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.

You May Want To Take Note Of What You Were Doing Today

Here at the seminary, we try as hard as we can to mark momentous occasions for posterity’s sake. Well, that’s kind of a lie. I’m lazy as hell and that’s one of the reasons why this blog never went anywhere.

Last night, in bed bathed in the blue-light adjusted glow of my phone, I found out that The Washington Post got a motherfucker of a scoop.

Classified documents relating to nuclear weapons were among the items FBI agents sought in a search of former president Donald Trump’s Florida residence on Monday, according to people familiar with the investigation.

The people who described some of the material that agents were seeking spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation. They did not offer additional details about what type of information the agents were seeking, including whether it involved weapons belonging to the United States or some other nation.

Today, there will be an avalanche of discussion about this. Now Trump tried to get out in front of this story, threatening to release the copy of the search warrant to show that there was nothing to here to see, folks. Later this afternoon, Merrick Garland may beat him to it, having made a motion to unseal the warrant so we don’t have to wait on Trump to find out what this fat orange fascist wannabe cocksucker has been up to.

Republican social media accounts, with a few exceptions, have reportedly gone dark on this matter. If indeed Trump is the magnitude of criminal he appears to be, that stink will be all over their candidacy. Granted, a great deal of Republicans will no doubt spin this as a conspiracy, and the ever faithful MAGA crowd will still show up in droves for those reps on Election Day.

Perhaps a small percentage will have a moment of clarity, wondering or finally realizing what a fucking mark they have been for one of the most accomplished con men in American history. That is the only good news that can come out of the story of a former president allegedly caught hiding nuclear secrets.

Loose Lips Sink Ships-The Closing Democratic Window Of Discourse

“Shut up, be happy”-Jello Biafra

It’s taken me a little while to figure out in which “skin” I belong in as far as left of center politics goes. There are many hashmarks between say, moderate and communist. You can be a moderate, a liberal, a progressive, a social democrat, a democratic socialist, a socialist, a libertarian socialist, all the way to communist. I’m sure I’ve missed some.

I have done some thinking about all these waypoints along the left side of the axis. I have found that progressive suits me best. I’m not looking to overthrow the capitalist system (not yet at least). I am searching for fairness in this one. I am searching for forward movement, the continual betterment of the common man’s condition.

There’s 101 of us in the federal government. I hate to break it to the moderates, but we are the future of the party. The young generations will sweep status quo candidates from office in due time. I will probably help them, if I see we can win.

Now there are definitely problems as we transition to new generations of voters. The youngest are angry, confused, scared and think the system doesn’t care about them. Who can blame them? To them, the old guard just sits back, tells them to be quiet, watch the planet burn, see the cost of living skyrocket so high that they can’t see a way to live independently, see corporations and the filthy rich take over every facet of life with their money, witness a culture where they have to worry about being shot at any given place and time, observe militarized police who will beat you if you assemble improperly, worry about wars and international beefs we may not have an existential stake in, and see civil and constitutional rights disappearing because of an out of control white christian authoritarian minority…you’re all reading the news. I could go on.

I have criticized the Do Something mentality in the past, but the more I learn the more I see why it exists.

They say that perception is reality. While that maxim is flawed, it does mean that leadership must pick up its tin ear and listen to the concerns of its potential constituents. It is especially important now seeing as how we Democrats are on track to lose the House and we’ll be needing the lefty vote and the young vote to get to the place where we can spring into action and remove this cursed filibuster, expand that wreck of a Court, and legislate back the rights we’ve lost over the past ten years.

So it really doesn’t make much difference at this point to continue to list the positive things that Joe Biden has done, of which there are many. He has done what has needed doing to repair the damage done by Trump. For that, we should all be grateful. But unfortunately, politics and time moves on and has a “but what are you doing now” and a “what are you going to do” vibe running through it, and now that the honeymoon is long over, the Biden administration and other leadership are short on ideas and even shorter on enthusiasm. Everyone is asking the administration and other Democrats questions about what it can or will do about this or that. And we often get no good answer. The brilliant flak-catcher Jen Psaki is gone, leaving the White House short on professional ass coverage. The president is not taking questions from a querulous press and when he does, he’s grumpy about being challenged. All we get are angry Biden apologists teeming on social media, and those apologists don’t want you to speak a single ill word about the president or the party.

This will not fly. No matter how hard you tell Democratic Biden critics/questioners to shut up, it will not go away. This is not the Republican Party; we don’t have a hive mind. We are a coalition of diverse thinking groups, and those groups are increasingly at odds with each other. And we need to work together, not hiss and spit. That is how Republicans win. Moderate Democrats will have to give air to the more left element’s grievances, and the more left among us will have to understand better our limitations. We need to talk, not throw slime. Share wisdom. Exchange knowledge. It will make us much stronger if we have a healthy dialectic.

Discourse should be acceptable within our ranks. I don’t like the idea that questioning things is bad for the party. There’s something…undemocratic about it.

Biden must give succor to both wings. That is part of his job description, keep the party together. Especially now that democracy itself is on the ballot.

This post basically evolved from my increasing irritation with the mass blowoff of the more left wing of the party. And that blowoff is translating into poll outcomes like this:

I was repeatedly told not to share that poll because it would help depress turnout and lose us the ’22 election. I simply thought the numbers were eyebrow-raising to say the least. But I am also repeatedly being told I have some sort of “agenda” (a paranoid Republican babbleword), accused of helping Republicans (or in some cases, being one) if I even so much as acknowledge fucking reality. Sorry. I will call balls and fucking strikes like I see them. If we tell ourselves and others lies about the current efficacy of the administration we risk our integrity. That poll ain’t my fault. The truth is still out there whether I share it or not.

There was also this stupid statement from the White House recently:

Oh, so the people who marched and protested and screamed for answers to a severe crisis are “activists”? This is the kind of bullshit that chafes voters. This rhetoric will lose Democrats more votes than any poll. Does anyone know what the mainstream even stands for at this juncture? If our “activist” values aren’t theirs, what business do they have calling themselves part of The People’s Party? What intrinsic good is there in just being the Not-Republican Party?

That’s just taking the slow train to hell instead of the express. I find this increasingly unacceptable, and avoidable.

We can stop blaming “the media” right about now and making up screwy conspiracies about their aims. Again, that’s another dumb Republican idea that we’ve somehow assimilated into our yaksacks. We’re cutting our own throats with the message (or lack of one), not the coverage. Papers of record are awful right now, but not for the reasons we think. Personally, I’d rather read the muckrakers who don’t give a good god damn what either party thinks. Generally, they don’t shade the truth.

To a great degree, this next election is an all hands on deck moment and it’s important to understand that Republicans have gamed ’22 and made a circus of the electoral system. I am working hard personally to GOTV in my county and make sure as many Democrats as possible show up to vote. I run media on several social platforms for the party and maintain the county website. I will soon be tasked with phonebanking and canvassing. However, what I share as a private citizen with my followers that I find interesting is my business and you can fuck off if you don’t like it. Last time I checked, that account is mine, not the Democratic Party’s. I barely have 1100 followers. I have no influence. Go crawl up David Hogg’s ass, who, while perhaps well-intentioned, has literally discouraged people from voting and donating to the party. Millions of people see him online daily. He’s a spokesperson for the young whether he knows it or not and he has to get smarter quickly.

Let’s just keep the conversation and the reality free and flowing. Telling people to be quiet will not make more Democratic voters, nor will sharing uncomfortable truths make less. It will just make people think and consider, and we need that more than ever in America.

And be fucking polite out there. I am still learning this one myself, but if you know something that someone else doesn’t, share it. Don’t be a dick. Save that shit for Republicans.

Next We’ll Be Revisiting Fluoridated Water-Tucker Carlson Is An Insane Conspiracy-Spewing Asshole

I’ve taken quite a vacation from watching Tucker Carlson. His show has devolved in a way I could never imagine. Used to be a time when, however wrong he was, he’d have guests on to have a contentious fight with. I don’t think anyone remotely credible wants to go on his show anymore, though. Now it’s all just hair-on-fire end of civilization commentary that probably only serves to scare old white folks.

Today, let’s highlight a couple of his latest conspiracies. This would be twice now in a span of perhaps a month that suggests that the Biden administration is trying to use drugs or the non-use of them to “control” the population, a familiar Tucker refrain with about zero basis in fact. Here’s Tucker saying that nicotine users have more mental acuity (debatable) and therefore a ban on Juuls is going to make men soft and stupid:

Not long after, he’s howling on a Brazilian beach about how government and corporations don’t want people to have families because they are still trying to help women obtain safe abortions and that the government might put SSRIs in the water supply to keep people happy:

Yes. That’s airing on a major cable “news network”. Not to mention that it’s one of the most popular shows on television. It’s no wonder this country is going to the dogs if this is in the diet.

UPDATE: More drug talk from Tucker. He’s alleging that school “counselors” are handing out “psychotropic” drugs all over the country. This is patent bullshit of course, as is the use of a scare word that most people don’t know. Then he mentions SSRIs again. I have news for Tucker; it’s not 1985 anymore; there’s SNRIs, tricyclics, tetracyclics, typical, atypical antipsychotics, mood stabilizers, a panoply of drugs that go way beyond the promise of Prozac that doctors are prescribing more and more these days. If you are going to scare people, get fucking up to date with your nonsense, asshole.

Out There Flapping

The third hearing is now in the bag, and John Eastman will be the one holding it when all is said and done.

It’s plainly obvious now that Trump, others in his circle and Eastman conspired to subvert the Constitution and the Electoral Count Act. As January 6th came close, Eastman had been told time and time again that the scheme couldn’t work if Pence wasn’t going to take an activist approach to his duties as Senate president. Even Eastman at several junctures was forced to admit it wouldn’t work. Not even a conservative Supreme Court would come to their aid. Especially not a conservative one, as the language of the 12th is clear.

But Eastman admitted, “You know how he gets when he has something in his head,” referring to our mercurial and intransigent former president. So he went along with the whole hullabaloo on January 6th, whipping up the crowd at the Ellipse along with Giuliani, Trump and others to insist on challenging the validity of the election, like they had all been doing since November 4th, regardless of whether or not they knew they had lost.

It’s been said over and over, but this was a coup, executed on multiple levels to create maximum chaos. Bannon and Navarro planned the floor uprising, Eastman and Trump tried to force the vice president to invalidate safe harbored, official ballots, and the Proud Boys and The Oath Keepers led the angry mob to lay waste to the Capitol as Trump tweeted to them that nothing they planned was working. To link these pieces of the plot together will be the DOJ’s most difficult task.

Once the smoke cleared, Eastman asked to be on the pardon list. Interestingly enough, he did not receive one. This can only mean one thing; that Trump is throwing him under the bus for this whole stunt. Trump, as I understand it, does not use email or communications that could be archived to do his business. So perhaps it will be hard to link Eastman and Trump in a plot of seditious conspiracy. However, if these losers don’t want to hang out in a 6×9 cell for the rest of their lives, it might be worth it to roll on El Jefe.

Maybe The Left Should Arm Itself. It Is Currently Outgunned

I really don’t want to have to write this post, but I think we’ve reached the point of gun saturation in this country that if one side, the right wing fascist side, is consistently sending lone wolves among us to kill innocent people, perhaps we have no choice but to balance the equation and arm ourselves in equal measure. Not to attack, but to defend and resist.

I don’t think I’m being too terribly alarmist when I say that right wing thugs could easily be organized into militias sanctioned by a rogue government to police our streets. The Ku Klux Klan comes to mind, and all of the militias at the tip of the spear of the attack on Congress were probably organized or at least abetted in their mission by government actors.

I don’t expect this situation to get any better. If you thought 2020 was hotly contested, just wait until this November when ballots start getting thrown out over picayune irregularities without the ability to cure, and when state legislatures don’t like the result of a close race they will fire election officials until they find some that will send the electors they prefer. We who love democracy will protest, no doubt, and find ourselves in check by police and possibly militia.

So, the question is, what good is gun control going to do? Is it feasible, or even wise, given the threat the populace faces from those who are already hoarding guns for a revolution or a civil war? In order to make this country safer, we’d need to confiscate hundreds of millions of guns. How is that going to work? Hell, the ATF couldn’t disarm David Koresh without killing every one of his unfortunate followers. Ruby Ridge didn’t go so hot either. The ineluctable fact is that we cannot disarm America. It’s simply too herculean a task at this point. And everyone knows that banning only produces a black market, much the way the prohibition of drugs does.

Sadly, the only path to resistance may be for anti-fascists to be ready in equal capacity for an attack. The time for nonviolence is long past, and it won’t solve this problem. There’s a chance that a work stoppage or a general strike might wake some people up, but we have not achieved consciousness as servants and laborers in this manner yet. Most will be afraid to walk off the jobs they need desperately. Who can blame them, in these times where everyone is hanging by a thread economically?

Some feel that an incremental approach to the gun control problem is an answer. That clearly doesn’t work; every time a slaughter happens, even the slightest move towards curbing gun violence causes the purchase of guns to exponentially rise. And you can bet those aren’t lefties hoarding when this happens. These people are paranoid wingnuts with itchy trigger fingers. They think there’s a war coming. And they are ready to fight it.

Are we?

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