the vote of the majority of the population of the United States, and has done its job pretty admirably right up until the twentieth century when Congress short-circuited the representation metric that the founders set up.
How did the House upset the metric? They crafted the last in several sequential measures that set the number of seats in the legislature. The membership of the House of Representatives has been kept artificially low for most of the modern age. the number of representatives was fixed at 435 in 1911 and has remained at 435 as the population of the United States has grown exponentially. This has lead to an ever-increasing number of people represented by a single seat in congress, a ridiculous number of people that the framers would never have envisioned as acceptable. The original minimum population per house seat was 30,000; but the current representatives for the House each represent about half a million people, at least, with the higher population districts containing about three-quarters of a million people.
This is important, because this is how you get to the point where a candidate can win by well over a million votes in the popular election, and yet lose the election by electoral count. The electoral college is rigged against the popular vote being reflected in the makeup of the college, because the electors are not properly apportioned to the populations of the various states. For that matter, the House of Representatives no longer serves its function as a direct representation of the people, because it too is not apportioned correctly even though it was set up specifically to serve this purpose.
If the House of Representatives was allowed to grow again, as it did throughout the history of the United States, we would end up with a House that was made up of several thousand people. This may sound like a radical change to you, increasing the size of the house, but we’ll get a better representational cross-section of America if we do this and thereby end a lot of the talk about disconnected Washington politics in the process. Will it be more difficult to get important work done? I doubt that it can get more difficult than it is already. I think we will have to find that out first hand. Keep this point in mind.
The 2016 election travesty is not even the first time since 2000 that a candidate for President received more popular votes and yet lost the election as it is calculated in the electoral college, and still I run across statements from apparently well educated people who insist that these kinds of outcomes are to be expected. If the system worked as it was intended, then as a general rule the electors would reflect almost perfectly the will of the people, provided that the will of the people is not being swayed by factions with too great a control over the system.
Factions with too great a control over the system.
Just read back over the posts on this blog. Authoritarianism vs. Humanism. The Orange Hate-Monkey (OHM) The various MAGA posts (there are more of those still in the edit stages) The article On Presidential Tax Returns. The facts in that article alone being enough to exclude the OHM from the office of president if reasonable people had been in charge of the 2016 election. However, the Republican party has apparently gone over to the magical thinkers, and magic doesn’t exist. If the Republicans in 2020 nominated someone who accepted science, wasn’t knee-jerk opposed to immigration, accepted that women have a right to medical care including abortion services, if they nominated someone who didn’t espouse belief in Reaganomics, I might have to revise my opinion of them. Might have to allow for the corruption of our system represented in their factional control of parts of our government. Not even in my wildest dreams did I think they would be so stupid as to nominate a lunatic as their candidate in 2016, and they are liable to do it again in 2020 even if the OHM goes to jail before that election is held.
But they did nominate a lunatic in 2016, and they are one-half of the two-party factional control of our government that has been allowed to calcify in place over the last century. The entire legislative system is set up to cater to party authority and one of the parties is demonstrably insane, being led by someone who either does believe or pretends to believe insane things.
The electoral college has failed to do its one and only job in the one election in U.S. history that could possibly have proved its worth. It has failed to justify its inclusion in the fabric of American society, three-fifths compromise notwithstanding. With the 2016 travesty in the rear-view mirror it becomes painfully obvious that we must amend the constitution to remove the electoral college, legislatively render it toothless in every state legislature in the US or modify the structure that dictates its size and representation. One of these things must occur. Several states have already passed the legislation mandating the popular vote outcome.
If we cannot render the electoral college toothless, If we cannot amend it out of the constitution, replacing it with the direct election of the president by the population of the United States, then what we have to do is the easier thing that I alluded to earlier. We influence our representatives to do the one thing they can do for us and themselves, and it’s part of the job we send them to Washington D.C. to do in the first place. They should legislate an increase in the size of the House of Representatives, and through that increase negate the corrupting influences of faction and money.
What the study and report above shows is exactly what I said. The imposed limitation of 435 members placed on congress by congress itself is the limiting factor for gaining more influence over our representatives, for gaining an equitable voice in electing our president. This is one of the easiest things to fixed, and it would fix the electoral college at the same time. With one simple bill introduced in congress we could increase the size of the congress and reduce the numbers of us per representative. Make the representatives more focused on communicating with their much smaller groups of constituents, and be much more replaceable by those same groups.
A constituent base of 30,000 people means that my specific region of Austin would have their own representative in congress. A larger congress would be impossible to control externally by factional politics. It would lead to the formation of regional parties and a dilution of power in Washington D.C. We’d need to build facilities to house the additional several thousand representatives, which will be a windfall for the states and Washington itself. I don’t see how this works out as bad in any real way.
So rather than paying more money to influence my congressman I propose we pay the congressmen less money and multiply their number by about a magnitude. Require them to listen to us if they want to keep their jobs. As a bonus, the electoral college will increase in size and we won’t see a repeat of this last election again.
There was a time when I was a Gadsden flag devotee. In my libertarian days I even used it as a prop for a speech, back in those days when I believed that overcoming fears was something that you just had to put your mind to in order to achieve. I never did get over my fear of public speaking, and I’ve long since given up even trying to do it. No two groups are ever the same, and repeated embarrassment in front of larger and larger audiences just spreads belief that you are incompetent at the task you are trying to achieve. Stop while you’re ahead, advice I should have taken a long time ago when it comes to public speaking.
The Gadsden flag is itself a token of fear, but it says more about the fear of the people who carry it than it does about the people they are opposing. When Franklin came up with the severed snake image for the thirteen colonies, the imagery was undeniably effective. If the colonies didn’t form themselves into a cohesive whole, they would be killed and consumed separately by the world powers of the time. It was such an effective image that it was used more than once by Franklin to call the citizens of the colonies together to support a common cause. It reverberated again and again through the varying crisis that faced the fledgling colonies. Colonies that dreamed of one day being free of their European masters.
The snake on the Gadsden flag is whole. That snake represents the colonies standing as one. It’s a rattlesnake because early Americans had enough experience with rattlesnakes to appreciate the warning rattle they gave. The flag itself was a warning rattle to the British and their Scottish and German mercenaries that the American colonies were determined to be colonies no longer. But since the common European conscript had no idea what a rattlesnake was, the caption DON’T TREAD ON ME was added to communicate the important fact that the flag failed to communicate with its visual representation. We will fight you to the last man to establishour independence. We will take you down with us if you persist. This was a sentiment that we understood for ourselves, but have repeatedly failed to recognize in other former colonies when they fought for their freedom.
However, the necessity of putting text on the flag makes it a bad flag in the eyes of vexillologists. If you have to put words on your flag, your flag has failed to communicate the information you want to pass on. It’s also the first in a long line of bad revolutionary flags. Juvenile attempts to provoke an enemy that proceeds to do the thing that the flag says they can’t do.
Like this image does. It doesn’t matter that that foot will be bitten and probably have to be amputated. That the corporations will face retribution and regulation for their unwise actions curtailing free expression. Not all governments are equal, and not all societies are free. Doing the bidding of the powerful will never make you the friends of the weak, and the weakest among us is always going to be an individual somewhere. The corporations, if they proceed to tread on the snake of free expression, will die along with free expression. It is in the nature of ideas that this is true.
Stepping barefoot on a rattlesnake is a bad idea. Stepping on free expression is similarly a bad idea if you are a corporation that relies on people being able to speak their mind on your platform. Users will leave the platform for other platforms where they can express themselves the way they like without threats of punishment. The individual users need to be smart enough to know that they are being lied to, though. That they aren’t smart in that way is a failing of education, and there is no easy way out of this conundrum. You can’t foment revolution without consequences, and you can’t stop people from calling for revolution without infringing on free expression. GIGO, as I said previously. Garbage in, garbage out. Separating the worthwhile communication from the informational junk food. Not going on Facebook seems to be the first step to kicking the current informational junk food habit.
Anyone who says the phrase my money. Anyone who thinks that working is how you earn money. Anyone who thinks that money has value beyond what it can buy at the moment you need to purchase something. Those people? They live under the delusion of money. Anarcho-capitalists, libertarians and fiscal conservatives all suffer under this delusion. Their ideals of what money is precludes them from ever understanding what will solve the recurring economic crises we’ve suffered throughout history. Until we understand what money is, we cannot hope to fix the problem of the boom/bust cycle.
When I take the time to listen to conservatives and libertarians these days, to read their arguments, I’ve started posing this counter question. What is Libertarian Socialism? They generally short circuit like a drone android calling for Norman. You know, Libertarian Socialism, the political movement that dismisses notions of taxes as anything other than the monetary recapturing tool that taxes are, sees Guaranteed Minimum Income as a necessary function of living in large groups? If they manage a reply it is generally to deny that Libertarian Socialism is a real thing, but it is real, and it is just one more movement afoot to bring economic freedom to the problem of worldwide poverty. A real solution to a real problem, not hidebound ideology and wishful thinking.
The process of discovering what money is and what its functions in human society are has lifted a veil from my eyes. The punishment of poverty that is meted out most vengefully by the middle class, egged on by the wealthy who know just how much of a delusion the middle class labors under, is unwarranted. People are not poor because of some failing of theirs. People are poor because the system forces them into poverty.
I have struggled with how to present these ideas that seems so clear to me, present them in a way that will be understood by others. Understood by others who have not dropped their preconceived notions about money on the wayside. Understood by them and not simply have the argument rejected out of hand.
Year after year, when I was a libertarian, I promoted the World’s Smallest Political Quiz (WSPQ) as the way to illustrate, concretely, just how libertarians were different from liberals or conservatives. I wish I had spent that time studying economics rather than promoting fringe ideology now. The WSPQ is a variation on the Nolan chart, a political spectrum diagram created by American libertarian activist David Nolan. The WSPQ slims down the questions asked by Nolan to ten yes/maybe/no questions, and then places people in their political quadrants based on their answers. I never understood the pushback offered by people who suggested that financial freedom wasn’t what the diagram described while I was out stumping for it. Now I can see the problem more clearly.
The Nolan chart and all it’s minor variations don’t deal with the reality of economics; and consequently, these attempts to measure political beliefs do not measure economic freedom as they claim to do. This fact makes all libertarian ideas that deal with economics flawed at the precept level, shattering the entire structure of libertarian philosophy. Shatters not just libertarianism, but any philosophy that includes the ideals of money as an individual possession. You cannot define libertarianism as different than the same flawed left/right and/or liberal/conservative political lines without a measuring stick that is separate from social freedom, and economic freedom enables social freedom more than any other kind of freedom one can imagine. The two go hand in hand (Four Freedoms) Understanding what money is, conceptually, is the first step to understanding how the systems we live in can be improved.
Money is not a thing; or rather, money isn’t just one thing. Money is not a possession, although physical representations of money can be possessed. Money is not a commodity even though it is currently traded like a commodity. If I had the last glass of water, you could have all the money in the world and you couldn’t buy that last glass of water from me. That is the difference between a commodity and a currency. Money isn’t even a set value as my previous writing on the subject of money skims over. So what is money?
I’ve been bashing my head against this wall and several others for the last decade and more. It’s part of the overall arc of EPHN, my languishing work on Emergent Principles of Human Nature. The work languishes because I lack the depth of knowledge to deal with the questions posed by writing the work, not by my ability to express the ideas contained within it. The accumulation of information takes time, and so the work languishes, in a general sense. At the same time, my understanding grows about certain subjects that interest me, and one of those subjects is the delusion of money.
Money = Lubricant
Any mechanical part that moves in relation to another part of a mechanical construct, like a motor or an engine, has to be protected from the friction present when any two parts come in contact. This protection can take several forms, and even several forms at the same time. Motor oil. Hydraulic fluid. Ball bearings. Grease. Money is like these things in many ways. It reduces the friction between one side of the economy, supply, and the other side of the economy, consumption.
If you provide sufficient funds to each household to allow them to meet needs you will see how much of each product needs to be produced based on the value assigned to the product by the consumer. Thusly, money eases the acquisition of goods and services for the people who need them. Without money we are forced to barter one good for anther one, and that system has never functioned in a way that the average human found acceptable, which is why we invented money in the first place.
Then you, the money issuing authority, sit back and wait. You wait to see where the money goes. When you notice that money is pooling in areas and not being spent, you tax those pools that don’t enhance the economy, the economic backwaters that don’t serve the purpose of lubricating the system generally. You tax them because money hoarding is a corruption of the intent of the system. Money is for spending not for hoarding. Property is what you keep. If you want to hang on to wealth, invest it.
Money is a third-party contract that is carried along with every other financial contract that is agreed to. Money is the underlying agreement between the people who are giving over goods or services and the people receiving said goods or services, that the compensation will be in X currency at a particular value. Anyone who has read a financial contract should recognize this language. The value of money, that money will have value at all, is an agreement between every working and consuming person on the face of the planet. When that agreement breaks down, commerce breaks down. Goods rot in warehouses. Families starve.
Ten autumns ago came two watershed moments in the history of money. In September 2008, the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers triggered a financial meltdown from which the world has yet to fully recover. The following month, someone using the name Satoshi Nakamoto introduced BitCoin, the first cryptocurrency. Before our eyes, the very architecture of money was evolving — potentially changing the world in the process. In this hour, On the Media looks at the story of money, from its uncertain origins to its digital reinvention in the form of cryptocurrency.
Money is a collective belief in the value of a thing, a story we tell ourselves about buying what we buy and what we buy it with. Bitcoin is the essence of this narrative. It only has value because calculating entries in the blockchain is currently rewarded with bitcoin, funding all of the Bitcoin mining centers all across the world. What happens when the last Bitcoin is minted? Where will the value in maintaining the blockchain ledgers come from then? No one who invests in Bitcoin wants to know what the answer to that question is. In the meantime the story of the value of Bitcoin continues. But any currency is only as valuable as the people who trade in it think it is. If you can’t buy anything with the currency, the value of the currency is zero.
How can you make money to spend if there is no debt to create money from? This was the problem that faced the world after the crash of 1929. There was insufficient money in circulation. No one had money, and the reasons for this defied explanation according to the rules of the time. Europe needed gold to create money. Europe did what the gold standard required of them and raised taxes on their poor citizenry to the brink of starvation in an attempt to create gold reserves, creating backing for government spending that they needed in order to dig out of the holes that World War One left them in. The hordes of gold that the US held in reserve profited the American people not one bit, even though the rules of the gold standard dictated that America should be swimming in cash. Why was there no cash? Because the rules of the gold standard did not accurately describe how economics works. (Lords of Finance) FDR had to create new, insane rules, by the standards of economists of the time, to justify creating money that did not already exist, so that he could hand it out to people who wanted to work but could not find work.
Making sure that everyone has money to spend simply shortcuts the requirement that incomes will start at zero. Work is not required to generate debt, to create money. Work is how you pay off debt, and government generates money to make these transactions possible. But money is more than that, too. It is more than a lubricant that makes nearly frictionless exchange of goods possible. More than a contractual obligation that we all agree to every day when we buy or sell anything. More than a story we tell ourselves and more than a debt obligation that we must dig out from under.
The disconnect over the subject of money really isn’t the fault of libertarians, they are nothing more than my target of opportunity because of their culpability in promoting the ideas that have come to dominate most thinking about money and economics in the US these days. Classical economics itself deals with the individual rational actor the homo economicus as he is occasionally referred to. Economics was set up at the outset to create the delusion of the supreme individual modifying the market with his rational demands. This has proven not to be the case, but most economists who come from the Chicago school are still caught up in the delusion. Capitalism, as classically taught, was at war with a socialism that eschewed profit. The Marxist utopia of communism. Like most utopias, Marxist communism is a dystopia that we would be better off not pursuing. However, in a general ideological sense, capitalism and socialism aren’t even in conflict. Authoritarianism and democracy are in conflict, and authoritarianism is in ascendency.
Authoritarianism has been in ascendancy since Vladimir Putin started trying to dismantle the democratic West, and China decided to help him. When there is one party, and you control that party, knowing who your enemies are makes controlling that government child’s play. Consequently these rising authoritarian regimes (including the United States under Trump) have a lot of political prisoners. Removing them into the slavery of the prison system is the best way to clear your path. This is one of those facts that should have been obvious to us in the US for a very long time. We’ve been growing the prison population since Nixon was in office, and we now have the largest prison population per capita. Most of those people are there because of crimes that were invented in order to criminalize Nixon’s political opposition, and it has proven prudent for each president since Nixon to leave those people there.
Capitalism and socialism are not in opposition. Capitalism and socialism can be present in the same mixed system because they deal with different parts of human interaction. Profit is not evil. Profit, when properly managed, is the reward for the entrepreneurial spirit. Profit, when held as an inviolable sacrement, leads to worship of the wealthy, what Objectivism has turned into over the last half-century. The Trump administration is laboring under this delusion of money. This holy profit-taking. Trump has started beating the drum of red baiting. He is promoting the same old schtick that Nixon and McCarthy did so well with two generations ago. I’ve said this from the moment that he announced his candidacy and he’s proven it daily since the broken system we live in delivered him into office. Trump believes in the zero-sum game and is right now rigging it to favor the wealthy who currently own our country.
Subscribing to the delusion of money as Trump and the average American thinks of it today is to go back in time to the days of the robber barons, when monopolies ran roughshod over Americans and the the world at large, when the simple fact that you had money meant that you had the right to rule. We don’t want to go back to those days. This is why Make America Great Again is the chant of mouth-breathing idiots. The America that they think was greater than it currently is was an America where they would have died young of a preventable disease, probably at the hands of someone like Don Jr.
To paraphrase what I said to Trump Jr: Never too earlier to teach her about conservative capitalism either.
Put her in an orphanage that sells her out to work in a coal mine. Kid that size can get into spaces an adult can’t, business can find all sorts of uses for them. You don’t have to pay them. They don’t need safety equipment. You hardly have to feed them. And if they die, fuck it, you can always get more.
Meanwhile, the Robber Baron she works for gets 99% of all the candy in the world and she and all the other kids get to split 1%.
Oh, and while you’re teaching lessons, Junior, make sure she knows her lady parts belong to you.
If you combine the dollar being the world currency with the results of moving off of the gold standard as detailed in Lords of Finance you can create a money background for yourself to muse about the current perilous status of the dollar against. Or you can be like the libertarian that I was trying to enlighten today who called out for Norman before locking up in the illogic of money being a social construct. Pick one.
If you need further examples of just how confused the problem of money is, here is another one. TED Radio Hour, The Money Paradox. I did get one response from a libertarian after writing this piece. He informed me that I wouldn’t be taken seriously on the subject of money unless I looked like a rich man. People who are wealthy don’t bother with trying to look wealthy. They don’t need to convince anyone of their wealth because they are reassured that they have wealth in simply living their lives.
Star Trek was an attempt to say that humanity will reach maturity and wisdom on the day that it begins not just to tolerate, but take a special delight in differences in ideas and differences in life forms. […] If we cannot learn to actually enjoy those small differences, to take a positive delight in those small differences between our own kind, here on this planet, then we do not deserve to go out into space and meet the diversity that is almost certainly out there.
This article was posted when it was because of a conversation that was evolving on a Facebook group I’m part of. A conversation between people convinced that their personal beliefs are somehow manifested in a show they love, Star Trek in this instance, and then argue that their political beliefs somehow are justified in the show. Star Trek represents a post-scarcity economy, as several people went to great pains to explain during that evolving conversation. As expected, the notion that there could be a society where everyone gets enough to eat and has a place to sleep that protects them at night from predation, that notion is conceptually beyond the thought processes of your average Stormtrumper. This fact doesn’t change what the show’s creator set out to do.
Let’s imagine if 80,000 votes in the Rust Belt had gone the other way in 2016 and Hillary Clinton were president. Let’s also imagine there were controversial circumstances surrounding her victory – a foreign adversary attacked our political system in the hopes of putting her in power – and reasons to believe the Democratic campaign may have cooperated in some way with the attackers.
…Would there be widespread hand-wringing about those who dared to question Clinton’s earlier denials of wrongdoing? Would congressional Democrats call for Republicans’ resignations and demand new investigations into federal law enforcement?
Hillary Clinton has been the prime target of hatred for women for most of my life. If you had a problem with women in general it was Hillary Clinton that was cited as evidence of this problem. From the moment she stepped upon the national stage and presented herself and her husband as two sides of the same coin, she has been the target of ire for females by both males and females alike. I should have remembered this fact before thinking that she could ever be president, but my desire to not see the United States descend into the hellhole it is now on the path to becoming blinded me to that painful truth. The painful truth that is still reiterated in every chant of #lockherup, in the constant conservative and #MAGA refrain of What about Hillary? in the face of any criticism of the Orange Hate Monkey.
I have a pretty clear memory of the first time she strutted onto my radar, back in the early days of Bill Clinton’s first term in office. It was during the rollout of what conservatives derogatively called Hillarycare. I bought the lie back then, not understanding just how skewed the information that I was consuming was. How conservative everywhere in Texas is, even in the bluest of blue parts of Texas. Women had a place and Hillary Clinton wasn’t conforming to what was expected of women, behaviorally, back in the eighties.
I don’t want to put her on a pedestal. There are things she did that were objectively wrong. That isn’t the point of this article. The point is that if you pretend that everything she did was done by a man, you wouldn’t even have batted an eye at her behavior. This is probably the most telling argument against her as a leader, that she was and is absolutely ordinary from a human perspective. She compromised her values to protect her husband, just like anyone else would do. She waited to discover what the polls would tell her before taking a stand on a subject, just like every other career politician does. There is not one thing that she is castigated for that men have not done and been forgiven for. It is because she is a woman that people hate her.
Bad news for the haters: History is decidedly unafraid of “the woman card.” It doesn’t care how many people will stand on tables today and swear they’d feel the same if she were a man. It will see us for what we are—a sick society, driven by misogyny and pathetically struggling to come to terms with the fact that women do not exist solely to nurture.
Hillary Clinton was nowhere near as unpopular as her haters think, as pundits are now saying retroactively. Rather, what was underestimated was the misogynistic influence. What do I mean by that? I mean the people who blamed her for her husband’s presidency, or credited her with the same. She isn’t Bill Clinton and all the baggage that name and presidency entails. Whether she had covered for him or castigated him would have made no difference, and the failure to separate her from her husband’s behavior is the clearest form of misogyny that I can point to. But it’s hardly the only example.
But let’s forget about the hatred leveled at powerful women. Women of status in the US today. Let’s go to the other end of the social spectrum. From the wealthy and powerful and the unjustified treatment they suffer, to the women with nothing. Let’s look at what happens to the victims of war. American women who were radicalized and joined the Islamic State in Syria.
Read through the comments under that video. The calls to refuse these women re-entry to the United States, even though they have no other nationality to claim. We cannot make them stateless by revoking their citizenship, and we cannot keep them from returning if they are citizens. If we violate international law in this case, we will have no grounds to hold other countries to international law later. To keep these people from being radicalized again, we HAVE TO make sure they are fully engaged in society for the foreseeable future.
Hold on, I hear you saying. We can’t just let these people come back here. That’s the catch. We already have. American men who have surrendered under similar circumstances have been repatriated. The women, though? We don’t want those women back. That’ll teach the rest of the women to stay in line. Never mind that we cannot legally denaturalize a citizen. Only the court can do that, and we have to bring them back here to put them on trial. It’s a catch-22. We can’t keep her out, and we can’t say she doesn’t belong here without first bringing her home. All of them have to come home, but the women most of all. Most of all, because singling them out for different treatment is a hallmark of misogyny.
I want to live in a world where women are encouraged to fight back. In that world men will treat women better. But instead of teaching them to fight back we train girls to be passive. To smile meaninglessly. To never let a moment of anger show. Passivity gets you beaten to death while you sit and take it, and the women who do fight back are punished, punished more harshly than we punish men.
Think of the strongest, surest woman you know, and then think about what is said about her. Now think about that person as a man. See the problem now? I’m familiar with the argument. I’ve been around the park a few times now. A life without conflict is not really living, is expecting too much from others. Standing on “no conflict” as an achievable goal ignores the natural world around us where conflict is everywhere.
The misunderstanding originated with the separation of physical violence from verbal violence. Passivity starts with being afraid to speak your mind, not with the refusal to come to blows. Passivity is present in hiding in the “safe room” rather than fleeing from the aggressor or fighting back if necessary. Of being prepared to gut that bastard the next time he comes near, rather than forgive him. You can forgive his corpse, sweetheart. Forgive it all you like. Make sure it is a corpse first.
What? Too harsh? You’ve never seen your mother beaten. Never been beaten yourself. You’ve never discovered that rage within yourself and wondered where it came from. Walk a mile in my shoes. In a partner I wanted someone that would have my back because she wanted to protect me as much as I wanted to protect her. I taught my daughter to defend herself, that it was okay to defend herself. If women are our equals, they don’t need our permission to be in our faces all the time. They simply will be, and we (the men) will just have to take it. Hopefully we’ll manage as well as the women have.
I’ve been sitting on this one awhile. What we did to Hillary Clinton was misogyny. she’s not the only victim. Apologize to your daughters and your wives. Thank them for not gutting your heartless ass.
Then there was the effect of Christian Science on my family. I’ve struggled with where and when to mention this little gem of understanding, because mentioning it is fraught with tons of angst and potential explosive feedback. But understanding how I got to 40 without a diagnosis of Meniere’s, how I’ve never been diagnosed with dysgraphia even though I have had all the symptoms of it for the entirety of my life is a direct result of my mother’s early childhood indoctrination into Christian Science. Because of this fact, Christian Science has to be discussed here as part of this story.
Christian Scientists aren’t scientists; they pray to Jesus to cure what ails them. Jesus is their science, and they exercise their science in prayer rooms across the US. They still do this all across America to this day. When a child dies from lack of medical care, and the state where that child dies cannot prosecute the child’s parents, the law that allows this was lobbied for by the followers of Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science. My mom and her immediate family were members of this belief.
Her distrust of doctors and medicine lead directly to her demise February 9, 2018. One of the mantras she took to her grave was doctors don’t know anything. It was her most repeated comment over the last months of her life, as doctor after doctor told her she had cancer and needed chemotherapy. You couldn’t dissuade her of this or pretty much anything else she believed at any point in her life.
This is a hallmark of most of humanity, I have come to find out. If you think you can change the average person’s mind you simply don’t know what you are thinking. People survive as long as they do by believing things, and sticking to those beliefs. My mother survived to the age of 77 and raised four children to adulthood based on her doing exactly what she deemed best at the time, and you won’t convince someone who has lived successfully by their own judgement for 70 years and more that what they believe is wrong. So give that idea up now and save yourself the life-shortening frustration.
Christian Science. If you are a Christian Scientist you don’t take drugs. You don’t see doctors, and if that religious upbringing was all there was to my mother’s belief, I think she would probably have gotten over it eventually. However, over the course of her life she has been nearly killed by well-meaning doctors more than once. All her life she’d been told gibberish by people who didn’t have the sense to pour piss out of a boot with directions written on the bottom (not that she would ever utter such a low phrase. In her estimation) so she knew that people believed insane things and discounted what other people told her almost by rote. She knew what she knew, but that left her vulnerable to the things she thought she knows but was wrong about.
Mom knew the value of modern medicine and never hesitated to get me antibiotics to treat the frequent illnesses that I had as a child, but she never stopped believing that doctors were pulling a scam on the sick. It all had to be a scam, somehow. She was never clear on how or why, but it was a scam, she was sure of it.
She never stopped believing that people would get better on their own if they just lived a better life, ate better food, got the right kind of nutrition. It was the failure of this belief, that healthy living was all you needed to keep from getting cancer that killed her a decade early. Had she not had encounters with believing doctors who proposed treatments that proved near-fatal, treatments that were fatal to her mother. Treatments that decreased the quality of life for the patients she tended. Patients that died anyway. Had she not watched time and again as things were labeled bad be relabeled good with more study and more time. Had she had different experiences with the medical community, she might have said yes to the promising new treatment the doctors wanted to try. The same treatment that saved president Carter’s life. But she didn’t have those experiences, and so she didn’t get to live that extra decade.
I found a new podcast today (h/t to Stay Tuned) Everyone seems to be getting into podcasting these days. Podcasting, perhaps the one good thing on the internet that Steve Jobs inspired. In any case, the Pew Charitable Trust has a new podcast where they discuss the wonky nature of their polling and statistics called After the Fact.
There doesn’t appear to be a way to embed the podcast in a blog post, so I’ll have to settle for a link to the episode that I chose to listen to first, What Religious Type Are You? (I’ll check around more thoroughly later for an embeddable link) Of course it’s about religion. I’m going to go straight for what I might disagree with most and see what that gets me. That’s just the kind of guy I am. There is also a quiz attached to the data set so you can test to see where you fall on the spectrum of belief-nonbelief.
Today I am solidly secular. I had my doubts where I would land, but solidly secular works for me. It works for me today. If I am accosted by Bible thumpers tomorrow, I’m likely to test out as a religious resistor. Proof that proselytizing damages religion in public perception.
The internet is a click-bait whore. After more than two decades of living in this digital realm, I can say that with confidence. Everything on the internet is composed to get you to follow the link and find out what AMAZING, STUPENDOUS, GLORIOUS things are waiting for you on the other side of that provocative come hither looking text. Unfortunately, the reality that awaits on the other side of that click is rarely worth the energy it takes to click the link.
Take this promotion for Unexplained on Gaia for example. It popped up on Facebook for me a few months ago. Dramatic music. Good-looking talking heads tell you things you want to believe. What isn’t to love about that trailer?
You know what I can’t find in a shareable form? The trailer thrown in my face on Facebook, promoted by the Gaia streaming service. I can’t find it anywhere to post to the blog so that I and my readers may laugh at it. The curious will have to go to Facebook and see it there (click the clickbait. You know you want to) because no keyword search that I’ve come up with so far can produce the actual trailer promoting this episode of Ancient Civilizations produced two years ago. If you want to see it, you have to pay for it. I guess the charlatans are getting smarter. You can’t get the rubes to give you the money if you blow your load in the first teaser trailer.
…and that link to Facebook. Just watch the repeating video at the top. That looping video is really all you need to understand the confidence game that is being played on the believers who pony up to pay for this streaming service. Ancient aliens are among us? Please.
There was no Tower of Babel, just as there was no real Atlantis. Just as there was no Ark built by Noah. I shouldn’t have to explain the difference between religion and history to people smart enough to know how to work a camera and create a documentary. There was no Tower of Babel where god looked down and cursed man with many languages for its construction. That Tower of Babel is myth. If you believe otherwise, you are a fool.
Like Atlantis, the Tower of Babel is a storytelling device. Atlantis was embroidered in the imagination of Plato, a mythical place created to hearken back to earlier, more prosperous times. This storyline should sound familiar to anyone currently immersed in US politics. But like the lies of the Orange Hate-Monkey, Plato created the illusion of Atlantis to paint a picture that his students would want to strive for, and still people think they can find it. Noah’s Ark is similar.
The Ark of Noah is encased in ice on Mt Ararat
Prove it. Go to Ararat yourself and take pictures of it, yourself. I’ve taken the same trek that you’ve taken so far; which is to say, a vicarious trek. I listened to the stories told to me by elders and I believed. I read In Search of Noah’s Ark in the seventies. That book had me convinced. I just knew there was an Ark somewhere under all that ice. Just like the child shoveling out the stables. Then I started reading the works of other religions and other believers, and that’s when I discovered that it’s a common prehistoric myth.
The myth is so common as to be pointless to attempt to verify any one claim. Like the virgin birth of Jesus reflects the virgin birth of other godlike creations, flood myths pervade early religions everywhere. All of these myths may be based on some historic flood that the local population remembers, none of them spanned the globe and destroyed all human civilization. What I’ve seen in several decades of curiosity about this subject is that there is no proof, none whatsoever, for Noah’s Ark. The story was someone else’s before it was Noah’s, and Ararat is just the nearest peak to where the myth of the Ark was located.
Also, Mary was probably having it off with someone about nine months earlier and didn’t want to die at her father’s hands. This is a practice still pathetically commonplace in many regions of the world. She got caught by being the sex that carries the young of the species (humans, in case you are wondering) a problem that the fertilizing sex doesn’t have. She couldn’t hide the belly anymore, so she claimed that god visited her in the night and that’s how the baby got in there. This is another common occurrence, lying to save your own life. It goes hand in hand with death penalties wherever you find them. You’d think parents would be happy to have grandchildren to raise, rather than worrying about selling off a virgin daughter to the highest bidder. She ended up being fobbed off on the carpenter, someone who was happy to have a few extra hands around the jobsite with all the work he had to do.
There are probably evangelicals reading this right now, or they were reading it until they got to that last paragraph. They probably aren’t reading it anymore. But if they were they would insist that we can’t find the ark on Ararat because if there was a wooden boat under the ice on Ararat for all those millennia it would of been ground to a pulp centuries ago and pushed down the mountain as debris. Myths are not realities. There was no boat, because flood waters cannot rise that high even if all the ice in the world melted. How high would it rise? 70ish meters. Numbers vary. We should see 9 feet of rise in the sea levels over the next couple of decades based on current CO2 levels. More if we don’t moderate emissions that produce warmer temperatures.
But all of that is beside the point that the Tower of Babel is a myth.
But there wasn’t a tower where god sundered the languages and caused strife across the world. That would be kind of pointless since he had drowned the world just a few years earlier because of all the strife in the world. Or are you suggesting that god condemns his people for things that he created them to do? That he holds us all accountable for the things that he makes us do? Well that figures.
Cara deciding to trash all things Hippy isn’t surprising. There is little at the typical health food store that warrants a special trip there. Little, unless you happen to have special dietary needs. If you have food allergies. If you are lactose intolerant. If any number of food-related issues bother you, the health food store used to be the only place you could go to find relief. Considering that skeptics would claim you couldn’t be allergic to foods, until those allergies could be demonstrated, and still flame-on when anyone mentions the word gluten, panning all things health food related is completely understandable.
I just happen to not react to goat’s milk like I do cow’s milk. So I can drink goat’s milk and suffer little or no ill effects. I still can’t eat pizza, that is too much cheese of any kind, but at least I can put a slice of goat cheese on my hamburger and not have to worry about reacting to the lactose in the cheese. And the best place to get that kind of food is still at a health food store. I buy my oat milk, my Nada Moo, goat cheese and goat milk, and try to restrain myself as I walk past the chocolate and liquorice on the way to the register.
The Wife, who can consume all the cheese she wants because she was descended from Mongols who were raised on yak’s milk, has some very unflattering things to say about us Mediterranean types whose ancestors tended goats and sheep, but I also have some insults I could hurl in return considering she’s pretty much 100% Irish. I won’t utter them because I don’t feel like being beaten up by any Irish who might read this and take offense. I have to be able to sleep sometime. It all comes down to genetics and how your particular gut came to be in the here and now.
Which brings me to the idea of drinking raw milk. If you are drinking raw milk and you don’t milk the cows (or goats. Or sheep) yourself, you are just asking to get sick and possibly be killed by the naturally occuring bacteria found on the udders and in the milk of any animal. And I laugh every time I read the label on cheese and it trumpets made from raw milk. This is just another marketing ploy like organic or natural, since the process of making cheese kills most of the bacteria that lives in the milk. That is why we started making cheese from milk in the first place. If you are still concerned about the possibility of food poisoning, don’t get the cheese made from raw milk. Pasteurization is a good thing. It’s why we have milk on supermarket shelves today.
I mean, we could irradiate the milk and skip the pasteurization flavor change problem, but the fantasists who think that pasteurization is bad also think that irradiation of food is bad. There really is no way to win over everyone. There’s always going to be one or two of them that have to stick their fingers in the electrical outlet before they’ll believe that electric shocks are painful, and there will be at least one guy that swears electrical shocks make him feel better and so recommends you shock yourself two or three times a day.
Steve’s suggestion that bulk foods were useful, while the other offerings at the health food stores were not, is also slightly off-cue. The reason that goods are offered in their own sealed containers should be readily apparent to anyone who gives this much thought. But for those who don’t think a lot, I’ll spell it out. Adulteration or contamination of the product, which was a problem back in the days when everything was offered in bulk quantities. Some nefarious grocers would dilute the products offered and charge the same rate. This is essentially how all vodka is made, but very few people know that their vodka was distilled to 190 proof at the distillery and then cut in half with water at the bottler. There is also the problem of some anonymous others tampering with the bulk products and no one noticing (think Tylenol) as an Austinite, and someone who frequents health food stores for his oat milk and goat’s milk products, I could buy a lot of products in bulk. I just don’t.
Austin is the birthplace of Whole Foods and a few other now-defunct health food chains. I’m an owner at Wheatsville Food Co-op. I could shop in bulk products if I wanted to. I don’t shop in bulk products because I don’t want to have to trust every person who passes by the bulk products bins not to drop their chewing gum in there with my morning steel cut oats. I’ll take the time to recycle the packaging, that is fine by me. I like branded, labeled products in sealed packages. It’s probably the most American thing about me.
I would rather the packaging not be plastic packaging, plastic packaging being the reason that health food stores came up at all in that Skeptic’s Guide episode. I try to avoid plastic packaging when I can, but it is nearly impossible to avoid plastic when it comes to food packaging. You can count me in for testing new packaging that isn’t plastic. Oh, and Jay? You want plastic that breaks down on its own? That also existed once upon a time. They tested plastic bags that degraded in the sun faster when they first rolled out plastic bags, back when everyone was worried about paper demand destroying all the forests. That plastic turned into micro plastics too, just like regular plastic. The only way to avoid this is to create disposable items from something other than plastic. Say, compressed corn starch.
As a libertarian I used to believe some pretty crazy things. I believed that a dollar was something you worked for, for one. A dollar is a debt instrument that every business in the United States is required to accept as payment. It is not a measure of hours worked or effort expended. You don’t work for dollars, you have to have dollars to pay for the things you need or want. You trade effort or hours for dollars if you are a working stiff in the modern age. If you have dollars you make the dollars work for you to create more dollars. This is a subtle but important distinction, one that anyone who desires excessive wealth should take to heart.
Similarly I believed, and most libertarians still believe, that freedom of speech meant you had to listen to every idea equally. Give every idea equal weight. This crazy notion is not limited to just fringe political groups, it has been embraced by a very large portion of conservatives and Republicans, and even American liberals don’t understand some of the finer points of what the first amendment, freedom of speech, means.
The problem with continuing to listen to bad ideas is that each successive generation receives those ideas as if they are all of equal value. This position is obviously false. Some ideas are incorrect. The world is not flat, it is visibly curved to any observer who cares to study the subject. The Earth, her moon, the other planets and their moons, etc. all move in mathematically predictable ways around the sun. We do not have to prove to each successive generation of human beings that the Earth is not the center of the universe. We need simply show how we know the Earth is round, the sun the center of a solar system, for them to grasp the math involved with these correct observations. These are factually demonstrable truths that do not have to be viewed equally with the Ptolemaic system, requiring each successive generation of human beings to determine which finding is the correct one. Learn a little math, do a few observations, yep, that confirms the heliocentric model. Onto the next thing we have to learn.
Not all truths are as obvious as the basic findings of astronomy, and even those findings are not universally embraced by all modern humans. There are a few disturbed people out there who still think the world is flat, and we don’t let those people run NASA for a reason. That reason? Because their denial of science disqualifies them from leading a scientific agency. They fail the test of expertise, another demonstrable truth.
There are things that experts know that the layman does not. I know things about CAD systems and architectural detailing that would bore the pants off of anyone who isn’t enamored of building systems and the illustration of same. That expertise qualified me to hold a high-paying job in the architectural field once upon a time. It had real value; and expertise, all expertise, is demonstrated through that value. If you plant lima beans for a living, and you do it successfully for long enough, you become an expert on lima beans. But that doesn’t make you an expert on rocket ships.
Which brings us to another truth. Expertise is limited in scope, and the farther outside your expertise you venture, the more likely you are to be wrong in your beliefs. This is the Dunning-Kruger effect in a nutshell. Everyone believes they know more about subjects that they are not experts in than they actually do. This is why a brain surgeon isn’t a good candidate to run a poverty program. The fact that Ben Carson successfully navigated a hierarchy as complicated as working in a hospital presents is probably the only reason he still has his cabinet position. He knows how to keep his mouth shut when he needs to. When he has a job to do and isn’t campaigning. He knows the value of expertise and he doesn’t visibly contradict the experts around him who know things about the department of Housing and Urban Development.
When the Republican party formed back in 1854, the value of expertise was understood. With little else to distract the population in the way of entertainment, politicians and pundits would debate for hours in front of huge crowds, working and reworking the issues of the day. Abraham Lincoln was an expert at navigating the treacherous terrain to be found between openly advocating for the abolition of slavery, and allowing slavery to encroach into the Northern states that hated slaves and slavery for what it did to the lives of average men. Hated slavery for the degrading poverty and dearth of industry in the South that slavery imposed on the economy of the South. The Lincoln-Douglas debates featured his abilities to master the subject, a success that eventually snagged him the nomination of the Republican party and through their growing influence, the presidency of the United States.
He then expertly managed to conduct the the office of the presidency, successfully, while maintaining a war with half of the original republic, and at the same time engineering the largest change in civil society, the abolition of slavery, that the United States had seen in its short 75 years of existence. Had he survived his time in office, had he not been felled by Southern hands and succeeded by a Southern sympathizer, many of the problems that we wrestle with today would never have manifested in the first place. That was the master politician that Abraham Lincoln was. That was the kind of organization that the Republican party was when it was progressive and liberal and on the right side of history.
From Lincoln to the Orange Hate-Monkey in 150 years. That is what the Republican party gained from not understanding that there were real, actual truths underneath all the political posturing. That science and expertise have real, demonstrable value. GIGO or Garbage In, Garbage Out has taken its toll on the GOP and rendered it the political organ of a would-be fascist. A would-be fascist whose political supporters want to enact a racial cleansing on the United States. The party that ended slavery has become the party of the inheritors of slavery’s stolen wealth. The irony is almost rich enough to laugh at, if the fate of the world didn’t hang in the balance, and it does currently hang in the balance.
It hangs in the balance because Vladimir Putin did work to get Donald Trump elected as president. He worked to get Britain to embrace Brexit, and his troll farm is still actively attempting to subvert political processes in the United States and all across the world. He is seeking inroads to power wherever he can find them, and right now the internet is his tool of choice. All information on the internet is now suspect. Nothing can be taken for granted. Every platform, every system, every piece of information technology can now be possibly subverted by criminal actors attempting undermine the great advances that have been made in the world, and they are doing this with the technology we, the West, invented.
On Thursday, President Trump flew down to McAllen, Texas to push his pro-wall, anti-immigrant narrative. This week, On the Media examines how the community tells a more welcoming story about the border — and a dogged presidential fact-checker joins us to pick apart the Oval Office address. Plus, how some progressives used Russian election interference tactics against a right-wing senate campaign. Also, is everything online fake?
Make no mistake, we have made great strides toward improving equality across the world. In between the war profiteering and other boondoggles embarked on by the powers that be in Washington DC, the technology we created has moved out of the United States and improved the lives of people everywhere. So much so that poverty in the world is the lowest that it has been at any point so far in history. But the spreading of information and equality through technological systems has opened the doors for misinformation and distraction to be spread in the same way, through the same mechanisms.
Political bias, racial bias, religious bias. All these things still exist, and all these things are corruptions of the truth. They are weaknesses that the power-hungry can exploit in order to gain more power. That is what Vladimir Putin has done in Russia by re-establishing the Russian Orthodox church. He gives ethnic Russians a thing to believe in now that the dictatorships that liberated the Russian people from Czarist rule have fallen. He foments friction at the edges of his political empire, his fake republic, and exploits the resulting distrust by seizing land belonging to neighboring nations, by re-asserting old Soviet alliances. His neighbors fear him, which is what he wants, and his old foes are confused, fighting among themselves. All by his design.
The first thing we need to do, if we want to oppose this new criminal oligarchy founded by Vladimir Putin and embodied in his paid-for stooge in the White House, is to know who it is we are fighting, why we are fighting them and how we intend to win this fight. The first casualty of this information war has to be the ability to promote falsities as truths. If we can’t even determine what is true and what is false, then we have already lost the war.
Garbage In, Garbage Out. If we believe what we are told by others with no need to verify what is true, we are sheep lead to slaughter. Subjectivity is the enemy. The people we are fighting are liars. Charlatans. Confidence artists. People who say things we want to believe but which are not demonstrably true.
Many people cite this quote, few understand it. To be eternally vigilant is to practice due diligence as often as required when it comes to the things you believe as well as the things you are told. What is due diligence? Caveat Emptor. The two states of mind are interchangeable. Healthy caution and skepticism. If you want to be at liberty, if you want to maintain liberty, then you must be skeptical of all things that are not immediately apparent.
As an example. Freedom of speech is not free. You cannot say whatever springs to your mind and expect to suffer no consequences. This is what most people think freedom of speech means. Speech without consequences. All speech has a cost, in that you may be held accountable for the results of the words you speak. This is why you are punished for causing a panic by yelling fire! when there is no fire. It is not the speech that is punished, it is the result of the speech. The cause of the harm was speech if anyone was harmed in the resultant panic. No harm, no foul, as the adage goes.
But how do you assess harm? Is all harm readily apparent? If you are not harmed by a person’s speech, but your neighbor is, should you care? What if your neighbor is a different race? A different religion? A member of a different political party? Insert Niemöller’s law here.
That way lies death. So harm, even delayed, indirect harm, should be guarded against. And that, dear reader, is the quandary. As I noted on my last article about Alex Jones, deplatforming is not censoring a person’s speech. All these people claiming they have been censored by social media have their own websites. They have just as much access to consumers as any other individual in the system has. They simply do not have a megaphone through which to spread their lies. We are fighting an information war here, and the first thing that has to go is information which is demonstrably false.
Kicking ethics violators off of Twitter and Facebook is not censoring them, it is applying objective rules to subjective life. This is necessarily a messy business, but then bad people do exist. Bad ideas do exist. Stupid people do exist, and they don’t know the difference between a good idea and a bad idea. This requires things like rules of order (Robert’s Rules) parliamentary procedures, etcetera. Objective ethical standards have to be in place and they have to be enforced so that ideas can be properly tested and debated. You cannot call for harming another person and not expect the platform from which you speak to be taken away. That is simply good information hygiene. Any platform which doesn’t distinguish between good (correct) and bad (incorrect) information is a platform which is doomed to be dominated by the most ruthless, because it is the ruthless people who have no boundaries. Ruthless people do not worry about harming others to get their way. Lies. Fraud. These are but tools in the hands of the ruthless. Does deplatforming cause them harm? Only if they subjectively deem that their lies bring them power. In that case they don’t need a platform, they need a therapist.
Any platform created to be all inclusive (Spreely.com, Minds.com, etcetera) will be dominated by the most hateful. There is no way to avoid this scenario if you do not set hard ethical lines which cannot be crossed. I hope these platform providers enjoy taking orders from fascists. Fascists that will tell them what and how to think; which is what fascists do and why fascists (like Nazis) shouldn’t be given a platform in the first place. It is a quandary, but it isn’t an unsolvable problem.
I’m still on Facebook, for now. They at least acknowledge the existence of incorrect information and harmful social interaction. I’m not happy with providing a platform for ideas designed to kill me. I won’t spend time on a social platform that allows them space to spread their lies. Consequently those who voice views about political purity, religious purity, racial purity, promote the lie that life is a zero sum game that requires I harm others to win, these kinds of people and beliefs are not welcome anywhere that I am expected to be. I would ban these people myself. I do block and report these people when I’m given the tools to do so.
Authority might be necessary, but authority need not lead to authoritarianism. The difference between allowing Donald Trump to take office because existing mechanisms put him in position to assume that office, and not allowing Caudillo Trump to violate the law in the name of his whims or his stormtrumper’s whims is exactly how that ethical hair is split.