Sunday, March 8, 2020

Freakonomics and Socialsim

The other side of a coin. Which coin? A generalize coin that had the heads represented by yesterday's podcast.

Today's is more or less about socialism, and global comparisons.

Naturally, I'm not going to share a podcast that is predictable and cliche, but I will always try to share a podcast that is worth the while.

Conversations between informed people is how democracies work, getting the "i don't know" from people with strong opinions is, frankly, aggravating and altogether too common anymore.

I got off facebook and found real life to be worse for informed political discussions. I"m back on Facebook, to talk with only informed people. I will be making a point about it, if cliches are what I'm attracting.

I put this effort in to be a better informed voter, the ole definition of Patriotism contains space for a lot of crowds who believe in their country. Winning an election doesn't validate patriotism, is merely a reflection of the electorate.

Patriotism's deeper meaning is love of country coupled with larger than common concern for who we place in power, and the efforts we put into that decision.

"I don't know" is not a Patriot's defense to a challenge of one's own strong opinion.

If everyone has "I don't know" standing behind their immutable perspectives, this isn't a country of Patriots. Its a nation of common people who aren't putting much more effort in an election than just making sure their schedule is cleared for that day's political sermon.

That's a lot of time squandered to arrive at the same place the guy at the bar is...."I don't know."

That's the hot tip for the day, don't have strong opinions that are built on a foundation that ultimately is really just ignorance.

There is a euphemism for that too....

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Sam Harris and Capitalism

Sam Harris Podcast.

Harris is a great slow talker. Which is not to say he talks a slow that will drive you nuts.

As well as he is virtually unflappable. He is a neuroscientist, this is not a podcast centered around a political personality.

People who like to choose their words precisely would enjoy listening to him.

Smart guest.

To generalize this episode to its detriment, it's about capitalism, capitalist, and just our times.

A very calm conversation, quite a contrast to cable.

Sunday, February 16, 2020


Are there any Ideologues left in America?

As an observation of effectual power, maybe not so many, but by self-labels we are crammed full of ideologues.

The Bernie Sander's lot would probably protest that they are committed to their democratic socialism, and if the memes and passions I see and read from them mean anything,  they could make their case.

The Cult of Trump are so certain of their glorious conservative designs, that they broker no suggestion that the observable shortcomings are anything but fake news.

As for myself,  a self described right of center zealot all alone,  ideology is a good story but isn't necessarily what I worry about anymore.

I'm fairly certain however, that I am in a decent sized company of powerful people who having recognized certain inalienable facts of governance, have decided that they who want it, can have their ideology,  power is indifferent to these intellectual constraints.

What I mean is that by understanding the scope of government, and the power of government in today's America, by working along with that power it allows for a different set of considerations than what a pure ideology would.   Its becomes about pragmatism, rather than ideals.

For example,  how does one's ideology color one's expectation of, or support of government budgetary matters?

People of power, and I'm talking about money power of course, see the federal budget as a source of opportunity and growth.   Ideology has little place for them.   Powerful people hire influencer's to work that budget towards their goal of obtaining more money and thus more power.

Your ideology be damned,  but when largess flows towards the military industrial complex or the monied interest in Silicon Valley, those are wins that ideology can attach to, but really, in essence its about protecting, building, investing, and growing the communities where largess flows to and to hell with whether its beyond small government platforms, or contradicts an anti-corporate welfare screed.

Do you know what ideology gets you in America today?

It gets you living in a small, rural, and declining town somewhere in the rust belt, listening to talk radio and the Fox news millionaires who pound on the 'conservatism' of Reagan, Levin, and Hannity  enough to convince millions of people that the best thing for their communities is to limit, or even diminish the size of government largess flowing in their direction.

That's what ideology gets you.

Ideology has become the base stoking of envy that causes misguided thoughts on what pragmatically would work the best for these communities to reverse course and grow.   Ideology has created what we euphemistically have been calling people who serve the interest of others, but not themselves -- tools.

When the lobbyists for big Tech or big Military work their way in D.C. and win huge budgetary perks for their select communities what you are witnessing is a modern success story.  Of people who recognize what's important for their communities and win at getting even more than their fair share --  money.

When ideologues who call themselves 'conservative' consider that the best thing for their communities is to cut welfare, food stamps, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid to name a few,  that isn't called winning, that's what called cutting your own throat.

I never kept count of how many 'conservatives' I've asked if they ever called the welfare fraud hotline, but the answer has never  risen above zero.

I never kept count of how many 'conservatives' I've asked if they have a goal in mind whereby when that floor of entitlements spending in reached, they can happily move on to more pressing issues to consider their votes in favor of,  but the answer has never really been considered.

But I always get the impression that there is a count being made, vague for sure, but nevertheless a tally, and that the number is always too high for what this nation can afford to just give to people.

In other contexts, this is called penny wise and pound foolish.    Personal welfare is a pittance,  corporate welfare is astronomical.

The simplest way to start transforming small communities across America is to spend more in those communities.   One easy way to arrest the decline is to NOT make slashing welfare an ideological necessity.   In real, pragmatic terms  when people have money they spend it.  Spending money in declining areas is itself declining, it's called a downward spiral.  It's not going to end via thoughts and prayers, that is for certain.

A reply that corporation hire more people when they get tax cuts, and no poor people ever created jobs is quaint and an indication of ideology.   What works better for job growth over tax breaks?   Increased revenues.

But that is where ideology gets you in America, adhering to a set of ideas for a system that long ago established money is power,  and a system where the winners don't look like ideologues at all.

No one has to like welfare,  but as I think pragmatically,  its gotta be the easiest way to reverse course for so many communities....if only they would stop cutting their own throats over it.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Exhibit 1. Proof Trump is participating, not winning.

The below tweet, revealing a video and audio of Canada's Trudeau, France's Macron, and who appears to me to be England's Boris Johnson, sharing a laugh at Trump's expense. One can only imagine how they speak together in private.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

The Thanksgiving Topic is Participation Trophy.

The last entry's title, which insinuates that MAGA merchandise is the Trump world Participation Trophy was hinted at, but not fleshed out.  I'll try to do that a little here.

It is now some time ago that I also wrote a piece on how I felt that the kooky radio 'conservatives' occupy the basement of political thought and responsibility.  I suppose now, it has the chance of becoming a motif of my writings.

But a motif built around the cult's shallow political base, in the end, is just a reminder of the old adage that knowledge is power.

But I really do think a case can be made that MAGA merchandise is essentially self bought participation trophy cum memorabilia.

First of all, and most insignificant, is that that MAGA gear was developed as a merchandising gimmick long before anything was won.   Sure he eventually did win,  but it was participating that mattered then.  Of course working toward a common goal, akin to those cute kiddies playing soccer -- trying to convince us, and themselves that they are special too.

But win he did, and as that both does and doesn't sanctify everything swirling around this significant historical figure ( notice that I did not say great, I said significant )  it did give the MAGA wearing rubes something that every child on a Saturday morning wants too.

The reason that MAGA hasn't elevated itself to its lofty intent, though many question the premise despite even now after almost 3 years of reverse progress, is because there is no way on God's green earth of nearly 8 billion people that the cream of the crop, as recognized by the leaders sent out to engage the world, is as silly as this guy who runs our country.

Or in other words,  there is no way in my view of how the world works, that Donald Trump is going to be able lead in the circles that for the leverage that our great country has bestowed on him to affect matters.   But it needs to be articulated again for the participation trophy get the trophy just for showing up.   As critics say, when I was a kid, if we didn't win we didn't get credit with an award just for showing up.   Trump won essentially a skewed popularity contest,  he earned a spot at the world's top table.    It's another competition now, where winning isn't necessarily reducible to the logic of a crowd living in the now, and not so much cognizant of the past.

But if his mark is just a fool's journey, then that's the greatest achievement considering the incomprehensible opportunity he was given. 

I could substantiate my cynicism with plenty of examples of what I consider devaluing to our country, our culture, our democracy, our standing, and our honor but to do so would create a situation where the sheer enormity of deviancy would diminish the sense of loss in fields of competition that should of been jealously protected from the generations that vote, who empower right here, right now here.

To say jealously protected, I mean in the old school way of "Don't Tread on Me" meant not to interfere in our peculiar experiment at democracy  Mr. Putin.

To say jealously protected, I mean understanding that the world was our Cold War victory trophy, it bears our mark based on our internal institutions ramrodded on the world.  The United States writ large. 

If Trump intends to created a new world order based on tariff wars and  obsequiousness to our erst while enemies, that's not making America great, that's making America a secondary actor in our own theater.   Oh how the mighty star has fallen.

But when a participation trophy satisfies,  why ask the bigger questions, like what makes a nation great today?   Knowing the answer to that would sustain America's greatness, the future, as is the real trophy, will likely not be given to those not working hard enough to win.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

MAGA as Participation Trophy

Yesterday the President of the United States, on Twitter,  quoted himself, and then thanked himself for the compliment,   And I'm not kidding.

"'A very stable Genius!'  Thank You."
 --  Donald J. Trump, President of the United States.  September 14 2019

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Introducing @babinsax23

I have a Twitter handle, @babinsax23, that I use primarily to add my cynicism to the conversations, and I know its not that high brow.   Thing is,  I'm essentially following the President, responding to him and the action around his tweets or his comments in real life.

I rationalize that as long as President Trump predominately lies and attacks people via his various platforms available to him, my cynicism is not meeting him in kind, but is aspiring toward a higher level of discourse.   Aspiring in the way that truth can be mistaken for a rebuke.    To speak candidly to power,  to let the Man know your displeasure, is a freedom I have today that would of been unimaginable during the glorious days of Athens and Rome; the romantic tea houses of Revolutionary France or America in the 18th century; or the evil concentration camps of Hitler, Stalin, and Mao and I intend to use it.

The gun crowds believe they have a God given right to their guns, I believe that hypertext transfer protocol gave me the freedom I didn't imagine 30 years ago.

Its a shame that the most powerful man in the world has chosen the same platforms I use, to demonstrate on a daily basis how little he is elevating the national and cultural conversation, as I am on an irregular basis.

As long as the President is intent on using his public platforms to add incivility on top of incivility in our lives,  I have the pleasure of reminding any acolyte who stumbles my way, that yes, I don't buy into this devolution and I'm more than willing to give you a piece of my mind....even if it stings.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

"The Empire and the Five Kings" Bernard-Henri Levy

I hope this turns out like riding a bike,  always great once you get going.

I'm reading a book by an author new to me,  but not at all new in the world.  I have done a cursory dive into who the man is, but nothing deep.  Sue me if he is in actuality someone I don't want to be associated with,  not that that is valued anymore anyways -- running with the right crowd -- as it once were.  It would be great, again, if running with the highest crowd was virtuous still,  however it would probably not look good on T.V., or stir vindictiveness as a baseline activity, so it holds little value today.

I'm not above appreciating good looks or instigation,  I know that,  but I also think that it is lowly to be unable to justify yourself in a conversation.   There is a relationship in the market place of ideas that rewards bad ideas, even if the naive recipients can only repeat the chorus, due to the nature of advertising.    The eyeballs and ears are counted, not minds.

Therefore,   and although I'm not competing with the large audience programs,  I have a perverse urge to identify the clones and poke at their esteemed rhetoric.   If I'm going to write politics on an irregular basis,  what is more appropriate at the moment than to share a meme I've heard second hand, and denude it?

What would be more appropriate is to urge my reader to come back tomorrow and I'll do just that,  expose some silly conspiratorial meme of the Cult.  But until then check out "The Empire and the Five Kings" written by Bernard - Henri Levy.

It is a small production,  about 260 pages,  but not a word wasted.  It would help to know a lot of historical names,  but in reality the names dropped in this treatise will over whelm even the most well read,  so don't let that stop you in the beginning.

Levy just got me off the couch after a month or more of a sabbatical from writing.  I haven't been avoiding the issues though, I've been reaching higher.  It's time, that instead of running behind the lowly crowd urging reflection before they go down further, and thus taking me with them,  I avoid the debased and only speak of the highest values.


Saturday, June 8, 2019

Coda. The Mueller Report

I've been putting it off, but its now time to write something about the Mueller Report.  And so here is what I came up with.

The Mueller Report is history, and you can not change history.   It's a phrase I stole from the wiser among us who shouted down, or tried to shout down, the movement a couple years ago of local citizens across the south opting to move Confederate statues out of prominence.

It's an entirely silly comment, in my opinion, but it is what it is.

But I do know that we are a nation of laws, which I learned a few years ago as the Trump candidacy gained momentum.  Seems I was never more attuned to the fact that laws make the structure of society real, in so far that having a real set of rules creates a framework whereby we all can trust we are all playing by the same rules.   And that in this land,  no one is above the law. 

Civic responsibilities are like laws,  but you're not getting in much legal trouble if you flaunt the responsibilities, as you would when breaking laws.

The Mueller Report is a civic responsibility to read because it contends with the highest legal office of the land. 

I try and try to improve on that statement, without prejudicing the perspective I hold on the report, and I can't easily do it.   I don't want to do it,  I've been putting it off.  Frankly, it doesn't matter what deeper thoughts I have on the book anyways,  its out of my hands, I can not make reality bend to my whims.

That's not a helplessness, that's an act of accepting.   I've learned it took well over a year from the movements inception to the impeachment of Andrew Johnson.  Nixon too took a while, and so did Clinton's.   If impeachment happens, it will be because more and more Americans are reading through the Mueller Report and also feel action is warranted.  They too took on the civic responsibility, and not shied from it.

What I would find revealing and worthwhile, is learning who else has read the Mueller Report as I have.

I know some who feel they don't need to, as they faithfully lend strength to the President.  These too are not following Trump on twitter either....another civic responsibility in my opinion.  But there are no "lock her up" chants behind failure to be something more than ignorant of the wider truth.

Come to think of it, didn't "lock her up" imply an above the law wish of contention?   No trail, no evidence, just throw her in jail.  Just another regression, one in thousands, during this Trump era, I suppose.  The Mueller Report gives us what has been tragically denied by the Trump rallies -- real instances of crimes.

In the end,  its the historical deviation from law and norms, civic responsibility and decency that may or may not be criminal or impeachable,  that will all be recorded for the ages anyways.   And I'm O.K. with that, my civic duty is met.  For a moment.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Polemic on Sunday Morning. Warren Zevon is still relevant.

I was never a big Warren Zevon fan, which is not saying I disliked the guy, but two lines of his, irregardless of context, struck me and stayed with me.  One is "I'll sleep when I die" and the other, "Excitable Boy."

For a rare moment of directly personal revelation, and despite the copious amount of Trump related links I share, I do not suffer from lack of sleep, so to sleep when I die reads inspirational, I say thanks but no thanks,  I like to sleep.

Being an excitable boy though,  now that sounds novel and fun!

Because I can, I enjoy a variety of podcasts throughout my work day, and I've also digested a lot of audio books, which have imbibed me with a variety of topics, many of which have really inspired me, and whose seemingly isolated topics come with wisdom that bleed onto other real life issue.

Is every single action by the President of interest to me?  They are,  but elections have consequences and I am fully aware of the agenda items Trump's Administration is carrying through on.  I just have no interest in promoting an electable official who is as dishonest as he is.   I will not up lift him, until his honestly becomes as remarkable as his dishonesty.

So if that's taken as I'll never like Trump,  that would probably be more of a reflection of another's judgment on Trump's true character than on any negative or positive out look that I guardedly possess --  if you don't believe he'll ever be honest, then by all means assume I'll never like Trump.

What is of interest to me is the never ending performance of Trump and his cronies to excite people of disparate and desperate positions that all is conspiracy, except their own unveiling of it all to the naive, of course.

What am I to believe?  That a man who has not been an honest broker of any sort for his entire life is now the ultimate defender of a fact driven universe?

That somehow all the dishonesty has been a integral part of inoculating Trump from any of the insidious affects of dishonesty.   His trail by fire is our salvation from a world of conspiracy, conspiracy that is culminating after years of germination and whose ultimate goal is to destroy all the good that Trump has ever been for, and by extension what we all have ever been for?

Give me a break.

I've spent a good deal of this morning's exercise laying out the context that ultimately surrounds the play acting in Trump world, and that drama continues to unfold through the latest twist in the Russia 'thing' with the promotion of the idea that Trump was unfairly targeted by the FBI, the CIA, the Clinton's, Obama's, Steele's et. al.

There is always a kernel of truth to any conspiracy, but ultimately its the excitable boy in us all that needs to breathe a minute, take a look at the four walls of reality surrounding us, and not let too much of that kooky bloody wisdom stain ourselves.

At some point the mind needs sleep to process and recalibrate reality.   It would also help to not get so excited about conspiracies all the time --  take a break from it.   There was no conspiracy against Trump, there is an on going Russia threat though,  and we all need to get into the hands of the professionals, if you love this country, any and all efforts by them to influence us.   Presidential candidates too.

Especially Presidential candidates.

I am thankful for the vigilance our security agencies have shown during this era,  and it is not their error, but their challenge to be on top of anything Russia related.

Listen to the podcast I've shared, and determine for yourself --  do you want to lend your strength to honest actors, or not.

Honest actors welcome the light of scrutiny -- they have nothing to hide.   Quite a contrast to the conspiracy promoting Trump world where defiance, obfuscation,  and obstruction reign. 

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Nixon's In the End Summary

In the Arena

Richard Nixon,  Republican President

Chapter 39, "Peace" page 352

"We must not become complacent.  As Paul Johnson has written,  'One of the lessons of that no civilization can be taken for granted.  Its permanency can never be assumed;  there is always a dark age waiting for you around the corner,  if you play your cards badly and you make sufficient mistakes.'

Our goal must be not only to avoid war but also to create a peace that leads men and nations to express their higher qualities and the better aspects of their nature....

...we should harness the competitive and innovative aspects of our nature to address the problems of poverty and hunger, to protect the natural environment, to advance health and education, and to explore the frontier of space...The key is the quest, the striving to create a better world, to advance mankind's material, cultural, philosophical, and spiritual progress."

Nixon Shared Insight About Business Men

In the Arena

Richard Nixon,  Republican President

Chapter 39, "Peace" page 348

"Today, scores of businessmen have been clamoring for an easing of restrictions on trade with Moscow.  But policymakers should be cautious in heeding their counsel.  As Whittaker Chambers wrote, "Almost without exception, the great businessmen are charmed and impressed by the great Communists whenever history (or trade) has brought them together -- face to face.  They find they speak the same language,  i.e., the language of power and action stripped of intellectual baggage.  But fate is glimpsed grimly in this fact:  though the great Communists fool and baffle the great businessmen, the great businessmen are no puzzle to the great Communists who see straight through and beyond them."

Nixon Gets It Right

In the Arena

Richard Nixon,  Republican President

Chapter 38, "War" page 344

"The principle threat we face involves aggressors who go under, not over, the border.  Our adversaries in the Kremlin have mastered the techniques of subverting our friends and allies by supporting revolutionary forces."

Bonus :

Nixon quoting De Gaulle

Page 344

"War stirs men's hearts the mud of their worst instincts.  It puts a premium on violence, nourishes hatred, and gives free rein to cupidity.  It crushes the weak, exalts the unworthy, bolsters tyranny...[but] had not innumerable soldiers shed their blood there would have been no Hellenism, no Roman civilization, no Christianity, no Rights of Man....War is the worst of plagues but has made the world as we know it."

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Excerpts from "In the Arena" Richard Nixon

In the Arena

Richard Nixon,  Republican President

Chapter 8, "Wealth" pages 111-113

"...yet many Americans have an instinctual dislike for corporate wealth.  This is in part a result of our political system,  which does not permit too much power to gather in too few hands...TR, the Republican Roosevelt, was the greatest trustbuster in history, while the breakup of the telephone monopoly was begun under Jimmy Carter but vigorously executed by Ronald Reagan's Justice Department...

... The capitalist democracies chose to control the excesses ... by regulating business to protect workers' fundamental rights and interests...

...Undeniably, the salaries and bonuses some overrated CEOs receive are obscene...a profitable corporation, earning big dividends for its shareholders, adding jobs each year, paying taxes to the federal government and its community, and creating and testing new technologies, is an essential institution of a modern democracy...

...While capitalism may be driven by greed, it produces wealth, and democratic institutions help a society decide how its wealth should be used...

...It is up to business people to be constantly aware of their social responsibilities in good times so that in bad times their opportunistic critics will not be able to turn them into scapegoats for society's problems by saying they only cared about lining their own pockets...

...Admittedly, volunteer efforts alone will not solve the stubborn problems of the  homeless and other disadvantaged people.  But the critics overlook the fact that a goal which inspires us to devote some of our efforts to helping others makes us a better people than if we were motivated solely by what Russell Kirk has described as cosmic selfishness."

Friday, April 26, 2019

"How to Change Your Mind" Michael Pollan

Michael Pollan, who some say is one of the most influential people in the world, wrote this great history/personal narrative/advocacy book on the current thinking on LCD and other psychedelics.  It's a good book, it has been recommended as one of the best book's of 2018 in various publications, including the NY Times.

What the reader gets from reading this book is a fabulous story that begins in modern America in the late 1930's (though the drug is much older than that) but was suppressed the first time during World War II.  In the 1950s science and medicine revisited  LSD, and attempted to establish some discipline and rigor to experiments and study.   And then Timothy Leary got involved.

If that name is not familiar, this book will catch you up, but not too deeply,  the book is about the drug, and although many people appear in the book,  Leary is not one of the heroes.

Pollan really does a great job in moving the history along, creating that allusion of power that the trip on LSD promises.   You will learn about people who have crossed the gap that developed after Leary drew too much of the wrong attention to the drug,   Attention from government --  which made it illegal to have, use, or experiment with. Recently though,  an underground movement has sprung up all over the country, including of course San Francisco, led by people who have tripped, who have re established the experimental and scientific vibe.   These people share a common purpose --  to open the minds of humanity, and help as many people as possible with mental illness or existential health problems.

Its common knowledge that the trip, if good, will wash the mind in colors, and sights, and feelings that just aren't accessible under normal conditions.  The author had a difficult task in explaining that immersive experience but he did well.   Well enough to convey the purpose that many who tripped, who are also scientists, modern shamans, or just typical hippies feel in spreading the word about this powerful drug.  Like Leary, but smarter about it.

Anyways, how to change your mind is elucidated well enough for me to have given a shot of explaining it over lunch to my lovely wife.

See, basically the brain is just functioning like electrical waves through conducive gray matter,  those are my words, not the author's.   These brain waves travel back and forth, and back and forth all the time so they tend to travel the same neurological pathways all the time.  Recurrent thoughts strengthen the patterns.   That is essentially why we are all afflicted with certain thoughts that are hard to shake.  The more you are depressed or anxious for example, the harder it is to break out of the patterns.

Changing your mind is as simple, or hard, as changing the electricity flows.

The human brain is very complex, and it has new parts and older parts.  Some parts control speech, another sight, and yet another motor reflexes.  There are more.  The default mode network(DMN) is one of the oldest parts.  The theory is, its the oldest brain segment, and the part that houses your sense of self.

Somehow taking LSD disrupts the normal brain wave patterns, and so this allows different thoughts,  perhaps even new insights, to develop because new connections are established in that gray matter of a brain that didn't connect before.    The DMN is where the affects of psychedelics cause the most dramatic experiences.   These experiences, A-HA moments, or epiphanies have moved people to quit smoking, quit drinking, and quit worrying.   Sometimes the affects last,  sometimes they don't last,  sometimes they don't even happen.

But all this is still being studied.

Trust me, Pollan does a much better job of explaining all this. 

The biggest mystery is how anyone ever realized that a particular mushroom with a certain unseen compound, extracted in a particular way would not kill you, but expand your mind.   That, to me, is one of the great mysteries of life.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

No Responsibility, Living in the Basement

I suppose I'm not unlike many, many Americans.  I have a disdain as passionate as anyone else who gives thought to certain patterns of behaviors that I find anathema to my ideal of a contributing member of society.    The regressive behaviors of taking little responsibility,  resting on substandard conditions, and essentially living in the basement are as repulsive to me as they are probably to any of my readers.

I'm difficult to impress with some of the political rhetoric being bantered about though,  much of it barely withstands scrutiny of using its own assumptions on itself.    What I mean is,  I hear a lot of talk about capitalism versus socialism now a days as the motif for the upcoming national elections, and the proponents of capitalism sound as though what they hear and repeat somehow anoints them with the virtue of the words, without any effort to live up to the words.

Centuries ago, liberal thinkers developed ideas behind common good, rationality, capitalism, enlightenment, personal responsibility, socialism, and other terms that carry meaning today in our political conversations and thoughts.  No term holds as much weight as "personal responsibility" when contrasting the two political factions that predominate U.S. politics today, for one side seems to think they have it, and therefore the other side doesn't.

Why one side would think they have "personal responsibility" is because they have accepted, after the requisite death centuries ago of a progenitor of an idea, which allows enough time to pass for the transformation of a liberal thought into conservative dogma, the notion that capitalism is home of rational thinkers, individual agents, who have taken it as a personal responsibility for his or her own well being and pursuit of happiness.  People who are building a better world through dogged pursuit of an idealize model of citizenship.  Rugged individualism.

Socialism would champion quite the contrary.   Give me your lazy, your sloppy, your irrational, your free loaders, your drop outs, give me the failures and government will protect you.  That's the mind of the socialist.   Personal responsibility isn't so much as falling short, as it is presumed to be absent from the beginnings.  These people are just short of evil.  The takers.

I'm not saying anything new here, I'm not breaking any molds, I'm not over dramatizing the conservative presuppositions.

I could end my diatribe here and reclaim the honor of being a member in good standing of the Republican Party.   Except I don't want to be.

I think the erstwhile conservatives that have mimicked centuries of developed thought in this arena are falling far short of their own mark of what it means to be personally responsible --  repeating the words don't make the way of life complete.  You gotta put some effort into it.

Tuning into broadcasts, or reading the oft repeated mantras of right wing philosophy does not imbibe anyone with the meanings or values implied in the words.

Here is a shocking truth as well,  being conservative means being in the basement of political thought.  There has been a lot building on top of the foundation where conservatives reside.   All the new thoughts are coming from upstairs.  Many romanticized figures on the right lived a long time ago and these people have little to say about our current challenges.   I doubt they would mute themselves in deference to the past though.  Adam Smith was walking the streets in the mid 1700's, his antithesis Karl Marx entered the scene 100 years later.  Abraham Lincoln was essentially a contemporary but on another continent. 

I'm sure Thomas Jefferson would be someone considered honorable by the Right,  though I'd brace for the recriminations from the Left if I played Jefferson that way, but the point is the challenges have to be digested completely, solutions don't begin with a 'no', based on some notion of a long time ago.

President Trump has Andrew Jackson on his wall, by the way.

I don't see much personal responsibility in resting on yesterday's players and games when so much is happening right now.  Our challenges are pressing many people who have taken on the responsibility to research the problems, explore the solutions, and champion the new ideas to speak up.  Jefferson would of listened, how else was he at the cutting edge of political thought,  250 years ago?

By and large, those people working on answers aren't on the Right though they are vilified by  those on the Right, and that's not helping.  Often the recriminations are decades old re-branded rhetoric.  The similarities between the tobacco industry efforts to undermine the anti-smoking crowd and the efforts to undermine the ecological movement is beyond coincidence.  Check it out. 

How many Saints were environmental proponents?   A little odd of a reference,  but the point is folks centuries ago were putting the efforts in. 

When I take a rational approach to viewing my world,  I don't start with what history confines me to, but what history suggests to me.   History doesn't repeat as much as it rhymes.  Poetry is best in its own time, but we can learn from it.  We shouldn't consider memorizing the past sufficient of an attainment.

Adam Smith had no clue about climate change,  but I'd bet an irrational and irresponsible amount of my own money that he would of taken the time to read about it from expert sources.  Not what the King's political hacks thought about it.    I have some disregard to people my age repeating nonsensical political rhetoric from industry insiders without ever having read their responsible share of scientific reports on the matter,  and that's just a start.  Many issues have received the same lack of attention from the Right's rational thinkers of today. 

Recently I had the pleasure of listening to a podcast that put into unique words the experience that many of us go through who start political life out, as we should, learning the greats and subsequently growing from there.  Moving up in the house of political philosophy from the foundation, or  basement, to higher levels of living and understanding.

The guest explained that what started out as so right and correct, like finishing Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged" hasn't in fact withstood scrutiny and so as time goes by, and arguments get polished, get affected by forces that an open mind allows in, one begins to realize that where you placed yourself hasn't so much as shaded this way or that, but has completely moved onto another level altogether.

There is personal responsibility in that journey from the beginnings, not unlike there is a personal responsibility in all of us to do as much as we can with out government assistance.

I'll offer that not taking that responsibility serious has been exploited, as well.  Corporate socialism is real, it is costly to us all, and part of the dehumanizing of how we interact with each other in the market place, and it is the Right where corporate agendas predominate.   Most thoughts for the ages center around the person, not the corporation.

Corporate socialism for them, while the people get rugged individualism is not how Adam Smith would of wanted it, but don't believe me,  read him.  Take the responsibility.

What cannon of thought is being bequeathed from our times for tomorrow's?  At best, a quote book of the 18th century.   But somehow President Trump will have the greatest thoughts for all time, I'm of little doubt.


Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Media Bias in the Age of Trump

The following publication of mine will be done in a slow, but meaningful manner.  I don't want to rush through this without getting any facts wrong, or opinions misinterpreted. 

I think this piece will rank as one of my most important pieces,  I think generations to come will point to this post as perhaps the post that changed the course of U.S. history, that stole back the normalcy that was wrought from us in recent years.

The above paragraph is an opinion.

The Mueller Report is over 300 pages long, took 674 days to investigate and complete, while costing $25 million. Sixty-six times Trump tweeted "Mueller" and 85 times "witch hunt."  Five people sentenced to prison, 2800 subpoenas, 500 search warrants, 40 agents, and 19 lawyers were involved.

The above paragraph is full of facts.

That's all I am going to say about that.

Instead I want to talk about media bias, and who would think they are the enemy of the people.

Maybe its never been delineated to a distinction, and maybe it now needs to be, and maybe flashed on the T.V. screen prior to every broadcast of political content, but there is a difference between facts and opinions.  Maybe, before we condemn the "media" of being the enemy of the people, we pass a competency in understanding the difference between two of many, many types of media.

Some people get on T.V.  and they cast their opinions, and they are usually labeled with extravagant titles.  That's a media, that's the opinionated media.  People who somehow are getting paid for telling us things that their intuition is telling them.  Sometimes those opinions are based on facts, some of which they imply the rest of us just don't get yet.

There is some aged wisdom about people with opinions,  but the underlying reality is opinions are often wrong.  It's actually pretty important to understand the acquaintance between opinions and fallacy, and if that's all a President is doing all day,  digesting opinionated media, then its no wonder he is experiencing an over abundance of "fake news," and has developed a notion that all the media is an enemy of the people.  (Unless its opinions he likes, then those are o.k.)  Because opinions are often going to be wrong!

I'm smarter than that,  I don't watch much opinionated video, nor do I read much opinionated media.

Maybe a self-analysis.   Do you, dear reader, get involved with much opinionated media?  No wrong answer,  but I bet there is a correlation between putting in hours supping some one else's opinion and buying into the laments of "fake media" like Donald Trump would have you.

George W. Bush was once asked if he read the papers.  He said sometimes, but as the President he implied he could get any facts he wants, and so why would he waste time in other people's opinions?

I guess that is lost on this President.

Why is he even watching T.V. if he does not care about other people's opinions, as I'm told?  I don't have an answer,  but I don't like the incomprehensible, unless we can comprehend how the current President thinks, direction Trump is giving his people --  to condemn all the media as enemy of the people.

People!   We need a free and vibrant press,  we need scrutiny, and we especially need it now.  

Anyways, before I lose myself trying to regress just to understand, I have to get back on track.     

Some people get on T.V. and  they report the fruits of their investigative labors.  These media personalities are usually labelled "Investigative Reporter."   I can understand some ambiguity between the opinion media and the investigative media since there is not a person alive who can suppress their bias completely, and always, when stating even the barest of facts.

But be not confused.   An investigative reporter is not the same media animal as an opinionated talking head.   An investigative reporter,  while not immune from error, has intense pressure to be accurate.  I don't think the President, or his mimics,  quite understand the pressure to be factual that this facet of the media is under.   I say pressure makes diamonds often, and it is no less true in the world of investigative reporting.

Are they always accurate?  No.  Yes, these are people who destroy reputations with their work, who can wreck business empires through their efforts, who can ruin with his or her findings.  These are the people who find what others are hiding, and we need them.  These too are the people who get fired for being wrong.

If the "media" was ripe with investigative reporters who could not find the Grand Canyon but asserted so, then we'd have problems.  But that simply is not the case.   If we had investigative reporters who twisted the facts, or omitted the facts, throughout the industry, then by all means label them as the President contends.   But that is not the truth, THAT's an opinion.

I try to convey my stream of thought in a manner that is not too long, but has some kernel of truth to it.  I am basically full of opinion, sprinkled with facts obtained elsewhere.  That's what I am.

The President would do well, and would do well by all of us, by understanding he can get any fact he wants from his own people.  Which bares repeating --  The President can get his facts from the administration of his own executive department.   He doesn't need the press in so much as we the people need the press,  to find out about his government's doings.  He's not helping me, and people like me, with his efforts at destroying the reputation of the free press.

If there is going to be an enemy of the people, I am certain its not the free press.   A lot of them are just like me, where as this President has demonstrated repeatedly, he is not.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Those Moralists!

The inspiration for this ramble has come from a confluence of suggestions, snoops, and serendipity, but more persistently by the unceasing need to characterize the tribal conflict between the Right and the Left in this country as between moral and immoral political priorities by the leading voices on the Right.

It just never ends,  and I am not reluctant to scrutinize it.

One of my comments recently was, "wasn't it just a few short years ago that the Evangelicals were counselling us that the trans in the girls bathroom issue was going to be judged harshly by our maker?"  That we would be judged as a society if we allowed the immoral and indecent proposal of letting men use the girls room!

They may of peaked too soon,  the Evangelicals,  'cause I ain't hearing much about the all mighty's wrath of judgement on us as a whole, even though surely there is something immoral about human sex trafficking in Florida,  regardless of the neighborhood of billionaires nearby.  Or is it precisely the billionaire living nearby who makes it all indulgent, but blessed?

But I actually have more insidious observations to make today.

Recently I was asked to listen to the Albert Mohler podcast, "The Briefing" a Christian view on daily events.  I'm in the process of listening, but so far he has faithfully avoided any criticism of Donald Trump over the times I've tuned in....

I was creeping on Facebook, trying to understand a little better and I came across a fabulous short video by Dennis Prager.   If you are unaware of Mr. Prager,  he has material on YouTube, as well as Facebook.  He is a voice of some repute on the conservative side, or I have him confused with someone else.

The video I initially watched had much to do with comparing the two side of politics in America (in other political systems throughout the world there are many sides to their politics, which is a significant obstacle in defining politics as an either or game in those places) as one where the Right is moral and the Left is immoral.

Lets not minimize the last paragraph, the oft repeated mantra of the Right, that the Left is immoral and the Right is moral.  Its everywhere at all times --  when in the Right hemisphere of ideas.  Whether or not the reality is such, is far from being proven.

In fact,  I was also told a few short years ago, that Donald Trump was the lessor of two evils in choosing between he and Hillary Clinton.   That alone is another flaw of the argument the Right has at its core -- that they are the moral choice.

Incidentally, with the selection of evil, a compromised morality in deed, wouldn't it be wise to scrutinize the evil a tad harsher, if not closer?  What with the benefit of the doubt already squandered,  no one is called evil unless there is no doubt, right?   It would follow to keep an eye on the evil one yo'all!

(Which is what I'm doing, btw.  Keeping an eye on the evil one.  Not my description of Trump, but nevertheless)

Its seems Mr. Prager has a blind spot for Mr. Trump's moral failings as well, but to be fair, I haven't listened to everything he has ever said, but he avoids much, and I get the impression a lot of people on the Right, who hammer home the ideal that they have the moral arguments, are letting a lot of the immoral failings of Donald Trump slide.

One the other hand,  it is a very impressive hook that the Right has.  Considering their argument that they are the moral answer to the immoral left's intolerable changes to culture,  they have no other proof to offer.  They are moral,  you (if you are a liberal) are not.  It wouldn't even matter what you (if you are a liberal) have to say about it, you (if your are a liberal) are an immoral leftist and thus can not be trusted. 

One solution, I've come to understand, is changing Parties, i.e. from Democrat to Republican, and run for President.  Doing that cleans the slate.

I just wish they, the evangelicals and voices on the moral Right, who really have a great shtick going, would scrutinize that lessor evil like they did the girls bathroom issue.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

A Short Pro Life Message

If there is an original thought out there, I could use it right about now.

(Just in response to the latest abortion headlines)

I'm as against abortion as any male can reasonably be, but these zealots who think they are pro life simply because of their stance on abortion alone are just in a horrible place.

I'm not too timid to write that if they think the Christian God finds favor in the American Conservative/Trump/Evangelical/Right due its ant-abortion stance alone, then I got the wrong impression of what Christianity is all about in the first place, and what it means to be "pro-life."

I read the bible twice, and took serious deep dives into the whole ensemble, including the writings of Christian scholars throughout the 2000 years of the movement, and while I understand the argument against abortion, it's the other stances of the anti-abortion crowd that aren't doing anyone a christian favor, in that they devalue human life. I'm talking about the anti poverty, or should I say the disdain for the impoverished tact theirs. The disregard for the down trodden.

Literally I could spend a whole lot of time on this, I could in intelligent conversation discuss my opinion(s), but suffice to say I "woke" on this issue a long time ago, and consider the entire self proclaimed "pro-life" crowd as tragically compromised.

A lot of well intended people are triggered on a regularly basis into shitting on a lot of needy people at the back door, because at the front door is an unborn child that needs a hero.

There is no price too high to protect the unborn, but any cost for the needy, and the needy themselves, is always too much? There is something contradictory and undercutting in holding those two dispositions simultaneously.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

"The Square and the Tower" Niall Ferguson (Last Book I Read)

The last book I read was "The Square and the Tower" by acclaimed historian Niall Ferguson.  The subtitle is "Networks and Power, from the Freemasons to Facebook."

With the technicalities out of the way, allow me to write that this book, and a number of books sitting on my shelf still, is one that I had been very eager to tackle.  I have work from this author, but what whetted my curiosity more than anything were the podcasts I heard Ferguson interviewed on, and the many mentions about this history on any number of other writings and podcasts.

The square and the tower are symbolic of two ways power and networks exist and exchange the role of power broker in society.  Its a fascinating characterizing of history, Ferguson traces power for hundreds of years and establishes a pattern of eras where either the square or the tower dominate.  The tower symbolizes the hierarchical order of traditional power  --  from the highest office in the land to the lowest, and the square symbolizes network power --  such as we have with the web, and the presiding power holder is social media.

This book was written just last year, 2018, so its fresh and relevant.   Instead of reinventing a very good review, I'll end my efforts and instead direct you to a great podcast devoted entirely to this book by Historian Brad Harris.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Jussie Again.

My previous comments about Jussie Smollett were brief, and to a point.  So much so that I assumed everyone knew that Smollett paid a couple a guys to wear a MAGA and then assault him.

What does linger longer, and ya gotta know its more of my Trump cynicism, is the feigned indignation from the President and the cult.

Maybe the biased media is NOT rebroadcasting every tweet of Trump's stochastic terrorism, but I am following my President on social media and I know full well how he conducts himself --  without a filter.

If someone said to me Trump is NOT a bad influence, I'd fall down laughing, but its not funny really.

The point is, some actor is NOT someone I have to concerned myself with, it's the leader of government who is.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Example #664 of Trump being Trump

Trump Tower has 58 floors, but Trump insists it has 64.

It Doesn't Take a Contrived Attack to Make You Look Bad.

Jussie Smollett

The most effort I put into the story of Jussie Smollet is writing these comments,  prior to these comments the most effort I put into being accurate about Jussie Smollet was googling Jussie Smollet and subsequently capitalizing his name for the purposes of these comments to start correctly.

Otherwise I don't care.

It doesn't take a laid off actor to contrive an attack to make every one in a MAGA hat look bad, and I'm guessing that everyone who owns a MAGA hat have a hard time understanding me on this point.

But if your pride of that MAGA hat is affronted because of the deceitful actions of an actor you too probably never gave much thought about prior to his "beating", then I'd respectfully suggest you start prioritizing NOT being deceived.

Wearing a MAGA hat is probably the easiest "tell" in the history of all "tells" that the  wearer of said garment has little, if no pride in his or her's discernment of honesty, facts, or truthfulness.

But it does tell us that the actor you don't mind deceiving you is the one in the White House.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Conservative, or just a consumer?

Sometimes thoughts bounce around my head for a week or so and I let them simmer.  Maybe I'll add some spice to my inner dialog, really come at a subject matter with some pointed condescension, or maybe I'll mellow on it all,  maybe from reading or hearing some mitigating perspective I hadn't thought about and I just let it go.

This topic I ain't letting go, but if only I can convey it on pixels, like I rehearse it to myself, I could really lay into some red meat.

I've said for years, basically as soon as I got out of doing it myself, that going to any one, or a limited field of personalities on air, or in pixels transforms the practitioner into a suppliant being that has basically given up on experience and education as a personal quest, and has accepted living the angst and fallacies or whomever it is that holds the attention.

Tracing the human condition back eons,  one will not struggle to find thinkers who have placed into the vernacular words such as esteem, integrity, empathy, ethos and a host of other  that were meant to aid one another when discerning honest actors from malicious ones.

Personal ethos is my current pet.   Its defined as a framework of moral behavior.  Something an individual constructs within his mind to aid oneself in discerning whether that other person is a good person too.   Its personal --  my good guy might not be your good guy, but when you have an ethos, at least you become less prone to associating with a crowd that isn't holding the same values and morals as yourself.

I don't know what the ideal personal ethos is.   Heck,  its not even required to have one, although its rather important when you hold responsibilities.

My contention is that the medias who practice a variation of angering the audience, pointing fingers at villains, romancing a past and pushing anxieties about the future, while extolling how smart the audience is for just being a part of our crowd, but not theirs, are just a commercial enterprise that having earned a profitable balance sheet, a proven model, are never going to change.  But they also won't tell you what the bull shit coming out of their mouths is either!

Its all a commercial enterprise, capitalism in the guise of a personal ethos.  But it is not a personal ethos.  Those programs, plenty of which call themselves conservative, are selling you as a consumer their business model.  The model in this context is built on proven audience capturing schticks, that would not survive many personal ethos that place honesty, integrity, and empathy high on the list. 

They  should rightly be called consumer talk radio, not conservative talk radio, if labels meant anything, and no one should rightly replace their personal ethos with a commercial model.

Does that make sense?

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

"The Caine Mutiny" Herman Wouk

The last book I read was "The Caine Mutiny" by Herman Wouk, who as I write this, is still alive at a sizzling 104 years of age!

This  book came into my orbit from my mother's lending library near Pittsburgh, and will eventually find another owner via a lending library in northern Pennsylvania, but before it goes on its way, I'll share a few thoughts about the wisdom found in that 1951 classic about duty on board a WWII era minesweeper.

Its a thought provoking story in that you will see events unfold from the eyes of an officer under command of a odd fellow named Caption Queeg.   Queeg twirled marbles in his palms and had an observable penchant for avoiding danger.   Willie Keith, of course, has his own problems,  and so do a limited cast of officers on the ship and all these quirks of personalities unknowingly influence events on a dark and stormy night when the mutiny took place.

Its at the trail of the mutinous heroes where events as you've read them are cast in another light, and its the events after the trail that really drive home the notion that sometimes people have to be considered in light of their responsibilities, and that in a hierarchy, or structure where lives are at stakes it is critically important to trust the leader, even when it seems he doesn't want to face his duties, because maybe he is?

None of this should be construed as an endorsement to back a nutty President, by the way.

For me, a WWII history nerd, I really enjoyed the setting -- on board a WWII minesweeper in the great Pacific from  San Francisco to Pearl Harbor to coastal Japan with a number of atolls along the way.  New York City in the 1940's plays a considerable role as well as the U.S. Navy and its culture, from enlisting to mothballs.

This book is so classic, it also was a movie starring Humphrey Bogart and there was a run on Broadway too.  The movie was nominated for 7 Oscars and was the 2 highest grossing film in the year it was released.

A good book whose author  wrote quite a few, including 2 more that have more of a reputation than this one --  "War and Remembrance" and "Winds of War"

Thursday, January 31, 2019

"The Politics of Diplomacy" James Baker III. West. Civ. Series.

To rehash what I've been doing here lately,  I've presented 4 books of certain pedigree (meaning they belong to a list of books I have read)  in order to establish a framework of the political world, as I see it  through these books.

I wanted to establish the structures of the western dominated world, the world that the United States created and has done a fair amount of winning in, and I did that by suggesting "Present at the Creation" by Dean Acheson.  Truman's Secretary of State who shaped the world after World War II.

As a score card I submitted a highly detailed work by Steven Pinker, "The Better Angels of Our Nature."  Winning is what 70 years were all about.  A terrific source for all the good going on in the world that can be charted.   Generally speaking, this is a title I'm squeezing, like a square peg in a round hole, because it wasn't written for the purposes I'm using it for.  In fact, its takes on a much broader time period.  Like the whole of humanity time period.

My old interest, David Stockman appeared next to remind us all,  that there are some serious flaws in our country.  In our capitalism and winning.   An absolutely essential modern educational need to read.

Pat Buchanan's "Death of the West" has a high slot in the list because his arguments and maladaptive views have climaxed with Trump.  It one of the books in the cannon of Trump world.

If I could just step back a little bit with my next selection.   James Baker III wrote his memoir as Secretary of State under George H.W. Bush in the mid 1990's and it is important as a testament to what really happened at the end of the cold war (winning again) and what promises were made by us to them(Russia).

Everything that is wrong with our relationship with Putin's Russia has to do with what happened after Bush and Baker left office.   Understanding Putin's expressed motivation to restore to greatness, or rather undo the humiliation of Mother Russia, at the hands of the West after the cold war period starts with our side of the story.  Start it here.

This is one of the oldest memoirs I have read, and the my understanding of what is covered colors much of how I view international politics to this day --  Putin hasn't forgotten.  Look it, he's trying to win over on us,  we aren't his ally we are his adversary.   

This memoir is a terrific mile marker in the West's 70 year run on top of the world. 

Taken all together, my selections should be relating how I am much a pro Western world structures kinda guy.

More than believing, I know that the world had been a blank slate after the big War and that thanks to patriots like Acheson and Baker, and so many more forgotten names and faces, the world was designed in our liking, and our dominance.

The world that Truman envisioned, and that Acheson started working on was the side that won the cold war, won the 20th century, and won the world.    For seventy years a battle raged that we had been winning all along anyways,  but now it seems the structures that gave us our strength are being undermined.  I encourage the thought that before we go on destroying, that we might pause and appreciate where these structures came from.

That's what I'm trying to get across.