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.
The image at right was culled from a friend’s Facebook wall a few years back. The image serves as an introduction, the proverbial rabbit-hole, a building 7 to 9/11 truthers, a lead-in to draw you deeper into this post dedicated to critical thinking. Humor me, dear reader. I’m going somewhere with this.
You might well ask, what does the image mean? Anyone who doesn’t recognize Morpheus from The Matrix movies really needs to go back and do some homework before reading this. The Matrix is its own introduction to conspiratorial thinking, a rabbit hole of its own metaphorical making. However, the text on the image is misleading. Anyone running for public office, from any party, is subject to the will of the people who fund their campaigns. If the candidates from the party do not pander to the big spenders (i.e. the corporations) then the party will not get the funds they need to win, meaning their ideology will never take root directly in the politics of the nation. All parties work for corporations, even the third parties. The Kochs owned the LP for a long time before they shifted to the Republicans. The Kochs represent some of the worst of the worst of corporate behavior, strong-arming groups that they fund trying to force them to echo the policies that the Kochs find favorable. This will continue to be true until we get money out of politics, plain and simple. There is no other way to fix the problem of corporations buying the parties and the candidates for office.
I have no problem with the image. I probably don’t have a problem with the website the image came from, although I haven’t spent any real time on it. What I had a problem with was where the conspiratorially motivated fantasists took the image in the wild after it was released. I have culled most of the incorrigible conspiracists from my Facebook wall. Every now and then a new one pops up and I subject them to the ban hammer; but generally my wall is free of their posts. Some of my oldest friends do indulge in conspiracy fantasies though, and as a consequence of this I still have to deal with the odd reference to a conspiracy theory even though I find the entire subject of grand conspiracies completely ludicrous.
Grand conspiracies are ludicrous, starting with the phrase conspiracy theory. Grand conspiracies aren’t theories. A theory not only explains the facts in evidence, it survives rigorous testing through trial and error. The theory of evolution is an excellent example of this. It has survived test after test, and has made predictions about evolutionary history which have been proven to be true. It is a robust theory, accepted by nearly all of the scientific community. The fact that nearly half of Americans reject the theory of evolution merely serves as a painful reminder of just how misinformed most of us are.
Grand conspiracies aren’t conspiracy hypothesis either, which is the step in evidence below theory. A hypothesis of necessity must explain all the predominant facts it is attempting to address. A hypothesis has to be testable to be acceptable as a scientific explanation. Grand conspiracies tend to ignore all evidence and instead look for anomalies that can be held up as examples of failure for explanations the grand conspiracy believer doesn’t like. Phrases like magic bullet get thrown around, as if the unexplained will remain inexplicable forever.
Grand conspiracies are conspiratorial conjecture, nothing more. They are stories that are told to entertain. They are, as the title of this piece states, conspiracy fantasies. When you start allowing your fantasies to replace the reality around you, a whole host of bad is waiting in the wings to descend upon you. When the Facebook friend (mentioned previously) made a tangential reference to the Rothschild family in his post, I recognized the reference immediately (Rothschild Skeptoid episode) It is an old anti-Semitic/white supremacist fabrication. Like the whole sovereign thing. There is no sound basis for asserting that the fantasy has any reality to it, unless you have a problem with Jews, which says more about you than it does about anyone else.
I’ve argued with this guy and his friends over beers before. I know there is no convincing him that his pet fantasies were meaningless. Rather than hopelessly resign myself to having to ignore him once again, I tried to tangent into a discussion of the gullibility of conspiracy fantasists. I linked this video of Rebecca Watson discussing a recent study to see if I could head off the impending disaster,
Unfortunately for all concerned, the only fact that penetrated their heads was that “the Pink Haired Lady says chemtrails aren’t real” which lead him and his friends to try to convince me they were real. Well, they aren’t real. Of course chemicals are detectable in airline contrails. The planes that create them are shedding molecules into the atmosphere everywhere they fly. The combustion engines they are powered by emit exhaust chemicals, which are also detectable. This really isn’t that hard to figure out.
…Unless there is a ready-made market of science denial set up specifically to use the tools of science against it. An entire method of approaching the world around us that paints the activities of others as nefarious and unscrupulous. This says more about the conspiracy fans than it does about the rest of us, but there is a large group of people out there ready to confirm your suspicions about any activity that concerns you. All that is required is to entertain your curiosity without engaging your critical thinking skills. If you ever learned to think critically in the first place. Without critical thinking we are all babes in the wilderness.
If you, dear reader, think the pink haired lady only dismisses chemtrails, then you are probably also a conspiracy fan, lack critical thinking skills, and are as gullible as the study she talks about shows. If I felt like messing with conspiracy fans I could feed them all kinds of crazy stuff which they would buy right into, just like Alex Jones does. So if that kind of trolling is something you enjoy, have at it. They’ll never know you’re pulling their legs.
After I rebutted the chemtrails argument the conversation with that Facebook friend I mentioned proceeded to spiral down the proverbial rabbit hole, morphing into a discussion of various other conspiracy tales. Haarp was mentioned. Like Agenda 21, it isn’t anything close to what conspiracy fans think it is. Monsanto was raised, Godwin style. It was at that point that I knew I was quite literally wasting my time, and I really didn’t want to have to hear about Building 7 one more time. I didn’t want to have yet another conversation where the fans throw each conspiracy they believe at me one at a time, each time certain that it can’t be explained. All of them can be explained, and not with grand conspiracies. Good luck getting one of the fans to notice this fact.
So why are grand conspiracies fantasies? Scale. That’s really all there is to it. Fantasists who support whatever conspiracy I sent you here to inoculate yourself against (if you got here without my linking this article in a discussion, well done!) will likely talk about the Gulf of Tonkin incident or Watergate or more recently, Edward Snowden. Well, Watergate wasn’t a grand conspiracy. It relied on about ten people keeping their mouths shut, and that conspiracy not only failed because ten people couldn’t keep quiet, it failed because Nixon was taping everything said in his office. He was that paranoid.
The Gulf of Tonkin incident, like the revelations of NSA spying, are the very stories that illustrate the problem with massive conspiracies and the theories spun about them. The NSA spying was anything but secret. Oh, it was officially denied like Tonkin was denied, and the US government would love to punish Snowden for his revelations. But the spying was itself an open secret. Anyone interested in the subject knew that the NSA was involved in a dragnet of information across the internet.
It is a lot like the people who point to the denials of Groom Lake (area 51) being a location for testing new Air Force technologies, and then conclude that the stories of alien visitations are true. The locals knew it was testing facility for decades. The official denials proved nothing aside from the fact that they were conducting secret tests there. They certainly don’t point to any factual truth concerning extraterrestrial contact. The NSA’s spying program, the Gulf of Tonkin incident, the Tuskegee experiment, Project MKUltra, etcetera, are all hallmarks of the inability for large conspiracies to remain secret. It is only a matter of time before the secret becomes common knowledge.
After once again being forced to ignore an old friend, I’m left wondering why is the US such a misanthropic nation? Why do we obsess over these silly fantasies that cannot possibly be true? Perhaps the reason why so many Americans believe conspiracy fantasies is because they understand their culpability in allowing their government to go so far astray. Like all the guilty parties of the world, they are quick to point to those shadowy others out there “Them! They did it! It wasn’t me!” rather than take the blame for their own inaction, their unwillingness to sully themselves with real politics. I mean, if lizard people are running the world, why bother with democratic participation?
However this willful blindness to the state of US politics on the part of the people whom the government supposedly represents does have a cost. It is not all fun and games as we pretend that lizards run our country or that we narrowly missed being governed by a pedophile in the last election. Conspiracies do exist, yes. And when they are represented in plots hatched by a foreign government, especially on that speaks a different language and is on shaky ties with the US to start with, they can be quite large and even link to the leadership of that government, and still take years for us to catch wind of it.
It turns out that the Jade Helm 15 fantasy that took the nation by storm during the Obama administration came from somewhere, and that somewhere wasn’t inside the United States. It was created by Russian operatives as a testbed to see if they could alter US politics by sowing discord.
If you think the president can just wave his big Magic Negro Ray of Chocolate Mojo and declare martial law, you really don’t understand how your government works – but then again that’s not even a little bit surprising given a sitting US senator such as Ted Cruz apparently doesn’t understand how the very government he is part of works either.
So the answer was yes. Yes Russia could and did interfere with our politics; and they continued to do it from that point straight on through the 2016 presidential elections that gave us the Orange Hate-Monkey (OHM) as president.
A former director of the CIA and NSA said Wednesday that hysteria in Texas over a 2015 U.S. military training exercise called Jade Helm was fueled by Russians wanting to dominate “the information space,” and that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s decision to send the Texas State Guard to monitor the operation gave them proof of the power of such misinformation campaigns.
Michael Hayden, speaking on MSNBC’s Morning Joe podcast, chalked up peoples’ fear over Jade Helm 15 to “Russian bots and the American alt-right media [that] convinced many Texans [Jade Helm] was an Obama plan to round up political dissidents.”
Abbott ordered the State Guard to monitor the federal exercise soon after news broke of the operation. Hayden said that move gave Russians the go-ahead to continue — and possibly expand — their efforts to spread fear.
“At that point, I’m figuring the Russians are saying, ‘We can go big time,’” Hayden said of Abbott’s response. “At that point, I think they made the decision, ‘We’re going to play in the electoral process.’”
Does this mean that the OHM is a Russian stooge? No. No it doesn’t. Why? Because those links are tenuous and unproven. Likely unprovable. He is a money launderer and a client for Russian oligarchs, but he isn’t an invisible bomb-throwing ninja of the scale necessary to pull off that kind of spy intrigue. He’s just another conman who was used in a con that targeted the American people. The sooner we figure that out and get him out of office, the better everything will be.
However, he is one of the people who believed the Jade Helm story at the time. Just like Texas Governor Greg Abbott. Just like Ted Cruz. This is the cost of believing these conspiratorial fairytales. The cost being that these people have been shown to be unfit for office. They are far too gullible to be trusted with handling the daily business of our government. Unfortunately for the average American, they’re still caught up in so many other conspiratorial fantasies that they probably haven’t noticed that their leaders have been shown to be just as clueless as they are.
Since 1993, the United States has seen a drop in the rate of homicides and other violence involving guns, according to two new studies released Tuesday. Using government data, analysts saw a steep drop for violence in the 1990s, they saw more modest drops in crime rates since 2000. – NPR May 7, 2013 The Two-Way
This 2013 NPR article was part of some sponsored content on Facebook, content from the Advocates, a group I supported once upon a time. I just want to state this up front, so that the following sentiments expressed by me directly to the Advocates can be understood.
Having done all that we then wait for the real stats to surface. Real stats, because, without those changes we don’t know the stats on gun violence and its full effects on society. We can do all that or we could just start treating all semi-automatics like we do full automatic weapons. Reinstate the draft so that every able-bodied person in the US can be assessed for weapons proficiency before we let them loose on society to raise havoc with rapid-fire weaponry available on every street corner. Pick one of those options, because it has to be one of them if we are to move away from the place we are in now. Content from a Facebook post, slightly expanded.
I purposefully didn’t include a conclusion to this article because, as this podcast illustrates, we really don’t know the facts around gun violence yet. Yet.
You must hold this administration, every administration, accountable. Every Congressman. Every Senator. Every general. Every CEO who takes taxpayer money. Every political party. Every media outlet. Every journalist. Ask the questions and demand the answers. Never stop. Show up for every election, no matter how minor. Educate yourself on the candidates and the issues before the election.
Jim Wright at Stonekettle Station was referencing the subject of the Orange Hate-Monkey‘s (OHM) military plans when he titled his piece Caveat Emptor. The OHM is selling us a military vision in his usual huckster fashion. The most glorious military you’ve ever seen. Anyone who believes this to be true is as dumb as the people wiring their account info to 419 scammers thinking they’re going to win big. Pretty much just as Jim tells the story.
When I used the title Caveat Emptor, I was speaking to the selling of the OHM’s alter ego, Trump the businessman, Trump the deal-maker and fixer. Caveat Emptor, buyer beware. You are being sold a bill of goods. You are being taken. Guard your wallet. The OHM is none of those things. The OHM is a money launderer, serial philanderer, and a thief. Not necessarily in that order.
When I get a quotable snippet from one of Jim’s articles, I tend to post it all over the place so as to do him a favor and drive traffic to his website. Since I can’t afford to pay him for what he writes, the least I can do is promote him where he isn’t already being promoted. I posted the above quote to Google’s idea of a social platform, Google+ as well as a few other places, but I only got replies on G+, and what I got in response came out of the anarchist/voluntaryist wings of the political spectrum, a commandment to vote harder.
I recognized the flavor of this attack almost immediately. Voting is useless. Voting doesn’t fix anything. Ah, we’re dealing with a libertarian here. I have little to no patience with libertarians, having quit that cult not so long ago. I don’t participate in government (as the snippet demands) to achieve anything specific for me personally. My personal goals are not what voting achieves. This is a core problem with libertarianism specifically and individualism generally. Voting isn’t about me and it isn’t about you or anyone else specifically. This is true of most life experience, but try explaining this fact to a libertarian or anarchist. It’ll go right over their heads.
But that isn’t to say that voting and government as a structure haven’t achieved measurable good. General goods have been achieved and the list is nearly endless. Longer even than the evils that government has created through its existence. It is always that way with the tools we create. The evil comes with the good.
The elderly no longer have to die penniless and alone. The sick now have places to go to be cared for. The poor have the beginnings of structure that could end their poverty if used properly. Libertarians will say these goods were achieved by use of force because they don’t understand the nature of money, the meaning of money, etc.but they insist on force being applied to them before yielding so that they can say told you so. I know because I’ve seen this done many times over the years. That is the definition of a self-fulfilling prophecy.
You libertarians and anarchists, you crazy right-wing armaphiles, you are not any deader when the cops shoot you for armed resistance than the dead black guy who just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. What you are buying with your money is death, exactly like funding a military is buying death. The trick, just in case you are wondering, is to outlive the other guy, which means you are failing to understand what you are buying if you end up dead in the process. Caveat Emptor. There’s some good advice offered gratis. Don’t say I never gave you anything.
Does society exist? Most anarchists and conservatives would say it doesn’t. I present a counter-argument.
When was the last time you stalked prey, ran it down and then ate it? That’s not a realistic question, is it? I mean silly, right? I’ll skip over asking if you’ve crafted your own weapons with which to hunt game, I know most people have not and the creation of the most basic tools an individual can make is a skill that vanishingly few people can exhibit. When was the last time you planted seeds, watched them grow, and then harvested the crop? Well, all of us have probably tended a garden in our lifetimes. Agriculture is in just about everybody in some way. There is something real about digging in the dirt and watching plants grow. Something very zen and rewarding about the entire process. However, gardening is definitely not the same as growing everything you need to survive all by yourself year in and year out.
Why am I asking these questions? Because that is what it means to be truly self-sufficient. To be able to produce the food you require independently. To be able to create all of the tools and clothing you require to survive in any climate in any region of the world. If I were to ask you about building your own shelter, even fewer people would understand just how difficult that process and others are. They would be clueless as to just how many people are required to create the many things we take for granted. Take for granted (i.e. an entitlement) especially in the US and other developed countries.
I have heard the challenge, repeated many times over my years in libertarian circles, to prove the existence of society. It is almost a mantra to some individualists, and I know there are survivalists out there who are convinced they could live on their own indefinitely. Some of them even can do it, I’m sure, but the number of people who could do it are a fraction of a percentage point of the entire human population. That is a pretty steep hill to drop off of, if the lights just go off one night and never come back on.
Coming from the other direction, the number of people the Earth could support if everyone had to live a hunter-gatherer life is probably less than one billion people. I haven’t seen anyone do a back of the envelope calculation on that in several years, so my number is off I’m sure. The point is that the number of people the world can support in a primitive lifestyle is smaller than the number of people our established technology can support. The systems built and maintained over centuries by people who just want to see their children have it easier than they did, to be able to survive without having to claw their way through every day wondering if they’d make it through the next day.
The nine-to-fiver who complains about the cost of his latte has no clue, none at all, just how many people who had to labor to get him his coffee with milk in a container that he could just throw away when he’s had enough caffeine to keep him alert. And he gets that tasty beverage in exchange for a promissory note, a debt instrument, money, that the retailer then passes back down the chain eventually to the field workers in a far away country that actually touch the soil and grow the coffee that he thinks he paid too much for.
All of this, the high numbers of people, the ease of access to goods and services, the ability to do some task divorced from producing sustenance for yourself directly and still be fed, clothed, sheltered? All of it is evidence of society. Money is evidence of society, all by itself. Money is a socialist system, a system that exists because there are others to trade with in the first place. Without the group’s agreement, you’d still be running down prey like your ancient ancestors did, and hoping that the animal didn’t injure you before you killed it.
Watching the seventh season of The Walking Dead, I was struck by the notion that the entire group still wears clothing that doesn’t visibly disintegrate when they move. Seven years on, they still aren’t spinning and weaving thread and cloth. Patching shirts and jackets. For that matter the vehicles still run after being essentially without maintenance on the side of the road for years. Gasoline still burns even though (as anyone who has experience with small engines can attest) you’re lucky if you can get a lawn mower engine to start after it’s been sitting idle through one winter. Lucky to get it started because the fuel itself is unstable and will degrade over time. Rick and Carl and the rest of the crew? They’d be walking or riding horses everywhere by now because the fuel to run modern vehicles can’t be easily created without a vast infrastructure of technology that very few people understand.
That’s television, you say? Of course it is. It’s fantasy. And so is the notion that any of us are truly self-sufficient. None of us can replicate even the most simple of machines that we rely on daily, and yet we delude ourselves into thinking that we are capable and independent. Rational actors on a vast, mathematically predictable stage. That ability to delude oneself in that fashion? That too is evidence of society. Flat Earthers are a modern invention, and absolute proof of society’s existence. You don’t question that the Earth is round when you watch the people who will bring back your dinner tonight sail over the horizon to catch fish. The curvature of the Earth is as evident as the gnawing hunger in your belly.
I first thought about writing a post like this one after listening to this episode of Freakonomics,
I was inspired by the complexity of the process of creating one of the oldest tools modern man utilizes, the simple wooden pencil. As the episode goes into, the pencil is hardly simple at all. It took generations of tinkering and tweaking to create the object that you and I think of as a pencil when we say the word “pencil”. This TED talk portrays the complexity of the subject more quickly,
Unfortunately the video is hosted on Facebook only. I apologize for the cludgy video interface design that comes along with that; the parts that aren’t directly copied from YouTube, I mean. Modern technology is so much not like the pencil. Facebook’s baldly abrasive and ham-handed attempts to acquire all internet traffic for itself are a hallmark of poor design, but that is a different subject for some other day. The subject for today is how the simplest of objects that we take for granted, a toaster, a pencil, are beyond the ability of any one person to put together and have work properly. So much for the dreams of rugged individualism and self-reliance. Would you mind passing me that cup of tea, please?
The triumphs of the free market are actually nothing like triumphs of the free market. They are products of society, government and business working together. This is the part of the human equation that most individualists simply cannot wrap their minds around. None of us get exactly what we want. Not even the wealthiest of wealthy men gets exactly what they want out of life. To the extent that anyone’s needs are met it is done through cooperative effort. Like-minded people working together for a common goal. The most that any individual can do by himself is survive, and that only for the brief instant that their life contains. If that’s all you want out of life, survival, then you really are a pathetic creature. I grieve for you.
Here’s some evidence of the government funding that Mazzucato’s talking about. DARPA, or the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, created during the Cold War to keep American technology ahead of the Soviets, has over the years produced several kinds of missiles and airplanes as well as the first computer mouse, miniature GPS receivers, HD displays, and a digital personal assistant. ARPA-E, or the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy, founded under George W. Bush, has funded a variety of energy projects, including battery-storage tech; the Department of Energy, starting in 1978, invested more than $130 million studying the extraction techniques that have come to be known as fracking. And the National Institutes of Health has helped fund the vast majority of all new drugs approved by the FDA.
I could have sworn we nearly had a revolution not even two years ago because the information delivery services we’ve tied ourselves to thought they could meter our internet consumption habits. Has everyone forgot how Comcast throttled Netflix until they coughed up millions of dollars? Are American memories so short that they can’t even remember what happened in recent history? SOPA? PIPA? Is the average American really that clueless they can’t remember?
The FCC under the OHM’s direction intends to go against the will of the majority of the American people, and the informed technologists, on the subject of the necessity of information to the proper functioning of democratic government. I’m not sure why I’m surprised, it’s been profit over sense since day one for the OHM. He’s not going to change now just because he’s transparently defying the will of the people.
Ah Nick Gillespie. A cherished source of much misinformation in my past years as a libertarian. How to explain to you Nick just how dominated by polemic you are? I’m not sure why On The Media thought that his was the voice to go to, the voice to promote the OHM’s internet agenda. Aside from the fact that he is a vocal critic of everything government, the way a proper libertarian propagandist would be, he has little to no experience doing anything aside from being an apologist for capitalism’s excesses. In all the years I’ve read his work, he solidly comes down on the side of the corporate donors who generously fund his monthly rag.
I would offer a quote from Nick Gillespie’s blog article on Reason magazine, if there was anything quote-worthy about it. That article and the interview Reason conducted with Ajit Pai seems to be the justification of having him speak for the pro-OHM policy side of the open internet argument, but I don’t accept any of his conclusions since he offers not one shred of evidence showing that Net Neutrality rules have in any way limited the internet aside from acknowledging that providing a service as essential as the internet means that the provision needs to be available everywhere in the US equally to all citizens.
I want to make one thing perfectly clear here. I am not shy about demanding the government secure the internet against all threats, including government oversight of internet content. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) should be strapped down by regulations which prevent them from doing anything other than provide access to the information. They should not under any condition be content manufacturers, as so many of them currently are. Failure to enforce this ban on content creation by the providers leads inevitably to things like Comcast’s shakedown of Netflix, and the permanent throttling of competitors in the near future if the new rules are allowed to go through. Their promises to not throttle their competitors in the online world are worth every bit as much as the OHM’s promise that Mexico would pay for the border wall; as in, not worth a thing and probably indicative of the complete opposite in reality.
The ISP’s make and are still making bucket loads of money in the internet world. What they don’t want is to be forced to provide service to areas that are not profitable for them, something that President Obama’s FCC rules on Net Neutrality and Title 2 designation forces on the ISPs. The same kinds of rules that made telephones and electricity things that are available throughout the US. Regulations that require the provision of services to all households in the country whether provision of those services is profitable or not.
I don’t think I can put too fine a point on this argument. This is the future of democracy in the world that we are talking about. The internet is the new library, newspaper, radio and television rolled into one. It is possibly even a replacement for the postal service itself, aside from the delivery of physical goods to locations, a job capably done by other private sources. The internet has to be available to everyone everywhere all the time or it will fail to do its job. What these new proposed rules portend is that information will be made available only to the wealthy, with the rural areas of America left rotting without infrastructure they have every right to expect the government to provide.
An information tollway with demand-based pricing. That most libertarian of libertarian ideas, paying for access to work, shelter food and clothing up front by making everyone pay for the roads they are forced to use just to satisfy basic needs. It was a libertarian idea first, this lame brained scheme to make everyone pay for freeways by turning them into tollways. Here in Austin, we are saddled with several of these bullshit toll roads. There is no way to get from here to there without paying a fee if the road didn’t exist before the tollway was created. This leaves several new developments unreachable without paying a toll, a painful fact that new homeowners will discover only after they buy their houses and learn local routes to and from work. To and from the supermarket.
This is what they propose for the internet. None but the wealthy may pass. Everyone else, get in line.
I want an internet where content businesses grow according to their quality, not their ability to pay to ride in the fast lane. I want an internet where ideas spread because they’re inspiring, not because they chime with the views of telecoms executives. I want an internet where consumers decide what succeeds online, and where ISPs focus on providing the best connectivity.
If that’s the internet you want — act now. Not tomorrow, not next week. Now.
The link in that snippet goes to battleforthenet.com, an online petition and protest organization designed specifically to stop these new FCC rules dead in their tracks. If you want to preserve the promise of an open internet, then I suggest you click on that link and do what you can to help them. Now is the time to act to save the internet from the OHM and his henchmen.
This image popped up in my Facebook news feed some years back. I can’t even find the originating image for it, it has been that long ago and had so little impact. I had several thoughts at the time which I lined out as bullet points. A rather lengthy breakdown for what is a five-minute throw-away joke image for Facebook.
Still. I know there are thousands, possibly even millions that would laugh at that joke. I in my previous libertarian persona would have probably accepted it as wryly humorous fact, which is precisely why I took the time to break down the many heuristical errors present in just thinking the observation true enough to be funny.
Not satisfied with wasting an hour or two breaking down a meaningless joke image once and filing it away, I have now spent even more time writing a lengthy post about it, proving the tagline of this blog is accurate.
As to the offered definition of government itself. You can believe any fool thing you want including that gravity doesn’t exist because it is a theory. I wouldn’t suggest jumping off buildings if you do, even though Douglas Adams describes learning to fly as throwing yourself at the ground and missing. Never mistake a joke for something that is true or actually possible. The image is a joke, it just isn’t a funny joke.
Government cannot actually defy science because government cannot change the laws of nature. That is why pi remains an irrational number most accurately described as 355/113 even though several governments have mistakenly believed they could change it. Math is always going to be math and 2+2=4 is true for every instance of reality as we know it. Do not throw the word quantum at me as a counter-argument because I will know that you are stupid if you do.
Economics really isn’t a science in much the same way and for the same reason that psychology is only vaguely a science. Both are in part human constructs held as beliefs within human minds. Therefore “laws of economics” are more rules of thumb than actual laws.
In short, even if there are laws of economics, we haven’t been observing them for long enough to know what they actually are. And given the vagaries of human behavior and the mercurial nature of states, people and institutions, the notion that there’s some grand mechanistic, master system that explains all and predicts everything is at best a comforting fiction and at worst a straitjacket that precludes creativity, forestalls innovation and destroys dynamism.
Referencing “the laws of economics” as a way to refute arguments or criticize ideas has the patina of clarity and certainty. The reality is that referencing such laws is simply another way to justify beliefs and inclinations. I may agree that the war on drugs is flawed, but not because it violates “laws of economics,” but rather because it fails in most of its basic goals. The test of whether government spending or central bank easing is good policy should be whether they succeed in ameliorating the problems of stagnant growth and high unemployment, not on what the “laws of economics” erroneously say about certain future outcomes.
As an example, one can continue to print money without limit so long as the money isn’t allowed to collect anywhere in a volume large enough to break the system. People will continue to use and spend money blithely believing whatever they want to believe about the system they are part of so long as the system continues. That is the beauty of the human animal and its selective cognition machine that we call a brain. We only tend to notice structures when they fail, and then we marvel at the complexity of the system that functioned so well we never noticed it until it was gone.
For the last year and a half the media have fawned all over His Electoral Highness, The Orange Hate-Monkey (OHM) They can’t stop talking about him. They can’t be kept from giving him airtime to talk about himself. Aside from the OHM himself, his biggest fans are the media who think that what this lame duck of a leader says means anything at all. Because of the media’s fawning, I have been forced to spend the last two years ignoring everything the OHM can be heard saying with their generous gift of free airtime. I ignore everything he says because listening to him is what he wants us to do. I ignore him because attempting to make sense of what he says makes me feel ill. I ignore him because listening to him demonstrably makes you dumber; the media being a prime example of people made stupid by the sound of the OHM’s voice.
The media’s free gift of airtime helped give him the momentum to take the electoral college if not the popular vote; and now they ask, why is America so divided? If anyone should know the answer to this question it should be the media, but I wouldn’t look to them to give you a truthful answer. Division is what they want. It sells. Conflict and violence always lead the news. The division they are trying to illustrate here is largely a matter of perception. The division is almost entirely of the media’s making, their policy of going with taglines that hype the separation, the division, the conflict,
There’s nothing new about simmering hostility between a President and the press. As Richard Nixon once stated, “The President should treat the press just as fairly as the press treats him.”
In March of 1974, the Nixon presidency was lurching toward destruction by Watergate, and there was an ongoing tension between the President and the CBS White House correspondent:
President Nixon: “Are you running for something?”Dan Rather: “No, sir, Mr. President, are you?”
Norm Ornstein, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, was then, and remains now, a student of our political system and our media:
“We would watch network news shows and we would sit there and we would have basically a common set of facts that would emerge from them,” he said. “As we’ve moved to the new media world, the more you’ve got this cacophony of voices, the more you cut through it by, basically, shock value. And that’s why people now are driven not by their own attachment to their own parties; they’re driven by a hatred for those on the other side.”
Much like Nixon ushered in the end of the Republican party that elected him, the OHM signals the ultimate end of Reaganism and Reaganomics. There will be no possibility of doubt remaining as to the bankruptcy of Reagan’s policies by the time the OHM is drummed out of office; policies which have held sway since Reagan was president. The question the media should be asking is, will the Democrats find themselves and their new direction, or will they waste their resurgence as they did with the Carter years? Let me unpack these observations for you.
The eight years of Clinton were not liberal years. The most damning thing to be said about Clinton is that he was and is Republican lite, conservative-ish. He ended welfare in the US because the conservatives demanded that he do it. Because it was something that Reagan promised and compromising with Reagan Democrats was how Bill Clinton got into office. Over and over again he proved that he wasn’t liberal in any real sense of the word. He was a conservative from the old Southern wing of Democratic conservatives who just happened to have married well. Without Hillary’s influence I am convinced he would have been even harder on the poor, even more militaristic than he was. Weirdly, I doubt that would have kept Republicans from manufacturing a scandal in their attempts to remove him.
Barack Obama was pretty close to liberal but still enacted conservative policies because conservative policies were the only ones that the conservatives in the congress he was saddled with would vaguely go for. Obamacare was and is Romneycare. That is why Romney had such a hard time dissing the ACA, because it was his idea offered by a Democratic president and he knew it. Obama was the deporter-in-Chief because, again, that is what conservatives wanted him to do. He was tough on immigration because he hoped it would win points with the other side of the aisle. Only in his last two years did he realize that Republicans would never work with him and so he spent those years ruling by executive order. The Republicans didn’t refuse to work for him because he was black if we are to take them at their word. they didn’t refuse because he was liberal because his policies prove otherwise. They refused to work with him because he was a Democrat.
The sin that Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are all guilty of is the sin of being members of the Democratic party. If they had been Republicans they would have been deemed typical centrists willing to make deals in order to get the government’s work done. It is deal making that the new conservatives hate. They are convinced that there is a true conservative ideology and all they have to do is adhere to it. Never mind that no two conservatives can agree on what conservatism is aside from prosperity gospel Jesus, a completely different kind of Jesus than that socialist hippy Jesus of the seventies. That is religion masquerading as ideology which is all conservatism has left to appeal to, the shadow of religion that Reagan rode to power on.
None of this has anything to do with real ideology beyond the ghost of Reagan that even Reaganite priests can’t quote because Reagan was more liberal than the country is now. The ghost of Reagan and his trickle-down Reaganomics is why the tax rates on the wealthiest people in the US remain low. Anyone making more than a million dollars a year should be taxed at the confiscatory rate of 99% just as the progressive tax rates did during the post-war era. During the times when the middle class grew and the poor were not quite so desperate. Back when Jesus was a socialist hippy. They should be taxed at this extreme rate because they don’t spend more when they have more, so it benefits society not one bit to allow them to keep their incredible wealth.
The subject of monetary policy is too lengthy to get into here, but in the end upper income tax rates were lowered because the increased wealth was supposed to generate more benefits for the rest of us, and the reality we live in has demonstrably proven that the opposite is true. Ergo, some form of income cap has to be reinstituted. Either a scale requiring all boats be raised when the wealthy get paid more, or confiscatory taxes on pay greater than the scale would dictate.
So here we are at the tail-end of the Reagan era, just waiting for the Reagan Democrats to bleep their last heartbeat on the heart monitor they are strapped to before we can get on with progress. It has to be those people because they are the only ones left watching TV, getting their news from TV and from radio. Those are the people who went out and voted for Trump, his core base of stormtrumpers. Those are the people who in their political ignorance voted Republican not realizing that Republicans and conservatives ran everything in the country aside from the presidency already. Politically ignorant people who don’t understand that the president’s job isn’t to fix the country, that is the job of the congress. A job the congress is supposed to achieve through legislation and funding and programs to keep the myriad systems this country depends on, running.
Unfortunately for the rest of us, conservatives have swallowed the anarchist notion that government doesn’t work. Republicans have echoed this falsehood because their base believes it, never questioning why they want to elect people to do jobs that they believe don’t need to be done. So it falls to the Democrats to make proposals for government that will work. It falls to them to prove that the poor can get a fair shake in this new America, that the wealthy don’t always get their way. Falls to the Democrats to propose the kinds of changes that populists on both sides of the aisle wanted and would get behind, because the Republicans and conservatives are too scared of socialism to even go someplace where government just might work. If the Democrats can do this, it will be the end of the Republicans for at least a generation.
What I don’t understand is how the media can’t see this happening? Why do they see fractiousness and faction rather than seeing what is really going on? The politically informed vs. the politically ignorant that gave us the current administration? Why can’t they see that they are the OHM’s biggest fans? Perhaps they can’t see it because they too are caught in a previous age. The age of the gatekeeper and the top-down administrator. The feudal society of corporate America, what is fast becoming a corporate globalism. The history of dictators and their five year plans that never worked out. They are soon to be as irrelevant as the Reagan Democrats who will be cashing their last Social Security checks soon. Checking out as movers and shakers and are left behind as the world starts dancing to a different beat.
The media and Reagan Democrats will be as baffled by the next election as they were by the last one, because they think the narrative is one they set, and not one that we the people decide.
The state of Arkansas plans to put to death eight inmates over a span of 10 days next month, a pace of executions unequaled in recent American history and brought about by a looming expiration date for a drug used by the state for lethal injections.
This strikes me as a really stupid reason to schedule a massive number of executions. Perhaps the stupidest reason I’ve ever run across since realizing that the death penalty is a holdover from the barbarity of our past that we should really leave in the past. The fact that businesses will not sell you drugs to kill your inmates with should be your first and last clue that the thing you want to do isn’t something you should be doing.
I want it over and done. I do. I’m tired, boss. Tired of bein’ on the road, lonely as a sparrow in the rain. Tired of not ever having me a buddy to be with, or tell me where we’s coming from or going to, or why. Mostly I’m tired of people being ugly to each other. I’m tired of all the pain I feel and hear in the world everyday. There’s too much of it. It’s like pieces of glass in my head all the time. Can you understand? – Stephen King, Frank Darabont The Green Mile
I believed in the death penalty when I was a child. I took the pro death penalty side in our high school debate team. We patted ourselves on the back for discovering the notion that beyond a shadow of a doubt meant the convicted were guilty. As a child, everything I knew was certain knowledge. What a comfort it was then, absolute certainty of truth.
When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. – 1 Corinthians 13:11
I know so little now, it is a wonder that I find the certainty to set words to paper. I do know this; The Innocence Project has tracked the number of exonerations in the United States since DNA evidence was allowed. As of this writing, 349 people have been exonerated. They couldn’t have committed the crime they were convicted of, because evidence from the crime does not match their DNA. Twenty of those 349 people were serving time on death row. Thirty-seven of the 349 plead guilty even though they could not have committed the crime.
When I realized that people were fallible, that government was frequently in error, that majority opinion had no more connection to reality than the flipping of a coin, I backed away from believing that we were ever going to be smart enough to know who really needs killing. I have a challenge for those who hold fast to the belief that the death penalty is right and good. Listen to this podcast, a portion of the radio documentary Witness to an Execution which aired in 2000, and then imagine yourself in their shoes, if you can.
For my part, I recognize hell when I hear it described. I can hear eternal torment in every voice that speaks, especially the ones that say how much they believe in the death penalty still. I would not willingly stand in any of their shoes even for one execution.
The government should not be allowed to do anything that individuals within the society are not allowed to do. In the heat of the moment, in the crisis of real time, certain actions are valid that wouldn’t be valid in other cases. When no other option presents itself, it is permissible to kill. Cops and prison guards should be armed and forgiven for actions taken in legitimate self defense of themselves and society, just like any other member of society would be forgiven in their place.
An unarmed prisoner strapped to a gurney or a chair is not a threat. Killing that person is killing in cold blood. It can only be counted as murder, making us no better than the murderer that we have exacted justice upon. Life imprisonment without the possibility of parole is preferable to making myself a party to murder, even if the man that we are killing needed it.
How do you explain away Hillary Clinton’s assumed hawkishness?
Everyone voted to invade Iraq. I remember, I was active in politics that year. I mentioned this fact in the article Libertarian hostility for Hillary Clinton. Either you were with Bush II or you were against him. Painting a target on your back is not how you get things done in a political sphere. It is how you get eliminated. She was a savvy operator then, and she is one now. A survivor. Someone who gets shit done. Someone who will make a good leader.
Obama let France take out Muammar Gaddafi like they wanted to do, and I don’t shed tears for dead dictators. They get what is coming to them. The same fate is waiting for Assad in Syria. You don’t destroy your country the way he has done over the last five years and walk away from that. Justice is waiting for him when this conflict ends.
If Hillary Clinton was a war hawk, she wouldn’t have worked to get a deal with Iran. Pacifists dismiss this fact because it destroys their narrative. However, all of these are the president’s policies; Barack Obama, not Hillary Clinton. The President calls the shots, not the Secretary of State. That I happen to agree with them is beside the point. Those policies are his policies, not hers.
Let me frame the question of who Hillary Clinton really is with her own history. Her history as related in this piece contrasting her past with the past of the Orange Hate-Monkey;
Consider, for a moment, two people. One, as a young woman at the beginning of a promising legal career, went door to door searching for ways to guarantee an education to the countless disabled and disadvantaged children who had fallen through the cracks. The other, as a young millionaire, exacted revenge on his recently deceased brother’s family by cutting off the medical insurance desperately needed by his nephew’s newborn son, who at eighteen months of age was suffering from violent seizures brought on by a rare neurological disorder.
Now let’s talk about the future.
Daesh has to be destroyed. Daesh in all it’s forms, all across the world. no amount of wishing will make them go away. It is going to take killing. Also, we have an uppity Russian dictator who needs to be treated with a firm, sure hand. Those tiny hands the Orange Hate-Monkey has will not do the trick. It’s going to take someone who knows the ins and outs of diplomacy. Someone who has been on the scene for the last thirty years or so would be good.
Much as I don’t like it, and I don’t. I’ve protested every war that has occurred while I was breathing. But we need someone who can credibly hold the keys to the largest military machine in the world and be trusted not to blink. We need someone who is going to be able to do the job in front of her. That someone is Hillary Clinton. If we’re lucky.
Ideologues should stick to theorizing and stay out of real politics. They just screw up the real world for the rest of us. There is no panacea that will fix the world. War isn’t the answer. Peace isn’t the answer. Walking the path before us is going to take hard decisions. It requires someone who isn’t constrained by an ideology that keeps them from doing what they have to do. Whether that thing is taking the fight to a credible threat, or walking away from an unwinnable conflict.
It takes someone willing to occupy the middle space. Like most things in life, it requires compromise.
“Violence … is the last refuge of the incompetent.” – Isaac Asimov