Monday, May 11, 2015

How I Broke America

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I've had it up to my eyeballs with Neocons whining about the liberal media.

The bulk of the American media is not liberal. It's not conservative.

American media is corporate.

Hell, what we call "news" isn't even really news. It's entertainment disguised as news and it couldn't care less about politics. All it cares about is keeping you glued to the TV so they can sell advertising, and keeping advertisers happy by getting people to consume as much as possible as fast as possible without asking, "why?"

There IS ideologically driven media on both "sides" of the aisle but this still isn't news, it still isn't liberal, and it still isn't conservative. It's party propaganda. It's not meant to inform, it's meant to prop up the "one party system" by keeping true believers in one party afraid of the soulless heathens in the other party. People who trust these sources (Fox News and MSNBC, for example) are wildly misinformed even compared to people who ignore the news completely.

Media, and politics for that matter, isn't about liberals and conservatives. It's about keeping power consolidated in the existing "bipartisan" political structure.

The One Party Ideology
The ideological differences between the parties are largely cosmetic.

You don't think so? Let's look at a few things they have in common.

Both endorse big government. Both support the IRS and the federal income tax. Both endorse the war on drugs. Both endorse inflated military spending, adventurism, the Patriot Act, NSA domestic mass surveillance, and the so-called "war on terror". Both endorse the "central banking system". Both pay lip service to immigration reform but support policies that criminalize and deport as many immigrants as possible. Both are complicit in deficit spending and trillion dollar tax giveaways to big business.

Both are actively advancing secretly negotiated global trade agreements like the TPP. This is a "Free trade" treaty we can't even honestly criticize because legislators are trying to ram it though without even letting the public see what's in it. What we can be certain of, though, is that it's central to the ambitions of multinational corporate interests. These are the very same corporate interests, by the way, that fund the two party system and own the media.

In the light of day we don't really have a two party system at all. There is really only one party with an iron lock on power. It controls the "bipartisan" federal election commission and the "bipartisan" debate commission. While this party insists that "they" are private entities with no connection to government party registrations are consistently administered by the state and officially sanctioned on the actual ballots.

Maintaining an Illusion of Choice
The media doesn't talk about what the parties AGREE on, which is really pretty much everything, so there's no discussion of these important issues at all. The false dichotomy of the two party system keeps these issues out of sight and out of mind unless public outcry FORCES the system to address them by passing referendums to legalize marijuana or by bombarding administrative procedures with public comments in favor of net neutrality, and even then politicians in both parties scheme to defy the will of the voters they purport to serve in favor of paying back the corporate special interests that fund their campaigns.

The differences the "parties" pretend to argue about are a few percentage points on tax rates and programs worth a few hundred million dollars here or there. Arguing over programs like PBS and food stamps represents a pittance in the Federal budget. The stink over Obamacare is a joke. If McCain had been elected instead of Obama the Republicans would have put the exact same system in place, called it Romneycare, and they'd be heralding it today as a resounding success.

Other differences that might seem important, like abortion and gun control, are smoke and mirrors intended to keep people divided and afraid. They aren't even REALLY legislative issues at all but are instead firmly under the thumb of the supreme court.

When you get right down to it the two party system is a dog and pony show. Neither party is particularly liberal compared to the other and neither is really conservative AT ALL.

Both parties are corporate.

Following the Money
Both major parties are owned by pretty much the same special interests, and these are the same special interests that own the media.

The result isn't hard to figure out. All you need to do is step back and look, yet somehow the "party faithful" continue to stymie the sensible majority of independents who might, given half a chance, actually be able to clean up the mess left behind by a century of rampant corruption and mismanagement.

A Culture of Stupidity
It's ironic, and very telling, that so many people are constantly whining about the "intellectual elite". Smart, well educated people aren't the ones screwing up the country. The country is being screwed up by the rich, the powerful, and the stupid.

The culture of mediocrity is a thing of the past. We now live in a culture that holds intellect in abject contempt. Intellect and education are treated as character flaws, arrogance and pomposity, while the stupid and the ignorant flaunt their simple-minded provincialism with pride.

My Profession Broke America
The reason for this is quite simple, and as a marketer I must admit to a degree of complicity. The corporate media is about advertising, and any marketer will tell you there's no point in advertising to smart people. Smart people are not influenced by advertising. Smart people buy the best product for the best price. They don't buy based on what they see and hear on ads. They make purchasing decisions based on referrals and independent research. An advertisement is a paid self-promotion. Only an idiot would buy a product because the guy selling it tells you it's the best product for the best price.

Fortunately for the advertising industry there are a lot of idiots out here.

Unfortunately, media being ad driven pretty much means that pretty much everything you see on TV is oriented to stupid people. I don't want to run ads on Masterpiece Theater. The kind of people that watch that show won't buy my products. I want to run my ads on Real Housewives so the money keeps rolling in.The idiots that watch that crap will buy anything. You can move 10,000 units of any product you want just by putting it on the tank of Kim Kardashian's toilet.

Furthermore, it's in my best interests to keep people stupid so I can continue advertise to them. I don't want the media educating and informing my customers. I want the media to tell people that they're OK "just the way they are" and at the same time turn words like "intellectual", "thoughtful", and "educated" into pejoratives.

And because I'm the one giving them money to run my ads that's exactly what they give me.

Stupidity and Democracy

Being smarter than average doesn't make you smart. It just makes you a little less stupid. Hell... my IQ is more than a little on the high side and I know I can be a complete idiot. Stupid is a chronic condition we all suffer from occasionally. 

Just because we are all prone to stupidity, however, does not mean we should aspire to it. This is where media culture has failed us. You're not OK just the way you are. It doesn't matter how smart or how stupid you are, you should aspire to be more. It's never OK to be content with what you know.

Stupidity and democracy are a bad mix and when the people who shape the media deliberately cultivate a culture of stupidity it can't help but influence our politics. Uninformed voters might be great for the established power structure, but it doesn't do much for the quality of an election. People who don't really understand an issue can't reasonably be expected to cast an intelligent vote in regards to it.

The Tragic Genius of the One Party System
This culture of stupidity has allowed idiots, cynics, and cowards to pretty much form the dedicated "party faithful" of both major parties, with idiots by far being the best represented.

If you are content to be a part of "Muhrican" culture than you haven't gotten this far into this post, and thank God for people like you because there is an underlying America that's still worth being proud of. Thanks to you there is hope.

Waking Up
Third party voters call major party voters "sleepwalkers". There's a simple litmus test to find out what kind of sleepwalker you are. This is the key to waking up.

Becoming an informed voter is about identifying what kind of voter you are now, and a bi part of that is accepting the painful truth that if you are voting for major party candidates you are not currently informed. This will require some brutally honest self-reflection but you need to understand what aspect of the system has co-opted you. Once you've done that you at least have a chance to stand up to it.

Cowardly
If you are worried about the governments ability to keep you safe, you're a coward. And probably something of an idiot also if you really believe the government CAN keep you safe.

Cynical
If you are simply siding with the lesser of two evils you are a cynic... but cynicism alone doesn't excuse party loyalty. Again, you're probably also a bit of an idiot. The existence of only "two evils" is, after all, a false dichotomy.

Jaded
Maybe you're jaded (cynical with a streak of cowardice) and realize there are other options but refuse to explore them because "they won't win".

Hopeless Follower
Jaded or not cynics actually represent another pretty important voting block that I call the "two party faithful". These are voters who consider themselves "independent" but remain slaves to the choices of the "party faithful" on both "sides". They are constantly switching allegiances between the two parties trying to support the "lesser evil" suffering under the delusion that which evil you vote for could possibly even make a difference. They see that something is broken, but they just can't wrap their head around the idea that the politicians aren't the problem, they're just a symptom. The problem is the system. 

Idiotic
And this brings us to the core constituency of both parties. People being just plain stupid.
  • If you sincerely believe that the rank and file voters who support the other party are "evil", that they are trying to "destroy the country", or that they "hate America" you're being just plain stupid.
  • If you believe it is the proper function of a legislator to "hold the line" or if you think "compromise" is a dirty word in a parliamentary setting you're being just plain stupid.
  • If you believe this is a democracy, that most Americans really want free market medicine, or that we even have free market capitalism in this country you're being just plain stupid.
  • If you believe that US Currency is backed, the Federal Reserve Bank is part of the government, printing money stabilizes the economy, or that there is gold in Fort Knox you're being just plain stupid.
  • If you sincerely believe there is still any real scientific doubt or debate about cigarettes being carcinogenic, global climate change being influenced by human activity, or vaccination posing a greater health risk to your kids than polio or measles epidemics you're being just plain stupid.
  • If you believe EITHER party is any more or less responsible than the other for our national debt or deficit spending, you're being just plain stupid.
  • If you voted for a major party candidate thinking he or she could change the system from the inside; if you sincerely believed anyone who's part of that system would even try; you were likewise being just plain stupid.
Oh... wait... That last one was me, wasn't it?

When Obama came around talking about ending wars, condemning NSA surveilance, putting an end to drone strikes on overwhelmingly civilian targets, shutting down Gitmo, and just generally demilitarizing the country I swallowed his bullshit hook, line, and sinker.

Yeah. I being stupid.

And that brings us to our happy ending... we don't have to be stupid. We can learn from our mistakes. We can walk away from the one party system, and when enough of us have turned our backs on them they will either change and become more responsive to the will of the voters, or they'll lose their power.

Win-Win.

Sick Mother F***ers
One last thing... I almost forgot...

There is one other option.

If you are a dedicated believer in either of the two major parties but none of the sleepwalker archetypes really applies to you you need to consider the possibility that you are a sociopath. Sociopaths see exactly what's going on and don't care. They would rather exploit the system as a means for personal power than do anything to fix it... but if that's the case you're probably already in (or invested in) politics so you already know that. 

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

What Would Martin Luther King Jr. Say?

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Ron Paul recently posted a video in a post titled "Violence in Baltimore: What Would Would MLK Say?"

It was kinda lukewarm to say the least. A couple of old white guys with axes to grind. Smart white guys, yes... but they came off as a little clueless even if they made some very astute observations.

It got me thinking, though. What would MLK say?

I think he would say something like this.
"The media is calling this a riot.

"They do not understand.

"The politicians are blaming you for destroying your own homes and what few economic opportunities your communities offer.

"They do not understand.

"The village elders are dismissing you as thugs. 
"They do not understand. 
"I understand.

"I understand what it is to be so filled with rage that I cannot see past my desire to lash out. I understand what it's like to be told I must make my own way in a community where there ARE NO economic opportunities. I understand what it is to be stopped... to be searched... to be beaten... to be murdered for the color of my skin. 
"I understand that days melt into months, months melt into years, years melt into decades and nothing ever seems to change.

"I understand that a police officer, bound as he is to serve and protect, cannot serve and protect you because all he sees is the color of your skin and that alone is enough to make you a suspect. 
"I understand. 
"I understand that they have taken your power. They have left you feeling hopeless and without a future. 
"I understand what the media, and the politicians and the village elders do not. I understand that this is not a riot. 
"I understand that the economic opportunities the politicians are accusing you of destroying are like the lotteries they let you play and the liquor they let you buy and the cigarettes they let you slowly kill yourselves with; they are all lies. 
"I understand that you are not thugs. You are young men and women; you are American boys and girls, just like them, but driven to the edge of hopelessness and despair. 
"I understand that all you want to do is take your power back. 
"I understand.
"But I also understand that the power you think you are claiming for yourselves is ALSO a lie. 
"Burning police cars does not give you power. It gives THEM power. Killing and maiming police officers does not give you power. It gives them power. Burning down or robbing shops does not give you power. It gives THEM power. 
"You are not challenging their lies, you are feeding them. And when this is over they will continue to gun down and pack their prisons with your children, and they will blame you. Then they will turn off their TV's and they will sleep soundly.
"But there is another way. 
"I will not tell you to go home. I will not tell you to trust the system that we ALL know we cannot trust. I will not tell you to submit... or to surrender... or to give the liars another chance to soothe your rage with more empty promises. 
"We have already tried that. Too many times." 
"If you truly have the courage to stand up to these liars... to these thieves of life... to the dogs and the guns and the body armor and the gas... then put down your rocks RIGHT now. Look to your brothers and sisters around you. Take each others hands and sit right where you are. Wherever you are. Do not be moved but by force and when they come for you... and they will come for you... accept their cruelty and do not break. 
"That is real courage. 
"And when the liars turn on their TVs tonight they will not see the police waging a noble stand against thugs. They won't see lawless savages being meted out justice. They will see children being herded into squad cars and police wagons. They will see mothers and sons, and fathers and daughters... they will see tears. They will what we really are and through us they will see what they really are
"And they will not sleep so soundly."
Of course, I am just an old white guy with an ax to grind.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Flat Earth Believers Live On

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The shape of the earth was one of the first theories verified using the modern scientific process. Europeans screwed the math up pretty badly and grossly underestimated the size of the planet, but Greek and eastern mathematicians pretty much nailed it. 

No scholar of any real note or relevance believed that the earth was flat as far back as 500 BC. 

But everyone else did. 

Like climate change deniers of today the resistance to the concept of a spherical earth was not led by scholars. It was led by interests invested in the concept of a flat earth in very much the same way climate change denial is being promoted by special interests now. The "round earth" theory was denied mostly by religious leaders invested in discrediting the scientific process, and climate change theory is being denied mostly by oil and gas companies who stand to lose a great deal of money if it gains popular acceptance. In both cases denier factions used very similar strategies to hold up the advance of these theories. 

The concept of a round earth was mathematically proven more than two and a half thousand years ago using Pythagorean mathematics, but until a couple centuries ago very few common folk could even add, much less understand what at the time was considered advanced mathematics. Round earth deniers were able to play on that lack of understanding in exactly the same way climate change deniers are playing the complexity of climatology against the general public now. After all... how could the earth POSSIBLY be anything but flat? It just stands to reason all the oceans would drain off the edge. 

Round earth deniers used "common sense" to debunk the mathematics that most people didn't understand. The contrast in messages between scholars and layman was profound. While scholars were insisting that the universe was something complex and outside most people's understanding, deniers were able to mock that contention as pompous and arrogant. 

Given the choice between...

"I know you don't understand it, but you must believe me the world is round," a message which made people feel small and ignorant...

OR...

"Bah... those guys are jerks who think you're stupid, OF COURSE the world is flat," a message which allowed them to keep their sense of understanding and control...

...Most people quite naturally chose to believe the latter. Flat earth believers formed the overwhelming majority of the public, in open contempt of scholarly understanding, pretty much right up until Magellan proved the earth was round by circumnavigating it in the early 16th century, about two millennia after mathematicians had first proven the theory. 

The problem, of course, being that we don't have two thousand years to realize that maybe the scientific process works this time, and if it's going to take a practical demonstration to prove it the way Magellan did we're completely fucked because we don't have a spare earth lying around to destroy.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

On #Gamergate and Social Justice Warriors

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I want to talk a little about #Gamergate.

For those few of you gentle friends who are not gamers allow me offer a little
backstory. In short #Gamergate is a hashtag on twitter that has become a haven
of 4chan misogynists and the morons who follow them. Between the beer belches
and bleating they have evolved into what basically amounts to a hate group
determined to keep girl gamers "in their place" and resist the changes to games
and gaming that are occurring as a result of the rapidly increasing numbers of
young women and minorities joining nerd culture at large and more specifically,
gaming. They have resorted to extensive campaigns of doxxing (publically
posting personal information) and threats of rape and murder to silence voices
in the industry that might resist their sick agenda and make extensive use of
sockpuppets to create an illusion of acceptance and consensus.

Borrowing effective dirty tricks from the same playbooks that the worst
mainstream politicians have followed for decades they have been very effective
at hiding their real agenda behind a cloud of loosely similar but completely
unrelated issues. They whine constantly about "corruption in game journalism"
but the specifics they offer inevitably ignore real issues in favor of
slandering political enemies, mostly female, with irrelevant or unsubstantiated
personal attacks.

For days the mainstream media has been duped into believing these troglodytes
somehow represent the larger nerd subculture when they are, in fact, nothing
more than a loudmouth minority.

Any major party politician will tell you that winning a publicity war is about
shaping the dialog to support your position, and #Gamergate has excelled at this. They
have even effectively created new words and phrases that have been adopted into
general use in nerd culture.

My personal favorite is "SJW". SJW is an abbreviation of the phrase "social
justice warrior" and it's use speaks volumes about #Gamergate.

You might expect that a "social justice warrior" would be someone to look up
to, but according to the twisted world-view of #Gamergate the term is entirely
derogatory. The term is used to dehumanize critics and dismiss criticism
without debate. A social justice warrior is someone who loudly and frequently
defends inclusiveness and diversity as one might expect, but the context of the
term presumes an ulterior motive for doing so. A social justice warrior doesn't
promote diversity because he believes in diversity. A social justice warrior
promotes diversity because "it makes him look good". Widespread use of this
term allows #Gamergate to brush off criticism without having to engage it, and
successful injection of the concept into the dialog has created a presumption
that NOBODY could SINCERELY want to make nerd culture more inclusive.

It's a clever strategy, and it has worked for quite a while, but it's not going
to last because it doesn't bear up under close examination. In the end it only
compounds of the absurdity of treating social justice as a pejorative by
highlighting the juvenile mindset that drives the entire #Gamergate campaign. 

As children we believe motives matter. What we think, or what we feel, or what
we mean when we say or do something is relevant. Sure, we made a mistake, but
our motives were pure and that makes it okay. We didn't MEAN to make someone
cry. We didn't MEAN to hurt someone. We didn't MEAN to break something.

As adults we learn that motives don't really matter.

One of the hardest epiphanies every adult must face is the fact that nobody
really cares what you feel. It's not that people are cruel or that empathy does
not exist, but in the end everyone views your feelings through their own life-
lens. Nobody can entirely understand or know what you feel because they can't
climb into your head and feel it with you.

Nobody will ever know with any real certainty you love them.

From this epiphany springs a score of important truths, but among them is one
that applies specifically to the SJW construct.

Motives don't matter. A person can't be defined by their feelings, or their
thoughts, or their motives because we can't KNOW those things with any real
certainty. What defines a person is what they do; the footprints they leave
behind. Everything else is bullshit. People using the term have pretty much
invalidated the entire SJW concept by imposing a motive on Social Justice
Warriors, dubious or otherwise.

The entire SJW concept is, like #Gamergate itself, the product of a juvenile mindset.

For the record. I am a gamer, and #Gamergate does NOT speak for me.
http://www.funnyjunk.com/Stopgamergate+summed+up/funny-pictures/5323666/

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

I've Been Away Too Long

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I know... nobody reads this blog. And I've kinda left it untended for a long time.

But I need to vent, and in the end that's all this has ever been. A place to vent. A place where one tiny cog of the huge machine with billions of moving parts can cry out in his tiny little voice in a way that will at least leave a mark.

It's a scribble on a middle school bathroom wall. I know that. But it's my middle school and at least a few of my fellow students, family, friends and followers, will be forced to know that there indeed once was a man from Nantucket.

And just now I need to vent.

I stumbled across a New Yorker magazine article today about some new disease. Spores are being stirred up by dust storms out west causing fatal lung infections, and I have not been able to shake a sense of shame and melancholy.

I can't say why this has affected me so much. You see stuff like this all the time. The extinction of whole species. TV commercials of doomed polar bears struggling to find a place to survive and so on are rampant. The slow increase in global temperatures and CO2 levels. Whales and dolphins beaching themselves in a futile attempt to flee the din and stench of the sea. The horrific storms that seem to be finding whole new courses across the globe.

The droughts.

With a storm of the century occurring every two years or so it just seems odd to me that I should be so profoundly affected by a fungal infection that's killing so few people every year that the medical research community hasn't even noticed it yet. I guess because my father and wife both have lung conditions and the idea of suffocating to death is just particularly horrifying to me.

I know... I know... what the hell does any of this have to do with global climate change. I guess I should elaborate.

Most people don't know this but the Great Plains wasn't always a dust bowl. Back in the day, before the civil war, it was a lush grassland. They were literally the great plains. The ground didn't suck up every drop of rain that touched it. There were streams and rivers. And there was life. Everywhere.

And then white people showed up. We slaughtered the buffalo that cropped the grasslands and converted it to fresh topsoil for the coming years. The people that had survived there for millenia dwindled and died in an act of second hand genocide that even Joseph Stalin would have to grudgingly respect.

The grasses died. The ground dried up. And here we are. Some hundred and fifty of us last year, gasping out our last dying breaths. We are paying the price for our grandparents greed, shortsightedness, and ignorance.

I shudder to think what price my grandchild will pay for mine. 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Why I'm Enjoying A Hot, Tasty, Chick-fil-A Sandwich Tonight

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A lot of people who think they know me are going to be surprised by this, but I got my dinner at Chick-fil-A tonight. God help me, I never thought I'd side with Michelle Bachman on anything. But just this once, despite the company it puts me in, I don't have a choice.

Dan Cathy's position on gay marriage is certainly politically incorrect but it's founded in his Christian beliefs and it's consistent with biblical doctrine. The Bible makes it clear that homosexuality is a sin and that marriage is a sacred covenant made between a man and a woman. His statement was consistent with and representative of mainstream Christian beliefs on the subject. Furthermore, Chick-fil-A is privately held company that clearly identifies itself in it's mission as a Christian business. They are not open on Sundays, at enormous expense to their bottom line, and they maintain Christian ideals in their treatment of employees and customers alike.

One of those Christian ideals is "love the sinner but hate the sin". There are NO service or employment policies that discriminate against gays in place at Chick-fil-A.

All the man did was give an honest answer to a straight question but since that statement has been made public no less than half a dozen city officials, including the mayors of Boston and Chicago, have threatened to block  the franchise from opening stores and the PC thought-police have chosen to boycott the entire chain.

Now look, I'm not quite as bent out-of-shape about the gay marriage issue as most Christians.

For one thing, as sins go, I doubt homosexuality is a really that big a deal. The bible says it's a sin, so I accept that, but it's not like gays are robbing people or killing people or breaking up families by engaging in adultery. It certainly didn't make the top 10 list. I suspect I am a much more egregious sinner in the eyes of god than a homosexual simply because I so often fail to honor the sabbath. Keeping the sabbath holy DID make the top 10, after all.

Also... I don't consider the licenses doled out by government bureaucrats to be representative of real marriage. Marriage is a sacred religious institution with strictly defined rules and parameters. You can't take God out the equation and still call it marriage. What the government calls "marriage" is really just a secular contract. The ceremony might as well be performed by a pair of lawyers. An "open marriage" isn't a
real marriage any more than a "gay marriage" would be.

More pointedly, I am not inclined to blame anyone for this debacle more than I blame ourselves... the Christian community. It is we who have allowed the government usurp our institution because, in our hubris, we want our faith somehow ensconced in or endorsed by the state.

Well, behold the result of trusting a secular authority with a sacred tradition.

I don't respect the governments right to dictate who can and can't get married any more than I trust them to tell me who can be baptized or permitted to take communion. It's an overt and even shameless violation of the Constitutionally guaranteed separation of church and state. Moral authority over marriage lies with individual churches, mosques, and temples, NOT the government.

This belief further dulls my outrage because with this libertarian model in place gay marriage would still be inevitable. There's always going to be some minister willing to overlook scripture in order to line his pockets.

But I DO feel very strongly about free speech.

I spend a lot of time harping on Republican supporters for their divisive rhetoric and refusal to compromise. Well those ideals need to cut BOTH ways. What's going on with this public outcry over Chick-fil-A is nothing less than a self-entitled political interest group trying to bully dissenters into silence. It represents a much more outrageous attack on tolerance and diversity than anything Dan Cathy said. They, and the PC thought-police who are supporting them, should be ashamed of themselves.

So I'm eating Chicky tonight, and I'm going back on Friday to cross the picket lines.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Just Another Photoshop Moment

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