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.