AI, big businesses, and the future

Some food for thought:

We’ve all probably watched videos like these countless times in the past, yet many are prone to laugh off such information, or to opt to ignore it since it makes them feel uncomfortable. One hope is that such a transition will occur far enough in the future that we might not have to live to see much of it. In other words, let the future generations contend with that. Not our problem currently. Isn’t that what most tend to say? To say much else is to likely wind up dismissed as a “conspiracy theorist,” isn’t that also true? And nobody wants that since it’s then assumed that you’ve flown the coup and aren’t one to be taken seriously.

And yet, information keeps rolling in and questions continue popping up that we seem afraid to entertain. Or, instead insist on focusing on more “optimistic” positions, as if only one side of the coin could exist without its potential consequences.

That last clip was a TED Talk by Marc Goodman, former law enforcement officer and author of the book Future Crimes: Everything Is Connected, Everyone Is Vulnerable and What We Can Do About It, which I highly recommend. Listened to my own copy in audio format through Audible and found it to be one of the most thought-provoking books I came across in 2017.

Facebook weirds me out. Glad to no longer use that site. Though surely plenty of others might be just as bad — namely Google.

That’s enough for one post.

“Alain de Botton: Status Anxiety”

Food for thought for the evening:

Naomi Klein on Latin America, particularly Venezuela (2007)

Today I’d like to transcribe portions from Naomi Klein’s book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (2007). The reason being that I was introduced to this book by a close friend back in 2008 during my more “radical” years which involved both feminism and my 4-year stint volunteering within the local peace community (i.e. Left-leaning political circles). Libertarian-leaning as I’ve always been, still I too was attracted to various messages advanced by the Political Left during my 20s, so here’s one example of information I was presented with back then.

Beginning on page 446:

_____________________________________________

Despite the attempts of everyone from Pinochet to Cavallo to Berezovsky to Black to portray himself as a victim of baseless political persecution, this list, by no means complete, represents a radical departure from the neoliberal creation myth. The economic crusade managed to cling to a veneer of respectability and lawfulness as it progressed. Now that veneer was being very publicly stripped away to reveal a system of gross wealth inequalities, often opened with the aid of grotesque criminality.

Besides legal trouble, there was another cloud on the horizon. The effects of the shocks that had been so integral to creating the illusion of ideological consensus were beginning to wear off. Rodolfo Walsh, another early casualty, had regarded the Chicago School ascendancy in Argentina as a setback, not a lasting defeat. The terror tactics used by the junta had put his country into a state of shock, but Walsh knew that shock, by its very nature, is a temporary state. Before he was gunned down on the streets of Buenos Aires, Walsh estimated that it would take twenty to thirty years until the effects of the terror receded and Argentines regained their footing, courage and confidence, ready once again to fight for economic and social equity. It was in 2001, twenty-four years later, that Argentina erupted in protest against IMF-prescribed austerity measures and then proceeded to force out five presidents in only three weeks.

I was living in Buenos Aires in that period, and people kept exclaiming, “The dictatorship just ended!” At the time I didn’t understand the meaning behind the jubilation, since the dictatorship had been over for seventeen years. Now I think I do: the state of shock had finally worn off, just as Walsh had predicted.

In the years since, that wide-awake shock resistance has spread to many other former shock labs—Chile, Bolivia, China, Lebanon. And as people shed the collective fear that was first instilled with tanks and cattle prods, with sudden flights of capital and brutal cutbacks, many are demanding more democracy and more control over markets. These demands represent the greatest threat of all to Friedman’s legacy because they challenge his most central claim: that capitalism and freedom are part of the same indivisible project.

The Bush administration remains so committed to perpetuating this false union that, in 2002, it embedded it in the National Security Strategy of the United States of America. “The great struggles of the twentieth century between liberty and totalitarianism ended with a decisive victory for the forces of freedom—a single sustainable model for national success: freedom, democracy and free enterprise.” This assertion, made with the full force of the U.S. military arsenal behind it, was not enough to hold back the tide of citizens using their various freedoms to reject free-market orthodoxy—even in the United States. As a headline in the Miami Herald after the 2006 midterm elections put it, “Democrats won big by opposing free-trade agreements.” A New York Times/CBS poll a few months later found that 64 percent of U.S. citizens believed the government should guarantee health care coverage to all and “showed a striking willingness . . . to make tradeoffs” to achieve that goal, including paying up to $500 a year more in taxes.

On the international stage, the staunchest opponents of neoliberal economics were winning election after election. The Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, running on a platform of “21st Century Socialism,” was re-elected in 2006 for a third term with 63 percent of the vote. Despite attempts by the Bush administration to paint Venezuela as a pseudodemocracy, a poll that same year recorded that 57 percent of Venezuelans were happy with the state of their democracy, an approval rating on the continent second only to Uruguay’s, where the left-wing coalition party Frente Amplio had been elected to government and where a series of referendums had blocked major privatizations. In other words, in the two Latin American states where voting had resulted in real challenges to the Washington Consensus, citizens had renewed their faith in the power of democracy to improve their lives. In stark contrast to this enthusiasm, in countries where economic policies remain largely unchanged regardless of the promises made during election campaigns, polls consistently track and eroding faith in democracy, reflected in dwindling turnout for elections, deep cynicism toward politicians and a rise in religious fundamentalism.

_____________________________________________

Pausing there on page 448 and picking back up again on page 453:

_____________________________________________

In December 2006, a month after Friedman’s death, Latin America’s leaders gathered for a historic summit in Bolivia, held in the city of Cochabamba, where a popular uprising against water privatization had forced Bechtel out of the country several years earlier. Morales began the proceedings with a vow to close “the open veins of Latin America.” It was a reference to Eduardo Galeano’s book Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent, a lyrical accounting of the violent plunder that had turned a rich continent into a poor one. The book was first published in 1971, two years before Allende was overthrown for daring to try to close those open veins by nationalizing his country’s copper mines. That event ushered in a new era of furious pillage, during which the structures built by the continent’s developmentalist movements were sacked, stripped and sold off.

Today Latin Americans are picking up the project that was brutally interrupted all those years ago. Many of the policies cropping up are familiar: nationalization of key sectors of the economy, land reform, major new investments in education, literacy and health care. These are not revolutionary ideas, but in their unapologetic vision of a government that helps reach for equality, they are certainly a rebuke to Friedman’s 1975 assertion to Pinochet that “the major error, in my opinion, was . . . to believe that it is possible to do good with other people’s money.”

Though clearly drawing on a long militant history, Latin America’s contemporary movements are not direct replicas of their predecessors. Of all the differences, the most striking is an acute awareness of the need for protection from the shocks of the past—the coups, the foreign shock therapists, the U.S.-trained torturers, as well as the debt shocks and currency collapses of the eighties and nineties. Latin America’s mass movements, which have powered the wave of election victories for the left-wing candidates, are learning how to build shock absorbers into their organizing models. They are, for example, less centralized than in the sixties, making it harder to demobilize whole movements by eliminating a few leaders. Despite the overwhelming cult of personality surrounding Chavez, and his moves to centralize power at the state level, the progressive networks in Venezuela are at the same time highly decentralized, with power dispersed at the grass roots and community level, through thousands of neighborhood councils and co-ops. In Bolivia, the indigenous people’s movements that put Morales in office function similarly and have made it clear that Morales does not have their unconditional support: the barrios will back him as long as he stays true to his democratic mandate, and not a moment longer. This kind of network approach is what allowed Chavez to survive the 2002 coup attempt: when their revolution was threatened, his supporters poured down from the shantytowns surrounding Caracas to demand his reinstatement, a kind of popular mobilization that did not happen during the coups of the seventies.

Latin America’s new leaders are also taking bold measures to block any future U.S.-backed coups that could attempt to undermine their democratic victories. The governments of Venezuela, Costa Rica, Argentina and Uruguay have all announced that they will no longer send students to the School of the Americas (now called the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation)—the infamous police and military training center in Fort Benning, Georgia, where so many of the continent’s notorious killers learned the latest in “counterterrorism” techniques, then promptly directed them against farmers in El Salvador and auto workers in Argentina. Bolivia looks set to cut its ties with the school, as does Ecuador. Chavez has let it be known that if an extremist right-wing element in Bolivia’s Santa Cruz province makes good on its threats against the government of Evo Morales, Venezuelan troops will help defend Bolivia’s democracy. Rafael Correa is set to take the most radical step of all. The Ecuadorean port city of Manta currently hosts the largest U.S. military base in South America, which serves as a staging area for the “war on drugs,” largely fought in Colombia. Correa’s government has announced that when the agreement for the base expires in 2009, it will not be renewed. “Ecuador is a sovereign nation,” said the minister of foreign relations, Maria Fernanda Espinosa. “We do not need any foreign troops in our country.” If the U.S. military does not have bases or training programs, its power to inflict shocks will be greatly eroded.

The new leaders in Latin America are also becoming better prepared for the kinds of shocks inflicted by volatile markets. One of the most destabilizing forces of recent decades has been the speed with which capital can pick up and move, or how a sudden drop in commodity prices can devastate an entire agricultural sector. But in much of Latin America these shocks have already happened, leaving behind ghostly industrial suburbs and huge stretches of fallow farmland. The task of the region’s new left, therefore, has become a matter of taking the detritus of globalization and putting it back to work. In Brazil, the phenomenon is best seen in the million and a half farmers of the Landless People Movement (MST) who have formed hundreds of cooperatives to reclaim unused land. In Argentina, it is clearest in the movement of “recovered companies,” two hundred bankrupt businesses that have been resuscitated by their workers, who have turned them into democratically run cooperatives. For the cooperatives, there is no fear of facing an economic shock of investors leaving, because the investors have already left. In a way, the reclamation experiments are a new kind of post-disaster reconstruction—reconstruction from the slow-motion disaster of neoliberalism. In sharp contrast to the model offered by the disaster capitalism complex in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Gulf Coast, the leaders of Latin America’s rebuilding efforts are the people most affected by the devastation. And unsurprisingly, their spontaneous solutions look very much like the real third way that had been so effectively shocked out of the way by the Chicago School campaign around the world—democracy in daily life.

In Venezuela, Chavez has made the co-ops a top political priority, giving them first refusal on government contracts and offering them economic incentives to trade with one another. By 2006, there were roughly 100,000 cooperatives in the country, employing more than 700,000 workers. Many are pieces of state infrastructure—toll booths, highway maintenance, health clinics—handed over to the communities to run. It’s a reverse of the logic of large corporations and losing democratic control, the people who use the resources are given the power to manage them, creating, at least in theory, both jobs and more responsive public services. Chavez’s many critics have derided these initiatives as handouts and unfair subsidies, of course. Yet in an era when Halliburton treats the U.S. government as its personal ATM for six years, withdraws upward of $20 billion in Iraq contracts alone, refuses to hire local workers either on the Gulf Coast or in Iraq, then expresses its gratitude to U.S. taxpayers by moving its corporate headquarters to Dubai (with all the attendant tax and legal benefits), Chavez’s direct subsidies to regular people look significantly less radical.

Latin America’s most significant protection from future shocks (and therefore from the shock doctrine) flows from the continent’s emerging independence from Washington’s financial institutions, the result of greater integration among regional governments. The Bolivian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA) is the continent’s retort to the Free Trade Area of the Americas, the now buried corporatist dream of a free-trade zone stretching from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego. Though ALBA is still in its early stages, Emir Sader, the Brazil-based sociologist, describes its promise as “a perfect example of genuinely fair trade: each country provides what it is best placed to produce, in return for what it most needs, independent of global market prices.” So Bolivia provides gas at stable discounted prices; Venezuela offers heavily subsidized oil to poorer countries and shares expertise in developing reserves; and Cuba sends thousands of doctors to deliver free health care all over the continent, while training students from other countries at its medical schools. This is a very different model from the kind of academic exchange that began at the University of Chicago in the mid-fifties, when Latin American students learned a single rigid ideology and were sent home to impose it with uniformity across the continent. The major benefit is that ALBA is essentially a barter system, in which countries decide for themselves what any given commodity or service is worth, rather than letting traders in New York, Chicago or London set the prices for them. That makes trade far less vulnerable to the kind of sudden price fluctuations that devastated Latin American economies in the past. Surrounded by turbulent financial waters, Latin America is creating a zone of relative economic calm and predictability, a feat presumed impossible in the globalization era.

When one country does face a financial shortfall, this increased integration means that it does not need to turn to the IMF or the U.S. Treasury for a bailout. That’s fortunate because the 2006 U.S. National Security Strategy makes it clear that for Washington, the shock doctrine is still very much alive: “If crises occur, the IMF’s response must reinforce each country’s responsibility for its own economic choices,” the document states. “A refocused IMF will strengthen market institutions and market discipline over financial decisions.” This kind of “market discipline” can only be enforced if governments actually go to Washington for help—as Stanley Fischer explained during the Asian financial crisis, the IMF can help only if it is asked, “but when [a country is] out of money, it hasn’t got many places to turn.” That is no longer the case. Thanks to high oil prices, Venezuela has emerged as a major lender to other developing countries, allowing them to do an end run around Washington.

The results have been dramatic. Brazil, so long shackled to Washington by its enormous debt, is refusing to enter into a new agreement with the IMF. Nicaragua is negotiating to quit the fund, Venezuela has withdrawn from both the IMF and the World Bank, and even Argentina, Washington’s former “model pupil,” has been part of the trend. In his 2007 State of the Union address, President Nestor Kirchner said that the country’s foreign creditors had told him,” “‘You must have an agreement with the International Fund to be able to pay the debt.’ We say to them, ‘Sirs, we are sovereign. We want to pay the debt, but no way in hell are we going to make an agreement again with the IMF.'” As a result, the IMF, supremely powerful in the eighties and nineties, is no longer a force on the continent. In 2005, Latin America made up 80 percent of the IMF’s total lending portfolio; in 2007, the continent represented just 1 percent—a sea change in only two years. “There is life after the IMF,” Kirchner declared, “and it’s a good life.”

_____________________________________________

Stopping on page 457.

My thoughts follow. To start off with, I continue to have mixed feelings over such material, more so now than ever before, because I do take issue with the policies of the IMF and am aware and critical of Big Corporate excesses. There remains truth in concerns over externalized costs and the ongoing pursuit of cheap labor and cheap resources extracted from nations where few alternatives are available. One could argue, as my stepdad and others do, that these examples of corporate outsourcing for production of products brings much-needed money to these communities and provides more opportunities than they otherwise would have. Yes, but what is to become of them when these plants up and leave, headed for other locations where even cheaper labor pools and/or resources can be had? Appears to leave economic devastation in their wake, which we can also see in the U.S. where communities depended on businesses that moved their operations to China or Mexico (as occurred in my own hometown down South). Sufficient alternatives don’t tend to spring up in the vacuum left behind, leading to a rise in economic and social problems in those areas, which can then turn political. I remain perplexed over what can be done about this, though I grasp that simply shrugging our shoulders and expecting people to make do with what little is left isn’t much of an answer. But neither is trying to implement a communistic/socialistic model instead since that too will prove unstable, and likely even more so.

This conundrum has left me frustrated since either way we turn it appears we’re damned. Though capitalism offers the most promise out of the modern models we’re presented with, corporatism that has arisen out of it is proving extremely alienating and inhuman. As in it forces humans to adapt to it, yet it cannot adapt to serve the needs of humans. Globalized corporatism adheres to a different set of values than do most human beings, which then stokes strife that often enough does result in political upheaval on down the road. Somehow this matter must be addressed, yet neither leaders on the political Left or Right are willing (or able) to do so. What Naomi Klein refers to as “neoliberalism” is often enough used interchangeably with the term “neoconservatism” and is embraced by both major political parties in the U.S. For whatever differences may be ascribed to these two terms, what they each fundamentally share in common is political fusion with global (multinational) corporate and banking agendas. And it’s that unto itself a lot of us out here continue to take issue with.

Now, was Naomi Klein’s book biased? Yes it was. She put her own political spin on events based on her Leftist political outlook. Certainly can’t claim her to be politically neutral, independent, or nonpartisan in her delivery there. And I understand that nowadays in a way I didn’t 10 years ago. Everybody’s got an agenda, or so it seems. So let’s look at a current news stories on how Venezuela is faring these days.

An article from The Guardian (Jan. 21, 2018) titled “‘We loot or we die of hunger’: food shortages fuel unrest in Venezuela“:

Angry about empty supermarket shelves and soaring prices, some people are breaking into warehouses, ransacking food trucks and invading outlying farms.

During the first 11 days of January the Venezuelan Observatory for Social Conflict, a Caracas rights group, recorded 107 episodes of looting and several deaths in 19 of Venezuela’s 23 states.

[…]

There have been previous incidents of looting but analysts fear that the current wave could linger amid the Venezuela’s economic freefall.

President Nicolás Maduro blames the country’s woes on an “economic war” against his government by rightwingers and foreign interests.

But his critics say his government has disrupted domestic food production by expropriating farms and factories. Meanwhile, price controls designed to make food more widely available to poorer people have had the opposite effect: many prices have been set below the cost of production, forcing food producers out of business.

Meanwhile the government has less cash to import food because of its mismanagement of the oil sector, where production has fallen to a 29-year low. Hyperinflation and the collapse of the currency have put the prices of foodstuffs available on the black market beyond the reach of many families.

But rather than reforming the economy, the government has resorted to handouts and far-fetched schemes.

So somewhere along the way that experiment obviously failed, and within a mere decade of when Naomi Klein’s book hit shelves. What are we to make of this? Seems to me that while relying on the IMF indeed proved problematic, so did switching over instead to a socialist scheme.

To be delved in deeper at a later date…

“Bret and Eric Weinstein, Brothers Together at Last”

On the Rubin Report:

Hello darkness, my old friend…

Come to find out, Twitter can be bad for the soul. Only started checking it more regularly in recent months, previously barely caring about the platform. Didn’t have much use for it other than as a place to store articles and links. But now I check the feed typically daily and scan through all the political grandstanding. Ideologies gone wild. Some are completely in love with Trump, while others entirely despise him. Then they foam at the mouth at one another and get worked up into a tizzy. Rinse and repeat day after day.

Feels like watching a bunch of handicapped weirdos attempting to compete with one another. Which in that sense is kind of nice since it helps me to feel more “normal” by comparison.  lol

Then again, sanity is fast becoming a rare luxury — or curse, depending on how you experience it. What’s that quote about how it’s no testament of health to be well-adapted to a profoundly sick society?

That’s the one. Krishnamurti said it.

It’s like living within a clown car, or a clown bus. Everybody’s at each other’s throats, looking for reasons to get offended or trying to get a humorous slam in. We’re going to meme ourselves to death on such platforms.

Was talking to a friend earlier today on the topic of U.S. politics and how people are losing their shit over Trump every stinking day since he took office. My friend has been tuning out the news for the most part, but he too considers Trump to be batshit insane. Okay. Well, I’m not interested in defending the man. Just strikes me as kind of funny since I can’t see how Hillary Clinton (or Bill too, for that matter) or Obama or 75% of Congress are any better. It’s one big fucking circus. And if you’re still buying into the Left/Right paradigm and believe one party or the other has your best interest at heart, you’re a naive and/or willfully blind fool. That’s my position and it has been for a long time now. Can’t shake my distrust of either side, especially knowing that each “team” received the same Big Corporate backing, meaning they’re serving the same masters.

Apparently it’s difficult for most people to accept that our politicians don’t give a damn about us. But they don’t. And once voter fraud becomes less detectable they won’t even care about winning our votes. Will just lie to us and keep the shitstorm humming right along. It’s what they’ve been doing as far back as I’ve cared to take notice and only gone off the rails more so in recent years. Like their aim nowadays is simply to entertain us and keep us divided and at each other’s necks, thinking we’re waging battles with one another that matter.

Meanwhile the richest get richer along with their politician lap dogs, and our government grows more powerful and less concerned about the will of its citizenry. Not that any two of us can barely agree on any one point. We the people are a clusterfuck of chaos jabbering at one another…just as I am doing on here tonight. Not sure if it makes more of a difference than talking to oneself. Seems not to since so many knee-jerk away from hearing or reading opinions they don’t already hold.

We will indeed wind up with the government we deserve…

Listened to my friend today lament how there should be “more compromise” between these two political parties and their adherents. Compromise? I had to laugh a bit at that notion, as if being a centrist is any kind of stance to take between those nut-job extremes. Said to him that we’re confronted with Party 1 which is pushing socialism/communism with the endgame winding up being totalitarianism vs. Party 2 which is pushing corporatism masquerading as free-market capitalism, also destined toward its own form of totalitarianism eventually. Pick your poison. Ultimately looks like a choice between different forms of slavery to me. Soul-sucking either way we turn.

In moments like that I wish the Libertarian Party were up to snuff anymore, but it hasn’t been since the days of Bob Barr. Gary Johnson, though I voted for him twice, is not a strong leader who makes enough intelligent, relevant arguments. Just keeps pining away for legalized marijuana, as if that might solve this nation’s problems. Frickin’ joke. All of it is. Which then makes me a bit more curious how the Alt Right will wind up factoring into this scheme, especially since so many claiming that political badge are associated with disgruntlement toward Jews and promoting the study of “race realism” in furtherance of their goal of racial segregation and the formation of ethno-states. Not a fan of their plan either.

No country for old men…or this middle-aged woman in the political outfield, wondering where the fundamentals of our Constitution have gone.

People talk, talk, talk, talk. Argue, argue, argue. And where is it getting us? Who are we convincing? Too many of those who come to see our duopoly politics as a big scam wind up tuning out and growing apathetic, which is understandable to a point since fighting this mammoth (along with so many people ideologically possessed on both/all extremes) looks like a losing battle. Futile. Basically like begging to go down history’s memory hole as a “lone wolf” madman framed as being against society. And in a sense we are against society, or at least what it’s becoming.

But there are no brakes on this clown bus. We’re cruising straight to where we’re headed. My bet thus far has been on the Political Left loonies winding up with the power to impose their utopian fantasies on the rest. But who am I fooling? Global corporatism is a force to be reckoned with, and they buy (or at least strongly seduce and help corrupt) most politicians of any stripe. So we’re looking at a fusion of wannabe-Communism/socialism within a corporatism context. How do you figure you’re going to get around this inevitability? The Alt Right doesn’t differentiate itself as being in favor of regulating corporatism, so that way doesn’t offer a true alternative either.

So then what? If people were going to stand up against this Machine, we’d have done it already, decades ago. The truth is that we’re too comfortable right now, too consumed in our own lives and the pleasure and curiosities new technologies bring. Many are also consumed with raising families — very energy intensive. Trying to earn money and then entertain ourselves to death, like everybody else is doing. Trying to learn life’s lessons and get our shit together. So no, most of us are in no position to do a damn thing about the trajectory we as a society are on. And as already stated, going up against this Beast, this Leviathan, would include going up against probably half the populace as well since they’re protective of this status quo (including the Progressives and so-called “radicals” who like to destroy shit). We’d all be lost without this convenient infrastructure, which would be severely damaged if enough tried going toe to toe with our current government. Would be viewed as treasonous behavior, unacceptable. Would mow you “patriots” down in the streets.

So what then? Vote? I’m so far past believing my vote matters, especially since I don’t vote two-party and most others do. Am a minority within a polarized/polarizing society.

Feels pretty pointless to keep bitching about it, but oh well. I’m going to anyway since that helps me keep my own sanity while observing what’s unfolding. This shit isn’t going to become functional — it can’t. It’s broken already, irreparably. Too corrupt — politicians, media, citizenry and all. We’re all already too dependent (no matter how independent you might like to consider yourself to be within this grid). And we’re too afraid. Rightly so, considering a true attempt at revolution would likely result in a bunch more of us locked in cages.

So what do we do? Pretending like it’s all okay isn’t an option for me. Nor is pretending that I don’t care. And don’t tell me to just go out and volunteer for some cause! Sick of that advice and already put in my time on that through the local peace community. Turned out to be a bunch of Leftist apologists for Obama, thereby not truly independent nor free from ideological obsessiveness. Hanging around with a handful of so-called “truthers” doesn’t sound too alluring either since unfortunately some of them are truly wackos.

Everybody frustrates me. This whole game irritates the hell of me. Try to tell myself not to take it too seriously, that perhaps we humans have to go through hell before we can recognize what’s truly of value. As humans before us have gone through over and over and over again. The lesson never sticks for long. Succeeding generations always wind up hell-bent on having to relearn it all the hard way, and perhaps it can be no other way. Technologies change our environments and lure us into thinking that this time if we try to play God it will work out for the best. This time we know something our predecessors didn’t know. This time around humans are more clever and innovative, talented and genius, plus connected through these amazing new digital networks. This time things will be different and we won’t all wind up victims to human fallibility and folly. This time we have precision, SCIENCE, on our side.

And this time we’re just as crazy and naive as any other time in history, albeit modern technologies allow us to take our dreams to greater heights that will lead to far greater destruction when our bubbles burst and cold, cruel reality sets in in the end.

Yeah, I’m the bringer of bad news. What optimism I reserve goes toward those speakers who do spread brushfires in the minds of many and get us dreaming outside of this box and reassessing what matters to us fundamentally. Never know what might prove to be a game-changer. Keeping an open mind for those unforeseen variables. “Nada es imposible.” So some like to say…

Feel like I keep writing this over and over again, year after year. Doesn’t change much, regardless of which political players switch positions. Just not sure what this perspective is asking of me. Seems to want to keep coming out, yet I’m no artist so I don’t know where to put it. Part of me says that what matters is the journey, not the destination. Because we may see a horrible crash up ahead is no reason to bow out of the game. If anything that should probably make us stronger, recognizing how little we have to lose in the end. But nations come and nations go. None are slated to last forever unchanged. If this is the future many of our fellow Americans want, then who am I to step in their way of having it? Don’t have any kids to leave behind in this nonsense. But it seems wrong to not resist the formation of hell on earth. Seems like that would be the ultimate calling for any of us, assuming we’re able to discern what’s what, which we tend to all disagree about. So we’re not going to be on the same teams, quite obviously, and so be it. It’s an individual endeavor anyway, regardless of what the collectivist ideologues would have you believe. Starts inside oneself.

We’re all dreamers…it can be no other way. To live and not dream is not to live. There will be no utopia in the end no matter which direction we choose to head in. Only approximations of hell, some better and some worse. Guess it’s a question of what suffering we’re willing to endure and for what, why. Because either way we’re going to suffer, you can bet on that. Most especially future generations once the public coffers dry up and more jobs are demanded to be provided by Big Government and its Big Corporate partners. In one sense this is history repeating, but in another this is a new phase with new challenges and new technologies very different from anything that came before. Greater likelihood for a far darker depth to descend into as well. In this age of manipulative psychology, global economics, and centralized power like never before seen.

It used to scare me, but I’m growing numb under its weight in recent years. Tired of being afraid of the unknown on the horizon. Also very tired of those who fancy themselves as optimists who are prone to freak out over my outlook, chastising me for viewing it this way, as if it’s simply a choice I make. Should we take pills and hide our eyes and cover our ears? Should we continue hiding in our addictions and drama and constant distractions? Is that truly the better way? Or should we learn to grow stronger in the face of these possibilities and set aside our utopian fantasy that we’re heading toward a fantastic future? Which seems like the most realistic and sane approach to you? Because you’re going to suffer either way, guaranteed.

The thought that keeps circling my mind this week is the fear of dying and the fear of living. So many of us fear both, and are thereby rendered paralyzed. So we stand idly by and watch what unfolds. Just another form of compliance since we wind up dragged along into the future whether we like it or not.

You would think such thoughts would be depressing, but I’ve been thinking along this line for so long now that they’ve actually transformed into something slightly reassuring. Perhaps because it forces me to view life in a day-by-day manner. Can’t change the past and can’t completely control the future. So we’re left with doing what we can with what we have right here and now. It boils down to how one lives his/her life. Outcomes be damned since that’s beyond our scope of power.

I do wish I had more answers than this. But apparently it comes down to one’s values, though I’d argue half the problem presently is that pet preferences have replaced values in our political arguments. Pro this and anti that is all we seem to hear anymore.

Getting tired so that’s enough journaling for one night.

My reply on the topic of the “Unnecessariat”

I was sent a link to an article titled “Unnecessariat” by a youtube commenter who has asked me on a couple of occasions to address what was written. Not sure if the commenter was the original author of that article, but I did finally get around to trying to comment on it today on that blog, but for whatever reason it did not allow my post. So, I will post my thoughts here instead:

_______________________________________________________

I was sent a link to this article and asked to comment on the condition of the unnecessariat (a designation I quite obviously belong within as well). Hmmm. What really can be said about all of this? It is true that times have changed and that nearly everybody wishes for a return to “the good ol’ days” but that it’s not going to happen (as the angry commenter above already explained). Is this a depressing reality? Sure. But must it lead us to drug abuse and alcoholism and completely giving up? NO.

Basically what you’re asking here is what’s the meaning of life, or what meaning can sustain a person through a decline with no end in sight. I guess the best place to look would be at the words of those historical figures who endured slavery and bitter poverty and the like to get an idea of what helped them to carry on. For many, it was a deepening sense of spirituality and connection with the Creator. For Stoics, it was adopting a simpler, more principled life so as to be able to appreciate the small pleasures that do exist despite the harshness of reality. That’s where I’ve been turning my attention in recent years.

I did notice the sentence in the article about “why they’re shooting drugs and not dynamiting the Google Barge” and while I can understand the anger it stems from, you have to remember that people make their own choices. Fight technology why? Fight the major corporations why? And the author also disparaged entrepreneurship, dismissing it as “self-rescue with unicorns and rainbows.” So you’re really leaving nobody any out here. I personally am self-employed and it suits me. Will such a strategy work into the indefinite future? Who knows? More importantly, why should I care? It allows me to live a simple life and get by, which is enough for now. Is the goal in writing this to incite people to blow up Google, and do you really think that will stop human progress? Do you really think that might reset everything back to times we like to romanticize about being simpler and more predictable?

The past is gone. And if ever humans manage to knock themselves back into a dark age where we effectively do reset our civilizations and have to begin building again, you can bet that eventually we’ll arrive right back at this point once again. Because that’s what humans do. It’s how we’re driven, right or wrong. Trying to fight all of this can wind up being about as useful as trying to fight the wind. Life’s not easy and there were never any promises deserving of being taken to heart that this project in living would all work out great in the end. That’s our own expectations fucking with us. Adaptation and/or utilization of the current power structures so as to effect change are our best options. Blowing the place up will only create a vacuum wherein another group of ideologues will rush in to fill the void, likely resulting in even more dire results.

Not saying that to sound apathetic, but I do believe it comes down to a question of what it is we’re really expecting in this life. To live on forever and ever in peace? That’s unrealistic. To believe we’re entitled to green pastures into the foreseeable future? That’s utopian. Sure, it’s understandable to not wish to be screwed by those who’ve grown most powerful, and we can work toward booting those people out of positions of power and figuring out how best to protect ourselves from such exploitation in the future. Won’t be ushered in via socialist utopian fantasies, though, that much I’m willing to bet. So, yes, in a real sense it is a “damned if you do/damned if you don’t” scenario. Because we humans have a tendency to both strive toward power as well as become corrupted, and that doesn’t change under a socialist setup either.

My own decision was to not have kids. People love to scream about how horrible the future is bound to be, and yet they keep churning out more kids who will be forced to confront these job and resource shortages. Seems folly to me. Perhaps this is a terrific point in history to forego having kids and instead of losing ourselves in drug and alcohol abuse actually do our best to educate ourselves about what is and what all has come before. Just so we can become better oriented in this life and therefore perhaps better capable of handling whatever is in store.

“Why I Say F#ck No To BitCOiN!” (plus my thoughts)

TruthNeverTold’s video on the subject:

Hmmm. He’s echoing a few of my own concerns about bitcoin, particularly that it’s backed by nothing (a major issue with our fiat currency already),that it obviously isn’t limited since so many different types of cryptocurrencies are surfacing, and that serious pondering on the topic of financial anonymity (for everybody, including politicians and whatever shady shit they and whoever else are wanting to conceal) gives me pause. He brings up the interesting question: anonymous to whom? To one another mostly, or so it appears. If he’s right that a government agency is all up in that scheme, utilizing this technology to manipulate people into behaving as if they are truly anonymous online and preparing people for a switch to purely digital currencies — well, honestly that wouldn’t entirely shock me at this point. Sounds like modern life.

I’ve hung back from the bitcoin craze, initially ignoring it and nowadays looking around to get better acquainted with what’s going on. What I have heard on the matter makes me glad I didn’t have enough money to invest back before trading prices soared for bitcoin and similar cryptocurrencies, seeing as how the situation doesn’t look like it’s going to work the way many had hoped. It’s been interesting observing people throwing so much faith behind these new currencies, and I can understand their enthusiasm to challenge the status quo. But none of this smells right, ya know? It can’t be that easy to render the U.S. Treasury obsolete.

We’d like to wish it were a possibility, but how can it be? Money is no longer the true name of the game. It’s beyond that now. Or perhaps it’s always been beyond that, money merely being a vehicle for acquiring power. But once one’s firmly entrenched and the System is thoroughly corrupt, you wind up having to fight the System itself. Cryptocurrency alone is insufficient. You’re still locked into this grid and beholden to various major corporations, a number of whom contract with our government. Who’s side do you figure they’ll be on in the end? Helping free you from them? How would that suit their interests?

Cryptocurrency backed by nothing…  Except what? Mathematical computations? What stops a wealthy individual or group from buying up a vast amount of bitcoin? Bid the share price up, scare people over the threat of the bubble bursting to where they start selling when the market is way up, then buy up a bunch once the price drops? Nothing that I can find would prevent that from being a possibility. And then we’re right back into a situation no different than our current mainstream economic conundrum. Disproportionate amount of currency cornered would grant some much more power than most, and nothing is likely to stop that from occurring eventually.

But is it all another government con-job? Maybe. Probably. I won’t claim to know. Just wouldn’t surprise me if so. And I don’t know what you do about that either. It’s like we can run but we can’t hide and most likely will be caught. I don’t like it any better than the next person. And I wish I had an alternative to suggest.

This is why I get to thinking that we’re going into this dystopian future whether we like it or not. There don’t appear to be brakes on this runaway train. Corruption is real and it runs deep. Why? Because power and prestige is very enticing to humans. Control matters. For as innovative and daring as we are, we’re also very predictable in terms of group behavior. Marketing efforts have demonstrated this. We can be swayed and directed rather easily if you know what buttons to push, and the study of psychology has been all the rage for the last century. These are not stupid people running major institutions and agencies, and plenty of them probably honestly think they’re on the right side of history and that they’re protecting our nation and citizenry. Probably…

People often believe whatever they wish to were true. Facts are a funny thing — turns out not as stable and widely accepted as we like to think. What’s popularly assumed so often isn’t what’s actually true.

Don’t know when the shift in this direction occurred. Perhaps it’s always been this way on up through the ages, or perhaps societies always devolved into some version of what we’re experiencing. But what’s perceived by us  on the ground as decline heralds the rise of something else to those who stand to benefit. But really nobody truly benefits during dark ages, despite what power one may possess. At least that’s my thought on the matter.

I just don’t know that we can stop whatever’s coming. Not sure we can even reason with it at this point. It’s behaving like a force of nature by now. Prepare to be lied to and deceived. Utopia is not on the horizon, not in the foreseeable future.

Oh, and as for silver and gold — their true value is going the way of the dinosaurs so far as I can tell. Will retain some commercial value, but can it serve as currency in this day and age? No. (And, again, what stops a few from cornering that market? Nothing. Already happened before and will happen again, you can bet on it.) Many people are having a hard time wrapping their heads around such a claim, but I do believe it to be true. I guess time will tell…

“Joe Rogan Experience #1055 – Bret Weinstein”

Saturday afternoon viewing:

21st century economics

Was just watching a few minutes of some heart-wrenching movie starring Denzel Washington where he played a father who’s down on his luck due to downsizing at his company, only to be confronted by an unforeseeable heart condition afflicting his young son which requires a heart transplant in order to survive, only to find out his insurance coverage through his job had been reduced along with his hours. Drew a few tears out of me, not that that’s difficult to do. But it also bleeds into a topic that stays in the back of my mind and always has: modern-day economic disparity.

Don’t get me wrong. It doesn’t take an emotional argument like that depicted in tonight’s movie to get a rise out of me. Just happened to be what tripped my trigger this particular evening. Some would argue that a scenario like that described above is fairly rare, which is probably true, and they might go on to caution me to look out how centralized, state-funded healthcare programs haven’t produced the desired results. Won’t get an argument out of me about that. My stance continues to be that we as a society would be better off if health insurance companies were cut out of much of our healthcare system, possibly being reserved for unforeseen emergencies and catastrophic events only. As it stands now, insurance companies dictate the cost of healthcare at pretty much every level and are responsible for so much of it being cost-prohibitive out of pocket for the average citizen. The only way costs will be corrected (and largely lowered) is if our medical establishment becomes a truly free market without middlemen insurance companies aiding in inflating the costs. The fact that nearly all medical expenses (including routine care and prescriptions) are too much for the average consumer to afford is the sign of an unsustainable setup.

Many, many people are beholden to insurance companies in order to receive quality healthcare. I’m not, but I’m an outlier who thankfully has managed to remain pretty healthy thus far. But I listen to all of you out there and hear the frustration. Plenty of people are disgruntled about the cost of insurance that is automatically deducted from their pay, and plenty aren’t intimately familiar with what all their plans will or won’t cover. Because reading those forms is a legalese jargon nightmare, as is so often the case when it comes to important matters.

But my thoughts tonight aren’t restricted to the U.S. healthcare system or Obamacare. That’s just one mighty arm of this larger economic concern.

Modern life can seem most maddening when it comes to observing economic disparity. Now, I already know what my libertarian brethren will say about how we don’t want a socialist system and how that will only make matters worse. Not disagreeing with you there. However, something does indeed have to give. Not sure what exactly or how, but when this many people (and now we’re on a global stage where everybody’s watching) are experiencing feelings of resentment because their reality is absolutely nothing like the rich people’s reality broadcast all day/everyday on television, there’s going to be a problem eventually. The rights people are fighting to uphold are falling apart partly because they’re viewed as benefiting some more than others. Right or wrong, that’s the increasingly common perception. And it’s perceptions that are stoking the embers of aggravation and disrespect — it’s perceptions you are all up against. If perceptions don’t change, which they likely won’t if disparities continue to grow, then more and more people will seek to tear down the very system that’s currently in place. And they might win out.

I read where some alt-righters like to denigrate all socialists or leftists as a bunch of overly emotional idealists with no concept of how the real world works. Well, in some cases that may be true, but the potential threat they pose remains the same regardless. People don’t have to operate with sound logic and rationality in order to wage a culture war, and there are no guarantees that those deemed most logical and rational will win in the end. It comes down to a battle of ideas, and what’s working against some of you is that you’re viewed as insincere and uncaring about the masses. So good luck in attempting to change hearts and minds, especially if you or other dumbass minions claiming to belong to the groups you’re identified with use abrasive tactics in trying to put points across.

Classist concerns have always impacted my outlook and worldview. That’s no secret. And I can tell you that as a long-time libertarian-leaning individual it can feel uncomfortable at times arguing alongside the smug types who care mostly about protecting and maintaining and increasing their own, forever talking as if all they have came purely as a product of their hard work, failing to mention the people they’ve met along the way who’ve given them breaks or the lucky opportunities that have arisen. I’ve been fortunate to have met a wide variety of people over time in person, including a few who received their money through inheritance (“trust fund babies” is what we refer to them as). Had a client once upon a time who shared he was left a sizeable amount of money, enough to where his wife didn’t need to work and he was able to take over a year off between jobs without worrying. That’s not a reality I personally can relate with one bit. And yet he and I both consider ourselves libertarians of sorts and had many conversations about economics (me mostly listening since he worked in that sector and so had plenty to tell).

A man like him can become very defensive when confronted about his fortunate circumstances of birth. Not that I confronted him on it since that wouldn’t have been good for business back then. But I have confronted others I’ve met at times, pointing out the differences between us. Why? Because I can’t help but notice. Another man I used to know, a friend, has a timeshare in Jamaica and regularly vacations there and down to Florida with his entire family. He liked to tell me about it, and honestly sometimes I didn’t want to hear about it, especially when I was hitting the skids and having financial problems. Nice as he was as a person, he couldn’t understand me and I couldn’t understand him entirely on that level. He took time off work to heal up after very expensive elective surgeries, surgeries me and mine wouldn’t have an option to receive because we can’t afford it (even those with insurance can’t afford the amount expected to be paid out of pocket) nor can we afford the time off work. Different options lead to different outlooks.

I used to work for a man who raced Porsche cars that he owned. If you can imagine that. Even picked me up in one one time to show it off (very uncomfortable because when they race them there’s these bars inside to reinforce the cabin in case they roll — and those bars don’t come out) when I traveled down South to visit with him. That man would tell me stories of what it was like going from making over $500,000/yr. to a little over $100,000/yr. — a MAJOR transition for him and most especially for his wife. Was a truly nice guy overall and I still remember him fondly, but do you think I could relate with anything he was presenting me with? I’ve never made anywhere close to $100,000/yr. in my life thus far. Certainly have no idea what a $1,000 champagne brunch involves. Don’t know what it’s like to pay someone to prepare my meals in-home or come clean my house, though my Grandmother does continue to clean other people’s houses in order to supplement her social security money, as is very necessary.

I regularly met with a pediatrician, met with an accountant, met with a tax attorney, met with middle-management personnel, met with successful entrepreneurs, met with a few other lawyers, met with a former lobbyist — lots of people from a different socioeconomic strata than me. And I’m very glad for those experiences since they helped to humanize such folks, making it harder for me to concoct caricatures in my mind since I had met them and gotten to know them. Though I’d be lying if I pretended I don’t still harbor flickers of resentment toward upper middle-/middle-class folks in general. Probably was ingrained in me from the start, and it never fully dies. I remain aware of that tendency within me to judge, partly because I know that myself and mine were frequently enough judged by that class as well. The distrust and cautiousness runs both ways. Always are exceptions, but that’s been the general situation.

At least I’m aware of it inside myself. Plenty aren’t. Or they haven’t explored what it is exactly that they resent. Some are just envious and want what others have. I may be that way too to some extent, but I’m pretty content with having not so much and actually tend to prefer it this way. But that attitude can be a defensive strategy, as in reckoning that the less you have then the less there is to lose and miss. Others would say that’s the claims of someone lacking ambition. Perhaps so. But I would rebut by saying that some who have quite a lot didn’t gain it through pure ambition.

Either way, tit for tat squabbles aside, I understand that people’s perception can and does keep them down to where they don’t try to compete because they assume it’s futile. And that’s no way to approach a market economy if one hopes to succeed. Altering such perceptions is important, but how do you do that when fewer jobs with the chance of upward mobility are available now, yet the population continues to increase? Not everybody can be cutting edge and innovative in the ways that are being rewarded at present. When our manufacturing base was gutted and shipped to Mexico and China, that was viewed as a betrayal of a huge number of citizens in this country. It’s a position I hold as well. And once the southern border basically became a joke and undocumented workers came up to take jobs at lower wages than Americans, we as a society were presented with a new host of problems. Now we hear of tech jobs being outsourced to India and read of employees in that sector fretting over their futures. Where does this all end?

We all look out onto our society and observe so many major corporations becoming multinationals, going global and caring only about American consumers so long as another market doesn’t rise to trump our demand. Some say once the middle class grows and becomes better established in China, watch out! I don’t doubt it. Yet our country owes China a lot of money. No clue how that might all shake out in the end.

So many of these major corporations have come to dramatically alter reality for the average citizen, determining where we shop, what we eat, what technologies we rely on and who manufacturers them, how we communicate, what news we’re presented with, what information we can readily access, what hoops we must jump through in order to gain and maintain employment, etc. And yet those same major corporations feel so inhuman. Distant and operating with a whole new set of ethics and values that we then are expected to adapt ourselves to. Do you honestly think people will all be able to adapt? And what happens when they can’t or won’t? Build more privatized prisons to warehouse them within?

Do you see what I see here? This is where the Leftist argument actually contains pieces of truth, uncomfortable as they may be for some out there. People may not articulate themselves terribly well and may rely too much on the wrong leaders to do so on their behalves, but I think this is ultimately what some of them are trying to point at and call attention to. Of course these requests have fallen on deaf ears for quite a while, so I suppose it shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that a bunch of ideologically-possessed college students instructed by radical agitators/professors have now taken it upon them to claim to speak for the little people (though many of them arguably are much more concerned with peddling their preferred ideology than actually helping the people whose stories they exhibit — that being how politics tends to roll). These current ideologues are working to appeal to these folks who feel relatively disenfranchised and who worry about what the future may hold.

My question for us is what ideas or counteraction do we have to offer on the libertarian, pro-market end of the spectrum? Because demonstrating that some people can become fabulously wealthy no longer sways the growing majority who can’t relate to or comprehend that level of success. It’s fast coming to be viewed as a pipe dream that’s mostly applicable to those who attend fancy universities and who come into regular contact and hob-nob with other successful people. And that’s pretty accurate since who one knows does definitely play a part in all of this. Networking is key — haven’t we all grown up hearing this repeated? For a great many people out here, it’d likely be through pure happenstance, chance, that they’d rub shoulders with a very wealthy and influential person, let alone develop an ongoing relationship with one. And now that the student loan bubble has hit a record high, fewer youths will be willing (or able) to take the risk of taking on inordinately high loan debt in order to attend a quality university. The vast majority of us needn’t worry about Harvard or Princeton since we’d likely never be admitted anyhow.

Yet every day people do turn on their televisions (much as I wish they wouldn’t, praying that they would please cancel their cable subscriptions and recognize that them paying for the service only further enriches those they view as rich and influential enough already, perpetuating the problem) and gaze upon the Kardashians and other wealthy celebrities and politicians, adding more fuel to the fire and enhancing the sense that we increasingly live in a time of haves and have-nots. But television has proven addictive, so telling people simply not to watch it is pretty pointless. Besides, people feel entertained by doing so. But what do they learn? What messages are they being sent over and over again? If you think the mainstream media is neutral, think again. And if you think marketing and advertising has a minimal impact on our mindsets and behaviors, you’re incredibly naive.

Some of what’s being marketed to us, day in and day out, is divisiveness via neo-tribalism and false narratives. Because there’s a political competition, as always, geared toward telling people what they want to hear (or scaring the hell out of them through intentional fear-mongering), and as with advertising, people can be swayed. They may not trust the Democrats, but they certainly don’t trust the other side. So then what? Libertarians who get televised tend to talk about abstract matters or legalizing/decriminalizing marijuana and that’s about it. Even when folks online do create a platform to discuss our Constitution and the necessary protection of our rights, that may appeal to someone like me, but what about someone who views the police and government as dangerous and rich people as in their own separate orbit?

We have a conundrum on our hands at present, and it certainly won’t be alleviated by throwing around useless labels and calling one another names online. How do we get across to people who haven’t learned all that much about the origins of our government or why our rights matter (thanks largely to the downfall of public schools)? How do you reassure people that caring about any of that is in their best interests when they think the whole system is rigged against them, don’t trust the corporations either, and basically have resolved themselves to be against the current setup? Call it nihilism, sure, but that doesn’t make it go away. Some folks out here seem to be craving greater chaos, almost with a devil-may-care casual attitude toward the fallout likely to occur as a result. Most others just aim to stay out of the fray and go about their daily lives, believing these feuds have always been ongoing and likely always will be, hoping they can make it through their own lives before the wheels fall off of this national project. But then that leaves their kids and grandkids to reckon with the mess when the shit eventually hits the fan.

I won’t claim to have any answers here. But I will say that considerations like this continuously reconfirm my decision to not have kids. Wouldn’t know how to prepare them for the future. And maybe that’s viewed as nihilistic on my own part, and so be it. Something’s obviously happening here, and I doubt the U.S. will be able to keep it together throughout my lifetime. More and more it looks like major social instability is just on the horizon — provoked by political opportunists, yes, but coming nevertheless. People do see an unfair situation, and I can’t blame them for viewing it that way. It’s a tough reality to come to terms with, especially when there appears to be SO MUCH wealth generated and so many possibilities on how it could be better spent rather than rich people congregating at high-priced galas or buying private jets and vacationing on luxurious islands, then showcasing it to the rest of us.

Maybe Hollywood will wind up checked this time around. Maybe. Perhaps people are finally growing tired of the lavish and inconspicuous displays of spoiled celebrities. Personally, I think it would be good for us to come to grips with how watching them really isn’t all that entertaining and instead tends to make us feel worse about our own selves and our own realities. Such comparisons only push the envelope farther. Helps no one, not even the rich celebrities who complain that they’re unfairly targeted with negative attention and are granted no privacy. Might as well give them what they want then. Would be better for us to turn our attention elsewhere and find ways to build our skills rather than continue bankrolling the already wealthy (especially where such fortunate circumstances appear undeserved). Maybe we would be better off with a more leveled society, relatively speaking, to where at least the disparity wasn’t this immense. Libertarian types might not like to hear it, but I’m frequently reminded of primatologists describing how perceived inequities lead to intense displays of outrage and aggression among chimps. We’re talking murderous rampages in some cases, even over fairly minor favoring one over the other(s). Well, we humans obviously are civilized and have a great deal more tolerance than chimps (thank goodness), but we do have our limits too, and it’s very possible that we’re approaching them (at least in terms of how the situation is being perceived — again, perception winds up being everything here). Rather than call on the government to redistribute money, which most don’t want (or don’t trust the government in doing so), we’d be better off figuring out better ways to vote with our own dollars so as to shift the balance. Talk of shopping locally turns out to not only be a hippie slogan — in our own communities is where we can have the most positive impact. Also actually voting in local elections instead of only in presidential elections (at least for those who claim to care about politics). Choosing our entertainment options more wisely so as not to reward spoiled celebrities. Figuring out more sustainable forms of energy so we can finally cease being beholden to the Saudi Royal Fucking Family. Seriously, fuck those guys! We do need more jobs, but the government’s no good at providing them (aside from the military and contractors). What else?

Some of the ideas commonly associated with the Political Left aren’t bad ideas. Not all are purely idealistic. One would think that real conservatives and real liberals alike would choose to care about sustainability. That’s an area where we could make inroads with one another, bringing ourselves into direct physical contact in the process.

That’s enough on this topic tonight.

Recent virtue-signaling over Hollywood fiasco (damsels vs. powerful pricks)

Okay. Let’s try a little test, shall we? Watch this video and determine how you feel about it:

That was Ben Affleck in 2004 with an actress named Hilarie Burton. Full disclosure: I’m not familiar with who she is other than reading today that she was a Total Request Live host back in the day, and I am not much of a fan of Ben Affleck or any movie he’s ever starred in.

Now, if your response to that video footage is to angrily declare Ben’s displayed behavior there to be “rapey,” I’m gonna assume you’re an SJW or someone who hasn’t spent much time in taverns and bars or someone who can’t discern between a serious threat and an annoyance. Why? First off, Hilarie was FLIRTING BACK WITH him. Observe the hair tossing, the girlish giggling, putting her arm around him as well, coquettishly nuzzling in toward his neck and chest. THAT’S NOT SEXUAL HARASSMENT, YOU NUMBSKULLS. That’s two idiots flirting! That’s what it looks like. Plain and simple.

“But he’s a douche-nozzle!” you say. Okay. Yeah, I agree. His tactics wouldn’t appeal to a woman like me, but to each her own. Obviously appealed to THAT woman, and that’s all that matters in this particular scenario. Ever been around jocks and cheerleaders? No? Well, they behave in a similar dumb fashion. The guy says crude and stupid shit and the girl giggles and plays with her hair and sits in his lap and laughs at his retarded jokes. Then he knocks her up and they live happily ever after, until they divorce. Welcome to it. Happens ALL the time, folks.

Oh, but I can hear it now. “Retarded??!!” Yeah, I said it, because it’s a useful word. Ben said something similar there also. You don’t have to like it. If it offends you, then okay. Great. Don’t hang around guys like Ben Affleck then (or me either, for that matter). Chalk it up to incompatibility and move on if it bothers you oh-so-badly.

Ya know, since Trump said what he said and the mainstream media collectively lost their minds, and now Harvey Weinstein has shown himself to be a piece of shit, people out here in the public (especially on social media) are losing their shit in trying to drum up a witch hunt (once again!) over anything and everything they possibly can construe as sexual harassment or inappropriate. And it’s a real shame since it detracts from ACTUAL cases of severe wrongdoing. Harvey Weinstein sounds like an ass, and what made him particularly problematic was how much power he personally wielded in Hollywood. Had he been some random schmuck in a neighborhood tavern behaving as he did, he probably would’ve been slapped plenty and few would’ve pussy-footed around calling the guy out on being a perverted asshole. But with money and fame and power comes privilege. Some folks do aspire to work in Hollywood and therefore will tolerate jerks like him in order to do so. That’s not cool. Wish it wasn’t the case. But you wanna know how you do NOT address matters of that magnitude? By pretending that anything and everything under the sun qualifies as matters of that magnitude. Like some of you are trying to do with this clip of Ben Affleck merely acting like a fraternity house dumbass.

Geez. I’m beginning to wonder if the majority of people on social media truly are just that naive. Is it because so many of them are young? Too little life experience? Too pampered and protected of an upbringing? Where have all the older web surfers gone?

Look, there are dangerous sexual deviants out here in society. And then there are opportunistic jerks, a number of whom inhabit positions of power. Yes, they can impact people in all sorts of ways, from causing them to not get hired or to lose their job, to ruining their reputation, to actually harassing them, and even occasionally going so far as doing real physical harm to them. Hence why it’s very important that people learn to discern. Not all jerks are created equal. Not all are serial rapists without a conscience (in fact, most aren’t). Not all even expect to get their way despite their advances. Some even respect you all the more when you do stand up to them and call them on their bullshit. Some will say offensive stuff but that doesn’t mean they will physically attack you. Then there are others who will play up to you and pretend to be a close confidante only to later learn they were working against your best interests from the start. Lots of different types of jerks out here in society.

When it comes to us as women and how we conduct ourselves, I’m admittedly growing very frustrated with so many women acting as if we possess no agency. As if just because a man tells you to do something means you must do it. As if we somehow lost the ability to say “NO!” and mean it and to back it up with actions. Unless you’re physically overpowered and made to do something against your will, your will remains intact and it’s a choice as to how you decide to act. If an old pervert groping you is unappealing, then don’t let him do so. I’ve had old men grope me when I was younger a few more times than I care to recount, and yes, I understand that some are obstinate asses who don’t like to take “no” for an answer. But to hell with them. If they want a fight, give it to them. But don’t just collapse into their arms and then later pretend like you had no choice. That’s bullshit for any adult to claim, and it’s a BIG part of the reason women aren’t taken seriously enough. And not just by men but also by other women. We don’t respect one another due to this double-speaking/double-acting, underhanded BS.

Understand this: The rest of the world CANNOT READ YOUR MIND. Super important to comprehend that. If you don’t say it OUT LOUD and make it clear through your body language, then others can’t be expected to know what you’re thinking and feeling inside. We can’t. Sorry folks, but there’s a barrier around all of our brains making our own minds our own exclusive property. Nobody else can get in there. So we have to outwardly project what it is we’re wanting to get across. If you don’t want to sleep with someone, tell him/her so and act in accordance. If a big-shot guy jerking off in a potted plant is offensive to you (as it understandably would be for most of us), then let it be known. Best to directly tell the person you’re dealing with, but if you truly are afraid to do so then tell somebody else who can possibly assist you in handling the matter (if you find it to be that important to do so).

Now, I’d argue that not all matters always need major handling. Sometimes we choose to keep matters to ourselves. Other times we warn our friends and acquaintances to keep away from a jerk and that’s about the best we can do. Certainly not everything is a criminal matter, nor is everything needing to be aired publicly. Totally depends on the situation. Scary guy truly acting rapey and menacing and threatening calls for a different approach than an idiot like Ben Affleck snuggling against you while drunk or high (or whatever he was on). As should seem obvious. Different problems = different tools needed in handling them.

I do get disappointed when reading about celebrity women who have power in their own right acting as if they’re too afraid to speak up on their own behalves or for other women who may be enduring worse treatment. The reason being that many of these same celebrity women are quick to lecture the rest of us out in society about our moral duties and push their political views. Meryl Streep immediately springs to mind, as does Ashley Judd. Celebrities are merely humans too, it’s true, but they’re humans with major platforms and a whole lot of influence and big followings and a lot of money and connections. Doesn’t make them more moral than any of us though. Some might argue the opposite tends to be true more often than not, and I lean that way myself in assessing the situation. Hence why I opt to vote with my dollars by NOT subscribing to cable television, rarely going to movie theaters, and rarely giving a damn what any celebrity has to say on political matters. They are ACTORS by trade, which calls for a personality type capable of suspending judgement, disbelief, and reason. They’re also surrounded by a bunch of other actors much of the time. Plus, they’re vying to arrive at and belong within the big league, with hopes of making millions of dollars based on their charismatic skills and physical appearances. So it doesn’t surprise me terribly that their discernment capacities tend to be wonky. Given enough years to observe ample examples of actors’ and actresses’ publicly displayed behaviors and choices and flippant reversals in brazenly expressed opinions and moral outrage, youngens too will likely cease being so easily surprised by much out of them anymore as well.

Some say this Harvey Weinstein fiasco will lead to the “draining of the swamp” in Hollywood, but I highly doubt it. Isn’t the first time a scumbag was exposed and won’t be the last. Look how many times it’s happened among politicians and yet that swamp remains firmly intact. Glad to see Harvey Weinstein step down from a position of power (though long overdue) since he demonstrated irresponsible immaturity in handling that role. But aside from that, I’m seeing mostly virtue signaling out of most in the mainstream media and on social media. People trying to distance themselves from him because now it’s the popular thing to do. Republicans and Democrats at it like usual, slinging mud at one another and crying foul, forever attempting to discredit one another’s parties (as if either is worth defending these days). Why isn’t Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama getting outraged at this news about their “friend”? Likely because they knew all along and aren’t all that different from him themselves. Birds of a feather…

Is it such a major surprise that Hollywood is filled with opportunistic perverts? Really? Or Washington D.C.? Come on, folks. None of this is new. And it won’t be stopped simply because we engage in dialogues about it either. Shaming people impacts specific individuals, not the system in place itself. Why? Because a lot of this comes back to human nature, not only in the types who prove most ambitious and vie for power but also in all of us in how we tend to swoon in the face of charismatic people and give them what they want. I believe that cycle is destined to repeat again and again and again, regardless of what changes we might try to make to the political structure or how many “diversity” courses we come to require in this field or that corporation. The best we can probably hope for is to learn to govern our own selves better as individuals, to choose whom we associate with more wisely, to figure out how to pick the battles most worth fighting, and to not compromise our principles (even—or most especially—when confronted with opportunities for financial enrichment and an enticing increase in popularity, power, and influence). But those are very tough lessons for humans to reckon with. Been trying to for thousands of years and don’t appear to have made much real progress thus far. It’s a perennial battle within and across members of our species, and it too promises to go on and on and on into the unforeseeable future.

Doesn’t sound like the happy ending you were searching for? Well, welcome to it. This is life. Nobody promised us a rose garden or claimed this shit would be easy and straight-forward or that all would shake out fairly or even that it would make a whole lot of sense. It simply is what it is. Figure out for yourself how to navigate in life most effectively, acknowledging that we won’t all prove to be on the same team or living in accordance with the same morals and beliefs, as should be obvious by now. Sell your soul for money and fame if you want to, but understand that there will be some sort of consequences. If you treat others poorly, then don’t be surprised when they eventually turn on you and aim to ruin everything you’ve ever built. Of course you can wind up targeted without having actually done anything wrong (or at least not terribly wrong according to some standards — Edward Snowden and James Damore spring to mind) — happens often enough. We’d like to think the greedy and cruel always get their comeuppances, but that’s unfortunately not always the case. Just as good folks aren’t always rewarded. Such is life…

BUT, in order to bring about more fairness and justice, our only real option is to begin with our own selves and how we behave toward others. We’re all sinners and wimps, but that’s not all we are, or at least it needn’t be. Lots of grey area in this life, which provides us lots of opportunities to learn and grow and explore. Much of the time when we strike out in indignation against some stranger whom we don’t even know outside of news stories, we’re doing so because it’s tripped some recognition within our own selves that we’d rather not confront. I believe this to be true much of the time. So when I read of all these supposedly outraged strangers on the internet getting up in arms over a Hollywood big-wig and other actors or over some words spoken by Trump years back, I have to wonder what we’re really reacting to here. What people we don’t personally know have done or said, or how that resonates within parts of ourselves that makes us uncomfortable? Willing to bet about 50% of the time people are freaking out because they don’t want their own little dark secrets to ever see light, so they pretend that they have none through loudly declaring the “bad guy” to be oh-so-bad over and over again. Deflects attention away from oneself. Drowns out our own nervousness. Very common tactic. Those pangs of weirdness and shame offer an opportunity for introspection for those willing to explore their own abyss. Much more fruitful, IMO, than simply focusing all energy outward in perpetual judgement of others.

Anyway, before I completely slide off topic here, I’ll end with this. Want to drain the swamp of Hollywood? It’s easier to do than draining the swamp of D.C. All you have to do is starve it off financially. Quit giving it money. Quit paying to watch movies by producers you don’t respect, showcasing actors you claim to have moral qualms with. Just quit it. Quit clicking on their twitter feeds or gossiping about what they’re up to. Do your due diligence on where you’re spending your money to better ensure that your expenditures align with your professed values. Don’t want to support and promote womanizing jerks who abuse potted plants? Okay, then quit buying products and services that line such people’s pockets.