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Member since: Sat Nov 29, 2008, 01:55 PM
Number of posts: 17,040

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Winners and losers.

Two separate issues with the same common denominator: The abuse of the world economy to the enrichment of a few wealthy oligarchs, and the the abuse of public lands to the enrichment of a single cattle farmer. Both are abuses of the commons to the detriment of the people.

But the iconic images that record the events surrounding the controversy are very different. Who are the winners and losers in the images above? On the left there is a huddled mass of unrecognizable people defeated by a fat cop with an aerosol can. In the image on the right there is a lone individual defending a barricade.

Those in the image on the left have already lost the battle, but the image on the right shows a citizen taking charge of his fate and willing to die for his cause. If you didn't know the circumstances behind the images, who would you bet on to ultimately win? Who would you follow?

When a single rancher steals public resources for twenty years and the authorities finally move to end the outrage by arresting his cattle, people sympathetic to his cause, fraudalent though it might be, show up by the hundreds and make it perfectly clear they will do whatever is necessary to stop the confiscation. On the other hand the housing market is turned into a casino and millions of people lose their homes and are turned into the street. So what did those protesters do? They sat down in front of an office building and allowed themselves to get pepper sprayed. Given the millions of opportunities to show up at the point of the outrage - actual homes where people were being evicted - a gigantic groundswell of support would have been inevitable.

Since the OWS protesters focused their efforts on an abstraction, damaging to the public good though it might be, they were unable to make their message real to the people whose help they needed for meaningful change. Instead of a protest to defend the citizenry against a genuine threat they wound up doing performance art.

You don't have to show up with a gun to have an effective protest. But you have to show up willing to do whatever is necessary to stop the outrage. Beneath the abstract economics, media buzz, political mechanization and ideological posturing the conflict is the same as it was ten thousand years ago. People compete for resources; food, shelter, and energy. Look at the images above again. The most important players are not the idiot with the rifle or the OWS protesters cowering on the ground. They are the bystanders. Why didn't the huge crowd of people come to the aid of those kids instead of standing there watching the show? And why are those three people busy photographing that idiot with the rifle? The answer to those questions explain what happened to OWS and why the BLM backed down.

Two pairs of images.


A short rant about the Kate Upton "vomit comet" photo shoot...

Let me get this straight. A glossy magazine devoted to the documentation of egregiously frivolous entertainment thought it was a good idea to photograph a woman whose sole job it is to look good in a 133 foot long, 85 ton, $22,000,000 dollar aircraft 33,000 feet off the ground. This technology, that has for most of human history been an impossible dream and requires resources beyond the wildest imagination of anyone only a few hundred years ago, was pressed into service so that we would be able to enjoy photographic evidence of the concept of zero G boobies.

I say concept because I saw the video and I couldn't tell any meaningful difference between airborne zero G boobies and boobies appearing in their natural earthbound environment. That's probably because within the pantheon of soul crushing troubles with which a multi millionaire supermodel may have to contend, gravity ain't one of them.

There should be no need to belabor the gargantuan waste of natural resources required for this vacuous bit of pop meringue, but I will add this: The Boeing 727 used for that exercise in libidinous affectation burned approximately 23,000 pounds of jet fuel. That's about 3,382 gallons, or enough to heat a home for about five years. Maybe longer if you wear an insulated gold bikini.

But there is another insulting waste in the performance of this stupid stunt: the waste of human resources. From the ground crew to the flight crew literally tens of thousands of hours of training and experience are required to keep eighty tons of aircraft in the air. I'd hate to think my career as a highly trained professional depended on making sure somebody got a picture of some mostly naked woman floating in zero gravity.

Among the uncounted fucks that I don't give about stupid shit, whether or not men look at naked women will count for at least a few of them. Men have been looking at women for millions of years, and they will continue to do so as long as they have something to look with and something to look at. But the gigantic wast of real stuff like natural resources, technology, and the expertise of people who take their jobs way too seriously to appreciate a stupid stunt like this should be an embarrassment to anyone with a conscience.

You may resume your regularly scheduled programming.

The gender wage gap controversy reminds me of an old joke...

If this is the wrong place to post this, feel free to lock it.

Bob and Ray are digging a hole. It's hot, miserable work. Ray says, "Howzit the boss is up there sitting under a tree drinking beer and we're down here digging this fucking hole?" Bob says, "Beats me, why don't you go ask him?" "Believe I will."

Ray climbs out of the hole and asks the boss about his unfair advantage. The boss just grins, sets down his beer and says, "Here, I'll show you." He holds his hand against the tree and tells Ray to hit it as hard as he can. When Ray swings, the boss pulls his hand away and Ray punches the Oak tree, breaking four knuckles. The boss says, "Do you understand now?" "Yep", says Ray, nursing his damaged hand. "Then get down there and get back to work."

When Ray returns to the hole, Bob asks him what he found out. Ray says, "He explained it real good. Here, I'll show you." With that, Ray holds his hand in front of his face and says, "Hit my hand".


So Joe and Mary both work for Fuck You Inc sucking stink for twelve hours a day. Joe makes four dollars an hour and Mary pulls down three fifty. How does it make sense for Mary to demand to be paid as much as Joe for sucking stink? That's not equality, justice, or progress. It's an endorsement for paying stink suckers a shitty wage.

Robber baron Jay Gould once quipped, "You can always pay one half of the poor to kill the other half."

The chattering classes, the culture war, and Tetris

Remember Tetris? The playerís objective was to shift and rotate puzzle pieces to fill rows of squares. If the rows got filled, they would disappear and leave more time to figure how the next piece would fit. If too many unfilled rows pile up, you lose.

Okay, stop staring at the gif and keep reading.

The key to playing the game was to learn to recognize and configure the falling pieces as quickly as possible. If you had to analyze them you wouldnít last long. Donít think about it, just take what the program gives you and deal with it instinctively.

Each mistake causes the unfinished rows to pile up and forces the player work under increasing pressure to beat down the backlog. This idea isnít new. Henry Ford used to make sure there was at least one maniac that lived for a particular task on each assembly line. That maniac would shove pieces down the line at a tremendous pace, forcing the other workers to keep up thus increasing production. This was known as a ďringer on the lineĒ or, more appropriately, a ďDick MoveĒ.

Of course our manufacturing base for actual products a lot smaller now. But we have a gigantic industry for the manufacture of ideology. Weíre turning out memes on three shifts and the ringers are working double overtime. We are living in an ideological consumerís paradise.

So what if those shapes in Tetris werenít groups of colored squares, but rather prefab memes that look like this:

Most of you wouldnít find it too troubling to shove that into what could be an ideological matrix at the bottom of the screen. This piece, on the other hand, might be a bit of a problem even though itís just another configuration of four blocks:

Theyíre all just groups of four blocks after all. It will fit somewhere. Remember, youíre under pressure to beat down that backlogÖ

And what happens if you get a few of these:

Youíre donít have time to decipher those acronyms, just fill the gaps and get on with it. Remember, you have no control over what the software serves up; all you can do is to try to make it fit into the ideology youíve already built. It wonít matter if they change the colors of the blocks or the letters inside them, as long as you can slam it into place in time to figure out what to do with the next piece. In fact, the more you play, the more invested you become in the game and the less likely you are to give too much consideration to the subtleties of individual block identification. Thatís because the gameís objective is to keep you playing the game.

The funny thing about Tetris is that when a row is completed, it disappears. It is forgotten in the rush to install more blocks. Just like on an assembly line you have to take product you didnít design and make it work before it disappears forever down the line. Youíre invested in the process, but your investment stretches no further than completing a process you had no role in developing and what insufficient wage you get from dealing with it. And if management is smart, there will be a ringer right there next to you shoving product your way. That ringer defines the limits of your control over the memes you see.

And the ringers are more invested than you are. They are doing what they were born to do, and it ainít quality control. They were carefully selected and if they work really hard they will move up the pay scale ladder. They will be movers and shakers just like the big bosses in the corner office. When they talk, people will listen. And they know they will be respected, revered even.

Of course, there are ringers and there are ringers. Some are upstanding citizens, others are buffoons. Most, while possibly well meaning, are in it for the money. That's why the 1% pays them all that cash. Because truth to tell, that ringer standing next to you on the line isn't any smarter than you. He doesn't know anything you don't know. He didn't design the product he shoves your way. He just knows how to work the system better than you.

Generally speaking, the more successful the ringer is, the more the product looks like this:

Why the NRA wins. (4)

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

If conservatives were left to run the country youíd have, well, what weíve got. Theyíre just not very good at it. From human rights, economic parity, environmental protection, and international relations if you study what they do and then do exactly the opposite youíll get it right. But they do one thing very well. They follow orders and fight. Thatís right up their alley. Thatís why theyíre big on the military and guns. Guns have become their sacred totem. They rally around them like moths to a flame and the NRA makes money hand over fist cheerleading for their cause.

For liberals guns have become an anti-totem because they symbolize everything liberals would rightfully like to avoid. Guns are made to kill people, and killing people is wrong every time no matter the reason. If we want to survive as a species we have to learn to get along with each other and share the resources available to us.

Unfortunately, the more we embrace liberal ideology, the further we are drawn from the actual problem itself. Liberal public policy attempts to nurture a way to a solution by progressively micro-managing the economic, social, and cultural chain of custody related to firearms. They are efforts to create a support network that grows from impractical to absurd the more passionately one embraces nurturing as way to deal with violence after the assault has begun.

Mutual support and cooperation between citizens is how successful civilizations thrive. The chaos of violence, whether it happens between individuals or entire countries, is uncivilized, which is to say the network of cooperative nurturing has failed and does not exist. The absence of civilization and a means to deal with it lies beyond the ken most of liberal ideology. We simply donít know what to do when the fight starts. Unfortunately, conservatives sit around and wait for that eventuality.

In the pantheon of human affairs liberal ideology works best almost all of the time. But there is one instance where the conservatives have us beat hands down. And when we venture out of the ivory tower of ideological theory into the real world, we will meet real live people that know that no matter how hard we may try, humans arenít perfect and sometimes we fall to fighting. And the NRA sees the potential in that ghoulish market and exploits it to the fullest. And thatís why they win

Why the NRA wins. (3)

Part 1
Part 2
Part 4

Human beings arenít perfect. Some are a lot less perfect than others. Approximately 1% of the population, about three million people in this country, is sociopathic. Add to this reality the disparity of resources, opportunity, and history in an imperfect world and violence between people in even a wealthy and peaceful country is unavoidable.

One especially tragic form of violence is the mass shooting of people by a disturbed individual. There are few things more terrifying for the public than the possibility of a formerly safe place turned into a shooting gallery. Given the already ubiquitous presence of guns and the reality of disturbed individuals to wield them, mass shootings are a certainty for the foreseeable future. Itís only a question of where and when.

Solutions for this problem have been offered from both sides of the political aisle. The right seems to favor arming as many people as possible for reasons related to economics and the ideology of self sufficiency. The political left tends to favor the restriction of access to firearms to reduce the chances of such a tragedy. Such policy positions follow the underlying morality of authority and nurture respectively.

If the political left had achieved every policy initiative attempted after Sandy Hook, there would still be approximately one gun for every man, woman, and child in this country. And many deadly weapons would have gone unregulated. The most those initiatives would have done is to reduce the frequency of gun violence in general and mass shootings in particular somewhat. Eventually. Maybe.

So sooner or later there will be another mass shooting and the media will be overwhelmed with images of people fleeing the scene, terrified and weeping survivors and family members, impromptu memorials to the fallen and disturbing profiles of some individual that might be typical of someone from our personal experience. And the most that the left could say after a string of difficult and politically expensive legislative victories is, ďIf not for us this tragedy might have happened a little sooner. MaybeĒ. Such solutions that suggest a corrosive effect on civil liberties to problems that may affect any given individual with about the same chance as being struck by lightning offer at most a pyrrhic legislative victory. Such a victory might well result in a one way bus ticket to the political wilderness for any political party responsible for it.

While conservatives with the NRA in the vanguard can point to an actual object that can be acquired by individuals to empower them in the absence of any help from society at large, liberals are left fighting for an abstracted percentage and the hope that legislation will result in a fractional uptick in the odds of oneís survival from assault and the notion that some homicidal maniac will be slightly less efficient. Thatís because the political left is attempting to redefine the problem to conform to an ideology that overlooks a rare albeit important facet of the human experience: sometimes in the real world people have to fight.

Why the NRA wins. (2)

Part 1
Part 3
Part 4

Everything about a gun is authoritarian in nature. Guns are defined by unequivocal closure. You canít call a bullet back. Guns are made to kill and death is about as unequivocal an end as you can get. The authoritarian nature of firearms defines social practices and institutions where they predominate. So, for example, from the four rules of gun safety to the military, if itís about guns itís about following the rules and the authority they imply. It should be unnecessary to point out the authoritarian nature of conservative ideology.

The symbolic implications of firearms attract conservatives like ants to a picnic. Firearms can be seen in the hands of troops in the field and they are inexpensive and ubiquitous enough for almost anyone to own. Guns are an actual object that can be valued beyond their utility as readily as a house or (ahem) a car. They symbolize as few other objects can the realities of survival and the history of a country that was born of violent revolution and has engaged in at least one victorious world war that cemented our place as a very wealthy and aggressive superpower. And you can wear one on your belt. Is it any wonder that conservatives regularly feature them at political events?

If anyone in the lobbyist business wanted to find an object to promote for profit they could hardly find anything better suited to that purpose than a gun. The business model almost writes itself. Itís easily recognizable, portable, ubiquitous, historically significant, entertaining and necessary for survival under certain circumstances.

The NRA and the firearms industry wouldnít mind a bit if people spent every dime they had on guns. Thatís the nature of the free market. Liberals, as the voice of economic parity and defenders of the commons, need to come up with an answer to the basic problem that people are trying to solve when they buy a gun. It doesnít matter whether the purchaser of that gun will ever have to use it or not. It doesnít matter if gun owners are more likely to get shot than non gun owners. People own guns to solve a certain kind of problem and if you want them to seek a different solution, itís a good idea to have one ready for them.

Itís an especially good idea to have a solution ready if youíre trying to eliminate their preferred option while simultaneously telling them that they are irrational, stupid, deluded, cowardly, and sexually repressed.

Why the NRA wins. (1)

Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

There can be little doubt that without liberal ideology we would be living in a dystopian nightmare. Liberals have given the United States the greatest advances in social equality and cultural progress in the history of the nation. Furthermore, given the events of the last thirty years, the inadequacies of conservative ideology have been made painfully obvious. I shouldnít have to belabor that point here.

So if the benefits of liberalism are so obvious how does the NRA, which overwhelmingly supports conservative politicians, enjoy the success that it does? Policies that the NRA supports have enjoyed legislative success even in light of the tragedy at Sandy Hook. If any event could galvanize support for liberal positions, from the political center if not from the right, the grisly murder of children by a mentally unbalanced young man wielding an AR15 should have done it. It didnít. While liberal policy initiatives moved forward in traditionally liberal bastions of the nation (with the notable exception of Illinois), on balance across the country policy initiatives supported by the NRA have shown considerable success. And even though there are reports of shootings in the media with depressing regularity, the sale of firearms has continued unabated.

As I understand it, scholarship on ideological morality divides liberalism and conservatism, in the very broadest of strokes, between nurturing and authority. Given the fact that liberal policies have proven to be beneficial to our society have at their base been an effort to nurture people through the expansion of material, educational, and social support, the validity of that dichotomy seems to be borne out by events on the ground. And of course the dangers of excessive authoritarianism are equally obvious.

Human lives can be understood as a series of events that occur over time. Those events are governed by relationships with others within the context of a range of variables that have changed little for most of human history. Those variables can be managed by the way our culture is designed and, generally speaking, positive reinforcement by nurturing people is preferable to authoritarian negative reinforcement.

But there is one type of human event where that preference does not hold true. That event occurs between the period of time between the manifestation of a genuine threat to oneís survival and the elimination of that threat. That event occurs after all the preventive measures to avoid it have been taken and failed. Whether that threat is some guy in a dark alley with a knife or an invading army, youíre not going to nurture your way out of that mess.

I'm not much into poetry but here's a couple

by Robert Francis

His art is eccentricity, his aim
How not to hit the mark he seems to aim at,

His passion how to avoid the obvious,
His technique how to vary the avoidance.

The others throw to be comprehended. He
Throws to be a moment misunderstood.

Yet not too much. Not errant, arrant, wild,
But every seeming aberration willed.

Not to, yet still, still to communicate
Making the batter understand too late.


D. H. Lawrence
A snake came to my water-trough
On a hot, hot day, and I in pyjamas for the heat,
To drink there.

In the deep, strange-scented shade of the great dark carob-tree
I came down the steps with my pitcher
And must wait, must stand and wait, for there he was at the trough before

He reached down from a fissure in the earth-wall in the gloom
And trailed his yellow-brown slackness soft-bellied down, over the edge of
the stone trough
And rested his throat upon the stone bottom,
i o And where the water had dripped from the tap, in a small clearness,
He sipped with his straight mouth,
Softly drank through his straight gums, into his slack long body,

Someone was before me at my water-trough,
And I, like a second comer, waiting.

He lifted his head from his drinking, as cattle do,
And looked at me vaguely, as drinking cattle do,
And flickered his two-forked tongue from his lips, and mused a moment,
And stooped and drank a little more,
Being earth-brown, earth-golden from the burning bowels of the earth
On the day of Sicilian July, with Etna smoking.
The voice of my education said to me
He must be killed,
For in Sicily the black, black snakes are innocent, the gold are venomous.

And voices in me said, If you were a man
You would take a stick and break him now, and finish him off.

But must I confess how I liked him,
How glad I was he had come like a guest in quiet, to drink at my water-trough
And depart peaceful, pacified, and thankless,
Into the burning bowels of this earth?

Was it cowardice, that I dared not kill him? Was it perversity, that I longed to talk to him? Was it humility, to feel so honoured?
I felt so honoured.

And yet those voices:
If you were not afraid, you would kill him!

And truly I was afraid, I was most afraid, But even so, honoured still more
That he should seek my hospitality
From out the dark door of the secret earth.

He drank enough
And lifted his head, dreamily, as one who has drunken,
And flickered his tongue like a forked night on the air, so black,
Seeming to lick his lips,
And looked around like a god, unseeing, into the air,
And slowly turned his head,
And slowly, very slowly, as if thrice adream,
Proceeded to draw his slow length curving round
And climb again the broken bank of my wall-face.

And as he put his head into that dreadful hole,
And as he slowly drew up, snake-easing his shoulders, and entered farther,
A sort of horror, a sort of protest against his withdrawing into that horrid black hole,
Deliberately going into the blackness, and slowly drawing himself after,
Overcame me now his back was turned.

I looked round, I put down my pitcher,
I picked up a clumsy log
And threw it at the water-trough with a clatter.

I think it did not hit him,
But suddenly that part of him that was left behind convulsed in undignified haste.
Writhed like lightning, and was gone
Into the black hole, the earth-lipped fissure in the wall-front,
At which, in the intense still noon, I stared with fascination.

And immediately I regretted it.
I thought how paltry, how vulgar, what a mean act!
I despised myself and the voices of my accursed human education.

And I thought of the albatross
And I wished he would come back, my snake.

For he seemed to me again like a king,
Like a king in exile, uncrowned in the underworld,
Now due to be crowned again.

And so, I missed my chance with one of the lords
Of life.
And I have something to expiate:
A pettiness.
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