Sunday, November 22, 2009

Just What are the Real Liberal or Socialized Values?

There has been of late a tremendous effort on the Right to redefine what it means to be Liberal or Socialized and ascribe to anyone claiming it a series of ideals and activities that do not reflect any sort of reality in this Universe, often giving a list of offenses that are more fitting of the last administration, and in fact actual policies of that administration, rather than the policies of the present one.

It is true that Obama has not tossed the entire Gang Of Pirates in jail and taken steps to assure that Bush/Cheney would stand as a warning to future dictators instead of precedence for them, and Clinton was conned by GOP criminals to signing the destruction of Glass-Stiegal and a few such things as NAFTA etc that have had a terrible effect and are not in the Liberal Tradition.

I guess in such an opposite universe Militant Quakers that have been advocating the invasion of Iraq and all the other violence and mayhem would not be an oxymoron, but they would be a null set in this universe. I suppose that in that universe the Neocons would be the peaceniks, willing to die themselves rather than be responsible for the deaths of others. Here, not so much.

But whatever the Universe the actual liberals would be the ones with four key values. Empathy, Empowerment of the powerless, and Accountability for the powerful to keep them from embezzling all the goodies and dumping the cost on to others. And a loyalty to reality to distinguish what the facts actually are as best they can be determined.

Basing their thinking on actual reality at least in making judgements of this world, some find their motives in various spiritual traditions, but almost all agree on scientific method where it can be definitive.

Basing their concerns in empathy for others, understanding them by being able to see through their eyes, and acting to the benefit of all in ways that could declared fair by any honest person. This is more leap than many on the right can make as they have had their empathy ground out of them and so are utterly confused by the concept.

With Empathy comes desire to give Empowerment to every person to achieve the very best for their own life, because a person empowered to contribute the maximum amount to society at the same time contributes to each member of that society in excess to what it cost in the first place.

For example if it is made a horrid and expensive ordeal to become a doctor there are fewer doctors, they are more expensive, and less doctoring is done. But if the barrier is only one of ability and society removes all the other barriers, there are many more doctors, and more doctoring is done, and at much less overall cost to society.

One lacking empathy might object to the expense of these freeloader doctors, but they would be very happy with the result, even if they could not make the connection. So it is with many things. Some like 3M have discovered how beneficial such empowerment can be, but as long as there is no accounting for the decisions of those in high places, most industries will be driven to the most unsocialized behavior by others in their industry who are still worse.

And this brings up the fourth value that lies at the heart of liberal thought. In every organization their must be leadership. Those without quality leadership might limp along if they are indestructible (at least in the short term) or explode eventually but not until they do such as Enron. The same is true of other jobs, but leadership confers the power of decision, given to it by all the members of the enterprise as their agent to assign tasks and benefits to those people with the expectation that they will do the job well and honorably.

Like Kings of old the job is not always done well or honorably, and as ever the problem is to hold them accountable for how their decisions affect all around them. The entire sweep of liberal history is to hold all who exercise power so accountable, no matter under what guise that power is exercised.

There have been many who claimed they stood on the side of accountability and did not, and many more who considered the idea of accountability an evil concept. While the former might be seen as false liberals who were conservative in their hearts, the latter would be unabashed Conservatives as the idea is currently framed.

The idea is not to elect perfect men to leadership but to create structures that those dishonest or self serving would be held accountable, and thus fear doing wrong if it ever enters their head to do so, not just in Government but in every enterprise where several or many are needed to accomplish a goal. To do that the accountant of last resort has to be a large enough government to do the job, and that government held accountable by its people as well.

Any policy or activity that deviates from those values, deviates from what is Liberal or Socialized, though honest folk can disagree about whether specific policies or laws work for or against those values, and there are even many wildly different societies that can still be expressions of those values. And of course it is a path and a process rather than a place where it would be declared arrived, but certainly differing levels along the way.

The founding of the country was indeed a giant leap along that path for the time, but they could and did improve on what was started, and not all changes were positive, but the liberal position has always been the greater expression of those values, just as the conservative position has been to retard them.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

What price patriotism?

From a friend a question

What do you think of Nationalism in general?
good or bad?
helpful or harmful?
valuable or worthless?

And my answer

That is a multi sided question because there are two big questions hidden in the one. On one side is the recognition that you are living in many layers of a collective, from your neighborhood or church, to your city, your state and of course your country. In each of those cases you are a member more or less as an accident of where you live, but if you work with the other members to improve the situation in the collective, your life is improved because you get benefits from that collective, even when you might not see a one to one relationship in your benefits and effort.

There is of course the largest collective that is all humanity, and while 200 years ago what happened on the other side of the globe might have few consequences to you, that is certainly no longer the case, from your factory that got shipped to China, to the collapse of the Antarctic ice shelves. So while you indeed do want to improve each of your other collectives, and need to work on that as you can, you need to work on the global one as well. If Chinese workers got a decent wage you would have more jobs at better wages, If the Antarctic Ice melts I get waterfront property.

There is of course another very much darker side that lays underneath any recognition of one's collective that can go from simply annoying to the worst sort of mass murder and genocide. At the lightest it is properly called triumphalism, that your collective is the most desirable to be a member of because of aspects you like and achievements you are proud of, plus you are in it and others are not. Internally this can gin up the troops to make more sacrifices for the collective, and under wise leadership can still bring cohesion and a better outcome for the extra effort, but from that point forward the slope begins to get slippery.

Things begin to get dicey when a collective adopts strong triumphalism that is directed outwards, especially when your collective is one of two or more in a larger collective, your collective can generate annoyance to downright hostility. A leader of your collective, particularly if unimaginative, or merely has an agenda to benefit himself at the expense of the collective, can use the hostility generated to create more triumphalism and get more support and sacrifice, even beyond what might normally be willingly given. This can cause a cycle of hostility that can easily get out of hand.

At some point there gets to be the idea that the Collective would be much better off if other collectives were not a part of the larger collective, and by eliminating them eliminate the source of hostility. This might take the form of wanting to divide the land in half, one collective or the other to run away or be pushed away, or if there is no away then mass murder can start. By the time this Eliminationism is in full flower, getting cooler heads to shut it down can be difficult or impossible, and the greatest evils humans know can be commonplace.

The trick then is to be mindful of the triumphalism, and hold leaders carefully accountable if they gin it up beyond that lightest levels, but particularly if they are unworthy of that leadership they will strongly resist efforts to do so. There in lies the Bane of Humanity.

A good Reference: "Eliminationism in America": Parts I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX and X, and Appendix.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Propaganda, Framing, and the Libertarian Graph

In a further effort to make people think they support an ideology that they would never support if spoken plainly the Libertarian Party has put their Libertarian Graph that has been central to their self promotion onto Facebook.

As it has been around as long as the Internet I have largely ignored it but as it is newly in my Face I looked again at it, and with more educated eyes, see it as worse than I had originally realized. I do not suggest that they should not spew whatever they wish, but do suggest that what they do is a teachable example that folk can avoid anyone's propaganda framing games.

I listed all the questions I got (I don't know if they change them) but will try to take on each to see how they twist how they expect you to see them.

1. The state should restrict abortion in all or most cases.

One would think this easy, and it mostly is, but is not addressing the real issue of if you think a fetus is the same as a young child in human terms. If you consider a fetus as a foundation that a human can eventually move into then abortion is no different than any other medical procedure.

On the other hand if you think that a fetus, or a cow is as "human" as any 10 year old child then killing without good reason is murder. If you would make exemption for anyone's belief no matter how extreme for embryos, then you had better be prepared to defend cows as well.

2. Unions were indispensible (sp) in establishing the middle class.

Unions are one way to hold corporations, and their managements accountable for the treatment of their workers. It was a hard fight and there was no other force available to do so. Other stake holders, consumers, neighbors, even competitors don't have that power either so unions are at best a partial solution. This does not make unions in any way a bad thing, only insufficient.

And there have been middle classes arrive without unions, often by causing huge die offs as with the black death, or the Native American genocide, and even the most recent case a lot of folk died and were economically destroyed to provide the American "Boom". Western Europe did boom and a great middle class form, and unions definitely were a big part, but without the rest of the socialized solution they would not have been enough. In Japan there were no unions but accountability was arrived at by other means.

3. In nearly every instance, the free market allocates resources most efficiently.

Here again many things are implied and denied at the same time.

Any truly un-policed market would quickly become a criminal warlord zone, in order to operate at all there have to be rules, and in order to have them there needs to be enforcement, as well as decisions about what the rules need to be and what gets enforced. This implies power, but does not imply that the sources of that power are accountable to those without the power to decide or enforce those rules.

The existence of that power implies Government, either De Facto or De Jure or a mix of both, and it is that Power/Government that allocates resources, not the "Market". If you get the lion's share of the resources you might think them efficient, if not, then not so much.

Therefore it is power and not markets that allocate resources, and they can do a good or bad job of it, irrelevant to what market "Freedom" is defined as.

4. Public radio and television funded by the state provide a valuable service the citizens.

In the case of BBC or Canadian CBC the result certainly is valuable, Iranian Public Television not so much. American PBS is more middle ground. Like so much else it is accountability rather than funding that is at issue, with different laws and leadership PBS could be better, but it has suffered from GOP interference. All this irrelevant to the question.

5. Some people should not be allowed to reproduce.

An open bigotry question of little value besides that bigotry

6. Access to healthcare is a right.

Technically different from free speech or right of assembly, it is not a civil rights issue in that sense, but a sensibility issue, just like having access to fire or police protection is not a civil rights issue, but also a universal need that is not amenable to a market based distribution.

7. The rich should pay a higher tax rate than the middle class.

Again framed as if Government was taking something, instead of charging for the greater costs and benefits received. Also ignoring the social benefit that ratcheting up the cost of looting the economy makes it better to grow a business rather than take the money and run.

8. School science classes should teach intelligent design.

School science should teach critical thinking first, and actual science as the result of that critical thinking. Under those conditions Creationism makes a great negative example. Those pushing Creationism I would assume would prefer Science taught as belief alone rather than that.

9. Marriage must be heralded for the important role it plays in society.

Marriage is a religious institution that has no part in a secular society, but is defined by the religion. Living arrangements need to be the exclusive domain of those involved, and short of abuse, should be supported however the arrangers decide, without asking or even involving private sexual expression or the lack of it.

10. Sometimes war is necessary, even if it means you strike first.

Extremely situational, and two different points at that. Iraq obviously was not either of those situations, but it is possible (barely) to imagine some. Not part of the frame, that there are millions of ways to avoid even those, if you do not act stupidly.

11. Patriotism is an overrated quality.

More it is totally different ideas depending on what side you are talking about, and even who is in office for many.

12. Radio stations should be required to present balanced news coverage.

Again twisting the frame. The station is a tenant of the public spectrum with a mandate to use it responsibly. One does not need to micromanage that to determine when that mandate is absurdly violated.

13. Government should do something about the increasing violence in video games.

Again framing the issue all wrong. If someone is injured as a result of irresponsible activities of any person or corporation, that person or corporation needs to be held accountable. If a person preaches hate that leads to violence by their followers (think blind sheik, or Chas Manson) then they should be held accountable, anyone in decision position in a video game that leads to a similar result, should be held to similar responsibility, as well as the corporation to the top as well. That would end a lot of corporations and put the management in jail for a very long time over a lot more than video games.

14. If our leader meets with our enemies, it makes us appear weak.

Like above, very situational, agreeing to talk is not weak. Capitulating before negotiation is weak, it does not matter if we are talking Iran or Blue Dogs.

15. We must use our military from time to time to protect our supply of oil, to avoid a national crisis.

Protecting what you legitimately own is not bad, conquering and stealing what is not yours is bad.

16. Strong gun ownership rights protect the people against tyranny.

Unless of course the folk with guns plan the tyranny. Ask the folk in Somalia. Tyranny is not beaten with guns but with guts and brains. Look at Iran for the future or India, or South Africa for the past.

17. It makes no sense to say 'I'm spiritual but not religious.'

Only to those with no sense, or understanding of the meaning of those words. However many who say it make little sense. What makes no sense is how it relates to the quiz.

18. It is not government's responsibility to regulate pollution.

Any more than to regulate theft, or any other wholesale poisoning for profit. Like policing people and policing Corporations was somehow different, or pollution was like weeds that just occur without a polluter.

19. Gay marriage should be forbidden.

By Who? If your Church forbids it, fine don't do it or allow it there. Other Churches don't forbid it. Marriage is a religious institution and belongs there, and not in Government. See #9 for the rest

20. It should be against the law to use hateful language toward another racial group.

It is the hate and not the language that should be at issue. Eliminationist thinking is problematic and needs to be discouraged, just as those who advocate a totalitarian Government. Doing so however is one of the biggest problems Democracy faces.

21. Government should ensure that all citizens meet a certain minimum standard of living.

Again with the framing, this also is like Firefighting or health care, money is well spent if a few dollars prevent disaster, or protect those who need it from exploitation. Like the difference between empathy and sympathy, one either understands or not.

Insuring a minimum treatment of people is at least as compelling as a minimum treatment of animals.

22. It is wrong to enforce moral behavior through the law because this infringes upon an individual's freedom.

Like poisoning thousands is not immoral but sexual variation is? Or does preventing theft make for too much government interference and inhibit "freedom", or is theft by holdup different than by other means of power?

23. Immigration restrictions are economically protectionist. Non-citizens should be allowed to sell their labor domestically at a rate the market will pay.

More wild spin, let them form unions and make the market between equal powers, and what the market will pay will be very different, remove other protectionist barriers like patents, copyrights and other barriers to entry, and the markets would change some more.

24. An official language should be set, and immigrants should have to learn it.

Yes perhaps Cherokee, or Spanish as that was the largest area taken, or Chinese as that is where our money is. In practice those who have the gold make the rules, If everyone you sell to speaks Russian, even if just in that neighborhood, you will have few customers if you insist on English, even if they speak that as well.

25. Whatever maximizes economic growth is good for the people

As they are cheap and easy to produce, Credit Default Swaps can cause tremendous economic growth (for a while), and selling you heritage is also highly profitable but hardly sustainable, and of course cleaning up the differed costs is also a consideration, and if the CEO absconds with all the economic increase he would be the only "people" it would be good for.

If on the other hand the economic growth is people making actual stuff at wages they can buy the stuff with, they will not only have the economic growth, but will also have the stuff.

26. Racial issues will never be resolved. It is human nature to prefer one's own race

Yup, that is why the Irish, Jews, and Japanese are still segregated in walled ghettos or why there is still ghettos in Japan of people who's ancestors were livestock handlers, and non Japanese cannot see a difference.

27. People with a criminal history should not be able to vote.

The entire Criminal Justice system is more criminal than justice, and many of the worst criminals are never charged, but limiting the discussion to the false frame, regaining the right to live as a human, to have free speech is to be able to express an opinion in the voting booth as well.

Marijuana should be legal.

Driving stoned can be a bad thing, but many medicinal and technical uses are certainly lost and hurting society by the hysteria. Any law should not be about a cultural divide ignored by one side, be it hunting rifles or Marijuana.

29. The state should fine television stations for broadcasting offensive language.

Offensive to who? I am entirely offended by Fox but not at all by common expletives.


31. The lower the taxes, the better off we all are.

Yes the Soviets did not have taxes and look how well that turned out. Likewise the Chinese support the military and other sectors by making them the managers of large parts of the economy thus keeping taxes low.

Somalis also pay very low taxes, or none at all.

Obviously the question is very much deeper than that frame allows. It is more about what you want the government to do and who pays and there is a lot more to that than I can write here.


36. Toppling enemy regimes to spread democracy will make the world a safer place.

Yup like such enemies as Haiti or Honduras that had Democracies till we toppled them, or Friends like Tajikistan that boil their dissenters slowly in oil. Iraq and Afghanistan certainly have made the world safer by our efforts, just as our bullying has helped the situation in Iran and North Korea.

42. The military budget should be scaled back.

That would be the budget for weapons for Soviet era fighting? Money paid for awful and expensive contractors that the military could do themselves and did for 200 years? Or are we talking Body Armor and other tools that actual Soldiers need? Multi million dollar makeovers for Pentagon offices, or better beads for Veterans Hospitals?

An honest accounting system might save 90%, but the Pentagon will take the first dollar to scale back on body armor and blame it on the accountants.

43. Economic competition results in inumerable (sp) innovations that improve all of our lives.

That might happen if the competition was to improve people's lives, but as the point is to make a profit, the innovations are mostly ways to get more for doing less, and that has become the most innovative science on the planet. To the point that huge sectors of the economy get a very large percentage of the economy for doing almost nothing, and certainly less than would be spent without their hegemony.

44. It is not our place to condemn other cultures as backwards or barbaric.

It is not so smart to moralize about others even as you are considered backwards and barbaric yourself in so many ways.
49. When corporate interests become too powerful, the state should take action to ensure the public interest is served.

When corporate interests become too powerful the society has been in grave danger for some time. Too big to fail is waaaay past too big to exist. Anytime a Government does not act in the public interest there needs to be severe accountability, unfortunately we are also way past the ability to do this.


52. A nation's retirement safety net cannot be trusted to the fluctuations of the stock market

Nobody's future should be trusted to riverboat gamblers unless those gamblers would be willing to suffer an equal amount for failure as all their customers combined.

This is way late and over long but hopefully will enlighten some about how framing can lie or bring out the truth depending on how one thinks about the issue to discover what the real issue behind the issue is.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Deregulation has been an utter disaster.

The biggest and best of everything used to be in the USA and now no longer
is. Europeans, for example, have had much better and more complex
cellphone service at a single lower price than the US and have done so for
many years.

The reason is that without a force to improve, and a rolling up and
buying out all competition Giant Businesses have taken maximum personal
profit and made minimum investment or innovation. Without that force of
competition the Government alone is left to provide that accountability.

It can only do that by forcing openings limiting monopoly power, or by
forcing a single neutral use of airwaves, that are owned by the Society
Commons in the first place.

By demanding single usable pricing for all wireless connection as per the
European model, only then can Americans have even near World Standard
Service rather than third world standard service.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Medical Redlining - Another way Medical Insurance Companies can defraud everyone

As Congress gets to non debating a National Health care initiative that will not be change anyone can believe in, a new scam is percolating in the back of the Internet that will certainly become front and center if the current Baucus plan becomes "The Plan".

Unfortunately, as the last eight years have made really obvious, any corner not defined and held accountable by somebody will be cut by any company willing to do so and thus hold advantage over any company not willing to cut those corners. As well, the lower costs achieved by cutting those corners will not go to lower prices but to higher profits, not even for the shareholders but for the CEO.

In a case where the Insurance Company cannot cherry pick outright, they will cherry pick anyway that they can and this new scam is particularly pernicious. As their Ideology dictates, it will be profit and not need that sets policy and poor people with great need are less profitable. If price alone will not send them away, the new scam is to not offer services where they live.

By buying up and closing Hospitals that offer less profitable care you can force those not able to travel easily to travel farther to fancier hospitals, or stay away from any health care at all. Of course if the Insurance company refuses to make arrangements with doctors in redlined areas, then the Doctors will find that the preponderance of their business will be those "dumped" paitients on what will probably be the Government plan, and once again Taxpayers will be subsidizing Insurance Company profits, amid howls of protest that the Government plan is costing too much, and needs cutting.

Institutions that actually do something, like doctors or even hospitals, might indeed find ways to change practices in a way that has a chance of actually make more money and improve service (and even that not witout oversight) But an Insurance company can only be the middle man, it cannot add value to the equation, but only take its half out of the middle. It will have no purpose to be except that which it can gerrymander itself into false necessity.

Some examples

Saturday, May 23, 2009

A question of Agency & Accountability

When Obama was elected I had high hopes. I knew that if he advocated the progressive agenda outright that there would be a barrage of calls that he was implementing the kind of leftist agenda that indeed most folks who voted for him hoped he would and that there would need to be sustained activity to back that agenda.

When he put together his team in December I was dismayed that of all the names that would spring to mind from Krugman to Dean as having been at the forefront of the fight to get where we were, were either not brought in or tossed under the bus. We were told that this was a stealth move by Obama, that Bush needed to actually leave office, and we could trust that Obama would be setting the rules and pushing all those folk who were against the Left agenda to move further left than their prior actions would indicate.

Then we were told there was a secret framing agenda, that measures that looked like the normal Bush policies actually were different in the details that fully reversed what Bush was up to. But there was no prosecutions of crimes that are now prima facia, or even investigations of them. We are still in Iraq and it looks like for a long time, and Afghanistan is getting worse with mostly the same tactics that dis not work before.

To hear the screeching and lamentations from the Right one would think that all the correct things were being done, but when their blather is sifted out the only thing they actually oppose is the name of the party with supposedly the levers of power. There have been a few things happen at the margins, but no great strides and nothing that could not be quickly swept aside has happened on almost every front.

Even the abandonment of Habeas Corpus that ruled all English and American law for a thousand years that should have been restored instantly with prosecution of those who denied it (before even getting into the Torture "Debate") is not the focus. Only that it was illegal and should be abandoned by passing a law legally abandoning this bedrock of Western Values.

This is a final class battle that is technically not even the very rich against the rest of us, but a whole range of gatekeepers who are supposedly the agents of a whole range of folk, mostly feeding the very rich even when they are supposed to be overseeing them, but even more feeding and supporting themselves to the expense of everyone, rich and poor alike.

As agents they do not actually accomplish any goal but assign pathways and tasks to those who actually accomplish the goals, and then assign benifits among those achievers. It is a position with great, but supposedly borrowed power, responsible often to many interests that at one time was able to hold them accountable, but breaking free they have perverted the system beyond stupid.

Banks, Insurance companies, other financial "innovators" come easily to mind, but every Large Corporation has become equally divorced from the "owners" that are buried in layers of Pension Fund, or "Mutual" Fund that itself is only marginally aware of it's agency position.

And other large bureaucracies that act as a class of themselves are a step further removed from that agency position that their very existance as an industry perverts hao a Society operates are one more step into the Morass. Universities, Military, and their further parasites of Manufacturers, and now Mercenaries, and similar satrapies of insurance companies, hospital complexes, and pharmaceutical firms or the sphere of Agrabusiness, chemical companies and "food" delivery, or the mass that is essentially WalMart.

In every situation this gatekeeper agent class gets special rules, while the folk who do the work get less and less, and even the Investors are shortchanged, but worse the bureaucracy works to make itself ever more necessary and monopolistic so wars are started just so Mercs can fight them, or education is defined by the ever growing need of the proper degree, and not the learning that used to define it, or medicine is defined by pills like people were so much bags of soup, or "food" defined by packaging and corner cutting rather than taste or value.

Unless these Parasite Satrapies are broken or removed from power completely there will not be a society anyone now alive would wish to live in. Health Care is at the moment front and center in the fights (having lost the fight with the banks).and our best hope of eliminating any of the Parasites. If they are left in place in any form that fight will also be lost, and that is about the easiest fight that we face.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Darwin is best example of bad framing of good science

People keep having such a linear concept of evolution even among people who should know better. It is of great problem that it was Darwin who published instead of Wallace. Species do not ever evolve from a single individual but from entire populations that become separated and have traits that emerge differently.

Species become different mostly because of physical isolation that continues, and then may cease as mountains corrode or individuals make it back across the barrier. Among Humans after 600 years or so virtually everyone is a decedent of those who lived 600 years before as possible ancestors. Some will appear more times than others but few will "Die out" completely, it is only traits that increase of not. The number of children had will have little actual effect as negative traits are what survives or not, and that takes many generations.

It is only traits that "evolve" in a population, and even then a small change that exists in one group might be enhanced by the chance encounter with another trait present in another group. Eventually both traits might dominate the population but the ancestry would include those with the trait as well as those without it, with each trait "evolving" quite separately from the rest.

For example a particularly useful horn formation might first appear on an individual with a redder coat, but unless those genes were very close on the DNA the horn formation might stay and the redder coat not, they would not be connected. With a very large interbreeding population traits change very slowly, and only pandemic will change them quickly. Even then the trait that is lucky enough to hang out near the site of the anti-pandemic gene will be carried forward quite aside from its own favorableness otherwise.

Wallace's paper framed the facts in that much more correct manner, while Darwin opened the door to some of the most divisive and wrong headed politics to have plagued mankind for the last hundred years. Social Darwinism, Eugenics, and many of their derivatives like Nazis, Libertarianism, and some of the more odd variants of Soviet Communism as well as some of the reactions against Darwin from Creationism to the old Tabula Rasa ideas that have befuddled and muddied the behaviorial sciences for generations.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Internet Flood at the Gates of the Citadel

The one thing I see as a far outsider, well two things actually, is first that because they were monopolies newspapers were never the real watchdog of Democracy as much as another "Pig at the Trough" with their own power base, that balanced the other powers occasionally if they got out of hand, but were mostly complicit in that power, and mostly under pressure at the least from big advertisers, if not actually in pocket.

The second and perhaps more important thing I see is that all of Shirky's insights are also true in the much wider context. The printing press brought the Reformation but it also brought trade and innovation, and with that eventually "cheap" printing presses.

Once any person could print something that reached a critical mass audience, there was no King whose head was safe.

Those Publishers and Traders now consolidated power and became the new Kings, not just like the old, but just as fat and happy. And then along came Radio, and again there was cheap communication, and again the new "kings" were almost dethroned, but saved themselves at the last minute with "licenses" that made Radio, and later Television expensive and monopolistic.

Now along comes the Internet, and again anyone can own the new "Press" and again there is no restriction of content capable of reaching a critical mass.

The first reaction of power is GWB and a massive propaganda campaign, particularly juiced with Fear. This has been a part of the program that worked before as Communists were the boogymen and at first that worked, (the Internet was not yet at critical mass) but facts broke the propaganda model and GWB went down in flames.

Now we have a new battleground, some have never gotten it and their increasingly shrill pronouncements have left them looking as barking mad as they claim for everyone else.

But there are others who would use subversion where brutality did not work, if not to stop the now strongly running tide, then at least to turn it and protect the most potent parts of power, that they can retain their kingship as they did in the 1940's.

That battle is not over but it will not be an easy victory for either side.

This is a response to Rosen's Flying Seminar In The Future of News as I noted in a previous post the university structure sis also one of those "Pigs at the Trough"that the Internet is already destroying. It is only their gatekeeper status on the certification that one is educated that holds back the flood.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Lets have the Socialism vs Feralism debate

I am really looking forward to the first real Ideological discussion in several generations. When it comes down to who you want running Society.

Should it be the Feral "lord of the flies" approach, where freedom is the freedom to act without thought or conscience, consider only yourself, and not be accountable to anyone? Or will we have the Socialized approach, where the fact that you did not care that the new toy you made contained poisons that killed dozens and injured tens of thousands was reason enough for you to be made very sorry and have a very bad life after that?

Shall we again turn America over to the Gang Of Pirates who do not believe that Government has any role except to throw the military at any group of folk we don't like? And since Government is naturally corrupt, to prove it by being as corrupt as humanly possible, shoveling money into no-bid crony contracts that accomplish as little as possible at maximum costs? (After Katrina the Gop paid out more to add blue tarps on houses than a new roof would cost, and then hired illegal aliens to do the work below min wage. A typical Gop contract.)

Or shall we have that sort of Socialized society the GOP is complaining about, where an honest and humane entrepreneur can create and run a business making real stuff without having it ruined by a sharpie who increase profits for himself by stealing from his employees, customers, and everyone else and undercut the honest business, so that eventually only Giant Feral Businesses like AIG, Wal-Mart, & Enron are left (well Enron is dead, but only because they stole more than existed, but the other giants from Disney to Home Depot are no less feral, just more solvent).

Until America re-establishes its social contract, that each person must consider others in their decisions, and work togeather on every enterprise for the common good. And recognize that everyone is advanced when every person can contribute their maximum ability without artificial barriers. And that it is the Government's job to reduce those barriers and hold accountable those ferals (foreign or local) who would steal by pen or gun from those who actually did the work, even as the entire populace would hold that Government accountable to do that job. There will be major partisanship.

If the Socialists win, there is a wide range for reasonable people to disagree. What is reasonable accountability, and what is intrusive. What are possible sorts of enterprises? Some might be governments like a city, or a natural monopoly like a power company. But perhaps accountability could still be managed if the power company only owned the distribution. Perhaps Schooling should only certify the knowledge and not how it was obtained (as long as anyone could still obtain it) But no more "leader gets the gold and everyone else gets the shaft" businesses.

The alternative is the usual case in history, with an elite that has no incentive to improve the world and a populace that has no means. In that case even the Elite suffer from the lack of productivity, but also lack the concern or imagination to see how things might be improved.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Faith can be problematic, but not "stupid" or really ignorant

I have worked with many religious fundamentalists, and unlike some on the Left see a very sharp difference between Faith and Ignorance, much less what they put down as stupid. The best example that comes to mind is a person I worked with in an architecture office who could quote you the specifics of any law or rule from any of the various codes we had to design to, even faster and beyond most in the office.

This made him a very valuable, and not at all stupid person, however to explain structural 3d issues or complicated implications that involved mental athletics was very difficult and tedious. I realized over time that to undertake such an exercise in a fundamentalist world was to walk on very thin ice, and brought up in that culture you quickly learn not to go there.

Our boss was similar in being fundamentalist, but had learned to compartmentalize to an amazing degree. Positively brilliant he saw those issues before I did and had several ideas what to do about it ready before I got there. He was so brilliant it was easy to forget the fundamentalist part, and occasionally bump into the wrong compartment and be very shocked at the reaction.

Over the years I have met many partway along those extremes, but always there is a core that cannot be challenged, and to do so feels like watching you stab kittens, they are very put out and offended.

For some that area may be sharply limited, in others it bleeds out to every area of life, but in each case to cross that threshold is to engage in kitten stabbing.

I used to joke that real faith was impossible and belief divided into four types. The first was like growing up in the 1100's the earth looked flat enough, nobody thought otherwise, and the subject virtually never came up. Under that situation it is not faith but common understanding that the Earth was flat. No reaching needed.

In level 2 belief, you might hear that some kook has suggested that the earth is a sphere and no matter how far you go you will not reach an edge. But the preponderance of the evidence you are aware of still weighs for a flat earth.

In level 3 belief, it is an active conversation, that many or even most folk believe in a round earth. The round earthers have some good points about horizons and where the sun goes at night, but your leadership and loyalty is with people who stick to the flat side of the argument. That is stubbornness and loyalty but still not faith.

Now if you go up in a space shuttle, or even just live in the modern world with all the evidence around you that you live on a round planet and still believe that the world is flat, that is true Faith. Many fundamentalists, while not believing that the earth is flat, would still agree that such belief in the face of contrary evidence was the ideal of faith.

( cross posted from a discussion here)

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Is Insurance Structurally Feral?

It is happening again.

Nobody talked about it the last time, and they are not talking much this time either. All across the country companies are closing their doors. Not because they cannot get customers, though that is a much talked about part of the issue, and not because the banking system is frozen, though that also is a big part of the cause. But there are many companies who could both be customers and have customers, and are not dependent on bank loans to stay in business. These companies are going out of business for lack of any or affordable insurance. Many individuals are also finding themselves in similar straits making themselves poorer customers even if they have a job still.

As long as there is plenty money to be made speculating with other people's money (and even AAA rated obviously carries the risk that it is not) Insurance companies are expansive, writing as much as possible, making unsustainable profits in the use of money, even if the actual insurance gamble is break even at best. Then as always the bubble bursts.

Now suddenly the geniuses who made great incomes when the bubble was growing do not want to see any losses, and there is not so much to be made speculating no matter how much cash is available anyway, so suddenly loss of customers is not a bad thing, especially if you get a lot more profit from the customers you don't lose.

So now that the economy is on its knees the long knives come out to make it worse. Normal business insurance that rarely sees losses may just increase tenfold in cost because the Insurance company needs the extra profit, and more money from fewer people lowers their own exposure. And places like Florida or the Gulf Coast who are very high cash when cash is flowing become suddenly unacceptable risk when raw cash is not as useful, and those who would actually pay claims abandon those areas to ripoff and run operations who will just go bankrupt if there is any major claims.

Each Insurance type will operate slightly differently because the arithmetic is different, but while they will claim secret vetting, and some will do more of what they promise for the money they charge, without some embedded scam there can be no profit. And without a guarantee over time that serious losses will be made up, an actual free market would dump the burdened Insurance company for the one without past promises to keep. In short the Insurance company has to do the job of a government, but is managed as a Pirate Fiefdom, collecting the taxes but avoiding paying the bills, and with little to hold them accountable.

I already wrote about Health Insurance a while back and the Gapminder that showed differences between countries now also shows some information about different states as well. This particular view shows an assortment of states with the accidental deaths per number of vehicles to be fairly constant no matter the size of the state. Those above the diagonal are doing better than those below who have more deaths per vehicle and those moving toward the upper left are improving over time, the red pay higher insurance rates and the blue to green lower rates.
As one can see Texas and Florida have nearly the same numbers but Florida pays much higher rates, similarly with Illinois and New York. The link above goes to similar settings where it is even more dramatic. The live Gapminder there allows you to adjust what you are looking at .

What the Gapminder shows is that risk of deaths is quite unrelated to the price of insurance beyond that there is an increase in price nearly everywhere, even when the number of cars or number of accidents ( and thus the risk) is dropping. (Off the topic a bit is the sudden change in almost all states at Y2K and what might have caused that)

There is much hype in the air about how the Society is in such danger of being Socialized, as if an Unsocialized Society like an Unsocialized Child is a preferable outcome. Much pointing is done at the Soviets as the prime example of a Socialized Society because they claimed that they were one, but they also claimed to be as democratic as socialized as indeed they were neither in equal amounts.

The true Socialized Society is the opposite of feral, such as is found in some failed states, as the Government drowns in a libertarian nightmare of competing militias, and rogue warriors, that destroys all that society can produce. In short the Insurance company does for the most able to pay that which is least needed, and tossing the rest under the bus, and taking a giant piece of the society's productivity with it.

That safety net is what government is supposed to do, whether defending against outside enemies or inside disasters. A more deeply thoughtful system needs to be devised.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Deep Thinking is really needed now

So often the stupidity of one system reaches a point that it collapses and while everyone jumps that way there is very little thought given to what the new thing aught to be. Some things like the Computer or the Internet could hardly have been imagined, but others like cars or public transportation had patterns set hundreds of years ago. (there are many others like Education, Government,Business/trade.. a very long list but I want to look at private/public transportation at the moment). We have built a civilization on sand, and the foundations need rebuilding if it will survive.

The Automobile culture, built of cheap oil, narrow goals of next quarter profits, with designs sold as sexual adequacy rather than transportation cannot survive in its present form, but the alternatives are resisted because they are much less pleasant and turned to only in necessity. While there is a real need to rethink the Automobile culture, to say nothing of years overdue to even rethink what an automobile should be, we have a golden opportunity to rethink from scratch what public transportation aught to be. Right now it is based on an 18th century model that people avoid if they can, and is relegated to poor folk who have no other choices.

To make the leap into something that would all but replace private transportation it would need to be all the good things cars are and all the good things trains are. It must come when you want and go where you want. It must be both able to take hundreds of folks but not run empty when those hundreds do not show up. It must get you quickly to where you want to be but if it stops at all the other places it cannot be quick. You need to go the shortest route but also any route, and of course the advantages of trains of low fuel consumption, no need for parking, and no need to drive.

What I wouldl propose I call Ultralight Rail. Rather than huge trains there would be small very light weight cars that would run on a single rail and get its electric power from the rail. Because the cars would be smaller and lighter the rest of the infrastructure can be smaller lighter and therefore cheaper than would be necessary for train systems and since it would be mostly overhead it would not interfere with existing infrastructure.

Computers are the answer that was not available very few years ago when all the other systems were built. By making the cars small and computer controlled the need to pack everyone into huge trains goes away. With an artery and capillary system vehicles could travel close together at high speed but each car could have different start/stop points either around a corner or to a different city, traveling up to 200mph in stretches of main arteries.

By making the car able to hold small vehicles like power chairs, bicycles, Segways, etc it would make door to door transportation fast and reliable. By each car being separately targeted, it would go the most direct route as fast as possible without stopping along the way. By only coming when called it would hardly ever run empty, but be able to handle large crowds with multiple cars, and of course as it would not sit by waiting it would get constant use and therefore replace many more cars that spend most of their time parked.

There is much more that such deep thinking could produce, what is needed most is a path that such things could be accomplished, not only for this bust so much more, that will be the real measure of this administration.



One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people.

He said, "My son, the battle is between 2 "wolves" inside us all.

One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.

The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility,
kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith."

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather:

"Which wolf wins?"

The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."

from an old tale.

The Golden Rule
“That which is hateful to you do not do to another ... the rest (of the Torah) is all commentary, now go study.”

- Rabbi Hillel



The self made man just isn't admitting how or where he came by all those parts

---FreeDem---- Aug 2005


If a man tells you that the Government cannot accomplish anything of value, then voting for him would be like hiring an Amish Auto Mechanic.
If they don't believe in the concept, they are more than likely to do a very poor job of it.

---Bob Danforth Sept. 2009


Republicans never meant to cut government waste, fraud and graft, from the get-go their plan was to organize, monopolize and privatize waste, fraud and graft.

They see the civil service as meddling “middleman,” who interfered with the free flow of cash from taxpayers into corporate coffers. Their intent was to eliminate the “middleman” as an obstruction to corruption.

---Unknown rabblerowser Feb 2007


No one can terrorize a whole nation, unless we are all his accomplices.

Edward R. Murrow

In the beginning of a change, the patriot is a scarce man, brave, hated and scorned. When his cause succeeds, however, the timid join him, for then it costs nothing to be a patriot

Mark Twain


You see, we often get noncreative leaders, people most interested in preserving their own positions. They flock around centers of power. Such centers attract people who can be corrupted. That is a more descriptive observation than to say simply that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

If you are corruptible and your imagination is confined to worries about loss of power, you exist in a self-destructive system. Eventually, as all life does, you must encounter something you did not anticipate, and if you have not strengthened your creative resources, you will have no new ways for adapting to change. Adapt or die, that's the first rule of survival.

The limited vision of noncreative people is not difficult to understand. Creativity frightens the unimaginative. They don't know what's happening. Things new and unexpected arise from creativity. This threatens "things as they are." And (terrible thought) it undermines illusions of omnipotence.


Herbert 1984 (the year not the book)


"News is what powerful people want to keep hidden; everything else is just publicity."

....Bill Moyer


Just as having only a hammer makes every problem either look like a nail, or as something irrelevant, our very technological skills have had us look there for explanations and ignore reality it cannot deal with. With our powerful hammer, we seek only nails, and dump the rest as dross. Not all questions involve hammers, not all answers are nails.
-- Freedem---Nov., 2006

My issue with Atheists is not that they have no God, there are many religions that have no God, but that they have no religion.
-- Freedem---Nov., 2006

__Note: by this I mean that there are many things religions do besides the discredited "science" and self serving promises (give me your money and God will hold and pay the note), many like charity or fellowship, even social accountability can be very good things not requiring a God.


Many have been very disappointed that their "God-critter" was not to be found as a technology swimming about in the shallower pools of knowledge. So in the obsession basic to our culture, we search ever deeper and more difficult pools, and always the "God-critter" seems to wink at us from the pool just beyond.

In the process we have found technologies beyond the wildest dreams of our most sophisticated ancestors. The great joke is that the "critter" never existed except as the pools themselves.

----Freedem --- Oct 2006

Indeed I do think that many folk, believe all kinds of stuff from the actually true, to the utterly illogical, with no personal discernment one from the others. But that would hardly make any of them a scholar to rely on, any more that one should get their theology studies from a door to door salesman, offering "get out of hell free" cards, on special because the creator of galaxies in greater numbers than beach sand, nonetheless has an ego so weak He cannot exist without shamelessly excessive psychophancy from a major portion of the inhabitants of this particular dust speck.

----Freedem ---June-2007

More to come