Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Take my ball and go home

 I read this book when it came out in 2007. Interesting premise, and the main thrust is that the rich secede from the poor. There is already a plan for California to secede.

Can a country be like a marriage that has run out of cash and steam, resulting in the inevitable frank discussions about just who is pulling his or her own weight? Eventually, even those who love each other sometimes conclude they cannot stay together.

Juan Enriquez’s unique insights into the financial, political, and cultural issues we face will provoke shock and surprise and lead you to ask the question no one has yet put on the table: Could “becoming untied” ever happen here? It’s a question made especially relevant when we are faced with such unpromising facts as:

• At no other time have we had the unwelcome convergence in which the three key sectors of business, government, and consumers are so tapped out due to debt that each lacks the financial wherewithal to come to the rescue of the others.

• Most assets are not being used for productive purposes but for speculation, resulting in people lacking incentives to create real wealth, focusing instead on buying, selling, and flipping real estate.

• As religion starts to mix with politics, we have a culture that allows us to fall behind what were previously third world nations, because we are now treating science the way we did sex in the 1950s, banning or burying evolution theories and research into promising lifesaving areas such as stem-cell research.

When the enemy was outside—for example, the threat perceived when the Soviet Union launched Sputnik and people feared America would lose the brain race—we rallied. Now the enemy is within, and we polarize. Defaming the legitimacy of people on the “other” side becomes the currency of the day, where people in blue states are seen as godless liberal elitists and those in red states are seen as, well, rednecks.

Citizenship, Enriquez says, is like buying into a national brand. If the brand promises one thing and delivers another, could it then have the same fate as a tired product on a supermarket shelf, eroding, losing support, even disappearing? Countries, even one as powerful and successful as America, live on fault lines. When a fault line splits, it’s near impossible to put things back together again. What America will look like in fifty years depends on what we do today to act on the issues raised in The Untied States of America.


Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Paper losses, or, elections matter if you're rich

Elections are for deciding whether to fold the blankets in squares or rectangles. Means you have a blanket.

...The country, to put it mildly, was different back then. Life was harder, and in places like the Texas hinterland – which today forms the big beating heart of the state’s Republican base – it was a close approximation of 14th-century European peasant hell. The vast majority of rural Texans lived without electric power, which meant no refrigeration, no water pumps, no indoor plumbing, no furnaces, no electric stoves, no incandescent lights, no motors to power machines for milking or shearing.
Even for those of us only one or two generations removed from the farm, it’s almost impossible to conceive just how different life was, although the phrase “nasty, brutish, and short” comes to mind.

Among the best guides to that time is “The Sad Irons” chapter of The Path to Power, the first volume of Robert Caro’s biography of Lyndon Johnson, which delivers a harrowing portrait of life as a medieval slog plunked down in the middle of 20th-century America. To take just one aspect of the slog: water. “Packing water” from the source – a stream or a well – to the house was a daily beatdown that often fell to the farm wife. As Caro writes:
A federal study of nearly half a million farm families … would show that, on the average, a person living on a farm used 40 gallons of water every day. Since the average farm family was five persons, the family used 200 gallons, or four-fifths of a ton, of water each day – 73,000 gallons, or almost 300 tons, in a year. The study showed that, on the average, the well was located 253 feet from the house – and that to pump by hand and carry to the house 73,000 gallons of water a year would require someone to put in during that year 63 eight-hour days, and walk 1,750 miles.


Friday, October 14, 2016

Keeping up appearances

...MacArthur understood that for the transition to be smooth, the imperial rule must persist. Yet, he didn’t make the customary call to the palace; instead, he waited for the emperor to make the first contact. On 27th September (1945), Hirohito finally crossed the palace moat to reach MacArthur’s headquarters...

Faillace was given one shot, but he spoke up and asked for three. Faillace also adviced MacArthur against a seated picture on a soft couch. First two photos were less than ideal — their eyes were closed in one, and the Emperor’s mouth was gaping open in the other. But even the perfect, final shot posed its own problems: at this juncture, Hirohito was still  akitsumikami or manifest deity (he would not renounce his divinity before the coming New Year’s Day), and everyone was supposed to avert eyes from the veiled imperial portraits in government buildings.

Thus, printing the photo was deemed sacrilegious, not least because of the general’s extremely casual attire and his even more pointed body language. MacArthur’s office itself had to intervene to Japanese censors to have it printed...

Outside Japan, too, the general’s informal appearance shocked many. Even Life clutched its pearls and wrote, “MacArthur did not trouble to put on a tie for the occasion”...

The general never paid a return call to the palace.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Binary brains in a multivalent world

So I was reading last week's Archdruid Report and he touched on the whole morality debate in an interesting way.

In the same way, there’s no evidence that anybody in the Constitutional Convention agonized about the ethical dimensions of the notorious provision that defined each slave as being 3/5ths of a person. I doubt the ethical side of the matter ever crossed any of their minds, because politics was not about ethics or any other expression of values—it was about interests—and the issue was simply one of finding a compromise that allowed each state to feel that its interests would be adequately represented in Congress. Values, in the thought of the time, belonged to church and to the private conscience of the individual; politics was about interests pure and simple. 

Emphasis mine.

So I would use these two concepts, interests and values, and apply them to our definition of morality as such.

Morality, at it's extremes, is a submission of interests to values. In other words, giving until it hurts.

 So, how is morality applied in our actual societies? As a weapon against our enemies of course! When you consider morality, it's a hilariously hypocritical thing that we seem to, as a species, take exact opposite perspectives on morality depending on whom we are viewing.

When we look at "Us," we see what we can do better and praise ourselves for attempting it. When we look at "Them," we see what they could do better and condemn them for not having completed it.

Doesn't it seem like our subconscious minds assign Us and Them according to our interests? Only through VERY conscious thought do we allow for the transference or dissolution of the two groups into a ranking of Us and Them according to our values.

And when you do it, you realize you are surrounded by your enemies, who can and quite reasonably will destroy you. Best to keep your head down. The last several dudes who came along and said we should all love each other in too public a way were swiftly and publicly killed. Meritocracy assumes there's no merit in smashing a geeks head in because he wants to take your stuff. Again, these values are pretty fungible.

Surviving physically is actually pretty easy. Surviving culturally is really quite hard, especially maintaining our status within our class or caste. The effort required to maintain one's place requires you to be able to do immoral things while feeling good about yourself. It's important to stay motivated, and righteousness is a mighty motivator.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Impossible is merely difficult, or, a Lack of Imagination isn't the same as a lack of options

I can scarcely think of a way I’d less rather die than having a sword run through my abdomen. Yet Dutchman Mirin Dajo did it every day.

In the 1940’s, Dajo was known for his stage performances, in which he’d stand barechested while his assistant would take fencing foils, and one by one, run him through.

The show was appalling and horrible to watch, but Dajo never flinched, never showed the slightest pain. The curious were invited to watch as closely as they liked, and to examine the blades even while they were stuck through him.


Monday, August 29, 2016

Morality is Reality, or, what it is is how it feels

Many parents who grew up playing outdoors with friends, walking alone to the park or to school, and enjoying other moments of independent play are now raising children in a world with very different norms.

In the United States today, leaving children unsupervised is grounds for moral outrage and can lead to criminal charges.

What's changed?

...It's not that risks to children have increased, provoking an increase in moral outrage when children are left unattended. Instead, it could be that moral attitudes toward parenting have changed, such that leaving children unsupervised is now judged morally wrong. And because it's judged morally wrong, people overestimate the risk...

..."When Barbara and I first started talking about this project, the case that really stood out to me was the one about Debra Harrell — the McDonald's worker who let her 9-year-old daughter play in a busy public park for several hours during the day while she (Harrell) was at work. The daughter had a key to her home (which was a six-minute walk away from the park) and a cellphone. But when the girl mentioned to an adult in the park that her mother was at work, the adult called the police, who arrested and jailed Harrell and put the daughter in state custody. I thought, here's a single mother who works for low wages for a corporation that doesn't provide child care, and she was treated as a criminal for letting her daughter do something that is relatively safe. It seemed like people were angry at this woman for not being a full-time mom — for not fulfilling the unrealistic expectation that mothers should be with their children at all times.

Those are moral judgments, but people weren't talking about it in moral terms. Instead, they were using the language of risk and danger — saying that Harrell was criminally negligent because she had left her daughter in a dangerous situation. So we started thinking about how people's estimates of risk might not be about risk at all, but about moral judgment."

..."I think what surprised me most were the results of two modifications we tried. In the first, we asked subjects to make an explicit moral judgment about the parent in addition to a judgment about risk. The idea was that if people had a different way to express their moral disapproval, this might lower the pressure to use risk judgments as a way of condemning the parents. In fact, asking subjects to make a moral judgment about the parents as well made their moral judgments influence their judgments about risk even more, not less. The second modification was to ask subjects to actually list the concrete things they thought might happen while the parent was gone. We expected that forcing subjects to explicitly consider what dangers are faced by the child would reduce the influence of moral judgment on risk judgment. But adding this manipulation did not change anything."

..."Right now, in many situations, if a social worker or police officer thinks the child is in danger, they can intervene and take the child, arrest the parents, etc. But what our data suggest is that when people think they are judging danger to a child, much of what they are actually doing is imposing a moral judgment on the child's parents."


Emphasis mine.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Thursday Thought Walk

So much trouble in the world

-Bob Marley

[E]ach group nourishes its own pride and vanity, boasts itself superior, exists in its own divinities, and looks with contempt on outsiders.

-William Sumner

Any political decision, about any but the most trivial subject, brings benefits and has costs, and far more often than not the people who get the benefits and the people who carry the costs are not the same.

-John Michael Greer

When the Star-Belly Sneetches had frankfurter roasts
Or picnics or parties or marshmallow toasts,
They never invited the Plain-Belly Sneetches.
They left them out cold, in the dark of the beaches.
They kept them away. Never let them come near. And that’s how they treated them year after year.

-Dr. Seuss

Like other norms, social norms are standards of behavior. These norms apply to the function individuals have in the group. Norms can include a dress code, standards of conduct, or admissions standards. Norms tend to keep a group working better together as long as the norms are uniformly enforced. Selectively ignoring norms tends to result in disciplinary measures for group members. If the group as a whole ignores norms, cohesion could be weakened by a feeling of apathy toward the norms and group as a whole. 


Emphasis mine.

Indonesia has 1128 ethnics and 746 local languages and dialects (Official Government Statistics Data). Each provinces, regions, and islands in Indonesia has their own unique cultures. And in one provinces, you can find many different cultures, languages, dialects and many sub-ethnics. I don’t talk about racism, but i want to share to you that Indonesia has diverse faces and skin characteristics. From Sabang to Merauke, Very Diverse. From White, Yellow, Tan, and Black. Indonesian face also not just like another Asian face. Because the Geography, there are many types of face in Indonesia such as Oriental, Melayu (Indonesian Malay), Melanesian, and ect. Javanese face is different with Sumatran face. Kalimantan face (Indonesian Borneo) face also different with Sulawesi face. Flores face is different with Irian (Indonesian New Guinea) Face.Those ethnics are native Indonesians. And Indonesia is one of the Largest country that has Culturally Diverse by Natives. We Live together in peace with Bhinneka Tunggal Ika (Unity in Diversity) as our Motto.

-Aulsid Wijaya

It is said that the well-known Buddha and Shiva are two different substances.
They are indeed different, yet how is it possible to recognise their difference in a glance,
since the truth of Jina and the truth of Shiva is one.
They are indeed different, but they are of the same kind, as there is no duality in Truth. 

excerpt from Kakawin Sutasoma


Sunday, February 21, 2016

Kochtopus dropping bombs

Charlie is doing the thing, man:

This is the one issue where Bernie Sanders is right
Charles G. Koch is chairman and chief executive of Koch Industries. 
As he campaigns for the Democratic nomination for president, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (I) often sounds like he’s running as much against me as he is the other candidates. I have never met the senator, but I know from listening to him that we disagree on plenty when it comes to public policy.

Even so, I see benefits in searching for common ground and greater civility during this overly negative campaign season. That’s why, in spite of the fact that he often misrepresents where I stand on issues, the senator should know that we do agree on at least one — an issue that resonates with people who feel that hard work and making a contribution will no longer enable them to succeed.

The senator is upset with a political and economic system that is often rigged to help the privileged few at the expense of everyone else, particularly the least advantaged. He believes that we have a two-tiered society that increasingly dooms millions of our fellow citizens to lives of poverty and hopelessness. He thinks many corporations seek and benefit from corporate welfare while ordinary citizens are denied opportunities and a level playing field.

I agree with him.


Thursday, February 11, 2016

The riches of His kindness

Belief in an all-seeing punitive god motivates people to be more charitable towards strangers outside their own family and community, particularly to those of similar beliefs, researchers have found.
A study, published Wednesday in Nature, suggests religiosity may contribute to greater cooperation and collaboration despite geographic separation.

“People may trust in, cooperate with and interact fairly within wider social circles, partly because they believe that knowing gods will punish them if they do not,” the study’s authors wrote.
The Internet is a great tool to connect with others and learn new things. Is it also killing religion? Laci discusses how the rise in Web use might be causing people to lose their religion.

“Moreover, the social radius within which people are willing to engage in behaviors that benefit others at a cost to themselves may enlarge as gods’ powers to monitor and punish increase...”
...The researchers found people who believed in a more punitive, all-knowing god ended up giving more money to distant people who shared the same religious belief.

Lead author Benjamin Purzycki said the results suggested people of the belief that one’s actions are monitored, judged and punished by a deity were more likely to play fair than to play favorites.