Category Archives: Politics

Musings on the body politic, on the way things are.

The End of Irony – ‘Avengers: Endgame,’ Marvel’s triumphant finale, would be better without the genocide

‘Avengers: Endgame,’ Marvel’s triumphant finale, would be better without the genocide | Think

Have we lost the ability to understand irony?

”  ‘Avengers: Endgame’ is a machine designed to turn atrocity and genocide into an entertaining game. It’s kind of fun. But it also makes you wonder what it says about us that we want to have fun in this way.”

I have not seen the movie, but master pieces like “Dr. Strangelove” made “fun” of global annihilation. Stanley Kubrick reportedly wanted to make a straight film from the book until he understood the true implications.

It is precisely the insanity of our times – whether calmly accepting genocide on other continents, or massive portions of our population incarcerated on spurious cause (e.g. War on Drugs,) or species annihilation, or the large scale near-term destruction of our habitat through climate change, or a President blatant in his crooked lying – that offers no alternate depiction. Any movie showing this in its true fashion would be considered ridiculous in the recent past or naive now. The true horror can only be reflected with irony and satire.

But in a politically correct simplistic mind set doing that is not acceptable any more. The rest is silence.

So it goes.

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‘Slaughterhouse-Five,’ 50 years later: What Kurt Vonnegut taught one soldier about war – The Washington Post

‘Slaughterhouse-Five,’ 50 years later: What Kurt Vonnegut taught one soldier about war – The Washington Post

“So it goes.”

I have reread Slaughterhouse Five multiple times. I also liked the movie. A young Valerie Perrine will be forever imbedded in my mind as Montana Wildhack looking at me from a tub. She made Billy Pilgrim forget his PTSD and created a respite throughout his time travels escaping a senseless hell. She brought peace.

I used to think there were some “just wars” like WW II. I am starting to believe there are NO just wars. I suspect Hitler’s rise could have been prevented by a much better foreign policy following WW I. His expansion could have been curtailed by a smarter, more unified diplomacy and the prevention of interference by multinationals, who worked on both sides to profit. The holocaust was preventable both by a different policy, the lack of constraints within Germany, and a more open policy towards accepting refugees in the US.

Slaughterhouse Five was published right around the time I was drafted for the Vietnam War. My lottery number was 39. There was no hope. I was called for my medical – “report to a bus pickup location with two days change of clothing at 6:00am.” A day before the life-changing event  I had a sudden medical issue and had to be rescheduled. The ensuing bureaucratic delays were enough to still be at home a couple of months later when Nixon cancelled the draft. A major lucky break! I was totally unsuited for military duty and likely would have gotten myself killed. If not, I would have been a classic PTSD basket case before that term became wide spread.

Life is strange. So it goes.

Om Shanti Om.

Doomed Boeing Jets Lacked 2 Safety Features That Company Sold Only as Extras – The New York Times

Doomed Boeing Jets Lacked 2 Safety Features That Company Sold Only as Extras – The New York Times

For Boeing safety costs extra! Note that both crashes and hundreds of deaths could have been prevented by an optional software feature costing NOTHING to produce! The fact it was an option indicated it was known there could be a lapse.

This is not just American Capitalism at its finest! What has happened to ethics in leadership? It is amoral. There should be a criminal investigation.

“As the pilots of the doomed Boeing jets in Ethiopia and Indonesia fought to control their planes, they lacked two notable safety features in their cockpits.

One reason: Boeing charged extra for them.

Now, in the wake of the two deadly crashes involving the same jet model, Boeing will make one of those safety features standard as part of a fix to get the planes in the air again.

In the software update that Boeing says is coming soon, MCAS will be modified to take readings from both sensors. If there is a meaningful disagreement between the readings, MCAS will be disabled.”

Opinion | A ‘Disgusting’ Yale Professor Moves On – The New York Times

Opinion | A ‘Disgusting’ Yale Professor Moves On – The New York Times

How a target of students’ ire came to write a book about humanity’s transcendent goodness.

Christakis’s wife, Erika, who also taught at Yale back then, had circulated a memo in which she questioned a university edict against culturally insensitive Halloween costumes, suggesting that students could police themselves and should have both the freedom to err and the strength to cope with offense. She wrote that her husband concurred.

Despite listening and reasoning Nicholas Christaki was ostracized by some students. I think this intolerance fueled by youthful righteousness and the unwillingness to tolerate other reasoning is unhealthy. It suppresses healthy debate, which is so important in any academic environment.

It moves debates and deep thinking of what is moral to a fanatic emotional pitch, very similar to the “hatred of the other” in our current political and social siloes.

 

Meet Andrew Yang: A ‘fairly normal guy’ running for president on a radical platform

Meet Andrew Yang: A ‘fairly normal guy’ running for president on a radical platform

“His “Freedom Dividend,” which would provide a $1,000 monthly check from the government to each U.S. citizen over 18, is tied to his belief that automation and artificial intelligence are poised to eliminate millions of jobs, such as truck driving. Trying to do something about that doesn’t make him radical — it makes him, as he says, “a fairly normal guy.” “

It’s encouraging to see this.

Seth Abramson on Twitter: “1/ Whatever you think VP Dick Cheney was to President George W. Bush, take that, make it 3 times as sinister, make Bush 10 times more sociopathic and a devout criminal, and make Cheney stupid, venal, and entirely dismissive of our rule of law and you get what Kushner is to Trump.”

Seth Abramson on Twitter: “1/ Whatever you think VP Dick Cheney was to President George W. Bush, take that, make it 3 times as sinister, make Bush 10 times more sociopathic and a devout criminal, and make Cheney stupid, venal, and entirely dismissive of our rule of law and you get what Kushner is to Trump.

I think Seth Abramson has a point I missed in my last post.

Tony Schwartz on Twitter: “You read Trump’s anguished tweet about Saturday Night Live and the late night hosts all making fun of him and what’s clear is that underneath all his bluster, rage & hatred there is a sad, lost little boy desperate for the love and approval he never ever got.”

Tony Schwartz on Twitter: “You read Trump’s anguished tweet about Saturday Night Live and the late night hosts all making fun of him and what’s clear is that underneath all his bluster, rage & hatred there is a sad, lost little boy desperate for the love and approval he never ever got.”:

A while back I realized that the GOP must be controlled by a backstage cabal that decided some time ago to put puppets into play. It became clear with Ronald Reagan, who was a third rate actor willing to learn his lines, die his hair, and wear the make up. He was good at ad-libbing along core concepts, especially with the whispering help of Nancy. He had me! He was the last Republican I voted for when I saw the damage. Yes, I was a conservative when that still had principles and values.

Bush the Elder appears a little more of his own man. George the Younger needed more help. But it was clear that Dick Chaney was there to keep things in line for both of them. Very “prudent.” But boy that man was the devil and more obvious than McNamara or Rumsfeld. Of course, none can compete with Henry Kissinger in pure, premeditated evil.

Trump seems to be an experiment gone sideways. From an acting perspective, we are now at amateur Reality TV level. The real management in Reality TV is  massaging the talent ego and editing after  the fact. The trouble is that works with “The Apprentice,” but is a problem in case of nuclear war and a polity addicted to social media.

Intelligence and ego-wise we have reached bottom. Trump has always had trouble with is ego: appearance is all, tallest buildings, lots of gold, fascist dictator mentality. But his lack of intelligence and morality accelerated by his dementia together with a phone running Twitter has made him really hard to handle. And it seems that his immediate handlers are also not “the best and the brightest.” The pure instincts of a conman coupled with his need for adoration still make him a dangerous demagogue with his base, who need him just as much. The danger is with terrorists on the fringe put on fire.

The Greek tragedy (or Shakespeare – choose your poison): the women most loved by him (for him love and lust are the same) are not likely to truly adore or love him. Love and lust unrequited are the greatest pain of all! But given the suffering and deaths already in play, I cannot feel compassion.

An experiment gone wrong and hopefully the end of the line, Fox News not withstanding.

Ars Technica: Behind the Curve a fascinating study of reality-challenged beliefs

Behind the Curve a fascinating study of reality-challenged beliefs

The documentary tracks how people form and maintain bizarre beliefs.

There’s a scene somewhere in the middle of a new flat Earth documentary that acts as metaphor for so much that surrounds it. Two of the central figures of Behind the Curve are visiting a spaceflight museum that pays tribute to NASA, an organization that they believe is foisting a tremendous lie on an indoctrinated and incurious public. One of them, Mark Sargent, sits in a re-entry simulator that suggests he should press “Start” to begin. He dutifully bangs away at the highlighted word “Start” on screen, but nothing happens.

He wanders away muttering even more about how NASA’s a giant fraud. Meanwhile, the camera shifts back to the display and zeroes in on a giant green “Start” button next to the seat Sargent was in.

I believe it’s not necessarily the seeing of facts that is the issue, it’s the underlying rules and patterns, the mental models that create selective attention and understanding.

“No choice, Pal.” The limited range of policy options in the US political system

In the original Bladerunner, when Deckard meets his former supervisor Bryant, he tries to refuse the mission to hunt down replicants. Bryant tells him, “In this city you’re either a cop or little people.” Deckard replies “No choice,huh?” Bryant tells him, “No choice, pal!”

The story seems to be the same for voters in the US political system of today. It is less about the cops than the powerful elites representing the rich and large corporation. With the change in media (concentration into a few corporations controlling programs and message) and especially news reporting moving from an effort to gather and report on the facts to the personality hosted opinion shows – whether on Fox or CNN and MSNBC. The primary focus of these shows is to gain and hold the users’ attention by raising the emotions of their viewers by demagoguery inspired rants or experts and facts, whatever works with the respective silos. These reenforced through the deliberate and automatically curated echo chambers of social media equally dependent on fueling the emotions to keep attention.

I am not discounting the current crisis of an extremely corrupt version of fascist conservative government, which was put in place both through an unholy collaboration with the influence of an enemy power and extreme irregularities in the election process orchestrated by conservative elites. That is simply an effort to reset the balance firmly to a more conservative position. This has gone off-track by using a Reality TV personality as presidential stand-in, while using a scripted actor, who knew his lines and could take directions, worked so well in the past.

When we look at the overall policy positions of the right and left prior to Trump we see that they are not really far apart. They appear to provide choice, but actually in the end result in very little difference. Obamacare managed to retain the near monopolies in the healthcare system without real price controls and in some ways was a boon to insurance companies and pharma. It was derived from a conservative proposal. It really did not impact the fundamental issue that healthcare is not easily affordable for large segments of the population. Insurance rates mediated by the portals are still onerously high in comparison to lower incomes. Environmental efforts moderated the impacts on environments and climate change, but they were only separate from conservative approaches by a degree and totally insufficient to fundamentally address the problem.

One of the reasons the system can be manipulated is that we do not have a popular democracy. The separation of legislative and executive powers coupled with a two chamber system, where one chamber influenced by a small part of the population can overrule the other, leads to a two party system. Our approach to elections requiring large investments leads to corruption and hidden interests. And because lobbyists hedge their bets and invest in both sides, the policy positions influenced by this are only different in the way they are expressed. Fundamentally they are not that far apart – especially when we look at real policies enacted as a result of the legislative process.

For those controlling events these false alternatives are used to keep the population divided and to some extend in fear of each other.

We do see the rise of outliers like Bernie Sanders, who was forcefully shunted aside by the apparatus in the last election even at the price of allowing a person like Trump to gain the upper hand. But when we look at “centrist” positions of the leading Democrats, they are really not far from those of “moderate” Republicans. They align to create a compromise with what is good for those in power (corporate interests and billionaires,) while being tolerable to the people.

Meanwhile the Super Majority is quite united (65% – 80% on key issues) in supporting stronger measures to effectively deal with real world problems of climate change, the cost of medical care, education, and income inequality. The latter is the elephant in the room. It is really hurting the lower income classes, young people entering the work place, and an aging population trying to retire.

Alternate models are clear and effectively implemented in Europe leading to hire levels of satisfaction and stability. They are driven by parliamentary democracies. These polities are not perfect (see the current unrest in France,) but are not likely to create the conditions threatening societal chaos as modeled by Cliodynamics (History as a Science) – overcrowding of elites and income inequality. Cliodynamics currently predicts a high level of social instability around the time of the next elections.

The one hope is in the increasing activism and participation of the younger generation and the new generation of representatives that have swept into office. They are not afraid to sweep aside the “centrist rhetoric” from the “centrist establishment” and ad hominem tirades from the right. Together with the continuing voice of Bernie Sanders it will hopefully shape the conversation of the leading centrist contenders like Kamela Harris to realize that there is real opportunity in representing the true Super Majority instead of just following the “prudent” route and wishes of the powerful liberal elites.

Private Launch of Orion: here’s why NASA’s administrator made such a bold move Wednesday (Ars Technica)

Ars Technical: Here’s why NASA’s administrator made such a bold move Wednesday

Interesting move. In a way the Trump administration follows in Obama’s food steps, who haggled for the “Commercial Manned Flight Program” by continuing to fund the SLS, the “Senate Launch System.”

The latter pretty much looks like a massive boondoggle to create a massive rocket with replenished old, expendable technology to keep a massive number of jobs from massively lobbied companies.

It looks pretty clear that apart from the cost-plus massive and ongoing development expense (if you miss a deadline, you make more money) each flight will also be massively unaffordable.

Frustrating given the private business progress and lost opportunity for other science missions not getting funded.