Do Not Tell Me To Fucking Smile Unless You Have Entertained Me First

Real quick one.

I can no longer tolerate people who come out of the gate telling me to “SMILE!”

Fuck off. Tell me a joke if you want to see my teeth.

I have been dealing with this for a very long time. I’m just not the fucking smiley type for no goddamn reason. But it does NOT mean that I am unhappy, angry, or in a bad mood.

I happen to have a mood disorder, as some of you know. And I run high almost all of the time. Which probably means I am in a better mood than any person who comes along telling me to “SMILE!”. I am irreverent, always on, only serious when necessary. That is my default setting. I don’t need to use my teeth to be full of fucking mirth. That’s because I can talk and know how to use sarcasm and point out irony and am not afraid to cross a polite boundary. I’m laughing at most of you all of the time on the inside, if you want to know the truth. Really, the only difference between us is that I am an idiot, and you are all grinning idiots. You look crazier than I do, and that’s saying something.

So please, do not tell me what to do with my face. It borders on rudeness.

How would you like it if I told you loudly to “FROWN!”?

It would probably startle you as much as it startles me when you yell “SMILE!”.

I Thought Jesus Wasn’t Into Moneychangers

So after getting her ass soundly beat by Raphael Warnock, Georgia’s Mrs. Moneybags Kelly Loeffler went into the banking business.

With a fun twist! It was a Christian bank.

I regret to inform you that this endeavor was a failure. She couldn’t find the funding to keep it afloat.

It even had a great name, if you’re an idiot: GloriFi.

Loeffler’s plan was to have an “anti-woke” bank (whatever that fucking means anymore) that held values near and dear to her (which is highly unlikely, Loeffler is just looking for suckers to get richer off of)-“pro-America values such as capitalism, family, law enforcement and the freedom to ‘celebrate your love of God and country.”

That doesn’t sound authoritarian at all, but I suppose no harm can be done getting your fascism on while you are filling out a deposit slip.

Whether she believes in it or not is immaterial-that there are many people who believe in and are clamoring for these so-called “American values” is worrisome enough. But I guess perhaps not too worrisome, seeing as how a grifter like Loeffler couldn’t gather enough rubes to open a zero interest checking account in her bank.

Could We Just Not Do This?

As I expected, the explanations on why the polls were wrong have already begun. As of this writing, the GOP has 217 confirmed House wins. I will just guess, given that there are still several races too close to call, that they will control.

That means the polls were right.

The polls were right about the Senate staying in Democratic hands. The polls were right about new governorships for us. The polls predicted we barely had/have a Chinaman’s chance at holding the House.

One can say that in a sense they were off, because of the margins they were suggesting that the GOP would win the House by were fairly high (though again, we do not know that yet).

But that still means they have probably called the winning party in each category-and ergo, all these amateur pollsters running around on social media who said the Democrats were going to win were even wronger even if their numbers were closer.

I like Seth Abramson, but this is kind of what you’ll be seeing as this week drags on:

Let me take this moment to say how much I loathe the term “narrative”. It is a Republican paranoid nonsense word, and lefties need to stop using it. But fuck it, let’s run with it-why did they drive this narrative…that is pretty much the question Abramson wants answered.

You won’t like some of the dumb armchair psychology being used to explain it. I’m too lazy to find you some examples( I promise I have seen plenty), but trust me when I say that, if I may, the “narrative” is that the pollsters, in collusion with the GOP, wanted to drive down turnout and discourage Democrats from bothering to vote.

I am hoping you realize how stupid that sounds. You may not. You may be stupid, stubborn, or conspiracy-minded, take your pick.

If anything, that will generally make your average Democratic voter more determined than ever to show up and show out. We hear we are on the wrong end of a battle, we wake up and do shit. I don’t know who is profiling us as gloomy mopers who give up the minute they hear about troop strength on the other side, but this is a bullshit “insight” into the Democratic mindset.

And us showing up was exactly what the fuck happened. So indeed, if there was any plan to depress turnout in the manner Abramson is suggesting, it backfired wildly and was a really dumb plan. We fucking took it to them on Election Day. We were never not going to, regardless of what the polls and the media were saying. Democratic voters had the signal and weren’t listening to the noise. We saw the Christian fascism coming over the hill and we said NO. Maybe he’s referring to a possible attempt to shape independent minds, but that is a fool’s game because independents are stupid and you never know what they are going to do no matter what feedbag they choose.

Stop listening to the polls, you say? Stop listening to the people who say stop listening to the polls. More data is better than less, and if you really need to drill down on a poll because its numbers seem hard to believe, the methodology is out there.

2022: The Year America Voted Against Christian Fascism

I really thought we were going to take the plunge. Didn’t you?

Polling got scary as fuck there in the run-up. The fascists were out speaking confidently about their fascist plans. They thought that was what America wanted and needed.

Enough people saw the danger and strangled the movement in its crib. This midterm has been very odd in that the majority party basically stayed one, and in fact we could still hold both bodies. We don’t yet know who will really control the House at this point, but if we Democrats do win it will have been a bit too close for comfort. As of today, there have been seven net pickups by Republicans-enough to narrowly change the balance of power if all races hold. Other than that we have matched them flip for flip. That’s not optimum at all, but if we lose it is not easy for Republicans to claim some sort of conservative “mandate”, and we should be thankful and pat ourselves on the back that new voting laws across America did not stop us from coming out in force to make sure the fundamental nature of America, that of a democracy, was preserved.

So I’m glad I can now have a somewhat sunnier disposition for now and say we aren’t going down the crapper completely…just yet. We still have a rogue SCOTUS shredding precedent that isn’t originalist in nature, and of course we will have to see what kind of effect a Trump run does to 2024 and see if fascism with the proper “strongman” leading it will raise its ugly head once more. We also have to think about who will be taking on whomever the GOP selects-Biden has said he will likely run again, but if he doesn’t Jaime Harrison better think fast as to who is best positioned to put the Trump phenom in the shallow grave it belongs in. Even then we will still probably have to contend with Ron DeSantis, who is also a fascist but may put a more genial facade on the movement.

For now, I cannot exhale fully until the votes are counted and we know who will control the House. But nevertheless, democracy had a hell of a showing even if we come up a little short.

Hate To Say They Told You So

On Wednesday, I mounted a minor defense of the polling industry. I did so because I looked around and found them wanting, but I have to say, I found unprofessional people with hunches even wronger.

As the number of R-flipped seats in the House continues to climb, we are approaching poll prediction territory. It is still not anywhere near a rout, but once all is said and done there will probably be enough for that dipshit McCarthy to claim a mandate.

Disbelieving polls to me is like disbelieving in science; once you stop listening, you are doing nothing but alchemy and falling back on faith when you predict. Every skeptically minded person should watch, listen and let the professionals do their work. People on social media keep screaming in caps “STOP LISTENING TO THE POLLS!!!!” not because they are wrong, but because they are not being told what they want to hear. Thoughtless people completely forget things like margins of error-that’s a pollster’s admission that based on their sample size, there’s a good chance of wobble one way or another.

I have a short, simple message as we wrap up the counts for people to consider next time we do this.

Follow the polls with a watchful, curious mind-also, follow the news and consider what that might do to the numbers. Understand that there is a strange mushy middle that breaks one way or the other the day of the election. But do not get into the forecasting business unless you have the requisite credentials to do so. I’m just telling you for you own good, and hopefully your friends will forget the dumb uninformed calls you made and not wonder what else you might be wrong about.

Waiting For The Miracle

Democrats have had to scale their ambitions back many times in these last few months. In the summer, most of us felt confident that we would pick up the two Senate seats necessary so we could tell Sinema and Manchin to pound sand with their obstructionism. It appeared that the GOP was in disarray. We laughed at a future where a brainless dork like Kevin McCarthy would wield the gavel in the House.

Then the polls started to shift in a really bad way. We self-soothed and said “polls don’t matter”. Liberals used tons of hopium, making wild predictions instead about a blue wave. By election night, everyone else was predicting a red slaughterfest.

That did not happen, as far as can be told on this morning after Election Day. Democrats have gained governorships, picked up a Senate seat, and have only lost three House seats, not enough to lose control. As we go through the next few days, we shall see where the battle lines really are.

But there’s one undeniable fact: this midterm is a serious anomaly. In general, the party in power gets pasted for this issue or that issue. Republicans in 2022 hammered upon kitchen table and pocketbook issues, seizing on inflation numbers, debt, gas prices and blaming them on Democrats. With so many peoples’ economic lives as tough as they are, this no doubt resonated with many folk. But it wasn’t enough.

What Republicans could not cover up was January 6th, 2021 and June 24, 2022. Two days that will go down in history: the day a spurned, miserable president conspired to upend an honest election he lost by any means necessary, and the day women were no longer protected by federal guidelines on when they are able to exercise reproductive freedom. And for once, it seems that a majority, albeit a small one, miraculously did not forget when they went to vote.

Those twin atrocities warped the prediction of this election quite badly- and we’re going to be sick from all the mea culpas and explanations for weeks after on how awfully everyone, and I do mean everyone, blew the call on this one.

Many people are going to continue to conclude that this is the evidence that shows polling is a relic, now that we live in an age where everyone screens their calls, barely uses landlines, and frequently communicates to most by text on their cells. Often I see things like, “Well I have never been contacted by a poller, so who are they polling. Is it really happening?” Look, dummies. It’s a nation of hundreds of millions of people. That you have not been selected to participate in a 700 person survey is not surprising. Myself, I have been polled once, and admittedly, it was a long time ago. But people want to know who is picking up their phones and answering these surveys, and often it is blamed on the older set, who may not be as technologically savvy as the rest of us. Maybe that’s true, maybe not. You would have to drill down on the demographics of any given poll, and I would assume, if any poll conducted was only answered by a certain set of people, that polling organization would scrap that poll and try again until they got one that did a better job of taking even samples in a number of categories.

Here’s the deal; we have to realize that history moves through us and events will change the way damn near anything goes, and it does so very often without our permission. All that we can do is react in the best way we can to survive and perhaps flourish. So far, the right amount of people have done just that. I know no god, I shall not pray-having voted, all I can do now is watch what everyone else who still believes in democracy did.

Is Our Children Learning?

I am what you might call a guppie in the Twitterverse. My position and standing in Internet conversation has been fairly constant over the years that I have used it to communicate. I’ve run a couple of blogs over the years, and occasionally I would hit pay dirt and draw people to my site because a bigger blogger took notice of something I said. Soon after, I would slip back into obscurity. I like writing, but I don’t have the education nor the discipline to be “someone”.

And so it goes on social media for me. Especially when it comes to Twitter, the so-called “public square” where people meet to discuss ideas. But you have to be quick! It’s not like blogging at all. You don’t get to ramble longform, you need to limit your participation to about three sentences. Once in a blue moon, I say something that goes somewhat “viral”, where thousands of people look at a tweet I’ve composed.

Well, I went somewhat viral (for an account my size) a few days ago, from a simple reaction to another tweet. Here is what I reacted to:

My reply was simple and mostly glib, but I have started a minor firestorm about our failures to educate people. All I said was:

To me, it seems absurd that someone in that generation (likely a boomer) hasn’t got clue #1 about what a communist is. They spent half their lives feeling existentially threatened by them, so my question is, why do they know nothing about them?

Let’s get one thing straight right off the bat. I can’t believe how often I have to explain this, but there is NO FUNCTIONING “FAR LEFT” IN AMERICA. IT IS A FIGMENT OF YOUR STUPID IMAGINATION IF YOU THINK OTHERWISE.

We’ve all watched how communism has not succeeded in bringing about a worker’s paradise. We know logically and empirically that communism is not the inevitable result of the decline of capitalism. To date, no one has done a very good job of bringing forth a humane revolutionary state that ends private control of property and production. Not even close.

Now let me stop you right here because I know what you are thinking: oh great, another idiot who thinks reflexively that “communism only works on paper”. I will not discard the ideals of Marx so blithely; in these modern times nothing is more plainly obvious than the fact that we have become economic animals, fighting between each other for position through possessions and money. The moneyed and the propertied among us would like to stay that way, and if it means that people die in the streets of the richest country in the world from hunger and lack of shelter because of it, oh well, so be it, they were useless workers anyway. Especially this nouveau riche class coming up- they have no taste and no sense of noblesse oblige at all. Young rich fucks like Elon Musk skirt their obligations to the society that hosts and nourishes them by being “cash poor” and living on gigantic loans that are untaxable. And when government comes up with a novel solution to obscene wealth hoarding like an unrealized gains tax, an entire political party is paid handsomely to make sure it never happens.

But anyway, people really wanted to talk at length about my little response. It’s been 48 hours and I am still watching some interesting conversations from a few dozen people. About a thousand people responded in some way or another to the tweet. This tells me that it may be a burning question that lots of people are asking to themselves, just as Shrub did, perhaps using better English.

So how long have we been stupid? Where did things go horribly wrong, and was it and is it by design?

I suppose the people who wind up picking up the tab for public education might think that they deserve a little say in what is being taught. But that’s not how a public service functions; once tax money is out of our hands, it goes, or should go to general welfare of some sort. However, our government today is sharply divided about this idea. Half of it thinks we can use government funded initiatives to enrich all through smart planning and smart thinking; the other half thinks that those people are “elites” who want to tell individuals what to think and do or some such nonsense. We don’t even know why they are in government because they detest it so much. Furthermore, their candidacies are funded by actual elites with billions of dollars in PAC and dark money to flood the political system with their influence. They are obsessed with an ROI, because that is how they think ALL of the time. Everything is transactional to rich people.

Cui bono? Not me? Fuck you, then, is what they are saying to us. And sometimes, that value system rubs off on the more brutish of our kind.

How are we supposed to run a society based upon this idea of extreme self-centeredness? There’s nothing like it in the primate world, as far as I know. Naturally, all orders have their peculiar hierarchies within a social system, but at least they have a system. The far-right (which does exist in America) would like to do away with this idea; some intellectuals believe it’s an evolutionary advance for us to be such individual creatures. The idea is a joke. Everyone is dependent on someone or something, I don’t care if you are the idea man or the laborer who brings the idea to life; we simply cannot get anything truly great done without each other. You can have freedom of conscience and still serve your fellow man, these ideas are not mutually exclusive. Look up “interdependence” if you don’t know what I am saying.

The end state of anarchy is oppression and likely, slavery or serfdom. Libertarians don’t seem to understand what a vacuum is. Or maybe they do, and are good with the basic savage laws of nature that we have spent oh, I don’t know, 40,000 years or more trying to protect ourselves from. It will go from liberty to authoritarian oligarchy in six seconds flat. Your little 2A pea shooters will not do much good against the army and police they purchase that will most surely grind you down.

Equally bad is fascism, which, funnily enough, is unwittingly promulgated by the very same people who preach radical individualism. Once again, the end state of the participants will terminate in them being crushed under the weight of the state and some raving lunatic with a silver tongue pining for good ‘ol days that never were. I don’t want to go Nazi here but it’s a readily available comparison. Hitler’s brownshirts were not unlike our new angry set of conservatives, and once the fix is in, our useful idiots will be discarded much like the brownshirts once they have outlived their utility to the so-called strongman that ascends.

And so we have tried an interesting middle ground to maximize freedom: to govern ourselves in a way with the aid of sage representatives. We decided a patchwork of differently behaving states would be far more preferable than an overarching government making nonlocal decisions for them. Our experience with the British crown soured any interest we had in an intrusion into affairs from up above. We tossed together a founding document after the revolution ended, and it worked poorly.

Enter the vaunted Constitution. Modern conservatives’ relation to the Constitution is pure irony; it was literally created to exert more control over the states. At the same time, a separation of powers was introduced to confound the activity of the government. Enshrined within was something relatively novel; guaranteed rights that are natural. However, let’s step back from the document and look at it as a whole and it is a severely dated compact that has not been updated properly and in the absence of fixing it to change the times, we use the judiciary instead to add meaning to the amendments which were not intended. Don’t get me wrong; if we’re not going to fix the Constitution, this is the only way to keep it current, by new legal reasoning. All the more reason to be careful who makes it into office, as it is the politicians who select these opiners, because even the judges can suffer from myopia or be inappropriately political.

In any event, promoting the general welfare, an oft-forgotten clause in the Constitution, is the point of it all- the idea of the more perfect union, not 300 million people in a rat race to get their piece of cheese.

I happen to feel that public school is a way to show the direction to that better place of union. But perhaps it has been ill administered from the beginning.

Note: this is a HIGHLY abridged glance at a few inflection points in our education system.

Protestantism has been hugely helpful in the pursuit of public education; after all it was they who insisted that the laity should have access to the Bible without interpretation by the clergy. It would take another post for me to discuss how Protestantism helped so many lose their way and become splintered over dogma. I’m probably not qualified to discuss it at length anyway. But for the sake of argument, they helped make us literate. In the 19th century, public schooling exploded, funded by tax dollars. Things went well-school became compulsory, and a bureaucracy was formed to standardize learning. Parochial schools existed, but were denied the use of public funding, as they should be. No one should have to support a religion centered education.

The Second World War interrupted progress in education, sending many teachers and students to fight and die. LBJ is the poppa of reordering 20th century education, though. In his War On Poverty, he sent extra federal dollars to struggling locales. He spent money to train an army of professional educators. We spent money on art, foreign language, and even mental health care at school. One of the things buried in his education act though, was that there be no attempt at a national curriculum.

This, to me, was a serious mistake. We are the United States. Furthermore, as I have said elsewhere, a “state” is a highly artificial concept, whose borders are drawn at caprice. There is nothing special about an American state as a unit of a federation. Doing things 50 different ways or more seems to me to produce lopsided outcomes for people stuck between arbitrary borders. I’m sure there’s lots of dumbshits out there who think this is a good way to create a fucking “laboratory” for democracy, as if experimenting with a thousand ways to run things is a great idea at this late stage in the game of federalism. We should be pointing towards perfection (in the abstract), but we seem to be dissipating and atomizing instead. Sometimes our labs are full of toxic fumes and you can’t afford to get the fuck out of the building to breathe. Our fixation on the marketplace as the only context where anything can be considered has caused us to be obsessed with the idea of “choice”, inserting it where it is unneeded.

Then, asshole Reagan came along, and institutionalized the very problem I outlined above, declaring blatantly that”government is the problem”, ushering in the era of the politician who wants nothing more than to stand in the way of other politicians trying to do their job. States were free to do what they wished without federal input. Obviously inequality in outcome was the result, as states and locales were now free to mismanage their educational system and damn near anything else in the manner they chose. We’ve made some attempts since his misrule to bring back accountability, often through wrongheaded ideas like using standardized testing and charter schools as a way to supplant so-called “failing” schools, which has only served to put teachers and administrators on edge and make them meet a milestone in a timely manner rather than teach, but on the whole we have just strengthened the idea that local control is best, and that a state knows better than a federal bureaucracy comprised of experts, thinkers, and protectors of institutions.

Since the deregulation of the school system, it has seen its funding slashed, its teachers discouraged, and its curriculum narrowed. Homeschooling by ignorant parents is on the rise. Other parents are demanding to pore over teacher plans and accuse them of brainwashing their students. We’re banning books from the school libraries. Socialization and empathy skill teaching is verboten. The secular nature of our system is under attack. Teacher pay is abysmal and a lot of prospective educators don’t know if it is worth all of the student loans they would have to take on to go into a system that makes them miserable instead of inspired. This is what local control has wrought.

Most people that responded to what I had said believe that there has been a purposeful long-term attempt to make students dumber, to make more docile, manageable workers. The wave making, drop-outing and near street level chaos of the intellectual student movement in the 60s must have shaken a few deep-pocketed families, and it’s highly likely that they are trying to prevent it again by not teaching our young about fairness, justice, empathy, civics, history, economics, philosophy-all of that good stuff is now hiding behind wildly expensive paywalls. Many veteran teachers took umbrage-which was certainly not intended. Teachers are not the problem AT ALL.

The idea that twelve years of school really only prepares you to be an average worker has been with me for a while, and right now, that is more unacceptable than ever. Had we done a better job educating in those 12 years, we wouldn’t have grown people begging for fascism and ersatz independence while screaming batshit about communism that isn’t being proposed. No one would have listened to the trash coming from the radio and the TV if they had been properly educated to realize what it was- and I’ll call it what it is-mindless hate speech. Now we have even more trouble emanating from the Internet, where all your prejudices can be validated with a coax connection and a mouse click.

Am I asking for some collectivism? Yes. I probably am. But that’s a far cry from communism. It’s just organization. No need to get spooked about it. It’s common sense. A complete, perspectivized education will not stop you from being “free”, in point of fact, you will have a better jumping off point than before if you know some very important fundamentals. No good teacher, and no sane parent wants to tell children what to think. Rather, they want students to get used to learning how to think. Let’s teach kids the best of what we know, tell the whole truth as best as we can, trust our professionals, fund public education fully, and then watch them soar. It would be supremely gratifying to once again see a generation do better than the last.

Stranger Memes

I’m not talking about the shit you pass around to your friends on Facebook or wherever the fuck you go to be clever. I’m talking about actual memes. Cultural markers that reproduce and either flourish, or fail. Of course, there’s still wide debate about whether a meme is a “thing”, but then again we don’t really know what a “mind” is either, having never observed one. We just know the brain makes one. But some evolutionary biologists think an idea is like a virus, transferable to others with the same chances for successful replication or error that genes have. Dawkins first coined the term in 1976, and there are still adherents to the concept today.

I’m reading some oldish Daniel Dennett at the moment, and as of 2004 he was still a proponent of memetics. It’s as good a theory as any, and not being an educated person in any of the fields studying why ideas and behaviors live and die I will just accept his argument that memes exist and are subject to the rules of nature just as our DNA is. He wouldn’t be the first person to suggest that our evolutionary advantages like speech replicate in a virus-like manner. Mutations can be happy accidents for the carriers of memes and genes, and of course, they can be quite damaging to their hosts if not copied correctly or if an environment is hostile to a change.

Dennett put forth the idea that it was possible to scientifically study the origins of religious ritual. At the time he was writing the book, he had scant ideas on how that could be accomplished-merely asserting that it could and should be examined given how much human activity is inspired by it. But he did believe that some of the strange affectations surrounding worship of a supernatural being were products of evolution. A new folk dance by a trusted holy person that brought rain at the same time the dance was done per se could inspire confidence in a group of humans, and that could be passed on over generations, perhaps with slight variations. Our concepts of God and gods have surely evolved in different places and different times. The war-god in the Old Testament of the Bible is markedly different from the merciful one in the New Testament. Different times and places caused different mutations. Millions of religions over the course of our existence as a species failed having been eliminated by stronger and more cohesive religious memes.

One big question is: is religion escapable, or has the God meme persisted for so long that it’s dug deeper into our brain as something that can be physically expressed? We aren’t going to know any time soon. As far as I know, neuroimaging can’t see a “thought” and I have my doubts it ever will, given that we do know that multiple centers “light up” in the brain for a single activity. But as we know, there is no such thing as pure nature and pure nurture that makes a life form what it is. Handed down tradition also gives us our idea of God. But these don’t have to be permanent memes; memes can be replaced by better ones by simply reading or being taught something more compelling. This could be where free will lies, the ability to resist a stubborn meme and undo its influence on you. The God meme is still there, but your relation to it has changed. You can believe in belief, as Dennett says, but you don’t have to believe.

Well anyway, it is certain that religious memes can bring benefit, or destruction. It could do both at the same time. I think about my brother, who has a terrible image of himself for reasons I can’t always discern, and the Jesus meme makes him feel delivered from his dark urges. The Jesus meme helps my mother, who has had more pain in her life than any one human should. It doesn’t seem to do much for my father, who carries the Jesus meme but it doesn’t deliver him from the need to get attention from young women at the age of 79. He has a “Playboy” meme has hasn’t been able to shake. This, as you may imagine, has made him a target for internet con artists. But he likes to participate in the delusion that women still want him, so whatever.

The point is, it doesn’t really matter what truth actually lies in these memes. The fact is that they, by and large, work. What is truth anyway? It’s a metaphysical concept. There is an objective reality out there, for certain, but we cannot see all of it and really, what good would it do to be able to? The best humanity can do is find paths to a better, richer life. And memes are part of that effort, if they exist. We hew to lies and call them truths if they foster our survival, optimism, and pleasure. Love memes and hate memes accomplish similar things in this vein.

But I feel bad that I cannot de-program my family as the only nonbeliever. I feel really good about being free to not have to worship something or not having to worry about being punished for my actions by an unseen being. It helps me remember that this is the life you get so make it a good one if you can. But my feel-good free-will meme might not be transferable and probably would be super damaging to all members of my family. What might I unleash within my brother, with all that hate and anger suddenly out of check? How could I make my mother happy if I convinced her that she will never see the people she loves again? What kind of a lecher could I turn my father into were he completely free to indulge his tastes in blondes with big tits?

In all these cases, my wish to replicate the atheist meme is a bit stymied, and for good reason. I have given up trying to change these people I love, because they are doing the best that they can and don’t need me to upset their applecarts. The atheist meme in America is a lonely one right now, because it has never really coalesced into a group of people with any actual power. Fortunately, I’m mostly content with the fact that the other three members of my family are nonbelievers. My wife and I never introduced the God meme to our kids and they simply turned out to be atheists. It’s the default natural position, undermining the idea that belief in God has become somewhat hardwired.

Anyway, philosophically I’m back to my old friend Nietzsche, who was the first person to scare the God meme right out of me. Thinking back on some of his other contentions, I remember one was that falsity, artifice and appearance were realer and of more utility than anything “nature” could come up with. Trying to find the nature of reality was a secondary concern to him, which at the time differentiated him from any other major philosopher before him.

We are the creators now. We are the gods, the scientists looking for the paths that help asking no assistance from the sky. We put the memes to work for us, and create new ones. In this sense, the control of the meme is relatively new. We have domesticated their transmission with things like writing, politics and computers. Our lies have become quite sophisticated and as a result, and I wonder sometimes if that is a boon or a curse. Sometimes the “memes from every corner” feeling (a feeling produced a lot by things like advertising) is deleterious to us. It causes conspiracy thinking, a type of destructive memetic that makes you feel like someone is always out to get you and that you need to find “the truth” to escape. But that’s what happens in a free market of ideas. It can be good, but God knows there’s plenty of shit memes to indulge in today no better than the delusions that religion produces.

I Don’t Know Who The Fed Is Working For, But It Ain’t You And Me

I’m no economist. But economics seems to be one of those fields that you can be trained in for years and years and still not know what the fuck is going on. Not even a savvy investment giant like Warren Buffett can tell which way the wind is blowing all the time. Economics is a guessing game, judging by the amount of divergent opinions one can help themselves to in the news on a daily basis.

So the field is open for a layperson like myself to learn the fundamentals. But even the “laws” of supply and demand elude people interested in the subject. Some people think that is the end of the discussion, that all economic activity comes down to that raw tension between those two concepts. Their relationship is definitely very much a thing and weighs hard on all economic discussions, but it is not the end of them. What I have learned so far is that there are several forms of market warp that transcends the simplicity of laissez- faire notions of how money moves.

Peoples’ memories and attention spans being shit as they are, they often don’t remember events that changed the face of history. Just for an easy example, Trumpers like to point out the price of gas when he was president as compared to what it was this summer while Biden presided. Now of course this is dumb on its face because of the easily understood fact that the president does not really control gas prices. There are things that can be done, like releasing oil from our strategic reserve, employing gas tax holidays, and diplomacy with oil-producing nations. But most of that will not bring significant results that people are clamoring for. Stupid people think that presidents are like CEOs, where everything that goes wrong on their shift is attributable to them. But there’s this little thing called current events, and a president would have to have a crystal ball to head them off. History has to run through the course of a presidency, and to truly understand the efficacy or failure of a presidency we must know what happened during it, looking at phenomena that haven’t got a thing to do with who sits in the Oval Office.

So anyway, why was gas so cheap during Trump? Well, let me get right to it. It’s the prime mover of every calamity we have had and are continuing to have.

COVID-19.

If you don’t understand what the epidemic did to the economy, you have shit for brains and should shut up on the subject of economics for the last three years or so.

We literally didn’t leave the house for a year and a half. Businesses were destroyed. Supply chains mangled. Workers laid off. Oil actually traded in the negative, which technically meant we were running out of places to put the oil that no one needed and were on the verge of giving it away. We were worried about how we were going to wipe our ass. It took Trump begging the Saudis to shut their taps off to keep American producers afloat.

An event like this only comes perhaps once a century. It changes everything, and sometimes it just doesn’t matter who is the unfortunate chump in office is when they do occur. Mind you, Trump’s response to COVID was as bad a response as could be imagined, first denying the danger for months and then hawking quack treatments for people who were encouraged to have vaccine hysteria.

By the time Biden entered office, America was back at play, footloose and fancy free. Mask restrictions were done away with, vaccine proof was no longer needed to do certain things and we were off to the races. Demand skyrocketed.

But supply did not. A good chunk of manufacturing is coming from China, who has a zero COVID policy and if they catch a whiff of a breakout they literally go on lockdown. This would and still is causing a crimp in our supply capabilities. Oil company investors, who had their profits pared down seriously by COVID, went on a wild greed spree this summer, refusing to up production to meet the demand, citing a labor shortage, drill parts shortage and the events in Russia and Ukraine. Some of that may have been true-but much of the rise in price in oil was partly attributable to stock buybacks and and insistence on not growing to maximize the barrel price.

So what happens when too much money is chasing too few goods because supply cannot meet demand?

Inflation. It’s as natural as a newborn. Now during COVID under Trump, we printed seven trillion dollars to keep the economy alive. Another two trillion was printed in the first months of the Biden administration. Now those seven trillion under Trump had no effect on inflation. The Fed kept rates at near zero, allowing cheap money to flow wherever it needed to. Once again, it is stupid people who don’t understand that debt is not tied to inflation in a sophisticated economy like ours. Had this been true, we’d be like Argentina since we’re already 23 trillion in the hole and debt to GDP is almost 100%. We absolutely had to borrow that money to just keep basic services going. Some of it went to bad places but on the whole it was necessary debt, which some nitwits cannot tell from bad debt. But anyway, America is taking risks and are back in society, buying what they want. But they’ve noticed big time that what they want is going up in price quite a bit.

What’s the real problem? Did we overdo quantitative easing? Or is this inflation just a function of low supply and high demand? Or do we have yet more greed coming from monopolistic elements within the economy? Either way, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell thinks he has the answer. He’s gearing up for several aggressive interest rate hikes to combat inflation. People I have been reading say he’s going to crash the economy if he keeps it up, and that may be his plan-which sounds insane for a society that just got let loose into the marketplace to buy, buy and buy. Yes, some tightening is probably necessary. Some. But not recession-causing tightening. Apparently Powell doesn’t think the market has the know how to heal itself, and is going to instead contract us into a manageable size, where wages are lower as well as prices. This is madness. COVID-19 warp has shit to do with monetary policy. Those trillions were on the books and they could have stayed there a bit more while we got on with business. Once again, incremental adjustments to the interest rates make sense, but not these ham fisted moves Powell is making. He’s not going to squeeze inflation out of the economy if he is not taking into account what is causing it.

It’s not the balance sheet, folks. It’s the bug. And if Jerome Powell thinks he’s doing us a favor by making the cost of of money expensive and halt this economy’s gains, he doesn’t understand the American consumer nor the pandemic. Give America a minute to actually be a free market. Or to be free, period.

You Can Google Yourself Into Staying Current. You Cannot Google Yourself Into Expertise.

The Internet is such a fucked up thing, a true paradox. It is the largest repository of information on the planet. You would think this a good thing…yet the people who use it seem to be getting dumber.

Let’s talk a little bit about people who think that when they look for information on the Internet, they are performing “research”.

You know these people. They are legion. They are all around you, believing some of the most insane shit you can dream up. Not knowing much about how the real world works, they construct fantasy worlds based on ignorant, paranoid biases they have. They have consumed so much information confirming them, that they actually see themselves as authorities on a matter. And they’re not, because they aren’t trained to be one. Yet every fucking person these days always has something to say about everything. It’s tiring. I’m sorry, but rare is the true polymath.

Let’s be clear: Experts are the only people who should be conducting any sort of “research”. And many of them constrain their expertise to one subject, as any knowledge base can be ridiculously complicated and is in constant evolution.

Most of us drones can read a book and maybe really digest a fourth of it. Even less will be able to spit out the contents of what they read to a fellow human. Shit, sometimes I can’t say anything about a TV show I just watched. Hardly any of us commoners are doing any structured “learning”. The best of us can merely familiarize ourselves with a subject. So it is with the Internet. We can read all we like and still not know a whole lot. But then we get super offended when all of our “research” gets questioned.

That’s not the way to wisdom. Having your beliefs challenged is really the only way to actually “learn”. In other words, looking for what might be wrong about what you think you know is the key to possibly knowing anything at all. That requires a bit of humility most people do not possess, though, especially if you are dealing with someone who thinks that just because they have access to the biggest journal/encyclopedia in existence it makes them somehow learned.

I have a bachelor’s degree in sociology. The theory is painful to comb through, and that is a lot of what you have to get through to make it past your sophomore year. A favorite professor of mine gave up the goods on why we needed to dig up fossils like Emile Durkheim. “It’s really just to torture you the way we were tortured.” I believed her. You also get introduced to the world of statistics, which I actually found fun. Some of my fellow classmates were fucking insufferable, though; like I had this one class in stats where the textbook was filled end to end with studies. Now, this book’s purpose, from what I could tell was to help us learn how studies are structured, to immerse us in the world of what we can learn from surveys and data. Yet for some reason, the class devolved into “how can we pick apart this study and declare it invalid?” Students got hung up on dumb shit like sample size. If it was deemed not high enough (it was always an arbitrary number that varied from student to student), it was a bad study. That’s not how this works, though. You can sample or plot 20 points and get a mean that suggests a correlation in one direction or another. Yes, you can sample 40 and be more accurate, but it’s really the difference between say, 90% certainty and 95%. There’s tests you can perform that give you confidence values. What I’m getting at is that the picture is the same, it’s just slightly blurrier when you work with less data.

Anyway, four years is what I survived. Did that mean I was well-educated? Was I a sociologist, or one in training? Looking back, I’d have to say no. Nowadays, bachelor degrees are not held in high esteem by employers. Everyone wants the grinders who stick with shit for eight to twelve years. I wasn’t able to do that for several reasons, but one was that I don’t think I could have bullshitted my way through graduate level work. I didn’t want to anyway. Sociology could be fun and fascinating, but I was never destined to be an expert in it.

I’m getting a little sidetracked, but the point was is that real education takes place in educational institutions, and real expertise gets conducted by experts. Reading the Internet for the average schmo should be like reading the morning paper-oh, here’s some interesting news, hey that’s a cool subject, hm, I didn’t know that, let me find out more, wow, they did what? Basically, keep the fuck up. Be active when it is necessary. That is your civic responsibility, nothing more. Now it’s a little rough out there, because major media gatekeeps for or is outright owned or manipulated by the moneyed and the powerful. But there’s a lot of people doing journalism for journalism’s sake. Good stories and portals are out there, and real journalists have been telling inconvenient truths. Did what you read make you mad? Excellent. Did it change your mind? Awesome. Did it add perspective to something you are interested in? I’m all for it.

This “research” epidemic, however, is for fools. It’s just ducky to Google or Wikipedia a subject you just encountered, I encourage that behavior. What is not sensible is consuming a lot of information/bullshit on a topic you aren’t an expert in. You can easily be misinformed, for one thing, if you don’t know how to check your sources. That is something that typically an expert would know how to do. And confirmation bias, as far as I can tell, is habitual in this fucking species. Starting with a conclusion is absurdly common. I think X is happening, and since I have a giant library at my fingertips, there’s a good chance I can definitely find evidence for X being true. Even science itself is guilty of this.

I dunno. Maybe some people are just raised berserk, and it’s best to leave them be if we are creatures of mercy. But I grow weary of it. For me, everything I “know” is in a state of flux. Does that bother me? Honestly, no, it doesn’t. There are things about this objective reality we will never figure out. (Then again, I haven’t tried DMT). It’s cool, that’s what it means to live, especially as a human. Uncertainty is part of the package of survival. “Research” and “figuring things out” isn’t going to make me feel existentially better.

They say everyone needs something to believe in. Maybe. And I suppose in our virtual world of connectivity, that’s easier than ever to find. In that sense, the Internet peddles millions of faiths. We want so badly to be special, we want to know we are part of the Correct, that we are In. Maybe in our atomized society this is all we can do anymore to remain cohesive, share our ridiculous faiths through an invisible ether. I’m out of answers.

Perhaps know yourself first before you go knowing anything else. I think some wise weirdo advised this a long, long time ago. I think he was killed for giving it to people.

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