Category Archives: Politics

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

NYTimes: The Oppression of the Supermajority

The New York Times: The Oppression of the Supermajority

“The defining political fact of our time is not polarization. It’s the thwarting of a largely unified public.”

There is a real problem with our framing, the way thoughts are presented to the public by all sides of the media. It about left vs right, Socialism vs Capitalism, Democratic vs Republican.

In reality, the vast majority of this country are united about a number of things:

“About 75 percent of Americans favor higher taxes for the ultrawealthy. The idea of a federal law that would guarantee paid maternity leave attracts 67 percent support. Eighty-three percent favor strong net neutrality rules for broadband, and more than 60 percent want stronger privacy laws. Seventy-one percent think we should be able to buy drugs imported from Canada, and 92 percent want Medicare to negotiate for lower drug prices.”

I have also seen strong evidence the vast majority is for Medicare for all, Social Security, and effective measures to deal with Climate Change. They are against corruption by the elites and frustrated over the preferential treatment of large corporations.
Candidates would do well to move past the labels of being socialist and address the issues directly.

Seeds of Destruction

Image taken from the article: Our ‘selfish’ genes contain the seeds of our destruction – but there might be a fix

The internet and social media spanning the world with billions of participants is changing the nature of our culture and civilization. Due to its fast spread its dramatic impact is likely higher in a shorter period than the invention of writing and the printing press. Film and radio as propaganda media had a dramatic impact on WW I and WW II. Will social media be seen as the fire that destroyed Western Civilization due to its pervasive impact?

In my view one of the most destructive culprits in the universe of social media is Facebook. It does not do this unknowingly.

Facebook’s seeding of social destruction is by cynical design. The system’s true monetary value is your data and ATTENTION.
ATTENTION is generated by siloing the user base and feeding each silo information that is bound to excite. It either fervently supports the shared outlook or fuels hatred of the opposition. The Facebook algorithm selects the user postings and seeded information from other sources in front of you based on deep analysis. If you look at the placed information, it is aimed at generating division even if it appears to support your point of view.

The silo user base amplifies this attention.
HATRED of the opposition is the strongest emotion here. Although we think we are debating facts, they move to the background. I should also note that the rules we use to view the facts in relation to the world are distorted impacting our perception of “truthiness.” More about that in another post.
In other words, Facebook’s SHAREHOLDER VALUE IS HATRED. It has earned them billions!
It is very destructive in its pervasiveness.

The destruction is on several levels:

  • The resulting divisiveness is poison to rational discourse.
  • Facts are no longer important, beliefs are.
  • It prevents rational resolution of issues based on compromise.
  • Trust in institution or experts is undermined and destroyed.
  • It leads to extreme leadership and demagoguery, which play into the tribal hatred. Centrism cannot compete in this atmosphere.
  • Eventually the polity is destroyed, because it cannot any longer be governed and function.

This is Stephen Bannon’s agenda. We are mid game in this regard, but well along the way of destroying institutions and regulation forged over the last decades and centuries. In fact, our Separation of Powers is no longer working! This is a constitutional crisis or at least Constitutional Rot. The real problem is not only that many people are seriously suffering (economic inequality) or dying (lack of healthcare,) but we are not furthering pace and the worldwide action required to solve climate change. And the window for climate change action is closing. Even if we get out polity back into a state of health, it might be too late to avoid catastrophic consequences, which will especially impact poor nations and lead to further global instability.

Although we seem to act like a “Banana Republic,” we are the largest economy in the world. Our leadership, action or inaction count in a dominant way.

To paraphrase Cato the Elder, Facebook must be destroyed,

Note: I originally posted this in response to a concern about social media’s destructiveness on the polity on Facebook. After some thought I had to elevate my response and start moving my focus away from Facebook only using it as a means of distribution and getting attention.

ps I first was alluding to the “Eve of Destruction” by Barry McGuire, but then also found the Sons of Aeon, a melodic Death Metal Band wailing from Finland. My son really turned me on the genre, which actually has some very thoughtful if dark lyrics and exquisite instrument playing. I have become a fan of Katatonia (lately more progressive rock).

Here then the lyrics for Seeds of Destruction:

Sight into the future… Does not exist
We need no prophets to realise it
Next breath you’re about to take
Could be your last
Drown yourself in hatred, forget the past
This world of confusion
Where moral is just a word
Meaningless and forgotten…
Thing we should not talk about
Souls for sale
Dreams of yesterday… Drifting away
A glimpse of humanity… Does not exist
See the smile on their faces… You’ll realise it
Filth holds the reins of power
Rivers are turning red
Irrigate the fields of hate
Sow the seeds of destruction
There will be blood… Where dead roses bloom
And a quick taste of Katatonia from their track Last Song Before The Fade from their album The Fall of Hearts:


Who’s in control
Spite
So cold in this light.

Reflective summary
Froze me in a frame
My time had run out before the future came
Depart from insight
Breach was made.

For good reason this generation does not sound very hopeful. Time for some peaceful “Hearts of Space!”

Not just here: Post-truth politics is alive and well in Brexit Britain

This is a fundamental problem of current politics amplified by social media. It is a fertile ground for fascist countries to seed discord. We need to get beyond it to survive as democracies.

“The various tribes have consistently hidden behind principles to avoid endorsing an option that is *actually* on the table — or building a consensus behind their preference. Worse, they have decided to ignore the real-world problems that accompany their solutions.”

Post-truth politics is alive and well in Brexit Britain

Unthinkable – The Atlantic: 50 Moments That Define an Improbable Presidency

I am already looking back at a fairly long life. But the history of the last two years has created a horrific reality both surreal and seemingly improbable. It is like a nation and the world have completely lost reason.

I am still optimistic enough that eventually the pendulum will swing back toward fact and science based reasoning. Recent elections and the freshmen class in Congress give me a lot of hope. But the State of the Union is dire. I am now fairly certain that what we see in the US and UK – once beacons of the free world – is not just random action but a carefully staged sequence of events driven by ingenious manipulation of an evil oligarchy coupled with enormous short term greed and stupidity of our elites and media. There is also a healthy dose of gullibility introduced by lack of education in basic humanities and reasoning.

The distrust of “experts” is fatal in a world driven by complex science and engineering in a global economy.

In short, this is all a huge mess. The real tragedy beyond the suffering of the middle and lower income groups plus children in concentration camps is the insane pace of the approaching point of no return for our climate.

A significant fault lies with Donald Trump and his enablers in the Senate – all equally guilty. But media continues to fail to understand the implication of our “Attention Culture.”

Here is a collation of 50 Moments that defined a most surreal seemingly unthinkable reality: The Atlantic: 50 Moments That Define an Improbable Presidency

The key to everything

via 3QuarksDailyNYBooks: The Key to Everyting

Freeman Dyson reviews Geoffrey Wests book on “Scale: The Universal Laws of Growth, Innovation, Sustainability, and the Pace of Life in Organisms, Cities, Economies, and Companies

“Geoffrey West spent most of his life as a research scientist and administrator at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, running programs concerned not with nuclear weapons but with peaceful physics. After retiring from Los Alamos, he became director of the nearby Santa Fe Institute, where he switched from physics to a broader interdisciplinary program known as complexity science.”

Freeman’s review nicely summarizes the book for some heady reading. But his view on the subject is not without criticism driven by differences in philosophy:

“The choice of an imagined future is always a matter of taste. West chooses sustainability as the goal and the Grand Unified Theory as the means to achieve it. My taste is the opposite. I see human freedom as the goal and the creativity of small human societies as the means to achieve it. Freedom is the divine spark that causes human children to rebel against grand unified theories imposed by their parents..”

I share Freeman Dyson’s view. But this is still worth reading and stimulating to think about.

Dude, you broke the future – a talk by Charlie Stross

Charlie Stross gave a talk at the 34th Chaos Communication Congress in Leipzig, December 2017. It puts our current history into a larger context. It includes a fresh view of AI as it has been with us for centuries in the form of corporations!

A real eye opener worth reading! Dude, you broke the future!

You can also watch the talk on youtube.

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.

Bill Gates: “We Need an Energy Miracle”

Killing the fallacy that Capitalism and Markets are effective and efficient. And it is especially true when viewing the slow unfolding climate disaster.

Bill Gates on the surprising wisdom of government R&D: “When I first got into this I thought, How well does the Department of Energy spend its R&D budget? And I was worried: Gosh, if I’m going to be saying it should double its budget, if it turns out it’s not very well spent, how am I going to feel about that? But as I’ve really dug into it, the DARPA money is very well spent, and the basic-science money is very well spent. The government has these “Centers of Excellence.” They should have twice as many of those things, and those things should get about four times as much money as they do.”

Read more on the Atlantic.

The Illusion of Separateness

Looking at the odd history in the making in Europe with UK voting to leave the EU, it becomes apparent that we generally look and understand parts better than the whole. This is certainly true on the political stage, where we often do not know, what we have lost abandoning the bargaining table. When Prince Escalus says “all are punish’d” in the final scene of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, he might as well have referred to all European nations and especially Britain in place of the Montagues and Capulets. They lost their most precious children in exchange for nothing. In the UK, it is the young who will lose the most being partially blocked from a larger world, which is struggling to become whole despite our common lack of vision.

I am starting to think that it is a peculiarity of our vision that makes us so fond of finding differences, of loving the parts more than the whole. Vision shapes our way of defining models. Delineating lines of shadow and dark, seeing colors instead of the continuity of the full spectrum is a trick our mind & vision use to make sense of the complexity of the world with limited capability. We simplify, reduce, decide under the illusion that seeing the parts we understand the whole. This is true even in science, where reductionism has given us progress especially since the Enlightenment. We are delving ever deeper taking the world to bits to find the Higgs. But even finding this God particle, our search is not at end. I sense, we are going about it wrong.

Perhaps we are about to enter the next age, where we look at the world with new eyes and try to understand it as one system – from the way we look at nature, our bodies, our societies, our ecosystem, and the world. Systems theory clearly shows that the most interesting emergent behavior is on the larger level of simple elements working together to shape much more complex behavior. This is where all of our answers lie, maybe even to our quest for purpose and the meaning of the universe.

The separateness of anything in the world is an illusion. The world is one system. As we look at the apparent boundaries in detail, they disappear to the point that we cannot truly tell one quantum particle from another. Our bodies are in continuous interaction with the micro-biome in us and surrounding us. We are seeing that our old disease models are simplistic. We are truly and deeply connected with our environment. In cyberspace, our minds and thoughts are exchanging thoughts and concepts at increasing speed. It might be a struggle, but I believe in seeing and making things whole, we truly find the solution to all of our issues. Being in and with this world and each other will give us incredible progress and peace and prosperity past anything we can image. It is the key to our humanity!

All we need to do is look at the world differently.

“What we think, we become.” — Buddha

We need to become one with each other and the world.

The U.S. Is Failing in Infant Mortality, Starting at One Month Old (NYTimes)

There is really not much one can say – except “what is wrong with us?”

Aaron E. Carroll: “The U.S. Is Failing in Infant Mortality, Starting at One Month Old “

“Many more babies die in the United States than you might think. In 2014, more than 23,000 infants died in their first year of life, or about six for every 1,000 born. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 25 other industrialized nations do better than the United States at keeping babies alive.”