Thursday, October 17, 2013

Things that are true, part I

A list of things that I believe we can all accept as true.  The implications of these truths often leads me to my political positions, but apparently that's just me.  I'm not sure why that is.

  1. Pipelines leak.  Really, what more is there here to say?  There's a lot of reasons why pipelines leak: from the general decline in quality control in the Chinese-produced steel used for most pipelines, through the hubris of pipeline designers and the greed of pipeline company management more concerned about bottom lines than wildlife habitat and drinkable water, all the way to the Godel Incompleteness Theorem.  We could come up with many many reasons why pipelines leak, but I think we're all in agreement that they do.
  2. The same people who think the US government can default on its debt without consequences are the same people who think the Confederate army included willing black soldiers fighting for slavery and that the Civil War was more about states rights than slavery; that the world would be a safer place if everyone had a concealed carry permit; that a large portion of the budget of the US government is spent on foreign aid; that the theory of evolution is a lie spread by Satan; global warming is a conspiracy by leftist climate scientists to raise taxes.  This set of shared beliefs is an anthropological fact.  We can do sociology all we want and survey people and try to understand the fact that the various Venn circles describing this belief are so tightly correlated, but that misses the point.  There is a tribe of people that believes all of these propositions.  Some tribes worship Sirius as their original home; some tribes believe God is an old man who slept with his daughter and her children were bison and human beings; and some tribes believe the Confederate flag is a symbol of freedom.
  3. One of the most dangerous places to be in North America is in a school zone outside an elementary school five minutes before the morning bell rings.  Pretty much everyone not in a minivan or an SUV can be crushed to death in minutes by someone who won't even realize they're there, and who is likely responding to work email anyway.  Its not as dangerous as East Oakland or certain neighborhoods in Chicago, but people are still killed in school zones daily.
More as they occur to me.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Mary Shelley's Prophecy

We're all just characters in Frankenstein.  And Frankenstein isn't really fiction.  Its a treatise on how modern Capitalism works.

Friends and family plan

In surveying the newspaper this morning - my local paper stopped coming, apparently of its own accord, so I was stuck with the paper of record - I was struck by a recurring theme, and one that's recurred to me often over the last few months.  The continent's elites - economic, political, social and technological - are in the grip of a Dunning-Kruger effect so powerful they're willing to cut off everyone's noses to prove they're right.  Its not just that the general analytical skill of these elites is best represented in the XKCD cartoon about girls and math; its not just that the question "stupid or evil?" has no apparent answer when it comes to the continuous desire of the elites to push economic policy, birth control, energy policy, military solutions, and countless other arenas that have not just failed in the past but are failing with rank and odious consequences for everyone.  The stunning displays of obstinate ideologically-motivated incompetence we see in the news every morning are being modeled by everyday people, at work and at school.  People feel willing and justified in saying or doing stupid things every day to the people around them because in society as a whole there are no consequences at the top of the heap.  So its okay for people to say the President is a Nazi Stalinist who wants to force socialist medicine on all of us and enslave us to a life of indentured zombitude, and as a result people come into their places of work and make my life, and yours, a constant exercise in "what are they trying to do here?"

Monday, October 07, 2013

Historical parallels

Sometime after 9/11 I stopped being paranoid about what I thought was the ever-present possibility of a coup-d'etat in the United States.  There was no need, really, for something like that; the majority of Americans were only too happy to dive into an orgy of militarism and the various abdications of moral responsibility that followed the invasion of Afghanistan - from the PATRIOT Act, through torture and the invasion of Iraq and all the nonsense that followed - had agreement across a broad range of the political and social culture.  People who's political sensibilities I admire (even if I'm far more left wing) like Nancy Pelosi and Tom Dachle and Pat Leahy and Hillary Clinton couldn't see a problem with the direction things were going.  Once the narcissists and egomaniacal ideological fanatics had chased the sensible people out of the GOP after Bush pere lost, it was the D side of the aisle in the House of Representatives that had to be counted on for at least a modicum of caution, to try to avoid too much social experimentation and the wild-eyed douchebaggery that makes it hard to raise children, pay off your debts and rebuild your infrastructure.  If the Democrats and the Republicans thought you needed to do a bunch of stuff that was unlikely to have any positive impacts or sustainable outcomes, then reason dictates you have to argue to change things and hope for the best.  That is, after all, what its about in a democracy.  Especially a democracy that ends up trying all the wrong doors before it picks the right one, to paraphrase Churchill.